Ivy League students lose job offers from top law firm over Israel statements

It comes as Ivy League universities across the US are embroiled in rows around the response to the Israel-Hamas war

Martha McHardy
Wednesday 18 October 2023 18:08 BST
Harvard Students' Pro-Palestinian Statement Spark Outrage From Alum

A top US law firm has rescinded job offers for three Ivy League students after they allegedly signed letters about the Israel-Hamas war.

An internal email at Law firm Davis Polk revealed that the company withdrew the offers to the three law students at Harvard and Columbia universities over their apparent signatures on public statements.

“These statements are simply contrary to our firm’s values and we thus concluded that rescinding these offers was appropriate in upholding our responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive work environment for all Davis Polk employees,” said the email, signed by Neil Barr, NBC reported.

“At this time, we remain in dialogue with two of these students to ensure that any further color being offered to us by these students is considered,” the email added.

The email did not specify the contents of the statements that the students are said to have signed and it is unclear how the firm identified the students as having signed them.

The identities of the students were also not revealed in the email.

It comes as Ivy League universities across the US are embroiled in rows in the wake of Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7 October.

Unrest continues to rumble on at Harvard University after a group of 33 student organisations, led by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee, released a now-deleted statement on social media arguing that Israel’s “apartheid regime” had created the impetus for the war.

“Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum,” the letter read. “For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison.”

“The apartheid regime is the only one to blame,” the letter continued, describing Israel’s subsequent campaign in Gaza as “colonial retaliation.”

The letter prompted furious backlash, with Harvard professors and alumni calling on the university’s leadership to condemn the letter as well as Hamas.

Students at Harvard University had their job offer at a top law firm rescinded after signing letters supporting Palestine
Students at Harvard University had their job offer at a top law firm rescinded after signing letters supporting Palestine (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Harvard’s President Claudine Gay issued a statement three days after the letter was published condemning the attacks and distancing the university’s leadership from the letter.

“As the events of recent days continue to reverberate, let there be no doubt that I condemn the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas,” she wrote. “Such inhumanity is abhorrent, whatever one’s individual views of the origins of longstanding conflicts in the region.

“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.”

Billionaire Bill Ackman then called for the names of all Harvard students who signed the letter to be made public. Mr Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, said he did not want to “inadvertently hire” students who were part of the organisations.

Other executives, such as the CEOs of Sweetgreen and MeUndies, voiced their support for the effort, with Jonathan Shokrian of MeUndies comparing the ideas in the original letter to a “cancer”.

But Mr Ackman’s call later came under fire after a truck appeared near the Harvard campus, circling the university and displaying photos of Harvard students and organisations allegedly linked to the original statement.

A similar row broke out at the University of Pennsylvania, where two megadonors announced they would be halting their usual donations until members of the university’s leadership resigned, in protest over the college’s response to the Hamas attacks.

Yale, NYU, and Stanford have also been caught up in the escalating tensions.

Attacks in Israel and Gaza have seen more than 1,400 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians killed since fighting broke out on 7 October when Hamas terrorists stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing hundreds of people and taking dozens captive.

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