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Brown U. divestment committee faculty member signed 2009 letter calling Israel Apartheid state

Brown U. divestment committee faculty member signed 2009 letter calling Israel Apartheid state

Also a supporter of the shout-down of NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly

Our examination of the shout-down of Ray Kelly at Brown University has moved from the events that day to examining reaction of faculty, including from Political Science Professor Marion Orr who apologized for inviting Kelly, and Biology Professor Ken Miller who issued a forceful denunciation of the shout-down.

Something interesting happened along the way, as more faculty went on record supporting the protests, if not the shout down.

Post doctoral fellow and instructor Linda Quiquivix, who spoke on a panel discussion in favor of the protests, turned out to be a zealous critic of Israel, to put it very mildly.  In light of Quiquivix’s background, I suggested that there may be a connection between supporters of the tactics used against Israel on campuses and those used against Kelly.

It turns out that another faculty member who supported the shout-down also has a background in the Israel divestment movement.  More than that, she sits on the University advisory committee on social investing, which has taken up the Israel boycott issue at the behest of Brown’s Students for Justice in Palestine.

Naoko Shibusawa is a professor of history, specializing in “U.S. cultural history.”

Naoko Shibusawa Syria Forum 3

(Naoko Shibusawa)

In the wake of the Kelly shout-down, Shibusawa wrote a Letter to the Editor of The Brown Daily Herald on November 1, fully supporting the events that took place (emphasis added):

I thank Professor of Biology Ken Miller ’70 P’02 for sharing how he was able to withstand the pleas of Holocaust survivors and walk past them to gain a lesson on the attractions of fascism from an American Nazi. I don’t think I could have done so. On the other hand, as a historian, I wouldn’t have needed that lesson. That said, I want to point out that every movement toward social justice in U.S. history has included “misbehavior.” “Misbehavior” is a tactic of the disempowered toward disrupting the status quo. Closing off discourse was not the protesters’ intention. A demand for a level playing field in that discourse was. I suspect that had Ray Kelly been invited to speak as part of a Janus Forum, it would not have roused nearly as much opposition, if any at all. So unlike Miller, I applaud the student protesters for their moral courage in a righteous cause against racial profiling and brutal police tactics and for their resolution in the face of the harsh criticisms they have since endured. I am proud of you. You inspire me to try to be a better teacher, scholar and person.

Naoko Shibusawa P’14, associate professor of history

I reached out by email to Shibusawa twice last week, with no response.

I did manage to reach her this morning by telephone.   She indicated she didn’t have much time to talk, but I did manage to get in a few questions.

Shibusawa would not comment more about the letter, except to state that she stood by what she said in the letter to the editor and “I believe in social justice.”

Shibusawa stated that “I don’t know what the purpose is [of my call] and what you want to do” and “I’ve checked out your blog.”  She continued, that it “looks like you want to portray me as some sort of extremist” but “I believe in social justice”

Brown U Kelly Protester shouting

(Protester at Brown University shouting at Ray Kelly)

Shibusawa then said, “You can describe me as extreme.”  Perhaps realizing how that sounded, she followed up with an email to clarify:

Do not take what I said out of context.

If it is extreme to be an advocate for social justice, then I am extreme. But what a sad commentary on our society if this is true. You can quote those two lines. Those only.

I also tried to ask Shibusawa about her position on Israel, since a simple Google search turned up some interesting items, such as an announcement in 2012 on her American history course website of Israel Apartheid Week 2012.

More important, Shibusawa is listed as a signatory to a January 2009 Open Letter to Obama, during Israeli Operation Cast Lead.  The letter received much attention, including in the Middle East.

The letter, signed by 900 faculty members around the country, including many from Brown, reads in part (emphasis added):

January 19 2009 Open Letter to Obama title divestment

Public figures as diverse as Bishop Desmond Tutu and President Jimmy Carter have recognized that Israel too maintains an apartheid regime, in practice if not in name. South Africa, now a functioning multi-racial democracy, was a white state for a white people. Israel is a Jewish state for a Jewish people….

Since the election of Hamas, in fair and open elections, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to a prolonged state of siege, designed to suffocate them into submission, depriving them at will of water and power, medical supplies and food, and of access to the outside world. The most recent, all-out assault on Gaza, the disproportionate and bloody use of excessive force, is no act of self-defense, but the dramatic extension of an insidious policy of extermination of a people that refuses to disappear…..

