(2.9) The ‘New Anti-Semitism’ And The Battle For Campus: Why Did The Divestment Petition Fail?

by Richard Hutton

(2.9) WHY DID THE DIVESTMENT PETITION FAIL?

 

            It is safe to presume therefore that it was the truth of Global Exchange’s criticism of Israel’s occupation polity and American assistance therein which Dershowitz was attempting to obviate. In this his efforts were successful. The Harvard Crimson reported that Dershowitz’s confrontation with an empty chair had impressed most of the 200 students assembled in attendance – with one young woman praising Dershowitz for the honesty of his opinions; and with several others suggesting that it was a vital counterbalance to the supposed on-Campus domination of views sympathetic to Palestinians. These students had apparently not been distanced by Dershowitz’s hectoring tone[1]; nor did they appear to have requested to read the petition document itself, which Dershowitz had placed upon his inert counterpart. Moreover, it would seem that none of the students in question saw any incongruity in one of their professors standing up before them blustering and hectoring people, with only an empty chair to dispute his claims; and this reaction was replicated by the overall campus body. Whereas the divestment petition gained c. 600 signatures[2]; the anti-divestment petition was signed by c. 6,000 people[3] – a striking ratio of ten to one. This in itself was evidently fair enough: students and faculty elected to sign the respective petitions as they saw fit. Nonetheless, the claims of the divestment petition where clearly valid, whilst those of the anti-divestment petition were highly problematic as will be shown; and the refutation made by Dershowitz himself to students was plainly false.  

            In fact, Dershowitz’s showy debate – in which he pitted his might against an empty chair and a document – appears to be something of a performance which has been rehearsed several times since 2002. In 2007 he used these props in yet another on-campus ‘debate’ – this time with Jimmy Carter in absence at Brandeis University, in light of Carter’s book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid[4]. More recently, in 2009 Dershowitz appears to have dusted-off his props again, having reproduced them when Richard Goldstone[5] refused to attend yet another on-campus session at Fordham University[6].

            Incongruous as it may seem, Dershowitz has in fact taken to bragging about such matters; and – as is so frequently the case when people are discoursing in unguarded moments – there are several notable points brought to light therein. In 2003, Dershowitz gave a talk at the University of California Los Angeles’ Royce Hall on his then recently published book The Case for Israel. A UCLA transcript of the discussion notes that:

“the distinguished legal scholar’s visit to UCLA was sponsored by the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations and presented as one of its Burkle Forums. The meeting was chaired by Geoffrey Garrett, vice provost of the UCLA International Institute and director of the Burkle Center. The program was part of UCLA’s ongoing commitment to providing a forum for the wide range of views on key international issues for the campus community and beyond”[7].

In regard to Global Exchange’s  divestment petition, Dershowitz contended that:

“At Harvard last year a man named Professor [Paul] Hanson, the house master at Winthrop House, signed the divestiture petition and then some students called him for a session and he had a session in front of the students and he berated pro-Israeli students, just insulted them[8]. That’s when I challenged him to debate me, and he wouldn’t do it. He is a professor of Bible Studies, Old Testament Studies. And one of the students said, “He can’t debate you. He doesn’t know anything about the Middle East subsequent to the death of Moses.” But I debated him nonetheless with an empty chair and with his name on the petition and hundreds of students showed up, many with very open minds about this. And when they heard different facts from what they had heard previously they were certainly prepared to leave the room with an open mind. That’s what we need. We need open-minded students and faculty members, not empty-minded ones, ones who have the knowledge and information and who can come to their own nuanced conclusions”[9].

At a keynote speech given to the Australia/Jewish Affairs council the following year in 2004, Dershowitz changed his narrative somewhat:

“At about the same time there was a debate going on at Harvard about divestment. People were trying to pressure Harvard to divest from companies that do business in Israel regardless of the nature of the business – even if it was providing health care or medical technology[10]. One of the Harvard housemasters signed that immoral petition, and I challenged him to a debate in front of his students. He refused. He was a Professor of Old Testament Christian studies and he said to me, through a student, “I can’t debate you, my knowledge of the Middle East ended with the death of Moses.” But he felt comfortable enough to sign the petition, so I decided that I was going to debate him whether he wanted to or not. I simply invited all of his students, reserved the major room at this college and had an empty chair and I invited him to sit in the chair and debate me. He still refused. So I put the petition on the chair with his name in big letters and we had a debate. It was an interesting debate”[11]

Quite[12]. The trope concerning an absence of knowledge after Moses’ demise appears to be Dershowitz’s own invention. In his ’debate’ with the chair in 2002, The Harvard Crimson notes the following: “Hanson’s knowledge of the Middle East “ends with the death of Moses,” Dershowitz said”[13].

            At the very least, the debate was one-sided enough for Dershowitz’s claims to be left without refutation. Dershowitz continues vaingloriously, however:

“A lot of the students participated. At the end, after I made the case for Israel, many students came over to me and they had the same three words: “We didn’t know.” “We didn’t know that the Palestinians were offered a large contiguous state in 1937 by the Peel Commission and turned it down[14]. We didn’t know that the Palestinians could have had a large contiguous state in 1947 and turned it down[15]. We didn’t know that in 1967 the Palestinians said no to UN resolution 242[16]. We didn’t know that in 2000/2001 Barak and Clinton offered the Palestinians a state and they turned it down and resorted to violence[17]. We just didn’t know.” Nor did they know that the states offered the Jews in 1937 and 1947 were non-contiguous and tiny. Yet the Jews agreed to compromise in the interests of a two state solution[18]”.

It is therefore clear that Dershowitz conflated opposition to Israel’s polity with supposed hostility towards Israel’s existence; it is also undoubtedly the case that the students in Dershowitz’s care were none the wiser for having been carefully misinformed by one of their professors. Moreover, it seems unlikely that his Australian audience were any the more learned about the reality of American campuses and attitudes towards Israel therein given the account of matters Dershowitz presented to them, which histrionically exaggerates the decidedly ineffectual nature of criticism put Israel‘s way by a select number of students and teachers.

            One question remains pertinent here, however: given that Global Exchange’s contentions were valid, what level of support did it garner among Harvard students and faculty? This question is especially significant given the claims made by Dershowitz et al that American campuses were being dominated by the perspective of ‘pro-Palestinian’ views; as Dershowitz had himself contended: “the case against Israel is so filled with pernicious lies, and it is so prevalent today on university campuses, that a defence is needed”[19]. In support of this purview, Dershowitz had cited a supposed incident in which a young Harvard student had apologetically approached Dershowitz himself and requested forgiveness. Dershowitz continues plaintively:

“I said to him I don’t even know you, you’ve never wronged me how can I give you T’shuva[20]. He said, “it’s really that I haven’t done something, which I should have done.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “I know a lot about Israel, I have been there, but in my classes I never speak up when Professors make terribly erroneous statements. I never speak up at dinner. I never speak up in my dorms. I just never speak up.” So I asked, “Why not?” He was embarrassed to tell me, but I pushed, said “please, it’s important.” He finally relented and said, “if I speak up on behalf of Israel, I won’t be able to get a date, no one will go out with me, I will be perceived as uncool”[21].

Quite how many American teenagers would talk in such an idiom is somewhat questionable – and may itself explain a lack of success in matters of romance; moreover, quite how defending Israel’s polity and enduring an apparently consequent lifetime of celibacy thereby has impacted upon Dershowitz himself is perhaps best left unconsidered here[22].  His formal response is notable, however: “I made a speech a few days later, I said “support Israel, date a Zionist tonight”[23]. Dershowitz continues on a less prurient note: 

“it became clear to me that there was a well-organised campaign underway to delegitimize and demonise Israel – a campaign to create a generation of leaders ten or fifteen years from now, the current body of students, who would think of Israel in the negative way that many people in Europe, particularly France and other parts of Western Europe, think of Israel. And, I thought it was very important to try and combat that and to try and make the case for Israel on University campuses”[24].

According to Dershowitz, this phenomenon of well-organised hostility towards Israel is both extensive and worrisome:

“50 percent of American colleges, one half of American colleges and universities, don’t have a single professor on their campus, not a single one, who is prepared to speak up for Israel – not a single one[25]. I hear this complaint all the time, and when there isn’t a single professor, imagine what it does to the student. It absolutely isolates the student. It makes it difficult. It frightens the students. The student is afraid “if I speak up on behalf of Israel it will affect my grade, it will affect my recommendations to Law School, or medical school”. And let me tell you there is some basis for that fear in some places”[26].

