The one-sided Harvard-MIT divest petition
(December 2002; last updated 2011)
The extraordinarily complex Palestinian-Israeli conflict involves
massive human rights violations on both sides.
The Harvard-MIT divest petition
offers an incredibly simplistic remedy that
singles out Israel for punishment.
Critics have rightfully pointed out that the petition is hypocritical and
antisemitic in effect.
It condemns acts of violence on both sides, yet
demands punishment of one side only -
hence the charge of hypocrisy.
It calls for economic sanctions against Israel but none against
Palestinian organizations bent on eliminating the Jewish State--
hence the charge of effective antisemitism.
In an article of June 2002 entitled In Defense of Human Rights
seven professors attempt to defend the divest petition.
We quote passages below and and then comment on them [in brackets].
"The idea that Israel should
respect the human rights of all people and comply with international agreements
is uncontroversial in most of the world.
Here in the United States, and especially
in our own universities, however, this petition has elicited a surprising
amount of controversy and ill will."
[The professors seem unprepared to acknowledge that the ill will
generated by the petition is a
result of its inequity. Instead, they
impugn their critics' motives, insinuating that the opprobrium
chiefly from Americans who absolve Israel's human rights violations.
the authors conclude by expressing the hope
that their own motives will not be questioned.]
"The Middle East is in crisis. Palestinian and Israeli civilians are
killed daily, and that very troubled part of the world is experiencing a new
escalation of fear, hatred, and mistrust. Nevertheless, a solution to this
tragedy exists, and it has been accepted by nearly every country in the world,
including the U. S. government: Two independent states, the state of Israel
occupying its recognized borders, and a Palestinian state on the West Bank
and Gaza. We and many others in this country and the Middle East, including
Israelis as well as Palestinians, are optimistic that this outcome is both
possible and workable as a way to insure long-term stability and security
for all parties in the region. The purpose of our petition is to mobilize
the substantial power of the U.S. government and economy to bring about this
[The professors claim to
support a two-state solution while promulgating a
petition which strengthens the hand of
opposing a two-state solution.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad
vow to continue attacking Israel until it is replaced
with an Islamic State.
Hamas leaders have been enormously popular with the Palestinian
people. Suicide attacks on Israeli civilians have had an approval
rating exceeding 60% during 2002-2005.
Shockingly unconcerned with these facts (all documented in
the petitioners have decided to help
effectuate a two-state solution by mobilizing
the substantial power of the U.S.
government against Israel alone.]
"Further reason to doubt that Israel will spontaneously
end its occupation comes from the insistence that ending of the
occupation be contingent on the complete end of individual acts of
violence by Palestinians. Although we condemn acts of violence on
both sides as the divest petition states, this is a condition that
no government could ever meet, however effective and powerful it is.
Even the U.S. government cannot guarantee that none of its citizens
will engage in acts of violence - that we will see no more Oklahoma
bombings or Littleton school shoot-outs."
[The professors would have us believe that Israel is overly concerned
about isolated mavericks like Tim McVeigh.
What concerns Israel are the
popular well-funded Palestinian organizations engaging in systematic
campaigns of terror designed to maximize civilian casualties.
There have been over 840 Israelis killed and 4000 wounded
in the period 2001-2003
by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, PFLP, et al.
(Relative to total population,
this is equivalent to a staggering 39,000 Americans killed and
188,000 Americans wounded in a three year period.)
The petitioners reprove
these attacks only as lip service -
they advocate absolutely no sanctions on Palestinian terrorism.
Yet they actively promote measures to destabilize
Israel and endanger her people.]
"As terrible as suicide bombings
are, they do not justify continued occupation or abrogation of the human
rights of Palestinians."
[Similar counsel was given in the weeks after September 11, 2001:
"As terrible as the suicide attacks in New York and Washington are,
they do not justify the abrogation of the human rights of Afghanis."
