Free Speech in America: At Harvard Hillel, Israeli Soldiers Accompany Visitors Thru Exhibit Opposing Occupation and Seek to Explain Exhibit Away

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 22 Comments

I am a big fan of Breaking the Silence, the Israeli veterans group which has documented the ways that soldiers serving the occupation are broken down morally and end up doing horrible things. (Demonstrating the principle that occupations will always corrupt a fighting force, as well as the occupiers’ society).

In fact, I celebrated the Breaking the Silence exhibit of soldiers’ photographs at Penn a few weeks back. Well then BTS went to Harvard and got coopted. It was to have staged the exhibit at an open space on campus, Harvard’s Center for International Studies. A sponsoring organization, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, got the exhibit moved inside Hillel Center, along with Harvard Students for Israel, which thought this would cut down on the fanfare and volume of visitors.

Then you could only see the show at certain times. And when you got to see it, you
were accompanied by an Israeli veteran who explained the show away.

Did I hear that right? Here you will find a letter from Bernie Steinberg, the director of Hillel (and a guy who told me two years ago that Jews who were upset by Walt and Mearsheimer’s paper were going to go to Harvard donors over the fact that Stephen Walt has a chair at Harvard–use crude money leverage against ideas):

[O]ur students have achieved their goals. They have
prevented a circus on campus. People have come to the exhibit only at
fixed times. And when they come, they are accompanied by an IDF soldier
who provides an explanation, including explicit statements about the
need for Israel to defend itself against terrorists; including the fact
that the IDF has an exemplary code of ethics;

Jewish Voice for Peace‘s site says the compromises are progress and applauds Steinberg for standing up to Zionist Organization of America– which of course wants the exhibit, which I believe closed two days ago, sent back across the sea.

These compromises are offensive and un-American. Since when do Americans have to be babysat and handheld to receive pointed information about a foreign country? Since when does information in our society need to be ghettoized, explained away, "contextualized," so that we can digest it–about a foreign country? Since when do we go to the museum, or a controversial exhibit,  or an angry movie, accompanied by foreign soldiers?

Are we bold brave free grown-up Americans or not? And since when do American Jews, with the most beautiful scholarly history of any people, abase their own tradition to serve a militarized state half the world away.

Part of the problem is Harvardism, I’m afraid. Penn is O.K., because it has less prestige. But Harvard is too prominent to in any way license an anti-occupation show. Chilling.

Please note the correction to this post given to me by BTS…

22 Responses

  1. Jim Haygood
    March 18, 2008, 1:12 pm

    "Part of the problem is Harvardism, I'm afraid."

    ah ha ha ha

    Damn, where are the 'ROFL' emoticons for this site?

    What did I tell ye about Hahvid just yesterday, Phil? That it's the "university" [sic] which granted an MBA to one George W. Bush. I REST MY CASE!

    "He's gone crimson, lookit them boots!"

  2. MM
    March 18, 2008, 1:33 pm

    Maybe this can also provide a little "contextualization":

    link to

    Are those people I see, protesting the Iraq war in Harvard square this past week, with Iraq Veterans Against the War?

    Shouldn't they be doing that in a less public place? With a representative of General Betrayus there to provide balance?

  3. MM
    March 18, 2008, 1:34 pm

    Who says good thing never came out of slave money?

  4. MM
    March 18, 2008, 1:43 pm

    I like the term, "Harvardism." To be fair then, there ought to be a "Yaleism" to accompany it. Or maybe we can opt for "Ivyism"?

    link to


    A frequently cited case of Harvard’s slavery ties is that of the original benefactor of Harvard Law School (HLS).

    The school was formed in 1817 “with the money left to Harvard by an Antiguan slave owner and planter, Isaac Royall,” Boston College law professor Daniel R. Coquillette said in a 2001 speech at HLS.

    Royall had sold his slaves and plantations in the Caribbean in order to move to Medford, Mass., according to Coquillette, now a visiting professor at HLS.

    Royall’s Medford estate—which includes the only remaining slave quarters in the northeast—is now a museum.


    HLS has also continued to award the Royall chair to its professors.


  5. Jim Haygood
    March 18, 2008, 2:19 pm


    "A frequently cited case of Harvard’s slavery ties is that of the original benefactor of Harvard Law School (HLS)."

