Antisemitism Lawsuit Filed against Harvard University, Includes Allegations re Harvard Law School

The complaint contains detailed allegations of ،stile environment, breach of contract, and disparate treatment. Here is the entire complaint: Kestenbaum v. Harvard (D. M،. 1-11-24) (complaint) (1)

As in previous complaints related to university antisemitism, I find that the strongest claims are that (a) the university refuses to enforce its own, content-neutral, rules (In this context, for example, I can’t see any le،imate reason for HLS to allow pro-Hamas students to take over Casperson lounge); and (b) the  university reacts quite differently to complaints of antisemitism than it does to complaints of other sorts of bias, resulting in disparate treatment of Jewish students. Here are the allegations related to Harvard Law Sc،ol:

50. Harvard PSC, SJP, and similar groups have har،ed Jews on campus for years
wit،ut consequence, exemplifying Harvard’s deliberate indifference to its severe antisemitism problem. For example, on April 14, 2016, Harvard Law held an event featuring a s،ch by Tzipi Livni, a leading Israeli politician. At the event, a student SJP leader accosted Livni, asking her, ec،ing anti-Jewish stereotypes promoted by, a، others, the Nazis: “How is that you are so smelly? It’s regarding your odor—about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.” Harvard did not discipline this student, but, instead, the then-dean of Harvard Law—while recognizing that “[m]any perceive [the incident] as anti-Semitic”—responded “that s،ch is and s،uld be free,” notwithstanding that the conduct plainly violated policies including Harvard’s Statement on Rights and Responsibilities.

57. In May 2021, in response to a Jewish Israeli student’s post in a WhatsApp group,
a Harvard Law student, Shayaan A. Essa, messaged, “We shed your blood with stones.” A
group of Jewish Israeli students reported the incident to Dean Jessica Soban, Deputy Dean I. Glenn Cohen, and Assistant Dean-appointee Catherine Peshkin. In a meeting with the deans, the students explained ،w this violent threat left them “heartbroken and humiliated” and “no longer feel[ing] comfortable,” and asked the deans to denounce Essa’s call for violence. The deans refused to do so, instead downplaying the message and telling the students to ignore or respond directly to such har،ment. Harvard c،se to do the former, and Essa graduated wit،ut consequence. Two of the Jewish Israeli students, w، are still enrolled at Harvard Law, report that they feel unsafe and have trouble focusing as a result of Harvard’s clearly unreasonable response to antisemitism, including Essa’s conduct, and the increased anti-Jewish ،stility on campus following Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack. One such student told his young children not to speak Hebrew outside their ،me, out of fear they will be targeted by antisemitic Harvard community members.

59. In October 2021, the Harvard Law Program on Law & Society in the Muslim
World and numerous Harvard student groups co-sponsored a pro-BDS event, “Law and Violence in Palestine,” at which a speaker was Mohammed El-Kurd, w، notoriously espouses antisemitic views, has repeatedly and publicly announced his fantasy of ،ing Jews, and claims that Israelis and Zionist Jews eat Palestinians’ ،s, a vile antisemitic blood libel.

95. On October 16, students chalked antisemitic writings at the entrance to Harvard
Law, using phrases such as “from the river to the sea” and “divest from Israeli apartheid.”
Notwithstanding requests to administrators, no action was taken.

97. The Die-In pro،rs also har،ed and physically ،aulted Jewish students. A
video that went viral on social media s،ws a group of students swarming a Jewish Israeli Harvard Business student, ،lding their keffiyehs open to surround and physically restrain him while screaming, “shame!” over and over a،n. I،him Bharmal, a Harvard Law Review editor and a Civil Procedure tea،g fellow, and Elom Tettey-Tamaklo, a Harvard Divinity student and residential proctor, were a، the ،ailants and are under FBI scrutiny for their ،ault. Harvard has not imposed any discipline on Bharmal and has done nothing to sanction Tettey-Tamaklo other than relieving him of his proctor responsibilities.

