‘Law and Order’ episode highlights tensions over Hamas-Israel war

The opening episode of the veteran TV show tried to portray both sides during a fictional murder case in what critics deemed an “ambitious” effort.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The opening episode Thursday of veteran TV series Law and Order tried to portray both sides of the Hamas-Israel war through a fictional murder on a college campus in a show called “Freedom of Expression.”

The series has always noted in its opening credits that it takes its storylines from the news headlines of the day, and lived up to this in full. A Jewish university president who is contending with plagiarism charges is stabbed and killed after catching teens spray painting the Star of David on a Jewish-owned eatery.

Many Jewish businesses in the U.S. have suffered from vandalism since October 7, and Harvard University president Claudine Gay resigned recently amidst accusations of academic plagiarism although she had survived testimony on Capitol Hill where she said that calling for the genocide of Jews on campus may break her school’s Code of Conduct depending on their “context.”

A Post-It with the word “traitor” is found on the body. The real war is brought directly into the dialogue when a suspect says the president was hated in the Jewish community for not making a statement against Hamas after October 7, while he, personally was fighting antisemitism by tearing down pro-Palestinian posters and getting canceled for his actions.

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The evenhandedness line that so many college administrations are tiptoeing today was then portrayed by a scene in which a big donor explained that the president had refused his call to ban a pro-Palestinian student group, but did cancel a campus showing of a blatantly anti-Israel movie after the man proved that pro-Hamas students were behind it.

On the other hand, he allowed pro-Palestinian protests on campus, one of which was also realistically portrayed on the show, with extremists shouting antisemitic tropes. Another suspect, who goes viral on social media for her anti-Israel screeds and who arranged the protest to support the killer because he was only “telling the truth” about Gaza, is shot by a Jew who turns out to have had a college friend and his family  murdered by Hamas terrorists during their invasion of Israel.

The evenhandedness of the series’ writers is revealed as well, when the president’s killer is discovered to have been indoctrinated by a professor who has a somewhat Arabic sounding name. The police arrest her during a lecture justifying the October 7 attack, as the brains behind the crime.

In the courtroom scenes, she testifies that “the Jewish elite” want to silence her due to her political beliefs, admits that she is proud of her protégé’s success, but says she never told him to kill the president – and the jury lets her off.

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While at least two online reviews of the show gave it 3-3.5 stars out of five, one critic, Jack Ori of tvfanatic.com opined that it “ask[ed] questions that didn’t have answers, and this conflict is so contentious that it probably pissed viewers off no matter where they stand on the issue.”

He called it “an ambitious story” that “hit too damn many issues at once,” which was ultimately “exhausting,” but praised the courtroom scenes that revolved around “the topical question” of whether someone “could be held responsible for encouraging violence in her lectures about the conflict.” From what was said on-screen, he concluded that it did not make sense for the defendant to be acquitted.