understanding the protests; do the protestors understand?

This week we watched continued protests on the college campus. Before we address the main point of today’s post, let’s provide factual context…

As the Israel-Hamas war moves into its seventh month, encampment protests have erupted on multiple college campuses in support of Hamas, calling for schools to divest from Israeli companies and the US to sever ties with Israel. The protests began at Columbia University over two weeks ago but have since spawned up elsewhere, notably disrupting multiple graduation ceremonies. The protests initially seemed predominantly peaceful, but have become increasingly more violent. They have also been filled with antisemitic behavior. Let us thus ask some relevant questions…

First, who are the protestors?

The protestors are Palestinian supporters involving students, faculty and outside activists. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said this week that over 40% of those who participated in Columbia and City University of New York protests were not actually from the school.

Next, do the protestors understand who Hamas really is and what they actually believe in?

Hamas was designated as a foreign terrorist organization under Pres. Bill Clinton’s State Department in 1997. This means that they use violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political objectives. Their goal is to create a Palestinian state in place of Israel. They do not support a two-state solution or a permanent cease fire because they do not want Israel to exist. Hence, they do not support peace. 

They also do not support LGBT rights nor often, even their existence. They executed one of their own accomplished military commanders in recent years for reportedly having sex with another man. There are multiple reports Hamas attempted to keep this secret, as they recognize it would pierce their popularity and derail global support.

How then is wise to handle the protests?

It’s tricky, we know. And I think we are seeing leadership examples that are effective and not.

I really respect the aforementioned Mayor Adams. He has been clear and firm and articulate in calling the protests what they are. He has called “hate,” “hate,” and even in recent days aver that Columbia and other private colleges should contribute to the cost of needing the NYPD to curtail the protests; the taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for intentional vandalism. He is holding those responsible accountable.

Also solid has been University of Florida President Ben Sasse. The school made swift arrests when protests broke out in Gainesville, giving the protestors many days and multiple warnings first to cease their illegal activity. Said Sasse: 

“This is not complicated: The University of Florida is not a daycare, and we do not treat protesters like children — they knew the rules, they broke the rules, and they’ll face the consequences…”

One of the more ineffective stabs at leadership comes from those who attempt to address antisemitism and Islamophobia at the same time with equal emphasis in this situation. Let’s be clear; these are not Islamophobic protests, and reports of such have been distinctly few and far between. Just like when “black lives matter” was the relevant focus, “all lives matter” wasn’t an appropriate retort; the focus was on how the black community was negatively affected. To call out antisemitism and Islamophobia is an inaccurate assessment of what is currently happening, and is therefore, most likely, an attempt at appeasement or maintaining popularity.

Friends, we will absolutely advocate for the respect of all people, and our respect is not dependent on agreement. But we will also not refrain from asking tough, insightful questions… and for calling something what it is and what it is not.