In a highly controversial move, a prominent US law firm has rescinded job offers to recent Harvard Law School graduates after they spoke out in favor of Palestinian rights as part of a broader academic exercise.
Loeb & Loeb LLP, a prominent international law firm, recently informed two soon-to-be graduates of Harvard Law School that their job offers had been rescinded due to their involvement in a student-led initiative related to the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for an international boycott of Israeli products to pressure the country into respecting Palestinians’ human rights.
The now-former Harvard Law School students, Emily Commane and Lina fine, were part of a group of students who wrote letters to various universities calling for Israeli academics to be invited to speak on campus. Another student, Paul Li, who was also part of the group, was reportedly informed that an offer from the law firm Akin Gump had also been rescinded due to his involvement in the initiative.
The letters came at a sensitive time, as many students at Harvard and other universities around the US had been engaging in a lively debate about the role of free speech on college campuses. However, Commane and Fine were structured in their letter, and explicitly avoided the topic of Israel-Palestine.
It is unclear whether the decision to rescind the job offers was due to the political content of the letters, or to the fact that the students had advocated in favor of Palestinian rights. For their part, Loeb & Loeb LLP has denied that the decision was political, claiming that the offers had been revoked due to the “attitudes and values of the firm.”
Nevertheless, many are concerned that the revocation of the offers is an example of retaliation against politically vocal students, and a chilling of student free speech. Quite a few universities have strong stances on the BDS movement, but none have sought to retaliate against students who have taken part in the discussion.
The revocation has caused an outcry among prominent law firms and human rights groups alike, with many worrying that it sends the message that support for Palestinian rights is not allowed. It creates a dangerous precedent and will likely discourage students from acting on their beliefs.
This incident shows the need for strong protections for freedom of speech, especially on university campuses. While big businesses may have a right to their own opinions and values, retaliating against students is a step too far. It is important to ensure that students can engage in discussions about difficult and controversial topics without fear of repercussions or discrimination.