As the war between Israel and Hamas escalates, so do tensions across college campuses in the United States.
Last fall, UCLA professors Jennifer Chung and Formosa Chen offered students extra credit to attend an “Emergency Teach-In on Crisis in Palestine.” During the Zoom event (which remains on UCLA Professor Sherene Razack’s YouTube channel), several UCLA professors spread antisemitic misinformation and extremist rhetoric in support of Hamas, a designated terrorist organization.
As a public research university, UCLA’s fundamental purpose and mission statement is “the creation, dissemination, preservation, and application of knowledge for the betterment of our global society.” This “teach-in” violated this very mission, as the professors propagated falsehoods about atrocities committed against Israeli civilians by Hamas, that Israel is committing acts of “ethnic cleansing,” that the IDF called to evacuate Gazans as part of a “transfer plan,” and that the brutal attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7 were essential for Palestinian “liberation.”
During the webinar, UCLA Professor Nour Joudah commented on the proposal for Egypt to open the Rafah border crossing for Gazan citizens to evacuate, referring to it as “ethnic cleansing.” Joudah further argued that “this is not the humanitarian corridor that Palestinians have been pleading for at every war and have been denied during every war; this is a transfer plan.”
Joudah portrays Israel’s message to Gazan citizens to evacuate northern Gaza as a way to permanently “displace” them, whereas the IDF’s statement clearly indicates that this warning is made for their safety and that “it will be possible to return to Gaza City after a notification confirming safety.”
Israel is only entering Gaza to eradicate Hamas, which threatens the lives of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians. This call for evacuation limits civilian casualties while Israel targets the terrorists, a situation that would not be necessary had Hamas not decided to use their civilians as human shields. A Gazan citizen named Muhammad was recorded speaking with an IDF officer who urged him to flee from his current location to ensure his safety. Muhammad reported that Hamas is “simply sending everyone back home” and “shooting at people” who try to leave.
Time and again, Hamas has methodically forbidden civilians from fleeing to safety when the IDF urges them to, an inhumane tactic that intentionally harms their citizens for their own benefit.
If there is anyone guilty of ethnic cleansing, it is the terror organization Hamas, who attacked Israeli communities near the Gaza border with explicit orders to murder Israelis, including women, children, and the elderly. Following the October 7th massacre, over 1,200 people were killed in communities across Southern Israel, including Kibbutz Nir Oz and Kibbutz Kfar Aza. If Joudah is so concerned about ethnic cleansing, why did she leave this out of the discussion?
Joudah claims that Palestinians have pleaded for a “humanitarian corridor,” but the history of Palestinian rejectionism by their leaders shows that Palestinian self-determination and human rights have never been the priority. Palestinian leaders have repeatedly waged war, committed acts of terrorism, and refused to compromise with Israeli and international leaders to establish a peaceful Palestinian state that neighbors Israel.
For instance, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, commented that the Palestinian people “will remain in this land forever, while the attackers [Israelis] have no place in Jerusalem and no place here.” This is a clear call for the elimination of Israel and, therefore, the Jewish people.
Another Hamas official, Mahmoud al-Zahar, agreed, even admitting that Hamas would refrain from engaging in such negotiations because “the Palestinian people will never accept it.”
Palestinian leaders have rejected peace at every turn, even admitting that peace is not what they want. In 1947, Palestinian leaders rejected the U.N. Partition Plan that proposed the creation of two separate states for Arabs and Jews, with Jerusalem as an international city. Yasser Arafat denied the 2000 Camp David summit proposal for a two-state solution, and Mahmoud Abbas turned down the possibility of creating a new two-state solution during the 2008 Annapolis Conference. Let’s be extremely clear: Palestinian leaders have repeatedly prioritized waging war against Israel and ridding the land of the Jews, a trend that we see to this day.
Later in the teach-in, Professor Loubna Qutami attempted to justify Hamas’s terrorism, stating that “patience has run its course [so] that the past several years has seen a resurgence of Palestinians returning toward the path of armed struggle because it had been a verifiable path that was used in the national liberation struggles.” No part of the definition of “armed resistance” includes committing atrocities as foul and heart-wrenching as beheading and raping innocent Israeli women, throwing grenades into safe rooms where children are hiding in fear, and shooting up a peaceful music festival. Is Qutami really supporting and encouraging this recent assault, which resulted in the most murders of Jewish people since the Holocaust, in the name of “liberation”?
On a similar note, Professor Sherene Razack said, “The jihad fighter is a universal enemy… but Israeli soldiers enforcing an occupation based on the idea that G-d gave the land to the Jews are not, however, to be seen as jihad fighters.” Is Professor Razack equating soldiers protecting civilians from terrorism to genocidal jihadists? Hamas’s 1988 Covenant explicitly calls for all Muslims to “raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors so that they would rid the land of the people and their uncleanliness, vileness, and evils.”
Furthermore, Israel does not simply exist because of this arbitrary “idea” but rather has a plethora of historical claims to the land, including archeological finds that date back thousands of years and descriptive mentions of ancient Israeli cities and their significances in the Torah, including Jerusalem, which is explicitly referred to around 700 times. On the other hand, the Quran does not mention Jerusalem or Palestine — which is a term with origins in the Roman conquest of the land of Israel — even once.
After Jewish revolts against Roman rule around 135 A.D., the Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed the province of Judea “Syria Palestina” in a deliberate attempt to erase Jewish history from the land and spite the Jewish people by associating it with the ancient Philistines, who were the biblical enemies of the Israelites. The modern word “Palestine” stems from this history and has morphed into a Muslim Arab identity over time, but it was originally a term used to try and uproot Jewish history from the Jewish national homeland.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block should think carefully about allowing professors to use their position of influence to celebrate horrific acts of terrorism against innocent civilians and blatant dissemination of Jew-hatred masked as an academic “teach-in.”
This teach-in was full of many more extremely biased assertions against the Jews’ connection to the land and blatant support of Hamas’s murder of innocent Israeli people. The bigotry espoused by Qutami, Joudah, and Razack leaves Jewish students on UCLA’s campus feeling unfairly targeted, unsafe, and held to double standards not expected of any other minority group. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block should think carefully about allowing professors to use their position of influence to celebrate horrific acts of terrorism against innocent civilians and blatant dissemination of Jew-hatred masked as an academic “teach-in.”
Talia Emrani is a 2023-24 UCLA Camera Fellow.