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This year’s long list of 2021 Nobel Peace Prize nominees is two names longer thanks to Alan M. Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, who nominated former White House advisor Jared C. Kushner ’03 and his deputy Avrahm “Avi” Berkowitz last week for their work on the Abraham Accords.
We are surprised by neither the nominator nor the nominees, especially when considered in tandem. Dershowitz’s role in the nomination is hardly out of character; the high-profile attorney has long been an intimate companion of the Trump administration – a firm advocate of the establishment who has, over the past four years, championed the administration’s endeavors on cable news, in print, and in 280-character endorsements on Twitter. Dershowitz has also spent much of his fabled career building a prominent persona, and he has never shied from public attention nor the cases that garner it. This apparent appetite for controversy – paired with the attorney’s high-profile proclivities and firm support for the Trump family – contextualizes Kushner and Berkowitz’s contentious nominations.
But to be fair, the Abraham Accords are noteworthy in their own right. Sure, the agreement is controversial, with its output arguably bereft of any substantive acknowledgment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; yet it still represents the first public normalization of relations between the Arab world and Israel since 1994 – and that’s no small maneuver. Indeed, Kushner and Berkowitz’s efforts, at the very least, are a notable venture, a call whose loud echoes – constructive or not – have managed to reverberate across the geopolitical world. Given the sheer markedness of their simultaneously disrelished and lionized efforts, it seems only natural that Kushner and Berkowitz would land on the list of 2021 Nobel Peace Prize nominees.
So, perhaps Kushner and Berkowitz’s efforts in crafting the Abraham Accords are worthy of such high-level recognition – but can the same be said for Kushner and Berkowitz themselves? More broadly, in considering who deserves such attention and esteem, should we only probe singular, isolated actions? Or must we instead turn towards a more leveled exploration – a nuanced interrogation of all that they have championed, advocated, and accomplished?
We advocate for the latter – for a holistic, carefully integrated approach to evaluation. Kushner, for one, may have been acting in the name of peace through his work on the Abraham Accords; but, over the past four years, Kushner has also kindled conflict and ignited unrest. As former President Donald Trump’s senior advisor, he has tacitly enabled his father-in-law’s brinkmanship with North Korea and Iran; he has bred international distrust by affirming Trump’s withdrawal from countless multilateral treaties and organizations; and he has quietly watched as immigrants have been banned from seven predominantly Muslim countries under the Trump administration. Ultimately, Kushner’s “behind-the-scenes” ventures across the Middle East – his apparent efforts towards peace – do nothing to diffuse the disharmony that these other actions have propounded and provoked.
These standards, too, are by no means reserved for Nobel Laureates – they should, in fact, be carried and practiced within Harvard’s own gates.
In some of its most cherishable moments, the University has successfully risen to this very challenge. Just last month, for instance, the Harvard Institute of Politics clung tightly to this principle – to the importance of making holistic assessments when considering who it honors – when the organization boldly ousted U.S. Representative Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.) from her position on its Senior Advisory Committee following her dangerous claims of voter fraud.
Still, we at times see these tenets being overlooked at Harvard; we see the University making clouded, singular judgements rather than holistic, integrative considerations. Such was the case last semester, when the Government Department failed to sever ties with then Gov 50 Preceptor David Kane after his series of disgraceful, racist blog posts were unearthed. In making this decision, the department either failed to consider or chose to ignore Kane’s actions outside of the classroom and their effect on students.
Inevitably, this tension ripples and pulsates throughout our world – from the University to the Nobel Laureate level. Navigating such tension is no easy feat, but one thing is clear: To honor an individual, one cannot be blind the whole of their actions. We cannot award cowards for a single act of bravery; we cannot award the intolerant for a single act of inclusion; and we cannot award inciters for a single act of civility.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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