Philip Green
8 min readDec 16, 2023

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Truth and Lies: the Real Story

1. The Subject is Violence

“Arielle Angel, the editor in chief of Jewish Currents, a leftist magazine outspoken on behalf of Palestinian rights, said that in her corner of the political world, there was a desire to acknowledge the horror of the attacks without losing sight of the decades of Palestinian suffering that had informed them.

“On another day let’s talk about oppression and what is the path to safety, determination and freedom for both peoples,” she added.”Today, let’s not protest people who are in the midst of being murdered and kidnapped.” ”

“More than a dozen U.S. city councils have now passed resolutions urging Israel to stop shelling Gaza, including several in Michigan, which has a sizable Muslim population, and several in California. Among the biggest cities to do so are Atlanta and Detroit.”

“In the two months since Hamas attacked Israel, all Gazans have suffered from the barely interrupted onslaught of Israeli forces. thousands have died. On average, a child is killed in Gaza every ten minutes. Israeli bombs have struck hospitals, maternity wards, and ambulances. Eight out of ten Gazans are now homeless, moving from one place to another, never able to get to safety.”

2. The Story: Genocide?

By now, everyone knows the story of the three university presidents, now reduced to two, who were cast into the pit of incoherence by the questioning of a member of Congress who wouldn’t let them off the hook. That Story in brief:

Ms. Stefanik said that in campus protests, students had chanted support for intifada, an Arabic word that means uprising and that many Jews hear as a call for violence against them.

Ms. Stefanik asked Ms. Magill, “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s rules or code of conduct, yes or no?”

Ms. Magill replied, “If the speech turns into conduct, if it can be severe, pervasive, it is harassment.”

Ms. Stefanik pressed the issue: “I am asking, specifically: Calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?”

Ms. Magill, a lawyer who joined Penn last year with a pledge to promote campus free speech, replied, “If it is directed and severe, pervasive, it is harassment.”

Ms. Stefanik responded: “So the answer is yes.”

Ms. Magill said, “It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman.”

Ms. Stefanik exclaimed: “That’s your testimony today? Calling for the genocide of Jews is depending upon the context?”

“ The eruption over Dr. Gay’s remarks(President of Harvard) came after she seemed to equivocate before Congress when she was asked whether university policies forbade calling for the genocide of Jewish people. “

She is still at Harvards’s helm but President Liz McGill of Prenn is gone: hard to be president of a billion dollar educational institution when you’ve been made to look like a total fool. How a fool?

I have read and reread the Times story of that fateful meeting. And guess what? We cannot find a single instance where anyone–anyone except Representative Elise Stefanik — used the word “genocide” as an encomium, or a battle-cry. I am going to assume that if a student group, large or small, had called for genocide, it would have made the story, would have been quoted and re-quoted. Where did it come from then?

Who’s the hero of the moment?

“One down. Two to go,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, the New York Republican who, according to the Times “led some of the most pointed questioning during the hearing.”

This is Timesspeak at its most perfected.

The main point then is this: No where, in this whole long story, was I able to find the faintest reference to “genocide” except from Stefanik herself. At one point, asked to specify, she dragged in “Intifada,” as a substitute, as though it were a kind of half-hearted genocide, as in chants of “from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) sea.” Dr. Kornbluth at first replied, “I have not heard calling for the genocide of Jews on our campus.” Representative Stefanik interjected: “But you’ve heard chants for intifada.”

To be sure, there is no precise meaning of “Intifada,” in that all terms involving, or involved with, controversial political movements, are by tht very involvement part of those movements, pro or con. Be that as it may, the common understanding “infitada” around the globe, as given by Wikipedia:

Infitada: “a civil uprising” “An intifada…is a rebellion or uprising, or a resistance movement. It is a key concept in contemporary Arabic usage referring to a uprising against oppression…in the Palestinian context, it is understood to mean a civil uprising.”

In point of fact, therefore, it is in no wise understood to mean genocide; as any research will demonstrate. At this point indeed, I have to say tht during the 1st Infitada, in 1987that was largely non-violent, a good number of my friends my colleagues, my students and myself, were more or less on the side of the rebels. And never did encounter either the word or the concept of “genocide.”

3. The Hero

So who is Elie Stefanik (R-NY), who triumphs over language by sheer willpower? Most notably, she “was among the 147 House Republicans who voted against certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.” Yes indeed, a university president should be able to achieve coherence under fierce — and wholly deceitful — questioning.

As for a House Republican? Who has to be able to adhere to the worst lie in the history of the United States, where, as an acolyte of Donald Trump, she’s learned to lie not just with a straight face. but seeming to display genuine anger representing a political movement that stands behind most of the expressed anti-Semitism in American society, but now has managed to draw a get-out-of-jail–free card. (Check out the Southern Poverty Law Center on domestic terrorism.)

