Harvard student speaks out against antisemitism on his campus

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Harvard student speaks out against antisemitism on his campus

October 12, 2023 -

Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

J. J. Kimche is a doctoral student in Jewish history at Harvard University and author of an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal I hope you’ll read in its entirety. It begins: “Hamas’s attack on Israel was a small-scale Holocaust, a moment no Jew alive with the tiniest speck of communal feeling will ever forget. As a Jewish student, I was similarly chilled by the reactions at Harvard.”

He then describes the now-infamous response by more than thirty Harvard student groups to Hamas’s invasion of Israel, a statement that supported the terrorists while blaming their actions entirely on Israel. Kimche asks, “How can we share dormitories, classrooms, and ideas with students who would make excuses or even celebrate if we and our families were hacked to death by a Hamas terrorist tomorrow?”

He closes: “As a grandson of an Auschwitz survivor and a student of German-Jewish history, I was always incredulous that highly cultured Germans, the people of Goethe and Beethoven, could have displayed sympathy and even enthusiasm for the Nazi slaughter of the Jews. Now I believe it. I have seen it happen here.”

“Using their civilians to protect their missiles”

I understand that Palestinians and Israelis have a fundamental conflict over who should own the same land. I believe strongly that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to live in peace and autonomy. I have dear and trusted friends of many years—both Jews and Arabs—who live in the Holy Land, some in Israel and others in Bethlehem and other areas of the West Bank. And I know beyond question that God loves Israelis and Palestinians equally (Galatians 3:28) and that he is grieving for the victims on both sides of this conflict.

However, I am writing today to voice my vehement opposition to a sentiment I am seeing after Hamas’s horrific invasion last Saturday: the claim that the two sides are morally equivalent to each other and that both commit similar atrocities against each other.

It is a tragic fact that some Israeli settlers have acted with indefensible violence against some Palestinians in the West Bank. And it is a fact that when Israel targets Hamas’s military installations in Gaza, since Hamas hides them behind human shields in schools, homes, and hospitals, Palestinian civilians are sometimes injured or killed.

But consider:

Hamas terrorists decapitated babies and slaughtered children when they raided Israel last Saturday morning. According to Israeli soldiers who discovered one massacre, “They have butchered women and children in worse ways than ISIS.” They kidnapped and killed elderly civilians as well, some of them Holocaust survivors, leaving what the New York Times calls a “trail of terror.”

By contrast, when Israel last had to go into Gaza to stop Hamas, it first warned residents by cellphone and leaflets. It also used small “warning rockets,” usually sent from drones, to identify buildings it was targeting so people had time to evacuate.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summarized the difference between the two this way: “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

How Hamas dehumanizes the Jews

History records a long strategy of dehumanizing the Jews as the first step toward their genocidal eradication. The Egyptians of Moses’ day did this by enslaving them and treating them “ruthlessly” (Exodus 1:14). The Qur’an does this by describing them as “apes and swine” (5:60; 2:65; 7:166). Hitler did this by calling them a “race-tuberculosis of the peoples.”

Hamas does this when it claims that Jews control “the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others.” They blame Jews for “the French Revolution, the Communist revolution, and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about.” And they claim that the Jews were behind World War I And World War II. In short, they state, “There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.”

The plague of antisemitism has grown in the US and especially on college campuses in recent years. As I noted yesterday, many are deluded by Critical Theory that sees the state of Israel as the majority persecutor and Palestinians as its minority victims who must then oppress their oppressor. In so doing, these antisemites take a significant step toward dehumanizing the people of Israel as oppressors worthy of oppression.

Such defamation threatens Jews not just in Israel but around the world. Violent antisemitism surged in the US during the last Israel–Hamas war in 2014. Now we’re seeing:

  • A local kosher restaurant in London was vandalized on Monday; graffiti that read “Free Palestine” appeared on a bridge.
  • Antisemitic incidents tripled in Britain after the invasion.
  • Police in France have opened forty-four investigations into antisemitic hate speech and glorification of terrorism.
  • A synagogue in Spain was defaced with graffiti that read “Free Palestine.”
  • Security for synagogues and other Jewish institutions has been heightened across Europe.
  • Anti-Israel rallies have been held this week across the US, some displaying swastikas.

As Israel heightens its military response in Gaza, we should expect such antagonism against Jews to escalate.

“The foundation for the whole American political experiment”

Our nation was founded on the declaration that “all men are created equal.” Ronald Reagan was right: “Faith in the dignity of the individual under God is the foundation for the whole American political experiment.” Dehumanizing others threatens this foundation and our very future.

What is the solution? Mr. Reagan also warned: “When men try to live in a world without God, it’s only too easy for them to forget the rights that God bestows.”

Please join me in rejecting the rising antisemitism of our secularized culture. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” with fervency (Psalm 122:6). Tell your Jewish friends and the leaders of your local synagogue that you are standing with and praying for them. Use your personal and social media influence to support the Jewish people in this hour of great crisis. Pray for God to redeem this tragedy in ways that bring peace to the Middle East and many to himself.

And pray for a moral and spiritual awakening in our land that restores the “foundation for the whole American political experiment” before it is too late.

NOTE: Our latest book is titled Bold Faith: First-Century Lessons for Twenty-First-Century Christians. It’s a cultural commentary through the book of Acts, and every chapter includes three reflection questions for personal or small group use. I pray that its words lead you deeper into God’s word and more fully into experiencing his power in your life and witness. Please request your copy of Bold Faith today.

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