On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip killed, raped, kidnapped, and wounded thousands of innocent civilians in Israel’s Southern District on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah. They took over one hundred and fifty civilians hostage, including American citizens, and they have threatened to begin executing them. At least 1,300 Israelis are dead. Proportionately, that’s as if almost 40,000 Americans had died on 9/11.
It brings us only distress to detail these horrific events, but we must because too few on this campus have expressed the repugnance that these murders must prompt. The Princeton branch of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), in an Instagram post on Oct. 11, advertised a “teach-in … in solidarity with Palestine” and a “community vigil for all those grieving loss of life” with no mention of Hamas and its heinous actions. The same day, the group reposted on its Instagram story a statement from the organization’s Brown University chapter that “unequivocally” blames Israel for the terror attacks against Israel and says that “no people in history subjected to oppression of this scope have not responded,” justifying the heinous, bestial violence of Hamas terrorists. SJP is absolutely wrong: No matter what you think about Israel, this response is not justified. There is no justification for Hamas’s barbarism. Executing babies is never justified. Kidnapping and murdering the elderly is never justified. Abducting a Holocaust survivor is never justified.
Other major campus organizations have also failed to fully acknowledge the scope and horror of these events. The Daily Princetonian, for example, is a major contributor to campus conversation, yet thus far, its reporting on the tragedy in Israel has engaged in despicable equivocation. An Oct. 11 news article purporting to cover the “college campus conflict on Israel-Palestine” references “a recent terrorist attack and subsequent rocket fire in Israel and Palestine that have led to at least 1200 Israeli deaths and at least 900 Palestinian deaths,” conveniently omitting the horror of Hamas’s actions. The article then spends multiple paragraphs chronicling how Arab students feel uncomfortable on campus, switching focus to passingly mention that Jewish organizations on campus have needed increased security after an attack that brutally targeted innocent Jewish civilians in a country where many Princeton students have friends and family. The ‘Prince’ should have made absolutely clear that these 1,200 Jewish civilians were murdered in a targeted, calculated attack, and it should have been more attentive to the effects of this attack on the lives of Jewish students here on Princeton’s campus. Burying or eliding details of the vicious attacks contributes to students’ hesitance to discuss them and denounce them.
Hamas’s acts were, in the words of President Biden, “pure, unadulterated evil,” and it should not be controversial to condemn them. Doing so does not require support of Israel or Zionism, nor does it require that one oppose the right of Palestinians to national self-determination. That the victims were citizens of Israel or at least present in Israel (a number were foreign workers) does not justify their treatment or change the fact that they were innocent civilians.
The facts are clear; Hamas is proud of them, calling its murderous rampage a “dazzling triumph.” Over 260 people were slaughtered at a music festival. Some of the victims, including babies, were beheaded. President Biden compared the attack to the “worst rampages of ISIS,” noting that women have been “raped, assaulted, and paraded as trophies.” This was a depraved 21st-century pogrom of horrific proportions. This was Babyn Yar in 2023. These were the Einsatzgruppen in the Jewish homeland. And supporters of Hamas are celebrating.
Princeton students have the opportunity to speak out. Windsor Nguyễn ’25, prompted by his feeling of “strong moral obligation,” has been circulating a pledge condemning the attacks, which we encourage everyone to sign here. We urge you also to consider donating to one of the many humanitarian organizations working in the region if you are financially able, including Magen David Adom, which is Israel’s emergency medical service, or the International Committee of the Red Cross. Chabad at Princeton is also running a GoFundMe for emergency aid, to which you can donate here.
Nguyễn’s public stand for human dignity gives us hope. So does a joint message from the party chairs of Whig-Clio, as well as a beautiful vigil held by campus Jewish organizations and attended by Jews and allies alike. Yet far too few of our peers have made their voices heard. Perhaps they haven’t seen the reports. Maybe they are as scared to read and watch them as we are, in denial that such atrocities could really have taken place in a world that says “Never Again” to the Holocaust. This is the charitable approach, and if accurate, we challenge our fellow students to watch the videos of what happened on Oct. 7. Plenty have been independently verified. See if you can watch them without feeling sick to your stomach, and then decide whether you can still justify ignoring what happened. See if you can watch over 1,200 Jews being slaughtered and not respond with unqualified condemnation of those responsible.
The less charitable view, which is too horrible to imagine, is that our fellow students have seen the enormity of the atrocities and are unbothered. But if our peers are informed, then we have no choice but to take their silence as tacit approval. Approval means that Jewish lives are as worthless to them as they are to those who killed, kidnapped, and raped hundreds of innocent civilians, infants and seniors, men and women, boys and girls.
We challenge anyone who remains unconvinced that Hamas’s actions are deplorable: Do not remain ignorant. Ignorance is immoral. Silence is immoral. If ever you intoned “Never Again,” now is the time to think about what those words mean and what they require of you at this moment. Now is the time for men and women of conscience — men and women who pledge to serve their nation and all humanity — to denounce without reservation these acts of utter inhumanity.
Elazar Cramer is a junior in the Politics Department from Newton, Mass. Yonah Berenson is a junior in the Politics Department from Los Angeles, Calif. Elazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Yonah can be reached at email@example.com.