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We, as Crimson alumni, are writing in support of Harvard's Jewish community and the many others at Harvard who believe in the state of Israel’s right to exist, and to express our dismay at the current editorial direction of The Harvard Crimson, an institution to which we have all been devoted.
A newspaper's most fundamental obligation, especially vital in our times, is to seek truth. Last week’s editorial “In Support of Boycott, Divest, Sanctions and a Free Palestine” is an alarming abdication of that duty.
The BDS movement lies about Jewish history, denying the rootedness of the Jewish people in the land of Israel and the presence of Jews in Israel for millennia. It calls Jewish Holocaust survivors who sought refuge in the ancient land of the Jewish people, and the 850,000 Jewish refugees driven from neighboring Arab states, “settler colonialists.” (What other refugees – from Ukraine to our southern U.S. border – may be slandered in such a way when fleeing persecution?) It accuses Israel of being grounded in “white supremacy” when the country is in fact a multi-ethnic society, in which the majority of Jews are of Middle Eastern and North African descent and in which Arab citizens are represented in government.
And BDS calls Zionism “racism,” when Zionism — which is belief in the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in its historic homeland — is the Jewish iteration of an essential aspiration welcomed and cheered on when expressed by every other people on our planet. The BDS movement claims to seek “justice for the Palestinians” — a goal we share — but, actually, it seeks the elimination of Israel. Omar Barghouti, BDS co-founder and leader, has said plainly of the movement: “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” We take him at his word.
In endorsing and amplifying the BDS movement’s untruths — and that is what they are: lies — the Crimson’s editorial staff betrays its basic journalistic responsibility to ground arguments in facts. In so doing, the editorial board sends a message to every Jewish student on campus that Jewish history and the Jewish endeavor toward self-determination are to be erased, at a time when anti-Semitic incidents in this country have reached historic highs.
We write to assure the many Harvard students whom the Crimson has now alienated that they have allies standing with them to lament how a once great newspaper and cherished institution of Harvard has chosen to abandon the hard work of journalism and instead traffic in slogans and slander.
Frank B. Gilbert ’52 is a former chair of The Crimson’s Graduate Board. Ira E. Stoll ’94 was president of The Crimson in 1993. Alana M. Steinberg ’18 is a former Crimson editor.
A full list of the 69 signatories to this letter can be found here.
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