In fact, Dershowitz does not leave this point to implication alone. On the contrary, he cites vague examples of this apparent tyranny:

“I have heard some of the horror stories[27]. And how do I know so few professors speak up? Because when I speak up for Israel invariably I will get a call the next day, and here’s the way the call will go. The professor will whisper, ‘Thank you, thank you, Alan, for speaking up’. I say, what are you whispering for? What are you afraid of, that a student is going to hear you? These are professors with tenure who are terrified to let it be known that they support Israel in their heart”[28].

In light of this supposed phenomenon, and surely if such a purview was indeed prominent and influential – and was based in fact – then it would clearly be noteworthy if Global Exchange’s divestment petition had failed to make any attainments?

            In reality, of course, it failed precisely because the views which predominated at Harvard were squarely in keeping with Dershowitz’s false account of matters; and because critics of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians met with a high level of aggression and extensive hostility, for which there appears to be little if any counterpart. Dershowitz’s actions herein are particularly significant, but do not stand in isolation. Several students had expressed their opinions on the matter in a manner hardly befitting an academic community. There was in fact a concerted effort to demean those petitioning for divestment – either by false accusations, or via conspicuous threats; and the predominant response to the divestment petition was overwhelmingly adverse, and in several instances quite blatantly vindictive – particularly towards signatories who were themselves Jewish.

            In contrast to Dershowitz’s claim that supporters of Israel’s policies were marked by timidity – and chastity – students who opposed the divestment petition were both fulminant, and in several instances highly aggressive. In one article, The Harvard Crimson quoted the “former president of Harvard Students for Israel” who had criticized the divestment petition on the grounds that Israel was – in his view – conducting a morally justified war of self-defence; and who stated plainly that “the divestment campaign is a truly despicable attempt to withdraw support from Israel at a time when it needs and deserves this support most”[29]. This would of course confirm the point implicit in the divestment petition: that Harvard’s investments in Israel are not apolitical; and to have maintained them in light of Israel’s actions clearly signified tacit consent, or at the very least indifference. The article continues nonetheless, noting that:

“meanwhile, Harvard Students for Israel will conduct an unrelated rally in support of Israel in front of the Science Center at noon. Eighteen professors have signed a statement affirming Israel’s right to defend itself”[30].

Another student was more personal still in their denunciation of Professor Hanson himself. In a letter to The Harvard Crimson’s editor, the author vaunted the supposed “campus-wide backlash against the signers of the divestment petition”[31], before accusing Hanson of being dishonest and of “shamelessly refusing to defend his positions in public”[32].

            A more concerted effort was also pursued by students opposed to the divestment petition, however. An anti-divestment petition was created shortly after the original appeal had been issued. As The Harvard Crimson notes: 

“The anti-divestment petition calls these demands “a one-sided attempt to delegitimize Israel” that ignores Israel’s right to respond to terrorist attacks. “Reasonable people should work for a peacefully negotiated solution, and not single out Israel for partisan attack,” the petition reads”[33].

Its contentions were hackneyed, and – in a decidedly mealy-mouthed manner – the author levelled the familiar charge that the contentions of Global Exchange et al were anti-Semitic:

“We are appalled that, in response to the tragic situation in the Middle East, our colleagues should choose to associate their names with a distorted position that ignores the history of the last few years and revives rhetoric long discredited by its use among extremists as code for the destruction of the Jewish state”[34].

Quite what this was, of course, was not stated. The anti-divestment petition continued however:

“Israel has a right to exist free from terror. To place blame solely on Israel for the recent state of affairs, and to demand unilateral concessions without showing any concern for its self-defence, is unjust”[35].

Needless to say, the divestment petition as advanced by Global Exchange did nothing of the sort. It centred on U.S. investments which were implicated in Israel’s recurrent breaches of international law, and its import was not limited to “the recent state of affairs”; instead it discussed in detail the historical injustices Palestinians have experienced dating back to 1948, such as Israel‘s refusal to re-admit Palestinian refugees. Moreover, in contrast to the anti-divestment petition’s claim that:

“The divestment petition does not support peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians – indeed, the word “peace” does not even appear in it”[36].

the divestment petition was centred squarely on pressing the case for peace. However, more aggressive still was the imprecation levelled at the divestment signatories themselves, who those opposed to divestment claimed had poured scorn on Israel, called for “abandonment and disengagement at this critical time”, and had “tarnished their own reputations and the reputations of our universities” by signing the divestment petition[37].

            Perhaps needless to say, this particular document remained anonymous; it was however endorsed by the Harvard chapter of Hillel[38]; and The Harvard Crimson notes that it was promoted “in e-mails sent by Hillel’s Executive Director Bernard Steinberg”. Steinberg was yet another personality levelling the charge that divestment efforts were anti-Semitic:

“The divestment petition is in intent and content demeaning to us as Jews,” Steinberg said. “That is particularly disturbing in the context of a resurgence of anti-Semitism globally and even here at Harvard”[39].

Steinberg was echoed less explicitly by the then President of Hillel Benjamin Solomon-Schwartz, who The Harvard Crimson states “said that by signing the pro-divestment petition, Winthrop House Master Paul D. Hanson and Currier House Master William A. Graham had created an uncomfortable atmosphere for House residents”[40]. The reasoning for this claim being that supporting divestment was “not just expressing a political view”, it was “expressing a political view in a way that really makes students who support Israel deeply uncomfortable”[41]. There is little doubt that the divestment petition was inconvenient to Solomon Schwarz’s and Steinberg’s political views; but there was no element within it which related to Judaism – nor was one cited by its two opponents here. Moreover, any offence which may have been caused by Solomon-Schwartz’s and Steinberg’s own political views does not appear to have concerned either of them overly.

            More objectionable incidents occurred elsewhere, however, when one student at Yale University took pains to defame a Yale divestment petitioner named Rod Swenson. As The Harvard Crimson notes:

“Some students have also questioned the credibility of Swenson, the spokesperson for the pro-divestment campaign. Swenson, who graduated from Yale’s architecture school in 1969, founded both The Plasmatics, a punk rock band, and a live sex show in Times Square[42], according to the band’s website. Articles about Swenson’s background have appeared in The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal, after a Yale undergraduate forwarded them to the newspaper. Reached last night, Swenson had not yet seen the Journal’s article, but he said that although he was involved in erotic theatre 25 years ago, he is best known today for his theoretical papers on planetary evolution[43]. “Ad hominems are exactly the techniques a person uses when they don’t want to cite real arguments,” Swenson said. “What is relevant here is what I want to do about war crimes, not what I did a long time ago”[44].

It is perhaps indicative of how right-wing the insularity behind such efforts was that sexuality was cited to besmirch Swenson’s political views on matters of international law and human rights.

            While it may be understandable when young students are aggressive and self-important, professors and faculty behaving likewise is a different matter; and those opposing divestment were supported in their vein of rhetoric by Harvard’s then president Lawrence Summers, who not only accused the petition of being anti-Semitic, but also clearly cast his disputation in terms that were both highly emotive and provocative. For example, The Harvard Crimson quotes Summers stating that:

“the suggestion that defence against terrorist attacks is inherently immoral seems to me to be an unsupportable one…It would be one I would be acutely uncomfortable with”[45].

Quite who had suggested this is a considerable mystery. Summers did not provide a citation; nor is such a claim adduced in any of the literature advanced by those petitioning for divestment. It appears to be invention for Summer’s part; or perhaps a twisting of a claim which presumably criticised the manner in which Israel conducted its supposed self-defence. 

            Summers was more explicit elsewhere, however, warning that Harvard’s campus had not been immune to a supposed global upturn in anti-Semitism; and contending that divestment efforts were “anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent”[46]. Summers elaborated on this theme, suggesting that whereas “anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists” profoundly anti-Israel views were “increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities”[47]. This much vaunted phenomenon – along with “actions against Israeli academics” and “profoundly anti-Israel sentiment at last summer’s UN conference on racism” – Summers linked to violence against Jews in Europe. The Harvard Crimson notes that Summers further contended that the divestment petition was itself an example of anti-Semitism’s spread; and that while aspects of Israel’s foreign policy “should be vigorously challenged,” the calls for divestment seek to unfairly “single out Israel”[48]. Needless to say, the divestment petition was itself a challenge to both Israel’s foreign policies and those of the United States; it was also critical of private American companies implicated therein; and it was these latter entities from which Harvard was itself being asked to withdraw its investments. 

