In the wake of Hamas’s brutal attack on Israeli civilians on 7 October, many left-wing commentators have leapt to defend the terrorist group.
A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll conducted on 18–19 October found that 51 percent of respondents aged 18–24 believed that “the Hamas killing of 1200 Israeli civilians in Israel can be justified by the grievances of Palestinians.” And it’s not just students who have come out in favor of one of the world’s most savagely violent organizations. Columbia University professor Joseph Massad called the Hamas attack “awesome.” In response to the argument that killing civilians is always wrong, Yale professor Zareena Grewal tweeted, “Settlers are not civilians. This is not hard.” In London, protestors chanted, “there is only one solution: intifada revolution” and “smash the Zionist settler state,” while protestors across the West have chanted “from the river to the sea”—a slogan that often (though not always) implies a call for the death or forcible deportation of all of Israel’s 9 million Jews.
The situation in Israel-Palestine is admittedly complicated. There have been decades of conflict between Jews and Muslims and atrocities have been committed by both sides. And, of course, lots of people of good faith support Palestinians in their long struggle with Israel. But Hamas’s actions are beyond the pale. So, why are some people on the far Left supporting them?
One reason is that the people who praise Hamas are influenced by a philosophy that promotes the idea of collective guilt. In this view, Jewish civilians deserve to suffer because the Israeli Defense Force has done bad things. The victims are Jews first and individuals second; and because their primary identity is as a member of their collective group, they are blamed for the sins committed by everyone who belongs to that group. This thinking explains how 51 percent of young Americans can say that acts like raping and killing young women and beheading babies are justified: the girls and babies share an ethnicity with people who have done bad things; therefore, they had it coming.