Harvard faculty repudiate the student newspaper’s endorsement of BDS

May 11, 2022 • 9:00 am

As I reported the other day, the Harvard Crimson, the school’s well known student newspaper, published an editorial supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, a movement that’s anti-Semitic in that it explicitly favors the elimination of Israel as a state. To me this highlighted the growing problem of anti-Semitism not just at universities (especially “elite” ones), but in the Progressive Left.

Now, however, over 100 Harvard faculty members (and counting) are signing a statement repudiating the Crimson‘s stand. You can find the statement by clicking on the screenshot:

Here are the first four paragraphs, with which I heartily agree.

As members of the faculty of Harvard University, we are dismayed by The Crimson Editorial Board’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. While we may not agree with every point in this statement, and there are many diverse perspectives among us on issues of Israeli policy, the boundaries of academic freedom, and the role of universities as political actors, we are united in our opposition to BDS and The Crimson stance.

We are deeply concerned about the long-term impact of this recent staff editorial on the morale and 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.

We extend our full support to these students who may now be feeling marginalized and demoralized. 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.

While acknowledging the right of those within our campus community to endorse and advocate for BDS, we stand firmly opposed to this movement. In addition to calling for a wholesale boycott of Israeli academia, BDS 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.

And that last paragraph is the most trenchant. In fact, Palestine is much more to blame than Israel for the fact that it doesn’t have its own country. They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The demonization of Israel and the valorization of Palestine, a true apartheid state, is one of the biggest missteps the American Left has made, for it contravenes its own values of democracy and equality in favor of a false “oppressor/oppressed” narrative.

One more quote (you can read the full statement at the link above):

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. In its “Wall of Resistance” art installation at Harvard Yard, callously displayed over the Passover holiday, the PSC equated Zionism with “racism” and “white supremacy.” Such language is shameful and has no place at Harvard. We call out this rhetoric for what it is: anti-Jewish hate speech that is antithetical to the values of any academic institution.

Zionism— the right of the Jewish people to a homeland and self-determination—is a millennia-old tradition, with deep roots in Jewish history and religious practice. It is also a more recent political response to the utter failure to produce freedom and safety for Jews living in most places in the world. To treat Zionism as an illegitimate and oppressive movement, as BDS does, is to ignore history and to deny empathy, respect, and dignity to Jews.

I was pleased to see a friend’s name among the four people whom I take to be those who started the petition.

Initial signatories serve on the Advisory Board of the Academic Engagement Network:  

Gabriella Blum, Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Harvard Law School
Jesse Fried, Dane Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology
Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus

Doubtless someone will point out that there are many Jewish names among the signers. Well what did you expect? Don’t you think that a petition calling for moving all African-Americans back to Africa would have a disproportionate number of black signers?

If you want a good overview of this pushback, don’t go looking for it in the New York Times or Washington Post.  The Times of Israel has a bit more information:

The statement was organized by the Academic Engagement Network, a pro-Israel non-profit group. The petition will remain open through the end of the week, and will be presented to The Crimson, Harvard’s president, and other university officials.

One current editor of The Crimson and several prominent alumni of the paper also blasted the BDS endorsement.

Natalie L. Kahn, a Crimson editor and the head of Harvard’s Hillel, in a response published by the Crimson on Wednesday, said the endorsement was one-sided and anti-Jewish.

“This editorial is part of a larger trend of singling out Jews, conveniently neglecting our half of the story — and by extension our right to self-determination — while claiming to ‘oppose antisemitism,’” she wrote.

“This editorial does not even affirm support for Jewish self-determination. Does the Editorial Board believe Israel even has a right to exist? Because, if so, that line is coincidentally missing,” she said.

“Dialogue is not the goal of BDS or student anti-Israel groups, who have refused conversation and rely instead on substanceless platitudes,” she said. “Their goal is demonizing Israel and delegitimizing its right to exist.”

If you doubt the last sentence, do a bit of digging about BDS and its history, though it’s mantra (“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”) says it all.


h/t: Norm

13 thoughts on “Harvard faculty repudiate the student newspaper’s endorsement of BDS

  1. “And that last paragraph is the most trenchant.”

