Letter to Harvard Crimson

November 22, 2005

In News


To the editors:

Re “Keeping it Civil,” editorial, Nov. 8:

The Crimson Staff editorialized based on factually incorrect information, identifying Harvard Students for Israel (HSI) as the responsible perpetrators of vocal protest that “violated HLS’s [Harvard Law School] Protest and Dissent Guidelines.”

HSI as an organization was not responsible for, or even participatory in, the protest that went on at Norman Finkelstein’s speech. The protest was conducted by a handful of individuals—a mix of college and law students, only two of whom were affiliated with HSI. The Crimson Staff claimed to defend the freedom of speech of all opinions in an effort to “[enable] people to arrive at the correct understanding of the truth.” Yet, in reality, this defense is one-sided. Norman Finkelstein has an extensive history of remarks and writings that are disparagingly offensive to many. While Finkelstein’s comments are protected under the Staff’s imperative of promoting freedom of speech and “academic discourse,” protesters seeking true moderation and dialogue are condemned.

Furthermore, the editorial makes incorrect assumptions about the University’s authorization of the protest exercised at the Finkelstein event, comparing it to the unsanctioned and repulsive protest that took place at a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruitment event last spring. Spontaneous vocal protests are in no way comparable to self-induced vomiting. The CIA disrupters completely shut down last year’s event, rendering recruiters unable to continue presenting employment opportunities to Harvard students seeking jobs; Finkelstein was able to continue his diatribe for nearly three full hours. During this time, HLS Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove was standing directly behind the protestors along with two Harvard University police officers. Had this protest violated any of the HLS guidelines, one of these people would have undoubtedly taken action. In fact, Cosgrove confirmed the acceptability of the protesters’ actions in an e-mail, saying, “We had three administrators at the event and we felt that the protests fell within the guidelines.”

The issue at hand is an empirical one: this vocal protest was allowed and legitimate. Reports stating otherwise or equating last week’s Finkelstein protest with last year’s CIA protest are either irresponsibly ignorant of the facts or shamefully malicious.


November 8, 2005

The writer is the president of Harvard Students for Israel.