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Tags: harvard university | antisemitism | professor | derek penslar | task force | israel | critical

Harvard Facing Criticism Over New Antisemitism Task Force Chair

By    |   Tuesday, 23 January 2024 10:45 AM EST

Harvard University is under a new round of criticism over interim President Alan Garber's appointment of a professor of Jewish history to co-chair its newly formed Presidential Task Force on Combating Antisemitism, calling into question the professor's criticisms of Israel.

The professor, Derek Penslar, was named along with Raffaella Sadun, a professor of business administration to head up the task force formed after the resignation of former Harvard President Claudine Gay, who stepped down over controversy surrounding her statements about antisemitism during a congressional hearing, Axios reported.

Garber also announced the formation of a Presidential Task Force on Combating Islamophobia and Anti-Arab Bias, to be headed by Wafaie Fawzi, a professor of global health, and Asim Ijaz Khwaja, a professor of international finance and development.

Last year, before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Penslar joined with approximately 2,900 academics, clergy, and public figures to sign a letter that stated the purpose of the Israeli government is to "deprive Palestinians of equal rights" and "ethnically cleanse all territories under Israeli rule of their Palestinian population."

Former Harvard President Larry Summers, billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, and others who have spoken out against antisemitism at the Ivy League school are speaking out against Penslar, who last month in an opinion piece called for "a better understanding of what is — and is not — antisemitic" and said "Conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism magnifies divisions within our Harvard community."

The university commented Garber "believes that the effort to combat antisemitism at Harvard will benefit from a variety of perspectives and experiences, including those offered by [the] co-chairs."

Ackman, one of those who pushed for Gay's resignation, said in a post that Harvard "continues on the path of darkness" by appointing Penslar to head the antisemitism task force.

Summers, meanwhile, said that with the appointment, he has "lost confidence in the determination and ability of the Harvard Corporation and Harvard leadership to maintain Harvard as a place where Jews and Israelis can flourish."

He added he does not doubt Penslar "is a profound scholar of Zionism and a person of goodwill without a trace of personal antisemitism who cares deeply about Harvard," but with his record, he is "unsuited to leading a task force whose function is to combat what is seen by many as a serious antisemitism problem at Harvard."

The appointment has also come under fire by Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who said the announcement is a display of "lessons in how NOT to combat antisemitism, Harvard edition."

A Harvard spokesman said Penslar is "widely respected across the Harvard community as someone who approaches his research and teaching with open-mindedness and respect for conflicting points of view and approaching difficult issues with care and reason" and he is "deeply committed to tackling antisemitism and improving the experience of Jewish students at Harvard."

Penslar, meanwhile, said in a statement the task force is "an important opportunity to determine the nature and extent of antisemitism and more subtle forms of social exclusion that affect Jewish students at Harvard."

Sandy Fitzgerald

Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics. 

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


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Harvard University is under a new round of criticism over interim President Alan Garber's appointment of a professor of Jewish history to co-chair its newly formed Presidential Task Force on Combating Antisemitism, calling into question the professor's criticisms of Israel.
harvard university, antisemitism, professor, derek penslar, task force, israel, critical
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2024-45-23
Tuesday, 23 January 2024 10:45 AM
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