On March 3-4, Harvard will host a two-day conference at the Kennedy School of Government focused, in effect, on dismantling the Jewish state of Israel. A number of student groups and others associated with Harvard are sponsoring “One State Conference: Israel/Palestine and the One State Solution.”
Those who promote a one-state “solution” advocate creating an entity which would, through its merger with the Palestinian Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza and an influx of Palestinians from neighboring states, lose its Jewish majority and its Jewish character. In effect, Jewish self-determination would be nullified.
According to the working definition of anti-Semitism developed by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), and recognized by the United States Department of State, the One State Conference, in implicitly “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” is an exercise in anti-Semitism.
In a conversation recorded on February 9, 2012 at Imperial College in London, even Norman Finkelstein, who describes himself as having devoted his life to the cause of the Palestinians, told his interviewer, “You know and I know exactly what we’re talking about because if we end the occupation, and we bring back 6 million Palestinians, and we have equal rights for Arabs and Jews, there’s no Israel. That’s what it’s really about.”
The “Vision & Goals” section of the conference website states:
To date, the only Israel/Palestine solution that has received a fair rehearsal in mainstream forums has been the two-state solution. Our conference will help to expand the range of academic debate on this issue. Thus, our main goal is to educate ourselves and others about the possible contours of a one-state solution and the challenges that stand in the way of its realization.
Conference speakers and organizers include extreme anti-Israel academics, the founder of Electronic Intifada, members of the radical Jewish Voice for Peace and an ex-PLO spokesperson. No one even remotely sympathetic to Israel appears to be affiliated with the conference.
The Kennedy School’s own notorious Stephen Walt, author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a work discredited for its shoddy scholarship and bigoted charges against American supporters of Israel, joins other Harvard figures, including law school professor Duncan Kennedy, in lending the event the imprimatur of the institution.
The One State Conference website boasts the logo of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and has been in the planning for a year. According to The Jewish Advocate, Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood released a statement, saying:
I want to emphasize once again that Harvard University and the Harvard Kennedy School in no way endorses or supports the apparent position of these student organizers or any participants they include. We hope that the final shape of the conference will be significantly more balanced.
Furthermore, the university is quoted saying that the event is being at least partially underwritten by “modest” funds set aside for student activities. According to Melodie Jackson, Associate Dean for Communications, also quoted in The Jewish Advocate: “Generally administrators try to be supportive of student ideas for events that they are planning.”
Increasingly, assaults on Israel’s legitimacy and survival are promoted by academics, including at the nation’s most prestigious universities.
Anti-Semitism and Sham Scholarship
Another element in the State Department-recognized working definition of anti-Semitism is “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” That is also likely to occur at the conference. Scheduled speaker Ali Abunimah has previously compared Israel to Nazis, and similar statements have been made by others. Conference organizer Ahmed Moor also accuses Jews of racism asserting, “Many Israelis and Jewish people are weaned on the idea of Jewish exceptionalism.” Marc Ellis likens Jews to Nazis and to the Egyptians of the Passover tale.
This sort of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic invective, masquerading as education, has become commonplace at these conferences. Far from being scholarly, however, many of the scheduled speakers are of dubious academic integrity and frequently disseminate misinformation and false narratives about Israel and Jews. For example:
- Marc Ellis wrote a column describing how a Palestinian friend of his was murdered because Jewish settlers coveted her family’s land, falsely implying she was killed by Jews when, in fact, her murderer was an Arab. Ellis is currently defending himself against charges by Baylor University that could lead to his dismissal.
- Leila Farsakh falsely asserted in a French newspaper that the PLO had agreed to share land with Israel in 1974. The truth is that in 1974, the PLO reaffirmed its rejection of a land-for-peace deal in what is known as the “Phased Plan” for the destruction of Israel.
- Nadim Rouhana was denied tenure at Boston College due to the insufficient quality of his scholarship.
- Stephen Walt is best known for his book, written with John Mearsheimer, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. The book, which claims American Jews are a fifth column that controls American policy for the benefit of Israel, is little more than a rehash of classic anti-Semitic tropes which is also rife with falsehoods.
Denying the Jewish People Their Right to Self-Determination
The “One State Conference” seeks to promote the destruction of Israel’s Jewish character. Conference organizer Ahmed Moor says as much in a piece he wrote for the Huffington Post entitled, “Israel’s Jewish Character Is Subject for Debate.”
The conference will feature a number of panels. Panel 7 deals with cultural identity, asking “What role should the state play in the maintenance of the national groups’ identities? Will it be necessary to forge a new, shared identity in the new state?” It is interesting that this question should be addressed without a single pro-Israel panelist participating.
Many people with an intimate understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict insist that the one-state solution is wholly impossible to implement. Worse, it is a recipe for protracted ethnic bloodshed. Could that be true?
Could it? Let’s examine this issue. With a Jewish minority in Israel, Jews would face the same fate as ethnic and religious minorities in other Arab countries. For example:
- According to human rights activist and former Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The Sudanese government’s sustained persecution of religious minorities culminated in the genocide in Darfur that began in 2003. Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which charged him with three counts of genocide, and still the violence rages on.
- Saudi Arabia bars all public expressions of religion other than Wahhabi Islam and prohibits all non-Muslim houses of worship. Saudi police recently raided a private home and arrested 35 Christians who had gathered simply to pray.
- For decades, Coptic Christians have been second class citizens in Egypt where the building or even routine maintenance of a church was illegal, but since the fall of Hosni Mubarak violence against Christians has surged. Recently thousands of Muslims went on a rampage, attacking Copts, burning and looting Coptic homes and shops.
- In Tunisia, the dominant political party, Ennahda, plans to institute Shariah law.
- In Libya, the head of the Tripoli Military Council once led an Islamic militia with links to al-Qaida. He intends to run for office in upcoming elections which makes Christians uneasy.
- Christians in Yemen are subject to abuse when they openly embrace their Christianity, with men being beaten and women harassed. They are not allowed even to bury their dead in the capital of Sana’a where all cemeteries are strictly Muslim.
- Since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, the Christian community has been facing severe persecution, afraid to practice their religion publicly. In November of that year, a Christian bookstore was bombed and the store’s manager tortured and murdered.
Harvard Pushing Propaganda
Perhaps little should be expected from Harvard when it comes to the subject of the Middle East. Harvard’s Middle East Outreach Center, charged with providing curriculum materials to middle and high schools, has distinguished itself mostly by disseminating propaganda instead of scholarship. In addition, Harvard accepts millions in funding from Saudi Arabian princes and other wealthy Arab donors.
Even so, Harvard’s Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood states, “Our mission is to train enlightened public leaders and generate the ideas that provide solutions to our most challenging public problems.” This conference is not likely to further that endeavor.