OpinionSchools & Higher Education

The ‘free Palestine’ disconnect

Anti-Israel student protesters support Islamist repression that they would never wish on themselves.

A pro-Hamas protest encampment on the campus of Columbia University in New York City, April 22, 2024. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
A pro-Hamas protest encampment on the campus of Columbia University in New York City, April 22, 2024. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Jason Shvili
Jason Shvili
Jason Shvili is a contributing editor at Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

While “pro-Palestinian” demonstrators take full advantage of the privilege and freedoms that America offers—speech, assembly, plush campuses, deluxe tents—they exuberantly chant “Death to America” and support Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group that oppresses its people and denies them virtually all freedoms.

Even stranger is that the students espousing “woke” and leftist ideology support Islamist dictators who punish virtually all “progressive” social and political behavior.

Ironically, though students chant “Free, free Palestine,” that is not what Hamas stands for. Rather, the terrorists state that their goal is a Muslim caliphate governed by iron authoritarian rule—first in the Land of Israel, then in other infidel lands. They don’t aim to kill Jews because Jews “oppress” Palestinians, but rather because Islamists cannot permit a Jewish nation in the Muslim Middle East.

As many American college students have shown us on YouTube, they have no idea what “from the river to the sea” means or why “Israel commits genocide” is an absurd lie. Likewise, they seem oblivious to the political and social values of the Islamists they celebrate.

For example, none of Hamas’s fellow jihadists—like Iran, Hezbollah and the Houthis—embrace “progressive” concepts like DEI or gender equality. Rather, they support Muslim patriarchy and supremacy. Hence their relentless persecution of women, LGBTQ+ people and non-Muslims, such as Jewish, Christian and other religious minorities.

Hamas, Iran and other Muslim states also brutally enforce Sharia law, under which women are treated as chattel, forbidden from traveling without a male escort, prevented from working and not even allowed to go to school.

Neither do Hamas and their fellow Islamists believe in civil liberties. Few Arab nations would ever allow the kind of demonstrations that students have organized on American campuses. Indeed, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority forbids pro-Hamas demonstrations. Too dangerous.

It’s unlikely that today’s student protesters have thought much about the kind of lives they are wishing on their Palestinian “brothers and sisters.” Indeed, it’s doubtful most student protesters have heard about the woman in Gaza whom Hamas beat and jailed simply for hosting a dinner at which both men and women were in attendance. Nor have they likely considered that under Palestinian dictators, most Palestinians (and Muslims generally) struggle to find joy in the indulgences that make privileged American students so happy—like uncensored music, social media, art and literature.

Hamas (and virtually all other Middle Eastern nations) are politically repressive dictatorships. There is no free speech, no free press, no freedom of expression. Arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial killings are commonplace. Any attempt to criticize leadership is ruthlessly put down, such as in 2018 and 2019, when Gazans began protesting under the slogan “We want to live.” In response, Hamas arrested, detained and beat up hundreds of the protesters, even killing some.

Similarly, when the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests began in Iran in 2022, the mullahs moved to crush the uprising and, according to Amnesty International, used rape and other sexual violence to do so. When American students chant “free, free, Palestine” is this the kind of freedom they envision?

Hamas does not support progressive values. In fact, there is no commitment to diversity, equity or inclusion anywhere in the Muslim world. To the contrary: Women, LGBTQ+ people and non-Muslims are brutally oppressed. In many, if not most cases, it is perfectly legal in Islamic states for men to beat their wives. Often, law in Muslim states mandates that women cannot travel without male escorts. Gay and trans people in Islamic countries must hide their sexual orientation or risk violence, jail time and even murder. As of 2022, Israel has given 66 Palestinian members of the LGBTQ+ community and other victims of domestic violence temporary refuge. How do progressive students—or their faculty mentors—square this circle?

Strict Sharia law governs life under Hamas, Iran and other Muslim rulers. Sharia aims to govern every aspect of a Muslim’s life, including social and legal systems. This means, among other things, modesty codes by which women are required to wear a hijab while out in public, if not cover themselves completely. Attempts to breach these codes are quickly quashed by so-called morality police. In one famous case, an Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, was murdered by morality police for wearing her hijab improperly.

Sharia law in Muslim countries often means the prohibition of the simplest pleasures. In Afghanistan, for example, music is completely banned, as are other forms of entertainment. And forget freedom of religion. If you’re anything but Muslim, you will likely be treated as a second-class citizen. At worst, you will suffer ethnic cleansing, as Christians and Yazidis of Iraq did at the hands of ISIS. Their crime? They are infidels. Being Jewish in the Muslim world can also mean a death sentence, which is why Jewish communities in the Arab world, which once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, are now all but extinct. When American students scream, “Globalize the intifada,” is this the “revolution” they’re chanting for?

Neither Hamas’s Gaza nor any other Arab or Islamist state permits democracy. If you don’t like your political leaders—such as 80% of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria who oppose Mahmoud Abbas, now in his 20th year of a four-year presidency—you can do nothing. If you don’t like Sharia law in Iran, Gaza or Afghanistan, you can’t change it. Nor can you change laws against free speech, press or assembly.

Yet, students on college campuses across the U.S. chant “Death to America!” They advocate the destruction of Israel, one of the world’s strongest democracies and the Middle East’s only democracy, where Arab-Israelis enjoy more freedom than their brethren anywhere in the region—equality, prosperity and full civil liberty. Where is the disconnect?

By supporting Hamas and other Islamist forces, American students are condemning Palestinians and their fellow Arabs to hell. A hell that these students—we must assume—would never wish on their friends, families, fellow students or themselves.

Originally published by Facts & Logic About the Middle East (FLAME).

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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