Western feminists largely ignore gender-based violence (rape and mutilation) inflicted by Hamas on Israeli and foreign women

November 19, 2023 • 9:30 am
One of the great puzzles of activism among “progressive” American youth is the support from feminists and LGBTQ people for Muslim countries, including, in this moment, Palestine. Palestine will not tolerate gays (same sex-relations is a criminal act), and a common punishment is to heave gays to their deaths off of rooftops, behead them, or kill them in other ways.

As for women, even the United Nations has condemned the oppression of women in Palestine:

Women and girls in Palestine continue to experience various forms of violence due to the entrenched discriminatory social norms and traditions, and the prolonged Israeli occupation. The most common types of violence against women observed in Palestine include domestic violence, sexual harassment, early marriage and femicide, as well as public and private spheres including streets, workplaces, homes and high-density areas such as refugee camps, particularly in Gaza. The outdated and discriminatory laws in Palestine hinder survivors of violence from accessing gender-responsive services and obtaining justice. In addition, survivors of violence often face social stigma, and are blamed as responsible for the violence occurred to them.

Notice how they blame this partly on Israel, despite the fact that similar violence is seen in other Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, where it can’t be blamed on Israel. (Note that two of those links go to UN reports!) In general, women are second class citizens in Muslim society, and nobody with neurons doubts this.

Nevertheless, we see stuff like this, which can only be described as cognitive dissonance, or, less charitably, hypocrisy:

. . . and this:

Of course women become fifth-class citizens if they’re Israeli, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The decision of LGBTQ people and feminists to support Muslim societies—societies where they’d never want to live, for many of them would be killed because of their sexual orientation—is an example of MacPherson’s Law, confected by one of our readers. According to Diana, if progressives must choose between conflicting causes to support, and one of them is women’s rights, the women’s rights lose. (By “causes”, I mean “supporting a group deemed to be oppressed.”) I’ll add a corollary: if progressives have to choose between two conflicting causes, and one of them is LGBTQ rights, those rights also lose.

The article below from Unherd, by Nicole Lampert. shows how Western feminists have largely ignored not only the oppression of women in Muslim countries, but the sexual violence inflicted on women by Hamas on October 7. Click the headline to read.

I’ll give an excerpt:

After Hamas terrorists set about murdering, raping and abducting as many women as they could, one might have expected widespread condemnation from the West’s feminist groups. After all, Hamas had provided enough evidence of its crimes — within hours, they were posting footage of abducted young women in bloodied trousers being paraded around Gaza. Even beforehand, its feminist credentials were hardly glowing: it mandates the hijab, has made it illegal to travel without a male guardian, and refused to ban physical or sexual abuse within the family.

The response among the majority of groups committed to ending violence against women and girls (VAWG) was threefold: to keep quiet, to disbelieve the victims, or to insinuate they deserved their fate. In the words of 140 American “prominent feminist scholars”, to stand in solidarity with Israeli women is to give in to “colonial feminism”.

Here in the UK, this approach is perhaps best embodied in the work of Sisters Uncut, a charity that boasts its own “Feministo” committed to “taking direct action for domestic violence services”. Until this month, the activists’ work has generally taken the form of media-savvy stunts: dyeing the water of Trafalgar Square’s fountains red, setting off rape alarms outside police stations, occupying the roofs of council buildings. Yet all paled in comparison to the demonstration it organised earlier this month: a call for Israel to put down its weapons that ultimately shut down London’s Liverpool Street Station.

Afterwards, the charity issued a 600-word statement, filled with references to “apartheid”, “genocide” and disproved reports that the IDF had bombed Gaza’s Al-Ahli hospital. There was no mention, however, of the 239 abducted Israelis, roughly 100 of whom are believed to be women, or the sexual assaults that took place on October 7. When journalist Hadley Freeman pointed out this wasn’t terribly feminist of them, the group responded by claiming reports of Hamas’s sex attacks amounted to “the Islamophobic and racist weaponisation of sexual violence”. Towards the end of their rambling statement, they concluded: “no people would ever accept being murdered, humiliated, dispossessed, racially targeted, oppressed, cleansed, exiled and colonised without resisting.”

That’s reminiscent of how antisemites blame the Holocaust on the submission of Jews. “Why didn’t they resist?”, they ask.  “Had they fought back when the Nazis came to take them, there would have been no Holocaust.”

The article continues:

Other feminist groups fell into a similar victim-blaming step. Southall Black Sisters, another charity committed to ending violence against women, did at least mourn the loss of life on both sides, but blamed it on “the Israeli government’s declaration of war on Gaza”. Elsewhere, Women for Women UK, which specialises in helping “women survivors of war” and calls itself a “non-partisan organisation”, has decided to raise money only for Palestinian women. Even Women’s Place UK, once viewed as an outlier for its brave campaigning for women-only spaces, decided to call for an “immediate ceasefire” without mentioning sexual violence.

In a similar vein, Claire Waxman, London’s first Victims’ Commissioner, wrote to Reem Alsalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls, to ask why the organisation has stayed silent. In response, Waxman tells me, Alsalem claimed the evidence was “not solid” enough to warrant a statement. An incredulous Waxman points out that November 25 is the UN’s International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls: “How can we talk about eliminating violence against women and girls if we are tacitly saying it’s acceptable to rape Jewish ones?”

Alsalem, of course, is willfully blind: the rapes and sexual violence against the victims of Hamas has been amply documented, even on film!  The fight against Hamas’s violence directed against women, then, has been largely led by Israeli groups:

To remedy this, Israeli feminists this week launched #MeToo_Unless_Ur_A_Jew, a campaign calling for the UN Women group to focus on the gender-based violence against Israeli women. “The UN Women is turning a blind eye to Hamas’s vicious war crimes by remaining silent,” they said.

But all this is nothing new, except that turning a blind eye to women who are raped and mutilated by Islamists now involves ignoring Israeli as well as Muslim women. And even the UN imputes some violence against women in Palestine to Israel. As you see above, “Women and girls in Palestine continue to experience various forms of violence due to the entrenched discriminatory social norms and traditions, and the prolonged Israeli occupation.”  There are control countries, you know. . . .

I’ve always thought that there’s no substitute for actually seeing violence if you want to absorb its horrors, and that’s why the IDF showed to journalists extended videos filmed by terrorists themselves on October 7. The reaction was universal: it sickened the viewers.

The next closest thing is hearing graphic descriptions of the violence, as in the video below. I suggest that the video, a panel discussion on “The unspeakable terror: gender-based violence on October 7”, sponsored by the Maimonedes Society, the Harvard Jewish Law Students Association, and the Harvard Business School Jewish Students Association, should be required viewing for feminists who support Muslim societies.

Here is the constitution of the group (I apologize for the low quality of the print, as this is taken from a screenshot):

And here is the panel discussion (95 minutes total), which describes the sexual brutality inflicted by Hamas, its legal ramifications (including war crimes), the trauma inflicted on survivors of  sexual violence, the treatment of survivors,  and how to draw global attention to the situation.

