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Letter to the Editor: Good versus evil, or when impressionable minds are manipulated to raise antisemitism

This letter is written in response to an opinion letter, written by Destiny Torres, which was published on KentWired on Dec. 11, 2023.

John Spencer, a retired U.S. army officer expert on urban warfare, described what Hamas did on Oct. 7 as unleashing over 1,000 Jeffrey Dahmers. Anyone who is capable of distinguishing good from evil can tell the difference between what Hamas did on Oct. 7: killing, raping, burning and kidnapping innocent civilians from actions taken by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to make sure such atrocities are not repeated.

But does anyone realize this?

Unfortunately, increasingly more members of campus communities across the nation, including Kent State, appear to have lost their moral compass and instead have embraced a distorted depiction of the Israel-Hamas war and of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Such distorted and biased viewpoints have resulted in an increase of antisemitic incidents in unprecedented numbers across campuses in the U.S.

Israel has an indisputable right to protect itself and make sure Hamas will not be able to repeat any attacks. 

Surely, any country has the right to defend itself. Israel responding to Hamas attack must not be different in that respect, especially when Hamas is not shy with its agenda for cleansing the river to sea territory from Jews.

Unfortunately, the ensuing war has claimed thousands of Palestinian lives. This is a tragedy, which continues to unfold. Any true sympathizer of the Palestinian cause should be able to recognize the context of this war and call for the removal of Hamas from any position of governance so that a lasting solution can be negotiated.

Hamas is hiding behind and within civilian holdouts at schools, mosques, hospitals. In addition, the attack on Oct. 7 by Hamas constitutes a genocide by the same definitions as clearly outlined by Destiny Torres in her opinion letter of Dec. 11. 

But the pro-Palestinian protests on campuses fail to call Hamas to stage its war without hiding in civilian centers, to stop shooting rockets at civilian areas from civilian areas and to stop killing of Palestinians, who are used as human shields and murdered if not following orders. 

Are these protests truly pro-Palestinian?

Any of the pro-Palestinian protestors calling for ceasefire or blaming IDF for civilian casualties without demanding to dismantle Hamas from its fighting gear are not helping the Palestinian people. 

Not recognizing the need to remove Hamas from power is also an antisemitic viewpoint. In fact, we can get back to the same cease fire that was in place before Oct. 7 only after Hamas is removed from its position of power.

The opinion article by Destiny Torres on KentWired contributes to misinformation increasing antisemitism on campus. Here at KSU, swastikas get posted, student organizations align themselves with Hamas terrorist groups that post hate messaging against Jews. 

There is no mutual respect in these events or actions. There is no mutual respect in the so-called pro-Palestinian protestors chanting “from the river to sea”, “75 years of occupation” or calls for “intifada.”

These recent antisemitic incidents fester under the umbrella of free speech, while the leadership role against antisemitism remains muted. Requests made by faculty, staff and students for administrators to denounce hate messaging on campus have been diverted or ignored while administrators emphasize KSU core values of free speech, kindness and mutual respect. 

Let that be clear, any hate messaging will not help the Palestinian cause. On the contrary, it raises the temperature and unfortunately opens the door also to islamophobia. Allowing for biased and hateful voices on campus without a clear leadership voice to condemn them raises racist and antisemitic senses on campus.

Here at KSU, we can help to remove hate from our campus. Anyone asserting a stand on the Israel-Hamas conflict must factor in the following facts. Use these facts when reading Destiny Torres’ opinion letter on KentWired:

The Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel, dating to ~1300 BCE. The land is foundationally important in Jewish religious and cultural practice, beginning with Abraham, which is explicitly stated throughout Judaism’s central text, the Torah. The Jewish people held self-sovereign kingdoms throughout the land of Israel for centuries. Despite the Roman Empire conquering and expelling the Jews in 70 CE, some Jews have always lived and owned land in Israel. Diaspora Jews have longed since then to return to their indigenous homeland. In the late 19th century, this desire became known as Zionism.

