Even in the dumbed down age of social media sound bites, certain realities should serve as a wakeup call to anyone with an IQ in the triple digits who has not imbibed the Kool Aid of the immutably anti-Israel, anti-Zionist extreme political left. One of these fundamental truths is that Hamas is, has always been, and will always be a genocidal terrorist organization.
And yet, as inevitably as morning following the night, perceived political correctness far too often overrides not just common sense but fundamental decency. This explains why the Harvard students who wrote a public letter blaming Israel for Hamas’ Oct. 7 barbaric slaughter of more than 1,200 Israeli—read Jewish—men, women, and children epitomize the antisemitic quagmire prevalent at far too many universities and colleges.
“We, the undersigned student organizations,” they wrote, “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”
Not a single mention of the Hamas terrorists who rained down thousands of rockets on innocent civilians and who hunted down and literally slaughtered entire families sheltering in their homes. Not an iota of compassion for infants butchered together with their mothers or for the teenagers machine-gunned to death at a music festival. Not even a hesitation that raping and sexually abusing women and girls might not be in accordance with Harvard’s vaunted code of conduct. Not a moment of self-doubt that violently taking hostages, including an elderly Holocaust survivor in a wheelchair, and threatening to execute them violates every norm of civilized behavior. The only concern of these Harvard would-be savants is for what they call “the Palestinian ordeal.” Their perverse world view does not include even an afterthought for the ordeal of murdered, kidnapped, and terrorized Jews. This is antisemitism on steroids.
Blaming the victims while ignoring the crimes of the perpetrators follows the much overused playbook of a host of antisemites and genocide deniers, following the lead of the German ultranationalist historian and politician Heinrich von Treitschke who first used the phrase “The Jews are our calamity” (Die Juden sind unser Unglück) in an 1879 essay. It is a technique perfected by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels who justified the persecution, oppression, and mass murder of Jews by attacking Jews as archenemies of, and threats to, Germany.
And then there is Harvard President Claudine Gay, who waited three days to distance the university from the student groups’ statement without, however, condemning or even affirmatively rebuking its authors. Gay wrote that “while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group—not even 30 student groups—speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.” I am confident that her language would have been considerably less mealy-mouthed had she been confronted with student groups endorsing the Ku Klux Klan or espousing misogynistic sentiments. But bashing Jews and Israel does not warrant more than a slap on the wrist, and a weak one at that.
Contrast Gay’s namby-pamby (for lack of a better phrase) reaction to that of former Harvard President Lawrence Summers. “In nearly 50 years of @Harvard affiliation, I have never been as disillusioned and alienated as I am today,” he wrote on Monday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, adding, “I am sickened. I cannot fathom the administration’s failure to disassociate the university and condemn this statement.”
Or, for that matter, contrast Gay’s reticence with Jens Ohlin, the dean of Cornell Law School (where I teach) who wrote that the Hamas “terrorist attacks were egregious and shocking violations of human dignity and cannot be justified in any context.” These are the very sentiments that needed to be expressed and heard.
The Harvard students hardly stand alone in their abhorrent willingness to cast Hamas as freedom fighters rather than bloodthirsty terrorists. Equally offensive statements blaming Israel and effectively applauding Hamas abound at other universities and colleges too numerous to list. Take Ryna Workman, the president of the NYU Law Student Bar Association who sent a message to “y’all” expressing “my unwavering and absolute solidarity with Palestinians in their resistance against oppression toward liberation and self-determination. Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life. . .. I will not condemn Palestinian resistance.”
Is that what cutting the throats of babies is? Resistance? Really?
Columbia University’s Students for Justice in Palestine, meanwhile, saw fit to sanitize Hamas’ onslaught as nothing more than a “counter-offensive against their settler-colonial oppressor,” crassly implying a moral equivalency between the killers and their victims. And the University of Virginia chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine considers the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas to be nothing more than “a step towards a free Palestine…. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian resistance fighters….”
