October 23, 2023
A message from Rob Leikind, AJC New England Regional Director
More than two weeks have elapsed since Hamas’ terrorists murdered, raped, tortured, kidnapped and maimed more than 5,000 Israeli children, mothers, grandparents and numerous others. The response to this massacre has been telling. Many prominent leaders publicly and vigorously denounced these savage acts. Others, some with prominent bully pulpits, avoided speaking out against Hamas’ unspeakable crimes, preferring to avoid the appearance of “taking sides.” At a time when antisemitism and violence against Jews is proliferating around the world, one is compelled to ask in what moral universe could there be two sides to the deliberate and wanton murder of innocent civilians on such a massive scale?
Hamas is a theocratic terrorist organization that openly professes its commitment to the destruction of the State of Israel and the murder of Jews. It is also a terrorist organization that rejects democracy, religious freedom, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, freedom of the press and other fundamental freedoms that Americans take for granted. Can there be two sides concerning the slaughter of thousands of people by such an organization?
Fortunately, many leaders did join with the Jewish community to express their moral outrage and stand with the Israeli people in their moment of profound pain and sorrow. Thousands came to the Boston Common to show their solidarity, including Governor Healey, Senators Warren and Markey, and Congressman Auchincloss. The Boston Globe issued a clear denunciation and called for the US to stand in solidarity with Israel in the face of Hamas’ barbaric acts. Leaders from the Latinx and Black communities issued statements expressing solidarity with the Jewish community. And religious leaders, including Cardinal O’Malley and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, spoke out.
The tragedy unleashed by Hamas’ brutal attack on Israeli civilians is now reaching the people of Gaza. Hamas has built hundreds of miles of tunnels for its soldiers. It has created no shelters, however, to protect its citizens, who Hamas leaves without protection, so that they can be used as human shields against Israeli attacks. While Israel makes strenuous efforts to warn of impending military action, there are limits to what can be done in the face of Hamas’ readiness to sacrifice its own people. As a result, innocent Gazans suffer, as do Israelis.
At the core of this difficult reality is a network of countries and terrorist organizations, including Hamas, that are led by Iran, dedicated to Israel’s destruction, and committed to advancing a theocratic Islamist Middle East.
Here in the United States, many campuses harbor student groups that are indifferent to this reality and committed to a distorted worldview that finds Israel culpable for many of the world’s greatest evils. Jewish students and other supporters of Israel are finding themselves increasingly isolated by growing vitriol and hostility from such peers and others. Most of these advocates were silent about the murder of Israeli civilians, but now rage against Israel for the tragic death of Gazan civilians, even when caused by Hamas or its ally, Islamic Jihad.
This reflects the degradation of the discourse about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, a reality that was fueled by the silence of leaders, who chose not to speak out clearly when Israelis were ruthlessly slaughtered.
Israel has an obligation to defend its people against an implacable foe that has relentlessly attacked its people. The people of Gaza also deserve to live in secure homes in peaceful communities that are not subject to violent conflicts every few years, that are precipitated by attacks by Hamas on Israel and its people. This will only come to pass, however, if Hamas is thoroughly defeated militarily and its violent, ISIS like, radical Islamist theology is thoroughly discredited.
This is a moment when moral clarity matters. When political leaders, university presidents, and others pretend that there can be a peaceful future for Gazans and Israelis while Hamas remains, they perpetuate a fiction that has had devastating consequences for innocent civilians, in Israel and Gaza. In the weeks and months to come, we will need to work hard to clear away the moral fog that obscures a clear understanding of all that is at stake. We hope you will take advantage of AJC resources and activities to help make our case. We all have a part in meeting this moment.