They Blamed Israel for Hamas's Atrocities. Big Law Hired Them. Will There Be A Reckoning?

Students who have expressed solidarity with Hamas are set to join some of the nation’s leading law firms

Harvard University campus (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
October 16, 2023

One of America's top law firms has hired an board member of a Harvard Law School group that signed a statement blaming Hamas’s gruesome weekend terrorist attacks on Israel and its "apartheid regime."

Saeed Ahmad, a board member of the Harvard Muslim Law Students Association, is an incoming corporate associate at Sidley Austin, according to his LinkedIn page and biography on the Pakistani news site the Nation. Last summer, he worked in the firm's mergers and acquisitions group focusing on private equity.

The firm, home of the legendary Supreme Court litigator Carter G. Phillips and perhaps best known for launching the legal careers of Barack and Michelle Obama boasted a starting salary of $205,000 for first-year associates as of 2021, according to Above the Law. A spokesman for the firm, whose clients include the private equity giants KKR, The Carlyle Group, and Siris Capital, according to Bloomberg Law, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Muslim Law Students Association was one of more than 30 Harvard student groups that signed a statement on Saturday arguing that Israel is "entirely responsible" for the terror attacks that have killed more than 1,300 Israelis, including women, children, and babies.

"The apartheid regime is the only one to blame," the statement said. "The coming days will require a firm stand against colonial retaliation."

Since then, the Muslim Law Students Association has disavowed the statement, asserting in a subsequent statement that the group of soon-to-be-lawyers signed without "knowledge as to its content."

"This was a tremendous error of judgment on our part and we deeply regret signing on to such a statement," the group wrote.

Ahmad similarly said he "did not know" the Muslim Law Students Association signed the statement and "was never consulted over the prospect of signing it."

"I would never stand by such a statement, and just the first sentence alone is callous," Ahmad told the Washington Free Beacon. While he initially pledged in a LinkedIn post to retain his role with the association and "work to mend relationships across campus and facilitate improvements," Ahmad later announced his resignation from the group.

The original statement, which has generated tremendous backlash including calls from the hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman and others for Harvard to release the names of the members of every student group that signed it, reflects the anti-Semitic sentiments that have festered at elite U.S. universities in recent years. Harvard's student newspaper, the Crimson, endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement last year, while the Harvard Palestinian Solidarity Committee held a campus demonstration comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Sources familiar with the statement said it originated with the Palestinian Solidarity Committee, adding that Muslim Law Students Association co-president Reema Doleh made the decision to sign it.

Sidley Austin is not alone in offering a home to radical law students who have blamed Israel for its fate in the wake of the deadliest terrorist attack in its history.

Fellow Harvard Muslim Law Students Association member Ariq Hatibie worked as a summer associate at White and Case's New York office, the firm confirmed. A White and Case spokesman said that the association "has issued a retraction of its signature" from the pro-Hamas statement. Hatibie said he was not involved in the association's decision to sign the statement and condemns "the horrific attack by Hamas on innocent Israeli citizens."

University of Michigan's Rachel Fishman, a third-year law student and member of the school’s Black Law Student Association, which signed on to a statement arguing that Hamas is "fighting for justice" and blamed the terrorist attacks on Israel's "racist, colonial actions," is set to join Winston and Strawn as an associate next year, according to her LinkedIn page.

Winston and Strawn, the home the powerhouse Washington, D.C. litigator Abbe Lowell, has already rescinded the offer of an NYU law student who argued that Israel bore full responsibility for the terrorist attacks, but did not respond to a request for comment, and Fishman did not respond to a request for comment.

Three other University of Michigan Law students whose groups signed on to that statement—Harry Davis III, Sijay Matsinye, and Sophia Guirguis—were summer associates at prestigious firms McGuireWoods, Jenner and Block, and Wilson Sonsini, respectively. Summer associates are almost always extended full-time offers of employment by their firms. Those firms did not return requests for comment. Matsinye, Guirguis, and Davis did not return requests for comment.

At Columbia University, meanwhile, the South Asian Law Students Association endorsed a statement arguing that the "weight of the responsibility" for Hamas's terrorism "undeniably lies with the Israeli extremist government and other Western governments, including the U.S. government." Group members Arjun Patil, Keerthi Adusumilli, and Aarushi Kaul worked as summer associates at top firms Akin Gump, Dorsey and Whitney, and Cleary Gottlieb.

Akin Gump told the Free Beacon that Patel did not receive a postgraduate offer of employment and will not be joining the firm. The other firms did not return requests for comment. The Columbia South Asian Law Students Association, which appears to have removed access to the portion of its website that lists its executive board, did not return a request for comment.