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A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘israel

Hate speech II: Analysis of alleged Israeli examples

with 3 comments

Preamble: This is the second part in a series. For an understanding of the motivations, rough criteria, terminology, general take on the topic, etc., please read the first part.


  • The examples are taken from http://realnews247.com/examples_of_hate_speech.htm, original title “EXAMPLES OF HATE SPEECH”.
  • The numbering is preserved from the original. Some amount of change might have been made to formatting and typography. The contents themselves have been copy-and-pasted, and (barring accidental over-correction with the spell-checker) all language problems, bracketed comments, and whatnots were already present.
  • The quotes are given by an opponent and have often traveled over several instances, both of which imply that they might have been distorted before they arrived here. Below, I will silently take the quotes as correct, but I extend the warning that this is not necessarily the case.
  • There is minimal or no context, which makes the exact interpretation tricky. While I do repeatedly address context below, I am unlikely to have done so consistently at all points where it is needed, and the reader is encouraged to keep this problem in mind. (Note that the same sentence, even individual words, can have very different interpretations depending on context. Consider “One more step and you are dead!” said by a robber to a victim, by an explosives expert to someone standing in a minefield, and by one child to another.)
  • Many of these examples likely originated in Hebrew (or another non-English language). Throughout, it is important to keep in mind that the translation into English might have changed something for the worse. Similarly, there might be issues of idiom that give a false impression, which is also to keep in mind. (Consider e.g. several animal comparisons below, which might or might not give a different impression to a Jew or someone from Israel. By analogy, the English (and Biblical) expression “pearls before swine” indicates, usually derogatorily, an inability to appreciate something—but it does not otherwise compare someone to a swine.)

1. “There is a huge gap between us (Jews) and our enemies -not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbors here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy.” Israeli president Moshe Katsav. The Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2001

There is no sign of hate.* Assuming factual correctness, there is nothing worthy of disapproval (short of diplomacy).

*See an excursion on hate in the first part for why I do not discuss e.g. contempt, which seems quite likely to be present in this case. (However, even claiming contempt amounts to speculation.)

The factual correctness, in turn, could very well be acceptable, e.g. when looking at some neighboring Arab countries. Certainly, groups like Hamas have done nothing to remove credibility from the claim. (Reservations have to be made for exactly who is included in “our enemies”, however.) That there is a considerable difference in many aspects of morality, culture, etc. is hard to dispute. There is room to dispute which version is the better, but the quote does not make any explicit claim in this regard— and I suspect that an overwhelming majority of the Western population would prefer the Jewish versions.

Ability is a more controversial topic. However, absent more detailed information about what the speaker means by “ability”, it is hard to fault the claim: There are a number of meanings and interpretations in which a huge gap in ability is (or is very likely to be) present, as can be seen e.g. by the respective number of outstanding scientists, average I.Q., economic progress, success at warfare, and similar. (There is still room to discuss why there is a difference in ability and, e.g., whether it will disappear over time. However, the quote does not make any claim in this area and cannot be faulted.)

The statements are potentially vulnerable to an accusation of over-generalization. However, since the quote speaks of groups and not individuals, this is not very dire; and even statements normally considered harmless can fall short of the ideal in this regard, and do not necessarily reflect the level of insight or the intended message of the speaker. (For most of the remainder, I will not explicitly go into this sub-topic, leaving a corresponding reservation implicit.)

(Unfortunately, I suspect that some irrational readers will go through something approximating “he claims that there are differences between groups of people; ergo, he is a racist; ergo, he is wrong, evil, and should be banned from speaking”.)

2. “The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more”…. Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel at the time – August 28, 2000. Reported in the Jerusalem Post August 30, 2000

If by “Palestinians” e.g. some organization or official counter-part is intended (Hamas, PLO, …), and if the analogy with crocodiles refers specifically to the meat as a metaphor for a hunger for Israeli compromises and retreats, then the claim could be entirely beyond reproach.

If not, it could conceivably have a hate component and it could conceivably be unfair; however, nowhere near to such a degree that e.g. censorship is warranted.

3. ” [The Palestinians are] beasts walking on two legs.” Menahim Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, “Begin and the Beasts”. New Statesman, 25 June 1982.

Likely a genuine case of speech worthy of disapproval, but not to the point of allowing censorship. Hate is not obvious.

Even here, however, reservations have to be made, especially if this is a translation. For instance, within the English language, the claim “humans [in general] are beasts walking on two legs” could be a mere biological or philosophical observation.

4. “The Palestinians” would be crushed like grasshoppers … heads smashed against the boulders and walls.” ” Isreali Prime Minister (at the time) in a speech to Jewish settlers New York Times April 1, 1988

Unfortunately, this quote lacks too much context to be interpretable; however, it sounds more like a statement of own strength or a re-assurance for someone who fears a Palestinian attack—should the Palestinians attack, they would be crushed, etc. In this case, it is hard to see something that is even remotely hateful, worthy of censorship, or similar.

5. “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, New York Times, 14 April 1983.

Apart from an undiplomatic formulation, the claim it self is harmless. The gist appears to be that once settlement has taken place, the Arabs would be helpless to change the situation, which might quite possibly have been true or believed to be true by the speaker. More worthy of discussion would be whether the mentioned settlements* were justifiable, however, that has no effect on the evaluation of the quote.

*If the type of settlement outside of Israel proper is meant, which causes so much controversy today, the answer could conceivably be “no”.

Note that the Arabs are not claimed to be cockroaches, or generally likened to them; what takes place is a comparison of situation and ability to act in that situation.

6. “How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.” Golda Meir, March 8, 1969.

I have doubts as to whether this claim is factually true; however, there is nothing that could reasonably be considered e.g. hateful or worthy of disapproval in it. (And my doubts could be faulty: Golda Meir would have been in a far better position to judge the matter than I am.)

7. “There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed.” Golda Maier Israeli Prime Minister June 15, 1969

The word “Palestinian” has a confused history and has historically even been used to refer to Jews. The modern meaning appears to have been introduced (unilaterally by the PLO) through the Palestinian National Charter as late as 1968. The quote is dated in 1969, which implies both that the quote can be seen as (at the time) correct and that there might have been very strong legitimate controversy around the term “Palestinian”.

Apart from factual correctness there is nothing that can reasonably be attacked.

8. “The thesis that the danger of genocide was hanging over us in June 1967 and that Israel was fighting for its physical existence is only bluff, which was born and developed after the war.” Israeli General Matityahu Peled, Ha’aretz, 19 March 1972.

Not only is this statement perfectly harmless (unless untrue)—it actually puts Israel in a negative light, implying e.g. that it had engaged in historical revisionism.

9. David Ben Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister): “If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti – Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in Le Paraddoxe Juif (The Jewish Paradox), pp121.

Again, nothing that could be even remotely considered hate or worthy of condemnation. On the contrary, it shows and asks for understanding for the Arab position!

9a. Ben Gurion also warned in 1948 : “We must do everything to insure they ( the Palestinians) never do return.” Assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians will never come back to their homes. “The old will die and the young will forget.”

The underlying policy of preventing return might* be criticized; however, the statement it self appears harmless and cannot be hate speech. The part “The old will die”, notably, is merely a statement of consequence of the policy: The older people, who would be more interested than the younger in returning to their homes, will eventually die (naturally, of old age, whatnot), and will then cease to be a source of protest. There is no implication that they e.g. should be lined up and shot.

*In the heated situation, such measures might have been a (real or perceived) political necessity. More information would be needed to judge this.

10. “We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live here as slaves.” Chairman Heilbrun of the Committee for the Re-election of General Shlomo Lahat, the mayor of Tel Aviv, October 1983.

Finally, something that not only truly is worthy of condemnation, but which might* even be worthy of legal restrictions. Even here, however, a hate component is speculative—a willingness or even wish to kill someone is not necessarily rooted in hate; ditto other evil deeds.**

*Note that I (here and elsewhere) speak of the statement, not the implied actions. Should these actions be realized, we land in a very different discussion.

**But, in all fairness, the presence or absence of hate is quite secondary with such an extreme statement.

(With reservations for the lack of context.)

11. “Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell you something very clear: Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.” – Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, October 3, 2001, to Shimon Peres, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio. (Certainly the FBI’s cover-up of the Israeli spy ring/phone tap scandal suggests that Mr. Sharon may not have been joking.

Cannot by any stretch be seen as hate speech or otherwise worthy of disapproval (except in as far as it could be damaging to Israeli–U.S. relations or be factually untrue). If there is anything derogatory about it at all, it is also directed towards the U.S.—not the Arabs or Palestinians.

12. “We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel… Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.” Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces – Gad Becker, Yediot Ahronot 13 April 1983, New York Times 14 April 1983.

In these three sentences, we have: Firstly, a statement of opinion that many others will disagree with, but which is within the realm of freedom of opinion and not open to any other objection than disagreement. Secondly, a derogatory generalization; which, however, is made understandable if we look at the history of Israel up to that point; and which is neither hate nor worthy of censorship. Thirdly, something which, depending on context and intention, might be a harmless statement about self-defense, a promise of mindless aggression, or anything in between. Lacking the context, a conclusive evaluation is not possible.

13. “We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinian refugees] never do return” David Ben-Gurion, in his diary, 18 July 1948, quoted in Michael Bar Zohar’s Ben-Gurion: the Armed Prophet, Prentice-Hall, 1967, p. 157.

This seems to be a variation of one of the statements in 9a (or the same statement outright).

15. “We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai.” David Ben-Gurion, May 1948, to the General Staff. From Ben-Gurion, A Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978.

