The unprecedented massacre of over 1,300 civilians of all ages in southern Israel by Hamas over the weekend has sparked angry campus protests that revealed a deep and troubling divide on the campuses of the nation’s most prestigious universities like Columbia, Stanford, and Harvard.
“Reactions within US universities…… have swung from celebration of the Hamas assault as a legitimate act of resistance to occupation to condemnation along with a demand that it not be used to ignore the deaths of Palestinians killed in Israel’s retaliation on Gaza,” reported the Guardian.
The newspaper continued. “The Columbia rallies were part of a ‘day of resistance’ called by National Students for Justice in Palestine which praised the Hamas attack as ‘a historic win for the Palestinian resistance’. Similar statements by pro-Palestinian groups in other universities meant the protests were regarded by students sympathetic to Israel as rejoicing in the killing.”
Here in New Jersey, NorthJersey.com reported a pro-Palestinian group active on Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus opted to hold an online Zoom meeting before an “in-person event was scheduled to occur. The group posted a letter saying it was not confident to conduct the rally safely in person.”
“The group criticized Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway for a message he sent to the university community on Tuesday, accusing him of making their group feel unsafe by saying there would be heightened police presence and road closures,” the newspaper reported.
In a message circulated throughout Rutgers, Holloway did not call out the pro-Palestinian group but announced the university “was working with state and Rutgers police to ensure the safety of its students,” according to NorthJersey.com
In that same university-wide announcement Holloway denounced Hamas’s “brutally murdering, torturing, and holding hostage innocent Israeli victims of all ages was unconscionable” as “an act of terrorism.”
Holloway continued. “That does not diminish my concern for members of the university community with family and friends in Gaza. I fervently hope for the sparing of innocent lives, the release of hostages, and a peaceful and just resolution to these terrible events as soon as possible.”
While this confusing cacophony was coming from our campuses, New Jersey’s junior Senator Cory Booker, freshly returned from Israel, sounded a refreshing note of moral clarity rooted in his grasp of the region and its people when he appeared last night on MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
Booker explained that Hamas’s ISIS like attack was executed just as the region was on the precipice of a breakthrough reconciliation between Israel, Saudi Arabia and its other neighbors that would have at its foundation a two-state solution. He observed that this was a replay of Hamas’s spoiler strategy of launching brutal terrorist attacks on Israel after the 1994 Oslo Accords when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“This is an ISIS like terrorist organization who targeted civilians in the most heinous and staggering ways and what’s more tragic for the Palestinians, who Hamas has also murdered and kidnapped–Hamas has brutalized its own people,” Booker said.
Booker continued. “And what is interesting about their pattern right now—which is known by everyone in the Mideast…Hamas’s mission is to stop peace…. And at the very time a pathway to peace opened up” including “a two-state solution…Hamas terrorists, ISIS and Hitler like folks who hate Jews and want to kill them, opened up one of the worst terrorist attacks in 50 years.”
New Jersey’s junior Senator explained that he had been in Israel as part of his ongoing efforts to follow up on the 2020 Abraham Accords executed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in the last few months of the Trump administration.
The Abraham Accords seeks to end radicalization and conflict to provide all children a better future” while pursuing “a vision of peace, security, and prosperity in the Middle East and around the world.”
It concludes noting the “progress already made in establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and its neighbors in the region under the principles of the Abraham Accords. We are encouraged by the ongoing efforts to consolidate and expand such friendly relations based on shared interests and a shared commitment to a better future.”
Booker said that next week he hoped to be back in the region with Republicans “going to Saudi Arabia to continue these talks because we cannot let these terrorists—ISIS like—Nazi like people win. We are going to continue these conversations.”
As Israeli troops continued to amass on the Gaza/Israeli border, the Mideast’s increasingly precarious circumstances prompted Rosa from Burlington to call into Rep. Andy Kim’s (D-NJ) 68th Town Hall on Oct. 12.
“I am against war and I am against violence and I was just wondering with all the horrible wars and things going on, are we going to get involved in this war,” Rosa asked Kim in a clearly agitated voice.
“I am with you in terms of wanting peace and not wanting to have war that’s why I got into the work I did,” Kim said, referencing his career with the U.S State Department and Pentagon serving as a civilian on the ground in Afghanistan. “I was opposed to the 2003 Iraq War but I ended up working on the issues of Iraq. I was trying to figure out how I could contribute to bringing that war to a close as best as possible and learned so much about the complexities and the challenges that are out there.”
Kim linked supporting Israel with what he said was the just cause of the U.S. backing the Ukrainian people defending against Vladimir Putin’s “brutal invasion” that “killed so many people—tens of thousands of people through no fault of the Ukrainian people.”
“I know we don’t have the ability to get involved in every single conflict around the world, nor should we,” Kim said. “I do think it gets to the question of what does American global leadership mean? Our country has benefited because our country is the most powerful country in the world. It has allowed us to grow our economy, innovation, and attract talent from all over the world.”
“I think about this a lot because my parents were born at the end of the Korean War. The first Americans they ever met were American service members,” Kim said. “If it had not been for the United States getting involved in that war—going to the other side of the world for a country, a people, that at that point a lot of people in the United States didn’t know—my parents wouldn’t be here—I would not be here, and I don’t know what that region of the world would look like.”