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Editorial: Looking for moral clarity

Interim President Jeff Ettinger sent out a second email Wednesday condemning the “horrific violence” in Israel.
Image by Sarah Mai

In her email to the University of Minnesota community on Feb. 28, 2022, former President Joan Gabel unequivocally condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an “atrocity.”

Interim President Jeff Ettinger’s Monday, Oct. 9th email to the University community regarding “Recent Devastating Events in Israel, Gaza and Surrounding Region” sadly lacked the same moral clarity.  In the email, he said he “mourn[s] the loss of life resulting from the devastating and ongoing violence in Israel, Gaza, and the surrounding region.”

Such a framing draws a tragic moral equivalence between Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and a terrorist organization’s barbaric atrocities.

 Over the last few days, verified news reports emerged describing the horrors that innocent Israeli civilians experienced on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah: more than 250 people gunned-down at a music festival; entire families massacred in their homes; babies slaughtered; grandmothers — including a Holocaust survivor —  and children abducted and taken hostage; rape; a mutilated woman paraded in the streets of Gaza; and more than 1200 deaths. The slaughter marked the Jewish people’s bloodiest day since the Holocaust. Those heinous atrocities deserved the same, unequivocal condemnation. 

Wednesday afternoon, Ettinger sent out a second email to the University community stating that after having “heard from many members of our University community about the impacts of this horrific violence . . .  [he now]  join[s] many others in condemning the abhorrent acts committed by Hamas.”

While this clarification is welcome, it hardly explains his initial email. Hamas’ atrocities –– and their impacts on University members –– were obvious as early as Saturday afternoon. Instead, Ettinger’s initial email sadly mirrored those from most other higher education institutions: they sought to avoid labeling Hamas’ actions for what they were. As U.S. President Biden unambiguously stated Tuesday, the acts were “pure, unadulterated evil.” 

I support the goal of two states living peacefully and in dignity in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, but let’s be very clear.  The terror organization Hamas does not support this goal. The vitriol espoused at recent pro-Hamas U.S. events over the weekend clearly establishes that neither do the demonstrators.

When these atrocity-defenders chant “from the river to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” they don’t mean two states. They don’t mean going back to the pre-1967 borders.

They mean a Palestine without Jews.

This past weekend Hamas showed the world just how they would accomplish that goal, if given the chance.

Arnie Frishman has been a staff member at the University for the last 23 years and is himself Jewish.

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