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Harvard’s Divestment/Disinvestment Campaign: The Israeli Apartheid State


I’m not going to go through the entire history of the Israeli divestment/disinvestment movement, except to say that in the late summer of 2002 the President of Harvard, Larry Summers accused those of us Harvard alumni involved in the Harvard divestment campaign of being anti-Semitic.

 

After he made these charges, WBUR Radio Station in Boston, which is a National Public Radio affiliate, called me up and said: "We would like you to debate Summers for one hour on these charges, live." And I said, "I’d be happy to do so." They then called up Summers and he refused to debate me.

 

Summers did not have the courage, the integrity, or the principles to back up his scurrilous charges. Eventually Harvard fired Summers because of his attempt to impose his Neo-Conservative agenda on Harvard, and in particular his other scurrilous charge that women are dumber then men when it comes to math and science. Well as a triple Harvard alumnus I say: Good riddance to Larry Summers!

 

Debating Dershowit

 

WBUR then called me back and said, "Well, since Summers won’t debate you, would you debate Alan Dershowitz?" And I said, "Sure." So we had a debate for one hour, live on the radio. And there is a link that you can hear this debate if you want to. I still think it’s the best debate out there on this whole issue of Israeli apartheid. Again that would be WBUR Radio Station, Boston, 25 September 2002.

 

The problem with the debate, of course, is that Dershowitz knows nothing about international law and human rights. So he immediately started out by saying "well, there’s nothing similar to the apartheid regime in South Africa and what Israel is doing to the Palestinians." Well the problem with that is that Dershowitz did not know anything at all about even the existence of the Apartheid Convention.

 

The definition of apartheid is set out in the Apartheid Convention of 1973.

 

And this is taken from my book Defending Civil Resistance Under International Law, Trial Materials on South Africa, published in 1987, that we used successfully to defend anti-apartheid resistors in the United States. If you take a look at the definition of apartheid here found in Article 2, you will see that Israel has inflicted each and every act of apartheid set out in Article 2 on the Palestinians, except an outright ban on marriages between Israelis and Palestinians. But even there they have barred Palestinians living in occupied Palestine who marry Israeli citizens from moving into Israel, and thus defeat the right of family reunification that of course the world supported when Jews were emigrating from the Soviet Union.

 

Israel: An Apartheid State

 

Again you don’t have to take my word for it. There’s an excellent essay on Counterpunch.org by the leading Israeli human rights advocate Shulamit Aloni saying basically: "Yes we have an apartheid state in Israel." Indeed, there are roads in the West Bank for Jews only. Palestinians can’t ride there and now they’re introducing new legislation that Jews cannot even ride Palestinians in their cars.

 

This lead my colleague and friend Professor John Dugard who was the U.N. Special rapporteur for human rights in Palestine to write an essay that you can get on Google, saying that in fact Israeli apartheid against the Palestinians is worse than the apartheid that the Afrikaners inflicted on the Blacks in South Africa. Professor Dugard should know.

 

He was one of a handful of courageous, white, international lawyers living in South Africa at the time who publicly and internationally condemned apartheid against Blacks at risk to his own life. Indeed, when I was litigating anti-apartheid cases on South Africa, we used Professor Dugard’s book on Human Rights and the South African Legal Order as the definitive work explaining what apartheid is all about.

 

So Professor Dugard has made this statement. Of course President Carter has made this statement in his book that Israel is an apartheid state. And certainly if you look at that definition of the Apartheid Convention, right there in front of you, it’s clear – there are objective criteria. Indeed if you read my book Palestine, Palestinians and International Law, I have a Bibliography at the end with the facts right there based on reputable human rights reports, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc. Many of them were also compiled and discussed by my friend Norman Finklestein in his book Beyond Chutzpah, which I’d encourage you to read.

 

Francis A. Boyle

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