Join our email list

Sounding the Alarm

The Columbia University community has lost its moral compass.
Photo by Gabriella Gregor-Splaver via Columbia Spectator
Photo by Gabriella Gregor-Splaver via Columbia Spectator
Rabbi Yonah Hain is a faculty member at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He is the Campus Rabbi of Columbia University, where he leads the educational and religious initiatives of Columbia/Barnard Hillel’s robust pluralistic Jewish community. Yonah is an adjunct faculty member at YCT Rabbinical School, and he has begun coursework towards a doctorate in Talmud and Rabbinics. With his previous work at the Bronfman Center at NYU, Yonah has been a New

“In the immediate aftermath of the brutal Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on October 7, a ‘Call to Action for Palestine’ rally was held on campus on Thursday, October 12. This on its own would be nothing new—campus discourse has always included anti-Zionism. But the movement for Palestinian freedom of the past intentionally maintained some distance between itself and Hamas’ terrorism. This gap has been erased. By describing Hamas barbarism as ‘an unprecedented historic moment,’ the rally asserted binary thinking—us versus them—as anti-Zionism aligns with Hamas.

To support the Palestinian people while also rejecting Hamas and its fundamentalist charter outright exists outside of our University bubble. Disappointingly, this is not the case here at Columbia. Our community’s normalization of Hamas is a point-of-no-return moment at Columbia. Debates about Zionism, one state or two states, occupation, and Israeli military and government policy are all welcome conversations on campus. We won’t all see eye to eye about this current Israel-Hamas war and about our notions of proportionality, restraint, and ceasefire. Indeed, these issues occupy a prominent role in discourse within the Jewish community itself. What’s not up for debate is that massacring Jews is unequivocally wrong.

This departure from previous pro-Palestinian iterations of the movement marks a disturbing new reality. For years, Columbia’s Palestinian freedom movement has differentiated between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, affirming that one can be critical of Israel without being anti-s. But by using the October 7 attacks as a rallying point for the movement, attendees of the campus rally can no longer argue that their activism differentiates between the two. They are now saying the quiet part out loud: dead Jews don’t matter. While some have gone to great lengths to clarify that Hamas did not behead Jewish babies in their attack, these disavowals overlook that children were expressly targeted by Hamas, according to a NBC News report. Callously ignoring Hamas’ inhumanity by way of rebuttal is an own goal of epic proportions.”

Read the full op-ed on Columbia Spectator.

You care about Israel, peoplehood, and vibrant, ethical Jewish communities. We do too.

Join our email list for more Hartman ideas

Join our email list


The End of Policy Substance in Israel Politics