On Oct. 7, I was awoken to an onslaught of messages from my family group chat: “Is Noam safe? Has anyone heard from Avi? Where are you right now? Get away from the windows!”
This day will go down as one of the most tragic days in human history: When humanity lost its sense of dignity and when people returned to the ways of ISIS and the Nazis.
This past Saturday, Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israeli and non-Israeli civilians; they did not care about uniforms, nationality, gender, or age – all they cared about was the blood of innocent lives. These terrorists reportedly went on to rape women and shoot children at point-blank range. It is now even confirmed that people were burned alive while trying to escape the terrorists. Most horrifically, Israeli soldiers have found the heads of babies were decapitated from their innocent necks, according to a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yet, some active Penn clubs justify this barbaric warfare. Just hours after the news broke that innocent civilians were slaughtered, Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine reposted information on the “Palestine Lives: Emergency Solidarity Rally” in Rittenhouse Square on Sunday, likely to support it. One speaker at the event said, “All of us here standing today are proud of what has occurred.” I find it hard to imagine any human being could react this way to a woman bleeding from all parts of her body while she was paraded, while naked, through the streets of Gaza displayed as a prize of war; however, this is the reality, and some Penn students are in support of an event where the event speakers are “proud” of the brutal murder of civilians.
If these students truly valued humanity and not the denigration of the Jewish people, they would be posting about the American, British, Canadian, French, Thai, Nepalese, Russian, Ukrainian, Cambodian, German, Filipino, Chilean, Brazilian, Italian, Sri Lankan, Tanzanian, and Irish civilians who were brutally harmed at the hands of terrorists. These victims have no connection to the Israeli government, yet Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine glossed over these deaths. There are no blurred lines, as President Biden even noted that Hamas’ “stated purpose for being is to kill Jews.” If you don’t believe President Biden, Article 7 of the original Hamas Covenant states, “'The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.'”
Astonishingly, Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine was able to post in support of the massacre days before Penn's administration condemned such vile acts. Penn students, including myself, were glued to their phones waiting to hear their administration call out the violence — call out the massacre — yet we heard nothing until three days after these catastrophic events transpired. Even the Dean of Wharton released a statement “unequivocally” condemning the events before the University administration. There are students whose family members’ whereabouts are still unknown, yet strong and moral leadership is missing.
Penn Against the Occupation, along with ten other clubs, said in a statement on October 11th, saying Israel “bears the sole responsibility for the violence.” What is scariest is that they lack any shame to publicly say that these terrorists have the “right to resist their oppressor by any means necessary.” When I commented on their post, within seconds they cowardly disabled their comments, showing they do not care about engaging in constructive conversation.
President Biden said, “I never really thought I would see … have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.” Meanwhile, a twelve-year-old Israeli boy is being held hostage in Gaza, and survivors of the event are describing watching their friends be killed and then raped. The aforementioned statement is unforgivable and shameless, stating that the terrorists have the “right” to commit these horrific and revolting crimes.
What is most shocking of all is the silence from professors, who just a short while ago wrote a letter in support of the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, despite including speakers such as Mohammed el-Kurd. Just two days after the horrific attacks against the civilian population of Israel, he tweeted “bloodthirsty,” referring to efforts to clear militants from civilian homes. Even more wickedly, he retweeted a post that drew a connection between the Israeli government's response to the atrocities committed by Hamas and that of “What the Nazis Did to the Warsaw Ghetto after Jews Dared Resist the Nazi Ubermenschen.”
However, these professors are now silent when militants are entering Israel and targeting civilians of all different nationalities. Susan Abulhawa, the program director of Palestine Writes and “human rights activist,” has published no official statement while masses of people are chanting “gas the Jews” in Australia, and a swastika was portrayed in New York City at a separate rally. Abulhawa is more capable of inviting a world-renowned antisemite, Roger Waters, to campus than speaking out against the massacre of civilians and the chanting of “gas the Jews.”
Why is it that the Penn student body left in the dark about a swastika spray painted inside an academic building over two weeks ago? Why is it the case that when civilian lives are being targeted, people feel that there are two sides for some reason? Why is it that when people chant “gas the Jews” 8,800 miles away from the borders of Israel or Gaza, they must question what the Israeli government has done?
This is our second chance as the Penn community to look at the beast of antisemitism and assert that this does not belong in our community. This is the administration's second chance to stand by their students and take the side of justice and morals. It is time to speak up and use our voices to defeat this malignant and inhumane force that has for some reason been allowed into our community. Penn must forgo its empty words and instead take active steps to ensure that its students are supported and safe so that what happened this past weekend will happen Never Again.
EYAL YAKOBY is a College senior studying Political Science and Modern Middle East Studies from Princeton, N.J. His email is email@example.com.
Editor's Note: After this guest column was published, the White House clarified Biden's claim he saw photos of terrorists beheading children in Israel-Hamas war, saying that neither Biden nor U.S. officials have seen pictures or confirmed such reports independently.