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Harvard scholars respond to Martin Kramer’s support of a eugenics program against Palestinians

Prof. Martin Kramer advocated starving out Palestinians so that they could not reproduce, a view that some have called "genocidal"

Prof. Martin Kramer advocated starving out Palestinians so that they cannot reproduce, a view that some have called "genocidal"

Prof. Martin Kramer, a right wing loon (who unlike the garden variety loon has a Harvard affiliation), advocated starving out the population of Gaza so that they could not reproduce–a view which flirts with genocide and is a form of eugenics.  We covered his hate-filled words earlier on our site.  I am a firm believer in Godwin’s Law and very rarely like using Nazi comparisons, but I think this is the rare exception in which it is more than fitting: one can well imagine Adolf Hitler contemplating blockading Jewish ghettos to starve them out and thereby prevent them from reproducing.

Anyways, this is old news.  So what’s new? Here’s what: a group of Harvard professors just published another response in the Harvard Crimson, condemning his statements:

Condemning Kramer

By Lori Allen, Vincent A. Brown, and Ajantha Subramanian
Published: Monday, April 19, 2010

Much has been made of Martin Kramer’s suggestion that Palestinians be denied food and medicine in order to weaken their opposition to the Israeli occupation. We, along with a group of 25 other professors, scholars, and Harvard alumni, add our voices to the chorus of condemnation directed towards Dr. Kramer and express our concern that the Weatherhead Center has lent him its credibility. As academics, we question both the ethical and scholarly basis of Dr. Kramer’s public statements. We maintain that this is not a question of protecting Dr. Kramer’s free speech, as was indicated by the Weatherhead Center’s response to criticism. Rather, it is about maintaining appropriate standards of ethical and intellectual conduct; Dr. Kramer’s repellent statements evince a clear failure to meet those standards.

The speech in question was made at the 10th annual Herzliya conference, the single most important gathering of influential policymakers and commentators in Israel. Kramer’s talk was part of a panel held on Feb. 3, 2010 entitled “Rising to the Challenge of Radical Indoctrination;” his Harvard affiliation was clearly identified in the conference program in connection with the talk. In Kramer’s presentation, he suggested that Israel’s current economic blockade of Gaza, now in its fourth year, represents a successful effort to “break Gaza’s runaway population growth.” He therefore argued against what he called “pro-natal subsidies” of food, medicine, and humanitarian aid that help to reproduce the “constant supply of superfluous young men” demanded by a so-called “culture of martyrdom” in Gaza.

His argument has little scholarly merit. In the name of state security, it validates demographic strategies of population control that date at least back to Thomas Malthus and have been repeatedly found wanting both intellectually and morally for over two centuries. Also, by attributing to culture what is a political and social phenomenon, Kramer misrepresents the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A willingness to sacrifice oneself is not a desire for martyrdom rooted in Palestinian culture. Rather, as has been shown by scholars of the conflict, Palestinian youth turn to violent means to oppose the dehumanizing effects of the Israeli occupation. In short, Kramer’s remarks are not informed by current scholarship, but are animated by the spirit of early 20th century eugenics.

Even if the Weatherhead Center were to overlook these scholarly shortcomings, it should at least consider the ethics of Kramer’s interventions. His characterization of young Palestinians as a superfluous population culturally predisposed to violence can only be described as racist. Indeed, his statements are rooted in a polemic that would have been unacceptable in reference to any other population. To quote Weatherhead Center executive committee member Stephen Walt, “What if a prominent academic at Harvard declared that the United States had to make food scarcer for Hispanics so that they would have fewer children? Or what if someone at a prominent think tank noted that black Americans have higher crime rates than some other groups, and therefore it made good sense to put an end to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other welfare programs, because that would discourage African-Americans from reproducing and thus constitute an effective anti-crime program?” And, finally, what if a similar argument was made with regard to the Jewish people? If the Weatherhead Center would distance itself from such arguments and likely condemn them, why does it defend Kramer when he calls, in effect, for a policy of eugenics against Palestinians?

As Harvard faculty, alumni, and affiliates, we deplore Dr. Kramer’s statements as morally reprehensible and intellectually indefensible. Furthermore, we encourage the Weatherhead Center to reexamine its procedures for evaluating the scholarly credibility of future affiliates.

