Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman on Tuesday roundly objected to a controversial statement from a group of Harvard University student organizations solely blaming Israel’s occupation of Gaza for Hamas’ weekend attack on Israel, calling for the names of the students to be released in an effort not to hire them.
The statement was penned on Saturday by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee with signatures from 33 university student organizations, arguing Hamas’ military assault on Israel “did not occur in a vacuum,” comparing the Gaza Strip to an “open-air prison” while claiming that Israel’s “apartheid regime is the only one to blame,” Harvard’s student newspaper The Harvard Crimson reported.
The statement says Israel is “entirely responsible” for the violence that began Saturday, when Hamas militants crossed from Gaza into southern Israel.
Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, tweeted he has been approached by “a number of CEOs” asking for the names of the student organizations to ensure “none of us inadvertently hire any of their members,” arguing students “should not be able to hide behind a corporate shield when issuing statements supporting the actions of terrorists.”
Jonathan Neman, the CEO and co-founder of healthy fast casual chain Sweetgreen, responded to Ackman’s post on X, saying he “would like to know so I know never to hire these people,” to which healthcare services company EasyHealth CEO David Duel responded: “Same.”
DoveHill Capital Management CEO Jake Wurzak also supported Ackman’s plea to release the names of the students, though Ackman’s request did not receive universal support, with Meds.com CEO Stephen Sullivan writing people should “be angry at the administration and teachers” but cautioning against putting college students’ names on a list.
The statement also gained national attention from business leaders and some lawmakers, including Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who asked on Monday: “What the hell is wrong with Harvard?”
Harvard President Claudine Gay issued a statement on Tuesday condemning Hamas’ “terrorist atrocities” as “abhorrent,” and while she did not address the student statement by name, she clarified: “no student group—not even 30 student groups—speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.” Several Harvard professors have also condemned the statement, including computer science professor Boaz Barak, who argued in a post on X “everyone who signed this statement is condoning terrorism, rape and murder,” while former Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey Flier called on the university to issue a statement denouncing Hamas, and the university’s Jewish center, Harvard Hillel, argued the statement contributed to “further hatred and anti-Semitism.”
Former Harvard President Larry Summers said on Saturday he had “never been as disillusioned and alienated” as he was following the student groups’ statement, writing on X the university’s silence in the immediate aftermath of a statement that solely condemned Israel gave Harvard the appearance of being “at best neutral towards acts of terror against the Jewish state of Israel.” Summers—an economist who served as President Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary—also expressed disappointment with Gay’s response, arguing: “Why can’t we give reassurance that the University stands squarely against Hamas terror to frightened students when 35 groups of their fellow students appear to be blaming all the violence on Israel?”
Democratic leaders have also condemned Hamas’ strike, including President Joe Biden, as well as Massachusetts’ two Democratic senators—Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey—and Gov. Maura Healey (D-Mass.) have also condemned the attack by Hamas from Gaza, with Healey calling the bond between the U.S. and Israel “unbreakable.” In a rally in Boston on Monday, Markey was reportedly booed by some members of the crowd for calling for a “de-escalation.”
Over 1,700. That’s how many people have died on both sides since the start of the current war. Roughly 1,000 people in Israel are believed to be dead following Hamas’s strike, and at least 765 Palestinians have died in Israel’s counter-offensive in Gaza, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.