I write this post with a heavy heart, as over 900 Israelis have been killed by a massive terrorist attack by Hamas. But what concerns me even more is that this loss of life could have been prevented, not by Israel (though they should have been more prepared) but by apologists for Hamas.

Antisemitism is rampant at US universities, and more broadly, on the progressive left. By blindly dividing the world into oppressors and oppressed based on power differential and assuming that the less powerful side must be in the right, progressives in the academy are showing their antisemitism and providing cover for evil groups like Hamas that murder innocent people.

Let me explain.

Soon after the attack, several dozen Harvard student groups issued a statement blaming all of the hostilities, including the deaths of hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians, on Israel. Even the Secretary General of the United Nations, hardly known as a friend of Israel, said:

I recognise the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people. But nothing can justify these acts of terror and the killing, maiming and abduction of civilians.

This is precisely the point that I, and many others, want to make: nothing justifies brutal direct attacks on innocent civilians. And, make no mistake, shooting children, grandparents, and entire families in their homes and on the streets, and killing hundreds of attendees at a music festival celebrating Sukkot are brutal direct attacks on civilians. Such attacks are a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions; there’s no way to portray them as ”collateral damage” from attacks on military targets.

Some have likened Gaza to a ghetto. So let‘s compare Gaza to one of the most infamous ghettos in history, the Warsaw Ghetto. The residents of the Warsaw Ghetto knew that, if they lost to the Nazis, the residents would be rounded up and either shot on the spot or sent to concentration camps to die. Residents of Gaza face no such threat — Israel has no desire to kill civilian residents of Gaza. The Warsaw Ghetto was starved of food and power by the Nazis, while Gaza has, until it invaded Israel, been supplied with food and power by Israel. Gaza residents were allowed to cross the border into Israel, while residents of the Warsaw Ghetto were not allowed out. Hundreds of thousands of people have permanently left Gaza over the past decade, moving to other locations; such freedom was not available to residents of the Warsaw Ghetto. By all standards, life in the Warsaw Ghetto was far worse than life in Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal in 2005.

Yet, somehow, Warsaw Ghetto residents never resorted to killing innocent residents of Warsaw, let alone taking them hostage to use as human shields. Did Warsaw Ghetto residents kill soldiers? Absolutely. But, as the UN Secretary General has said, nothing justifies acts of terror against civilians.

That is what makes Hamas’s actions so despicable: they killed, injured, and took hostages from Israel’s civilian population.

So how does a statement like that from Harvard student groups mean that those groups are to blame for such actions? Simple. Hamas gains nothing from targeting civilians other than support from the rest of the world when Israel inevitably responds to such an attack. Stop supporting Hamas regardless of what it does, and the calculus changes for Hamas.

Hamas knows it’ll take massive material losses from a war with Israel. They know there’ll be a large loss of civilians and infrastructure in Gaza — largely because Hamas uses them as human shields for military personnel and war materiel. The only thing they gain is the world’s hatred for the democratic country of Israel.

Supporting Hamas, as the Harvard groups did, encourages Hamas to attack civilians to provoke Israel’s response. If, instead, these groups only supported Hamas when Israel attacked unprovoked from Hamas but rather supported Israel’s right, as with any other sovereign nation‘s right, to defend its citizens against external attacks, Hamas would quickly discover that attacks such as those over the past weekend are a bad idea.

My own university, the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), is as guilty as Harvard in its complicity with the terrorists who attacked innocent civilian Israelis. As described in this article, several UCSC departments and faculty are backing the formation of the Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism (ICSZ). This Institute has, among its founding “points of unity”:

  • Zionism is a settler colonial racial project. Like the US, Israel is a settler colonial state.
  • Academic research is not politically or morally neutral.
  • We join in resistance to structures of racism, group supremacy, violence, militarism, colonialism, and capitalism.

It is precisely attitudes such as these that excuse Hamas’s attacks on innocent Israeli citizens. By “reject[ing] the claim that those who critically study Zionism must debate its merits” and stating that “our opposition to Zionism, colonialism, and white supremacy is a first principle”, ICSZ is justifying the horrific and immoral acts of Hamas by stating that they are justified resistance.

The ICSZ is convening a closed meeting on October 16-17 in Santa Cruz. There is no justification for any university department, including those at UCSC, formally supporting a closed meeting on an academic topic that requires a loyalty oath from attendees. While individual faculty have academic freedom and may attend such a meeting, units of the University of California have no such right, and may not endorse the meeting.

By demonizing Zionism and “othering” citizens of Israel and those around the world who support Israel, the ICSZ and those who support it, including UCSC faculty, are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent men, women, and children in Israel.