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Anti-Semitism smear against Israel's critics should warrant no rebuttal

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This is the third blog post in IJV's rabble.ca blog series "Debunking Hasbara". Terry Greenberg argues that those who employ the illogical smear of the the label "anti-Semitism" against Israel's critics are either fools or scoundrels. Their dirty trick should not warrant a rebuttal. 

If you are accused of anti-Semitism for criticizing Israel, don't respond. Change the subject or walk away, but don't respond. The accusation is ludicrous. It serves no purpose except to undermine debate. Any defence would have to deal in absurdities. It is a dirty trick. It is hitting below the belt, and there is no chance to have a fair fight or debate with someone that uses it. Don't dignify this dirty tactic with any rebuttal. A person that uses it is either a fool or a scoundrel; there are simply no other possibilities. If he believes this argument is meaningful then he is a fool, and if he uses it knowing it is a fallacy meant to squelch debate, he is a scoundrel. Arguing either with a fool or a scoundrel is a waste of effort, so don't respond. Change the subject or walk away.

However, so you don't have to, let me present the case for absolutely rejecting and refusing to respond to any and all accusations of anti-Semitism for criticizing Israel. This accusation is fallacious. Even though they may have a ring of truth to them, fallacies are false and deceitful. They are totally invalid as arguments. This anti-Semitism fallacy actually can be seen to incorporate several sub-fallacies simultaneously. So it is fallacy piled on fallacy, designed to confuse, obstruct, and hide the truth. Just for our own edification (don’t use this with the fools and scoundrels -- you will be wasting your breath) here are the fallacies:

1) The Ad Hominum Fallacy. Real anti-Semites are disgusting racists. No decent person respects them. Claiming that someone or some statement is anti-Semitic is falsely declaring that the position is based on hatred rather than the facts. But where is the connection between criticizing a government or a country and hatred of some of the people of that country (20 per cent of Israelis are not Jewish). There is no connection in reality. These are unrelated issues. So it is a strictly false claim.

But we can unpack it further:

a) Criticizing does not necessarily imply bad feelings or bad wishes. We are actually more likely to criticize things which we care about than things which we do not care about. Criticism does not imply hatred by any means. It is just as likely to imply love.

b) Real anti-Semites are disgusting people, but that does not imply that they are always wrong. Hitler was evil and a vegetarian. That does not make vegetarianism evil, or anti-Semitic. Claiming a statement is coming from the mouth of a racist, does not mean it is wrong, so it is a meaningless argument.

2) The Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle. This is the logical fallacy that fundamentally underlies the accusation of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel, and it can easily be shown to be absurd. It is based on an implied syllogism in which both premises are true, but the conclusion does not follow from them.

Anti-Semites criticize Israel.

John criticizes Israel.

Therefore, John is an anti-Semite.

This is as true and as logically sound as the following:

Criminals are human.

John is not a criminal.

Therefore, John is not human.

Or why not this one?  

Anti-Semites are human.

John is not an anti-Semite.

Therefore John is not human.

How can you argue with anyone that will present arguments as ridiculous and absurd as these? They are literally saying that since anti-Semites will criticize Israel (probably true), that underlying every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. Don’t argue with them. Change the subject or walk away. They are either fools or scoundrels to present such absurd and illogical arguments.


Will truth and logic win?

Unfortunately the above fallacies which are routinely employed by Israel's defenders actually do influence and obscure the public debate. They are aided in this by the financial, political and media power of Israel's defenders. The Prime Minister of Canada recently made a public speech in which he characterized the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign as the "new anti-Semitism." Is he a fool or a scoundrel? He is one or the other -- you choose.

Corporate media in Canada, strongly influenced by Israel defenders, routinely echo these anti-Semitism fallacies on virtually a daily basis as if they were valid and without questioning their fallacious nature. What credibility would a sport newscaster have who in describing a boxing match failed to note that one of the fighters was repeatedly hitting below the belt? Journalists who repeat fallacies as if they were valid are either fools or scoundrels. It is one or the other -- you choose.

As Israel becomes more vicious and brutal, her league of dirty fighters in Canada and elsewhere will inevitably escalate their abuses as well, so people must be prepared to defend against them. Dirty fighters are dangerous, and sometimes they can get the upper hand, but once their dirty tactics are exposed, and people refuse to engage in their corrupted debates, they will inevitably lose.

Characterizing criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic is abusive, illogical and unethical. It is clearly a symptom of the weakness in the arguments of Israel defenders, so without honouring these fallacies with any recognition or rebuttals, honest, logical, and ethical people should stick to the facts, and give a wide berth to the fools and scoundrels that would suppress them.


Terry Greenberg is a member of Independent Jewish Voices - Canada.



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