More than 350 faculty members at Harvard University wrote an open letter to the school’s leadership in response to a student statement that was "nothing less than condoning the mass murder" of over a thousand Israelis, adding the administration's response "fell short."
In the letter to Harvard President Claudine Gay, hundreds of Harvard faculty members said they were "deeply concerned about the events in the Middle East, as well as the safety of our students here on campus.
"The leaders of the major democratic countries united in saying that ‘the terrorist actions of Hamas have no justification, no legitimacy, and must be universally condemned’ and that Israel should be supported "in its efforts to defend itself and its people against such atrocities.
"In contrast, while terrorists were still killing Israelis in their homes, 35 Harvard student organizations wrote that they hold ‘the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,’ with not a single word denouncing the horrific acts by Hamas."
That statement from the student groups was released the evening of Oct. 8, a day after the attacks that resulted in the deadliest day for Jewish people since the Holocaust. it said Hamas' killing, torture and kidnapping of Israelis "did not occur in a vacuum."
"The apartheid regime is the only one to blame," the statement said, indicating the organizations believed Israel was responsible for the horrific attacks.
"In the context of the unfolding events, this statement can be seen as nothing less than condoning the mass murder of civilians based only on their nationality," the faculty letter states. "We’ve heard reports of even worse instances, with Harvard students celebrating the ‘victory’ or ‘resistance’ on social media."
The faculty added it could have been a "teaching moment and an opportunity to remind our students that beyond our political debates, some acts such as war crimes are simply wrong."
President Gay issued a statement three days after the attacks, noting that the views of 30 student groups do not reflect the views of the university and condemned "terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas."
The faculty argued that her statement "fell short."
"While justly denouncing Hamas, it still contributed to the false equivalency between attacks on noncombatants and self-defense against those atrocities," the faculty wrote. "Furthermore, the statement failed to condemn the justifications for violence that come from our own campus, nor to make it clear to the world that the statement endorsed by these organizations does not represent the values of the Harvard community.
"We recognize that Harvard has students and community members from all regions, including from the Gaza Strip. These are not easy times, and we pray for the safety of all our members and their families. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a long and complex history. We hold varying opinions, but none of us endorses all of Israel's past actions.
"However, the events of this week are not complicated. Sometimes there is such a thing as evil, and it is incumbent upon educators and leaders to call it out, as they have with school shootings and terrorist attacks.
"It is imperative that our academic leadership, whose good faith we do not doubt, state this clearly and unequivocally. Further, while individuals’ free speech should be protected, our leaders should make it clear that our community rejects any statements that excuse terrorist acts," they added.
Gay posted a video Thursday addressing the backlash and further distanced the university from the students' statement, saying, "People have asked me where we stand. So let me be clear. Our university rejects terrorism. That includes the barbaric atrocities perpetrated by Hamas. Our university rejects hate.
"Hate of Jews. Hate of Muslims. Hate of any group of people based on their faith, their national origin or any aspect of their identity. Our university rejects the harassment or intimidation of individuals based on their beliefs."
Lawrence H. Summers, president emeritus of Harvard, earlier this week was outspoken in criticism of Gay for a "delayed statement fails to meet the needs of the moment."
"Why can’t we find anything approaching the moral clarity of Harvard statements after George Floyd's death or Russia's invasion of Ukraine when terrorists kill, rape and take hostage hundreds of Israelis attending a music festival?" Summers, who served in senior leadership posts under presidents Clinton and Obama, asked in a post Tuesday on X, formerly Twitter.
But Summers, who co-signed the faculty letter, said Thursday he is "very glad that President Gay has now denounced Hamas terrorism and distanced the university from the appalling student group statement."