By Jay Bergman
“O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
In this injunction in Article Seven of the Hamas Covenant, ratified in 1988, one finds the reason for the invasion of Israel that began on October 7, 2023. Hamas does not merely seek the extermination of Jews. That is why it exists. That is why its fighters decapitate Israeli babies, rape Israeli women and burn them alive. That is why they humiliate Israel children and grandmothers before killing them. That is why they slaughter over 200 Israeli teenagers gathered peacefully at a concert. Everyone in Israel Hamas has murdered was murdered for one reason and one reason only – because they were Jews.
According to the same covenant, which reads like an addendum to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Jews are devoid of humanity, a demonic people responsible for everything Hamas objects to in human history, from the French Revolution to World War II.
The atrocities Hamas has committed are not a regrettable byproduct of warfare that occur in all wars. They are its purpose.
In the face of such unmitigated evil one might expect the leaders of colleges and universities in Connecticut, and the students who attend them, to respond with moral clarity: distinguishing good from evil, virtue from moral depravity, and an organization committed to the extermination the Jewish people from the nation-state of the Jewish people, the state of Israel, which is the only democracy in the Middle East, and the only country in the Middle East that affords all of its citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, the civil liberties we enjoy in America.
But they did not.
The president of Central Connecticut State University [CCSU], Zulma Toro, noted in a public statement rightly disavowing an incendiary message from anti-Israel students how “deeply upsetting” she found “the recent tragedies in the Middle East.” One would not know from her statement what these tragedies were, who were their victims, and who was responsible for them.
The president of the University of Connecticut, Radenka Maric, called the attack on Israel “horrific,” but then described it generically, as a form of “hate, violence, and conflict” like that which afflicts “society” today.
Worse was the puerile rhetoric of “Yalies4Palestine.” In the world of fantasy the Yale students inhabit, Gaza has been an “open-air prison” since the Israelis left it in 2005, notwithstanding Israel supplying Gazans with food, electricity, and other essential commodities, excluding only those with military purposes, such as cement for tunnels dug under the border with Israel. Not surprisingly, the students’ statement said nothing about the 1,200 Gazan children forced by Hamas to construct these tunnels who were killed when some of them collapsed.
From Terrence Cheng, the chancellor of the Connecticut State University system, there was silence.
By the end of last week the only formal entity on a Connecticut college campus I am aware of to respond honestly and fairly to the Hamas invasion was the Committee on Anti-Semitism and Education at CCSU, which rightly denounced it as an atrocity. President Toro deserves credit for having created the committee.
There are lessons one can draw from the Hamas invasion that are relevant to higher education in Connecticut and in America. It makes nonsense of the conventional wisdom in academia that speech is violence, and that speech that makes one feel unsafe can be prohibited. Everyone in Israel knows what real violence is.
No less welcome would be an awareness that America and its allies, such as Israel, are not the instigators of the evils – racism, imperialism, colonialism — that are claimed to afflict the world today. In comparison to the rest of the world, they are exemplars of moral virtue. It is Iran, not the United States or Israel, where the government publicly hangs homosexuals from construction cranes, and shoots women in the streets for removing the hijabs obscuring their faces. And it is Gaza and the West Bank where Hamas and the Palestinian Authority arrest, torture, and execute political opponents. No one does this in the United States or Israel.
Should students in Connecticut and around the country learn these lessons from the atrocities of which Hamas is incontestably guilty, the deaths of their victims will not have been entirely in vain. This would be small consolation for their grieving families and friends. But in times like these, when the worst of what human beings are capable is being demonstrated so horrifically, it would be something to be grateful for.
Jay Bergman is professor of History at Central Connecticut State University and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Scholars.