The Volokh Conspiracy

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UCLA Professor Dov Waxman on the Pro-Hamas Campus Protests


I don't know Dov Waxman, professor of Israel Studies at UCLA, except by reputation. And his reputation is of being ideologically on the left, hostile to Israel and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, and as someone who downplays the prevalence of antisemitism among "antizionists."

Therefore, I found a recent tweet of his explaining why he won't support the "encampment" at UCLA of special interest:

I cannot join this protest because it is not just a protest against the war in Gaza. Among the demands of the protest organizers is the demand to "sever all UC-wide connections to Israeli universities, including study abroad programs, fellowships, seminars, and research collaborations, and UCLA's Nazarian Center." Needless to say, I oppose the demand to boycott the Nazarian Center, which I direct. The Center is devoted to the academic study of Israel and has no ties to the Israeli government. I also oppose boycotting Israeli academic institutions and academic boycotts in general.

But it isn't only the demands of the [UCLA] protest organizers that I have a problem with. One of the organizations behind the protest, Students for Justice in Palestine, has expressed support for Hamas and has even celebrated the massacre of Israelis on October 7. [David notes: This is true of both the national organization and individual campus SJPs.] Being in solidarity with Palestinians does not necessitate supporting Hamas. On the contrary, Hamas oppresses Palestinians and has no concern for the lives of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. They have openly stated that they are willing to sacrifice countless Palestinian lives—"martyrs"—for their cause, which is the ultimate eradication of Israel. They have spent billions building a vast underground network to protect themselves and their weaponry, but they haven't built a single bomb shelter for Gazan civilians or sheltered them in their tunnels. They are prolonging the devastating war in Gaza, and the humanitarian crisis there, in order to maintain their power and authoritarian rule in Gaza.

I know that many people in the pro-Palestinian movement don't support Hamas and don't praise the October 7 massacre, but groups like SJP lead the movement on many college campuses, exploiting the sympathy that many students rightly feel for the suffering of Palestinians. Students and faculty demonstrating in support of Palestinians shouldn't ignore the fact that the organizers of these demonstrations are, in many cases, ideologically committed to eradicating Israel and expelling Israeli Jews, supportive of violence against Israeli civilians, and willing to ignore or even justify Hamas' strategy of sacrificing Palestinian civilians for their political ends.

I would add two points to Waxman's post. First, SJP is the leading group behind the protests on the vast majority of campuses. SJP, as Waxman noted, is pro-Hamas. This makes the protests effectively pro-Hamas, just like a protest organized by the KKK against affirmative action would be racist, regardless of the intent of individual protesters. And two of the other main groups involved in organizing the protests, Within our Lifetimes and (the wildly misnamed) Jewish Voice for Peace are also pro-Hamas. If student protestors don't want to their reputations to be soiled with the inference that they are at least indifferent to if not supportive of Hamas's genocidal aims and behavior, they should form protest organizations that disclaim support for Hamas. Otherwise, they are in "there are some very fine people at the protests" territory.

Second, as I noted repeatedly on X, while there are certainly pro-Palestinian individuals, there is no pro-Palestinian movement. There is a hate Israel movement that brings together people of various ideologies who hate Israel for different reasons–Palestininan nationalism, pan-Arab nationalism, radical Islamism, anti-colonialism, antisemitism, among others–and that facilitates solidarity among groups that might otherwise be at each other's throats, like radical Islamists and radical secular leftists, among many other strange bedfellows. The Palestinians are a prop for this Israel-hatred. When "the movement" has the choice between supporting something that would benefit both Israelis and Palestinians, or something that would harm both, it will always choose the latter. Pro-Palestinian individuals have had a golden opportunity since Oct. 7 to form organizations that support Palestinian rights but explicitly reject Hamas and the violent destruction of Israel. But they so far haven't taken it.