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Harvard Affiliates, Politicians Slam University Leaders Over Late, ‘Word Salad’ Statement on War in Israel

University leadership faced criticism over their delayed response to the attack on Israel.
University leadership faced criticism over their delayed response to the attack on Israel. By Julian J. Giordano
By Miles J. Herszenhorn and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard leadership faced intense criticism over the weekend due to the University’s slow response to the deadly Hamas attack against Israel. But after the school released a statement Monday evening, leadership faced further backlash — this time, for failing to forcefully condemn the attacks and antisemitism.

In a statement signed by University President Claudine Gay and 17 other senior Harvard officials, administrators said they were “heartbroken by the death and destruction” caused by the surprise Hamas attack on Saturday and Israel’s retaliation against Gaza.

Students and faculty members — including former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers — called on University leaders to address the war that has already killed more than 900 people in Israel and at least 687 Palestinians.

Before the University-wide email, Summers wrote in a Monday afternoon post on X that he was “sickened” by Harvard’s lack of public statement.

“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.

Summers’ post referred to a statement by the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee in which the group called the government of Israel “entirely responsible” for the ongoing violence in the region.

“Instead, Harvard is being defined by the morally unconscionable statement apparently coming from two dozen student groups blaming all the violence on Israel,” Summers wrote. “I cannot fathom the Administration’s failure to disassociate the University and condemn this statement.”

Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to comment on Summers’ criticism of the University’s administration.

Politicians also blasted Harvard’s leadership for remaining silent for too long.

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.) called on “the leadership of @Harvard to immediately publicly condemn these vile anti-Semitic statements” from PSC in an X post Sunday evening.

“It is abhorrent and heinous that Harvard student groups are blaming Israel for Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attacks that have killed over 700 Israelis,” she wrote. “Any voice that excuses the slaughter of innocent women and children has chosen the side of evil and terrorism.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — who graduated from Harvard Law School — also condemned the PSC statement Monday morning for its “blazing hatred & antisemitism.”

“What the hell is wrong with Harvard?” he wrote in a post on X.

In a statement to The Crimson on behalf of the PSC, Sanaa M. Kahloon ’25 wrote the organization rejects “the accusation that our previous statement could be read as supportive of civilian deaths.”

“The statement aims to contextualize the apartheid and colonial system while explicitly lamenting ‘the devastating and rising civilian toll’ in its caption,” Kahloon wrote.

On Monday evening, the University released its statement encouraging affiliates to “remember that we are one Harvard community” and “embody the care and compassion the world needs now.”

“We have no illusion that Harvard alone can 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,” the statement said.

Before the Monday evening statement was released, University leaders were silent but not absent as Harvard affiliates held events on campus over the weekend to mourn the victims of the war.

Gay and Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 both attended a solidarity dinner held at Harvard Hillel, the University’s Jewish center, on Sunday evening.

Dean of the Faculty Hopi E. Hoekstra and Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana also attended a student vigil Sunday night.

Swain wrote in a statement Monday afternoon that “President Gay, Provost Garber and other leaders have been immediately focused on supporting community members who have been affected by the attacks on Israel and their repercussions.”

Still, affiliates remain unhappy with the University’s response and say the statement does not go far enough.

In response to the University-wide email, Jacob M. Miller ’25 — the president of Harvard Hillel — called on the University to “unequivocally condemn these terror attacks, a step they have been unwilling to take thus far.”

“The University ought to denounce these brutal atrocities — the most deadly attack on Jews since the Holocaust — and should not hesitate to condemn the militants behind them,” Miller, a Crimson Editorial editor, wrote in a statement to The Crimson.

Rep. Jake D. Auchincloss ’10 (D-Mass.) also took issue with Harvard’s statement, writing in a Monday night post on X that “Harvard’s leadership has failed.”

“The president and deans refuse to denounce the antisemitism of Harvard student groups,” he wrote.

“Instead of moral clarity and courage, they offer word salad approved by committee,” he added. “I am ashamed of my alma mater.”

​​—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at miles.herszenhorn@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @mherszenhorn or on Threads @mileshersz.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at claire.yuan@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @claireyuan33.

Editor’s Note: Readers should note that premoderation has been turned on for online commenting on this article out of concerns for student safety.

—Cara J. Chang, President

—Brandon L. Kingdollar, Managing Editor

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