Harvard Chooses Prof Who Called Israel ‘Apartheid’ State to Co-Chair Antisemitism Task Force

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January 22, 2024

Harvard University announced the creation of an antisemitism task force late last week, and it’s already facing intense scrutiny for choosing as its co-chair a professor who has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and labeled the Jewish state “a regime of apartheid.”

Interim Harvard President Alan Garber named Derek Penslar, a historian and director of Harvards Center for Jewish Studies, as the task force’s co-leader, an appointment that quickly drew the scorn of Jewish leaders and prominent figures within the Ivy League school’s ecosystem, Jewish Insider reported.

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“Yes, we have a problem with antisemitism at Harvard, just like we have a problem with Islamophobia and how students converse with each other,” Penslar told JTA earlier in January. “The problems are real. But outsiders took a very real problem and proceeded to exaggerate its scope.”

Those comments, though, are mild in comparison to things Penslar said last year.

For a December column published in The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student-led newspaper, the professor in question argued the focus on the rise of antisemitism at Harvard has “obscured the vulnerability of pro-Palestinian students, who have faced harassment by actors outside of the university and verbal abuse on and near campus.”

In August, Penslar added his signature to a letter blatantly charging Israel with ethnic cleansing and implementing “a regime of apartheid” against Palestinians. Furthermore, the letter’s writers accused the Israeli government of implementing a “messianic, homophobic, and misogynistic agenda” and called on U.S. lawmakers to “restrict American military aid from being used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The backlash against Garber’s decision to appoint Penslar was swift.

Harvard University – the rot of antisemitism at the disgraced school sinks to a new low as Derek Penslar, a member of the schools task force to FIGHT antisemitism, is outted for calling Israel an apartheid regime.— StopAntisemitism (@StopAntisemites) January 21, 2024

Background on Derek Penslar, Harvard professor named today by interim president Alan Garber as co-chair of an antisemitism task force. I think Penslar is a terrible selection to co-chair this task force. Here is why: 1) Signed August 4, 2023 Elephant in the Room letter about— Ira Stoll (@IraStoll) January 19, 2024

The creation of the antisemitism task force accompanied by a similar group combatting Islamophobia comes weeks after embattled Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned, according to CBN News.

Gay was facing allegations of plagiarism as well as fierce criticism over testimony she gave before the U.S. Congress, during which she refused to state calls on the university campus for the genocide of Jewish people would clearly violate the school’s code of conduct.

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