It’s often said that Jew-hatred is irrational, and this is obviously true when you look at the absolutely insane beliefs of Jew-haters. For example, Muslims in Paris suburbs believe that Jews, even “a hybrid race of shape-shifters” were responsible for the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, “to make Muslims look bad.” Right.
But exactly the same kind of delusional thinking characterizes obsessive “critics of Israel.” Several years ago there was a scandal over the master’s thesis of one Tal Nitzan at the Hebrew University, in which she argued that the fact that there are no reported rapes of Palestinian Arab women by Jewish IDF soldiers is ‘evidence’ that Israelis are racist. Nitzan argued that they deliberately do not rape them because their racism makes Arab women undesirable to them! Nitzan’s thinking is clearly irrational, but she received a high grade and a prestigious award for her thesis.
But we all know that academics are often, shall we say, different from the rest of us. So we can chalk this up to academic silliness. Not so for the next example, which appeared in the New York Times. A writer named Sarah Schulman popularized the term ‘pinkwashing’, “a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.”
Schulman’s argument was that Israel’s LGBT-friendly policies, rather than being evidence for its being an advanced liberal and tolerant democracy, were actually a “public relations tool.” Never mind that Israel is in fact one of the best places in the world (and by far the best in the Middle East) for people with non-traditional gender identities, and that gay Palestinians often flee to Israel to escape persecution. One is not allowed to mention these facts because it will obscure the oppression of Palestinians.
If this isn’t enough, the same argument is recycled for the growing Israeli vegan and animal rights movements by Shawndeez Davari Jadali, who is a research assistant for the “Islamophobia Studies Journal” — yes, there is such a thing — at UC Berkeley of course.
Nitzan, Schulman and Jadali seem to believe that Israel is so evil that it is forbidden to point out any of its good qualities. It is only legitimate to vilify it for its alleged oppression of Palestinian Arabs.
The traditional name for the fallacy in their arguments is petitio principii, or begging the question. It means assuming the thing that you are trying to prove. A sure giveaway is when a supposedly empirical proposition (in this case, ‘Israel is evil’) can’t be falsified by any possible evidence. And that is what is happening here. No matter what evidence is presented that Israel really is an advanced democratic state, it cannot possibly be enough for them.
A related problem in leftist thinking is the idea that a true progressive activist can’t pick and choose his causes. He or she must buy the whole package, from animal rights through anti-racism, LGBT causes, Palestinism, women’s rights, etc. And it’s all one or another form of ‘oppression’, usually by the same white male culprits. Jadali says this explicitly:
Liberationists work to elevate the struggles of oppressed groups, whether animal liberationists or Palestinian liberationists, in the struggle for justice. Therefore, a necessary distinction must be made between uncritical, depoliticized, and ignorant vegans/animal rights activists that are duped by Brand Israel’s vegan-washing, and intersectional activists that understand the interconnectedness of oppression and strategically stand in solidarity with Palestinians in boycotting the occupation.
It never occurs to them that possibly they are wrong about the Arabs, and that the other evidence should give them a clue that they are wrong.
Israel’s army is moral and/or disciplined enough to not rape enemy civilians, the nation is LGBT-friendly, has women in important positions in the army, government and work force, has strong environmental and vegan/animal rights movements, has free and fair elections, and more. This should lead a rational person to consider that perhaps the reports of Nazi-like behavior toward Arabs from the anti-Israel contingent don’t make sense. But they are ideologically insulated against facts that are contrary to their assumptions.
In fact, Israel does its best to behave in a humane and fair way in the face of continuous provocations from the violent extremists that control Palestinian society, and indeed have a dominant influence over almost all of the Arab and Muslim world. Israel behaves this way because it is essentially a tolerant, liberal democracy.
Israel isn’t perfect, but its behavior in conflict situations is probably more in keeping with international law than that of other Western democracies in recent conflicts — and there is absolutely no comparison with the behavior of its opponents, like Hamas, Hizballah, and the PLO.