While the world united in shock at the savagery displayed by Hamas in southern Israel last week, the realm of academia told a different story.
Analysis by the JC has found that a number of academics at a variety of universities appeared to celebrate or justify the violence they perpetrated.
Amira Abdelhamid, an associate professor of international relations at Portsmouth University, said the murders and kidnaps were not terrorism but part of a “legitimate struggle”.
Two other academics, based at Warwick University and London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), wrote articles saying the attacks were the start of a “counteroffensive” by Palestinians against their “persecution”.
Others wrote and shared social media posts suggesting that the attacks were an inevitable component of “decolonisation”. But it was Abdelhamid who stood out by virtue of the sheer volume of her controversial posts.
The first appeared on X/Twitter on the day of the attacks. Replying to a post condemning the atrocities by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, she wrote: “You call it terrorism.
"We call it legitimate struggle against siege, occupation, settler colonialism, slow violence and genocide… the blood of Palestinians in the past and the future is also on your hands and those like you who legitimise the racist (and antisemitic) state of Israel.”
On October 10, by which time it was clear that Hamas had murdered babies, Abdelhamid posted that “academics who support the Palestinians have been the target of a vicious campaign by Zionists and other biggots (sic).
"To be very clear, I support the Palestinian resistance in ALL its forms. Bring it on if this upsets your fragile fascist sensibilities.”
Abdelhamid, whose LinkedIn profile says she specialises in “queer theory, resistance studies and human rights”, later posted an attack on Universities UK after it warned that anyone supporting Hamas would be breaking the law.
She called this “shameful and disgusting”. When a woman was arrested in Brighton for what Abdelhamid described as “celebrating Palestinian resistance”, she commented: “F*** this country”.
The academic is now facing an investigation. A Portsmouth University spokesman told the JC it “will not tolerate support for violence by any member of staff or student… We have notified the appropriate authorities about this specific incident and are carrying out our own internal investigation.”
Abdelhamid said: “Any statement or imputation that I endorse terrorism would be false and seriously defamatory.”
But she was far from the only academic to appear to justify the Hamas operation to various degrees in the immediate aftermath of the butchery. On October 10, Mohsen al Attar, an associate professor at Warwick University’s law school, published an article on the academic website Opinio Juri describing the Hamas attacks as a “counter-offensive” against Israel.
He commented: “A fair few international lawyers approach decolonisation more as a theoretical exercise than as a tangible practice.”
He went on to quote the Marxist philosopher Frantz Fanon, who “insightfully quipped” that “decolonisation is always a violent phenomenon”, and the Indonesian revolutionary leader
Koesno Sukarno, who said “the coloniser does not give up their loot easily”. Attar also claimed that “Western civilization seems willing to stand by while Palestinians are exterminated”. They were now “rising up against the colonisers” and “resisting their subjugation”.
Al Attar did not respond to requests for comment.
A Warwick University spokesman said: “Freedom of speech is a vital component of university life… we would urge people to show respect, kindness and empathy to each other during this deeply distressing time.”
Another academic who described the attacks as a “counter-offensive” was Soas development studies professor Gilbert Achar. In a blog post, he argued that Hamas’ “amazing” attacks evoked “the boldness of the biblical David against the giant Goliath”.
He said it had had “dealt a heavy blow to the unbearable haughtiness of the Israeli racist far-right government and their belief that Israel could ever reach a ‘normal’ state of coexistence with its regional environment while persecuting the Palestinian people and inflicting upon them a protracted Nakba of territorial dispossession, ethnic cleansing and apartheid.”
According to Achar, it was “no less unbearable” that Western governments had swiftly “expressed their solidarity with Israel”. Claims that Iran supported the attacks were “contemptible”, he added, as it suggested there were “no sufficient grounds for the oppressed people to revolt against their oppression”.
Achar told the JC that his blog was “descriptive-factual and historical”, and that “any statement or imputation that I endorse Hamas or terrorism would be false and seriously defamatory”.
When asked if he would therefore condemn the murders of civilians by Hamas, he failed to reply. A Soas spokeswoman said the university was “extremely saddened about the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine and the continued loss of life”.
She added: “It is not the role of a university to sanction or silence members of our community where some may be offended by their views, provided they are not violating the law or breaching our institutional policies.
“Like all British universities we have a legal duty to protect freedom of speech — however unpalatable the views may be to individual members of our community… we have a zero-tolerance policy in relation to antisemitism and all forms of racism.”
This article has been amended to remove a mention of Dr Nimer Sultany. We agree that this part of the article was inaccurate and potentially misleading, and apologise for that.