Monday, May 24, 2010

I'm Just Saying...

The Arab-Israeli conflict is an issue about which a large number of people have very strong opinions. I am as familiar with the pro-Palestinian point of view as I am with the pro-Israel point of view, and I have come to accept that from a certain point of view free-thinking, moral, intelligent people can come to support the Palestinians over Israel. Even though that is not my particular view, I can see how others can come to the conclusion.

That being said, I have noticed among the HPers at least, the more scurrilous debating tactics are used far more often by the pro-Palestinian commentators than by the pro-Israel ones. I know that I am not the most objective of observers, and I know that I have my own biases. But in my experience (and I think most objective observers would agree as well) someone who is pro-Palestinian/anti-Zionist is far more likely to use the following tactics:

1. Ad Hominem attacks and insults: This covers everything from "you're an idiot," to "you need to read a book." Of all the tactics, this is the one that Zionists use the most as well, but insults are just part of the discourse on the Internet. I am not going to get too hung up about it. Here's an example.

2. The "Hasbara" accusation: Say what you will about the HP Zionists, but they never accuse their opponents of being paid propagandists in place of a rational argument. In contrast, even the most moderate of pro-Palestinian posters have used it at least once. Even if their opponents are hasbara, people who are (a) well informed and (b) in the right should be able to win the argument anyway. In the interests of full disclosure, Matt and I sometimes accuse people of "Palsbara" but that is intended to be ironic. Here is an example.

3. Copy-Bombing: Zionists use this one every now and then as well, but I have seen pro-Palestinian posters far more often use the tactic of copying and pasting large sections of text with which to spam a thread. Some posters like "eileenflemingwawa" only communicate in that way. Sometimes with the use of a plagiarism detector Matt has found that they get their copy-bombs from sites like Stormfront and Electronic Intifada. No lie. Here is an example.

4. Waving the bloody shirt: In place of a rational argument pro-Palestinian commentators will demand that their opponents feel sorry for the Palestinians, otherwise they will accuse them of being "heartless" and "racist." This is a failed tactic because most people do feel sorry for the Palestinians. I certainly do. That doesn't make them right. Here is an example.

5. Playing the race card: As much as the pro-Palestinian HPers claim that they are falsely accused of anti-Semitism, they will accuse their opponents of racism (or "Islamophobia") at the slightest provocation. Zionists do accuse their opponents of anti-Semitism/having a prejudice against Jews, sometimes not always fairly. But as I said, I go by what I see, and I see the race card being used by the AZs far too often for them to complain about the other side doing it. Here is an example.

6. Dredging up the past: Pro-Palestinian posters love talking about what is (for this conflict) ancient history. Things like the USS Liberty, Deir Yassin, Sabria and Shatila are all copy bombed or spammed about, even though they don't have anything to do with the subject at hand. In contrast, Zionist posters don't dredge up Arab atrocities like the Hebron Massacre or the Munich Olympics attack, though they very easily could. Here is an example.

7. False Choices: A new tactic that I have noticed among the HPers is the use of the false choice: Their opponents must either agree that Israel is evil or be labeled "racist," "uncivilized," "immoral," etc. This argument most normally takes the form of the HPer saying, "The whole world condemns Israel for it's actions during Cast Lead," or more often, "all civilized people are sick of Israel's continual occupation of Palestinian lands." It is a pretty transparent form for an argument to take, and in my experience it is done exclusively by pro-Palestinian commentators. Here is an example.

Does all of this mean that Israel is right and the Palestinians are wrong? I don't know for sure, but I'm just saying....I don't see the Zionists using these debating tactics. They don't need them. I think that should tell you something.


  1. The larger point is the pro-Palestinian side cannot admit Israel could be right once. Palestinian Arab nationalism is based on the negation of Zionism so it cannot concede its adversary might have a case. In contrast, it does not detract from Zionism to concede the Arabs might be entitled to self-determination. In this respect, the Jews have a high degree of self-confidence absent on the other side.

  2. I don't think you're correct in treating history as irrelevant. The fact is, Israel has 3000+ years of history, verifiable history, on her side. The Palestinians have a mythology, not a history. Munich is still relevant today: the man who financed it is now the leader of the PA.

  3. I agree with your point only on #2.
    The rest of them are certainly shared by both sides.

    Arik, Petera, bannedingaza, gazalives, tallen, bermanator, lightningbolt and others are the extreme posters you use as your example.

    The regular counter to this group has far less examples. To me, it seems the extreme left guys who do show up, generally come in for a hit and run and we don't see them again or often.
    Skiathia, a couple more.

    The regular anti-zionist guys are pretty mature, even though I know you don't agree with them.

    I think the anti-zionist guys argue better.

    There it is.
    I know it's common to think you are the normal one and everyone likes to think they are objective.
    I think you need a scientific process to decide that.

  4. Bryan: I didn't say that the historical examples are irrelevant. I am saying that the history is often used as a cover in place of a rational argument about something else. For instance the USS Liberty doesn't have anything to do with the security fence.

    Anon: I know it's my perceptions, as I explained. And I'm not going to deny that there aren't Zionists who behave badly as well. Banned/chaim/jordan is the example that springs to mind, as well as Oleg1. And you are entitled to your opinion that the AZs argue better as well.

    What I am getting at is that even those AZs who *are* mature and *are* informed will use these debating tactics when backed into a corner. Just look at our profiles of Paul Hackett and Thabit for examples of that.

    And of course Zionists do it too, but in my view, less often. You don't see pro-Israel people spamming threads about the Munich massacre or the murder of Cleo Noel, and you don't see pro-Israel people claiming that "all people of civilization and conscience agree with me." If you would like to find some examples, please do so.

  5. That's a pretty fair post, but while of course PI's don't post the same links, they do post prolifically. One point to remember is that the AZ's probably outnumber the PI's by at least a factor of two, so naturally the total number of posts would not be equal.
    I haven't seen a post by hackett or thabit for a long time.

    I had forgotten about chaim/oleg/jordan. How could I???