He Hailed Hamas as a 'Liberation Organization.' Harvard Invited Him To Speak on Campus.

Tareq Baconi says Israel's 'regime of oppression' to blame for Hamas's Oct. 7 attack

Tareq Baconi (Institute for Palestine Studies)
April 4, 2024

Harvard University invited a Hamas apologist, who has described the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack as "anti-colonial violence" that was "inevitable" and motivated by "oppression," to speak on its campus.

The event, slated to take place on April 18, is hosted by Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies and will feature Tareq Baconi, a Hamas scholar and the president of the board of Al-Shabaka, a Palestinian think tank. Baconi is the author of Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance, in which he claims that Hamas is not "a terrorist group" but instead "a multifaceted liberation organization."

Just three days after Hamas murdered 1,200 Israelis and abducted hundreds more, Baconi argued that Hamas's Oct. 7 attack, which he calls "the Al-Aqsa Flood operation," wasn't "driven by hatred and bloodlust" but rather brought upon by Israel's "regime of oppression."

A month later, in November, he labeled Hamas's Oct. 7 attack "an unprecedented display of anti-colonial violence" and wrote that "the Al-Aqsa Flood operation was an inevitable response to Israel's relentless and interminable provocation."

"What is clear is that Western leaders are willfully refusing to acknowledge Hamas's attack for what it was: an unprecedented display of anti-colonial violence," wrote Baconi. "The Al-Aqsa Flood operation was an inevitable response to Israel's relentless and interminable provocation through land theft, military occupation, blockage and siege, and the denial of the fundamental right to return to one's homeland for more than 75 years."

Harvard's decision to host Baconi comes as the Ivy League institution faces criticism over its response to campus anti-Semitism. The university risks losing more than half a billion dollars in federal funding as it obstructs a congressional investigation into widespread anti-Semitism, according to the top lawmaker handling the probe.

Baconi's Apr. 18 talk is titled "Gaza as Epicenter: An Alternative Reading" and is open only to Harvard ID holders. Baconi and Harvard did not respond to requests for comment.

In a Monday op-ed in the New York Times, Baconi argued that "the two-state solution is an unjust, impossible fantasy" that has "normalized the daily violence meted out against Palestinians by Israel's regime of apartheid." Instead, he argued for a single state "from the river to the sea" but offered no solution that included the existence of Israel.

"All policymakers should heed the lesson of Oct. 7: There will be neither peace nor justice while Palestinians are subjugated behind walls and under Israeli domination," Baconi wrote. "A single state from the river to the sea might appear unrealistic or fantastical or a recipe for further bloodshed. But it is the only state that exists in the real world—not in the fantasies of policymakers."

At a November teach-in on "Palestinian Resistance" at the City University of New York, Baconi argued that calls to destroy Hamas are calls to genocide and that "Jews, Israeli Jews, [can't] feel safe while apartheid persists." During the event, he encouraged attendees to support "the resistance that's happening in Palestine."

"This is why the resistance that happens here is just as important," Baconi said. "This becomes a front for liberation that's just as important as what's happening on the ground."

He was joined by Charlotte Kates, a member of the Israeli-designated terror group Samidoun, who has praised Hamas's Oct. 7 attack, and Within Our Lifetime founder Nerdeen Kiswani, who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Both Kates and Kiswani were featured at a similar event at Columbia University last month.

When speaking to CounterPunch—a far-left socialist magazine—in February, Baconi cast doubt on allegations that Hamas raped Israeli women. A March U.N. report later confirmed evidence of Hamas terrorists committing acts of sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and against hostages whom the terrorist group captured.

"As a scholar of the movement, I would be surprised if Hamas employed rape or sexual violence systematically as a weapon of war," Baconi told the magazine.

During a May 2021 interview, Baconi claimed that Hamas has "very legitimate political grievances." According to an online bio, he is working on a book about decolonization in the 21st century.