Saturday, March 09, 2013

Anti-Israel agitation at Harvard University

The anti-Israel campaign reached my alma mater some time ago, but this manifestation of it really angers me.

The ostensibly "pro-Palestinian" Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee has celebrated "Israel Apartheid Week" by putting mock eviction flyers (Mock Eviction Flyers Incite Debate) on the doors of some Harvard suites in order, supposedly, to make Harvard students feel like Palestinians who are being evicted from their homes in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Palestine Solidarity Committees like Harvard's are, in actuality, anti-Israel groups that want to see the destruction of the state of Israel in favor of a "one state solution" that will make Jews once again a minority in every country of the world.

For a good student response, see this article by Ariella Rotenberg and Ariel Rubin, "The Wrong Type of Engagement."
As two seniors writing theses on aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, we have actively sought out views that oppose our own and continue to work in an effort to understand contradicting narratives. Through our research and combined eight months of living experience in Israel over the past year, we found barriers to peace attributable to both Israel and the Palestinians. We realize the importance of employing a framework that engages with multiple perspectives. There are limits to this framework, however, when words are based in hatred rather than facts. The Palestinian Solidarity Committee has reached this limit in its portrayals of the conflict as one-sided, revealing either a lack of understanding of history or rejection of an honest, albeit challenging, conversation about the complicated reality. 
The PSC’s use of the word “apartheid” is ahistorical, polarizing, and preventative of informed, fact-based dialogue. The implication of the comparison to “apartheid” is that the Israelis are racist totalitarians ruling over blameless Palestinians, with no consideration for the nuances and details of the conflict. Israel’s Declaration of Independence guarantees equal rights to all citizens irrespective of religion, race, or sex. It is a country where a Palestinian citizen of Israel serves as a Supreme Court Justice; where political discourse includes Arab elected officials who are hyper-critical of Israel; and where all citizens are guaranteed the same right to education. It is a country committed to peaceful coexistence, not a country with a systematic policy of racism. By using the misnomer of “apartheid,” the PSC explicitly demonizes Israel by squeezing the complicated Arab-Israeli conflict into the same racially driven mold that existed in South Africa. We take issue with certain Israeli policies and recognize that the state is not perfect, but we base our criticism in historically accurate facts. It takes only a very rudimentary understanding of the situation to appreciate the PSC’s gross misuse of the word “apartheid.” 
The PSC as an organization consistently projects a dishonest voice that distorts the reality of the conflict. Last November, the group staged a “die-in” to show solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza under what the PSC deemed a so-called “unprovoked assault” from Israel. It is one thing to show solidarity with the people of Gaza, but labeling the operation as “unprovoked” is a deliberate neglect for the more than 10,000 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel over the previous decade. The PSC bases its activism in the Veritas Handbook, a 347-page “guide to understanding the struggle for Palestinian human rights.” Crimson columnist Daniel Solomon described it last week as “glib dismissals of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism...indulg[ing] in conspiracy theories, that Mossad agents, not government-sanctioned campaigns of violence and terror, were responsible for the exodus of Jews from Arab lands.” The PSC’s mission statement states that it “does not prescribe a solution to the struggle; rather...believe[s] in supporting and amplifying the voices of those working against injustice.” If an organization is devoted to a struggle, that struggle should at least aim for a peaceful resolution built on mutual respect and understanding. Instead, the PSC polarizes the campus discourse through misinformation and inflammatory tactics.


  1. two quick comments:

    1. the examples of democratic rights enjoyed by Arabs in Israel do more to obfuscate than to clarify: the fact is that Arabs in Israel are second class citizens

    2. Israelis commonly acknowledge that Israeli democracy is on a slipperly slope; the debate is whether the current situation could already be described as Apartheid or it is only approaching Apartheid. Many mainstream Israeli-Jewish politicians, including former Prime Ministers Sharon and Ulmert admit this, and while supporters of Israel in the U.S. are horrified (as they should be) by the suggestion that Israel could be classified as an Apartheid state, Israelis have long passed that stage.

  2. I don't want to defend the actions of Israel - I think Israel is wrong to occupy the West Bank, and should withdraw from it. What I'm objecting to is the actions of people like the PSC at Harvard (and similar groups on many other campuses) who think that everything is the fault of Israel, and who are ultimately working towards a "one state solution" that will result in one, majority-Arab state that will not in any way respect the rights of Jews and will lead to a mass Jewish exodus. Unlike you, I'm still a Zionist, and I want a Jewish state, but one that does not oppress Palestinians in the WB and Gaza, and one that offers (and grants) equal rights to all its citizens.

  3. Hi, Rebecca.

    I think the settler movement and its supporters, including all of Israel's recent government, especially the outgoing and incoming ones, have forced the one state solution upon us, since they do not have either the will or the ability to move 600,000 settlers -- 10% of the Israeli Jewish population -- out of the West Bank.

    The only remaining question is whether we'll have one state with permanent Apartheid, or will we live in harmony and partnership with the Palestinians who already are more than 50%, and that's before any refugees have returned. In other words, the Jewish state that we grew up believing in is no more, and what the settlers want us to accept is an immoral situation in which we rule over a majority of Palestinians -- of course, they hope that the Palestinians will all or mostly pick up and leave us the land, but that hasn't happened, the world won't go for it, nor should our consciences allow it.

  4. Jeremy - how on earth do you think that Israelis and Palestinians can live in harmony and partnership together in one state? If someone could provide me with real evidence that one state would lead to anything other than civil war - that is, if there were proof that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians actually wanted one state - then of course I would not protest. They have the right to decide whether or not to live together. But if there is one polity, I don't see how it can lead to anything other than a lot more violence than exists now.