Monday, September 26th | 2 Tishri 5783

May 4, 2022 11:49 am

Stunning Reversal: How Did the ‘Harvard Crimson’ Come to Support BDS Against Israel?

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


The Harvard campus. Photo: Wiki Commons.

The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper for Harvard University, recently announced its official endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in a staff editorial last week.

This marks a stunning reversal of the newspaper’s historically anti-boycott position, which was best exemplified in a 2002 statement from the Crimson that described comparisons between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa as so “fundamentally flawed as to be offensive.”

Written at the height of the Second Intifada, the 2002 piece highlighted how “Israel is attempting to defend its citizens and borders from terrorist attacks”; drew attention to the fact the Jewish state is the “victim of a double standard”; and pointed out that Israel is not the “only nation that takes strong and forceful action in times of war.”

These statements from 20 years ago are especially prescient today: a wave of Palestinian terrorism over the past month has left 15 Israelis dead, and terrorists in Gaza and Lebanon have launched multiple rocket attacks in recent weeks.

But what has changed is the growing acceptance of antisemitism and anti-Israel bigotry on Harvard’s campus, cloaked under the guise of “Palestinian solidarity” (see here and here).

The latest editorial, titled “In Support of Boycott, Divest, Sanction and a Free Palestine,“ explains that the newspaper’s board now feels compelled to throw their support behind BDS after witnessing the “spirited activism” by the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) over the past year, including its “Keffiyeh Thursdays” events and the installation of a “Wall of Resistance” on campus.

In addition, it states that the Crimson’s editorial board has been forced to once again “wrestle with what both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called Israel’s ‘crimes against humanity’ in the region.”

The editorial’s naming of the PSC as a cause for its volte-face on BDS, including what the Crimson cites as the group’s “admittedly controversial panels [that] dare the viewer to contend with well-established, if rarely stated, facts,” is telling.

The PSC is, after all, a Harvard student organization that has a history of using bullying tactics to intimidate critics. The group has also invited speakers to campus who are known for espousing inflammatory views.

In 2013, for example, the PSC organized a campaign as part of “Israeli Apartheid Week” in which students — some of whom were Jewish — in the freshmen and upperclass dormitories received mock eviction notices posted on their doors; apparently to highlight the “unlawful displacement of Palestinians” at the hands of the Israeli government.

Evidently, not one person at the PSC thought that fake notices warning dormitory occupants they have three days to vacate before “demolition” could be perceived as threatening in any way.

Yet the Anti-Defamation League warned that this very tactic had been designed to “silence and intimidate,” particularly because the PSC was specifically targeting individuals in their private living spaces.

More recently, during the 2021 “Israeli Apartheid Week,” which was held virtually, the PSC invited Omar Barghouti — frequently cited as a co-founder of BDS — to take part in a panel called “Divestment as a Historical Tool for Justice.”

Barghouti has affirmed his support for “armed resistance;” rejected any suggestion of a two-state solution on the grounds there should never be “a Jewish state in any part of [British Mandatory] Palestine,” and once suggested “Zionism is intent on killing itself.”

Other speakers invited that year included Palestinian feminist scholar and activist Yamila Hussein-Shannan, who claimed Israeli soldiers force Palestinian men to “parade naked in the streets” and New York-based activist Sumaya Awad, who has expressed support for the Hamas-organized and funded March of Return in 2018.

These are the individuals the Crimson writes off as merely “controversial.”

The editorial also claims that both the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been instrumental in prompting its decision to support a campaign that seeks to eventually dismantle the world’s only Jewish state.

It is concerning that the Crimson would take its cues from two groups that have long histories of spreading misinformation about Israel, including propagating the widely-debunked apartheid libel and employing people who have shared anti-Israel propaganda online.

Yet the editorial goes on to deny that supporting the BDS campaign is antisemitic:

In the wake of accusations suggesting otherwise, 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.

This is the same campaign that seeks to leave the Jewish state’s inhabitants at the mercy of Israel’s Islamist neighbors, such as Hamas.

And in a stunning example of historical revisionism, the editorial suggests Israel is the reason a Palestinian state has yet to be realized:

Israel’s current policy pushes Palestinians towards indefinite statelessness, combining ethnonationalist legislation and a continued assault on the sovereignty of the West Bank through illegal settlements that difficults [sic] the prospect of a two-state solution; it merits an assertive and unflinching international response.

What the Crimson completely ignores is the fact that Palestinians’ “eternal statelessness” is intimately connected to their leadership’s eternal rejectionism. It is this decades-long intransigence by Palestinian and Arab leaders, which has included UN resolution 181, the infamous “Three Nos” and the Camp David proposal, that has thwarted the creation of a self-governing Palestinian entity.

The timing of an editorial by the student newspaper of one of the most prestigious universities in the world — coming as the world’s only Jewish state and the Middle East’s sole democracy wrestles with a surge of Palestinian terrorism, mob violence on the streets, and rocket fire emanating from across its borders — is striking.

It is also indicative of a wider trend across American campuses of warping the language of social justice that is especially appealing to young college students to promote the annihilistic goals of BDS.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.