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Friday, July 23, 2010

Warm Calculation

The panel at the public launch of the Euston M...
(L-R) Johnson, Garrard, Cohen, Lappin, and Geras  (Image via Wikipedia)
Read related » Reasons which are also weapons
[Reading this related source in its entirety is recommended.]
“I think Henry is half right but only half right - which means that he is also half wrong. Israel's out-and-out enemies, those who want the country destroyed, who purvey lies and half-truths about it, and are never through with campaigning to deny its legitimacy as a country; the anti-Semites overt and covert, and those who make open or subtle apology for them - these people are not worth wasting one's breath on as respected debating partners. They have to be fought and shown up for what they are. But even a war must be conducted in the realm of ideas as well as by other means; and the reason it must be is that between friends and out-and-out enemies there are also people who are willing to listen to reason, to consider evidence and counter-evidence, argument and rebuttal. These are the tools, not only of philosophical discussion and polite conversation, but also of political contestation. One abandons them at one's peril. For one thing, if we cease to engage in argument about Israel, all those who are currently undecided, or confused, or who feel they don't yet know enough about it, will then hear nothing but the viewpoints of Israel's detractors. And, for another, if we do not give good reasons, some will conclude that we have none.” [emphasis added]
— Norman Geras, July 23, 2010 (normblog)
Norm has responded in the above-excerpted post, which I urge those interested in following this discussion to read in its entirety, to my previous post criticizing Norm's initial post in this thread. I am pleased to continue discussing what I consider an important contemporary issue, of interest to civilized people everywhere, most especially Jewish people and non-Jews who are not inclined to demonize Jews solely for their Jewish heritage.

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...
Image via Wikipedia
Let me begin by saying that I appreciate Norm's crediting me with being at least half right. I hope to increase that proportion by clarifying some points about my previous post that I believe Norm has overlooked.

I did not mean to imply either that we should "cease to engage in argument" or that we should "not give good reasons" for our support of Israel. We most definitely must continue to do both. Moreover, I was careful to point out, though apparently not sufficiently clearly, that my purpose and motivation in this sixty-plus-year struggle for Israel's survival goes beyond reaching a better understanding of whose moral ground is higher. That issue was, for me at least, decided conclusively the day after Israel's declaration of statehood, when the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq attacked Israel from all directions in an attempt to exterminate all the Jews then living within Israel's borders. Ever since, I have been primarily concerned with the survival of the only nation that is dedicated to the protection of the Jewish people, and only secondarily concerned with whose morality and ethics are held in greater esteem by those who have not yet made that incredibly difficult judgement.

Assuming that Norm's purpose includes supporting Israel's struggle to survive in the midst of its mortal enemies, my concerns about Norm's approach have to do with his specific focus on "clear and proportionate criticism, when it is due". I submit that, logically, neither "engaging in argument" nor "giving good reasons" necessarily require criticism of Israel "when it is due", though I understand what benefits can derive from doing so. But I insist that criticism of Israel can and does have both positive and negative consequences in the greater battle for survival of the most persecuted demographic in human history.

The obvious benefit of public criticism of Israel derives from whatever credibility one earns on "the street" of undecided public opinion about Israel's actions in the furtherance of its existential needs. The obvious downside, of course, is feeding the propaganda machine of the hordes of Jew-haters the world over. If one is in this fight to win the war, and not just to win the debate, one has to calculate whether or not the net benefit of one's words and actions will make a positive contribution toward one's personal goals.

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Post 1,361 Warm Calculation

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