In a message directed to “Members of the Harvard Community,” university president Claudine Gay condemned the phrase “from the river to the sea.”
Gay wrote that “our community must understand that phrases such as ‘from the river to the sea’ bear specific historical meanings that to a great many people imply the eradication of Jews from Israel and engender both pain and existential fears within our Jewish community. I condemn this phrase and any similarly hurtful phrases.”
“Antisemitism is destructive to our mission. We will not solve every disagreement, bridge every divide, heal every wound. But if we shrink from this struggle, we betray our ideals,” Gay said.
“We will implement a robust program of education and training for students, faculty, and staff on antisemitism broadly and at Harvard specifically. As part of this program, we will provide education about the roots of certain rhetoric that has been heard on our campus in recent weeks, and its impact on Jewish members of our community, to help us all better recognize antisemitism in daily life and interrupt its harmful influence,” Gay wrote.
The expression “from the river to the sea” is widely viewed as a call for wiping out the Jewish state of Israel, but Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who shared a video earlier this month that included the phrase, has claimed that the saying “is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.” The House passed a censure resolution targeting Tlaib earlier this week.
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