From foreign policy and social injustices to energy, divestment is a method of social activism that attempts to engage people on an array of issues through financial “protests.” But like most divestment campaigns, the true impacts are misunderstood by activists, and often result in unintended financial consequences.
One such campaign is the international economic movement against Israel, which is calling for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against the country. Operating since 2005, the BDS Movement is hoping to exert economic pressure on Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank. However in actuality, the crusade is working to undermine Israel’s legitimacy by causing economic harm to the country.
Recognizing this threat to economic stability and foreign relations, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) recently issued the first executive order in the United States to combat the efforts of the BDS Movement. This strong action against divestment efforts underscores the discriminatory and harmful consequences of this form of social protest.
In a press statement Governor Cuomo stated:
“I’m proud to sign this nation’s leading executive order, which will help protect Israel from the threat of divestment. This order sends the message that this state will do everything in its power to end this hateful, intolerant campaign. New York and Israel share an unbreakable bond and I pray that the Israeli and Palestinian people will find a way to live side by side and find peace, prosperity and security.”
Not only does divestment cause financial harm to the benefactors of pension funds and university endowments, but it can also be damaging – both financially and socially –to governments and people by encouraging funds to discriminate.
Divestment treats companies and governments unequally, with civil servants, workers, and citizens bearing the brunt of the negative financial results. And in reality, this social protest ultimately undermines the ability for these groups to work towards a common solution that everyone agrees with – a hard truth that Governor Cuomo’s action highlights.