On October 7th, the terrorist group Hamas massacred over 1,000 Israelis in cold blood. Without remorse, they paraded the dead bodies of their victims, slaughtered families, raped women, and killed children and babies. As many have said before, this is Israel’s 9/11. In fact, it is thirteen times worse. What has happened deserves to be condemned with absolute moral clarity — that is a fact and it should not have to be said, yet unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world. The response from student groups across the country and the silence from college administrations in general has been shameful.
Students from Columbia University called Hamas’ attack “a counter-offensive against their settler-colonial oppressor.” According to a Northwestern University group, Israel is not “the aggrieved party” because Hamas represents the “occupied and oppressed” and have “the undeniable right to resist and seek their freedom without stigmatization as instigators and terrorists.” From Michigan Law School: “this is the response of a people pushed beyond endurance for years.” From the University of Illinois: “Palestinians’ freedom can only be attained through resistance.” And so on and so forth. I could continue. Similar statements can be found by students at Yale University, Northwestern University, Boston University, City University of New York, Swathmore College, Stanford University, New York University School of Law, and University of Virginia, among others.
What we have seen over the past several days is morally repulsive. These students are justifying terrorism. Regardless of what you feel about the Israeli government or the ongoing war, nothing can rationalize the sheer barbarity of Hamas’ actions. Unfortunately, ideologies have a way of making the unthinkable permissible if it’s in service of some perceived “greater good”. The lens of critical theory — how many indoctrinated students undoubtedly interpret the world — views Israel as simply an “oppressor” whose power must be resisted by the “oppressed.” But as Alastair Roberts astutely writes, this binary:
“…tends to deny true agency on both sides. On the one hand, the agency of oppressors, as it is premised upon and perpetuates injustice, is fundamentally illegitimate, so cannot truly be moral or responsible, only variously blameworthy. The oppressed, on the other hand, get presented as victims determined by the perverse agency of their oppressors, free of blame because [they are] lacking in self-determined agency, yet consequently lacking in true moral agency or responsibility.”
The response of many toward the Hamas attack, Roberts continues,
“…has exposed some of the moral bankruptcy of certain of the critical theories that are dominant in many quarters of the academy. As victims, Hamas cannot truly be blamed and, as they are deemed fundamentally illegitimate, Israel cannot exercise agency in response.”
Roberts’ analysis explains much of the horrid content we are seeing from student groups across America. He is entirely right. The reductive nature of this ideology has resulted in the demonization of actual victims.
I wish I could end this piece here, but it is also worth noting the shameful responses of college administrations across the country.
Harvard University has defended students blaming Israel for Hamas’ horrors. UPenn platformed a Palestine literary festival featuring several antisemitic speakers. A “day of resistance” rally was allowed to be held at the University of Washington — leaving Jewish students in tears. While several other universities have now released statements condemning terrorism, many were slow to react. Some are even losing funding over their responses.
I am not of the conviction that universities need to state their opinion on every justice-related event. But the fact of the matter is that they often do, and it is curious which type of events merit their outrage. After George Floyd’s murder and anti-Asian hate crimes across the country, schools were quick to express their dedication to anti-racism, solidarity with students of color, and rejection of various ideas. But why the sluggishness when Jews are massacred?
To be honest, I am quite puzzled by the lack of response from Gordon College in particular. While I am glad the administration has held a prayer event about the ongoing situation, more than ten days have passed. Why has there not been an official statement? Why has there not been an email offering emotional or community support to ethnically Jewish students? Why is there seemingly no sense of outrage? I ask these questions because, in the past, Gordon has always been quick to address important issues outside the school. Given the sheer magnitude of what has happened throughout the past several days, a comment seems more than appropriate.
As an ethnically Jewish person myself, I would feel isolated, overwhelmed, and unsupported if I was on campus right now. Currently, I see my peers across America celebrating evil and college professors reveling in the death of Jews. In this moment, silence on anti-Semitism speaks volumes. Either you do not care, or you are too afraid to speak out. Would I have any support if I was still a student?
If you think this is not a big deal for Gordon College to address because the school is on the North Shore and Hamas is in the Middle East, or because nothing concerning has happened on campus yet, you would be grossly mistaken. Terror against Jewish people encourages anti-Jewish hate worldwide. We are seeing it play out right now. Don’t react until it is too late. Moral clarity is needed now more than ever.
The solution for Gordon College and more broadly, those within academia, is actually very simple.
Condemn terrorism. It is not that hard.