There is no road to peace through such injustice. It may be that the compromise in the end will be the establishment and security of two separate states. Almost certainly, the only hope of a lasting solution is a single state in Israel/Palestine, committed to the civil and human rights of all peoples within its boundaries, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. That is, after all, the standard to which we hold all other states in the world, Israel alone excepted. But no solution at all will be possible until we hold Israel accountable for its criminal violence and its illegal acts, until we cease to supply it with the means to pursue a course of domination and expansion, with arms and warplanes, with finance and diplomatic support. In wake of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, your recent expression of “deep concern” is not enough. It is time for constructive disengagement from Israel, financial, diplomatic, military. What worked in the case of South Africa, divestment and pressure, may finally work in the Middle East.

Without such justice, there will be no peace.

(I’m not going to try to respond to the accusations now, just take it as a reflection of the signatories’ beliefs.)

This would be just another run-of-the-mill unbalanced and inaccurate statement signed onto by yet another member of academia, were it not for Shibusawa’s position at Brown as one of only three faculty members of The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP), whose purpose is to consider:

…. issues of ethical and moral responsibility in the investment policies of Brown University. Committee members include students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University. ACCRIP examines all proxy resolutions concerning issues of social responsibility that are presented to the University as a shareholder, and has developed guidelines for voting on such resolutions.

ACCRIP’s Charter includes responsibility for making recommendations as to divestment petitions:

g.  recommend divestiture (keeping in mind the fundamental principle of sound financial policy, the legal responsibilities of the Corporation to sustain fiscal soundness and stability of the endowment fund, and the kinds of balanced judgment called for above) when divestiture will likely have a positive impact toward correcting the specified social harm, or when the company in question contributes to social harm so grave that it would be inconsistent with the goals and principles of the University to accept funds from that source.

Beginning in or about 2009, Brown Students for Justice in Palestine has been pushing for divestment from companies doing business with Israel, part of a highly-organized, well-funded national effort.  Shibusawa would have been on ACCRIP for some or all of that time period.

Brown Students for Justice in Palestine banner

ACCRIP ended up recommending that further discussions of the issue take place, in a letter dated November 12, 2012 to Brown President Marjorie Paxson, signed by Shibusawa and others, and stating in part as follows (emphasis added):

For the past two years we have had an ongoing dialog with Brown Students for Justice in Palestine (BSJP). The group raises serious allegations that major US corporations in which Brown may be an investor, such as Caterpillar, Boeing, and others, are “profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.” The BSJP calls for Brown to divest from companies that are involved in maintaining said abuse.

The documented abuses of Palestinian citizens by the Israeli Defense Force in the Occupied Territories are deeply troubling. Israel is indisputably engaged in ongoing systemic abuses of human rights and violations of international law, as documented by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice.

This has led to ongoing discussions within our committee about the best way forward. We recognize that the conflict between Palestine and Israel is many faceted and deeply divisive from both personal and institutional perspectives, but the relevant evidence suggests that Brown may be invested in firms whose products and services are being used to commit human rights violations in Palestine.

The committee wishes to facilitate further campus dialogue on this issue before making a recommendation. We respectfully ask that you consider initiating a forum for broader exploration The University should consider the implications of its investment in companies perpetrating human rights abuses, and whether or not divestment is an option in dealing with the issue. In light of whatever discussion ensues, the committee will return to this issue in the next semester.

The ACCRIP letter, while not expressly supporting divestment from companies that do business with Israel, was viewed as a major achievement for the BDS movement, as noted at the anti-Israel Mondoweiss blog.  The Brown Daily Herald also reported on the letter as a step towards divestment:

Brown students from a number of student groups – including SJP and Brown Immigrants’ Rights Coalition – and members of the Providence community participated in a silent march Saturday on Thayer Street while handing out flyers to passersby. Around 50 protesters assembled in a rally at the intersection of Thayer and Waterman Streets, said Eduarda Silva’15, a member of SJP.

Ralliers signed a petition demanding the University divest from companies profiting from human rights violations in Palestine. They also signed letters to Paxson and the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, expressing “enthusiastic support for the recommendation of (ACCRIP) to discuss divesting Brown’s resources from firms whose services and products are used to commit human rights violations in Palestine.”….

SJP members are “really pleased with (the letter),” Silva said. “It’s a critical step for Brown to recognize the human rights violations and recognize ways which we can end our complicity in it. We might be invested in some companies that are contributing to the deaths of civilians abroad.”

