“We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.
Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum. For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to “open the gates of hell,” and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced. Palestinians in Gaza have no shelters for refuge and nowhere to escape. In the coming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence.
The apartheid regime is the only one to blame. 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.
Today, the Palestinian ordeal enters into uncharted territory. The coming days will require a firm stand against colonial retaliation. We call on the Harvard community to take action to stop the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians.”
Authored by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestinian Solidarity Committee and co-signed by over thirty other student groups at the elite university, this statement has started to cause problems for its signatories.
Resignations have occurred. Groups have backtracked. Names have been sealed. Why? Because for once in their life, these kids are going to be on the receiving end of the anger that they often direct at others.
Responses to the horror in Israel have been varied. Whilst a good majority of people are horrified by the atrocities that have been committed, not everybody has been so sympathetic. Some have outright celebrated what has happened. Others have been more measured in their response, instead doing the ‘both sides’ tango that they are excellent at dancing.
Such an example is at play here. The students and societies at Harvard who wrote this letter may not have actually straight up endorsed the atrocities that have occurred, but they did lay the blame squarely at Israel’s feet.
The backlash has been sudden and all-encompassing. Academics, fellow students, businesses, politicians and all other types have roundly criticised the groups and students who signed this letter. Those who have been named have distanced themselves from the letter.
The list of groups and names have been removed from the statement in order to apparently protect them from repercussions. Unfortunately for them, the list remains readily accessible.
If these people were so sure of this viewpoint that they signed a statement such as this, it begs the question: why have they decided to step back?
It’s simple really. They’re terrified of facing the consequences that they demand of others.
Take for example a woman named Ryna Workman, President of the NYU Law Student Bar Association. Ms. Workman, who had been a summer associate of the prestigious Winston and Strawn law firm, had a job offer rescinded by them. She had written a statement online refusing to condemn the actions of Hamas, all while once again blaming Israel.
With such actions costing a student from a top college a job, it’s no wonder that those who signed the Harvard statement are melting away like the Wicked Witch of the West. These students attend the oldest and arguably most elite college in the US, and are primed for their pick of summer internships and jobs in some of the top organisations possible. If their names are attached to controversy, then their necks are on the line.
Considering Harvard students wish to permeate a culture in which one can easily be shunned for their actions, it’s fair that some might be unsympathetic to their plight. In 2020, students petitioned for any official in the Trump administration to be banned from engaging with the college in any official capacity. Its scores on self-censorship and free speech are abysmal. Students actively keep their opinions to themselves. Harvard is no bastion of freedom.
These students don’t care if other people suffer for their thoughts, but God forbid they can’t work for some human rights lawyer during the summer holidays.
For years, there have been people who have believed that the rules don’t apply to them. They have kept themselves on the right side of the opinion divide. Their voices have been the loudest. They’re the good guys. They’ve never had to worry about their views being scorned. They’ve always been safe. Now, however, they’ve crossed the line that they set down, and they’re reaping the consequences.
Considering how many presidents, members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices have attended Harvard, it’s more than likely that these students will be the ones running the country one day. Even if they’re not in the top branches of government, they’ll be the lawyers standing up in court.
Harvard is a place that opens doors. They don’t want those doors slammed in their face. It’s just a pity for them they’re the ones usually on the other side of that door.