This is a description of a military strategy—not hate or something worthy of condemnation. Note the year and the then situation, as well as the implication of the first sentence: Israel had hitherto been on the defensive—and was indeed fighting a war of self-defense. (See also an excursion on war in the first part.)

16. “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.” Israel Koenig, “The Koenig Memorandum”

A second instance of true awfulness, both in terms of the stated end and the means to that end; possibly, even something relevant for the law. It is not a given, however, that an element of actual hate is present—it could equally well be what is seen as pragmatic necessity.

17. “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” Moshe Dayan, address to the Technion, Haifa, reported in Haaretz, April 4, 1969.

Again nothing, barring factual correctness, even remotely problematic. It might describe an existing problematic situation, but that cannot be considered hate speech. Indeed, if anything, the statement puts the Israelis in a negative light.

18. “We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!'” Yitzhak Rabin, leaked censored version of Rabin memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979.

Far too little context to make a judgment. The result could be anything from something harmless to something in great violation of human rights. However, there is no indication of hate and, barring additional information, no obvious reason to e.g. censor it.

19. Rabin’s description of the conquest of Lydda, after the completion of Plan Dalet. “We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters” Uri Lubrani, PM Ben-Gurion’s special adviser on Arab Affairs, 1960. From “The Arabs in Israel” by Sabri Jiryas.

For starters, I am seriously confused as to who is supposed to have made this claim. Rabin? Lubrani? Similarly, it is unclear how many hands it has been through.

There is no obvious sign of hate. There might (more likely) or might not (less likely) be something worthy of condemnation—depending on the context.

20. “There are some who believe that the non-Jewish population, even in a high percentage, within our borders will be more effectively under our surveillance; and there are some who believe the contrary, i.e., that it is easier to carry out surveillance over the activities of a neighbor than over those of a tenant. [I] tend to support the latter view and have an additional argument:…the need to sustain the character of the state which will henceforth be Jewish…with a non-Jewish minority limited to 15 percent. I had already reached this fundamental position as early as 1940 [and] it is entered in my diary.” Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department. From Israel: an Apartheid State by Uri Davis, p.5.

The first half of the quote is just an abstract discussion of opinions of what situations have what consequences, with no sign of hate, no actions that could in anyway be criticized, no disputable issues.*

*Objections might be raised against surveillance; however, the quote does not say that surveillance is something good—it merely discusses ease and effectiveness. I also do not think that the despicable “Big Brother” meaning was intended, but rather e.g. the keeping of an eye on enemy leaders and enemy organizations. To boot, surveillance might have been or been seen as a pragmatic necessity at the time. (It is not obvious when the claim was made; however, from the mention of 1940 with regard to the same speaker, it seems reasonable to assume that it fell within a time when there was a constant war threat or actual war.)

The second half remains free from hate and actions, but could conceivably be disputed due to the “15 percent”: Is such a restriction justifiable?* However, there is nothing that could require e.g. censorship.

*Answering this question would require more context: For instance, if reaching this target involved forcefully evicting Palestinians already legally present, it does not look good. On the other hand, if this is achieved by encouraging Jewish immigration and discouraging non-Jewish immigration, it might be perfectly fine. (Note that the Jewish immigration to Israel was very large for long stretches of time, making the latter possibility far more plausible than in most other countries.)

21. “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.” Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998.

Merely a statement of tactics or of cause and consequence. From appearances, the grabbing refers to areas not occupied by others with no true harm done to anyone. The ethics of settlements (if outside Israel) can, again, be disputed; however, not to such a degree that e.g. censorship is warranted or hate can be diagnosed.

22. “It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism,colonialization or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.” Yoram Bar Porath, Yediot Aahronot, of 14 July 1972.

This seems like a mere statement of fact, even an admitting of certain evils that were necessary to create Israel—possibly even, depending on context, a call for compassion and understanding towards mistreated Arabs. There is no hate and (likely) nothing to disapprove of.

I am not a fan of eviction and expropriation, except in the extreme circumstances; however, they likely were necessary to implement the internationally agreed plans, and criticism should then be directed towards these plans. (I do not yet have an opinion on whether the situation behind the plans was such as to be “extreme circumstances”.)

23. “Spirit the penniless population across the frontier by denying it employment… Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.” Theodore Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, speaking of the Arabs of Palestine,Complete Diaries, June 12, 1895 entry.

The actions implied are problematic, especially since Herzl (presumably) wrote with an eye at the future. This is a strong candidate for condemnation, but not censorship. There is no sign of hate.

(However, in fairness to Herzl it should be added that he wrote in a time when e.g. waging war to gain land, colonizing less developed countries, whatnot, was still widely considered acceptable. A use as e.g. anti-Israel rhetoric, which might be the intention of the collector, would be highly misleading through this alone. The more so, as the statement pre-dates Israel by more than fifty years…)

24. “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” – Rabbi Yaacov Perrin, Feb. 27, 1994 [Source: N.Y. Times, Feb. 28, 1994, p. 1]

A rare case where the label “hate” actually is plausible—or it might just be “contempt”. It is worthy of condemnation for being ridiculously out of line with reality;* however, not of censorship.

