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Op Eds

We are Harvard Alumni. We Stand in Solidarity with Harvard’s Liberated Zone and a Free Palestine.

By Elyse C. Goncalves
By Nizar H. Farsakh, Hossam M. Nasr, and Rosa Vazques
Nizar H. Farsakh is a lecturer on international affairs at George Washington University. Hossam M. Nasr ’21 is a former co-president of the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee and co-founder of Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine. Rosa Vazques ’20 is a former co-lead for the Harvard Ethnic Studies Movement and the Protect Undocumented Students Harvard Initiative. All three are co-organizers of Harvard Alumni for Palestine.

We are organizers with Harvard Alumni for Palestine, a newly founded collective of Harvard alumni of conscience appalled by the University’s complicity in Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people and its repression of pro-Palestine, anti-war student voices.

Over the last several months, Israel has waged a catastrophic genocide against the Palestinian people of Gaza that has flouted every principle of international law. For more than 200 days, the Israeli military mercilessly slaughtered over 34,000 Palestinians — more than 14,500 of whom are children; forcibly starved and displaced almost two million Palestinians; destroyed every single university in Gaza and nearly all of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure; completely or partially demolished nearly all of Gaza’s hospitals; murdered hundreds of healthcare workers, over 200 aid workers, and more than 100 journalists; and attempted to mask countless crimes against humanity, each more heinous than the next.

Meanwhile, Harvard has actively been advancing a campaign against pro-Palestine activists. Harvard’s leadership silenced pro-Palestine voices on campus, callously disregarded the rights and wellbeing of its students, and suspended the Palestine Solidarity Committee through disparate enforcement of obscure University policies — a move immediately denounced by the Massachusetts ACLU. Harvard administrators failed to defend students who were subject to a dangerous smear campaign and received death threats for peacefully protesting an ongoing genocide.

Now, Harvard itself is targeting these same students.

On May 6, the Harvard alumni community received an email from interim President Alan M. Garber ’76, describing the student encampment for Gaza in Harvard Yard as a disruption and threatening students protesting Israel’s atrocities with immediate involuntary leave – one of the largest acts of repression against students in Harvard’s history. Not one reference was made to the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.

Given Harvard’s mission to inspire its community members to “strive toward a more just, fair, and promising world,” students daring to protest in defense of Palestinian right to life should be celebrated, not oppressed.

The University’s repression of pro-Palestine activists cannot mask its complicity in Israeli apartheid, occupation, and genocide.

Despite over two decades of student activism demanding divestment and a ruling by the International Court of Justice that characterizes Israel’s actions in Gaza as a plausible genocide, the Harvard Management Company, which oversees Harvard’s nearly $51 billion endowment, refuses to disclose information about the scale or nature of its investments in Israel today.

The University’s lack of transparency and McCarthyist response to pro-Palestine student activism begs the question: What is Harvard hiding?

In the face of these egregious acts, and inspired by the bravery and moral clarity of the students who have launched Harvard’s Liberated Zone encampment, we are founding Harvard Alumni for Palestine, part of the national Alumni for Justice in Palestine coalition.

We are a collective of Harvard alumni actively committed to the cause of Palestinian liberation and guided by a mission to hold our institution accountable for its complicity in Israel’s ongoing genocide as well as its failure to protect its students.

We champion the students who are bravely taking the weight of the U.S. war machine on their shoulders and challenging the imperial violence in which our institution is complicit. We endorse the nonviolent movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. We reject the premise that student protesters are disrupting the functioning of the University — the University itself is doing so by refusing to meet their reasonable demands.

In Harvard College’s own words, “alumni are a vital source of connection and philanthropy that help Harvard achieve its mission to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society.” Our support — financial and otherwise — seeks to embrace this mission, but our faith in our alma mater has been jeopardized.

The past seven months have demonstrated the need for a strong and unified alumni voice of conscience, advocating for the rights and freedoms of Palestinians on campus and abroad.

We will therefore withhold all our donations and support to Harvard University and withdraw our consent to display our names, likenesses, and work on Harvard websites, promotional materials, and donor appeals.

We will continue denying our support until our core demands are met: honoring the demands of Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine’s Liberated Zone, including disclosing investments, divesting from Israel, and dropping charges against students; providing amnesty to students partaking in protests for a free Palestine; and upholding free speech on campus by reinstating the Harvard PSC.

From the Vietnam War to South African apartheid, history has demonstrated that the legacy of student activism is one of truth and liberation — the current movement against Israeli occupation and genocide is no different. As alumni watching the Harvard Liberated Zone unfold, we beseech Harvard to refrain from replicating the brutal crackdowns we have seen on other college campuses, which we see as an extension of the same colonial and imperial violence practiced in Palestine.

We attended Harvard because of its touted commitment to academic freedom, equality, and justice. Today, we implore Harvard administrators to join us in fulfilling that mission, and we will withhold our financial support for the University until it does so.

Harvard administration, history is watching. We are too.

Nizar H. Farsakh is a lecturer on international affairs at George Washington University. Hossam M. Nasr ’21 is a former co-president of the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee and co-founder of Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine. Rosa Vazques ’20 is a former co-lead for the Harvard Ethnic Studies Movement and the Protect Undocumented Students Harvard Initiative. All three are co-organizers of Harvard Alumni for Palestine.

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