Had this advice been followed, the Taliban and al-Qaeda
training camps would still
be flourishing in Afghanistan today.]
Many people fault the Palestinian Authority for being uninterested
in peace, as evidenced by their alleged rejection of
reasonable peace proposals.
However, the offer that Arafat rejected at Camp David in July of 2000 would
have resulted in the annexation by Israel of 10% of the West Bank, and would
have left under Israeli control the largest settlement blocks, 80% of the
settlers, and the grid of roads connecting them. Worse, the Israeli holdings
would have cut the West bank into three noncontiguous Bantustans completely
surrounded by Israeli territory, with the settler roads further dividing the
Palestinian areas into 29 smaller pieces.
[This statement about Bantustans is a notorious lie disseminated
by Arafat's team at Camp David. The map showing
what Israel actually offered may be found at
According to Shlomo Ben-Ami
Barak's representative at the peace talks,
"And when the ridiculous contention was voiced that what we were proposing
to the Palestinians was cantons and that they would not have
territorial contiguity, I went to [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak
and showed him a map. As I recall, it was still the 8-percent map,
a map of 8-92. Mubarak perused it with interest and asked aloud why
the Palestinians were claiming they didn't have contiguity."]
Finally, Israel demanded that an
additional 10% of the land (“green land”) would be under Israeli
a period of 25 years. This land in the Jordan Valley would have given Israel
total control over the relationship between the Palestinian entity and the
outside world. Clearly this proposal is inconsistent with a viable Palestinian
[Interestingly, Arafat claimed in June 2002 that the Clinton peace plan was
viable after all
, although few paid any heed to his bids for peace
once it became
common knowledge that he praised suicide attacks in Arabic while
denouncing them in English.
In August 2004, Arafat intoned his usual Arabic refrain
before thousands in Ramallah
"With our souls, with our blood we will sacrifice for Palestine.
...We are going to Jerusalem, martyrs in the millions."
Nabil Amr, former information minister in Arafat's cabinet and
member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, wrote
in London's Arab newspaper Al-Hayat (September 2, 2002)
Didn't we dance to the failure of Camp David? Didn't we deface
pictures of President Bill Clinton who courageously put on the table
the proposal for a Palestinian State with minor modifications?
Aren't we doing just that, dancing in the face of a grand failure? Yes.
But were we honest in what we did? No. We were not, because today,
after two years of bloodshed, we call for exactly what we
refused, only after we became sure it was impossible to achieve!
In September 2002, armed assailants shot several rounds into
the home of Nabil Amr after he and several other prominent
establishment figures were accused of treason and scheming
to eliminate Arafat.
Amr's right leg had to be amputated after he was shot in
his West Bank home on July 20, 2004. Amr had just finished a television
interview in which he criticized Arafat's leadership
Had Arafat accepted the peace plan in January 2001, the Middle East would have
been spared years of abject misery. Instead, the Palestinian Authority
chose the path of suicide bombings
According to Al-Safir (March 3, 2001),
Palestinian Communications Minister Imad Al-Faluji stated
This Intifada was planned in advance, ever since
President Arafat's return from the Camp David
negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on
President Clinton. ...
The Palestinian Resistance will strike in Tel-Aviv, in Ashkelon, in
Jerusalem, and in every inch of the land of natural
Palestine. Israel will not have a single quiet night.]
"The talks in January 2001 at Taba - which would have still left two
thirds of the Israeli settlers living in 87 West bank settlements - were
a significant improvement. However, they were ended not by a walkout of the
Palestinian Authority, but by the election of Ariel Sharon."
[The Taba talks were ended before the February 6 election of Sharon.
After learning of
Arafat's bellicose speech in Davos (January 28, 2001),
Barak cut off diplomatic contact with Arafat.
According to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times
Well, Mr. Peres did extend the olive branch, as planned, but Mr.
