Jewish member assaulted by Arab at Harvard Club event sues institution
(photo credit: Courtesy)
"All I did was ask a simple question, and right when I got up, a grown man my father's age, got up, and tried putting his hands on me, he tried taking the microphone from me."
Vanesa Levine, 28, a Jewish member of the Harvard Club, is now suing the institution after claiming that she was assaulted during a pro-Palestinian lecture, the New York Post reported. The Harvard Club not only dismissed her claims, but subsequently reportedly threw her out. Levine is seeking unspecified damages and reinstatement to the club.
Levine and her mother were attending a lecture in February 2019 called "The Hundred Year's War on Palestine" by Rashid Khalidi, a former press officer for the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
According to the lawsuit, Levine stood up after the lecture concluded and "peacefully asked during a question-and-answer session how Middle East peace could be achieved if Palestinians are taught to support terrorism against Jews and Israelis.” From there, the audience allegedly “erupted in a mob-like fury” over attempt to ask the question.
The question ignited a "mob like fury" during which Faris Mousa Saah, Harvard finance professor, allegedly "called her a 'slut' in Arabic and grabbed her by the arm, bruising it as he tried to take the microphone.”
Eventually Levine was able to complete her questions and after being answered, security made her and her mother leave. They were followed out by upset lecture attendees, taking photos of her and chanting, "We're going to get you expelled."
After Levine left the building and made it outside she was filmed talking about the incident. She posted the video to Facebook, garnering over 58,000 views. "All I did was ask a simple question, and right when I got up, a grown man my father's age, got up, and tried putting his hands on me, he tried taking the microphone from me," Levine said in the video.
According to court papers, Saah later claimed that he feared Levine would hurt Khalid, as she was "aggressively and maniacally" dancing around the room. In an interview with the Post, Saah doesn't recall being at the lecture, “There’s not a single word of accuracy in any of that,” he said of Levine’s charges.
The Harvard Club's board of trustees demanded that Levine take down the video off of Facebook, but she refused. An expulsion hearing after which the Club rescinded her membership. They refused Levine’s request to be represented by her lawyer in the hearing and did not timely give the names of the witnesses, according to Levine's version of events in the court papers.They dismissed her assault claims, even though they had video evidence of bruising, testimony from witnesses and an internal security report confirming Levine's vision version of events.A spokeswoman for the Harvard Club claimed Levine “disrupted a Club program. She was subsequently removed from membership in accordance with the Club’s bylaws.” 'Levine’s court papers claimed that the Harvard Club violated their own bylaws in convening the board of trustees hearing committee along with other multiple internal rules - all in an effort to expel her.' Vanesa Levine's lawyer told the Jerusalem Post.
"It's Las Vegas," said Jeffrey K. Levine, Vanesa's lawyer, in an interview with the Post, “Anything that goes on inside those four walls stays inside those four walls.”
"It was beyond comprehension that she would be expelled. She didn't touch anybody. She didn't slander anybody," said the lawyer, who is not related to Vanesa.
"Apparently one side is very hateful," Levine said in her video. "The other one is looking for answers and for solutions."The Harvard Club is a private social club of 154 years, based in Manhattan, notable past members of which include John F. Kennedy, Reginald Lewis, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.