A furious row has broken out at Harvard over the decision to invite Mohammad
And it has revived growing questions about whether the university itself is falling under the sway of anti-Israel sentiment.
“I’ve been getting e-mails and calls from alumni and students from all parts of the world,” university rabbi Hirschy Zrachi said yesterday. “People are shocked and offended. This man has no place speaking at a place like Harvard.”
He added: “It is unfortunate that some people don’t have the moral compass to condemn evil.”
Students within the university are organizing a demonstration against Khatami for when he arrives.
Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature, noted: “The most preposterous part of the invitation is the subject on which he is allowed to speak.” That subject: “The Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence.”
This is the same Khatami who has advocated violence against Israel and said he “loves” the terrorist organization Hezbollah, which he calls “a shining sun that illuminates and warms the hearts of all Muslims and supporters of freedom in the world.”
Some are starting to see a pattern in recent events at Harvard.
“The Arab lobby is at work here,” said one prominent faculty member, who did not wish to be named. “The Arab lobby is in full flight.”
The critics blame Larry Summers’ downfall last winter, at least in part, on his staunch defense of Israel and his refusal to withdraw Harvard investment from that country.
They also wonder about the role of the Belfer Center for Science and International Relations at the Kennedy School of Government.
It is only five months since a faculty member there co-authored a research paper that said a pro-Israel conspiracy had hijacked American politics and the media for its own
Sample quote: “Other ethnic lobbies can only dream of having the political muscle that pro-Israel organizations possess.”
The paper was praised extravagantly by ex-Klan leader David Duke.
Sources confirmed yesterday that the idea of inviting Khatami also started… within the Belfer Center. Stephen Walt, the paper’s co-author, also recently spoke about the “pro-Israel Lobby” to an Arabic organization involved in inviting Khatami to the United States.
Walt yesterday denied any role in Harvard’s invitation. “I have no information on that at all,” he said. “I’m telling you the absolute truth. I’ve been out of town for most of the summer.”
The question now being asked at Harvard: Who did invite Khatami?
Sources say the key players must have been Belfer Center director Graham Allison and research director Xenia Dormandy, and Kennedy School dean David Ellwood. None could be reached for comment yesterday.
A spokesperson defended the school yesterday, noting that other recent speakers included the Israeli ambassador Daniel Ayalon and deputy prime minister Silvan Shalom.
The school hosts nearly 300 speakers a year. Universities do exist, at least in theory, to defend free speech even when unpopular.
The problem? This is the same university that hung Larry Summers by his thumbs after he suggested little boys tended to like playing with Tonka trucks more than little girls… and that this might be one reason why more of them grew up to become engineering professors.
Free speech, as usual, is a flexible policy.