Arafat torched it. Reading in
Arabic from a prepared text, Mr. Arafat denounced Israel for its
"fascist military aggression" and "colonialist armed expansionism,"
and its policies of "murder, persecution, assassination, destruction
This speech finally made it clear that the Palestinian Authority
had no interest in becoming a peace partner with Israel.]
"We are puzzled by the resistance of Israel's supporters to the conditions
in the divest petition, because we think it is clear that Israel's continued
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is not only unjust and injurious to the
Palestinians but also very harmful and strategically disastrous for the
[The petition pressures Israel to end occupation,
with no concomitant pressure against militant Palestinian
regard all of Israel as occupied.
And the professors profess
to be puzzled!]
"Much of the danger that Israel now faces comes from the misery and
hopelessness of three million people whose land Israel occupies in the West
Bank and Gaza."
The petitioners would have us believe that occupation of Palestinian
territories (which began after the 1967 war) is the reason Israel faces danger.
Israel was the victim of hundreds of Arab
terrorist attacks between 1948 and 1966
These attacks were motivated by occupation
only insofar as Arabs considered all of Israel to be occupied.
[As Pat Clawson indicates below, Palestinians'
misery and hopelessness is largely the result of their obsession to take
over Israel. It is no surprise that Israel would face danger
from a society which inculcates hatred and glorifies martyrdom
A common refrain of suicide attackers and their supporters is
"there is no other option". This too was the justification used by
the Chechen guerrilla Basayev
(see the front page of the September 18, 2004 New York Times)
after the siege at a school in Beslan resulted in the deaths of over 180
There was no other choice!
While some suicide attacks are motivated by despair, many are the
political and religious ideology,
revenge, and hatred.
Hamas, PFLP, and Islamic Jihad have made clear their
political motive: to put all of Israel under Islamic control.
Defending the choice of women as suicide bombers, Hamas spiritual leader
Ahmed Yassin said that fighting Israel was a religious duty for all Muslims,
male and female
The glory of Islamic martyrdom has motivated
both Palestinian and foreign suicide attacks in Israel
An interview with
fifteen year old Hussam Abdo
 reveals that he donned an explosive belt for personal revenge.
Nationalistic and religious fervor are motives
for many child suicide bombers
Palestinian terrorism serves to perpetuate
the current misery and hopelessness.
Pat Clawson, deputy
director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writes
The biggest single barrier to Palestinian growth is
their violence against
Israel, which forces Israel to impose closures and curfews.
Those who want to relieve the suffering of the Palestinians
should concentrate on stopping
their offensive, which would allow Israel to lift the devastating
restrictions on the flow of goods.]
"Why do we call on the U.S. government, MIT, and Harvard to cease military
aid and investments in Israel but not Palestine? First, we believe that a
unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories,
coupled with a commitment to respect international conventions on human rights, are the
most important steps that could be taken to bring peace to the region."
[Unilateral withdrawal from occupied territories may have advantages, but
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have made it clear that it will not end their
One thus wonders how unilateral withdrawal will "bring peace to the region".
Hamas has fired thousands of Qassam rockets into Israel
, and the missile attacks have rained
death and destruction on the town of Sderot
. Israeli disengagement from Gaza (August 2005)
created the fear
that Hamas would take advantage by launching missiles from closer range,
threatening not only the besieged town of Sderot but also the larger
city of Ashkelon.
This fear turned out to be well-founded; rocket attacks on Israel
increased more than sixfold, becoming
nearly daily occurrences
In 2008, 3200 Palestinian rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza.
The total number of rocket/mortar attacks from Gaza in the period
2001-2011 exceeds 12000
Not all Palestinians agree with the petitioners that Israel should
withdraw unilaterally without any concessions from the other side.
Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo addressed the
The suicide bombings will not bring us peace, and confiscating
of our liberty will not bring you security. Let us together reject
extremism in all its forms. Let us together choose the path of
Regarding suicide bombings, Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh said
in July 2004
And in addition to its being morally outrageous, I think it's,
even from a political point of view, totally counterproductive because,
as I say, it's premised on the rejection of seeing others as human beings.