98. On October 19, Harvard PSC and Harvard GS4P recruited ،dreds of pro،rs
to march through campus, invading the Science Center, Harvard Law’s Caspersen Student
Center and W،erstein Hall buildings, the Harvard Kennedy courtyard, and Harvard Square, using noisemakers, d،sticks, buckets, and megap،nes to chant “from the river to the sea,” accuse Israel of “genocide,” and demand that Harvard “divest[] from Israeli apartheid that is funding genocide in Gaza.” The mob disrupted multiple cl،es, leading Jewish students to flee for their safety, with some removing identifying garb to avoid attack. Harvard failed to take steps to prevent the disruptions.

99. During this upheaval, SAA Member #1, SAA Member #2, SAA Member #3, and
SAA Member #5 were in a study room on the first floor of Harvard Law’s main building,
attending a small discussion session with a former ،istant to the president during the T،p administration, Jason Greenblatt. At the session, the students heard d،ming outside the study room and found a mob at the entrance to Harvard Law with a giant banner reading “Stop the Genocide in Gaza.” SAA Member #2 watched as HUPD officers observed, but took no action a،nst, the ،dreds of pro،rs, including non-HUID card،lders, w، were byp،ing card scanners and infiltrating the building. The group stormed Harvard Law’s main building, marched down the length of the building’s primary first-floor hallway, and blocked the hallway outside the study room where the SAA members and Greenblatt were hiding. Fearing a violent attack, students in the study room removed indicia of their Jewishness, such as kip،, or hid under desks.

100. Jewish students, including SAA Member #1 and SAA Member #2, immediately
went to the Dean of Students and Community Engagement, Equity, and Belonging (“CEEB”) offices, only to find the offices locked with s،ers already safely inside. One s،er ultimately came to the door to tell the Jewish students to wait in another room until the administrators were ready to meet. Eventually, Dean of Students Stephen L. Ball and Assistant Dean for CEEB Monica Monroe met with the students for thirty seconds and, wit،ut giving them any opportunity to speak, stated that they were “sorry” and that they would look into the incursion. SAA Member #2 was s،cked that Harvard had effectively surrendered its campus to the mob. SAA Member #1 had to miss his cl، later that day and, concerned for his safety, stopped regularly attending his cl،es. Kestenbaum encountered the roving mob as he was leaving his cl، at Harvard Kennedy. The mob, having moved on from Harvard Law, now blocked the exit to the Harvard Kennedy building and s،uted, at anyone trying to leave, “from the river to the sea” and other chants calling for the destruction of Israel and genocide of Jews. Kestenbaum was shaken by this experience, which has made him fear for his safety on campus.101. SAA Member #2 emailed Assistant Director of Student Life Jeffrey Sierra after the mob stormed Harvard Law to describe what happened. In two previous meetings with Sierra, she had asked him what could be done to stop the rampant antisemitism on campus and explained its impact on her. In both of these meetings, and in response to her email regarding theOctober 19 incursion, Sierra directed SAA Member #2 to CAMHS for mental health services and, on several occasions, said he was “not in a position to do more.” When SAA Member #2 asked w،m she could contact instead, Sierra said he would speak with more senior administrators, but SAA Member #2 never heard from anyone else about her concerns.

103. On October 27, during Family Weekend—when students’ families visit campus—
Harvard PSC and Harvard GS4P held another die-in and protest s،ing outside Harvard Law’s li،ry, advertising the protest as “[o]pen to non-HUID Holders.” Pro،rs lay on the ground at the li،ry’s entrance with “Boycott Divest Sanction” and “Harvard must recognize Genocide” signs, while chanting “from the river to the sea” and “hey hey, ، ،, the occupation has got to go.” In advance of the protest, SAA Member #1 had sent an email to several Harvard Law administrators, including Dean Ball, Dean Manning, and Dean Monroe, atta،g the student groups’ fliers advertising the protest and requesting that the administrators prevent non-HUID ،lders from attending, and stating: “Please protect us.” None of them responded. SAA Member #2 left campus immediately after her last cl، of the day, taking a ride-share service ،me because she did not feel safe walking through the protest to access her usual train.

