“Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years,” wrote the groups, which included the Harvard Prison Divest Coalition, the Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Students Association, several Muslim and Arab affinity groups, and other organizations. “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 hard-line tone of the letter quickly stirred controversy. Former university president Lawrence Summers blasted the letter as “morally unconscionable,” adding, “I have never been as disillusioned and alienated as I am today.”
“The silence from Harvard’s leadership, so far, coupled with a vocal and widely reported student groups’ statement blaming Israel solely, has allowed Harvard to appear at best neutral towards acts of terror against the Jewish state of Israel,” he wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “To be clear nothing is wrong with criticizing Israeli policy past, present or future. I have been sharply critical of PM Netanyahu. But that is very different from lack of clarity regarding terrorism.”
On Saturday, militants from Hamas stormed into Israel, killing or abducting over 200 people at a music festival in the desert and clashing with civilians and Israeli forces at multiple locations. Israel subsequently executed intense strikes on targets in Gaza, leveling entire buildings and leaving scores of people dead; officials have said they will bar all electricity, food, water, and fuel from entering the territory. At least 700 Israelis have already been reported dead, along with more than 400 Palestinians.
Hamas has now threatened to execute hostages “on camera” if Israel’s air attacks kill Palestinian civilians.
Those threats notwithstanding, the Harvard groups argued that Hamas bore no responsibility for the ongoing violence. “Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum,” their letter reads. “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… In the coming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence.”