The Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee kicked off its annual Israeli Apartheid Week on Sunday, which includes a slate of events around Palestine and an art installation that received criticism from some Jewish campus organizations.
The Committee organized seven events for the week, including panels that highlighted student activism, experiences of LGBTQ+ Palestinians, and South African-Palestinian and Kurdish-Palestinian solidarity. The final organized event of the week is a Sunday drag performance by Egyptian-Canadian artist Halal Bae.
The PSC, described on its website as an organization “dedicated to supporting the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, justice, and equality through raising awareness, advocacy, and non-violent resistance,” hosts the programs as part of the international Israeli Apartheid Week movement that began in 2005.
Like previous years, several of the Committee’s events centered on intersectionality. Dalal Hassane ’26, a PSC organizer, said these sessions were important for recognizing both parallels and tensions between different groups.
“I think, like with any other group, it’s very important to highlight the significance and impact of solidarity between Palestinians and other occupied groups around the world,” Hassane said.
A Thursday conversation titled “South African Palestinian Solidarity” featured Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions co-founder Omar Bargouti and drew parallels between the apartheid in South Africa and its “modern counterpart in Israel,” according to the PSC’s Instagram.
On Tuesday, the Committee hosted a panel on student activism with guest speakers from the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley, who discussed the climate around pro-Palestine activism on their respective campuses.
Nadine S. Bahour ’22, who moderated the panel, said Tuesday that the Israeli-Palestinian geopolitical conflict is relevant to other global social issues.
“Every single topic that you can think of, Palestine, it’s happening there, because it’s a full country with people that have all the same problems that everyone else has,” she said. “I think that’s why it applies to everywhere.”
As part of the week, the Committee also installed a mock apartheid wall composed of a series of painted panels, with one reading, “There is no zionist state without racism colonialism ethnic cleansing.” Another reads, “Veritas? Harvard upholds apartheid. We are all complicit.”
Harvard spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo declined to comment on the PSC’s installation.
The wall, installed in Science Center Plaza, is intended to serve as a reminder that “freedom from state violence and oppression is a universal struggle,” according to a post on the PSC’s Instagram.
On Monday, Harvard Hillel Israel Chair Daniel O. Denenberg ’26, Hillel Intern for Combating Antisemitism Sabrina P. Goldfischer ’23, and Hillel President and Crimson Editorial editor Jacob M. Miller ’25 wrote in an email to Hillel affiliates that they found the wall “offensive.”
“We’re emailing you because in previous years this wall has been a talking point for much of Harvard’s Jewish community. For some Jews, it has also been painful and offensive,” they wrote. “However much you care, Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. It is our historic homeland. It has held together our people and shaped our culture and practice for eighty generations.”
“We therefore unambiguously reject the PSC’s characterization of Zionism as racist or colonialist,” they added.
The statement specifically criticized one panel of the wall “featuring black and white imagery” that they called “reminiscent of the Holocaust concentration camps for many last year.”
Some members of Hillel, Harvard Chabad, and Harvard Israel Initiative stood in Science Center Plaza and Harvard Yard to provide Jewish student perspectives on the installation to passersby.
Sarah Bolnick ’23, co-president of Harvard Israel Initiative, acknowledged the intention behind the installation, but said she considers it “a form of hate speech.”
“It’s supposed to be beautiful and symbolic, but I think if you look at it, it really is very offensive and aggressive,” Bolnick said.
In an emailed statement to The Crimson Thursday, Miller said Hillel encourages dialogue between different views but criticized the PSC’s rhetoric.
“At Harvard Hillel we welcome a variety of views on Israel and believe that dialogue and debate are vital when discussing such a complex issue,” Miller said. “But ridding our discussions of substance and throwing around inaccurate buzzwords to describe a complicated situation is counterproductive and immature.”
Hassane said those who find the wall offensive should reflect on the installation from a Palestinian perspective.
“This is an art installation that’s supposed to represent the apartheid wall that currently stands in Palestine,” Hassane said. “I think that they need to ask themselves, ‘How does this wall affect Palestinians? How does this wall affect the people that it was built to oppress?’”
“I think that it’s just very important for us to recognize, to listen to the voices of Palestinian people. Not only the voices coming from Palestine, but the voices of Palestinians on campus,” she added. “They’re often overshadowed. They’re often silenced.”
—Staff writer J. Sellers Hill can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SellersHill.
—Staff writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nia_orakwue.