Harvard pro-Palestinian faculty group apologizes for sharing post with antisemitic image


(JTA) – A group of pro-Palestinian faculty and staff at Harvard University apologized Monday for posting an image that school administrators and Jewish leaders called antisemitic, in the latest row over Israel at the Ivy League institution.

The image was posted to Instagram this week by Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, a recently formed collective, to illustrate the links between pro-Palestinian activism and Civil Rights-era groups. It includes a 1960s-era cartoon of a hand emblazoned with a Star of David and a dollar sign holding Muhammad Ali and Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser in a noose.

“The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee likened Zionism to an imperial project,” read the image caption, referring to the influential 1960s Civil Rights activist group. The cartoon appeared to be a cropped version of a SNCC cartoon that upset Jewish groups at the time

Harvard denounced the image Monday on Instagram, and announced that its administrative board, an oversight body with disciplinary authority, would review the posts.

“Such despicable messages have no place in the Harvard community,” the university wrote. “We condemn these posts in the strongest possible terms.”

The faculty and staff group subsequently deleted the post and published an apology.  

“It has come to our attention that a post featuring antiquated cartoons which used offensive antisemitic tropes was linked to our account,” the group posted Monday on Instagram. “We apologize for the hurt that these images have caused and do not condone them in any way. Harvard FSJP stands against all forms of hate and bigotry, including antisemitism.”

Harvard has been beset by controversy over campus anti-Israel activism since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. Last week, a congressional committee issued subpoenas to Harvard administrators as part of a broader investigation into antisemitism at the university. Two weeks ago, the Department of Education opened an investigation into the university’s treatment of pro-Palestinian students targeted by pro-Israel harassment. 

And last month, Claudine Gay, Harvard’s president, resigned under pressure following plagiarism allegations and a congressional hearing in which she declined to say that calling for the genocide of Jews violated campus policy.

On Monday, critics pointed to the image as evidence that the school still has an antisemitism problem. 

“The cartoon is despicably, inarguably antisemitic. Is there no limit?” Rabbi David Wolpe, a visiting scholar at the school who resigned from its antisemitism advisory committee in December, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. 

Harvard Hillel, Harvard Chabad and the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which issued the subpoenas against the school, also condemned the post. Jeffrey Flier, a former dean of Harvard Medical School, wrote on X, “No debate about this being anti-Semitic.”

A screenshot of the offending image indicates it was reposted from the accounts of two campus pro-Palestinian student groups. One of them, the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee, was also behind a widely criticized student letter in the days after Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel that blamed Israel “entirely” for the attack.

The original cartoon was condemned as antisemitic when SNCC published it in 1967, shortly after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War widened a growing rift between Black and Jewish activists. The full cartoon depicted the hand with the Star of David as belonging to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan

“Zionists conquered the Arab homes and land through terror,” the original caption read. It also referenced an age-old antisemitic conspiracy theory, citing “The famous European Jews, the Rothschilds, who have long controlled the wealth of many European nations.”

The pro-Palestinian faculty group does not publicly post its membership roster and did not respond to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment. According to the Harvard Crimson, it was founded in January by at least 65 Harvard faculty and staff upset with the university over what it claimed were efforts to “methodically censor, surveil, and discipline students, faculty, and staff for teaching and speech that is critical of the state of Israel.”

The pro-Palestinian student groups who originally uploaded the post, including one devoted to “African and African American Resistance,” also deleted the original post and apologized. 

“In an earlier version of this post we shared an image that was not reflective of our values as organizations,” they wrote on Instagram, adding, “Our mutual goals for liberation will always include the Jewish community — and we regret inadvertently including an image that played upon antisemitic tropes.”

This week, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government also hosted Jared Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and onetime advisor, for an event at which the Harvard alum said recognizing a Palestinian state now would be akin to “supporting an act of terror perpetrated in Israel.” Kushner also praised Harvard even as he, like others upset over its handling of antisemitism, said he thought it had “perhaps maybe lost its way a little bit.”

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