Countering Pro-Palestinian Propaganda, Part 1: Resistance is Justified when People are Occupied

Washington, DC – Oct 8, 2023: Free Palestine “Resistance is Justified When People are Occupied! – Image Credit: Silvercloud

by A.J. Caschetta

(Investigative Project on Terrorism) — Hamas and its allies in the media, Congress, and especially in academia have saturated the nation with propaganda meant to sway the “hearts and minds” of Americans against Israel. They appear to be winning. The proliferation of anti-Israel protests across the nation since Oct. 7 attests to the failure of the American educational system and the success of the “Palestine” lobby.

At the forefront of Hamas’s propaganda victories are legions of uninformed college students, aided by professional agitators and biased media figures. Shutting down roads, bridges, and airports with seeming impunity, they have made it impossible for even people with no interest in politics to avoid the war in Gaza.

Anti-Israel propaganda depends on ignorance. Students chanting “From the river to the sea” can’t identify either the river or the sea in question. Few have even heard about UN Resolution 181, and fewer still know how a piece of territory roughly the size of New Jersey came to be known as “Palestine.” They have been misled into believing “a truth” far removed from truth.

To counter the assault of anti-Israel propaganda on the streets of American cities and on American college campuses, the Investigative Project on Terrorism introduces a new series aimed at debunking the ubiquitous “pro-Palestine” claims. Some entries focus on the various slurs leveled at Israel and on disingenuous representations of Israeli law, for instance the accusations that Israel is an “apartheid, settler-colonial state,” and is practicing “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” against the Palestinians. Others focus on elements of the “Palestinian resistance” narrative, such as the charge that Gaza is an “open-air prison” and that Palestinian “refugees” have a “right” to return to Israel and claim land lost in the 1948 War of Independence.

Hamas is the enemy of both Israel and the U.S. While Israel fights the military battle to destroy our common enemy, the least Americans can do is fight the propaganda battle at home.

Resistance? Justified?

With their chants and banners, anti-Israel protesters minimize Hamas atrocities by claiming it is a “resistance group” engaged in a “liberation struggle.” The National Students for Justice in Palestine released a “Day of Resistance Toolkit” one day after the Oct. 7 pogrom, praising the “historic win for the Palestinian resistance” and urging campus chapters to participate in a “national day of resistance.” It advised them to “ground our campuses and communities in a narrative which centers the legitimacy of resistance,” and to frame the massacre of civilians as a “natural and justified response to decades of oppression.”

But Hamas is not a resistance group. Legitimate resistance groups don’t butcher infants, abduct grandmothers, or brand children. They don’t send storm troopers to prey on children and elderly civilians. They don’t use rape as a tactic to desecrate their victims and satisfy their violent sexual desires. They don’t defile corpses or kill family pets. Any group that does so crosses the line from “resistance” to “terrorism.” Hamas’s feral humans did these things, bragged about doing so, to their mothers even, and made videos of themselves doing so. And they promise to do it again.

According to International law, non-state “resistance” groups must “ensure respect for the [Geneva] Convention in all circumstances.” To be considered a legitimate “resistance” group they must always be “in compliance with the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict.” But Hamas defies all the rules of war, as do all the other Palestinian organizations that hide behind the “resistance” label.

Hamas is a terrorist group and is designated so by many countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Paraguay, Japan, the European Union (comprising 27 nations), and of course Israel.

Jordan banned Hamas in 1999. In 2017, Saudia Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir rejected Hamas’s claim to the term “resistance” and called it a “terrorist organization.” Not only has the United Arab Emirates designated Hamas a terrorist organization, but, in 2021, it chastised all nations that have not done so. The UAE’s foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed called it “unfortunate that some countries do not act more clearly in classifying… Hamas, Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood” as terrorist organizations.

Targeting Americans

Another false claim is that the “Palestinian resistance” targets Israel only. The Americans killed on Oct. 7 and those taken as hostages back to Gaza, so goes the argument, weren’t targeted as Americans per se, but were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and were mistaken for Israelis. Noura Erakat, an associate professor at Rutgers University who calls Hamas “a nascent sovereign of the Palestinian people,” also claims that it “has only targeted Israel.”

