Harvard University will host a summer program where students will be briefed on “settler colonialism” at a Palestinian university that called for “glory to martyrs” after the October 7 terrorist massacre in Israel and has a student body that overwhelmingly elected a Hamas-affiliated bloc to run its student government.
The embattled Ivy League institution’s “Palestine Social Medicine Course” will send Harvard students to Birzeit University in the West Bank, according to the program’s website. It explains that the “three-week intensive summer course is designed to introduce students to the social, structural, political, and historical aspects that determine Palestinian health beyond the biological basis of disease.”
Harvard faces mounting criticism for its response to blatant anti-Semitism on its campus since the Hamas terrorist attack. Several Harvard students told The Daily Wire they were concerned about their school’s relationship with Birzeit University, given its history and alignment with terrorist groups.
The curriculum content will include hearing from health practitioners, academics, and activists about various topics including “Settler colonialism and its manifestations in Palestine” and “Health and racism,” the website adds.
A spokeswoman for Harvard defended its program in a statement to The Daily Wire, stating that Birzeit “is a public institution governed by an autonomous Board of Trustees with no political, religious, or sectarian affiliation,” and that the program was co-developed by the World Health Organization.
Birzeit University’s students pledge allegiance to Hamas, are arrested for terrorist activities
Birzeit University’s student population voted overwhelmingly for a Hamas-affiliated bloc in its student government elections for a second year in a row in May. The Islamic Bloc won 25 of the 51 seats with 4,481 votes in the race that had a 77% voter turnout, according to the Jerusalem Post. The Bloc said its victory proves students favor “the option of resistance” against Israel, and disapprove of the Palestinian Authority’s policies.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh praised the victory and spoke to participants at its celebrations over the phone, claiming the victory shows Hamas is “unbreakable” in the West Bank, Middle East Monitor reported.
The campus elections are closely watched as a peek into the political leanings of Palestinians in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has not held national elections since 2006.
The student government president, Abdulmajid Hassan, and seven other students were arrested by the Israel Defense Forces during a raid in September, according to the university. The group is accused of planning a terror attack to which some of the suspects confessed, according to the Times of Israel.
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David Mills, the co-director of the Harvard program, condemned the raid during a presentation on the experiences of past participants.
“We condemn the Israeli raid of Birzeit University on September 24th and stand in solidarity with our colleagues at Birzeit University,” he said. “These raids violate the right of Palestinians to education, freedom of speech, and freedom of association.”
In 2022, Birzeit student activists were arrested for helping to launder money from Gaza to Hamas members in Turkey to finance terrorist attacks, The Jerusalem Post reported.
About 60 to 70 Birzeit students are imprisoned at any given time for security offenses, according to a 2017 feature by the Financial Times.
Stephanie Simon, Harvard’s Dean for Communications and Strategic Initiatives acknowledged the student body’s association with Hamas, but said it has not affected its program.
“Student government elections at Birzeit typically involve candidates affiliated with each of the major political parties in the region, including Hamas,” she said. “These student government elections are not germane to and have not affected the FXB Center’s work with the scholars and students at Birzeit’s Institute of Community and Public Health.”
“Nevertheless, Harvard Chan School will continue to regularly evaluate the collaboration with Birzeit,” Simon concluded.
Radical university has a history of honoring prominent terrorist alumni
Birzeit University, widely considered the most prestigious Palestinian university, called for “glory for martyrs” on October 10, just days after Hamas’ attack on civilians in southern Israel.
“Birzeit also expresses its sincere condolences to its staff and students, who, every day of the ongoing war on the Gaza Strip, lose loved ones and relatives and calls on the world to halt this onslaught,” the tweet reads. “Glory for martyrs, recovery for wounded ones, and freedom for the captives.”
The school’s website describes itself as a “thorn in the side of the occupation,” and says it is “transforming Palestinian higher education through its impact on community awareness, culture and resistance.”
The university also openly honors prominent terrorists. In 2022, Birzeit University’s Sports Education Club hosted an athletic competition named after one of its many prominent terrorist alumni, Marwan Barghouti, who received his master’s degree in 1998. Barghouti is considered a leader of the First and Second Intifada and was convicted of killing five people.
Birzeit University’s Kamal Nasser Hall is named after a leader of Black September, the terror organization responsible for kidnapping and killing 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
On November 24, 2022, the Islamic Bloc hosted a reception for new students titled, “Ayyash’s Army,” after Birzeit electric engineering graduate Yahya Ayyash. Ayyash is nicknamed “the Engineer,” according to MEMRI, and is known for revamping the production of suicide bombs — he is credited with helping kill nearly 100 Israeli civilians. The event was hosted the day after 22 Israelis were injured, and two killed, from bombs detonated at a bus stop by terrorists.
Fathi Shaqaqi, a founder of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Ahlam Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi, who helped bomb an Israeli pizza shop in 2001, are also alumni.
At a 2014 prisoner release deal celebration hosted by the Islamic bloc on campus, al-Tamimi addressed the crowd through a recorded message in which she reminisced about her time as a student and thanked Hamas’s Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, according to Middle East Monitor.
In 2021, a parade celebrating Hamas’s 34th anniversary was held on campus — against the school’s COVID-19 gathering restrictions — where masked students wearing the Hamas banner beat up university security guards, according to the Jerusalem Post. The school announced it temporarily suspended one student involved.
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Birzeit University had an official policy banning Israeli Jews from being on campus, which came to light in 2014 when a left-wing reporter for Haaretz was removed from a conference. It is unclear if this policy is still in place.
“She and her colleagues were afraid, she told me, that students would break into the conference hall in protest over my presence,” Amira Haas wrote, recounting the incident. “Palestinian citizens of Israel who teach at Israeli universities are not subject to the same policy.”
Harvard’s association with Birzeit
Harvard launched its relationship with Birzeit University last summer when its FXB Center for Health and Human Rights brought the first group of students to the West Bank for the program.
The program will also include site visits in Israel, according to the website.
The faculty for the program are all affiliated with the FXB Center, including Yara Asi, an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida, who wrote a letter in November with colleagues calling for a ceasefire and “centering Palestine in the classroom.”
Bram Wispelwey, who will teach during the program and also teaches at Harvard Medical School, published an op-ed in Al Jazeera in November calling the war in Gaza a “U.S.-backed genocide.” He went on to accuse Western doctors of being “collaborationists” with “colonial violence” if they engage in “passive silence.”
All of the program’s faculty members — Mills, Asi, Wispelway, as well as two others named Weeam Hammoudeh, and Osama Tannous — joined to pen an academic article in 2022, claiming that “health equity” for Palestinians “is possible only with the abolition of all oppressive structures that ensure Jewish supremacy and Palestinian inferiority from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”
During the informational webinar about last year’s program, one of the 2023 participants said she learned a lot about the social medicine framework on her trip, claiming that public health is “inextricable to the ongoing Israel settler colonial project and the ongoing dispossession and erasion from their voices.”
The Harvard spokeswoman said that “leadership at Harvard Chan School and the FXB Center unequivocally condemn Hamas’s brutal attacks on Israel and its taking of hostages.”
This year’s program is set to take place from July 29 to August 17, with a cost of $2,750 per participant.
Birzeit University did not return a request for comment.
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