Harvard Crimson’s Useful Infidels: Supporting BDS for the Sake of Palestinian “Dignity”

by Richard Landes

The Harvard Crimson editorial board published a piece endorsing BDS. It represents a combination of uncritical thinking, unsubstantiated claims, and self-contradictory arguments that attests to the disastrous deterioration of higher education in the 21st century. The editors are proud of their courage in taking the position they take; future generations will look back on this the way historians look at Chamberlain’s faith in Hitler or the useful idiocy of the Western communists like Walter Duranty.

Here is Ellen Horowitz’s take:

Harvard Crimson’s Useful Infidels: Supporting BDS for the Sake of Palestinian “Dignity” 1


In Support of Boycott, Divest, Sanction and a Free Palestine

By The Crimson Editorial Board

When oppression strikes anywhere in the world, resistance movements reverberate globally. The desire for rightful justice spreads, like wildfire, moving us to act, to speak, to write, and right our past wrongs.

Over the past year, the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee has strived to do just that. Amid escalating tensions between Israel and Palestine, PSC has hosted informational programming, organized weekly demonstrations of support through “Keffiyeh Thursdays,” and even installed a colorful, multi-panel “Wall of Resistance” in favor of Palestinian freedom and sovereignty.

the colorful “wall of resistance” was in fact a systematic slander of Israel as a racist society that expressed precisely the kind of racism among Palestinians that it denounced among Israelis. The euphemism “colorful” disguised the ugly dimensions of Palestinians with their relentless hatred – race-based – of the Israelis (and Jews).

In at least one regard, PSC’s spirited activism has proven successful: It has forced our campus — and our editorial board — to once again wrestle with what both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called Israel’s “crimes against humanity” in the region.

wrestling suggests struggle. this is just a capitulation to deeply dishonest, pervasively flawed, systemic misinformation about Israel.

We first and foremost wish to extend our sincere support to those who have been and continue to be subject to violence in occupied Palestine,

of course, not those Palestinians subject to the extensive violence of their “leadership,” both religious (Hamas) and “secular” (PA).

as well as to any and all civilians affected by the region’s bellicosity. We are not sure how these words will reach you, or whether they’ll do so at all. But our stance isn’t rooted in proximity or convenience, but rather in foundational principles we must uphold — even if (or perhaps especially when) it proves difficult.

This editorial board is broadly and proudly supportive of PSC’s mission and activism, including its recent art display.

proudly. interesting term for supporting one of the more depraved movements in the world today, a movement dedicated to the destruction of a nation that it systematically libels.

The admittedly controversial panels dare the viewer to contend with well-established, if rarely stated, facts. They direct our eyes towards the property and land confiscations, citizenship denials, movement restrictions, and unlawful killings that victimize Palestinians day in and day out. Art is a potent form of resistance, and we are humbled by our peers’ passion and skill.

of course not a mention of the violence Palestinians direct at Israeli civilians that explain what is quaintly described as “unlawful” killings.

In the wake of accusations suggesting otherwise, we feel the need to assert that support for Palestinian liberation is not antisemitic. We unambiguously oppose and condemn antisemitism in every and all forms, including those times when it shows up on the fringes of otherwise worthwhile movements. Jewish people — like every people, including Palestinians — deserve nothing but life, peace, and security.

a strange formulation: aside from the “deserve nothing but” it somehow doesn’t include nationhood, which is, of course the fundamental claim of the Palestinian resistance. The PSC “wall” explains its goals:

Israel ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall of separation.

Do the editors of the Crimson understand what “all Arab lands” means? That it means all the lands colonized by the Arabs in the 7th century, including the “Israeli side” of the Green Line. That they’ve used deliberately coded language aimed at duping Westerners with demopathic appeals. In English, “occupation” means the “other side” of the Green Line; in Arabic (and often enough in English), “from the river to the sea.” And if they don’t realize what this means, what does that say about their critical intelligence?

As for the “Wall of Separation”, it was built to keep out terrorists inspired by relentless, hate-mongering Palestinian propaganda. Take it down because that incitement and those desires are no longer there? Or to enable the terrorism?

