Harvard's weak hand: Condemns an antisemitic image spread by groups of students and professors but does not announce disciplinary measures

The university's interim president described the spread of the cartoon as "grossly irresponsible and profoundly offensive."

Alan Garber, interim president of Harvard University, issued a damning statement regarding the use of an antisemitic image posted by two pro-Palestinian student groups and shared by a group of faculty. Although Garber criticized the "reckless provocation" of a "few groups," no concrete disciplinary actions have been announced so far.

In the statement, Garber expressed his rejection of the cartoon that showed a hand with the Star of David and a dollar sign holding a noose around the necks of figures that appeared to represent former Egyptian president Gamal Nasser and boxer Muhammad Ali. Garber stated that "perpetuating vile and hateful antisemitic tropes" goes against the principles the institution upholds.

"As members of an academic community, we can and we will disagree, sometimes vehemently, on matters of public concern and controversy (...) but it is grossly irresponsible and profoundly offensive when that disagreement devolves into forms of expression that demonize individuals because of their religion, race, nationality, or other aspects of their identity," Garber said.

The interim president assured in the text that the university will review the situation to identify those responsible and determine possible additional measures. However, he did not detail specific sanctions.

According to reports, the controversy arose when the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee and the African and African American Resistance Organization published the cartoon on Instagram. The image was later shared by the Harvard Faculty and Staff account for Justice in Palestine. This Palestinian advocacy group has supported the claim that Israel is perpetrating racial and colonial violence against the Palestinian population.

The controversy has led various faculty members and student groups to issue brief apologies and delete the publication. "It has come to our attention that a post featuring dated cartoons using offensive anti-Semitic tropes was linked to our account. We removed the content as soon as it came to our attention. We apologize for the harm these images have caused and we do not tolerate them in any way," the group of professors said.

This incident comes shortly after the resignation of former Harvard President Claudine Gay, who faced criticism for her testimony before Congress that did not condemn antisemitism on campus.

It should be noted that the institution is under investigation by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is investigating antisemitism on campus. The lack of concrete disciplinary action could increase pressure on Harvard amid growing concerns about intolerance in academic settings.