Letter to the Editor: A fitting punishment

To the editor:

Regarding the recent question asked of Tzipi Livni: The question was offensive. Period. I do not think the question itself was anti-Semitic, although the questioner may well be — I don’t know. But the question was a deliberate and juvenile insult, not just to Ms. Livni, and not just to Jews, but to everyone.

Disagreeing with Ms. Livni is fine. Disagreeing vehemently with her is fine. Asking a question designed to draw out what you believe exposes the wrongfulness of her positions or beliefs is fine. Asking a question that any seven year old knows is insulting, irrelevant and stupid — yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question — is obviously unacceptable. It is the antithesis of civilized discourse.

So what is the appropriate response? Expulsion would be excessive. Letting the matter go on the basis of the questioner’s “I’m sorry if I offended anyone, I didn’t know any better” non-apologetic “apology” is not nearly adequate. I suggest making the punishment fit the crime, as the saying goes: Because the questioner has demonstrated that he cannot be trusted to behave appropriately at group gatherings, the questioner should not be permitted to attend another public forum at Harvard Law School. That includes Commencement; he can pick up his diploma the same way as anyone else who is not in attendance.

That would be poetic justice.

Richard M. Shearer is a 1986 graduate of Harvard Law School.

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