McCain, Kyl knock ASU student divestment bill

Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl wrote a jointly signed letter on June 13 addressed to Arizona State University President Michael Crow and Rick Myers, chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents, critical of ASU’s undergraduate student government for recently passing a bill encouraging the university to divest from companies that conduct business with the Israel Defense Forces.

“Such action, which student proponents labeled a ‘victory in the global call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel,’ could, in fact, damage U.S. interests and undermine the fragile Middle East peace process,” wrote McCain and Kyl. “We trust that the Board of Regents and the university will reject this misguided call for a boycott against our staunch ally, Israel.”

“I commend the senators for taking a stand and supporting the Middle East peace process as well as a strong U.S.-Israel alliance,” wrote Boaz Witbeck, founder of the American-Israeli Alliance, a pro-Israel student group at ASU, in an email to Jewish News.

ASU administration has questioned the validity of the bill, and Mark Naufel, incoming Tempe campus student president, released a statement on June 12 saying that his “administration will not pursue action on this bill” (“ASU students, administration differ on Israel divestment bill,” Jewish News, June 15).

Virgil Renzulli, ASU vice president of public affairs, said that “a letter has been sent in response” to the senators but declined to comment further. He told Jewish News last week, “Regardless of this or any other student senate bill, ASU President Michael M. Crow has been and remains on record opposing any boycott or (divestment from) Israel.”

In May 2008, Crow signed a petition in support of Israel that was distributed by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a nonprofit.

Shifa Alkhatib, head of public relations of ASU’s Students for Justice in Palestine, a pro-Palestinian student group at more than 75 colleges across the country, did not respond to a request for comment.