To the Editor; As a concerned Hamilton alum, I note with disappointment the November 12 opinion piece "We Call for a Ceasefire: An Open Letter to Our Hamilton Community," We Call for a Ceasefire: An Open Letter to Our Hamilton Community (hamiltonmonitor.com) signed by student leaders of 10 campus organizations. I initially sent an email response on November 16, but delays involving Thanksgiving break apparently kept the Monitor from posting my response until now.
The opinion piece called for a long term ceasefire by Israel, but shamefully neglected to call for Hamas to release the 240 men, women, children, and babies, including many Americans and other foreign nationals that Hamas kidnapped. Hams is still holding the majority of them hostage, under terrible conditions. The writers endorsed a vague call to hold Hamas "accountable... for war crimes," but calling on all parties to implement a long term ceasefire is not an appropriate response to the barbaric violence of Hamas's unprovoked attack on civilians in Israel on October 7. On a per capita basis, this was equivalent to fifteen 9/11 attacks. Where is the justice?
Most outrageous is that the writers drew a slanderous parallel between support for Zionism and support for Hamas! Zionism is the movement that originally called for establishing a modern nation for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, and now refers to support for the continued existence of Israel. A reasonable parallel to Zionism would be calling for a Palestinian state alongside of Israel. This is the "Two State Solution," that President Biden and many others continue to support. Anti-Zionism, "the belief that the Jews, alone among the people of the world, do not have a right to self-determination — or that the Jewish people’s religious and historical connection to Israel is invalid — is inherently bigoted.” What to Know About Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism on Campus | AJC Since its inception, Hamas has called for Israel's destruction. The Hamas charter calls for Israel to be "obliterated," and, further, calls for killing all Jews. You can read the Yale translation of the Hamas charter here: The Avalon Project : Hamas Covenant 1988 (yale.edu). The students' letter falsely accuses Israel of genocide when, in fact, genocide is the stated policy of Hamas, not of Israel. Yes, what is happening in Gaza is terrible, and we all mourn for the thousands of innocents who have died in this war, but there was a long term ceasefire, and Hamas shattered it on October 7. To call for Israel to accept a long term ceasefire today, is like calling for the US to have stopped fighting Japan weeks after Pearl Harbor. Hamas will use a long term ceasefire to reinforce and resupply its forces in the Gaza Strip, for their next large scale barbaric attack on Israel, which its leaders continue to promise, on camera. Israel is fighting to get rid of Hamas, because that is the only way that peace can be restored.
Unlike Hamas (and unlike all of the World War Two combatants), Israel does not target civilians. The death toll in Gaza has been tragically high because of Hamas's longstanding policy of using their own people as human shields (manufacturing, storing, and using weapons and locating military/terrorist headquarters in, or tunnelled under, residential neighborhoods, schools, mosques, and hospitals). This has made it much harder for Israel to avoid civilian casualties.
The Monitor promotes viewing social justice through an intersectional lens. The Israel that Hamas wants to destroy, is, by far, the leading promoter of LGBTQ+ rights and of women's rights in its region. Israel's population is predominantly of middle eastern origin, and they seek the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland (having forced out the British colonialists in 1948), yet much of the Left seeks to delegitimize, defund, and destroy Israel, due to ancient anti-semitic biases. Signers of the opinion piece included groups that claim to support women's rights. How could they fail to condemn the mass rape of Jewish women and girls by Hamas terrorists on October 7? Where is the Justice that your journal claims to promote?
Michael Margolin, MD Hamilton '78
(I give my name, though the signers of the original letter remain anonymous)
Editorial Board Response
Dear Dr. Margolin and Readers,
We are grateful to receive this letter, as it opens room for some discourse we feel is needed in our community. Understandably, many in our community have strong feelings about the ongoing struggle, the painful histories it reminds us of, and its relationship to increased bigotry here in the US and on campus. We sit with all of this, too, especially in light of a majority of us holding identities impacted by the conflict, whether Jewish or Assyrian.
We write this response with two objectives:
1) Unequivocally defend our decision to publish the ceasefire letter, as it has been called into question.
2) Address inaccuracies and contextualize claims in this letter to the editor (LTE), in line with our journalistic responsibilities.