But today I want to call attention to just one 13-minute segment of the panel, that from 14:06 to 26:55. It’s presented by Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy, Chair of the Civil Commission on Oct 7th Crimes by Hamas against Women & Children. She is at Penn, where she’s described as “an expert on international law, human rights law, constitutional and administrative law, global governance, religion & state matters, global sustainable development and feminist theories.”

Here Elkayam-Levy simply describes what Hamas did to Israeli women—and some foreign women—on October 7. This is very strong stuff, and she can barely keep herself together as she describes it. So it’s mandatory for me to issue a TRIGGER WARNING here: if you can’t bear to hear graphic descriptions of sexual violence to women (those descriptions begin at 17:05), violence so strong that acts of rape broke women’s pelvises, then skip it.

This is nothing other than brutality enacted on women because they were women, not just Israelis.  And that comes from the tenets of Islam that have been incorporated in many Muslim societies. Remember too that both the live and dead women paraded around Gaza after the attack were cheered not just by Hamas, but by Palestinian citizens.  Then ask yourself if the Israeli military has enacted things like this, and calibrate your moral compass.

h/t: Jez

Noa Marciano, RIP

November 15, 2023 • 1:30 pm

Spare a thought for Noa Marciano, 19, an IDF soldier who’s dead, but didn’t die in combat. She was kidnapped by Hamas with the other 240 hostages on October 7, kidnapped from her bed at about 6:30 or 7 AM when she was wearing her pajamas on a holiday morning. I believe she’s the only non-wounded hostage that we know for sure is no longer alive.  The circumstances of her death are unclear, but I’m fairly sure about what happened.

From the NYT:

Hamas on Monday released a video of a 19-year-old Israeli soldier who was captured in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel that included clips of her speaking early in the conflict and then images of her lifeless body. Hamas said she had been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza on Thursday.

The Israeli military confirmed the death of the soldier, Noa Marciano, in a brief statement on Tuesday that did not indicate how she had died but said she had been “kidnapped by a terrorist organization.” An earlier statement that appeared to confirm the authenticity of the video condemned it as “psychological terrorism.”

Ms. Marciano served in an intelligence unit and was stationed at a lookout post on Kibbutz Nahal Oz when Hamas attacked.

. . . The video shows Ms. Marciano speaking into a camera and providing identifying information about herself and her family. She says that she is being held in Gaza and has been there for about four days with other hostages, and she pleads with the Israeli military to stop targeting the area, saying the explosions are close by, continual and could harm the hostages. The video ends with still images of Ms. Marciano’s lifeless body splayed on a bloodied white sheet. It was impossible to independently conclude how Ms. Marciano died.

If I was a betting man, and willing to bet on a ghoulish outcome like this, I’d say that Hamas killed her after they made that video. Why? Well, what are the chances that an IDF soldier would be the single hostage killed by Israeli fire among 240 captured—a death that was heavily publicized by Hamas? And if the hostages are kept in groups in the tunnels, which is likely, how did she get killed by an explosion?. Plus her video talks about Israel causing explosions nearby. It’s just too convenient to say that one of those explosions killed her.

Here she is at her high-school graduation.

And a video from Tom Gross’s newsletter yesterday:

This one-minute video was an appeal made a few days ago directly to Hamas not to harm Noa, by her mother Adi and by Lucy Aharish (translating into Arabic). Noa was confirmed dead this morning. She was a very sweet girl, aged 19, from Modiin, a town in between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. She was not a “settler” as wrongly claimed by some western newspapers reporting on her death this morning.

(The video is very moving. Noa’s mother Adi works as the receptionist at a medical center in Modiin that subscribers to this email list go to.)

A still from the Hamas video. See more information at Newsweek:

CNN op-ed: Israel is adhering to the laws of war

November 15, 2023 • 12:30 pm

Talk about a hot potato!  The current “progressive” view is that Israel, in its pursuit of Hamas in Gaza, has committed multiple war crimes. These involve killing a “disproportional” amount of civilians (now about 11,000, but those may include members of Hamas) compared to Israelis killed by Hamas (about 1210 counting about 10 IDF soldiers).  Further, Israel’s attacks have, it’s said, created a “humanitarian crisis”, depriving civilians of food, water, and fuel, and severely impeding the operation of hospitals.

Of course every rational person admits that Hamas has committed multiple war crimes by any criterion, including the butchering of civilians via direct attacks, the targeting of Israeli civilians by rocket attacks, the kidnapping of Israeli and non-Israeli citizens, the rape of women captives, and, above all, the use of human shields. The latter involve building Hamas installations inside and below hospitals, firing rockets willy-nilly at non-military targets.  But Hamas’s continuing war crimes tend to be overlooked, or even excused, in light of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas, and despite the fact, that John Spencer shows below, Israel is going to tremendous lengths to minimize the deaths of civilians given that its goal is to extirpate Hamas.

CNN gives an editor’s note emphasizing that yes, the author has the cred to give this opinion, but also emphasizing that the opinion is his own, not CNN’s. That’s fine, as they do it with all their op-eds  Mostly I’m heartened to see an expert render such an opinion, one that many of us, including Sam Harris and me, share. But it’s not a popular opinion!

The author:

Editor’s Note: John Spencer is chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute (MWI) at West Point, codirector of MWI’s Urban Warfare Project and host of the “Urban Warfare Project Podcast.” He served for 25 years as an infantry soldier, which included two combat tours in Iraq. He is the author of the book “Connected Soldiers: Life, Leadership, and Social Connection in Modern War” and co-author of “Understanding Urban Warfare.” The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

Click to read:

Now many of us, if we know the laws of war, could probably guess the content of this piece, but it’s good to see it laid out by an expert.  I’ll quote Sam Harris before I quote Spencer:

If you are recognizing the humanity of actual barbarians, while demonizing the people who actually worry about war crimes and who drop leaflets and call cell phones for days, in an effort to get noncombatants to leave specific buildings before they are bombed, because those buildings sit on top of tunnels filled with genocidal lunatics—who again, have just sedulously tortured and murdered families as though it were a religious sacrament, because for them it is a religious sacrament. If you have landed, proudly and sanctimoniously, on the wrong side of this asymmetry—this vast gulf between savagery and civilization—while marching through the quad of an Ivy League institution wearing yoga pants, I’m not sure it matters that your moral confusion is due to the fact that you just happen to hate Jews. Whether you’re an anti-Semite or just an apologist for atrocity is probably immaterial. The crucial point is that you are dangerously confused about the moral norms and political sympathies that make life in this world worth living.

The difference is summed up in this cartoon, which is not supposed to be funny but is pretty much true:

One of the issues is that we simply don’t realize how high the ratio of deaths of noncombatants to combatants is in warfare, and that this ratio is even higher in urban warfare in densely populated areas.  The death toll of civilians has, in recent years, been inordinately high, but Spencer insists, rightly, that Israel must do everything it can to minimize the harm to civilians. Except for the brief “siege,” which I thought was wrong, it pretty much has. The IDF strikes me as conducting the most moral warfare I’ve seen in modern times.