*I assume that the claim was not followed by e.g. “So feel free to kill them.”, because if it had been, it would be astonishing if the collector had not included that part.

Summary: While there are instances that involve hate, they are few. Ditto those worthy of legal action or censorship. More are perfectly harmless. The collector draws on one of the most controversial and extended conflicts in modern time, and while he has taken the trouble to draw examples from a very wide time-frame (the oldest example is from 1895!), he still had to resort to the inclusion of nonsensical cases… (Also note the remarks at the beginning of the text and the excursion on war in the first part, which could put yet another light on these cases.) The bar of entry is surprisingly low;* and even the average level is not high enough to indicate that the supposed hate-speech epidemic would need severe counter-measures.

*Compare the motivation given in the first part.

Excursion on the worst examples:
It might be tempting to point at the worst examples to motivate counter-measures. However, in order to get that proportion, even among these examples, high enough to justify the current demands, we would need to turn most “could-be-bad-depending-on-context” cases into “bad” cases. Moreover, the proportion of similarly bad cases among those currently accused of being hate speech on the Internet is likely to be considerably lower: Firstly, the character of the Israeli situation and the Israel–Arab conflicts imply that the likelihood of extremer statements is considerably increased (cf. various remarks). Secondly, there is good reason to assume that the above list was cherry-picked for the greatest possible effect, exaggerating the proportion even compared to other alleged Israeli hate speech from the same time periods. Thirdly, many of the examples are decades or more old, making predictions generally hard to perform; and, with a more PC climate, likely to err on the side of over-estimation. (Unsurprisingly, this is supported by the examples looked upon in the third part.)

Written by michaeleriksson

July 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Trump’s presidency so far

with one comment

We are now well past the 300th day of Trump’s presidency, and have correspondingly seen more than three times the customary 100-day grace period*. At the same time, Trump just made one of his more controversial decisions in acknowledging Jerusalem as the Israeli capital (discussed in an excursion below), which moves me to a short evaluation of the presidency so far. Currently, I have my thumb cautiously angled slightly upwards, where e.g. Obama saw it angled slightly downwards; and I note that there has yet to be any major disaster caused by him, any catastrophic misjudgment made, any war started, …—contrary to what some protesters seemed to predict, the world has not ended.

*Which, sadly, was not even remotely respected by many of his opponents, with significant protests taking place even before he began his presidency…

To look at some* more specific points on the upside (downside follows further down):

*To cover all possible issues would explode the size of this post and force me to do far more research than I have time for. In addition, some issues, e.g. economic and fiscal development, could only be judgable years from now. Of course, the point of this post is not to give a scholarly analysis—just to give a rough indication of why my thumb points the way it does.

  1. He provides a much needed shaking-up of the political establishment—and possibly in a way that few or no others could: His financial means, his weak support within his own party from day one, and his lack of “debt” to other politicians, allows him to follow his own mind without fear of repercussions; and his background gives him an “outsider view”. This was something that could be hoped for during his candidacy, but he is actually coming through in this regard.
  2. He actually tries to do the right* thing—not the popular thing. (As with Jerusalem.) This is something other politicians should use an example. Similarly, he has the audacity to speak the truth on matters where politicians are expected to lie (unless they are poorly informed). Notable cases include condemnation of the current press** and his statements around Charlottesville.

    *According to his own understanding and opinion. These are not necessarily shared by me.

    **However, Trump goes farther than I do and tends to be a little too driven by reactions to criticism, rather than the severe flaws displayed by much of the press (e.g. poor research, absent critical thinking, ideologically colored reporting).

  3. He has made significant attempts to cut-down on regulation, turning the long negative trend.
  4. He is committed to, if as yet not entirely successful in, removing or limiting the ObamaCare* regulations.

    *While ObamaCare might look good on paper, actual experiences, in my impression, has shown it to do more harm than good. To boot, massive government intervention and mandatory programs are rarely a good idea—and often very hard to get rid of once there. Certainly, ObamaCare, from the outset, failed to address the real problem in the U.S. health care system: Costs that are ridiculously high compared to what they should be and are in other countries. If anything, programs of the ObamaCare type serve to increase the cost further…

  5. He has a no nonsense attitude towards the PC crowd, its rhetoric, absurd ideas and demands, …—a welcome and much needed change.