To maintain editorial independence and allow us to engage with all communities on campus in our journalistic roles during a time of great division, the Monitor decided only to offer a platform to the ceasefire letter. Similarly, we offer a platform to this LTE that ought not to be considered an official endorsement. To that end, we do not use our editorial positions to engage with this LTE’s arguments beyond the aforementioned objectives.
When we were first contacted about the ceasefire letter, to our knowledge, no campus publication had published an article presenting a perspective other than unconditional support for the state of Israel. The letter brought open voice to perspectives many were fearful to express on the basis that any criticism of the Israeli government’s actions would be framed, instead, as targeted criticism of Jewish people.
The ceasefire letter went to great lengths to prove its signatories’ good faith concern. They make a point to express concern for all lives harmed, multiple times, and by name. They condemn different forms of bigotry, by name. They condemn the actions of combatants, by name. They use nearly 50 citations, mostly mainstream and many from Israeli and Jewish sources.
The letter was drafted over several weeks with many different stakeholders. These students are leaders in many marginalized communities on our campus, including Jewish students. We confirmed all signatories had read, understood, and consented to be signatories on the letter. We marked which boards signed unanimously for the sake of clarity. Such a level of intentionality goes well above most student organization statements we have seen in our time on campus.
For all these reasons and more, we felt it not only permissible but important to publish this large group of students’ perspectives as a constructive addition to campus discourse aiming to foster understanding rather than sow division.
Now, to address some inaccuracies. Most importantly: the LTE’s conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, and by extension Jewishness with Zionism. While support for Hamas, an organization, and support for Zionism, an ideology, are of categorical difference, the open letter’s phrasing seeks to dissociate identity from support for either. To quote one human rights expert and senior leader on our campus:
“Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are in fact not the same things. While opposition to the state of Israel or its policies may well be motivated by anti-Semitism, it may also be stimulated by opposition to the policies of Israel’s government rather than Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.”
The impact of such an improper conflation often harms Jewish people. Many Jewish people are anti-Zionists, and they are not any less Jewish or deserving of inclusion in Jewish spaces for holding that view. Further, Jewish people are not collectively responsible for Zionism, but the conflation can drive such a view, and in turn drive hatred of Jewish people based on Israel’s actions as the embodiment of Zionism. Indeed, a rallying cry of many anti-Zionist Jewish people supporting a ceasefire has been “not in our name.”
Notably, the only appearance of the word “Zionism” in the ceasefire letter – which the letter does not explicitly condemn – links to a statement from Jewish Voice for Peace, a Jewish-led anti-Zionist organization that defines both “Zionism” and “anti-Zionism” at great length. We encourage readers to consider the ceasefire letter’s use of the term in this context, as it is the one intentionally provided.
The LTE equates the Empire of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor to Hamas’s attack on October 7th. At the time, Japan was a sovereign actor external to and relatively equal in strength to the US. The same cannot be said of Hamas, which is not an independent state and has far fewer resources than Israel. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor also primarily killed US military personnel with some civilians, whereas Hamas’s attack killed about 845 civilians out of approximately 1,200 killed.
The LTE cites and links to the 1988 Hamas charter, which is no longer in effect. A 2017 version can be found here.
The LTE’s claim that “Israel does not target civilians,” and is not perpetuating genocide, is a difficult claim to concretely make, particularly without sources. To add context, we point to the original letter’s qualified war crime and genocide experts’ claims and the Israel Defense Force’s data claiming twice as many Palestinian civilian deaths as combatant deaths.
While we cannot possibly cover all our bases in such a short (yet still long) editorial response, and certainly there will be those on all sides disappointed in it, we hope to have conveyed our intentions in publishing both the open letter and this LTE. We continue to hope for, and work toward, a campus dialogue that holds, first and foremost, the humanity of each member of our community.
The Monitor Editorial Board
Gabriel Bit-Babik ‘25, Digital Managing Editor
Ava Cargan ‘27, Perspectives Managing Editor
Vivian R. Miller ‘26, Co-Director of Audience Engagement
Adina Mujica ‘24, Co-Director of Audience Engagement
Eric Santomauro-Stenzel ‘24, Editor-in-Chief