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Harvard Faculty Slam Crimson’s BDS Endorsement

Credit: Julian J. Giordano, Harvard Crimson.
• May 9, 2022 2:30 pm

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Around 70 Harvard faculty members slammed the elite college's newspaper, the Crimson, for its endorsement of the anti-Semitic movement to boycott Israel.

In an open letter sent Monday, the faculty members, including former Treasury secretary and Harvard president Larry Summers, excoriated the Crimson‘s endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, saying they are "concerned about the long-term impact of this recent staff editorial on the morale and well-being of Jewish and Zionist students at Harvard."

"We extend our full support to these students who may now be feeling marginalized and demoralized," the faculty members wrote. "We also express our steadfast commitment to Harvard's ties with Israel, a country that is home to some of the world's best universities. Our research and teaching missions benefit from these educational exchanges, and we encourage Harvard to grow them further."

The letter was signed by a who's who of prominent Harvard educators, including Alan Dershowitz, Ruth Wisse, David Stern, and others from Harvard's medical and law schools. It was organized by Summers, human rights professor Gabriella Blum, law professor Jesse Fried, and psychology professor Steven Pinker through the Academic Engagement Network. The open letter comes amid a historic spike in anti-Semitic incidents at Harvard and other prominent U.S. colleges that many say is fueled by the BDS movement and its backers on campus. Harvard president Lawrence Bacow during a closed-door faculty meeting last week declined to condemn these incidents, though he did say he is opposed to "academic boycotts," such as those targeting Israel.

The Crimson earlier this month sent shockwaves through the campus pro-Israel community when its editorial board reversed its longstanding position against Israel boycotts in an editorial published at the end of Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual hate fest targeting the Jewish state and its supporters.

The anti-BDS Harvard faculty members state in the letter that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic and fuels hatred of Jews.

"We believe that many well-meaning people with no hate in their hearts, including those at Harvard, gravitate to this movement believing that it offers a means for advancing Palestinian rights and peace in the Middle East," they wrote. "But the reality is that BDS merely coarsens the discourse on campus and contributes to antisemitism. In seeking to delegitimize Israel through diplomatic, economic, academic, and cultural isolation, and by opposing the very notions of Jewish peoplehood and self-determination, BDS is disrespectful of Jews, the vast majority of whom view an attachment to Israel as central to their faith identity."

The Crimson, they said, is responsible for creating an unsafe environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students at Harvard.

"We are saddened and disheartened that both the Crimson and the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), to which the Editorial Board gave full-throated support in its editorial, are creating spaces on campus where Jewish and Zionist students are targeted and made to feel unwelcome," they wrote. "Contrary to the Crimson editorial, and despite its claim to be a movement for social justice, BDS does not advocate for coexistence, peace building toward a two-state solution, or even dialogue with Israel's supporters on our campus. BDS negates the importance of Israel for Jewish continuity and as a refuge and safe haven for Jews who need one."