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The One Simple Question That Determines Everything


This post is Part I in a two-part guest series from Andrew Pessin, Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College and Campus Bureau Editor for the Algemeiner. Stay tuned for Part II


Based on what I have seen, out of some 200+ faculty members at my institution only a handful were willing to publicly condemn the sadistic barbaric slaughter by Hamas of some 1200 mostly Jewish civilians, including many babies, children, teenagers, disabled people, and grandmothers, full stop.   ‌ ‌ 

By Andrew Pessin

  1. Yes or No


It’s a simple yes or no question. Much follows from how one answers the question, but we’ll start with just the question.


(Q) “Is it acceptable to slit babies’ throats, rape little girls, chop off of the hands and feet of teenagers, gouge out eyes, murder children in front of their parents, murder parents in front of their children then kidnap the children, bind entire families together then burn them alive, and livestream all the above—and worse—on a mass scale—in the pursuit of some political aim?


I’ve been asking question (Q) of various faculty members at my institution and elsewhere, people whom I previously thought to be quite decent with serious commitments to diversity, inclusion, toleration, and anti-racism, in the form of asking them to publicly name the perpetrators of the October 7 massacre and condemn the atrocities, full stop.


They have overwhelmingly refused to respond.


Based on what I have seen, out of some 200+ faculty members at my institution only a handful were willing to publicly condemn the sadistic barbaric slaughter by Hamas of some 1200 mostly Jewish civilians, including many babies, children, teenagers, disabled people, and grandmothers, full stop.


If any other identity group had experienced a mass slaughter like this, or even a far smaller one, does anyone doubt these faculty members would erupt, loudly and for days? Not a hypothetical: there was plenty of outraged faculty chatter when nine Black people were gunned down in South Carolina in 2015, when 49 people were massacred at a gay nightclub in 2016, and when the 2019 mosque shootings in New Zealand murdered 51 Muslims.


But hundreds of Jewish babies, children, women raped, tortured, dismembered, decapitated?




And these are the decent people.


Many others across many campuses clearly think the answer to (Q) is “yes.” Cornell professor Russell Rickford found the October 7 bloodshed “exhilarating.” Columbia professor Joseph Massad was filled with “jubilation and awe.” And CUNY’s Marc Lamont Hill wrote, “So many university academics who insist upon doing performative, virtue signaling ‘land acknowledgements’ at every public event are eerily silent as real liberation struggles are happening. Guess decolonization really is a metaphor for some folk…” Deriding those who are all talk and no action, for him, at least, the answer to (Q) appears to be “yes,” at least in the pursuit of “decolonization.”


Nor are these professors alone in their sentiments. Lamont Hill’s remark came after ten days of massive campus rallies openly celebrating the “resistance,” the sanitized word for the mass torture and slaughter of Jewish civilians. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the leading campus group with some 200 chapters, immediately endorsed the massacre by proclaiming that “decolonization is a call to … actions that go beyond … rhetoric,” including “resistance … in all forms,” including “armed struggle,” and illustrated their social media with images of homicidal hang gliders in case we missed the point. Most tellingly, they declared that they “are PART of this movement, not [merely] in solidarity”—the movement, that is, that guns down unarmed dancing teenagers. So Rickford, Massad, and Lamont Hill have a lot of fellow travelers in the affirmative camp, faculty and students, people for whom all that gore is fine if it’s for “decolonization,” at least when the victims are Jews.


I have many thoughts about how academics (and their students) become so gripped by ideology that they lose sight of basic moral truths, to the point where they see the mass sadistic murder of children as the moral high ground. The people above are at least open about who they are so you know who you are dealing with, but, frankly, the “decent” ones, the silent ones, are ultimately no different. October 7 at least brings the benefit of clarity and sharp lines into matters often featuring obscurity and nuance. In my view any academic who cannot simply answer “no” to question (Q) above is literally on a par with the Nazis, for whom there were no moral limits to the pursuit of their ideology, just possessed of some marginally different ideology, as we’ll see below.


For now maybe a few simple thoughts will do.


Speaking of land acknowledgements: In the lobby of a central building on my campus there stood for weeks an enormous poster board proclaiming that “You are on Pequot and Mohegan homeland,” noting that the college “celebrates Indigenous People’s Day.”


By the decolonization rationale above, our local Native Americans would be within their rights to invade our campus and mercilessly slaughter every single one of us. Indeed those who support indigenous rights and decolonization ought to be the first to offer their throats to avoid that vapid virtue signaling that Lamont Hill derides and actually live (and die) by what they believe.


