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yesterday, the Harvard Crimson (the student newspaper) reports that many (but not all) of the signing groups have withdrawn their support for the statement, and that the names of the 33 signatories (2 groups had withdrawn before that) had been removed from the online statement.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):
Amid continued national backlash, multiple Harvard student groups have withdrawn their signatures from a controversial statement calling Israel “entirely responsible” for the ongoing violence, and group members have faced doxxing attacks.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Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association, the Harvard Islamic Society, and Harvard Undergraduate Ghungroo — had withdrawn their endorsements, though the full list of endorsing groups was taken off the public statement earlier Tuesday.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.