A Response to Swarthmore’s Middle East and North Africa Faculty Statement

In last week’s Phoenix, eight Swarthmore faculty (henceforth “the authors”) criticized President Smith’s letter to the community of Oct. 10th entitled “Violence in the Middle East.” At first, I thought they objected to the fact that President Smith mentioned “the horrific attacks by Hamas against the people of Israel,” but the authors have convinced me that I was wrong and that what they were asking for was context and balance. So, I would like to make a few remarks about context and balance.  

Context in the Middle East goes back over 3,000 years, and to adequately address it would require volumes. It simply is not feasible to do that in a short statement. As important, there are two types of context: context that explains and context that excuses. To take a current example, at some point, we may have an explanation as to why the mass shooter in Maine did what he did. That would be the context that explains, but it would not excuse what he did. 

“Balance,” however, only comes from context that excuses. Context that explains is neutral –- it does not necessarily counterbalance the initial bad action. Context that explains would include the bad things that Israel has done, but not only those bad things. It would also include the fact that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. It would have been helpful if the authors had stated whether they believe that the context that they cited provides a sufficient excuse for the Hamas attack because, clearly, some of our students do.

What would be a balanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Why has the conflict lasted so long and gotten even more deadly? In what ways are the Palestinians and Israelis similar? I believe there is one fundamental similarity: each side would rather fight the other side than suppress the extremists in its own ranks. Until this changes, there is no hope for a lasting peace.  

Finally, events are moving so fast that the above discussion of a letter from three weeks ago seems like ancient history. But two things have become abundantly clear: one, if Hamas really cared about Palestinian lives, it would never have launched its barbarous attack. The Israeli response to this attack that we are witnessing now was 100% certain to occur. And two, the giddy response to the attack in some circles illustrates a kind of revolutionary fantastical thinking that is completely lethal.  

36 Comments

  1. Your remarks about “context and balance” completely disregard that over 10,000 Palestinians have been murdered since October 7 and this number is increasing with each day. Nearly half of these deaths are children. Instead of calling for a ceasefire and acknowledgement of these atrocities, you have the audacity to sit here and talk about “each side” and “Hamas”. The blood of the Palestinian people is on your hands too.

  2. Thank you Professor Kuperberg for speaking . Sane faculty such as yourself have often been silenced by the loud MENA faculty , activist professors who lack scholarship., abd by the bullies in SJP, JVP , Ifnotnow and other BDS supporters. The MENA letter was claptrap jargon propaganda, without historical or contextual accuracy. It was unworthy of professors , who are supposed to be scholarly. It is time for Swarthmore to remove all of them for lack of scholarship and hate speech.

    Hamas murdered and kidnapped many Americans and called to “globalize the intifada “, bringing such acts as Hamas perpetrated in Israel on October 7 to America. These are acts of war by Hamas against USA. Anyone offering material support to Hamas may be in violation of USA federal criminal law , and other crimes. Students , professors. Time for the authors of the MENA letter and SJP, JVP, Ifnotnow and other BDS groups or individuals to face legal and professional consequences for their behavior.

    • Dear Jan, don’t forget to mention Israel’s use of white phosphorus, as well as continuous bombing of hospitals, schools, churches, mosques, and residential buildings (which are all internationally-recognized war crimes). I’m not even mentioning the cut off of water, electricity, and food supply.

      Your blood-thirst, ahistorical comments regarding Palestinian history, and sheer dehumanization of non-white people is showing. And, looking at it from the side, it is so embarrassing to look at. I don’t know how you wake up every morning knowing that you will be denying a well-documented genocide. You are so hateful it pains me.

  3. This is a horribly written piece. Not only are you complicit of the genocide of Palestinians, but there is no valid argument here. You use Hamas as a focal point of your arguement claiming that context that aims to explain “would also include the fact that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Israeli oppression existed well before the development of Hamas. Hamas was formed in 1987, after the first Nakba and 39 years of oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians after the Israel was declared a state. Yes, some Swarthmore students do believe in Hamas’ right to attack because when a group is oppressed for as long as the Palestinians are oppressed, it is their right to resist by an mean necessary, under international law. However, that is not to generalize all Palestinians as Hamas. The majority of them are not and Hamas does not extend further that Gaza or into the West Bank, where Palestinians are still being massacred by the Israeli regime and where Palestinians have been subjected to settler colonialism, apartheid, and systemic violence for more than 75 years. You want to extend the context of the Middle East, let’s extend it to the 1920s before the development of Israel as a nation where Zionists claimed that Palestine “was a land without a people for a people without a land” while the indigenous people of Palestine inhabited it, as they had for thousands of years to come. It should be pointed out that the only recognized way to genuinely make Palestine a land without a people was to ethnically cleanse them. Let’s again extend the context to when those same Zionists used the holocaust and took advantage of atrocities committed against Jewish people to scapegoat the Palestinians and force public sympathy for what would become a settler colonial state.

    The “conflict” has lasted so long and gotten more deadly because Israel has an unknown agenda and will not stop until it has accomplished that agenda, as respected figures in international relations have recognized. Palestinian’s and Israeli’s are by no means similar. Israel is the oppressor and Palestine is the oppressed. You can not level a terrorist regime and it’s victims. Each side would not rather fight the other side that “suppress the extremists in its own take”. Gazans and the indigenous civilians of the greater Occupied Palestinian Territories have begged for a ceasefire which Israel and its backing allies have refused. If you want to call Palestinian resistance “fighting” go ahead, but I can’t see an equal fight when the oppressors have billions of dollar in aid, high tech weaponry, and mobility while oppressed has nothing. If the Israelis we the to stop “fighting” there would be subjective peace, but if Palestinians were to stop fighting they would cease to exist. 10,000 innocent civilians have been killed by the Israeli regime and that number continues to go. How dare you perpetuate a false narrative in which this is an equal fight or a war between Israeli extensors and Hamas. Israel has more that enough resources to launch a special operations to find, remove, and take care of Hamas from Gaza if they wanted to. But they do not. As it is seems that you are arrogant and uneducated let me inform you that Hamas was funded by Israel to begin with, because they wanted to implement a reason in Gaza to consistently control and bomb them while using Hamas as a scapegoat and labeling their efforts as counter-terrorism. You should be ashamed of yourself for perpetuating such disgusting narratives. I advise you to educate yourself on the truth and gain some morals. You a disgrace of a professor and an even bigger disgrace of a human being.

    • “ Yes, some Swarthmore students do believe in Hamas’ right to attack because when a group is oppressed for as long as the Palestinians are oppressed, it is their right to resist by an mean necessary, under international law.”

      There is a difference between resisting forms of oppression and going on to massacre civilians, which is what Hamas did. They did not target military personnel or infrastructure, simply any Jew they could. You are right to claim that Hamas does not represent all the Palestinian people. Hamas is a hate group that espouses the murder of all Jews; read their charter. To support Palestinian rights is very important; to support Hamas is antisemitic, violent, and unrelentingly bigoted. It is atrocious to hear that any Swarthmore student supports Hamas. If you firmly believe that Hamas is not a violent nefarious hate group, please feel free to respond with your rationale below.

      • Is the IDF not a violent, occupational, racist regime? 9000+ Palestinian civilians massacred and you cant seem to stop babbling about Hamas. Lets be critical babes

        • No the idf is not a violent occupational racist regime. The idf is and army not a regime. The idf is mot racist. It is composed of all races as is Israeli society. Israel is not an occupation. It is the freedom of a long oppressed mena minority., Jews , in their historical homeland, of which they are the indigenous people. Many Arabs are also very happy to live in Israel as they are treated much better in Israel than Arabs are treated in other middle eastern countries. Also , Arabs are not a different race than Jews. That is a load of bds propaganda designed to manipulate important American voting blocks. Violent ? All armies engage in warfare which is violent, but IDF is more careful of human life than most other armies. .
          If you are concerned about violence , racism and even occupation, it is puzzling that you are not denouncing Hamas.

        • Buddy I emphasized that Palestinian rights are important; of course I’m horrified about all the Palestinians who were killed. We must also recognize that 1400+ Israeli civilians were also slaughtered. Palestinian lives MATTER. Jewish lives also MATTER. Despising Israel should not be mutually exclusive with despising Hamas.

