The Harvard academic Bernie Steinberg reveals what many politically astute people have already recognised. A sinister use of the claim of antisemitism to silence legitimate debate. Those who scream ‘we are entitled to our opinion’ and ‘free speech’ are the worst offenders.
He states that he now feels compelled to address a worrying trend: the manipulation of antisemitism to stifle valid criticism of Israel. This misuse often targets pro-Palestinian advocates, intimidating them or marginalising those who don’t conform to certain expectations.
He gives recent examples of incidents involving Harvard’s new President, Claudine Gay, that highlight this issue. Steinberg identifies the baseless accusations against her, insinuating support for genocide, as being rightly dismissed by the Harvard Corporation. He commends this decision and urges Harvard to stand firm against any future attempts by influential entities to interfere in university matters, especially personnel decisions.
He also cites the removal of the University of Pennsylvania’s president as a stark reminder of the consequences when we allow such unscrupulous forces to dictate our leadership. The stakes are high, demanding our unwavering vigilance.
As a member of the Jewish community, he describes how he is ‘deeply troubled’ by the current tactic of manufacturing an antisemitism scare, diverting attention from genuine concerns about Jewish safety, and using it as a political tool to shield Israel’s contentious policies on Palestine.
Israeli officials have themselves admitted that this policy of malicious antisemitism claims has been a long-term strategy
Steinberg goes on to say that what makes this even more troubling is the power imbalance: well-connected figures, both Jewish and non-Jewish, targeting vulnerable groups like students, untenured faculty, people of colour, Muslims, and particularly Palestinian activists. In other words, they are being racist.
Even Jewish students at Harvard are feeling marginalised by certain Jewish organisations on campus. This should not be happening, he states, and he proclaims that Judaism’s essence extends beyond any single organisation. He asks Jews to embrace their heritage, study Torah, and delve into Jewish history and ethics. Use this knowledge to empower yourselves, your community, and even to form your own Jewish groups.
Challenge Israel’s actions not despite being Jewish, but precisely because of it. Speaking truth to power, a fundamental part of Judaism, demands courageous criticism, starting from within our own community.
Having spent decades ensuring the safety of Jewish individuals, including young people, it’s a matter that deeply concerns him and keeps him awake at night. He has personally faced antisemitism, even violent attacks, so he recognise its gravity. Yet, the label of antisemitism is often misused to suppress legitimate discourse.
Let’s be clear, Steinberg espouses: Advocating for justice for all Palestinians in their ancestral lands isn’t antisemitic. Those voicing this view seek justice and equality for a cause they genuinely believe in—an essential movement against the ongoing mistreatment of Palestinians.
If Israel’s cause is just, it should stand firm on its own merits. Silencing opposition through smear tactics suggests insecurity rather than strength. If Israel truly believes in its case, it shouldn’t resort to branding critics as antisemites.
Steinberg goes on to express his desire that Jews must all confront and combat real antisemitism in the U.S. (and beyond), especially from the increasingly mainstream white supremacist ideologies. To effectively address this, we must differentiate between genuine antisemitism and fabricated charges used to muzzle legitimate critique of Israeli policies and its supporters in the U.S.
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