Talking with a pro-Hamas college student

All of my attempts at humor fall flat, as a general rule. In January, for example, I jokingly asked a friend who had visited family in Madrid over Christmas if he’d had to navigate around pro-Hamas protests. He took it as a straight question and gave me a detailed straight answer about the various protests and the parts of the city they’d blocked and what he had done to try to get where he was going.

I needed to talk to a friend’s son regarding an unrelated topic. He’s an avid videogamer and an engineering major at a college in a Rust Belt city whose last period of sustained job growth was during the administration of Gerald Ford. It’s not in Michigan or anywhere else where Islam is the primary religion. He lost years of high school and social life to coronapanic (and, despite diligent masking and meek acceptance of lockdowns, of course got COVID several times). One might imagine that he and his cohorts would have other issues on their minds than the suffering of the noble Gazans… and one would be wrong. I jokingly asked how the pro-Hamas encampments have been at his university. It turned out that he was a regularly attendee at said protests/encampments. “It’s got a really good vibe,” he said, “though only about 50 people actually sleep there every night.”

He took issue with my characterization of the demonstrators as “pro-Hamas”. He said that their goal was to “stop the killing of children.” He agreed that the death of bystanders was inevitable in war and said that he did not think Israel should be allowed to pursue any military activities in Gaza due to the risk that additional children would die. Essentially, the IDF would have to withdraw. I asked “Since Hamas is the elected and popular government of Gaza, doesn’t that mean that Hamas would resume their rule over the territory?” He said “yes” but disagreed that demanding an action that would inevitably ensure continued Hamas rule could be considered a “pro-Hamas” position.

The punchline to the above conversation is that the young man is… Jewish! His mother is Israeli, in fact. She’s an elite wealthy multiple passport European-heritage Netanyahu-hating Israeli, but nowhere near ready to surrender to Hamas as her son is. (Netanyahu’s core support comes from the plurality of Israelis whose ancestors were expelled from majority-Muslim countries, such as Iraq, Iran, Yemen, etc., after 1948. The European-heritage Jews who arrived prior to 1948 are generally much richer if for no other reason than they bought real estate in Tel Aviv before the population grew so dramatically.)

I tried to get him to see that his philosophy, if applied equally to all nations, meant that any army that can surround itself with children becomes invulnerable. Russia could conquer Ukraine, for example, if they just brought some children along to ride in their military vehicles. He more or less admitted that, but stuck to his position that “too many” children had been killed in the recent Gaza battles and, therefore, Israel had to accept defeat and withdraw. (Palestinians themselves do not seem to think that whatever has happened recently is bad enough that they would be willing to abandon any of their military goals. One never hears of Palestinians who say “war is too costly so we will have to compromise for peace and recognize Israel within her current borders.” Instead, they say that they are willing to wage war forever if that’s what it takes to liberate Al-Quds, destroy the Zionist entity, and enjoy a river-to-the-sea Hamas-ruled nation. (cue UNRWA to pay for food, health care, education, etc. until this glorious day arrives))

His siblings also went to public schools in an all-Democrat city and he says that they’re fully aligned with him on the Israel/Gaza issue. My text to his parents: “I would have thought with all of his shooter game experience that he’d believe that sometimes a nation does have to use its military to do military stuff.”

That’s my dive into the wisdom of today’s best-educated youth!

Here’s an example Rust Belt encampment (Syracuse, New York):


