Harvard creates task force on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia


BOSTON (AP) — Harvard University is struggling to manage its campus response. Israel-Hamas warannounced a task force on Friday to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

“Reports of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts have increased on our campus, and the sense of belonging among these groups has diminished,” Harvard’s interim president Alan Garber said in a letter to the school community. “We need to understand why and how this is happening – and what else we can do to stop it.”

Resignations follow separate task forces Harvard President Claudine GayWho faced criticism during his congressional testimony on anti-Semitism as well as allegations of plagiarism.

Hamas attacks on October 7 killed 1,200 people in Israel, mainly civilians, and about 250 others were abducted. About 130 Israeli hostages are believed to be in Hamas captivity. The war that Israel declared in response killed about 25,000 Palestinians, causing widespread destruction and driving more than 80% of the territory’s 2.3 million people from their homes, according to Gaza health officials.

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outcome created a stir on campus A debate over free speech reignited across America. College leaders have struggled to define the line where political speech turns into harassment and discrimination, with both Jewish and Arab students raising concerns that their schools are doing too little to protect them.

This issue came to a head in December when Presidents of Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and MIT Testified at a congressional hearing on anti-Semitism on campus. A Republican lawmaker asserted that supporting the “intifada” is equivalent to calling for the genocide of the Jews, and then asked whether such rhetoric violates campus policies. The presidents responded legally and refused to explicitly say that this was prohibited speech.

Garber said the goal of the task force is to find out why anti-Semitism and anti-Arab bias are on the rise at Harvard and to propose recommendations to counter it.

“Strengthening our relationships with each other will require considerable effort and engagement across the university,” Garber wrote. “I have asked each task force to begin extensive outreach, and I encourage you to share your perspectives and your experiences with the same care and candor. “We have an opportunity to confront challenges with far-reaching impact.”

The Anti-Semitism Task Force is co-chaired by Derek Pensler, the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Rafaela Sadun, the Charles E. Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. The Task Force on Anti-Arab Bias and Islamophobia is co-chaired by Wafai Fawzi, the Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, and Asim Ijaz Khawaja, the Sumitomo-FASID Professor of International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Gay had formed a committee to advise university leaders on anti-Semitism during his short tenure, but his testimony prompted a rabbi at Harvard Divinity School to resign from that effort. Rabbi David Volpe said in an email Friday that he will be reaching out to people associated with the anti-Semitism task force, saying he hopes it will “be able to create and enforce policies that will change the climate on campus.”

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