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Harvard Antisemitism Task Force Chair Called Israel a ‘Regime of Apartheid’

A professor who was recently tapped to serve as co-chair of the Presidential Task Force on Combating Antisemitism at Harvard had reportedly called Israel a “regime of apartheid” in an August letter.

Derek Penslar — a professor of Jewish history whom interim Harvard president Alan Garber recently tapped to be the co-chair of the school’s antisemitism task force — signed an open letter alongside hundreds of academics that called Israel “a regime of apartheid,” according to a report by the Washington Free Beacon.

“There cannot be democracy for Jews in Israel as long as Palestinians live under a regime of apartheid,” the letter states.

While Penslar has also criticized anti-Israel initiatives, such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, antisemites who call for the annihilation of the world’s only Jewish state use the claim that Israel is a “regime of apartheid” in their attempt to do so.

The letter in question goes on to claim that American Jews “have paid insufficient attention to the elephant in the room: Israel’s long-standing occupation that, we repeat, has yielded a regime of apartheid.”

It also asserts that in recent years, Israel has “grown more right-wing and come under the spell of the current government’s messianic, homophobic, and misogynistic agenda,” and calls on U.S. lawmakers to “restrict American military aid” from being used in what it calls, “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Penslar, who has written books about Jewish history and the founding of Israel, has reportedly said that he is concerned with “rising anti-Semitism and about how hostility to Jews and Israel can be intertwined.”

Notably, Penslar had also organized faculty members to defend former Harvard President Claudine Gay, who resigned earlier this month following antisemitism scandals at the Ivy League university, a disastrous congressional testimony, and scores of plagiarism allegations being unearthed in recent months.

Additionally, the task force — created to identify “the root causes” of antisemitism at Harvard — was established amid criticism of Gay having declined to say at the congressional hearing whether advocating for the genocide of Jews is permissible on campus.

Harvard Professor and former Harvard President Larry Summers reacted to Penslar’s chair appointment in a Sunday X post, writing, “I have 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.”

Summers added that while he has “no doubt” that Penslar is “a profound scholar of Zionism and a person of good will,” he does not believe that Penslar is suited to lead “a task force whose function is to combat what is seen by many as a serious anti-Semitism problem at Harvard.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and X/Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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