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May 10, 2022 7:59 am
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Dozens of Crimson Alumni, Harvard Faculty Join Outcry at Paper’s Support of BDS

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Matthews Hall, Harvard University. Photo: Daderot/Wikimedia Commons.

Fallout from the Harvard Crimson’s embrace of the movement to boycott Israel continued on Monday, with dozens of Harvard University faculty members and former leaders of the student newspaper joining statements rejecting its controversial recent editorial.

Sixty-nine past and current affiliates of The Harvard Crimson on Monday signed an “Open Letter of Dissent” protesting the Editorial Board’s endorsement of the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, which has sparked an intense debate on campus.

“A newspaper’s most fundamental obligation, especially vital in our times, is to seek truth,” the Crimson alumni wrote, calling the paper’s stance “an alarming abdication of that duty.”

The letter’s signatories include former Crimson graduate board chair Frank B. Gilbert ’52, former president Ira Stoll ’94, and former editor Alana M. Steinberg ’18. (Editor’s note: Stoll is a regular Algemeiner columnist.)

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“The BDS movement lies about Jewish history, denying the rootedness of the Jewish people in the land of Israel and the presence of Jews in Israel for millennia,” they continued. “It accuses Israel of being grounded in ‘white supremacy’ when the country is in fact a multi-ethnic society, in which the majority of Jews are of Middle Eastern and North African descent and in which Arab citizens are represented in government.”

“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. In so doing, the editorial board sends a message to every Jewish student on campus that Jewish history and the Jewish endeavor toward self-determination are to be erased, at a time when antisemitic incidents in this country have reached historic highs,” the group wrote.

The open letter follows one signed last week by former university president Larry Summers, which has since been joined by over 100 Harvard faculty members in total, including legal scholar Gabriella Blum, art historian Jeffrey Hamburger, and Jeffrey Flier, former dean of Harvard Medical School.

Arguing that “BDS compromises education goals by turning the complex and intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a caricature that singles out only one side for blame,” it urged the newspaper to “repair the damage caused by writing such a divisive staff editorial.”

On Monday, Miriam Elman, Executive Director of the Academic Engagement Network, told The Algemeiner she hopes the Crimson retracts the editorial.

“It is an adult thing to do,” she said. “It would be a way for the editorial board to say, ‘We’ve listened and we’ve heard and we will do better.”

Another missive by Crimson alumni published Monday, joined by former New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse and Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz, called the editorial “seriously damaging to a newspaper we love, and which has a very proud history.”

“You have endorsed a movement which is not a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it is quite simply an accelerant of antisemitism,” they wrote. “And you have abrogated your editorial responsibility by failing to sort lies and distortions from truth.”

In a Monday news article, the Harvard Crimson — whose alumni include former US Presidents, business moguls, and celebrated journalists and academics — reported on the  “international furor” set off by the editorial, with criticism coming from US lawmakers, Israeli columnists, and the Harvard University community.

Responding to the controversy, Crimson president Raquel Coronell Uribe said the paper “strives for diversity and inclusivity in all respects, from diversity of identity to diversity of opinion.”

“The Crimson rejects discrimination, including antisemitism, in all its forms — both among our staff and in our pages,” she told the Crimson. “Staff editorials represent solely the majority view of the Editorial Board, and are the result of discussions at editorial meetings, at which only active members of the editorial board may vote.”

“The role of The Crimson’s Editorial Board is to cultivate dialogue among our readers and to serve as a springboard for debate,” Uribe continued. “We are appreciative of the various submissions and points of view that have been offered thus far. The Crimson editorial pages remain open for submissions on this topic and all others.”

The student paper also reported Monday that university president Lawrence Bacow declined to comment on the editorial at a recent faculty meeting, while insisting the university does not support “any suggestion of targeting or boycotting a particular group because of disagreements over the policies pursued by their governments.”

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