Editor’s Note: Rachel Fish, PhD, is Special Advisor to the President for the Antisemitism Initiative at Brandeis University in Higher Education and K-12 Leadership. She is the co-founder of Boundless, a nonprofit organization that partners with community leaders to support Israel education and combat Jew-hatred. The views expressed in this commentary belong to the author. View more opinion  at CNN.

CNN —  There are few spaces where words are more important than in higher education.

Words are the tools to foster new ideas, drive knowledge and expand thinking. Academics understand better than most that words have meaning, and we must take that meaning seriously.

So, it’s appalling to see so many college students, faculty members and administrators deliberately diminish the intent and motivation behind the words of Hamas and its supporters. Worse, most fail to offer their own words to condemn Hamas’ terrorism.

Hamas’ brutal barbarism — slaughtering civilians, raping women, dragging bodies through the streets, gunning down families and taking the elderly hostage — cannot be ignored.  

We must not avert our eyes from this hell. Hiding behind words to justify what we are seeing is not an option. This is not “resistance” or “liberation” — it is terrorism.

The atrocities that have been committed will forever change every Israeli. Hamas committed a pogrom the likes of which cannot be fathomed in a modern society where Jews have self-determination and a state of their own. This is the modern manifestation of pure evil.

Somehow, this isn’t apparent to some American institutions of higher education and their student organizations, many of which have responded to the terror by minimizing or even championing the complete lack of humanity on display.

At Harvard — whose reputation lends a particular moral duty to lead in higher education — a group of 30 student associations issued a public statement over the weekend to say they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”  (After intense backlash against the student statement, some students and their groups have tried to distance themselves or say they did not read it before they signed it.) 

When the administration finally weighed in, the first take was a milquetoast, word-salad statement signed by 18 administrators. It did not include a single unequivocal denouncement of Hamas and instead called for “the pursuit of truth in all its complexity.” It wasn’t until Tuesday that Harvard’s president finally issued another statement, saying, “As the events of recent days continue to reverberate, let there be no doubt that I condemn the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas.”

Similar statements using similar words to Harvard’s initial statement have been issued at other campuses. We must question loudly their moral clarity and why they won’t speak clearly without equivocation.

This is a time for presidents, trustees, deans, provosts and donors to articulate that there are no mental hurdles that should ever be jumped to rationalize the destruction and inhumanity perpetrated by Hamas. Those who cannot bring themselves to condemn these deplorable acts are complicit in them.

Continue reading