BOSTON – As the conflict in the Middle East continues, U.S. support for Israel remains as high as ever. Polls show American sympathies lie with Israelis over Palestinians four to one.
But there's one growing exception to that rule — America's top universities.
Dozens of professors at Princeton, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have signed a petition calling on the United States to stop sending military aid to Israel and asking their universities to divest from companies doing business in Israel.
"I don't think people in the United States should agree to be unwittingly involved in massive state terror," said MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky, who led the petition.
Chomsky, a well-known liberal activist, says Israel and the United States are just as responsible for Mideast violence as the Palestinians.
"Israel is effectively an offshore U.S. military base. It's a loyal client and ally. It's a base for U.S. power in the region. And when a client state carries out atrocities with our assistance and aid, they are barely reported or else ignored," he said.
Chomsky and others took part in a "sit-in" at MIT this week, part of an effort on dozens of campuses to demonize Israel. The activists, including more than 90 professors, want their schools to pull millions out of companies that do business in Israel.
At Harvard, that means dropping stock in General Electric, which does almost $155 million in business in Israel and Johnson & Johnson, with investments of $72 million. MIT is invested in Pepsi, which has $8 million in investments and Microsoft with $12 million.
Not every professor is signing the petition.
"This seems selective, a little hypocritical," said Joshua Angrist, an economics professor at MIT.
Angrist calls the campaign a misguided protest by people whose complaints about the war on terror have fallen flat. Divestment, he said, is no solution.
"Divestiture is a very blunt instrument. So, you're not punishing Ariel Sharon, you're punishing Israeli society at large."
In the 1980s, protests for "divestment" in South Africa to demonstrate anti-apartheid sentiment were very successful. But university officials say this is different and they have no plans to let the protests dictate how they invest their money.