Statement on Israel-Hamas crisis

October 30, 2023

Dear Members of the Harvard Medical School Community:

Since the horrific terrorist attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas on Oct. 7, and in the wake of the intensifying humanitarian crisis in Gaza, I have received dozens of messages from faculty, students, staff, and alumni. I have learned much about how members of our community are feeling, and what they expect to hear from Harvard Medical School as an institution. Many of the emails have been painful to read, as our community is grieving. The candor and criticism from close colleagues and respected mentors have compelled me to reflect deeply on my response to the current crisis and the role our institution should play when challenging and polarizing events occur on the world stage. Many, especially our alumni, have not heard my voice and are calling on me for moral clarity. I am issuing this statement to attempt to answer, however imperfectly, the messages I have received.

As an institution whose mission is to advance healing, health, and well-being for all, Harvard Medical School condemns the egregious inhumanity of the Hamas attack in no uncertain terms. Several members of our community lost loved ones in Israel, and I send my deepest condolences to them and their families. I continue to hope for the safety of the more than 220 hostages — including babies, children, and the elderly — still being held by Hamas in Gaza. Numerous Jewish members of our community have shared that the brutal attack by Hamas, a terrorist organization that has advocated Jewish genocide, is a painful reminder of the centuries-long antisemitism that persists decades after the Holocaust, and which they continue to face today on our campus. This is deeply and profoundly distressing. Harvard President Claudine Gay delivered a moving speech at Harvard Hillel last Friday, where she outlined efforts at the University to confront and eradicate antisemitism on our campuses.

Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim members of our community have shared that Hamas does not represent them nor the many innocent civilians in Gaza currently caught in the crossfire of war who crave a peaceful resolution of their long-standing privation. Like so many of you, I have been watching the horrific images from Gaza. As the steward of an institution dedicated to alleviating human suffering, I am deeply troubled and saddened by the loss of so many innocent lives. The health care infrastructure in Gaza is being decimated. Hospitals are struggling due to a lack of medicine, equipment, and medical supplies as well as the denial of clean water, food, and electricity necessary for the delivery of health care. These are the abhorrent consequences of war. As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens, HMS stands with colleagues at Doctors Without Borders, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations, and other organizations that call for protection of innocent civilians, humanitarian aid workers, health care workers, and medical facilities.

I defend the rights of all members of our community to freely express their views on world events, and yet I must speak out when the words used conflict with our institutional values. I was saddened that more than 30 Harvard student groups, including a medical and dental student group, signed a statement in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack that appeared to excuse the brutality and absolve Hamas of culpability by stating that Israel was “entirely responsible for all the unfolding violence.” I have met with our students and shared that these words served only to inflame and polarize. A complicated history does not justify atrocities like those committed by Hamas.

In another speech delivered last Friday, President Gay reiterated that Harvard rejects hate and the harassment and intimidation of people based on their beliefs. At Harvard Medical School, our mission, community values, and diversity statement are bedrock principles. We recognize and condemn the poisonous forces of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hatred of any form. These will not be tolerated on our campus. As individuals, we must treat each other with respect and compassion, regardless of the differences in our views on global events. Especially at this difficult time, I ask that we recognize and embrace the many principles on which we do agree. I am thankful that many in our community have connected with close friends and mentors and have come together in safe spaces to grieve, to question, to listen, and to reflect. I am committed to holding more such gatherings and dialogues in the weeks ahead.

I conclude by emphasizing that the safety and well-being of all members of the Harvard Medical School community are my highest priorities. I am deeply saddened and disturbed to learn that some members, particularly students, feel unsafe, having experienced hate speech, veiled and direct threats, doxxing, ostracism, and other forms of targeting and harassment due to their faith, national origin, identities, or expressed opinions. Assaults against any individual will be prosecuted, and the legal system issues particularly grave punishments for those who carry out hate crimes.

If you experience or witness any threatening or harassing behavior, please report it immediately to HUPD at 617-432-1212 or via Harvard’s anonymous reporting hotline, which is operated by an independent, third-party provider. Additionally, I encourage you to consult the HMS website, which lists safety and well-being resources available to our community.


George Q. Daley
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
Harvard University