            However, significantly enough, several members of Harvard’s faculty did indeed encounter unfair accusations because they were Jewish – but it was precisely because they had supported or signed the divestment petition. One of these – the psychology professor Elizabeth Spelke – had signed the petition in order to protest against Israel’s military repression of Palestinians during ‘Operation Defensive Shield’[49]. As Patrick Healy of The Boston Globe noted: 

“Since they signed, Spelke and other Jewish professors have been bombarded with e-mail and letters accusing them of betraying fellow Jews and Israel, of self-loathing and anti-Semitism, and – most disturbing to some – of giving comfort to suicide bombers in Israel“[50].

Healy continues, reporting that those signatories who were Jewish had drawn critics who saw “psychological factors at play”:

“Richard Landes, a Boston University historian who has signed a counter-petition supporting investment in Israel, said he believes that Jewish support for divestment is ”enabling” those who attack Israel. ”Jews are probably the most self-critical people, the most self-critical culture, historically speaking – just go back to the prophets,” said Landes, who spoke at a Harvard forum last week titled, ”How Do You Know When It’s Anti-Semitism?”[51].

Landes continued in the same vein as Dershowitz, however, contending that “he was especially troubled that Jews would support a petition that asks nothing of Palestinians or terrorist groups, but puts the onus on Israel”[52]. Another Harvard teacher was more straightforward with his accusations:

”I don’t know if these people themselves are anti-Semitic, but Jews and non-Jews alike have a responsibility to get their facts right – Israel is under attack, and a petition that doesn’t acknowledge this but only condemns Israel is anti-Semitic,” said Asher Schachter, a Harvard Medical School instructor”[53]

By contrast, at least one of the Jewish signatories had signed the divestment petition precisely because of their Judaism. Ken Olum – a member of the physics department, and one of the organisers of the divestment petition – is quoted by Healy saying that:

“he has wrestled so long with his frustrations with Israel, and with widespread Jewish support for the government there, that he has stopped identifying himself as a Jew when people discuss religion, the Middle East, or other subjects. ”The fact that a lot of people who count themselves as among the Jewish people are doing a great evil, an un-Jewish evil, has been overwhelming,” Olum said. ”The moral stakes here are too great to not take this stand”[54].

In other words, it was the policies of Sharon’s government and his numerous supporters citing their Jewish identity as motivation for their excessively enthusiastic support for Israel’s actions which made Olum feel embarrassed about being Jewish – it was not due to fear or intimidation; and what vindictiveness there was towards Jewish signatories of the divestment petition clearly came from other Jews.

            Moreover, while Healy’s article notes that the divestment petition had made “a powerful impact on campus” and had become “a flashpoint for arguments among students – particularly Jews and Muslims”, there does not appear to be any evidence at all that violent incidents occurred; nor that invective was aimed at Jewish opponents of divestment or towards Muslim supporters of the divestment petition. Perhaps more to the point, in contrast to the various suggestions raised by Dershowitz et al that ‘Pro-Israel’ views were somehow being marginalised, or resulted in fierce opprobrium – and celibacy – it is clear that the counter-petition opposing divestment was far more popular than the petition calling for divestment[55]. In fact, the strong presence of those supporting Israel’s polity was noted more vividly elsewhere. In a discussion about divestment which Hanson had participated in, the president of Harvard Students for Israel remarked upon the crowd having included many supporters of Israel’s polity, who had been donning Israeli flags and posters: “I was ecstatic to see the pro-Israel turnout…it’s great to see the campus so galvanized over this issue”[56].

            Significantly, the Harvard students involved in supporting or opposing divestment appear in the main to have done so sensibly. There are no indications that either set of students attempted to intimidate their counterparts. However, accusing the divestment petition of being anti-Semitic was clearly false; and the anonymous anti-divestment petition’s claims were nonetheless misrepresentations designed to attack the divestment signatories personally. Perhaps needless to say, the most aggressive imprecations in this vein came from Dershowitz himself; and his motives were crystal clear.

            Dershowitz’s methodology herein is notable: it consisted largely of duplicating material he had previously published; and resorting to personal invective and hectoring – and several implicit threats – rather than address the points raised by the divestment petition in any responsible manner. For example:

“I must congratulate President Lawrence H. Summers for his willingness to say out loud what many of us in the Harvard community have long believed: namely, that singling out Israel, among all the countries in the world, for divestment, is an action which is anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent. A recent open letter by one of the signatories made it clear that he regards Israel as the “pariah” state, a word historically used by anti-Semites to characterize the Jewish people”[57].

One word used by one unnamed author in one letter – for which typically enough no reference is provided – hardly constitutes supporting evidence for such sweeping claims. Dershowitz continued, however:

“members of the Harvard community must be free to criticize Israel when they disagree with its policies or actions, as they criticize any other country in the world whose record is not perfect. But to single out the Jewish state of Israel, as if it were the worst human rights offender, is bigotry pure and simple”[58].

The paradox here is obvious: despite claiming that people “must be free to criticize Israel when they disagree with its policies or actions”, when students or faculty actually exercised that freedom they were lambasted by Dershowitz personally and accused of being anti-Semitic. Moreover, none of the petitioners had accused Israel of being the world’s worst human rights offender – it is pure invention for Dershowitz’s part. More indicative of the hectoring nature of Dershowitz’s response to Israel’s on-campus critics are his veiled threats and name-calling. For example:

“those who sign the divestment petition should be ashamed of themselves. If they are not, it is up to others to shame them.[59]

Or:

“I hope that Hanson will accept my challenge, and that if he does not, that I will be invited by his students to help fill the educational gap left by the cowardice of those who have signed this petition and refuse to defend their actions in public debate”[60].

In fact, a significant portion of Dershowitz’s material had been replicated from an earlier response of his to divestment proposals[61]. The claims therein were again couched largely in terms of personal invective – this time aimed primarily at Noam Chomsky, along with unnamed “pleaders” and “a motley assortment of knee-jerk anti-Zionists, rabid America-haters, radical leftists such as the Trotskyist Spartacist League and even a few of Chomsky’s former students who now teach in Israel”[62]: an extensive list, which remains conveniently anonymous barring Chomsky himself.

            In short Dershowitz’s articles were clearly a patented response, and one which was evidently part of his broader effort to misrepresent the divestment effort in order to attack its proponents personally as supposed anti-Semites. The divestment petition had clearly been centred on U.S. policy; and its proponents were requesting that American companies – along with the United States’ government – themselves abide by legal statutes, and press Israel to adhere to international law and maintain its human rights obligations in return for continued investment. Therefore, in contrast to the much vaunted claims Dershowitz and his peers had made on the theme of welcoming criticism of Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, such criticism evidently resulted in being aggressively berated or threatened. As with Dershowitz’s other attempts to invert reality, it was clearly critics of Israel who met with blatant attempts to intimidate them – be they via hectoring or threats.

            Perhaps not surprisingly, such behaviour among those opposed to divestment garnered a degree of criticism from other faculty members. The Harvard Crimson quotes several teachers discussing concerns they held that a hostile atmosphere was developing, which was in turn discouraging students from expressing their opinions freely. In a meeting which debated the remarks made by Harvard’s president Lawrence Summers to the effect that divestment was anti-Semitic, one teacher – Everett Mendelsohn – is noted as having said that the openness of discussion and debate on the Middle East had degenerated somewhat: “as more people talked to me, I had the sense that a polarization was occurring, and people were developing a fear of what would happen if they spoke out”[63].

            The Harvard Crimson continues, reporting that Mendelsohn’s comments brought three other professors to the floor to air their views. One of these – Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, Diana Eck – echoed Mendelsohn’s concerns about freedom of expression at the University, noting that – as co-master of Lowell House – she had seen students grow wary of freely discussing the Middle East “for fear of being labelled anti-Semitic”[64]. This was clearly a valid concern; and the truth of Eck’s point is verified by contrasting her sentiments with those of Ruth Wisse, who was also quoted in the article, and who adamantly urged resistance to the “pernicious” and “harmful” views supposedly contained in the divestment petition –  a petition which sought support for the maintenance of human rights[65]. More critical still were two letters by Richard Thomas – a professor of Latin and Greek at Harvard – which noted Dershowitz’s method of accusing people of being anti-Semitic, as opposed to discussing their actual arguments[66].