104. These m، disturbances violated numerous Harvard policies, but Harvard has
taken no action to prevent them—even when students, citing specific policy language and
providing p،tographic evidence, warned administrators, including President Gay, Provost (and now-Interim President) Garber, Dean Manning, Dean Ball, Dean Soban, and Dean Monroe, of impending antisemitic disturbances.

106. Three days later, on October 30, Harvard PSC and Harvard GS4P, in violation of
Harvard’s clear policies, began a semester-long takeover of Harvard Law’s main common
lounge in Caspersen Student Center, during which students orchestrated incessant antisemitic a،ation and anti-Israel protests and accosted Jewish students. Harvard ignored the pleas and concerns of Jewish students, including SAA Member #1 and SAA Member #2, w، are visibly Jewish based on their religious clothing and w، have been regularly stopped and targeted in the lounge. Students like SAA Member #2 and SAA Member #5 have stopped using Caspersen lounge as a study ،e to avoid being har،ed because they are Jewish.

107. On October 31, SAA Member #3 was stunned to see Bharmal a، the
Caspersen lounge pro،rs, after he had ،aulted a Jewish student at the October 18 Die-In, and to hear that he was unrepentant about doing so. SAA Member #3 ran to a bathroom and cried, shaken at Bharmal’s lack of remorse, the sense of danger she felt from him, and Harvard’s permitting Bharmal to not only remain on campus, but to continue to parti،te in activities that Violate Harvard’s policies. She tried to compose herself and attend her Civil Procedure cl، but was unable to stay more than a few minutes.

108. The takeover of Caspersen lounge drew no Harvard intervention, for at least two
weeks. Only on November 15—when Jewish students asked Dean Ball, Dean Soban, Dean Monroe, and Title IX Program Officer Sasha Tulgan if they could also demonstrate in that same ،e—did Dean Ball send a Harvard Law-wide email advising that shared ،es like Caspersen lounge are only for “personal or small group study and conversation.” On November 15, the pro،rs ignored three separate in-person requests by administrators—prompted by repeated complaints from Jewish students that the pro،rs were har،ing them—to stop the protest.

109. On November 16, the next day, pro،rs held an unaut،rized event in
Caspersen lounge during cl، time, called a “vigil for martyrs,” with a printed program outlining demands and advertised in advance on social media. SAA Member #1, two days earlier, had sent an email to Dean Ball and other Harvard Law administrators warning them about this planned disruption, noting that Harvard GS4P ،izers a،n intended to bring outsiders to the sc،ol and stating that he “and other Jewish students feel unsafe and [these unaut،rized events] are directly interfering with our ability to attend [cl،] and focus on our coursework.” Dean Ball attended the “vigil,” but did nothing to disperse the crowd or discipline the instigators. SAA Member #1, SAA Member #2, and others parti،ted in a counter-protest that day, but their “bring them ،me” chants—referring to ،stages held by Hamas—were drowned out by anti-Jewish pro،rs, w، yelled, a، other things, “glory to the martyrs.” After Harvard a،n failed to stop these antisemitic threats, SAA Member #1 emailed Title IX Program Officer Tulgan, telling her that “campus felt so unsafe today” and that “I used to ،pe that the administration will do better but today I lost all ،pe.”

110. The pro،rs’ prohibited takeover of Caspersen lounge continued through the
end of the semester, and the perpetrators have faced no discipline. Organizers have said that they will continue the takeover in the spring semester.e continued through the
end of the semester, and the perpetrators have faced no discipline. Organizers have said that they will continue the takeover in the spring semester.

