More than 100 Harvard professors slam university president for bowing to donor ‘pressure’ and condemning antisemitism

More than 100 Harvard professors have sent a letter to university president Claudine Gay, condemning her for issuing a statement opposing antisemitism on campus — claiming she was bowing to the interests of wealthy donors and alumni, and was infringing on the free speech of students.

“As Harvard faculty, we have been astonished by the pressure from donors, alumni and even some on this campus to silence faculty, students and staff critical of the actions of the State of Israel,” the open letter reads.

“It is important to acknowledge the patronizing tone and format of much of the criticism you have received, as well as the outright racism contained in some of it.”

The letter went on to urge university officials to “affirm its commitment to the freedom of thought, inquiry and expression in light of the extraordinary pressure being brought to bear upon critics of the State of Israel and advocates of the Palestinian people.”

“There must … be room on a university campus for debate about the actions of states, including of the State of Israel,” it said.

“It cannot be ruled ipso facto antisemitic to question the actions of this particular ethno-nationalist government, any more than it would be ipso facto racist to question the actions of Robert Mugabe’s ethno-nationalist government in Zimbabwe,” the professors argued.

More than 100 Harvard University professors have written a letter to university president Claudine Gay condemning her for her statement opposing antisemitism on campus.
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“Nor can arguments that characterize Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state or its recent actions as ‘ethnic cleansing’ or even ‘genocide’ be considered automatically antisemitic regardless of whether one concurs with such arguments.”

The letter also demanded Gay form an advisory group on Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, similar to the one she announced last month she would form to combat antisemitism.

Gay told more than 200 Jewish students and their family members last month that “antisemitism has a very long and shameful history at Harvard,” referring to past anti-Israel acts before the war even broke out, including a 2018 incident in which a swastika was found on a school bulletin board.

“For years, this University has done too little to confront its continuing presence,” Gay continued. “No longer.”

The professors argued that Gay was favoring one group of students over another in her statement on Nov. 9.
In her statement earlier this month, Gay condemned the use of the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which many see as calling for the elimination of Israel.

Gay remained vague about the goals of the board — comprised of school administrators, professors and students — saying that “in the weeks ahead, these advisors … will help us to think expansively and concretely about all the ways that antisemitism shows up on our campus and in our campus culture.”

“They will help us to identify all the places — from our orientations and trainings to how we teach — where we can intervene to disrupt and dismantle this ideology, and where we can educate our community so that they can recognize and confront antisemitism wherever they see it,” Gay added.

The president also condemned the use of the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which many see as calling for the elimination of Israel.

“To have a Harvard president condemn this speech goes too far for us,” said Amir Mohareb, an assistant professor of medicine.

He maintained that freedom of speech — and the disagreements that come with it — is an essential part of higher education.

The professors asked Gay to set up a task force to combat Islamophobia on campus.
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“An institutional environment should be safe for people of all identities and walks of life, but at the same time, not infringe on speech that’s very important for these global issues,” he told the Boston Globe.

“A big part of the education is being exposed to ideas and opinions that one doesn’t agree with.”

History professor Kirsten Weld also said that by releasing her statement condemning antisemitism on Nov. 9, Gay showed favoritism to one side in the conflict.

“In a conflict with high stakes, [Harvard] may not want to look as though it’s taking a side, but if it only takes a task force for one group of students, it sends a message that protecting one group of members of its community is far more important than protecting others.”

The Post has reached out to Harvard for comment.