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Jewish advocates want next Harvard president to call out antisemitism

‘What Harvard didn’t do correctly was immediately demand Gay’s resignation’

Harvard University’s next president must fully condemn antisemitism, Jewish advocates told The College Fix.

The Fix asked what Harvard leadership has done correctly and incorrectly since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023 and what concrete steps the next president should take to deal with criticism from both pro-Palestinian voices and Israel advocates.

Provost Alan Garber is currently serving as the interim president.

Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, an organization that “supports Israel and fights antisemitism,” stated that “Claudine Gay did the right thing by resigning because she could not come out clearly against the dangerous rhetoric against Jewish people on her campus.”

“This sets an example for other university administrations across North American campuses,” Rothstein told The Fix via a media statement. “Dangerous rhetoric must never be tolerated against any minority group or nationality, including Jews.”

Emeritus Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz called for clear free speech rules from his employer.

“There must be a single standard for free expression,” Dershowitz told The Fix via email. “Under Gay, there were different rules for anti-Jewish and anti-Black expression.”

Rabbi Yaakov Menken of the Coalition for Jewish Values said Gay should have more strongly condemned antisemitism, including during the December 2023 Congressional hearing that began her downfall.

“What Harvard didn’t do correctly was immediately demand Gay’s resignation,” Rabbi Menken told The Fix. “It is outrageous that it took accusations of plagiarism to remove a university president who claimed ‘context’ determines whether calls for genocide are discriminatory—when made against Jews.”

Menken said that pro-Palestinian voices “say nothing about lack of democracy, women’s rights, individual conscience or free speech under the [Palestinian Authority] or Hamas. They care only about historical revisionism that claims a ‘Palestinian’ is an ‘indigenous’ Arab, not a Jew. That’s Antisemitism, and must be recognized as such.”

“Universities need to start taking the issue seriously. Calls for intifada and ‘from the river to the sea’ are veiled calls for violence, ethnic cleansing, and genocide,” he said. “There is no [First Amendment] right for a student group expressing these things to be recognized or funded—in fact it may violate federal anti-terrorism laws. So I would call that an obvious first step.”

During the December 2023 hearing, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, MIT President Sally Kornbluth, and Gay were asked by Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik if calling for the “genocide of Jews” violated university conduct rules.

All three were criticized for what seemed like apathetic responses about free speech and context. Magill resigned soon after and Gay did as well, after nearly 50 allegations of plagiarism as well as backlash from Israel supporters.

“It is appalling that Kornbluth has not been removed at MIT, and that Gay, a woman so deeply racist in her thinking as to accuse her critics of ‘racial animus,’ remains a tenured professor teaching students whom she sees through a racial lens,” Menken said.

Gay will reportedly retain her nearly $900,000 per year professorship.

Stefanik’s office told The Fix on a phone call it would provide comments but it has yet to do in the past two weeks. It has not responded despite a second follow-up phone call on Jan. 22.

The Fix reached out to a variety of Jewish and Israel groups for comment in the past several weeks, but many did not respond.

The Fix contacted the Anti-Defamation League, the Harvard Jewish Law Students Association, the Harvard Law School Alliance for Israel, Jewish Voice for Peace, J Street, the Harvard Club of Israel, and the Harvard Jewish Alumni Alliance.

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Benjamin Rothove is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has 50,000 subscribers on YouTube, serves as the Chairman of UW-Madison Students for DeSantis, and is the National Vice-Chair of Young Leaders for Keep Nine.