            This vein of criticism prompted more hostility from Dershowitz in turn: 

“I never said that, “students and professors who signed the petition were anti-Semitic.” I said that there were a complex of reasons, primary among which was ignorance of the facts, that led many people to join forces with bigotry”[67].

This is pure casuistry, however. Whether Dershowitz did or did not use those exact terms is a point of pedantry and no more; the actual article Dershowitz was discussing here had stated that “standing beside a chair with a copy of the petition taped to it, he said students and professors who had signed the petition were anti-Semitic and knew “basically nothing about the Middle East”. It had also reported that “he said criticism of the government, which he said he participates in, is not inherently anti-Semitic, while signing the petition is”[68]; whilst in his essay ‘Divesting From Morality’, Dershowitz had declaimed that the “proponents of divestiture” exemplified “anti-Semitism writ large”. Thomas’ charge is therefore clearly borne out by evidence.

            Dershowitz continued with more vehemence, however:

“The new big lie circulating around the Harvard campus is that critics of Israel have been labelled anti-Semitic…I challenge those who are spreading this lie to document their charge and to reveal specific instances where criticism of Israel has been labelled anti-Semitic…Nor to my knowledge has anyone ever accused other critics of Israel of bigotry”[69].

These are striking claims in light of Dershowitz’s proud endorsement of Summers’ contention that divestment was anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent[70]. In fact Dershowitz misrepresents this specific point quite singularly:

“President Lawrence H. Summers went out of his way to make it clear that criticism of Israel is entirely legitimate and not anti-Semitic either in intent or effect”[71].

Summers had of course said the exact opposite: that it was anti-Semitic in effect, if not intent, as noted by The Harvard Crimson:

 “University President Lawrence H. Summers warned on Tuesday that Harvard’s campus has not been immune to a global upturn in anti-Semitism. Calls for the University to divest from Israel and a Harvard student group’s fundraising activities are examples of developments on campus in the last year that are “anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent,” Summers said to students and faculty attending the first Morning Prayers of the term.[72]

And as quoted by Dershowitz – as cited previously:

“I must congratulate President Lawrence H. Summers for his willingness to say out loud what many of us in the Harvard community have long believed: namely, that singling out Israel, among all the countries in the world, for divestment, is an action which is anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent”.

Summers had continued, however, making his sentiments plain, as The Harvard Crimson notes:

“Given recent attacks on Jews in Europe, actions against Israeli academics and profoundly anti-Israel sentiment at last summer’s UN conference on racism, the developments on campus are all the more worrisome, Summers said. A petition that circulated last spring advocating that the University divest from Israel, Summers said, is an example of anti-Semitism’s spread”[73].

It is perfectly clear therefore that Summers was likening proponents of divestment to racists and assailants of Jews. Nor was this the extent of Summers’ insinuations:

“He said that he has long been wary of those who raise the spectre of anti-Semitism in response to any disagreement over Israel. But he said such views “seem rather less alarmist in the world of today than they did a year ago.”

It would appear therefore that both Summers and Dershowitz sought to have their cake and eat it[74].

            Dershowitz advances a paradox of his own, however:

“there are, however, actions and words that clearly are anti-Semitic, some in intent, others in effect…[75]The divestment petition, which singles out Israel for criticism in the face of the reality that its human rights record is far better than that of any other nation in the region, is anti-Semitic in effect because it demonizes and delegitimates the only Jewish nation for sins committed far more frequently and grievously by others”[76].

Strikingly, Dershowitz goes on to issue the following invitation:

“I now challenge those who are claiming to have been accused of anti-Semitism to provide evidence that mere criticism of Israel has been labelled anti-Semitic. The time has come to put up or stop misleading your colleagues and students”[77].

‘Mere criticism’ is of course a misleading term. Dershowitz had not accused his own critics of being anti-Semitic for “mere criticism of Israel” – he had repeatedly accused them of being anti-Semitic for supposedly ‘singling Israel out for criticism’. In fact Dershowitz was here reworking the insinuation latent in the invitation he had previously issued to Professor Hanson:

“That educated people could conclude Israel is worse in humanitarian terms than, say, Syria or Zimbabwe or China is testimony to the bias Israel faces and a reminder of the grim world into which irresponsible men like Hanson would deliver us”[78].

Needless to say, Dershowitz does not cite any evidence to support the claim that Hanson or any other signatories compared Israel unfavourably to Syria, Zimbabwe, or China; on the contrary, they were intrinsically concerned with the relationship between the governments of Israel and the United States which is both unique and highly problematic. Moreover, the divestment petitioners were of course suggesting that Israel should not be treated as exceptional; that it should be held accountable for its usage of U.S. funding as are other recipients, and thereby should not continue to be treated in a singular manner.

            Dershowitz’s accusations were not the most objectionable vein of insinuation, however. The Harvard Crimson published an article written by a reservist in Israel’s army and “former president of Harvard Students for Israel”, which advanced a grotesque attempt to conflate calls for divestment with support for Palestinian violence:

“Israeli forces should not be in Jenin[79]. If you doubt this, ask Winthrop House Master Paul D. Hanson and Pierce Professor of Psychology Ken Nakayama, who call for divestment. Ask the Israeli people, ask the eight soldiers trapped under fire in two tin boxes who called for help and for their lives on the radio for three hours […] perhaps what is most frustrating of all is this: on a Monday afternoon, with 14 more dead because of the anger and terror coming from Jenin, we need no petition’s urging to end occupation. Threatening to choke off Israel’s industries is only an insult to be piled atop our dead. We need a partner for peace, not threats of destruction”[80].

Needless to say, the author here provides unwitting confirmation of criticism being defamed rather than disputed sensibly. Attempts to evoke emotional reactions and demean critics personally were not matched by sensible assessments of the divestment petition‘s actual contentions in this article, nor in those of the author‘s peers.  

            Dershowitz’s efforts have not been restricted to hectoring fellow professors and misinforming students, however. In a more recent instance during 2009, Dershowitz turned his ire on a student who had advocated divestment. Having likened the divestment concern therein to “a cancer” which had to be stopped, and a “hijacking of the human-rights agenda”[81], The Harvard Crimson reports that:

“Dershowitz said he called the student group’s spokesperson to confirm that Hampshire had divested from Israel, and that he did not want to launch a campaign to stop donations to the college unless the college had divested.”

The student in question cast the matter in a different light, however:

“Dershowitz called me a few minutes after the press release came out,” said Matan Cohen, a student spokesperson for the group and a sophomore at Hampshire. “He threatened to start a boycott campaign against me, SJP, and the college at large”[82].

The Harvard Crimson continues, noting that Dershowitz acknowledged calling the student group and administrators but denied allegations that he threatened anyone:

“Anyone who interpreted it as a threat is simply lying for ideological reasons”[83].

However, it would lack sense to interpret this as anything other than a threat: it was clearly an attempt by Dershowitz to intimidate a student by promising dire consequences for them if they continued with their course of action. Misinforming students and hectoring fellow professors is bad enough; that a teacher would threaten a student is appalling.

            The overall aim of Dershowitz’s actions is revealed elsewhere, however. In the speech to his Australian audience, Dershowitz had claimed that:

“all I want to do is change the debate about Israel from the demonisation of Israel to a nuanced discussion – a nuanced discussion where people can be free to criticise all sides, but where Israel’s right to exist and its right to defend itself is unchallenged[84]”.

It is the absence of challenge which Dershowitz himself was clearly seeking to instil as far as possible at Harvard – a scenario perhaps exemplified by his repeated debates with empty chairs which left his perspective unopposed. Nowhere within the divestment petition had any contentions been advanced which claimed or implied that Israel was somehow evil. The express concern was international law and human rights; and given Dershowitz’s highly aggressive attempts to demonise the divestment petition and its supporters via pressing a false account of matters upon students, it appears that his ulterior motive was to prevent valid points of criticism being levelled at Israel and U.S. policies in the middle east – presumably lest they gain support or alter public opinion.

            In fact Global Exchange’s ‘divestment toolkit’ had warned petitioners to “be prepared for the opposition”, for “unlike in other international human rights and social justice causes, there is an organised and vocal group in the United States opposing Palestinian freedom and self-determination”; and that while opposition “mainly stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict” a part of the opposition nonetheless “comes from groups who oppose applying international norms to Israel as they are applied to any other state” (p. 9)[85]. This was clearly a prescient appraisal; and its claim that a part of their opposition oppose international norms being applied to Israel is supported by the pains taken by Dershowitz himself to cast those advocating divestment in as dark a shade as possible.