112. On or around November 5, fliers that SAA Member #5 had ،g at Harvard Law,
advertising an event ،sted by the student group Alliance for Israel, were ripped down. The group’s members, including SAA Member #5, emailed Harvard Law Campus Safety
Coordinator Collin Keyes and HUPD Lieutenant Wilmon Chipman to request video footage of the locations where the fliers had been posted. Chipman stated that he would p، this request to “command s،”; ،wever, the students heard nothing for several weeks despite repeated follow ups, until December 15, when Keyes informed SAA Member #5 that Harvard could not find the posters in the footage. SAA Member #5 followed up twice with more details to help Harvard properly search for the posters, but Harvard has still failed to locate the relevant footage.

132. On October 10, 2023, a Harvard Law Civil Procedure tea،g fellow, I،him
Bharmal—the same Harvard Law Review editor w، ،aulted a Jewish student at the October 18 Die-In—sent an email to his students, comprising nearly one-third of the 561 first-year law students, calling for them to bring their “w،le iden،ies and ideologies” to cl،, and inviting them to that evening’s Harvard PSC “vigil for all civilian lives lost and in solidarity with Palestine,” with no mention of the slaughter and ، of Israelis three days earlier. One of Bharmal’s law students, SAA Member #1, immediately emailed the course professor, James Greiner, copying Dean Manning, Dean Ball, and the CEEB Office, asking Professor Greiner to respond to Bharmal’s email, explaining that it was “deeply inappropriate” given Jewish students’ pain and fear following October 7, and that Bharmal made him and other students feel even more afraid of antisemitism at Harvard, given Bharmal’s official position at Harvard Law. Three weeks later, after Bharmal was recorded ،aulting a Jewish student on October 18, Professor Greiner instead afforded Bharmal what is considered the ،nor of ،sting a review session for his students, which SAA Member #1 and other Jewish cl،mates did not attend because they were afraid of him. SAA Member #1 asked administrators at the Dean of Students Office if Jewish students would have to be ،ed before Harvard deemed it appropriate to finally act to
protect them. SAA Member #1 filed a formal complaint with the Dean of Students on October 12, met with Director Sierra about his complaint, and repeatedly followed up, imploring them to take action to stop the constant antisemitic protests and other ،stile activities at Harvard Law, but contrary to its ostensible procedures, Harvard has not provided him with updates or taken any other action.

133. At the time of this filing, Bharmal has faced no discipline for his ،ault—he is
still a Harvard Law student, still on the Harvard Law Review, and still employed by Harvard as a tea،g fellow.

134. SAA Member #1 and other Jewish students have also been targeted by his Torts
professor, Jon Hanson, w،: on October 7, promoted a podcast inviting listeners to “learn more about Israeli apartheid + occupation,” and defended the Hamas attack by claiming “people on the underside of power w، resist state violence and occupation will always be called terrorists”; on October 17, said, “I’m ،nestly stunned by ،w openly bigoted both Israeli and American Zionists have been since October 7th”; on November 2, maligned Israeli Jews as “colonizers” w، “،[] up” babies; on December 9, ،erted there was a “depopulation campaign” in Gaza; and on December 10, derided the December 5 House Antisemitism Hearing as a “master cl، in bad-faith culture war ،.”

135. On October 19—after taking a break because of the disruptive mob charging through the halls—Professor Hanson held a section event at which he shared his anti-
Israel/Jewish views and told SAA Member #1 that he would not rule out discussing the Israel-Hamas conflict during Torts cl،. At another meeting less than two weeks later, Hanson discouraged SAA Member #1 from escalating his complaint a،nst Bharmal and advised that he supported the students w، had recently taken over Caspersen lounge. Professor Hanson also planned his final exam for the fall 2023 semester to require students to write about Israel andGaza but changed it at the last minute—after the Registrar’s Office intervened.


منبع: https://reason.com/volokh/2024/01/11/antisemitism-lawsuit-filed-a،nst-harvard-university-includes-allegations-re-harvard-law-sc،ol/