Tuesday, 5 June 2012

45 years on...The poverty of the arguments

[“Irony is an insult conveyed in the form of a compliment.”
Edwin P. Whipple 1819-1886, American essayist and critic]

To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the liberation of Judea and Samaria (June 1967), I’d like to congratulate all those who have been working tirelessly to counter the ever-growing brigade of anti-Israel campaigners and their noxious calls for boycotts, sanctions and divestments that aim to demonise the only democracy in the Middle East.

Thankfully, we have some top minds on the case able to articulate just how misguided and dangerous are these shameful theatre ‘luvvies’ Co-op members, Methodists, Quakers, obsessive food labellers, concert disrupters, left-wing trade unionists, etc. etc.

Without these excellent arguments from the leading lights of the Jewish community we would all be drowning in a sea of lies and distortions, not to mention failing to win over the, quite frankly naïve and rather gullible, general public who seem to think we have become not the victim but the bully.

I thought it would help others having to defend the just policies of the Jewish and Democratic State of Israel from outlandish attacks if I set out the ‘Top Ten’ anti-boycott lines our community luminaries have been using of late.

I’ve highlighted what makes these arguments so strong and given a few top tips to avoid falling into any traps laid by the anti-Jewish mob out there. A simple 1-10 rating may also help you arrange these points in the best way.

And remember, there’s no such thing as ‘Pro-Palestinian’ or ‘Pro-human rights’ just ‘Anti-Israel hate campaigners’.

#1 ‘It’s awfully complicated for you to understand’

I love this line and most of you are making good use of it already. It’s massively patronising but it definitely scares people off - so stick with it. The more history, religion and culture we can drag into this the better. Muddy the waters as much as possible. Nobody has time to read up on all the history or can remember who said what and when. So, you can just bulldoze them with accusations of ignorance. Anything that avoids the debate degenerating into simple human rights and human responsibilities has got to be a good thing. 9/10

#2 Judaism =Jewish peoplehood = Jewish nationalism = Zionism = anything that Israel says is in the name of security

I noticed Melanie Phillips making good use of this the other day: “Zionism is no more nor less than the self-determination of the Jewish people.” Anyone who attempts to contradict this shiny piece of iron logic that takes us smoothly from being Jewish to the right to defend all things Israel will come a cropper when we throw back the accusations of anti-Semitism. But watch out, as some people are getting wise to this and the self-hating Jewish lot are starting to undermine it (see#10). 7/10

#3 Since when did ‘consensus’ = truth?

This is one for those muddle-headed dupes that leap on all that ‘international consensus’ nonsense and seem to think that just because everyone says the Settlements are ‘illegal’ means it must be true. By the way, can we just call them ‘Jewish communities’ please.

Thanks to Noru Tsalic writing on the pages of the Board of Deputies website for pointing out this “argumentum ad populum” bunkum. As Noru points out: “At some point in the history of mankind, there was ‘broad consensus’ that the Earth is flat”. Great thinking Noru, and it draws attention away from all those United Nations reports bashing on endlessly about Israeli discrimination against Palestinians. Just watch out for anyone advocating boycotts who’s actually been to see what’s going on or mugged up on all those reports. But remember, I’m sure they had lots of reports proving the Earth was flat too. 6/10

#4 Guilt by association

So who else likes the idea of boycotting Israel? Hamas and Hezbollah of course! And what do they want? Israel’s complete annihilation. So, QED, if you support boycotts then you’re supporting terrorism. Rubbish the argument by associating it with political pariahs. This avoids all real debate about anything that may or may not being happening in Judea and Samaria and takes it straight back to terror threats, security concerns and existential threats to the Jewish people. Brilliant!! 9/10

#5 Don’t look here (look there)

This has been working well for years now. Luckily, there’ll always be some dictator somewhere doing terrible stuff to his people. Just point in that general direction (Syria anyone?) and suggest to your do-gooder detractor that they put their efforts there. The way things are going at the moment, the Palestinians should be off the international radar for years to come. This is another great way to close down the debate without having to actually talk about what’s going on in our neck of the woods. 8/10

#6 How dare you use the word ‘Apartheid’

Come down really hard on anyone who tries to use the word ‘Apartheid’ about Israel. It’s a toxic tactic and needs to be closed down immediately. Just because the Settlements are effectively Jewish only communities, the roads around them are Jewish only roads, the building regulations apply only to Jews, and Palestinians live under a different legal jurisdiction and don’t have the same access to schools, electricity, water or jobs doesn’t mean we’re not operating in a democratic way. 6/10

#7 It’s all the Palestinian Authority’s fault

It’s crucial to keep reminding everyone that it’s the Palestinians who are the real blockers to peace with their unreasonable claims over history, culture, religion, land, Jerusalem and their own version of the ‘right of return’. You don’t see our side obsessing like this. They seem to think it’s not worth talking while we insist on building new Jewish communities and expanding the existing ones. For heaven’s sake, our children have to live somewhere! The Palestinian Authority is obviously not serious about peace. President Obama seemed to think that the Settlements were the fundamental block to peace talks too, but we saw him off without too much trouble. So, a few boycotters shouldn’t be much of an issue.

