Sometimes you really can explain a complex problem in one brief sentence. Today’s New York Times carries a story on the resignation of another co-chair of another Harvard task force on anti-Semitism—the latest in a series of debacles for the university. But in mentioning the origins of the current task force, the Times gives us a pretty good idea of why Harvard has been such a disaster on this issue:

“Alan M. Garber, who took over as Harvard’s interim president, created two new task forces, one on antisemitism and one on anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias.”

Ah. It has apparently become a strict law of nature that you may not address anti-Semitism without doing so apologetically and without Islamophobia getting a cut of the action. Seemingly every statement by a politician or a school administrator decrying anti-Semitism must be all-lives-mattered into the ground before anyone hits “send.”

In fact, if you listen closely, you will usually only hear “anti-Semitism” spoken as part of a new word the political class has cooked up: antisemitismandislamophobia. Of course, says the official after a campus quad rings out with the mellifluous harmony of genocidal taunts against Jewish students, I deplore all expressions of antisemitismandislamophobia.

The Harvard-specific background of the story is also worth highlighting. Past president Claudine Gay appointed a task force on anti-Semitism and then promptly sabotaged it. Her successor appears to be doing the same. The most recent co-chair to step down from the commission is Raffaella Sadun, a Harvard business professor. She was made co-chair in part to balance out co-chair Derek Penslar, who has downplayed the level of anti-Semitism at Harvard and has been dismissive of its victims. Sadun was the co-chair who wanted the task force to succeed. So it’s no surprise she’s the one who stepped down.

The point of the Harvard task force is to take people on campus who have the desire and the credibility to fight anti-Semitism and force them into quicksand committees where their criticism will remain internal in perpetuity. Harvard seeks to silence and co-opt its critics. Pay close attention to whether other elite schools do any better.

One reason these institutions feel comfortable operating in such bald bad faith is that much of the media follows suit and speaks euphemistically, very much including the New York Times. For example, when explaining what got Claudine Gay into trouble in December, the Times writes: “On Dec. 5, she testified before a congressional committee and gave legalistic answers when asked whether Harvard would punish students who called for the genocide of Jews.”

She “gave legalistic answers,” you see. What actually happened is that she excepted calling for the mass murder of Jews from the rules against harassment and would not say that Israel had a right to exist as a Jewish state. (She deleted the word “Jewish” from the formulation, in fact—an act that made very clear where she stood on both questions.)

The Times also describes some of the social exclusion Jewish students are feeling at Harvard: “Some Jewish students say they have given up their kipas, or skullcaps, for baseball hats. They say they now keep their Zionist beliefs to themselves in classrooms and residence halls.”

Gotta be careful not to show your Zionist kippas and your Zionist phylacteries while making your Zionist blessings and reading your Zionist Talmud or lighting your Friday night Zionist candles.

Yesterday, University of California, Santa Barbara, student president Tessa Veksler showed the many signs around campus aimed at “Zionists.” The formulation was generally some version of “Zionists not allowed” or “Zionists not welcome.” That “Zionists not welcome” message was also found somewhere else: carved into a door next to a mezuzah. In case the graffiti wasn’t clear enough, the scribbler drew an arrow pointing from the message to the mezuzah.

No one is just finding out that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Everyone already knew that. But many people were content to lie about this fact and claim ignorance. There is no real debate about what people mean when they say “Zionists.” There is only the low-rent kabuki theater that passes itself off as debate at various U.S. colleges and in the pages of the New York Times. Similarly, administrators at Harvard are not failing; they are succeeding wildly at what they believe to be their jobs. And that’s why competent members of their task forces keep resigning.

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