An anti-Israel group called Palestinian Solidarity Forum (PSF) on March 20 invited officials from the Iranian-backed Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to speak at an event at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. The two terror leaders, Khaled Qaddoumi of Hamas and Nasser Abu Sharif of PIJ, addressed students during the annual “Israel Apartheid Week,” a one-sided propaganda event smearing Israel that takes place every year on a number of university campuses in the U.S. and Europe.
Inviting Hamas and PIJ officials to participate in such events shows that the real aim of the so-called pro-Palestinian groups is not to help the Palestinians, but to incite and spread hate and libels against the only democracy in the Middle East: Israel.
This public display of support for terror groups does not serve the interests of the Palestinians. Instead, it sends a message to the Palestinians that the students and professors at the universities around the world support terrorism as a means to kill Jews and destroy Israel.
The participation of the terror leaders in the “Israel Apartheid Week” shows that the real intention of the anti-Israel groups on campus is not to criticize Israel, but to eliminate it.
Hamas and PIJ, which call for the destruction of Israel and reject a two-state solution, are designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S., Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. The two groups have carried out thousands of terror attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, stabbings and car-rammings. They are also responsible for the launching of thousands of missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israel over the past two decades.
It is ironic that those purporting to be “pro-Palestinian” would invite representatives of radical Islamist groups to spew hatred against Israel at a time when Palestinians living under the rule of Hamas and PIJ in the Gaza Strip are suffering from oppression and repression.
For the past two decades, the two Palestinian terror groups have dragged the residents of the Gaza Strip into several rounds of fighting with Israel, mostly after launching missiles towards Israeli cities and towns. The wars have claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinians and brought havoc on the 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
More disturbing is that the students at the South Africa university did not conceal their support for Hamas and PIJ “resistance” against Israel. The term “resistance” is a euphemism for terror attacks against Israelis. The “pro-Palestinian” students even held a “vigil” on campus in support of the “martyrs that sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Palestine.” The term “martyrs” refers to the terrorists of the two groups who were killed while carrying out attacks against Israel or during armed clashes with Israeli security forces.
During the “vigil,” the students held flags and banners of Hamas and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror group in Lebanon, as well as photos of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander who was assassinated by the US in Iraq in 2020.
If the “pro-Palestinian” groups really cared about the Palestinians, they would be speaking out against the repressive measures and human rights violations perpetrated by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
On March 22, Hamas security officers beat and arrested Palestinian journalist Hani Abu Rizek. According to sources in the Gaza Strip, Abu Rizek was arrested after he reported that Palestinians were complaining about high taxes imposed by the Hamas government.
By voicing support for Hamas and ignoring the plight of Palestinians such as Abu Rizek, the students marking the so-called “Israel Apartheid Week” are actually saying that they back the terror group’s crackdown on journalists.
Glorifying a mass murderer such as Soleimani is not an expression of solidarity with the Palestinians. In fact, many Palestinians have denounced the slain Iranian military commander as a murderer responsible for atrocities against many Muslims, including Iraqis, Syrians and Palestinians. When Hamas hung billboards with Soleimani’s photos in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians tore them down as an act of protest against his crimes.
The “pro-Palestinian” activists on the campuses probably do not know that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were celebrating and handing out sweets upon learning about the assassination of Soleimani. Palestinian columnist Ibrahim Hamami commented:
“Anyone who praises Qassem Soleimani is complicit in his crimes. I consider any statement in this regard as political stupidity and a betrayal of the blood of the Muslims that was shed by this criminal.”
It is hard to see how support for a mass murderer such as Soleimani and Iran’s proxy terror groups—Hamas, PIJ and Hezbollah—does anything good for the Palestinians. On the contrary, those who are empowering these terrorists are doing a massive disservice to the Palestinians, especially those who continue to suffer under the rule of Hamas and PIJ in the Gaza Strip.
Instead of building schools and hospitals for their people, Hamas and PIJ are investing millions of dollars in smuggling and manufacturing weapons and digging tunnels that would be used to infiltrate Israel and kill Jews. Instead of improving the living conditions of their people, Hamas and PIJ leaders are imposing new taxes and leading comfortable lives in Qatar, Lebanon and other countries. Instead of bringing democracy and freedom of speech to their people, the terror groups are arresting and intimidating journalists, human rights activists and political opponents.
All these violations are, needless to say, of no concern to the so-called “pro-Palestinian” students on the campuses. Have these students ever denounced Hamas for suppressing public freedoms and depriving its people of a good life? No. Will these students ever call out the Palestinian leadership for the financial corruption and persecution of political opponents and critics? No.
The “pro-Palestinian” individuals and groups might also understand that by siding with Hamas and PIJ, they are harming, not helping, the same people—the Palestinians—they claim to support.
Hamas, for example, has a long history of going after journalists who dare to expose its corruption. These include Abu Rizek, arrested by Hamas last week; Saeed Ahmad in November 2022, for exposing the alleged involvement of the terror group in smuggling Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Europe, and a year earlier, without providing any explanation.
In addition to journalists, targeted by Hamas on a regular basis, academics are also being arrested by the terror group. Salem al-Sabah, for instance, head of the University of Palestine in the Gaza Strip, was arrested by Hamas last year—without even an arrest warrant, leading “many” social media users to denounce the episode as a “kidnapping.” His alleged crime was reportedly to have “exposed figures close to Hamas and accused them of money laundering and corruption.”
The silence of the “pro-Palestinian” students towards these arrests actually causes harm to Palestinians: It allows Hamas to continue its brutality without having to worry about negative reactions from the international community.
The “pro-Palestinian” activists on campuses have again proven that all they have to offer is hatred toward Israel. The real “pro-Palestinian” advocates are those who want to see a good life for the Palestinians, not those who encourage them to embrace terror groups.
Instead of sitting at a campus and aligning themselves with Hamas and PIJ, the “pro-Palestinian” activists should, for example, wage campaigns to demand democracy and freedom of speech for the Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
These activists should be defending the rights of women and gays in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. That is the way to be a real “pro-Palestinian” activist. Being “pro-Palestinian” does not necessarily mean that one has to be anti-Israel.
Instead of calling for boycotts and sanctions against Israel, the “pro-Palestinian” students should invite Israelis and Palestinians to their campuses to build, not destroy, bridges between the two peoples. If these students want Palestinians to boycott Israel, they should offer the Palestinians jobs and salaries, not more messages of hate.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.