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April 3, 2023 11:32 am

Harvard Apartheid Wall Denounced by Leading Campus Jewish Group


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

University Hall at Harvard University. Photo: Marco Almbauer/Wikimedia Commons

Harvard University’s Hillel chapter on Friday criticized an “offensive” Apartheid Wall displayed erected on campus by the campus’ Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC).

“There is no zionist state without racism colonialism ethnic cleansing,” said the wall, which was placed in The Science Center Plaza in Harvard Yard, according to The Harvard Crimson. “Veritas? Harvard upholds apartheid. We are all complicit.”

In an email to the Crimson, Hillel Israel Chair Daniel Denenberg, Hillel Intern for Combating Antisemitism Sabrina Goldfischer, and Hillel president and Harvard Crimson editorial editor Jacob Miller, and others said PSC’s portrayal of Israel is false.

“In previous years this wall has been a talking point for much of Harvard’s Jewish community. For some Jews, it has also been painful and offensive,” the email said. “However much you care, Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. It is our historic homeland. It has held together our people and shaped our culture and practice for eighty generations.”

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Another student, Sarah Bolnick of Harvard Israel Initiative, told the Crimson that the Apartheid Wall is “a form of hate speech,” arguing that “it’s supposed to be beautiful and symbolic, but I think if you look at it, it really is very offensive and aggressive.”

Dalal Hassane, a PSC member, disagreed, suggesting that critics of the wall of had not thought “about the people it was built to oppress.”

Antisemitism at Harvard is pervasive, according to 50 interviews conducted for a student’s, Sabrina Goldfischer, senior thesis, which is titled “The Death of Discourse: Antisemitism at Harvard College” and argues that Jewish students on campus face ideological bias and discrimination.

According to Goldfischer’s research, who also serves as Harvard Hillel’s Intern for Combating Antisemitism, 62.5 percent of students reported experiencing antisemitism or personally know someone who has, 68.7 said they self-censor in academic and social settings, and 83 percent said they have experienced anti-Zionism. One interview subject said that during a pre-orientation tour of the campus, a program leader stopped at Hillel and described as one of the “bad parts of Harvard” and accused it of being “part of an effort to dominate the conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campus.”

In another incident, during a class for a course on the Holocaust, students allegedly “downplayed the desecration of the Holocaust and the extent to which Jewish people were persecuted,” demanding to know, for example, why discussions focused on Jewish suffering. The instructor allegedly affirmed their views and was later dismissed.

“The types of challenges Jewish students face cannot be seen in a vacuum, and have dark implications for the state of Jews everywhere,” Goldfischer concluded. “The experiences of Jewish students at Harvard matters, therefore, for these students, for conceptualizing the larger experience of American Jews, and for understanding various minority experiences and the wider dangers of self-censorship.”

Last May, Harvard University faculty issued a letter expressing “dismay” over the Harvard Crimson Editorial Board’s endorsement of the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Organized by the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), an education nonprofit, its signatories included psychology professor Steven Pinker, the law school’s Jessie Fried, and former university president Larry Summers.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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