Hamas chopped the heads off 40 Jewish babies, burned families alive, gang raped teenage girls, and decapitated an elderly man. Oh, and they kidnapped a six-month-old baby, young children, and female Holocaust survivors.
Let that settle in for a moment. Moral revulsion is imminent. Assigning blame a no-brainer, right?
Apparently not for the multitudes that praise Hamas as “resistance fighters.”
It’s a vulgar display of moral corruption, the legerdemain of situational ethics. Offset the barbarism with a litany of Palestinian grievances. There’s unrest at colleges across America, schools that offer all kinds of electives, but nothing mandatory when it comes to moral reasoning. Street protests, the world over, are even worse.
Even the Secretary General of the United Nations trivialized the terrorism of October 7. Damage control for Hamas is, apparently, the diplomatic thing to do.
What makes it all so much worse is that the bandwagon for Hamas isn’t stopping with 10/7. We’ve reached the phase of active abetting—both endorsing Hamas, and doing its bidding.
Hamas leaders have issued “calls to action.” Followers, or mere Jew-haters, are being asked to bring the fight to global Jewry with Days of Rage and National Days of Resistance. Harassment has hit the classroom; incitement is spilling out onto the streets. So far, there are no copycat crimes (at least not yet), just organized assemblies, walkouts, and die-ins—with the add-on of threatening behavior toward Jewish students.
Students at Columbia and Tulane have been physically attacked. A dorm room was set on fire at Drexel. Cornell was forced to lockdown its kosher kitchen. A pro-Hamas mob at Cooper Union chased Jewish students into the library. With the doors locked, they banged on the windows, and not because they had overdue books. A library employee suggested that the Jewish students “hide in the attic.”
What, it’s also: Re-enact Anne Frank Day?
The assemblies featured colorful language—on posters, and shouted by protestors, running the gamut: “From the River to the Sea”; “I Support Hamas!”; “Globalize the Intifada from New York to Gaza”; “Jihad!”; “Israel is worse than Nazis”; “By any means necessary”; “Stop Zionist Genocide,”; and “Stop Zionist Apartheid.” Some chanted, or posted on social media: “Hitler was right”; “Gas the Jews”; “Shoot all pig Jews”; and, that golden oldie, “Death to Israel!”
Scrawled antisemitic graffiti is everywhere. Hamas wannabees have their very own swastika: the graphic image of paragliding terrorists. And let’s not forget the most favored battle cry of all: “Intifada!”
One need not major in Middle East Studies to know that the Hamas Charter calls for the annihilation of all Jews. That means if you’re chanting “Hamas,” you’ve pledged your support for genocide. Of course, these protestors flip the script and denounce Israel as the ethnic cleanser.
In Europe, some protestors are arrested for violating hate speech laws. But not in America. Since the 1960s, the United States boasts having the most robust free speech protections on the planet. Neo-Nazis once obtained a permit to march on a community of Holocaust survivors. Cross-burnings on the lawns of African-Americans have long been established as protected First Amendment speech.
That’s one of the reasons why university presidents and city officials have not taken measures against those threatening Jews both on- and off-campus. They view antisemitism, whether expressed through violence or the denial of dignity, as protected speech.
I wrote a book on this topic, having long felt that construing the First Amendment in this way must be at odds with the Founders of this nation. These were learned men who believed in vigorous debate on the important issues of the day. They envisioned a marketplace of ideas, not a staging ground for inciting riots.
Provocative words like “genocide” and “apartheid,” when neither, in any legal or moral sense, describes Israel’s dealings with Arabs and Palestinians, is nothing less than the sanctioning of violence toward Jews. Look what happened when the bombing of a hospital in Gaza was falsely reported. Bedlam everywhere. Falsehoods on a poster are not ideas, and shouting “Intifada!” is not an invitation to debate.
If pro-Hamas sympathizers have ideas they wish to impart, then find a far less threatening manner in which to express them. Otherwise, you are engaging in incitement, enflaming a mob predisposed to harming Jews.
And as a society, we are perversely elevating hate speech to the rank of political speech. We know that free speech is not without limits. Shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater is not permissible. When a rage-filled mob is screaming “Intifada!” with Jews in the vicinity, the same prohibition should apply.
“Intifada!” might be a license for Muslims to kill Jews in the Middle East. In the United States, we don’t take to the streets and shout, “Death to Iran!” No reason to adopt the consequences of “Intifada!”, either.
It’s not just the absence of First Amendment protection. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act obligates institutions that receive federal funding to safeguard students from harassment based on race, sex, religion, and nationality. Jewish students are fearful on campus. These protests are interfering with their enjoyment of university life.
Courts have always recognized the sanctity of learning environments. Students are not permitted to stand up in class and make speeches that are disruptive—even if they have something serious to say. Nor are they allowed to bring a Confederate or Nazi flag to class if its purpose is to stir ethnic and racial tensions.
Those shouting, “We are all Hamas!”, knowing the business of Hamas, must be treated like budding terrorists rather than aspiring grad students. Federal anti-terrorism laws criminalize providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Hamas has called its followers to action. Anyone acting under those directions is, legally, a co-conspirator.
Sure, punishments are being imposed elsewhere. Job offers are being rescinded for participation in antisemitic melees. Wealthy donors are starting to withhold funding to the Ivy League, where moral judgment has been especially lacking. Maintaining a school environment that repeatedly and negligently gets it facts wrong, fomenting one group of students and thereby endangering the lives of another, ought to carry some risk.
These are the tragic consequences when political agendas subvert moral decency and objective truth. Universities have abdicated their custodial duties, not unlike mayors in major cities. Now is the time to get back to first principles: Hold people accountable for what they say and do. If it really causes you no distress when heads roll, then get in line: You’re next.
Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro University, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He is the legal analyst for CBS News Radio. His most recent book is titled “Saving Free Speech … From Itself.”