Lewis: Universities need to stop equivocating and take a stand

One of the most unfortunate lessons from the 9/11 terrorist attacks was the need to establish new rules for dealing with terrorists. Consequently, the United States military now is authorized to shoot down hijacked commercial aircraft that are deemed a threat to strategic targets. While horrific to even think about, no rational person would hold the U.S. military accountable for the deaths of innocent people even though, technically, a U.S. missile would be the direct cause of the downing.

The number of hostages held by Hamas currently stands at nearly 240 but the actual number is more than 2 million, as every person in Gaza is effectively a hostage. By intentionally placing its military operations near schools, hospitals, and mosques, Hamas is using all Gazans as human shields. While Israel, Egypt, and the U.S. all desire and support getting Americans out of the Gaza Strip, Hamas was the roadblock. Why? Because this amounts to a release of hostages.

The strategy of Hamas is to make it as difficult and painful as possible for the Israelis to eliminate the threat to their country. Nothing Hamas leaders are doing is about achieving ultimate peace — it’s about finding a way to continue their war. Hamas wants over 6,000 prisoners released, not for humanitarian reasons, but to increase its ability to wage war in the future. Hamas views a ceasefire, not as a step towards peace, but as a way to avoid destruction so it can attack again.

To achieve their goal, Hamas leaders are trying to position the Israelis as war criminals and convince people throughout the world that they are responsible for the innocent Palestinian lives lost. Unfortunately, at least to some degree, their strategy is working. While you would expect a backlash against Israel from “Axis of Evil” countries like Iran and Russia, what I didn’t anticipate was the significant number of protests in the United States, many of which happened on elite college campuses.

Antisemitism has existed throughout history. Like racism, there is no real logic behind it — it’s just irrational hate. What startled me was the amount of antisemitism now occurring on college campuses. I would have hoped that supposedly highly educated people would see through the propaganda and understand that Hamas, not Israel, is responsible for all lives lost in this war. Hamas started the conflict, committed heinous war crimes, and then intentionally chose to put civilians in harm’s way in an attempt to avoid accountability. Hamas did exactly what terrorists do; they attacked civilians and used innocent people as shields, just like innocents on a hijacked airliner. No matter who fires the shot, the only group responsible here is Hamas.

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It is distressing that students and professors in some of our best institutions of higher education appear to lack the basic critical thinking skills to assess the realities of this situation. What is even more distressing is the desire by some to justify terrorism as a means to an end when it suits their purpose. For example, a Cornell professor called the Hamas terror attack on Israeli civilians “exhilarating” and “energizing.” That is horrible, but what is far worse is that the university put him on leave and didn’t fire him! Really? While universities have been quick to set strict rules regarding the use of pronouns and are more than willing to “cancel” events that do not reflect their worldview, they appear to be deaf to the hate speech supporting terrorists that is occurring on their campuses.

Radical views on the extreme left and right have striking similarities. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took the one-sided view of blaming Israel for “war crimes” while simultaneously voting not to condemn Hamas. It reminded me of Donald Trump refusing to denounce the white supremacy group the Proud Boys.

The rising cases of antisemitism on college campuses are especially disconcerting. Regardless of your views, like terrorism, hate crimes are simply never acceptable. The same goes for anti-Muslim crimes. Unfortunately, there will always be those who, out of ignorance and bigotry, harbor hatred toward other groups.

People who attend and teach at our best universities should be better than that. I would hope that those who lead universities like Harvard and Columbia conduct a critical assessment of why their institutions are failing so miserably to educate their students on critical thinking. They should have no tolerance for statements and causes that support terrorism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia, in all forms and in all situations. 

Mark Lewis, a Colorado native, had a long career in technology, including serving as the CEO of several tech companies. He’s now retired and writes thriller novels. Mark and his wife, Lisa, and their two Australian Shepherds — Kismet and Cowboy, reside in Edwards.

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