The Cavalier Daily
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LETTER: Mischaracterizing a tangled war

The guest column responding to the Jan. 18 editorial on presidential statements is misleading and dangerous.

<p>But the guest <a href="https://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2024/01/hagmagid-we-must-expect-more-of-our-institutional-leaders?ct=content_open&amp;cv=cbox_featured"><u>column</u></a> departs swiftly from this discussion, busying itself with editorializing the Israel-Hamas war.&nbsp;</p>

But the guest column departs swiftly from this discussion, busying itself with editorializing the Israel-Hamas war. 

Misleading and disingenuous, the recent guest column “We must expect more of our institutional leaders” consistently and intentionally mischaracterizes the Israel-Hamas war. 

It purports to respond to the recent editorial “We expect too much of our university presidents.” But it primarily uses this pretense as a vehicle to reframe a deeply nuanced war into one with a simple and corrosive binary.

The alleged premise, at least, holds value. The author disagrees with the editorial board’s assertion that we should exempt university presidents from the burden of picking political sides in global conflicts. 

That point certainly makes sense. Presidents are leaders. The editorial board argues the leader should cease leading. 

But the guest column departs swiftly from this discussion, busying itself with editorializing the Israel-Hamas war. The article becomes gradually more disingenuous the longer it stretches. This piece is not, as it pretends, a statement about the role of university presidents. 

It is a manifesto pressuring our University president to release a statement aligned with the author’s views.

It labels the Israel-Hamas war “Israel’s war on Gaza,” ignoring the horror that inflamed the awful conflict. It describes Israel’s military operation in Gaza, three times, as “genocide,” a distinction the International Court of Justice this week declined to endorse. It refuses to consider contrasting viewpoints, or complexity, or nuance.

Lobbing these terms around and discounting a wider perspective is dangerous. It is reckless, especially in an academic environment. It risks — or, perhaps, intends — to shove everything into a simple black-and-white image, stifling actual discourse. 

The dead citizens of Gaza “cannot live until tomorrow,” the author said, “[so] I do not have any capacity to be concerned about the opportunities for debate on Grounds.” 

A curious point, indeed, given the column’s ostensible premise. A point that suggests, again, that the column’s actual purpose is different from its supposed purpose. 

This is doubly worrying because the guest column, somewhat ironically, completely misunderstands the editorial. The editorial’s focus is not, as the guest column suggests, to defend university presidents for not condemning Israel. The editorial’s focus, in fact, is to bemoan the recent presidential resignations at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, where critics shunted the two presidents out of office after they displayed stunning leniency toward antisemitic rhetoric veiled as pro-Palestinian advocacy.

The guest column whiffs on this. It is so blinded by wanting to promote its own restricted narrative that it misses the Editorial Board’s obvious point. 

It is so blinded by its corrosive binary. It is so blinded by its attempt to mischaracterize a war that stems from a century-old conflict and from perhaps the most complicated geopolitical situation in the world.

We should not address this war with blind idealism. We should address it, instead, with nuance and care.


Editor's Note: Michael Liebermann is a senior associate sports editor at The Cavalier Daily who has been involved in ongoing conversations amongst our staffers about the war in Gaza and our newspaper's attempts to cover its impacts on the University community.  

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