70 prominent Harvard faculty members blast school paper’s anti-Israel BDS endorsement

The faculty members urged the Crimson editorial board to reach out to Jewish peers and begin repairing the damage caused by the “divisive” editorial.

By JNS.org

Since The Harvard Crimson’s endorsement of the anti-Israel BDS movement two weeks ago, a group of more than 70 prominent members of Harvard’s faculty has begun a petition to condemn and correct the misinformation in the editorial.

Organized by the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), it includes among its signatories professor Gabriella Blum, Dr. Amy Comander, attorney and emeritus law professor Alan Dershowitz, Dr. Gary R. Fleisher, law professor Jesse Fried, professor and art historian Jeffrey Hamburger, Jewish-studies professor Jon D. Levenson, law professor Robert Mnookin, professor Eric Nelson, professor Elisa New, psychologist Steven Pinker, law and economics professor Steven Shavell, Jewish and Hebrew literature professor David Stern, Yiddish literature professor Ruth Wisse and economist Richard Zeckhauser.

The petition will be sent to the Crimson, Harvard president Lawrence Bacow and other university officials after the signatures close at the end of the week.

Faculty members raised concerns about the effect of the BDS endorsement on the “well-being of Jewish and Zionist students at Harvard, some of whom have already reported that they have become alienated from the newspaper on account of the inhospitable culture that prevails there,” the petition stated.

According to the petition, the endorsement “compromises educational goals by turning the complex and intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a caricature that singles out only one side for blame with a false binary of oppressor versus oppressed.”

The faculty wrote that they supported the university’s ties to Israel—home to some of the world’s best universities in joint relationships that benefit research and teaching at Harvard.

‘Properly educate themselves’ about Israel

The Crimson’s board portrayed BDS as advancing Palestinian rights and peace in the Middle East. In reality, according to the faculty members, the movement seeks to delegitimize Israel by opposing the very notion of Jewish peoplehood and self-determination, therefore coarsening the discourse on campus and contributing to growing antisemitism.

Unlike what the Crimson’s editorial board asserted, the BDS movement does not advocate for coexistence, building towards a two-state solution “or dialogue with Israel’s supporters on campus,” according to the faculty. Rather, it “negates the importance of Israel for Jewish continuity and as a refuge and haven for Jews who need one.”

While ignoring Israel’s successes in integrating multiple waves of multi-ethnic and multi-racial refugees, in addition to many efforts to create peace with the Palestinians, the Crimson imagines Israel as a malevolent nation and casts Zionism as “an illegitimate and oppressive movement.”

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The paper’s editorial board also expressed support to the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee, which recently displayed a controversial “Wall of Resistance” art installation on the campus that equated Zionism with racism and white supremacy.

The faculty members urged the Crimson editorial board to reach out to Jewish peers and begin repairing the damage caused by the “divisive” editorial, an AEN news release stated on Monday, “and to properly educate themselves about Jewish identity Israel and the multifaceted nature of contemporary antisemitism.”

“We at Harvard have a responsibility to recognize the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to acknowledge the lived experiences, traumas, hopes and dreams of all peoples impacted by it,” concluded the signees. “The mission of our great university is to rigorously interrogate and debate complex problems. We are at our best when we consider and evaluate competing perspectives, focus on facts, acknowledge nuances and avoid simplistic, monocausal explanations.”

The most recent ADL audit numbers antisemitic incidents at an all-time high. The AEN, an independent, nonpartisan national organization comprised of more than 830 faculty members on more than 250 campuses across the United States, has recently developed a guide for university administrators to help advance Israel literacy, as well as recognize and counter antisemitism.

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