The trailblazing film “The Accused,” starring Jodie Foster, made history by being one of the first mainstream movies to deal with the horrors of gang rape and the phenomenon of victim blaming. One of the most novel features of the movie was the introduction of the concept of assigning guilt to those who encouraged the rape by cheering and goading on the perpetrators. In the film, although the cheering men did not commit the rape itself, they were found guilty of criminal solicitation.
Today, attributing guilt, morally if not legally, to those who publicly demonstrate their support for a brutal crime is universally accepted, including when the endorsement comes after the event itself.
In the wake of the Oct. 7 atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians, including mass rape, gang rape, sexual torture and mutilation followed by execution or abduction to Gaza, some individuals, groups and organizations have justified these barbaric crimes.
Shockingly, such people find it possible and even virtuous to defend the perpetrators of such hideous actions or cheer them on. They may masquerade as human rights activists, but it is time to remove their masks and expose them for what they really are. Because they give legitimacy to the goal of annihilating the Jewish state and the slaughter of all Jews, it is clear that their agenda is based on hatred and antisemitism. They encourage evil and should be held accountable for their moral corruption.
Enveloping this core of haters is a mass of seemingly well-meaning supporters who often lack the most basic knowledge of the issues, yet believe themselves competent to pass judgment. They follow the herd, embracing warped popular trends, interchanging good for evil and victim for perpetrator.
When students on campus use the slogan “by any means necessary” in support of Palestinian “resistance,” they are justifying and even endorsing the use of all forms of violence against Israeli civilians, including rape and murder.
Protesters chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” are not championing a two-state solution or peaceful coexistence. They are advocating for Israel’s annihilation.
Since Hamas vows to repeat their attacks until Israel is destroyed, the protesters’ calls for an immediate ceasefire entail, intentionally or unintentionally, a denial of Israel’s right to use force to prevent future atrocities—that is, the basic right of self-defense.
When people justify Hamas’s atrocities as “resistance” to “Israeli occupation,” they reveal their belief that Israel’s existence in any part of the land, including the undisputed territories, is “occupation.” This was perfectly expressed in a statement, covered widely in the media, by a Muslim American representative, stating, “I was happy to see people breaking the siege, walk free into their land. Israel as an occupying power does not have the right to self-defense.” These words epitomize the essence of the anti-Israel ideology: “Happiness” at crimes against humanity and violation of the borders of a sovereign state, and total denial of Israelis’ right to defend their lives. This is not humanitarian, it is inhuman.
Feeling empathy for Palestinian civilians caught up in the fighting is a natural response. Israel too mourns the loss of innocent lives—Israeli or Palestinian. Nevertheless, translating that empathy into empathy for Hamas or hatred of Israel is the embrace not of empathy but of hate. It elides Hamas’s total responsibility for the plight of Palestinian civilians by breaking a ceasefire and launching a genocidal assault it knew would lead to war. This is not even to mention the group’s tactics of embedding itself in Palestinian civilian areas, launching attacks against civilians from civilian areas, preventing evacuation of civilians and stealing fuel, food and water from civilians.
In contrast, Israel was brutally attacked, acts in self-defense to prevent repeated attacks, facilitates humanitarian aid and targets Hamas operatives while doing its utmost to keep civilians out of harm’s way.
History has taught us that words matter. There is a thin to invisible line between verbal incitement and physical violence, between the burning of books and the burning of flesh.
Post-Oct. 7, ignorance is no longer an excuse. The malevolent nature of Hamas has been demonstrated in the most public manner possible. Those expressing support for such evil can no longer be whitewashed as humanitarians. They are anti-human.
Responsibility for this anti-humanism and unabashed hate also lies with officials and campus administrations that tolerate and even foster such behavior. There is growing awareness of the dire need for leaders who express moral clarity, as shown by the outcry against the deplorable presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT, who could not even bring themselves to say that calls for the genocide of Jews violate their institutions’ codes of conduct.
The irrefutable truth is that anyone who genuinely cares for Palestinian civilians would advocate Hamas’s destruction. Those who prefer to denounce the victim show that the driving force behind them is not compassion for the Palestinians but hate for the people of Israel and humanity itself.