Higher Education’s Hypocrisy

On campuses around the country, professors are praising Hamas while administrators do nothing.
November 8, 2023
Columbia students participate in a rally in support of Palestine at the university on October 12, 2023. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

On October 7, 2023, the world watched in horror as Hamas terrorists brutalized and murdered 1,400 innocent people in Israel, the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. In the subsequent weeks, Jews around the world have been appalled as students on college campuses across America have come out to support a terrorist organization. In the name of free speech, elite higher-ed institutions have twisted their values so that inclusivity, liberalism, open-mindedness, and academic integrity have lost all meaning. The American commitment to diversity of thought, particularly in academia, remains ever crucial and admirable. Yet events on college campuses since October 7th indicate that academic institutions aren’t interested in advocating for basic human morality.

In the name of free speech, elite higher-ed institutions have twisted their values so that inclusivity, liberalism, open-mindedness, and academic integrity have lost all meaning.

Hamas presently holds 229 innocent citizens of various nationalities (including babies, the elderly, and the disabled) hostage in the Gaza Strip, while targeting millions more Israeli civilians with daily barrages of rockets. There could be no rationale for murdering babies, burning corpses, and raping women. There is no excuse for the savagery Hamas has committed. Anyone who advocates for human rights must unilaterally condemn it.

But that is not happening on college campuses. On the contrary, on October 30, over 100 professors at Columbia University signed a letter in support of the students who defended Hamas’s actions on October 7th. In this letter, Ivy League professors call to “recontextualize” the October 7th massacre as a response to an “occupying power.” By doing so, colleges are justifying atrocities and giving Hamas permission to murder and kidnap anyone in the world who does not fit their worldview. The neglect of university administrations to condemn Hamas and its supporters is an abject moral failure.

For context, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and forcibly evicted every Jewish resident living there. Hamas, an internationally declared terrorist organization, has maintained violent control and spends its $2 billion yearly budget, including international humanitarian aid, on building its militia instead of allocating it for the betterment of the Palestinian people. Hamas uses its own civilians as human shields to protect rocket launch pads and weapons stores in schools and hospitals. Such actions show that Hamas has no interest in protecting Palestinian civilians.

Academic integrity, complexity, and critical thinking have lost their place on college campuses, as revisionist history is espoused in an alternate universe where virtually all historical records showing a constant Jewish presence in Israel are being neglected by a growing community of pseudointellectual echo chambers. Young people have not invented this behavior on their own; they are mimicking the attitudes of those above them. It is unconscionable for university professors to declare the October 7th massacre as “awesome” (Columbia University’s Joseph Massad), “extraordinary” (Yale University’s Zareena Grewal), and to call Jewish students “colonizers” while ridiculing the Holocaust (an unidentified Stanford University instructor) without being reprimanded. Graduate Student Instructors who offered students extra credit for attending a pro-Palestine rally should have been immediately reprimanded instead of protected by UC Berkeley. Students have bought into Hamas’ propaganda that dehumanizes Jews and serves as justification for their murder.

As leading institutions of forward-thinking learning and leadership, colleges have utterly failed to enforce their commitments tosafety and inclusion, which is leading to greater antisemitism. Since October 7th, Jewish students have been assaulted and harassed at Tulane and George Washington Universities. At Georgia Tech University, a Jewish fraternity house was vandalized. At Cooper Union, Jewish students were forced to hide in a library after being cornered by pro-Palestinian protestors. At a Columbia University vigil for the victims of the massacre in Israel, Jewish students mourning a murdered friend were told “you deserve this.” This Sunday, students at Cornell University wrote on an online discussion board, “If you see a Jewish ‘person’ on campus follow them home and slit their throat.”

There is nothing inclusive and open-to-debate about such morally reprehensible behavior. Most alarming in these incidents of outright violence against Jews is a widespread inaction against their perpetrators, a trend practiced by nearly every American university. There is a direct correlation between universities’ weak response to anti-Zionist protests and the increase in swastikas being drawn on walls.

If we are to begin to confront this looming, deadly problem, higher-ed administrators must awaken to a simple truth: it is possible to be pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and pro-human rights at the same time. But good and evil are always binary, and supporting human rights must mean supporting Israel and Palestinian civilians – against Hamas. It seems so simple – as Israel supported the United States after September 11, American universities should stand by Israel after the country experienced this brutal act of terrorism.

American colleges and universities, don’t fool yourself that this issue is just about Israel. Behavior of this kind has in the past and will again lead to enormous tragedies in the future. Nazi Germany started by hating the Jews and became the biggest threat to global freedom the modern world has known. Hamas’s charter plainly calls for the genocide of all Jewish people. Without treatment, Hamas will become the next global threat. They have shown us this by indiscriminately killing and kidnapping civilians of over 20 nationalities, including Muslims. It is too late to save the staggering 9,000 innocent dead in Israel and Gaza because of the actions of a brutal terrorist organization. It is not too late to help save the futures of their children, and those of America’s children as well.

To leaders of colleges and universities: in the name of human rights and global liberal freedom—unequivocally condemn Hamas. Anything short of this will ultimately empower terrorism and extremism. Punish antisemitism, amongst students and staff, no differently than all forms of bigotry. Finally, teach about antisemitism, and the historical context of the world that is being ever minimized in favor of unverified 8 second internet videos. It is critical that you do so to protect our future as a free world.

Inbar Brand is a junior at Columbia University studying Economics and Political Science. She recently studied Philosophy and Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University as part of the International Dual BA program with Columbia. Inbar is Israeli-American, and lived in Israel for three years.

Noam Woldenberg is a freshman at Columbia College studying Political Science and Film. Noam also studied the Jewish diaspora and the history of Zionism at The Kivunim Institute in Jerusalem.

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