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Letter to the Editor: Editorial Normalizes Growing Campus Anti-Semitism

By Alan M. Dershowitz

In one of the most ignorant, discriminatory, and deceptive editorials published by The Crimson, its editors call on “everyone” to promote the current form of antisemitism.

Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic. I routinely criticize its policies just as I criticize policies of our nation. This editorial 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 BDS movement. Tom Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winner, put it this way: “singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanctions – out of all proportion to any other in the Middle East – is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.” That is precisely what the Crimson editorial is guilty of despite its criticism of anti-Semitism “in every and all forms.”

The founders of the BDS movement apply it only to Israelis who are Jewish. Its founder refused to debate me precisely because I am a Jew who supports Israel’s existence? BDS singles out one nation from among the many with serious human rights issues, namely the nation-state of the Jewish people? That is antisemitism.

The megaphone of the Crimson will increase the high rate of anti-Semitism on campuses.

Let’s begin with five statements of fact:

1) No country faced with dangers comparable to those faced 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 not perfect, but it is better than other nations facing comparable threats. (2) No country 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: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, 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. They can 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 these facts from reading The Crimson’s editorial. It mentions Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli soldiers, but omits the many Israeli children, women who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists, or that many of the Palestinians were killed while perpetuating terrorism. The only time it mentions terrorism is to criticize those who have “shamefully link[ed]” critics of Israel “to terrorism.”

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 BDS movement oppose the two-state solution?

It is hard to know whether this editorial suffers more from ignorance or bigotry. It could have been written by a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, except that the PA would be a lot fairer. 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. 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 on campuses to oppose Israel’s existence. It takes great courage today to tell the complex truth about the history of the Israeli/Palestine 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 anti-Semitism. This editorial is part of the oldest prejudice in its newest form. Shame!

Alan M. Dershowitz is a Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School.

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