Harvard Antisemitism Task Force Reports’ Dire’ Situation For Israeli Students

Harvard University’s antisemitism task force issued a preliminary report Wednesday highlighting widespread bias and harassment against Jewish students across campus and urging the university to take immediate action.

Harvard had previously created the antisemitism task force in November 2023 following a rise in anti-Israel activities at the school after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks. The task force reported that the situation of Israeli students at Harvard has been “dire,” noting instances where students been subject to social exclusion, discrimination, bullying or harassment based on their Israeli nationality. The report denounced the behavior as a gross violation of university policy and urged the university to condemn the behavior and subject the perpetrators to substantive disciplinary action.

“The administration should explore methods to build support systems for Israeli students and to ensure sufficient ability to prevent, or if needed, capably and speedily address, such issues in the future,” the report noted.

Harvard’s antisemitism task force attracted controversy due to the appointment of professor Derek Penslar as its leader. Penslar previously signed an open letter that said Israel has “grown more right-wing” and is a “regime of apartheid” in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reforms.

The task force recommended a range of actions, starting with training university employees on how to handle complaints as well as antisemitism awareness initiatives and anti-harassment training for all students.

Likewise, Harvard’s Task Force on Combating anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias at the university reported widespread suppression of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian students’ freedom of expression. The group reported that many students felt uncertain, abandoned and under threat, and that terms like “Palestine” and “Palestinian” had become stigmatized and avoided on campus.

The anti-Muslim Task Force’s short-term recommendation plans to dedicate the summer to conducting research on the historical, political, and sociological roots of bias against Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians on campus, as well as expanding Palestinian studies in the curriculum and hiring tenure-track faculty dedicated to this field.

Republican politicians and donors have been particularly outspoken in urging Harvard to tackle antisemitism on its campus since Oct. 7 Hamas-let attack on Israel and the conflict in Gaza.

 “We must strengthen our ties with a sustained commitment to engaging each other with tact, decency, and compassion,” Alan Garber, Harvard’s interim president, wrote in a message sharing the preliminary recommendations with the Harvard community. “Our learning cannot be limited to purely academic pursuits if we hope to fulfill our responsibilities to one another and to the institution that is our intellectual home.”

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