[Editor's note: Follow the link above to view the referenced handout.]
Billed as simply, "Gaza In Context: Background and Prospects From the Current Crisis", Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies recently presented its spin on the recent Gaza war. By the lecture's title, a casual observer might be led to think that an objective, dispassionate analysis of the conflict was in the offing. Think again. At the end of the two hour session, Harvard had registered its candidacy for MIHU (Most Israel Hating University) to compete with Columbia, UC Irvine and Florida Atlantic University. Keep in mind that Harvard is home to one of the world's most vicious Israel-critics, one Sara Roy, whose vitriol is made all the more effective by her claim to be a daughter of Holocaust survivors.
Ostensibly speaking on the human rights legal aspects of the Gaza war were Professor Duncan Kennedy and Naz K. Modirzadeh. Professor Kennedy is not primarily an expert in international law, his area of expertise being contract law, housing law, torts and (why are we not surprised?) "Left Wing Law and Economics."
Ms. Modirzadeh is a Senior Associate in Harvard's International Humanitarian Law Research Initative, one of the ever- growing apologists for Islamic Shari'ah Law at Harvard. Ms. Modirzadeh has written:
"Much of substantive Islamic law is either consonant with human rights (rules relating to economic, social, and cultural rights, for example), or have no obvious bearing on human rights."
Such scrub-a-dub excusers of Islam's harsh, medieval legal code are legion at Harvard, at the top of which sits Sheikh Noah Feldman who apparently sees the application of Shari'ah Law and its concomitant oppression of Muslims and non-Muslims as a bright, shining beacon for the world.
The title of the lecture was the bait. And the switch was fast in coming. No sooner was the lecture under way than Ms. Modirzadeh set the tone for the talk:
"(the conflict) takes place against the backdrop of occupation"
"Civilians (Palestinians) seemingly being directly attacked"
And guess who is the "occupier" (read "oppressor") is and who the "occupied" ("victim")? You see, the dominant paradigm in the Israel Arab conflict for virtually every institution of higher learning around the world is that of Israel's "effective" occupation even though polemicists like Ms. Modirzadeh are forced to concede Israel's evacuation of the Gaza strip in 2005. Protecting its civilians from deliberate, targeted missile and mortar attacks which have gone on almost daily for over 6 years is simply another manifestation of Israel's "effective occupation." According to this tortured logic, a country which has been attacked must permit the attacks because any military response is legally and morally suspect because such defense is tantamount to "occupation." Not only is Israel prohibited from entering Gaza to silence the rocket attacks, but as the "effective" occupying power, it is legally and morally obligated to protect all the citizens of Gaza.
The switch resplendent.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs puts the lie to the argument here. Most jaw-dropping in both speakers' presentations was the cursory, virtually non-existent mention of Hamas or Islamic Jihad and their war against Jewish civilians. While holding Israel to absurd legal and moral standards, Hamastan got a virtual free pass on humanitarian rights violations Out of nearly two hours of indictments against Israel and its supposed deliberate targeting of civilians in Gaza, Hamas' self-admitted and unapologetic war on Jewish civilians amounted to roughly 5% of the presentation.
Human rights law pertaining to the concepts of proportionality (if someone punches you in the nose, you don't burn down his house) and distinction (targeting combatants not civilians) was presented to the audience with relentless examples of supposed Israeli violations.
But what the two presenters omitted -- intentionally, I believe -- was the third principle of human rights law triggered by armed conflict (jus in bellum) -- the principle called Perfidy. This principle has to do with deliberate deception in the conduct of war.
As Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention makes clear, the presence of civilians "may
not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations." The
article also makes clear that Palestinian attempts to use civilian shields are unlawful.
It is obvious why the polemical professor and his associate would not want to inform their audience of this important precept. They might have to acknowledge the incontrovertible perfidy of their clients, the Gazan Palestinians. Such omission is morally reprehensible, academically dishonest and entirely predictable in the current university culture. And yet, considering Harvard's place on top of the heap of prestigious colleges, one would expect a bit more honesty and fairness. No such luck.
Both presenters brought up the alleged use of "white phosphorous" by the IDF in Gaza, a substance that has been banned for use against civilians by the Geneva Convention, but which is permissible to use as an illuminant on the battlefield. Recently, the International Committee of the Red Cross exonerated Israel in such use. When I challenged Kennedy on this point, he refused to comment. And when I brought up the fact that Hamas had deliberately loaded mortar shells with the banned substance and fired them at Jewish civilian population centers, they also declined to comment.
To accompany their tendentious talk, Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies handed out an "information" sheet about Gaza (reproduced below):
Just a few notes on the handout:
- According to the handout, Egypt "administered" Gaza from 1948-1967, while Israel "militarily occupied " it from "1967 to the present" (Egypt did maintain a military presence in Gaza). Despite the fact that no Israeli soldiers, police, bureaucrats or, for that matter, not a single Jew (with the exception of a brief visit last year by Jeff Halper, the Israel-hating putative Jew) has set foot in Gaza since the pullout in 2005, Harvard considers Gaza "occupied."
- Among the "Human Rights" organizations cited are B'Tselem (the group that considers the Palestinian homicide bomber prior to his actual detonation a "non-combatant"), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, organizations that have branded Israel one the greatest human rights violators in the world while only occasionally citing Palestinian terror groups.
- Note the map caption "Israel's navy stopped an Iranian ship off the coast, carrying aid and food." Considering the amount of advanced missilery and other weapons supplied to Gaza by Iran during the past 7 years including the 50 tons of weapons seized on the Iranian ship, the KarineA in 2002, Israeli action is completely justified.
- The map contains no markings or reference to of the hundreds of qassam or katyusha missile launching sites, especially in the northern Gaza strip.