On the down-side:

  1. His current lack of popularity could set the Republicans back in other elections, possibly severely. This could lead to a Democrat dominance in other areas, including the House; and it does not promise well for the next presidential election. Not only is it a bad thing in general when one party gains dominance, but with the current set of policies to be expected from the Democrat direction, and the strong tendencies of political correctness, feminism, equality of outcome, etc., a specifically Democrat dominance could turn out to be a very bad thing. (However, I note that I am not a Republican or Trump supporter—I just see them as the decidedly lesser evil compared to, respectively, the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.)
  2. He has, not entirely unexpectedly, proved to be too ego centric, even border-line dictatorial, in his leadership style. If he continues in this manner, especially in the unlikely event of his re-election, this can at some point have negative consequences—if nothing else, in the form of dissenting advisers being removed or ignored, with a resulting one-sidedness in the decision-making process.
  3. Restrictions on free-trade could do non-trivial harm to both the U.S. and rest of the world, even if the U.S. is likely a country with good potential* for doing well without free-trade. Then again, not very much has actually happened in this direction, leaving us mostly with the attitude against free trade that was already known from his campaign.

    *The U.S. combines vast natural resources, a great variation in climate and geography, a large population, a low population density, high R & D, a decent infrastructure, and a reasonably strong level of skill and education (a dropping standard notwithstanding). I doubt that even the U.S. would have a net-gain from restricting free trade (although individual industries might), but the damage to be expected is smaller than for e.g. Sweden, Germany, Japan, Canada, …, should they impose similar restrictions.

  4. There are several other areas, including “net neutrality” and privacy, where his influence might have strong negative effects.

One area that can be very hard to judge is appointments/nomination of officials, particularly for a non-specialist. Lacking the expertise and overview to make any reasonable judgment, I have left this area out above. However, I note that his possibly most criticized choice, Neil Gorsuch (on whom I did a bit of reading), appears to be very well qualified*, having not just a J.D., a pseudo-doctorate that all too often is the terminal degree of jurists, but additionally a real doctorate.* His opinions appear to be sensible and moderated, and he moved by reason. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the criticism was more due to him not being the “social justice warrior” so often craved by the dumb masses, or possibly through “guilt by association” (with Trump). In contrast, some of the darlings of the masses are much more problematic: Sonia Sotomayor, e.g., ended her academic career with a J.D. and appears to be a party-line Democrat; there is great reason to believe that Obama was motivated by her sex and ethnicity more than her competence.**

*While there is nothing wrong for e.g. a practicing lawyer or a lower-level judge to end with a J.D., I would set my standards higher for the Supreme Court. That a lack of a real doctorate is not a rare exception borders on a disgrace (as does the, likely connected, strong political/ideological aspect of the nominations).

**Apart from the relative rarity of strong candidates that are both women and non-White, I can e.g. quote Obama’s campaign promise of a candidate with “the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.” (Quoted second hand from Sotomayor’s Wikipedia page.) In a twist, Gorsuch had his children as an adult male, and is very well-off, White, straight, without (as far as I know) disabilities—and quite young for a Supreme Court judge…

Another tricky area is environment: On the one hand, he appears to prioritize profit and competitiveness over the environment; on the other, other politicians can be too driven by panic or a wish to gain from panicking masses. His often criticized withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement need not be a big deal: I have seen several sources, including [1], arguing that this was even a positive move. (I have not dwelled deeply enough into the issue to have a strong own opinion, but I note that such agreements sometimes lead to positive changes, sometimes are nothing but empty words.)

Excursion on Jerusalem as capital of Israel: This has long been Israels own position, and considering that Jerusalem is a part of Israel (some de jure; all de facto), it borders on the idiotic for other states to not recognize the fact. (On the outside, it can be disputed whether Jerusalem as a whole should be considered the capital, as Israel claims, or just the internationally recognized Israeli parts. Using this to refuse recognition borders on sophistry, however.) By analogy, if West-Germany had chosen to keep its capital (West-)Berlin, who could have any reasonable legal or ideological objections?* One might argue that the choice by Israel is a provocation to the Arabs, but considering that Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel, that it is the historical capital, and that it has immense symbolic value to the Jews, deliberate provocation is certainly not needed to give Israel a strong motivation for the choice; an accidental provocation, on the other hand, would mostly reflect the unduly hostile and anti-Israel attitude of the provoked groups. Trump’s action, in turn, can only** legitimately be criticized for reducing the U.S. chances to contribute to diplomatic resolutions.

