Opposition to Matory Is Counter-Speech, Not Censorship

To the editors:

Professor J. Lorand Matory ’82 complains about "censorship" of anti-Israel views on campus ("Israel and Censorship at Harvard," op-ed, Sept. 14). His anti-Israel views have been published, so that complaint is void.

But let us consider the substance of his critique. Matory claims that Israel is based on a "racially-based claim that Jewish people have a collective right to Palestine." Anyone who describes Israel—which is a kaleidoscope of races—in these terms is clearly uninformed. The collective Jewish right to self-determination is not racially based and does not exclude Arab self-determination in the same land.

Matory claims that critics of Israel, such as Norman G. Finkelstein, have been "disinvited" from campus in recent years. In fact, Finkelstein spoke at Harvard both last year and the year before.

Next, Matory claims that Palestinians are "pay[ing] the price for the ghastly crime of the Germans." This is false, though the Palestinian leadership was pro-Nazi and worked with Hitler during the Holocaust. The Palestinian leadership was not "guiltless" during that war or the one which followed in 1947-1949, which was initiated by Arab leaders in an attempt to strangle Israel at its birth. Compensation for the property claims of Palestinians who left during that conflict is still on the negotiating table—though Matory ignores the property of Jews who were expelled from Arab countries during and after that period.

In addition, Matory misrepresented former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers, who, in fact, said that "there is Israel’s foreign and defense policy that can be and should be vigorously challenged," but added that singling Israel out was one example of "actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent."

No serious scholar—least of all Professor Ruth R. Wisse, whom Professor Matory quotes directly—would ever claim that only Zionists are legitimate Jews and that all Jews share the same opinions about Israel.

Opposition to Matory’s views must enjoy the same protections that he claims for his own, albeit ill-informed, opinions.


Cambridge, Mass.

September 16, 2007

The writer is president of the Harvard Law School Alliance for Israel.