Opinion: Intifada Explained

December 12, 2023 By Michael Weymouth

The latest kerfuffle in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce over the failure of leading U.S. university presidents to directly condemn those calling for genocide against Jews is nothing less than an attack against free speech.

Unfortunately the presidents of Harvard, MIT and UPenn were not well enough versed in political speak (perhaps it should be a course taught in all institutions of higher learning) to avoid the trap set by Republicans in Congress in their never-ending search to find ways to trash liberalism, or in today’s vernacular, wokeness. Republicans were not looking for solutions in the hearing, they were looking for sound bites to be exploited on conservative media.

True to form, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a Republican member of the committee, was on Fox News the next day accusing the college leaders of equivocation for not clamping down on the anti-Israel protestors on their respective campuses. The question posed to the witnesses was misleading to begin with. It centered on posters carried by pro-Palestinian protestors to, “GLOBALIZE THE INTIFADA” which members of the committee, in their ignorance, claimed meant “genocide to Jews.” In fact, Intifada means something far less insidious. It means “uprising against oppression,” a reasonable claim for Palestinians to make. Washington Post columnist Shari Hamid adds,” Intifada, meaning ‘uprising’ or ‘rebellion’ in Arabic, came into popular use in the late 1980s during the first Palestinian intifada, which included mass protests, general strikes and economic boycotts against the Israeli occupation. Some uprisings have been violent, but this doesn’t mean the word entails violence.” Whether or not the witnesses knew this and could argue its merits was not on the table. They had no doubt been advised not to correct the committee members to avoid appearing to be elitists.

In furtherance of understanding the academic environment which the witnesses oversee, they might have pointed to the observation of Harvard’s Steven Pinker who said “universities are forums, not protagonists,” They might have also reminded the committee that the answer to bad speech is better speech, not censorship, and that, as NYTimes columnist David French points out, “do not protect students from free speech, let them grow up and engage with even the most vile of ideas.”

But Ms. Stefanik who represents New York’s 21st Congressional District and is chairman of the House Republican Conference, had her sound bite and pounced, demanding that the presidents of these universities be immediately fired.

Stefanik, a Harvard graduate herself, seems to have forgotten that one of the pillars of a liberal college education is “critical thinking” and when volatile subjects are on the table, the sensible approach is to encourage students to look beyond the platitudes that play well on protest posters, and to step back and look at all sides of the issue. Per Harvard University president Claudine Gay, such a process invariably leads to taking context into consideration. When Gay used this word in the hearing, all hell broke loose. Even less well received was her statement that words are covered by free speech, whereas inappropriate actions are a university’s real concern.

Clearly the university presidents had brought common sense to a Republican- held hearing, which is akin to bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Had this been the kind of constructive conversation educators are used to, issues like the following should have been addressed:

  • Were the protestors actually anti-Jewish of simply anti-Israel? A huge distinction. Were they pro-Hamas or just pro-Palestinian?
  • Did they understand that the Hamas goal was to draw the Israelis into a war that would involve the killing of thousands of innocent Palestinians, thus leading to anti-Israeli demonstrations around the world. i.e. the very protest US college students are presently engaged in?
  • Did they understand the long-held grievances between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land?

Faced with questions like these Republicans would have simply said, “you’re here to answer our questions, not the other way around.” This type of informed discussion was the last thing the Republican members of the committee wanted. What they sought was the sound bite that distilled one of the world’s most long-standing and complex conflicts down to one short statement of so-called moral clarity.

If the hearings revealed anything, it is that somewhere between a college education and becoming a politician, the Republican members of the committee  lost the right to demand moral clarity from anybody.

Sadly UPenn president Liz McGill has been forced to resign, another victim of the Republican war against liberalism. Hopefully Harvard and MIT will see the whole incident for what it is and avoid sending their respective presidents packing.

If Republicans succeed in turning the clock back on liberal education, who knows, the time may come when liberals may start calling for their own intifada.

Editors Note: Opinion pieces are strictly opinions of the author. 

