February 22, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Can pro-Palestinian activism recover after embracing Hamas?

The extremist rhetoric among the protests that began after October 7 reveals a systematic attempt to capture and take over pro-Palestinian activism in the West, catering to Hamas messaging.
February 22, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Can pro-Palestinian activism recover after embracing Hamas?

The extremist rhetoric among the protests that began after October 7 reveals a systematic attempt to capture and take over pro-Palestinian activism in the West, catering to Hamas messaging.

Following the Hamas October 7 attack on Israel, there has been an outpouring of support for Hamas in the West.

Much of this support takes the form of various types of protests that have hijacked an existing pool of pro-Palestinian activism by grafting Hamas messaging onto it. 

For instance, using words such as “flood” in protests is one of the signs that the Hamas term for the massacre of people in Israel is now being adopted by activists in the West. 

At a point of no return?

The embrace of Hamas rhetoric among pro-Palestinian activists now appears widespread, including rejecting the idea of two states and peace.

Can pro-Palestinian activism recover from October 7 and the extremism that Hamas wrought?

The extremist rhetoric among the protests that began after October 7 reveals a systematic attempt to capture and take over pro-Palestinian activism in the West and wield it as a tool that is almost solely catering to Hamas messaging. 

For instance, in the first weeks of October, even before Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza, there was a concerted effort in the US and UK and several other countries in the West to rip down posters of the hostages. Numerous scenes in these Western countries showed college-age people, often women, ripping down posters of elderly men, women, and children hostages. This was a systematic attempt to erase the hostages.

The rhetoric of those conducting the ripping-down campaign included message discipline. They said that the posters were put up to justify Israel’s attacks on Gaza. There was no evidence of this. The posters were put up to remind people that Hamas had illegally kidnapped 240 people.

However, this messaging was clearly crafted by pro-Hamas lobbyists, likely paid by groups that host and back Hamas. It was not authentic, in the sense that there is no evidence that young people on campuses all spontaneously decided to rip down posters of child hostages. It was likely organized.

The activists then moved from attacking posters of the missing to denying the sex crimes of Hamas. This took the form of claiming there was no “evidence” of the crimes and claiming the victims, many of whom were dead or were hostages, had not spoken up themselves. 

Hitting a new low in the West

This is a new low for Western activism, on par with Holocaust denial, where people would argue that no one who was in a gas chamber has come forward, so therefore there were no gas chambers.

When asked why they were denying Hamas’s use of rape as a weapon, they claimed that it was important to deny sex crimes, because the rapes were being used by Israel to “justify war.” There was no evidence of this, in fact the desire to compile evidence of rape and abuse was mostly a desire to document Hamas crimes. However, as with the poster ripping campaign, the sex crimes denial was likely a coordinated campaign.

The other concepts the activists have embraced is slogans such as “from the river to the sea” and “flood.” The flood refers to the massacre of 1,200 people in Israel. The activists have not openly embraced massacring people, such as the attendees of the Nova festival. The use of the term “flood” is also clearly coordinated. Most activists several years ago would not have openly embraced the term used by Hamas for genocide. Today activism in the West has shifted.

Another key part of the activism is embrace of “river to the sea” rhetoric. In the past, pro-Palestinian activism used to claim it supported peace and two states. However, it now appears that it only supports one state and that is a state run by Hamas. There is no evidence that the protesters support the Palestinian Authority, two states or any kind of peace. This is a new phenomenon.

While some pro-Palestinian activism has always supported war and “armed struggle” as a method of the Palestinian “resistance,” they have usually supported this as a way to obtain a state. What that means is that, in the past, they openly would say they support “armed struggle” to obtain two states, primarily a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

They used to claim they supported “UN resolutions.” However, they have now adopted a pre-1948 mentality that is against the UN partition plan of a Jewish and an Arab state and believes solely in one Palestinian state.It’s unclear how the activists can go back from this. There is a long history of pro-Palestinian activism in the West. However, it has usually sought to claim it is morally superior to Israel because it is merely supporting human rights, peace, equal rights and two states. The activists often portrayed Israel as warlike and claimed they just want Palestinians to have their rights. The new ideology has gone far beyond this, supporting only one state “river to the sea” that is only for Palestinians.

Many of them use openly genocidal rhetoric, supporting attacks on Jews in Israel, who they call “settlers.” They also adopted the argument that all Israelis are legitimate targets, because some Israelis serve in the army, and they argue that Israel has “no right to defend itself” while they argue that people in Gaza or the West Bank have a “right to resist.” For them resistance is October 7, the systematic mass murder of civilians and kidnapping of children.

In the past, pro-Palestinian activists often provided Israel a way to ostensibly meet them half-way. As long as Israel withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza then there could be peace. Usually these people would then throw a wrench into the gears, asserting there was also a “right of return” or that Jerusalem had to be divided, and that would purposely sabotage the discussion. Usually these voices used terms like “justice” to hide their support for more extremist methods.

Now that pro-Palestinian activism has embraced Hamas’s “flood” and “river to the sea” as an end goal, it appears they purposely have sought to destroy the two state solution and there is no possible way forward for peace. This appears to suit the current goal of Hamas and its hosts and backers, some of whom likely fund the new activism. It appears that now these activists have dropped the mask or pretense of supporting two states and they sense that now is the time to go for broke. Leaving Israel no way to have peace, they guarantee endless war.

It’s not clear how the activists can climb down from this tree. Once they have embraced one state and “flood” attacks and “river to the sea” they know they have pushed Israel into a corner. It’s notable that the “ceasefire” rhetoric, for instance, doesn’t include any calls for peace talks or two states or peace at all.

In the old days there used to be attempts at coexistence and various initiatives to support peace, where Israelis and Palestinians would be encouraged to meet and get to know each other. However, over time, the activists rejected this as “normalization” and today the target of some activists is any group in Israel that supports coexistence. We have entered a new era in terms of pro-Palestinian activism in the West. It’s unclear whether the pro-peace group that once existed still exists in any form today.

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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