My name is Lea Thomas, and I am an American Jewish Israeli student at the University of Arizona. I, along with countless of other Jewish students across the world, have been struggling with the immense backlash against Israel and the increased antisemitism, propagated by misinformation.
The history surrounding the land of Israel is incredibly complicated with many different perspectives. However, the current war does not directly relate to the millennia of history. On October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists invaded Israel with the simple goal of murdering as many Jewish people as possible. This was the most deadly day for Jewish people since the Holocaust. In the name of “freeing Palestine,” Hamas terrorists murdered more than 1,400 people, soldiers and civilians of all ages. Additionally, they took over 200 hostages back to Gaza; hostages ranging from babies to a Holocaust survivor. They raped women until their bones broke, and then paraded these women through the streets of Gaza. They burned and beheaded babies. Commonly referred to as “militants,” these Hamas terrorists massacred villages, a peace concert, and communities leaving more than 200,000 Israelis displaced. Nothing from October 7th is equivalent to the actions of a military.
Hamas is an internationally recognized terrorist group that was formed in December 1987 with the mandate of ensuring Israel becomes an Islamic state. Soon after its establishment, Hamas found conflict with the Palestinian Leadership Authority and Jordan. They established headquarters in Syria, and later Qatar. Hamas rejected peace negotiations, including land agreements, and instead increased suicide bombings and other means of terrorism against Israel. In 2006, Hamas won elections in Gaza, resulting in total control of the area, and a complete separation from Israel. Hamas murdered their political opponents and left Gaza in a state of emergency. Israel built a security border around the Gaza Strip in response to increased violence towards Israeli citizens.
With 80% of the citizens in Gaza living in poverty, the area receives hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money annually; however, much of this money is rerouted to Hamas’ military pursuits. Additionally, Hamas receives large amounts of money from Iran ($100 million annually), Qatar ($1.49 billion between 2012-2021), cryptocurrency (over $7.7 million), taxes on Palestinians, blackmailing, real estate ($500 million annually), smuggling ($300 million to $450 million annually), and more. With a military budget of between $100 million and $350 million, many wonder how much aid money genuinely reaches the citizens of Gaza.
Currently, Gaza has a shortage of many necessities, including food and water. Many are looking to Israel to fix this emergency. What is not commonly discussed is why Hamas is still sending hundreds of rockets a day into Israel (all needing fuel), or why there are countless miles of bomb-sheltered tunnels below Gaza (only accessible by Hamas and typically located under hospitals, schools, and cemeteries) with stockpiles of food and other necessities. Hamas is not working to help its citizens. Their only goal is to kill as many Jewish people as possible, yet Israel is expected to help provide aid.
Despite Hamas’ title of a terrorist organization, numerous news sites are turning to them for information. For example, footage shows that a Hamas-sibling terrorist group Islamic Jihad in Gaza sent a rocket into Israel that misfired at the same moment that a hospital in Gaza was bombed. Immediately, Israel was blamed by Hamas, and therefore, most news organizations. Many governments, including the United States asserted that Islamic Jihad was at fault. Even the New York Times initially posted a false picture with subsequent false information.
Here on the UofA campus, the Student Justice for Palestine group (SJP) has announced its support for the atrocities committed by Hamas. They have rallied and walked out in support of the terrorists who brutally murdered Jewish civilians. They held signs with inflammatory messages filled with hypocrisy. Most of these signs say “free Palestine,” in reference to freedom from Israel. But that is where everything goes wrong. Palestinians need freedom from Hamas, terrorists who would rather desecrate Israel than work towards peace and better lives for Palestinians.
Jewish college students do not feel safe walking around their own campus, even here at Arizona. My Hebrew class is electing to move to virtual spaces to ensure our safety. We should not need protection because we are Jewish. Jewish students around the country are being attacked, harassed, and sent into lockdown all in the name of “freeing Palestine.” Is “freeing Palestine” really about a better life for Palestinians, or has it turned into a trendy way to promote antisemitism? Of course the people of Gaza should be free; they need to be freed from the control of Hamas terrorists.
Originally published in The Daily Wildcat (University of Arizona’s student newspaper) as a letter-to-the-editor.