          • Maybe you should also start condemning the fact that millions of people can’t return to their home towns and villages, on which Israeli settlers live today. We can talk about condemning Hamas when there is no apartheid, people can return to their homes, and children aren’t indiscriminately massacred by the author’s fav war criminals

  4. a genocide is happening and all you can muster up is rhetoric about history going back thousands of years, as if ancient history as any baring upon our current situation. that’s like calling upon the history of roman antiquity to discuss donald trump: it’s a stupid argument. but if we’re discussing history, what about the history of settler colonialism of last 200 years? what about the ethnic cleansings of the last 10 years? what about the genocide occurring before our very eyes for the past few weeks ? let’s be real. you clearly don’t view palestinians as human, and you’re insulted when professors (who specialize in Middle Eastern politics and histories) dare to view them as human.

    speaking of specialization, your example of an American mass shooter shows how inadequate you are in understanding what is actually happening. equating this to palestinians, who have experienced centuries of dehumanization, colonization, ethnic cleansing, and genocide is a gross manipulation tactic. once you actually review the history that you so cherish, rather than just throwing your hands up in defeat, you would be able to realize that this didn’t result from a vacuum. colonial occupation is inherently violent, but you don’t seem to care about that. funny.

    i don’t have time to rip apart your ridiculous response in full, but i will end with this last point. your last paragraph states that the israeli response to the attack was “100% certain to occur”. so you agree? you agree that israel is an inherently violent state that waits for any opportunity to kill palestinians? you agree that the israeli government holds no compassion or mercy for innocents, as doing so would principally reject zionism’s principal goal of eradicating palestians? this line told me that, despite your ignorant rambling, you actually do know and understand the violence being committed against palestinians. the problem is that you don’t care. why is it that you mourn the israeli dead but excuse the genocide of palestinians? as i have pointed out before, it is because you have an evident bias against palestinians. you just don’t care about them as human beings, so why would you care if they are being eradicated? i know this as you didn’t mention the words ‘genocide’ or ‘ethnic cleaning’ once.
    your racism and complacency is evident and sickening. it makes me wonder how you reacted to other atrocities that were controversial to speak out against at the time, such as south african apartheid. perhaps you referred to those who spoke out then as victims of “revolutionary fantastical thinking” as well. there is no excuse for apartheid and genocide, no matter how hard you try to find one.
    free palestine

  5. The student responses attacking Professor Kuperberg, and making claims about the Middle East , current and past , as if they know , demonstrate the poor quality of education Swarthmore is providing on this topic. Hint: word salad of jargon words does not mean you know anything. It proves you don’t. That Swarthmore students speak in such a rude and ignorant way demonstrates that the school will need to make big changes. A lot has gone very wrong.

  6. Isn’t this the individual who sent this letter out to all the professors and hasn’t managed to get a single signature? That should have been the sign for him to realize that downplaying a genocide isn’t nuanced and worthy of posting LOLL

  7. It’s interesting how many of the comments here follow the same trajectory.

    Each comment begins with the assumption that Professor Kuperberg is attempting to excuse the actions of Likud and its lackeys against Palestinians in Gaza. It then provides evidence that in fact, Professor Kuperberg makes no such argument. From this, each comment concludes that Professor Kuperberg’s article is just badly written.

    If you actually read this article, Professor Kuperberg is saying that the targeting of civilians is bad, no matter who does it. This is especially relevant because many Swarthmore students are explicitly in favor of the targeting of Israeli civilians (including women and children) by Hamas.

    I know many fellow Swarthmore Jews. None of us support Likud or Netanyahu, but many in the Swarthmore student body still target and shame us. This can only be because we are Jewish.

    I wonder what it says about Swarthmore that upon seeing an article by a man with the last name “Kuperberg,” many students instantly assume that the article is an attempt to play defense for Likud and Netanyahu.

    • I was called a terrorist and was verbally assaulted by a fellow student after I stated that I don’t support the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. On the same week that a 6-year old Palestinian boy was killed in Chicago. I don’t mean to downplay your feelings as a Jewish person at Swarthmore college, but you need to realize that this isn’t about you or even ME, because we are not the ones getting slaughtered in our homes or in open-air prisons at the current moment. Also, I suggest you start reading between the lines and realize that this individual is perpetuating a narrative of WAR, when historically this is an issue of DISPLACEMENT, ETHNIC CLEANSING, and SETTLER COLONIALISM (which is displaying itself AT THE CURRENT MOMENT AS ISRAEL CONTINUES ITS VIOLENT BLOCKADE AND INDISCRIMINATE BOMBING IN GAZA). Did you also miss the part where our lovely author started out by practically dissing MENA professors, who were calling for a ceasefire and a condemnation of Israeli-perpetrated bombing of Gaza? You and I have water, food, electricity, internet, access to medical treatment, YET YOU CHOOSE TO CENTER YOURSELF WHILE PEOPLE ARE DYING? Shame on you, shame on this author, and shame on this institution for FAILING TO TAKE A STANCE IN THE FACE OF GENOCIDE

      • I’m so sorry about what happened to you. I’ve faced similar incidents as well, as have other Jewish students.

