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Harvard Faculty Blasts School Newspaper Over Endorsement of Anti-Israel BDS Movement

05-10-2022
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Harvard University. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

JERUSALEM, Israel – Dozens of Harvard faculty members are condemning the university’s Harvard Crimson student newspaper for its editorial board’s support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Supporters of BDS say it is a peaceful movement for Palestinian independence. Critics argue it delegitimizes Israel and is rooted in anti-Semitism. 

In a petition released on Monday, 70 Harvard faculty members said they were “dismayed by The Crimson Editorial Board’s enthusiastic endorsement” of BDS. 

The faculty accused the BDS movement of turning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a “caricature that singles out only one side for blame with a false binary of oppressor versus oppressed.” 

“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 petition said. 

The faculty warned of the long-term impact such an endorsement would have on the campus and said some Jewish and Zionist students already feel “alienated” by The Crimson Editorial Board’s stance. The faculty also expressed their “steadfast commitment to Harvard’s ties with Israel” and encouraged Harvard to “grow them further.”

The petition was signed by several high-profile faculty members, including renowned psychologist Steven Pinker and Lawrence Summers – a former president of Harvard University and US secretary of treasury under Former President Bill Clinton. 

The controversy began on April 29, when The Crimson Editorial Board reversed its previous objection to the BDS movement, saying: “Palestinians, in our board’s view, deserve dignity and freedom. We support the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement as a means to achieving that goal.”

“In the past, our board was skeptical of the movement (if not, generally speaking, of its goals), arguing that BDS as a whole did not ‘get at the nuances and particularities of the Israel-Palestine conflict.’ We regret and reject that view.,” the board said. “It is our categorical imperative to side with and empower the vulnerable and oppressed. We can’t nuance away Palestinians’ violent reality, nor can we let our desire for a perfect, imaginary tool undermine a living, breathing movement of such great promise.”

The board also rejected criticism that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic.

“We feel the need to assert that support for Palestinian liberation is not antisemitic. We unambiguously oppose and condemn antisemitism in every and all forms, including those times when it shows up on the fringes of otherwise worthwhile movements. Jewish people — like every people, including Palestinians — deserve nothing but life, peace, and security,” the board wrote. 

The Harvard Crimson’s editorial board operates independently from its newsroom. However, its staff editorials, which are debated and voted on three times a week, represent the majority view of the board members present at a given meeting. 

Several Crimson staffers and alumni voiced their frustration with the board’s support for BDS.

The paper published an open letter from angry alumni that said, “In endorsing and amplifying the BDS movement’s untruths — and that is what they are: lies — the Crimson’s editorial staff betrays its basic journalistic responsibility to ground arguments in facts.”

A current editor at the newspaper also published her dissent in The Harvard Crimson

“The Editorial Board believes it is advocating for the underdog in the name of social justice, but the ‘overwhelming power imbalance’ has always been against the Jewish homeland, surrounded on all sides by those who wish to destroy it — the same wish that has led Israel’s neighbors to declare war on it again and again,” said editor Natalie Kahn. 

Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow declined to comment on the editorial board’s endorsement of BDS, saying that the newspaper is “entitled to publish what they wish and to share their views as they may.” But he said “any suggestion of targeting or boycotting a particular group because of disagreements over the policies pursued by their governments is antithetical to what we stand for as a university.”

“I think academic boycotts have absolutely no place at Harvard, regardless of who they target,” Bacow said.

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