From: John Spritzler
Graham, William A.

Sent: Friday, April 08, 2005 8:57 PM

William A. Graham

Dean, Harvard Divinity School
Dear Dean Graham,
As is well known, Palestinians inside Israel-proper and those living in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem suffer greatly because of policies carried out by Israel. Palestinian human rights are routinely violated, and the fact of these violations is not controversial. What is controversial is whether these violations of Palestinian human rights are necessary for the attainment of some supposedly greater good. If so, then this claim of a greater good should at least be subjected to periodic serious scrutiny because many millions of lives are terribly affected by the policies Israel carries out to attain it. If not, then there is no moral justification whatsoever for the anti-Palestinian actions of Israel, and good people should do everything in their power to prevent them.
Israel justifies its policies by claiming that they are necessary to ensure the security of a Jewish state in Palestine. By a Jewish state, Israel means a state that ensures a majority Jewish citizenry, and a state that recognizes "the Jewish people" (as opposed to all of its citizens regardless of religion) as the sovereign authority to which it is responsible. The establishment of such a state in Palestine necessarily makes non-Jewish Palestinians second class citizens or stateless refugees who inevitably resist this oppression. This in turn forces Israel to choose: either abandon the project of a Jewish state or suppress the Palestinian population with the very policies that violate their human rights.
All of this entails moral decisions that are extremely controversial. Prominent Jews such as Albert Einstein and Judah Magnes thought it was immoral to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Hannah Arendt and Sigmund Freud thought it was a bad idea. Many highly respected people of all faiths agree.
But today opposition to a Jewish state in Palestine is stigmatized by the Anti-Defamation League and President Larry Summers as "anti-Semitism." The result is that the extremely important and controversial question -- should there be a Jewish state in Palestine? -- is, to the best of my knowledge, a taboo subject at Harvard. I base this claim on email exchanges I have had with leaders at Harvard University who have all refused to entertain a request that their respective school or center promote serious discussion of this question by holding a symposium on it.
You may read these email exhanges by following the links, at the top of a web page I authored at, to exchanges with Harvard's director of the Center for Health and Human Rights, Dean for Academic Affairs of the School of Public Health, Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Executive Director of the Kennedy School of Government Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Dean of the Kennedy School of Government and Dean of the Law School, all of whom have said, in their own way, "No, we will not have a serious discussion of this question at our institution." Some of these leaders agreed it was an important question (none disagreed), but they said it was more appropriately discussed at a different school or center than their own.
Other than the Divinity School, I do not know of any remaining school or center at Harvard whose purview naturally includes some aspect of the Jewish state question. (Do you?)The question is of course multi-faceted, and the facets include health and human rights, human rights policy, Middle Eastern studies, government, international law and religion. 
My question to you, as the Dean of the Divinity School, is this: has the Divinity School in the recent past, or does the Divinity School wish in the near future, to promote a serious discussion of whether there should be a Jewish state in Palestine, by holding a symposium on this subject? If so, wonderful! If not, why not?
Until prestigious institutions like Harvard University provide fora for the discussion of this question, the question will remain stigmatized as not being even worthy of consideration by respectable people. Those at Harvard who hold leadership positions and who treat this question as a hot potato are, in practice, throwing the weight of their prestigious positions on the pro-Jewish-state side of the question by ensuring that the opposite side is never considered to be a legitimate point of view, but only a view that a bigot would hold.
If I cannot find any Harvard University dean or center director who is willing to hold a symposium on this question, I intend to write an article for the general public detailing the fact that one of the world's most important, controversial, and morally profound questions is a taboo subject at the University, with implications for understanding the role of Harvard in American society that are seriously at odds with the University's reputation for intellectual honesty and a commitment to humanitarian values.
I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.
John Spritzler, Sc.D.
Research Scientist
Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research
Harvard School of Public Health


From: "Dean's Office" <>
To: <>
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2005 2:08 PM

Dear Dr. Spritzler:

We received your proposal (email) of April 8, 2005. The Dean understands the importance of discussion and debate on contemporary political problems and issues. In fact, Middle Eastern political issues are frequently the subjects
of open lectures and panels at Harvard, most prominently under the sponsorship of the CMES, or the KSG.

You might be interested to know that at the Divinity School, conferences
must be initiated and substantially led by a member of the Divinity School
faculty. The proposing faculty member also must seek the approval of the
dean and others responsible for funding and the academic calendar.  We have a limited number of conferences each year, subject to funding and the
constraints of the calendar, and these conferences are normally planned at
least a year in advance. Our conferences for 2005-6 are already set and
we're beginning to plan for 2006-7.

