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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Jewish Students Sue Harvard for Civil-Rights Violations amid Hamas Riots

'Harvard must be forced to protect its Jewish students and stop applying a double standard when it comes to anti-Jewish bigotry...'

(Headline USA) Several Jewish students have filed a lawsuit against Harvard University, accusing it of becoming “a bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment.”

The lawsuit filed Wednesday mirrors others filed since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel— including against the Art Institute of Chicago, New York University and the University of Pennsylvania.

In the Harvard lawsuit, the plaintiffs include members of the Students Against Antisemitism, Inc. They accuse Harvard of violating Jewish students’ civil rights and allege that the university tolerated Jewish students being harassed, assaulted and intimidated—behavior that has intensified since the Oct. 7 attack.

“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,” according to the lawsuit. “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.”

The university has been rattled by protests since the Oct. 7 attack. At one point, pro-Palestinian students occupied a campus building for 24 hours.

Marc Kasowitz, a partner at the law firm that brought the suit, Kasowitz Benson Torres, said in a statement that the litigation was necessary because Harvard would not “correct its deep-seated antisemitism problem voluntarily.”

“Harvard must be forced to protect its Jewish students and stop applying a double standard when it comes to anti-Jewish bigotry,” he added.

A spokesman for Harvard said the school doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

About a dozen students are potentially facing disciplinary charges for violations of protest rules related to pro-Palestinian activities, but the spokesman said the school couldn’t comment on their cases.

College leaders have struggled to define the line where political speech crosses into harassment and discrimination, with Jewish and Arab students raising concerns that their schools are doing too little to protect them.

Nonetheless, the universities have had no difficulties curtailing speech that they, personally, found objectionable even when it posed significantly less immediate threat of harm or vandalism. Many have imposed strict parameters on having conservative speakers on campus and have likewise restricted certain Christian-based organizations, including pro-life groups.

The double-standard took center stage in December when the presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT testified at a congressional hearing on campus anti-Semitism.

Asked by Republican lawmakers whether calls for the genocide of Jews would violate campus policies, the presidents declined to say unequivocally that it was prohibited speech.

Their answers prompted weeks of backlash from donors and alumni, leading to the resignation of Liz Magill at Penn and Claudine Gay at Harvard.

Nonetheless, Harvard initially stood behind its diversity hire following rumored pressure from former President Barack Obama, and it was the weight of the anti-Semitism scandal paired with an equally humiliating plagiarism scandal that ultimately brought down Gay long after a white, male leader would have been jettisoned.

The schools, many of which receive sizable donations from oil-rich countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been reluctant to criticize Hamas and its supporters, even as their rhetoric echoes the rise of the Nazi party in 1930s Germany.

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has callously dealt with the growing concerns over anti-Semitism by conflating it with the backlash that pro-Hamas rioters are facing for their aggressive and disruptive actions while trying to frame themselves as victims.

That has only compounded the mixed messaging and sowed further confusion for both policy-makers and victims alike.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the Department of Education has opened more than 40 investigations at colleges and universities in response to complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobia since the Oct. 7 attacks, including at Harvard, Stanford and MIT.

“No student should feel unsafe on campus,” Cardona told the Associated Press on Wednesday, after he met with students.

“The Office for Civil Rights takes these cases very seriously. They investigate harassment, or violations for antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Arab sentiment,” he continued. “We take that role very seriously. If any student on campus feels that any protest or messaging makes them feel unsafe, we ask for an investigation.”

In November, Gay issued a memo laying out plans to address anti-Semitism on campus by studying it and promoting greater awareness rather than taking immediate action against the purveyors of it.

The university said it was starting a process to examine “how antisemitism manifests within our community” and developing a plan to address it.

It also is implementing a program to educate students and faculty about anti-Semitism and “redoubling our efforts to make students aware that appropriate avenues exist to report feelings of fear or incidents causing harm” including an anonymous hotline for bias incidents.

Gay’s tepid response and congressional testimony prompted  Rabbi David J. Wolpe to resign from the school’s anti-Semitism advisory group, saying it was clear the effort was pointless, according to the Harvard Crimson.

“With great respect for the members of the committee, the short explanation is that both events on campus and the painfully inadequate testimony reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped,” tweeted Wolpe, a visiting scholar at the Harvard Divinity School.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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