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Moral Hypocrisy About Jews in the Israel–Hamas War

Recent campus protests against Israel demonstrated an appalling double standard on hate speech. While progressive-minded people are quick to condemn all forms of prejudice, they hypocritically give a free pass to antisemitism.

Israel flag on burning dark background with candle. Attack on Israel, mourning for victims concept or Concept of crisis of war and political conflict. Selective focus © zef art /

June 06, 2024 05:03 EDT

On the morning of March 11, 2012, United States Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales entered the villages of Balandi and Alkozai in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Upon his return to base, authorities found that he had committed the murder of 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children and four women. Eyewitnesses reported that he gathered some of the bodies, piled them together, and set them ablaze.

Subsequently, authorities apprehended Bales, tried him, found him guilty of premeditated murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The public reaction within the United States upon the revelation of this incident was one of collective outrage, transcending political affiliations and demographic divides. Such an act, irrespective of its purported motivations, is incompatible with the principles of a civilized society, even within the context of warfare. The widespread moral condemnation that ensued was not merely appropriate but imperative for the preservation of civility in any society.

As a legal practitioner, I am frequently approached by friends and acquaintances seeking my perspective on high-profile criminal cases. Often, they express dissatisfaction with what they perceive as lenient sentences imposed on defendants. In response, I consistently underscore the distinction between a “criminal justice system” and a “criminal revenge system.” However, my explanation often fails to satisfy their desire for punitive measures, such as indefinite imprisonment.

Curiously, many within this same social circle advocate for criminal justice reform, supporting initiatives aimed at rehabilitating even serial offenders rather than solely punishing them. In the State of California, they applaud bail reform measures that have eliminated cash bail except in the most serious of crimes and commend efforts to seal criminal records for former felons. While I do not necessarily oppose some of these reforms, I find this disparity in perspective is glaring.

A similar disconnect is evident in the backlash against Israel’s response to the Hamas terror attacks of October 7, 2023, and against the Jewish population more broadly. What is particularly concerning to me is the stark contrast between the swift condemnation of barbaric acts, such as the murder and torture of civilians — including innocent children — in 2012 and the atmosphere of enthusiasm and celebration that surrounded similar atrocities, compounded by sexual assault, just over a decade later.

There has been a troubling erosion of the collective moral outrage that once united people against such evil acts. Those who were previously repulsed by violence now, in some instances, endorse or rationalize it based on political or ideological biases. 

The cause for concern lies in the failure of otherwise empathetic and well-intentioned individuals to recognize the barbarity inherent in certain actions. Whether this is attributable to the negligence or apathy of educators or it is deliberate and calculated is immaterial. These considerations do not serve as justification. It is imperative to identify the malevolent ideologies that have led a significant number of people in the West to mistake terrorist attacks for an honorable resistance movement.

Hamas and antisemitic conspiracy theories

A significant chasm exists between the public perception of Hamas as a freedom-fighting resistance group and its actual nature. Hamas propagates antisemitic conspiracy theories. These narratives perpetuate hostility and violence towards Jewish communities and historically serve to justify acts against Jews. Supporting Hamas aligns with Holocaust denial and promotes violence against Jews.

While subscribing to such conspiracy theories is not a novel phenomenon, its inherent danger persists. By itself, a conspiracy theory may seem innocuous. For example, explaining the harm of moon landing conspiracy theories to specific individuals may prove challenging. However, belief in Jewish global control fosters hatred, discrimination and violence against real people. These conspiracy theories are not merely abstract ideas; they have tangible consequences in the real world. They fuel antisemitic sentiments and actions, leading to societal division, the marginalization of Jewish communities and the justification of hate crimes. Historically, these very conspiracy theories have been used to rationalize egregious acts against Jews, including pogroms, expulsions and the Holocaust.

