Southern Poverty Law Center Spokesman Signed Letter Blaming Israel For Hamas Terrorism

Palestinian Hamas militants (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
November 4, 2023

A spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center signed a statement denouncing Israel as an "apartheid state" and "ethno-nationalist project," and blaming the Jewish state for provoking Hamas’s terrorist attacks that killed 1,400 Israelis.

Michael Edison Hayden, a senior investigative reporter and spokesperson for the SPLC, and Hannah Gais, a senior researcher and journalist for the SPLC, both signed on to the open letter, which was published by a group called Writers Against the War on Gaza last Thursday.

"Establishment media outlets continue to describe Hamas’s attack on Israel as ‘unprovoked,’" said the statement. "Writers Against the War on Gaza rejects this perversion of meaning, wherein a nuclear state can declare itself a victim in perpetuity while openly enacting genocide."

"We stand with [Gaza’s] anticolonial struggle for freedom and for self-determination, and with their right to resist occupation," said the signatories.

The statement also claimed that "Israel’s war against Gaza is an attempt to conduct genocide against the Palestinian people" and that "Israel is an apartheid state, designed to privilege Jewish citizens at the expense of Palestinians."

The SPLC and Gais did not respond to requests for comment.

The letter comes as the SPLC, which says it is dedicated to monitoring "hate and anti-government extremist groups throughout the United States," has faced criticism for its muted response to Hamas’s terrorist attacks and to the spike in anti-Semitism across the United States. Republican lawmakers have accused the SPLC of arbitrarily labeling conservative organizations as "hate groups" while ignoring anti-Semitism from left-wing and pro-Islamist organizations.

After weeks of silence on the Hamas attacks, the SPLC issued a statement last week that accused Israel of targeting Palestinian civilians with airstrikes. The group later edited the comments to say Palestinians were "killed" rather than "targeted," according to the Daily Signal.

The SPLC has yet to report on the surge in anti-Semitism in the United States in the wake of Hamas’s attacks, according to a review of its website. The Anti-Defamation League has documented a nearly 400-percent increase in anti-Jewish incidents nationally, while the New York Police Department said the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes reported in the city doubled.

The anti-Israel statement signed by Hayden and Gais could fall under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, which includes "justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion" and "claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor."

The statement also called for an international boycott of Israel and linked to a website for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, a Ramallah-based group whose members include the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine. The council is made up of Hamas and other designated terrorist groups, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The letter received hundreds of signatures as of Friday. It was organized by Writers Against the War on Gaza, a group of "writers, editors, and other culture workers" which describes itself as an "ad hoc coalition committed to solidarity and the horizon of liberation for the Palestinian people."

Jazmine Hughes, a reporter for the New York Times magazine, resigned on Friday after signing the same letter. The Times magazine editor said her signature was a "clear violation of the Times’s policy on public protest."

Update 2:13 p.m.: Hayden responded to the Free Beacon after publication, claiming that the article was a "racist attempt" to target him. He said any "attempt to conflate my concerns about Palestinian rights with supporting Hamas is cowardly and vile," and added that he has "made considerable sacrifices to undercut the activism of American antisemites."