4 thoughts on “Opinion: Intifada Explained”



    As long as we are explaining words, let us explore the etymology of the word apocalypse: a word that comes from the Greek apokálypsis which means uncovering, disclosure, revelation. The Congressional testimony of the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Penn was more apocalypse than “kerfuffle.” Much was uncovered, disclosed, and revealed by their answers to and evasion of simple questions. The attack against free speech came not from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The committee repeatedly gave all three the opportunity to exercise their right to free speech. They repeatedly chose to parse their words, to hem and haw with “political speak,” and to hide behind – of all things – free speech. The attack against free speech has been waged on their campuses (and most college and university campuses) for many years.

    Focusing on the single word “intifada” conveniently ignores the other venom spewed and signs painted by campus protesters including but not limited to “jihad,” “from the river to the sea,” “kill or gas or f— the Jews,” and of course the ominous imagery of a Hamas paraglider descending from on high to burn, mutilate, rape and murder. These were not protests calling for the end of apartheid South Africa in the late ‘80s and early 90s. These were celebrations launched to endorse the butchering, hostage-taking, and murder of babies, elderly, and other innocents. After the atrocities of October 7 but before Israel Defense Forces had time to lace up their boots, mobs of enlightened students at elite universities had taken to their beautiful, safe quadrangles to support Hamas and to intimidate and humiliate their Jewish peers. All done while conveniently nestled some 5,000 miles from actual intifada.

    Writing from our cozy bubbles in Hingham, we delude ourselves that intifada can be kept at arm’s length. Is it just a word bandied about by pedantic columnists at The Washington Post, The New York Times, or a Harvard psych professor? Intifada does not need to be explained to the left-leaning, hip, young Jewish woman at The Tribe of Nova music festival who was wondering why the music suddenly stopped and what the “kerfuffle” was all about. Intifada does not need to be explained to Jewish students hiding in the library at Cooper Union as their schoolmates howl for something far more insidious than mere intifada. Closer to home, intifada takes on real meaning when someone makes a bomb threat to a synagogue in Hingham.

    The idea that these three university presidents are somehow victims of a Republican committee member who was setting a trap in “their never-ending search … to trash liberalism …” is to completely miss the apocalypse. University presidents – not just the three in question here – have long been enemies of free speech on campus, but only when that speech falls outside the boundaries of the DEI-Education Complex, or in today’s vernacular, wokeness. If you want to march across campus ululating, “Gas the Jews,” please do. If you want to give a lecture that challenges the rigid orthodoxy and groupthink of campus commissars? Not at MIT, Gregg Abbott.

    To quote Dr. Sumantra Maitra, Associate Fellow at the Royal Historical Society, “They [presidents of Harvard, MIT, Penn] could not answer anything in Congress satisfactorily, simply because they don’t face any genuine scrutiny in their own echo chambers.”

    True to form, the rest devolves into that predictable old chestnut – Democrats are good, and Republicans are bad. This tedious reflex becomes more passé with each day, each cri de coeur for intifada, and each catchy, rhyming campus chant. It has uncovered, revealed, and disclosed that the true struggle is between those who cherish civilization and those who wish to destroy it.

    The closing sentence is chilling, “If Republicans succeed in turning the clock back on liberal education, who knows, the time may come when liberals may start calling for their own intifada.” That time has already come. “Liberals” have not only started calling for their own intifada but also supporting it. The presidents of three of the most sacred and important “Liberal” institutions have testified before Congress and the whole world that they support intifada, and their students have dutifully taken to the ramparts.

    Well, to be clear, they support the word intifada – a word we can all finally understand thanks to having it explained to us. If the actual intifada is indeed globalized and comes for us, it will not stop to inspect our virtue-signaling lawn signs before kicking in our front doors and having its way with us.

    But then again, maybe it just depends on the context …

    • Stephen, get a life, apocalypse does not mean what you claim, it means “the complete final destruction of the world,” which hardly describes a contentious congressional hearing. If anything, the hearing in question was an ambush, which was confirmed by Stefanik’s comment after the event, “one down, two to go.” So stop with the attempt to categorize it as some kind of level playing field event. Any academic, when confronted by an extreme statement such as “Genocide Against Jews,” which by the way, was not a statement displayed by any protestor, is going to ask for the context, especially when the subject is free speech. Doing so is a fundamental aspect of critical thinking. Had Stefanik been conducting a fair hearing, she should have asked what context the Presidents were referring to. As I said in my article, she didn’t, because she had what she was after: a sound bite for Fox News. What part of today’s political discourse don’t you understand?

