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Pro-Israel and Jewish students on this campus are staring down the barrel of antisemitism — quite literally.
The Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee has invited a speaker into our community who once tweeted “God rid us of the Zionists,” a statement that we find obviously incendiary as proud Zionists on this campus.
Palestinian writer and poet Mohammed El-Kurd is slated to speak at an event this Monday, titled “Confronting State Violence: Divestment & Youth Activism,” which is being co-sponsored by the Harvard Law School Middle Eastern Law Students Association, Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign, and Harvard Kennedy School’s Palestine Caucus, and will focus on the movement to boycott and divest from Israel.
Digging through El-Kurd’s work surfaces numerous instances of language we were taught in our Jewish day schools was antisemitic. Consider his poetry collection “Rifqa,” in which El-Kurd seems to reference the Israeli state, writing that “they harvest organs of the martyred, feed their warriors our own.” These lines evoke an antisemitic playbook dating back to the Middle Ages, in which Jews are accused of murdering Christian children and baking their Passover matzah with the children’s blood.
El-Kurd has also tweeted, seemingly in reference to Israeli security forces, that he “hate[s] these pigs” and “hope[s] every one of them dies in the most torturous & slow ways. I hope that they see their mothers suffering (not that these conscienceless pigs would care).” He also equates the Israeli government’s practices with those of the Nazis in the Holocaust, a baseless comparison that the U.S. State Department explicitly deems antisemitic.
At times, El-Kurd has seemed to condone violence against the Jewish state outright. He praised the “martyrs” of the Second Intifada, an uprising that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli. He has excused the actions of Hamas, which include launching rockets at innocent people in populated areas, while claiming that Israel has no right to defend itself against the terrorists whose actions he dismisses.
One of us was present in Jerusalem in May 2021, when Hamas fired rockets at Israel’s capital, and had to seek cover in a bomb shelter with his elderly relatives for several minutes until the attack was over. Given that harrowing experience, we cannot help but find El-Kurd’s tweets callous at best.
If this does not qualify as hateful, then what does?
As Zionists, whose connection to the land of Israel plays an integral role in our Jewish identity, who proudly sing “Next year in Jerusalem” every year at our Passover Seder, who view the Jewish return to Israel as the realization of the dreams of generations of our forebears, we are pained to see a speaker come to our campus who seems to support violence in opposition to a core part of our identity.
Harvard already has an antisemitism problem. Just this past year, many Jews were horrified to hear allegations by Government Professor Eric M. Nelson ’99 that a swastika symbol had been found in Currier House. They were disgusted to see imagery reminiscent of the Holocaust painted on a bizarre display in Harvard Yard that seemed to tacitly equate Zionism with Nazism. They were disturbed when this very newspaper’s Editorial Board endorsed the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel movement, a cause that many American Jews consider to be either mostly antisemitic or to have some antisemitic supporters. And they were scared when they discovered an online interactive map that documented the locations of dozens of Boston Jewish organizations in what feels like an apparent “how-to” guide for the hate-crime-curious.
Now, hosting a speaker on this campus who seemingly flirts with antisemitism — especially one who has appeared to endorse the use of violence in some cases — makes Jewish students feel even less safe.
We know what happens when we allow public, antisemitic calls for violence. For one of us, it resulted in his family being murdered in the Holocaust. For the other, it led a gunman to commit a shooting in his majority-Jewish hometown, forcing him to pull his elderly grandparents away from the roar of bullets he was sure were coming their way. We Jews, personal victims of antisemitic attacks, can’t help but wonder: Why would a campus event be any different?
By inviting El-Kurd, the PSC has demonstrated what appears to be a disturbing degree of carelessness and flippancy about antisemitism. We believe they should invite speakers whose views are constructive and lead to dialogue, not those who lead to Jewish students feeling unsafe. When an individual engages in hateful and incendiary behavior, we all have the obligation to speak out, or, at the very least, not invite them into our community.
Harvard must send a strong message to its students by condemning El-Kurd ahead of his speech. They must also carefully review whether the PSC violated any student organization guidelines by providing a platform for El-Kurd to promote his views, which we find abhorrent. To our peers, we ask that you not attend an event featuring a speaker whose language has displayed antisemitic undertones and seemingly exhibited comfort with violence.
We are dismayed to see our peers bring El-Kurd to speak to our campus. We find their willingness to invite such a noxious figure into our midst appalling. Thou shalt not stand idly by.
Jacob M. Miller ’25, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Lowell House. Alexander L. S. Bernat ’25 lives in Lowell House.
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