The Facts of the Matter

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
— Daniel Patrick Moynihan: 

Dear President Ryan, Provost Baucom, and the Board of Visitors,

The former New York senator’s famous quotation perfectly describes the October 8 statement posted by the “Students for Justice in Palestine at UVAon its Instagram page.

I firmly and unequivocally believe in the First Amendment. Any individual student or group must be allowed to speak their mind, as long as their statements do not violate University policy or Virginia law. However, there are numerous falsehoods in the SJP statement. I will cite three particularly egregious ones:

  1. Students for Justice in Palestine unequivocally supports Palestinian liberation and the right of colonized people everywhere to resist the occupation of their land by whatever means they deem necessary.”
  2. While the Israeli government publicly declared war today, the war and genocidal campaign began over 75 years ago.”
  3. The people of Gaza are denied freedom of movement, are under calorie restrictions, and are routinely bombed and brutalized by Israeli forces.”

The three statements above are both factually wrong and morally outrageous. Below are the facts:

  1. The first statement to “resist by whatever means they deem necessary” overtly condones the murder, rape, mutilation and beheading of babies perpetrated by the Hamas terrorists on Israelis. This is reprehensible and proves the twisted, blind hatred these students possess toward Israel and Jews.
  2. Israel was not the aggressor for the past 75 years. The Israelis only responded to attacks by other Middle Eastern Islamic countries or terrorist organizations like the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah. They defended their country against unprovoked aggression, just as any country would. Those are the facts. SJT’s description is an historically inaccurate lie. Period.
  3. SJP’s comment about “people of Gaza being denied freedom of movement” is completely fallacious. Gaza Palestinians have over 100,000 work permits. Tens of thousands of Palestinians crossed into Israel daily before the Hamas invasion, pursing higher pay and secure jobs for themselves and their families. Palestinians are not “routinely bombed and brutalized by Israeli forces.” To the contrary, even now Israel is only attacking military sites. Hamas places non-combatant Palestinian civilians in and around their military command centers, artillery and missile sites. Any civilian casualties are the result of Hamas’ barbaric policy to put civilians – women and children – in harm’s way. Israel cannot be blamed for that.

The Jewish people’s history in Palestine dates to 1200 B.C. where the tribes of Israel and Judah resided for over 400 years. Beginning with the Assyrians in 800 B.C., the Jewish people have been displaced or under other nations’ colonial rule for over two millennia until Israel was granted independent statehood by the United Nations in 1947, then was immediately attacked by neighboring Arab countries. Israel is not a “colonizer” as SJP falsely claims. To the contrary, Israel was historically colonized and has merely sought independence and peaceful coexistence with surrounding Arab countries. Numerous attempts to consummate peace agreements have been thwarted due to the Palestinians’ unwillingness to acknowledge the independence of Israel as a sovereign nation.

Any rational, objective person knows the October 7 Hamas invasion of Gaza was an act of barbarism. Israeli citizens were murdered with documented cases of rape and beheading of children. Hamas terrorists proudly displayed these atrocities on their cell phones. Labeling Israel the aggressor, much less being guilty of genocide, is patently absurd.

The 163 Students for Justice in Palestine chapters across American campuses are not benignly protesting for Palestinian rights. They are actively promoting violent anti-Semitism, attacking pro-Israeli students. The news reports are rife with Jewish students professing constant fear concerning the pervasively hostile environment they are experiencing on campuses with documented cases of physical and psychological harassment. Jewish students at the University of Virginia have expressed similar concerns given social media attacks they are experiencing.

The October 25 UVA pro-Hamas student walkout included two demands: stop the siege on Gaza along with U.S. funding for Israel; insist that the University Administration explicitly acknowledge that the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip are genocide. By supporting Hamas, these students also support its core premise for the destruction of Israel, clearly enumerated in The Covenant for Hamas.

President Ryan and the BOV, can you really abide by such actions and statements without commenting on them? Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., U.K., European Union, OAS and many other countries. By supporting them, SJP is in direct violation of University policy and two Virginia statutes:

  1. Virginia Statute 18.2-46.5: “Any person who knowingly provides any material support (i) to an individual or organization whose primary objective is to commit an act of terrorism and (ii) does so with the intent to further such individual’s or organization’s objective is guilty of a Class 3 felony.”
  2. Virginia Statute 18.2-422: “It shall be unlawful for any person over 16 years of age to, with the intent to conceal his identity, wear any mask, hood or other device whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered so as to conceal the identity of the wearer, to be or appear in any public place, or upon any private property in this Commonwealth without first having obtained from the owner or tenant thereof consent to do so in writing.”

It is time for President Ryan and the Board to take a firm stand and unequivocally defend Israel. Condemn the Students for Justice in Palestine at UVA for their blatantly prejudicial anti-Semitic message and ban them from the Grounds for their violation of University and Commonwealth of Virginia statutes. Doing so does not suppress intellectual diversity and free speech. Rather it affirms the core morality UVA should stand for.

For God’s sake (literally) have the moral courage to stand up for the truth.


Tom Neale
College ’74
Baltimore, MD

Tom Neale is president of The Jefferson Council. The views expressed here are his own. This column has been republished with permission from the Jefferson Council blog.