A Harvard task force on antisemitism has gotten off to a rocky start, with complaints that the professor chosen to help lead the panel had signed a letter that was critical of Israel, describing it as “under a regime of apartheid.”
Harvard’s new interim president, Alan Garber, announced the formation of two “presidential task forces” forces on Friday, one to combat antisemitism and the other to combat Islamophobia. The move came less than a month after his predecessor, Claudine Gay, was forced to step down over plagiarism accusations and criticism that she was weak on reining in antisemitism.
Dr. Garber’s choice for co-chair of the antisemitism task force, Derek J. Penslar, a professor of Jewish history at Harvard, met with immediate opposition from Lawrence H. Summers, a former Harvard president, and Bill Ackman, a hedge fund manager whose relentless criticism of Dr. Gay helped bring about her downfall.
Dr. Penslar was among nearly 2,900 academics, clergy members and other public figures who signed an open letter in early August, before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, condemning the Israeli government and saying it was determined to “ethnically cleanse all territories under Israeli rule of their Palestinian population.” The letter said that “Meanwhile, American Jewish billionaire funders help support the Israeli far right.”