            In contrast to Dershowitz’s claim that Israel had already met the four conditions stipulated regarding divestment, and that those who suggested otherwise were guilty of mendacity or bigotry, Israel had met them neither by autumn 2002 – nor in fact by 2009 – and is had not undertaken any serious attempt to do so. Whereas Global Exchange had contended that “we must support businesses that are guided by strong ethical principles, not simply profit”[86], Dershowitz had alleged that:

“any moral person who is aware of the true facts would not sign a petition singling out Israel for divestiture. Those who signed it are either immoral bigots or ignoramuses. There is no third alternative”[87].

The third alternative of course is that the points made by those advocating divestment were valid, and that the signatories were motivated precisely by ethical concerns. In contrast to Dershowitz’s accusation that the divestment petition was rooted in “ignorance and bigotry”, it evidently represented a well-informed and critical appraisal of the middle east conflict. The divestment petition was critical of Israel’s policies; and in particular of the U.S. aid and funding provided to Israel‘s government. Therefore, if criticism of Israel is not intrinsically anti-Semitic, then signing the petition was even less so given that it was primarily concerned with American policy.

            However, the crux of Dershowitz’s charge that such criticism was anti-Semitic had been that the petition singled Israel out unfairly; but the point the petition itself outlined was that the United States’ financial relationship with Israel is itself singular; and it could hardly have been made more clear that this was the critical issue at hand. Moreover, the motivation of both Global Exchange and the Harvard students/faculty pressing for divestment was clearly devoted to human rights concerns. Americans are indirectly responsible for Israel’s actions through the funding that the U.S. government provides to its government; this is clearly not the case with entities such as the Palestine Authority, or with states such as China. Global Exchange et al were not requesting that Israel be held to different standards within the international community; on the contrary, they were pressing the case for the exact opposite, and were in fact petitioning for Israel to be held to the same standards as the other entities in the world which consistently breach international law and violate human rights, and are thereby denied U.S aid, or are prohibited from practising trade therein.  

            Hanson for one had made his own purview clear:

“What we have witnessed in the last months[88] is a spiral of violence that cannot have a good ending unless we arrest it…I think now is a time when the citizens of the United States must speak from their consciences”[89].

Hanson had continued, stating that he supported divestment as a necessary sanction of Israel for its occupation and continued violation of U.N. resolutions[90]. These were valid claims; and were echoed by one of the students responsible for organising the divestment petition. As The Harvard Crimson noted:  

“Faisal Chaudhry, a second-year Harvard law student who helped organize the petition, said the petition grew out of a month of planning, during which time he said the argument for divestment only grew stronger. “It’s becoming increasingly clear to us that we’re not living up to our moral responsibility by allowing both our government and important institutions in the private sector to continue profiting from the illegal Israeli occupation,” Chaudhry said”[91] .

In other words, divestment centered on U.S. policy – both public and private – and the problems generated therein by investments related to unethical policies pursued by Israel in the occupied territories. The point was therefore not to end funding or aid without reason, but to demand that in return Israel adhere to international law and maintain its human rights obligations – neither of which it has done with any consistency in regard to Palestinians[92]; and neither of which are applicable to Arab nations – less still to the Palestinians themselves – who are not responsible for Israel‘s occupation nor its polity. This was made plain by Global Exchange themselves: 

“The campaign will end when Palestinians are finally allowed the rights of freedom and self-determination, when Palestinians inside Israel are given equal civil rights, when there is a just solution for the 5 million Palestinian refugees who wish to return home, and when there is equality, peace and security for all people of the region”[93].

In other words, those advocating divestment had criticised Israel specifically because of its unique polity in regard to its Palestinian subjects within the occupied territories, and towards its own Arab citizens. The case they pressed was that the human rights standards which are applied to Israelis should be applied to Palestinians equally. To call this anti-Semitic makes a nonsense of the term.


[1]   Several had been, however. The Harvard Crimson notes that “Several students in Winthrop, who did not attend the debate, said they were offended to learn how Dershowitz had referred to their House master”. Two students were the only ones quoted in ‘Dershowitz: Divestment Petitioners Are ‘Bigots’’ by Randall Adams in The Harvard Crimson; 8th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/8/dershowitz-divestment-petitioners-are-bigots-frankfurter/

[2]   ‘Dershowitz: Divestment Petitioners Are ‘Bigots’’ by Randall Adams in The Harvard Crimson; 8th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/8/dershowitz-divestment-petitioners-are-bigots-frankfurter/ 

[3]  ‘Yale Israel Supporters Launch Anti-Divestment Petition’ by Lauren Schuker in The Harvard Crimson; 21st November 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/11/21/yale-israel-supporters-launch-anti-divestment-petition/

[4]    ‘Brandeis University to Allow Rebuttal After Carter Speech’ by Melissa Drosiack via Fox News; 18th January 2007: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,244303,00.html 

[5]   Author of a report concerning Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009. A large number of individuals had pilloried Goldstone’s report disingenuously, Dershowitz among them suffice to say. 

[6]     ‘Alan Dershowitz Responds to Goldstone Report’ by Anthony Porretto in The Fordham Observer; 9th December 2009: http://www.fordhamobserver.com/alan-dershowitz-responds-to-goldstone-report-1.2117562

[7]  ‘Alan Dershowitz Speaks on His “The Case for Israel”: 1,100 at Royce Hall hear call for supporters of Israel in America to speak up’. UCLA International Institute; 29th October 2003:    http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=5071   

[8]      This does not appear to have transpired if the written record is anything to go by. Dershowitz typically provides no reference; but The Harvard Crimson reported on the discussion held by Hanson and several other faculty members who had supported divestment: ‘Panel Defends Divestment’ by Wendy Widman in The Harvard Crimson; 24th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/24/panel-defends-divestment-five-supporters-of/   There is no record of any untoward occurrence therein.

[9]     ‘Alan Dershowitz Speaks on His “The Case for Israel”: 1,100 at Royce Hall hear call for supporters of Israel in America to speak up’. UCLA International Institute; 29th October 2003:   http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=5071   

[10]     As noted, the divestment petition was concerned exclusively with companies/entities which contributed obliquely to human rights abuses.

[11]     ‘Keynote Address by Professor Alan Dershowitz: AIJAC’s 30th Anniversary Gala Event’. Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council; 31st March 2004: http://www.aijac.org.au/resources/speeches/dershowitz_speech.html  It is noteworthy that Dershowitz stated herein “Israel should never be a partisan political issue, it should always get the support of both sides or all sides. Thanks to this wonderful organisation that’s true in this country, as it is in my country”. This is without any serious doubt a perspective representative of fanaticism.

[12]   A debate requires an exchange of opinions. The contrast between the chair and its opponent perhaps exemplifies why it is often better to remain quiet and be thought a fool, than to break silence and dispel all doubt.

[13]  ‘Dershowitz: Divestment Petitioners Are ‘Bigots’’ by Randall Adams in The Harvard Crimson; 8th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/8/dershowitz-divestment-petitioners-are-bigots-frankfurter/

[14]      This offer entailed divesting Palestinians of their land, suffice to say.

[15]      See the previous discussion about the UN’s partition resolution and Folke Bernadotte.

[16]      The Palestinians were neither included in this resolution nor were they ever in a position to pass judgement on it. It bore no direct relation to them.

[17]      See the previous discussion concerning Camp David 2000 and Taba. 

[18]      The Jews only stood to gain; and those among them who were contributing directly to the conflict were hardly limited in the scope of their ambitions.  See the UN’s discussion of David Ben Gurion and Plan Dalet; and its citation of Menachem Begin regarding ’The Triangle’. 

[19]  ‘Keynote Address by Professor Alan Dershowitz: AIJAC’s 30th Anniversary Gala Event’. Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council; 31st March 2004:  http://www.aijac.org.au/resources/speeches/dershowitz_speech.html

[20]   That is, pardon.

