SCHWARZ | Further Thoughts on the Hamas-Israel Conflict

I received a great number of positive responses to my recent Cornell Daily Sun piece, but subsequent events have evoked further thoughts on the intractable situation in Israel and Gaza.

The response of so many people thanking me for “the courage to speak up,” as if I were risking my professional standing or my stature at Cornell or even my personal safety, for my opinions on the significance of Oct. 7 tells us something about the current fraught environment. It is as if, without realizing it, I had become the proxy or surrogate for a great number of Jewish students, alums and even Jews beyond Cornell. I find this a bit frightening because it suggests some Jews and other supporters of Israel’s right to exist have been cowed into silence not only about Israel but also several other issues.

Many of the letter writers expressed outrage at President’s Pollack’s first letter and more than a few threatened to withdraw financial support from Cornell. Her second letter changed the minds of some but far from all those who wrote me. As Dan Okrent, the first Public Editor of the New York Times, proposed in what is now known as Okrent’s Law, “The Pursuit of Balance Can Lead to Imbalance.” That is, sometimes the quest for evenhandedness, when a strong statement on the side of the wronged party is required, can itself be a major mistake in terms of truth and morality. Several people, including myself, thought the eloquent first paragraph of President Pollack’s third letter recognizing fully what had occurred on Oct. 7 was all that was needed and should have been sent immediately after the atrocities committed by Hamas were known.