NEW YORK (JTA) — Alan Dershowitz has gone from criticizing Hampshire College to pledging to donate money to the school.
The high-profile attorney and the Anti-Defamation League issued separate statements praising the Massachusetts school for stating emphatically that it is not divesting from Israel.
On Feb. 7, Hampshire said it was divesting from a market index fund featuring several companies that do business in Israel. Afterward, a pro-Palestinian student group at the school issued a statement saying the move was aimed at Israel in protest of its dealings with the Palestinians, making Hampshire the first American university to adopt a divestment policy relating to Israeli policy.
College officials acknowledged that the process was launched in response to a complaint filed by the group, Students for Justice in Palestine, but denied that the final decision related to Israel.
Still, Dershowitz, who has played a lead role in defending Israel on campuses across the country and sent one of his children to Hampshire, called for divestment from the Amherst school because it had failed to state unequivocally that the move had nothing to do with Israel and did not go far enough in criticizing the student group.
School President Ralph Hexter responded with an open letter to Dershowitz reiterating that while Students for Justice in Palestine indeed had called for divestment from United Technologies, Caterpillar, Motorola, Terex, ITT and General Electric — companies on the index that do business with Israel — Hampshire made the move because an outside screen found that nearly 200 companies held by the fund did not meet the school’s investment standards.
The standards used to conduct the screen, he added, had nothing to do with Israel.
Dershowitz said Tuesday that he was satisfied with Hexter’s response.
“Hampshire has now done the right thing," he said in a statement. "It has made it unequivocally clear that it did not and will not divest from Israel. Indeed, it will continue to hold stock in companies that do business with Israel as well as with Israeli companies, so long as these companies meet the general standards that Hampshire applies to all of its holdings.
“As I previously wrote to President Hexter, if Hampshire did the right thing and made its position crystal clear. I would urge contributors to continue to contribute to this fine school. I now do so.”
Dershowitz also said that he would give money to the school and urge that his donation, "and perhaps others, be used to start a fund to encourage the presentation of all reasonable views regarding the Middle East to the college community."
The ADL also voiced support for Hampshire.
“We welcome this unequivocal statement from Hampshire College that it did not divest from Israel, and that Israel in fact played no role in the college’s recent decision to disinvest from a mutual fund,” Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said in a separate statement. “This is an emphatic repudiation of the campaign of misinformation that has cast the college’s investment decisions in a false and politically biased light.
"In their zeal to demonize Israel, some Hampshire students and others among Israel’s detractors engaged in a deliberate campaign to mischaracterize Hampshire College’s decision."