The Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs announced last week that Saeb Erekat will serve as a Fisher Family Fellow for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year. Erekat is a Palestinian diplomat, who’s held various senior posts within the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. As a Fisher Family Fellow, Erekat will mentor students and give virtual seminars, and will presumably impart his knowledge and expertise on the state of Palestinian affairs and its international relations, including those it maintains with Israel.
Harvard could not have picked a worse choice. Erekat has a long record of mendaciousness and historical revisionism, and can best be characterized as an unrepentant congenital liar. He’s also an outspoken apologist for Palestinian terrorism and has dabbled in conspiracy theories laced with anti-Semitic overtones.
In April 2002, the Israel Defense Forces launched a counter insurgency campaign to rout Palestinian terrorist forces from the densely populated West Bank city of Jenin. Terrorists affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade had transformed the city into a terror hub. Jenin was macabrely referred to as the suicide capital of the West Bank due to the many suicide bombers who had domiciled there.
The battle was hard fought. Due to the difficult urban environment, and the insidious Palestinian practice of “shielding,” by which Palestinian terrorists utilize civilians to insulate themselves from attack, the IDF deliberately minimized the firepower at its disposal to avoid collateral damage. As a result, the IDF, though militarily successful, incurred more casualties than necessary. The battle claimed between 52 to 56 Palestinian lives, the vast majority of whom were combatants. The IDF lost 23 soldiers, a figure which undoubtedly would have been substantially less had Israel employed more destructive force to subdue resistance. Most of the remaining Palestinian terrorists preferred to surrender rather than face death.
Following the battle, Erekat claimed that Israel committed a “massacre” killing upwards of 500 civilians. A UN commission of inquiry determined that there was in fact no massacre. Erekat never apologized or issued a retraction for spreading his blood libel.
That disturbing pattern was to repeat itself. In 2014, Erekat alleged that Israel had killed 12,000 Gazans during Operation Protective Edge, noting that 96 percent were civilians. In fact, about 2,000 Gazans were killed of whom more than half were combatants. Of the remainder, many were killed by errant Hamas rockets and ordinance meant for Israel. Again, Erekat never issued a retraction for the false allegation.
Erekat’s lies are only part of the problem. In the past, he defended the Palestinian practice of stabbing and car-ramming attacks, characterizing these violent assaults as self-defense against what he termed “summary executions” perpetrated by the “occupation.” Erekat also falsely perpetrated the anti-Semitic canard that Israel systematically burns down mosques and churches. In 2014, he compared Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ISIS. He opposes normalization with the Israel, stating that he would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. When Sudan and Israel began the process of rapprochement earlier this year, Erekat referred to Sudan’s actions as a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people.” Like a broken record, he employed near-identical phraseology when Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed in August to normalize relations. Erekat’s anachronistic and extremist views on normalization are no different than those of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and a smattering of others in the rejectionist camp.
Given Erekat’s history of lying, rejectionist attitudes, justification of violence and borderline anti-Semitism, why did Harvard decide to employ him and place him in a position to negatively influence impressionable students? Were those in charge of the selection aware of Erekat’s history and if so, did they deliberately disregard his rancid past? These are pertinent questions that need to be addressed in a serious manner.
One thing is certain. There has been a toxic trend in academia whereby actual teaching and imparting of knowledge has given way to radical advocacy. Education has given way to indoctrination. Classrooms have been transformed into propaganda outlets. The concept of the free exchange of ideas has given way to Maoist style reeducation centers where dissent from the strict orthodoxy could subject you to being canceled. The humanities and social science fields have been hijacked by agenda driven, radical, left-wing ideologues whose sole aim is to force a one-sided narrative that demonizes moderate, pro-Western, pro-Israel and pro-democracy viewpoints.
That is why Saeb Erekat, who works for an unelected, corrupt dictator, was chosen by Harvard to mentor and lecture. Erekat epitomizes everything that is rotten with the current state of academia at so-called elite universities, like Harvard.