On to Spencer (I’ve left in his links as they’re educational and useful):

All war is hell. All war is killing and destruction, and historically civilians are inordinately the innocent victims of wars. Urban warfare is a unique type of hell not just for soldiers, who face assaults from a million windows or deep tunnels below them, but especially for civilians. Noncombatants have accounted for 90% of casualties per international humanitarian experts in the modern wars that have occurred in populated urban areas such as Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa, even when a Western power like the United States is leading or supporting the campaign.

Note that the 90% figure comes from a United Nations site.


The destruction and suffering, as awful as they are, don’t automatically constitute war crimes – otherwise, nearly any military action in a populated area would violate the laws of armed conflict, rules distilled from a complicated patchwork of international treaties, court rulings and historic conventions. Scenes of devastation, like Israel’s strikes on the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza earlier this week, quickly spark accusations that Israel is engaging in war crimes, such as indiscriminately killing civilians and engaging in revenge attacks. But war crimes must be assessed on evidence and the standards of armed conflict, not a quick glimpse at the harrowing aftermath of an attack.

Hamas forces indisputably violated multiple laws of war on October 7 in taking Israelis hostage and raping, torturing and directly targeting civilians, as well continuing to attack Israeli population centers with rockets. Years of intelligence assessments and media reports have shown that Hamas also commits war crimes by using human shields for its weapons and command centers and by purposely putting military capabilities in protected sites like hospitals, mosques and schools.

On the other hand, nothing I have seen shows that the Israel Defense Forces are not following the laws of wars in Gaza, particularly when the charges that the IDF is committing war crimes so often come too quickly for there to have been an examination of the factors that determine whether an attack, and the resulting civilian casualties, are lawful. The factors that need to be assessed are the major dimensions of the most commonly agreed to international humanitarian law principles: military necessity, proportionality, distinction, humanity and honor.  

. . .Of the remaining principles of the law of war – distinction, humanity (which, as the International Committee of the Red Cross phrases it, “forbids the infliction of all suffering, injury or destruction not necessary for achieving the legitimate purpose of a conflict”) and honor in conduct of waging war – the principle of distinction is the most complex. Distinction requires Israel to “distinguish between the civilian population and combatants” and between civilian  facilities and military targets, while taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. So far I have seen the IDF implementing – and in some cases going beyond – many of the best practices developed to minimize the harm of civilians in similar large-scale urban battles.

These IDF practices include calling everyone in a building to alert them of a pending air strike and giving them time to evacuate – a tactic I’ve never seen elsewhere in my decades of experience, as it also notifies the enemy of the attack – and sometimes even dropping small munitions on top of a building to provide additional warning. They have been conducting multiple weeks of requests that civilians evacuate certain parts of Gaza using multi-media broadcaststexts and flyer drops. They’ve also provided routes that will not be targeted so that civilians have paths to non-combat areas, though there have been some tragic reports that Palestinians from northern Gaza who have relocated to the south were subsequently killed as the war rages throughout the strip.

When Hamas uses a hospital, school or mosque for military purpose, it can lose its protected status and become a legal military target. Israel must still make all feasible attempts to get as many civilians out of the site as possible, but the sites don’t need to be clear of civilians before being attacked.

Unfortunately, it’s essentially impossible to empty a city of all civilians before conducting an urban battle. Some people always stay, and it can be impossible for the elderly, infirm, hospitalized and similar to evacuate. In the densely populated Gaza Strip, where most Palestinians have nowhere to fully escape the dangers of the war, the proportion of those who remain is likely to be higher, as border crossings remain closed to nearly all Gazans, many Palestinians object to leaving and Hamas has warned others not to go.

Spencer again emphasizes that Israel has to take all possible precautions to minimize harm to civilians, and although Hamas doesn’t meet this requirement (it does the opposite), Israel “does and should”. But he urges Israel to continue to construct safe corridors for civilian evacuation, allow humanitarian supplies into Gaza, and not strike “near certain safe areas or gatherings of civilians.”

Of course the vociferous pro-Palestinian “progressives” will argue that a disproportionality of deaths is what matters, but there’s also a disproportionality of intent.  Israel is interested in uprooting Hamas, not killing Gazan civilians (the IDF knows how damaging a high civilian death toll is to world opinion, which will affect the course of the war). In contrast Hamas is interested in killing Jews, civilians or not, and in fact prefers civilians, as they’re not armed. The disproportionality of deaths, concludes Spencer, is deeply saddening but unavoidable in a conflict like this:

There is no escaping that pursuing a terrorist organization touches off a nightmarish landscape of war. The visually repulsive imagery in Gaza essentially recreates the same scenes that unfolded under American and allied campaigns fighting Al Qaeda, ISIS and other terror groups, because that is what it looks like when you are forced to uproot a sadistic terror organization embedded in an urban area. Sadly, successful US-led or supported campaigns in places such as Mosul and Raqqa caused billions of dollars in damage and killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians; that is the hellish reality of defeating terrorism.

Like all similar conflicts in modern times, a battle in Gaza will look like the entire city was purposely razed to the ground or indiscriminately carpet bombed – but it wasn’t. Israel possesses the military capacity to do so, and the fact that it doesn’t employ such means is further evidence that it is respecting the rules of war. It is also a sign that this is not revenge – a gross mischaracterization of Israeli aims – but instead a careful defensive campaign to ensure Israel’s survival.

h/t: Norm

Sam Harris on the war, jihadism, and morality

November 14, 2023 • 9:30 am

I’m on my way back to Chicago, and I strongly recommend that if you have an hour to spare, you can’t do better than spend it listening to Sam Harris’s excellent podcast on the war. In an earlier post I linked to the written transcript, but the audio version is below. I have to admit that this is one podcast I listened to as well as read for two reasons: Sam’s measured eloquence and especially the thoughtfulness and rationality of his message.

Sam discusses the war at length, but his real concern is the philosophy of jihad as embodied in Islamism and how it plays out in violent conflict. His thesis, which isn’t new but which he expounds at length, is that the members of Hamas really believe in the Islamic doctrine of this life being of little consequence compared to the life to come.  And if you die doing jihad (construed as a “holy war”, not as a simple striving to better oneself), you are rewarded with Paradise (replete with either raisins or virgins).

Sam says you can’t understand the concepts of suicide bombing, martyrdom, or the brutality of the October 7 butchery (complete with gleeful cries of “Allahu akbar” by the butchers) without realizing that they’re motivated by taking religious doctrine literally. This leads to his conclusion that religion in general is harmful, but that Islam is, at present, the most dangerous of faiths.  In fact, he sees it as posing an existential thread not just to Israel, but to the whole world.


