More than 30 Harvard University student organizations released a joint statement saying they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” after Hamas attacked Israeli citizens over the weekend.

Hamas launched a surprise attack on 22 Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip on Saturday. At least 700 Israelis and 413 Palestinians have been reported killed, according to The New York Times. So far, nine Americans have also been counted among the dead. Israel’s government launched a counterattack and has declared war.

Saturday’s attack on Israel by Hamas has escalated the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The death toll has exceeded 1,300 people total and more than 100 Israelis were taken hostage by Hamas, CNBC reported.

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In the early 1900s, tensions between Jews and Palestinian Arabs in then British-controlled Palestine rose until 1948 when Jewish leaders declared the state of Israel, according to PBS. Fighting broke out, resulting in the displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians and Israel taking control over several parts of the area. Since then, there has been fighting and skirmishes over who should control what part of the area.

The Harvard students’ statement references the decadeslong conflict and said for the past 75 years, “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,” the statement read.

The former president of Harvard and U.S. politicians have reacted to the statement on social media.

“In nearly 50 years of @Harvard affiliation, I have never been as disillusioned and alienated as I am today. The silence from Harvard leadership, so far, coupled with a vocal and widely reported student groups’ statement blaming Israel solely, has allowed Harvard to appear at best neutral towards acts of terror against the Jewish state of Israel,” former president of Harvard University Lawrence H. Summers wrote in a thread on X.

“I very much hope appropriate statements from the University and College condemning those who launched terrorist attacks and standing in solidarity with its victims will soon be forthcoming,” he said.

“Israel is the victim of a terrorist attack. Hamas is the perpetrator. It’s as simple as that. There are no ‘both sides,’” Rep. Ritchie John Torres, D-N.Y., wrote on X. “Yet here you have 30+ student organizations from Harvard University, blaming the victims, Israelis, for their own murder, rape, and abduction, rather than blaming the perpetrator, Hamas, for murdering, raping, and abducting them.”

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“It is abhorrent and heinous that Harvard student groups are blaming Israel for Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attacks that have killed over 700 Israelis,” Harvard alumna and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican, wrote on X.

Harvard University president Claudine Gay issued a statement on Tuesday saying she condemned “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 said in her statement.

A group of Harvard faculty signed an open letter to the Harvard Community where they said, “In contrast, while terrorists were still killing Israelis in their homes, 35 Harvard student organizations wrote that they hold “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” with not a single word denouncing the horrific acts by Hamas. In the context of the unfolding events, this statement can be seen as nothing less than condoning the mass murder of civilians based only on their nationality.”

The letter also said about Harvard administration’s statement, “While justly denouncing Hamas, it still contributed to the false equivalency between attacks on noncombatants and self-defense against those atrocities. Furthermore, the statement failed to condemn the justifications for violence that come from our own campus, nor to make it clear to the world that the statement endorsed by these organizations does not represent the values of the Harvard community.”

The statement issued by the student organizations isn’t the only way that Harvard students reacted to the attack.

More than 100 people affiliated with the university attended a Harvard Hillel gathering on Saturday afternoon to mourn those who were killed in Hamas’ attack on Israel, The Harvard Crimson reported.

“The gathering began with a religious service led by rabbis from Hillel and Chabad, followed by remarks by students who shared stories of family members and friends in Israel affected by the attacks,” Joyce E. Kim wrote for The Harvard Crimson.

At Columbia University, 16 student groups circulated a statement that said, “The weight of responsibility for the war and casualties undeniably lies with the Israeli extremist government and other Western governments, including the U.S. government, which fund and staunchly support Israeli aggression, apartheid, and settler-colonization,” as first reported by The National Review.

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This isn’t the first time that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has resulted in conflict on Ivy League college campuses. The Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee hosts an annual “Israeli Apartheid Week” which has attracted speakers like Noam Chomsky.

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Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg, executive director of Harvard Hillel has criticized the annual event, calling the artwork associated with the event “a huge anti-Israel display ... beneath the intelligence and the truth-seeking inquisitiveness one expects of Harvard students.”

The Harvard Crimson itself issued a statement in April 2022 supporting the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement.

Harvard faculty with “diverse perspectives ... on issues of Israeli policy” issued a statement in response to the Crimson’s editorial position. “We urge the Crimson Editorial Board to reach out to Jewish peers so that they can begin to repair the damage caused by writing such a divisive staff editorial, adding insult to injury by thoughtlessly publishing it the day after Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

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