In the Belly of the Beast: An Israeli Hero Goes to Harvard
"If you're not a socialist before you're 25," goes the expression, "you've got no heart. And if you're a socialist after 25, you've got no head." Retired Israeli Air Force Gen. Amos Yadlin wryly recalls the line in his office at Harvard University's Kennedy School, where he is wrapping up a semester as a senior fellow. Once an ace fighter pilot, Yadlin rose to deputy commander of the Israeli Air Force and since retirement has become one of his country's most widely respected defense experts.
Naturally, he was treated to weekly protests by a handful of Harvard students who screamed the customary "war criminal" and "colonialist, imperialist, apartheid-monger" epithets at him. As someone who flew over 250 combat missions, Yadlin is not intimidated. He is, he told one interviewer, proud "to defend Israel from those who wish to destroy it."
The ferocious efforts of those who want Israel to disappear and who are prepared to say anything at all about it are intended to drive students, faculty and administrators into silence, or complicity, and it often works.
Last month the student editors who presently run the Harvard Crimson acceded to the fashionable blather. Praising the "spirited activism" of those calling for Israel's elimination, the students published an editorial endorsing the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement, founded by characters who wish to wipe Israel off the map, designed to attempt to do just that. Of course, just two years ago, in 2020, the Crimson formally opposed BDS, criticizing narratives "that paint either (side of the Palestinian-Israel conflict) as 'the evil one'."
The current editors now say that they "regret and reject" the position they espoused just 24 months ago.
So much for stare decisis.
As usual, the Crimson editors and those to whom they caved offered no indication that they knew or cared to know about the Palestinian leadership's repeated spurning of the very Palestinian state that would end the occupation that they claim, falsely, the conflict is all about.
The death of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh generated more of this. After a recent spate of murders of Israelis -- murders in which the Crimson displayed no interest -- Israeli soldiers went into a West Bank town to try to apprehend those responsible. Palestinians fired automatic weapons at them from streets, alleyways and rooftops. The Israelis fired back. Abu Akleh was hit in the crossfire.
There's literally no basis for accusing Israel of deliberately killing her. Indeed, it's presently unclear whether she was accidentally struck by a Palestinian bullet or an Israeli one. Palestinian medical officials overseeing the autopsy stated they could not tell. The Israelis asked the Palestinians to cooperate in a joint investigation, so that the fatal bullet could be jointly analyzed.
One can guess why the Palestinians refuse a joint investigation. Meanwhile, charges that Israel "murdered" Abu Akleh are simply rubbish. This, however, is what titans of intellectual rigor and fair-mindedness like Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Cori Bush have peddled. But they were positively Solomonic compared with forensic expert Susan Sarandon, who tweeted (all caps) that Israel had "EXECUTED" Abu Akleh.
The Israeli government contributed its own stupidity to the mix, bungling the journalist's funeral by attacking individuals next to her casket in response to rock-throwing for which it should have been prepared, and then claiming that the chanting of anti-Israel slogans partly justified their response. Shouting "How good it is to murder Jews!" is horrific. But attacking mourners is more horrific.
The BDS campaign, notes Yadlin, is composed of two groups. One includes those who simply want Israel dead. "These people are antisemites," he says. "Whatever you say to them will do nothing. The others, whom I respect, have criticisms of the policies of the Israeli government. For these, I'm happy to engage in dialogue. I tell them when I agree and when I disagree."
Seems sensible. But there's no surplus of sensibility at Harvard as long as the loudest voices succeed in causing sensible ones to run for cover.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.