Below is the audio from the phone call same Sam quotes in his piece. It’s from an elated Hamas terrorist who’s just killed ten Jews, who brags about it to his family while talking on the cellphone of one of the Jews he killed. This is the elation of jihadism achieving its aims, and although I’ve listened to it many times, the horror it inspires grows each time. Can this be a human being? Even the Nazis didn’t get such joy from their mass murders of Jews.

I’ll give a few quotes from Sam’s podcast, though I think I’ve posted others before.

Now, there are many things to be said in criticism of Israel, in particular its expansion of settlements on contested land. But Israel’s behavior is not what explains the suicidal and genocidal inclinations of a group like Hamas. The Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad do.

These are religious beliefs, sincerely held. They are beliefs about the moral structure of the universe. And they explain how normal people—even good ones—can commit horrific acts of violence against innocent civilians—on purpose, not as collateral damage—and still consider themselves good. When you believe that life in this world has no value, apart from deciding who goes to hell and who goes to Paradise, it becomes possible to feel perfectly at ease killing noncombatants, or even using your own women and children as human shields, because you know that any Muslims who get killed will go to Paradise for eternity.

If you don’t understand that jihadists sincerely believe these things, you don’t understand the problem Israel faces. The problem isn’t merely Palestinian nationalism, or resource competition, or any other normal terrestrial grievance. In fact, the problem isn’t even hatred, though there is enough of that to go around. The problem is religious certainty.

. . .Look at these protests we’re seeing all over the world, which began before Israel had dropped a single bomb. Now that there have been several thousand Palestinian casualties, cities across the globe are seething with rage. But Assad has killed hundreds of thousands of his fellow Muslims in Syria. The Saudis have killed well over a [sic] one hundred thousand Muslims in Yemen. Where are the protests? No one cares, least of all Muslims. They only care when non-Muslims produce these casualties—and they especially care when Jews do it. Israel is routinely condemned by the United Nations, and the U.N. could not pass a condemnation of Hamas for the atrocities it committed on October 7th.

As I said, I don’t know whether a ground invasion is the right approach. But there is no question that Israel had to act; they have to destroy Hamas; and, whatever they do, noncombatants will get killed in the process. Again, this is Hamas’ fault.

He enumerates several instances of jihadist killing that don’t involve Israeli “colonization,” including the horrors of 9/11. The events of October 7 lie among thousands of others that can’t be pinned on Israel, or even on Jews, but on a religious fanaticism devoted to worldwide domination.

There may be two sides to the past, but there really aren’t two sides to the present. There are two sides to the story of how the Palestinians and Jews came to fight over land in the Middle East. Understanding all of that is important—and I think it is important to understand the cynical game that the Arab world has played with the plight of the Palestinians for the last 50 years. If there is a stable political settlement to ever be reached between Israel and the Palestinians, it will entail a full untangling of the facts from all the propaganda that obscures them, while keeping the problem of jihadism in view. It will also entail that the religious lunatics on the Jewish side get sidelined. As I said, the building of settlements has been a continuous provocation. But even on the point of religious fanaticism, there really aren’t two sides worth talking about now. Whatever terrible things Israeli settlers occasionally do—and these are crimes for which they should be prosecuted—generally speaking, the world does not have a problem with Jewish religious fanatics targeting Muslims in their mosques and schools. You literally can’t open a Jewish school in Paris because no one will insure it. Yes, there are lunatics on both sides, but the consequences of their lunacy are not equivalent—not even remotely equivalent. We haven’t spent the last 20 years taking our shoes off at the airport because there are so many fanatical Jews eager to blow themselves up on airplanes.

That last sentence is typical of Sam’s eloquence, and of course it’s true. Who are the haters? Who are those eager to kill civilians?

He highly recommends watching the movie below, about an incident of Islamist terrorism in India, and of course I will:

Again, watch “Hotel Mumbai” or read a book about the Islamic State so that you can see jihadism in another context—where literally not one of the variables that people imagine to be important here [in the current conflict] is present. There are no settlers, or blockades, or daily humiliations at check points, or differing interpretations of history—and yet we have same grotesque distortion of the spiritual impulse, the same otherworldliness framed by murder, the same absolute evil that doesn’t require the presence of evil people, just confused ones—just true believers.

. . . and, as usual, he helps us calibrate our moral compasses, which, for many —especially entitled college students—seem to be drawn to the wrong magnet. The bit below may be the most trenchant part of the podcast:

Of course, the boundary between Anti-Semitism and generic moral stupidity is a little hard to discern—and I’m not sure that it is always important to find it. I’m not sure it matters why a person can’t distinguish between collateral damage in a necessary war and conscious acts of genocidal sadism that are celebrated as a religious sacrament by a death cult. Our streets have been filled with people, literally tripping over themselves in their eagerness to demonstrate that they cannot distinguish between those who intentionally kill babies, and those who inadvertently kill them, having taken great pains to avoid killing them, while defending themselves against the very people who have just intentionally tortured and killed innocent men, women, and yes… babies. And who are committed to doing this again at any opportunity, and who are using their own innocent noncombatants as human shields. If you’re both sides-ing this situation—or worse, if you are supporting the wrong side: if you are waving the flag of people who murder noncombatants intentionally, killing parents in front of their children and children in front of their parents, burning people alive at a music festival devoted to “peace”, and decapitating others, and dragging their dismembered bodies through the streets, all to shouts of “God is Great.” If you are recognizing the humanity of actual barbarians, while demonizing the people who actually worry about war crimes and who drop leaflets and call cell phones for days, in an effort to get noncombatants to leave specific buildings before they are bombed, because those buildings sit on top of tunnels filled with genocidal lunatics—who again, have just sedulously tortured and murdered families as though it were a religious sacrament, because for them it is a religious sacrament. If you have landed, proudly and sanctimoniously, on the wrong side of this asymmetry—this vast gulf between savagery and civilization—while marching through the quad of an Ivy League institution wearing yoga pants, I’m not sure it matters that your moral confusion is due to the fact that you just happen to hate Jews. Whether you’re an anti-Semite or just an apologist for atrocity is probably immaterial. The crucial point is that you are dangerously confused about the moral norms and political sympathies that make life in this world worth living.

Just a couple more; there are many nuggets of wisdom in the podcast, which is one of Sam’s best, and you shouldn’t even be reading these extracts if you can listen to the whole podcast. I found—and perhaps this is just me—that I can’t get much out of Sam’s words unless I devote my whole attention to the audio.

About that phone call above, Sam discusses the taboo that many are thinking about but nobody will utter: How many Palestinians support what Hamas did, even if they didn’t kill Jews with their own hands? Surely there are many, and that means that Israel (and by proxy, we) are at war not just with Hamas, but with Palestine. Sam:

Of course, we can do our best to turn the temperature down now. And we can trust that the news cycle will get captured by another story. We can direct our attention again to Russia, or China, or climate change, or AI alignment, and I will do that on this podcast, but the problem of jihadism and the much wider problem of sympathy for it isn’t going away. And civilized people—non-Muslim and Muslim alike—have to deal with it. As I said in a previous podcast on this topic: We all live in Israel now. It’s just that most of us haven’t realized it yet. at war not just with Hamas, but with a lot of “ordinary Gazans” who don’t belong to terrorist organizations but approve of their aims.