    Oh boy, that's a big can of worms you're opening there, Professor MM. An even bigger picture is provided in the book, "The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, Volume One" (Nation of Islam, Boston, 1991). It asserts that "Jewish slave traders procured Black Africans by the tens of thousands and funneled them to the plantations of South America and throughout the Caribbean."

    Despite the hundreds of footnotes, critics say that it's just an antisemitic screed written by authors with a bias. But in the era before wire transfers and letters of credit, is it really so far-fetched to assert that a network of Jewish traders had a major hand in the slave trade? Why are the oldest U.S. synagogues located on the Rhode Island and South Carolina coasts, anyhow (not to mention the ancient synagogues in northeast Brazil)?

    It's remarkable how slave OWNERS are held up to obloquy in the victor's histories which followed the War Between the States, yet there's only silence about the slave TRADERS. Who WERE those masked men, anyway? Just one of history's mysteries, I reckon. ;-)

  6. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 3:23 pm

    The slavery stuff is a resentful hole. It is a can of worms, with no current relevance.

    I'm curious about what bothers you most about the "Breaking the Silence" display. The site change, the reasons you understood for the site change, the presence of those describing different perspectives at the site, the presence of "officials"?

    I wanted to see it. If you have any contact with the organizers, can you request that they send it to a college near my way.

    There would be MANY interested in my region.

    I couldn't get to Boston.

  7. Joachim Martillo
    March 18, 2008, 3:28 pm

    Historically Judean groups of late antiquity and later Jewish group were most involved in the trade in Slavic slaves, but by the 15th century Jews were probably more involved in the higher profit and less dangerous ancilliary trades like medicine, banking, and finance. Tax farming and estate management were also highly associated with the slave trade throughout large parts of Europe.

    Ibero-Berger refugee Jewish communities were disproportionately involved in financing the Arican slave trade, but the contribution of German Jews comes in the pre-Civil period when German Jewish immigrants brought a fairly sophisticated understanding of finance, retail and wholesale trade in association with management of feudal and semi-feudal estates that existed in parts of Germany and recently Germanized Polish regions, which still had fairly large serf populations.

    The US Founding Fathers assumed that slavery would die out because of decreasing profitability. The knoweledge base that German Jews brought to the USA helped to make the system work when the Philadephia and Boston finance industries may have been developing qualms about investing in Slavery. (One could argue that gentile firms left this sector not because of moral reasons but because of lack of expertise.)

    link to

    link to

  8. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 3:36 pm

    Of course Joachim would dive in to the contreversy specifically siting Jewish participation in a currently non-existent trade.

  9. William Burns
    March 18, 2008, 3:42 pm

    I think there's an interesting generational shift here in "pro-Israel" strategies. The ZOA strategy is essentially authoritarian–note that the argument for the superior morality of the IDF they give is solely based on the fact that Sharansky nd Dershowitz say it's moral. The argument is also maximalist–they can't just claim the IDF respect human rights, they have to say it respects human rights more than any army in the world. An unbroken front of Jewish unity is also vital to ZOA.

    Contrast this with Steinberg's position. For Steniberg, the important thing is not monolithic Jewish unity, which he recognizes as impossible, but that the Jewish/pro-Israel community retain control over the discussion. For ZOA, it would be better if the BTS exhibition, if it had to appear at all, would be in a non-Jewish space. Steinberg realizes that presenting in a Jewish space, surrounded by contrasting voices, actually diminishes its impact, as well as allowing Hillel to control access–limited hours and so on. Ideally, the visitor to Hillel will walk away thinking "this subject is really controversial" rather than "the way Israelis treat Palestinians is really terrible." The idea that you need an IDF escort to see an exhibition is an embodiment of this strategy.

    The whole thing reminds me of the shift in the creationist movement from old-school six-day, biblically based creationism to "intelligent design" and "teaching the controversy." Steinberg represents the future of pro-Israel advocacy, ZOA the past.

  10. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 3:51 pm

    You made a statement a little while back that there was "no persecution of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe".

    Am I misreading your statement, or did I characterize it accurately?

    How did the original view that Jews had had enough of persecution originate in your view?

    It doesn't ring true to me that it was without substance.

  11. MM
    March 18, 2008, 5:23 pm

    Typical witless Witty, "But but but slavery is history!"

    link to

    The International Labour Organization estimates that:

    * At least 12.3 million people are victims of forced labour
    * more than 2.4 million have been trafficked
    * 9.8 million are exploited by private agents
    * 2.5 million are forced to work by the state or by rebel military groups

    The profits from forced trafficked labour are estimated to be in excess of $25 billion.

