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To the Editors of the Crimson:
Last Wednesday, members of the HLS student body received a letter from the Harvard Jewish Law Students Association (HJLSA) in which the HJLSA criticized the Harvard Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and the Third World Coaltion (TWC) for sponsoring a teach-in on the liberation struggle of the Palestinian people. Three speakers participated in this teach-in, one of whom was a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The first paragraph of the HJLSA letter, after reciting recent (and we might add tragic) attacks against Israeli citizens, concluded with a statement to the effect that the teach-in appeared to be designed "to show support for these terrorist acts." To call this a crude attempt at innuendo would be a gross under-statement. Does this mean that anyone who wished to listen to an "unpopular" point of view on the Palestinian issue supports terrorism?
Let us set the record straight. A year ago, BLSA and the TWC invited a PLO Information Officer to speak at Harvard. Recognizing the general interest in the issue, BLSA and the TWC announced the event well in advance to allow everyone to participate. Shortly before the event, BLSA and the TWC learned that the HJLSA would protest the speaker's presence at Harvard. During the presentation, HJLSA protesters interrupted the speaker so frequently and so boisterously that the audience was deprived of the opportunity to hear his speech. One was left with the distinct impression that the purpose of disrupting the discussion was to convince BLSA and the TWC to never again invite a PLO speaker to Harvard. Neither the Dean nor other members of the faculty spoke-out against this disruption and violation of free speech.
This year, in order to forestall a recurrence of last year's disturbance, BLSA and the TWC sponsored a Private teach-in on the Palestinian issue. While the event was for the benefit of, and limited to, BLSA/TWC members, an attempt was made to recognize the interests of the HJLSA. Thus, they were invited to observe the teach-in.
When the teach-in began, the moderator (Mubammed Kenyatta) stated that there would be a limited question and answer period after the talk. Before the talk began, Professor Alan Dershowitz attempted to disrupt the event by raising a procedural question. The moderator properly refused to entertain any procedural questions. Professor Dershowitz and some of the other non-BLSA/TWC members then walked out in protest. Others left during the question and answer period when the moderator refused to recognise the observers before the BLSA/TWC members.
By leaving before the question and answer period was over, the HJLSA students excluded themselves from further participation in the talk. Non-BLSA/TWC students were permitted to ask questions later in the discussion. Indeed, at least one Jewish student in the audience questioned one of the speakers.
Professor Dershowitz's subsequent statements and actions have been hysterical, inflammatory and totally unwarranted. In addition, the frenzied condemnation made by Professors Martin Kilson and Orlando Patterson, and which appeared in last Wednesday's Crimson, is factually inaccurate, myopic, and deserves no further response.
In concluding, we recognize that the format chosen for any particular event may not please every member of the university community. Nevertheless, we reserve the right to select a format appropriate under the particular circumstances. In addition, both BLSA and the TWC are very sensitive to Jewish concerns, but, we are also deeply committed to building bridges among off people. Black Law Students Association
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