If you listen to the discourse about the war, you might think that there are two distinct classes of Gazans: the terrorists who kill and the rest—peaceful people who don’t wish for the extermination of Israel and will support a two-state solution that leaves Israel as a state. Yes, there are peaceful ones, but neither Sam nor I think this dichotomy is accurate:

As I told Graeme [Wood], this is not the type of call that would have been placed from Vietnam, by an American who just participated in the My Lai Massacre. Nor is it the parental reaction one would expect from an American family, had their beloved son just called them from a killing field. I mean, as terrible as Vietnam was, can you imagine a call back to Nebraska, “Mom, I killed ten with my own hands! I killed a woman and her husband, and I’m calling from the dead woman’s phone. Mom, your son is a hero!” Do you see what a total aberration that would have been, even in extremis?

This call wasn’t a total aberration. This wasn’t Ted Bundy calling his mom. This was an ordinary member of Hamas, a group that might still win an election today, especially in the West Bank, calling an ordinary Palestinian family, and the mere existence of that call, to say nothing of its contents, reveals something about the wider culture among the Palestinians.

It’s important to point out that not only members of Hamas, but ordinary Gazans appear to have taken part in the torture and murder of innocent Israelis and the taking of hostages. How many did this? And how many ordinary Gazan’s [sic] were dancing in the streets and spitting on the captured women and girls who were paraded before them after having been raped and tortured? What percentage of Palestinians in Gaza, or the West Bank, many of whom are said to hate Hamas for their corruption and incompetence and brutality, nevertheless support what they did on October 7th with a clear conscience, based on what they believe about Jews and the ethics of jihad? I don’t know, but I’m sure that the answers to these questions would be quite alarming. We’re talking about a culture that teaches Jew hatred and the love of martyrdom in its elementary schools, many of which are funded by the UN.

This leads Jews like me, who are purely secular, feeling a bit nervous: a feeling I’ve never had for more than an hour in my whole life (that was when I got beat up by a pack of Jew-hating students in junior high). The anger you see in the eyes and hear in the words of college pro-Palestinian protestors must reflect in part an antisemitism that was underground but is now surfacing. Its ubiquity is scary.

Surely some of the students who chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” know what it really means, and it’s not, as Rashida Tlaib claims (knowing she’s lying) an “aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence”:

In truth it’s a call for the extermination of Israel, and for many by violent means. It is a call for the end of the only democracy in the Middle East, simply because it’s largely Jewish. The students who chant this, even at my school, make me nervous, but they don’t make me frightened. Some are filled with hate, others ignorant, but all need their moral compasses recalibrated. That, it seems to me, is nearly impossible.

h/t: David, Rosemary

Washington Post removes cartoon because it was offensive—to Hamas

November 10, 2023 • 12:08 pm

Both the New York Post (in an editorial-board opinion piece) and the Free Press‘s Nellie Bowles, in her TGIF column this week, report that this political cartoon appeared in the Washington Post, but then was taken down by the editor. It was drawn by Pulitzer-Prize winner Michael Ramirez:

Of course it satirizes Hamas’s tactic of using human shields, thus upping the number of civilian deaths among their civilian countrymen—something that Hamas, for some strange reason, doesn’t seem to mind at all. Nellie has the best take on it:

Deep apologies to Hamas: The Washington Post is very sorry for running a cartoon that is very, very bad. It made light of Hamas’s legitimate wartime tactic of hiding military operations under Gaza’s schools and hospitals. A Post editor took it down and offered an abject apology for implying there is anything wrong with that: “I had missed something profound, and divisive, and I regret that.” Those Palestinian children (sorry, martyrs) love knowing that Hamas is firing rockets from the schoolhouse, and it’s racist to imply otherwise. The Post included letters from readers calling the cartoon “deeply malicious” and “enabl[ing] genocide.” We preserve it here only in solidarity with The Washington Post’s in-house Hamas advocates.

Here’s the apology from David Shipley, the Post’s editorial-page editor, followed by a number of outraged letters from readers that I haven’t reproduced (go to the first link), but whose publication under Shipley’s apology apparently serves to justify his cowardly decision.

Editor’s note: As editor of the opinion section, I am responsible for what appears in its pages and on its screens. The section depends on my judgment. A cartoon we published by Michael Ramirez on the war in Gaza, a cartoon whose publication I approved, was seen by many readers as racist. This was not my intent. I saw the drawing as a caricature of a specific individual, the Hamas spokesperson who celebrated the attacks on unarmed civilians in Israel. [JAC: it was!]

However, the reaction to the image convinced me that I had missed something profound, and divisive, and I regret that. Our section is aimed at finding commonalities, understanding the bonds that hold us together, even in the darkest times.

Since when is an editorial page a place for kumbaya and reconciliation? Look at that last sentence again. Does it match your idea of what an editorial section is about? Shipey goes on, unbelievably asserting that he will CONTINUE to publish views and perspectives that “challenge readers.”  Well, this one surely challenged some readers, so why was it deep-sixed? If an editorial cartoon—or an editorial itself—doesn’t anger some, it hasn’t done its job.


In this spirit, we have taken down the drawing. We are also publishing a selection of responses to the caricature. And we will continue to make the section home to a range of views and perspectives, including ones that challenge readers. This is the spirit of opinion journalism, to move imperfectly toward a constructive exchange of ideas at all possible speed, listening and learning along the way. —David ShipleyOpinion Editor

Now you might say that it’s “racist” because it exaggerates the noses of Palestinians, the way the Nazis exaggerated the noses of Jews in their antisemitic literature, but that’s not what most people objected to, although one reader said this:

The caricatures employ racial stereotypes that were offensive and disturbing. Depicting Arabs with exaggerated features and portraying women in derogatory, stereotypical roles perpetuates racism and gender bias, which is wholly unacceptable.

The fact is, though, that Nazi propaganda is not the same as exaggerating features in individual editorial cartoons, a tactic that has been used for ages. Just google any public figure along with “cartoon”, and you’ll see. (Boss Tweed, trying to escape prison, was in fact recognized in Europe from the exaggerated editorial cartoons of Thomas Nast.)

What really riled up most people in the letters seemed to be that the cartoon appears to excuse or neglect Israeli “war crimes”, even though Hamas is a regular practitioner of war crimes, beginning with terrorist attacks on civilians, continuing through firing rockets at civilians (this is still happening), and then the butchery of October 7 followed by the continual practice of using human shields and building headquarters in or under schools or hospitals. That’s what this cartoon is trying to say.

