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Amid Backlash to Antisemitic Post, Harvard Professor Resigns From Pro-Palestine Groups

Walter Johnson, a professor of History and African and African American Studies, resigned from his role as faculty adviser to the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee.
Walter Johnson, a professor of History and African and African American Studies, resigned from his role as faculty adviser to the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee. By Elyse C. Goncalves
By Tilly R. Robinson and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

Walter Johnson, a professor of History and of African and African American Studies, resigned as a faculty adviser to the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and from Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine after the groups faced a wave of backlash for sharing a post containing an antisemitic image.

History professor Alison Frank Johnson, Johnson’s wife, confirmed his decision to resign from the two groups when reached by phone Tuesday evening.

“Conversations about Professor Johnson’s stepping down from the position were ongoing. His term was up in the spring and he had let us know he was not going to renew,” the PSC wrote in a statement. “This was a personal decision and he remains supportive of our goals as an organization. We are grateful for his time and support and wish him all the best.”

The FSJP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Following the initial backlash, the PSC uploaded a new version of the post, writing in the caption that “an earlier version of this post” contained an image “not reflective” of their organizational values.

“Our mutual goals for liberation will always include the Jewish community- and we regret inadvertently including an image that played upon antisemitic tropes,” they wrote.

Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 fiercely condemned the antisemitic image in a University-wide email on Tuesday, writing that “perpetuating vile and hateful antisemitic tropes, or otherwise engaging in inflammatory rhetoric or sharing images that demean people on the basis of their identity, is precisely the opposite of what this moment demands of us.”

Johnson was initially listed as the first signatory in FSJP’s founding statement. The list of FSJP members was removed from the website at some point after controversy erupted over the antisemitic image.

FSJP issued an apology in an Instagram post on Monday for resharing the post containing the antisemitic image on their account.

“We apologize for the hurt that these images have caused and do not condone them in any way,” the organization wrote. “Harvard FSJP stands against all forms of hate and bigotry, including antisemitism.”

The PSC and the African and African American Resistance Organization — the two groups that initially posted the antisemitic image — apologized in a joint statement on Tuesday for the “immense harm” caused by the post.

“To be very clear: The original antisemitic image wholly violated our internal standards and betrayed our fundamental values of justice and liberation,” the groups wrote. “The inclusion of the offensive caricature was an unprompted, painful error — a combination of ignorance and inadequate oversight.”

“While the image in question was removed promptly, it should have never been published to begin with,” they added.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

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