*Pragmatical and strategical objections abound, however: Having ones capital as an enclave in a hostile country is not a brilliant idea…

**Some criticism raised dealt with the claimed need for a two-state solution. I do not agree with this claimed need (and do not necessarily see it as threatened by the status of Jerusalem): Israel is a democracy where Jews and Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians/whatnots have equal rights—and the standards of living for non-Jews is higher than in neighboring countries. It is not Nazi-Germany, nor even the old South-Africa. Want to remove Israel as a Jewish state, Arabs? Recognize it, embrace it, and migrate there, until you have the majority of the citizens. Israel is, barring the violence, a good country to live in—and compared to Syria, Iraq, and a few other Arab/Muslim countries, there is less violence… A two-state solution is only needed to satisfy anti-Israel bigotry.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 8, 2017 at 8:17 am

The common thread of weak thinking in leftist opinions

with 3 comments

Even in my teens, I noticed the seemingly odd phenomenon that the Swedish left disagreed with the right on more or less every issue—even when these issues had nothing to do with left and right in the political sense (and disregarding that the left–right scale likely does more harm than good), including e.g. issues relating to Israel or nuclear power. As time has gone by, I have noted the same phenomenon in other countries: While there are great variations (in particular with the right being far less homogeneous than the left), there is a strong correlation between e.g. being left and strongly disliking Israel or nuclear power, respectively being right and being more pro-Israel (note that, outside of the US and Israel, it self, the relative “more pro-” is usually necessary, while the absolute “anti-” can stand on its own) or being pro-nuclear power. Similarly, the left tends to be pro-feminism, pro-affirmative action, anti-globalization, pro-political correctness, whatnot—all things that are not (or very weakly) tied to the left–right scale. (If someone wants to counter e.g. that feminism is obviously left because both the feminists and the left wish for equality for everyone, or similar: You merely prove that you do not understand typical right-wing positions on equality—or, for that matter, what modern day feminism actually implies.)

Having considered these observations off-and-on for a few weeks, I see a pattern of contributing factors relating to lack of rational thought and a tendency to jump where feelings lead without investigating the facts, that explain various typically leftist opinions (including much of the original left–right divide) and why these are so often not shared by the right:

  1. A weakness to emotional arguments; in particular, a tendency to believe whoever complains the loudest and has the best “sob story”. Prime examples are the anti-Israel and pro-feminism stances: On closer inspection, various militant Palestinian organisations are the greater villains in the drama, who just happen to be very good at painting themselves as victims (cf. the “Not touching! Can’t get mad!” stunt of the Mavi Marmara); while feminists rely on a mixture of lies, misinterpreted or falsified statistics, spreading of anti-male prejudice, whatnot (cf. any number of previous entries).

  2. An inability or unwillingness to check the facts, think a few steps ahead to look at mid- and long-term consequences, etc.: Examples include believing the 77 cents on the dollar nonsense, banning child-labour (as opposed to merely condemning it) without first ensuring that the families can prevail without it, etc.

    An illustrative non-political (and semi-fictitious) example: Assume that a plane has been hi-jacked and that the hi-jackers demand a ransom of 10 million dollars. A typical leftist-style reaction would be along the lines of “Oh! Those poor people, we have to save them no matter what the cost! It would be inhuman to think of money in a situation like this!”; while a rightist reaction would be “If we pay these hi-jackers, others will see that hi-jacking pays off—and we will see an increase in hi-jackings with more innocent people at risk.” (not the “Money is more important than people! Let them fend for themselves!” that the common leftist caricatures of the right would likely claim).

  3. A view of the world based on offender–victim or oppressor–oppressee relationships. Consider pairings like Israel–Palestinians, men–women, the US–the World, Whites–non-Whites, … Of course, this is unsurprising with an eye on Marxism—and, indeed, the rich–poor pairing is fundamental to many leftist ideologists and voters. Statements even to the point of claiming that the rich would hate the poor are not unheard of in e.g. Sweden.

    In reality, these pairings usually display misunderstandings, failures as per item 1, unfair generalizations, or are otherwise faulty or, at best, quarter-truths on closer inspection. In particular, the Swedish saying “Det är inte ens fel om två träter.”–“It is not the fault of the one [party], if two [parties] are feuding.” is too often neglected.

  4. A fear of that one big, but unlikely, disaster over the certain continual and continuous destruction. Nuclear power vs. coal and oil is the paramount example, but other examples abound in the small, including politically correct language changes, where the fear of insulting someone leads to negative language changes or restrictions on freedom of speech. (See e.g. my discussion of gender-neutral language.)

    Here it is vital to look at “opportunity cost” and “expectation value”—in particular when faced with situations like the recent Japanese nuclear scare: Note how few incidents there have been over the years, that Japan did not become a radioactive wasteland, that the earth-quake and tsunami did more damage on their own than the nuclear incidents/accidents did, …

    To make matters worse, these fears are often combined with a poor understanding of the issue (as discussed above). For instance, I recently encountered a blog comment with the completely incorrect claim that this-or-that reactor had x thousand times the nuclear material of the Hiroshima bomb—and that it would explode with x thousand times the power. Well, if that was a risk, I would likely be anti-nuclear power too… In reality, it is extremely unlikely, bordering on the impossible, for a nuclear explosion to take place—and even if, by some extraordinary fluke, it did take place, the yield would not be even remotely proportional to the mass of the nuclear material. (Consider that the hypothetical explosion would throw most of the core out of reach from the chain reaction at a too early stage or that a localized sufficient criticality would not imply a core-wide criticality.)

