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Jewish Groups Denounce Endorsement of BDS by Harvard Crimson Student Newspaper

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Widener Library at Harvard University. Photo: Joseph Williams

The editorial board of the storied Harvard Crimson student newspaper endorsed the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel on Friday, prompting a swift reaction from the campus’ Hillel and national Jewish leaders.

“It is sad to see the Harvard Crimson’s Editorial Board endorse BDS in an unsigned editorial on behalf of the paper this morning,” Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg, Executive Hillel Director and Harvard Chaplain, wrote Friday in an email to community members seen by The Algemeiner. “Sadder still is the alienation some of our students connected with the Crimson feel, as well as the way this move on the part of the Crimson will reflect on Harvard generally in the perception of Jewish and other people far and wide.”

In an article published earlier Friday, the Crimson’s editorial board announced its support for Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee, which drew recent controversy by installing a “Wall of Resistance” on campus that featured messages such as, “Zionism is racism.”

“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,” the board wrote Friday. “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 reject and regret that view.”

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It also pushed back against “accusations” of antisemitism over its stance, condemning “antisemitism in every and all forms, including those times when it shows up on the fringes of otherwise worthwhile movements.”

“BDS remains a blunt approach one with the potential to backfire or prompt collateral damage in the form of economic hurt. But the weight of this moment — of Israel’s human rights and international law violates and of Palestine’s cry for freedom — demands this step. As a board, we are proud to finally lend our support to both Palestinian liberation and BDS — we call on everyone to do the same.”

The BDS movement, which rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, calls for academic, cultural, economic and political boycotts against the country.

A note appended to the Friday editorial said that its contents solely represented the “majority view” of board members.

In his email Friday afternoon, Rabbi Steinberg said the Crimson’s position “reflects a descent away from close analysis, as well as a difference from a not-so-distant time when there was more considerable overlap between our Harvard Hillel community and the leadership of the Crimson.”

“It has been sad to hear some of our students tell of how they have moved away from participation in the Crimson because of its editorial trends and inhospitable culture; and of course I have urged our students to stay in the fight, to see possibilities of change, and not to become dispirited — even though that is a tall order,” he continued. “It has never been more important for us to practice and promote the committed and nuanced approach to Israel that our programs reflect and enable.”

Responding to the editorial on Twitter, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called it “beyond disturbing.”

“Contrary to its claims, endorsing BDS does nothing to help Palestinians & only serves to delegitimize Israel’s existence, and isolate & intimidate the Jewish community, especially on campus,” he wrote. “Before publishing blanket statements on such complex and important issues, the Crimson editors should check their own blind spots in this matter and ask why they deem it necessary to expressly single out the state of Israel.”

“Just imagine if the Crimson would have instead promoted engagement and dialogue, and sponsored efforts on campus & beyond to build foundations for a future of self-determination, security and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Greenblatt continued.

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