Attorneys for the students have said that Harvard has, in effect, tolerated “rampant” antisemitism amidst ongoing pro-Palestine protests.
A group of Jewish students has filed a lawsuit against Harvard University, claiming that the school has become a “bastion” of antisemitic “hatred and harassment.”
According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit mirrors similar claims filed in the aftermath of the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel, including complaints against New York University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania.
In the Harvard lawsuit, the plaintiffs—who include members of Students Against Antisemitism, Inc.—accuse Harvard of violating their civil rights, alleging that the school’s administration has tolerated obvious acts of hate, ranging from verbal harassment to physical assault.
“Mobs of pro-Hamas students and faculty have marched by the hundreds through Harvard’s campus, shouting vile antisemitic slogans and calling for death to Jews and Israel,” the lawsuit states. “Those mobs have occupied buildings, classrooms, libraries, student lounges, plazas, and study halls, often for days or weeks at a time, promoting violence against Jews.”
Although The Associated Press notes that it is not what “mobs” the lawsuit refers to, Harvard has undoubtedly been shaken by a series of pro-Palestine protests, with some student-activists having even occupied a campus building for 24 hours.
In an open letter, some Harvard students expressed their unequivocal support for the Palestinian cause, suggesting—at least implicitly—that organizations like Hamas had some justification for engaging in mass terror against Israeli civilians.
“Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum,” read the letter, which was published hours after the October 7th attacks. “For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promised to ‘open the gates of hell,’ and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced.”
“Palestinians in Gaza have no shelters for refuge and nowhere to escape,” it said. “In the cming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence.”
Intriguingly, and despite saying that Israeli policies are “entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” pro-Palestine students denied supporting Hamas and complained that they have since been “flooded with racist hate speech and death threats” for expressing solidarity with Gaza.
The only named plaintiff in the complaint, identified by The Harvard Crimson as Shabbos “Alexander” Kestenbaum, said that antisemitism at Harvard had become “so unbearable” that legal action was the only remaining option.
“Jewish students on campus have been subjected to a really hostile environment in which they have been intimidated, harassed and in some instances physically assaulted because they’re Jewish,” attorney Marc Kasowitz told ABC News. “Right now, the Jewish students at Harvard are afraid for their own physical safety and to express their views about current events.”
Kasowitz, whose firm is representing the students, said that his clients had filed repeated complaints with Harvard’s administration about alleged on-campus harassment.
“We want the university to do what it should to make sure that all of their students feel safe, protected and able to express their views in an open way like kids should be able to do,” Kasowitz said. “It’s not that complicated.”
The lawsuit is seeking a court order to compel Harvard to “implement institutional, far-reaching and concrete remedial measures,” including the disciplining or termination of deans, professors, and other employees allegedly responsible for disseminating or tolerating antisemitic abuse.