The Modern State of Israel’s birth was legitimate. In 135 CE, Rome renamed the land of Israel “Syria Palestina” or Philistia, spitefully referencing the long-gone Philistine people. Britain called its 20th century Mandate Palestine, and its borders contained disparate communities of scattered Jews and Arabs under British rule. The murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust spurred the United Nations to action, and in 1947, 33 countries voted to support a Partition Plan that would divide the land between Jews and Arabs. Jewish leaders accepted the plan, but Arab leaders rejected it. When the British Mandate expired in May 1948, the Jews declared the State of Israel according to the original borders proposed by the Partition Plan. Five Arab states immediately attacked Israel and Arabs living in British Mandate Palestine remained in the Partition-Plan land assigned for the Arabs. The Jews proceeded to build the State of Israel within UN-defined borders and eventually offered the Arabs who wanted to remain the ability to become full-fledged Israeli citizens. The Arabs chose to not build a Palestinian state in their UN-defined borders.

There is no occupation of Gaza. In 1967, in an attempt to regain the land ceded to the Jews in 1947, seven Arab states attacked Israel.  In this defensive war, Israel gained land called the Gaza Strip on its Eastern border and the West Bank. Israel occupied Gaza from 1967 to September 2005, when it agreed to entirely leave Gaza for peace. Gaza has been under Palestinian rule for 18 years. The West Bank has been under Palestinian rule since 2005 with Israeli partial control. When anti-Israel activists state that Palestine is occupied, they don’t just mean Gaza or the West Bank. They mean the entire country of Israel is illegitimate, and that is occupying what they believe is Palestinian land.

Israel is not conducting a genocide against the Palestinian people. Demographic data document that the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank has more than doubled since 1948. Moreover, more than any other army in the world, Israel goes through painstaking efforts to protect civilian life in every conflict including the current war.

Israel is not an apartheid state. Israeli Arabs who live in Israel have the same rights as Jewish citizens: They vote, receive free public education, serve in Israel’s Parliament, on the Supreme Court and serve in the army if they desire. People living under Palestinian rule in Gaza or the West Bank are not Israeli citizens, and therefore do not have those same rights.

Israel wants the Palestinians to have their own state. Israel has agreed to five distinct peace proposals with land swaps to enable the creation of a Palestinian state. Each time, Palestinian leadership has rejected or sabotaged these efforts.

Hamas is driven by antisemitism. As stated in Hamas’ own founding charter, their aim is not simply to take over the land but to destroy Jews both in the Middle East and around the world.

Hamas is committing war crimes by torturing and murdering civilians, using sexual violence as a tool of war, taking hostages, torturing hostages, refusing hostages medical treatment, treating civilian infrastructure – like Palestinian hospitals and school – as military installations, shooting the Palestinian people when they attempt to escape and using the Palestinian people as human shields. Israel is executing a military campaign governed by the rule of law.

I will finish with this final observation. 

Throughout history, the Jews’ priority has been to have a state for the Jewish people, while at the same time the Palestinians priority has been that the Jews will not have a state and therefore have rejected two-state solution offers. 

It is quite possible if the vast pro-Palestinian protests, including those held on campuses, would voice clear stand against Hamas, that many of the casualties would have been avoided. 

It is with this spirit that I call out Destiny Torres’ opinion letter as straight-out irresponsible and antisemitic. Such opinions as voiced in the letter only add to the flame, contribute to ongoing lies that encourage terrorism and bring suffering on both sides. We have the responsibility to learn the facts before forming – and especially voicing opinions – so that ultimately we and our readership choose good over evil!

Barry Dunietz is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at the university. Contact him at [email protected]. 

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  • G

    Gary MillerJan 30, 2024 at 10:37 pm

    All of the aid from around the world to the Palestinians was used to wage war with Israel instead of towards peace, construction, infrastructure, medicine, universities.

  • K

    Ken Poshedly, 1974 grad (News-Journalism)Jan 30, 2024 at 11:23 am

    While I agree with the vast majority of this letter, I also believe that Netanyahu has not served the Israeli people well in his allowing the IDF to act with what I believe are excessive actions in some cases (for instance, killing those waving white flags of surrender who are at a considerable distance from ISF personnel).

    • J

      Jeffrey RocklandMar 13, 2024 at 2:48 pm

      When one compares Israel’s just response to a horrific attack on Israeli citizens and considering the one to one ratio of civilians to terrorist deaths, from a war caused by Hamas, it is obvious that Israel’s army is the most careful and humanitarian of any worldwide and yet they receive the most criticism!