In the event Brown divests, it will be the first Ivy League university to do this as a result of companies’ involvement in Israel’s occupation of Palestine….

President Paxson responded by letter dated November 23, 2012 which I would describe as a brush-off, thanking ACCRIP for its careful consideration, but promising nothing specific in terms of University action.

Getting back to that January 2009 letter, I asked Shibusawa if she signed it.  Her response on the phone was: “I could have, I really don’t remember, I sign so many petitions.”

In a subsequent email exchange, Shibusawa did not dispute signing the January 2009 letter and said that others on ACCRIP were aware of her position (emphasis added):


Our conversation was not off the record, but I will quote your explanation.

I see that you are on the ACCRIP committee, do you consider it inconsistent to have signed the January 2009 letter and to be on that committee? Have you disclosed that?

You also declined to answer whether you support divestment from Israel. Can you state your position?


It is already known on the committee. We also have on committee those who publicly adhere to Israeli government line re: the Occupied Territories. According to your logic, it would be inconsistent to have them on ACCRIP as well. Indeed, it’s highly likely they joined the committee for the express purpose of voting on this particular matter.

But conflict of interest refers to material conflict according to Brown faculty rules.

Indeed, let us be consistent.


My prior quesion [sic] “You also declined to answer whether you support divestment from Israel. Can you state your position?”

Can you state your postition?


[no response as of this writing]

I find it interesting that Shibusawa refers to those who disagree with her on ACCRIP as “those who publicly adhere to Israeli government line….”

During our conversation as well as by these emails, I asked Shibusawa whether she supports divestment from Israel.  Her verbal response was:  “I don’t see how that is related” to the Ray Kelly issue.

I emailed President Paxson as to whether she was aware of Shibusawa’s signing the January 2009 letter calling Israel an Apartheid state in light of Shibusawa’s position on ACCRIP, and what Paxon’s position was.  As of this writing, there has been no response.

At an objective level, of course, the views expressed in the January 2009 letter are extreme because they don’t take into account a host of issues, including Gaza launching thousands of missiles into Israel prior to the invasion, and are out of step with the vast majority of Americans.

At the campus level, unfortunately, where demonization of Israel has become dogma, the views are not extreme at all and have become part of the fabric in part because of sympathetic faculty who fly mostly under the radar of parents and alumni.

By contrast with the protesters’ views on Kelly, I don’t seek to shout down Shibusawa’s views.  To the contrary, I think the BDS support by faculty on campuses needs sunlight not darkness.

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Just think, some of these young, dare I say thinkers, just may be future U.S. policy makers and/or leaders.

Something to look forward to, eh?

She surfaced in the comment thread in that Brown Daily Herald piece, trying to sound above it all while simultaneously pulling rank.

Maybe that BS works with frosh and her fellow travelers, but otherwise she came off none-too-bright.

Grumpy Old Man | November 5, 2013 at 6:05 pm

What in the world does this woman’s nattering about “social justice” and her support for undergraduate thuggery have to do with her distaste for Israel?

Why are these issues even connected? Your rather slavish espousal of Zionist tropes does you no honor.

Exactly who is this woman and what right does she have to tell anyone what to do and how to think?

By the way: South Africa has really gone downhill fast since they ended Apartheid. Never hear much about that, do you?

Always amazing that Israel, a democracy which provides more rights for its Arab population than Arab countries provide for their Arabs, is labeled “apartheid” — but not a peep is said by the BDS crowd when hundreds of thousands of Arabs are killed/murdered by other Arabs.

When I see the letters BDS, I just substitute anti-Semite. That way I don’t have to remember what the letters mean.

What a smug *unt.

Looks like you found a Miss Jean Brodie. We already know which one is Mary McGregor.

To me, real social justice would look a lot like a new Porsche in my garage.

absolutely Disgusting
None of those “people” have ever experienced what actual Apartheid was.
I only ever spent 4 Weeks in South Africa during that time, but Anyone would truly learn the meaning of racial segregation during even such a short timeframe.
Whenever someone blurts out comparisons like this or even worse, Nazi comparisons it makes me just sick.

Notice how you NEVER hear anyone on the Left talk about the virtual extermination of Jews in every country controlled by Muslims. The current genocide against Christians is similarly ignored. You also never hear a peep about what happens to whites in African countries when blacks gain political power.