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Alan Dershowitz

ALAN DERSHOWITZ:Should Harvard Sponsor a One –Sided Conference Seeking the End of Israel?

By: Alan Dershowitz, Feb 29, 2012

In order to assess whether Harvard is acting properly in relation to the upcoming student-sponsored conference entitled: Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution, I propose the following thought experiment. Ask yourself what Harvard would do if a group of right wing students and faculty decided to convene a conference on the topic, Are the Palestinians Really a People?, and invited as speakers only hard right academics who answered that question in the negative? Would the Provost office at Harvard help fund such a conference? Would the Kennedy School at Harvard grant such conference legitimacy by hosting it? Would Harvard's Carr Center For Human Rights Policy or Weatherhead Center for International Affairs support such a conference? Would distinguished Harvard professors agree to speak at it?

If the answers to those questions are clearly "yes", then Harvard cannot be faulted for its role in the forthcoming anti-Israel hate fest. It would mean that in the name of academic and speech freedom Harvard will host a conference on nearly any kooky idea of the hard right or hard left. If the answer is "no", then the single standard of academic freedom would demand reconsideration of the Harvard Provost's decision to help fund the anti-Israel hate fest and the decision of the Kennedy School to lend its premises to this event. If Harvard were to decide to host the anti-Israel hate fest but not the anti Palestinian one, that would reveal either an anti Israel or pro hard left bias unbecoming a great university.

To be fair, the dean of the Kennedy School did issue a statement that his school "in no way endorses or supports the apparent position" of the conference, and that he hopes the "final shape of the conference will be significantly more balanced." But the question remains, would he have done no more than that if an anti-Palestinian conference were being hosted on his premises and supported by "centers" associated with the Kennedy School?

I believe Harvard would probably pass the "neutrality test," but I hope the issue is never directly put to Harvard, because it would be obnoxious for there to be a conference here on the subject of whether the Palestinians are a real people. They are, and so are the Israelis. The quest for a Palestinian state is a legitimate one, as is the need to preserve Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

The participant is the Harvard conference will deny that there is any parallel between the subject of their conference and the subject of my hypothetical one. They will claim that the "one state solution" is a serious academic subject, whereas the question "are the Palestinians really a people?" is not. This is a pure rationalization. The question regarding the Palestinians was raised by a candidate for President of the United States and has been the subject of debate and controversy in the media and in academic writings. Both subjects are essentially political in nature and both have similarly phony academic veneers. Both conferences would be unacademically one-sided in their selection of speakers. Moreover, a great university committed to free speech and academic freedom does not get to pick and choose which political issues it deems sufficiently "correct" to warrant its imprimatur.

The only real difference between the two subjects is that if Harvard were to sponsor a one-sided conference against a Palestinian state, there would be massive protests, especially by some of the very academics who are willingly lending their imprimatur to the anti-Israel hate fest. But the charge of hypocrisy has never stopped these professors from applying a double standard against Israel. They should not be stopped from speaking—that would be censorship and a denial of academic freedom. But they should be shamed for participating in an unacademic one-sided hate conference, and for their hypocrisy in doing so in the name of academic freedom, when they would never tolerate a comparable hate conference against a Palestinian state or the Palestinian people.

Let there be no doubt that the call for a single state solution is a euphemism for ending the existence of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. The major proponents of this ruse acknowledge—indeed proclaim—that this is their true goal. Tony Judt, who was the academic godfather of the "one state" ploy, saw it as an alternative to Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, which he believed was a mistake. Many of those speaking at the Harvard conference are on record opposing the existence of Israel. Leon Weiselteir was right when he observed that the one state gambit is not "the alternative for Israel. It is the alternative to Israel."

The "one state" solution failed in the former Yugoslavia. It failed in India. And it would fail in the Mid East. That's why most Palestinians and nearly all Israelis are against it. They favor a two state solution, as does most of the rest of the world.

Many of the speakers at this conference will rail against "a Jewish State." But they will not protest the Palestinian Constitution which establishes Islam as the only "official religion" and requires that "the principles of Islamic Sharia shall be the main source of legislation." Moreover, it establishes Arabic as the sole "official language" of Palestine. Israel, in contrast, treats Judaism, Islam and Christianity equally, does not base its laws (except regarding family matters of Jews) on Jewish law, and has three official languages—Hebrew, Arabic and English (with Russian constituting the 4th unofficial language and Ethiopian a 5th, manifesting its extensive ethnic diversity).

As this conference goes forward, and as the massive casualties mount in Syria, the resounding silence about the victims of the Assad brutality by those speakers ,who use the G word (genocide) every time Israel acts in defense of its citizens, speaks louder than their hypocritical words. The extremists who will be speaking at this hate fest are so obsessed with Israel's imperfections that they ignore—indeed enable—the most serious human rights violations that are occurring throughout the world. That is the real shame of the double standard that is represented by this hateful conference.

Editor's note: According to YNET as of March 1, 2012 , Harvard students and alumni are urging the university to cancel the conference, saying the event is promoting a "new kind of anti-Semitism." Their petition against the event had already garnered more than 2,000 signatures.,7340,L-4196415,00.html.

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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