I do not mean to suggest that praise or support of Hamas is limited to academia. “I grieve the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day,” declared Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), ascribing responsibility for Saturday’s carnage exclusively to Israel without bothering to acknowledge that the Israeli “lives lost” were innocent men, women, and children while the Palestinians in question were genocidal killers.
These are only a very few examples of a pervasive mindset rooted in either deep-rooted ignorance or a willingness to condone genocidal actions and other crimes against humanity as acceptable means to an end.
To quote Charles Schulz’s immortal Charlie Brown, “Aargh!”
Lost in the sophistry of disingenuous attempts at evenhandedness is the self-evident truth that Hamas has never wavered from its determination to perpetrate the genocide of Jews living in Israel.
I am not making this up.
“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it,” reads the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement, more commonly known as the Hamas Covenant, adopted on Aug. 18, 1988. Replete with antisemitic tropes, the Covenant asserts as a premise that “Israel, Judaism, and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people.” Quoting from the Quran, it warns “those who believe not, Ye shall be overcome, and thrown together into hell.” The Charter makes abundantly clear that Hamas is determined not just to obliterate the State of Israel but to ravage and kill the Jews living there as it did on Oct. 7.
Hamas leaders have reiterated this non-negotiable intention repeatedly over the years. “Palestine is Islamic, and not an Islamic emirate, from the river to the sea, that unites the Palestinians,” declared Khalil al-Hayya, a member of Hamas’ politburo, in 2010. “Jews have no right in it, with the exception of those who lived on the land of Palestine before World War I.” Two years later, Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, a co-founder of Hamas who was killed in 2004, reiterated the organization’s genocidal goals. “By God,” he said, “we will not leave one Jew in Palestine. We will fight them with all the strength we have. This is our land, not the Jews’ …”
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Genocide Convention by the United Nations General Assembly. It defines the crime of genocide as any of a number of delineated acts (including murder) “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.”
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Hamas intends to destroy–that is, kill or forcibly evict–virtually all if not all Jews living in the State of Israel. This falls four-square into the Convention’s definition of genocide.
I write these words as a lifelong Zionist (I am a past national president of the Labor Zionist Alliance) and as someone who has been an active and outspoken supporter of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for more than 35 years. I categorically support the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own alongside Israel, which I firmly believe to be the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I also know from countless discussions with Palestinians over the years that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people as a whole any more than the Bosnian Serbs who perpetrated a genocide against Bosnian Muslims in July 1995 represent the Bosnian Serb people as a whole.
I stand in awe of Israeli Arabs such as journalist Lucy Aharish who has declared unambiguously that “we,” including first and foremost herself, “are under an attack of a brutal, barbaric, inhumane terror organization—not an entity, not a government, not a leadership, but a terror organization. Hamas murdered and slaughtered in cold blood innocent babies, children, elderly, women, and men. In their homes, in their beds.”
Hamas must also not be lumped together with the Palestinian Authority which seeks to arrive at a political compromise with Israel. Despite the raw emotions in the aftermath of the Hamas carnage, we should not lose sight of the fact that in the long run, eventually, a negotiated solution, which will inevitably have to be a two-state solution, will have to be reached with those Palestinians who do not identify with Hamas.
But all this does not change the fact that Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that must now be eradicated or at least rendered permanently powerless if there is to be any hope for peace in the Middle East.
With a wartime “unity” cabinet that includes former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in place, Israel is about to embark on an existentialist war against what President Biden unequivocally and accurately termed the “pure, unadulterated evil” embodied by Hamas. As this war, which will inevitably cost thousands of lives, is waged, it is critical for us bear in mind at all times, to quote from Winston Churchill’s first speech as Britain’s prime minister on May 13, 1940, that Israel’s goal, and civilization’s goal, for that matter, is and must be “victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
Menachem Z. Rosensaft is adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School, lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School, and general counsel emeritus of the World Jewish Congress. He is the author of Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen (Kelsay Books, 2021).
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.