RETURN TO "Harvard's Taboo Subject"

From: John Spritzler
Cc: Ware, Jim (biostat) ; Marks, Stephen
Sent: Sunday, March 06, 2005 4:06 PM
Subject: A question for Harvard's Kennedy School of Government

Fernande Raine
Executive Director
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University

Dear Professor Raine,

I am a Research Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health. Recently, I was joined by two professors at the School in proposing to the School's Center for Health and Human Rights that it hold a symposium on "The ethnic state and human rights in Israel/Palestine." The Center's director (Stephen Marks) rejected the proposal on the grounds that the topic "seems to be more a topic for an exchange among historians and specialists in Jewish studies or Middle East studies." (The proposal and relevant email exchanges between the director and myself are posted at .)

The School's Dean for Academic Affairs (Jim Ware) also rejected the idea of holding a symposium on this topic, on the grounds that "Though the issue may well be worthy of a public discussion, it is a political rather than a public health issue and the subject is not one in which our faculty can offer the best scholarship or expertise." (See for the relevant exchange of emails between the School's Dean for Academic Affairs and myself.)

Hence my email to you -- you specifically because you direct the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and this is, if nothing else, a human rights issue. If there is another more appropriate professor at the Kennedy School of Government to reply to this email, however, could you please forward it to him or her and let me know? Thank you.

My concern that there be such a symposium stems from the fact that, as Israel argues very rationally and logically, the human rights of Palestinians to return to their country, to not have property arbitrarily taken from them, and to have good health care (Articles 13, 17 and 25, respectively, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) must be denied to them (by the Israeli policies of refusing to grant Palestinians the Right of Return, refusing to compensate Palestinian refugees and "present absentees" inside Israel proper for property taken under cover of the Absentee Property Law of 1950 and other measures, and instituting closures, checkpoints and the Wall, etc. which notoriously conflict with good health for Palestinians in the occupied territories) if the Jewish state of Israel is to have security.

Therefore, the question of whether there ought to be a Jewish state in Palestine (meaning one that prevents non-Jews from becoming a majority of the population, and one whose government is responsible to "the Jews" rather than to all of its citizens) is central to any serious discussion of the Israel/Palestine conflict and the terrible situation of Palestinians under Israeli control. (A leaflet about this topic was distributed to everybody at the School of Public Health recently, and the online version is at .)

Dismissing opponents of a Jewish state in Palestine (who included Albert Einstein and Judah Magnes in the past) as "anti-Semites" (as Larry Summers has done, as well as the ADL) is intellectually dishonest; the fact that powerful people do this is an important reason for holding an intellectually honest symposium on the question.

Could you please tell me if the Kennedy School of Government has in the past, or intends (or might wish) in the future to hold such a symposium -- one that explicitly addresses the question of whether a Jewish state in Palestine is a good or a bad idea? Also, do you think that the Kennedy School of Government is the logical institution within Harvard University to hold such a symposium, and if not, which institution do you think would be the logical choice? (Surely at least one department or Center of Harvard University has a responsibility to explore this crucial question in depth.)


John Spritzler, Sc.D.
Research Scientist
Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research
Harvard School of Public Health


Cc: ;
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2005 10:48 AM
Subject: Re: Fw: A question for Harvard's Kennedy School of Government


Dear Dr. Spritzler,
my apologies for not responding to your inquiry sooner. I am afraid that the Carr Center is not the right place to host this type of a discussion. Since we are small and very limited in our resources, we have opted for keeping a tight focus in the large events that we do host on areas in which we have in-house expertise (genocide, intervention, military use of force, ngo-effectiveness, transitional justice).

The Israeli-Palestinian issue is, obviously,= a frontline human rights problem. In an effort to aid you in your quest for the right place to host this, I have attached a list of all events on the Israeli-Palestinian issue that have occurred at the Kennedy School in the past academic year. Perhaps you will be able to find a co-planner and appropriate interlocutor among the people featured.

Best regards,
Fernande Raine

[Click here for my correspondence with Kennedy School of Government Dean Ellwood]

RETURN TO "Harvard's Taboo Subject"