New lawsuit against Harvard alleges celebration of Hamas terrorism, threats against Jews

The Brandeis Center’s lawsuit also claims professors have spread ‘antisemitic propaganda’ in class


People walk through Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 12, 2023.

A federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday morning against Harvard University alleges that since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, students and faculty on campus have called for violence against Jews and celebrated Hamas’ terrorism daily as the university ignored harassment —- including a physical assault — of Jewish students, Jewish Insider has learned. 

Filed in federal court in Boston by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Right Under Law, the complaint comes five months after the group filed a previous complaint against the university’s John F. Kennedy School of Government for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Since the Title VI complaint, “things have only gotten worse,” Kenneth Marcus, founder and chairman of the Brandeis Center and former U.S. assistant secretary of education for the Bush and Trump administrations, told JI. “This is what happens when an institution refuses to address even admitted violence. It is rare to see an institution admit as much as Harvard has had to admit and yet do as little to address the problem as Harvard has.” 

The lawsuit, a copy of which was first obtained by JI, states that Harvard allowed student protesters to occupy and vandalize buildings, and interrupt classes and exams. “Professors, too, have explicitly supported Jewish and Israel terrorism, and spread antisemitic propaganda in their classes,” according to a Brandeis Center statement. “Jewish students are bullied and spat on, intimidated, and threatened, and subject to verbal and physical harassment.”  

According to the complaint, a Harvard student’s message board provides a window into the toxic environment for Jewish students, describing it as being “filled with vile antisemitic slurs, threats and conspiracy theories, including calls for Jews to ‘cook’ and the Harvard Hillel to ‘burn[ ] in hell,’ and an antisemitic cartoon resembling Nazi-era propaganda that depicts a hand etched with a Star of David and a dollar sign holding a noose around the necks of what appear to be a Black man and an Arab man. The cartoon was posted not only by student groups but also by a faculty,” according to the Brandeis Center. 

“We have been urging Harvard for quite some time to address antisemitism, even well ahead of Oct. 7,” Marcus told JI the day before the lawsuit was filed. “Their failure to do so is exactly what has led to the current catastrophe.” 

Another example of harassment mentioned in the complaint involves the physical assault of a Jewish student. “When protestors realized a student was Jewish and/or Israeli, from a blue bracelet he was wearing in solidarity with Israel, a mob swarmed and surrounded him, and began physically accosting him and yelling in his face,” according to the Brandeis Center. 

“The student pleaded with them to stop but, assailants violently grabbed him, pushed him, and he was physically attacked. The assault was captured on video, yet Harvard took no action to

redress the physical assault. And even now that the perpetrators have been charged with criminal assault and battery, Harvard has yet to discipline, suspend, or expel the attackers, or remove them from their leadership positions.” 

The lawsuit also addresses harassment that predates Oct. 7, including the Title VI complaint from last October, which involves accusations of discrimination and harassment toward Jewish Israeli students Amnon Shefler, Gilad Neumann and Matan Yaffe. The alleged harassment took place in professor Marshall Ganz’s “Organizing: People, Power, Change” course last spring in Harvard’s prestigious Kennedy School of Government. 

According to the complaint, Ganz told the students they could not use the term “Jewish democracy” to describe Israel – stating that using the words “Jewish” and “democracy” in regard to the Jewish state was akin to a project promoting white supremacy. When the students decided to stick with their project as designed, Ganz threatened them with academic consequences. 

“Professor Ganz admitted he had never told students in any other class that they could not present their work, even when it centered on controversial topics. During the final class, two of Ganz’s teaching fellows taught a lesson on how to recruit support for Palestinians,” the complaint from October said, noting that while the topic itself was not objectionable, “it led to students making hostile claims, inaccurate characterizations and false accusations against Israel and Israelis. Ganz refused to let the Israeli students provide a response or any counter-arguments to the wildly inaccurate data presented.”

Marcus called Harvard’s case “unusual in its breadth and depth.”

“We have been able to show over a period of time repeated harassment of Jewish students and failure of the administration to do anything about it,” he said. “In particular, it is remarkable that Harvard has essentially admitted to Jewish student based discrimination, particularly at the Harvard Kennedy School and yet, they refuse to take prompt and effective action to address it. That’s why you end up with the sort of problems we’re seeing now.”

The legal team suing Harvard includes several law firms in addition to Brandeis Center: Holtzman Vogel, Baran Torchinsky & Josefiak PLLC, Vogel Law Firm PLLC, Libby Hoopes Brooks & Mulvey P.C, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. “We’ve already seen intensive interest by the House Oversight Committee, leading of course to the resignation [in December] of Harvard’s president [Claudine Gay] and the recent report from the House Education [and] the Workforce Committee,” Marcus said, adding that the House committee report released last Thursday, “details some of the extraordinary failures of Harvard leadership, including their unwillingness to take actons that are suggested by their own antisemitism advisory committees.” The House report also highlighted a series of incidents of antisemitism on Harvard’s campus for which the school could not point to any specific response or disciplinary action it had taken.

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