        I would love to engage in activism for Palestinian civilians currently suffering in Gaza. I can’t do so when the pro-Palestine apparatus of this campus refuses to condemn a militant group that wants me dead.

        • Nobody on this campus is supporting anyone who wants you dead. This is not about you and has never been about you. This is about decades of settler colonialism and VIOLENT dispossession of Palestinian land, which dates back to 1948. I genuinely don’t understand how anybody can justify establishing a state on the blood of so many people.

          And while you continue to victimize yourself, you are continue to NOT CONDEMN AN ON-GOING GENOCIDE — and I fear this position that is THE MOST PROTECTED in this country. You are not being beaten by cops, fired from your job, attacked by nationwide doxxing campaigns — yet you position yourself as the victim.

          While the “pro-Palestine apparatus” (or, more accurately, grassroots student activist organizations on this campus) has been amplifying Palestinian voices and humanizing the stories of thousands of children who have been murdered in Gaza you continue supporting genocide-deniers like Kuperberg. You genuinely need to re-evaluate your morals.

      • A cease fire ? Like the one Israel was complying with on October 6?

        Hamas is still vowing to repeat its barbarities and massacre of oct 7 until every Jew is dead. Hamas is still holding hostages including babies and young children. Hamas is ISIL. It is not acceptable to cease fire until Hamas is unable to do this again.

  8. On October 7 Hamas burned families alive , murdered 40 babies in one kibbutz alone , beheading some of them , raped women and children , marched a young woman who had been violently raped , her pants soaked in blood , into a van , then a gunshot was heard , displayed the naked body of an unconscious young woman , then be headed her. They baked a live baby in an oven until it died , while gang raping the mother , having already murdered the father. They gouged our eyes and livers, cut off fingers before murdering people. They killed and kidnapped babies , children , elderly people , holocaust survivors, the disabled .

    The charter of Hamas calls for murder of all Jews everywhere in the world . Hamas leaders have vowed to continue doing what they did oct 7 until all Jews are dead. They call for it to be done all over the world , to Jews , and then to Christians.

    Yet there are Swarthmore students who think they are “ Progressive “ and support this.

    War is a terrible thing. But not all war is genocide. Hamas is genocidal and has vowed to commit genocide and has taken steps in that direction. Fighting against Hamas is not genocidal. And it is fully legal under international law.

    And btw , getting your information about numbers of dead from Hamas sources shows your hand.

    • How many more Palestinian children in Gaza have to be murdered by Israeli bombs (on top of the thousands that have died already within this month) ? How many more Palestinians, Muslims, and Sikhs have to become victims of hatecrimes across the world because of people like you who spread misinformation and blatant LIES? How many more PALESTINIAN CORPSES, BODY PARTS, AND LIFELESS INFANTS DO WE HAVE TO SEE ??? HOW MANY MORE THOUSANDS DO YOU WANT TO BE MURDERED BEFORE YOU WILL STOP SPREADING LIES AND SILENCING THOSE WHO ARE CALLING FOR A CEASEFIRE???? You are talking about 40 beheaded babies, yet have no evidence of that, WHILE THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED TO HAVE BEEN MURDERED BY ISRAELI OCCUPATION FORCES! YOU MAKE ME SICK!

    • Proof?! Right, there isn’t any because it was already established (on a global level and by reliable media sources) that this is all propaganda and lies perpetrated by the Israeli regime to muster up public sympathy and gain the green light to ethnically cleansed Palestinians. If you want to ignore the death toll “from Hamas sources,” go ahead. But, you cannot ignore UN reports that have warned and now confirm that Israel is committing ethnic cleansing, LET ALONE the REAL VIDEOS of Palestinian babies ACTUALLY BEING BEHEADED (by the Israeli regime and it’s war crimes), Palestinian hospitals (which should be protected under international law) being blown up, and entire communities that have become rubble. You are uneducated and have fell for Western media and propaganda perpetrated by Israel, or you simply choose to ignore the truth for your own benefit. This has NOTHING to do with Jewish people and EVERYTHING to do it human rights and genocide.

      • Val and unapologetic,
        Everything you have said is propagsnda. There are photos snd videos of what I report. There are first hand witnesses.lit has also been proven thst the Gaza hofpitsl which was blown up was blown up by arms within Gaza , not by Israel. Als hamas hides its weapons caches and Hamas members in tunnels beneath civilian buildings. They then do not allow palestinians to leave when warnings come civilians should leave.