Achieving full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel;

Israeli Arabs enjoy a level of equality in the enjoyment of democratic human rights unmatched by any Arabs anywhere in the world (except maybe the USA). This is doubly remarkable since so many of them (including their elected representatives) have expressed implacable hostility to the very state that grants them these rights. For Americans, whose own progressives describe it as systemically racist, to take sides in a conflict in which one side has a 1400 year-long history of denying the other its “full equality,” seems less a product of bravery than presumptive folly.

Securing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Of course, 194 does nothing of the sort. And of course, the demopathic formulation of “the right of return” is nothing more than a formula for a demographic invasion. Do the Palestinians want a nation of their own where they can take care of their own people? Or do they want to use their people as a weapon to destroy another people’s nation? This suggests the latter.

Nothing about PSC’s Wall of Resistance denies that.

Nothing that the illiterate would notice.

While members of our campus might well find its messages provocative, or disagree with their philosophical outlook, nothing about them is, in our view, worthy of that delegitimizing label. We have a certain community-wide tendency to dismiss opposing views as inherently offensive and unworthy, straw-manning legitimate arguments and obfuscating difficult but necessary discussions. Yet civil discourse and debate, even when trying, are fundamental steps towards a better reality.

How ironic. No group does more to dismiss opposing views as… blah blah blah… than the group the editors here side with. Indeed, BDS insists on non-normalization, which is precisely a formula for refusing to listen to the other side.

Israel remains America’s favorite first amendment blindspot. Companies that choose to boycott the Jewish state, or otherwise support the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement face legal repercussions in at least 26 states.

Here we touch on a key blindspot. BDS has nothing to do with “freedom of speech” (first amendment). It’s clear that the BDS movement, especially at Harvard, has no problem expressing itself freely. In fact, it may be quite the opposite: BDS wants “safe speech” f0r itself, not free speech” for itself and critics.

Even for journalists, openly condemning the state’s policies poses an objective professional risk. Only last year, the Associated Press prompted outcry after firing a news editor over college-age tweets critical of Israel. The controversial decision followed a long-established pattern: Dare question Israel’s policies

this article is not questioning Israel’s policies, it’s demanding that the newsroom adopt Palestinian terminology for covering the conflict.

or endorse Palestinian freedom

this piece in WaPo about Marc Lamont Hill, whose definition of Palestinian “freedom” is “from the river to the sea” – ie the end of Israel – is a classic case of falling prey to a dog-whistle expert.

and you will be shunned from the newsroom, past accomplishments or legitimate arguments be damned.

actually it’s all about “legitimate” vs. illegitimate arguments. For those who retain even a shred of moral sanity, the idea that eliminating Israel and “freeing” Palestine under the authority of the current “leadership” (PA, Hamas) will bring freedom is an obvious travesty (see below).

For college students like ourselves, speaking bluntly about events in the region can prompt online harassment or even land you on a blacklist.

The Canary Mission’s blacklist is specifically aimed at those who seek the destruction of the state of Israel, whose “Palestinian advocacy” is riddled with antisemitic, racist, hatreds.

What this immense opposition to student activists and journalists makes clear is the overwhelming power imbalance that defines and constricts the ongoing debate.

the authors of this text seem to think that the (highly one-sided) list of hostility to certain ideas reflects a hostility to Palestinian rights, rather than (what it is) a list of hostility to the most malevolent (and, alas, mainstream) presence among the Palestinians of arguments that actually reflect Nazi sympathies and deep antisemitism. Ironically, even as they declare their opposition to any form of antisemitism, they insist that excluding the most antisemitic dimensions of the Palestinian discourse is somehow “constricting” the ongoing debate. One would hope that those who oppose all forms of antisemitism would want a power imbalance in such a situation.

This stark power differential extends far beyond the arena of free speech, shifting from rhetorical to lethal on the ground in Palestine, where Israeli soldiers have killed nearly 50 Palestinians, including eight children, this year alone.

It’s hard to know what to make of this unreferenced claim. It may be this, from a notoriously unreliable source of information (which includes 18-year old combattants as “children”), and makes no mention of the fact that in almost every case, those killed were in the process of attacking Israelis with deadly weapons.

As an editorial board, we are acutely aware of the privilege we hold in having an institutional, effectively anonymous byline. Even on this campus, many of our brave peers advocating for Palestinian liberation can be found on watchlists tacitly and shamefully linking them to terrorism.

it’s neither tacit nor shameful. it’s documented. the editors seem committed to using their privilege to systematically ignore the presence of murderous tendencies that lie at the heart of the “Palestinian” cause, and to paint halos on those who promote it. if, as implied by the sentence) being linked to terrorism is shameful (and hence unfairly linking someone to terrorism is shameful), then would not ignoring terror links where they exist also be shameful?

