Harvard groups walk back their anti-Israel statement

October 12, 2023 • 10:00 am

On October 7 or 8, the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee issued a statement signed by 33 student groups, most of them Muslim-oriented organizations.  (The signers removed their names before they removed the document, but you can see the list of signers at my first post about this.)

Here’s the statement, which blames the “apartheid regime” of Israel as the only entity to blame for Hama’s butchery.  You can also find it at the Institute for Palestine Studies until it’s taken down, or on this tweet.

This disgusting statement was attacked by many people, including Congresspeople from both parties and, importantly, by the President of Harvard, though she waited a few days to see where opinion might fall. In its report yesterday, the Harvard Crimson (the student newspaper) reports that many (but not all) of the signing groups have withdrawn their support for the statement, and that the names of the 33 signatories (2 groups had withdrawn before that) had been removed from the online statement. Now, however, they have removed the entire statement. If you go to the Google doc site where document used to be, you see this:

As I said, the original statement is above and at other sites, and undoubtedly will be on the web forever.

Here’s the Crimson article describing why some of the groups withdrew their support (or click below to read):

An except:

Amid continued national backlash, multiple Harvard student groups have withdrawn their signatures from a controversial statement calling Israel “entirely responsible” for the ongoing violence, and group members have faced doxxing attacks.

As of Tuesday night, at least five of the original 34 signatories — including Amnesty International at Harvard, Harvard College Act on a Dream, the Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association, the Harvard Islamic Society, and Harvard Undergraduate Ghungroo — had withdrawn their endorsements, though the full list of endorsing groups was taken off the public statement earlier Tuesday. [JAC: both Amnesty International at Harvard and The Harvard Graduate School of Education Islamic Society had originally signed, too, but decided to remove their endorsement before the letter was published].

The reversals followed severe condemnation and calls by thousands of Harvard affiliates to disavow the statement, which was originally penned by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee. It did not explicitly condemn violence against Israeli civilians, though a spokesperson for the group later wrote in a statement that “the PSC staunchly opposes violence against civilians — Palestinian, Israeli, or other.”

Of course. Note that “Palestinians” comes before “Israeli.”

Here are three groups that decided that discretion was the better part of anti-Semitism (via the New York Post):

And from the Crimson, another group withdraws:

In a statement to The Crimson Tuesday night, Act on a Dream said the group signed the statement as “a result of miscommunication and a lack of due diligence in sharing the statement with the entirety of the board.”

“Our board members were not made aware that AOD as an organization had signed on to the PSC statement, so the endorsement of their statement in no way reflects their individual opinions about the ensuing violence in Palestine and Israel,” the statement reads. “As an organization, we want to express our empathy and solidarity for all the victims who have been affected by the violence in the region.”

“As an immigrants’ rights organization, we are also sensitive to our community’s need for privacy and safety,” the statement continues.

Well, if the statement doesn’t endorse the violence as an inevitable result of Israeli “colonialism” and apartheid-ism, it at least excuses the violence, which is nearly as bad. The statements are weaselly, and the apologies could have been better. However, these are inflamed young Harvard undergraduates and grad students, so I’ll let that go for the nonce.

But what is puzzling is WHY these groups, even in the face of opprobrium from Harvard’s President and many others, would withdraw their support for the original statement. Those statements are forceful, and I wouldn’t have thought that pushback would lead to mass retraction. Pro-Palestinians are not that malleable.

Here’s a possible explanation:

But even as some groups have moved to walk back or clarify their original endorsements, concerns over doxxing and student safety have emerged.

As of Tuesday evening, at least four online sites had listed the personal information of students linked to clubs that had signed onto the statement, including full names, class years, past employment, social media profiles, photos, and hometowns.

At around 3 p.m. Tuesday, the original statement was updated to remove the names of the signatory organizations.

“For student safety, the names of all original signing organizations have been concealed at this time,” a footnote on the current statement reads.

On its Instagram page, the PSC also announced that a vigil planned for Tuesday evening to mourn “all civilian lives lost” had been postponed “due to credible safety concerns and threats against student security.”

Harvard spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo wrote in a Tuesday statement that the College was aware of the safety concerns.

