Harvard University has been excoriated for allowing a student-organized conference, the "One State Conference: Israel/Palestine and the one-State solution," to take place on its campus (March 2 & 3, 2012), financed in part by university resources (Harvard's Provost and the Weatherhead Institute), located at the prestigious Kennedy School Forum, posted on the Harvard Kennedy School of Government website, and advertised as a Harvard Kennedy School Student Conference. The Kennedy School website includes a disclaimer: "The One-State Conference is run solely by the student organizers, and students alone are responsible for all aspects of the program, including content and speakers, as with all student-run events. It does not represent the views of the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, or any Harvard school or center." But it still had all the trappings of a Harvard event.
The organizers promised a conference that would explore "the possible contours of a one-state solution and the challenges that stand in the way of its realization." But a variety of critics defined the conference as an anti-Israel hate-fest on the basis of its presenters, its sponsors (including notoriously anti-Israel groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Justice for Palestine, the Palestine Caucus, the Arab Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, and the Alliance for Justice in the Middle East), and its content.
Not surprisingly, controversy erupted well in advance of the conference itself. Alan Dershowitz, a tenured professor at Harvard Law School, condemned the conference as a genuine hate-fest because "virtually all of the speakers oppose Israel's existence." He described the call for a single-state solution as "a euphemism for ending the existence of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people…. The "one-state" solution is not 'the alternative for Israel. It is the alternative to Israel.'"
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) called on Harvard to cancel the forum: "I want to condemn in the strongest possible terms Harvard's sponsorship of a conference exploring a 'one-state solution' to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This is dangerous thinking that gives comfort to Israel's enemies who view the 'one-state solution' as a euphemism for eliminating Israel as a Jewish state. Harvard may have a right to do this, but that doesn't make it right to do it. The University should cancel this conference."
Professor Richard Cravatts, president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), summed it up best:
A conference whose goal is to demonize and delegitimize Israel is not an academic enterprise. It is propaganda parading as scholarship, and violates not only one of the basic precepts of scholarship but also the spirit of the Kennedy School, which was conceived as a place where students could debate, with academic integrity, reason, and insight, the important issues facing decision makers.
The one-state solution, far from a rational plan for Palestinian statehood, actually proposes to do with votes and demography the same thing that Arab armies have themselves failed to do for the past 64 years.
It is thus no surprise that the participants at this conference were the usual suspects of the hate-Israel crowd.
Ilan Pappé, a notorious anti-Israel Israeli faux-historian, was one of the keynote speakers; despite the fact that he has been exposed as inventing history and distorting facts to fit his personal anti-Zionist ideology. As he himself has said, "I care less about veracity because I have an agenda to advance."
The other keynote speaker, Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada and author of the 2006 book "One Country, a Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse," has made a career of Israel bashing.
Another participant for whom facts are irrelevant is Eve Spangler, who routinely accuses Israel of "genocide, apartheid, and sociocide." Elsewhere she has declared that "there is no 'real' history, only competing narratives." So much for objective scholarship.
Another, Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the PLO, simply makes stuff up to demonize Israel and minimize the heinousness of terrorism. She has repeatedly claimed, in stark contradiction to the oft video-taped explosions and destruction caused by qassams, that none of the almost 12,000 rockets and mortars that Hamas has rained down on Israeli towns "actually [had] an explosive head on them." According to her, Hamas is just pretending to kill Israelis.
Among Harvard faculty and affiliate staff presenting at the conference were:
- Stephen Walt: author of the ferociously anti-Israel and factually shoddy The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, which many consider an anti-Semitic tract. Ironically, he was the only speaker at the conference to acknowledge the possibility of a two-state solution.
- Duncan Kennedy: Harvard professor of law who has leveled extreme, factually inaccurate charges against Israel and calls for boycott and divestment.
- Timothy McCarthy: lecturer at the Carr Center at the Kennedy School and a member of the board of advisors of Freedom Forward, a pro-Palestinian, activist group.
