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May 6, 2022 3:12 pm
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The Harvard Crimson Normalizes Growing Campus Antisemitism 

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

Opinion

Students and pedestrians walk through the Yard at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

On April 30, I submitted to the Harvard Crimson a detailed op-ed refuting its recently-published blood libel against Israel. Over the next several days, the Crimson first said they were “reviewing” my submission; then that they were “interested in running it;” and, on May 4, that they would run my piece “probably tonight,” promising to “reach out with edits later today if needed.” As a result of these assurances, I withdrew my op-ed from any other publications. Then, on May 4, they “decided not to publish” my piece, using the phony excuse of “very high number of submissions … combined with our currently limited production schedule.” 

When I protested their breach of journalistic ethics, they changed their minds again and agreed to run it in the form of a much-shortened letter to the editor. They asked me to eliminate the accusation that their editorial encouraged the current form of antisemitism; I refused. Then they demanded documentary proof of my opinions — something they did not provide for their own egregiously false statements. When I provided the documentation, they finally ran out of excuses, and reluctantly published the shortened letter. This bait and switch compounded their unethical action in knowingly publishing defamatory lies about Israel. Here is the full op-ed they accepted and then rejected:

In one of the most historically ignorant, religiously discriminatory and factually deceptive editorials ever published by the Harvard Crimson, its editorial board engages in and “call[s] on everyone” to promote the current form of antisemitism. 

Let’s be clear that criticism of Israel and/or its policies is not antisemitic. I and other supporters of Israel around the world routinely criticize policies of the nation state of the Jewish people, just as we criticize policies of our own nation. This editorial, however, is not merely about Israeli policies: it implicitly supports the end of Israel and its replacement by a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea.” That is the goal of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement as described by its founder, Omar Barghouti.

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Tom Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist who is often critical of Israeli policies, put it this way: “singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanctions — out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East — is antisemitic, and not saying so is dishonest.”

That is precisely what the Crimson editorial is guilty of. It “condemn[s] antisemitism in every and all forms,” while practicing its newest form. Are the editors even aware that the founders of the BDS movement apply it only to Israelis who are Jewish? Are the editors aware that Barghouti refused to debate me at the Oxford Union precisely because I am an American Jew who supports Israel’s existence? Are the editors aware that BDS singles out only one nation from among the many with serious human rights issues, namely the nation state of the Jewish people? That is antisemitism pure and simple. Shame on the Crimson editors for calling on everyone to promote it. The Crimson’s megaphone will surely spread and increase the already high rate of antisemitism on campuses throughout the world. 

The Crimson writes about “reality.” So, let’s begin with five statements of reality that I challenge anyone to contradict:

1) No country faced with dangers comparable to those face by Israel — both internal threats of terrorism and external threats of nuclear annihilation by Iran — has a better record of human rights, compliance with the rule of law, and concern for the lives of enemy civilians. Israel’s record is far from perfect, but it is far better than other nations facing comparable threats.

2) No country in the history of the world has contributed more to humanity — medically, agriculturally, scientifically, artistically — than Israel in the less than 75 years of its existence.

3) No country in recent history has made peace with more of its enemies than Israel, including Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and others.

4) No country has offered statehood more often to those seeking to destroy it than Israel; the Palestinians could have had an independent state in 1947, 1948, 1967, 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2008. And they could still have one, if they are willing to come to the negotiation table and make mutually painful compromises with Israel.

(5) No western democracy has been victimized by terrorism more than Israel. 

A reader would not know any of these facts, or even that they are asserted, from reading the Crimson’s ignorant and deceptive editorial. The paper mentions Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli soldiers, but willfully omits the many Israeli children, women and other civilians who have been murdered or maimed by Palestinian terrorists. It also omits that many Palestinians were killed while perpetrating acts of terrorism. Indeed, the only time it mentions terrorism is to criticize those who have “shamefully link[ed]” critics of Israel “to terrorism.” This is deception by deliberate omission. 

In a show of incredible chutzpah or ignorance, it condemns Israel for actions that make difficult “the prospect of a two-state solution.” Are they unaware that the founders and leaders of the very BDS movement the Crimson supports oppose the two-state solution? BDS is among the major hurdles to the very two-state solution the student newspaper seems to advocate, while promoting a movement that strongly opposes it. 

It is hard to know whether this benighted editorial suffers more from ignorance or bigotry. It could have been written by a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, except that the Palestinian Authority would fairer in presenting the counter evidence. Indeed, its president does not support boycotting Israel! 

Were this editorial submitted as a course paper, it would deserve a grade of C- (with grade inflation). Not for its points of view, but for its lack of honesty and selective presentation and omission of facts. 

Even for those who oppose Israel’s policies, this editorial is an embarrassment. It is an embarrassment to the Crimson, to its prior editors and members, to Harvard, and to its alumni. Its claim that it was written to balance “the overwhelming power imbalance that constricts the ongoing debate” is nothing less than a subtle nod to the antisemitic canard of Jewish power. 

It takes no courage today on college campuses to oppose Israel’s existence. It takes great courage today to tell the whole complex truth about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which begins with the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to accept the two-state solution proposed by the United Nations. But ignorance and lack of courage are no excuse for blatant antisemitism. This Crimson editorial is part of the oldest prejudice in its newest form. Shame!

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School, and is the author of “Guilt by Accusation” and host of the “The Dershow” podcast. Follow Alan Dershowitz on Twitter (@AlanDersh) and on Facebook (@AlanMDershowitz).

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