Harvard Dumps Israeli Investments. Chasing the Why Factor

Posted on August 15, 2010

In second quarter 2010, Harvard exited its Israel investment instruments:

…[T]he Harvard Management Company notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday that it had sold all its holdings in Israeli companies during the second quarter of 2010. No reason for the sale was mentioned. The Harvard Management Company manages Harvard University’s endowment.

Harvard Management Company stated in its 13-F Form that it sold 483,590 shares in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) for $30.5 million; 52,360 shares in NICE Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: NICE; TASE: NICE) for $1.67 million; 102,940 shares in Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) for $3.6 million; 32,400 shares in Cellcom Israel Ltd. (NYSE:CEL; TASE:CEL) for $1.1 million, and 80,000 Partner Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: PTNR; TASE: PTNR) shares for $1.8 million.

The Globes article was discussed at mondoweiss.net and among the comments:

Citizen August 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm

From Kabbobfest:

The divested stocks include TEVA, a generic drug manufacturer, that has greatly benefited from Israel’s strangulation of several Palestinian pharmaceutical companies, Checkpoint Securities, which provided many of the technologies Israel uses humiliate, screen, and search Palestinians at road blocks, and Cellcom, a wireless communications company that provide communication services to the army, among others.

College-based divestment campaigns have intensified over the past few years, Harvard University included. And while the university made no statement in favor of divesting from Israel on ethical, human rights grounds, it is not unlike the administration to make such a move quietly and preempt having to answer to to immorality of holding such investment and hypocrisy in retaining them while touting the divestment from Apartheid South Africa as beacon of progressive ethic.

In California, divestment in Israel was put on the ballot albeit unsuccessfully:

A Public Funds Divest from Israel Act (10-0004) did not qualify for the November 2, 2010 ballot in California as an initiated state statute.

Chris Yatooma of the Israeli Divestiture Forum submitted a request to the Attorney General of California for a ballot title on January 20, 2010. The working title of the proposed initiative is “California Public Divest from Israel Act.”

According to Yatooma’s submission, “It is the intent of this act to employ the same divestiture and boycott approach used to help bring down the Apartheid Government in South Africa. The United States in general and the state of California in particular should not support the state of Israel as long as it continues to maintain illegal settlements in Palestine and we should, in the same manner the United States supported Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress in its struggle for freedom and equality, support Palestinians in their half-century struggle to form a state free of Israeli control and domination. It’s ironic that the Jewish nation, after spending 2,000 years suffering in a world marked by Jewish prejudice, is now engaged in similarly shameful conduct that belies cherished Jewish ideals centered on a common respect for humanity and the rule of law.

In 2002, past president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers, himself a Jew, spoke to divestment and, in a controversial move, cited it as antisemitic in a list of other actions he considered antisemitic.

But where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.

For example:

  • Hundreds of European academics have called for an end to support for Israeli researchers, though not for an end to support for researchers from any other nation.
  • Israeli scholars this past spring were forced off the board of an international literature journal.
  • At the same rallies where protesters, many of them university students, condemn the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and global capitalism and raise questions about globalization, it is becoming increasingly common to also lash out at Israel. Indeed, at the anti-IMF rallies last spring, chants were heard equating Hitler and Sharon.
  • Events to raise funds for organizations of questionable political provenance that in some cases were later found to support terrorism have been held by student organizations on this and other campuses with at least modest success and very little criticism.
  • And some here at Harvard and some at universities across the country have called for the University to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the University’s endowment to be invested. I hasten to say the University has categorically rejected this suggestion.[facinghistory.org]

Colleagues such as Stephen Joel Trachtenberg countered with:

“It is possible to be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic. It is also possible to be pro-Israel and not be particularly pro-Jewish. Politics make strange bedfellows.”

The divestment movement relating to Israel is not just national, it has grown globally. Of course the most straightforward reason may be the target reason for Harvard as well as for many others:  Worries Israel will attack Iran.  It is difficult to say.  In these times the money men would have you believe it is difficult to sort out antisemitism from sound investment policy.