Letter to the Editor: Disappointed student’s response to pro-Palestine faculty letter

| Class of 2026

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon, and the Jewish Sabbath was rapidly approaching as the sun began to set. But I couldn’t go to Chabad to pray quite yet. Why? Because there were people on my campus yelling “Free Palestine.” The phrase has become all too common on college campuses and social media and sends shivers down my spine. But I had to go listen.

I write this piece to express my disappointment in the letter signed by multiple Washington University faculty members and published in Student Life on Oct. 24. The letter starts with a criticism of the University for not punishing Seth Crosby for his recent tweets

However, a close reading — in context — makes it clear that Crosby was calling for the cleansing of Hamas terrorists, not all Palestinians. He is countering the claim that the Israeli military’s actions are an attempt at ethnic cleansing by emphasizing that the IDF is not targeting the Palestinian ethnicity, but rather the specific group of individuals who make up Hamas. Defeating an armed terrorist group isn’t ethnic cleansing, it’s a basic national security operation. I think Crosby’s language was crude and careless given the current climate, but it’s clear to me that the authors of the letter are misrepresenting his statement. Crosby also followed up with a tweet explicitly clarifying that he was referring only to Hamas terrorists and saying he was fired by the University (though I admit there is conflicting evidence as to whether he was fired). Additionally, the University came out with a public statement saying that Crosby’s statements did not represent the opinion of the University and that it was taking action to address them. Through this first section of the letter, the authors misled readers about Crosby’s message and left out crucial facts about the University’s appropriate response. From “educators deeply invested in [their] students’ ability to learn,” it’s disheartening to see this kind of intellectual dishonesty.

The letter moves on to the University’s “failure to provide students with support and protection,” claiming this was the reason for the cancellation of the first pro-Palestine rally. As someone who was involved in planning the pro-Israel rally, which was announced multiple days before the pro-Palestine rally was scheduled to overlap with it, I have trouble believing the main reason for cancelling the rally was safety concerns. We talked to WUPD beforehand, who informed us that any counterprotesters that disrupted the Israel gathering would be escorted off the field according to University policy, and an organizer of the pro-Palestine demonstration referenced “trying to follow every single rule on this campus.” 

Seeing as Hamas leadership had called for an international day of Jihad (which often refers to the killing of non-Muslims) on that Friday — an element that the professors’ letter doesn’t address — the students who needed protecting on this day were the Jewish students at the pro-Israel rally. I can affirm that the University and WUPD did, in fact, protect the students, and I have no reason to assume they would do differently for any other groups. I didn’t hear any Jewish leaders calling for the worldwide murder of non-Jews that Friday, or any day on which pro-Palestine rallies are planned. The authors argue that pro-Palestinian students had a “lack of protection” without identifying or substantiating a threat to said students at WashU, attempting to paint them as victims in order to accrue support without needed evidence. Ultimately, I too hope that the University will offer ample protection to pro-Palestine students, but as readers, let’s resist the urge to automatically agree wholeheartedly with those who the authors depict as the underdogs.

Genocide,” “indiscriminate bombing and killing,” and “colonial occupation” are all terms used by the authors without adequate definition or explanation. The use of these words is inherently manipulative since it makes readers falsely think that they align with the author’s entire argument simply because most of us automatically oppose the actions described by these buzzwords. Of course I’d be appalled if a trusted news source told me Israel was engaged in a genocide. But these descriptors often misrepresent, if not falsify, the reality. I’d love to engage in a conversation about Israel’s treatment of Gazans, but when the authors use these inflammatory buzzwords, they paint issues as black and white and leave only extreme solutions as options; calling Israel a perpetrator of genocide makes anyone who defends it a supporter of genocide and suggests taking the most drastic actions against Israel (i.e. delegitimizing its entire right to exist). This immediately shuts down any opportunity for constructive discussion or true education while pushing readers to blindly join their side. As constant consumers of media and as students, it is our job to denounce these tactics and personally resist them when they are used against us.

Lastly, the letter moves to uphold the right that America is so fond of: free speech. We stick to it for good reason — but, as Chancellor Martin recently expressed in his email to the University, there is such a thing as taking it too far. The authors of the letter call for “unequivocally supporting the right of students to speak out around issues of global concern…without retribution.” I think that’s just not realistic. Free speech is not totally free. It’s limited. And rightfully so. 

Would you “unequivocally support” a Nazi yelling that he aspires for the killing of all LGBTQIA+ people? Would you “unequivocally support” a KKK member calling for the murder of all Black people in the United States? Of course not. I know this language is intense, but as I explain below, I firmly believe that certain pro-Palestine rhetoric is just as extreme, although better hidden behind social justice language to attract the modern audience. For these reasons, it’s quite senseless for the authors to expect unregulated free speech of a university (which also has its own rights as a private institution), especially given that they start their letter by condemning Crosby’s exercising his right to free speech. I wasn’t presented with any evidence of the University silencing pro-Palestine voices, but regardless, the authors rely on our sometimes-blind clinging to popular social justice themes to distract us from the ridiculousness of allowing pro-Palestine students to say whatever they want without consequence.

Despite the University’s supposed “censorship” and “punishments” against pro-Palestine advocates, I still found myself shuddering as the massive group of protestors rhythmically shouted “Free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”— chants calling for the mass genocide of my family and friends in Israel. My one-year-old cousin Imri. My 91-year-old great aunt Shoshana. My good friends Maia and Zevi. “Free Palestine” is pretty popular, but oddly, people never seem to finish that sentence. Free Palestine from what? Of what? Aren’t there 7 million Jews living in Israel? “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” I ask you: Free of what? Free of who?

Jews. 

These chants aren’t calling for a peaceful two-state solution, or a miraculous deal that absorbs two million Palestinians and Hamas’s government into Israel’s official borders without a single terror attack on Jews. No. On Oct. 7, Hamas showed us exactly what “Free Palestine” means, and no matter how many progressive Americans start their speech by saying they have a Jewish friend, Hamas will continue to “Free Palestine” by raping, torturing, and slaughtering every Jew in their path. Freeing Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea means pushing everyone that’s currently between the river and the sea straight into that sea. The Egyptians chased my ancestors into the sea once. And, just 80 years ago, my ancestors were herded to their extermination by the Nazis. In Germany, “Judenrein” meant “Free of Jews.” We saw what that meant. So, please, understand why I shake when students glare into my Jewish eyes and scream “Free Palestine.”

Ultimately, I found the faculty letter to be dishonest in its treatment of Crosby’s tweets, manipulative in its use of social justice terms to gain blind support for “freedom fighting,” and ignorant in its obsession with free speech and neglect of the patterns of anti-Jewish violence. I don’t think the letter benefitted the campus community. I expect so much better from the educators of my beloved university.

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