The College Fix: Harvard antisemitism task force draws skepticism due to chair’s criticisms of Israel
February 7, 2024

by Kate Roberson in The College Fix

Harvard University’s new Presidential Task Force on Combating Antisemitism is drawing criticism due to co-chair Professor Derek Penslar’s history of anti-Israel comments.

Penslar, a professor of Jewish history, was a signatory to an August 2023 letter criticizing the Israeli government for creating “a regime of apartheid” and adopting a “messianic, homophobic, and misogynistic agenda.”

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Harvard formed the task force Jan. 19 amid growing concerns about antisemitism on campus and the administration’s response to it. In early January, President Claudine Gay resigned after facing plagiarism allegations and criticism for her statements to Congress about antisemitism. The Ivy League school also is facing backlash from alumni and major donors and a lawsuit from Jewish students.

But the new task force has not alleviated concerns for many.

“Harvard is trying to virtue signal while encouraging pervasive hostility to Jews to continue,” Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, told The College Fix last week when asked about the task force.

Menken said Penslar’s appointment as co-chair is particularly troubling.

“Penslar is an advocate for anti-semitism in its most potent current form: claiming to only oppose Israel,” he said.

The letter that Penslar signed criticized Israel for denying “Palestinian people … almost all basic rights,” but Menken said Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that “welcomes both Jews and Arabs into all aspects of government and public life.”

“To call that ‘apartheid’ is Nazi propaganda, and, as the reactions to Oct. 7 on Harvard’s own campus demonstrate, it leads to precisely the same place: justifying atrocities,” the rabbi told The Fix

Read the full article in The College Fix

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