On Sunday, October 8, hundreds of supporters of Hamas’s terrorist invasion of southern Israel gathered in Times Square to celebrate the atrocities inflicted the day before. The Times Square celebrants gave substance to the oft-repeated slogan of American anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activists who vow to pursue their agenda “by any means necessary.” Those means clearly include wanton murder, rape, and kidnapping.
The scale and viciousness of the atrocities have shocked the civilized world—or at least the civilized part of the civilized world. An exception must be made for the many faculty members and students at American colleges and universities who have gone out of their way to justify and excuse Hamas’s crimes. Chief among these apologists are the campus supporters of the anti-Israel boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement, but they are far from alone. The campus diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) movement also has close ties to Jew-hatred and support for Palestinian terrorists.
This does not mean that every activist in BDS and DEI is delighted with Hamas’s surprise attack. It is no doubt awkward for people who have spent so much effort declaring their zeal for “peace” and “justice” and opposition to “oppression” to now see the behavior of one of the factions they have favored. This is plainly a moment in which they ought to reckon with their misconceived enthusiasm.
Some indeed will; others will fall silent for a while, waiting for the occasion to denounce Israel’s response to the attacks, which can then be twisted into an ex post facto extenuation for Hamas’s atrocities. Yet others unflinchingly endorse those atrocities. These include not only the celebrants in Times Square but also radicalized student groups across the country.
At Harvard, a collection of such groups issued a Joint Statement by Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups on the Situation in Palestine. It begins, “We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” Those undersigned student groups include the Harvard Islamic Society, the African American Resistance Organization, Amnesty International at Harvard, Harvard Act on a Dream (pro-illegal immigration), Harvard Jews for Liberation, and Harvard Prison Divest Coalition (anti-incarceration). We can expect to read similar statements from student groups at other universities in the coming days and weeks.
The National Association of Scholars (NAS), of course, defends the rights of people to express opinions, and this includes opinions that are foolish, malign, or repugnant. But the same principle allows the expression of opposing views. Through its many reports, studies, and statements, NAS has made clear our fear that Western civilization is imperiled by our collective loss of confidence in its foundations. The peril is nowhere better illustrated than in the resurgent anti-Semitism on campus.
We published a study in April of this year that bears on the current situation. The Company They Keep: Organizational and Economic Dynamics of the BDS Movement by NAS Senior Fellow Ian Oxnevad puts the new anti-Semitism in American higher education within “the larger progressive, left-wing movement that is well-funded and connected beyond the university.” Oxnevad wrote, “The BDS movement promotes a one-sided narrative that demonizes the Jewish state while disproportionately amplifying narratives of Palestinian grievance and Arab victimhood.”
NAS has also begun a study of Iranian involvement in American higher education. Hamas is an Iranian client and it has been widely speculated that the Biden administration’s decision to return $6 billion in previously frozen Iranian assets played a significant role in Hamas’s decision to launch a war on the fiftieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
Be that as it may, we at NAS are aware that American higher education has become an institution that fosters disdain for America and its traditional allies, especially Israel. Many leaders of our colleges and universities insist on the “global” character of their institutions. This means in part scorn for the “nation state” and for “nationalism,” and Israel stands out as an exemplar of both. Our universities eagerly seek out relations with America’s adversaries and cultivate among their students a fatuous regard for Third World states and non-Western cultures. They nurture the illusion that people who experienced the imposition of Western colonialism are somehow morally entitled to compensation, including violent dispossession of those they hold responsible for “oppression.”
In all these respects, Israel emerges as a target: a nation state founded on “settler colonialism” and, far from repenting its existence, takes pride in its success.
Behind the unhinged jubilation of the crowd in Times Square and the blame-Israel-first theatrics of the Harvard “joint statement” lies a pivotal American institution that suckles such murderous animosity to the Middle East’s sole democracy. The existence in the U.S. of a movement that justifies what Hamas did ought to be a matter of heartfelt concern for all Americans, and so too that such a movement grew up under the tender care of the academic left.
Photo by Joe Catron on Flicker // New York City rally protests 70 years of Nakba and supports Great Return March // CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED