The political lynching of Claudine Gay

Boston, January 6, 2024

On Jan. 2, barely six months after the Harvard Corporation’s fanfare announcement of political scientist Claudine Gay as the first Black woman president of Harvard, the university’s Board Fellows forced her to resign.

The Corporation abruptly replaced Gay, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, with a white male economist, former Provost Alan Garber. This continues the status quo, entrenched since 1650 when Harvard University — first built by enslaved African and Indigenous people in 1636 — created the Harvard Corporation, the self-described “oldest corporation in the Western Hemisphere.”

Harvard Graduate Students for Palestine rally, November 2023.

As Harvard’s head disciplinarian, Garber led the attack on students and campus workers belonging to the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Harvard Graduate Students for Palestine. On Oct. 8, the two groups published a letter protesting Israel’s indiscriminate carpet-bombing of Gaza, calling out the history of the Zionist occupation.

Garber’s pro-Zionist campaign included requiring Gay to make statements condemning the students and “the terrorist atrocities of Hamas.” He oversaw the eviction from campus housing of a Black student proctor who had supported a peaceful pro-Palestine rally. As provost, it was Garber who first declared pro-Palestine slogans to be “hate speech,” claiming they made Jewish people, including himself, feel “unsafe” at Harvard.

Prior to being named interim president, Garber pocketed millions of dollars sitting on the boards of Exelixis, Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (The Harvard Crimson, Oct. 2019). He was especially zealous as provost in combating efforts by Harvard’s graduate students to unionize, personally advancing anti-union claims before the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C.

Billionaires funded ‘fire Gay’ campaign

For 86 days, while the U.S. supplied Israel with bombers and the Israeli Occupation Forces slaughtered an estimated 30,000 Palestinians, news outlets, such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe and CNN targeted Gay, along with the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in daily headlines.

Right-wing, billionaire donors to Harvard — including Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund and Elon Musk of X, Tesla and Space X — openly proclaimed their sponsorship of the “fire Gay” campaign. They spent millions of dollars on doxxing advertisements, which appeared all over Harvard’s campus — in “wanted poster” form, delivered as newspaper and social media ads; as threats included in job and internship postings; on roving truck billboard signs, airplane streamers and street poles; and slipped furtively in the night under dorm room doors.

These racist doxxings have particularly targeted Black and Arab student activists.

One of several billionaire-funded billboard trucks that circled Harvard Square daily during the Fall 2023 semester. The LED billboard looped to show photos and names of student leaders of the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee under the headline, “Supporter of Hamas terrorism.”

One Harvard clerical worker, who requested anonymity, described to this writer the atmosphere at Harvard as “chilling and frightening.” They related how they had been “turned in to the HR department for personal posts on X calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, which were referred to as ‘hate speech.’”

Unlike pro-Palestine students and workers, Gay did everything required of her by the billionaire funders, the Harvard Corporation and their lawyers. She issued statements denouncing Hamas as “terrorists.” Despite the absence of even one documented incident of anti-Jewish behavior on campus, Gay decried “rising incidents of antisemitism” and set up a commission to investigate it. She ordered campus gates locked and directed the Harvard University Police Department to suppress pro-Palestine vigils.

Gay appeared before Congress and testified in accordance with the pro-Zionist script — but with some minor missteps in the eyes of Congress.

As Aaryan Morrison, a Black woman and Harvard graduate, in a commentary titled “On white supremacy and Zionism: a reflection on Claudine Gay’s tenure as president of Harvard University” explained: “It was not enough that she failed to respond to and protect pro-Palestinian students; she also needed to make actively suppressing pro-Palestinian voices a defining mark of her tenure.

“President Gay condemned the slogan ‘from the river to the sea’ and oversaw the initiation of disciplinary action against student activists. For me, the most painful evidence of this has been the eviction of former first-year proctor Elom Tettey-Tamaklo after he peacefully confronted and de-escalated an attempt to compromise the safety of protesters at a die-in at the Harvard Business School. …

“Let me be clear: President Gay was forced out not because she is antisemitic and/or anti-Zionist, but because she is not Zionist enough.” (Mondoweiss Jan. 4)

The political lynching reached fever pitch on Dec. 5 when “Freedom Caucus” U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) twisted Gay’s testimony to Congress on live television. Stefanik, known for her racist, anti-immigrant and antisemitic Trump-like tirades, smeared Gay as someone who “is calling for the genocide of Jewish people.” In a New York Times op-ed on Jan. 3, Gay reported the racist frenzy came with a flood of death threats.