“We have been in contact with students and have alerted authorities,” Palumbo wrote.

Some also called for students involved with the statement to be publicly named and face professional consequences.

“I have been asked by a number of CEOs if @harvard would release a list of the members of each of the Harvard organizations that have issued the letter assigning sole responsibility for Hamas’ heinous acts to Israel, so as to insure that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members,” billionaire hedge fund manager Bill A. Ackman ’88 wrote in a Tuesday post on X that has since garnered more than 11,000 reposts.

“If, in fact, their members support the letter they have released, the names of the signatories should be made public so their views are publicly known,” he added.

Now I don’t support this doxxing at all. The groups and their members have a right to post such a statement, horrific as it is, and the students shouldn’t be punished for exercising free speech.  Some might argue that not wanting to hire the students is simply “facing the professional consequences”, and, indeed, companies might be legally able to reject a student for their political views, but I’m not sure about that. And even if that can be done, I wouldn’t endorse such actions.

UPDATE: Apparently it is legal. An article in today’s NYT, titled “N.Y.U. law student sends anti-Israel message and loses a job offer,” says this:

A law firm’s job offer to a New York University law student was rescinded on Tuesday for what the firm described as “inflammatory comments” about Hamas’s attack that killed at least 1,200 Israelis. And at Harvard, student groups began to take back their signatures on a letter that blamed Israel for the violence.

The actions were part of a wave of fallout on campuses for students, who are deeply polarized over the fighting.

At N.Y.U., Ryna Workman, the president of the university’s Student Bar Association, wrote in a message to the group on Tuesday that “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.”

“This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary,” Mx. Workman wrote in the Student Bar Association bulletin. “I will not condemn Palestinian resistance.”

The backlash was swift.

By evening, the law firm, Winston & Strawn, said the comments “profoundly conflict” with its values and without naming the student, said it rescinded its offer of employment.

In view of this (even the NYT connects the NYU issue with the endorsement cancellations at Harvard), one wonders whether this mass withdrawal of support for the Palestinian resistance was caused not by rethinking the issue, or by public pushback, but by fear of future unemployment.  Yes, I’m cynical about this, but today’s students are consumers who don’t want to scupper their careers by signing a statement that most people abhor.

You be the judge. The statement is still out there, and if nothing else it demonstrates the obtuseness and ignorance of students at what is supposed to be America’s best university.

h/t: Wayne

15 thoughts on “Harvard groups walk back their anti-Israel statement

  1. Words have consequences. College students should already know that. Their disgusting statements brought it onto themselves.

    1. Two thoughts:

      First, if I were an employer, I would want my company or organization to operate like a functional family, with employer and employees behaving with civility and kindness toward each other, customers, clients and the community. Obviously, I’ve never been an employer. LOL. Still and all, I wouldn’t want to hire a person who feeds on hatred toward the other. Any other. These Harvard groups do and have publicly proven it. So hiring a person who signed that letter … well, I just wouldn’t do it.

      Second, these students have been anointed as amongst the elite merely by attendance at Harvard, As elites, they have cultural power to expand the number of people who share their views. If they stay as militantly hostile to the people of Israel, Jewish individuals and the people who support Israel when they enter the work force as they appear to be today, they may have amplified power to spread disharmony and foster hatred. Which brings me back to my first point.

      1. Some have already taken this step. From CNN:

        ” Billionaire hedge fund CEO Bill Ackman and several other business leaders are demanding Harvard University release the names of students whose organizations signed on to a letter blaming solely Israel for the deadly attacks by Hamas… “One should not be able to hide behind a corporate shield when issuing statements supporting the actions of terrorists,” Ackman said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter… The names of the signatories “should be made public so their views are publicly known,” Ackman said… He wanted to ensure his company and others don’t “inadvertently hire” any students belonging to Harvard groups that signed the letter.”

        1. Hang on a minute. Just because a group has endorsed the letter doesn’t mean that all of the students in the group also do so.

          If you’re so concerned about the views of the individual applicants for hire, ask the individual applicants. Don’t assume that they share the opinions with whichever person or persons approved the letter signing on behalf of the group.

          Edit: Just to clarify, this is not directed at you but to the billionaire hedge fund CEOs of this world.

