Days after the terror group Hamas committed the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, American universities erupted—in celebration.
Stanford students waved their support for Hamas in bedsheet flags draped on campus. “The Illusion of Israel is Burning,” one said.
“Handala is returning by any means necessary,” another proclaimed—Handala being the personification of the Palestinian people.
At Harvard, 31 student groups signed a letter deeming Israel “entirely responsible” for butchery that took place over last weekend. Read that again. The day after the deadliest attacks on Jews since the Second World War—with whole families burned alive, babies mutilated, and young women raped and tortured—hundreds of students at Harvard signed a statement saying that Jews had brought this on themselves.
At college campuses across the country, chapters of the Students for Justice in Palestine celebrated Hamas’s act of “resistance.” At the University of Virginia, SJP referred to the butchery—“the events of yesterday,” as they put it in an October 8th letter—“are a step towards a free Palestine.”
Then came the rallies. SJP called for students to mobilize in support of the “resistance” in Palestine. A rally invitation at the University of Washington included a remarkably explicit graphic: silhouettes of Hamas terrorists paragliding into Israel, on their way to murder Jewish civilians.
With the rare exception of the University of Florida, fortunate to be led by former United States Senator Ben Sasse, university presidents met these student loyalty pledges to Hamas and celebrations of the massacre with silence. Or with a refusal to wade into the issue. Or with gutless word salads that invariably failed to condemn the student groups, much less punish their members.
The hypocrisy of the universities’ sudden reticence when it comes to public affairs is particularly galling, considering how universities rushed to condemn the 2016 election of Donald Trump, the 2020 death of George Floyd, and, in 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Just last year, days after the Russian invasion, Harvard University’s then-president Lawrence Bacow declared: “Now is a time for all voices to be raised. The deplorable actions of Vladimir Putin put at risk the lives of millions of people . . . Institutions devoted to the perpetuation of democratic ideals and to the articulation for human rights have a responsibility to condemn such wanton aggression.” So that none would doubt where Harvard stood, the university raised the Ukraine flag over Harvard Yard. “Harvard University stands with the people of Ukraine,” Bacow declared.
But in the days after the Hamas massacre of 2023, when hundreds of students on her campus were celebrating this act of “resistance,” Harvard president Claudine Gay’s arm had to be twisted into even condemning the atrocities, let alone the demonstrations in support of them. To date, she still hasn’t denounced the student groups. Instead, she has apparently decided that this was a good time to remind Harvard’s Jews that the pro-Hamas radicals on campus had a right to “free expression.”
A dean at the University of South Carolina opined similarly about the massacre: “I have lots of thoughts about global affairs. I tweet or publish them as a citizen and a philosopher. But as a dean, it isn’t my job to weigh in with my students on current affairs unless they are somehow disrupting the work of the college I oversee.”
Perhaps universities should refrain from weighing in on foreign affairs entirely. Why does Harvard need to take a side between Russia and Ukraine at all? Maybe you believe that we should put an end to all the virtue signaling—the ceaseless preening on everything from the Kyle Rittenhouse trial verdict to the affirmative action case at the Supreme Court to warnings against “cultural appropriation” on Halloween. (Heaven forfend any student on campus be caught wearing a sombrero.) With regard to the universities’ sudden embrace of humility, maybe you’re thinking: better late than never.
But something different is at work here, something far more sinister than the universities’ hypocrisy. It is the menace behind it. Hamas does not distinguish between soldiers and civilians, or between Israeli Jews and other Jews. Hamas official Ali Baraka exemplified the group’s fanaticism on October 11: “The Israelis are known to love life. We, on the other hand, sacrifice ourselves. We consider our dead to be martyrs.”
That’s what the student rallies on campus cheering on Hamas are supporting: the genocide of Jews. The notion that the “martyrs” who kill Jews are heroes.
Student celebrants of Hamas’s terrorism are not merely espousing an unpopular view. They proclaim their support for a genocidal organization, repeat the talking points of a group pledged to kill all Jews, wherever it finds them.
Note that this is nothing like a student rally to support Russia in its war with Ukraine; Russia does not pledge to kill Ukrainians wherever it finds them. Nor, despite the blood on its hands, has Russia ever committed atrocities against Ukrainian civilians in any way approaching what we saw on October 7.
Allowing students to rally in support of Hamas is more akin to allowing a Ku Klux Klan demonstration on campus, in the days after white supremacists had killed African Americans. What would Harvard do in that situation? It’s a ludicrous thought experiment on its face: We know precisely what Harvard would do, and how swiftly they would condemn the rallies, shut them down, punish the students involved, and rush to safeguard the lives of black students on campus.
Instead, American universities shrug while Jewish students on American campuses face students cheering for their murder. As one Jewish young woman cried to a professor, during yesterday’s University of Washington pro-Hamas rally, “How are you allowing this. They want us dead. Please.”
The professor is shown to whisper something to her while the pro-Hamas rally crescendos. You can’t hear what he says. But the statements American universities are making to Jewish students across the country could not be clearer: We will not protect you, they all but scream. You’re on your own.
Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images