Peace, Justice and Suicide Bombings?

David Appelbaum took his 20-year-old daughter, Nava, out for coffee on the night before her wedding day to have one last father-daughter heart-to-heart. He had come back to Israel from a symposium in New York City on post-9/11 emergency preparedness to see his daughter get married; but he never made it to the wedding, and neither did Nava. A suicide bomber blew up the cafe. Nava’s fiancé, family, and friends attended her funeral instead of her marriage.

Moral people can disagree about the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moral people can argue over territory, over sovereignty and over borders. But moral people cannot condone suicide bombings. Suicide bombings, which specifically target innocent civilians, are always wrong. No moral person could possibly say that Nava Appelbaum or the hundreds of Israeli victims of terror like her, deserved to die.  One would hope that everyone, certainly everyone here at Harvard, would agree on that.

Yet, even here, there are student groups that implicitly condone the terror tactics of Palestinian extremists. The Society of Arab Students (SAS), Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice (HIPJ), and the Civil Liberties Union of Harvard (CLUH), for example, are sponsoring a speech tonight given by Amer Jubran. Jubran, a Jordanian citizen who is currently facing deportation attempts by the FBI, INS and the Department of Homeland Security, appears to express his support and even admiration for suicide bombers and the attacks they carry out. Official literature produced by the New England Committee to Defend Palestine, an organization co-founded by Jubran, states that:

“Many in the United States claim to support the Palestinians in their struggle against Zionist oppression, and then call upon the Palestinian people to ‘act responsibly,’ to ‘renounce violence,’ and to ‘negotiate reasonably.’ That is not support ... It is not our place to dictate the forms that the resistance to violence should take among the Palestinians.”

Jubran, apparently not satisfied merely with softening the image of extremists, also seems to identify with the bombers. The New York Sun reported on Jubran’s remarks made at an Oct. 25 rally in San Francisco: “‘We are angry. Some of us want to throw stones. Some of us want to blow ourselves,’ he said, gesturing to his chest.”

Sadly, the fact that men like Jubran exist is not shocking. What is surprising is that there are groups of Harvard students who feel the need to bring this type of murderous hate to our campus. That Amer Jubran, a man who has defended those who murder innocent civilians and violate of human rights, should be brought to speak by the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice as well as the Civil Liberties Union of Harvard is hypocritical and intolerable.

Supporters of this event might argue that it is meant to express sympathy with Jubran in his fight against deportation and not with his views on terrorism, yet these arguments ring hollow. It is true that Amer Jubran has the right to free speech and I suppose there is a possibility that the United States government has acted improperly with regard to his deportation. These facts alone, however, do not explain why, out of the numerous cases of civil rights abuses in the past, Jubran was chosen (hopefully despite his beliefs and not because of them) to be honored with an invitation to speak at Harvard. To my knowledge, HIPJ and CLUH have never before hosted a speaker who refused to condemn violence against civilians. In not doing so, these groups have acknowledged that there are positions that, while protected by free speech, are so heinous that they render a person unfit to address a civilized crowd. By inviting Jubran, these groups are sending the message quite clearly that they do not consider the targeting of innocent Israelis to be as offensive as the murder of others.

It is equally sad to see SAS supporting a man like Jubran. As a member of Harvard Students for Israel (HSI), I have seen first-hand the effort students in that group have put into working towards reconciliation. Students for Israel has participated in dialogues and other events with Arab groups on campus in the spirit that we are obligated to seek a solution other than continued violence and hate. No pro-Israel group on campus would ever invite a speaker with views analogous to those of Jubran’s.

In the words of HSIpresident Joshua Suskewicz ’05, “We see ourselves as advocates for Israel and advocates for peace. While our members have different political views, none of them call for senseless violence or indiscriminate murder. We would never invite a speaker who held these views, and I am disappointed to hear about Mr. Jubran’s invitation. The prospects for peace in the Middle East, and throughout the world, cannot be good if terrorism and the deliberate targeting of innocents are supported. Student groups must act responsibly and avoid granting a platform or lending support to a man who supports terrorism.”

Edmund Burke once said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Tonight I will be protesting this event at  7 p.m. in Science Center A. I hope you join me.

Daniel W. Shoag ’06 is an economics concentrator in Eliot House. He is a member of Harvard Students for Israel and a senior editor of the Harvard Israel Review.