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Letters

To the Editor: In Opposition to the BDS Editorial

By David A. Guberman, Leonard J. Lehrman, and Richard D. Plotz
David A. Guberman ’71 was a Social Studies concentrator in Dunster House. Leonard J. Lehrman ’71 was a Music concentrator in Dunster House. Richard D. Plotz ’71 was a Biochemical Sciences concentrator in Leverett House. A full list of signatories to this letter can be found below.

To the Editors of The Harvard Crimson:

As Jewish alumni from the Harvard/Radcliffe College Class of 1971, we write to voice our dismay with The Crimson’s editorial support for the Palestine Solidarity Committee’s mission and its endorsement of the campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and Israelis (or at least against Israeli Jews). To be clear, we’re not dismayed by criticism of Israel, however trenchant, especially criticism of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, one of us was the first lay president of Americans for Peace Now, allied with Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), Israel’s preeminent peace movement, and dedicated to a comprehensive, durable, Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace, based on a two-state solution, guaranteeing both peoples’ security.

Rather, we’re dismayed by the editorial board’s support for a movement that, hostile to a two-states-for-two-peoples peace settlement and repudiating the goal of a Palestinian state alongside and at peace with Israel, would bring about the eradication of the State of Israel in any form acceptable to the vast majority of its citizens. How many Palestinian and Israeli lives, we wonder, is the board willing to sacrifice; how long is it willing to let the Occupation continue, in pursuit of an aim that is both inhumane and unrealizable?

Eradicating the Israeli state is inhumane on its face: Israelis in their millions will not quiescently accede to the elimination of their society and culture. Nor should they. BDS therefore cannot succeed in achieving the movement's goal. Unless the endorsement is only performative, or primarily directed at Jewish life at Harvard and elsewhere in the diaspora, endorsing the movement necessarily entails support for a bloody, violent undertaking. And success, were it somehow possible, would leave the victors in possession of a ravaged land and ravaged peoples. Adapting a question James Reston asked about our country’s misbegotten war in Vietnam: How do professed supporters of a single democratic state — or even just undefined “Palestinian freedom” — win by military force without destroying the possibilities they claim to want to achieve?

Nor do the Crimson editors tell a plausible story of how the BDS movement might lead to Palestinian freedom. The power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians is vast. The normalization of relations between Israel and many Arab states in the region is moving forward. Rather than plausibly leading to Palestinian statehood (albeit alongside Israel rather than “from the river to the sea”), the movement supported by the editorial board condemns Palestinians to continued occupation, continued lack of control over their own lives, continued lack of freedom.

Finally, we observe that keeping apart from the BDS movement need not entail acquiescing to the status quo. One might, for example, join those of us who refuse knowingly to buy goods or services originating from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, and who support measures requiring truth in labeling the origin of such products. This simultaneously communicates opposition to the settlement enterprise and draws a vital distinction between Israel and the territories. Or, as another example, one might contribute to candidates who support a two-state peace settlement, either individually or through groups like JStreetPAC.

David A. Guberman ’71 was a Social Studies concentrator in Dunster House. Leonard J. Lehrman ’71 was a Music concentrator in Dunster House. Richard D. Plotz ’71 was a Biochemical Sciences concentrator in Leverett House.


A full list of signatories to this letter can be found here.

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