        That you make such false claims demonstrates that you have been taught by propaganda ists not scholars.

        • Are you really an alum? Your response contains so many typos and grammatical errors that I have to believe you are a troll.

  9. History lesson part one of four :
    In 1850, there were a total of 400,000 people maximum in the land now Israel Gaza and West Bank . They lived in disparate clusters. They did not have any unified separate polity. This area was a remote ottoman backwater, part of the now former greater Syria , which was eventually divided into Syria , Jordan , Lebanon , Israel ( and west back and Gaza ) . The ottomans ruled the land for 400 years. The various clusters of people living in the land now Israel West Bank and Gaza were ruled by the ottomans along with not separate from a much larger region , and many also had allegiances to various foreign rulers or religious officials.

    The land has long been depleted and poor for farming. Most people who had lived there had previously left centuries prior. By 1850 Jews were majority in Jerusalem and had been for centuries. There were Jewish communities throughout the land , including in the West Bank ( Judaea and Samaria ) which had been there for thousands of years.

    Starting in the early 1800s the Jewish population started to grow , as Jews from North African and Arab lands returned fleeing riots and pogroms and Dhimmi status in those lands. In the 1850s and in the later two decades of the 1800s there were more big influxes of Jewish returnees. Some were fleeing MENA lands , others fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. From 1900-1950s many Jews returned to Israel , some fleeing oppression in Europe , then fleeing the Nazis , many sent after the war against their will. From 1930-1950s Arab lands expelled all their Jews , confiscating all property. The Jewish refugees from Arab lands in that period were 850,000, more than the Arab refugees out of Israel during that time. The Arab lands stole 5 X the land as pre 67 Israel from their Jewish citizens whom they ethnically cleansed.

    The ottomans encouraged Jewish in migration. The returning Jews brought with them agricultural and business techniques from whatever lands they fled , creating a robust economy and employment. Following each wave of Jewish return , Arabs from all over the Middle East migrated to Israel for jobs in the new Jewish economy. During the depression , Israel was the only bright spot for employment in a very depressed Middle East. As the Jewish population grew , so did the Arab population, with recent work migrants.

  10. History lesson part two of four :

    Did Israel steal the land ? No. Israel came by its land legally. The local Arabs owned hardly any land : 3% of the land and homes they farmed and lived in. There was very little private land ownership among the local Arabs. They were renters , tenant farmers , recent work migrants. There had been periods under ottoman rule of high inflation, high taxation , and high debt. Many of those whose families had owned homes or land a long time before had lost ownership under ottoman rule a long time before there was any consideration of making a state there. Also many local Arabs refused to register deeds in order to avoid ottoman taxes or military draft. They lost ownership under ottoman law. The prospective Jewish state bought large tracts of land from the legal owners : wealthy ottoman and Arab absentee landlords and local elites. The rest of the land was public land privately owned by no one.

    The ottomans turned the public land over to the League of Nations in the sykes picot treaty which ended WWI. The League of Nations had the goal of creating states for self determination of various middle eastern peoples. The League of Nations turned the land now Jordan Israel West Bank and Gaza over to the British mandate for the purpose of creating a Jewish state , for self determination of the Jewish people in their historic homeland. The Brit’s illegally gave 78% of the mandate land for an Arab state , Jordan , no Jews allowed to live there by law from its inception. The Brit’s insisted on this law , presumably for Jordan to be the state for the Arabs of the mandate land. The remaining 22% of the mandate land was fir the Jewish state. However the local Arabs protested. They wanted a second Arab state on the land , from the 22% reserves to the Jewish state. The mandate offered them land for a state out of the 22% reserved to the Jewish state in the Peele commission offer and twice in the partition plan. Palestinian leadership refused all three offers. At that point, the League of Nations determined that those local Arabs had ample opportunity for self determination in the other states carved from the former greater Syria : Jordan , Syria or Lebanon : same families , clans, religion , language, cuisine , culture, all from the same region. The League of Nations also determined they had opportunities for self determination in Egypt or other states recently formed from the lands they had recently migrated from for jobs. The League of Nations closed down , turned the 22% of the British mandate public land over to the Jewish state, and turned their documents and responsibilities over to the newly forming UN.

    The Jewish state had been agree to on that land by Arab leadership in the Faisal weitzman agreement, under which many Arab states and Israel were also formed. Faisal later disavowed the agreement because he thought it was taking too long to form the Arab states he wanted , but all those states were eventually formed.

