Lawmakers decry Harvard dental group, others over anti-Israel note

Legislators have condemned more than 30 student groups at Harvard University, including the Harvard Arab Medical and Dental Association, that signed a letter blaming Israel for attacks by Hamas that killed at least 1,200 people, including Americans.

Following Hamas militants’ surprise rocket attack at a large musical festival near the Gaza-Israel border on October 7 that has turned into a war between Israel and Palestine, a joint statement was issued by Harvard Palestine solidarity groups. It was signed by the Harvard Islamic Group and several Muslim student groups, as well as Amnesty International at Harvard, the Harvard Prison Divest Coalition, Neighborhood Program Cambridge, Harvard Act on a Dream, the African American Resistance Organization, and numerous others.

“We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” according to the four-paragraph statement by the group.

The letter, which has been viewed more than 6 million times on X, formerly known as Twitter, and has been shared by many authors, caught the ire of U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

“Israel is the victim of a terrorist attack,” Torres wrote on X in response to the letter. “Hamas is the perpetrator. It’s as simple as that.”

Stefanik, who has a rocky past relationship with Harvard, took it one step farther. On X, she called on Harvard leaders to “publicly condemn these vile anti-Semitic statements.” In January 2021, the Harvard Institute of Politics removed Stefanik following unfounded claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.  

Additionally, the letter has triggered outrage and concern, as well as some “likes,” from many on social media.

Details of the letter

The attacks that started on October 7 didn’t “occur in a vacuum,” they are the result of Israel keeping Palestinians in an “open air prison” for two decades, according to the statement signed by the Harvard organizations.

Furthermore, the groups wrote, “Palestinians have been forced to live in a state of death, both slow and sudden.” “The coming days will require a firm stand against colonial retaliation. We call on the Harvard community to take action to stop the ongoing annihilation of Palestinians,” the statement concluded. 

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