On Tuesday, October 10, 2023, Reuters reported that international law firm Winston & Strawn rescinded a job offer to Ryna Workman, president of the NYU Student Bar Association, due to controversial comments she made regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. Workman, who is non-binary, had previously completed a two-year summer associate position at Winston & Strawn.
In a weekly newsletter to NYU law students, Workman took a strong pro-Palestinian stance, stating that “Israel bears full responsibility” for Hamas’ recent deadly attacks in Israel. Workman refused to condemn Hamas, which is recognized internationally as a terrorist organization.
Instead of acknowledging Hamas’ indiscriminate attacks targeting Israeli civilians, Workman condemned “the violence of apartheid” and “military occupation” by Israel. She expressed “solidarity with Palestinians in their resistance against oppression,” framing the conflict as one of simple victimhood of Palestinians rather than the highly complex geopolitical situation it entails.
“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,” Workman said. “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life. This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary.”
In response, Winston & Strawn issued a public statement saying Workman’s comments “profoundly conflict with the firm’s values.” The firm asserted its “unwavering support for Israel’s right to exist in peace” and condemned “the violence and destruction caused by Hamas.”
While respecting individuals’ political viewpoints, the law firm maintained that expressing support for a terrorist organization crossed a line, particularly for a representative of the NYU Law community. This decision underscores the firm’s zero-tolerance policy towards association with extremist groups that could damage its reputation.
While entitled to her views, Workman’s one-sided framing of the conflict and refusal to condemn Hamas’ terrorism indicated a disturbing lack of objectivity expected of future legal professionals. This likely informed Winston & Strawn’s decision to rescind its job offer to Workman.