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Three dozen Harvard student organizations say Israel ‘is the only one to blame’

Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups statement holds Israel responsible for ‘all unfolding violence’

Three dozen student organizations at Harvard signed a statement published online holding “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”

It drew rebukes from a wide spectrum of Jews and non-Jews, within and outside the university, who called the statement astonishing for its inattention to the victims of Hamas’ attack on Israel, which began Saturday. The surprise operation included rocket fire on towns and cities, the ambush of a music festival attended by hundreds of young adults, and the kidnapping of more than 100 mostly civilian Israelis, including the elderly and children. About 800 Israelis and at least 560 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting so far.

The statement from the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups said that the attacks by Hamas and ongoing retribution by Israel in Gaza “did not occur in a vacuum.”

The groups describe Gaza as an “open-air prison” where “Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years. From systematized land seizures to routine airstrikes, arbitrary detentions to military checkpoints, and enforced family separations to targeted killings, Palestinians have been forced to live in a state of death, both slow and sudden.”

The statement, which the group posted on Facebook early Sunday, calls on the Harvard community to “stop the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians.”

The letter was signed by 35 organizations, most of them representing Muslim students or students from majority-Muslim countries in Asia or the Middle East, along with organizations that support the Palestinian cause. They include the Harvard Arab Medical and Dental Student Association, Harvard Divinity School Muslim Association, Harvard Law School Justice for Palestine and Harvard Graduate Students for Palestine. Other organizations signing on to the statement include Amnesty International at Harvard and Harvard Jews for Liberation.

The statement provoked an outpouring of criticism and despair on social media.

“This is the final crack in my broken heart — a joint statement from @Harvard students,” Yael Bar tur, an alumna of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “I could be sitting in class with these students, watching children brutally murdered, raped, kidnapped and their mutated bodies torn apart by a jeering crowd — and hear why it’s justified.” 

“They hold Israelis 100% responsible for their own deaths & torture,” posted another X user.

I am disgusted at the utter lack of any moral clarity of these people,” wrote another.

A call placed to Harvard’s media relations office for comment was not immediately returned, but Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, and 17 staff and faculty members later released a statement on behalf of the school, saying they were “heartbroken by the death and destruction unleashed by the attack by Hamas that targeted citizens in Israel this weekend, and by the war in Israel and Gaza now under way.”

The statement added that Harvard could not “readily bridge the widely different views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but we are hopeful that, as a community devoted to learning, we can take steps that will draw on our common humanity and shared values in order to modulate rather than amplify the deep-seated divisions and animosities so distressingly evident in the wider world.”

Harvard’s Jewish former president, Lawrence Summers, tweeted Monday: “In nearly 50 years of Harvard affiliation, I have never been as disillusioned and alienated as I am today.”

Harvard’s student newspaper, The Crimson, reported on a small gathering at the campus Hillel to “show support and grieve” over the violence in Israel, but the story did not mention the Palestine Solidarity Groups statement.

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