Note: I do not claim that these sins are the sole property of the left. On the contrary, they are fairly wide-spread (including both Republicans and Democrats in the US and the European, severely misnamed, “extreme right”); however, in most countries that I have insight into, the left appears to be far worse than the right—most notably in Sweden.

The reader may observe that there is a similar tendency of different thinking between men and women—and, indeed, women tend to be more leftist than men.

Written by michaeleriksson

April 5, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Unfair argumentation methods IX: Ships to Gaza

with 8 comments

On May 31, the evil Israelis boarded a ship with selfless pacifists, killing nine of them. This to uphold an unlawful and inhumanitarian blockade against innocent Palestinians.

Or so the story goes, in many news sources, on many blogs, and from the mouths of many politicians. Certainly, this version is the one used to start a new wave of anti-Israel propaganda in Sweden—“Ships to Gaza” (“Skepp till Gaza”; the name used by the Swedish anti-blockade movement for the attempts) being a phrase turning up everywhere the week after the events. (Notably, most Swedish media and leftist organisations seem to operate under the assumptions that Israel is evil and to automatically and uncritically blame anything that goes wrong in the on-going conflicts on Israel.)

The reality may be something completely different—and under no circumstances is the issue as clear-cut as it is often painted.

Consider first the legality of the blockade:

Here it is highly notable that the opinions among experts vary, with many considering the blockade legal. Certainly, this is the position of the Israeli government; certainly, a strong case can be made.

Take e.g. these blogs explaining why the authors feel that the blockade is legale, that it is necessarye, and that Hamas, not Israel, is the probleme. (There is also some discussion of the raid it self.)

Consider then the legality of the raid and who is to blame for what: Again legal opinions differ considerably, but it is at least highly likely that Israel acted in the belief (whether correct or not) that it had the law on its side. Lacking omniscience, I can only go by what other sources have written about the events, but, yet again, highly different opinions exist. The Israeli version certainly paints a very different picture from the activist version.

An import question here: Assuming that Israelis deliberately set out to use the excessive unprovoked violence they are accused of—why did they do so? They must have been aware of the reactions that would follow. Further, they (allegedly) went berserk on one single ship out of six. Why just one? Further yet, according to Wikipedia, this was the “ninth attempt since 2008 to break the blockade by sea, but the first that resulted in deaths”. Why this time around, and not before?

It is simply highly implausible that the result was deliberate (or even what may be considered “grossly negligent”)—Occam’s Razor. Possibly, there was an unfortunate miscommunication somewhere. Possibly, a few individual soldiers had their own agenda. Possibly, things just went out of hand due to an unfortunate chain of events. In any reasonably likely explanation I can think of, however, it would be a misfortune rather than state-sanctioned murder.

There is another explanation: The Israelis did not cause the problem, but the activists did. Possibly, the activists on board this one ship were of a different kind than on previous/other ships. On the balance, again using Occam’s Razor, this is what appears most plausible to me—and this well matches the Israeli version of the events.

Again, I am not omniscient: I know neither the true version of the events, nor the intents of the involved parties. However, and this is the important part, neither do the members of the chorus of condemnation. Notably, even most participants of the flotilla will not know, and the claims of some participants that they were on a mission of peace (or similar) are specious: Even if this applies to some or most of them, there is nothing to prevent another group from having a very different agenda—with the pacifists being “useful idiots”.

Going through the Wikipedia page on the “Gaza flotilla raid”w (revision 371402678), it is possible to get a good overview of what various people claim. Below, I have extracted a number of statements that tell or support the Israeli version (all emphasis added by me):

Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, Chicago Law School Professor Eric Posner, and Johns Hopkins international law Professor Ruth Wedgwood, said that the naval blockade and the boarding in international waters were in accord with long-standing international law, and comparable to other blockades in unrelated, historical conflicts. Dershowitz and Posner also defended the specific use of force as legal.

Israel requested to have the cargos inspected at the port of Ashdod and items permitted by Israel delivered by land; the flotilla refused this request.

Nine activists, all from the IHH [sometimes suspected of being a terrorist organisation, cf. Wikipediaw] were killed by the Israeli troops

Israeli soldiers said they used their pistols only after their lives were endangered,

Israel seized and inspected the cargo, 70 truck-loads, and requested the UN to oversee its transfer to Gaza.

According to Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration, every day about 100 trucks are allowed to enter Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing.

Israel says the naval blockade is needed to prevent rocket attacks against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The Israeli prime minister said “If the blockade had been broken, it would have been followed by dozens, hundreds of boats. Each boat could carry dozens of missiles.”.

Some supporters of the flotilla announced on 28 May: “A violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade.” Some of the activists who would later die during the MV Mavi Marmara clash spoke in terms that suggested they put religious duty before their lives. On 29 May, Aljazeera broadcast footage of some activists on the MV Mavi Marmara participating in a chant invoking battle against Jews.

