Letters to the editor May 20

Letters to the editor May 20

Paraphrase corrected
You wrote in your April 29 editorial, “Oren the lightening rod:”
“Some of those responses were over the top, such as computer science professor Harry Mairson’s. He called Oren an ‘apologist’ for Israeli war crimes.  Time out, please!”
I did use the word “apologist,” but I deliberately avoided the phrase or the accusation of “war crimes,” knowing full well what a “lightning rod” it would be on all sides.  Even the Goldstone report concluded that use of white phosphorus did not constitute a war crime, according to international law.
Time out, please! The misquotation is yours. 
What I wrote in the Brandeis student newspaper was this: “Dropping white phosphorus or napalm on civilians anywhere and being an apologist for it is not my idea of social justice.” That’s not an international judicial indictment;  it’s my personal opinion. “Brandeis University,” says our Web site, “has made a commitment to social justice an integral part of its mission.”
When legitimate criticism is misconstrued as something more extreme, either by accident or through rhetorical design, real discussion takes a step backward.

Harry Mairson
Waltham, Mass.

(Editor’s note: The author is a professor of computer science at Brandeis University. Mairson’s complete essay may be read at thejusticeonline.com.)