Q&A with Sarah Katularu: Divestment

The Daily Aztec sat with Students Supporting Israel president, Sarah Katularu, to discuss the divestment campaign, and it’s role on San Diego State campus. 

What is the divestment campaign?

The divestment campaign is basically a movement to get the school to pass a referendum, or resolution that makes the school divest from Israel and any corporation that profits from Israel.

Why do you oppose divestment?

As the president of Students Supporting Israel, I believe that there are better ways to help people who live under oppression. Especially with the whole narrative that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians — a lot of these claims are not true. It’s crucial that we get the information out there to show what’s actually happening in the Middle East. The Palestinians are not being oppressed by Israel, there is more to this conflict than what meets the eye.

Why do you support Israel?

I support Israel because it’s the only place in the Middle East where Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze and many other religions can live together in peace. Israel has provided refuge for persecuted LGBT people, Christians and Muslims from the Middle East and Africa. Israel is continuously improving its policies on immigration and gay marriage because of this. Israel is providing the leading technology and medical care around the world to those in need. But sadly, many people don’t see this because of the negative propaganda in the media.

What are you trying to do as a president to oppose divestment?

As the president, I think what’s crucial in opposing divestment is educating people about what’s really going on in Israel and about ways that we can help Palestinians by having fundraisers. We are a pro-Israel group, and we care very much about the Palestinians and we want to try to help them as well. We are also trying to create dialogue between other organizations on campus. Divesting from Israel isn’t helping any of that, we need to be proactive and not contribute to something that is going to be divisive on campus.

What do you wish the student body knew about divestment?

Something I really want students to know is that divestment isn’t something that just came up. It’s been around for a while. Divestment is part of a larger movement called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, also known as the BDS movement. The movement was actually started by a student who went to an Israeli university, Tel Aviv University, and decided that the best way to liberate Palestine was by delegitimizing Israel and destroying Israel’s economy. Divestment is a branch off of that and it’s something that’s been promoted across on college campuses. Its mission is to help promote the BDS movement and to help it to get bigger and stronger.

So, ultimately, what I want people to know is that this is not something that is benefiting our campus at all; it’s not something that is helping the Palestinians. It only contributes to this larger hate movement. By delegitimizing Israel, it means to destroy the Jewish state, Israel, and that is, to some level, anti-Semitic and we’ve seen across college campuses how divestment has lead to anti-Semitism.

What is your biggest fear about Divestment?

My biggest fear is that the campus climate will be even worse than it is. Right now, groups on campus aren’t really communicating with each other about this issue, and by having this hateful resolution on campus, it’s only going to create that barrier. Ultimately, it will divide us. Especially when SDSU is proud of being such a diverse and inclusive environment, I believe that divestment will compromise our school’s spirit.

Do you think students can make a socially conscious educated decision about the conflict?

I do and I don’t. I feel like there are some students who are very educated about the topic and have been studying it and researching it for a while, so I believe they can. Even myself, it took me a very long time, even with having Israeli parents, coming from an Israeli home and living in Israel, I think that I still don’t understand the conflict to such an extent to where I’d want to make such a decision. I think it takes a really long time to learn about the conflict in its entirety and I don’t think you can decide overnight whether or not you want to divest or not. I don’t think that students are in the place to vote on something like this.

Do you think it’s appropriate for students to make a decision?

I don’t think it’s appropriate for a school setting. Students are focused on their studies, and putting a decision on them, and making them decide what’s right for the Palestinians is something that they shouldn’t even have to think about. They have so many other things that they’re focused on, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for our students to make a decision, as our academic institution.

What is your hope for the future for pro-Israel students?

My hope is having more pro-Palestinian events, but also having coalitions with other groups on campus and promoting peace. I want us to invest in peace rather than divest from it. Divestment is counterproductive because it divests from our community on campus.