Monday, October 13, 2014

Comparisons of Israel-related shibboleths and other shibboleths

Sar Shalom

Earlier this month, Jonathan Chait posted at New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer a response to the popular notion among environmental crowds that conservative aversion to accepting the reality of anthropogenic global warming is due to descriptions of AGW in liberal terminology and that conservative terminology would help them realize what is actually at stake. Ultimately, Chait's conclusion that conservative's real impediment to following the science of climate-change is that they get their news about the issues from their party elites, and that Republican Party elites almost unanimously declare that climate change is a hoax.

Such is a factor in liberal opinion about the Arab-Israeli conflict. In elite intellectual circles in the West, the mark of Seriousness in relating to Middle East affairs is to declare that Israel's denial of the Palestinians of their legitimate rights to self-determination is the core issue behind all conflicts in the Middle East. To be considered Serious in Israel-Palestinian negotiations, one has to accept that because the international community has accepted Jordan's conquest of 1949, Israel has to accept that Jewish rights end at Jordan's 1949-line of conquest. Aggravating this, western reporters look for truthy rather than true depictions of the conflict, meaning that facts showing Israel doing to the Palestinians what the narrative says it does are highlighted or embellished while facts contradicting the narrative are suppressed. In the meantime, just as the Right uses derisive language to describe anyone who promotes the scientific understanding of human effects on climate, the Very Serious People on the Middle East dismiss anyone who tries to call attention to facts contradicting the narrative, such as the large number of terrorists matched to names identified as "civilians" by the Gaza Ministry of Truth Health Ministry as a propagandist for Israel. An example of the phenomenon on a separate subject is when I challenged on the notion that international law requires that all of Jordan's 1949-conquest go to the Palestinians on the grounds of Article 80 of the UN Charter, his response was that the only people who believe that interpretation of Article 80 are professional water-carriers for Israel (never mind that Article 80 was inserted into the Charter for precisely that purpose).


  1. Good post, and great comparison.

    Reminds me of a graphic a progressive friend just shared on Facebook the other day.

    The first frame portrayed scientists telling us to take climate change seriously, to which the response is "LOLROFL, pass the coal!"

    The second portrayed medical professionals urging us to remain calm about ebola, to which the response was "OMGPANIC!!!"

    I'm generally too nice to confront real-life friends like her (incidentally, a generally anti-Israel, Jewish-American woman in her 30s; although certainly not a JVP-type person) in such a public forum with a response along the lines of 'yes, this cartoon has a great point... yet change a few words, and it also perfectly nails your naive position on the Arab-Israel conflict.'

    I suppose some would argue that I should indeed do such things. I can see that point, but I can also understand the idea of slowly changing the paradigm in such a way as noted in the linked article, too...

  2. "failure to accept that..." is on its face a logical fallacy. It's an argument based on a supposition that can neither be proved nor disproved. For example were you to say that the 'problem with America is that white people are racists' is statement of essentially zero content. It hangs out there as a Macguffin pretending to mean whatever it is the listener wants it to me. But it's not a fact or a statement or even an arguable point. It's a rhetorical device.

    1. Yet what if one was to substitute 'understand' for 'accept?'

      The passive verb 'accept' does, I suppose, assume that one will meekly receive the position another is tossing at them.

      We know Jew-haters will never 'accept' facts which don't conform to their perceived 'reality.'

      Facts most certainly can be proven or disproven, though, and as our old friend Daniel Bielak (o/t aside - where has he been, btw? I disagreed with him on many things, but I liked having him around) would have said, we just need to keep telling the truth. Pound it home.

      Statements like "the problem with America is that white people are racists" are certainly wrong on their face, but I don't see anybody here arguing that we need to engage in discussion using the equivalent of a proposition as clearly ridiculous as that.

    2. Point being as soon as someone tells you the problem with "US" is "YOU" just walk away. Don't even bother commenting on it all./

    3. I agree with that. Which is why I think going another way is how we can proceed, and which is also, as I read it, the point of this post.

    4. Another point to add to Jay's, how many people are there among the "supporters of the Palestinians" who question AGW? Perhaps you will find such people among the likes of David Duke. On the left on the other hand, with the exception of those who are there for the anti-Israelism, AGW is settled science. For such people, comparing the epistemology that leads them to see Israel as Goliath to the epistemology of climate denial.

    5. The problem is that it's long past the point where pointing out a Nazi is a Nazi carries with it any shame at all. I read some of the comments from the House of Commons 'recognition' of 'palestine' and frankly they are raw antisemitic hate speech. It is entirely acceptable to scream that 'the Jews' secretly control all banks and governments, wage secret Nazi experiments on Arab children, created ISIS and al-Qaeda and a hundred other things from the floor of Commons and it's not even questioned, let alone shouted down. I would say, 5 years at most, the UK will ethnically cleanse Jews from the UK. And it will be celebrated across the EU and given awards in the UNGA.