Condemning the Hamas Attack on Israel and Rejecting Hate Speech: A Public Response to a Colleague

The ter­ror­ist attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, shocked me deeply. I was also dis­ap­point­ed by the state­ment issued by the UNC Chapel Hill Faculty, Graduate Students, and Staff Regarding Justice in Palestine, which, among oth­er things, “…We believe that an under­stand­ing of such loss must be sit­u­at­ed with­in the his­tor­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­text of ongo­ing colo­nial oppres­sion.”[1] On November 3, 2023, I sent a brief note to about 40 UNC fac­ul­ty mem­bers who had signed this state­ment by then, ask­ing them if they endorsed the atro­cious crimes com­mit­ted by Hamas dur­ing this attack. I received only one reply from a UNC fac­ul­ty mem­ber whom I had addressed. After care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, I decid­ed to give my point-by-point response in a form of an open let­ter. Herein I removed the name of my addressee and changed their direct text to state­ments of prob­lems they raised.

Dear Respected Colleague:

Thank you for your response on November 3, 2023, to my let­ter to the UNC fac­ul­ty sig­na­to­ries of the “UNC Chapel Hill Faculty, Graduate Students, and Staff Statement Regarding Justice in Palestine”. While my brief note only ques­tioned the moral equiv­a­lence stat­ed in “…We believe that an under­stand­ing of such loss must be sit­u­at­ed with­in the his­tor­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­text of ongo­ing colo­nial oppres­sion” giv­en the inhu­mane atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Hamas and its sup­port­ers on October 7, 2023, your reply broad­ens the spec­trum to encom­pass social, aca­d­e­m­ic, and even per­son­al mat­ters. This has prompt­ed me to engage in deep­er reflection.

What I Stand For and What I Oppose

You addressed me as “pre­sum­ably a sup­port­er of Israel” prompt­ing me to pon­der over my true affil­i­a­tions and convictions.
I ful­ly sup­port the right of the Jewish state to exist that is affirmed in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947[2] .

As you prob­a­bly know, the res­o­lu­tion was accept­ed by the Jewish Agency for Palestine but reject­ed by the Arab Higher Committee. Most nations on our plan­et are made up of peo­ple shar­ing the same reli­gious beliefs, cul­ture, and lan­guage, estab­lished on land that the peo­ple have his­toric ties to.

As an American, I first and fore­most sup­port the United States of America. Israel stands as a key and cru­cial ally of the United States in the Middle East and is the sole democ­ra­cy in the region. Therefore, I sup­port Israel, along with the thou­sands of American men and women in uni­form whom President Biden has deployed after October 7, 2023, to the east­ern Mediterranean to deter Hezbollah and Iran from attack­ing Israel.

I stand by the right of Israel to defend itself, much as I sup­port Ukraine’s right to resist Putin’s fas­cist state aggres­sion. As a Russian cit­i­zen by birth, I know first-hand that it is impos­si­ble to appease and rea­son with crim­i­nal minds, dic­ta­tors, and ter­ror­ists. For many years, I held the belief that main­tain­ing a sen­si­ble dia­logue with polit­i­cal and aca­d­e­m­ic lead­er­ship was cru­cial for the well-being of future gen­er­a­tions in my coun­try of birth. However, this con­vic­tion end­ed abrupt­ly with Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine and the per­pe­tra­tion of unspeak­able crimes against the Ukrainian peo­ple by Russians.

I stand by the words of my great com­pa­tri­ot, Academician Andrei Sakharov, who stat­ed, “Peace, progress, human rights — these three goals are insol­ubly linked to one anoth­er: It is impos­si­ble to achieve one of these goals if the oth­er two are ignored.”[3]  The appalling attack by Hamas and its sup­port­ers against Israel, result­ing in 1,200 vic­tims tor­tured and mur­dered in just a few hours, with near­ly 240 hostages tak­en to Gaza by ter­ror­ists, goes against each of these principles.

These are unde­ni­ably most chal­leng­ing times for our gen­er­a­tion. I vehe­ment­ly oppose aggres­sion, false­hoods, mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and dis­hon­esty, firm­ly believ­ing that today silence is not an option. With that in mind, let me scru­ti­nize the rest of your letter.

Responses to Your Questions and Rationale:

“Do you know how many Palestinians have been tor­tured, mur­dered, bru­tal­ized, made homeless?”

