A February 2024 Instagram image reposted by Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, since deleted, showing a cartoon with antisemitic imagery that originated in the Civil Rights Era. The post is depicted over an image of the Harvard Yard gates. (Image via X; David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Harvard students, rabbi sound alarm on antisemitic cartoon

SHARE THIS STORY

HELP SUPPORT JEWISH JOURNAL

Harvard students, rabbi sound alarm on antisemitic cartoon

A February 2024 Instagram image reposted by Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, since deleted, showing a cartoon with antisemitic imagery that originated in the Civil Rights Era. The post is depicted over an image of the Harvard Yard gates. (Image via X; David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

When Harvard University graduate student Genia Lukin saw a cartoon shared on social media by several pro-Palestinian groups on campus, she instantly felt that it was antisemitic.

Lukin, who is Israeli, learned about the image along with fellow members of a WhatsApp group last Monday morning, after one member posted a screenshot. Lukin had a sense of deja vu.

“It so happened that I’d seen this cartoon before, reading on the history of antisemitism,” she said. “So it was easy for me to source it and know where it came from.” And, she added, “together we sourced it, referenced it, then submitted complaints and wrote the emails to all the relevant parties.”

The cartoon was among the more recent campus controversies at Harvard, which, like many universities, has seen tensions rise since the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel and the resulting Israeli war against Hamas. The impact at Harvard has drawn outside scrutiny, including from Congress. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce subpoenaed three Harvard officials earlier this month and criticized a Harvard faculty group for sharing the cartoon. A group of Jewish alumni has sued Harvard, alleging that the campus tensions are devaluing their degrees.

Meanwhile, Prof. Raffaella Sadun, the co-chair of a university-wide task force on antisemitism, stepped down from her post.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat antisemitism and believe that President Garber has assembled an excellent task force,” Sadun said in a statement. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”

In a statement, Harvard Interim President Alan Garber said that Sadun had decided to refocus her efforts on her research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities. Garber said that Jared Ellias, the Scott C. Collins Professor of Law, had been added to the leadership of the Presidential Task Force on Combating Antisemitism.

The cartoon was originally from 1967 and attributed to a publication of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights organization. It showed a hand bearing a dollar sign within a Star of David holding two men in separate nooses, with the men reportedly identified as two celebrities of the era – then-Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and Black American boxer Muhammad Ali. (The hand reportedly belonged to then-Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan.) A separate hand is about to cut through the nooses, accompanied by the words “Third World Liberation Movement.”

Two student groups had posted the cartoon this month – the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee, and the African and African American Resistance Organization. It was also re-posted by Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine. All three organizations have deleted their original posts and issued apologies.

“All of the apologies were very passive-voice apologies. ‘This happened. We don’t know how it happened,’ ” Lukin said.

“Did the cartoon sneak in there without any person copying and pasting it into the material?” she asked. “Did it have a will of its own?”

Other Jewish Harvard affiliates decried the cartoon. One of them – Harvard Divinity School student Shabbos Kestenbaum, who is part of a group of Jewish students suing the university for an allegedly antisemitic atmosphere – urged action to follow the condemnation of the cartoon.

“Until I see the enforcement of policies and disciplinary action taken against these antisemitic students and faculty, the condemnation and newfound commitment from Harvard to combat antisemitism are merely words only,” Kestenbaum wrote in an email.

Rabbi David Wolpe, a visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity School, said that the cartoon “promulgated a blatantly antisemitic image … designed to arouse hate.”

“If [the apologies] did not come against a background of other agitations and statements, I would take them more seriously,” he said. Θ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jewish Journal is reader supported

Jewish Journal is reader supported