ESTRICH: Is it really all about context?

What’s the difference between equivocating and just avoiding the question?

Are the Jews calling the shots?

It was a fiery four-hour hearing, with short-answer questions: genocide of Jews?

Sounds easy. Genocide of Jews — are you for it or against it? Not one of those things where there are two perfectly reasonable sides. What’s the trick? Is it against the school conduct code to call for genocide of the Jews? What if you only call for the genocide of Jews but you don’t actually kill anyone?

Call for genocide?

The Ivy League presidents had lawyerly answers, meaning they were completely accurate and utterly useless.

Rep. Elise Stefanik wanted the answer to her question.

Is it against the code? Can you chant “intifada”?

The answer should be no. What is so hard about no?

My friend, the liberal academic Laurence Tribe, found himself agreeing with Stefanik, Republican of New York, who sharply questioned Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay.

“I’m no fan of @RepStefanik but I’m with her here,” the Harvard law professor wrote on the social media site X. “Claudine Gay’s hesitant, formulaic, and bizarrely evasive answers were deeply troubling to me and many of my colleagues, students, and friends.”

What was so hard about saying no? What context did you need to take account of?

Taking on the president of the University of Pennsylvania by name, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said, “It should not be hard to condemn genocide, genocide against Jews, genocide against anyone else. … I’ve said many times, leaders have a responsibility to speak and act with moral clarity, and Liz Magill (the president of Penn) failed to meet that simple test.”

The virulence of the antisemitism that gets spewed is shocking. It is ugliness. Young Jews knew it, instantly, even if they didn’t recognize what was happening before. They see it now. The sting cuts. What are these university presidents afraid of? Are they afraid to tell their students that they’re wrong? They are wrong.

Count the victims. Weigh the evil. Take responsibility.

A call for genocide?

Absolutely not.