When, two months ago, the Harvard Crimson endorsed the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel, the story received some national attention, especially in Jewish media. But the problems for the university’s Jews, J.J. Kimche and Angelique Talmor explain, go much further. The “idea that Jews don’t belong in Israel,” they write, “has become de rigueur” at Harvard, and has penetrated far beyond courses on the Middle East.
The Chan School of Public Health hosts courses such as “The Settler-Colonial Determinants of Health,” which focuses on demonstrating how Israel’s “settler colonial” society undermines the health of “indigenous people.” Harvard Divinity School’s program of Religion and Public Life has hosted a year-long series of anti-Israel seminars, platforming numerous speakers who advocate for the “decolonization” and even the “de-Judaization” of Israel. It is hard to imagine that any other national entity would be subject to seminar after seminar informing them that their own national aspirations are uniquely illegitimate.
This makes Harvard less welcoming for Jewish students. Those who wish to enter the classes of Amos Yadlin, a retired Israeli general and politician, at Harvard Kennedy School have had to walk through a gauntlet of protesters accusing them of complicity in genocide. Jewish students have had to walk next to the “apartheid wall” constructed in Harvard Yard during Passover, which employs Holocaust imagery to depict Israel’s behavior toward Palestinians and declares that “Zionism = Racism.”
Inside many classrooms, Jewish students are too intimidated to speak out against the new intellectual and social orthodoxy that deems Israel to be the world’s worst human-rights violator. Having witnessed this process repeat itself across the university, we can’t avoid the suspicion that such hatred of the world’s largest Jewish collective is a smokescreen for something darker.