The Palestinian Authority also wants half of Jerusalem as its capital. We must keep saying that the city has to remain undivided and eternally Jewish. Remember how King Solomon proved who was the baby’s real mother by threatening to cut it in half? Well, it’s the same thing with cities.

As long as you don’t get bogged down in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious history of Jerusalem or get drawn into territorial statistics this argument works nicely. Of course, the Israeli definition of East Jerusalem’s boundaries has expanded slightly since 1967 (45 square miles into Judea and Samaria to be precise) but most people won’t know that so you’ll be okay. And as Melanie Phillips likes to point out, the Settlements (I mean Jewish communities) outside of (expanded) Jerusalem only amount to 3% of Judea and Samaria. Just don’t mention the surrounding security zones, checkpoints, military zones and nature reserves which bump the figure up to more like 42%. And there’s no way we’re giving any of that lot up. 7/10

#8 Surely, we must keep talking?

I love this one. It feels so warm and reasonable and democratic. It makes the boycotters look radical and unreasonable and very anti-democratic. Just keep talking about the ‘peace process’ and people will believe such a thing actually exists. Also, mention how much better it is for sides in a dispute to keep in contact. Boycotts just create barriers and divisions and stop any meeting of minds. The only problem with this is that most of you don’t have many Palestinian contacts to start with. All the friendships and meeting of minds seem to be between the lefties and radicals. So start making some ‘friends’ or you may get caught out on this one. Maybe we should send some of those Birthright youth tours to Ramallah. 7/10

#9 Academic and cultural boycotts are unethical

The important point to remember here is that most people are happy to believe that actors, musicians, athletes and university professors should have their rights to freedom of expression and movement defended long before ordinary Palestinians are entitled to the same things. It’s a strange hierarchy of ethics but it works in our favour so let’s use it. It took ages for people to change their minds about this when it was South Africa in the frame (but don’t mention South Africa!). Also, don’t mention cultural boycotts against Soviet Russia in the 1970s and 80s when we were protesting on behalf on Soviet Jewry. That was of course completely different and perfectly justified.

By the way, the novelist Howard Jacobson has been doing some great work on this. Howard has been using some nice literary illusions that you could try out too. Kafka, that great Jewish observer of bureaucratic absurdity, can be used to ridicule boycotting a theatre company from Israel performing The Merchant of Venice just because they are willing to perform the same play to the Jews of Judea and Samaria (I doubt any Palestinians got to see those performances but that’s their choice). Kafka analogies work well as long as you don’t draw attention to how we regulate the lives of Palestinians in the territories. Franz really would have a field day if he saw what goes on in the offices of the Israeli Civil Administration! Oh, and avoid mentioning Kafka if anyone starts talking about ‘administrative detention’ of Palestinian prisoners without charge. I’m sure Kafka wrote a book about that kind of thing once. On second thoughts let’s forget Kafka. 6/10

#10 We hate ourselves better than anyone else (Jewish trouble makers)

Now this is where we sometimes get into a bit of a fix. There are increasing numbers of Jews who seem to think there’s something a little wrong with how things have turned out in Israel, especially when it comes to the Palestinians. This of course provides ethical cover for the anti-Israel haters who can joyfully point to their Jewish friends as proof that they cannot possibly be anti-Semitic. It’s best to dismiss these Jewish trouble makers out of hand as suffering from a ‘self-loathing psychosis’ that seems to afflict a few Jews in every generation. Or you can make that gag, as Howard Jacobson likes to, that we Jews are good at most things, we’re even better at hating ourselves than other people! That should do the trick. 9/10

However, a few pitfalls to look out for in case you come across such 5th columnists.

Avoid at all costs talking about religion or Hebrew scripture or Jewish ethics. Also, avoid getting into debate about the development of political Zionism from the 19th century onward and don’t let them tell you that this is any different from our connection to the land of Israel over thousands of years. Most important of all don’t engage in any actual debate about the condition of Palestinians on either side of the Green Line. Avoid discussing the route of the Security Fence, restrictions of movement, freedom of worship, home demolitions and so on. Also don’t get drawn into discussing the work of Rabbis for Human Rights, B’Tselem, Combatants for Peace, Breaking the Silence, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and other groups of Israeli self-haters. Keep the conversation to terrorism and nuclear threats and eventually they’ll get bored of you and walk away.

So, now you have the tools to do the job and deal with those pesky BDS’ers

Get out there and deploy these lines of argument to devastating effect.

Good luck!