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Harvard Graduate Student Files Complaint Against Econ Professor Jason Furman’s Wife

Eve A. Gerber confronted a Harvard graduate student wearing a keffiyeh on the Harvard Law School campus in October.
Eve A. Gerber confronted a Harvard graduate student wearing a keffiyeh on the Harvard Law School campus in October. By Frank S. Zhou
By Michelle N. Amponsah and Sally E. Edwards, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated: January 13, 2024, at 7:40 a.m.

Eve A. Gerber, the wife of economics professor Jason Furman ’92, confronted a second Harvard graduate student wearing a keffiyeh, according to the student and his friend who witnessed the encounter.

John J. Abughattas, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, alleged in a December complaint filed with the University that on Oct. 10, Gerber yelled at him, followed him, and filmed him on the Harvard Law School campus – just four days before she harassed another Harvard graduate student wearing a keffiyeh in a now-viral video.

“Because I was wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh and am a visibly Arab man, she repeatedly called me a terrorist and an antisemite,” the complaint states.

In an interview this month, Gerber, however, denied using the word “terrorist” or calling Abughattas and his friend antisemites on Oct. 10. She also denied using the phrase “terrorist scarf.”

In a video of the Oct. 14 incident that went viral, Gerber called the anonymous student’s keffiyeh a “terrorist scarf.”

“I said that on 10/14, and I deeply regret saying it,” Gerber said in the interview.

“I used that phrase on 10/14,” she added. “It’s not true that I said that on 10/10.”

In interviews with The Crimson, both Abughattas and fellow Harvard student Isaijah S. Johnson, — who was with Abughattas on Oct. 10 — accused Gerber of harassing Abughattas for wearing a keffiyeh, a traditional Palestinian scarf that has come to symbolize support for Palestine.

According to Abughattas, Gerber called the keffiyeh a “terrorist scarf” and accused him of “supporting terrorism” and “wanting to kill Jewish people.”

Johnson also said that Gerber “definitely used the word terrorism or terrorist” when referring to Abughattas.

The viral video of Gerber publicized in December “recontextualized” the incident and revealed a pattern of behavior on Gerber’s part, Johnson said.

But Gerber rejected Abughattas’ allegation that she harassed him, saying that she was eager to “initiate a conversation, in good faith” to “learn their point of view.”

“I wasn’t trying to harass anyone,” she said. “I am horrified to think that it came across that way.”

A video filmed by Gerber at the end of the encounter, which was viewed by The Crimson, showed a conversation between Gerber and Johnson about the difference between support for Hamas and support for Palestine. In the video, which does not show the full encounter, Gerber does not call either student a terrorist or an antisemite.

“I was eager to hear their perspective,” Gerber said. “I asked them for their views.”

In the video, Gerber follows Abughattas and Johnson and asked them about whether they supported Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“Do you support the mass massacre of a thousand people based on their race?” Gerber asked. Do you support the taking of hostages? Do you support 260 people shot point blank range?”

Johnson then turns around to speak with Gerber.

“So being in support of a group like the Palestinians is very different from being in support of a group like Hamas,” Johnson said.

“Yeah, I agree,” Gerber replied.

“You can be in solidarity with a group like the Palestinians and say they have political goals that we think ought to be achieved without also thereby necessarily agreeing with the tactics that some members of that group are taking,” Johnson added.

Gerber ends the exchange by thanking Johnson for the conversation.

“Thank you for taking the time to talk because it is really frightening to see signs of sympathy with terrorist organizations around here and it’s a frightening world,” Gerber said.

In the complaint, Abughattas wrote that he did not report the incident directly to Harvard’s Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at first because he had “little faith that it would be taken seriously by Harvard, as evidenced by how the institution has treated similar cases of harassment against Palestinian, Arab, Brown, Black, and Muslim students.”

Abughattas wrote in the complaint that Harvard “has been an exceedingly hostile space to Palestinians these past two months” and that he has “seriously considered leaving.”

Steven G. Catalano, University Police Department spokesperson, declined to comment on the “existence of reports made by individuals,” citing department policy.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on Abughattas’ complaint.

Abughattas realized nearly two months after the incident that Gerber was the woman who had approached him when the viral video of her confronting another graduate student for wearing a keffiyeh began to circulate online in December.

The video was initially posted on X on Dec. 12 by the Sparrow Project, an organization that describes itself as a “grassroots public interest newswire.” The video clip received intense criticism last month, including from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Greg J. Landsman (D-Ohio).

After the video went viral, Gerber issued a public apology, writing in a post on X that in the two months since the encounter she has “tried to learn more and take reparative action.”

I will continue to do so,” Gerber wrote. “I deeply regret what I said and did.”

Since the video’s release, Gerber said both she and Furman have faced online harassment and received death threats.

“We have gotten hundreds of messages through email, voicemail, text, even desecrating an online memorial to my husband’s mother,” Gerber wrote in a statement. “These have included many very violent threats.”

Gerber said that she “reluctantly” went to Harvard’s campus for a meeting on Oct. 10, and that after her meeting, she came upon two men that were talking publicly about the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

According to Gerber, one of the men smiled and said “free Palestine,” then walked away.

Both Abughattas and Johnson alleged that Gerber’s decision to film the interaction was an attempt to get a reaction from the two students.

“She kept following me and filming me and it really seemed like she was trying to keep pushing to get some sort of reaction out of me,” Abughttas said.

Johnson also said that it appeared that Gerber was trying to get a reaction from him and Abughattas, “so she could record it and do something with that — either dox us or just post it.”

Gerber defended her decision to record the incident.

“Understanding that we live in a time where all conversations can be misunderstood and made public, I started to video,” she said.

“It was never my intention to dox anyone,” she added. “I think doxxing is disgusting. It’s been done to me.”

In the complaint, Abughattas called on Harvard to create an anti-Palestinian racism committee “as a small step towards making an environment that welcomes Palestinians and our scholarship.”

He said that he does not believe that the University “will do what is necessary to support Palestinian students,” citing former president Claudine Gay’s resignation as an “indication that things might be about to get worse.”

Former Harvard president Claudine Gay resigned following national furor over the University’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and allegations of academic dishonesty in her scholarly work.

“Claudine Gay was no ally to Palestinians — and yet, she faced this immense pressure and immense backlash from Zionists and the far right,” Abughattas said.

“So I really, I don’t think things are going to get better at the University,” he added.

—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at Follow her on X at @mnamponsah.

—Staff writer Sally E. Edwards can be reached at Follow her on X @sallyedwards04 or on Threads @sally_edwards06.

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