Around New England

Harvard Backpedaling On Israel and Hamas

November 10, 2023

A high-ranking official at Harvard University said he has “regrets about the first statement” Harvard administrators made about Hamas’s attack on Israel last month.

“Our goal is to ensure that our community is safe, secure, and feels well supported — and that first statement did not succeed in that regard,” provost Alan Garber said Thursday, November 9, according to The Harvard Crimson.

The provost is the chief academic officer at Harvard, and reports directly to the president.

Harvard was widely criticized for saying nothing during the first two days after the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel even while pro-Palestinian student groups said Israel was solely to blame for it, and then criticized for issuing a statement that did not directly condemn Hamas. The day after that, on October 10, the university’s president, Claudine Gay, issued a statement condemning Hamas, but that statement didn’t end the reaction.

In addition to the criticism, the uproar has cost Harvard money. The most high-profile example was announced October 16, when The Wexner Foundation ended its funding of a fellowship program at the university’s Kennedy School of Government.

The foundation’s relationship with Harvard began in 1989 and included sizable yearly donations to pay for a leadership development program at the Kennedy School for civil service bureaucrats in Israel. During fiscal year 2021, the amount was $1,832,318, according to the foundation’s Form 990 federal tax form.

The uproar of Harvard response to Hamas’s attack, Garber said, is more serious than any other crisis he has encountered during his 12 years as provost, including the coronavirus emergency.

The same day the provost made his comments — Thursday, November 9 — university president Gay released a statement condemning the pro-Palestinian chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and announced that a newly established anti-Semitism advisory group will help Harvard implement anti-Semitism education and training for Harvard affiliates.


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