Soft on Hamas: An Inquiry to My Fellow Gentiles

June 10, 2024

 Edan Tasca, Centre for Inquiry Canada

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.”

— Martin Niemöller

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” 

— Sherlock Holmes

As horrifying as the enormity of October 7 was, no one was surprised about the potential for this savagery. We knew this was and always will be waiting to pounce. The closest things to surprising on October 7 were the cheered-on aspects: the parachute attack, the raped and dragged grandmother, and the dead children and babies. Extrapolating the casualties to scale, this attack was more than a full order of magnitude worse than 9/11. Anyone behind on their reading has ideally caught up now and knows what Hamas is about. 

Yet on October 8 we witnessed behaviour even more shocking. It turned out that not everyone agreed that the October 7 display of unabashed and glorified cruelty was unacceptable. I had no choice but to notice that, as disgusted as I was on October 7, I was more disgusted on October 8. It horrified in a close to never-before-seen way, at least for those of us of a slightly younger age with no memories of WWII, the Holocaust, or its immediate aftermath.

The Leftish West seemed to be either siding with Hamas or turning a blind eye. Demonstrations. Chants. Official statements of sole Israeli guilt for the massacre of Israelis. Jewish students being blocked from campus buildings, because they’re Jewish. Astonishing, heartbreaking scenes of young adults eagerly tearing down posters of missing Jewish people, who might’ve been hostages. The same types chanting “Intifada!” and “From the river to the sea!”

I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the cruelty of these reactions on campuses and elsewhere. Here we have people we otherwise trust to be kind and intelligent — many humanists, mostly on the Left — cheering the massacre of civilians, blaming the massacre on the massacred, and calling for further massacres.

Gradeschoolers love a good pile-on. We’ve been forced to accept that Ivy League students often act like gradeschoolers. Where most pile-ons are for fun, this pile-on evokes the Holocaust and glorifies genocide. The string of grotesque reactions was capped by the coupe de grace of a catastrophic silence from what seemed like everyone else, in particular the Left, where many Jewish people were shocked to learn they had unexpectedly few allies. For Jewish people and for humanity, there were tears to shed here. 

Victimhood should never be travestied into a competition, but it is impossible to watch the depravity that unfolded on October 7 and 8 and not be reminded that throughout human history no ethnic group has been treated more poorly, with more contempt, and with more cruelty than the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism seems as old as recorded history.

Help me understand. On October 6, you didn’t like Hamas. On October 8, many of you seemed a fan or at least comfortable. What inspired the shift? As Sherlock Holmes would, let’s eliminate all factors that can’t be responsible. Whatever remains must be the truth. 

Israel/Palestine is too far away for fear and intimidation to have forced the shift in most. Equally obvious, your shift couldn’t have been inspired by sheer carnage. You’re not a psychopath. You wouldn’t support wanton violence anywhere. You’d also criticize the group committing the violence. If October 7 had gone the other way, you would rightly despise the IDF. 

Was revenge the inspiration? This seems the easiest and most likely reason, because of all the injustices performed by the Israeli government and in particular the IDF. There is no shortage of offences here. But you know well to avoid “they” problems because you know that groups aren’t people. Punishing a random Israeli soldier for specific actions of the IDF — let alone punishing a concertgoer or grandmother — is as absurd as punishing the White Whale for Ahab’s leg. Even if it weren’t absurd, this wouldn’t do because of what you teach your kids about two wrongs. 

And even if two wrongs did make right, you wouldn’t target your violence at concertgoers, children, babies, grandmothers, and kibbutz-living Palestine sympathizers, because they had nothing to do with anything except being Jewish. And we all know that vengeance — though brilliant for fiction — is a complete disaster in real life, because the cycle of violence and misery never ends. 

And what would the revenge be for? Israel hadn’t begun its counter-offensive. And the October 7 attack broke a ceasefire that had been in place since 2005. But with no shortage of prior IDF issues, we can pick anything here. Let’s go with the popular view that Palestine is subject to colonialism. Israelis have been considered colonizers since they returned to Israel after being run out of many areas of the Middle-East. Israel is the traditional homeland of the Israeli people. It’s impossible to colonize your traditional homeland. Our land acknowledgements to the Indigenous that start proceedings on campus and elsewhere remind of this.

Is it that Hamas represents your “progressive” comrades with whom you need to unite? Queers for Palestine notwithstanding, you know Hamas doesn’t tolerate homosexuality. You know how poorly Hamas treats women. You know Hamas teaches children to hate Jewish people. You know there aren’t difficulties with trans issues in Gaza, because there are no openly trans folks in Gaza. And you know exactly why there are no openly trans folks in Gaza. 

You also know that Hamas hides its important strategic hubs and such under vulnerable areas like hospitals. Hamas will make unashamed use of human shields, including children and the infirm. Every Hamas policy is a nightmare that would disgust you in your world. 

Maybe you haven’t thought much past rooting for the underdog. Hamas is up against a government backed by the U.S. But unlike Hamas, Israel doesn’t want any countries or peoples destroyed. A map will show you that Israel is a tiny island surrounded by an ocean of countries whose governments, like Hamas, want it and its people destroyed. Israel is also a country whose haters can be found all around the globe, even if, and maybe especially if, the haters have no experience with Jewish people.

Hatred of the Jewish people is ancient and precludes Netanyahu, the IDF, and modern Israel. And the Jewish people are a rare ethnicity that is universally rejected politically, because they aren’t white enough on the Right and they’re “too white” on the Left. Like death and taxes, Earthlings targeting Jews for mistreatment is systemic. If there’s a David and a Goliath here, the group perennially under attack from every direction — with no safe home politically or geographically — is the Davidian underdog. 

As a final defense of your softness on Hamas, you might offer, “Well, what do you expect?” Just like you’d never expect blacks to massacre whites; just like you’d never expect Tibetans or the Taiwanese or the Uyghurs to massacre Chinese folks; just like you’d never expect women to massacre males; you’d never expect the Palestinians to massacre Jewish folks. If you’re expecting or even hoping for further violence from Palestinians against the Jewish people, you have to ask yourself why. It’s unlikely you’re falling for the bigotry of low expectations about Palestinians, because I don’t think you believe that any ethnicity is inherently more violent than another. 

Fear is not your main culprit for being soft on Hamas. Wanton violence itself didn’t inspire your shift. It also seems impossible that revenge inspired you. Anti-colonialism couldn’t have been sufficient. Championing Lefty politics fails, as does defending the underdog. And I refuse to believe that what inspired you was perhaps some form of racism. Not about Palestinians.

But on October 6, you didn’t care about Hamas. Since October 8, many of you seem a fan. What’s the explanation that remains?

Lloyd Robertson