'Necessary', according to Workman (r).
Winston & Strawn has withdrawn its offer of employment from a student who published a newsletter in which they blamed Israel for the massacre of hundreds of Israeli civilians by Hamas this week and described it as “necessary resistance”.
Ryna Workman is the President of the New York University Student Bar Association and was set to join Winston & Strawn after working at the US firm as a summer associate.
Workman, who identifies as non-binary, emailed a newsletter to NYU law students on Tuesday which began, “Hi y'all”.
The student continued, “This week, I want to express, first and foremost, my unwavering and absolute solidarity with Palestinians in their resistance against oppression toward liberation and self-determination. Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life”.
“This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary. I will not condemn Palestinian resistance”.
Instead, Workman condemned Israel and the US, citing “the violence of apartheid” and “the violence of settler colonialism” and concluding, “Palestine will be free”.
The newsletter was circulated around NYU before going viral, where legal commentators expressed their dismay and disgust.
“Imagine being a Jewish student at NYU Law School who doesn't know if their kidnapped grandmother is alive and seeing the head of your equivalent of the student council saying ‘grandma had it coming’”, said one.
In a statement on Wednesday Winston & Strawn told RollOnFriday that it had “learned that a former summer associate published certain inflammatory comments regarding Hamas’ recent terrorist attack on Israel”.
The firm said Workman’s comments “profoundly conflict with Winston & Strawn’s values” and that it had rescinded the law student’s offer of employment.
“We remain outraged and deeply saddened by the violent attack on Israel over the weekend. Our hearts go out to our Jewish colleagues, their families, and all those affected”, said the firm, stating that “Winston stands in solidarity with Israel’s right to exist in peace and condemns Hamas and the violence and destruction it has ignited in the strongest terms possible”.
The displays of support for Hamas by students has shocked business leaders which had embraced and supported the students and their organisations. The backlash appears to have surprised lots of the students as well, many of whom deleted their social media profiles as criticism grew.
At Harvard, 31 student groups signed an open letter in which they stated that “We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence”.
“The apartheid regime is the only one to blame”, said the letter.
The letter was subsequently amended to remove the names of the student groups which signed it, prompting calls by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and other US CEOs for Harvard to disclose which groups endorsed it so that “none of us inadvertently hire any of their members”. It was then deleted altogether.
Ariq Hatibie, the Executive Board Member of one signatory, the Harvard Muslim Law School Organisation, was one of the many linked to the letter who wiped his social media presence from the internet.
As well as being the Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Human Rights Journal, Hatibie worked as a summer associate at White & Case's New York office in 2023.
He did not respond to a request for comment, but subsequently gave White & Case a statement which the firm provided to RollOnFriday.
"The decision to sign on to the statement by MLSA was made without my knowledge and without consulting with me", he said.
"I categorically reject the statement and MLSA has since retracted its support for the statement. I condemn the horrific attacks by Hamas on innocent Israeli civilians, and my thoughts are with all those affected by these attacks".
Earlier this week a second Harvard law student who serves as an Executive Board Member of another signatory, the Harvard Muslim Law School Organisation, publicly distanced himself from the comments his organisation had endorsed.
Saeed Ahmad, who is set to join Sidley Austin as an associate, said on LinkedIn, “Today in the middle of class, I received a plethora of messages linking me to an article…that falsely connected me to the signing of a joint statement that held the ‘Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence’ taking place in that region at the moment”.
“Before I expand, I would like to state that the actions of Hamas- killing of civilians, murder, rape, and other unspeakable acts- can NEVER be justified”, he said in the post.
“In the past several hours, I’ve received hate mail, vile messages on social media, and even people reporting me to my future employer. The situation has gone viral on social media, law firms have begun reneging on offers, and aspects of corporate America have stated that they will not hire those who signed the letter.”
Ahmad said that his group had signed the letter without his knowledge, and explained that many Harvard organisations “do not have a formalized process for putting out statements, and statements can be put out without a vote or consent of the majority of the board members”.
ROF understands that Sidley is aware of Ahmad’s explanation and is yet to make a decision around his future employment at the firm.