According to Israel radio the following message was sent by the Israeli navy to the captain of the Mavi Marmara: “You are approaching an area of hostilities, which is under a naval blockade. Gaza coastal area and Gaza Harbour are closed to maritime traffic. The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in Gaza Strip and invites you to enter Ashdod port. Delivery of supplies will be in accordance with the authorities’ regulations and through the formal land crossing to Gaza and under your observation, after which you can return to your home ports.” The reply was: “Negative, negative. Our destination is Gaza.”

After Israeli warnings that the ships are approaching a blockade, voices responded “Go back to Auschwitz!” and “Don’t forget 9/11”.

Ron Ben-Yishai, a veteran war correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth was aboard the Victory, an Israeli missile ship. He said the army planned to land a team on the top deck and rush the bridge and take control. He reported that that the assessment was that the passengers would show “light resistance and possibly minor violence”. He said the soldiers were told to confront protesters verbally, use crowd control tactics and use firearms only to save their own lives. The commandos were not able to rush the bridge as planned and another helicopter was sent with a second troop. At first, the soldiers attempted to stop the violence with stun grenades; however, after a soldier was reported injured, the troops then asked for permission to use their firearms, which they received.

Israel has asserted that it did not begin firing live weapons until after the guns of two soldiers on board were taken by passengers,

The IDF said that all of the equipment that was on board was examined and that none of it was in shortage in Gaza.

Robert Mackey of The New York Times suggested that the passengers on the ship may have mistaken the flash grenades and paintball guns for deadly weapons, which enraged them.

Activist Espen Goffeng said that “[t]he defense of the boat was quite well organized”.

Mohamed Beltagy, an Egyptian member of parliament who had also been on the ship said Egyptian television program “10 at Night” that the flotilla participants overcame three Israeli commandos and snatched their weapons from them. His admission of employing force against IDF soldiers was accepted as truthful in Egypt, as evidenced by the heavy criticism of him in the Egyptian media, not for exaggerating or lying, but for granting Israel a “public relations gift.”

According to the IDF, Israeli commandos prepared to encounter political activists seeking to hold a protest, were armed with paintball guns and handguns as sidearms. The soldiers had orders to peacefully convince the activists to give up, and if not successful, use non-lethal force to commandeer the ship. The commandos were instructed to use the sidearms in an emergency, when their lives were at risk.

The commandos fired warning shots and dropped stun grenades prior to abseiling to the ship. The IDF reported that the commandos were immediately attacked after descending from helicopters onto the deck of the ship, beaten, and stabbed. One soldier was thrown to a lower deck. Two Israeli commandos had their guns wrested away. An Israeli commando said that there was live fire at some point against them from below deck. Two of the commandos suffered gunshot wounds. The troops said later: “We were fired upon, we fired back.” According to Major Avital Leibovich of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the activists attacked the soldiers with knives, slingshots, spikes, and clubs, and with pistols that were seized from Israeli commandos. The Israeli Navy said they recovered 9mm shell casings of a kind not used by the Israeli commandos, suggesting that the activists had other weapons not seized from the IDF. They were reportedly thrown overboard prior to the Israeli commandos taking complete control of the ship. Israeli commandos also boarded the ship from boats. As the boats approached, activists fired water hoses and threw a box of plates and a stun grenade at them, and beat the hands of soldiers as they climbed on board.

One video shows, according to IDF, each commando being attacked by metal pipes and bats as he was lowered by helicopter. IDF also reported that one soldier was thrown overboard and another to a lower deck. Other videos show at least one incident in which a stun grenade and fire bomb was thrown at the soldiers, as well activists beating one of the soldiers and trying to kidnap him. Another video, edited from the ship’s surveillance footage, is described by the IDF as showing activists preparing for a clash hours before the Israeli Navy made contact with the ship.

One IDF commando who took part in the operation summed up the clash between the activists and the naval intercept team this way;

“They (IHH activists) came prepared for a battle. We came prepared to straighten thongs out, to talk to them, convince them to unboard the ship.”

The cargo of the ships included medical supplies as well as weapons such as knives, clubs, slingshots, bulletproof vests, gas masks and night vision goggles. Israeli Army found the weapons and military supplies only on Mavi Marmara.

Israel reported that seven soldiers were injured in the clash—two seriously. Two of the soldiers sustained gunshot wounds, and one soldier sustained a serious head wound and lost consciousness after being tossed from an upper deck by the activists.

Copyright statement: Due to the great dependence on the quoted Wikipedia page, this article is “copylefted” using the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA)e. My normal copyright terms do not apply.

For the sake of formality, an APA-style reference to the used page:

Gaza flotilla raid. (2010, July 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:32, July 6, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gaza_flotilla_raid&oldid=371402678

Written by michaeleriksson

July 7, 2010 at 3:06 pm