The Free Speech Debate on Campus About the Israel-Gaza War

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  • An Unfounded Hillary Clinton Scenario
  • Traveling for Abortions
  • Research on Morning Sickness Reveals Gender Bias

The University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia.Credit…Rachel Wisniewski for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Campus Allies of Palestinians Feel Muzzled” (front page, Dec. 18):

When pro-Palestinian supporters feel muzzled, afraid to present their views on campus, and Jewish students, intimidated by pro-Palestinian language, also feel uncomfortable expressing their opinions on the Middle East, universities no longer become safe harbors for expression.

When both sides are reluctant to express themselves, stereotypes and exaggerations dominate: Palestinian, anti-Zionist protests are conflated with antisemitism, and Jewish students’ criticisms of Israel are presumed to reflect a total rejection of a Jewish state rather than reasoned criticisms of Israeli policies.

As public opinion scholars have long noted, in these situations a spiral of silence develops, in which people with nuanced views on both sides of the issue, perceiving their opinions are in the minority, become reluctant to speak out. As a result, pro-Palestinian supporters are presumed to harbor more hostile perceptions of Jews than they actually do, and Jewish critics of Israel are viewed as total opponents of a Jewish state.

What results are simple tropes and cartoonish stereotypes that further polarize the two sides.

Richard M. Perloff
The author is a professor of communication, psychology and political science at Cleveland State University.

To the Editor:

There is a fundamental flaw in the rush to censor pro-Palestinian speech on college campuses. The assumption is that if you’re pro-Palestinian, you’re anti-Israeli. This is dangerously wrong.

Many people recognize that the plight of the Palestinians long predates the establishment of Israel. It originates with the colonial powers and the League of Nations, which were in control of the Palestinian mandate that led to the current geographic inequities.

Being pro-Palestinian is and should be about the horrendous conditions a people have had to endure for generations. It is about the denial of basic human rights, not political posturing.

Every story has two sides. Supporting one side does not automatically mean condemning the other. The issue is how to rectify the current situation where both parties have legitimate issues on the table.

To deny students the freedom to support the Palestinians is a sad, simplistic, knee-jerk reaction to a complex situation. It is possible to be both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli. Until the powers that be recognize that, we will continue to be an embarrassment to the concept of freedom and the principles of free speech.

Dennis B. Appleton
Madison, Wis.

To the Editor:

Re “The Problem With Campus Speech Codes,” by James Kirchick (Opinion guest essay, Dec. 14):

Mr. Kirchick argues that colleges and universities should impose restrictions not on hateful speech, but on injurious actions motivated by hate.

Does this mean permitting a campus rally by Hitler supporters or the Ku Klux Klan? Is this really the sort of thing our institutions of higher education ought to tolerate? If I understand Mr. Kirchick correctly, so long as a speaker does not directly incite his audience to violence, he should be allowed to advocate genocide. How can this be?

Surely, if uttering a death threat against an individual is not protected by the free speech principle, then calling for the extermination of all Jews or all Blacks (or any other group) is also unprotected. We’re not talking here about censoring equivocal slogans like “from the river to the sea.” We’re talking about explicit advocacy of mass murder. If that’s not beyond the pale, what is?

Stephen L. Newman
The writer is a professor emeritus of politics at York University.

An Unfounded Hillary Clinton Scenario

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “A Wrong Way to Save Our Democracy,” by Ross Douthat (column, Dec. 24):

In Mr. Douthat’s “counterfactual,” Hillary Clinton refuses to concede and insists that the 2016 election was invalid. In his scenario, Mrs. Clinton goes on to foment a riot, and the protesters storm the Capitol and overwhelm police officers in an attempt to stop the democratic process from going forward and somehow install her as president without any legal process to do so.

As a liberal Democrat, I state with complete confidence that, contrary to Mr. Douthat’s argument, Democrats would not have continued to support her. She would have rightly gone to jail, Republicans would have used this to argue that she was just a criminal all along, and zero Democrats would have continued to support her if she had tried to run for president again. Zero.

There really is a substantive difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats believe in democracy. Republicans do not. And we know that because, from gerrymandering to ballot access, Republicans are continually doing everything in their power to subvert democracy to retain their hold on power while Democrats do everything in their power to uphold democratic principles.

Josh Pepper
New York

Traveling for Abortions

A judge in Travis County, Texas, said that Kate Cox, whose fetus has a severe disorder, could have an abortion under state law. The Texas attorney general fought the ruling.Credit…Suzanne Cordeiro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Texas Proves Abortion Ban Exemptions Are a Sham,” by Michelle Goldberg (column, Dec. 13):

As Ms. Goldberg makes clear, the case of Kate Cox shows that even exemptions to abortion bans are a fraud, and extreme policies like these are dangerous for people’s safety. Not only does the state’s hard-line approach to abortion create inhumane circumstances, but it also forces people to travel for care — as Kate did. That means an even greater need for practical support organizations, which help people with the transportation, child care, lodging and any additional assistance they need to access care.

Kate’s situation was particularly dire and was rightfully given a lot of national attention, but thousands of people every single day need to travel long distances for abortion care for myriad reasons.

As The Times recently reported, despite a cascade of abortion bans that have taken effect since Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortions actually increased slightly, in part because of broader access to telemedicine and mail-order abortion pills, but also because the simple fact is: When clinics close, people will travel.

That is why practical support organizations, which help people get to and from the clinic with safety and dignity, need support now more than ever. As situations like these and thousands of others show, people will need to travel for care until abortion is available and affordable everywhere.

Marisa Falcon
New York
The writer is the founder and executive director of Apiary for Practical Support, which assists organizations that help people traveling for abortion.

Research on Morning Sickness Reveals Gender Bias

An ultrasound from a pregnancy during the 12th week.Credit…Alamy

To the Editor:

Re “Scientists Pinpoint One Hormone as the Cause of Severe Morning Sickness” (Science, Dec. 14):

Thank you for your enlightening report on the advancement in understanding morning sickness.

Unfortunately, this is just one more (glaring!) example of just how large the gender bias in science and medicine truly is. There is such a paucity of research on women.

Let’s just start with the recognition that conditions like hyperemesis are worthy of study and funding for research. The science community needs to do better!

Andrea Stuart
Jersey City, N.J.
The writer is a certified physician assistant.

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