Bogus allegations produced to push out Gay

Heaping red herrings on top of Big Lies, billionaire Ackman and Christopher Rufo — the conservative activist best known for launching the crusade against critical race theory — charged Gay with plagiarism. Though mainstream media investigations revealed the allegation to be based, at most, on minor punctuation and citation mistakes years ago, Gay publicly apologized and made corrections.

On Jan. 6, Business Insider detailed multiple instances of plagiarism involving Ackman’s spouse, Neri Oxman, including in her MIT doctoral dissertation. Ackman has now vowed to investigate all MIT faculty and staff, including MIT President Sally Kornbluth, as revenge “for attacks on my family.” Oxman’s plagiarism was far worse than Gay’s. Her career includes being a first lieutenant in the Israeli Occupation Air Force.

What has been mostly left out of the mainstream story is the complete capitulation and complicity in Dr. Gay’s racist termination by titans of liberal U.S. bourgeois democracy and their Democratic Party, for whom Massachusetts is a political center. From their ivory tower at Harvard, they currently advise the war party in the White House and control the U.S. Senate.

Not one Massachusetts Democrat, including U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, came to Gay’s defense following the McCarthyite congressional show trial. Not one pre-resignation word in support of Gay came from Democratic Governor Maura Healey, who spoke at Gay’s inauguration on Sept. 29, 2023, nor Boston’s Mayor Michelle Wu, an alumnus of Henry Kissinger’s Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Their silence was organized behind the scenes by Penny Pritzker, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation and billionaire heir to the notoriously anti-union Hyatt Hotels global empire. She was appointed top fellow upon donating $100 million for a new Harvard economics department building.

Pritzker — whose brother “J.B.” is the governor of Illinois — was U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the President Barack Obama administration. She is currently the Biden administration’s “special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery.”

Pritzker and her governing board cronies, such as Tootsie Roll heir Karen Gordon Mills — Obama’s Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration — oversee the world’s largest university endowment of $53 billion. They flipped and came down hard with their far-right ruling class colleagues. United, they deemed Gay had become bad for Harvard’s business, especially during wartime.

Gay’s firing aimed at mass student movement for Palestine

The ruling class’s coordinated campaign for Gay’s head is just the tip of the warhead in the witch hunt to suppress the pro-Palestinian uprising on campuses. Students, faculty and workers — and their popular organizations — have been courageously demonstrating daily for three months to stop the U.S.-sponsored genocide in Gaza and to end Harvard’s investments in the military-industrial complex, which fuel the mass killing of Palestinians.

On Jan. 8, seven supporters of the now-banned Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine must appear in Waltham District Court after being assaulted by police during a peaceful march in November demanding a cease-fire. That same day, students with Huskies for Palestine at Northeastern University will return for the new semester with their leaders facing a disciplinary hearing and suspensions for staging a die-in inside a campus building.

Gay’s summary termination is meant to strike fear into the hearts of over 150,000 college and university students on 35 campuses in greater Boston. It’s a warning shot aimed at professors and campus workers who have been demonstrating daily to stop the genocide and siege of Gaza.

Ahmad Kawash, a spokesperson for the Palestinian House of New England, remarked: “The tens of thousands of people marching with the Boston Coalition for Palestine in recent weeks represent the majority of justice-loving people who are outraged by attacks on supporters of Palestine at Boston-area campuses. We consider the billions of dollars of investments and military and cultural ties with Israel of these major universities like Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, Tufts and Northeastern as direct support for the Zionist genocide in Gaza.

“We will come to the defense of students, professors and workers at these campuses who have become targets of their administrations’ political attacks. We join them in demanding that their schools, like the U.S. government, cut all ties and aid to the criminal apartheid regime.”

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