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A group of Harvard-educated Republican lawmakers condemned Harvard’s response to a controversial student group statement that held Israel “entirely responsible” for violence after Hamas invaded Israel.
In a letter sent Friday to University President Claudine Gay, the lawmakers — Sen. Michael D. Crapo (R-Idaho), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Dan S. Sullivan ’87 (R-Texas), Rep. Dan R. Crenshaw (R-Texas), Rep. Kevin P. Kiley ’07 (R-Calif.), Rep. Brian J. Mast (R-Fla.), and Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.) — accused Gay’s administration of “intentionally fostering an environment that allows rampant and dangerous antisemitism.”
The signatories also demanded an “immediate condemnation” of the student statement, which was endorsed by more than 30 student groups and penned by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee. As of Friday, at least 10 of the original co-signing groups had retracted their support for the statement.
In a statement last week, the PSC wrote that it “staunchly opposes violence against civilians — Palestinian, Israeli, or other.”
Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment, but he confirmed that the administration had received the lawmakers’ letter.
The letter described the administration’s response — which has included several emailed statements from leadership and a video message from Gay — as “weak” and “too little, too late.”
“This heinous statement and the support it received from over thirty student organizations across Harvard University should raise immediate concerns into Harvard’s curriculum regarding the State of Israel,” they wrote.
Students linked to groups that signed the statement have faced security concerns and doxxing attacks on campus and online.
A “doxxing truck” circled Harvard Square last week, displaying the names and faces of student members of organizations that endorsed the PSC statement. Both a PSC vigil and rally were rescheduled last week due to safety concerns. As a security precaution, the University has closed Harvard Yard to members of the public at night.
In a video message Thursday, Gay upheld the University’s commitment to free speech and rejected calls to punish and name students whose groups signed onto the PSC’s statement.
Melanie Lawhorn, a spokesperson for Crapo, wrote that the senator believes “students maintain the right to free speech to express their opinions” while reiterating that “speech filled with hate toward the Jewish community should be condemned.”
In an emailed statement, Mast wrote that he believes Gay’s response “tiptoed around the issue.”
“If someone walked onto the campus with a student ID in one hand and a Nazi flag in the other, the Administration wouldn’t hesitate to denounce him or her,” he wrote. “This shouldn’t be any different.”
When asked about the threats and fear student members of the groups that had endorsed the PSC statement were facing, Mast replied that he believes “if someone is abusing his or her right to free speech by making threats, there are consequences for that too.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin ’83 (D-Md.) criticized the premise of the Republicans’ letter in an interview with The Crimson.
“I agree that the president of Harvard could have and should’ve spoken out more forcefully in condemnation of the terrorism, but that’s an unusual point coming from right-wing conservatives,” he said.
“I do wish that my Republican colleagues that think it’s important for the president of Harvard to condemn terrorist atrocities in the Middle East would themselves condemn the violent insurrection that overran the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021,” he added.
While only Republicans signed the letter, several Democratic lawmakers who graduated from the College also criticized the administration for failing to explicitly condemn the statement.
Last week, Rep. Jake D. Auchincloss ’10 (D-Mass.) called the administration’s response “moral cowardice” and the PSC’s statement “morally depraved” in an interview with Politico.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal ’67 (D-Conn.) said in an interview with The Day that he believes “colleges and universities need to take a stronger stand” on Israel, adding that students “have a right to say whatever they want, and I have a right to condemn that point of view.”
In a press release on his website, Rep. Seth W. Moulton ’01 (D-Mass.) accused Harvard of “complicity” with the sentiments of the PSC statement.
“I cannot recall a moment when I was more embarrassed by my alma mater,” Moulton said.
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