False Dichotomies


Archive for the 'Calling +972' Category

My people, who say yes to lies

In an article that I thought was rather hysterical, my friend Benjamin Kerstein wrote the following: “Many of Israel’s critics are, in fact, making a very simple claim: Arabs have earned the right to murder Jews…One people (the Arabs) can slaughter another (the Jews) with justice and morality on its side; while any resistance on the part of the latter (the Jews) to the designs of the former (the Arabs) is a monstrous crime.”

That is, I thought it was hysterical until I read an article by Yuval Ben Ami on +972. Entitled “My people, who say yes to death”, it was as if he had read Benjamin’s article and then set out to prove its thesis was correct. Ben Ami begins by telling us that a survey conducted in September showed that a majority of Gazans would vote for Fatah and not Hamas if elections were held in the Strip. An innocuous enough start. Then: “What could Israel do in light of this but start a war? Israel can’t deal with peace. It has become a war machine…its citizens [are a] blinded mob that always support violence.” That’s right – the cause of Operation Pillar of Defence had nothing to do with the rockets fired from Gaza every year, or Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of the State of Israel, but was instead the response to…an opinion poll! Read more


We the (Israeli) People

In a recent article on +972, Larry Derfner argues that the anti-asylum seeker violence that has swept South Tel Aviv over the last few weeks is more reprehensible than similar attacks in Greece. His reasoning? “Greece’s economy is in ruins. The whole society is panicking, and for very good reason. Such conditions, of course, have routinely produced xenophobia and strains of fascism in societies, so what’s happening in Greece is actually normal and predictable.” In the Jewish State, however, “Netanyahu is right: Except for the haredim and Arabs, Israel’s economy is in great shape compared to just about every other country in the world. Terror has never been less of a threat; Israelis have never been so safe.” His conclusion? “The better our quality of life, the more decisively we triumph over our enemies, the meaner we become.” Read more


Reason vs Hysteria

A couple of months ago, in London, I witnessed what one might call a Luis Suarez moment. I was on the Northern Line, where a group of drunken British men were standing around doing what drunken British men do. Nothing threatening at first, just songs and inaudible bawdiness, but then one of them began saying something about blacks. His friends immediately realized that he had crossed a red line and tried to quieten him down, without much success. A young woman walked over to the group and told them that their behaviour was unacceptable; then, at the next station, as if from nowhere, a couple of transport policemen appeared and ordered the men to leave the train.

The appearance of the transport policemen must have been a coincidence, but I was impressed with the quiet and dignified way the problem was dealt with, particularly the young woman, who firmly but without hysteria told the gang that their behaviour was unacceptable.

I tried to imagine a similar response to racism on a public bus in Israel, without much success. Israel clearly has a much bigger problem with casual – and indeed explicit – racism than the United Kingdom. I don’t know anyone here who hasn’t heard someone make a remark about how the only good Arab is a dead Arab or something similar. And sometimes, this racism gets even more sinister. Following the tragic bus accident in February, when ten Palestinian children were killed, a number of people drew attention to the celebratory remarks posted by a number of young Israelis on Facebook. Some responded by claiming that these were isolated cases. As a sober piece on Channel Ten television demonstrates, this wasn’t the case. Although the programme didn’t cite any opinion polls on the subject, it’s clear that many young Israelis, from all sorts of different backgrounds, responded in a similar vein to this tragedy. The Channel Ten feature was a thoughtful, carefully documented examination of the problem, complete with practical suggestions as to what to do about it. Read more

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On Villas-Boas and BDS

Sometimes the BDS crew remind me of the manager of a mediocre football team desperate to convince everyone that their team is brilliant. When a football manager uses every result (no matter how poor) as evidence that the great change is imminent, you know that they are destined to remain in mediocrity. When he’s honest about the team’s strengths and weaknesses, however, it’s a sign that they might yet become a force to be reckoned with.

In +972, Sean O’Neill argues that BDS is on the verge of achieving widespread support. His evidence? Norman Finkelstein’s declaration of civil war on the boycotters. Demonstrating that the BDS movement remains habitually unable to deal with honest criticism, O’Neill declares the interview “a sign that the ground is shifting on Israel/Palestine issues”, without producing much evidence to back up this claim. The following is all he could come up with: “I recently witnessed BDS’s growing clout at a meeting I attended with a woman working with an Israeli artist helping set up a series of salons in New York to explore and question the Birthright Israel programs, and the idea of a “birthright” in general. The project sounds very interesting, and the woman was visibly frustrated at their inability to find people willing to work with them in the city. They are partially funded by the Israeli Consulate, and as a result have had the proverbial door shut on them by activists, artists, and professors, Arab and Jew alike. This would have been incomprehensible five years ago, when I first heard of the BDS movement at the annual Bil’in conference and it was, at that point, divisive even among conference attendees.” Read more


Saving the World with Occam’s Razor

The best – and kindest – way to describe Richard Silverstein is that he’s silly. Very silly indeed. He sincerely believes that his blog makes an important contribution to world peace, so important that he regularly asks readers to give him money. After a frustrating first few years as a blogger, while he tried to find a bigger audience, most respectable publications realised that he was silly and wouldn’t have anything to do with him. Then he realised that he could reinvent himself as a ‘whistle-blower’, publishing stories that wouldn’t pass the Israeli military censors. This got him the attention he craved, including one or two profiles in the Israeli media. Some of his exposes were accurate; many were not. In assessing his sources, he seems to go by the principle that if it seems to be bad for Israel then it must be true. Needless to say, this isn’t necessarily the way to go if you want to be taken seriously. Read more


Objecting to Objections: Lisa Goldman and the Egyptian Elections

One of the more curious aspects of left-wing discourse concerning Israel is the tendency to take something which would be perfectly normal in other countries, and to use it as a stick with which to beat Israel and its people. In the case of Lisa Goldman’s recent article on +972, this includes Israelis expressing concern about the results of the Egyptian elections. This is in response to a short piece by Larry Derfner, in which he admits that, had he had known what the results of the elections would have been, he would not have supported the revolutionaries. Read more