[21]  ‘Keynote Address by Professor Alan Dershowitz: AIJAC’s 30th Anniversary Gala Event’. Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council; 31st March 2004:  http://www.aijac.org.au/resources/speeches/dershowitz_speech.html  Oddly, this material was posted by a contributor to Britney Spears’ on-line journal ‘BRITannica. What should we do about all of the “Kill The Lights” Leaks?’. BSweekly; 8th November 2008: http://www.britney.com/us/forum/britannica-what-should-we-do-about-all-kill-the-lights-leaks   This would appear to be the only journal of note which has cited this portion of Dershowitz’s speech, however.

[22]   Dershowitz does mention being struck “right in the ‘kishkas’”, however.

[23]   Dershowitz’s tenor here suggests that this was not a joke.

[24]   Dershowitz reiterates his familiar contentions and claims throughout the remainder of his speech – in a decidedly rambling manner – be they likening the International Court of Justice to a jury of white supremacists: “the International Court of Justice is like a southern court in Mississippi”; or his odd trope concerning space alien visitors bemused at criticism of Israel. He also states that “it was not I who turned down statehood for the Palestinians in 2000/2001. That was Yasser Arafat”. Who precisely had confused the matter thus is left nameless, as ever. Dershowitz also claims that Arafat ‘siphoned’ $3 billion intended for Palestinian health-care into his wife’s bank account. A neat trick, given that by the date of Dershowitz’s speech, Palestine had received a total amount of U.S. aid which was lower than $3 billion, and Dershowitz cites no other possible sources. More grotesque accusations follow, however, which do not bear repetition here.

[25]   No reference is provided for this claim, notably.

[26]  ‘Keynote Address by Professor Alan Dershowitz: AIJAC’s 30th Anniversary Gala Event’. Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council; 31st March 2004:   http://www.aijac.org.au/resources/speeches/dershowitz_speech.html  Needless to say, Dershowitz doesn’t cite any actual examples of ‘Pro-Israeli’ students’ ambitions being thwarted here. 

[27]   As above.

[28]  ‘Keynote Address by Professor Alan Dershowitz: AIJAC’s 30th Anniversary Gala Event’. Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council; 31st March 2004:   http://www.aijac.org.au/resources/speeches/dershowitz_speech.html 

[29]   ‘Faculty Urge Divestment From Israel: Harvard-MIT coalition, Students for Israel to hold rallies today’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 6th May 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/6/faculty-urge-divestment-from-israel-a/

[30]  ‘Faculty Urge Divestment From Israel: Harvard-MIT coalition, Students for Israel to hold rallies today’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 6th May 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/6/faculty-urge-divestment-from-israel-a/

[31]   As will be shown, this was a fanciful claim. The actual response was clearly divided despite tending overwhelmingly to oppose divestment.

[32]   ‘Hanson’s Words Show Him Shifting Blame: Letter to the Editors’ by Joshua Suskewicz in The Harvard Crimson; 16th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/21/hansons-words-show-him-shifting-blame/  In 2005 the same author in conjunction with another member of ‘Harvard Students for Israel’ had bemoaned “the falsifications and manipulations of truth” supposedly contained in a Palestinian Solidarity Committee’s advertisement, and accused it of signalling “nothing less than the beginning of a malicious propaganda war aimed at slandering Israel”. Three years late, one would have thought, given his earlier letter: ‘Harvard Students for Israel: Peace, Not Propaganda’ by Joshua Suskewicz and Sunny Yudkoff in The Harvard Crimson; 2nd May 2005: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2005/5/2/harvard-students-for-israel-peace-not/   The remainder of the letter was similarly aggressive; and promotes a curious rendering of the impact the West Bank Wall has had upon Palestinian life. The political interpretations of one of the letter’s authors are exemplified in a decidedly pompous manner elsewhere: “The fact that the Palestinians have again resorted to murdering Jews could lend support to the idea that a bigger, more aggressive Israel really is necessary for survival. Indeed it could be argued that incessant terrorism and savagery undermine the Palestinian right to national freedom”. ‘A Matter of Life and Death: Amos Oz’s Secular Zionism’ by Joshua Suskewicz in Harvard Israel Review; 2003: http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~hireview/content.php?type=article&issue=summer03/&name=foroz  Alternatively, the recurrence of Palestinian violence would indicate a prior absence, the cause of which  could be discerned and assessed in hope of a solution which proves lasting, and which does not breach international law or abrogate human rights  – these are matters of scant regard in such a purview, needless to say. Several of the responses by students to the divestment petition were evidently highly insular and conceited. It is worth bearing in mind that these were students discussing one of their professors; not criminals bemoaning an arresting officer.

[33]  ‘Anti-Divestment Drive Gains Steam’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 15th May 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/15/anti-divestment-drive-gains-steam-over-300/

[34]   ‘Petition to Oppose Divestment from Israel’. HarvardMITJustice.org; 2002: http://harvardmitjustice.thomer.com/cgi-bin/index.cgi

[35]    ‘Petition to Oppose Divestment from Israel’. HarvardMITJustice.org; 2002: http://harvardmitjustice.thomer.com/cgi-bin/index.cgi

[36]   The anti-divestment petition also claimed that Global Exchange‘s petition “does not support the citizens of Israel in the face of an endless stream of suicide bombings”. Quite how this relates to American business practices and government funding is unclear – none of whom appear to have investments therein. Moreover, the anonymous author of the anti-divestment petition appears not to have considered the impact violence between Palestinian militants and the Israeli military had on all citizens in the region, which divestment was itself intent on obviating.  

[37]    ‘Petition to Oppose Divestment from Israel’. HarvardMITJustice.org;  2002: http://harvardmitjustice.thomer.com/cgi-bin/index.cgi

[38]   The self-styled ‘Foundation for Jewish Campus Life’.

[39]   ‘Anti-Divestment Drive Gains Steam’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 15th May 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/15/anti-divestment-drive-gains-steam-over-300/

[40]  ‘Anti-Divestment Drive Gains Steam’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 15th May 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/15/anti-divestment-drive-gains-steam-over-300/

[41]  ‘Anti-Divestment Drive Gains Steam’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 15th May 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/15/anti-divestment-drive-gains-steam-over-300/

[42]     Which would undoubtedly make Swenson one of the very few characters of any colour pertaining herein; most of whom were evidently either mild-mannered academics or distinctly charmless bullies.

[43]   A valid claim. See ‘Spontaneous Order, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production’ by Rod Swenson (1999) via Swenson’s website: http://rodswenson.com/

[44]  ‘Yale Israel Supporters Launch Anti-Divestment Petition’ by Lauren Schuker in The Harvard Crimson; 21st November 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/11/21/yale-israel-supporters-launch-anti-divestment-petition/  

[45]  ‘Anti-Divestment Drive Gains Steam’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 15th May 2002:  http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/15/anti-divestment-drive-gains-steam-over-300/  Summers’ political leanings were evidently problematic in other respects. In 2005 Summers gave a speech in which he contended that women are genetically inferior to men. See ‘Why women are poor at science, by Harvard president’ by Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian; 18th January 2005: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2005/jan/18/educationsgendergap.genderissues   Summers resigned in 2006, prompting his more supportive employees such as Dershowitz and Ruth Wisse to bemoan a supposed ‘putsch’ engineered by shadowy “anti-American and anti-Israeli” figures: ‘Summers, Harvard, and Israel’ by Alex Beam in The Boston Globe; 27th February 2006: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/living/articles/2006/02/27/summers_harvard_and_israel/   Wisse was particularly blatant with her accusations. The Boston Globe’s reporter Alex Beame notes: “When I broached the notion of a ”fault line” with Wisse, who happens to be Harvard’s Martin Peretz professor of Yiddish literature, she answered my question with a question: ”That’s not the question that I’m being asked. The question that I’m being asked is, ‘Was anti-Semitism the driving engine of this coup?’ ” ‘Well, what is the answer?’ I asked her more than once. ”It’s the point of view of many people who watch these things closely,” she replied. ”It’s something the Globe should investigate.”        

As per usual, Wisse did not adduce any evidence in support of her conspiracy theory. In reality, faculty gave Summers a vote of no-confidence, and appear to have done so primarily as a result of Summers’ own heavy-handed approach to staff. See Dershowitz’s article bemoaning the supposedly ‘politically correct hard left‘ and their antipathy to Summers, which he alleges was a response to Summers‘ own antipathy towards divestment: ‘Coup against Summers a dubious victory for the politically correct’ by Alan Dershowitz in The Boston Globe; 22nd February 2006: http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2006/02/22/coup_against_summers_a_dubious_victory_for_the_politically_correct/  As another Harvard professor – evidently less prone to exaggeration – noted: ”the majority of the faculty who weighed in on divestment opposed it, while the no-confidence vote against Summers won a majority” in ‘Summers, Harvard, and Israel’ by Alex Beam in The Boston Globe; 27th February 2006: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/living/articles/2006/02/27/summers_harvard_and_israel/  There was therefore clearly a divergence between political and professional sympathies.

[46]   ‘Summers Says Anti-Semitism Lurks Locally: Divestment strongly denounced in Morning Prayers speech’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 19th September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/19/summers-says-anti-semitism-lurks-locally-university/  Summers had also cited “events to raise funds for organizations of questionable political provenance that in some cases were later found to support terrorism have been held…with at least modest success and very little criticism.” As The Harvard Crimson notes, the Harvard Islamic Society has previously been criticized for planning to donate proceeds to the Holy Land Foundation: “a charity which the U.S. government says has ties to Hamas”. The Harvard Islamic Society ultimately opted not to donate to the group, giving their donation instead to the International Red Crescent charity (IRC). The Harvard Crimson quotes the president of the Harvard Islamic Society stating that “it is unclear how supporting the IRC, an internationally recognized humanitarian relief organization, can be characterized as anti-Semitism” (Ibid).

[47]  ‘Summers Says Anti-Semitism Lurks Locally: Divestment strongly denounced in Morning Prayers speech’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 19th September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/19/summers-says-anti-semitism-lurks-locally-university/

[48]   ‘Summers Says Anti-Semitism Lurks Locally: Divestment strongly denounced in Morning Prayers speech’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 19th September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/19/summers-says-anti-semitism-lurks-locally-university/

[49]   ‘Jewish Professors Keep Divestment Drive Alive’ by Patrick Healy via Common Dreams cf. The Boston Globe; 21st December 2002: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1221-02.htm

[50]   Healy’s article appears to be no longer available via The Boston Globe site; it is available by courtesy of  Common Dreams, however: ‘Jewish Professors Keep Divestment Drive Alive’ by Patrick Healy via Common Dreams cf. The Boston Globe; 21st December 2002: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1221-02.htm

[51]  ‘Jewish Professors Keep Divestment Drive Alive’ by Patrick Healy via Common Dreams cf. The Boston Globe; 21st December 2002: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1221-02.htm

[52]   ‘Jewish Professors Keep Divestment Drive Alive’ by Patrick Healy via Common Dreams cf. The Boston Globe; 21st December 2002: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1221-02.htm

[53]   ‘Jewish Professors Keep Divestment Drive Alive’ by Patrick Healy via Common Dreams cf. The Boston Globe; 21st December 2002: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1221-02.htm  Schacter is reported herein as being “one of 439 Harvard faculty to sign an anti-divestment petition – far more than the 75 faculty at Harvard who support divestment”.

[54]  ‘Jewish Professors Keep Divestment Drive Alive’ by Patrick Healy via Common Dreams cf. The Boston Globe; 21st December 2002: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1221-02.htm

[55]   ‘Jewish Professors Keep Divestment Drive Alive’ by Patrick Healy via Common Dreams cf. The Boston Globe; 21st December 2002: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1221-02.htm

[56]   ‘Panel Defends Divestment’ by Wendy Widman in The Harvard Crimson; 24th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/24/panel-defends-divestment-five-supporters-of/  The president of Harvard Students for Israel did however complain that “I was very disappointed to see that all the panellists represented only one side”. This somewhat missed the point of the meeting, which saw those supporting divestment outlining their reasons for doing so, and answering questions from the crowd. It was clearly not a debate on divestment itself. Hanson had himself noted afterwards that while he felt that the discussion was a very positive event, it was only a tiny step in the divestment debate; and that “the next step is to continue this urgently needed educational dialogue in a panel with equal representation on both sides…putting together a balanced panel will allow for a more fruitful, useful, and civil discussion.”

[57]  ‘A Challenge to House Master Hanson’ by Alan Dershowitz in The Harvard Crimson; 23rd September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/23/a-challenge-to-house-master-hanson/ Dershowitz does not provide a reference, typically enough; but the actual person in question appears to have been Tom Paulin – or Jeffrey Hamburger, another Harvard professor. In a Harvard Crimson article written by Hamburger – dated December 11th  2002 – the author notes that: “for Paulin, Israel is a pariah state and any support for it a crime”. This, however, is an attribution of sentiment, not a quotation; and Hamburger’s article was written two months after Dershowitz’s. One article which was written concurrently was Dershowitz’s response to the Autumn 2002 divestment petition, in which he declaimed that “Its aim was “to delegitimate and isolate Israel as a pariah state” in ‘Divesting from Morality…’ by Alan Dershowitz: http://www.alandershowitz.com/publications/docs/morality.html 

[58]  ‘A Challenge to House Master Hanson’ by Alan Dershowitz in The Harvard Crimson; 23rd September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/23/a-challenge-to-house-master-hanson/

[59]   Compare to Dershowitz’s earlier article: “Those who sign the Chomsky petition should be ashamed of themselves. If they are not, it is up to others to shame them” in ’Divest and Conquer’ by Alan Dershowitz; (no date – presumably May 2002): http://www.alandershowitz.com/publications/docs/divestandconquer.html

[60]  ‘A Challenge to House Master Hanson’ by Alan Dershowitz in The Harvard Crimson; 23rd September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/23/a-challenge-to-house-master-hanson/ A more striking claim still follows: “As an advocate and practitioner of human rights throughout the world, I can confidently assert that Israel’s record on human rights is among the best, especially among nations that have confronted comparable threats”. The fact that Dershowitz has repeatedly pressed for the legalisation of torture makes the first point null and void; and as has been shown, Israel’s human rights record within the Palestinian territories is appalling in its own right regardless of comparisons to Sudan or Burma.                

 Elsewhere Dershowitz had also brought his invective to bear upon Francis Boyle – a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – who had been responsible for drafting Yale’s divestment petition, and who The Harvard Crimson notes is “said to have begun the divestment movement in November 2000 with a speech at Illinois State University”: in ‘Panel Defends Divestment’ by Wendy Widman in The Harvard Crimson; 24th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/24/panel-defends-divestment-five-supporters-of/  Boyle has previously given legal advice the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which prompted Dershowitz to declaim that: “Boyle initiated this divestment movement at the request of the PLO—they are using him as their puppet”. Quite what the problem therein is supposed to be Dershowitz does not say. Dershowitz himself claims to have been a consultant on the construction of Israel‘s blatantly illegal West Bank wall. A brief discussion of Boyle’s actual advice to the Palestinian Liberation Organization can be located in ‘Francis A. Boyle. Palestine, Palestinians and International Law’ by Ghada Talhami in Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 25, 2003 cf. Bnet; 2003: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2501/is_3_25/ai_114519332/

[61]   Apparently dated May 31st 2002. The original article is undated, but a date is provided by Temple Beth Israel of Plantation Florida: http://www.tbiftl.org/tbiopin060502.htm   Even stranger, Dershowitz’s duplicated material was in turn plagiarised by another author- contributing to the Massachusetts Institute for Technology student newspaper The Tech. See ‘Human Rights? Let’s Be Honest’ by Michelle Kaufman in The Tech; 22nd October 2002: http://tech.mit.edu/V122/N49/col49miche.49c.html  Dershowitz‘s relatively original piece was published c. 1 month earlier on September 23rd, 2002. This plainly indicates how concerted such efforts were.  

