Who Is Idan Ofer? Israeli Billionaire and His Wife Quit Harvard's Kennedy School Board after Blasting President Over Student Hamas Letter

The statement's failure to explicitly condemn the terrorist group Hamas has sparked outrage among numerous Harvard alums.

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An Israeli billionaire and his wife are resigning their posts on the executive board of Harvard University's prestigious Kennedy School of Business over the school president's response to the recent surprise Hamas attacks in Israel. Idan Ofer, the founder of Eastern Pacific Shipping, is reportedly worth over $14 billion according to Forbes.

His wife, Batia, is an art collector and comes from a family of Holocaust survivors. The couple's decision to quit the board of Harvard University's Kennedy School is in protest to President Claudine Gay's belated lukewarm response to the student letter blaming Israel for the massacre committed by Hamas terrorists on Saturday, the Hebrew-language news site TheMarker reported.

Quitting in Protest

Idan Ofer
Idan Ofer and wife Batia X

Ofer, a shipping and chemicals magnate, and his wife, Batia, who is also a member of the executive board, said they resigned "in protest of the shocking and insensitive response by the president of the university, who did not condemn the letter by student organizations who blamed Israel for the massacres."

"We write to you today heartbroken by the death and destruction unleashed by the attack by Hamas that targeted citizens in Israel this weekend, and by the war in Israel and Gaza now underway," Harvard administrators wrote in the statement from Monday, credited to Gay.

Idan Ofer
Idan Ofer and wife Batia X

The statement's failure to explicitly condemn the terrorist group Hamas has sparked outrage among numerous Harvard alums.

Gay has been facing backlash from Harvard alumni, including former school president Larry Summers, who decried the "delayed" response from her office regarding the student letter.

"Why can't we give reassurance that the University stands squarely against Hamas terror to frightened students when 35 groups of their fellow students appear to be blaming all the violence on Israel?" Summers wrote in his social media post late on Monday.

Claudine Gay
Claudine Gay X

Summers expressed his disappointment in response to the lukewarm statement released by the president's office on Monday.

Nothing Right in Harvard

On Tuesday, Gay published a follow-up statement. "As the events of recent days continue to reverberate, let there be no doubt that I condemn the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas," Gay had written in response to the student letter.

Harvard's Kennedy School of Business
Harvard's Kennedy School of Business X

"Such inhumanity is abhorrent, whatever one's individual views of the origins of longstanding conflicts in the region," she added.

For the Ofer family – one of the most affluent in Israel, with Idan being a major shareholder in the country's largest holding companies and a co-owner of the influential soccer club Atletico Madrid -- the statement is evidently inadequate.

Harvard has not yet provided a comment on this matter.

Over 30 student groups released an inflammatory letter shortly after Hamas carried out an assault on Saturday morning, resulting in over 1,200 Israelis dead and leaving thousands more wounded.

The letter titled 'Joint Statement by Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups on the Situation in Palestine' on Sunday, condemned Israel in the aftermath of the violence. Numerous Kennedy School groups were among the signatories.

They contend that Hamas' ongoing attacks "did not happen in a vacuum" and attributed them to the Israeli government's policies, claiming that Palestinians have been compelled to live in an "open-air prison for over two decades."

"We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence," the groups wrote.

"The apartheid regime is the only one to blame," the groups claim.

The letter triggered an angry reaction from business leaders, particularly hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who called on Harvard to provide a list of names of students affiliated with the groups that endorsed the letter.

Ackman garnered support from a dozen business executives who pledged not to hire students associated with those groups.

However, Summers and Harvard professor Jason Furman pushed back against Ackman, claiming that his approach was excessive.

Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee
Members of Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee protesting for liberation of Palestine X

The Ofer family is among the most affluent in Israel, with their late patriarch Sammy Ofer amassing a significant portion of his wealth through ownership stakes in Israel Chemicals and ZIM, the cargo shipping service.

Idan and Batia Ofer jointly hold a majority stake in Israel Corp. and Kenon Holdings, a company that was spun off from Israel Corp.

Meanwhile, Hamas called on Palestinians on Friday to protest against Israel's bombardment of the enclave, urging them to rally toward East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque and confront Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank.