Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.
As Israel and Hamas crafted a cease-fire to end two weeks of military activity in which both Gazans and Israelis have died, student governments and faculty members at many universities have issued statements of support. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, this support was not for the region’s only thriving democracy and American ally, Israel, but for Hamas, the designated terror group which rules over Gaza and speaks for the Palestinians and whose lethal use of more than 3000 rockets raining into southern Israeli towns with the object of killing Jewish civilians actually instigated the current escalation of conflict.
Tellingly silent as rockets were launched indiscriminately by Hamas into southern Israeli towns with the express purpose of murdering Jews (each of which rocket, incidentally, representing a war crime), these virtue-signaling students and faculty only became indignant at the violence and body counts once Israel was forced to protect its citizenry by defensive action to suppress Hamas’s lethal aggression.
At the University of Michigan, as one troubling example, the university’s Central Student Government published a statement in which Israel, not Hamas, was accused of “inhumane, international war crimes,” an ongoing process of “ethnic cleansing and apartheid” by Israel that is “a continuation of the displacement of indigenous Palestinians since the Nakba [the Arab’s term, “catastrophe” for the creation of Israel].”
In language the echoes the sentiment of Israel-haters everywhere, the Michigan statement apparently suggests that Israel is not a legitimate country at all. While anti-Israel individuals regularly refer to the existence of a country called Palestine—while no such country ever existed and does not exist now—they still consider Israel to be illegitimate, a colonial enterprise constructed on the stolen lands of an indigenous people. So the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, in their minds is immoral and unlawful. “This is not a ‘conflict,’” the statement reads, “but emblematic of Israeli settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid” so if the Jewish state is illegal, Israel’s efforts at self-defense are therefore not justifiable.
In a May 12th “Statement by Palestine Student Groups at Harvard University on Violence Against Palestinians,” students similarly denounced Israel, wishing to “acknowledge and express our outrage at the latest wave of Israeli state-sanctioned violence against Palestinians. [which] follows years of systematic oppression and ethnic cleansing committed by the State of Israel.”
Israel, it will be remembered, completely disengaged from Gaza in 2005, removing every living and dead Jew so that the Palestinians could start to build a state without any pesky “settlers” or other obstructions to Arab self-determination. Instead, Hamas implemented a repressive rule over its people and transformed Gaza into a launching pad for tens of thousands of rockets and mortars which have targeted Israeli civilians. Israel has responded with a blockade which, while it allowed in humanitarian goods and supplies, sought to control the flow of supplies and weapons, including material to construct terror tunnels into Israel.
But the Harvard students are apparently ignorant of the facts or choose instead to construct their own narrative about what has happened in Gaza to cause the current conflict. “In Gaza,” the statement reads, “Palestinians live under siege in the world’s largest open air prison and are subject to regular bombings,” suggesting, incoherently, that Israel capriciously decides to incur almost universal denunciation when it employs its military by randomly, and unjustifiably, bombing Gazans for absolutely no reason. If Gaza is occasionally “bombed” and if it has become an “open air prison” that is the direct result of the Gazans own leadership in continuing to shower Israel with rockets, conducting “days of rage,” storming the border at regular intervals, and committing the psychopathic terrorists of Hamas to an unrelenting campaign to murder Jews and destroy Israel.
If these students only want to pay attention to the facts on the ground once Israel conducts one of its rare incursions into Gaza to suppress deadly rocket fire and protect Jewish lives, that is their right. But they clearly are not being honest about the causes and effects in Gaza if they omit from their analysis both the role of Hamas in the conflict and the Palestinians’ own contributions to the woeful state in which they find themselves.
In a May 18th opinion piece in the Daily Princetonian, “Princeton University community statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people,” undergraduates and graduate students, along with some 25 Princeton faculty, published a statement replete with similar ahistorical, false, or exaggerated claims about Israel and its behavior.
In a weak attempt to be even-handed, the Princeton statement contends that “We mourn all loss of life” However, below the surface, it is clear that at Princeton, the tragedy lies only in the loss of Arab deaths, not Jewish ones. How do they rationalize that? Because the violence and killing of the Palestinians is resistance, and therefore noble and acceptable, and the killings by Israel are part of a richly-subsidized militarism whose sole purpose, in the mind of Israel-haters, is to maintain the occupation, enforce racial apartheid, and maintain control of territories which Israel has stolen and to which it has no legal or moral right.
