Lawrence Davidson

Lawrence Davidson

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* Former Professor of modern Middle Eastern history at West Chester University in Pennsylvania
* Advocates complete U.S. divestment from Israel
* Characterizes Palestinian terrorism as the inevitable and logical outgrowth of Israeli depredations
* Contends that Hamas does “charitable work”
* Retired from West Chester University in May 2013

Lawrence Davidson was a professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, where he taught courses in modern Middle Eastern history, the history of science, and European intellectual history. His chief area of research was in U.S.-Mideast relations, a subject about which he often spoke publicly.

Calling Israel an “indecent” and “racist” state guilty of massive human-rights violations against the Palestinian people, Davidson portrays Israeli anti-terrorism measures—such as the use of checkpoints, the construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank, and the “draconian land and sea blockade” of Gaza—as exercises in “pure, mean harassment” designed to “humiliate” the Palestinians and make their lives “as miserable as possible.” Likening such “tactics” to “the behaviors of both pogroms and concentration camps,” the professor denounces the Jewish state for pursuing a “blatantly criminal” campaign of “collective punishment” that has impoverished “over a million and a half people.” “The goal of Israeli society,” says Davidson, is to render non-Jews “second-class citizens and, eventually, [to] expel [them] altogether.” He further accuses Zionists of having “purposely molded” for themselves a “discriminatory society” that practices “ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians, whom “the majority” of Jews view as nothing more than “beasts walking on two legs.”

In a January 2009 CounterPunch article about Operation Cast Lead—the Israel-Hamas war which was then raging in Gaza—Davidson stated that “[e]ver since Israel’s withdrawal of its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it has slowly turned that territory into a besieged ghetto.” Moreover, he accused Israel of wanting “to destroy Hamas” and thereby take away that organization’s “ability to do its charitable work and carry on resistence” (sic).

“To call Hamas a ‘terrorist organization,’” Davidson maintains, is “considerably out of date.” “It would be more fitting,” he proposes, “to assign the epithet to the Israeli government”—which he depicts as a “purveyor of state terrorism” that “has brought sudden death to much larger numbers of innocent people than Hamas.” Asserting further that Hamas “has a right to defend itself against predatory neighbors,” Davidson says that the organization “should not be expected to negotiate” with a nation (Israel) that “adamantly refuses to recognize it as the legitimately elected government of Palestine (which it is).” In addition, the professor has characterized Hamas’ multitudinous rocket launches into southern Israel as “symbolic acts of resistance” that ultimately do “little damage.”

Davidson contends that Israeli Jews are largely blind to their own human-rights transgressions and thus adhere “to a mythologized and self-centered interpretation of events” that ignores the role Jews themselves have played in provoking terrorism against their country. He further maintains that Israel, emboldened by the considerable financial and military aid it receives from the United States, has “never sought any meaningful compromises with [its] neighbors.” Indeed he blames America for having “done the most” to make Israel “the bully that dominates the [Mideast] neighborhood.” To punish the Jewish state for its alleged wrongdoings, Davidson advocates “the isolation of the entire Israeli society on the model used against apartheid South Africa.” This could be achieved, he says, by a coordinated worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

Davidson also admonishes the U.S. for failing, like Israel, to appreciate how its own foreign policies have antagonized Muslims worldwide, and for thus failing to understand its own role in provoking the 9/11 attacks. According to the professor, 9/11 provided “paranoid” American Zionists and American Christian fundamentalists with a pretext upon which to “imagine an Islamic conspiracy to subvert the United States.” He derides such people for drawing parallels between the supposedly bad intentions of Muslims on the one hand, and the “communist aims during the Cold War” on the other. “Both were thought to have secret agents and sleeper cells in the U.S.,” says Davidson dismissively, and to be “hostile to the American way of life.”

In 2008 Davidson supported the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama. A month before the election, the professor joined a host of colleagues, students, and academic staff in signing a statement expressing “support” for, and opposing “the demonization of,” the “Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar,” Bill Ayers, the former Weather Underground terrorist whose relationship with candidate Obama had drawn sharp criticism from Republicans.

On at least one occasion, Davidson has been a guest speaker at a gathering of the Left Forum. To view a list of additional noteworthy Left Forum speakers and panelists, click here.

Davidson was a board member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, alongside such notables as Hamid Dabashi, Ilan Pappé, Michel Shehadeh, and honorary advisory board member Desmond Tutu.

Davidson retired from West Chester University in May 2013.

Davidson is the author of such books as America’s Palestine: Official and Popular Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (2001); Islamic Fundamentalism (2003); A Concise History of the Middle East (co-authored with Dr. Arthur Goldschmidt, 2006 and 2009); and Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing American National Interests (2009).

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