  12. Gene
    March 18, 2008, 5:45 pm

    Witty: "Of course Joachim would dive in to the contreversy specifically siting Jewish participation in a currently non-existent trade."

    There are a lot of things that are non-existent today that we hear about every day anyway, such as for instance, the Holocaust.

  13. karin friedemann
    March 18, 2008, 6:25 pm

    Please see and

    link to

    for some of the only live journalism coming out of Gaza. Brace yourself.

  14. Jim Haygood
    March 18, 2008, 6:54 pm

    "The slavery stuff is a resentful hole. It is a can of worms, with no current relevance." – R. Witty

    Here, let me make a strategic substitution:

    "The Holocaust stuff is a resentful hole. It is a can of worms, with no current relevance."

    I couldn't get to Boston. Or Bergen-Belsen either.

  15. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 8:15 pm

    The thing about me getting educated about the nakba, or anyone for that matter, is that it educates, it informs.

    Anyone that sees the effects cannot forget. They may have different conclusions than you (hopefully), but their new conclusion has to include the awareness of others' suffering.

    Similarly for the holocaust. Those that engage it, genuinely never forget. Its not politics. Its something more guttural.

    Its not a play. While Finkelstein may condemn others who he perceives as using the holocaust, the holocaust itself was REAL, is real in the memories of those that experienced it, and convey those experiences.

    Its live in me (even though I was born in 1954). Its live in my children, even though they were born in the 1980's and 90's.

    First person.

    The residue of slavery is real, but the practise of it is not currently. The Nation of Islam invocation, and references to it, is intended as a stimulus, an urging of rage, of contempt, and generalized.

    The invocation itself is racist, stated in the name of opposing racism.

  16. MM
    March 18, 2008, 9:36 pm

    Yes Jim, you have to remember the Wittyan rules of engagement:

    – no causation
    – no generalization
    – no specificity ("demonization")
    – no simplification
    – no incitement
    – no emotion ("rage")
    – no attributing responsibility
    – no referencing UN resolution 3379
    – no mentioning Jewish role in slave trade

    If you can follow these simple guidelines to civil discourse, I'm sure that Richard will be happy to take your arguments head-on in his typical straight-talking fashion.

  17. MM
    March 18, 2008, 9:39 pm

    Richard, so you disagree with the ILO that slavery persists today and constitutes a more than $25 billion dollar industry?

    Trafficking of human beings for forced labor is a thing of the past?

  18. Richard Witty
    March 19, 2008, 5:45 am

    That is a silly rejoinder to my point.

    Of course there is slavery today. That is one of the issues that the Darfur activists address (that you condemn as distracting from Jewish primal guilt).

  19. Joachim Martillo
    March 19, 2008, 7:05 am

    In fact, Jews (especially ethnic Ashkenazim) are disproportionately represented in trafficking women.

    Yet, I have never found any evidence of connection to the Jewish slave trade in Slavs or to the Ibero-Berber Jewish refugee trade in African Americans.

    There is good evidence to connect the 19th E. European Jewish white slave trade to the kinderkhapper of the early 19th century.

    The kinderkhapper were employed by the Jewish communal organization (kahal) and were associated with the wealthiest members of the community.

    Israeli white slavery likewise seems to be connected with and profiting the Zionist social political elite, and for this reason persists as much as the Israeli government claims to outlaw it and crack down on it.

    As for the relevance of Jewish involvement with the slave trade and its reverberations to the present day.

    The structural disadvantages associated with American slavery persist to this day, while the foundations of NY Jewish investment banks are built on the profits of slavery.

    The twin legacy of making slavery a viable economic institution and creating the NY Jewish banking elite continues to do tremendous damage to the USA.

    There are not enough ethnically oriented histories of finance, but such analysis is extremely interesting.

    (Fritz Stern wrote an interesting book in this genre entitled Iron and Gold but his investigation was inadequate. Not only did he avoid discussing the effect of the relationship between Bismarck and Bleichroeder on German economic policy and German corporate law or regulation, but he personalized far too much what should have been an analysis of the relationship between the German political and the German economic elite.)

