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The antisemitic cartoon roiling Harvard? It's not the first time it caused a firestorm

Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

When the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Harvard African and African American Resistance Organization put together an infographic for Instagram, their goal was to showcase the historic connections between the Black and Palestinian liberation movements.

They gathered old images of Black activists who had been vocal advocates of the Palestinian cause, including Angela Davis and Malcolm X.

They quoted Nelson Mandela: "Freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

And they plucked an old cartoon from the archives of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee — one that roiled the civil rights movement when it first appeared in 1967 and has lost none of its ability to outrage. The drawing shows a white hand, marked with a dollar sign inside a Star of David, tightening nooses around the necks of a Black man and an Arab man.

Drawn by Black artist Herman "Kofi" Bailey, it first appeared in a SNCC newsletter alongside an article fiercely critical of Zionism, leading to charges of antisemitism and furious condemnation of the SNCC from Jewish community leaders.

More than half a century later, the cartoon ignited another firestorm when it was posted on Instagram — and reposted by Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine.


"With Professors like these, it's easy to see why we Jewish students don't feel safe in class," wrote Shabbos "Alexander" Kestenbaum, a Jewish student at Harvard Divinity School who sued the university last month, alleging it had failed to combat "severe and pervasive" antisemitism on campus.

"This should be called what it is," Harvard Chabad posted on X, formerly Twitter. "Reprehensible. Bigoted. Hateful."

The pro-Palestinian activists deleted the original post Monday and reposted it without the offensive cartoon. "Our mutual goals for liberation will always include the Jewish community and we regret inadvertently including an image that played upon antisemitic tropes," the activists said.

After Harvard issued a statement condemning the post as "despicable" and warning of disciplinary action, the activists published a joint statement Tuesday saying the image "violated our internal standards and betrayed our fundamental values of justice and liberation."


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