Scores of Palestinians are dead after a blast late yesterday at a hospital in Gaza, a horrific tragedy.
Hamas immediately blamed Israel. And then so did the paper of record.
Very soon after the incident, The New York Times published a story with the headline “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say” and sent it out as a breaking news notification. They did so relying on Hamas’s word on the matter.
Israeli authorities soon after denied responsibility. An IDF spokesperson said that no Israeli aircraft had been operating in the area of the hospital at the time of the explosion. Israel has released footage they say shows that the hospital was struck by a wayward missile fired from within Gaza. The spokesperson further said the Israeli military will release recordings of intercepted conversations and drone footage that they claim demonstrates the hospital was hit by a rocket fired by Gaza-based terrorist group Islamic Jihad.
Realizing their mistake, editors at the Times changed the headline on their homepage to: “At Least 500 Dead in Strike on Gaza Hospital, Palestinians Say.”
And then changed it again to: “At Least 500 Dead in Blast at Gaza Hospital, Palestinians Say.”
So in the space of several hours, it went from an Israeli strike to an ambiguous blast.
We don’t know yet definitively what happened in Gaza yesterday. The point of doing good journalism is that you pause to get the facts straight and hesitate before trusting the word of a terrorist group—in this case, the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health—or a government. Yet, for some reason, when it comes to Hamas, all the old rules are out the window. And whatever the facts are, that breaking news alert—Israel targets a hospital, hundreds of deaths—is already echoing throughout the world.
The Power of Bad Ideas
If you’ve ever voiced concern about the excesses of campus radicalism in the last decade, someone has probably told you to calm down. They probably told you not to worry about the crazy proclamations of a few gender studies majors and reassured you that they’ll grow up, get jobs, pay taxes for the first time, and shake off their outlandish ideas.
Here’s Atlantic journalist Anne Applebaum expressing that thought yesterday on Twitter: “Out of all the terrible problems there are in the world today, the problem of small numbers of American university students with stupid or even evil opinions seems to me the least important and least interesting. But clearly, I am in a minority.”
So let us get this straight: college is worth taking on hundreds of thousands in debt. . . but also completely meaningless?
It’s wishful thinking to say people naturally grow out of hateful beliefs, as though history has ever shown that. If Ivy League students are glorifying Hamas, with professors applauding them, there is very little reason to believe that, a few years later—now congressmen and lawyers, doctors and teachers, and perhaps professors themselves—they will necessarily have changed their views.
We have a sort of hazy, rose-colored view of youthful stridency, like it’s all hippies. But stridency can go in any direction.
Andrew Sullivan put it best and most presciently in February 2018 in this piece: We All Live on Campus Now. Here’s the key part:
I believe ideas matter. When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based “social justice” movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large. What matters most of all in these colleges—your membership in a group that is embedded in a hierarchy of oppression—will soon enough be what matters in the society as a whole.
Two new Free Press stories about very different subjects make clear that these are not abstract debates—and that the ideas that begin on campus trickle down to the rest of the culture.
First up, TFP reporter Francesca Block tells the extraordinary story of what happened when an ophthalmologist and a popular YouTuber teamed up to cure a thousand people of blindness.
You might think that the collaboration between Dr. Jeff Levenson—a brilliant eye doctor—and MrBeast—the second most-followed person on YouTube—to deliver life-transforming cataract surgery would be treated as unmitigated good news.
Sadly not. The duo faced accusations of “ableism”—a woolly concept born in 1981 that has made the definitive leap from obscure activism into the mainstream. Thanks to ideas cooked up in the academy, a doctor is forced to defend the fact that he has healed thousands of people. Meanwhile, as Francesca reports, the medical establishment seems to be more interested in indulging these voguish ideas than defending heroes like Jeff Levenson.
Our Canadian bureau is small but very mighty. How small? It is composed of a single woman: Rupa Subramanya.
Rupa is unstoppable. And today she reports from Ottawa, where she attended a pro-Palestine rally. She spoke to many of the young people there who, to a person, believe that Israel should be wiped off the map—but had little idea about what ought to happen to the Jews who currently live there.
Our interviews capture a range of perspectives, some more hard-line than others. But the overall impression they leave, at least to us, is of a movement using the kind of language that is everywhere on campus—words like colonizer and oppressor—that now have had major ramifications in the real world.
Watch for yourself:
The Donor Revolt Picks Up Steam
Last Wednesday, Apollo CEO and University of Pennsylvania megadonor Marc Rowan announced in The Free Press that he was closing his checkbook. Accusing UPenn’s leaders of “allowing anti-Jewish hate to infect their campus,” he said that he would not donate to the college as long as Liz Magill and Scott Bok remained in place as president and chairman, respectively.
In the days since, other donors, at UPenn and beyond, have followed suit. As Jacob Savage reported in our pages on Monday, America’s top colleges have a donor revolt on their hands. And the ranks of disgusted benefactors continue to grow.
“I am deeply ashamed of my association with the University of Pennsylvania,” wrote major UPenn donor David Magerman in a letter to McGill and Bok this week. “I refuse to donate another dollar to Penn.”
Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and former U.S. ambassador to China, Russia, and Singapore, has also halted his donations—tens of millions of dollars within the past three decades—to UPenn.
Jonathan Jacobson has given tens of millions of dollars to UPenn. He is also pulling out.
On Monday, Bath & Body Works founder Leslie Wexner became the latest to pull the plug on donations to Harvard. The Wexner Foundation wrote to Harvard’s board Monday to explain the decision: “We are stunned and sickened by the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stance against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians.”
Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, who has pledged $300 million to Harvard this year alone, has vowed not to hire any of the Harvard students who blamed Israel for Hamas terror. We wonder if he can claw that money back.
In Other News. . .
→ Biden lands as the stakes are raised: Biden flew to Israel overnight as the picture in the Middle East only grew darker. Axios reports that the U.S. has been discussing the possibility of using military force if Hezbollah attacks Israel to open a northern front in the war. Meanwhile, Biden’s planned stop in Jordan, where he was due to meet Jordanian and Egyptian leaders as well as Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, has been canceled.
→ Chaos at embassies: There were chaotic scenes at embassies across the Middle East as we went to press last night. Demonstrators attempted to storm the Israeli embassy in Amman. In Beirut, protests erupted outside the U.S. embassy.
→ Still speakerless: On Monday afternoon it looked like Jim Jordan might have enough momentum to end the impasse in the House and become the next Speaker. But Tuesday didn’t go according to the Ohio firebrand’s plan. Twenty Republican colleagues voted against Jordan in a floor vote. Jordan needs as many as seventeen of those nos to change their minds if he is to triumph. At least Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted as Speaker two weeks ago, can see the funny side.
→A dollar for your thoughts: X, formerly Twitter, is planning to charge new users a dollar per year for the ability to tweet and retweet. Oops, we mean post and repost. Sorry, Elon!
→ Having nun of it: On a lighter note, let’s hear it for the French nun who took out an environmental protester yesterday.
The Fog of War
We’re a small operation. The Free Press doesn’t have foreign bureaus—at least not yet. But we remain committed to trying our hardest to bring you a full picture of what is happening in this war. That means bringing you more stories from inside Gaza, especially stories of ordinary people who are suffering the consequences of this terrible war.
We are using WhatsApp and other platforms to ask people in Gaza to send us voice memos and videos about what they are seeing. We’ve already heard some heartbreaking stories. But we want to hear more.
Please, if you have other tips or leads, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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