And you cannot really advance in peace or in negotiations unless you
in fact see others as human beings, as equals.
Instead of promoting the path of peaceful negotiations,
the professors prefer to proffer petitions that serve the terrorists'
"Although violence has come from both sides of this conflict, the
positions of Israelis
and Palestinians are not symmetrical. Millions of Palestinians are living
under Israeli occupation, but no Israelis are living under Palestinian rule."
[Moral asymmetry between occupied and occupier becomes blurred
when one takes into account that a significant percentage of the occupied
violently oppose any Jewish presence at all in the Middle East.
This is one of the primary
reasons for the war that led to occupation in the first place!]
"Palestinian homes are demolished by Israeli bulldozers but not vice versa."
[Restaurants full of people are demolished by Palestinian terrorists,
but not vice versa.]
"Israel imposes curfews and checkpoints on Palestinians, not the reverse."
[Palestinians don't need to impose curfews and checkpoints because it is
not Israeli policy to send its citizens into Gaza hospitals,
buses, and restaurants strapped with explosives.
Checkpoints can be cruel, but they are
the direct result of Palestinian terrorism. Dramatic evidence of how
checkpoints save lives is provided in a 2005 video
of a woman who attempted to blow herself up the very hospital in which she was
; see also
"The Israeli government has explicitly endorsed torture,
assassination, and deportation as acceptable actions against those
it suspects have engaged in acts of violence."
[The Palestinian Authority has endorsed murder, crippling, and blinding
of random men, women, and children who are not suspects at all
The PLO has a long history of such violence;
the 1974 massacre at Maalot
(a precursor to the massacre at Beslan) is one of many examples
of horrific attacks targeting school children
"And in the last few months, Israel has systematically destroyed Palestinian
schools, hospitals, businesses, and civic institutions."
[There is a long list of buses, schools, businesses and
institutions destroyed by Palestinians
One could continue matching destruction for destruction,
but it is already clear
that "asymmetry" is a vacuous excuse for singling out Israel.]
"Moreover, the United
States government and economic institutions have not played symmetrical roles
in the conflict. Israel is the recipient of enormous U.S. military aid and
investment, whereas Palestine is the recipient of very little. Were
the arms for both sides of this conflict, then it might be reasonable to
demand a halt to all our funding of both sides. In fact, however, both
U.S. military aid and corporate military investments are directed almost
entirely toward Israel. This is the most striking, and dangerous, asymmetry
in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
[Asymmetry in U.S. funding is irrelevant. The Taliban, poor and underfunded
as they are, deserve severe sanctions for their terrorism,
irrespective of asymmetry.
The authors say that the asymmetry
makes it unreasonable to "demand a halt to all our funding of both sides."
In fact the authors find it unreasonable to make any demands on the
Palestinian side. The conditions listed in the petition
are ultimatums against Israel - not a single condition addresses
Palestinian terrorism. This is a tremendous moral failing in a petition
that claims to value human rights for all.
Incidentally, the United States has given Egypt over 2 billion dollars per year
during the last quarter century, over half of that for military aid
and the petitioners haven't uttered a peep about Egypt's abysmal
human rights record
If they are not fixated on the Jewish state and are indeed
concerned with global human rights violations perpetuated with U.S.
dollars, it is curious that they have expressed no interest in reducing U.S.
imports from China. After all, the colossal 113 billion dollars that
China received from the U.S. imports in 2002 (over 140 billion in 2003)
helps maintain the brutal, half-century long occupation of Tibet.