I would great­ly appre­ci­ate it you could point out a sin­gle con­firmed case of tor­ture of a Palestinian by Israel. A video­tape, a pic­ture, or some hard evi­dence would be quite help­ful because such evi­dence can be pre­sent­ed in Israeli courts and used to pros­e­cute those who per­pe­trate such alleged crimes against Palestinians. After all, we have pros­e­cut­ed and con­vict­ed over a dozen American sol­diers for the Abu Ghraib tor­ture and pris­on­er abuse.[4] Israel is a democ­ra­cy, and I am sure they would do the same pro­vid­ed they are faced with sol­id evi­dence. I am deeply con­cerned about the claims of Amnesty International[5],  and if true, they should be pur­sued legally.

However, noth­ing I saw in the Amnesty International report comes close to what we wit­nessed on October 7th, 2023. I doubt any Israeli sol­dier or civil­ian would “cut a man’s penis and put it in his mouth,” but that is exact­ly what was done to a younger broth­er of a fac­ul­ty mem­ber at an Israeli uni­ver­si­ty, accord­ing to a col­league who is a friend of mine. This friend also told me that anoth­er col­league was break­ing down while telling how his niece was raped while her organs were being cut in the process. Unfortunately, I have seen a video of a mur­dered woman, with her legs still posi­tioned open as left by her abusers, and her eyes, lips, and pieces of her skin and leg cut off. The ter­ror­ists and per­haps accom­pa­ny­ing “con­cerned cit­i­zens” who did that con­ve­nient­ly filmed these inhu­mane acts. They even took Gaza pho­to­jour­nal­ists with them to trans­mit the images of their hor­ren­dous deeds to major news out­lets.[6]

Unfortunately, with near­ly 1200 vic­tims of the ter­ror­ist attack, the wit­ness, foren­sic, and video evi­dence of the worst mas­sacre of Jews since the Holocaust is over­whelm­ing. Journalists world­wide have been shown a grue­some video and pho­tographs com­piled from body cam­eras of the attack­ers, along with oth­er evi­dence, dur­ing Hamas’s October 7th attack. The video is impos­si­ble for a nor­mal human being to watch, and its view­ing is very restrict­ed in Israel due to the trau­ma it caus­es to the rel­a­tives of the vic­tims.[7]  A few days ago, a video was shown to the mem­bers of the US House of Representatives that left them stunned and shak­en.[8] Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) expressed her out­rage, stat­ing: “Seeing the video footage of peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing the killing of Jews shows what we’re up against. And the fact that any­body would encour­age or con­done what Hamas did that day. It’s outrageous.”

No “his­tor­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­text of ongo­ing colo­nial oppres­sion” even if true can jus­ti­fy such hor­ren­dous and demon­stra­tive massacre.

“Do you mourn deaths of chil­dren in Israeli attacks in Gaza in the past 15 years?”

I mourn suf­fer­ing and death of a every child, every inno­cent per­son in Gaza and elsewhere.

I found myself in Dresden in the ear­ly 2000s, where rem­nants of the Allied bom­bard­ment in February 1945 still lin­gered. As I strolled through the streets, I could­n’t help but envi­sion the cat­a­stroph­ic tor­na­do of fire formed by the burn­ing build­ings, swal­low­ing peo­ple into a fire­ball that tore through the city cen­ter. I griev­ed for every life lost, every German child, every woman, and every man — thou­sands upon thou­sands fell vic­tim to these bomb­ings. I ques­tioned the neces­si­ty of such destruc­tion. Yet, I could­n’t for­get who ini­ti­at­ed that war.

Recalling the sto­ry my moth­er shared with me, she vis­it­ed Krakow short­ly after World War II, around 1948, as a bal­le­ri­na with the Bolshoi Theatre in the USSR. They toured Auschwitz, and she wit­nessed moun­tains of chil­dren’s shoes near the “undress­ing rooms” and “saunas” of the gas cham­bers, as well as piles of human ash­es by the ovens. Hitler and German fas­cism ini­ti­at­ed the war and per­pe­trat­ed heinous crimes against human­i­ty. Despite the immense human suf­fer­ing, death, and destruc­tion in Germany, it was the fas­cists who bore the respon­si­bil­i­ty for every life lost, not the Allies.

Speaking about the cur­rent war - would Israel have start­ed a mil­i­tary oper­a­tion in Gaza if there had been no attack on Israeli soil on October 7, 2023? Would the United States have dis­patched two air car­ri­er strike groups capa­ble of whip­ping an entire coun­try if there had been no threats from Iran to inter­vene in the con­flict? Do not for­get that there have been thou­sands of rock­ets fired at Israel from Gaza by Hamas and from Lebanon by Hezbollah – both groups with ties to Iran. So, who should be blamed for this war and its consequences?

