EARLY IN the last decade, when campaigns to divest university funds from Israel arrived at Ivy League schools, Larry Summers, then-president of Harvard University, took an important stand saying, “Not on my watch.’’ He explained that any effort to compare democratic Israel to apartheid South Africa was abhorrent and deserved to be rejected out of hand. The campaign soon died at Harvard as well as other campuses.
Now a new manifestation of extreme anti-Israel activity is coming to Harvard. “One State Conference,’’ scheduled for March 3-4, will explore the “contours of a one-state solution’’ in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and will feature leading anti-Israel activists, including Ali Abunimah, author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse’’; Stephen Walt, co-author of “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’’; and Ilan Pappé, author of “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.’’
The conference is student-sponsored by the Harvard Law School’s Justice for Palestine and the Kennedy School’s Palestine Caucus, Arab Caucus, and Progressive Caucus. Particularly troubling, however, is that Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Office of the Provost are supporting the conference financially, according to the conference website. The Harvard administration has somewhat distanced itself from the conference, saying that the university “would not endorse any policy that some argue could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel.’’
Let’s be frank. The term “one-state solution’’ is a euphemism for the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization first spoke in these terms in the 1970s. They recognized that the blunt language of the PLO charter calling for Israel’s destruction was not well-received.
So the PLO started talking of a “secular democratic state’’ in Palestine, using softer language that had the same intent: The end of a Jewish-majority state by virtue of demographics. Since the charter still governed the PLO and since Palestinian terror against Israelis was rampant, this effort to frame the one-state solution as Palestinian progress was generally not successful.
In fact, we can see how anti-Israel thinking progresses and develops. First, there are alleged concerns about Israel’s “occupation’’ and treatment of the Palestinians. Then, there are efforts to single out Israel alone for that situation, referring to Israel as an apartheid state and seeking to impose sanctions. The thinking then moves from condemnation of Israel’s behavior to rejection of Israel’s very existence in the sweet-talking form of a one-state solution. And lastly, there is the expansion of the accusation of apartheid from what takes place in the territories to the very concept of a Jewish state in the first place.
When Summers rejected divestment at Harvard, he raised the question as to whether those who were unfairly singling out Israel were motivated by anti-Semitism. He assumed that some probably were and others probably were not, but either way, he reasoned, the consequences of such activity were to make anti-Semitism more acceptable and more likely.
His words can be also used about a conference based on the idea that the only Jewish state in the world, the home of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, should disappear.
This Harvard conference is another wake-up call. The effort to delegitimize the Jewish state is moving apace. It is time for all good people, on campus and off, to stand up against this fundamental assault on the Jewish people.
Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League and author, most recently, of “Jews & Money: The Story of a Stereotype.’’