Opinion: Completing the trilogy: Hate crimes on campus
The information we dissipate has real-life consequences
In my final semester at American University, it comes as no surprise that, once again, swastikas were found on campus. There is a definitive escalation this year, however, as the vandalism was drawn on the doors of Jewish students, as well as in a bathroom. Since I started writing this piece, I received another notification: a Palestinian staff member received a death threat. These acts are hate crimes and deserve to be categorized as such.
I debated on what I wanted this article to be. I considered copying and pasting my article from last year and the year before and finally being done with this, but the escalation of threats calls for more. AU students may believe they do not play a part in perpetrating these crimes but fail to grasp the impact of their social media posts.
My past two articles on swastikas found on campus did not discuss the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict. I felt, and still feel, it was unrelated to my opinion. Due to the timing of the swastikas this year, however, this discussion is now necessary.
To be extremely clear, I must define a few key terms.
Zionism is an ideological stance regarding Israel. Zionists support “self-determination and statehood for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.” Judaism is a religion spanning across the globe and composed of many different beliefs. While Judaism is related to Zionism, not all Jewish people are Zionists. While there are some Jews who believe Jewish people do not have the sole right to occupy Israel, there are some who do. There are anti-Zionist Jews, and there are Zionist Palestinians. A person is not Zionist simply because they are Jewish.
The history of Israel and Palestine as displayed on social media is one riddled with misinformation. This conflict is extremely complex and has existed for decades. Even prior to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, there is a long history of both Jewish and Palestinian occupation in modern-day Israel. This history cannot be simplified into an Instagram infographic.
Rapid misinformation regarding the Israel-Hamas war has become dangerous in the U.S. According to the Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Hamas is a militant group and major political party currently operating out of Palestine, but they are not representative of Palestine as an entity. Hamas has proclaimed itself as explicitly anti-Jewish.
The original 1988 Hamas charter reads: “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. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”
Regaining control of the land that Israel is on is a goal many Palestinians and Hamas share, which is why there is large support for Hamas in Palestine. Twenty-four percent of Palestinians support a two-state solution, but the idea continues to fall in popularity. It is reasonable for Palestinians to align with whichever groups will further their cause. It is not okay, however, for antisemitic rhetoric to ensue as a result.
It is also worth discussing how Palestinians and Gazans actually view Hamas. When polled in July, 62 percent of Gazans supported maintaining a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Half of Gazans agreed that, “Hamas should stop calling for Israel’s destruction, and instead accept a permanent two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.” According to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 44 percent of Palestinians do not think Hamas deserves to represent Palestinians. When weighing your personal beliefs on the situation, it’s important to take into account the views of people actually affected by it, rather than what you have gathered from an infographic you stumbled upon while scrolling through your Instagram.
On Oct. 7, Hamas broached Israel and “indiscriminately” killed over 1,000 people and injured thousands more. It’s worth noting that Israel’s responding air strikes resulted in at least 5,000 people killed in Gaza. This day caused a social media flurry, prompting many to repost infographics and news about an issue relatively unknown to them. I tapped through Instagram stories endlessly, horrified at fellow classmates expressing support for Hamas rather than Palestinians.
I hope that these posts come from misguided information. I hope that my peers did not realize they were showing enthusiasm for a group dedicated to killing Jews. I hope that they meant to support Palestine, not Hamas.
This kind of haphazard posting emboldens antisemites on campus. It tells people that we as a community support antisemitism and disregard Jewish lives. It encourages an antisemite to move past the bathroom and onto the doors of Jewish students. It inflames the situation, prompting death threats against Palestinian staff members.
From Oct. 7 to 23, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. rose around 400 percent. Of those, around 190 were directly linked to the Israel-Hamas war with language that indicated “strong implicit support for Hamas.” In the same period last year, there were 64 antisemitic incidents in total.
I would rather you all stay completely uninformed about Israel-Palestine relations than post blindly on Instagram and misinform others. These campus crimes demonstrate that our actions and endorsements have consequences. Your post could be the one the next person sees before deciding to commit a hate crime. Choose carefully.
Alexis Bernstein is a senior in the School of Public Affairs and the Opinion Managing Editor for The Eagle.
This article was edited by Zoe Bell and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.