How someone answers a yes-or-no question is revealing. If they don’t give you a one-word response, it’s because they object to something in the premise of the question.

Sometimes that’s appropriate. Sometimes it’s deeply unsettling. Today, Harvard President Claudine Gay gave us an example of the latter. At a congressional hearing on anti-Semitism, she was asked by Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx: “Do you believe Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish nation?”

An easy one, right? The only word other than “yes” Gay should’ve uttered here was perhaps “thanks,” since Foxx had opened the questions with such a gimme.

Gay, however, took her red pen to the question and said: “I agree that the state of Israel has the right to exist.”

Gay’s intentional deletion of the word “Jewish” in an answer about “the Jewish state” at a hearing about anti-Semitism simply exemplified the problem Congress had assembled to discuss.

In addition to Gay, MIT President Sally Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill came under fire for the rampant anti-Semitism on their elite campuses as well. They repeated Gay’s formulation word-for-word, which was unsurprising—but not quite as damning as Gay’s original modification.

There has been much discussion about whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. The fact is, anti-Zionism is a subset of anti-Semitism, and Gay’s dissembling is clarifying. Her belief is that there is a right for a state to exist in that place. In other circumstances, that would simply be a galactically stupid answer to a question that wasn’t asked. Here, though, the question goes right to the heart of the concept of Zionism: Do Jews deserve the same rights as anyone else? Gay’s answer was, implicitly, no.

Why would Gay struggle with such a question? The answer was revealed late in the hearing. Rep. Kathy Manning, Democrat of North Carolina and the former chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, said the following to Gay: “I understand that you have condemned the phrase ‘from the river to the sea.’ But I also know that the Harvard School of Public Health has a course called The Settler Colonial Determinants of Health that introduces students to the concept of settler-colonialism and its health-equity implication. It uses case studies in the United States and Palestine and talks about poorer health outcomes for indigenous and other non-settler communities. President Gay, are you aware that Jews are indeed indigenous to the land of Israel and have lived there for 2,000 years?”

Gay: “I do know about the long history.”

Manning: “So what is Harvard doing to educate members of the community about these phrases and other false accusations that Israel is a racist, settler-colonialist, apartheid state even as Harvard is actually teaching courses with the underlying premise that Israel is a settler-colonialist state?”

Gay: “We have faculty, we have outside speakers who come and, over the last couple of months in particular, have been providing more insight into the nature of the conflict and the ways forward.”

So what the university’s president said is this: Yes, Harvard is teaching a class with an anti-Semitic premise, but you may hear the occasional “outside speaker” who will balance that out by talking about “the ways forward.”

In that way, Gay served ably as both bookends to the hearing. The only thing her answers provided clarity on, unfortunately, was why Harvard has become so overtly hostile to Jews. What it means that Harvard University now has a president that is so clearly comfortable with that hostility is a question we not only need to ponder—it’s a challenge we need to confront.

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