Demonstrators shut down the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge in conjunction with the APEC Summit taking place Thursday, Nov. 16, in San Francisco. San Francisco’s District Attorney’s Office on Monday began charging demonstrators who blocked traffic for hours last month on the Bay Bridge to demand a cease-fire in Gaza. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Demonstrators shut down the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge in conjunction with the APEC Summit taking place Thursday, Nov. 16, in San Francisco. San Francisco’s District Attorney’s Office on Monday began charging demonstrators who blocked traffic for hours last month on the Bay Bridge to demand a cease-fire in Gaza. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Opinion: The disturbing antisemitism in defense of Hamas

This week, I learned from a Congregation Sukkat Shalom board member that they were one of the more than 400 Jewish institutions that received an email containing a bomb threat on Saturday. Even though none of them were deemed credible, the threats justifiably added their concerns about the growth of antisemitism in America.

It wasn’t that long ago that Nazi sympathizers and white nationalists were emboldened by Donald Trump’s rise to power. Now, according to congressional testimony by FBI director Christopher Wray, it’s reached “historic levels.” And although Jews represent “only about 2.4% of the American public” he said “something like 60% of all religious-based hate crimes” are aimed at them.

In the wake of the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas, a lot of it is by actors on the progressive side of the political spectrum.

Allow me to begin by giving some context to my place in the Israeli-Palestinian debate, particularly as it relates to Gaza.

The first war between Israel and Hamas broke out in December 2008. An estimated 1,100 to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Although I’m not Jewish, the following May I traveled to Gaza with a delegation composed mostly of Jewish peace activists. Our aim was to draw international attention Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Along with my opposition to that, I strongly disagree with Israeli policy related to its half-century occupation of Palestinian territory, including the building settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Also, between 2011 and 2019, I served as a local coordinator for a State Department-funded student exchange program that brought high school students to America from countries with significant Muslim populations. Five of the 22 students we had in Juneau were from Gaza and three were from the West Bank. My heart goes out to each of them, their families and friends.

That said, there is absolutely no intelligent, rational argument for anyone to be defending the atrocities committed by Hamas.

While I support the calls for a compressive cease fire, I believe the international community should also be demanding the surrender of the Hamas militants who planned and carried out the attacks. That includes the Hamas leaders who have been living in Qatar. Its government should expel them.

Pro-Palestinian student groups don’t see it that way. Immediately after the attacks, a Harvard group put out a statement holding “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” The Columbia Social Workers 4 Palestine organized an event to discuss the “significance of the Oct. 7 Palestinian counteroffensive and the centrality of revolutionary violence to anti-imperialism.”

Equally disturbing were some of the signs at pro-Palestinian rallies. One displayed the words “Please Keep the World Clean” centered over a drawing depicting the Star of David being deposited in a trash bin.

An act by pro-Palestinian activists at George Washington University was even uglier. They projected the words “glory to our martyrs” on the campus library wall. And Students for Justice in Palestine celebrated the murders as “a historic win for Palestinian resistance” and called for more “armed confrontation with the oppressors.”

I’m not arguing that the students’ disgusting speech should be prohibited. It’s protected by the First Amendment. But it’s all occurring on campuses where the same groups frequently attempt to oppress the speech of anyone who disagrees with them. And freedom of speech isn’t a defense for harassing, intimidating, or threatening anyone.

That includes the pro-Palestinian activists who have defaced posters with the names and faces of hostages being held by Hamas. A 19-year-woman was arrested for allegedly assaulting a Jewish student who caught her in the act and tearing them off a wall.

At Cornell University, a post to an online message board read “If you see a Jewish ‘person’ on campus follow them home and slit their throats.” Another threatened to “bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig jews.” The posts contained anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian slogans. An arrest has been made in that case too.

Liberals would categorically condemn all this if Nazi sympathizers and White nationalists were behind the kind of acts I’ve mentioned above. Anything less should be seen for what it is — a political calculation aimed at not offending a very vocal and very intolerant minority of the progressive base.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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