Above I already men­tioned the hor­rif­ic atroc­i­ties that were com­mit­ted against peace­ful peo­ple dur­ing the attack of October 7, 2023. Do you think these inhu­mane acts were just a result of “an excess” of “Palestinian free­dom fight­ers” who were “a bit car­ried away” by see­ing their “Jewish oppres­sor”? And not only Jewish by the way – Israeli Arab fam­i­lies were also killed in that attack. If you think so, you have an enor­mous­ly poor opin­ion of Palestinians.

No, the ter­ror­ists did what they did, filmed it and spread the images through the glob­al media on pur­pose. They knew that such a hor­ren­dous act would leave Israel moral­ly, polit­i­cal­ly, and mil­i­tar­i­ly with no oth­er choice but to start an oper­a­tion in Gaza. In fact, Hamas lead­ers went on the record say­ing that “their goal was to trig­ger this very response and that they were still hop­ing for a big­ger war”.[9] Moreover, they “vowed to “anni­hi­late” Israel and promised to repeat the October 7 mas­sacre again and again until the Jewish nation was “fin­ished””.[10] Please refer to the direct state­ments made by Mr. Khalil al-Hayya and Mr. Ghazi Hamad, senior offi­cials of Hamas, in the ref­er­enced publications.

Hamas does not care about the “tem­po­rary hard­ships” of the Palestinian peo­ple if their goals are achieved. Israel uni­lat­er­al­ly and vol­un­tar­i­ly left Gaza in September 2005.[11] Since then, Hamas has been dis­man­tling pipelines to build rock­ets that they fire at Israel, as well as dig­ging tun­nels.[12], [13]  They have also placed rock­et launch­ers and oth­er mil­i­tary instal­la­tions on top of and with­in hos­pi­tals and oth­er civil­ian objects, expos­ing them to Israeli strikes and max­i­miz­ing the Palestinian civil­ian casu­al­ties.[14]  This tac­tic – use of “human shields” - is char­ac­ter­is­tic of cow­ards and ter­ror­ists. It shows a total dis­re­gard for the lives of the Palestinian people.
Therefore, I strong­ly con­demn Hamas and oth­er ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in Gaza for launch­ing their attacks and believe that they are the ones to blame for every Palestinian and Israeli life lost in this and pre­vi­ous con­flicts. Just as Adolf Hitler was respon­si­ble for the German lives lost, Hamas is respon­si­ble for the suf­fer­ing of the Palestinians. Hamas must be dealt with deci­sive­ly, like Hitler was dur­ing World War II. Moreover, the destruc­tion of Hamas and oth­er ter­ror­ist groups is in the best inter­est of Palestine and the Palestinian peo­ple, just as the destruc­tion of German fas­cism dur­ing World War II was in the best inter­est of Germany and the German people.

“The things you say Hamas did is Israeli propaganda.”

This com­ment of yours reminds me of a recent per­son­al expe­ri­ence. You may know that Russian troops com­mit­ted hor­ren­dous war crimes on occu­pied Ukrainian ter­ri­to­ry, killing peace­ful Ukrainian cit­i­zens. In just one city, Bucha, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights doc­u­ment­ed the killings, includ­ing sum­ma­ry exe­cu­tion, of at least 73 civil­ians.[15] According to some reports, the num­ber of civil­ians mur­dered in the Bucha region dur­ing one month under Russian occu­pa­tion could be as high as a thou­sand.[16]  Nevertheless, many in Russia refuse to believe that and con­sid­er it “Western pro­pa­gan­da”. I have peo­ple I know very close­ly in Moscow, some with sci­en­tif­ic degrees, who are telling me that it is “obvi­ous that the bod­ies were plant­ed”, that “they moved” (and there­fore alive), that “these were actors”, etc.

