Israeli businessman Idan Ofer and his wife quit their board posts at Harvard University, adding to a barrage of criticism over the school’s response to the Hamas attacks on Israel.
(Bloomberg) — Israeli businessman Idan Ofer and his wife quit their board posts at Harvard University, adding to a barrage of criticism over the school’s response to the Hamas attacks on Israel.
Ofer and his wife Batia cited “the lack of clear evidence of support from the university’s leadership for the people of Israel” in stepping down from the Harvard Kennedy School Dean’s Executive Board.
“Our faith in the university’s leadership has been broken and we cannot in good faith continue to support Harvard and its committees,” the Ofers said in a statement.
Harvard President Claudine Gay, who took office in July, has struggled to placate some critics, who initially included former university president Larry Summers. Summers said he was “sickened” by Harvard’s initial silence after more than 30 student groups issued a statement blaming the violence solely on Israel. Gay released her third statement on the attacks late Thursday, condemning “the barbaric atrocities committed by Hamas” — a group that’s been designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union — while defending freedom of expression.
In a video message entitled “Our Choices,” Gay also rejected “harassment or intimidation of individuals based on their beliefs.” Earlier this week, investor and Harvard alumnus Bill Ackman called on the school to name the students in the groups that backed the statement. Some students have removed their support, saying they didn’t read the statement before their organizations signed on.
Summers later tempered his criticism after Gay spoke out more forcefully about the attacks.
Jason Furman, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and a former top economic advisor in the Obama Administration, told Bloomberg Television that while initially there was some faulty communications from Gay, she’s now “doing a great job of providing moral clarity, trying to bring people together.”
College campuses across the US have been roiled this week after the Hamas attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,300. Vigils, protests and counter-protests have taken place, including at Columbia University, as the death toll from Israel’s retaliatory offensive has already exceeded 1,500.
The University of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has fended off accusations of antisemitism leveled by donor and alumnus Marc Rowan, the chief executive officer of Apollo Global Management Inc., who’s demanding two of its leaders resign.
Ofer, principal owner of Quantum Pacific Group, is one of the richest Israelis, with a net worth of about $20 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He has interests ranging from shipping to energy to sports. His decision to leave his board post at the Kennedy School was reported earlier by the New York Post.
–With assistance from Francine Lacqua.
(Updates with Furman comments in seventh paragraph.)
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