A statement signed by dozens of Harvard student organizations blaming Israel for the violence unfolding after Hamas fighters launched an unprecedented incursion into the country has sparked criticism on social media.
Hamas militants broke through a fortified border fence and gunned down civilians and soldiers in Israeli communities along the Gaza frontier on Saturday.
Israel formally declared war and hit back with airstrikes, including one that flattened a 14-story tower that held Hamas offices. At least 700 people were reported killed in Israel and more than 400 in Gaza, while thousands were wounded. Some 123,000 displaced people in Gaza were in shelters, the U.N. said.
The Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups released a statement signed by at least 35 student groups that put the blame for the unfolding violence on Israel.
“We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and Harvard Graduate Students for Palestine said in a joint statement posted on social media.
Saturday’s events “did not occur in a vacuum,” it said. “For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison.
“Israeli officials promise 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. In the coming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence.”
The groups who have signed the statement include Amnesty International at Harvard, Harvard Jews for Liberation, the African American Resistance Organization and the Society of Arab Students.
The statement went on to condemn the actions of the “apartheid regime” in Israel, adding that Israeli violence has “structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years.”
“The apartheid regime is the only one to blame,” it said. “From systematized land seizures to routine airstrikes, arbitrary detentions to military checkpoints, and enforced family separations to targeted killings, Palestinians have been forced to live in a state of death, both slow and sudden.
“Today, the Palestinian ordeal enters into uncharted territory. 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 has been met with a social media backlash.
“This is the final crack in my broken heart—a joint statement from @Harvard students,” social media consultant Yael Bar tur wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “I could be sitting in class with these students, watching children brutally murdered, raped, kidnapped and their mutated bodies torn apart by a jeering crowd—and hear why it’s justified.”
Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik wrote that it “is abhorrent and heinous that Harvard student groups are blaming Israel for Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attacks that have killed over 700 Israelis. Any voice that excuses the slaughter of innocent women and children has chosen the side of evil and terrorism.”
She added: “I am calling on the leadership of @Harvard to immediately publicly condemn these vile anti-Semitic statements.”
Ian Bremmer, a political scientist, wrote in a post that a “large number of harvard student organizations blaming israel solely for hamas terrorist attacks killing 700 civilians.
“Can’t imagine who would want to identify with such a group. harvard parents—talk to your educated kids about this.”
Tymofiy Mylovanov, president of the Kyiv School of Economics and a former Ukrainian government minister, called it “despicable.”
“Who forces Hamas to kill civilians and parade their bodies? Israel?” Mylovanov wrote on the platform.
The Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups and Harvard University have been contacted for comment via email.