  11. History lesson part three of four :

    In 1946 roughly half the Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians were recent work migrants. In 1850 those who came as work migrants by 1946 were not there at all.

    The relationship was fraught by the 1920s, when the grand mufti of Jerusalem, a Hitler ally , who asked Hitler to bring the holocaust to the MENA, incited massacres of local Jews by local Arabs. Later there was civil war. Also when the UN recognized Israel as a state , 5 Arab countries invaded Israel seeking to throw the Jews into the sea. When Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem 48-67, Jordan ethnically cleansed all Jews and Jewish communities which had been there thousands of years.

    Most of the Arabs in the West Bank are Jordanian citizens from whom Jordan illegally but justifiably stripped citizenship after the black September coup attempt under Arafat. They are not refugees from Israel.

    Jews are the indigenous people of that land. Jews are from judea. Arabs are from Arabia. Arabs colonized the mena.

    There should be more states for self determination of oppressed indigenous middle eastern minorities: Jews , druze , Kurds , amizahgs , Baha’i , Yazidi , copts , Assyrians etc.

  12. History lesson part four of four :

    Israel was formed under the same treaties and agreements , the same process , during the same period as all Arab states across the Middle East were formed.

    The Palestinian pound : hebrew writing on it. The Palestinian symphony , bank , soccer team , press : all Jewish.

    The ottomans had detailed land records and land laws. Those and the British mandate records can be looked to today to see the history of ownership.

    The people who now call themselves Palestinians only started calling themselves that in 1964 under kgb propaganda dept guidance. Prior to that, being called Palestinian was something they found insulting. Palestinians were Jews. They called themselves “ southern Syrians “ or simply Arabs.

    The people who now call themselves Palestinians have been kept in limbo by the agendas of their own corrupt leaders , who want to preserve the status quo as they steal international refugee aid , by the agendas of corrupt unrwa , who preserve the staid quo as they want their 60,000 employees to keep their jobs, by the agendas of the then new Arab states heady in the new Arab nationalism early on , by the agenda of Iran who holds on to a Shia crescent throughout the Middle East , by proxies such as Hamas , by the agendas of numerous other countries.

    Now arab counties may not what to prolong the status quo any more , as their reasons for doing so have faded and as Iran is exploiting it against Sunni Arab states.

    Egypt and SA have long made the suggestion of an industrial zone in Mediterranean coastal Sinai adjacent to Gaza , as a joint project between Egypt and SA. The quiet part out loud is that would enable Egypt and SA to get rid of Hamas , other terror groups and Iranian influence.

    There were 200 million refugees in the world between WWI and shortly after WWII. All others are quickly settled and no longer refugees , by the un agency that handles all other refugee situations. Those rules , laws , procedures resolved all those other situations quickly. Only the Palestinians linger as refugee status , because they are not helped by the regular un refugee agency , but rather are assigned to unrwa , who want to preserve the status quo , not resolve it, and therefor have different rules , laws and procedures that what is used in any other refugee situation.

  13. Professor Kuperberg, I admire your bravery in publishing this letter when you probably knew it would get a lot of pushback. Unfortunately that’s about the only good thing I have to say about it.

    The MENA letter had two strands of critique: first, that Pres Smith’s initial letter did not properly situate the Hamas attack in proper context of the conflict, and second, that it didn’t specifically denounce Israel’s disproportionate and even more violent response.

    “Context in the Middle East goes back over 3,000 years, and to adequately address it would require volumes. It simply is not feasible to do that in a short statement.” This isn’t really a response. Of course the letter isn’t gonna tell a complete history of the Levant region. But the unequivocal fact is that the people of Gaza are kept under a brutal blockade and this is pretty necessary context, both for assigning blame for the deaths of the 1400 Israelis and for sustaining a conversation about legitimate resistance ( I don’t condone the Hamas attack because, like you, I don’t see it as furthering Palestinian liberation. But I also don’t axiomatically think all violent resistance in this case would be unjustified. There is a conversation to be had here imo and it shouldn’t be censored).

    To the second point, you seem to agree: “The Israeli response to this attack that we are witnessing now was 100% certain to occur. ” I agree too! Meaning that even if Smith’s letter was written before Israel’s response (which is hardly an excuse as by the time it was disseminated Israel had killed thousands), she should have made clear that collective punishment of millions of Gazans is horrific and unjustifiable. While you maybe see some vague and overzealous support of Hamas from SJP, you have sitting senators like Marco Rubio calling for the outright genocide of all Gazans. Democrats aren’t doing much better. If Swarthmore was committed to its Quaker values it would AT LEAST condemn violence on both sides.

