Harvard Grad Union Rank-and-File denounce suppression of voices against Israel’s ongoing genocide in Palestine – Mondoweiss


Editor’s Note: The Harvard Graduate Student Union Rank-and-File issued the following statement on October 17, 2023.

On October 16, the Harvard Graduate Student Union (HGSU) held a last-minute special membership meeting calling for a member vote on a statement against Israel’s US-backed genocide of the Palestinian people. This statement, supported by an overwhelming majority of present union members, also expressed support for Harvard students who have been harassed and doxxed for speaking out against over 75 years of Israeli occupation and apartheid. Members at this meeting were met with a coordinated campaign to prevent a democratic vote on this resolution through procedural delays. Access to this members-only meeting was leaked by an attendee to a reporter who began live tweeting the proceedings in a clear attempt to intimidate pro-Palestine members. Subsequently, a minority of members at the meeting proceeded to obstruct a vote on any statement for over three hours. With only 20% of the vote—all that was required according to an obscure union bylaw—the minority forced a two-week delay on publishing the proposed statement. The clear majority of attendees in support of the statement then voted to adjourn the meeting to protest this delay tactic designed to prevent our union from making a timely statement in response to this urgent crisis. We recognize this delay–as well as the ongoing presence of doxxing trucks on campus–as part of a broader Zionist bullying campaign aimed at silencing any resistance to Israel’s genocide.

As rank-and-file members of the HGSU, we are appalled by our leadership’s refusal to voice our majority view condemning the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. Since 2021, our membership has consistently and overwhelmingly voted to voice support for Palestinian freedom. We refuse to accept the silencing of pro-Palestine voices in the US as genocide rages on. Following the call to action by the Palestinian Trade Unions, we release our statement below and call upon all rank-and-file members across unions in the United States settler-colony and the world to show their solidarity–in words and deeds–with the Palestinian people!

Statement Submitted for Membership Vote

On October 7, thirty-four Harvard student groups signed onto a letter by the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) holding “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” in Occupied Palestine. Undergraduate and graduate students affiliated with the student groups have since faced a vicious condemnation campaign, including statements and social media posts from Harvard faculty, alumni, donors, and University administration. This backlash has directly exposed students to ongoing harassment and doxxing attacks. The Harvard Graduate Students’ Union (HGSU) condemns the coordinated harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence directed against our students.

Since the release of the letter, Harvard students have been relentlessly harassed online and on campus. This harassment often is explicitly racist and sexist and primarily targets Black, brown, Muslim, and international students. Multiple websites have posted students’ personal information, including their full names, class years, past and current employment, social media profiles, photos, and hometowns. On October 10, Palestinian Harvard students were forced to postpone a campus vigil for all civilian lives lost due to credible safety concerns and threats against student security. October 11-13, a billboard truck drove near campus displaying the names and faces of affiliated students. The organization behind the truck has vowed to continue harassing students. Harvard donors and alumni have threatened students’ current and future employment. As of October 16, hundreds of Harvard faculty signed a letter mischaracterizing the students’ statement as “nothing less than condoning the mass murder of civilians.” Many of these faculty directly supervise members of our Union. It is not surprising that students are reporting serious concerns about retaliation as well as their physical and emotional well-being on campus.

The doxxing attacks are the “ugliest culmination of a campaign to silence pro-Palestinian activism that the PSC has experienced for years.” This is also the worst concerted campaign to threaten the safety of our students that our Union has ever witnessed. As representatives of more than 5,000 graduate and undergraduate researchers and teaching staff, HGSU regularly advocates on behalf of students facing hostile campus work environments, racist and sexist harassment, retaliation, and unfair disciplinary action. We are horrified by the University’s complicity in this harassment and its failure to intervene or provide adequate support to harmed students. Alongside the faculty members who have signed an open letter to Claudine Gay, we call on Harvard’s administration to explicitly denounce Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian harassment and discrimination on campus. The Union calls for Harvard’s administration to conduct a thorough and open investigation of the ongoing intimidation, harassment, threats to physical safety, and doxxing campaigns against Palestinian and allied students supporting Palestinian human rights at Harvard. This includes the administration outlining clear steps to sanction actors involved in these and future campaigns of harassment.

Starting immediately, HGSU will provide impacted students the following resources: access to the HGSU emergency fund for eligible student workers; Union representation for any student worker experiencing workplace discrimination or who is subjected to workplace disciplinary proceedings; and, support for students navigating university processes related to Harvard’s non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies. If you are a student worker experiencing any workplace issues, please notify the Union using this form. The Union commits to equitably representing all student workers through processes to enforce contract-based protections against academic or workplace retaliation outlined in Article 7 and Article 8 of our CBAThe Union calls on Harvard University to create protective measures for all students and faculty experiencing harassment and intimidation on the basis of political or national affiliation, in particular with regard to visa recalls, professional promotions, internal funding and fellowship awards, and against other forms of blacklisting.  

Harvard University is not just responsible for ensuring the safety of its students. As students attending one of the most influential academic institutions in the world, it is important that we  continue to demand that the University end its complicity in Israeli apartheid policies and escalating violence against Palestinians trapped in Gaza. In 2021, with 93% approval, membership ratified HGSU’s joining onto a Statement by Palestine Student Groups at Harvard University on Violence Against PalestiniansAs that statement highlighted, of the 4% of Harvard’s $39.2 billion endowment that is publicly disclosed, the university maintains nearly $200 million as of 2021 in public, direct and indirect investments in companies that are involved in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise, including companies that provide surveillance, weapons, and bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes. If the undisclosed 96% of the endowment corresponds to this pattern of investment, Harvard likely has billions invested in companies profiting off Israeli apartheid. Now more than ever, the University must remove its investments in companies that are involved in illegal Israeli settler colonialism. Equal rights must be guaranteed for all people in Israel and Palestine. The Union demands that Harvard disclose and divest from all investments linked to arms, technology, and all other assets used by the Israeli military.

As this most recent siege continues, international humanitarian and human rights organizations warn “‘Unprecedented’ doesn’t even cover the medical humanitarian impact of this. Gaza is being flattened, thousands of people are dying.” They have made clear that Israel’s “mass displacement attempts of over 1 million people in the Gaza Strip amid indiscriminate civilian killings is unlawful and catastrophic,” and the “indiscriminate bombardments, and killings coupled with the cutting of food, water, electricity, fuel and medicine supply, all constitute international crimes.” This is not the time to remain silent. We demand that the Harvard administration urge lawmakers to call for an immediate ceasefire, complete Israeli withdrawal from Occupied Palestine, and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel. The largely U.S.-funded Israeli government’s “genocidal war on Palestinians in Gaza” must end.

Harvard University must take action.

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