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11 A Controversy at Harvard Martin Kramer Martin Kramer describes his experience as the target of a smear campaign. At a conference, he discussed another scholar’s work on the relationship between demographics and radicalism and, applying it to Gaza, speculated that if Israel’s sanctions on Hamas’s Gaza should slow the runaway population growth there, that would also diminish the demographic push toward jihadi radicalization and terrorist activity. The anti-Israel website the Electronic Intifada promptly framed Kramer’s remarks as a genocidal call against Palestinian births, and the smear campaign was under way. When Harvard’s Weatherhead Center, where Kramer was a fellow, issued a substantive rejection of the charges, anti-Israel activists attacked the center itself as a racist defender of genocide, showing that they also target institutions that do not capitulate to their dogma. Kramer analyzes the administration’s role in the affair, arguing that while administrations generally should remain neutral in such controversies, in this case, its substantive weighing in was warranted. Guys, @Martin_Kramer is not calling for genocide against Palestinians. I disagree with him on most everything, but he just isn’t. —Marc Lynch, Professor of Political Science, on Twitter1 Let us assume that a faculty member has come under a tidal wave of criticism for something he or she said in defense of Israel or against the Palestinians. Let us assume that the responsible administrators, while not in agreement with the faculty member, believe that the assault is over the top. Should the administrators come to the defense of the faculty member? Or should they adopt a stance of strict neutrality? In February 2010, I was at the heart of just such a controversy at Harvard University, in the role of the faculty member. In comparison to some of the controversies narrated in this book, it wasn’t a high-stakes battle. At the time, I was in the last stretch of a courtesy appointment at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. An earlier three-year appointment as a senior fellow had ended; I had shuttered my Harvard project (a strategy blog) and left campus the previous November. When the controversy erupted, I was in Israel, 152 | Martin Kramer having resumed my full-time duties as president-designate of a new college. I experienced the controversy from a distance, through emails and the internet. It was the flap of the month at Harvard before another one came along, and it had no lasting consequences. But this episode, minor though it may have been, reflected in miniature the dynamics of the much larger controversies over Israel and the Palestinians that have roiled American campuses. And if the conduct of administrators in this case deserves special attention, it is because, after all, we are speaking of Harvard—an institution expected by many to embody the best practices in American academe. An Experimental Speech What did I say that ignited the controversy? At the time, I was one of the few academics invited regularly to address the Herzliya Conference, a festival of speeches and networking, renowned as a venue where Israeli leaders make important policy statements. It was (and remains) a three-ring circus, with simultaneous panels on every aspect of national security. At the 2010 conference , I was assigned a slot on a panel titled “Rising to the Challenge of Radical Indoctrination.” I wasn’t the headliner; that spot was taken by Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, who, a few months later, would be appointed Britain’s minister of state for security and counter-terrorism. I’d obviously been invited to provide academic ballast—or, if you will, filler. My affiliation on the printed program was “Senior Fellow, Shalem Center; National Security Studies Program, Harvard University,” a small unit under the auspices of the Weatherhead Center. If you aren’t a top-billed speaker at Herzliya, you have only five or six minutes to make your point, and a digital countdown clock is prominently displayed to you and the audience. If you want your talk to be remembered (so that you’ll be invited back), it needs to be punchy and provocative. I decided (at the last minute, as I recall) to float a thesis I had encountered in an article about Gaza by a German scholar in the Wall Street Journal, Europe Edition. There, he argued that in “youth bulge” countries with high fertility rates, “young men tend to eliminate each other or get killed in aggressive wars.” In Gaza, international aid had...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253034083
MARC Record
OCLC
1019844795
Pages
456
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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