Harvard’s Discrimination Problem Goes Beyond Race-Based Admissions, Report Finds

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Kate Anderson Contributor
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  • Harvard University was recently ranked as the top school for “assaults on Jewish identity” as ongoing concerns about potential discrimination against Asian applicants reached the Supreme Court earlier this year.
  • Harvard had more than double the recorded incidents of antisemitism than the second-ranked school for the year 2021, according to the report.
  • “If someone’s Jewish identity is strongly tied to Israel it must feel like a dangerous space,” a Jewish Harvard student told DCNF.

While Harvard University is currently before the Supreme Court defending its admissions policies that discriminate against Asian and white students, a recently released report found that the Ivy League university is suffering from discrimination of another kind: antisemitism.

An annual report for the year 2021 released by the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to combating antisemitism, ranked Harvard as the top school for “assaults on Jewish identity.” With 25 incidents reported, Harvard’s total nearly doubled the University of Chicago, which came in second with 13 incidents in 2021, with instances of antisemitism split into three categories: redefinition, denigration and suppression. (RELATED: Biden Admin Launches Investigation Into UC Berkeley Over Alleged Antisemitism)

The AMCHA defines redefinition as the belief that Zionism and Judaism have nothing to do with each other and that support of Israel is a “colonial political project that exploits Judaism,” while denigration is the attempt to vilify those who do support Israel or Jews with “undue privilege, power or influence.” Suppression calls for boycotting, divesting, and sometimes shutting down events, programs, or beliefs that are deemed Zionist, according to the group.

Harvard had 14 incidents of redefinition, 16 of denigration and 13 of suppression in 2021, according to AMCHA’s report, with many of the incidents overlapping all three categories.

AMCHA Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told the Daily Caller News Foundation that universities have a hard time “spotting antisemitism.”

“The massive assault on Jewish identity — attempts to chisel away and erase students’ connection to their Jewish faith, people, and history — on campuses across the country is no coincidence,” Rossman-Benjamin explained. “It is the latest strategy adopted by those who traffic in antisemitism, whether from the right or the left, to further normalize antisemitism and make it easier to harass, bully and abuse Jews on campus, and harder for Jewish students to seek recourse.”

Two Jewish Harvard students, Zachary Lech and Alex Bernat, told DCNF expressed that during their time at the university antisemitism was not uncommon and realized that it was also not a priority for the administration.

“Harvard wants to shine [a light] on what is currently popular without necessarily taking into consideration the practical ramifications,” Lech, who is a also CAMERA Campus Fellow, said. “They are less, in my view, interested about actual wellbeing as they are in looking good.”

“Quite frankly, the easiest way to frame it is Jews look white and, therefore, you know, it doesn’t work. They don’t care,” Bernat explained.

Bernat and Lech mentioned an event on campus involving Palestinian activist Mohammed El-Kurd, who is originally from Eastern Jerusalem and previously called Zionism a “death cult,” “murderous,” “genocidal” and “sadistic,” according to the Jewish News Syndicate.

During the event, a Jewish student, who is a close friend of Bernat, asked El-Kurd to condemn the acts of terrorism committed by Palestinians against Jewish citizens in Israel. El-Kurd refused and “got tons of applause for it,” Bernat stated.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 31: Proponents for affirmative action in higher education rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 31, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

While Lech and Bernat stated they believe everyone has the right to speak and give their opinion on a subject, both expressed frustration that their concerns about rhetoric like El-Kurd’s were not taken seriously. Lech said the university had a pattern of responding to the concerns of other marginalized groups, but not to the Jewish community.

“My cynical answer would be that yes to some extent Harvard is very comfortable to allow this kind of discrimination to happen on campus just because it’s [commitment] to issues regarding DEI is superficial at best and more done out of a sense that this is what is socially accepted these days and not out of genuine concern for the well being of any group,” Lech said.

Bernat told the DCNF that one of the pro-Palestine groups was allowed to hold this year’s annual “Israel Apartheid Week” during the Jewish holiday of Passover from Apr. 18-22. The Hillel chapter on campus held a “Stand With Israel” rally to combat “the anti-Israel apartheid week,” according to the university’s student newspaper the Harvard Crimson.

Bernat said Jewish high school seniors looking to attend the prestigious university should be aware of what they are walking into. He clarified that most of the time it’s fine, but when it’s not it’s hard to ignore.

“If someone’s Jewish identity is strongly tied to Israel it must feel like a dangerous space,” Lech said.

Rossman-Benjamin noted that a “new solution” was needed.

“University administrators must acknowledge that harassment and bullying that denies Jewish students – or any student – of the ability to fully participate in campus life should never be tolerated, and they must establish a singe behavioral standard for responding to harassing behavior, irrespective of the motivation of the perpetrator or the identity of the victim,” she stated.

El-Kurd, and Harvard did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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