Over the past nine weeks, students showing solidarity with Palestine have been incessantly accused of supporting terrorism — I have received comments, emails and social media messages claiming that I support beheading babies.
As an American Muslim, these slanderous accusations are not new to me. In the spirit of open dialogue, I wish to respond with my personal view on the ongoing crisis in Gaza, shared by many other Muslim students who I have spoken with.
Despite what many Western media sources, including our student newspapers, The Daily and the Review, will have you believe, the ongoing violence in Gaza is not the fault of Islamist terrorists. Not only is this rhetoric one-sided and simplistic, it is also misused and abused by oppressive regimes around the world.
This rhetoric of terrorism is used by the Chinese Communist Party against the Uyghur resistance, the Indian government against the Kashmiri resistance and the Myanmar military against the Rohingya resistance. In all these cases, a state with a powerful military purports to be “fighting terrorism” as an excuse to brutally attack and oppress indigenous Muslim populations in their homelands. Israel uses the same strategy to ethnically cleanse Palestine by claiming to fight Hamas while bombarding all of Gaza.
In 2001, George W. Bush paved the way for the weaponization of this rhetoric when he declared his “Global War on Terror” to justify invading Iraq and Afghanistan. This is nothing more than a ploy drawing on the Islamophobic trope that Muslims are violent and barbaric.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there is no internationally accepted definition of terrorism; however, “as a minimum, terrorism involves the intimidation or coercion of populations or governments through the threat or perpetration of violence, causing death, serious injury or the taking of hostages.”
Terrorism is terrorism, whether it’s committed by a state or a stateless people. Terrorism is terrorism whether the U.S. government acknowledges it or not.
Israel is most deserving of the “terrorist” title in this conflict, especially given their lack of mitigating circumstances: they are not being occupied or blockaded, they have international support and they have advanced military technology capable of precise targeting. Why, then, are Muslim students asked to condemn Hamas, while advocates for Israel are not asked to condemn the IDF?
What is Israel’s excuse for leveling residential buildings? Or targeting refugee camps and schools with airstrikes? Or cutting off electricity, food, medicine and fuel to all of Gaza as collective punishment? Or dropping white phosphorus on civilians? Or ordering over a million Gazans to evacuate before bombing an evacuation route? Or murdering over 170 civilians in the West Bank, which is not governed by Hamas, while the world is distracted by grave risk of genocide in Gaza?
There is no excuse. The Israeli government is a terrorist organization.
Many on campus claim that supporting Palestinian resistance makes me a terrorist sympathizer. But then what does that make those who justify Israel’s crimes against humanity by saying, “Hamas is holding human shields” and “Israel has a right to defend itself”?
If there was a rumor Hamas was hiding inside an Israeli hospital, would that justify blowing up the hospital? How about an Israeli daycare center?
Those who misuse the rhetoric of terrorism center the conversation around Hamas, but the cause of this crisis is not Hamas. Palestinians have been decrying violence by Zionist militant groups long before Hamas existed. And, even aside from Hamas, anyone who has ever fought back against Israel was designated a terrorist.
You do not need to support Hamas to recognize this hypocrisy. Nor do you have to be Muslim or Arab. Many Jews and former Zionists have blamed Israeli apartheid for the recent violence because they understand where our focus should be.
To those who criticize us for not condemning Hamas: We Muslims are tired of being spoken down to. We’re tired of moral grandstanding from Western people. We’re tired of condemning groups we’re not affiliated with. Those who arrogantly demand condemnations from Muslims should first condemn the Israeli government. Then, and only then, will you have earned the moral capital to demand condemnations from me.
As Americans, our tax dollars fund military aid to Israel, not Hamas. Stanford partners with Israeli companies complicit in the occupation, not with Hamas. Our administration condemned Hamas in their letter to the community but said absolutely nothing about Israel’s atrocities.
A truck was seen and photographed by Muslim students on campus with the following message written on it in Arabic: “Warning: Stay away 100 meters or you will be shot at.” Palestinian and Muslim students on campus have received threatening phone calls from strangers and alumni, been doxxed, defamed, regularly harassed (even by a professor) and assaulted. Many pro-Palestinians on campus don’t publicly comment because they fear these consequences. Anti-Zionist speech has always been stifled in this country.
All of this is why I choose to focus on Israel and not Hamas.
As a Muslim, it is part of my faith to oppose the killing of innocent civilians. Any harm to innocent Israeli or Palestinian people is undoubtedly horrible and should not be condoned. My heart goes out to all the affected families who lost loved ones and are hurting on both sides.
To truly honor the lives of the victims and prevent this from ever happening again, we must stop the terrorist group directly responsible: the Israeli government.
Israel’s government cannot slowly eradicate the Palestinian population and not expect a violent response. The international community cannot continue to support Israel or remain silent and not expect a violent response. The recent violence is the direct result of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Killing civilians is not justified. But under these conditions, armed resistance against the Israeli military and police is justified. On Oct. 7, Palestinians and their allies were not celebrating the death of Israeli civilians; we were celebrating Palestinians breaking out of their prison and attacking military posts. I support armed resistance as Palestinians struggle to end Israeli terror, while simultaneously opposing deliberate harm to innocent civilians.
There are many historical cases of civilians being killed by an oppressed group that is using armed resistance to overcome their oppressor. We look back at these today and understand that we must focus on the root cause of the oppression. For example, Nelson Mandela’s paramilitary wing of the African National Congress, which was designated a terrorist organization by South Africa, the U.S. and the U.K., conducted several bombings that killed police officers and civilians.
Yet when we talk about South African apartheid, we start and end the discussion with the injustice of apartheid. The same is true for the Algerian National Liberation Front’s attacks against the brutal French colonial government, slave revolts against American plantation owners and Native American attacks against European colonizers.
This does not mean those civilian lives don’t matter — quite the opposite. It means their blood is on the hands of the colonizing, occupying and terrorizing force.
It’s important to not get stuck in an echo chamber. We hear pro-Israeli perspectives every day on CNN, Fox, MSNBC and other Western news outlets. We see an abundance of false propaganda spread by Zionists in mainstream media to stoke fear against Palestinians and Muslims.
This is not a new phenomenon. In the 1990s, George H.W. Bush used false testimony of Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators to justify the American invasion of Iraq. In 2001, the “weapons of mass destruction” lie was used to invade Iraq again. Fear-mongering allows governments to manufacture consent and act on entire populations with impunity.
I encourage readers to be critical. Check sources. Demand explicit evidence. Keep in mind that Israel has a long history of lying about its crimes. The massacres in Gaza, on the other hand, are undeniable. Palestinians do not need to lie because the reality is far worse than is even imaginable.
As the great Malcolm X said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people being oppressed, and loving the people doing the oppressing.”
Many students like myself are happy to engage in respectful and productive dialogue. Straw-manning our position as a defense of terrorism or antisemitism is intellectually dishonest and unconducive to progress.
Those willing to support the children of Gaza can help at these links. And to those Zionists who photograph, doxx and attempt to silence pro-Palestinian students: Feel free not to hire me. In fact, please don’t, I would never work for you anyway.
May God protect Gaza and all innocent people around the world.
Hamza El Boudali ’22 is a master’s student in computer science.
After editors introduced a change to align with linked substantiation, this article was updated at the author’s request to more accurately represent his perspective.