  • “The Adults Are Still in Charge at the University of Florida” (WSJ; Ben Sasse, formerly U.S. Senator from Nebraska and current president at UF): Higher education isn’t daycare. … Higher education has for years faced a slow-burning crisis of public trust. Mob rule at some of America’s most prestigious universities in recent weeks has thrown gasoline on the fire. Pro-Hamas agitators have fought police, barricaded themselves in university buildings, shut down classes, forced commencement cancellations, and physically impeded Jewish students from attending lectures. … universities must distinguish between speech and action. Speech is central to education … The heckler gets no veto. The best arguments deserve the best counterarguments. … we draw a hard line at unlawful action. Speech isn’t violence. Silence isn’t violence. Violence is violence. … universities make things worse with halfhearted appeals to abide by existing policies and then immediately negotiating with 20-year-old toddlers. Appeasing mobs emboldens agitators elsewhere. … universities need to recommit themselves to real education. Rather than engage a wide range of ideas with curiosity and intellectual humility, many academic disciplines have capitulated to a dogmatic view of identity politics. Students are taught to divide the world into immutable categories of oppressors and oppressed, and to make sweeping judgements accordingly. With little regard for historical complexity, personal agency or individual dignity, much of what passes for sophisticated thought is quasireligious fanaticism. … Young men and women with little grasp of geography or history—even recent events like the Palestinians’ rejection of President Clinton’s offer of a two-state solution—wade into geopolitics with bumper-sticker slogans they don’t understand.

24 thoughts on “Talking with a pro-Hamas college student

  1. The young fellow does not seem to think clearly or think for himself. Is there any other take away from this conversation?

  2. Thanks, an interesting foray into the mind of our bright future.

    I’ve had very similar encounters.

  3. As some commenter on this blog jokes, even Israel is population – bombing US with its losers

    • POPULATION BOMBING is no joke!

      (Arguably it’s the only thing that matters in the long run.)

    • Also, very much in context:
      “The womb of the Arab woman is my strongest weapon”
      PLO Founder / Palestinian President Yasser Arafat

    • FB: In addition to the womb, though, it is essential to have unlimited food, health care, education, etc. all funded by US and EU taxpayers and delivered through UNRWA. Without that infinite river of essentials there would be limits on womb occupancy!

    • Fb, does not look like an efficient weapon for me. Maybe through taking over ready for picking west, on the long run, but even here with proliferation of mail ballots and vote counting networked devices you never know what you vote for. Maybe Arafat meant it was his treasure, good source of financing.

  4. In your next conversation with an Hamas supporter who wants the Israelis to stop fighting, ask them how they would have advised Truman to deal with the Germans or the Japanese in WW2 if one or both of those countries had decided not to surrender, but had instead decided to fight to the death of their soldiers and their societies.

    • Anon: I’m not sure the comparison is apt. Because the Israelis aren’t doing US-/UK-style city destruction bombing, Palestinian casualties aren’t significant from a Palestinian point of view. Palestinians have had to relocate within Gaza, for example, but they aren’t suffering from the death of their soldiers (maybe a few at the beginning) or their society (based on consuming US/EU tax dollars via UNRWA) and, therefore, it wouldn’t be rational for them to surrender.

  5. Something, something, … “when arguing with idiots you have to be careful that a bystander stumbling upon the conversation doesn’t get confused about who the idiot is.”

    • That chestnut is worth remembering! As I read Phil’s account, I was thinking this is an exercise in futility. The time might have been better spent exploring who programmed the kid – that’s the question on everyones mind right now.

  6. Followed (on and off) since your days of being a perl-mongering W.W. and taught classes using your manifesto(s) for a few years.

    I’m pro-israel, as witnessed by my love of all things yiddish and ladino and converso and our intent to make the world a better place in general.

    But this flood of so-called palestinian sympathy by the kids (and even the kids of the yids!) should be not be treated as criminal treason but should be encouraged, as it provides a convenient relief valve for the build-up of steam in the age-old pressure cooker that is anti-semitism.

    And that steam needs to blow off, because we now live in a world where even the kids are now focusing on the pot rather than the heat. And nobody – not the kids, not the cooks, and certainly not the others – really wants to have to clean up the big mess in the kitchen if the lid blows off again.

    So let them whistle.

    • It looks more of large donors financing antisemitism and scapegoating of Israel and Jews in tax-free to blow off immense debt left for those (not innocent) children, zimbabve-ation of US currency, falling standards of living, destruction of education, feeding lies as societal norm and bleak feature.
      In past centuries in Europe, elites used big war and antisemitism to mask decline.
      In Arab world, elites have been massacring own population and antisemitism to disregard decline.
      In US now, elites and their “party”, mostly Democrats use limited wars, sexual mutilation and antisemitism to mask decline.