      It is disingenuous to accuse protestors of being pro-Hamas. In fact, the vast majority of them were simply pro-Palestinian, the innocent victims of the conflict. So call it like it is. In addition, you fail to acknowledge that protestors can be anti-Israel versus anti-Jew, and that being anti-Israel does not make one anti-semitic. But it would be out of character for a conservative these days to pass up an opportunity to label liberals as anti-semitic, so intent are they in corralling the Jewish vote.

      It is also disingenuous to disregard the long history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by framing October 7 and the following events as being devoid of a past history (context.) Granted the Hamas attack was horrific and totally unacceptable, but my article was not about the attack or Israel’s response, it was in defense of the three college presidents against the failure of the Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to conduct an impartial hearing. The misuse of the word “Intifada” was but one of their missteps.

      Unfortunately this will not be the last attempt by Republicans to muddy the waters as they begin their vengeful impeachment process of President Biden, and heaven knows how many more charges they can drum up to dirty Joe Biden’s name prior to the 2024 election.

  2. Michael,
    “Get a life,” you say? Really? L.O.L. I actually laughed out loud at your classic, subconscious tactic of surrender: the childish, personal attack. Would you also have me go jump in a lake? Why not deploy a mom joke?

    While I accept your full, unconditional surrender and appreciate your empty advice, I cannot resist exploring other parts of your feeble rebuttal. Note well, “… when you demonize those who disagree with you, you invite treatment in kind.” Like Claudine Gay, I am unable to cite the person who originally wrote that. Unlike Ms. Gay however, I will not pass it off as my own work.

    If I get a life, please get a better dictionary. We have both correctly used the word apocalypse. However, the original meaning I previously explained (uncovering, disclosure, revelation) is what leads to the modern meaning you quoted. In early Christian and Jewish texts – where the word apocalypse seems to have migrated from Greek into English – all is revealed before “the complete final destruction of the world,” as you wrote. So, the apocalypse is the unmasking, but the end of days is the revelation which marks the second coming of Christ. Our modern English definition likely morphed from the original Greek definition, but that is the beautiful nature of languages.

    You wrote, “‘Genocide Against Jews,’ … was not a statement displayed by any protestor.” The eyewitness accounts and eyewitness videos are easy to find, and they show the statements that you deny. Perhaps the precise words you cite do not appear. However, they mean the same thing and come in many flavors – “From the River to the Sea,” “Gas the Jews,” images of a Hamas paraglider, etc. In those same eyewitness videos, we also hear chants from protesters calling for the same.

    If these three university presidents were capable of “fundamental aspect[s] of critical thinking,” they would not have been asked to testify before Congress in the first place. Their universities would not be safe harbors that foment antisemitism. Typically, critical thinkers can give simple answers to simple questions. They could not answer because they know that they only protect the free speech of those students deemed worthy of protection by bloated administrations that they oversee. Why would Rep. Stefanik need to ask about context around calling for genocide? Of course, context can be important, but is there ever a context within which calling for genocide should matter let alone be condoned?
    However, to answer your pedantic question, the part of today’s political discourse that I do not understand is yours. You ignore facts when they do not support your opinion.

    To take more of your sanctimonious advice, I will “call it like it is.” A student protester at an “elite” university can rationalize being pro-Palestinian to distance themselves from appearing pro-Hamas. However, what that student protester is also doing is confirming that their “elite” university taught them – in your words – “to disregard the long history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.” Both sides in this conflict have spilled each other’s blood for three millennia or more. This conflict is not as simple as Jews/Israelis are guilty, and Muslims/Palestinians are innocent. It reaches back centuries before the creation of either the state of Israel or Palestine. (Hang in there, Michael – this can get confusing when labeling people is the foundation of your argument.)

    Student activists are now taught and encouraged to screech and howl about topics they know little about. What little they have been taught is lopsided, politically-driven, ideological orthodoxy. Those teaching it also hold an overwhelmingly monolithic worldview. [Read: “Homogenous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty” by M. Langbert] Look no further than the abundant use of the specious phrase “my truth.” The now-corrupt Harvard motto is Veritas. It is not Veritas mea.

