Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Jew-Hatred Rising: The Perversities of the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.
On April 29th, in a breathtaking display of tendentiousness and a misreading of history and fact, you published an editorial in the Harvard Crimson entitled, “In Support of Boycott, Divest, Sanction and a Free Palestine,” an outrageous column replete with slanders against the Jewish state that called for the Harvard community to commit itself to the corrosive BDS campaign against Israel.
You suggested that the editorial was inspired by the April demonstrations and programming of the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee (HCPSC) which, as part of Israeli Apartheid Week, “installed a colorful, multi-panel ‘Wall of Resistance’ in favor of Palestinian freedom and sovereignty.” Additionally, you heaped praise on the childish mock wall and suggested that “art is a potent form of resistance” and that you were “humbled by our peers’ passion and skill” in creating such an activist masterpiece.
Even more importantly, you contended, fallaciously, “The admittedly controversial panels dare the viewer to contend with well-established, if rarely stated, facts [emphasis added].” What are examples of those “well-established facts” you alluded to? One panel announced in capital letters, for example, that “Zionism is: Racism – Settler Colonialism – White Supremacy – Apartheid,” mendacious slurs that echo the UN’s notorious 1975 Resolution 3379 that proclaimed that Zionism is racism.
Framing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a matter of race, as this foolish display did, and accusing Israel of maintaining a system of apartheid, is something that Israel-haters are fond of doing, even when the charge is patently false. The accusation of apartheid was given even more support last year with the publication of reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, both obsessive, perennial critics of Israel, that redefined apartheid in a way that it could be used to slander Israel—reports that you, in fact, alluded to in your editorial. The puerile accusation of white supremacy against Israel is as grotesque and unhinged as is the oft-repeated claim that Israelis are the new Nazis, committing genocide against the Palestinians, and both are not only counter-factual but are also forms of anti-Semitic expression described in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.
Of course, your claim that the “facts” on the HCPSC mock wall are “well-established” is only true inasmuch as these are facts that live in the minds of progressives and anti-Semites who promiscuously and carelessly throw around words without attention to their actual meaning and import. Progressive thought, such as is apparent in this editorial, involves allowing emotions to define things instead of facts.
Your other preposterous contention that these attitudes toward Israel, these supposed facts, are “rarely-stated” is so naïve that only college students who have just begun to counter anti-activism could possibly believe them, since the campaign to slander, libel, and destroy the Jewish state has been in high gear for some two decades, and this counter-factual language and the allegations within it have been and continues to be ubiquitous on campuses worldwide. And it requires no bravery at all to be an enemy of Israel on university campuses seeped in such activism, as much as you try to impute bravery on the part of those who promote Palestinianism.
In justifying your position in this debate, you remarked that “It is our categorical imperative to side with and empower the vulnerable and oppressed.” Really? Does that include Jewish civilians who are being stabbed, rammed with cars, blown up, and showered with rockets in their sleep by the genocidal terrorist organization of Hamas in Gaza and even Arab Israelis? Or it is only the Palestinians you care about, who have rejected statehood when offered to them on multiple occasions, preferring instead to mount an endless resistance against a sovereign state they cannot and will not abide simply because its residents are Jews?
Your calling for a BDS campaign to be unleashed against Israel demands that, among the many and various calamitous examples of human strife and suffering occurring around the world, Harvard should focus on and commit to denouncing only one: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And more than that—just as the Third Reich and Arab League before them—you wish to target Jewish businesses, organizations, and educational institutions, and expel them from the world community. You wish to single out only Zionism and Jewish self-determination as being singular evils in the world. If you apply a double standard to Israel, holding it up to a standard of behavior not expected or required of any other nation, denying only Jewish self-determination while advancing and being a cheerleader for Palestinian self-determination, that behavior conforms to the IHRA working definition of what, in the contemporary context, can be indicative of anti-Semitism.
You, like other anti-Semites, may vigorously deny that nothing you say or do in this cognitive war against Israel has anything to do with Jew hatred, but the IHRA definition suggests that when you promote anti-Zionism, Jewish self-determination, and employ tactics such as BDS designed specifically to weaken and destroy Israel, you are engaging in anti-Semitic behavior, “advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent,” as former Harvard President Lawrence Summers once put it.
You yearn for the “liberation of Palestine” but what do you assume such an event would actually result in? When you carelessly refer to a liberated Palestine are you talking about the West Bank and Gaza, areas that would comprise a new Palestinian state? Or are you really describing and eagerly imagining a liberated Palestine that BDS supporters and their fellow travelers in the Arab world and in the West actually seek, namely, a Palestine which includes, and subsumes, present-day Israel? Could Israel even survive a “liberation” of the Palestinians, even encompassing only Gaza and the West Bank, assuming the Palestinians actually agree to such a territorial settlement? Israel knows, because of its experience after cleansing Gaza of all of its Jews, that instead of working on the creation of the beginnings of a state for themselves in Gaza, the Palestinians allowed Hamas to transform Gaza into a terror enclave from which to continually assault Israel, something which Israelis understandably imagine could happen again were the West Bank, in addition to Gaza, to be totally controlled by the PA, Fatah, or even Hamas.
