The debate touched off at Harvard University, the alma mater of eight former U.S. presidents and perhaps the most politically influential school in the country.
A coalition of 34 Harvard student organizations said they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” following decades of occupation of Gaza. They called Israel an “apartheid regime” and said it was “the only one to blame” for the war.
The statement drew the ire of prominent Harvard alumni, university President Claudine Gay, and 15 deans at the school.
In a statement, Gay and the Harvard academics said they were “heartbroken by the death and destruction unleashed by the attack by Hamas that targeted citizens in Israel this weekend.”
She added, “While our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership group.”
A Harvard graduate, billionaire hedge fund chief executive Bill Ackman, and several other business leaders demanded that Harvard release the names of students whose organizations signed on to the letter supporting Hamas, although some students subsequently distanced themselves from the anti-Israel statement.
“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.
“I would like to know so I know never to hire these people,” Jonathan Neman, CEO of the restaurant chain Sweetgreen, said on X.
One prominent New York law firm rescinded a lucrative job offer to Ryna Workman, president of New York University’s Student Bar Association, who wrote in the group’s newsletter that “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.”
Columbia University in New York City closed its campus to the public on Thursday ahead of a planned protest against the Israeli bombing attacks on Hamas-controlled Gaza. A 24-year-old Israeli student who was hanging flyers was beaten on Wednesday in front of a library on campus, one of several attacks in New York this week related to the Israel-Hamas war that police were treating as possible bias incidents.
At The George Washington University in Washington, a group of about 50 students held a vigil for Palestinian “martyrs.” One organizer contended that the Hamas attacks on Israel were “not unprovoked.”
There have been scattered other pro-Hamas protests in the U.S. this week, but President Joe Biden and a wide range of government officials and corporate leaders have assailed the Hamas attacks and voiced unstinting support for Israel.