Harvard condemns student and faculty groups for posting antisemitic cartoon

People take photos near a John Harvard statue, left, on the Harvard University campus, Jan. 2, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
People take photos near a John Harvard statue, left, on the Harvard University campus, Jan. 2, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Harvard University has condemned what it called a “flagrantly antisemitic cartoon” that an undergraduate group posted on social media over the weekend. It also appeared on the Instagram account of Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine.

Copied from a newsletter published by students in the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the image features a Black man and an Arab man with nooses around their necks, held by a hand imprinted with the Star of David that has a dollar sign in the middle of the star.

The image was removed and the student and faculty groups apologized, but the post prompted a storm of criticism that Harvard isn’t doing enough to protect its Jewish community.

“Perpetuating vile and hateful antisemitic tropes, or otherwise engaging in inflammatory rhetoric or sharing images that demean people on the basis of their identity, is precisely the opposite of what this moment demands of us,” Alan Garber, Harvard’s interim president, said in a letter Monday to the school community.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and the African American Resistance Organization took responsibility for what they acknowledged is a “harmful antisemitic trope.” The image was copied from a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee newsletter and included in an infographic urging Black and Arab people to unite in protest of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

“The inclusion of the offensive caricature was an unprompted, painful error — a combination of ignorance and inadequate oversight,” the student groups’ statement says. “It never should have been published to begin with. We wholeheartedly apologize for the immense harm we caused.”

The faculty and staff group also apologized after the infographic also appeared on its Instagram story, insisting that they stand against all forms of hate and bigotry, including antisemitism.

“We removed the content as soon as it came to our attention,” the faculty and staff group wrote. “We apologize for the hurt these images have caused and do not condone them in any way. ”

Garber says the university is reviewing the matter to determine exactly who was responsible and “what further steps are warranted.”

“As members of an academic community, we can and we will disagree, sometimes vehemently, on matters of public concern and controversy, including hotly contested issues relating to the war in Israel and Gaza, and the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Garber continues. “But it is grossly irresponsible and profoundly offensive when that disagreement devolves into forms of expression that demonize individuals because of their religion, race, nationality, or other aspects of their identity.”

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