Below is Article 22 of the Hamas Covenant:

The enemies have been scheming for a long time … and have accumulated huge and influential material wealth. With their money, they took control of the world media … With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the globe … They stood behind the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution and most of the revolutions we hear about … With their money they formed secret organizations – such as the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs and the Lions — which are spreading around the world, in order to destroy societies and carry out Zionist interests… They stood behind World War I … and formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains … There is no war going on anywhere without them having their finger in it.” (Article 22).

While Article 22 demonstrates the conspiracy-laden worldview that Hamas promotes, Article 7 goes further, advocating for the violent subjugation and eradication of Jews. I entreat you to review Article 7 of the Hamas covenant which reads:

The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: “O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” (Article 7).

Article 7 underscores the gravity of Hamas’ beliefs and the threat they pose to Jewish communities. Hamas’ covenant not only disseminates antisemitic narratives but also incites violence based on these beliefs. What might in another context be dismissed as online rambling, carelessly regurgitated in public discourse, constitutes the foundational document Hamas.

The difference between Israel and Hamas is a clash of ideologies

The conflict between Israel and Hamas transcends mere antisemitism. It reflects a deeper clash of fundamental ideologies. This is borne out by the contrasting experiences of marginalized groups, such as women and LGBTQ+ persons, in their respective territories. Israel demonstrably upholds these groups’ rights, offering them spaces for expression and protection. Conversely, Hamas-controlled territories enforce severe restrictions, and even inflict violence, upon these same groups.

Women and LGBTQ communities face vastly different realities in Israel compared to Gaza. Homosexuals in Israel enjoy the freedom to live openly with their partners, participate in public celebrations like Tel Aviv’s pride parade and openly express their identities. This aligns with the fundamental rights that should be afforded to all within modern societies.

In stark contrast, homosexuality in Gaza often carries a death sentence. While official penalties may be limited to imprisonment, community members, often including family members, frequently carry out acts of retribution. Consequently, the practical reality for LGBTQ people in Gaza is one of imminent death. This reality is further compounded in Iran, Hamas’ primary benefactor, where homosexuality is officially punishable by death through hanging.

Women in Gaza endure a lack of legal protections against domestic violence, including the absence of laws criminalizing spousal rape. However, perhaps the most terrifying aspect of being a woman in Gaza is the barbaric practice of honor killing. In instances of rape, the victim may be targeted for elimination to preserve the family’s “honor.” The only potential escape from this fate lies in agreeing to marry her rapist.

While the contrast in societal ideals between the opposing sides in this conflict is undeniable, the practice of using human shields further demonstrates this disparity. Philosopher and author Sam Harris, in his July 27, 2014, podcast episode “Why Don’t I Criticize Israel,” elucidates the fundamental difference in the two sides’ approaches to warfare:

Consider the moral difference between using human shields and being deterred by them. That is the difference we’re talking about. The Israelis … are deterred, however imperfectly, by [Hamas’] use of human shields in these conflicts, as [they] should be. It is morally abhorrent to kill noncombatants if you can avoid it. It’s certainly abhorrent to shoot through the bodies of children to get at your adversary. But take a moment to reflect on how contemptible this behavior is. And understand how cynical it is. [Hamas] are acting on the assumption — the knowledge, in fact — that the infidels with whom they fight, the very people whom their religion does nothing but vilify, will be deterred by their use of human shields. They consider the Jews the spawn of apes and pigs — and yet they rely on the fact that they don’t want to kill [Gazan] noncombatants.

Now imagine reversing the roles here. Imagine how fatuous — indeed comical it would be — for the Israelis to attempt to use human shields to deter [Hamas]. Some claim that they have already done this. There are reports that Israeli soldiers have occasionally put Palestinian civilians in front of them as they’ve advanced into dangerous areas. That’s not the use of human shields we’re talking about. It’s egregious behavior. No doubt it constitutes a war crime. But imagine the Israelis holding up their own women and children as human shields. Of course, that would be ridiculous. [Hamas] are trying to kill everyone. Killing women and children is part of the plan. Reversing the roles here produces a grotesque Monty Python skit.

