Weatherhead Fellow Incites Controversy

A visiting scholar at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs has recently come under fire for making comments earlier this month advocating cuts in certain subsistence aid to Palestinians in order to curb extremism.

Martin S. Kramer—who is currently a visiting fellow with the Weatherhead Center’s National Security Studies Program—said at the Herzliya Conference in Israel on Feb. 3 that Western countries should cease providing “pro-natal subsidies”—such as food and funding for refugee children’s education—to Palestinian refugees.

In a six-minute speech at the conference—which is partially sponsored by the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to the Herzliya Conference’s Web site—Kramer called for decreasing population growth among Palestinians in order to “crack the culture of martyrdom [among some Palestinians], which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men.”

“I called on [Western countries] to desist from deliberately encouraging births through pro-natal subsidies for Palestinian ‘refugees,’ which guarantee that Gazans will remain both radicalized and dependent,” Kramer wrote on his blog, entitled “Sandbox.”

While several critics have equated Kramer’s proposal with genocide, some students on campus took issue with the comments’ implications for refugee children.

“What Kramer is essentially calling for is population control by starvation,” said Felix de Rosen ’13, a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC). “If you really want to control population growth, you do it through development, not by starving the children of refugees.”

Kramer told the audience that in countries in which the median population age is less than 20—among Palestinians, the median age is 17, he said—“Islamist radicalization is taking place on a massive scale.”

Citing Osama bin Laden, who is the 17th of 55 children, Kramer stated that “radical Islam is a way for the superfluous sons to enter history.”

Kramer said that decreasing fertility rates will eventually lead aging populations to “reject radical agendas.” He commended Israel’s economic sanctions on Gaza for having had the effect of breaking “Gaza’s runaway population growth” and undermining the Hamas regime. “Had Kramer’s statements been waged against any other group, they would have immediately been classified as extremist hate speech,” said Abdelnasser Rashid ’11-12, who serves as the president of the Harvard Islamic Society and as a PSC board member.

In a statement e-mailed to The Crimson, Weatherhead Center officials stated that Kramer’s comments fell within the realm of academic speech, which embraces controversy.

“It would be inappropriate for the Weatherhead Center to pass judgment on the personal political views of any of its affiliates, or to make affiliation contingent upon some political criterion,” wrote Beth Simmons, Jeffry Frieden, and James Robinson—director and acting directors of the Weatherhead Center, respectively—in the statement.

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