As Harvard Warns of Disciplinary Action, Pro-Palestine Groups Apologize for Antisemitic Image


Updated February 20, 2024, at 2:10 a.m.

The University announced Monday evening that it is investigating social media posts that contained an antisemitic image from two pro-Palestine student groups and would refer the matter to the Harvard College Administrative Board.

“Such despicable messages have no place in the Harvard community,” the University wrote in a statement posted on Instagram. “We condemn these posts in the strongest possible terms.”

The Ad Board — an administrative body responsible for the application and enforcement of undergraduate policies — will review the posts, a sign that Harvard might look to take disciplinary action against the groups that published the antisemitic image.


While the post originated from two student organizations — Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and the African and African American Resistance Organization, most of the initial criticism was directed at a Harvard faculty and staff pro-Palestine group that reposted the image in an Instagram story.

Shabbos “Alexander” Kestenbaum, a Harvard Divinity School student who sued the University last month alleging its failure to address antisemitism on campus, slammed Harvard faculty in a post on X for sharing “an explicitly antisemitic poster depicting a Jewish hand controlling the black mind.”

“With Professors like these, it’s easy to see why we Jewish students don’t feel safe in class,” Kestenbaum wrote.

The image, which appeared to come from a June 1967 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee newsletter, depicted a hand branded with the Star of David with a dollar sign at the center of the star holding a noose that circles the necks of two men who appear to be Muhammad Ali and former Egyptian President Gamal Nasser.

The phrase “third world” appears on the left side of the image and “liberation movement” is written on a machete in the background.

Sunday’s post, which explained the history of Black and Palestinian solidarity, was taken down and reposted Monday afternoon without the antisemitic image by both AFRO and the PSC. The groups wrote that the earlier version of the post “shared an image that was not reflective of our values as organizations.”

“Our mutual goals for liberation will always include the Jewish community - and we regret inadvertently including an image that played upon antisemitic tropes,” the caption stated. “Antisemitism has no place in the movement of Palestinian liberation, and we wholeheartedly disavow it in all its forms.”

Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, the newly formed group of pro-Palestinian faculty and staff, also apologized on Monday for resharing the original post.

“It has come to our attention that a post featuring antiquated cartoons which used offensive antisemitic tropes was linked to our account,” the group wrote in a Monday Instagram post. “We removed the content as soon as it came to our attention.”

“We apologize for the hurt that these images have caused and do not condone them in any way,” the group added.

The original post quickly drew widespread criticism for its display of antisemitic tropes from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and Jewish Harvard affiliates.

“This repugnant antisemitism should have no place in our society, much less on Harvard’s faculty,” the committee’s official X account posted on Monday.

The committee — which is currently investigating Harvard over its handling of antisemitism on its campus — subpoenaed Harvard’s top leadership on Friday, the first time the committee has ever subpoenaed a university.

The University’s swift condemnation of the post and announcement that it would be reviewed by the Ad Board comes as Harvard is under increasing pressure to demonstrate that it is taking allegations of antisemitism seriously.

As part of its subpoena, the committee demanded Harvard produce disciplinary records related to “conduct involving the targeting of Jews, Israelis, Israel, Zionists, or Zionism.”

Harvard Chabad condemned the image in a Monday post on X, calling it “reprehensible.”

“Members of Harvard *faculty* posting old-school classic antisemitic posters. Note the $ sign placed in the star of david depicted below,” the post stated. “This should be called what it is. Reprehensible. Bigoted. Hateful.”

Harvard Hillel, the University’s Jewish center, wrote in a statement Monday night that it is “in contact with the administration” about the post containing an antisemitic image.

“This post follows an alarming increase in antisemitism on our campus in recent weeks,” Hillel wrote. “We will continue to call upon our administration to take action against virulent antisemitism at Harvard and strengthen our Jewish community.”

Harvard faculty and students also took to X to criticize the inclusion of the image on the original post.

Former Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey S. Flier also criticized Harvard FSJP for posting the image.

“Star of David on a hand choking the third world. Posted today by “Harvard faculty and staff for justice in Palestine,” Flier wrote. “No debate about this being anti-Semitic.”

After the original post was removed and updated Monday afternoon, Flier wrote on X that the update and apology was “better than leaving it up, but still very disturbing.”

In a Monday statement to The Crimson, Kestenbaum wrote that “the fact that this antisemitism was posted by Harvard faculty makes me question both the intelligence of said faculty, and what is it about Harvard’s hiring practices that allow such blatant antisemites to teach at this University.”

Former Harvard Hillel President Jacob M. Miller ’25, a Crimson Editorial chair, wrote that Harvard’s “antisemitism problem is so deep it even extends to the school’s faculty. Shameful.”

Harvard Jews for Palestine and HLS Tzedek — a Harvard Law School organization for Jewish students who “take a liberatory approach to Judaism” — praised AFRO and PSC for their “swift and clear response” to the criticism.

“Jews for Palestine condemns antisemitism in all its forms, and stands in solidarity with PSC and AFRO, who have amended and apologized for inadvertently using an antisemitic image in a post,” the groups wrote. “As PSC and AFRO stated, antisemitism has no place in the movement for Palestinian liberation.”

—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at Follow her on X at @mnamponsah.

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at Follow her on X at @joycekim324.