[62]   ’Divest and Conquer’ by Alan Dershowitz; (no date – presumably May 2002): http://www.alandershowitz.com/publications/docs/divestandconquer.html  Chomsky did actually participate in a lengthy debate with Dershowitz in 2005. See ‘Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Noam Chomsky debates with Alan Dershowitz’. Kennedy School of Government cf. Noam Chomsky’s website; 29th November 2005: http://www.chomsky.info/debates/20051129.htm

[63]   ‘Faculty Debates Summers’ Remarks: Anti-Semitism a meeting issue’ by Kate Rakoczy in The Harvard Crimson; 16th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/16/faculty-debates-summers-remarks-the-most/  

[64]   ‘Faculty Debates Summers’ Remarks: Anti-Semitism a meeting issue’ by Kate Rakoczy in The Harvard Crimson; 16th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/16/faculty-debates-summers-remarks-the-most/

[65]   ‘Faculty Debates Summers’ Remarks: Anti-Semitism a meeting issue’ by Kate Rakoczy in The Harvard Crimson; 16th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/16/faculty-debates-summers-remarks-the-most/  

[66]  ‘Dershowitz Devises One-Sided Debate: Letters to the Editor, by Richard Thomas in The Harvard Crimson; 27th September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/27/dershowitz-devises-one-sided-debate-to-the/ 

And ‘Dershowitz’s Letter Shows Him Out of Touch: Letter to the Editors’ by Richard Thomas in The Harvard Crimson; 11th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/11/dershowitzs-letter-shows-him-out-of/

[67]   ‘Debate Coverage Misses Point of Argument: Letter to the Editors’ by Alan Dershowitz in The Harvard Crimson; 9th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/9/debate-coverage-misses-point-of-argument/

[68]   ‘Dershowitz: Divestment Petitioners Are ‘Bigots’’ by Randall Adams in The Harvard Crimson; 8th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/8/dershowitz-divestment-petitioners-are-bigots-frankfurter/

[69]   ‘The Petitioners’ Big Lie’ by Alan Dershowitz in The Harvard Crimson; 24th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/24/the-petitioners-big-lie-the-new/

[70]   ‘A Challenge to House Master Hanson’ by Alan Dershowitz in The Harvard Crimson; 23rd September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/23/a-challenge-to-house-master-hanson/  In 2009 Dershowitz had reiterated this, claiming that divestment smacked of “hypocrisy and anti-Semitism” in ‘Dershowitz Defends Investments in Israel’ by Elias Groll in The Harvard Crimson; 18th February 2009: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2009/2/18/dershowitz-defends-investments-in-israel-harvard/

[71]    ‘The Petitioners’ Big Lie’ by Alan Dershowitz in The Harvard Crimson; 24th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/24/the-petitioners-big-lie-the-new/

[72]     ‘Summers Says Anti-Semitism Lurks Locally: Divestment strongly denounced in Morning Prayers speech’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 19th September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/19/summers-says-anti-semitism-lurks-locally-university/

[73]    ‘Summers Says Anti-Semitism Lurks Locally: Divestment strongly denounced in Morning Prayers speech’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 19th September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/19/summers-says-anti-semitism-lurks-locally-university/

[74]   ‘Summers Says Anti-Semitism Lurks Locally: Divestment strongly denounced in Morning Prayers speech’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 19th September 2002:  http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/19/summers-says-anti-semitism-lurks-locally-university/

[75]     Dershowitz cites here a Black American poet named Amiri Baraka, who drew censure for his supposed anti-Semitism as a result of his poem ’Somebody Blew Up America’. The poem certainly does make some problematic statements, such as “”Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed/ Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers/To stay home that day/Why did Sharon stay away?” . However, it also asks: “Who killed the most Jews?”  and “Who put the Jews in ovens,/and who helped them do it/ Who said “America First” / and ok’d  the yellow stars/… /Who killed Rosa Luxembourg, Liebneckt /Who murdered the Rosenbergs/ And all the good people iced,/ tortured , assassinated, vanished”: ‘Somebody Blew Up America’ by Amiri Baraka: http://www.amiribaraka.com/blew.html            

 The theme of the poem is the problems of aggressive white chauvinism towards non-whites; and clearly posits a critique of the self-righteous ’War on Terror’. Baraka explained his poem in a subsequent essay, written in response to accusations of anti-Semitism by the Anti-Defamation League:                  

“the poem’s underlying theme focuses on how Black Americans have suffered from domestic terrorism since being kidnapped into US chattel slavery, e.g., by Slave Owners, US & State Laws, Klan, Skin Heads, Domestic Nazis, Lynching, denial of rights, national oppression, racism, character assassination, historically, and at this very minute throughout the US. The relevance of this to Bush call for a “War on Terrorism”, is that Black people feel we have always been victims of terror, governmental and general, so we cannot get as frenzied and hysterical as the people who while asking us to dismiss our history and contemporary reality to join them, in the name of a shallow “patriotism” in attacking the majority of people in the world, especially people of colour and in the third world” in ‘Statement by Amiri Baraka, New Jersey Poet Laureate: 10/2/2002 – I Will Not “Apologise”, I Will Not “Resign”!’ by Amiri Baraka; 2nd October 2002: http://www.amiribaraka.com/speech100202.html  

[76]   Dershowitz also duplicates his excerpt regarding Lowell/anti-Semitism, and his hackneyed trope “A good working definition is taking a trait or action that is widespread and singling out only Jews for criticism for that trait or action”.

[77]  ‘The Petitioners’ Big Lie’ by Alan Dershowitz in The Harvard Crimson; 24th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/24/the-petitioners-big-lie-the-new/ 

[78]   ‘Dershowitz’s Challenge To Hanson Courageous: Letter to the Editors’ by James Stern in The Harvard Crimson; 30th September 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/9/30/dershowitzs-challenge-to-hanson-courageous-to/ 

[79]     This is undoubtedly the sole point of validity advanced within the author’s article: there is no mention throughout his piece of the appalling violence the Israeli army had wrought in Jenin; nor of the actual context of Israel’s actions and the numerous violations of law which ensued.

[80]   ‘Divestment on Top of Terror’ by Avid Heilman in The Harvard Crimson; 25th October 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/10/25/divestment-on-top-of-terror-it/

[81]   ‘Dershowitz Defends Investments in Israel’ by Elias Groll in The Harvard Crimson; 18th February 2009: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2009/2/18/dershowitz-defends-investments-in-israel-harvard/

[82]   ‘Dershowitz Defends Investments in Israel’ by Elias Groll in The Harvard Crimson; 18th February 2009: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2009/2/18/dershowitz-defends-investments-in-israel-harvard/

[83]    ‘Dershowitz Defends Investments in Israel’ by Elias Groll in The Harvard Crimson; 18th February 2009: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2009/2/18/dershowitz-defends-investments-in-israel-harvard/

[84]   ‘Keynote Address by Professor Alan Dershowitz: AIJAC’s 30th Anniversary Gala Event’. Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council; 31st March 2004: http://www.aijac.org.au/resources/speeches/dershowitz_speech.html

[85]   ‘Divesting From Israel: A Handbook’ by Global Exchange:  http://usacbi.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/divestment_toolkit.pdf

[86]    ‘Divesting From Israel: A Handbook’ by Global Exchange:   http://usacbi.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/divestment_toolkit.pdf  (p. 6). 

[87]  ‘Divesting from Morality: Israel has a better human rights record than many other countries in the world. So why is the Jewish state being singled out?’ by Alan Dershowitz; 2002:  http://www.alandershowitz.com/publications/docs/morality.html 

[88]   The context here was ‘Operation Defensive Shield’.

[89]   ‘Faculty Urge Divestment From Israel: Harvard-MIT coalition, Students for Israel to hold rallies today’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 6th May 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/6/faculty-urge-divestment-from-israel-a/   

[90]  ‘Faculty Urge Divestment From Israel: Harvard-MIT coalition, Students for Israel to hold rallies today’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 6th May 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/6/faculty-urge-divestment-from-israel-a/

[91]  ‘Faculty Urge Divestment From Israel: Harvard-MIT coalition, Students for Israel to hold rallies today’ by David Gellis in The Harvard Crimson; 6th May 2002: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/5/6/faculty-urge-divestment-from-israel-a/

[92]   This case was given a further nuance by another Harvard-based personality pressing the case for divestment: “Ending American aid and investment in Israel will not destroy Israel, the most powerful state in the region. That is not the intent. Instead, divestment eliminates the moral hazard inherent in current U.S. policy, which promotes militants on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. In view of the blank check from the U.S., Palestinian militants have no incentive to negotiate with Israel because there is no possibility of achieving parity. Israeli militants likewise can conduct their outrages with impunity, because if the Palestinians retaliate, Israeli militants gain not only increased moral and financial support from America, but political advantages in the Israeli electorate as well” in ‘The ‘moral hazard’ of Israel subsidies’ by Donovan Rinker-Morris in Harvard Law Record; 13th November 2002: http://www.hlrecord.org/2.4462/the-moral-hazard-of-israel-subsidies-1.581087

[93]    ‘Divestment and Boycott: Peaceful Ways that You Can Change the World’. Global Exchange; 2nd October 2005: http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/mideast/palestine/divestmentfaq.html