Response to UTD resolution: No moral equivalency

By David Patterson

In December 1987 Sheik Ahmed Yassin of the Muslim Brotherhood founded Hamas with a cry of “Killing Israelis and Jews is an act of devotion to God!” Therefore, Article 11 of the Hamas Charter of Allah declares that there can be no peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel and Article 15 ends with the refrain “I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill.”

On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas death squads took their devotion to God much further. For them the resolve was not “I will assault and kill” but I will “assault and torture, butcher, rape, mutilate, behead and burn alive,” to the point where it was impossible to visually identify the dead. There was no “collateral damage,” no “civilian casualties,” because precisely the civilians were the targets. When they returned to Gaza with the hostages, they were greeted by frenzied, cheering mobs of their own “civilians.” In some cases the kidnappers had to protect their prey from the Palestinian “civilians” of Gaza.

Dr. Richard Benson, president of The University of Texas at Dallas, responded to the horrors perpetrated by Hamas with an official statement of sympathy, encouraging peaceful interaction and discussion among students and referring students and faculty to counseling services. He ended by saying, “Be empathetic. Be kind. Work for peace.”

This was not enough for UTD’s Student Government. On Oct. 24 they issued Resolution 2023-06 in response to the president’s statement. The recurring theme of the resolution was a moral equivalency steeped in moral bankruptcy and intellectual dishonesty. The resolution complained about “extending sympathies to students affected by the deaths in Israel but not extending similar sympathies to the Palestinians,” that is, to the Hamas death squads and their supporters, as if Israel’s response to the mind-numbing atrocities were the same as committing the horrors.

The resolution notes that “current events globally exacerbated antisemitic and anti-Palestinian sentiments,” as if the two sentiments were the same. Antisemitism has a history going back to the time of Moses and has led to the slaughter of literally millions of Jews. Article 28 of the Hamas Charter identifies “Israel, Jews and Judaism” as the source of all evil. There is nothing comparable with regard to “anti-Palestinian sentiments.”

The resolution suggests an equivalency between the horror of the butchery perpetrated by “militants associated with Hamas and other groups in the Gaza strip” and the “fact” that the “Israeli government ordered 1.1 million civilians to evacuate from the northern portion of the Gaza strip.” The systematic targeting and face-to-face slaughter of innocents at the hands of the Palestinians is not the same as warning the people of Gaza to seek safety. Of course, Israel did not order anyone in Gaza to do anything; no one in Gaza takes orders from Israel.

Steeped in the stink of self-righteousness, the resolution even “invokes the Israelis’ defiance of ‘rules of war and basic humanity.’” Really? Does this moral myopia require comment? Here only one thing can explain such willful blindness to sheer evil, and that is Jew-hatred. And Jewish students whom I know at UTD feel it.

President Benson responded to the resolution by saying, “I join our community in mourning the tragic loss of life and ongoing suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians, especially the thousands of children who have become victims of this violence.” I understand the delicacy of his position as president of UTD, but here, too, we find more than a hint of moral equivalency. As long as we resist naming the evil of antisemitism — as long as we allow ourselves to be intimidated by the antisemites — not only will Jews and others continue to be endangered, but we shall lose our own humanity and every shred of any moral integrity that we have left.

Dr. David Patterson is the Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies at UT-Dallas and Senior Research Fellow for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.

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