Thursday, March 15, 2012

Academic Integrity Dying on Harvard’s Ivy League Vine

by David Meir-Levi

On this past March 2nd and 3rd, Harvard University hosted the now infamous “One-State Solution” conference, recently analyzed and critiqued by the present writer. The character and content of the conference, described as an anti-Israel hate fest by Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, generated considerable controversy, to which the Harvard Kennedy School Dean David Ellwood responded with a limp and lackadaisical cookie-cutter disclaimer:

“Let me emphasize that Harvard University and the Harvard Kennedy School in no way endorse or support the apparent position of the student organizers or any participants. We would never take a position on specific policy solutions to achieving peace in this region, and certainly would not endorse any policy that some argue could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel.”

But wait! “…not endorse any policy that some argue could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel?” How can Dean Ellwood make such a statement? Is he not aware of Harvard’s Middle East Outreach Center?

The center’s stated mission is to promote “a critical understanding of the diversity of the Middle East region;” but its activities and its director display a dogmatic adherence to the polemical, often counter-factual Palestinian version of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its director, Paul Beran, is an activist in the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; and its reading list favors anti-Zionist writings of such polemicists as Edward Said and Ilan Pappe. It promotes the anti-Israel propaganda film “Occupation 101,” which features the one-sided and often mendacious rants of well known anti-Israel personalities such as Dr. Noam Chomsky and Richard Falk. Moreover, Center speakers on the Arab‑Israeli conflict have been accused of focusing singularly on a Palestinian perspective while dismissing or ignoring the Israeli position.

Beran promotes the BDS movement when he lectures, and has forged bonds between his outreach center and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an activist group designated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as one of the ten most anti-Israel organizations in the USA.

He has promoted the anti-Semitic lie of Jewish or Israeli control of the American Government, urged Harvard to consider former Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz a war criminal, and when speaking to a Presbyterian audience compared Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank to the Roman occupation of Judea at the turn of the millennium, asking his Christian audience: “How would Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem with the now 25-foot high Separation Wall in their way?”

The Center’s activities[i] include educational outreach to local Boston high schools, and one of the texts used by the Center in high school outreach programs is The Arab World Studies Notebook, a seriously outdated text (last revised in 1998) which according to numerous studies[ii] is replete with factual errors and misrepresentations about Middle East history. It “….frequently steps over the line from teaching about (the Muslim) religion to….proselytizing for it,” and it uses polemical, one-sided language and even outright lies (such as falsely accusing Israeli soldiers of murdering Arab women and children in cold blood) to condemn Israel and depict it as a genocidal aggressor state, in order to generate anti-Israel sentiment in its high school audiences.

When challenged about the book’s egregious claim that indigenous North American Algonquins were converted to Islam by Muslim trans-oceanic voyagers to the New World five centuries before Columbus, the authors offered no defense or rebuttal. They quietly removed the passages from the textbook.

Massachusetts education officials were shocked by the Center’s program and by its textbook, and denounced it as an attempt to foist a “manipulative” and “distorted” political agenda on unsuspecting teachers.

And “manipulative and distorted” don’t even begin to describe the Center’s programs on the Israel-Arab conflict. Director Beran’s anti-Israel animus is well documented, as is his wife’s, Hilary Rantisi, a Palestinian-American who serves as director of the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School. She has been active with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a Palestinian Christian Arab group operating in the West Bank that preaches the demonization of Israel to Christian audiences world-wide and compares Israel’s defensive actions against Arab terrorism to Nazi Germany’s oppression and slaughter of Jews.

So it is not terribly surprising that the Center’s curriculum about the Arab-Israel conflict demonstrates extreme anti-Israel bias. Center presentations on this topic dismiss Arab religious antagonism toward Jews as irrelevant, and criticism of Arab terrorism as “unsophisticated.” Explanations about the core dynamics of the conflict consistently ignore Israel’s position and omit reference to Arab-initiated wars and terrorism to which Israel has responded defensively, making it look as though Israel’s military activities arise from aggressive conquest. In short, facts are compromised, misrepresentation predominates, and the curriculum reflects the Center’s commitment to advance an anti-Israel agenda rather than any sort of scholarly evaluation of the conflict.

This year’s sophomore is next year’s Senator. High School and college youth educated into a perception of Israel as a genocidal war-mongering rogue state are not likely to be supportive of Israel when they reach leadership positions as adults, in government, academia, or media. The Outreach Center’s activities create a clear and future danger to the state of Israel. Those same youth, educated into a perception of Israel’s Arab enemies as innocent, peace-loving victims of the Jewish State’s aggression may well be sympathetic to those innocent victims’ desire to eliminate Israel entirely.

So, contrary to Dean Ellwood’s flaccid rejoinder to critics of the “One-State Solution Conference,” not only is Harvard endorsing a “…policy that …could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel;” it has, for more than a decade, been funding and promoting and directing an organization espousing that very policy. The Center operates under Harvard’s aegis and uses Harvard’s name, and its activities support those who earnestly desire the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel.


[ii] See, inter alia, and and and and and and and and and

David Meir-Levi writes and lectures on Middle East topics, until recently in the History Department of San Jose State University.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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