By Hadassa Kalatizadeh
A Jewish member of the Harvard Club asserts that she was assaulted by a professor during a pro-Palestinian lecture at the posh scene. Vanesa Levine, 28, was a new member to the elite Midtown club, which once included illustrious figures such as Michael Bloomberg, John F. Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Levine is now suing the 154-year old institution to be reinstated after being silenced and booted just for asking a question.
As reported by the NY Post, Levine, a marketing manager in Brooklyn, and her mom attended a lecture last February, entitled, “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine” by Rashid Khalidi, a former press officer for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. She claims in her lawsuit, that during the lecture’s question-and-answer session, she “peacefully” asked how Mideast peace can be achieved if Palestinians are teaching their children “to support terrorism against Jews and Israelis.”
As per her lawsuit, the audience flared up in “mob-like” fury at her question. Harvard finance professor Faris Mousa Saah, 53, called her a whore in Arabic. He grabbed her by the arm, bruising it as he forced the microphone from her, according to court papers.
Levine, who earned a Master’s degree from Harvard, persevered and did ask her questions. But was expelled from the room and asked by security to leave, along with her mom, who was born and raised in Israel. An angry mob from the audience followed them out in the hallway, photographing her and shouting, “We’re going to get you expelled,” she said. Outside the noble landmarked venue, on the sidewalk by 44th street and Fifth Avenue, a stunned Levine stopped to film herself and tell over her experience. She posted it to Facebook, where the clip was watched over 50,000 times.
Saah later defended his actions by saying he was afraid Levine would hurt Khalidi, as she was “aggressively and maniacally” moving around with the microphone, as per court papers.
In July, the Harvard Club’s board of trustees demanded that Levine remove the video off of Facebook. She refused. This led the board, headed by esteemed attorney Stephen Younger, who served on transition teams for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, to kick Levine out of the club, after a hearing which more resembled a “kangaroo court,” as per her lawyer, Jeffrey K. Levine, who is not related to her. At the hearing, the board allegedly dismissed her assault claim, and disregarded even an internal report from the club’s own security confirming Levine’s account of the incident, she said in court documents.
“I’ve been to hell and back ever since the Harvard Club incident,” Levine said to the Post.
“It was beyond comprehension that she would be expelled. She didn’t touch anybody. She didn’t slander anybody,” said her lawyer. In her suit, Levine is requesting reinstatement to the club and unspecified damages.
“I don’t remember having been at the lecture,” Saah responded to The Post. “There’s not a single word of accuracy in any of that,” he said of the suit. A Harvard Club spokeswoman also responded claiming, Levine “disrupted a Club program. She was subsequently removed from membership in accordance with the Club’s bylaws.” The Harvard club includes dining outlets, guestrooms, a library, a work center, three floors of Athletics facilities, and social rooms for private events.