So while they regret the loss of life on both sides, “We also refuse the ‘two-sides’ and ‘evenhandedness’ narrative that ignores and conceals the meaningful differences between Israel — one of the most heavily militarized states in the world that receives $3.8 billion in military aid annually from the United States — and a Palestinian population resisting occupation and oppression.” There is a morality in resistance against an oppressive occupier but a democratic nation using its military to protect its citizens from being murdered is, in their progressive minds, asymmetrical, disproportionate, and unjust.
Progressives have always been fascinated by revolutionary violence even while they denounce the law and order of democratic Israel, and this statement confirms that when they even acknowledge the violence and terror of Hamas meant to indiscriminately murder Israeli Jews, that brand of violence is somehow moral and just, that Palestinian terror obduracy, and rejection of peace and the existence of Jewish self-determination are acceptable—even noble. “We salute the bravery and will-to-survival of Palestinians,” the statement reads, grotesquely “. . . as they resist the violence of the Israeli military, settler militias, and lynch mobs.”
Resistance on the part of Arabs is not violent but Israel defending its citizens is, these misguided academic contend. “We recognize, as they do, that peace with justice in Palestine/Israel is not possible under conditions of military occupation and unending settler-colonial expansionism;” in other words, peace is impossible only because of Israel’s behavior.
Brown University’s contribution to the condemnation of the Jewish state, a “Letter in Solidarity With The Palestinian Liberation Struggle,” expressed “unequivocal solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemn[ed] Israel’s settler-colonial project, human rights violations, and war crimes in Palestine.”
One wonders why anyone would affirm “unequivocal solidarity” with the Palestinians given the fact that they pay the families of terrorists who commit themselves to martyrdom and the murder of Jews, raise their children to despise Jews and think of Israelis as thieves and the descendants of apes and pigs, name summer camps and town squares after terrorists, and have repeatedly turned down offers of statehood when generous and viable offers have been made to them to create the state they claim to seek.
Similar to other statements, Israel is described in the Brown statement, not as a legally-created democratic sovereign state, but as a “settler-colonial” project, which it clearly is not, but which gives its enemies comfort in thinking that it is illegitimate, transitory, not permanent, subject to being replaced or destroyed because of its sketchy creation.
And where is the “Palestine’ where these pseudo-historians claim that “war crimes” are being perpetrated? Israel-haters speak of Palestine as if it was, and is, a sovereignty, but that, of course, is a false and created narrative. Palestine was a geographical territory, not a state, and, moreover, an area known primarily to be the home of Jews, not the Arabs who were transformed in the 1960s to become the Palestinians.
And if these Brown activists seek to help with the Palestinian “liberation struggle,” they undoubtedly believe, just as Yasser Arafat believed, that if Palestine is to be “liberated,” that means that current-day Israel, which occupies areas of Palestine, will only be liberated by its destruction and the expulsion of its Jews. That is certainly a different outcome than is suggested by the more benign fantasy often expressed when speaking about Israel and a new Palestinian state—”two states living side by side in peace.”
As mentioned, it is Hamas who is committing repeated war crimes every time it fires a rocket or mortar into Israel, aimed at civilians, not soldiers, and with no specific military target other than Jewish neighborhoods—clear violations of the rules of war. And while the enemies of Israel contend the mere presence of Jews living in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria (“settlers” not residents, of course) somehow violates the human rights of the Arab neighbors there, Israel is not violating the civil or human rights of its non-Jewish citizens within Israel—some twenty percent of Israel’s population that enjoys more human and civil rights than Arabs have in any surrounding country. So, the frequent slander that Israel violates international law and deprives Arabs of human rights is not only false but a complete inversion of the truth.
Those who lend their moral support to terrorism, and who continually see the existence of terror as a justifiable tool of the oppressed, have helped to introduce a sick moral relativism into discussions about radical Islam and Palestinianism, not to mention Israel’s right to protect its citizens from being slaughtered.
And the notion that Israel cannot, or should not, retaliate against these rocket attacks until a sufficient number of Israelis have been murdered is equally grotesque. How many dead Jewish civilians would be a sufficient number before the international community agreed to Israeli counter-measures? Should Israel have continued to wait until a school or daycare center was struck, forcing Israel to play, in the words of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, “Russian roulette with its children?”
The fact that so many demonstrators feel comfortable with openly supporting a terrorist group with the single purpose of murdering Jews indicates quite dramatically how prevalent, and acceptable, genocidal Jew-hatred has become on campuses in America and Europe. This is obviously not, as it is regularly asserted, merely “criticism” of the Israeli government’s policies; this is what many define as a “new” anti-Semitism—an irrational, seething animus against the Jew of nations, Israel.