Matthew Bronfman

Stop donating to universities that don’t condemn Hamas

Alumni and others need to hold these institutions accountable and take action to reset the moral compass on Israel
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gather for a protest at Columbia University, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gather for a protest at Columbia University, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)

​​The people of Israel have just experienced the largest and most brutal massacre of Jews since the Holocaust at the hands of a terrorist organization, Hamas. Yet, as they try to bury their dead and move forward, Jews worldwide, and especially on college campuses, are confronting a second assault, this time in the form of purported moral justifications for this terrible crime.

Across American colleges and universities, statements from chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and even from faculty and staff have taken a clear stand against Israel and the Jewish people. They have refused to label Hamas as terrorists, endorsed “resistance” of any kind – implicitly, even terror – and attempted to justify these acts as legitimate responses to the actions of the victims.

We must take swift action against those whose lack of moral clarity allows antisemitism to thrive on college and university campuses. Donors to universities must cease all donations to those institutions that refuse to unequivocally condemn the actions of Hamas.

Far too many American colleges and universities that have issued statements on the assault on Israel have offered little more than watered-down calls for peace. Not only does this lack of outrage and action endanger Jewish students, but it enables a deep moral bankruptcy that should be the antithesis of American higher education.

The now-infamous Harvard letter, signed by 34 student organizations, holds “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”

NYU Law School’s Student Bar Association president Ryna Workman wrote, “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life. This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary.”

A Stanford professor, after committing an act of identity-based targeting against Jewish students in his class, reportedly stated that Hamas is “not a terrorist group. They are freedom fighters. Their actions are legitimate.”

And Students for Justice in Palestine at Northwestern University declared, “The events of October 7th are more than just isolated incidents; they’re symptomatic of decades-long desperation stemming from subjugation and systemic oppression.”

All of these statements share a common strategy: employing the rhetoric of justice and defense of human rights to justify terrorism.

With nearly 1,400 Israelis murdered at the hands of Hamas, babies beheaded, women raped and grandmothers burned alive, Israel is right to call this assault its 9/11. Unfortunately, the comparison is apt in more ways than one. The pro-Hamas statements emanating from American college and university campuses have a dark historical precedent: they are the same arguments Osama bin Laden made to justify 9/11 and Al Qaeda’s reign of terror against the west.

In October 2001, bin Laden wrote, “What America is tasting today is but a fraction of what we have tasted for decades. For over eighty years our [Islamic nation] has endured this humiliation and contempt.”

Two months later, bin Laden stated, “Those who condemn these operations [9/11] have viewed the event in isolation and have failed to connect it to previous events or to the reasons behind it…Those blessed, successful strikes are merely a reaction to events in our land in Palestine, in Iraq, and in other places.”

The following October, bin Laden proclaimed, “Do not expect anything from us but jihad, resistance, and revenge. Is it in any way rational to expect that after America has attacked us for more than half a century, that we will then leave her to live in security and peace?”

Every defender of Hamas or critic of Israel should reflect on the striking parallels between the excuses for terror delivered this week and the justifications used by bin Laden. Every defender of liberalism should be alarmed.

If American colleges and universities refuse to call out members of their communities who use the same arguments as Osama bin Laden to rationalize terrorism against Jews and Israel, then it is the responsibility of alumni and public servants to speak and act.

First, we must speak up for the truth. We must identify the false moral equivalence between Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to the annihilation of the Jewish people, and the Israel Defense Forces, which seek only to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities and capacity to harm its citizens.

We must say that while Israel responds to Hamas aggression in order to protect women and children, the terrorists use their women and children as human shields to save themselves. When we hear Israel blamed for creating an “open air prison” in Gaza, we must remind the world that Israel left Gaza in 2005, so the residents of Gaza could build the kind of country they wanted, and then Hamas took over in 2007. 

When Israel sent in concrete for houses, Hamas used it to build miles of underground tunnels to store weapons. To make weapons, Hamas has dug up water pipes to build rockets. We must demand that every country that has not yet designated Hamas a terrorist organization do so immediately. We must ensure that no news outlet refers to Hamas as “militants” or “freedom fighters,” because Hamas, Al Qaeda, and ISIS are one and the same: terrorists.

Finally, we must share our reality. The world must know that Jews kept their children home from school on Friday, October 13, the day Hamas called for a global day of jihad against our people, because of the credible threats on their lives. 

In light of recent antisemitic activity at the University of Pennsylvania, billionaire Marc Rowan called on alumni to close their checkbooks until members of the administration who have enabled antisemitism on campus resign. In response to the Harvard letter, Bill Ackman exhorted CEOs to ensure that supporters of terrorism are not hired at their companies, and the law firm Winston & Strawn rescinded Ryna Workman’s employment offer.

These are all meaningful first steps. But to have real, lasting impact, a coordinated effort is needed. Let us put our resources where our hearts and minds are. I call on alumni of all colleges and universities that have failed to condemn the terror attacks for what they are, or that have endorsed or allowed for the support of terrorism or intimidation of Jewish students on their campuses, to withhold donations until change is made. For donations already given, please request that they be directed to the college or university’s local Hillel chapter.

Colleges and universities are responsible for equipping the next generation with sound values and moral clarity. If these institutions cannot stand on the right side of history, then we must. It is time to reset the moral compass on Israel. Let’s start now.

About the Author
Matthew Bronfman is the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Hillel International.
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