It’s Not About Context
You would think that the presidents of three illustrious, elite American universities could answer a simple question about whether or not calls for Jewish genocide coming from their student bodies constitute speech that does not comport with the harassment and bullying policies of these universities. Apparently, this is a nuanced issue for these three women.
The presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT could not bring themselves to forthrightly condemn calls for the eradication of the Jewish people. Rather, for them, context mattered. When you are testifying on Capitol Hill, you are not in an Ivy League classroom. The answer was clear cut, but not for these three women.
In his brilliant film Manhattan, Woody Allen got to the point:
”A satirical piece in the Times is one thing,” his character says, referencing an upcoming Nazi march, “but bricks and baseball bats really get right to the point…. Physical force is better with Nazis.”
Listen people, the world wants to make the fighting in Gaza an issue of nuance and complexity. It is not. Hamas killed 1200 Israelis and has no intention of stopping there. Israel has little choice in this matter.
Here are the facts:
In 1948, Israeli Zionists were allotted a small piece of what was the British mandate of Palestine to found a country known as Israel. Immediately, upon Ben-Gurion’s declaration of Israeli independence, the Arabs of this land and the Israelis went to war over who would control the area. The Israelis won. That’s how wars over territory go. This period is known as the Nakba, “the catastrophe,” in the Arab world because many Arabs fled Israel for the West Bank and Gaza. Some Arabs stayed. They now constitute 20% of the Israeli population and are full citizens of Israel. They are probably the most well-off Arabs in the world who do not own an oil well. This is not to say that the Israeli Arabs are treated well. They often are not, but they are voting members of the Israeli electorate and have their own political parties.
In 1967 Israel greatly expanded its land holdings by defeating the Arab armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Again, that’s how wars work. The winner gets to keep the land.
In 1973, the Arabs of Egypt and Syria attacked again. Again, they lost. But this led to the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan that hold to this day.
In 2000, Yasser Arafat had a deal to create a Palestinian state with Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Clinton. Arafat turned it down and the Second Intifada (shaking off) began with many attacks on Israel from the West Bank.
It’s been downhill ever since.
Yet, in 2005 the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon uprooted Israeli settlers in Gaza and gave the Palestinians there the right to govern themselves. Soon, the Palestinians elected Hamas to run the territory. Hamas wants to kill all Jews and eradicate Israel.
Unwisely, Israel chose to try to deal with this group of terrorists who plowed all their resources (mostly from Qatar) into building tunnels under Gaza instead of creating an economic center for the Palestinians. Israel also allowed the inept and corrupt Palestinian Authority to try to run part of the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas remains the leader of the PA in the 19th year of his four-year term. Netanyahu never really tried to pursue the two-state solution. The Palestinians got more violent and resentful.
In other words, Gaza was run poorly. The West Bank has been run poorly. Israel has done nothing to improve the plight of the Palestinians and Prime Minister Netanyahu made some really bad choices over his time in leadership.
Then came October 7.
The savagery of the Hamas attack has now been made clear to the world. Murder, torture, kidnapping, rape. Israel now has no choice.
If you don’t know that history, you cannot understand what is going on now and the only context that counts is that the Jewish people have been on the run for 2000 years despite having had two shots at ruling Israel in the ancient past. In 1897 the Zionist movement began and the goal was to return Jews to a safe place of their own in their ancient homeland. The Holocaust only made this more urgent.
Now we have three leaders of the most important universities in America who cannot be certain that calls for Jewish genocide are against their policies. Sorry, no context. Genocide is bad. Calls for genocide are bad.
If you can’t get that right—resign. Oh, that’s right. One did. Two to go.