  2. Harvard discriminates among its applicants and has rescinded admissions of teenagers for distasteful but private comments and jokes. Why shouldn’t businesses be allowed to discriminate and rescinded job offers over vile public statements made by adults (who’ve supposedly been educated)?

  3. This incident will and must leave a stain. The only positive is that the original letter unleashed a ferocious backlash. Our system of free speech worked in this instance: good and moral speech won out against the other.

  4. It probably is the case that most members of those groups were not consulted and had not seen the statement at the point when someone in their group signed it on the group’s behalf. If they are now rejecting the statement then that’s fair enough.

  5. Can we not expect Harvard student groups to complain to the DEI Office about being persecuted by the law firm of Winston and Strawn? Why colonialist, patriarchalist law firms like that are obviously eviler than anything attributed to the Palestinian resistance.

  6. Funny how the students’ statements exactly mirror the Arab/Muslim narrative on the topic.

    Harvard has received $26 million from Qatar and Saudi Arabia that we know about. The Department of Education charged that hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign contributions remain undisclosed at Harvard and Yale.

    Qatar has spent billions over the past decades reshaping departments of Middle East studies.


    Evidently, you can not be a supporter of Israel in most M.E. departments anymore. Funny how that works as well.




  7. These were student groups who endorsed this statement.
    Kids, in other words, who are liable to go along with all sorts of wild and outrageous things to get the approval of the kids they associate with.
    It’s a good thing their elders gave them feedback on it, and they seem to have listened.

  8. I am quite confident that if you surveyed the ages of the butchers in Israel this last week, that you would find among them many “kids.” Among the armed Israeli men and women who are defending their country and their families, who might perhaps lose their lives in Gaza, you will find many “kids.”

    They are not children, there or at Harvard. They are young adults. The student groups include medical, dental, law, and divinity school students, as well as numerous graduate school groups. Even if it were all undergraduates, they are not children. They will start acting like adults when we treat them accordingly–on this matter and on many others.

  9. Of the many statements from student groups justifying terrorism and the rape and murder of Israelis by Hamas terrorists, perhaps the most pathetic is this one from a student group at U. of Virginia. The point to note is that almost nothing they say about what took place in Israel is true (e.g., there were no “settlements” that were attacked by the terrorists). They just made up the shit that they talk about and lie by omission about what really happened. What an embarrassment they are to their university. If you are going to be an apologist for terror, for rape, for murder – at least own it, eh!


    Note that when the students refer to “the right to resist … by whatever means they deem necessary”, they are referring to the acceptability of the use of women and children as human shields, murder, rape, execution of children in front of their siblings, the incineration of entire families, and more. “By whatever means necessary” sure does do a lot of work here! These students really do get the prize for ignorance, dishonesty, and a complete lack of humanity. They are contemptible human beings. UVA should be so proud.

  10. And meanwhile, on the U Washington campus


    No one can convince me that this would be permitted if the target were any group other than Jews. Can you imagine chanting for the death of blacks, or asians, or gays, or trans, or … anyone else? It would be shut down so fast. But … this is OK with the head of DEI at U Washington. OK with the president of U Washington. On that campus, like so many others — this is OK.

    1. Well said. Washington is a one party true blue state and Seattle is on the looney tunes side of progressive so the President of the UW probably feels safer allowing the demonization of the people of Israel than demanding that the protesters behave with compassion for the lives lost. We are better at coding than either compassion or history here. But we are pretty good at coding. 🤓

  11. Horrifying as the news from the MidEast is, there may be a feeble ray of light there. In their official statements, the usual government suspects were more heterogeneous than they have been in the past. Statements by the UAE and Bahrain specifically denounced Hamas’ hostage-taking and attacks on civilians; the statements by Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia were vague invocations of peace without taking Hamas’ side. In Europe and
    Asia, and even a few countries of Africa, there were many official statements of explicit support for Israel. See: https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/international-reactions-hamas-attack-israel .
    To be sure, it remains to be seen what these statements are worth. But it is at least possible that Hamas has finally gone beyond the patience and passivity of much of the world—except, of course, play-actors of the performance Left at Harvard, UVA, and other amateur theater venues.

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