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Seven Nobel laureates have appealed to the heads of Harvard, MIT and Pennsylvania over the hesitancy in dealing with anti-Semitism

The seven expressed their concern over the hesitant reactions of the institutions' leadership to condemn the calls for genocide

Harvard University. Photo: © Jiawangkun
Harvard University. Picture 108064300 © Jiawangkun |

Seven Nobel laureates addressed the heads of Harvard, MIT and Pennsylvania and expressed their concern about the hesitant responses of the institutions' leadership to condemn the call for genocide. Although nUniversity of Pennsylvania graduate Liz Magill וHarvard President Claudine Gay They resigned in the wake of the criticism, but they demand that the members of the board of directors who appoint the next presidents condemn the massacre on October 7 without perhaps and without regret.

The wording of the statement

Board members: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT, University of Pennsylvania

Dear council members, 

We are deeply concerned about the hesitant reactions of the leadership of your institutions to actions that express open anti-Semitism on your campuses. We are appalled by the testimonies of Presidents Gay, Kornbluth and McGill, who steadfastly refused to condemn the calls for genocide.

Red lines must limit freedom of expression when it is used to incite hatred, genocide, rape, mutilation and kidnapping - all those well-planned and unprecedented acts that took place on October 7, 2023. The barbaric and unprecedented attack in Hamas' history against civilians, children and women, no There was no provocation from Israel. This attack was part of the stated goal of Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran: the destruction of Israel, a country they deny the right to exist despite the fact that Israel has not stopped striving for peace with its neighbors. There are 56 Islamic countries around us - but one Jewish country is too much for them.

public support - even if in silence in the face of hateful demonstrations on campuses - for the deadliest attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust is a despicable and abominable act. The leaders of universities must denounce any expression of support for these acts. Calls for murder are unthinkable and deserve to be condemned and punished for them without any reservation. Encouraging violence and hate speech based on race, ethnicity or religion, are completely wrong regardless of the "context". Refraining from curbing these provocations in your institutions is a moral failure and a violation of your own rules of conduct. It may expose you to legal proceedings, but mainly harm your academic prestige. It is surrendering to the mob instead of defending the truth.  

 Tolerating violent demonstrations on your campuses, which support the most heinous crimes against humanity, undermines your basic mission as institutions of education and research. Tolerance for supporting violence contradicts an essential element of a climate that encourages learning and inquiry: mental security. This term, which has been studied by prominent researchers, some of them from your institutions, is becoming increasingly clear as a central element in personal and group growth in many constellations, including educational organizations.

 A sense of security is a necessary condition for academic achievements, respectful discourse and trust-based cooperation that are essential for the cultivation of scientific research and progress. Anxiety in the workplace hurts achievements. Edwards Deming, one of the fathers of quality theory, once said that "if you eliminate fear from the organization, everyone will be able to work effectively." Sooner or later, the infiltration of fear into your campuses will seriously harm your academic excellence.

History teaches us that if antisemitism is allowed to flourish, negative consequences are expected for academic institutions. This was the case in 1938 at the prestigious medical school in Vienna, from which he has not recovered to this day. "These events left the faculty, which was once home to many Nobel Prize winners, empty of distinguished researchers and lecturers - a situation that continued for many years after the end of the war." If Jewish students and faculty feel intimidated on your campuses and are forced to leave, as minorities and other talented individuals would in response to threats to their lives, it will be a loss to your institutions. The permission you give to hatred to thrive raises deep concerns about the future quality of your universities. 

According to a recent survey conducted by the Harvard-Harris Institute, 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 support the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by ending the existence of the Jewish state and handing it over to Hamas. It is interesting that only 4% of Americans over the age of 65 think so, apparently because they grew up believing in Israel's right to exist in the face of the memory of the Holocaust and thanks to its flourishing and scientific and cultural excellence, and not because of biased and misleading messages on social media. Higher education has an important role in correcting the deep historical ignorance.

 Along with absolute condemnation and punishment in response to anti-Semitic provocations, we propose to hold educational activities, seminars, lectures, courses and workshops on mental security and listening to others in all departments and units, as well as discussions on the moral lessons of the Holocaust. Evidence suggests that listening reduces extremism, fosters compassion, and improves mental security. A central message that should be taught in light of the history of the Holocaust is the duty to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity, in the hope that one day the world will be free of terrorism, anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination in all its forms.

It is appropriate that leading universities such as yours serve as a model for the dissemination of these important messages.

We thank you for your attention,

Best regards, 

This letter is signed by the Nobel laureates whose names appear above

  • Prof. Aharon Chachanover, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2004
  • Prof. Avraham Hershko, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2004
  • Prof. Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 2002
  • Prof. Roger Kornberg, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2006
  • Prof. Michael Levitt, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2012
  • Prof. Dan Shechtman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2011
  • Prof. Ada Yonat, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009

One response

  1. Not only in Vienna did anti-Semitism cause degeneration, also at the University of Göttingen the rise of the Nazis caused the Jews to flee and the university which was the center of physical activity in the world deteriorated and the center moved to the USA with the Jews.

    In retrospect, this is perhaps a consolation for the Holocaust, because if the Jews had stayed in Germany, it would probably have won the race for the bomb as well as the war. If Oppenheimer Teller and Feynman had succeeded in making a bomb six months earlier, it would have been placed on Berlin instead of Hiroshima, Nechama Forta and Jewish revenge on Auschwitz.

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