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Cavanagh's Hatred of Summers Transparent

Letter to the Editors

By Jay M. Harris

To the editors:

Professor of Psychology Patrick Cavanagh’s obvious hatred of University President Lawrence H. Summers has led him to a level of intellectual dishonesty that is breathtaking (Letter, “‘Ayatollah’ Summers’ Remarks Show Bigotry,” Nov. 14).

So, Prof. Cavanagh, take a few deep breaths, get past your hatred, and consider the following hypothetical: Imagine some division of the University invited a poet to speak who had suggested that some sub-group of African-Americans should be shot on sight because of their alleged political or criminal behavior, who had said that he has nothing but hatred for these people he never met. Would you really suggest that such a hateful person should be allowed to speak here as an invited guest of the University? Would you really think that withdrawing the privilege (not right) of speaking here with the imprimatur of the University infringes on free speech rights? Would you not see the ugly racism in his callous disregard for the lives of an entire class of African-Americans, whatever their alleged misdeeds? I, for one, am certain that you would protest the invitation to such a person, and correctly so.

What happened with Tom Paulin is no different. Paulin is not simply someone who supports Palestinian rights, as you try to whitewash him. He is someone who has said that Brooklyn-born Jews living in the West Bank should be killed (infants too?), that they are all Nazis worthy of hatred. Such a person, whatever his accomplishments as a poet, has no place in a world of civilized discourse.

It is not Summers’ bigotry that is showing; it is Cavanagh’s indifference to Paulin’s bigotry that is on display for all to see.

Jay M. Harris

Nov. 14, 2002

The writer is Harvard College Professor and Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies.

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