For the first time at Harvard, I feel heard as a Palestinian. When The Crimson Editorial Board published their unequivocal backing of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel, I felt that a milestone had been reached.
For years, organizers with the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee and its divestment campaign have hosted speaker events, held rallies, and called for boycotts. Our mission has always been simple: supporting the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, justice, and equality. Too often, unfortunately, this organizing attracts backlash, hate, and relentless smear campaigns, the intent of which is to deny the reality of lived Palestinian experience and silence voices. This year’s Board has shown us that our work is being seen. Our voices are being heard. Now, it is time for wider action from the Harvard community.
PSC members have persevered despite the constant backlash, institutionally-backed opposition, and threats. I will not shy away from the fact that these challenges frequently came from The Crimson itself. On some occasions, we struggled to guarantee representative reporting. On others, members voiced their distress that they were denied the right to publish anonymously as supporting Palestine publicly can lead to online harassment, a profile on websites like Canary Mission, or the blatant label of antisemitism.
But today, I am proud to be at Harvard during this time. I am proud that The Crimson Editorial Board is listening to our voices. They were brave enough to stand for justice. Their support of BDS is a defiant recognition of Israel’s crimes against humanity. They finally listened to what Palestinians, including those at Harvard, have been calling for for decades.
As expected, The Crimson has been inundated with immense opposition. This opposition is all too familiar to PSC members and social justice activists. The uncomfortable truth is that people don’t like to be called out for excusing apartheid. There will always be those who treat Palestine as an exception; there will always be those who refuse to admit the reality which is only now coming to be seen as truth: that Palestinians live under apartheid.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are typically considered credible sources. When it comes to Palestine, however, it seems that their readers throw their credibility out the window. Even the reports of leading Israeli organizations like B'tselem and Yesh Din have fallen on deaf ears. People simply refuse to confront the blatant facts that stare them dead in the eye. Why? Because to do so means confronting the reality that the narrative they cherish so dearly is a reality of what U.N. human rights investigators have deemed ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Protesting and speaking up are encouraged until the moment you mention Palestine. Then you must stay silent. Boycott and divestment are effective tools for achieving political liberation until you apply them to Palestine. Then you aren't being ‘nuanced’ enough.
The Board put it best: “Israel remains America’s favorite first amendment blindspot.” Must the world always be this way? No. The time for change is here, human rights are not complicated. There are no preconditions for ending apartheid. There is no exception. There is no inconvenient time to call for the liberation of a suffering people. We will not stop advocating for justice no matter who stands against us.
Some loud, powerful, and influential voices on campus believe that Palestinian humanity and human rights are up for debate; they proudly stand behind an apartheid system. All this does is fuel us to speak louder.
They will push back. They will slander. They will intimidate.
We will organize. We will boycott. We will hold our ground.
Why? Because our morals compel us to take this stand. Because the tide is changing on campus. Because we cannot be silent about human rights abuses.
There are still those members of our community who feel it’s “too complicated” to take a stand. I say to those people as they waver on the fence to open their eyes to the brutal apartheid regime that Palestinians live under. I admire the courage of the students who decided to take a stance this semester and boycott Israel Trek. You have shown Harvard that BDS has an impact. You are proof that we can and must fight injustice at every point we confront in the world. You do not need to see it or experience it to understand it.
A significant milestone it may be, but this is merely one stop in a long struggle toward freedom. Calls for divestment are not attempts to politicize a ‘neutral’ institution. This institution has never been neutral. The decision to invest in fossil fuels, prisons, and Israeli apartheid were politicized decisions. Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine demands the University rectify that decision. We will continue to demand that the University disclose its direct and indirect investments in companies complicit in human rights abuses towards Palestinians; divest such holdings; and reinvest in Palestinian history, culture, and communities. You should too.
Nadine S. Bahour ’22, a Neurosciences concentrator in Leverett House, was co-president of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee.