Richard L. Cravatts

Trying to give respectability to the one-state solution at Harvard

Having a conference with the primary intention to demonize and delegitimize Israel is not an academic enterprise of any merit; it is propaganda parading as scholarship

Seeming to give credence to Orwell’s observation that “some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them,” Harvard’s Kennedy School will be hosting a student-run conference in early March called “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution,” yet another example of how purported scholarship about the Middle East is frequently biased and diluted by ideology.

The one-state solution to the issue of what to do with the ever-suffering Palestinians is not so much an authentic, or even rational, plan for effecting statehood for Palestinian Arabs; instead, it proposes to do with votes and demography the same thing that hostile Arab armies and the PLO have themselves tried to do to Israel for the past 64 years; namely, extirpate the Jewish state — not by driving it into the sea with arms and military might, but by subsuming its Jewish identity in a sea of returning Palestinian refugees coming into to Israel to form a bi-national state.

While most in the sentient world have recognized that the only workable solution to the Israel/Palestinian issue is what has been called the “two-state solution,” that is, Israel and a new Palestinian state “living side by side in peace,” nineteen speakers at the Kennedy School conference will propose satisfactory social justice will be achieved only by deconstructing sovereign Israel and transforming it into a new state with millions of radicalized new Palestinian Arabs as citizens with equal civil and human rights, and the ability, of course, to vote on what form the future Israel will take.

Imagine there’s no Israel

Three quarters of Israelis and nearly that same percentage of Palestinians favor a two-state solution, precisely because it would result in what people of good faith have always said that they wanted: a new, autonomous state for the Palestinians, living peaceably beside, and not jeopardizing the safety of, Israel. The notion of one state, a bi-national state where millions of Palestinian Arabs instantly become citizens of a new Israel, and thereby force Israel to commit demographic suicide, is, of course, the long-held wish of much of the Arab world — and, evidently, of many in the West — who are very content to let Israel as it exists today merely disappear. That is, they imagine, as did Ahmadinejad at his Holocaust denial conference in Iran, a world without Israel.

The premise for effecting a one-state solution is, on its face, obscene, a thinly-disguised ploy to offer a diplomatic solution to an intractable problem, which its proponents know full well would be implemented only for the benefit of Palestinian self-affirmation and to the detriment, and destruction, of Israel. That is exactly why the participants of the Harvard conference are a retinue of the usual suspects in the hate-Israel crowd, a traveling road-show of politicized scholars, propagandists, and non-academic activists with only a thinly-veiled animus towards Israel and Jews. What this conference clearly is not is a true academic or scholarly exercise designed to reveal some rational and reasonable solutions in the Middle East; instead, it is yet another opportunity for ideologues with an anti-Israel, anti-Western agenda to trumpet their perverse views under a cloak of academic respectability, and here even with Harvard’s imprimatur.

As one example, the notorious Israeli historian Ilan Pappé is scheduled to speak at the Harvard conference. Already exposed for having invented history and contorting facts to suit his personal enmity toward Zionism, Pappé has nevertheless become the dream Jew of anti-Semites, someone who offers apologetics for terrorism against Israelis and justifies it as an understandable, and inevitable, response to “occupation.”  “Terrorism is not the essential question,” Pappé has said, oblivious to the murder of Jews riding on buses or sitting at cafes. “Israel expelled the Palestinians and colonized the area,” and this behavior is “far worse than suicide bombing and armed struggle.”

Pappé, and many on the Left, condone resistance by the oppressed Palestinians but despise self-defense by Israel in trying to prevent its citizens from being murdered. Another speaker at the Harvard conference, Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, has repeatedly claimed, for instance, after some 8,000 rockets had rained into southern Israeli towns from Gaza, “that none of these rockets actually [had] an explosive head on them, unlike the Israeli weaponry,” and, in reality, “the reason that they have been launched,” is not because of any genocidal impulses on the part of Hamas but due to “the fact that Israel has maintained a siege and a blockade against the Gaza Strip for the past 3 years in addition to military operations in the Gaza Strip” — in other words, the rocket attacks were Israel’s fault.

Nadim N. Rouhana, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and another panelist, has announced her belief that “it would be politically and morally wrong for the United States to support recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Another speaker, Boston College’s Eve Spangler, who takes students to Israel to teach them to embrace the pro-Palestinian narrative and loathe Israel, has in one of her course syllabi the telling language in one assignment that asks students to analyze the “three images of the Israeli occupation of Palestine: genocide, apartheid, and sociocide,” as if those characteristics were facts as opposed to politicized scholarship. These views are hardly surprising, after all, from a professor who contends that “there is no ‘real’ history, only competing narratives, in which power, not truth, determines the outcome.” In other words, facts do not matter in scholarship.

Another participant is Ali Abunimah, whose online newsletter, the Electronic Intifada, is the veritable Der Stürmer of the pro-Palestinian cause and the one-state solution, a formula that if introduced, Abunimah has admitted, might mean that “we couldn’t rule out some disastrous situation” for Jews.

The end-Israel lobby

And as if to lend some intellectual weight to the conference, the sponsors have invited the Kennedy School’s own Stephen Walt, who, with co-author John Mearsheimer, wrote the incendiary book, The Israel Lobby. In that work, Walt and Mearsheimer accused the Israel lobby, what they described as a powerful, manipulative cabal of pro-Israel Jewish individuals and organizations, of having gained a “stranglehold” on US policymakers, an influence that they said explained America’s longstanding support of Israel, even when it harms our security interests and global standing. Apparently, in his zeal to help US policymakers rid themselves of the annoyance of having to moderate their loyalty to Israel, Walt has now moved to an even more radical position than simply exposing the perfidy of the Israel Lobby — namely, eliminating the Jewish state altogether, a viewpoint that has made him the darling of anti-Israel hate-fests around the globe.

The one-state solution is the legacy of the ideology of the Left, which manifests itself in a reverence for Third-World victims and an obsession with redressing the wrongs of history by seeking social justice and a radical social change to overturn the status quo. But the notion that the perceived rights to statehood and self-affirmation of the Palestinians are so legitimate and compelling, and that they should be granted at the expense and to the detriment of the sovereign state of Israel, is one that certainly has no precedent, from a legal, moral, or politically realistic standpoint. It also exposes an inexplicable fixation with Israel, and only Israel, on the part of its detractors who purport to support human rights everywhere. Given some of the civil deformities that have emerged from the “Arab Spring,” there is certainly no guarantee that the new bi-national Israel that emerged from this scheme would be free from protracted internecine strife and the eradication of the Jewish identity of Israel, let alone the type of functioning state Israeli citizens now enjoy with its open, democratic society.

Having a conference with the primary intention to demonize and delegitimize Israel is not an academic enterprise of any merit; it is propaganda parading as scholarship, and violates not only one of the basic precepts of scholarship but also the spirit of the Kennedy School, which was conceived as a place where students could debate, with academic integrity, reason, and insight, the important issues facing decision makers.

About the Author
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of the forthcoming book, The Slow Death of the University: How Radicalism, Israel Hatred, and Race Obsession are Destroying Academia.