‘Harvard Crimson’ editors back BDS as ‘living breathing movement of great promise’ – and Israel lobbyist shrieks

The Harvard Crimson offices in Cambridge, MA

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  April 30, 2022

Harvard Crimson editors endorse BDS saying it is the best tool to liberate Palestinians from their “violent reality,” and the Israel lobby is concerned.

This is big and beautiful, imho [in my humble opinion] — the Harvard Crimson yesterday came out for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions targeting Israel, calling BDS a “living, breathing movement of such great promise” for “Palestinian liberation.”

The editors said they did so despite the risk of being “shunned” by newsrooms.

Their eloquent editorial is a landmark in the growth of the Palestinian solidarity movement in our country, and the angry response from a leading American Israel lobbyist shows the importance of the moment.

It’s a moment because the Harvard college paper is a training ground for ambitious Establishment journalists (I was a top editor there when a future in mainstream media seemed the world to me). If you lose Harvard, some day you will lose The New York Times.

The editors lambaste themselves for getting here late, but the editorial’s language is unapologetic:

Palestinians, in our board’s view, deserve dignity and freedom. We support the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement as a means to achieving that goal… As a board, we are proud to finally to finally lend our support to both Palestinian liberation and BDS — and we call on everyone to do the same.

The editors say the stance is rooted in “foundational principles we must uphold,” even when it’s difficult to do so. Of course they cite the recent apartheid reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and say, “Israel’s current policy pushes Palestinians towards indefinite statelessness, combining ethno-nationalist legislation and a continued assault on the sovereignty of the West Bank through illegal settlements.”

I’ve said that those apartheid reports are a fad, and a good fad. We all knew it was apartheid 15 and 20 years ago– only now you’re allowed to say so, because all the experts say so. And the Crimson editorial means that it’s going to be OK to support BDS. That’ll be a fad too– mark my words. And Israel will experience the tsunami of delegitimization its leaders have been warning us about for the last few years.

The Crimson says it rejects its earlier stance of 20 years ago that BDS doesn’t get at the “nuances” of the conflict. Because you can’t “nuance away Palestine’s violent reality.”

We regret and reject that view. It is our categorical imperative to side with and empower the vulnerable and oppressed. We can’t nuance away Palestinian’s violent reality, nor can we let our desire for a perfect, imaginary tool undermine a living, breathing movement of such great promise.

The Crimson is celebratory about BDS’s achievements:

the tactics embodied by BDS have a historical track record; they helped win the liberation of Black South Africans from Apartheid, and have the potential to do the same for Palestinians today. 

Crimson editors study the play-board of ambition if they do anything (I can tell you) and they are honest about the career cost of taking the stance:

Even for journalists, openly condemning the state’s policies poses an objective professional risk. Only last year, the Associated Press prompted outcry after firing a news editor over college-age tweets critical of Israel. The controversial decision followed a long-established pattern: Dare question Israel’s policies or endorse Palestinian freedom and you will be shunned from the newsroom, past accomplishments or legitimate arguments be damned. For college students like ourselves, speaking bluntly about events in the region can prompt online harassment or even land you on a blacklist.

They even say that they have the “privilege” of an anonymous byline so their careers won’t suffer. They cite the killings of nearly 50 Palestinians, including 8 children, this year by Israel.

What this immense opposition to student activists and journalists makes clear is the overwhelming power imbalance that defines and constricts the ongoing debate. 

The Israel lobby is freaking out, or one of its pillars if flipping out. Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League clearly sees his role as a spokesperson for Israel. I thought his job was antisemitism-watch? Greenblatt says the editorial is antisemitic in effect (as a Harvard president once said).

This @thecrimson editorial endorsing #BDS is beyond disturbing. Contrary to its claims, endorsing BDS does nothing to help Palestinians & only serves to delegitimize Israel’s existence, and isolate & intimidate the Jewish community, especially on campus.

Greenblatt has a thread on the editorial, because it represents a real threat to the establishment/prestige discourse. He and I know that supporting BDS may now become a fad.

The Crimson says it’s not antisemitic!

We feel the need to assert that support for Palestinian liberation is not antisemitic. We unambiguously oppose and condemn antisemitism in every and all forms, including those times when it shows up on the fringes of otherwise worthwhile movements. 

But the simple answer is that Jonathan Greenblatt doesn’t care about the eight Palestinian children killed this year. The Crimson does. And so do more and more Americans.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006

thanks to Dave Reed and Adam Horowitz.