I weep for the academy.
I weep for the Jews.
As the Islamic Resistance Movement (better known by its acronym, Hamas) rained thousands of deadly rockets upon Israeli men, women, and children, the academy loudly and voluminously proclaimed its endorsement of this effort to murder as many Jews as possible.
Petitions, declarations, statements abounded, from major universities and academic disciplines and student governments in the United States, Canada, Europe—essentially the only remaining places on Earth from which Jews have not yet been nearly entirely ethnically cleansed—signed collectively by thousands of professors and students and alumni, expressing “solidarity” with the Palestinians: Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Stanford, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, CUNY, to name a few.
It is of course wonderful to express solidarity with suffering peoples. Except when, as is the case here, that expression can only be understood as endorsement of the murder of as many other people as possible.
Start with who was firing the rockets.
The Hamas charter makes its goals crystal clear. The Islamic Resistance Movement “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,” “In the absence of Islam, strife will be rife … and wars will break out,” “Israel … will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it,” “Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes,” and “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.” No “peace” or “two-state solution” from these folks: they openly seek the destruction of the lone Jewish state in the world, home to half the world’s Jews, and will pursue “strife, wars, and jihad” until they obtain it.
And lest you think that goal only indirectly calls for the deaths of the millions of Jews who live there, the charter disabuses you of that notion as well with a quote from the Islamic scriptural tradition: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems… there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him’.” This text doesn’t limit the Jew-murder to “Zionists,” as it long precedes the modern State of Israel; nor does it limit the murdering to the Land of Israel.
It endorses Jew-murder wherever there may be Jews.
Nor is Hamas’s desire to murder Jews something vague and abstract.
On May 7, just prior to Hamas’s launching the rocket war, Hamas Political Bureau member and former Interior Minister Fathi Hammad gave some concrete and practical suggestions, in rhetoric similar to that used constantly, over decades, by Hamas leaders. On Hamas’s state-run TV station he called on the “People of Jerusalem, we want you to cut off the heads of the Jews with knives. With your hand, cut their artery from here. A knife costs five shekels. Buy a knife, sharpen it, put it there, and just cut off [their heads]. It costs just five shekels.”
And if the desire to murder as many Jews as possible weren’t enough, Hamas is also misogynist, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-democracy, and anti-Christian. Not exactly a shining example of the liberal progressive ideal that so dominates the Western academy.
You would think that such undisputed facts might warrant a word or two of critique from Western academics when such a movement sets out to mass-murder Jews exactly as it constantly says it is going to do.
Instead the veritable orgy of condemnation was all the opposite direction.
That orgy offered not a single word against the attempted mass murder of Jews but plenty of words against the Jews who sought to defend themselves from the attempt to mass-murder them. The liberal progressive academy responded with a litany of grievances against liberal progressive democratic Israel, in order to justify the anti-liberal-progressive movement’s attempt to mass murder.
The profound intellectual failure here matches the profound moral failure, and reveals the simmering Jew-hatred that lies beneath.
Let’s just pick out a few points, to illustrate. I’ll focus on the Brown University statement, but similar remarks apply to all of them.
As the rockets rained down on Jewish heads, Brown faculty, students, and alumni said, “We condemn Israel’s incessant efforts to dispossess and displace 28 Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem, in order to replace them with Israeli settlers. The recent attempted expulsions are part of Israel’s long-standing project of ethnic cleansing and dispossession.”
One could hardly pack more lies and misrepresentations into a short paragraph. For the facts see here, but in brief, a private dispute between landlords and non-rent-paying tenants here becomes a national government effort to dispossess and replace. For the record, the Muslim population of Jerusalem has increased 600% in the nearly six decades since Israel reunified the city. In that same time the Arab population of the West Bank has increased some 350%. Whatever is happening there, “ethnic cleansing” it is not.
“We condemn the continued bombardment and murder of at least 145 [as of May 17] Palestinian men, women, and children in Gaza, the displacement of some 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza as a result of Israel’s offense, and the systematic and deliberate destruction of Gaza’s infrastructures, already debilitated by a decades long blockade.”
No mention here of the reason for the bombardment: Israeli efforts to stop the rockets being fired at them. No distinction between civilians and militants, nor of the documented fact that Israel goes to great lengths and expense to target only militants and minimize civilian casualties. No mention of the hundreds of Hamas rockets that fell short, in Gaza, that certainly produced some or many of those casualties. No evidence for the blood-libelous claim of “systematic and deliberate destruction of infrastructure,” nor of the facts that (1) Hamas rockets damaged the plants that produce electricity for Gaza and (2) Hamas deliberately targeted the Gaza-Israel crossings as humanitarian aid was being transferred into Gaza. Nor mention of the fact that the Israeli blockade restricts only military materials, and that despite the “debilitating blockade,” Gaza is home to fancy hotels, luxury homes and cars, and five-star restaurants, and Hamas had no trouble producing an enormous arsenal of missiles and an enormous network of military tunnels despite the blockade.
