On Oct. 27, the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C., rightfully called out the Georgetown University community on social media for hate speech masquerading as free speech on our beloved campus.
The post comes in response to fliers in Red Square, a designated free speech area on campus, that attempt to draw similarities between Israel, a democratic nation and strategic partner of the United States, and Hamas, a U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
On Oct. 7, Hamas, in an unprovoked attack, murdered approximately 1,400 people and kidnapped more than 200 men, women, children and babies.
I am a proud Georgetown graduate, a donor to the university and a former executive vice president of the Georgetown Alumni Club of Washington, D.C. I’m also very proud to be Jewish, but that Jewish identity alone didn’t motivate this response.
Instead, I wanted to speak out as a single voice on Georgetown’s integrity, not saying, but screaming that these fliers do not represent the Georgetown community that I know and love.
The posters in Red Square espouse lies regarding Israel, which the embassy corrected in a series of infographics.
For example, one such flier falsely stated, “500-700 Palestinian children are kidnapped and thrown into Israeli prisons every year.” The embassy made a correction to this claim in its post on Instagram: “Israel does not kidnap children. Israel does not kidnap anyone. The only minors that are in Israeli jails have been lawfully arrested and tried under due process.”
It is fair to question Israeli policies and fair to call out specific Israeli political leaders. Many Israelis and diaspora Jews do so every day.
But it is not legitimate to say Israel kidnaps children, while Hamas holds hostages at this very moment — including a baby who is just nine months old. In addition, more than half of all hostages are of foreign nationality, including several Americans, according to the Israeli government.
The first sentence of Georgetown’s “Who We Are” webpage states that “we’re a leading research institute with a heart.” So, I want to start there.
Hamas’ terror attacks on Israel are all too personal. They were and are an attack on humanity and an attack against the Jewish people. Georgetown’s Jewish community and our allies’ hearts are heavy with grief right now.
Georgetown Jews are a diverse group of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and traditional religious observants. Some of us are Democrats. Some are Republicans. Others are Independent. Some of us are Ashkenazi and some are Mizrahi or Sephardic, different ethnic sects of Judaism. Some of us keep kosher and others — like myself — enjoy delicious slabs of bacon on our breakfast sandwiches from Wisey’s.
But both our Jewish ideals and our Georgetown education teach us that every civilian life — whether Israeli or Palestinian — is precious.
War is horrible. War is destabilizing. But we, as graduates and students, must remember the origin of the war between Israel and Hamas.
There is a war because of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist attacks on the Jews, Arabs and Christians in Israel.
Watching the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza each day indiscriminately heading toward Israeli population centers breaks this Hoya’s heart.
With that in mind, I believe Israel has an absolute right to defend itself and its citizens. And while my fellow students and graduates are all entitled to their own opinions, we must also be responsible for speaking the truth, rather than propagating hate with distorted information or outright slander.
At the same time, I will never decry the lived experience of Palestinians. They have a right to self-determination and a right to live in peace and prosperity, with Israel as a neighbor.
Further, we must also recognize that like our Georgetown Jewish community, the Palestinian and Arab Israeli communities are not monolithic. Innocent Palestinian and Arab Israeli civilians also have inalienable human rights to live free.
My ask to those hurting — all of us who are hurting from this war — is to take a few steps away from Red Square and head toward Copley Lawn and White-Gravenor Hall. Sit with the statue of Jan Karski, a Polish World War II hero who fought the Nazis underground.
Read more about the massacre in the Nir Oz kibbutz or the Nova Music Festival and think to yourself what Karski would have thought witnessing the largest single-day slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. Think critically about what the words “Never Again” mean to Jews and Israelis alike in the wake of Oct. 7.
In addition, please consider the 3D test of antisemitism when posting fliers in Red Square.
That test aims to assess whether speech simply critiques Israeli policies or if it borders on antisemitism. The test asks if the speech: 1) demonizes Israel; 2) acts to set double standards on Israel rather than all other countries; and 3) aims to delegitimize Israel’s fundamental right to exist — an unquestioned goal of Hamas.
Ask yourself these questions before your next action in Red Square and think of them in your heart while remembering Karski’s speech, from 1994, when he was awarded honorary citizenship of Israel.
He proudly stated, “This is the proudest and the most meaningful day in my life. Through the honorary citizenship of the State of Israel, I have reached the spiritual source of my Christian faith. In a way, I also became a part of the Jewish community… And now I, Jan Karski, by birth Jan Kozielewski — a Pole, an American, a Catholic — have also become an Israeli.”
Jason Langsner graduated with a Masters of Arts from Georgetown University in 2008. He is a media and technology professional, who formerly served as the head of digital strategy for B’nai B’rith International.