How to Argue for Israel

Over at BBC watch, a site dedicated to dealing out decks of facts to the amateur journalists, journalists, as it happens, who are intellectually funded by a latent British Victorian, genteel, antisemitism, one cloaked in concerns about a war they helped create, an article was published in response to the BBC’s habitual, almost neurotic, obsession with Jews living in a place that the BBC doesn’t think they should be allowed. In the article in question, the BBC declared that the peace process will be jeopardized by Jews living in what could become Palestinian territory. The BBC watch article pointed out the hypocrisy of the concern, citing the fact that 26 mass murderers were released from Israeli prisons and heralded as returning heroes by the moderate peace negotiator and rabid holocaust denier, Abu Mazen, otherwise know as Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the PLO turned, magically, into the PA, by President Clinton. The articles reads as follows, with secondary quotes from BBC article as indicated.

As we see, a regular reader of the BBC News website would have been exposed to the meme that Israel announced the issuing of building tenders on August 11th as a means of “sabotaging” the renewed talks – and hence a threat to peace in general – in no fewer than thirteen reports published on the website in the period August 11th to August 15th inclusive. Naturally, the promotion of that meme was often accompanied by now standard misleading BBC slogans such as:

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”(BBC)

And:

“The issue of settlement-building halted the last direct talks.(BBC

These collapsed in September 2010.”(BBC)

During the same week, Israel released twenty-six convicted terrorists and murderers as a ‘goodwill gesture’ aimed at encouraging the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. As was widely documented by the BBC itself, those prisoners were received at official Palestinian Authority organized celebrations in which the man holding the highest office in the PA – Mahmoud Abbas – literally and figuratively embraced the men as heroes, glamourising and glorifying their acts of terrorism.

The BBC, however, does not appear to consider the Palestinian Authority’s public glorification of terror just hours before renewed talks were set to commence as an attempt to “sabotage” those talks or a threat to ‘Middle East peace’ and so the number of articles exploring that angle which visitors to the BBC News website would have read in the same period of August 11th to 15th is zero.

A commentator by the name Amos took issue with the article saying:

is(sic) this article really attempting to claim that abbas hugging freed prisoners is an act of sabotage towards the peace process equal to the building of new ‘settlements’? large scale illegal building projects taking months to plan and build resulting in permanent symbols of israeli(sic) occupation in palestinian(sic) territory is somehow comparable to a momentary embrace and photo op? this article is horribly myopic and the comparison it attempts to draw is tenuous to say the least. the writer insults the intelligence of those who read the article.

To which I responded:

I agree Amos, the settlements and the release of mass murderers are in no way a ethically relevant comparison. I further agree that large scale terrorist plots taking months to plan and resulting in the death of Israelis are nowhere near the moral bankruptcy of letting Jews live in their ancestral homeland on acreage that it is not illegal for them to build on. I also find it horrible that there are Jews living in Hebron now, whereas they were not after 1948 because the Jordanians ethnically cleansed the west bank of Jews. It’s just a horrific situation.

The argumentative mistake I made , which some of you may see, was caused primarily by the fact that I was trying to be as sarcastic as possible. Most anti-Israel commentators believe themselves to be the vanguard of morality and nuance and so the best tactic is to humiliate them as best as can be done. Be sarcastic, be vicious; don’t bog sown in petty formalities, but be factual, and never let a mistake go to waste. Amos replied:

you’re brimming with sarcasm but seem confused. the article does not draw a comparison between the building of illegal settlements and the release of prisoners; it makes a comparison between the building of illegal settlements and the public embracing of the former prisoners by abbas. secondly the building of settlements and the release of prisoners are both israeli actions, whereas the point of the article is to compare the actions of the two different sides. you seem to be comparing the actions of israel with other actions of israel which makes little sense.

He is quite right, that Amos. In my effort to construct a sarcastic attack, I let detail slip. However, never let a mistake of this nature deter you from a counter argument built upon the very criticism of your error. In his criticism, he opened doors he thought his premises sealed and plastered shut in the catacombs: that Israel is a moral agent. Seeing this beautifully offered broadside salvo, I replied:

Oh, I am sorry Amos, I didn’t realize you were that pedantic. Let me fill in the blanks for you. Let’s try again: ” I agree Amos, the building of legal settlements on land that had nothing to do with former agreements and the Palestinian Authority demanding the release of mass murderers as preconditions to even sitting at the same table with Israelis and then publicly embracing mass murderers and celebrating their accomplishments is not an ethically relevant comparison.”

Further, Amos, besides my omission of a well established causal fact that you seem to think means I am confused, I am, in fact, confused about the suggestion that I am comparing solely Israeli actions. If I am, and the Israelis released mass murderers of their own accord and without considerable urging from the United States and the PA, then they are certainly beneficent and merciful in their attitude towards the Palestinians and their public Jew killing heroes. If this is so, your concern about settlements is eclipsed by the simple fact that the Israelis are willing to release people that have killed their family members in order to get an organization to stop inciting people to kill their family members. If all the particulars are true, that is the height of merciful action that would never be reciprocated by the other-side, period. If they are not true, then I am not comparing solely Israeli acts. This is simple stuff, Amos.

Now, you can hear your deluded sentiments about settlements and all the mechanical appurtenances of your theory about occupations and Jews living in apartments somewhere across the green line being the root cause of this conflict begin to spurt and sputter a great deal of smoke, while my suggestion that the Palestinians have not only demanded an ethnically pure Palestine since 1948, but continue to demand it —- one of the reasons the settlements are even an issue is because, just like Gaza, no Jews will live in Palestine —- is nicely tuned and purring. What is it that you said about shortsightedness and myopia?

He never responded. How to argue for Israel? Never give up. Don’t let an error deter you.  You will make mistakes. People will counter you,  and you will, at times, have to admit you were hasty with words; but that doesn’t mean you are wrong. Nine times out of ten, there is a flaw in a counter argument that you can exploit, and this is a textbook example of that. If I hadn’t made that first error of conflation, his blatant ideological inconsistencies would have never been revealed and the argument would be one merely of premise vs. premise. Rather, my opponents broader view of the Israel/Palestinian conflict was called into question, and he has nothing more to say, which is the is goal: to neutralize an idiotic line of thinking.

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