“We condemn the Israeli police’s ruthless attacks on Muslim worshippers in al-Aqsa Mosque compound with rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas canisters during the holy month of Ramadan.”
No mention of the fact that during Ramadan literally hundreds of thousands of Muslims worshipped peacefully at Al-Aqsa, that only in Israel is there anything resembling religious freedom in the Middle East, that the true religious discrimination in Israel is found only in the extensive restrictions forbidding Jews from visiting or worshipping on their holiest site, the Temple Mount. Nor mention of the fact that the police “raid” was only in response to violent riots being perpetrated by the Muslim worshippers, or of the fact that the Mosque was used to store stones and firebombs.
“We condemn Israel’s medical apartheid regime. Israel has withheld much-needed COVID-19 vaccines from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza during a deadly pandemic, while administering an internationally lauded and extremely effective vaccination program for the Israeli settlers who reside in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank.”
A rival to the earlier paragraph in its lies and misrepresentations, and another blood-libel if ever there was one. For details see here, but in brief: Israel was under no obligation to vaccinate non-citizens (yet nevertheless vaccinated hundreds of thousands of them); the Palestinians never asked for Israeli vaccines or Israeli assistance, and instead, precisely per the Oslo agreements and in accordance with their large degree of autonomy, set out to take care of their own citizens. Israel provided no restrictions on that process and facilitated wherever asked. The only limits were based on the Palestinian ability to pay for vaccines, but no mention is made here of the Palestinian Authority’s “pay-to-slay” policy that incentivizes Palestinians to murder Jews, and whose budget would go far (if not all the way) for enough vaccines for the entire Palestinian population. Nor is mention made here of the fact that Hamas allegedly couldn’t afford vaccines but could somehow afford to produce its enormous arsenal and tunnel network.
You get the idea.
As of this writing, nearly 1000 Brown faculty, students, and alumni had openly affixed their names to this statement.
There is no effort to be “fair,” or “balanced,” or to offer competing perspectives, to even entertain the thought that a conflict that is some hundred-twenty years old, that I prefer to label “the Israeli-Palestinian-Jewish-Arab-Muslim Conflict” (or IPJAMC) precisely because it involves all those elements (and many more), might just be a little on the complicated side. You would think that academics might be sensitive to complexity, able to handle it, would eschew over-simplification, that where the truth is complicated the positions one takes must be nuanced.
Nothing like that to be found here.
In fact just the opposite: they openly, enthusiastically embrace the one-sidedness.
Don’t just take my word for it. Here is a statement from “Gender Studies Departments In Solidarity With Palestinian Feminist Collective,” whose language mirrors that of many of the other academic statements, signed (as of this writing) not by individuals but by some 150 entire departments, programs, or centers:
We do not subscribe to a “both sides” rhetoric that erases the military, economic, media, and global power that Israel has over Palestine. This is not a “conflict” that is too “controversial and complex” to assess. Israel is using violent force, punitive bureaucracy, and the legal system to expel Palestinians from their rightful homes and to remove Palestinian people from their land.
Never mind the grave assault on reason here when signatories in “Women’s Studies” and “Gender Studies” departments side with the misogynist, anti-LGBTQ Islamist regime over the democratic state where women can wear what they want and date who they want, serve as Prime Minister, and participate in the only Gay Pride parade in the Middle East.
Never mind the grave assault on academic freedom committed here when entire departments pledge themselves to a political position, particularly one where there is indeed “controversy” (their protestations to the contrary notwithstanding). One can only pity the untenured professor, or the potential student, or even staff member who might not share the position the entire department has declared to be the solemn truth.
As Hamas openly pursues its openly declared effort to murder as many Jews as possible, these scholars declare that there is nothing “controversial” here, that there is no “conflict” here, and there are not “two sides” to the issue.
That is, no two sides on whether it’s acceptable to attempt to murder as many Jews as possible.
With that attitude it is no surprise that the website features the Palestinian flag with a logo of a punching fist with blood dripping from it. (One wonders whether any of their universities have policies against the endorsement of and incitement to violence.)
Just to linger on this a moment. Did we mention that the Muslim population of Jerusalem has increased by 600% since Israel reunified the city? Or that the Arab citizens of Israel have more freedoms, and overall greater prosperity, than Arabs in any other Arab country? And this despite the fact that many Palestinians (including Arab citizens of Israel), incentivized by their leaders both in the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, have undertaken a campaign in recent years that has produced literally hundreds of knife attacks and car-rammings, targeting Jews? Not to mention the 40,000 rockets that Hamas has fired since it illegally took over Gaza in 2007 by murdering its Palestinian Authority opponents?
Isn’t it possible that there just might be more to this story—some other side?
Across universities there are many departments or programs focused on identity studies: Women’s Studies, Race and Gender Studies, LGBTQ+ studies, Black Studies, Palestinian Studies as well, etc. Consistently these programs also openly advocate for the groups they study (a separate problem for the academy, for another day). There are also numerous Jewish Studies and Israel Studies departments. Oddly these programs not only rarely openly advocate for Jews or Israel, but are populated by individuals who openly advocate against their subjects.