Do our professors really support the Mohegans’ right to come in and gouge our eyes out, cut off our hands and feet, tie us up and burn us alive, and rape us while they are at it?


Or do they only support such when the alleged colonizers are Jews? (One suspects that when they learn that it’s the Jews who are the original indigenous inhabitants of the land and the Arabs the colonialist conquerors, they will be less enthusiastic about the slaughter of babies and children.)


In fact in the very same tract declaring themselves “part of the armed struggle” movement for decolonization, SJP acknowledges that their chapters are on “occupied Turtle Island,” that they are themselves Palestinians “in exile,” i.e. not indigenous here, then insist on their “right of return” to their homeland. This they do in literally the same breath as they reject the Jews’ right to return from their exile to their own homeland. And when Jews in fact did just that, these people now endorse slaughtering them en masse; so again by parity of reasoning they should be offering their own throats to the local Native Americans in the name of “decolonization”—not to mention slaughtering all non-indigenous people everywhere, which would include all immigrants and refugees in every country around the world.


Of course all this is absurd, outrageously so.


There’s actually a word for violence targeting civilians for political aims: it’s terrorism. And anyone incapable of identifying and condemning October 7 as such is pro-terror, pure and simple, no matter what the alleged grievances are that allegedly led to the violence. If you can’t answer “no” to (Q) above, full stop, then you are pro-terror, period.


This actually isn’t difficult. You don’t need to know anything about the conflict to know that that mass terror attack was abominable. Who watches babies having their throats slit and little girls raped and then dismembered alive (yes) and says, “Well, I need to learn more before making a judgment”? Who watches a mother and a father and their three small children tied up together and then burned alive (yes) and says, “Well I need to hear the other side before I make up my mind”? It simply doesn’t matter what preceded these events. By my lights, all decent people everywhere should recognize that there are moral limits to what people can do even in response to their alleged “oppression,” and that it is never, under any circumstances, acceptable to target civilians, particularly in that sadistic, barbaric, inhuman way—even if they are Jews.


This is not about politics. It doesn’t require you to be “pro-Israel.”


This is about humanity.


It’s either yes or an unqualified, full-stop “no”—because the second you add a “but” or “it’s complicated” or “look at the context,” you are turning your alleged “no” into a “yes.”

If your ideology endorses the mass extermination of a people, it’s time to rethink your ideology.



2. The True Nature Of Palestinianism

Let’s now see what follows from the “no” answer—from acknowledging October 7 as a mass terror attack.


First and foremost, the “no” answer reveals something that was actually never hidden, except to those who have long chosen not to see it. Since such atrocities are never justifiable by any recognizable moral norms, the “no” answer reveals that the people perpetrating them, and the people endorsing them, do not respect those norms. And that in turn means that the movement in question is not what its Western progressive allies like to pretend it is.


The Islamic Resistance Movement, known by its acronym Hamas, has never made any secret of its views. From its 1988 founding charter—which literally endorses the murder of every Jew on earth, and quotes repeatedly, and “factually,” from the antisemitic Nazi-worshiped forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion in order to support its genocidal program—to nearly every action and every statement in the 35 years since, it has been telling us exactly what it thinks. A week after the massacre their leaders did so again, calling on every Muslim on earth to bring the Jihad against Jews to everywhere on earth. Another week after that they declared their intention to repeat the October 7 massacre time and again, until all the Jews are gone.


Hamas, in other words, is not a liberation movement, not a decolonization movement, not about peace, negotiation, Palestinian self-determination much less “two states,” not concerned about the welfare, well-being, or betterment of the lives of its Palestinian civilians or subjects, and it is surely not about diversity, inclusion, and tolerance, all the things that should matter to genuine campus progressives. Nor is it in fact responding or objecting to any particular Israeli policy or practice, or alleged offense, such as an “occupation,” despite occasional statements to the contrary for the benefit of Western ears.

It is the very existence of a Jewish state in any borders to which Hamas objects—because Hamas is an openly anti-Jewish genocidal movement that aims to establish its version of Islam over the entire globe, including murdering every single Jew on earth, starting with those in Israel. (They also want to destroy the United States and global Christianity, but the Jews are the first priority.)


