Harvard’s leadership said in a statement Monday that they “have no illusion that Harvard alone can readily bridge the widely different views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but we are hopeful that, as a community devoted to learning, we can take steps that will draw on our common humanity and shared values in order to modulate rather than amplify the deep-seated divisions and animosities so distressingly evident in the wider world.”
On Saturday, the militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack at Israel’s border with Gaza. At least 1,600 people on both sides have died in the days since, with the death toll expected to grow.
Auchincloss, a Jewish military veteran, said that while the student groups have a right to issue a statement, the university should have condemned their message in no uncertain terms. He called for Harvard leaders to “join with and rally with students on Harvard’s campus who have a personal connection to Israel or to the Jewish faith as a sign of solidarity.”
Following fierce online backlash to Harvard’s statement, including from powerful alumni and lawmakers such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Harvard University President Claudine Gay issued an independent statement on Tuesday condemning the “terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas.”
“Let me also state, on this matter as on others, that while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership,” Gay wrote.
Auchincloss told POLITICO that Gay’s statement is “a testament to how much of a failure the first statement was yesterday” and still doesn’t “condemn the Harvard student groups for their antisemitic, pro-terrorism message.”
Auchincloss, who graduated from Harvard in 2010, said he exchanged messages with the provost of the university on Monday and that he still wants to talk to Gay about the university’s response to the students’ statement.
Lawrence Summers, a former Harvard president, criticized Harvard’s response in a series of social media posts Monday and Tuesday and said that Harvard’s leadership “fails to meet the needs of the moment.”
“Why can’t we find anything approaching the moral clarity of Harvard statements after George Floyd’s death or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when terrorists kill, rape and take hostage hundreds of Israelis attending a music festival?” Summers wrote.