Re: "Defending the Indefensible"

To the editors:

In the Dec. 14 op-ed “Defending the Indefensible,” Adbelnasser A. Rashid’s rash criticism of Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren’s visit to Harvard is based on the false pretenses of the Goldstone report—a report that has been called misleading and inimical to peace by such mainstream publications as the Economist and public officials such as Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Mr. Rashid’s unquestioning acceptance of this report reveals his anti-Israel bias. While no one would deny that collateral damage occurred on both sides as a result of the Gaza War, Mr. Rashid’s intimation that Israel targeted these civilians out of pure malice is troubling. It has been well established that Israel fired upon Hamas operatives who cynically used civilian entities as cover.

But for Mr. Rashid to claim that Israel, in defending itself against this foe, was “deliberate[ly] targeting” civilians, he would, no doubt, have to equally condemn America’s deliberate “targeting” of any civilians killed in World War II in its fight against the Japanese and Nazis. This logic is clearly skewed, as it requires a sovereign nation defending its citizens—while simultaneously adhering to the highest standards of ethical warfare (including, in Israel’s case, the sending of text messages and dropping of warning leaflets with evacuation instructions for residents before targeting an area)—to face the frightful prospect that it will be accused of war crimes (by the indignant likes of Mr. Rashid) if unfortunate civilian deaths occur. Even more troubling is Mr. Rashid’s silence when it comes to Hamas, which has stolen foreign aid and committed violence against its own people.

More comical still is Mr. Rashid’s attempt to paint Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren as a radical war sympathizer. In fact, Mr. Oren has been on the center-left of the Israeli political spectrum, and once even advocated for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank! During his Kennedy school visit, Mr. Oren was simply defending Israel’s right to defend itself (a right Mr. Rashid would likely want stripped from Jewish state). Unlike Mr. Rashid, Mr. Oren is one of the foremost scholars on the Israeli-Arab conflict, and his account of the Six-Day War has been praised as erudite and even-handed by the New York Times and other leading publications. Yet, instead of embracing Mr. Oren and his largely moderate views, Rashid rips into him purely for his affiliation with the Jewish state of Israel—a state Mr. Rashid clearly abhors.

Matthew R. Cohen ’11 is a junior economics concentrator in Adams House. He is the former co-president of Harvard Students for Israel.