Harvard’s Jewish students flunk ‘Israeli History 101’

Anyone who is familiar with even the most cursory facts about the Middle East knows that the Jewish state’s occupation of the Palestinians ended 23 years ago.

Harvard Yard on the university’s campus in Cambridge, Mass. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Harvard Yard on the university’s campus in Cambridge, Mass. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

Radical Jewish students at Harvard University are planning to hold a late “Liberation Seder” to “protest the continuing occupation by Israel.”

On Thursday, April 5—six days after all other Jews around the world held their Passover Seders—the Progressive Jewish Alliance will hold its event to protest “our community’s support for the occupation” and to ask “Are you for endless occupation, or for freedom and dignity for all?”

Harvard Yard on the university’s campus in Cambridge, Mass. (Wikimedia Commons)

I have a question for these students: Have you ever taken a course in the history of modern Israel?

Either the answer is “no,” or they took it and flunked. Because anyone who is familiar with even the most cursory facts about the Mideast knows that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians ended 23 years ago.

Here’s a very brief history lesson for the Harvard students.

When Yitzhak Rabin was elected prime minister in 1992, he faced a dilemma. On the one hand, he recognized that establishing a Palestinian state in Judea-Samaria-Gaza would pose a grave threat to Israel’s existence. Israel would be just nine miles wide in its middle, living next to a state run by terrorists and fascist dictators.

On the other hand, Rabin didn’t want Israel to continue ruling over the Palestinian Arabs who reside in those territories. So he and his aides devised the Oslo Accords, which ended Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians and gave them something close to statehood, but without endangering Israel.

In 1995, Rabin withdrew Israel’s forces from the cities in Judea-Samaria, where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside. Ariel Sharon later withdrew from all of Gaza. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinians came to an end. The only “occupation” of the Palestinians currently in force is the 23-year occupation by the Palestinian Authority and the occupation of Gaza by Hamas, which is now entering its 11th year.

The Palestinians’ schools are run by Palestinian principals and teachers. The courts have Palestinian judges. The streets are policed by the Palestinian police and security forces. When elections are held, the candidates and the voters are all Palestinians. Pretty much the only thing that the Palestinian Authority can’t do is import tanks, planes, Iranian “volunteers” or North Korean missiles.

The only time Israeli troops enter Palestinian areas is when they are chasing terrorists. Going into some Palestinian town for an hour or two to catch a bomb-thrower or a sniper hardly constitutes an “occupation” of the Palestinians.

The current situation in the territories is not a perfect solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But we live in an imperfect world.

Thanks to Rabin, today’s status quo ensures Israel’s Jewish majority, retains Israel’s defensible borders and guarantees all faiths free access to their religious sites. It also allows nearly all of the Palestinians to live under their own government. The Israeli military is not patrolling the Palestinians’ cities. Palestinian Arabs live in an entity that is close to statehood in every respect, except the few aspects that would most endanger Israel’s existence.

Dear Harvard students: I admire your idealism. Too many students get so caught up in the pursuit of personal professional success that they forget what’s happening in the world around them. I’m glad you care about something bigger than yourselves.

And I respect your creativity. You’re not satisfied with the dry, uninspired repetition of Jewish rituals and ceremonies. Judaism is indeed relevant in today’s world. The themes of the Passover Seder do have something to say to us. You are right to look deeper into its meaning.

But I’m sorry to say that in this case, you’ve got it all wrong. You made assumptions about the “occupation” without actually reading up on its history, and learning how the situation has developed and changed.

There! I just saved your parents several thousand dollars in tuition for the spring semester.

Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.


The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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