Antisemitism row reignities at Harvard after groups share ‘offensive cartoon’ - Hindustan Times
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Antisemitism row reignities at Harvard, professor resigns after backlash over offensive cartoon shared by faculty group

Feb 21, 2024 03:42 PM IST

Harvard University caught in antisemitism scandal again after faculty group reposted an old cartoon laden with offensive tropes

Harvard University has found itself entangled in another antisemitism scandal, forcing interim president, Alan Garber to issue a statement.

Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, reposted an old cartoon laden with "offensive tropes," depicting a Jewish person hanging a Black and an Arab man
Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, reposted an old cartoon laden with "offensive tropes," depicting a Jewish person hanging a Black and an Arab man

The row reignited after a faculty group, Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, reposted an old cartoon laden with "offensive tropes," depicting a Jewish person hanging a Black and an Arab man. The controversial cartoon was originally shared by two student groups, the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Africa and African American Resistance Organization, according to the Harvard Crimson.

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What is the controversial Harvard Cartoon?

The cartoon, which dates back to 1967, portrays a hand with a dollar sign inside a Star of David, holding nooses around individuals resembling Muhammad Ali and former Egyptian President Gamal Nasser. A black arm is depicted swinging a machete with the words "liberation movement" on it, and the phrase "third world" is printed around the arm. The student groups claimed they shared the poster to highlight “African people's profound understanding of apartheid and occupation.”

However, the reposting of the antisemitic cartoon has added to accusations that Harvard fails to adequately protect Jewish students from hate. Rabbi David Wolpe, a Harvard Divinity School scholar who resigned from the school's antisemitism advisory committee in December, called the cartoon “despicably, inarguably antisemitic.”

Shabbos Kestenbaum, a Divinity School student suing the university for discrimination, expressed outrage, stating, "Harvard faculty just posted an explicitly antisemitic poster depicting a Jewish hand controlling the black mind. With professors like these, it's easy to see why Jewish students don't feel safe in class."

Faculty group professor resigns after backlash

Walter Johnson, a professor of History and of African and African American Studies, resigned as a faculty adviser to the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and from Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine after the groups faced a wave of backlash for sharing a post containing an antisemitic image.

Faculty group apologises, “We removed the content”

The faculty group, formed shortly after the university faced criticism over its handling of antisemitism under former president Claudine Gay, issued an apology, stating, "It has come to our attention that a post featuring antiquated cartoons, which used offensive tropes, was linked to our account. We removed the content as soon as it came to our attention. We apologize for the hurt these images have caused and do not condone them in any way."

Harvard University has initiated a probe into the incident

Harvard University's interim president, Alan Garber, also condemned the antisemitic cartoon. In a statement, Garber said, "Perpetuating vile and hateful antisemitic tropes, or otherwise engaging in inflammatory rhetoric or sharing images that demean people on the basis of their identity, is precisely the opposite of what this moment demands of us." The university is conducting an investigation into the social media posts and may refer the matter to the Harvard College Administrative Board for potential disciplinary actions.

This incident follows recent congressional subpoenas issued to top school officials over their "continued failure" to comply with an antisemitism probe. Several Harvard alumni, including billionaires Len Blavatnik and Ken Griffin, have halted donations to the university, demanding more action to address antisemitism on campus. The controversy intensifies the scrutiny Harvard has faced since the conflict between Hamas and Israel in October 2023, with Harvard alumni expressing concerns about the institution's response to antisemitism.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Vertika Kanaujia is Editor Audience Growth at Hindustan Times and oversees the website’s coverage of business news, health, technology and internet culture. She is a Chevening Scholar and a Columbia Journalism University Fellow. Vertika has been a journalist for more than 18 years. After starting her career as a business journalist in TV she has worked with various leading news channels. You can email her at vertika.kanaujia@htdigital.in.

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