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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.
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