Forty Columbia University faculty members have signed a petition in favor of divestment from companies related to Israel, the Columbia Spectatorreported.
The petition, which was signed on Monday – the first day of so-called Israel Apartheid Week, urged the Ivy League college to "divest from corporations that supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people."
According to the petition, the signatories "stand with Columbia University Apartheid Divest [CUAD], Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine as well as with Jewish Voice for Peace in calling upon the University to take a moral stance against Israel's violence in all its forms."
In February, CUAD demanded that Columbia divest from eight specific corporations "that profit from the State of Israel's ongoing system of settler colonialism, military occupation, and apartheid law" as part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The signatories include Rashid Khalidi, a history and Middle Eastern studies professor who is a longtime critic of Israel and supporter of the BDS movement; Joseph Massad, a professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history who views Zionism as a racist and colonialist movement, and Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor whose research has been criticized for containing unfounded claims. El-Haj authored a book that accuses Israel of manipulating archaeological findings to legitimize its existence, JTA reported.
"As both scholars and community members, we are professionally, intellectually, and morally invested in our University. We deem it our duty to hold our institution accountable for the ethical implications of its own actions, notably its financial investments and their implications around the world," the petition said. "In particular, we take issue with our financial involvements in institutions associated with the State of Israel's military occupation of Palestinian lands, continued violations of Palestinian human rights, systematic destruction of life and property, inhumane segregation and systemic forms of discrimination."
Middle Eastern South Asian and Africa studies, or MESAAS, English and comparative literature, and anthropology were the departments with the most signatories.
"I fully support every effort to put pressure on the Israeli government to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands," said Partha Chatterjee, an anthropology and MESAAS professor, adding that Israel's security regime "virtually amounts to apartheid."
English professor Bruce Robbins compared CUAD's campaign to anti-apartheid efforts in the 1970s and '80s pushing for divestment from South Africa.
"I have also seen what it's like for Palestinians on the West Bank to live under the occupation," Robbins said. "Once you've seen that, and you are offered a form of non-violent protest that is also endorsed by Palestinian civil society, it seems like a no-brainer."
Dirk Salomons, a senior lecturer at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, told the Spectator, "I've always had a feeling as a Jew that a Jewish state should rise slightly above the lack of morality of its neighbors. It pains me to see how a country which I love and which I have visited many times can be so blind to the needs of its neighbors."