      By the way, ladino and yiddish are not languages Israel uses. And per my recollection reading this blog after discovering it Philip was not particularly encouraging perl, it was lisp.

    • @Anonymous, this is more than “whistling”. Today’s kids are out of control, and take freedom for granted without logical thinking. They think, by protesting, and disturbing others, they are doing “good”. They are using private and public venues to protest — from the comfort and protection of weak US laws — at the cost of 1000’s of others who don’t share their views.

      Collage kids or employees, need to stop thinking that they can use private and public properties and resources to send a message when they disagree with something.

  7. Dr. Greenspun, I do think that for American Jews, the conflict in Gaza has led to an increase in visible anti-Semitisn. Therefore, I think for American Jewry, it would be better if the war stopped so that students’ attention gets diverted to other causes. Please note that I fully recognize that Hamas started this war by choosing to attack Israel in October.

    • It would help if you could decipher the “war stopped” expression. If that means “from the river to the sea” desiderata materialization, it’s one matter, if something else, it’s quite another.

      Also, from your words, one could conclude that Israeli Jewry plight is of no concern.

    • Ivan, thank you for your comment. I was thinking that if there is a ceasefire right now and some sort of Arab peacekeeping force, it would also help preserve peace in Israel over the long term as well. Unfortunately, Hamas does not really care about Gazan civilian lives so a war to root them out completely will be too bloody.

    • Anon: As Ivan points out, “war stopped” is a tough ask when you consider that the Arabs declared war in 1948 and the Arabs within Gaza and the West Bank aren’t bound by the two peace treaties that have been signed (one with Egypt and one with Jordan). Hamas has actually promised to its voters/supporters continued “resistance” to Israel, e.g., rocket launches against civilians in Israel, Oct. 7-style attacks. etc. So I don’t know how Hamas could legitimately stop fighting without breaking faith with its voters/supporters. Hamas might be tired after these battles, of course, and spend the next couple of years consolidating its power within Gaza (imagine the number of disloyal people who will have to be executed on suspicion of having ratted out Hamas positions to the IDF!).

    • The “Arab peacekeeping force” is also a tough ask. What Arab country do you think would want to take on this role? And why wouldn’t it end up being essentially a civil war between Hamas and whichever Arab army went in? Palestinians previously fought the Jordanian military, for example.

    • And let’s not forgot that Egypt built a wall [1] to stop Palestinians from crossing into Egypt land for their safety. Thus, Egypt is not welcoming refugees from a real wore zone, but yet Egypt is hosting a peace talk to end the fighting! So we must ask the obvious question: who is Egypt helping by this peace talks to end the fighting, the Palestinian civilian, or the Hamas fighters?


  8. Sadly, today’s generation (and a lot of their parents) are spoiled. The word “freedom” and “country” no longer have their true meaning. Just wait 1 or 2 more generations and watch how this country will be transformed. This mindset that the enemy is the victim will be the new normal. Expect to see a lot more leaders like Bernie, Ilhan, AOC, Cori, Rashida, etc. who think the world is a peaceful place — if only we are kind and open hearted.

    @Philip, you should have asked this gamer kid, if he/she/they/ze is given the opportunity to help the Gazans, would he/she/they/ze do so? Someone so passionate about Gazans and their suffering would surly head over to Gaza and protest, as human shield, or join one of the many humanitarian agencies, no? It would be like joining the Peace Corps to do good.

    • Btw, I’m certain now that Toucan Sam got it all wrong. Jewish don’t control Hollywood, mindless college kids control Hollywood.

    • George A: You raise a good point. In the college kid’s view, if you’re pro-Palestinian you’re against the killing of children while if you’re pro-Israeli (“pro-Mom”) you’re in favor of the killing of children. If the choice is as simple as that, anyone of reasonably good will should not only be pro-Palestinian (against the killing of children) and willing to travel to Gaza to serve as a human shield for the noble Hamas, UNRWA, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters.

    • George A. I did not get anything wrong. The Jews do control Hollywood! (and we are all grateful for that). Sadly much of my commentary on this topic has been censored by the comment moderation policy and my insistence on using a forbidden word when referring to arabs.

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