And if the perverse and immoral fantasy in which Israel disappears completely into some sort of bi-national state were ever to be realized, a complete “liberation” of Palestine, what do you think would be the fate of the Jewish democracy of Israel and the Jews who live there? Were this to occur, Israelis would find themselves at the hands of hostile Arabs who are taught from birth that Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs or under the control of Hamas terrorists whose charter includes the lethal exhortation to Muslims everywhere which claims that “’The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’”
Conspicuously absent from your editorial, as is common with activists’ condemnation of Israel, is any questioning or critique of Palestinian agency, responsibility, behavior, political decisions, or even the nature of their culture and society. You feel very comfortable, sitting in the safety of your Harvard Square offices, hectoring Israel to tear down its security wall, welcoming millions of Jew-hating Arabs into its country as citizens, abandoning territory it rightfully owns or won in defensive wars, and otherwise making any concession you and other critics of the Jewish state demand of Israel, even to its own detriment and physical safety—consequences you apparently could care less about in your relentless quest for social justice for the long-aggrieved Palestinians.
Perhaps peace and statehood could finally be realized by the Palestinians if their worldwide supporters made demands on them, as you have no problem doing when the target is Israel. Perhaps the Palestinians could be encouraged to end the cult of death that pervades their society with kindergarteners dressed as terrorists and playacting the killing of Jews; where Palestinian summer camps and town squares are named after shahids, martyrs; where student groups in Palestinian universities compete for prominence based on the number of Jews their members have murdered; where it is a capital offense in the West Bank for an Arab to sell land to a Jew, the same West Bank where the supposed “moderate” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly asserted that not one Jew will be allowed to live when it becomes part of a new Palestinian state; where geography books in Palestinian schools contain maps without Israel on them and children’s shows on Palestinian TV include perverse characters like Farfur, Mickey Mouse’s demonic twin, who playfully regurgitates hateful propaganda about Israel on the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV to encourage children to become martyrs and attack and kill Jews; and where, in 2019, for example, the Palestinians spent $343 million of the foreign aid showered upon them to pay terrorists who had murdered Jews and their the families gruesome bounties in a “pay to slay” program to effect that “liberation” for which you so vocally and unashamedly lend your support.
Can you not see how your support of this murderous and morally-debased campaign to extirpate Israel, thinly disguised as activism to promote Palestinian self-determination, might not be shared with many of your Harvard peers? And can you not see, finally, that your obsessive focus on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict—with Israel positioned as the perennial oppressor and the Arabs as its perennial victim—reveals your bigotry and even marginal anti-Semitism, despite your protestations to the contrary.
You make a careless reference to Israel’s killing of Palestinians, including children, without any context, failing to mention, of course, the inconvenient fact that since the 1920s Arabs have resisted, through violence and attacks, any Jewish presence in the Holy Land, including to the current day. Like other enemies of Israel, you are quick to count Arab bodies when they are killed by Jews but carelessly and immorally ignore any of the deaths of innocent Jews in Israel at the hands of psychopathic murderers who randomly attack civilians without provocation, including the 11 innocent Israelis murdered randomly in the streets last month in the uninterrupted campaign of terror that you and your fellow travelers help justify when you euphemistically excuse “resistance” on the part of Palestinians or chant, “Intifada, intifada, long live the intifada,” a grotesque rallying cry for the murder of Jews regularly heard at anti-Israel hate-fests.
Characteristic of anti-Semitic expression such as yours which specifically debases and targets Jewish self-determination in the name of Palestinianism, you hector only Israel about its many perceived predations, never even suggesting the possibility that the sorry state in which the Palestinians find themselves might have something to do with their own culture, religion, society, and political decisions, and not wholly the fault or responsibility of Israel. Like liberal elites in the West often do, you assign no agency at all to your favored victims, choosing instead to point to the brutality and injustice of their oppressors, in this case, Israelis.
The plea in your editorial to employ the corrosive BDS campaign as a part of the cognitive war against the Jewish state again reveals that you are either ignorant of or indifferent to the actual stated intention of that movement: namely, extirpating Israel completely, thereby “liberating” Palestine and removing any annoying racist Jews from what is now current-day Israel and replacing it with yet another Arab majority state in which Jews, assuming they survive the inevitable carnage of such a liberation, would now live in dhimmitude as second-class citizens in what was formerly a Jewish sovereign state.
“It is our categorical imperative to side with and empower the vulnerable and oppressed,” you wrote in one of your virtue-signaling paragraphs. But your implication that the Palestinians’ weakness somehow makes their cause and actions automatically virtuous and just—merely due to their lack of power and influence—is another trap progressives fall into which sanitizes the morally indefensible actions of terrorists like Hamas who justify their homicidal behavior toward Jews.
You pompously claimed in the editorial that “the weight of this moment — of Israel’s human rights and international law violations and of Palestine’s cry for freedom” led you to proudly “lend our support to both Palestinian liberation and BDS” and necessitated a call for everyone at Harvard, like you, to commit to the BDS campaign. You purport to have noble motives, but all context is lacking in your debate, you have contorted facts and history to justify your anti-Semitic expression, and you have proceeded with willfully blind certainty and determination to demonize Israel and ignore any of the defects of the Palestinian cause. And by encouraging and excusing the use of violence against Israelis as a means of achieving Palestinian liberation, you, together with others in the thrall of Palestinianism, will also be morally complicit in the inevitable deaths of Jews, a probability that you seem to have justified as an acceptable cost of achieving social justice for the oppressed.
In short, you have given credence to Bertrand Russell’s observation that “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”