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The Cowardice of Harvard's Larry Summers

Larry SummersI'm not going to go through the subsequent history of the 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! (laughter).

Debating Dershowitz

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. That is our second Handout for tonight. [See Handout 2 reprinted below.]

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 today 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  Duguard who is the U.N. Special rapporteur for human rights in Palestine to write an essay earlier this fall 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 Duguard 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 Duguard's book on Human Rights and the South African Legal Order as the definitive work explaining what apartheid is all about.

So Professor Duguard has recently made this statement. Of course President Carter has recently 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 Palestinian book I have a Bibliography at the end with the facts right there based on reputable human rights reports, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc. Many of them were also compiled and discussed by my friend Professor Norman Finklestein in his book Beyond Chutzpah, which I'd encourage you to read.

Article II

For the purpose of the present Convention, the term "the crime of apartheid", which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa, shall apply to the following inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them:

(a) Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person:

(i) By murder of members of a racial group or groups;

(ii) By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

(iii) By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups;

(b) Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part;

(c) Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;

(d) Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof;

(e) Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them to forced labour;

(f) Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.


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