    • President Smith condemned the violence on both sides, writing that words cannot capture the grief from “the resulting violence that is inflicting pain and suffering on innocent Israelis and Palestinians.”

      I appreciate your measured response in support of Palestinians. I agree that Israel’s response was disproportionate, and I do condemn it.

      President Smith’s job is not to fight Marco Rubio’s racism. She doesn’t have the power to do so. Her job is to make Swarthmore an inclusive place for all students. Right now it is not.

      On October 10th, SJP celebrated October 7th, referring to it as “valiantly [confronting] the imperial apparatus that has constricted [Palestinian] livelihoods for 75 years.” Referring to Hamas’s actions on October 7th as valiant is beyond the pale. As such, I object in the strongest terms to your characterization of SJP as maybe engaging in “vague and overzealous support of Hamas.” Your comment minimizes the harm that is caused by SJP’s language.

      Hamas wants all Jews dead. Read their charter. I am Jewish. Therefore Hamas wants me dead. Endorsement of Hamas by a major student organization cannot be tolerated in a school that purports to be diverse and inclusive. Period.

      To me and many other Jewish students with whom I have talked, SJP functions as a hate group. Many in the Swarthmore student body are willing to listen to minority students experiencing micro-aggressions, except when said minority students are Jews.

      Right now, Jews at Swarthmore are scared. I grew up arguing with overzealous pro-Likud relatives about the importance of protecting Palestinian lives. My synagogue has signed multiple statements calling for a ceasefire. It is an abomination that I cannot continue advocating for Palestinian liberation at Swarthmore because I do not feel safe.

      • With no intention to deny or undermine your experience as a Jewish student on campus, I caution you to read the SJP statement critically. In conversations I had with SJP, considering I shared similar concerns, the group clarified that their reference to the “confrontation” of an “imperial apparatus” commented on the Palestinian destruction of a portion of the border wall and their legal seizure of occupying forces’ military materials. Also, I would re-read the H*mas charter; as a Jewish student myself, I was surprised that their charter does make a very clear distinction between Judaism and Zionism. These are important points of critical reading that help keep us all safe.

      • I’m a Swarthmore Jew, too. I’m not afraid and have never had any uncomfortable interactions with SJP members.

        Pro-Palestine activists are actually, consistently targeted by groups like Canary Mission and have job offers rescinded because of saying stuff like “From the River to the Sea”, which despite what people say is not a call for genocide.

        President Smith didn’t condemn violence by Israel. She alluded to “violence that is inflicting suffering on Palestinians”.

        Finally, as I said the statement was overzealous. But it was not genocidal. It supported the principle of using violent resistance to fight Israeli apartheid (which is fine) but didn’t confront the reality of the attack (which was that many civilians were targeted and it didn’t advance the project of Palestinian liberation at all). I had big problems with the statement myself and I sympathized with you. Still, I don’t think President Smith should have *only* addressed it in her letter. And even so, she could have done it in more nuanced terms.

  14. To “Student “:
    Israel’s response to Hamas’s October 7 massacre of Israelis and others is not disproportionate. A proportionate response does not mean one side killed X number of people so the other side may kill X number of people not more. Israel’s response to the oct 7 massacre is legal under international law and does not violate standards of proportionality. Israel’s and the USAs joint goal in Gaza is to remove Hamas ‘s ability to ever do it again. In order to do that , Israel and the USA must destroy the tunnels which Hamas has networked under Gaza city. Hamas hides in those tunnels and hides their missiles , missile launchers and other weapons in those tunnels. Those tunnels run underneath civilian buildings. When gazan citizens try to leave , Hamas kills them or prevents them from leaving at gunpoint. Hamas causes gazan citizens to die when Hamas members and their weapons are targeted . However targeting Hamas members , their weapons and the tunnels is exactly proportionate to Hamas ‘s attack on Israel and vow to continue. That is why Israel and the USA are acting with full legality under international law . That Hamas ‘s victims are also the people of Gaza should be no surprise, to anyone who had quality education on the topic, as opposed to the hate fest propaganda prevalent at Swarthmore in recent years.