    My thoughts exactly – and written with utter precision – refreshing to read this.

  2. [… adding to my as yet invisible comment ..]

    … and after noting that Pinker signed the statement, my sense of his writing/prose suggests Pinker might have written the last half, if not the entire paragraph.

    Hey, I’m a fan, what can I say.

    1. Below, I was going to post, “now, that’s a well-written response, I wonder if Pinker wrote it?” I see you beat me to it, but wanted to express the same musing.

  3. > the right of the Jewish people to a homeland and self-determination
    > To treat Zionism as an illegitimate and oppressive movement [is] to deny empathy, respect, and dignity to Jews.

    No, it’s not. I am proud that we have a tradition of prominent Jewish – and non-Jewish – anarchist thinkers who know that we do not need governments. Every government oppresses people. Pretending that we need governments, whether in Israel or elsewhere, denies respect and dignity to Jews and other humans. We can be anti-government without being anti-semitic.

    1. Yes, places that have no government – like much of Somalia, for example, or the short-lived “autonomous zones” that sprang up in some US cities in the wake of the BLM riots – are renowned as havens of peace, tolerance, non-violence and all-round benevolence.

      Just how long do you think the Jews of Israel would survive for if they decided to abolish their country’s government and all the institutions (such as the IDF) it supports?

    2. I am reminded of the mantra of so many fundagelicals describing the basis of their faith ; “I know that I know that I know that I know.”

  4. Beautiful. Imagine my signature there, too, to give some ethnic balance if for nothing else.
    What I’d like to know is how students like the type who would join BDS could get into Harvard in the first place. Not that intellectuals can’t be anti-Semites, although they shouldn’t be…but that BDS editorial wasn’t even intelligent. It was bathroom graffiti level.

  5. I wonder if there is a cognitive bias in play? Lets assume you have some views on a matter of oppressor/oppressed people. An organisation steps forward to organise a response and push for change etc., and suddenly (cognitive bias) your sense of balance and proportion has been outsourced to the organisation to care for, both saving you effort and working as a proxy for your less rational emotions.

    Plus the organisation, run by fully motivated people, is a lot tougher for mere individuals of opposite opinions to argue with.

  6. How fashions come and go! In 1947, the USSR voted for UN resolution 181 which decreed
    partition of the Palestine Mandate; and three days after Israel declared independence in 1948, the Soviet Union legally recognized it, becoming the first country to grant de jure recognition to the Jewish state. Invaluable arms for the Hagana came to Israel from Communist-dominated Czechoslovakia. The great, famously Leftwing folk band The Weavers used to sing a Zionist song
    “Artza Alinu” (we ascended to the land).

    The Communist position began to change in the mid-1950s, and by the 1970s the party line, as stated in the Soviet Encyclopedia, was: “the main posits of modern Zionism are militant chauvinism, racism, anti-Communism and anti-Sovietism.” This party line entered the vocabulary of the pop-Left, and there it has remained, despite the fact that its source, and its origin in cold war realpolitik ,
    tumbled into the dustbin of History a generation ago.

  7. Don’t you think that a petition calling for moving all African-Americans back to Africa would have a disproportionate number of black signers?

    No, I don’t. I think it would have a disproportionate number of white signers. It’s basically a right-wing fantasy. Maybe a better analogy would be a petition calling for reparations,

    1. Couldn’t the two initiatives be combined to make a win-win? Reparation talk creates resentment—certainly does in Canada where decades of reparations to Indigenous people have accomplished nothing except more demands for more money—because the payor doesn’t get anything in return from the payee. Emigration to the oppression-free land of your ancestors with a generous cash apology? (And suitable assistance to the destination countries to resettle their new citizens.). Why not?

      More important, those who stayed could be assumed to be happy with their lot in life and ought not to need reparations to remain. This would eliminate the argument for reparations even if not many people actually took them and made the trek to Africa. A bitter, chronically draining sore healed through the power of the market.

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