Some Harvard students say their organizations signed an anti-Israel letter without them knowing: ‘I didn’t even see the statement’ – DAVID RAUDALES

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Some Harvard students say their organizations signed an anti-Israel letter without them knowing: ‘I didn’t even see the statement’

Israel Defense Forces soldiers walk through Kibbutz Be’eri where days earlier Hamas militants killed over a hundred civilians near the border with Gaza on October 11, 2023 in Be’eri, Israel.

Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Some Harvard students say their groups signed a divisive letter about Israel without them knowing.
The letter, which condemns Israel for Hamas’ attacks, drew widespread backlash on Monday.
Amid the furor, several students said they were left in the dark about their groups’ involvement.

Several students at Harvard University said they had no idea their student groups were signing a divisive letter condemning Israel for Hamas’ attacks.

The statement, initially signed by 34 Harvard student groups, drew intense backlash because it blamed the Israeli government for a series of surprise attacks carried out by Hamas on October 7.

“We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” the Monday statement said.

One of the Harvard students to distance themselves from the letter was Danielle Mikaelian, who said she was a board member of a group that signed the statement.

“I think it was egregious and have resigned from my role,” Mikaelian wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I am sorry for the pain this caused. My organization did not have a formal process and I didn’t even see the statement until we had signed on.”

Mikaelian, who was identified as a law student by the school paper, The Harvard Crimson, did not say which organization she had resigned from. However, she later tweeted that this organization had rescinded its support for the statement.

The student wrote that she “prevented” another student group, of which she is also a board member, from signing the letter.

“I also want to make it clear that I know firsthand some of my fellow students are in this situation too,” she added. “I wasn’t the only board member who stepped down today.”

Student statements like Mikaelian’s have emerged online since the original letter was criticized by Harvard professors, US lawmakers, and CEOs like Bill Ackman, who controversially called for a list of the individual signatories so he wouldn’t hire them.

Mohini Tangri, who studies law at Harvard, agreed with Mikaelian in a tweet on Wednesday.

“So I know many members had no say in whether their orgs signed either letter,” she wrote. “Many weren’t even notified that their orgs were considering doing so.”

“No need for this level of harassment,” Tangri wrote in response to Ackman’s request for the identities of the student signatories.

Tangri did not say if she is a member of any of the signing groups, but said she spoke for “general members for a variety of affinity orgs” at Harvard.

Meanwhile, Harvard Act on a Dream, an immigrant rights advocacy group, told The Crimson its signing of the original statement was “a result of miscommunication and a lack of due diligence in sharing the statement with the entirety of the board.”

Some of the organization’s board members “were not made aware” that the group had even signed the statement, it added, per The Crimson.

Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund manager, wrote a lengthy tweet criticizing students who said they disagreed with their organization’s statements but chose to remain part of the group.

“Claiming that you had no involvement or knowledge of the statement, but remaining a member of the organization without it withdrawing the statement is perhaps the worst of the alternatives,” Ackman wrote. “As it appears to simply be an attempt to avoid accountability while continuing to be a member of the organization.”

Several groups that co-signed the statement have also withdrawn their signatures, including Harvard Undergraduate Ghungroo and the Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association.

“To ensure that our stance on the condemnation of violence by Hamas and support for a just peace remains clear, we retract our signature from the statement,” the Nepali Student Association wrote on Wednesday.

“Harvard Undergraduate Ghungroo strictly denounces and condemns the massacre propagated by the terrorist organization Hamas,” wrote Harvard Undergraduate Ghungroo the same day.

Harvard President Claudine Gay on Tuesday addressed the controversial student statement, saying it did not represent the university’s stance.

“Let me also state, on this matter as on others, that while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership,” she wrote.

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been wracked by violence after the Hamas militant group attacked Israeli communities on October 7 under cover of rockets.

Israel declared war in response, and bombarded the Gaza Strip with air strikes in the following days. Around 300,000 reservists have been called up by the Israel Defense Forces, for what is anticipated to be a mass ground offensive to retrieve dozens of hostages held by Hamas.

Around 1,200 Israelis have been killed, while close to 3,000 were injured, per an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson.

In the Gaza Strip, an estimated 1,055 Palestinians have been killed, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Read the original article on Business Insider