Madeleine Ferris

Uncomfortable truths behind SOAS’s student resistance

9th October SOAS Palestine Society rally. (courtesy)

On October 7, 2023, Hamas infiltrated Israel at 6:30 a.m. with a barrage of rockets, and thousands of terrorists crossed the border fence from Gaza. Upon entry, they raped, murdered, pillaged and burned alive 1,200 Israelis, and took over 240 hostage. Over 8,000 rockets have been fired at Israeli civilian areas since the beginning of the war, and bodies, including those of babies, were found burned and beheaded.

Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, and has been designated a terrorist organisation by the US, EU and the UK. Under the 2000 Terrorism Act, support for terrorist organisations and the atrocities that they commit, is illegal in the UK. In light of this, SOAS Palestine Society’s (SPS) support of Hamas’ ‘resistance’ on 7th October is at best naïve, and at worst the championing of Palestinian and Israeli deaths from the armchairs of London.

Despite its illegality, students on multiple university campuses, including SPS at SOAS, have encouraged support for Hamas, tainting the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause with calls for terrorism. SPS are a student-led university organisation, advocating for “freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.” Given the importance of this cause, one would assume that its advocates would be keen to separate themselves from potential delegitimization, yet the opposite is evident. Concerning examples of SPS’ steadfast support of Hamas have been identified from the society’s social media on 9th October.

A recent Instagram post from their 9th October rally stated their “unconditional solidarity” with the perpetrators of 7th October, referring to them as “righteous Palestinian resistance.” It is odd that the road to achieving the freedom, justice and equality of one ethnicity should come at the expense of another.

Another example of SPS’ unbridled support for terrorism is its sharing of social media content from the Palestinian Youth Movement account (content that has since been removed, but can be accessed using this hyperlink) claiming that “Palestinian resistance fighters” drove through settlements and took “occupation soldiers hostage,” whilst firing rockets into Israel. This is selective reporting; the above human rights violations, for which there is ample evidence, are absent from this post’s analysis. That aside, Article Three of the 1949 Geneva Convention prohibits the taking of hostages “at any time and in any place whatsoever.” Therefore, even if Hamas had only taken IDF soldiers as hostages , this would still fall short of international standards for conflict, which seemingly remains desirable in the eyes of SPS. 

It is further disturbing that SPS paints Hamas as a champion of freedom despite its flagrant violation of Palestinian rights; the society has continually ignored their status as victims under its leadership. This is evident from the post mentioned above, which goes on to state that Hamas’ actions are “pushing us closer to the hour of liberation than ever before.” This is a fallacy. Hamas has kidnapped over 240 Israeli men women and children, secure in the knowledge that Israel would be forced to enter Gaza to retrieve them, and remains unremorseful of the havoc that this has wreaked over its civilians.

In light of this, SPS’ blind support for Hamas is questionable. In an apparent bid to bolster Palestinian rights, they are supporting the very organisation which uses its citizens as human shields, misfires 1/5 of its rockets onto Palestinians and utilises civilian infrastructure in the mass-production of weaponry. SPS’ inability to recognise the victimhood of Palestinians and Israelis at the hands of Hamas, calls into question whether its members are pro-Palestinian or are simply anti-Israel, and willing to sacrifice innocent people to that end.

The actions and statements of this society directly correlate to how safe Jews feel on SOAS’ university campuses. The IHRA definition of antisemitism, the most comprehensive and widely accepted definition of antisemitism, which bars against the targeting of Jews as a collective entity, has not been adopted by SOAS, meaning that many episodes of antisemitism likely go unnoticed; there have been reports that the university may be “institutionally antisemitic.” SPS’ recent endorsement of Hamas’ attacks against Jews in Israel could be considered an example of this phenomenon. According to X, formerly Twitter, on 12th October, members of SPS were suspended by the university due to their conduct at the 9th October rally. Unfortunately, the suspension was due to the disruptive use of the fire alarm, rather than for illegal solidarity with Hamas’ resistance. SPS’ inability to separate Hamas from the Palestinian cause and SOAS’ unwillingness to fully adhere to UK law is noteworthy. This episode marks yet another space where Jews are unprotected, and Palestinian strife under Hamas remains unrecognised.

The rhetoric that Hamas reinforces Palestinian rights has never been more illusory than in this war. The existence of a powerful terrorist organisation, and indeed its university campus supporters, endangers both Jews and Palestinians alike. Hamas continues to value the death of Jews as greater than the livelihood of its citizens; until such time as this mentality is eradicated from the region, civilians will continue to suffer. One can legitimately critique Israeli foreign policy without defaulting to support for a genocidal terrorist regime. SPS’ “unequivocal support” for Hamas remains concerning, and its refusal to elaborate on 7th October atrocities exposes an unfettered desire to paint Israel as the sole aggressor, at the expense of Hamas’ victims. This is reprehensible behaviour from a society which claims to value freedom, justice and equality. 

We call upon students across SOAS to dispel the dangerous narratives being perpetuated by SPS, to ensure that support for “freedom, justice and equality” is truly just that, and is not polluted by murderous ideologies propounded by those claiming to be on the right side of history.

About the Author
Madeleine was born in England and moved to Israel after completing her undergraduate degree at both King’s College London and University of Toronto. She is now studying for her Masters degree at the Hebrew University in Human Rights and Transitional Justice.
Related Topics
Related Posts