Apparently you cannot criticize Hamas unless you criticize Israel equally—or more so. Such a view implies that you can’t even draw a political cartoon, which always criticizes one side more than another. As the increasingly anodyne Barack Obama said the other day (also quoted by Nellie):

“If you want to solve the problem, then you have to take in the whole truth. And you then have to admit nobody’s hands are clean, that all of us are complicit to some degree.”

What Obama fails to recognize is that some hands are cleaner than others, and if I’m assessing whose hands are cleaner, it’s Israel’s by far. (Just compare the adherence of both sides to wartime morality.)

The cartoon makes a point, and it should not have been taken down. Of course it’s divisive: the whole war is divisive! But defending Israel and going after Hamas is not something a good progressive Leftist does these days, and thus the cartoon had to go. Shame on the Washington Post!  (Editorial cartoons, by the way, don’t have to always go along with the paper’s own political slant. Like editorials themselves, they should inspire thought and discussion, and this cartoon surely did.)

Finally, it has not escaped my notice that perhaps there’s a wee bit of fear in the Post‘s decision, fear that irate and violent Muslims might go after the paper or the artist. Remember Charlie Hebdo and the Jyllands-Posten cartoons?

Richmond, Californa: the first city in U.S. to accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing”

November 4, 2023 • 11:15 am

Earlier yesterday I argued that if one party to the conflict between Israel on one hand and Hamas on the other (and you can also include “much of Palestine”) were to be truly guilty of “genocide”, it would be Hamas. And many Palestinians and their leaders also argue that Israel (viz., “between the river and the sea”) should be eliminated.  Now genocide is roughly equivalent to “ethnic cleansing”, so—in view of the many offers by Israel of a “two-state solution” that were rejected by Palestine—it’s hard to make a coherent argument that Palestine is more guilty than Israel of hoping for ethnic cleansing. Israel has shown no desire to wipe out the Palestinian people; the country just wants to be let alone, free from terrorism.

But the arguments against Israel are still made, without any basis in fact, for a “white Israel oppressor of brown Palestinians” scenario aligns neatly with Critical Social Justice ideology.

And so we have this article from the Los Angeles Times about Richmond, California becoming the first U.S. city to back Palestine and accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing”. It’s laughable, for the members of the Richmond City Council really have no idea what they’re talking about. They’re mindlessly following what they see as the au courant liberal ideology and view of Social Justice.

Chick on the screenshot, or, if the article is paywalled, you can find it archived here

A summary:

The Richmond, Calif., City Council voted early Wednesday to support the Palestinian people of the Gaza Strip with a resolution that accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing and collective punishment” nearly three weeks after war broke out in the Middle East.

The resolution is believed to be the first show of support by a U.S. city for the Palestinian people after the Oct. 7 attack carried out by Hamas on Israel.

Some 1,400 people died in Israel during the initial attack this month, and more than 200 Israeli and foreign nationals are being held captive in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. Since then, roughly 6,000 people have died in Gaza amid intensifying Israeli airstrikes, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health.

The city of Richmond, in the San Francisco Bay Area, passed its resolution of support in a 5-1 vote that started Tuesday evening and ended around 1 a.m. Wednesday after a five-hour public hearing. The resolution calls for a cease-fire and for humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza. It says “the state of Israel is engaging in collective punishment against the Palestinian people in Gaza in response to Hamas attacks on Israel” — while also highlighting Richmond’s support for Jewish people in the local community and its recognition of the atrocities carried out by Nazis during the Holocaust.

. . .On Tuesday evening, as Richmond Mayor Eduardo Martinez opened the hearing for the resolution, people in the audience were shouting, calling out “Nazi!” and other comments that were drowned out in the noise. The disorder derailed the meeting, and a brief recess was called.

. . . “We are one small city weighing in on a conflict that has the attention of the entire world and on which global superpowers are pouring in money, political attention and military aid,” Martinez said. “The people of [the] United States, whose government and tax dollars directly support Israel’s military, have an immediate moral obligation to condemn Israel’s acts of collective punishment and apartheid state.”

They barely mention Hamas (see the resolution below). It’s absurd that resolutions like this will call out Israel at length but barely mention Hamas and not specify a single act of Palestinian terrorism!

. . .Councilmember Cesar Zepeda cast the lone vote not to support the resolution, recognizing the issue as divisive.

“Let’s call out the atrocities that Hamas has done on the Israel communities and the atrocities the Israeli government has done on the Palestinian people,” Zepeda said, requesting a revised resolution. He said he wanted the city to “bring everyone together in a community for peace.”

The resolution is below the fold (click “continue reading” to see it):

Continue reading “Richmond, Californa: the first city in U.S. to accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing””

The misguided accusations of “genocide” against Israel—from those who approve of genocide against Jews

November 3, 2023 • 9:15 am

Last night I had a nightmare about some unknown group of people who were going after me for some unspecified thing that I did, and eventually I realized that they were going to arrest me and I would be convicted of an unspecified crime and sent to jail. I can’t remember all the details, but it was so realistic that I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t shake the idea that it had really happened. I couldn’t get back to sleep because, unlike with other bad dreams, I continued to be terrified until I got up. I told Malgorzata about the dream, who replied, “You are a Jew in a world that hates Jews.” She added that she had had similar dreams of terror after the WWII, after she and her mother returned to Poland from their exile to the Soviet Union (Malgorzata was born in the Caucasus in 1943 after her mother fled Poland during the war, and both returned to Poland—only to face more antisemitism—in 1946.

I give this information only because today I am quite depressed about the situation in the Middle East, and especially about the unwarranted hatred for and accusations against Israel emerging throughout the world—even in the American Left.  This is surely the source of my dream.  So I may write a couple of posts today about the war and the ensuing hatred, just to calm myself down,

Some of the accusations flying around are palpably false, including the assertion Israel is committing a genocide against Palestinians, and that Israel is also an apartheid state that, many imply, should be erased.

In fact, both of these terms, “apartheid” and “genocide” apply better to Palestine and Hamas than to Israel.

Here’s an article from Quillette about the misuse of the “genocide” accusation. The author, Zachary Goldsmith, is identified as “the author of “Fanaticism: A Political Philosophical History” (2022). His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, NBC News, and Law & Liberty, among other venues.”

Click to read:

First, the definition of “genocide,” which comes from the UN:

The crime of genocide was codified by the United Nations in 1946 with the passage of General Assembly Resolution 96, defined as “a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups, as homicide is the denial of the right to live of individual human beings.”

In 1948, the UN General Assembly passed its “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” which refers to five distinct acts, the commission of any one of which constitutes the crime of genocide: (1) killing members of the group in question; (2) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (3) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (4) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (5) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

So, do the actions of the State of Israel during the current war against Hamas satisfy any of these definitions?

