Over 100 Harvard faculty say accusing Israel of genocide is not anti-Semitism

View of the iconic architecture of the Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., with some locals, tourists and students passing by.
View of the iconic architecture of the Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., with some locals, tourists and students passing by. | iStock/Marcio Silva

Over 100 Harvard faculty members signed a letter to the university president declaring that labeling Israel an "apartheid state" and accusing the country of committing genocide against Palestinians should not automatically be considered anti-Semitism. 

The letter, published on on Tuesday, accused Harvard University President Claudine Gay of enforcing a "one-sided" debate about Israel by preventing students and faculty from criticizing the Jewish state. 

Harvard did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment.

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"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 document stated. "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 faculty members wrote the letter in response to Gay's Nov. 9 directive, titled "Combating Antisemitism," which announced the plan to implement a program intended to educate Harvard students and staff about anti-Semitism. 

In the directive, Gay condemned the phrase "from the river to the sea," noting that the phrase calls for the eradication of Jews and Israel, and is harmful to the Jewish community. 

In their letter, the faculty members expressed understanding that Gay would want to highlight the importance of language following Hamas' Oct. 7 assault against civilians in Israel that killed over 1,200 people. The terrorist group has called for the murder of the Jewish people, and Hamas members have bragged about the Jews they killed on Oct. 7. 

While the faculty agreed that certain language merits condemnation, they argued that it is not anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli government or to compare it to "ethno-nationalist" governments, like dictator Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe. 

"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 stated. 

The letter asserts that the phrase "from the river to the sea, Palestine must be free" is a matter of debate, stating that the history behind the slogan is "complicated."  

"Its interpretation deserves, and is receiving, sustained and ongoing inquiry and debate," the letter reads. 

The faculty also cited numbers from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry to imply that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, over 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes and a ground invasion seeking to eradicate Hamas, a terrorist group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. 

Days before beginning its ground invasion, Israel urged the over 1 million civilians in northern Gaza to flee to the south. Israel maintains it has the right to defend its citizens from the threat of Hamas and is doing all it can to prevent civilian casualties. Israel has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields. 

The letter concluded with a list of steps for the Harvard president to support "intellectual freedom" at the university, including the creation of "an advisory group on Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism." 

The faculty members requested Gay resist calls to suspend the Palestine Solidarity Committee for releasing a statement holding Israel responsible for the violence committed against it last month. 

Several student groups that signed onto the letter — including Amnesty International at Harvard, Harvard College Act on a Dream and the Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association — later withdrew their signatures. 

A spokesperson for Act on a Dream claimed at the time that its board members were unaware that the organization had signed the letter, which does not reflect AOD's views on the situation in Israel.  

On Oct. 10, Gay released a statement condemning Hamas and its terrorist actions against Israel. She also clarified that the views of students or student groups do not speak for the university as a whole. 

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, the phrase "from the river to the sea" calls for Palestine to extend from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which would mean the elimination of Israel.

The phrase is often heard at anti-Israel rallies, explained the ADF, and calls for the removal of Jews from their ancestral homeland.

"Usage of this phrase has the effect of making members of the Jewish and pro-Israel community feel unsafe and ostracized," the ADF stated.

"It is important to note that demanding justice for Palestinians, or calling for a Palestinian state, should not mean, as this hateful phrase posits, denying the right of the State of Israel to exist."

The Harvard faculty letter contends it's wrong to single out the phrase as "necessarily implying removalism or even eliminationism" when "over a million Palestinians have been forced from their homes and over ten thousand civilians, including four thousand children, have been slain in Gaza."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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