Lori Allen is an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy of International and Area Studies. Vincent A. Brown is a Professor of History and of African and African American Studies. Ajantha Subramanian is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and of Social Studies.

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  • George Carty

    Oh, and how would you respond to those Islamophobes who believe that the West’s squeamishness about genocide is its greatest, and potentially fatal, weakness?

    This point of view was first promoted in a big way by Jean Raspail’s “Camp of the Saints”, in which the West is destroyed by a flood of (Hindu Indian) immigrants. In my view, the “Eurabia” scaremongering is just an Islamization of this earlier nightmare scenario.

  • George Carty

    @eslaporte

    I suspect that a majority of Westerners probably regard Islamic culture as inferior, but it’s a long way from “Islamic culture is inferior” to “Islam must be destroyed”.

    And as you suggested, Social Darwinism is one way of making that jump possible. It provides a justification for utter ruthlessness, a justification for rendering entire segments of humanity extinct.

  • Pingback: Harvard scholars stand up to Neo-Nazi! « Mohammed Abbasi()

  • What this is folks, is Social Darwinism.

    This viewpoint was fashionable among the wealthy elites in the UK and US in the late 1800s. Much of it still appears as part of American Conservative ideology. Social Darwinism was discredited decades ago, but it survives partly in the notion that Arabs and Muslims come from a “bad culture.” It also is seen in the notion that people the poor should just “get a job,” etc, blah, blah, or starve.

    Social Darwinism basically states that there are lesser cultures in the world in the game of the survival of the fittest cultures. Those from the “best and brightest” cultures are the most successful and acquire wealth and are not dependent on anyone else. These are “winners” or the most successful who come from the “better cultures.” Society’s “losers” are the ones who, because of “bad culture,” end up in jail, poor, and are as dysfunctional as the cultures they come from. This is also the reason why social welfare is under attack in especially the US.

    To rid society of those from “bad and dysfunctional cultures,” they should be denied food aid, medical aid, and the like, as those from such cultures are the lesser and “losers” in the survival game. This is yet further evidence that the Anglo-American Conservative ilk (and there ultra Israeli nationalist friends) continue to promote long-ago, discredited Social Darwinism when dealing with the Arab-Islamic world. We see this notion of “Islam as a lesser culture” from Geert Wilders.

    QUOTE: “What if a prominent academic at Harvard declared that the United States had to make food scarcer for Hispanics so that they would have fewer children? Or what if someone at a prominent think tank noted that black Americans have higher crime rates than some other groups, and therefore it made good sense to put an end to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other welfare programs, because that would discourage African-Americans from reproducing and thus constitute an effective anti-crime program?”

    Yep, Social Darwinism…and a great comparison and they do believe this, but cannot openly say this here in the US! We can expect more of this dehumanizing and inhuman rubbish that Arabs and Muslims are part of a “lesser culture” that need to be starved out in order to get rid of “them.”

  • Nissa

    What an excellent and dignified response to Kramer’s crap! That martyrdom’ is intrinciscally a part of Palestinian culture is such a fallacy and honestly I can’t believe he had such an arena to put forth his argument and more people have not called him out!

  • L.egypt

    They have been denied already basic needs through this horrible occupation. What can you do with one-hour-a-day of water. A professor at Harvard? Obviously he doesn’t have a brain.

  • Ibster

    I, too, applaud them! It is nice to see that there is some backbone in those circles.

  • Kramer is a sick puppy. I applaud the Harvard academics for condemning him.

  • Zakster

    I would actually like to thank Dr. Kramer for voicing and bringing to the front something that is actually a reality for a time now. Very few are aware of the fact of how Israel cuts off electricity, water, supplies, medicine, food e.t.c. to the Palestinians when it suits its fancy…
    His addressing this issue has brought to light this subject, and I am sure some, even a very few minds were enlightened to fact of eugenics which has been going on for years in Occupied Palestine.
    True, is Muslim nations shut off water and supplies to any other ethnic minority, it would be viewed as a genocidal act upon which sycophants like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes would latch on to like leeches…The hatred against the Muslims has gone up to an amazing degree thanks to modern day Goebbels and Himmlers like the trio mentioned above…

  • Mr M

    Starving Palestinians has been a long time policy of Israel and its friends, so he did not said anything new. Pat on the back for being real and coming out with what his friends once said to each other in privately.

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