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Updated: Thursday, January 18 at 11:55 p.m.
More than 65 Harvard faculty and staff members have formed a pro-Palestine advocacy group called Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, according to a Jan. 6 statement posted to the group’s website.
Founded as a chapter of the national network of Faculty for Justice in Palestine, the group called on Harvard to sever its ties with Israel and condemned what it termed an “unfolding genocide” in Gaza.
FSJP’s Jan. 6 statement also harshly criticized Harvard’s response to pro-Palestine activism on campus, accusing the University of participating in efforts to “methodically censor, surveil, and discipline students, faculty, and staff for teaching and speech that is critical of the state of Israel.”
In particular, the FSJP highlighted what it called “unusual disciplinary measures” that Harvard imposed on student protesters.
The statement cited recent cases of undergraduate students facing Administrative Board hearings for their involvement in pro-Palestine demonstrations and an instance where a Harvard College proctor was relieved of his position “for an indeterminate amount of time” after a viral video depicted him in a confrontation at a pro-Palestine protest.
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton and College spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo declined to comment for this article.
In the statement, FSJP — which is also affiliated with the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, an activist organization tied to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement — urged Harvard to cut its financial ties with the country, arguing that American universities “play an integral role” in upholding Israeli violence.
“The unfolding genocide in Gaza cannot be disconnected from over 75 years of violent dispossession of the Palestinian people,” the statement said.
More than 24,000 Gazans have been killed in the war, and South Africa has accused Israel of genocide in the International Court of Justice. Israel has vehemently denied these allegations in the ICJ and the press, saying that it has worked to spare the lives of Palestinian civilians during its military actions in response to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack.
“We call on the university to withdraw investments from the State of Israel and all companies that sustain Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, and systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians,” FSJP wrote in the statement.
Past Harvard presidents have generally rejected calls from activists to boycott Israeli institutions. Drew Gilpin Faust and Lawrence S. Bacow have disavowed the tactic of academic boycotts, and Lawrence H. Summers has previously criticized calls for an academic boycott of Israel.
The group also demanded that the University sever ties with donors “attempting to control or censor on-campus speech” or promoting career-related backlash against pro-Palestine Harvard affiliates.
“Accepting donations conditioned upon the suppression of ideas and expression on our campus is antithetical to the mission of the university,” the group wrote.
Harvard’s publicly available gift policy guide does not appear to explicitly ban donations with such conditions. However, the guide lists “upholding academic freedom” as one of several “broad considerations” in the University’s fundraising process.
In recent months, several high-profile donors have stopped donating to Harvard over criticisms of its responses to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel and antisemitism on campus. Several CEOs, including billionaire hedge fund manager Bill A. Ackman ’88, publicly stated their firms would not hire students affiliated with organizations that signed a controversial Oct. 7 statement calling Israel “entirely responsible” for Hamas’s attack.
Students affiliated with organizations that signed the student group statement, spearheaded by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee, have had their names and faces broadcast by a doxxing truck in Harvard Square and their personal information distributed online.
“The Harvard administration has consistently failed to defend targeted students, take meaningful action to protect them, or address dozens of complaints of on-campus discrimination or bullying they have submitted through official channels,” the FSJP statement said.
Harvard Medical School instructor Lara Jirmanus, one of the statement’s signatories, said in an interview with The Crimson that the group sought to “stand behind the students” and send the message that “this is the Harvard we want to see.”
“We want to see a Harvard that really creates a space for all truths, even inconvenient truths that must be truths, in the pursuit of justice,” she added.
“I think the statement says it really succinctly,” said Classics professor Richard F. Thomas, another signatory. “I am interested in justice for the Palestinian people and the peaceful coexistence of the Palestinian and Israeli people.”
—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15.
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