Harvard’s Empty Words

Brandeis Center sends a devastating letter to Harvard calling it out on antisemitism at the nation’s oldest university.

AP/Elise Amendola, file
The campus of Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachusetts. AP/Elise Amendola, file

To anyone who is under the impression that the antisemitism crisis erupting on American college campuses began only on October 7 we commend the letter to Harvard’s general counsel, Diane Lopez, from the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. To anyone under the illusion that that crisis is a problem of only student protesters, rather than faculty members and administrators, we commend the same letter. 

The epistle lays out a pattern of facts from the Spring of 2023, when three Israeli students enrolled in a class on organizing taught by a Harvard Kennedy School lecturer, Marshall Ganz. The students proposed a project to “strengthen Israel’s liberal and Jewish democracy.” Mr. Ganz demanded that they find another topic. The students stood their ground and found legal help. According to the letter, Mr. Ganz “informed the students that the problem with their project was the word ‘Jewish.'”

Harvard hired an outside investigator to check it out. The factfinder determined that Mr. Ganz “denigrated the Students’ identities as Israelis and Jews.” It found that “he compared the Students’ purpose to Christian white supremacy in an effort to demonstrate that their claim to ‘Jewish democracy’ was ‘contradictory.’” The outside investigator concluded that the “cumulative effect” of the professor’s “acts indeed created a hostile learning environment.” 

That environment, the factfinder concluded, was hostile for the students “based on their Israeli nationality and Jewish ethnicity and ancestry, and effectively denied them the opportunities of a safe learning environment in the Course.” How did Harvard respond? It did nothing publicly to punish the professor. Instead, it published a lengthy puff-piece profile of Mr. Ganz in the Harvard Gazette, the university’s publicity organ.

The piece celebrated Mr. Ganz as a civil rights hero. As the Brandeis Center letter puts it, though, “publicly featuring him in this fashion, mere months after he was found to have created a hostile environment for his students, suggest[s] the pledge made to the Students that the university would fully address the violations were mere empty words.” It had “no genuine intent to address the antisemitism on its campus.”

The Brandeis letter spells out the connection between Harvard’s silence on Mr. Ganz and other issues and the pro-Hamas mobs that have been marauding through Harvard’s campus. One such group at Harvard Business School engaged in what Senator Mitt Romney and investor Seth Klarman have described as a “violent assault of an Israeli student.” Harvard’s response so far to those mobs has been threefold.

 First, the university announced publicly that the college’s office of career services would help each of the pro-Hamas mob members find a job after graduation. Second, the graduate-student union, representing the individuals who grade papers and lead discussion sections in many Harvard classes, approved a resolution condemning “Islamophobic” harassment, rejecting as “not germane” a plea from Jewish members to add a denunciation of antisemitism.

Third, the university president, Claudine Gay, showed up at Harvard Hillel at shabbat dinner. Astonishingly, while ostensibly showing support, the president echoed the talking point of the pro-Hamas mob by castigating the Jews about what she termed “the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Separately, she erroneously conflated Israeli civilians killed by Hamas terrorists with Palestinian civilians killed in Israeli self-defense operations.

President Gay referred to “the deaths of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, infants and children among them.” Ms. Gay also was neutral in denouncing “instances of antisemitism and of vitriol directed to supporters of Israel and to members of our Jewish community” along with “instances of Islamophobia and of relentless targeting of members of our Palestinian and Muslim communities.” 

As the Brandeis Center letter put it, Harvard “has engaged in ‘whataboutism’ — blithely equating the acts of Hamas, which terrorizes and targets civilians, to the actions of the IDF, which seeks to minimize civilian deaths while protecting a country that serves as a final refuge for Jews.” In February at the Kennedy School, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Carr Center, Ken Roth, dismissed concerns about antisemitism as “the usual name calling.”

Mr. Roth still works at the Kennedy School, as does Marshall Ganz. Mr. Ganz’s Harvard profile also lists him as a consultant to the “Sunrise Movement,” of whose Dartmouth branch a couple of members were recently arrested by the Hanover, New Hampshire, police on a complaint from Dartmouth’s president, Sian Leah Beilock, after threatening “physical action” to advance their demand that Dartmouth divest from “Israeli apartheid.”

Brandeis University was set up in part in response to admissions quotas against Jews at Harvard College and other members of the Ivy League. Harvard’s president has been talking about finally confronting the institution’s legacy of antisemitism (let her try to get credit for this in Professor Ganz’s class). By the time she does her confronting, the Jewish students at Harvard, now at 6 percent, may well be gone.

A number of people who care about the university, who have been giving her the benefit of the doubt as she learns the new job, are beginning, on the basis of her actions and words, to lose confidence that she’s up to it.  Or even that the governing boards that supervise her care one way or another. The senior fellow of Harvard’s governing Corporation, Penny Pritzker, spent 2013 to 2017 as a cabinet member of the Obama administration.

During that period, the administration was flying $1.7 billion in cash to Iran. No doubt that lucre went to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the eventual sponsor and trainer of the Hamas  terrorists who, October 7, 2023, commenced their slaughter of the peaceable Jews in southern Israel. Will Ms. Pritzker be remembered in history as the board chairwoman under whom Harvard shrank from the truth and issued empty words?

The New York Sun

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