This is what the Right is good at the candidacy of Donald Trump. How perfectly she was able to demean Josh Shapiro, Bob Casey, John Fetterman, and Chuck Schumer, getting these liberal Dems to join in a ritual denunciation of “anti-Semitism,” among the college students who’ve erupted over the catastrophe of Gaza.

The “pointed questioning” How so? “The decision by Harvard’s administration to cower and cave to the woke Left will continue to erode diversity of thought.” Stefanik, like all those who sacrifice their thinking to political combat, somehow failed to notice that “diversity of thought” when there’s a war between two sides would necessarily include criticism on both sides. But then like all good liars she does not include liberals or Democrats in her conception of “both sides:” They are enemies; for them to win any kind of combat–such as an election–is to perpetrate an unacceptable outcome.

In other words, something is going on in half of the nation–our nation–has bought into a totally different version of, let’s call it, legitimate discourse. It has nothing to do with truthfulness: its purpose is to destroy the entire concept of truth, and replace it with a conspiratorial version of the will to power, that will ultimately smash the ideal into the ground.

This is the concept to which Elaine Stefanik has sworn fealty to since the moment she decided to lick the boots of Donald Trump and become an election denier. One would no more go to her for information or insight or truthfulness than one would go to a hyena for nuzzling. It’s no accident that she was removed from her position at the Harvard Institute of Politics (“A badge of honor” she called that.)

What then happened then when when Rep. Stefanik asked if the President thought that accusations of genocide were “bullying and harassment?” To repeat, no one except Stefanik herself had used that word, which she deployed as part of the neo-Fascist movement against liberal education (with its double meaning). Supporters of Palestinian freedom, or survival, on the campuses of Harvard, MIT, and U penn, had called forth the image of “the Infitada” to extend the Right-Wing purge to all expressions of anti-colonialism, including non-existent appeals to “genocide.” Here’s a brief summary of the actual conditions on the ground, from Wikipedia:

4. The Infitada

“In December 1987, after four Palestinian were killed when an Israeli truck collided with two vans carrying Palestinian workers.The Palestinian response was characterized by protests, civil disobedience, and violence. There was graffiti, barricading and widespread throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli army and its infrastructure within the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These contrasted with civil efforts including general strikes, boycotts of Israeli Civil Administration institutions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, an economic boycott consisting of refusal to work in Israeli settlements .”

Not exactly genocide. But that description brings up the main point: All control of occupied territories anywhere is based on force: armed force. Violent repression-violent resistance-and so forth.Who came first is irrelevant. There were Arabs in Palestine before refugees from Naziism came, and there were Jews before the Arabs settled, and — it doesn’t matter. Once power rests on force, the situation is what it is: what it is “from the river to the sea.” and no matter what, control of Gaza itself rests on Israeli military power in support of Palestinian police power. But it has to be reiterated, again and again, that that die was cast a long time ago.

To be sure, the Anti-Zionism of supporters of Arab resistance (such as myself) have often been accused of historical blindness and that may be: I can hardly claim expertise on the area’s history (but then neither could Hannah Arendt). But in the end what remains is the temperament of resistance to repression: and that can never be erased by calling it “genocidal”. That reduction comes from the same persons who, like Stefanik think that lying on his behalf, the most anti-Semitic President in US history is a version of truth-telling.

5. Doublethink

President Gay never stopped trying. But she was, they all were, up against an expert liar: “There are some,” she concluded, “who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”

Her statement did not say what would constitute a threat, or whether chants of “There is only one solution: intifada, revolution” would meet the definition, as Ms. Stefanik argued. So “revolution” is verboten? That’s a new one, though it certainly goes along with the “threat” that she and her ilk have argued will be quashed when her boss takes power.

It’s a shame, then, that Pennsylvania’s progressive Democrats, such as Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman, felt it necessary to wade into the conspiratorial trap set by Stefanik. I’m not going to blame them: they might well be right, that is, have done not the right but the politically necessary move. That is where the Orwellian doublethink of the Right has landed us; if Orwell could commuicate from his grave he might well be sending the message: you Fascist bastards, I didn’t mean for you to take me so seriously.

One last comment on anti-Semitism, which is reaching new highs around the world: It may be too late to reverse the brute course on which the Netanyahu regime has embarked, throwing all humanity to the winds in the vain hope for what Donald Trump calls “retribution.” Too late to erase the image it’s engraved everywhere: as though the world was just waiting for the excuse it’s been given.

Nor will it be enough to forego what may be the last best chance to come to a political solution that should have been reached long ago. In the words of T.S. Eliot, from Murder in the Cathedral: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

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Philip Green

Emeritus Professor of Gov’t, Smith College, 40 years Editorial Board, The Nation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Green_(author)