For months, some of the United States' most prestigious academic institutions have been grappling with student protests as the war between Israel and Hamas rages on. Amid protests on campus, universities like Harvard, Columbia and NYU have tried – and often failed – to uphold longstanding traditions of free speech while condemning anti-Semitism.

Now one of the country's most important business law firms is getting involved in the dispute and declaring that universities have failed to protect Jewish students from hateful and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Sullivan & Cromwell, whose recent clients have included Amazon, BP and Goldman Sachs, has hired background screening firm HireRight to screen out applicants who participated in recent anti-Israel demonstrations on campus, according to a recent report from. The New York Times.

According to Joseph Shenker, a senior official at the firm, the new rule could potentially disqualify applicants who have participated in anti-Semitic protests or demonstrations where language was used that could be “provocative” to Jews.

“People are using their outrage over what is happening in Gaza and turning it into racist anti-Semitism,” said Shenker The Just.

Accordingly the timesthe policy could exclude applicants from the hiring process even if they did not participate in controversial chants or rally rallies. Attendance at a protest alone could warrant an investigation, and an applicant who was present at a protest may have to explain to the company whether they did anything to moderate the behavior of those around them, the Just.

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Assets that the new policy was “offensive.”

“Sullivan & Cromwell are laying the groundwork for future blacklists that will say more about Sullivan & Cromwell than about the children and students they target,” he said.

Abbas also said the policy may violate Title VII, a provision of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity and national origin.

Employees in private companies have fewer free speech protections than employees in public institutions. Firms like Sullivan & Cromwell can make hiring decisions based on applicants' publicly stated beliefs, provided they do not discriminate against explicitly protected categories such as race or religion.

But given the scope of Sullivan & Cromwell's new policy, it could constitute illegal discrimination against Muslims and Palestinians, Abbas said.

“Law students and people applying to Sullivan & Cromwell will be partly Palestinian, partly Arab or Muslim,” he said. Assets“And because we are talking about genocide, there is something racist about this kind of crime. It's just that opposition to the annihilation of Palestinians inevitably arises from a person's ancestry. If you are Palestinian, you will be against it.”

A UN human rights expert called Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza genocide. But the Biden administration did not.

But Shenker said the times that the policy does not fundamentally condemn protests against Israel or examine private beliefs. Rather, the background checks are simply an extension of the company's existing stance on hate speech. He also said that the checks would not have been necessary if schools had done more to protect Jewish students and stop anti-Semitic demonstrations from the start.

Dylan Saba, a lawyer at Palestine Legal, said Assets that the level of scrutiny the policy would subject applicants to was so “draconian” that he did not know how the company could enforce it without violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“My benevolent assessment is that this is primarily PR,” Saba said. “They want to signal to a group of people that they are really in the lead and want to suppress criticism of Israel and pro-Palestinian views.”

Sullivan & Cromwell did not respond to Fortune's request for comment.

For many law firms, the sensitive issue of student protests has been a concern almost since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7. Shenker wrote an open letter to law school deans urging them to curb the more extreme demonstrations that were emerging on campuses. The letter was signed by about 200 other firms.

While S&C is the first firm to develop a formal policy toward protesters, it is not the first to take the demonstrations into account in its hiring practices. Last year, Davis Polk withdrew offers to three students who allegedly led demonstrations blaming Israel for the Oct. 7 attack, and Winston & Strawn withdrew an offer to a student who expressed similar views in a school newsletter.

The Just It has also been reported that several of S&C's competitors are secretly considering similar measures.

“You expect law firms to understand that if we are going to have a profession that has a lot of smart, independent-minded and passionate advocates of genocide, they are going to speak out against it,” Abbas said. “If you disagree, that's fine, but you shouldn't exclude them from the profession, as Sullivan & Cromwell appears to be trying to do.”

Public outrage over Israel's actions in the Gaza attack, which reached its peak in the spring with mass arrests on college campuses across the country, has now spread to the American economy. Since early June, crowds of protesters have gathered outside Citigroup's headquarters in New York City to denounce the financial institution's ties to Israel.

In a recent survey of more than 600 pro-Palestinian student activists, nearly 30% of respondents said they had had a job offer withdrawn in the past six months, according to education news portal IntelligentAbout 70% said they had been asked by interviewers about their participation in demonstrations.

On Wednesday, Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration will begin delivering 500-pound bombs to Israel, partially lifting a two-month moratorium on deliveries that came about over fears the weapons could be used to bomb Rafah.

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