Diana Buttu is at it Again, Harvard Edition

On October 18, the Harvard Kennedy School, which recently hosted a “One State Conference” dedicated to the elimination of Israel, yet again provided a platform for a notorious anti-Israel detractor.  Diana Buttu, former PLO spokeswoman and current fellow at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, delivered a lecture that purported to discuss the “reality” of the Middle East peace process, but instead disseminated lies to her audience. In her telling, Qassam rockets don’t have explosive heads and cause no casualties in Israel; Grad rockets were not fired into Israel in the years 2008 or 2009; Richard Goldstone hardly retracted any portion of his eponymous report; and not one Israeli was murdered by a suicide bombing in Israel from the years 1997-2000. Finally, she insisted, the idea of Israel as a Jewish state exists solely to facilitate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Levant.
Here is the audio of Buttu’s presentation:

Transcribed below are selected portions of Buttu’s lecture:

• “Qassams don’t have an explosive head.” 

Multiple press outlets throughout the world have contradicted Buttu’s bewildering claim that Qassam rockets are built and launched without explosives.  In 2008, the BBC published a piece describing Qassams being “filled with explosives…Qassam and other rockets have killed 13 people inside Israel, including three children.”  After initially claiming that no Israelis were injured by Qassam rockets, The New York Times published a correction in 2003 stating that the rockets in fact “have damaged several homes and factories over the last 18 months, leaving Israelis suffering from shrapnel wounds, broken limbs, smoke inhalation and shock.” Four year-old Yuval Abebeh and two year-old Dorit (Masart) Benisian were both killed in Sderot in September 2004 by a “Qassam rocket fired from Gaza while playing in the street.” In January 2005, seventeen-year-old Ayala-Haya Abukasis

was mortally wounded when a Qassam rocket landed near her and shrapnel penetrated her cerebellum, leaving her brain dead. She was struck while protecting her younger brother, who was lightly wounded. Kept on life support throughout the week, her parents agreed to stop treatment when doctors told them there was no chance of recovery. She died on January 21.

This death and destruction is a result of the fact that Qassams carry 22 pounds of explosives, an easily verifiable fact.
• “There weren’t any grad rockets fired in 2008 and 2009.” 

This is another flagrant lie. From April to May 2008 alone, 30 Grad rockets hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon. In one attack, in which a Grad rocket landed in a crowded shopping mall, 90 people were wounded. Human Rights Watch published a report describing Palestinian Grad and Qassam rocket attacks that occured in 2008-2009, as did the Congressional Research Service.  In addition, the BBC Worldwide Monitoring reported in December 2008 that the military wing of Hamas, Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, posted on their website

a clip showing the “targeting of the Zionist settlement of Netivot with four Qassam rockets.” The site further posted a report summing up the group’s operations throughout 24 December. … “In addition, the Al-Qassam Brigades mujahids successfully fired two Grad rockets at Al-Majdal and Netivot.”

Indeed, the consistent firing of Grad and Qassam rockets into Israel is what precipitated the Gaza war that began in December 2008.

• In response to a statement from the audience that Richard Goldstone had retracted the “Goldstone Report,” Buttu falsely responded:

“He retracted the portion that said that Israel wasn’t following up in terms of its investigations. …There were two prosecutions. One was for credit card theft, an Israeli soldier was stealing somebody’s credit card, and one was for property damage. That’s it.

In fact, Goldstone retracted a primary point of his report, which was that Israel purposely targeted civilians. In his widely read 2011 Washington Post column, Goldstone wrote,

If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document. …

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy…Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn’t negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.

Following the publication of Goldstone’s column, The AP emphasized the significance of his retraction: “The head of a U.N.-appointed expert panel that investigated the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas in the winter of 2008-2009 said in a newspaper article that new accounts by Israel’s military indicate that it did not deliberately target civilians, his report’s central and most inflammatory accusation.”

• “When you have one-ton missiles versus a missile that doesn’t have an explosive head, that Goldstone himself said is not causing anything but minor property damage, you can see how disproportionate it is.”

In fact, Goldstone’s testimony on the impact of Palestinian rocket fire on Israel says the opposite.

The Report acknowledges that the rockets occasionally caused fatalities and adds that, “Property damage, while by no means insignificant, has not been extensive. More widespread, however, has been the psychological trauma and the feeling of insecurity that living under rocket fire has caused and continues to cause, to people living in the affected towns and village, as well as the erosion of the economic, social and cultural life of these communities.”

The non-profit Sderot Media Center likewise describes the damage as extending to emotional and psychological trauma that is caused by living under constant rocket fire:

A 2007 survey showed that 75% of the city suffers from trauma. 1,000 residents receive psychiatric treatment at the community mental health center. They are raising a generation of children with PTSD without the Post.  Today, all schools, kindergartens, and day care centers are built as bomb shelters. The High Court ordered every apartment to have its own shelter, which works out to about 5,500 shelters. Over 100 sheltered bus stops line the streets. It is a town of shelters.

• “Between the period of 1996 to 2000 were actually the years that were the most secure years in Israel’s history. This was largely because of the Palestinian Authority and the security cooperation of the Palestinian Authority.”

Several dozen Israelis were murdered by suicide bombings between 1996 and 2000, including three young women in the Tel Aviv café Apropo in March 1997. These murders alone contradict Buttu’s oft-repeated falsehood that, between the period of 1997 until the year 2000, there wasn’t a single Israeli who died of a suicide bombing inside Israel.

When an audience member challenged Buttu about these earlier claims that Israelis were not killed by suicide bombings in that time period, Buttu continued to deny the murder of innocent Israelis, claiming, “[Those numbers] weren’t correct.”

When the questioner asked her to then explain the murder of the three women in Tel Aviv, Buttu responded, “All of the people you are talking about were settlers.”

Sadly, Buttu was again not telling the truth. Scores of non-settler Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists between the years of 1996-2000 in suicide bombing attacks, stabbings, and shootings.

The below list only includes a few examples.

In February 1996, Sgt. Hofit Ayyash, 20, of Ashdod was killed in an explosion set off by a suicide bomber at a hitchhiking post outside Ashkelon. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

In March 1996, outside Dizengoff Center in Tel-Aviv, a suicide bomber detonated a 20-kilogram nail bomb murdering Bat-Hen Shahak, 15, of Tel Mond; Hadas Dror, 15, of Tel Mond; Kobi Zaharon, 13, of Tel Aviv; Inbar Atiya, 21, of Ramat-Efal; Dan Tversky, 58, of Tel Aviv; Dana Gutman, 14, of Moshav Mishmeret; Yovav Levy, 13, of Tel Aviv; Leah Mizrahi, 60, of Tel Aviv; Tali Gordon, 24, of Givatayim; Rahel Sela, 82, of Tel Aviv; Sylvia Bernstein, 73, of Hod Hasharon; Gail Belkin, 48, of Herzliya; and St.-Sgt. Assaf Wachs, 21, of Holon.

In September 1997, five people — Yael Botwin, 14; Sivan Zarka, 14; Smadar Elhanan, 14; Rami Kozashvili, 20; and Eliahu Markowitz, 40 — were murdered in three suicide bombings on the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall in Jerusalem..

In March 1997 Michal Avrahami, 32, Yael Gilad, 32, and Anat Winter-Rosen, 32, were murdered at the Apropo Café in Tel Aviv by a suicide bomber.

In February 1998, David Ktorza, 40, of Jerusalem, was stabbed to death near his home.

In August 1999, Yehiel Finfeter, 25, of Kiryat Motzkin, and Sharon Steinmetz, 21, of Haifa, were murdered while hiking in the Megiddo region.

It was also lost on Buttu that it was the Palestinian Authority’s leader, Yasser Arafat, who continued to promote incitement against Israel after the Oslo Peace Process and launched the deadly second intifada in September 2000.

When questioned by an audience member how the Palestinians feel in terms of accepting Israel as the Jewish State, Buttu responded, “Putting aside the issue of Jewish sovereignty because that’s not really what it’s focused on, the idea of creating a Jewish State…is to try to expel and get rid of and try to
legitimate the expulsion of the indigenous population.” 

This absurd claim that Israel isn’t “really” about Jewish self-determination either shows Buttu’s profound ignorance of the history of Zionist thought, or more likely, in light of the above, a continued willingness to flatly lie to her audience. 

So the question remains: why does Buttu, an obvious propagandist with a clear commitment to subverting the truth and hindering academic comprehension of a vast, complex issue, continue to be given a platform at one of America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning? 

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