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Harvard Students Captured on Film Accosting Israeli Classmate Remain in Good Standing With School, Lawsuit Alleges

'Based on its track record, it is inconceivable that Harvard would allow any group other than Jews to be targeted'

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January 11, 2024

The Harvard University graduate students who were caught on film accosting and shoving a Jewish classmate during an anti-Israel "die-in" protest remain in good standing with the school, with one of the assailants avoiding discipline altogether, according to a lawsuit.

The complaint, which was filed Wednesday afternoon, accuses the Ivy League institution of failing to combat "outrageous antisemitic conduct" and ignoring "Jewish students' pleas for protection." Cited as an example is the Oct. 18 "die-in" protest held outside Harvard Business School, during which law student Ibrahim Bharmal and divinity school graduate student Elom Tettey-Tamaklo were filmed laying hands on an Israeli business school student. While a video of the incident—which the Washington Free Beacon first reported—went viral, Bharmal and Tettey-Tamaklo have largely avoided punishment, according to the suit.

Harvard "has not imposed any discipline on Bharmal," who attended another unsanctioned anti-Semitic protest less than two weeks after the "die-in," according to the suit. While Harvard did remove Tettey-Tamaklo from his role as a freshman proctor, the school "has done nothing to sanction" him otherwise, the suit says.

Harvard, which did not return a request for comment, pledged in a November statement to "address the incident through its student disciplinary procedures" but has not provided an update since.

"Harvard, America's leading university, has become a bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment," the complaint says. "Based on its track record, it is inconceivable that Harvard would allow any group other than Jews to be targeted for similar abuse or that it would permit, without response, students and professors to call for the annihilation of any country other than Israel."

In addition to its claims regarding Bharmal and Tettey-Tamaklo, the suit accuses Harvard law professor Jon Hanson of maligning Israeli Jews as "colonizers" who "'blow[] up' babies." The Dec. 5 congressional hearing that pressed top university presidents on their response to campus anti-Semitism, Hanson added, was a "master class in bad-faith culture war bullshit," according to the suit, which also says Hanson urged an Israeli student to refrain from "escalating" a complaint against Bharmal.

The complaint seeks an injunction to stop Harvard from violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act bars recipients of federal funds from allowing race- and religion-based discrimination. Plaintiffs include Harvard Divinity School student Alexander Kestenbaum, five unnamed Harvard students, and Students Against Antisemitism.

Bharmal and Tettey-Tamaklo's behavior at the "die-in" protest prompted criticism from prominent Harvard Business School alumni. Five of the school's graduates, including Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) and billionaire investor Seth Klarman, published an open letter hammering the school for its failure to protect Jewish students.

"The videos that have been made public, particularly the most recent violent assault of an Israeli student on the Harvard Business School campus, allow us all to see how Jewish and Israeli students are targets of threats and violence from groups of pro-Palestinian students," Romney, Klarman, and other graduates wrote in the letter. "Despite these serious concerns, University leadership shockingly has been paralyzed. … We fear that history is on the verge of repeating itself."