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November 21, 2023 5:41 pm
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Harvard Graduate Union Sees Wave of Resignations Over Hamas Massacre Response, Jewish Student Concerns

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avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Pro-Hamas students rallying at Harvard University. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Dozens of members of Harvard University’s graduate student union have resigned in protest of its response to the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel and what they described as the union “repeatedly ignoring” concerns voiced by Jewish and Israeli members.

Since Thursday, more than 30 members resigned, according to the Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper. The members were joined by over 70 other Harvard students who signed on “in solidarity” a letter that circulated social media explaining their decision to leave the union.

In the letter, the students said they were “profoundly disappointed” with the union’s actions since Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza, invaded Israel on Oct. 7, massacred over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped over 240 others as hostages. It was the deadliest single-day attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

Rather than pursue a “shared agenda of solidarity,” the union has “repeatedly ignored and derided the concerns of many of its Jewish and Israeli members,” according to the letter. “Despite becoming increasingly vocal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, [the union] has at no point acknowledged, let alone condemned, the horrific attacks on Israeli civilians on and since Oct. 7. This refusal to extend empathy to Israeli and Jewish students at a time of escalating antisemitism is a shameful failure of solidarity.”

The students also cited the body’s delay in issuing a statement condemning antisemitism and Nov. 10 endorsement of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, which seeks to isolate Israel from the international community as a step toward the Jewish state’s eventual elimination. Beyond endorsing the BDS movement on Nov. 10, the union also voted to sign a statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza — a move that critics argue would allow Hamas terrorists to regroup to target Israel.

“Jewish and Israeli members and allies seeking to raise concerns in union meetings about campus antisemitism have been dismissed as ‘privileged,’ told they had ‘nothing at stake, unlike those students with family members now under attack,’ and accused of wielding ‘white supremacist power’ and being ‘complicit in genocide,'” the letter read.

The students noted that the graduate union recently signed a letter that referred to Israel as “the murderous Israeli regime” and accusing it of “ongoing genocide.”

Amid such hostility, the resigning students wrote, they have tried to “engage in good faith” but have reached their limit.

“For the last month we have engaged in good faith,” the letter continued. “At this point, however, it has become abundantly clear that HGSU-UAW [Harvard’s graduate student union] has no interest in supporting the safety and wellbeing of all students impact by the conflict. We are therefore left with no choice but to announce our resignation from the union.”

The graduate union is affiliated with the United Auto Workers labor union (UAW), which represents about 400,000 members including some graduate students and academic workers.

In a statement to the Harvard Crimson, HGSU-UAW Trustee Max Ehrenfreund responded to the resignations.

“These resignations are not merely symbolic, but materially limit the union’s capacity to advocate for its workers,” Ehrenfreund said. “For that reason, we will be reaching out to all of the resigning members to hear from them individually to understand how the union can better serve them and to figure out what we might be able to do to convince them to sign a card again.”

The union’s unofficial “BDS caucus” recently issued a statement deriding efforts to get the union to issue a more thorough statement condemning antisemitism, saying it “feeds into a right-wing narrative that paints the recent wave of protests and consciousness-building in the Palestinian struggle as ‘incidents of incitement and calls for violence against Jewish and Israeli students.'”

Harvard has been a hub of controversy since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, with the school coming under fire for what Jewish and pro-Israel voices have described as allowing antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred to proliferate on campus since Oct. 7.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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