Harvard Hillel, Rosovsky Hall in Harvard Square, designed by Moshe Safdie
Harvard Hillel, Rosovsky Hall in Harvard Square, designed by Moshe Safdie Courtesy of Safdie Architects

On April 29, I woke up to a flurry of messages from students, alumni, and journalists regarding a new piece published by The Crimson’s Editorial Board declaring it was “proud to finally lend our support to both Palestinian liberation and [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions]” and now would “call on everyone to do the same.”

As both president of Harvard Hillel and Associate News Editor for The Crimson, many of the questions I received pertained to my dual affiliation with these two organizations, now seemingly at odds with one another.

I have worked for The Crimson since freshman year, and it has been an integral part of my time at Harvard — some nights I am there until 2 or 3 a.m. as an executive, after four semesters of reporting.

But integral as The Crimson has been, I am first and foremost a Jew; and in light of the role Israel plays in my people’s history as our homeland and haven from persecution, I am a Zionist, and I stand with Israel.

People have asked me whether I plan on quitting, whether I could have prevented this, and who is to blame. I have no intention of quitting; I understand this piece does not reflect the views of other boards, or even the views of some members of the Editorial Board who may not have been at the meeting.

We live in a country where peaceful protest is strongly encouraged. But the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement — overwhelmingly condemned by Congress in a 2019 resolution passed 398-17 — is not just a boycott; BDS rejects Jewish self-determination altogether.

If you doubt me, ask its founders: “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,” said co-founder Omar Barghouti, who also declared that Palestinian Arabs have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance.”

Perhaps the Editorial Board would agree, since its piece fails to condemn Palestinian terrorism or the charter of Hamas — the governing regime elected to power in Gaza in 2006 — that explicitly calls for the annihilation of the Jewish people. On top of that, a 2019 New York Times article reported that the BDS National Committee lists among its members the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which in turn includes both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

How many members of the Editorial Board can tell me the story of Israel’s history — numerous peace treaties the Palestinians have rejected, human shields used by Hamas to gaslight Israel, and thousands of Israeli civilians murdered by terrorists? What about the millions of dollars used by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank for the “Pay to Slay” Program, rewarding terrorists for crimes against Israelis?

Israel is not perfect, nor is any other country. But this editorial is part of a larger trend of singling out Jews, conveniently neglecting our half of the story — and by extension our right to self-determination — while claiming to “oppose antisemitism.

Judaism is not just a religion; the Holocaust is only one of many examples of Jews targeted as a people. Exiled after centuries in the Land of Israel, the Jewish people have always been outsiders — they have been pushed out of Europe and the Middle East, and 2019 FBI data indicate American Jews were 2.6 times more likely than Black people and 2.2 times more likely than Muslims to be victims of hate crimes.

If this isn’t proof of a Jewish need for self-determination, I don’t know what is. And yet this editorial does not even affirm support for Jewish self-determination. Does the Editorial Board believe Israel even has a right to exist? Because, if so, that line is coincidentally missing.

When the Editorial Board discusses “Palestinian liberation,” does it think that, after decades of rejected peace treaties and terror, Hamas and the PA would simply acquiesce and live in harmony with their Jewish neighbors? What does the Editorial Board think “from the river to the sea” means?

The Editorial Board believes it is advocating for the underdog in the name of social justice, but the “overwhelming power imbalance” has always been against the Jewish homeland, surrounded on all sides by those who wish to destroy it — the same wish that has led Israel’s neighbors to declare war on it again and again. The leaders of Iran, now in the process of acquiring nuclear weapons, have also made clear that their aim is “the annihilation of Israel.”

I do my best to keep my personal views out of my work at The Crimson. My job is to report facts, and I welcome dialogue. But dialogue is not the goal of BDS or student anti-Israel groups, who have refused conversation and rely instead on substanceless platitudes like “Zionism is racism settler colonialism white supremacy apartheid” — their goal is demonizing Israel and delegitimizing its right to exist.

And so when my people and our homeland come under attack, I will not stay silent. I am still a Crimson editor, but this editorial does not represent me; I do and always will stand with Israel.

Natalie L. Kahn ’23, an Associate News Editor, is president of Harvard Hillel and an Economics concentrator in Pforzheimer House.

This article is reposted with the writer's permission from The Crimson.

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