- Naor Ben-Yahoyada: a visiting lecturer at Harvard. In 2007 he was part of a campaign that distributed wanted posters for Israel's chief of staff, Dan Halutz, calling him a war criminal, and in 2009 he spoke at an Israel Apartheid Week event in Rhode Island.
In response to the criticism, the Weatherhead Center and the Carr Center for Human Right removed their sponsorships; but the Kennedy School logo remained. This should come as no surprise. The Kennedy School of Government, with its sharply skewed Middle East Initiative program; the university's virulently anti-Israel Center for Middle Eastern Studies and affiliated Outreach Center; the various anti-Israel programs and personalities at the Weatherhead Center, at the Carr Center for Human Rights and in other departments — all have in recent years promoted bigoted attacks against the Jewish state.
The hypocrisy of the event was epitomized as speakers condemned the very existence of a "Jewish" State, but urged the creation of a Palestinian Muslim state which envisions Islam as the official religion, Arabic as the official language, and the principles of Islamic Sharia law, with its gender inequities and religious apartheid, as the main source of legislation.
By presenting a one-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and discussing the ways to achieve it, the conference advocated the demographic destruction of the Jewish State, thereby denying the right of the Jewish people to exercise their own sovereignty. By funding and hosting this conference, Harvard University lent its prestige to, and provided a supportive forum for, one of the most ancient forms of bigotry and hatred.
The conference, in the opinion of some, turned out to be "rather tame and uneventful," "much ado about nothing," and with "few surprises." Even Professor Dershowitz, one of the conference's harshest critics, concluded that "we are winning" in the campus PR war against Israel.
In the opinion of the present writer, these benign post-mortems miss the real problem. Any hate-fest such as this, which proudly sports the imprimatur of any Western university, poses a real and present danger to Israel; and it plants the seeds of a future existential peril to the Jewish people and to Western civilization.
After almost 20 years of events and rallies and conferences at churches and universities around the country, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement has achieved almost nothing, and interest among audiences other than its true believers has diminished. The same seems to be true of the "Israel Apartheid Awareness" programs that annually blossom on campuses across the country. Attendance is down and audiences are mostly hard-core anti-Israel ideologues.
So to remedy flagging interest, the forces that brought us BDS, "Israel Apartheid Week" and lawfare have invented a new front in the campus wars over Israel.
And this is where the great peril lies. Back in the '70s an anti-war movement that originated at one prestigious campus (Berkeley) soon spread to other campuses, and from there to the street and to mainstream media; and it eventually toppled a president and brought home American troops in retreat, defeat and shame, from Viet Nam. Without regard to the merits of the anti-war movement, it serves today as an example of the power of campus activism.
As Senator Brown asserted, "Academic elites need to understand that their ideas have real world consequences well beyond the comforts of the ivory tower, and the last thing Israel needs is Harvard legitimizing a terribly misguided idea."
In the decades before the Holocaust, academia and other elites in the West gave legitimization to the racist doctrine of eugenics, and this doctrine gave the German intellectuals the philosophical underpinning for their age-old Jew-hatred, gentrified with a newly minted pseudo-scientific term, "anti-Semitism." This is the precise what is happening today, on campuses throughout the country. Today's intellectually feeble, psychotically challenged, or morally bankrupt academics and other intellectuals who seek Israel's demise proffer scholarly venues for Muslim Jew haters who there create a mendacious veneer of intellectual inquiry and a faux mantle of historical legitimacy in order to justify the murder Jews on a scale brutally reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
It is shameful and irresponsible that the leaders of America's most prestigious university remain indifferent to, or collude with, what is in essence a new front in the Arab terrorist campaign. However tame or uneventful it may have been, Harvard's event was far from "much ado about nothing." It was the first salvo in a new Arab PR war against Israel and Jews; and in this its organizers' goal was achieved.