Three Reasons the Campus Protests Are Part of the Problem

Readers have been asking me, and I have been asking myself of late, how I feel about the campus demonstrations to stop the war in Gaza. Anyone reading this column since Oct. 7 knows that my focus has been on events on the ground in the Middle East, but this phenomenon has become too big to ignore. In short: I find the whole thing very troubling, because the dominant messages from the loudest voices and many placards reject important truths about how this latest Gaza war started and what will be required to bring it to a fair and sustainable conclusion.

My problem is not that the protests in general are “antisemitic” — I would not use that word to describe them, and indeed, I am deeply uncomfortable as a Jew with how the charge of antisemitism is thrown about on the Israel-Palestine issue. My problem is that I am a hardheaded pragmatist who lived in Beirut and Jerusalem, cares about people on all sides and knows one thing above all from my decades in the region: The only just and workable solution to this issue is two nation-states for two indigenous people.

If you are for that, whatever your religion, nationality or politics, you’re part of the solution. If you are not for that, you’re part of the problem.

And from everything I have read and watched, too many of these protests have become part of the problem — for three key reasons.

First, they are virtually all about stopping Israel’s shameful behavior in killing so many Palestinian civilians in its pursuit of Hamas fighters, while giving a free pass to Hamas’s shameful breaking of the cease-fire that existed on Oct. 7. On that morning, Hamas launched an invasion in which it murdered Israeli parents in front of their children, children in front of their parents — documenting it on GoPro cameras — raped Israeli women and kidnapped or killed everyone they could get their hands on, from little kids to sick grandparents.

Again, you can be — and should be — appalled at Israel’s response: bombing everything in its path in Gaza so disproportionately that thousands of children have been killed, maimed and orphaned. But if you refuse to acknowledge what Hamas did to trigger this — not to justify what Israel has done, but to explain how the Jewish state could inflict so much suffering on Palestinian men, women and children in reverse — you’re just another partisan throwing another partisan log on the fire. By giving Hamas a pass, the protests have put the onus on Israel to such a degree that its very existence is a target for some students, while Hamas’s murderous behavior is passed off as a praiseworthy adventure in decolonization.

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