Tuesday Talk*: What’s Poor Harvard To Do?

After a laundry list of Harvard student associations issued an open letter blaming the rape, kidnapping and murder of women, children and the elderly on Israel and the United States, opening with the sentence, “Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum,” the question that hung in the air was what would Harvard University have to say.**

It wasn’t just that a long list of faux student organizations, but that Harvard had already established precedent, having issued statements in support of Ukraine and Black Lives Matters.

And Larry Summers, former president of Harvard, and others called out the university out for its silence.

Finally, Harvard had something to say.

We have no illusion that Harvard alone can readily bridge the widely different views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but we are hopeful that, as a community devoted to learning, we can take steps that will draw on our common humanity and shared values in order to modulate rather than amplify the deep-seated divisions and animosities so distressingly evident in the wider world. Especially at such a time, we want to emphasize our commitment to fostering an environment of dialogue and empathy, appealing to one another’s thoughtfulness and goodwill in a time of unimaginable loss and sorrow.

As many colleagues, classmates, and friends deal with pain and deep concern about the events in Israel and Gaza, we must all remember that we are one Harvard community, drawn together by a shared passion for learning, discovery, and the pursuit of truth in all its complexity, and held together by a commitment to mutual respect and support. At this moment of challenge, let us embody the care and compassion the world needs now.

Reactions to the statement issued by Harvard President Claudine Gay ranged from tepid drivel to word salad. But what was Harvard to do? As I’ve argued many time, progressive ideology is inherently flawed, a view that elite academia does not share. It holds that Palestinians are the oppressed, and hence good, while Israel is the oppressor, and hence evil.

If Gay condemned the rape, kidnapping and murder of women, children and the elderly, the failure of identitarian orthodoxy would have been undeniable. No, identities do not dictate who is good or evil, but conduct does. Right and wrong does not shift based on who is engaging in the conduct. To recognize this is to disavow progressive ideology.

Could Harvard do such a thing? Could it tell its faculty, staff and students that their blind faith in woke ideology was wrong and they were praying to a false god?

Many have tried to blunt the obvious by raising the history behind Palestinian and Israeli relations, arguing that Israel had it coming. Often, the claim that Gaza was an “open air prison” was intoned as if it justified the rape and slaughter of civilians, of kids, at a music festival. But these weren’t the word issued by the president of Harvard.

Claudine Gay could not bring herself to condemn the conduct of Hamas terrorists because it would reveal that the inherent conflict in progressive ideology was real and the students at the nation’s most renown university would not have accepted a condemnation of their fundamentally flawed belief system. What else could she have done?

*Tuesday talk rules apply, within reason.

**At least it wasn’t as absurd and delusional as Larry Tribe’s twit that this was a conspiracy by Netanyahu to take the focus off his authoritarian activities.

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