So it’s also no surprise that some 200 “scholars of Jewish Studies and of Israel studies” jumped on the bandwagon of condemnation of Israel, once Hamas began its most recent campaign of mass Jewish murder.
They declare: “We condemn the state violence that the Israeli government and its security forces have been carrying out in Gaza.” So, Jews with rockets raining upon them are condemned for trying to stop the rocket fire.
“[We condemn] their evictions of Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.” So, Israel is not allowed to apply its ethnicity-neutral laws in the territory it controls in order to protect landlords from tenants who refuse to pay rent. Or more accurately: Israel must develop ethnic-based laws that prevent only Jewish landlords from having any rights where the tenants are Arabs. Or more accurately still: Arabs must not be required to pay rent to Jews.
“[We condemn] their suppression of civilian protests in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Jewish-Arab cities, and Palestinian towns and villages in Israel.” So, Arabs must be allowed to riot without restriction and with impunity. Never mind the dozens of synagogues vandalized, the murders and attempted murders, the smashing and burning of cars, etc.
In short: Israel is not permitted to defend itself from mass murder attempts, to enforce its ethnicity-neutral laws, or to maintain public order. Jews, in other words, are not merely not permitted any form of sovereignty here, but are not permitted even to live here.
“We share and hold the pain of Gazans, who have lost and are losing family members, homes, property, businesses, cultural institutions, medical facilities, and civilian infrastructure to Israeli bombings.” There was apparently no space in this long declaration to share and hold the pain of Israelis, who even after having to spend billions of dollars for the Iron Dome and bomb shelters and rocket alert systems as well as extensive systems to minimize civilian casualties on the other side, themselves are murdered and injured and their property destroyed by thousands of rockets, and are individually targeted by knife attacks, car rammings, and lynchings.
But there is space enough for them to mention that Zionism—the Jewish movement for self-determination in the ancestral Jewish homeland, that also saved millions of Jewish lives by succeeding—amounts, in their view, “to unjust, enduring, and unsustainable systems of Jewish supremacy, ethnonational segregation, discrimination, and violence against Palestinians.”
But not space enough to mention that Israel is one of the most “ethno-nationally” diverse populations on this planet, that it pursues (if not always successfully) equality under the law, that it has been subject to relentless “state violence” from neighboring states and terrorist groups and individual violence from individual Palestinians against individual Jews.
And “Jewish supremacy”?
Goebbels would be proud.
This from “scholars of Jewish and Israel Studies,” as the rockets rain down on Jewish heads. (Potential donors to Jewish and Israel Studies Departments: please take note.)
Oddly they were so busy supporting Hamas in this conflict that they completely forgot to condemn Hamas, which openly calls to murder all Jews in the name of establishing Islam “over every inch of Palestine,” for its Islamist supremacy.
Perhaps one can take some comfort from the fact that, buried in their voluminous screed, is this single line: “We affirm the pain, fear, and anger of Israeli Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel who have lost loved ones and homes to unjustifiable and indiscriminate Hamas rockets.” One can hear them telling themselves, “Look, we are being ‘balanced’ because we mention Hamas’s ‘unjustifiable and indiscriminate’ rockets.”
Of course they don’t actually condemn the rockets the way they condemn everything about Israel, they just “affirm” the pain, fear, and anger, whatever that means. And whatever comfort one might have taken from that nearly invisible acknowledgment that the rockets are “unjustifiable and indiscriminate” must surely be countered by the fact that the long bulk of the declaration in fact serves to justify those very rockets. One would perhaps take about the same comfort as would a woman who has tragically just been raped being told, “That action was unjustifiable, of course, but, you know, look how you dress.”
And indeed one should be equally offended.
The dominant ideal in Western universities is that of progressivism, including care and concern for the marginalized and the oppressed. These institutions also pride themselves as being in the business of the pursuit of truth. And yet when the ethnically diverse democratic nation that aspires to those same ideals—that does more to protect and elevate women, LGBTQ+, and religious minorities than any other country in the region, and whose Arab minority serves in all professions, government, and the Supreme Court—is attacked by a religious extremist group that took control of Gaza via an illegal murderous coup and has since ruled it with an iron fist, suppresses all dissent, oppresses women and Christians, persecutes and executes gays, and also openly declares and openly pursues the goal of murdering as many Jews as possible, what happens?
These institutions abandon any interest in truth, any interest in their own professed ideals, and see only the “one side,” the anti-progressive side, the one that wants to murder Jews.
This isn’t about any particular Israeli policy or behavior.
This is about removing Jews from the Land of Israel entirely—and everywhere else.
It may indeed be time for Jews to remove themselves from these institutions, where they clearly aren’t welcome.
I weep for the academy.
And I weep for the Jews.
Dr. Andrew Pessin is a professor at Connecticut College. He has written a number of books including The Jewish God Question: What Jewish Thinkers Have Said About God, The Book, The People, and the Land, The 60-Second Philosopher and Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS.
Follow him on twitter @AndrewPessin