(Cambridge, MA -- September 13, 2020) -- The StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism strongly condemns Harvard University’s appointment of Saeb Erekat as a fellow within the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Erekat, who is known as a chief Palestinian negotiator, also serves as the secretary general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Since 2000, Erekat has been involved in each of the attempted—but failed—peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. In his capacity at Harvard, Erekat will draw on this “expertise” to work directly with students, serving as a mentor and seminar leader in the school’s “The Future of Diplomacy Project.”
A brief look at Erekat’s track record, however, demonstrates that the irony—and danger—of this appointment cannot be overstated:
Erekat called a wave of deadly stabbings, car rammings, and shootings by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli civilians "self-defense".
He has said, “I will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state”.
He claimed clear archeological evidence of an ancient Jewish presence in Jerusalem was "fake".
He spread outright lies about clashes between Israeli forces and terrorist groups in Jenin in 2002. He claimed it was a massacre and said on CNN that there were over 500 deaths among Palestinians. It soon emerged that this was demonstrably untrue and a misrepresentation of what actually happened. In reality 23 Israeli soldiers and 53 Palestinians - the vast majority combatants - died in the Battle of Jenin.
Carly Gammill, director of the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism stated, "Giving someone with Erekat’s history of supporting Palestinian terrorism, denying Israel’s right to exist, and blatantly lying a platform educating the next generation of world diplomats is inexplicable. Forcing students into the position of becoming a captive audience for this type of indoctrination—much of which qualifies as blatant antisemitism under the consensus International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition—does a grave disservice not only to those students but also to the greater cause of international diplomacy."
While some may point to last year's appointment of former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to a similar position as justification, this would be a false equivalence. Her record simply does not compare to Erekat's or suggest a similar risk of systematically misleading students.
As one of the nation’s preeminent educational institutions, Harvard should do better. We encourage stakeholders—including students, parents, and alumni—to contact the University administration and demand that it correct its grievous mistake by rescinding this appointment immediately. We also urge the university to make clear that Erekat's record of harmful rhetoric is antithetical to the mission of the Harvard Kennedy School.
StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism. Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel.
Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has chapters and programs on 5 continents, including the U.S., Israel, UK, Canada, South Africa and Brazil.