Goldsmith argues “definitely not”:

Has Israel lived up to these guiding principles in Gaza? Yes. The IDF has gone to considerable lengths to minimize civilian casualties. As in previous wars, Israel has dropped leaflets and sent text messages directing Palestinian civilians to evacuate dangerous areas—in this case, the north of Gaza. This evacuation is being monitored from Israel by tracking the movements of cell phones in Gaza. Israel also uses precise targeted weapons in order to minimize civilian casualties in dense urban environments. One such weapon, used for the first time in this war, is the precision mortar dubbed “Iron Sting.” According to the Jerusalem Post, “The mortar is designed for use in both open terrain and urban environments, while using its precise targeting to reduce the possibility of non-combatants being injured.”

Tragically, all wars claim civilian casualties—and this is especially true in Gaza, due to the dense urban conditions and to Hamas’s deliberate strategy of attempting to maximize civilian casualties. According to a recent NATO report, Hamas “has been using human shields in conflicts with Israel since 2007”:

Hamas relies on the Israeli government’s aim to minimise collateral damage, and is also aware of the West’s sensitivity towards civilian casualties. Hamas’s use of human shields is therefore likely aimed at minimising their own vulnerabilities by limiting the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) freedom of action. It is also aimed at gaining diplomatic and public opinion-related leverage, by presenting Israel and the IDF as an aggressor that indiscriminately strikes civilians.

Hamas has used its nearly two decades of control over Gaza to build an extensive network of fortified tunnels in, under, and around civilian infrastructure in order to smuggle contraband and weapons, while carrying out a campaign of terror against Israel and its civilians. Even more tellingly, Hamas is currently using Gaza’s largest hospital as its headquarters. While the first duty of any government is to protect its citizens, Hamas’s central governing principle is to oppress its people while placing them squarely in harm’s way. Given this, it is clear that Hamas bears moral responsibility for all lives lost in this conflict, both Israeli and Palestinian, including those civilian Palestinians whom Israel has taken great pains to protect.

The demographic data also contradicts the idea that Israel is committing genocide. Since the year 2000, the population of Gaza has nearly doubled; it boasts the 39th highest birthrate among the world’s countries, and the average life expectancy is nearly 76 years of age (the average life expectancy in the US is just over 77 years of age). If Israel is intent on committing genocide in Gaza, it is doing a very poor job.

But Hamas is committed to the genocide of the Jews, and cries of “Israeli genocide” started even before Israel began its post-October 7 defense by bombarding Gaza:

Hamas’s founding covenant calls for an “Islamic Resistance Movement” that “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” and provide “one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders.” The raison d’être of Hamas, then, is to expel every Israeli and Jew from Israel-Palestine, eliminating both the state of Israel and the Jews who inhabit it. “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad,” the document states. It cites a Hadith (a saying of the Prophet Mohammed) that makes this point chillingly clear:

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.

(Hamas issued a new charter in 2017. It is still rife with inflammatory language about the “Zionist entity.”)

So, whereas the IDF Code of Ethics requires all Israeli soldiers to act with “purity of arms” and make every effort to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas’s 1988 charter calls for unremitting jihad against  Jews. While the IDF Code of Ethics prohibits war crimes up to and including genocide, the Hamas Covenant defines genocide as its core mission.

We saw this mission in action on 7 October, when Hamas carried out one of the most heinous anti-Jewish pogroms in history in a campaign of terror that satisfies every definition of genocide.

Now I’m not denying that innocent civilians are being killed by the IDF during the war, and that is a tragedy, for every life lost leaves behind loved ones and relatives who are devastated. But, as you know, this is largely because Hamas uses human shields, and in fact relishes Palestinian deaths because they’re good propaganda.  And I’m not denying that a few errant Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian civilians out of hatred (if caught, these soldiers are charged with crimes). But that is a far cry from what Hamas does, which is to repeatedly and deliberately target Israeli civilians, and celebrate those who commit murder (they also pay them off if they go to prison).

What bothers me is that everyone with two neurons to rub together knows that Hamas, many Palestinians, and many Palestine supporters in the West either explicitly or implicitly call for a genocide of the Jews. Hamas is committed to it, and those who shout “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, are, some perhaps unknowingly, calling for an elimination of Israel and of the Jews who live there. (Or are they only suggesting that Israel’s Jews be moved to another place? A “one-state solution” is also a recipe for genocide.).  In contrast, Israel, though it’s an enemy of Hamas and not friends with Palestine, is not sworn to eradicate it, either. In fact, Israel has made five offers of a two-state solution to Palestine since the 1930s—and all were rejected.  It is Palestine who attacks Israel repeatedly—with terrorist attacks on civilians, with rockets aimed at civilians, and with the horrible butchery of October 7.

Yes, if you’re going to single out which entity is sworn to eradicate the members of the other, the answer would be Palestine. Those who answer “Israel” do so in the face of the facts and in light of their “settler-colonialist” analogy between Jewish “white” oppressors and subjugated Palestinian “people of color”.  Of course I’m a secular Jew, but I wasn’t a particularly big defender of Israel until recent events have offended me as a scientist with their arrant distortion of the truth in service to ideology.

And, as part of their linguistic tactics, Palestine and its supporters level the worst possible accusation against Israel and the Jews—that they’re Nazis.

This new blood libel—the charge of genocide—is also an attempt to yoke the state of Israel to that very regime whose industrial murder of Jews gave rise to the necessity to create the term “genocide” itself: Nazi Germany. As the philosopher Bernard Harrison has argued, the intent “is to defame Israel by association with the most powerful symbol of evil, of that which, because it contains not the least scintilla of goodness, must be utterly rejected and uprooted from the face of the earth.” Harrison continues:

To use “Nazi analogies to criticize Israel’s policies” is to disseminate the suggestion that Israeli policies are morally indistinguishable from Nazi policies, and hence that the state of Israel is therefore in no way morally distinguishable from the Third Reich, from which, if true, it surely follows that the existence of the State of Israel has as little to be said for it as the existence of the Third Reich; which is to say, nothing; and from that that the Jews, since so many of them support the existence of Israel, are, collectively, enemies of mankind. To disseminate such suggestions, for whatever reason, and with whatever color of moral commitment or humanitarian concern, is, I submit, to disseminate anti-Semitic views of a rather traditional kind.

It is for this reason that likening Israel to Nazi Germany has been recognized as an antisemitic act by the US State Department in its working definition of antisemitism.

Goldsmith concludes:

Today, these ideologues have a new weapon with which to target Israel—the baseless smear of genocide. This libel is fundamentally antisemitic and opens the door to greater and more extreme hostility toward Israel. It makes violence against Israel and against Jews worldwide seem more acceptable. At the same time, fallaciously accusing Israel of genocide serves to obscure the nature of the real genocide occurring here. It conceals Hamas’s genocidal acts and intentions, while furnishing an anti-Jewish blood libel refashioned for the 21st century.

