BY MOSHE HILL OPINION COLUMNS NOVEMBER 22 2023
Much has been said about Gen Z since the start of the war against Hamas, as college campus protests and polling show that the youngest among us are also the most morally and intellectually bankrupt. That is the fault of those who came before them, who insisted on the lie that all cultures are the same, and that all conflict can be boiled down to a simple dynamic: oppressor and oppressed. This is how Gen Z discovered, and decided to deify, Osama bin Laden.
To understand this phenomenon, it’s essential to understand how Gen Z views America and the West. There is a constant barrage on the evils of America aimed at youth. History is being cherrypicked to only highlight the darkest parts, like treatment of Native Americans, slavery, Jim Crow, and similar sins. Teenagers, especially on college campuses, are not being taught of the greatness of America, how America lifted billions of people worldwide out of poverty, how America has spread freedom throughout the world, how America has innovated and led to miraculous heights, including but not limited to the Industrial Revolution, the Moon Landing, and the Information Age. According to the youngest generation, everything bad is a unique American issue, and everything good is because of global effort, not unique to America and Western ideology.
To be told over and over again that the country is evil, it is unsurprising that so many in Gen Z resonate with bin Laden’s “Letter to America,” which was disseminated after the attacks on 9/11. Because of their ignorance and the perception that Israel is the “oppressor” and Palestinians are “oppressed,” Gen Z views Israel as a colonial settler outpost created and propped up by the West. In the letter, bin Laden addresses this first as a reason for attacking on 9/11. “The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased,” he wrote. “Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily.” He denies the historical connection between Jews and the Land of Israel.
Bin Laden justifies attacks on civilians because “the American people are the ones who fund the attacks against us, and they are the ones who oversee the expenditure of these monies in the way they wish, through their elected candidates.” To a terrorist, democracy is an excuse to murder anyone who participates in it. All are complicit; therefore, all are guilty.
To say that this is a fringe minority position of Gen Z would be naively optimistic. According to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, 66% of respondents between 18-34, “disapprove of the way Israel is responding to the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack.” When asked, “Do your sympathies lie more with the Israelis or the Palestinians, 52% said Palestinians. (All other age groups had 2-5 times more support for Israel than Palestinians.) Fifty percent said that America is “too supportive” of Israel, 36% blamed Israel for the outbreak of violence in the Middle East, 45% said it’s not in the interest of the United States to support Israel, and 65% opposed sending military aid to Israel for this war.
In every question, 18-34-year-olds differ wildly from the older generations. Polling that is broken down into smaller age groups show even greater discrepancies the younger a person is. The message is loud and clear: When it comes to an armed conflict between a Western democracy and a terrorist organization, Gen Z chooses terrorists.
Even with all of that, they clearly don’t have reading comprehension skills. Osama bin Laden had a prescription of what he would like to see happen, considering he thought America was “the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind” because we “choose to invent [our] own laws” and “separate religion from [our] policies.” He calls on Western culture to “reject the immoral acts” that America constantly celebrate (usually during June Pride month). Not one of these Gen Z leftists included that part in their adoration for bin Laden that they posted on social media.
We have a responsibility to our youth to be steadfast and not equivocate on these issues. There can be no placating the notion that “Osama wasn’t all that bad” or that every culture is equal in moral stature. That line of thinking has gotten us to a place where posters of kidnapped babies are being torn down because they are Israeli, and therefore complicit in the same manner that bin Laden held all Americans complicit. Reasoned discussion has its place, but not with the unreasonable. It’s time to move past the notion that all ideas are good ideas, and instead become a strong advocate for what you know to be right.