Harvard’s antisemitism task force leader once called Israel a “regime of apartheid.”
Derek Penslar, a Jewish history professor, was appointed to the position by President Alan Garber on January 19.
“Reports of antisemitic and Islamophobic acts on our campus have grown, and the sense of belonging among these groups has been undermined,” the January 19 announcement read. “We need to understand why and how that is happening—and what more we might do to prevent it.”
“I write today to announce two presidential task forces: one devoted to combating antisemitism and one devoted to combating Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias. Though differently focused, the groups are similarly charged with:
- examining recent history and current manifestations of bias;
- identifying the root causes of and contributing factors to bias-based behaviors on campus;
- evaluating evidence regarding the characteristics and frequency of these behaviors; and
- recommending approaches to combat bias and to mitigate its impact on campus.”
In August, Penslar was one of almost 3,000 people signing a letter calling Israel an apartheid regime.
“There cannot be democracy for Jews in Israel as long as Palestinians live under a regime of apartheid, as Israeli legal experts have described it,” the letter says. “Indeed, the ultimate purpose of the judicial overhaul is to tighten restrictions on Gaza, deprive Palestinians of equal rights both beyond the Green Line and within it, annex more land, and ethnically cleanse all territories under Israeli rule of their Palestinian population.”
“American Jews have long been at the forefront of social justice causes, from racial equality to abortion rights, but have paid insufficient attention to the elephant in the room: Israel’s long-standing occupation that, we repeat, has yielded a regime of apartheid,” the letter added.
“As Israel has grown more right-wing and come under the spell of the current government’s messianic, homophobic, and misogynistic agenda, young American Jews have grown more and more alienated from it. Meanwhile, American Jewish billionaire funders help support the Israeli far right.”