It’s tine to call out the brainless ideologues who accuse Israel and the Jews of practicing “genocide” against Palestinians, as it’s a palpably false accusation that, if you know history, actually is the other way round. Likewise for calling Israel an “apartheid” state. Whether you construe that term to mean that Arabs in Israel are discriminated against (another completely stupid claim) or that Israel doesn’t want a two-state solution (ditto, though the possibility is vanishing), it’s a false accusation.  If you’re a gay person, an atheist, a woman, or a critic of Islam, you are a victim of apartheid in Palestine.  A Jew who is found in Palestine alone is doomed to be killed. This is not true of Palestinians, 18,000 of whom crossed the border every day to work in Israel.

Yes, Palestine is committed to genocide against the Jews, and is also an apartheid state.

The University of Chicago’s statement on the war versus other university statements

November 2, 2023 • 12:30 pm

I’ve been sent or seen quite a few statements by college and universities about the war. Most of these schools don’t have a policy of institutional neutrality, so they get all tied up in knots trying to express concern for all students while judiciously avoiding mentioning the butchery enacted by Hamas on October 7.  And since a lot of these schools have made political pronouncements previously, about things like the murder of George Floyd, the assault on the Capitol, and so on, it’s a gaping lacuna in their politics to avoid condemning Hamas. Harvard lost donors because of this kind of political hypocrisy. And this is why the University of Chicago has the Kalven Principles, assuring that we make no official pronouncements about ideology, morality, or politics save in those rare instances where public events affect the working and mission of the University.

Here, for example, is the short, lean statement our University issued two days after the Hamas attack:

Support for the University Community

OCTOBER 9, 2023

Dear Members of the University Community,

The attack, ongoing conflict, and loss of life in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank have brought deep concern and sorrow to the University of Chicago community. Our Office of International Affairs (OIA) has extended support to students affiliated with the region who may be directly affected. We recognize that the loss of life, casualties, and escalating conflict bring pain and distress for those in our community, especially those with family members or other loved ones in the region.

Please note that the U.S. State Department has issued a Travel Advisory for the region; we advise anyone considering travel to the affected areas to check the latest guidance from the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Israel. Members of the University community who are planning international travel are always encouraged to use the UChicago Traveler resource.

Students can also contact OIA at 773.702.7752 or international-affairs@uchicago.edu if they need any information or assistance. Students can walk into the Student Wellness Center (840 East 59th Street) during open hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday) to meet with the clinician on call in Counseling; or they can call 773.702.3625 and speak with a clinician after hours. Visit the Student Wellness website to learn more about mental health services and for information on how to schedule a counseling appointment. Assistance for faculty and staff is available through Perspectives at 800.456.6327.

Please contact our offices if you need support or assistance during this difficult time.


Michele Rasmussen
Dean of Students in the University

Nick Seamons
Executive Director of the Office of International Affairs and Assistant Dean of Students in the University

Compare that statement to one from McGill University below, only one of THREE statements issued (multiple statements are common for this war), as apparently the first one was deemed insufficient. McGrill’s bloated and full of virtue signaling.

The statement above minus the signatures, is 250 words long; the one below is more than twice as long: 621 words. And the second statement doesn’t accomplish anything more. Note too that the McGill letter is one of three sent out, so multiply that 621 by about three.

Dear members of the McGill community,

I write today because I feel compelled to speak once again to the profound sorrow, suffering and distress shared by many of our colleagues and students in the wake of the horrifying loss of so many Palestinian and Israeli lives.

Institutional messages carry weight, and they bring with them a responsibility that I take seriously. So, when I write to you as your Principal, I do so after considerable reflection, taking pains to first consult a range of stakeholders and viewpoints. Despite this, these messages can sometimes be received in unintended ways; as noted in the Oct. 20 message sent by Angela Campbell, Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies) and Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), recipients will read and interpret institutional communications “through the lens of [their] lived reality.” This is inescapable. Keeping this in mind, my role in divisive times is to listen attentively to those who are hurting, lead from a place of compassion, and work to bring our community together.

In that spirit, I hope today to make two things clear.

1.  Even in my brief time so far as Principal and Vice-Chancellor, I have come to care profoundly not only about the McGill community as a whole, but also about its members as individuals. Given this, it is not my place to weigh the anguish of one McGillian over that of another. Likewise, I will not draw distinctions between the suffering caused by the loss of Israeli and Palestinian life. Seeking to weigh the pain being experienced by one group over another both detracts and distracts from the collective grief within our community, which is where we must direct our focus and care at this time. Relatedly, while I can understand the many impassioned calls for McGill to weigh in on geopolitical crises around the world, doing so lies beyond a university’s mandate and role. Our academic mission is most faithfully served when institutional views are limited to what happens here on our campuses, so that all students, faculty, and staff feel included as members of our community, regardless of their identities and personal beliefs. As stated above, it is an inescapable reality that each of you will understand and interpret my messages based on your lived reality; rest assured however that my intentions are never to make a political statement through these communications. My focus is on you and on our community.
2.  This brings me to my second point, which is to call, once again, for respectful and constructive engagement on our campuses. In recent weeks, we have heard reports of intimidation, doxing, and other threatening behaviours targeting McGillians. These hostilities are unacceptable and must stop. As I have stated earlier, words and acts of retaliation and intimidation will not be tolerated, and reports of such conduct will be investigated and acted upon pursuant to our policies. Although I am firmly convinced that a university should remain impartial with respect to political questions, I am equally convinced that here on our campuses we must act clearly and decisively to ensure that institutional values, which include academic freedom, responsibility, integrity, equity, and inclusiveness, are upheld.

In our university community and beyond, we will inevitably come across viewpoints with which we disagree, sometimes vehemently. And here, as elsewhere, we are called upon to act with the empathy and respect that we ourselves wish to receive. Echoing Profs. Labeau and Campbell once again, I ask you to remember that words have great weight in times like these – not only my words, but yours as well. I invite us all to reflect upon this weight, and to choose words – and actions – that foster an environment of compassion, inclusivity, and respect.


Deep SainiPrincipal and Vice-Chancellor

Both statements express the same things:

  1. There’s a war on
  2. People are upset
  3. If you need help in dealing with this situation, here are our resources:

Can’t you see Principal Saini wringing his hands and using the thesaurus to find new words to show how compassionate he is?  And although he argues that his university should remain impartial with respect to political questions (and he does in his letter, but at tedious length), he also gives a list of “institutional values”, including “academic freedom, responsibility, integrity, equity, and inclusiveness.” The good Principal can’t write very well, either: he’s apparently afflicted with logorrhea.

The only valid value here is “academic freedom”. The rest are moral values not officially specified by the university. If there is, say, inequity in representation of genders or races in computer science or sociology, is that a violation of “university values”?  If a student treats another badly but not illegally, is that a violation of “responsibility and integrity”? If there are “affinity spaces” for black or indigenous students, does that violate the value of “inclusivity”?

All this shows how necessary it is for all universities to have a policy of institutional neutrality, and to NOT espouse “values” beyond the ones necessary to fulfill the University’s mission, which pretty much comes down to “teaching, learning, academic freedom, and freedom of speech.”