If you’re going to talk about the conflict in the Middle East, you have to acknowledge this difference. I don’t think there’s any ethical disparity to be found anywhere that is more shocking or consequential than this.

Hamas, by its own admission, wants to destroy Israel and eradicate all Jews. Israel, on the other hand, takes great pains to limit civilian deaths in defending themselves. 

Moral doublethink in the Israel-Hamas conflict

In the West, support for Hamas against Israel is diverse, coming from a range of progressive groups, student activist groups and other pro-Palestinian groups, as well as far-right white supremacists. This support seems particularly robust among younger and more leftist ideologies.

Some of these groups have been using a variety of antisemitic slogans during protests, particularly on college campuses across the US. These slogans range from chants calling for the annihilation of Israel to slogans denying the right to self-determination for Jews. Additionally, there are chants expressing support for the destruction of Zionism and offensive language targeting Jews. The use of antisemitic slogans by these groups during protests against Israel demonstrates moral doublethink within the West. The expression of antisemitic language and actions is problematic and contradicts the values of human rights that are deeply held in the West.

Imagine a professor addressing a class of adolescents brimming with self-righteousness and moral certitude. She poses the question: “If transported back to the American South in the nascent stages of the Civil War, how many of you would have actively opposed slavery?” A unanimous show of hands would ensue. Due to a widespread contemporary obsession with claiming the right side of history, we are often oblivious to how history ultimately judges individuals. The professor would rightly assert the inherent improbability of such a scenario.

Another common variant inquires how people, growing up in 1930s Germany, would have behaved had they lived through those years.

Allow me to present this proposition to the reader: If, as a privileged student attending a prestigious university within a developed nation where basic needs are readily met, you engage in the harassment of Jewish individuals by trapping them in libraries, shouting slurs, accusing them of genocide and global conspiracies, and if, as an educator, you advocate for nuanced discussions regarding Jewish eradication, then you have effectively provided a clear answer to your hypothetical behavior in Nazi Germany.

While every nation possesses a history of warfare, conquest and war crimes, only one state faces a constant questioning of its right to exist. The Syrian Civil War, which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, did not elicit widespread campus protests. Does this disparity imply a lesser value placed on Muslim lives or a questioning of Syria’s right to exist? Similarly, the lack of outrage directed at Egypt, which restricts Gazan entry while Israel permits it, raises further questions.

Where were the outpouring of social media support, the waving of Yemeni flags and the city marches for the millions who perished in the brutal Saudi-led bombing campaign and invasion of Yemen over the past few years? Surely, the ongoing blockade and indiscriminate slaughter directly responsible for mass starvation warrants similar levels of passionate condemnation from those who champion Hamas.

However, such a response was absent, remains absent and no one disputes Saudi Arabia’s right to exist. Muslim-on-Muslim violence claiming hundreds of thousands receives minimal news coverage and fails to capture the attention of social media trends. It appears that only when Jews defend themselves does a global outcry demanding their annihilation erupt.

Before I close, I want to make one thing clear. The International Criminal Court prosecutor recently requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for war crimes. Specifically, they are accused of intentionally starving Gazan civilians. Despite these tragic circumstances of those living in Gaza, Israel appears to have taken great care to comply with international law minimize harm to civilians whenever possible. However, if there is credible evidence that Israeli leaders committed war crimes, they must face justice.

I am not arguing for a pro-Israeli outlook. What I am arguing for is judging every party by the same standards. Only when we use consistent standards can we know the truth and see whether Israel lives up to those standards or falls short. Hypocritical judgment born out of prejudice against Israel accomplishes exactly the opposite of this. It obscures truth and makes it difficult to separate baseless accusations from justified concerns.

Let us reserve our outrage for those who, no matter what people they belong to, perpetrate mass murder and rape. Regrettably, our youth — who shriek about cultural appropriation in dress and hairstyle now wearing keffiyehs — have instead engaged in victim-blaming and displayed a concerning lack of historical understanding.

[Ali Omar Forozish edited this piece]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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