These twin factors — the extraordinary abuses and our privileged ability to speak to them and face comparatively less unjustified retribution — compel us to take a stand. Palestinians, in our board’s view, deserve dignity and freedom. We support the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement as a means to achieving that goal.

Here’s where the editorial slips from one-sided, double-talk into sheer folly. Where is there any example of Palestinians holding power over their own (and other) people, does anyone have “dignity and freedom”? Gaza? the West Bank? Lebanon from 1970-82? The notion that a “free Palestine” as BDS imagines (ie no Israel, Palestinian rule) would grant anything of the sort to either Palestinians (even Muslims), much less any minority (Christian, Jewish), represents such a level of inanity that it calls into question the very basis of higher education.

In the past, our board was skeptical of the movement (if not, generally speaking, of its goals), arguing that BDS as a whole did not “get at the nuances and particularities of the Israel-Palestine conflict.” We regret and reject that view. It is our categorical imperative to side with and empower the vulnerable and oppressed.

By siding with those who wish to oppress those made vulnerable by the success of their movement (ie “former” Israelis) and who use the vulnerable and oppressed (ie the Palestinians currently under Arab rule in Gaza, WB, Lebanon, Syria) to pursue their goals.

We can’t nuance away Palestinian’s violent reality, nor can we let our desire for a perfect, imaginary tool undermine a living, breathing movement of such great promise.

Lenin called people who thought like this “useful idiots.” In this case, they’re useful idiotic infidels who side with a movement that has nothing but contempt (if not worse) for everything they stand for.

Two decades ago, we wrote that divestment was a “blunt tool” that affected all citizens of the target nation equally and should be used sparingly. Yet the tactics embodied by BDS have a historical track record; they helped win the liberation of Black South Africans from Apartheid, and have the potential to do the same for Palestinians today.

that argument was available two decades ago, so why does repeating it here suggest new evidence for changing one’s mind. On the contrary, the last twenty years have produced a track record for BDS of spreading antisemitism on campuses – remember, what the editorial board insists it opposes – all over the US and Europe.

Israel’s current policy pushes Palestinians towards indefinite statelessness, combining ethnonationalist legislation and a continued assault on the sovereignty of the West Bank through illegal settlements that difficults the prospect of a two-state solution;

the use of difficult as a verb aside, let’s try a restatement of these claims, something as least as accurate as the original, and surely not something the board would ever publish.

The Palestinian leadership’s current policy (supported in full by BDS) pushes Israelis towards indefinitely denying them a toxic state, combining Nazi-like genocidal rhetoric and a continued assault on Israeli civilians through terror attacks that makes the prospect of a two-state solution impossible.

apparently the editors are so much the victims of demopathic rhetoric that they invoke a two-state solution as a desideratum, precisely not the case for BDS.

it merits an assertive and unflinching international response. The arguments made against BDS could have been and indeed were once made against South Africa, and we are no longer inclined to police the demands of a people yearning to breathe free.

There is no more revealing tell in the pro-Palestinian Westsplaining discourse than the “yearning to be free” trope.  It’s all part of the “they’re so violent because they’re so desperate for freedom” rather than the “they’re so violent because they’re so frustrated in their aspiration to be even more violent. One can certainly prefer the desperation over the aspiration narrative (many, like these editors, do), but the implications for the future are the opposite. If it’s the former (Land for Peace), giving the Palestinians their “yearned for” state will bring peace; if it the latter (Land for War), it will bring more war, more violence, and more suffering – for everyone.

We do not take this decision lightly. BDS remains a blunt approach, one with the potential to backfire or prompt collateral damage in the form of economic hurt.

that is the least of the collateral damage empowering BDS will bring.

But the weight of this moment — of Israel’s human rights and international law violations and of Palestine’s cry for freedom — demands this step. As a board, we are proud to finally to finally lend our support to both Palestinian liberation and BDS — and we call on everyone to do the same.

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.

like the invocation of impartiality.

Harvard Crimson’s Useful Infidels: Supporting BDS for the Sake of Palestinian “Dignity” 2

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