In Russia, there is a heavy cost for those who dare to speak the truth. Admitting the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Russian troops against Ukrainians is a crime in Russia. Well-known politi­cians Vladimir Kara-Murza and Ilya Yashin and oth­er less­er-known peo­ple were sen­tenced to long prison terms for denounc­ing the war crimes that Russia com­mit­ted in Ukraine, includ­ing the killings in Bucha.[17], [18], [19] I have a fac­ul­ty col­league and friend at the University of Chicago who is cur­rent­ly being pros­e­cut­ed and placed on a fed­er­al want­ed list by the Russian gov­ern­ment for alleged­ly doing the same.[20] But I do not think that the denial is only a func­tion of fear, espe­cial­ly in the cas­es of peo­ple I know very well. The true rea­son is the inabil­i­ty to cope with facts that con­tra­dict one’s deep beliefs.
Like the crimes of Russians in Ukraine, there is over­whelm­ing evi­dence of the hor­ren­dous crimes com­mit­ted by Hamas against civil­ians dur­ing the October 7th attack. This evi­dence can be eas­i­ly found on the web. As stat­ed ear­li­er there is a graph­ic film com­pris­ing footage cap­tured from body cam­eras worn by Hamas ter­ror­ists on October 7, that con­tains dis­turb­ing scenes of tor­ture, rape, mur­der, and muti­la­tion of vic­tims dur­ing the assault.[21] Denying it as “Israeli pro­pa­gan­da” con­tra­dicts the facts and is not constructive.

“Hamas car­ried out attacks and tak­en peo­ple as polit­i­cal prisoners.”

Two hun­dred forty peo­ple kid­napped by Hamas include women, chil­dren, tod­dlers, and elder­ly.[22] They are not “polit­i­cal pris­on­ers” they are hostages.

“Israel is the state spon­sor­ing ter­ror in names of Jews and with American tax dollars.”

You are con­cerned about tax­pay­er mon­ey, and you should be. It is a very good ques­tion to ask why the mon­ey trans­ferred to Gaza was not used to improve the lives of the Palestinian peo­ple. To improve edu­ca­tion? To improve health­care? Instead, it was invest­ed in under­ground tun­nels, weapons and hate edu­ca­tion. Israel did not send sui­cide bombers to bomb cof­fee hous­es or bus­es in Gaza. Hamas did that in Israel. Israel does not teach their stu­dents in schools to hate Arabs. There are numer­ous reports that Hamas does teach their chil­dren to hate and to kill Jews.[23], [24] Israeli Arabs, Israeli Druze, and Israeli Bedouins express sol­i­dar­i­ty with Israel dur­ing these chal­leng­ing times. Notably, the Palestinians of the West Bank have not heed­ed calls to vio­lence from Hamas and Iran.

The ter­ror­ist attack on Israel on October 7th, 2023, is unjus­ti­fi­able — an act of war and a severe vio­la­tion of human rights. Clearly, none of Israel’s actions, poli­cies, or gov­er­nance jus­ti­fies this attack, and Israel’s response aligns with inter­na­tion­al law. The respon­si­bil­i­ty for the suf­fer­ing of the cit­i­zens of Gaza is attrib­uted to Hamas, and those who have financed Hamas: they are respon­si­ble for spon­sor­ing ter­ror­ism. Drawing a par­al­lel, I think that Hamas is like ISIS in terms of its ide­ol­o­gy and tac­tics, and that it should be con­front­ed and iso­lat­ed by the inter­na­tion­al community.

“Jews con­duct a near com­plete geno­cide to the very peo­ple whose land they stole 75 years ago and con­tin­ue to steal today.”

You know bet­ter than me that the Jewish peo­ple have main­tained a con­tin­u­ous pres­ence in Palestine for over 2000 years. There are well-known records that some may refer to as “Israeli pro­pa­gan­da,” com­mon­ly known as the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.

If we zoom in on the peri­od start­ing around the 1900s, the time of the British man­date — the Jews were buy­ing land in Palestine.[25]  Through hard work, they were turn­ing the bar­ren desert into liv­able flour­ish­ing land. On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopt­ed Resolution 181 (II), a plan to par­ti­tion Palestine into inde­pen­dent Arab and Jewish states and the spe­cial inter­na­tion­al regime for the city of Jerusalem.[26] The plan was accept­ed by most of the Jews but reject­ed by the Arabs, which was fol­lowed by the 1947 – 1948 civ­il war in Mandatory Palestine.[27] In On May 15 1948, the day after Israel’s dec­la­ra­tion of inde­pen­dence, it was attacked by Arab states. It is impor­tant to note that Israel did not ini­ti­ate the war with the inten­tion of ter­ri­to­r­i­al expan­sion — it was a response to aggres­sion. The out­comes of these events are well-doc­u­ment­ed and wide­ly known.

