Harvard professor blames Palestinians for their misery

While Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse was scheduled to talk about the rise of worldwide anti-Semitism Oct. 30 at Stanford University, her lecture became somewhat of a rebuttal to a controversial speaker who had been there the week before.

Hedy Epstein, a survivor of the Kindertransport who has been active on behalf of the Palestinians, toured several college campuses the previous week, upsetting Jewish students with her pro-Palestinian views.

Rabbi Dov Greenberg, director of Stanford Chabad, who co-sponsored Wisse’s talk, said that the exact topic was not confirmed in advance.

“We knew Epstein was coming, so at that time we decided that Epstein’s vilification of Israel would help shape Wisse’s talk,” said Greenberg. “When Epstein was here, a lot of her talk was demonizing Israel and Jewish people straight across the board.”

Wisse did not respond directly to anything Epstein had said, but her talk did sound a decidedly different note from Epstein’s.

While she acknowledged Palestinian suffering, she said that neither Jews nor Israelis were responsible, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Palestinian leadership and the Arab world as a whole.

“To pretend that Jews are even nominally to blame for the misery of the Palestinians, let alone for the belligerence of the Arabs, is to ensure that the Arab world will never take responsibility for its own actions, for its own dreadful mistakes, for its own reactionary politics,” she said. “Those who blame the Jews for problems that Arab leaders have willfully created are accessories to Arab aggression, and responsible for its consequences.”

Wisse denounced the politics of blame, saying, “The society that resorts to the pointing finger is bound to deteriorate, since it misidentifies and ignores the real causes of its problems,” and then she added, “One of the reasons the Arab rulers work so hard to maintain the Palestinian aggression against Israel is because they know it will otherwise turn against them.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."