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Stephen Stern
Dr. Stephen Stern PhD

The scholarly American left doesn’t care the Hamas charter rivals Mein Kampf

Earlier today, I was forwarded a petition to sign for Palestinian solidarity by American philosophers. Many of the signatories also support BDS. Not one signatory has ever called for a general or narrower academic boycott of the United States or their home institutions, some of whom receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the US department of defense. I’m looking at you, University of California Professors. 

The hypocrisy of these scholars finds few parallels. I will not bother listing today’s civilian death count from our own American guns and bombs around the world. However, I would like to know why the signers of this petition never seem to publicly worry about the harm done in their name.

Their hypocritical high bar is most at home in giving Hamas a pass. Let me say this again: the signatories are giving a pass to a theocratic fascist organization exploiting Palestinians for a theocratic pan Islamic objective.

Why don’t these names pressure Hamas to open up the hundreds of miles of tunnels to their Palestinian subjects? Some tunnels are fourteen stories below ground. They make great bomb shelters, which is why Hamas secures the Israeli hostages in the tunnels. I’d like to ask them: do they find Hamas values the Israeli Jewish captives more than the Palestinians under their rule?

I’ve also heard campus demonstrators, not at my home institution, say the murdered Israelis deserved it, that this is a necessary strike against colonialism.

This anti-colonial canard puts the history of all European colonialists on Israel’s back while ignoring two facts.

First, the Jewish European founders of Israel were fleeing cultures in which Jewish lives didn’t matter. Why didn’t they count? Europe, up to the end of the Holocaust, regarded Jews as a threat to European sanctity and European civilization. Jews were experienced and dealt with as profaning Europe as theological threats to European Christendom. (Note: I’m aware that the first European Jewish settlers to Palestine used the language of European colonialism with an intent to settle.)

These US scholar signatories fail to recognize that both Christianity and Islam appropriated Jewish histories as their own, and then went on to absent Jewish peoples from their Jewish narratives, teaching that Jews have their Jewish story wrong. What do we call this murderous appropriation? Is it not cultural genocide? Not to mention the literal genocides suffered by Jews.

Second, the scholars also ignore that most Israeli Jews aren’t white. The slight majority of Israeli Jews are Mizrahim, Middle Eastern Jews. Why did close to 900,000 Middle Eastern Jews flee to Israel in the late nineteen forties and nineteen fifties? Why did tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews flee Ethiopia to Israel? I’d like to hear their answers.

The signatories’ assumption that Israel is a continuation of European Colonialism is ignorant and an indicator that these scholars have no regard for Israeli Jewish Lives. Ashkenazi Jews may look European, may speak European languages, and frequent Europe, but make no mistake, they’re not welcome in many European countries such as Russia, Hungary, and Poland. How easy it is for them to forget the Holocaust.

If the American signatories truly care about Palestinian lives and peace, they would punch down at Hamas while also stopping their own narrative of absenting the existential fears and concerns of Israeli Jews. Saying Israel’s existence is imminently criminal isn’t helpful if we are pursuing the saving of Palestinians and working for Palestinian self-determination as well as Israeli security. Why would Israeli Jews accept a position calling for their own genocide, a threat that has been clearly shown not to be hypothetical?

For the signatories to continue to act from cartoon understandings of Israeli Jews and Gazan Palestinians stochastically put in harm’s way by Hamas is to support the cycle of violence. In protesting, why not also help Israeli Jews come to understand that living beside an agreed upon Palestinian state is the only path to a future with lives free of wars like we are seeing today?

About the Author
Dr. Stephen Stern has authored Reclaiming the Wicked Son: Finding Judaism in Secular Jewish Philosophers, and The Unbinding of Isaac: A Phenomenological Midrash of Genesis 22. His forthcoming book, The Chailight Zone will be out later this year, 2024. Stern is an Associate Professor of Jewish Studies & Interdisciplinary Studies, and Chair of Jewish Studies at Gettysburg College
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