More than 150 Harvard affiliates mourned the deaths of Palestinian children in a vigil around the steps of Widener Library Tuesday.
Organized by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and Graduate Students 4 Palestine, the vigil follows a series of protests in support of Palestinian victims last week across several of Harvard’s graduate schools.
Since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 5,000, more than 2,000 of whom were children, according to UNICEF. The war follows Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 Israelis. The PSC and GS4P previously held a silent vigil in the Yard for civilian victims in Gaza and Israel.
A news helicopter whirred overhead as two speakers at the vigil spoke of their experiences teaching in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Crimson granted speakers at the vigil anonymity due to safety concerns.
The first speaker, a Palestinian organizer who has been teaching in Ramallah for the past seven years, said Israel’s occupation of Gaza has “fragmented” Palestinians for decades.
“The fragmentation of the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation is deliberate and intentional,” the speaker said. “It kills dreams, it kills connections, it kills the imagination of Palestinian youth.”
The speaker also asked attendees to “honor all the young people and all the families.”
“Speak up and show up not just now, but until Palestine is free for the youth, elders, and for all,” they said.
Another speaker also cited experience teaching children in Palestine.
“I can go on and on about the wonderful, exciting, and thoughtful hopes that these adolescent girls from Gaza have for their future,” the speaker said.
“These hopes and dreams are, for the most part, no different than any of those of my students in L.A. or D.C. These girls want to make their mother happy. They want to swim in the sea,” they added.
The PSC received national backlash earlier this month for a joint statement with more than 30 other student groups that held Israel “entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” Students affiliated with the original signatories have faced instances of doxxing in recent weeks as at least four online sites and a billboard truck have publicized their personal information.
Tuesday’s vigil came one day after the PSC published a letter signed by more than 400 Harvard alumni in support of PSC and GS4P and students facing doxxing.
The letter called on Harvard’s administration to condemn “anti-Palestinian racism” and apologize to and protect students who experienced doxxing. It also asked that “deans write letters of recommendation for all students targeted by smear campaigns that may impact their professional and academic futures.”
Though Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the letter’s contents, he pointed to an Oct. 12 video message from University President Claudine Gay in which she said Harvard “rejects the harassment or intimidation of individuals based on their beliefs.”
“Our University embraces a commitment to free expression,” Gay said in the video. “That commitment extends even to views that many of us find objectionable, even outrageous. We do not punish or sanction people for expressing such views.”
Tuesday’s vigil also featured a video projection of Gazan children affected by violence in the region. Organizers also played “Salute to Gaza — Salam li Ghazza” sung by the Gaza Youth Choir at the beginning and end of the vigil.
An organizer also asked attendees to donate to the PSC’s Gaza relief fundraiser, which launched Monday. The PSC has pledged to triple all donations.
One organizer who spoke at the vigil called on organizations that have “made the defense of Israel a core part of its ethos” to join in mourning the Palestinian victims of ongoing violence.
“If your grief has transformed into a bloodlust for revenge, that hides behind shallow phrases like ‘right to defend themselves’ while children die, how can you call yourself pro-peace?” they said.
—Staff writer John N. Peña can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on X @john_pena7.