Some students rush to disavow, hide connections to Hamas statements to protect careers

Harvard student groups disappear from statement blaming Israel for terrorist attacks after it goes viral. "Terror List" seeks to hold "Hitlerite college radicals" accountable.

Published: October 12, 2023 11:01pm

Updated: February 19, 2024 5:09pm

Publicly refusing to condemn Hamas cost a New York University law student a job likely worth more than $200,000 just in its first year. Other students are hustling to avoid that fate.

Law firm Winston & Strawn's public revocation of its job offer to Ryna Workman, president of NYU Law's Student Bar Association, is the most prominent example of the career and reputational peril students may face for whitewashing terrorism against Israeli civilians.

Harvard University students are particularly vulnerable because three dozen student organizations, under the banner of "Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups," joined a statement that calls "the apartheid regime" of Israel "the only one to blame" for the surprise Hamas attack on women, children and partiers that began Saturday morning, claiming at least 1,200 lives.

Archives of the statement show the list of signatories was removed Tuesday between roughly 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern, three days after the attacks. During that window, hedge fund magnate and Harvard alumnus Bill Ackman said "a number of CEOs" had asked him whether his alma mater would identify the student groups "so as to insure that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members."

Members who defend "inconceivably despicable acts" against civilians should "not be able to hide behind a corporate shield," Ackman said. The revised solidarity statement cites "student safety" as the reason for removing the list, which never included the names of individuals.

Famed Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz told "Just the News, No Noise" Thursday that he has "started a campaign to publish the name of every single student anywhere, in any university who signed those petitions."

Students who claim they signed the statement because they didn't read it first aren't helping themselves, Dershowitz said. "Would you hire, as your lawyer, somebody who signed petitions, or signed documents that he didn't read?" Students signed it without reading because the prevailing view on campus is "if it's against the Jews, it must be right."

Former Stanford Review editor Max Meyer created his own list of "Hitlerite college radicals" who are "rapidly deleting their online presences" to avoid professional consequences, but he said Google removed it within 12 hours. Meyer has since moved "The Terror List" to a different website, categorized by school, and is actively seeking tips.

Conservative watchdog Accuracy in Media took the callouts a step further, sending a billboard truck to Harvard that identifies alleged individual members of the signatories as "Harvard's Leading Antisemites." The Palestine Solidarity Committee and Harvard Crimson called it "doxxing," as did USA Today.

Adam Kissel, a former Trump administration Education Department official, published an X thread distinguishing professional repercussions for "truly major transgressions, like supporting atrocities by Hamas," from punishing "trivia" such as microaggressions, which is routine "cancel culture."

Kissel told Just the News that calling out individual members is "not my favorite strategy, but it does offer those students an opportunity to clarify their personal positions, which may not be identical to the institutional statements."

"This is a very embarrassing time for U.S. colleges and universities," not just because of the "intolerant, ignorant bloodlust" of so many students but because so many presidents will not "clearly call out such atrocities," he wrote in an email.

They likely could avoid the pickle by adopting the University of Chicago's Kalven Report on institutional neutrality. 

Nearly 300 Harvard faculty have signed a letter against "false equivalencies" between Hamas, whose "murder and kidnapping of civilians" had "no military or other specific objective," and Israel, whose "security forces were engaging in self-defense" and trying to rescue hostages.

The solidarity statement by student groups "can be seen as nothing less than condoning the mass murder of civilians based only on their nationality," they said. 

Harvard President Claudine Gay updated her Monday statement, which referred to "the attack by Hamas that targeted citizens in Israel," as the faculty letter was circulating. She now specifies "I condemn the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas."

Harvard Law itself platformed a celebrity who called for the eradication of "the imperialist project of Israel," Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, who in 2015 spoke on a panel on "racialized policing and international resistance." It was cosponsored by 20 individuals and organizations including the dean of students, Black Law Students Association and ACLU.

The identities of "Palestine Solidarity Groups" at Columbia University who signed an even more aggressive statement had as of Wednesday not been removed, suggesting they are getting less attention than Harvard. They didn't mention Hamas or terrorism, but blamed the "Israeli extremist government" and the U.S. for the "weight of responsibility for the war and casualties."

Chicago-based Winston & Strawn didn't name Workman when it rescinded the offer, but referred to a "former summer associate" who distributed "inflammatory comments" about the Hamas attack to the NYU Law SBA.

Workman, who identifies as nonbinary, used the "Message from the President" column in the SBA newsletter to share Workman's view that "Israel bears full responsibility" for the terrorist attacks. "I will not condemn Palestinian resistance," Workman wrote.

"These comments are profoundly in conflict" with the values of Winston & Strawn, which "stands in solidarity with Israel's right to exist in peace and condemns Hamas," the firm's statement reads. It will continue to "work together to eradicate anti-Semitism in all forms." 

The median salary for an NYU law graduate 10 months after graduation was $215,000 for both the 2021 and 2022 classes, according to the school's figures.

Fordham Law's SBA published a statement on "Ongoing Violence in Israel and Palestine" that referred to "Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel" but didn't describe it as terrorism. "We condemn all acts of violence against innocent civilians, and any celebrations thereof."

At least one signatory disappeared from the Harvard list after Townhall reporter John Hasson published the names of leaders in several groups Tuesday.

The Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association said it retracted its signature because it "has been interpreted as a tacit support for the recent violent attacks in Israel." It also said the terrorist attacks killed 10 Nepali students in Israel.

The signatory Muslim Law Students Association appears to be scrubbing its online profile, which was partly intact as of Tuesday night

Hejir Rashidzadeh, a former summer associate at the Alston & Bird law firm, told Just the News he resigned as an executive board member of MLSA "as soon as I found out" the group signed the statement without his consent, while specifying "I was never an active member of the board." 

He took down his LinkedIn page "preemptively" but did "receive some emails" after Hasson identified him as an MLSA board member. Hasson said he crossed out Rashidzadeh's name after seeing documentation of his prior resignation.

"Many in these groups never saw the statement before it went out," former Harvard President Larry Summers wrote on X. "In some case those approving did not understand exactly what they were approving" or were "naive and foolish. This is not a time where it is constructive to vilify individuals and I am sorry that is happening."

Harvard Law student Mohini Tangri said she "know[s] many members had no say in whether their orgs signed either letter" and were not notified it might happen. "No need for this level of harassment."

Another student announced on X she resigned as a board member from an unnamed signatory of the Harvard solidarity letter, calling it "egregious" and apologizing for "the pain this caused."

The Oct. 11 statement reads: "We just want to reach out and say that we, as the Jewish Student Law Association, are here for you and support you. We recognize that you were in no way involved in the joint statement. Furthermore, we appreciate your courage for standing up in a very public. Please let us know if we can vouch for you or support you in any way."

Libre Initiative President Daniel Garza resigned from advising a Harvard Kennedy School student publication that didn't sign the letter, "to my relief," simply to "reject any association" with Harvard, he wrote on X.

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