Tragically, many Palestinians have left their land because of these events. Arab nations, though, did not wel­come their brethren, choos­ing instead to put them into refugee camps where many remain to this day. Many Palestinians how­ev­er stayed and are known today as the Arab Israeli pop­u­la­tion. These Arabs enjoy all the rights that Israeli Jews have, includ­ing the rights to elect their rep­re­sen­ta­tives to gov­ern­ing bod­ies, to have equal access to health­care, and to receive legal pro­tec­tion and more. Nearly every Jew from the sur­round­ing Arab coun­tries was expelled, leav­ing their homes and belong­ings behind, with no com­pen­sa­tion. They made it to Israel.

The State of Israel was admit­ted to the United Nations on May 11, 1949, and has been rec­og­nized by 165 states, the first of which was the United States. Israel has also been rec­og­nized by the PLO as a legit­i­mate enti­ty rep­re­sent­ing the Palestinian peo­ple. In con­trast, Hamas, that is a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, has seized pow­er in Gaza and mur­dered Palestinian Authority offi­cials. Hamas aims to kill Jews, destroy Israel, and estab­lish an Islamic state in its territory.

The his­tor­i­cal debates are not the point of my let­ter. I wish to con­cen­trate on the cur­rent vio­la­tions of human rights and the imme­di­ate chal­lenges that we all con­front in North Carolina, in the United States, and world­wide due to recent and ongo­ing events.

Perceived Antisemitism and Hate Speech

Many UNC fac­ul­ty mem­bers, some of whom are Jewish and/​or have con­nec­tions to Israel, have expressed deep con­cern about pro-Palestinian demon­stra­tions and the state­ments that they con­sid­er anti­se­mit­ic. Concerns have been raised about hate speech on the aca­d­e­m­ic cam­pus­es. I believe that you would firm­ly deny any such accu­sa­tion and of course in legal terms — this is some­thing the courts would need to decide if they choose so. However, from a pure­ly per­son­al and aca­d­e­m­ic per­spec­tive, I would like to share my thoughts with you that make me extreme­ly concerned.

Imagine a sce­nario in which Group X hates Group Y and com­mits hor­rif­ic crimes against them – rap­ing, muti­lat­ing, killing, burn­ing, and tak­ing hun­dreds of hostages from Group Y in a bru­tal attack, like what hap­pened on October 7, 2023. The his­tor­i­cal con­text for why Group X dis­likes Group Y, or the dif­fer­ence of opin­ion among UNC aca­d­e­mics on that sub­ject, would be irrel­e­vant. It would not mat­ter which com­mu­ni­ty Group Y belonged to. As aca­d­e­mics and human beings, we should be right­ful­ly out­raged by every hate crime against any group – Black peo­ple, LGBTQ peo­ple, Jews, Arabs, or any­one else.[28] Therefore, I am deeply dis­turbed that few UNC aca­d­e­mics wrote that “an under­stand­ing of such loss must be sit­u­at­ed with­in his­tor­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­text” after the events of October 7th, 2023. Killing peo­ple because of their group iden­ti­ty is a hate crime and such a state­ment is seen by many as sup­port­ing ter­ror­ists and crim­i­nals. How could any­one, espe­cial­ly a fac­ul­ty mem­ber at one of the major US uni­ver­si­ties, jus­ti­fy and allow such state­ments – when Hamas is killing Jews just for being Jews? This is extreme­ly alarming.

The slo­gan “From the River to the Sea…” is anoth­er point of con­cern for me. It is unmis­tak­ably anti­se­mit­ic and amounts to hate speech in my view, espe­cial­ly after the events of October 7th. It demands the elim­i­na­tion of the state of Israel with­in its inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized bor­ders. Palestine would be free of whom? For any­one even remote­ly con­nect­ed to Israel, this slo­gan advo­cates for doing to the 10 mil­lion Israeli cit­i­zens, includ­ing Israeli Arabs — many of whom con­demn the attack­ers — what Hamas did on October 7th to any­one with­in their reach. We already heard from the Hamas leader, Mr. Ghazi Hamad, that the attacks will be repeat­ed, and their goal is to “anni­hi­late Israel”.[29] To many Israeli Americans in the United States, this slo­gan essen­tial­ly calls for harm to their rel­a­tives in Israel. And in Carolina, such words are threat­en­ing to every Jew on campus.

What Shall we Do?

