70 Harvard faculty reject student paper’s BDS endorsement

Seventy Harvard-affiliated faculty have condemned the university’s student newspaper for endorsing the boycott movement against Israel.

An editor at the newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, and at least eight former staffers also condemned the editorial board’s endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on April 29.

The faculty statement released on Monday was signed by leading scholars including Steven Pinkner, Ruth Wisse, Jesse Fried, Gabriella Blum, and Lawrence Summers.

The full statement is reproduced below:

Harvard Faculty Statement in Response to The Crimson Editorial Board’s Endorsement of BDS

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.

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. 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.

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. It excludes Israel’s remarkable achievements as a post-colonial nation after independence, ignores the country’s relative successes in integrating waves of multi-ethnic and multi-racial communities, and neglects Israel’s own efforts at peace. Because of the movement’s rigid policy of “anti-normalization,” BDS casts Israel as uniquely malevolent among nations, with any and all attempts at mutual understanding to be resisted.

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.

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. 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.

Proposing disengagement from Israel, in rhetoric that harshly characterizes the Jewish national project, has consequences here at Harvard too. At a moment when antisemitic incidents, often including violence, have reached an all-time high, it is more important than ever for us to model a respectful and inclusive learning environment.

We urge the Crimson Editorial Board to reach out to Jewish peers so that they can begin to repair the damage caused by writing such a divisive staff editorial, adding insult to injury by thoughtlessly publishing it the day after Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day.

We encourage Crimson’s editors to take advantage of the many resources and educational opportunities that Harvard has to offer for learning more deeply about Jewish identity and Israel, the diversity of the Jewish experience, and the multifaceted nature of contemporary antisemitism, including how it manifests on campus.

We also hope that the students who report and write for Harvard’s treasured and beloved Crimson, the oldest continuously published campus daily in the United States, will turn to us for more information and insight into the issues and concerns that we have raised in this statement. Our doors are always open.


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