    The war in Gaza is also not collective punishment. Civilians die in war. That is always so. It is horrible. But Israel tries to minimize civilian deaths as much as possible. Hamas is killing Gaza citizens or not allowing them to leave for safer ground. If collective punishment were Israel’s goal , the numbers of deaths in Gaza would be much higher. The goal Israel abd USA have in Gaza is specific: that Hamas not be able to do it again. Ever.

    Israel is not to blame for the blockade. Egypt too maintains blockade on Gaza and has done so for many years. Why ? Because the terrorists and Iranian proxies who rule Gaza are a danger to all their neighbors. Israel , prior to October 7, provided Gaza with lots of humanitarian aid daily. Israel sought only to screen out weapons or things that could be used to make weapons from going into Gaza. Prior to October 7 , Israel , to win peace from Hamas , allowed many gazans to work in Israel at much higher wages than they could earn in gaza. Some of those gazan workers gave Hamas the information about where children were etc so Hamas could kill them. . Now it is entirely reasonable that Israel does not want anything to do with gaza after the October 7 attack by Hamas. No country is obliged to provide gifts to those who attack them.

    The Sunni Arab states will not be sorry to see Hamas gone. Hamas and its Iranian backers are a threat to the Sunni Arab states. Gaza is part of the Shia crescent Iran has formed with its proxies throughout the Middle East , which threatens Sunni Arab states. Of course , given that Swarthmore has propagandaists , not scholars, teaching about the Middle East , Swarthmore students may not realize that Hamas did this to disrupt the Saudi / Israel / USA peace accords, because those accords would weaken Iran’s tyranny over the Middle East. Sad that the complexity of the region is not being taught at Swarthmore, just demonization , and the message to hate Israel and Jews.

  15. what was the point of this mark? i recommend simply not saying anything at all if you, as you humbly admit yourself, find yourself so confused by “context in the Middle East [that] goes back over 3,000 years”

    i would also recommend touching grass

  16. israel does not have a right to exist. israeli people and jewish people have a right to life just like everyone else but this does not mean the state of israel has a right to exist. no state has an inherent god-given right to exist and perhaps you would know that if you exercised some critical thinking.

  17. The importance Swarthmore places on political protest by students is exemplified by the willingness of college faculty and leadership to engage in meaningful dialogue on contentious issues. Moving the consciousness of the country towards peace and valuing all voices requires examining long-held beliefs and embracing disruption.

    With that said, overly self- confident persons whose voices and actions which suppress, insult and cause fear in fellow campus members are dangerous because they are the tools all authoritarians use to establish power in political or social systems. They do not promote consensus, and they fail to meet Swarthmore’s standards of community I remember being important.

    Trump, MTG, Stevens Bannon and Miller use these same techniques and methods to achieve evil results. Do not for a minute believe their use does not come without a price. Do not discard or trample your community without first considering that you will grow old having learned much, much more than you know today. Your actions and words may leave scars time will not soon erase from your memory.

  18. The amount of ignorance and dishonesty being expressed by many Swarthmore students in these comments is truly shocking. For the first time in my life, I am embarrassed to be associated with Swarthmore. Rosey, Jan, and fellow alums: Thank you for taking the time to try to educate the students who appear to have been failed by their teachers.

    Undisputed, objective facts: Jews comprise about 0.2% of the world population. Israel is a tiny country that simply wants to exist in peace. Approximately 20% of the citizens of Israel – with full and equal rights to education, heath care, voting, etc. – are Muslim. At least 50% of the citizens of Israel who are Jewish are “POC” who were persecuted and/or forced out of every other country in the Middle East and Africa. The ancestors of all other citizens of Israel who are Jewish were persecuted and/or forced out of European countries. The things that Swarthmore students are repeating in the comments above, that they appear to have learned from Swarthmore professors, make no logical sense and are based on falsehood and propaganda. Query: Why are there virtually no Jews living in any country in the Middle East or Africa other than in Israel, but about 20% of the citizens living peacefully with equal rights in Israel are Muslim? Where is the actual apartheid, genocide and colonization? It certainly is NOT in Israel. The fact is that over 25% of the world population is Muslim, and and those voices calling for the elimination of Israel and Zionists are powerful and loud, and are not afraid to spread falsehoods to serve their agenda. It’s incredibly frightening that large segments of the Swarthmore student body seem to be eating it up and regurgitating it. Sadly, Swarthmore students seem to be gleefully waving the bloody and ignorant hands of virtue signallers.
    https://girliegirlarmy.com/lifestyle/20231018/the-bloody-hands-of-virtue-signallers/

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