Presidents from nine universities in Israel signed and sent a letter to their international colleagues on Wednesday to express their “deep concern” over narratives from some academic institutions that “misrepresent” the conflict between Israel and Hamas, or even target Israelis and Jews.
On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and murdered more than 1,400 people, including babies, children, Jews, Muslims and Christians, while also taking 240 people hostage.
In retaliation, Israel launched an offensive targeting Hamas leaders hiding among the people of Gaza. Some see the retaliation from Israel as murderous, while others say Israelis have the right to defend themselves after falling victim to a surprise attack.
The nine presidents — Prof. Arie Zaban, president of Bar-Ilan University; Prof. Daniel A. Chamovitz, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Prof. Alon Chen, president of Weizmann Institute of Science; Prof. Asher Cohen, president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Prof. Leo Corry, president of the Open University of Israel; Prof. Ehud Grossman, president of Ariel University; Prof. Ariel Porat, president of Tel-Aviv University; Prof. Ron Robin, president of University of Haifa; Prof. Uri Sivan, president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology — stood together by signing a letter in opposition of the infiltration of ideas suggesting Hamas’s atrocities were justified.
“We find ourselves facing a war on two fronts: one against the atrocities of Hamas, and another in the global arena of public opinion,” the university presidents said in the letter. “Regrettably, we have noticed an alarming trend in which Israel, despite its right to self-defense, is mischaracterized as an oppressor. This is a false equivalence between the actions of a murderous terrorist organization and a sovereign state’s right to defend its citizens, which unfortunately results in the loss of innocent Palestinian lives.”
The presidents who signed the letter say the anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiments are largely fueled by a “naive and biased understanding of the conflict.”
The presidents noted that higher learning institutions should be known for being centers for intellectual and progressive thoughts, enlightenment and rational discourse.
Now, the letter reads, campuses have adopted Hamas as the cause of celebration, while demonizing Israel.
“There is no moral equivalency here. Let’s be clear: Hamas shares no values with any Western academic institution,” the letter reads. “Hamas is an organization that has repeatedly pledged to annihilate Israel and its people.”
The letter goes on to say Hamas uses international aid to arm itself instead of providing aid of its people, and also uses citizens as shields, hiding in hospitals, schools and mosques.
The presidents called for their colleagues to illuminate their lights and “stand as lighthouses in the intellectual landscape.”
“Your roles as leaders of these institutions confer upon you an extraordinary responsibility: to guide the moral and ethical development of your students, to imbue them with the ability to think critically and to discern the nuances that separate right from wrong,” the letter reads. “Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of academic freedom, but it should not be manipulated to legitimize hate speech or to justify violence.
“We urge you to delineate the boundaries between constructive discourse and destructive propaganda, and promote evidence-based, nuanced thinking that challenges simplistic narratives,” the presidents added.
They also reminded the learning institutions that Israeli and Jewish students and faculty at higher learning facilities be given the same respect and protections as all minorities, ensuring inclusivity and campus safety are extended to those members of the community.
The presidents said the events of Oct. 7 should be a wake-up call to the dangers of “nihilistic organizations” like ISIS and Hamas that represent the opposite of liberty and freedom.
“As leaders of Israeli universities, we have been heartened by clear statements of solidary and support for Israel, which are, at their heart, statements in solidary with humanity, enlightenment, and progress,” the presidents said, before concluding their message. “At the same time, we are calling for a sea change in clarity and truth in academia on the matter of Israel’s war against Hamas, so that light will triumph over dark, now and always.”