The Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee distributed a pledge over house and student group email lists last week urging undergraduates to boycott Israel Trek, a free spring break trip to Israel and the West Bank.
Emails promoting the pledge argue that the student-run trip is biased in favor of Israel and does not present attendees with an accurate picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Separate emails promoting Israel Trek point out that the trip includes conversations with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
“In the West Bank and Gaza, there is a brutal occupation of Palestinians,” the PSC’s petition reads. “By going on this trip, you will be complicit in the whitewashing of these human rights violations against the Palestinians.”
The petition calls Israel Trek a "largely pro-Israel trip" that is funded by "pro-Israel organizations."
PSC co-presidents Hossam M. Mabed ’21 and Christian B. Tabash ’21 declined to comment further on the organization’s efforts to oppose Israel Trek.
Tabash did not respond to an additional question asking how many undergraduates signed the PSC pledge. More than 400 students applied for spots on Israel Trek this year, according to Adam Nahari ’20, who has co-led the Israel Trek for the past three years.
Israeli Deputy Consul General Daniel Agranov wrote in an emailed statement that he cannot comment on "misleading inflammatory statements.”
“Israel extends an invitation to anyone who wishes to visit our country and see for themselves. Israel being 71 years old has proved to be a thriving and vibrant democracy,” the statement reads. “Israel is and always has been willing to negotiate, in order to do so we must engage in a process of deep understanding of each other’s narrative.”
A group of Israeli undergraduates first led Israel Trek during the 2013-2014 academic year. Leaders aim to “delve into questions regarding the unique and nuanced realities at the core of Israel’s geopolitical landscape, including the relationship between religion and state and the peace process with the Palestinians,” according to emails promoting the 2019 iteration of Israel Trek.
Nahari said the trip intends to educate participants about many aspects of Israel, including geopolitical issues.
“I think it’s important to understand that this is an educational trip and our goal is to introduce participants to Israeli culture and society and art and music and the geopolitical situation,” he said. “So the conflict is just a part of that. It’s definitely not about pro- or anti-Israel.”
The PSC’s pledge criticizes the trip’s past invitations to speakers like right-wing Israeli legislator Naftali Bennett. Nahari wrote in an emailed statement that, though past trip participants have met with Bennett, they have also heard from left-wing Israeli Arab politician Ayman Odeh. He also wrote that participants travel through both Israel and the West Bank.
“Our Trek not only explores Israeli cities including Jerusalem in all its ethnic and religious complexity but also crosses the Green Line to visit and to hear directly from Palestinian leaders in their home towns and institutions,” he wrote.
Israel Trek leader Eleanor H. Blum ’20 said that participants often return with more questions about Israelis and Palestinians than answers.
“I think they accept sort of by the end of it, ‘Wow, there’s a reason that that this conflict is ongoing and so complicated because there are so many valid and yet conflicting truths and experiences,’” she said.
Students founded the Harvard chapter of the PSC to promote calls for Palestinian statehood. The group regularly holds advocacy events on campus, including Israeli Apartheid Week in April, which seeks to bring awareness to adversities Palestinians face.