Anti-Israel Harvard students dismantle camp after university agrees to negotiate

Protesters say they will demand disclosure of investments in Israel, divestment from the country, and creation of a center for Palestinian studies

Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters were voluntarily taking down their tents in Harvard Yard on Tuesday after university officials agreed to discuss their questions about the endowment, bringing a peaceful end to the kinds of demonstrations that were broken up by police on other campuses.

The student protest group Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine said in a statement that the encampment “outlasted its utility with respect to our demands.” Meanwhile, Harvard University interim President Alan Garber agreed to pursue a meeting between protesters and university officials regarding the students’ questions.

Students at many college campuses this spring set up similar encampments, calling for their schools to cut ties with Israel and businesses that support it.

The Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7 when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping 252.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a toll that cannot be independently verified.  The UN says some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals at this time. The rest of the total figure is based on murkier Hamas “media reports.” It also includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Harvard said its president and the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Hopi Hoekstra, will meet with the protesters to discuss the conflict in the Middle East.

The protesters said they worked out an agreement to meet with university officials including the Harvard Management Company, which oversees the world’s largest academic endowment, valued at about $50 billion.

The protesters’ statement said the students will set an agenda including discussions on disclosure, divestment, and reinvestment, and the creation of a Center for Palestine Studies. The students also said that Harvard has offered to retract suspensions of more than 20 students and student workers and back down on disciplinary measures faced by 60 more.

“Since its establishment three weeks ago, the encampment has both broadened and deepened Palestine solidarity organizing on campus,” a spokesperson for the protesters said. “It has moved the needle on disclosure and divestment at Harvard.”

Anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests sprouted on campuses across the US as news started coming in of Hamas’s October 7 massacre. At Harvard, a letter signed by 30 student groups was published on the night of the attack blaming Israel for Hamas massacring Israeli citizens.

A passerby walks past tents at an anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian encampment of students in Harvard Yard, at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on Thursday, April 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

The anti-Israel campus movement was reinvigorated last month by students at Columbia University in New York who created a tent encampment on their campus, disrupting campus life and preventing students they considered to be Zionists from walking through until their divestment demands were met.

The encampment was eventually dispersed following police intervention, but it influenced a nationwide movement, leading to tent encampments being built on campuses across the country.

Student protesters claim their movement is nonviolent and not antisemitic, citing Jewish students who take part in the protests. However, many Jewish students say they have been harassed by protesters, and chants calling for the elimination of Israel are often heard at the demonstrations.

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