Something sinister is happening before our eyes. An alarming number of Americans blame Israel for the murder of civilians by Hamas terrorists October 7, and violence against Jews is rising precipitously. It began before the dead were buried, when a group of Harvard students issued a statement proclaiming they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”
Days later, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres cribbed a line from that statement, saying the killing of Israeli civilians “did not occur in a vacuum.” In cities across the nation, Americans chant for Palestine to seize the land “from the river to the sea,” promoting the annihilation of Israel and the Jews living there.
Today, American Jews are forced to hide behind locked doors in fear of attack by pro-Hamas activists. Jewish middle school students are threatened with taunts of “kill the Jews.” In Brooklyn, Jews are being warned to stay in their homes this weekend because militants supporting the Gaza charter calling for “the destruction of Israel” massed in their neighborhood.
The Anti-Defamation League reports that anti-semitic threats and violence have risen nearly 400% in just two weeks, and a recent Harvard Caps Harris poll revealed that more than half of 18-24 year old Americans think the murder of 1,200 Israeli civilians by Hamas was justified. They blame the victims; the Jews had it coming.
Some people are simply bigots who hate Jews. But others who are not dogmatically opposed to Israel or Jewish people are persuadable toward this pro-Hamas position. They can be misled into victim blaming, believing Israel could have avoided the massacre if only Jews were better people.
There’s a body of research on why people blame victims, much of it reflecting secular beliefs about the nature of man and society. One reason was postulated by psychologist Melvin Lerner, who pioneered the “just world” theory. It’s described as “a psychological concept proposing that individuals possess a strong belief in the inherent fairness of the world, where people get what they deserve, and deserve what they get.”
An essay by the Young Leaders for Legal Literacy Foundation explores Lerner’s theory observing: “One’s need to maintain a belief in a just world may be at fault for our tendency to blame victims. When bad things happen to someone who seems a lot like us, this threatens our belief that the world is a just place.”
The theory is intriguing but in order to have a fair and just world, the world must be filled with fair and just people. The belief in the natural goodness of man – widely promoted through the works of Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacque Rousseau and others – is often accompanied by the theory that man’s goodness is corrupted by society. Taken as a whole, it’s a false utopian philosophy that invites anarchy by rationalizing bad behavior.
This view of man’s nature is diametrically opposed to the biblical view. Ask any Bible-believing Christian about the nature of man and they’ll say it is sinful and corrupt. The notion of man as naturally sinful isn’t universal but it’s foundational to Judeo-Christian thought. It might explain why so few Christians blame Israel for the Hamas attacks. Christians can debate Israel’s response to Hamas, but I don’t know any claiming that Jewish civilians deserved to be killed. If there are any, they’re in a minuscule fringe seeking 15 minutes of fame.
These differing perspectives matter when talking about Israel and Hamas. Those subscribing to Rousseauean and similar philosophies see Hamas as an organization of fundamentally good people who were corrupted by society and the state of Israel. It gives terrorists a pass, as do many pro-Hamas agitators marching in the streets today. But for those adhering to biblical precepts, Hamas is an organization of sinful people who demonstrated their sinfulness in an orgy of murder and rape, and who are solely responsible for their actions.
The larger issue, however, is what kinds of societies these conflicting worldviews foster. While the biblical view promotes order, the secular view foments chaos, gratifying American Leftists and other authoritarians. It is another reason the Left is so keen on denigrating Judeo-Christian ideals, paving the way for new violence.
America is slouching toward Kristallnacht, the seminal pogrom against innocent Jews across Germany on the evening of November 9-10, 1938. Thousands of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were looted and burned. Men were arrested by the tens of thousands for the crime of being Jewish. Others were simply murdered.
We need to wake up before a tipping point arrives. A staggering 51% of college age Americans think the barbaric Hamas murders of Israeli civilians were justifiable, an attitude likely to metastasize. This is why defending the biblical view of man’s nature is so critical. We cannot confront evil without first understanding the inherent sinfulness of man.