Content warning: The following column includes graphic descriptions of violence.
The following is a guest contribution and reflects the author’s views alone. For information on how to submit a piece to the Opinion section, click here.
A little over a week ago, a young man I knew growing up was slaughtered by Hamas while tending to his friends who lay dying on the ground, riddled with bullets and shrapnel. His name is Ben Mizrachi, and he was an innocent civilian and a hero.
Due to Western media’s tendency to catastrophize reporting on Israel/Palestine, many in the U.S. perceived last week’s Hamas invasion of Israel as just another day in Israel, or a continuation of a cycle of violence. It was not. By leaps and bounds, Saturday, October 7, was the single bloodiest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust. Partiers at a concert were killed with grenades as they hid in bomb shelters and were unceremoniously gunned down in toilets. Parents were murdered in front of their children and children were murdered in front of their parents. Women were raped. Babies were slaughtered — and there has been endless discourse on how the babies were butchered, as if there is a just and unjust method of killing babies. Some people I know celebrated the attack, and others across the U.S. explained that Jews (so frequently substituted for “Zionists” despite increasingly out-of-touch assertions that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism) deserved the inhuman suffering inflicted on them and more.
Elazar Cramer and Yonah Berenson’s op-ed last week did an excellent job outlining the brutality of Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel and the steps we must take to do good in the world in the face of such evil. It is essential to condemn these attacks and show support for those affected. I urge readers to sign the pledge linked in their piece and donate to Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service. At Princeton, though, Jewish students and their allies can make an impact, not only in Israel, but in their own lives and environment as well. Make your presence known — this is one of the greatest weapons against those celebrating death, horror, and evil. Discounting open calls for hate is easy (those celebrating or explaining away the slaughter of our friends and family already look terrible), but allowing fear to consume you in the face of hatred can only magnify its impact. Be visible, and stand up against evil.
Calls for Intifada across many American university campuses were heard last week. Intifada means civil uprising. Intifada in the context of Israel means mass slaughter of Jews in the name of resistance — men, women, and children. Calls for Intifada after a terrorist attack like this are, intentionally or not, thinly veiled pleas for more indiscriminate murder. Chants of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” still echo across many campuses. That convenient mistranslation of the Arabic version on signs today, which more accurately means “from the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab,” is a sanitized call to violence. The “liberation” of Palestine, in the words of Hamas, is contingent on the mass slaughter of Jews, and would be bloodier than anything any student currently at Princeton has witnessed in their lifetime: 7.1 million Jews dead. At the University of Washington, a mile from where I live now, protesters chanted that Intifada is the only solution, a grim echo of Hitler’s “final solution:” the extermination of all Jews in the world. History may not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. In Sydney, Australia, anti-Israel protesters were a bit more explicit when they chanted their demand to “gas the Jews.” If anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism, it sure has a hard time distinguishing itself when the extremists come out of the woodwork.
Those celebrating Hamas’ pogrom on Jewish innocents believe it an act of resistance: resistance against occupation, against colonialism, and against a power structure they deem worthy of annihilation. This idea of resistance is contingent on violence against innocents. Innocents aren’t merely a casualty of resistance in this view, they are the explicit target — this perspective is violent, ugly, and evil.
Princeton’s Orange Bubble is a blessing and a curse. The comforting veil of theory fosters spirited discourse on campus, but it blinds students to the beautiful, muddy, horrifying, paradigm-shifting reality of the world. It is unproductive and frivolous to complain about safe spaces, microaggressions, or trigger warnings, but it is critical to scrutinize the fundamental principles that underlie them. If words can be violence, but violence can be justified in certain cases, we must speak our minds without fear. Fight back against students calling for the death of your loved ones and friends, not with fists, but with firm words and a strong will to topple their ill-reasoned arguments. Act, don’t react. To be in the nation’s service and the service of humanity is to pop the Orange Bubble, to think clearly, and to abandon esoteric dogma.
While Israel defends itself from obliteration and unspeakable atrocity, Jews in America practice their own form of resistance. We continue to live. This fact is unacceptable to the terrorists in Hamas and to their proud supporters in America. Every day we continue to exist is poison to their cause and anathema to their philosophy.
As we mourn Ben’s murder and that of the 1,400 other innocents slaughtered by Jihadists on October 7, anti-Israel protesters in America spit in our faces when they tell us that they believe it was well deserved. Those who still hold the luxury belief that the attack was about Israel and not about the extermination of the Jewish people live in a comfortable fantasy while the rest of us struggle with a new existential dread. It is clearer than ever that if another Holocaust were to happen, the world would watch and debate our culpability in our demise. Universities would issue flaccid statements on the complexity of the situation, small but vocal political groups would explain why it’s a good thing, many social justice groups would ignore it entirely, and the world would soon move on.
Evil has shown its face abroad and in America. We will not forget the glib posters of Hamas terrorists in paragliders — the same terrorists who murdered Ben and 260 other young people at an outdoor concert. We will remember bloodthirsty calls for even more violence against Jews in the wake of the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. We will remember those who celebrate this slaughter. We see you. I will always remember you.
In the words of Socrates, the way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. The inverse applies as well. In 1988 when Hamas declared their singular objective of extermination of the Jews, they meant it. Civilians being sought out and slaughtered in their beds and in the streets is not “complicated.” When campus activists declare that they support slaughter in the name of facile and intangible power dynamics, they believe it. False nuance is the convenience of the privileged. When political organizations, unions, clubs, and other groups declare their allegiance to a group that just slaughtered 1,400 innocent lives, they could not be clearer. I’ll rephrase it a third time to be excruciatingly clear: insistence that something is “complicated” does not justify evil acts, nor does it prove complexity, but it does signal ignorance and naïveté. Evil thrives in the world, and our existence is what it fears most. Throughout Princeton’s history, Jewish students and their allies have encountered and will continue to face challenges similar to those of this week. It is essential to remain steadfast in your beliefs and well-deserved presence in the world, just as I and so many others have before you.
Clem Brown is a member of the Class of 2021. He can be reached at email@example.com.