Palestinians have received billions of dollars in international aid up
and they received 7.4 billion dollars more in the period 2008-2010
Millions of these dollars have been diverted
from economic programs
to fatten the wallets of Palestinian leaders
and to finance suicide attacks
As is detailed in
One of the documents captured is a table found in the
"Tulkarm Charity Association", detailing the 10th payments cycle to
"casualties of Intifada Al Quds" in the West Bank (in total, the payment
cycle consisted of 2,040,000 Saudi Riyal, approx. $545,000). The table lists
payments made to 102 families of terrorists who died during 2001, each family
receiving 20,000 Riyal (approx. $5340). According to the table, the funds were
transferred to the families through the Arab Bank. They were handed over to
beneficiaries whose names and ID numbers are mentioned in the table.
The Palestinian Authority could afford to sponsor terrorism for decades
according to a bill submitted in 2001 by
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to Arafat's chief
Fouad Shoubaki, an explosive charge for a suicide bombing costs less than $150
The Brigades have received much of their
funding from Iran
The petitioners, gravely concerned about financial aid to Israel,
are completely silent about the financing of Palestinian terrorism.]
"While we believe
that Israel's withdrawal from the
occupied territories is the most important step toward
ensuring the security needs of
both Israelis and Palestinians, we recognize that many
further steps may be needed to
ensure a lasting peace, such as the stationing of an international
along the border. Our hope is that these measures will ensure a secure,
democratic Israel beside a secure, democratic Palestine."
[The authors' assurances about security are questionable in the absence
of any expressed interest
from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, or Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
in coexisting peacefully with a Jewish state.
The prospect of international peacekeepers
offers little comfort; soldiers are ineffective
against suicide bombs, as Iraqis have
discovered since 2002.]
"Third, why do we single out Israel and ignore violations of human rights
committed by other countries? This is a strange sort of criticism: Social,
political, and human rights problems are normally tackled one by one, as they
[The authors of
"In defense of human rights"
agitate for the rights of Palestinians only,
"human rights problems are normally tackled one by one, as they arise".
Prioritizing at the expense of human rights of Israelis
in the Middle East conflict is blatantly discriminatory.
Amnesty International's Middle East Department
would lose all credibility if it used the
fatuous justification "human rights problems are normally tackled one by one"
to restrict attention to the human rights of just one side of a conflict.]
"Some of our critics have claimed or implied that our focus on Israel's
policies is the result of anti-Semitism. Accusations of anti-Semitism have
been used for decades to stifle criticism of Israeli policy, and they have
been extremely effective. The world has been
astonishingly silent during decades
of Israeli occupation, and much of America still does not dare to raise
any criticism of Israel. When criticisms of Israel are expressed, the charge
of anti-Semitism serves to deflect attention away from the
actions that prompted the criticisms.
[Criticism of Israel's policies is clearly not antisemitic
and should be encouraged.
But the petition does far more
than criticize government. It demands one-sided measures that
benefit militants whose agenda is the mass murder of Israeli Jews.
That militants prefer to target Israeli Jews is clear;
the bombs blow up
students at Hebrew University, not Al Quds University.]
"We want the petition to open up discussion
of these issues in our academic communities and beyond.
We hope that Israel's
supporters will join us in an open debate, not try to stifle discussion by
questioning our motives.
We firmly believe that an open exchange of ideas,
free from personal attacks, offers the best hope of progress in breaking
the current deadlock and moving toward a resolution of the conflict that
respects the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis alike."
[In sum, the petitioners demand no sanctions against terrorists devoted to
Jewish state, while they fervently advocate actions to cripple Israel's
economy and weaken her defense. The excuses offered for this
one-sidedness are unconvincing.
Little wonder that hundreds of Harvard and MIT faculty
agree that the petition is not pro human rights
but rather anti-Israel
We close with the words of Michael Walzer, peace activist and Princeton
professor of philosophy
("Arguing About War", Yale University Press, 2004, p. 129):
Only when the European
critics of Israel are prepared to tell the Palestinians that there will
be no help for a PA complicit in terrorism, can they ask
American critics of Palestinians to deliver a parallel message
to the Israeli government. Intellectuals committed to internationalism
can best serve their cause by explaining and defending the
two messages together." ]
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