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Cancel culture or just desserts? Debate erupts over people facing backlash for anti-Israel statements

Bethany Mandel pushed back on American students who are blaming the Hamas terrorist attacks on the Israeli government, also rejecting accusations of "cancel culture."

Conservative columnist Bethany Mandel strongly condemned rhetoric from some American university students blaming the Hamas terrorist attacks on the Israeli government, and rejected arguments that refusing to hire those students was an example of "cancel culture." 

Mandel criticized the argument that leftist students who are members of pro-Palestinian organizations — some of which blame Israel for the recent terrorist assault on the country that launched a war — are not responsible for their rhetoric. In one high-profile example that gained national media attention, more than 30 student organizations at Harvard University said Israel was "entirely responsible" for "unfolding violence" against the country. Some of the Harvard groups withdrew their signatures after the initial backlash.

"Four-year-olds are able to decide their gender, but 24-year-olds aren't able to understand that endorsing a genocidal massacre against 1,400 civilians is bad," Mandel said, mocking the argument that these students should not be held fully responsible for their statements regarding the Israel-Hamas war. 

The fierce debate on college campuses over the Israel-Hamas war has also become cultural. Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle called out some conservatives for pushing what she termed as "cancel culture" against students who have lost out on job opportunities and even had offers rescinded as a result of their statements on the Hamas attacks. 

Some "student groups," the columnist wrote, "suggested that the real blame for the rape of Israeli women and the murder of Israeli babies belonged to … the Israelis. An American Studies professor at Yale tweeted, ‘Settlers are not civilians. This is not hard.’ The president of NYU Law’s Student Bar Association opened the group’s weekly newsletter with a cheery ‘Hi, y’all’ before going on to declare that ‘Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.’"


"This triggered a backlash that was entirely predictable — except, I guess, to the authors of those missives," McArdle continued. "Furious alumni complained; hedge fund mogul Bill Ackman suggested that Harvard, his alma mater, should name the members of student groups that had signed on to a particularly noxious letter so that CEOs could avoid hiring them. Various folks obliged by doxxing group members. A law firm rescinded the NYU student’s job offer." 

"I have been asked by a number of CEOs if Harvard would release a list of the members of each of the organizations that have issued the letter assigning sole responsibility for Hamas’ heinous acts to Israel, so as to [ensure] that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members," Ackman wrote Tuesday in a post on X. 

McArdle made clear she found the idea of anyone justifying terrorism abominable but felt canceling people for their speech would do nothing to change their minds.

When asked what she thought about the "cancel culture" element of the debate, Mandel pointed to the age of the students. 

"These are legal adults who are able to open up a computer," she said. "I mean, unfortunately, the photos of what happened here, the fact that 80% of some of the victims in specific communities were tortured before their deaths — that is common knowledge. And there are, unfortunately, photos of what happened and graphic descriptions."


Some photos, like those of bloody bedrooms ransacked by Hamas terrorists and video of families cowering from the attack have gone viral online. Mandel herself said she is in regular contact with victims of the attacks. 

"I've spoken personally to families who have lost their family members in the most grotesque way imaginable, and these brave individuals are doing interviews," she said. "So no one can play dumb and say that the information wasn't there. Hamas did a GoPro and they posted it on Telegram. They're proud of what they've done." 

Unlike other historical atrocities, Mandel said, Hamas’s role in the attacks is not being hidden. "So you can't say as a legal adult with access to the Internet that you just didn't know, because the Nazis hid their crimes but Hamas is livestreaming them."

Mandel emphasized that children should be held to a different standard than adult students. 

"Do I think that a 15-year-old should be held accountable for the rest of their life? No, absolutely not. I don't think that there should be a publicly accessible blacklist, but the Internet is forever," she said. "I think that everyone growing up in the Internet age needs to understand that, because whether someone adds them to a blacklist or not, what you say will exist in perpetuity."


The columnist said that she "always knew that there was a bad antisemitism problem on American college campuses" but was still surprised by the response from students online and even professors to the war. 

"This is how antisemitism festers," Mandel said. "They're telling us who they are, and we should listen very carefully."

Mandel also said that she was not supportive of a blanket blacklist for employers, speaking in support of employers to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. 

To those who lost friends and families as a result of the Hamas terrorist attacks, Mandel said she was hopeful that they were able to tune out some of the vitriol on American college campuses. 

"It’s so tragic to think that they don't feel supported and they don't feel anything but a loving embrace from the American people," she said. 

Not all professors have been silent as the debate over the Israel-Hamas war rages at colleges across the country. University of California-Berkeley law professor Steven Davidoff Solomon called out some of his students for supporting "antisemitic conduct" on campus. 

"I think it's incredibly powerful that professors are doing that because they're sending a message to their Jewish students who feel incredibly unsupported by their universities and by university security in a lot of circumstances," Mandel said. "I've also been speaking to American college students and leaders of Jewish communities on American college campuses. And they're telling me, 'We are scared, and we feel unsupported, and we don't even feel like they believe us, that we're in danger.'"

She continued: "It's really important for students and also Jewish staff and Jewish administrative individuals to hear from people who have tenure and who have the safety to say this was wrong and I stand with you, because unfortunately, on American college campuses, not enough people are hearing that."

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