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Letter to the Editor: Believing Is Seeing

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When answering a congressional committee investigating college students’ protests against Israel in its war against Hamas, three presidents of Ivy League universities struggled with their carefully constructed paradigms to judge right and wrong.

For example, facetiously speaking, ‘great big militarized Israel is destroying innocent Palestinian civilians living peacefully in the little bitty Gaza strip. It could not be clearer which side is the oppressor and which side is the victim.’

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition, defines paradigm as “A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.”

Who could possibly be more intellectually astute than Harvard President Claudine Gay, Penn President Liz Magill, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth whose world views are founded in socialism. There are only two kinds of people in the socialist world: oppressors and victims. That’s a socialist paradigm.

Last week the three distinguished university presidents appeared before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, to answer how their respective institutions were dealing with antisemitism and Islamophobia on their campuses in light of the October 7 Hamas attack against innocent Israeli civilians.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) asked each president whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate the university’s code of conduct. President Magill said the answer depended on context. She said, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment.”

Likewise, President Gay said, “when speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies.” President Kornbluth said she had not heard anyone calling for genocide of Jews on MIT’s campus, but that speech “targeted at individuals, not making public statements,” would be considered harassment.

These presidents were trying to walk a fine line between freedom of speech and religion and threats of genocide against Jews. Obviously, they did not want to compromise student protesters’ freedom of speech and assembly for chanting, “From the river to the sea!” or “Intifada!” After all, it depends on “context,” and Islamophobia has been continually rising in America since 9/11. American Jews have certainly not suffered as much as Muslims.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported, “Since the Hamas massacre of Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, ADL has recorded a significant spike in antisemitic incidents across the United States. Preliminary data from ADL Center on Extremism indicates that reported incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault increased by 388 percent over the same period last year.”

Last month FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress about rising hate crimes against Jews saying, “The idea that a group that makes up only 2.4 percent of the American public should be targeted with something close to 60 percent of all religiously based hate crime is abhorrent and should be abhorrent to everyone.”

Paradigms shape what different people see and hear when considering the same information. If one believes Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians, he/ she will believe every news report supports his/her belief. The opposite is also true.

In a world on the precipice of ubiquitous Artificial Intelligence (AI), we must change our paradigms from “I have to see it to believe it,” to “I have to believe it to see it.” Even the smartest ones among us cannot see the truth unless they believe it.

Daniel L. Gardner is a columnist who lives in Starkville, MS. You may contact him at PJandMe2@gmail.com.

(Thoughts? Submit a letter to the editor here.)

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