In the Israel/Palenstine conflict, there are no good guys | In Focus

There’s too much history and pain to reduce this to a black-and-white conflict.

A Cornell University professor called the Hamas attacks “exhilarating” and “energizing.” A Yale professor dubbed Israel a “murderous, genocidal settler state.”


I thought U.S. universities were bastions of progressivism and tolerance. Instead, what we’re seeing is Antisemitism. In other places, we’re seeing Islamophobia. So, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?

If you saw the videos and photos, you saw that Hamas in Gaza broke through the barriers separating Gaza and Israel, and in well-planned attacks, butchered, raped, and kidnapped at least 1400 Israelis and foreigners, including mothers and their infants. Thousands of rockets have been shot into Israel. The leadership of Hamas has settled among the Gaza inhabitants, so that any Israeli retaliation will kill Gazan civilians by design, making the Israelis look like butchers. Obviously, Hamas has proved itself to be a terrorist organization whose charter advocates the destruction of the State of Israel. Okay, so Hamas is the bad guy.


Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been indicted for corruption in a trial that never seems to begin. He gets his political support from right-wing religious fanatics. Israel’s practice is to oppress Palestinians with brutal shootings, building huge walls that separate Jewish Israelis from Palestinians and treating them like second-class citizens. Recently, Netanyahu got the Israeli Parliament to pass a law that will weaken the courts from acting as a check on the government’s power. There have been demonstrations and protests over this weakening of the Israeli democracy.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Force has pummeled Gaza with air strikes, commando raids, and forced removal of at 1.4 million Palestinians from northern Gaza to the south. That’s over half of the 2.2 million who live in Gaza. According to the Gaza Health ministry, at least 8,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli attacks. Food, water, and fuel have been cut off to the embattled area, with only aid arriving in only small amounts weeks later.

So, is Israel innocent or are its leaders also bad guys?

Meanwhile, demonstrations against Jews and Muslims have spread across America’s university campuses, including the University of Washington. It’s dangerous to be either a Jew or a Muslim in America today. Both groups live in fear for their lives. There is a large percentage of demonstrators who seem to care only that their favorite faction is the victimized group, ignoring the evils their favored side has perpetrated.

At one time, I tried to get Green River College to let me teach a class on the modern Middle East. Now, I’m glad it didn’t happen. I wouldn’t want to be a social science instructor on any campus anywhere in America dealing with the Hamas-Israeli War. As a Jewish friend once told me, “Being in the middle of the road means you get hit by traffic going in both directions.” How right he was.

The far-right has been accused of being Antisemitic, with members of the Republican Party coming out with blatant Antisemitic statements. They’re ignoring the fact that Arabs are kin to Jews and also semitic, going back to the biblical patriarch Abraham. He sired the Arabs with his wife’s slave Hagar. Later, Isaac was born through Abraham’s wife Sarah. They were great grandparents of the Jews. Ironically, the religious right in the U.S., mainly Republicans, support the nation of Israel.

Like almost all issues we deal with today, it’s complicated.

Should the nation’s universities favor the Palestinians over the Israelis?

“What has happened is we [university administrators] are so afraid of engaging in picking sides and it becomes too passive,” said Jim Malatras, former chancellor of the State University of New York. “What we end up with is echo chambers, which only fuels the hate. It fuels the vitriol, and you were experiencing this even before the situation that we’re dealing with.”

So, universities are caught in a bind. They support free speech and debate, but there are limits to free speech if someone’s rights are violated and minorities, whether Jews or Muslims, feel their lives are put in danger.

It’s sad that two Ivy League professors noted at the beginning of this column could make such one-sided reprehensible statements. But they’re human. Emotions and prejudices often override logic and reason for us all.