We regularly receive proposals from scholars outside the school and from our own students. While we appreciate their thinking of the Divinity School,
we've found it best to insist on internal faculty sponsorship and concomitant willingness by Divinity School faculty to take on the tasks necessary to bring a conference to a fruitful conclusion. This policy also allows us to coordinate topics covered in a year and uses our resources--both financial and staff--in the most appropriate manner.


Dean's Office at HDS

Dean's Office
Harvard Divinity School
45 Francis Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138


From: "John Spritzler" <>
To: "Dean's Office" <>
Cc: "Spritzler, John (Comcast)" <>; "Spritzler John (SDAC)" <>
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2005 7:24 PM
Subject: reply from the Harvard School of Divinity

Dear "Dean's Office,"

Thank you for your reply (below) to my email sent to Dean Graham April 8.

I assume from the anonymity of "Dean's Office" that I am communicating with a person employed by the Dean to reply to emails such as mine with general all-purpose language, rather than by directly responding to the particular question posed to the Dean.

But I did ask a very specific question of the Dean and I do desire a reply to it. I asked the Dean: "My question to you, as the Dean of the Divinity School, is this: has the Divinity School in the recent past, or does the Divinity School wish in the near future, to promote a serious discussion of whether there should be a Jewish state in Palestine, by holding a symposium on this subject? If so, wonderful! If not, why not?"

Therefore, I would like you to please take this question to the Dean and obtain a direct answer for me, if you would be so kind. Note that the question is not whether the School of Divinity has or intends to hold discussions about (as you phrase it in your email) "Middle Eastern political issues" or "contemporary political problems" but whether it has or intends to hold a discussion about a very specific question: Should there be a Jewish state in Palestine?

I understand from your letter that there are procedures the School employs to decide what subjects to discuss. This is interesting. But I did not ask about these procedures. I asked whether the School, by whatever procedure it chooses, will discuss a particular question.

In your email you note that the School's choice of topics for a conference depend upon the "willingness by Divinity School faculty to take on the tasks necessary to bring a conference to a fruitful conclusion." Yes, that is perfectly understandable. But again, the question is, does this willingness exist when the topic is the extraordinarily important and controversial question about the morality of a Jewish state existing in Palestine? And yet again, it is the Dean who can answer this question, not the "Dean's Office." I am not asking about policies and procedures of the School. I am asking how will the School address a controversial moral question, the answer to which has enormous life and death consequences for millions of people today.

As I explained in my first email, the question "Should there be a Jewish state in Palestine?" is the question which is at the root of the Palestine/Israel conflict. Other questions, like "Should Israel occupy the West Bank?", do not get to the root of the problem because even if Israel were to end its occupation of the West Bank millions of Palestinians outside of Israel-proper would still be deprived of their human rights by Israel's refusal to allow them to return to their country and its refusal to compensate them for property Israel arbitrarily took from them, and  one million Palestinians living inside Israel would still be denied their right to the same benefits of Israeli citizenship that Jewish Israeli citizens enjoy. These denials of Palestinian human rights all stem from the fact that Israel is a Jewish state (not an "everybody who lives in Israel" state) that 1) cannot tolerate the presence within its borders of non-Jews in numbers that would threaten Israel's need to have a Jewish majority population no matter what and 2) cannot treat all its citizens equally because then it would no longer be a "Jewish state."

For one of the preeminent Schools of Divinity in the world to avoid tackling this profoundly moral question would be equivalent to a school of divinity not addressing the question of slavery during the ante-bellum years of our nation's history -- deplorable. That is why I raise the question to the Dean. I sincerely hope to receive a direct answer from him, rather than a "one size fits all" reply from "Dean's Office." Please convey this to him if you will.

Thank you very much.


John Spritzler, Sc.D.


From: "Will Joyner" <>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2005 3:12 PM
Subject: further reply from Harvard Divinity School

Dear Dr. Spritzler,

As indicated earlier, Dean Graham is aware of your message to him and of
your concerns. Harvard Divinity School does not plan to conduct the kind of
symposium you describe, and does not intend to continue with this exchange.


Will Joyner
Director of Communications
      and Editor/Harvard Divinity Bulletin
Harvard Divinity School
45 Francis Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

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