    My high school economics text correctly mentioned that Goldman Sachs triggered the 1929 Stock Market Crash but did not mention that GS's market manipulation was part of ongoing economic warfare between (German) Jewish and Gentile investment banks and that the following Great Depression was a result of further manipulation intended to convert winning a battle into total victory.

    (It is worthwhile to remember that German Nazi economist Hjalmar Schacht brought Germany out of the Great Depression for the most part by 1935 while the USA only exited the Depression as a result of WW2. It is also worthwhile to remember that even with such economic success the NSDAP was unable to win a clear majority in the Reichstag while Jews in contrast reflexively support Israel, which is almost exactly the ethnic fundamentalist state that German Nazis wanted to build. Eichmann said as much while he was being tried in Israel.)

    The pernicious influence of the (now ethnic Ashkenazi) Jewish investment banks continues to this day in the irrational exuberance of the 1990s IPOs, the irrational exuberance of the 2000s CDO and ABS market, and the stupid way in which Greenspan and Bernanke dealt with the stock and bond markets with the resulting subprime mortgage meltdown.

    These market developments have resulted for the most part from ethnic and Israeli government manipulations of the US economy and not from purely "economic" causes — something that I believe I could prove mathematically but unfortunately not in this forum, and I am aware of the difficulty sorting out ethnic, political and social factors.

    Because I worked on developing a lot of market modeling software in the 80s, I understand the mathematics that is needed to get a grasp on the markets (unlike most of the people that work in the finance industry).

    Why did the government bail out Bear Stearns and facilitate acquisition by JP Morgan?

    Out of fear that Arabs and Chinese might end up owning the US banking industry.

    The (Jewish) economic policy elite has made their fears known. (See link to )

    But why shouldn't the Arabs and the Chinese own the US banking industry?

    They hold tremendous amounts of US dollars and US debt.

    They unlike the dominant NY Jewish financial elite have real reason to make the US economy work, and it really makes no difference whatsoever to the vast majority of Americans whether NY Jews or Arabs and Chinese own the US investment banks, but the ability of the web of Zionist influence to control US ME policy would diminish tremendously.

    Needless to say undermining Jewish dominance in the US finance industry was not the goal of Jabotinskian Jewish Neocon foreign policy, and attempts to overthrow the Venezuela, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, and Iran governments indicate that they intended to cover up Zionist (mostly Israeli government manipulation of the US economy during the 1990s and the first year of the Bush administration) by looting the wealth of these countries by introducing Friedmanite economic policy.

  20. Richard Witty
    March 19, 2008, 7:31 am

    Any correction to your denunciation of Harvard Hillel?

    They didn't do what you accused them of.

    What to learn?
    1. Don't accuse until fully informed (there goes the prospect of most mass movements)

  21. MM
    March 19, 2008, 12:38 pm

    "Of course there is slavery today. That is one of the issues that the Darfur activists address (that you condemn as distracting from Jewish primal guilt)."

    Wrong again, Wits, I criticize Save Darfur for the ridiculous hypocrisy of denying the Palestinian genocide while mischaracterizing the situation in Sudan, primarily caused by drought and famine, as a primarily ethnic conflict. I find that disgusting.

  22. Rabbi Arthur Waskow
    March 20, 2008, 8:10 am

    Interspersed with expressions of shock and anger at Ann Lewis' way of attacking Obama and with Dana Millbank's sneers at Obama's supporters and with distress at the Middle East passage of Obama's Philadelphia speech are outbursts — should I say upchucks? — of sheer anti-Semitism.

    For example: "The Jews" (in their guise of Big-business Capitalists) rule America thru the Federal Reserve & brought on the Great Depression? And The Jews (in their guise of Bolsheviks) also were responsible for Stalin's murderous policies toward the Russian peasantry?


    And scary. To someone who like myself is strongly critical of many aspects of Israeli govt policy and US support for it and the behavior of many (not all) "major" Jewish institutions, precisely out of my own understanding of Jewish values, and who has helped build a growing opposition within the real flesh-and-blood Jewish community, VERY scary.

    The impact of seeing this stuff is to feel that if we open the can of debate and disagreement over Israeli policy, out of the can come not only serious concerns but some anti-Semitic worms.

    Then the temptation grows to keep the whole can closed. Far better: serious and principled critics of the Israeli govt should take proactive steps to clarify that they do NOT endorse such inane perversities.

    Shalom, salaam, peace — Rabbi Arthur Waskow

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