In December, during the build-up to the liberation of Iraq, a group of selfstyled "American academics and intellectuals" published a letter, "Against the Expulsion of the Palestinians." This was recently noted by Martin Kramer, in his Web log on Middle East affairs, Sandstorm. In the letter, the authors quote from a similar letter put out by a group of Israeli, leftist academics warning that the "fog of war…could be exploited by the Israeli government to commit further crimes against the Palestinian people, up to full-fledged ethnic cleaning."The American letter concluded: "We urge our government to communicate clearly to the government of Israel that the expulsion of people according to race, religion or nationality would constitute crimes against humanity and will not be tolerated." More than 1,000 signed. Many of these signatories work right here in New York,at Columbia and New York University, which today is set to open the Taub Center for Israel Studies, which we hope will emerge as a corrective to this sort of nonsense. To see a full list of signatories to the anti-expulsion letter, point your Web browser to: www.professorsofconscience.org.
America never warned Israel to refrain from genocide, and, hard though it may be for the professors to believe,Israel managed to refrain from committing one, even without an American warning. Given that, one might expect there to be some red faces about town. After all, this letter made drastic accusations about the Israeli government, condemning it for something it had not done and that there was no evidence it ever intended to do. Israel's haters, however, are seldom swayed by history or fact. Witness the conversation The New York Sun had this week with one of the original signatories, Zachary Lockman, professor of Middle Eastern studies and history at New York University. Asked his thoughts on the letter now that the war in Iraq has concluded, Mr. Lockman said,"I think it was justified in the sense that it can't really be a bad idea to act preventively in such things.…One can easily imagine scenarios in which things might have gone differently."
It is a strange thing to hear a member of the American left advocate preventive action — a tactic for which both Israel and America have been condemned in different contexts. Stranger still to imagine the scenario that Mr. Lockman has such ease conjuring up, though he was willing to flesh it out: "I can imagine such a scenario, if Israel had been attacked, especially if it had been a chemical or biological weapon.…Some in the Israeli government could have seen it as a chance to get rid of some people, not just Yasser Arafat but some others, and end Palestinian resistance to Israeli rule. I'm sure there are contingency plans for such things."
It may be an academic point, but it seems that those who are all too prepared to think the worst of the Jewish state lack a plan for the contingency that Israel might act, as it historically has, as the only civilized and democratic nation in the region. It's something that America's "academics and intellectuals" might want to prepare for the next time they decide to slander Israel with acts that they have only imagined.