That the animus is not restricted to Israeli Jews is also clear by the global reaction. Mass rallies in major cities around the globe celebrated the October 7 slaughter, called to “Globalize the Intifada!,”  and attacked local Jews and Jewish institutions. Within days of October 7 antisemitic incidents had skyrocketed across the world, and by early November there had been hundreds of incidents of harassment of Jews including many incidents of physical assaults, including at least one murder in Los Angeles and possibly another in Detroit, and with uncountable incidents of vandalism against synagogues, Hillel and Chabad Houses, Jewish stores and the like. And on our campuses: as noted above, SJP proclaimed its support for Hamas with social media celebrating the mass slaughter of Jews (which they call “resistance”), then launched a campaign to “bring the resistance” to every campus in order to “dismantle” Zionism everywhere. Lovely words—except when “resistance” openly means “slaughter Jews,” when “dismantling Zionism” means removing, “by any means necessary,” anyone on campus who believes that Jews have human rights too, and when they illustrate their campaign with a celebratory image of the homicidal hang glider about to gun down every unarmed dancing teenager in his sight.


This is open endorsement of, and incitement to, mass homicidal violence—occurring on, and directed towards, not only Israel and Israelis but every Jew everywhere, including on our campuses.


“We are all Hamas!” one young woman at the University of North Carolina screamed exuberantly, part of a massive crowd of evidently like-minded individuals.


Nor are Hamas and its campus supporters alone in this platform. Hamas’s main internal rival, the Palestinian Authority, is entirely on the same page, as seen from its long-running “pay-to-slay” policy incentivizing murdering Israeli Jews to its recent proclamation requiring all its mosques to preach that exterminating Jews is a Muslim imperative, to openly just announcing that its main party, Fatah, actually took part in the massacre. The mosque sermons weren’t about “Israeli” Jews, mind you, but “Jews,” full stop—like the full stop that should accompany the “no” answer to question (Q) above.


And it’s not just the Palestinians. Hezbollah in Lebanon has been actively involved in firing on Israel from the start, as have the Houthis in Yemen, as have some Syrian groups, all of whom are backed and directed by Iran. The most prestigious Islamic university in the world issued a fatwa declaring that no Israeli Jews are civilians, including babies and grandmothers, thus legitimizing violence against them. (This is the same university that previously issued special fatwas sanctioning suicide bombing against Jews, despite the general Islamic prohibition on suicide.) The International Union of Muslim Scholars in Qatar issued a fatwa calling on all Arab states to join the war against Israel, and of course Qatar itself (along with Turkey) openly hosts Hamas leaders and funds the organization.  Both Al-Qaeda and ISIS have called on their followers to strike Israeli, U.S., and Jewish targets around the world. Based on the massive rallies in Arab and Muslim countries around the globe celebrating October 7, it appears that what we are seeing is, in fact, a global Islamist war against the Jews.


This is what the “no” answer to (Q) reveals to us.


What Israel, and world Jewry, have been dealing with for years is a war of global Islam against every Jew on the planet (and ultimately against Christianity and the West too). Those mutilated Jewish bodies strewn all over the ground and the internet—that is the Palestinian movement, now understood as merely the leading front in the Islamist war against the Jews and the West.


That is what is being celebrated around the world, including on our campuses.


Once you understand this then nearly everything about the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” looks different. First, that name is oversimplified and misleading: it should be called at least the Israeli-Palestinian-Jewish-Arab-Muslim-Iran Conflict. More importantly, it’s not in fact about Israelis allegedly oppressing disenfranchised Palestinians but about Jews defending their lives from a global genocidal Islamist movement. So understood, you’ll need to reorient yourself about who, exactly, is the oppressor, and who is the underdog. Opponents of Israel like to show maps of “big” strong Israel dominating little, fractured, vulnerable “Palestine.”


But a more accurate perspective is given by something like this map, with that tiny sliver of Israel, 32 of which would fit inside the state of Texas, dwarfed by the surrounding Arab and Muslim nations who seek to destroy it. Look at that map and sincerely ask yourself: who exactly is the oppressor and who is the oppressed here? Who in fact is the colonialist, the imperialist, and who is the one resisting that colonial imperialism? Ask yourself seriously, which party actually seeks coexistence, i.e. diversity, and which one seeks the extermination of the other?


The answer to that last one might be given by answering another question: Where in the Middle East and North Africa do Jews and Arabs in fact coexist, and where in that same region are there essentially no Jews?


October 7 reveals the true nature of the Palestinian movement, now impossible not to see even for those who have long chosen not to see it. (Q) is a yes or no question; and if “progressives” truly are opposed to oppression, on the side of the oppressed, against colonialism, and for coexistence and diversity, then the “no” answer to (Q) dictates which side they should be on here.



Andrew Pessin is Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College and Campus Bureau Editor for the Algemeiner. His books include Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS, and Poisoning the Wells: Antisemitism in Contemporary America, as well as the novels Nevergreen and Bright College Years, documenting the campus experience. More information about him and his work may be found at Follow him on X and on Instagram.

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