Students sue Harvard, calling it a ‘bastion’ of anti-Semitism

Six students sued Harvard on Wednesday, alleging that the renowned university had become a “bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment” that was exacerbated by Hamas’s attack on Israel last October.

He complaintfiled in federal court in Massachusetts, says Harvard professors have promulgated anti-Semitism in their courses and intimidated students who object.

“What is most astonishing in all of this is Harvard’s abject failure and its refusal to lift a finger to stop and deter this outrageous anti-Semitic behavior and penalize the students and faculty who perpetrate it,” the lawsuit says.

Like other schools, Harvard has been rocked by protests and clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students since the conflict broke out. In December, the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT testified at a congressional hearing about investigating campus anti-Semitism. Then-Harvard President Claudine Gay, the first Black person in that position, faced fierce backlash for her comments, which were among the factors that led to her resignation this month.

Harvard is also among a growing list of universities facing federal civil rights investigations over allegations of anti-Semitism.

The school did not immediately respond to a request for comment and declined to provide comment to The Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper. quoting pending litigation.

Previously, the university had said it did not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism. Before Dr. Gay’s resignation, she said in a statement: “My administration has repeatedly made clear that anti-Semitism and other forms of hate have no place at Harvard. “Threats and intimidation have no place at Harvard.”

The 77-page complaint names one plaintiff, Alexander Kestenbaum, a Jewish student enrolled at Harvard Divinity School. The other five plaintiffs are not named in the case, but four are listed as law school students and one as a doctor of public health. student. All are members of Students Against Antisemitism, a group that formed last month in Delaware.

The case was brought on behalf of Harvard students by two law firms, including Kasowitz Benson Torres, a New York firm. The law firm recently filed similar cases against New York University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Kasowitz Benson Torres is known for his ties to the Trump administration, and the Harvard lawsuit’s claims are based in part on an executive order signed by former President Donald J. Trump in 2019 that said a section of the Civil Rights Act It applied to discrimination against Jews. in institutions that receive federal assistance.

The complaint goes so far as to accuse Harvard of deliberately reducing Jewish student enrollment, alleging that there was a sharp decline over a decade “that could only evidence a deliberate effort by Harvard to minimize its Jewish student population.”

The complaint cites a litany of cases dating back to 2016 that students called anti-Semitic.

“Harvard’s double standard starts at the top,” the plaintiffs say in the lawsuit, alleging that the school requires students to take a training class warning that they will be disciplined if they engage in “sizeism, fatphobia, racism, transphobia, or other unfavorable behavior.” “. However, it allows students and teachers to “advocate, without consequences, the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel, the only Jewish country in the world.”

The case points to a screening at Harvard Divinity School last September of the film “Israelism,” which argues that American Jews raise their children with pro-Israel indoctrination. The evaluation caused Kestenbaum to suffer “anxiety and severe distress,” according to the complaint.

“The anti-Semitic tropes displayed during that screening provoked applause rather than denunciations,” the lawsuit says.

The student defendants are demanding the dismissal of some professors who participated in the cases they list and asking for unspecified compensation.