The ‘Harvard Crimson’ cheap ploy - comment

The editorial has not aged well. Within a week of its publication, on May 6, two Palestinian terrorists wielding an axe and a knife murdered three Jewish fathers in the Orthodox town of Elad.

GRANT NEWMAN: The board’s members are so out of touch from the reality in which Jews live in Brooklyn, Elad and beyond. (photo credit: Courtesy)
GRANT NEWMAN: The board’s members are so out of touch from the reality in which Jews live in Brooklyn, Elad and beyond.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

On April 29, 2022, The Harvard Crimson published an editorial by the Crimson Editorial Board in support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement in general, and of the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee in particular. In the editorial, the board offered “support to those who have been and continue to be subject to violence” in Judea and Samaria and condemned “unlawful killings that victimize Palestinians day in and day out.”

The editorial has not aged well. Within a week of its publication, on May 6, two Palestinian terrorists wielding an axe and a knife murdered three Jewish fathers in the Orthodox town of Elad as Israeli Independence Day celebrations came to a close. The murdered Jewish fathers left behind 16 orphans: Yonatan Habakkuk, father of five; Boaz Gol, father of five; and Oren Ben Yiftach, father of six. This act of terror makes clear that Jews, even in Israel, “have been and continue to be subject to violence” and are victims of “unlawful killings... day in and day out,” to use the board’s phrasing.

The contrast between the imaginary world that the board depicts in its editorial, on the one hand, and the real world in which Jews live, on the other, is stark. Indeed, after comparing the two worlds, one cannot help but conclude that the board genuinely lives in a bubble that extends not one foot beyond Harvard Yard. The questions posed to the board in this article are an attempt to pierce that bubble (impenetrable though it may be) and in so doing facilitate the same “civil discourse and debate” called for by the board.

In its editorial, the board wastes no time explaining to the reader that, despite maintaining its anonymity in the editorial, its support of BDS is a truly brave act. The reason for this, according to the board, is that “for journalists, openly condemning [Israel’s] policies poses an objective professional risk,” and so by supporting BDS, the members of the board are supposedly risking their professions and opening themselves up to “online harassment” – again, in each case despite the fact that the members of the board write anonymously and as a group.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that the allegations of professional risk and online harassment of journalists who support BDS are true. Firstly, are we to believe that Harvard students are actually going to be punished for supporting BDS? Given that Harvard College has a Palestine Solidarity Committee, one must conclude that Harvard is at least accommodating to (and perhaps even encouraging of) supporters of Palestine.

Buildings in Harvard Yard are reflected in frozen puddle at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 20, 2015. (credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)Buildings in Harvard Yard are reflected in frozen puddle at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 20, 2015. (credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)

Secondly, are we to believe that being harassed online for supporting BDS is on par with, say, being punched in the back of the head in Brooklyn for wearing a kippah? It appears that the board is unable to comprehend that Jews in Brooklyn – let alone Elad – are subject not simply to being mocked in a virtual forum, but to actual violence and physical injury for no other reason than that they have decided to wear a kippah and thereby present themselves as Jews to the physical world.

EQUATING EVEN the most vitriolic online harassment with random acts of bloody violence against religious persons is naive at best, deranged at worst, and in any event indicative of the board’s distance from physical reality. Moreover, it appears that the board has a distorted understanding of bravery: Bravery is not anonymously writing a group editorial with which the vast majority of fellow Harvard students, faculty and staff will agree; on the contrary, bravery is openly wearing a kippah knowing that there is a material chance that doing so will result in being punched in the back of the head in one’s neighborhood while walking home from work (if not from school).

The very fact that the board draws attention first and foremost to the supposed sacrifice its members are making by anonymously supporting BDS, while ignoring, for example, antisemitic acts of violence against religious Jews in Brooklyn, shows both the self-interest with which the board published its editorial and how out of touch the board’s members are from the reality in which Jews live in Brooklyn, Elad and beyond.

But the assumption made at the beginning of the preceding paragraph regarding professional risk and online harassment is far from certain. For example, during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021 it was discovered that AP News was allowing Hamas to hide in its headquarters in al-Jalaa Building in Gaza, believing that Israel would not strike the headquarters of AP News. (AP News was wrong and Israel liquidated the Jalaa Building on May 15, 2021, citing its use as a hideout by Hamas.)

Given that AP News not only acted as a cheerleader of Hamas during the conflict but even went so far as to have its journalists act as human shields for Hamas, are we to believe that members of the Board are at risk professionally for supporting BDS? If members of the board are at any professional risk, then it likely is that merely supporting BDS is insufficient, as it seems that journalists who work for the likes of AP News now must not only write articles in support of Hamas but also must be prepared to die to protect Hamas and further its interests.

One must conclude that the board lives in an imaginary world where online harassment and professional risk represent the outer limits of comprehensible pain and suffering. Unknown to its members is the pain and suffering experienced in the real world that exists beyond the bubble that is Harvard Yard, whether such pain and suffering are felt and experienced in Brooklyn or Elad. As such, one must seriously discount the editorial of the board and take it for what it is: a cheap ploy by insular college students to signal their virtue and position themselves on the “right” side of history (as the term “history” is understood in Harvard Yard, if not beyond).

The writer is a publishing adjunct at the MirYam Institute and a Harvard Law School graduate where he was an executive editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.