Harvard Students for Israel: Peace, Not Propaganda
We were shocked and dismayed by the falsifications and manipulations of truth contained in the Palestinian Solidarity Committee’s (PSC) advertisement, entitled, “Palestine in Brief,” which ran in The Crimson on April 26. Such distortions signal nothing less than the beginning of a malicious propaganda war aimed at slandering Israel.
The ad offers supposedly objective and documented statements about the anti-terrorism fence Israel is building to foil Palestinian suicide bombing and “News” from the region. To address the most egregious claims in the “News” section of the ad: the statement that “9,000 Palestinian citizens will be removed from their homes in Gaza and the West Bank” is so ridiculous that it is funny, as it makes use of a glaring Washington Post typo for malicious means. As part of Israel’s disengagement plan to withdraw Israeli troops and civilians from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank, 9,000 Israeli settlers are slated to be moved back inside Israel-proper this summer. This plan furthers the national goals of the Palestinian people by giving Gaza’s one million Palestinians—approximately one third of the total population—the opportunity for self-government. It certainly does not entail removing Palestinians from their homes. Additionally, the statement that “310 Palestinian children are in prison and being tortured,” leveled from an unsubstantiated source, is baseless and unequivocally false.
The information provided in regards to the fence—the ostensible purpose of the ad—is similarly misleading and erroneous. The primary manipulation lies in the fact that the ad’s information dates from October 2004. Since then, as the leaders of the PSC should be aware, Israel has dramatically changed the route of the fence in order to significantly reduce hardships that the previously planned route would have caused for Palestinian civilians. Citing this clearly outdated information is deceptive.
Furthermore, the PSC’s ad states that “47.6% of West bank [sic] land” will be “annexed into Israel.” The reality, as reported April 19 in the New York Times, is that the barrier’s route leaves no more than 8 percent of the West Bank on the Israeli side. The PSC also claims that 9.7 percent of Palestinians will be cut off from “cultivated lands” by the barrier, but the real number, as reported in the same article, is one half of one percent.
Furthermore, Israel has no intention of annexing any portion of the land which the security barrier puts between itself and the Green Line—the political boundary between Israel-proper and the West Bank. Israel has maintained that the barrier—96 percent of which is an easily movable chain link fence—is not a unilateral statement of final borders between it and a future Palestinian state. The fence is designed to include the maximal number of Israelis on one side and the maximal number of Palestinians on the other in order to maximize its effectiveness as a security device. It should also be noted that since the fence’s construction began, suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks in Israel have been drastically reduced. This has enabled the Israeli army to withdraw from several Palestinian cities and dismantle key checkpoints behind the barrier. The ad also manipulates the truth by failing to provide appropriate context for its claims. It states that “The wall ‘consists of 25 foot high concrete walls,’” but less than 4 percent of the barrier meets this description—primarily the section adjacent to the trans-Israel highway on the Green Line.
Finally, the section on the International Court of Justice does not mention the politics behind the ruling, the admitted bias against Israel of the judges involved, the changes in the route of the barrier since the ruling was issued, or the fact that it is merely a non-binding “advisory opinion” which the United States, European Union, and Russia opposed the court’s issuing.
We have no objection to—and in fact fully support—the free expression of legitimate Palestinian viewpoints and rights. However, by falsifying, manipulating, and distorting facts, and leaving context wholly absent, this advertisement serves to spread lies that slander the state of Israel rather than promote the Palestinian cause. Propaganda of this sort in a public forum is libelous, dangerous, and unacceptable, and completely contradicts the aim of civil and honest discourse that is central to University life.
As students devoted to constructive dialogue on campus and peace among Israelis and Palestinians, we cannot allow such hateful propaganda to dominate the discourse and polarize the campus. We are deeply disappointed that the PSC engaged in such reprehensible conduct, and we call on their leadership to publicly disavow the misinformation they set forth.
SUNNY YUDKOFF ’06
JOSHUA SUSKEWICZ ’05
May 1, 2005
The writers are President and Political Chair, respectively, of Harvard Students for Israel.