    As for “corralling the Jewish vote,” (Well now, “corralling” is an indelicate word choice when referring to Jews wouldn’t you agree? Are you not familiar with a microaggression – the Kryptonite of the liberal elite?) American Jews overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates. On average in U.S. Presidential elections between 1968 and 2020, 71% of Jewish voters chose Democratic candidates, and 26% chose Republicans. Furthermore, Jewish adults account for 2.4% or a mere 5.8 million of all eligible voters. [Source: Pew Research Center] So by your logic, the congressional hearings were a complex Republican ambush? And this ambush also included an evil, genius subplot aimed at capturing a rounding error of the electorate that has voted overwhelmingly Democrat since 1968?

    Unfortunately, this rebuttal predictably devolves into tribalism: the virtuous, intelligent, always-innocent Donkey versus the evil, stupid, ever-culpable Elephant. Mascots are fun! As you noted, I do not yet have a life, but I am also not beholden to a brittle, dim, narrow worldview that is driven by mindless allegiance to an anonymous political party blob. “Heaven knows” I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican.

    To paraphrase another of your projectionist comments, “… it would be out of character for a [liberal] these days to pass up an opportunity to label” every individual and then stuff them into a silo regardless of the content of their character or their personally held beliefs. Since liberals always put their underlings into one of their silly little silos, then put me down as “an unenrolled voter” as my overlords in this Commonwealth call me – a registered independent, if you will. I do not spend my time categorizing and then attacking people not in my tribe. I seek to understand our chaotic, irrational, violent, yet somehow beautiful world through independent thinking and observation.

    Speaking of observation, for some odd reason, you bring up the virtuous, intelligent, always-innocent Joe Biden (D – Del. We can’t forget to use labels, y’all!). As someone who is currently watching a loved one struggle with dementia, I – like anyone with honest eyes and ears – can easily observe that Good Ole Joe is also struggling with advanced dementia. No amount of faux jogging to a podium, lying from his press secretary, or spinning stories from the obsequious media will convince us otherwise. Frankly, it is cruel what his insatiably greedy, arrogant family and political puppet masters are doing to him. See what I did there? I held two opposing viewpoints in my head neither of which had to be fed to me by Fox News, CNN, The RNC, or The DNC. I can observe that the emperor has no clothes, but I also have compassion for another human being who is so clearly non compos mentis.

    As for dirtying Joe Biden’s name, he has done that himself during a half century in D.C. littered with recurring lies (never involved in his son’s business), plagiarism (scuttled his ’88 presidential run), and racial slurs (“you ain’t black”). Like the aforementioned Hamas videos, more examples of Joe’s dirtiness and corruption are easy to find and corroborate. Perhaps like Claudine Gay, Joe has no agency over his own actions, speech, and writing. Perhaps, it is all an elaborate trap set by the bad Republicans like the complex ambush by Rep. Stefanik that led to a mere “kerfuffle.” Could evil conservatives and Republicans possess a time machine that allows them to go back and plant all this evidence to trap the pure and virtuous liberals and Democrats?

    But we must keep in mind, we are exchanging responses in a tiny, unread corner of the internet. So for 2024, I will try to “get a life” as you have kindly advised. Perhaps you can try to think independently and avoid more self-delusion in the coming year? As Demosthenes said, “Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what every man wishes, he also believes.

  3. Stephen,

    Yes, “get a life” was a pejorative and unwarranted.

    It’s interesting that you focus on the root meaning of a word, in this case “apocalypse,” which is not unlike the point of my commentary about the word “intifada” and its misuse by Elise Stefanik, equating it to the word “genocide.”

    Perhaps what we need are more linguists in Congress.

    I disagree that we are but obscure voices in a tiny corner of the internet. The Hingham Anchor affords us all the opportunity to express our opinions and to essentially have the airing of opposing views that are sorely needed in our polarized society today. That conversation has to occur first and foremost in the tiny corners if we are to begin to move forward. In that respect, I appreciate your views and the time you put into crafting them. I’d like to continue the discussion, but I think I need to get a life.


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