American College Students Find There Could Be a Cost for Their Support of Hamas

Leaders at Ivy League schools may have failed to quickly and fully denounce attack on Israel, but corporate America has not.

AP/Jeff Amy
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators chant slogans outside the Israeli consulate at Atlanta on Sunday. AP/Jeff Amy

What will it take for students at elite colleges to abandon their support of the terrorist group Hamas? Will the threat of future unemployment do it? A number of chief executive officers are betting such a threat might concentrate students’ minds.

A famed hedge manager, Bill Ackman, posted this week that he’s been asked by a number of chief executives “if Harvard would release a list of the members of each of the Harvard organizations that have issued the letter assigning sole responsibility for Hamas’ heinous acts to Israel.” 

The idea, Mr. Ackman’s post on X suggested, was “to insure that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members.” He added: “One should not be able to hide behind a corporate shield when issuing statements supporting the actions of terrorists, who, we now learn, have beheaded babies, among other inconceivably despicable acts.”

The leaders at Ivy League schools may have failed to quickly and fully denounce the attacks on Israel, but corporate America has not, and it is now coming after students calling for an end of Israel’s presence in the region. The chief executives of a food chain, Sweetgreen, a private equity group, DoveHill Capital Management, and a healthcare services company, EasyHealth, replied to Mr. Ackman’s post and expressed their agreement. 

Mr. Ackman’s statement will have “a huge impact” on students’ willingness to support Hamas, according to a Harvard graduate, Claira Janover, who has been on the receiving end of corporate accountability — she lost her job at Deloitte in 2020 for saying in a TikTok video she would “stab” anyone who told her “All Lives Matter.”

“It is inherently a threat that if you state that you believe Israel is responsible or that Hamas or Palestine are not, your name could potentially be blacklisted from an elite series of corporate jobs,” Ms. Janover tells the Sun. “That’s a frightening threat, especially to Harvard students” — more than 40 percent of whom work in finance or consulting after graduation. 

Some college students have already faced real-world consequences for projecting anti-Israel rhetoric from their ivory towers. One law firm, Winston & Strawn, rescinded an employment offer to the president of New York University’s school bar association, Ryna Workman, after she declared in a message to students that she “will not condemn Palestinian violence” and that “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.”

The former summer associate’s comments “profoundly conflict with Winston & Strawn’s values as a firm,” the firm wrote Tuesday in a statement expressing its “solidarity with Israel’s right to exist in peace.” Soon afterward, the dean of the law school, Troy McKenzie, announced that Ms. Workman’s message does not represent the views of the institution or its leadership, signaling a push to distance the school from inflammatory anti-Israel rhetoric. 

“It is time for the profession to put its foot down and say ‘no more,’” the president of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Robert Garson, tells the Sun. “As lawyers, we have to commit to uphold the rule of law; this person falls far below the mark. NYU should be equally criticized for the lack of moral compass being instilled in its students.”

The job opportunities for students denouncing anti-Israel activity on campus, meanwhile, might be expanding. “Egregious” is what a Harvard law student, Danielle Mikaelian, is calling the pro-Hamas Harvard statement. The statement was signed without her knowledge by a student group to which she belonged.

The group was one of 31 that signed the pro-Hamas statement. Ms. Mikaelian resigned from her board member role in the group, which soon after withdrew its signature from the statement. “Please consider hiring Danielle Mikaelian,” the president of a business advisory firm, Avraham Berkowitz, urged Mr. Ackman on X.

In what is perhaps a sign of things to come upon graduation for those whose political views conflict with their employers, a sports reporter at Philadelphia has lost his job after tweeting “solidarity with Palestine.” Even those in the air are being held accountable. On Wednesday, Air Canada grounded a pilot who was wearing pro-Palestinian colors and who wrote on Instagram that Israel should “burn in hell.”

“On both traditional and social media, there are unmistakable signs that the left’s BLM-DSA-defund-‘decolonize’ formation is cratering — collapsing,” an Iranian-American writer, Sohrab Ahmari, argues on X. He adds that certain social and political movements, previously dominating the views of the left, committed “political seppuku”— a reference to ritualistic suicide by Japanese Samurai — by celebrating recent violence at the Gaza Strip.

Following the backlash against the joint statement issued by Harvard’s Palestinian solidarity groups, the groups’ names were concealed from the statement. Meanwhile, a counter-statement condemning the violence against the people of Israel has gained nearly 3,000 signatures from the Harvard community.

An open letter to the Harvard community critiquing the school’s leadership is also gaining steam amongst faculty, with signatures from Larry Summers, Steven Pinker, Alan Dershowitz, Ruth Wisse, and other esteemed former and current Harvard professors.

For students on prestigious college campuses, Ms. Janover says, “internet harassment is a modern terror.” While she protested in support of Israel this week, she takes issue with Mr. Ackman’s “threat to blacklist students” and does not support “the silencing tactic of firing bespoke, dispensable people who speak out against a norm,” which could inadvertently punish those like Ms. Mikaelian. 

“It’s wonderful to get corporate support for people who don’t tolerate terrorism,” Ms. Janover says, but she claims that students’ freedom of expression should not be “weaponized.” Having been “doxxed” herself for comments deemed unfit by her employer, Ms. Janover highlights how the threat of not getting a job is indeed a weapon — especially when it’s wielded by those controlling the futures of Ivy League graduates.

The New York Sun

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