Does anyone believe that the 32 Americans murdered on Oct. 7 didn’t identify themselves as Americans to their executioners? And if the Americans kidnapped by Palestinians and held hostage in Gaza were initially mistaken for Israelis, Hamas soon learned that they were American and yet continues to hold them.

Various members and factions of the “Palestinian resistance” have been deliberately targeting Americans for decades, long before Hamas was founded. In 1968, Palestinian nationalist Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Robert F. Kennedy because of his support for Israel. In 1973, Yasser Arafat of the P.L.O. – the allegedly secular half of the “Palestinian resistance” – ordered the execution of U.S. Ambassador to Sudan, Cleo Noel, and Chargé d’Affaires, George Moore, after they were taken captive at a party in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.

In addition to killing Americans who were mistaken for Israelis, Hamas is also responsible for killing Americans because they were Americans.

On Oct. 15, 2003, Americans in Gaza were targeted with a massive bomb buried under a road at the Beit Hanoun junction. The bomb was detonated remotely as a convoy of SUVs easily-recognized as U.S. State Department vehicles drove over it. Palestinian police arrested three members of the Popular Resistance Committees for the bombing. They were identified as residents of the Jebaliya Refugee Camp (a Hamas stronghold). According to the Israeli government, the PRC is “supported, subsidized and trained by the Hamas terrorist organization.”

What was a convoy of State Department SUVs doing in the Gaza Strip in October 2003? The answer should sicken every American. They were interviewing Palestinian students for Fulbright Scholarships. That’s right. U.S. taxpayers paid for diplomats to travel to the heart of Hamas-land in order to dispense more tax dollars to subsidize Palestinian students, offering them a free college education.

Three Americans serving on the security detail of those diplomats were killed in that attack. As the State Department spokesman in 2003, Richard Boucher, put it, “We have employees on contract, in this case from DynCorp, who help supplement our security resources.”

John Eric Branchizio from San Antonio, Texas was a 9-year veteran of the Navy Seals. He was the oldest of those killed by Hamas, having turned 37 years old two days before the attack.

Mark Thaddeus Parsons from Yonkers, New York, was 31 years old.

John Martin Linde Jr. from Missouri was the youngest killed, only 30 years old. He served 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and retired at the rank of Sergeant.

President George W. Bush issued a press release on Oct. 15, 2003, condemning the attack and explaining the circumstances.

For Immediate Release

Office of the Press Secretary

October 15, 2003

President Condemns Terrorist Act in Gaza Wednesday

I condemn in the strongest terms the vicious act of terrorism directed against Americans in Gaza today. We are working closely with the appropriate officials to bring the terrorists to justice.

Palestinian authorities should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms. The failure to create effective Palestinian security forces dedicated to fighting terror continues to cost lives. There must be an empowered prime minister who controls all Palestinian security forces, reforms that continue to be blocked by Yasser Arafat. The failure to undertake these reforms and dismantle the terrorist organizations constitutes the greatest obstacle to achieving the Palestinian people’s dream of statehood.

The Americans who were attacked today were pursuing a vision for a better future for the Palestinian people. The U.S. embassy officials traveling in Gaza were there to interview young Palestinian candidates seeking Fulbright scholarships to study in the United States. This is another example of how the terrorists are enemies of progress and opportunity for the Palestinian people.

On behalf of the American people, I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of the brave Americans who were killed and injured serving our country and its ideals.

Bush left out some details, such as the fact that when American investigators arrived at the scene, rock-throwing Palestinian “youths” – perhaps some of the same youths the diplomats risked their lives to interview – forced them to retreat and wait for military back-up.

So the next time someone says that the “Palestinian resistance only targets Israelis,” explain the difference between a resistance group and a terrorist group. Then remind them who killed Robert F. Kennedy, Cleo Noel, George Moore, John Branchizio, Mark Parsons, and John Linde.

Investigative Project on Terrorism Senior Fellow A.J. Caschetta is a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a fellow at Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum where he is also a Milstein fellow.