We, as fac­ul­ty, have a duty to oppose both anti­semitism and Islamophobia. These forms of hatred have been denounced by President Biden.[30] His admin­is­tra­tion also pledged to tack­le the surge of anti­semitism and Islamophobia in the edu­ca­tion sys­tem, which has been fueled by the recent con­flict between Israel and Hamas.[31] UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskievich echoed this sen­ti­ment, stat­ing that our cam­pus must be free of anti­semitism and prej­u­dice, and urg­ing us to fos­ter a cul­ture of mutu­al respect and learn­ing.[32]

Certainly, the rhetoric must be toned down, and the UNC com­mu­ni­ty should not engage in chant­i­ng slo­gans like “From the riv­er to the sea…” and oth­ers that are per­ceived as anti­se­mit­ic and hate­ful speech by many on our cam­pus. It is unac­cept­able to draw a moral equiv­a­lence between Hamas’s actions and Israel’s response. The sig­na­to­ries of the let­ter “UNC Chapel Hill Faculty, Graduate Students, and Staff Statement Regarding Justice in Palestine” should retract the state­ments that appear to jus­ti­fy Hamas’s vio­lence by invok­ing “the his­tor­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­text of ongo­ing colo­nial oppres­sion”. We should all con­demn Hamas for what they have done on October 7th, 2023. We must request safe return of all hostages who were kid­napped by Hamas.

We should also be very con­cerned about the plight of the Palestinians who are suf­fer­ing from Israel’s mil­i­tary oper­a­tion in Gaza. Israel says it allows civil­ians trapped in north­ern Gaza to safe­ly move to south­ern areas through dai­ly human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors and warns them before attack­ing its tar­gets, but this does not guar­an­tee their safe­ty or well-being.[33], [34] We should urge Egypt and oth­er states to increase their human­i­tar­i­an and logis­ti­cal assis­tance to the peo­ple in Gaza.

We should have few doubts that the cur­rent mil­i­tary oper­a­tion by the Israeli armed forces will destroy Hamas and oth­er ter­ror­ist groups in Gaza. But what will hap­pen next? We have a moral duty to pro­tect the human rights and well­be­ing of the inno­cent civil­ians in Gaza who have suf­fered so much from this war and pro­vide tem­po­rary and longer-term relief to the pop­u­lace. How can we ensure that Gaza gets an admin­is­tra­tion that will not allow the res­ur­rec­tion of ter­ror­ism and will act in the best inter­est of the peo­ple? I hope to see Gaza as a peace­ful and flour­ish­ing part of the Palestinian state, a respect­ed and respon­si­ble mem­ber of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, a pros­per­ous and inno­v­a­tive leader in econ­o­my, edu­ca­tion, and sci­ence, and a provider of excel­lent and acces­si­ble health­care. This could only be achieved in coop­er­a­tion with a demo­c­ra­t­ic Israel and the help of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty. That is some­thing we all should consider.

As an aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tion: our pri­or­i­ty is to fos­ter a non-con­fronta­tion­al dis­cus­sion that pri­or­i­tizes the safe­ty of dif­fer­ent groups on our cam­pus. Only then can we dis­cuss the­o­ret­i­cal mat­ters such as “colo­nial­ism” in a ratio­nal and aca­d­e­m­ic way, based on facts; we may dis­agree on some issues, but we can still have a respect­ful and con­struc­tive con­ver­sa­tion. Having dif­fer­ent opin­ions is OK – prop­a­gat­ing hatred and divi­sion is not.

Our nation is already very divid­ed, as we wit­nessed on January 6, 2021. We should not make it worse by cre­at­ing new con­flicts among our­selves. This is too risky for our coun­try and the rest of the world that relies on our lead­er­ship. Our ene­mies are delight­ed by our divi­sion, which they view as a sign of our weak­ness. Iran, a staunch sup­port­er of Hamas, is eager to ignite a larg­er con­flict in the Middle East to sab­o­tage the nor­mal­iza­tion of rela­tions between Israel and Arab nations. Putin, anoth­er ally of Hamas, is also pleased because the ter­ror­ist attack on Israel and the ensu­ing Israeli war in Gaza dis­tract the atten­tion and resources of the United States and oth­er democ­ra­cies from his war in Ukraine. They regard our divi­sions as a bless­ing and are encour­aged by them. We must not let dic­ta­tors and ter­ror­ists divert the world from the focus on peace, progress, and human rights.


Alexander Kabanov
Mescal S. Ferguson Distinguished Professor
Director, Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery
Chapel Hill, NC
November 17, 2023


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