October 17, 2023

FRIEDMAN | Missing Moral Condemnation

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Terror against the most innocent and vulnerable — at the hands of a group committed only to fire and fury and zero constructive aims for their own people — is never an acceptable answer to cases of political or territorial disagreements. In a civilized world, political or religious ideologies, legitimate or otherwise, can never, under any circumstances, justify criminal, savage acts — acts which must be met with immediate and severe consequences.

On one side — innocent, unprepared, shocked civilians — and on the other — premeditated, conniving, ferocious killers. The events unfolding last weekend featured an unfathomable power differential, causing consternation, fear, and frustration the world over. The leaders of the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Britain issued a joint statement pledging support.

Still, there are those that invert the realities of the situation and flip the actual power dynamic on its head — claiming that the killers with guns are “oppressed” and the bleeding dead are the “oppressors.” 

The paradigm these terror apologists construct has zero semblance or grounding in the real world. For one, Israelis are indigenous to the territory, — not “settlers” as many misinformed observers claim  — altogether debasing the false and counterfactual narrative of colonial “exploitation.” 

Second, all nations, spanning from indigenous Israel to the settled United States, face border disputes and territorial questions. There is no moral justification for abject terrorism. Attempting to construct one is, at best, absurd and, at worst, an outright, overt pretext for egregious acts of violence.

In the modern United States, there is quite a distinction between the law’s text and the law’s practice. The law permits rallies celebrating devastation in Times Square, a historic sight I witnessed in passing. However, the Bill of Rights does not include a guarantee to a seat at a prestigious, windfall-generating law firm. 

As the dust settled from Hamas’ raping, pillaging, and killing spree of historic proportions, the president of the NYU Student Bar Assocation, Ryna Workman wrote: “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life… This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary. I will not condemn Palestinian resistance.”

In light of Ms. Workman’s assertions, NYU Law, a supposed bastion of intellect, must either audit their admissions department or their international law curriculum.

Winston & Strawn LLP, a respected firm with over a billion U.S. Dollars in revenue last year, withdrew their offer to Ms. Workman. Repugnant speech is protected in the U.S. code — not in the elite levels of the legal profession.

Compare the public protests in the United States with the response to the tragic events of 9/11. Any assertion of the hijackers’ moral authority would face rightful denunciation, casting the perpetrators to the absolute and utter fringe and resulting in expulsion from the public sphere. 

In quantitative terms, even a comparison to 9/11 is not quite adequate and falls short. Four-star General David Petraeus states the following: “This is the equivalent of the U.S. having experienced over 40,000 losses, rather than the 3,000 terrible losses that we sustained in the attacks of 9/11.”

And what was Cornell President Martha E. Pollack’s reaction to the events? “Regrettably, there are so often horrific events around the world, and… it is impossible to respond to each of them,” President Pollack said. 

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber’s wise words serve as a direct rebuttal to Pollack’s. “Even in a world wearied and torn by violence and hatred, Hamas’s murder and kidnapping of hundreds of Israelis over the past weekend is among the most atrocious of terrorist acts.”

Hours later, an open and honest correction from President Pollack. Days later, a third statement. One statement should have been enough.

Still, current, active Professors at Cornell continue to traffic in the celebration of terrorism. In response to Hamas’ activities, Associate Professor Russell Rickford doubled down on his comments at a Sunday rally in the Ithaca Commons that Gazans and Palestinians “were able to breathe for the first time in a year” and that as a consequence, “it was exhilarating… it was energizing” to him. Is it even possible for a Professor to state the same regarding 9/11? The administration must take immediate action.

Prof. Rickford received a Ph.D. at Columbia University, an institution in which, just this week, a “19-year-old woman… was charged with assault” against another individual hanging fliers, according to the New York Times.

History is complicated. The United Kingdom, for instance, recently witnessed the rise of its first Hindu Premier, a man whose lineage traces back to a region once colonized by the English. Despite the historical injustices of English rule, no one disputes the inherent right of the English to their heartland. Like in Israel, any massacre of innocent Englishmen would be met with a fierce military response. 

Similarly, in Turkey, a state with a strong legacy of migration and settlement from Central Asia, the rights of Turks to the heartland of Anatolia has remained undeniable since the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. Ongoing disputes on its eastern fringes and random attacks on civilian areas alike are certified terrorist activities according to the U.S., Turkey and the European Union. Attacks on civilians, like one in Ankara, the capital, two weeks ago are routinely met with decisive military force.

It is clear why Hamas does not afford a sophisticated historical understanding to its sworn enemies: their funding and operations are entirely contingent on their successful execution campaigns, similar to the reason that ISIS did not spend their time reading and debating textbooks on U.S., Ottoman, French and Abbasid history.

But American students, activists and citizens who are quick to validate demonic actions under the banners of “opposing oppression” or “challenging colonialism” must introspect. The reasoning of notable students and “activists” is riddled with inconsistencies, rarely, if ever, withstanding historical scrutiny. Indeed, if applied globally, few, if any, nation-states would emerge intact. 

In light of the reasoning of NYU Law’s Student Bar Association President and her collaborators, all governments must face insurrection, all civilians must face the threat of death, and the world must devolve into chaos, nihilism and endless armed struggle. That this view is held not by rogue actors but by notable individuals ranging from a student with a position within the pinnacles of one of the nation’s premier law schools to a current Cornell Professor is truly astounding and shameful.

Aaron Friedman is a third year student in the College of Arts & Sciences. His fortnightly column Honest AF focuses on travel and the progression of student life, culture and community. He can be reached at [email protected].

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