One of the things I really appreciated about NGO Monitor’s provocative BDS Sewer System concept is it’s illustration of how accusations against Israel are “laundered” through respected (or, at least once respectable) organizations in order to provide BDS campaigners ammunition needed for their propaganda war.
I’ve spoken before about the song-and-dance BDS proponents need to break into when confronted with questions about why their moral wrath seems directed at just one country (Israel) vs. far greater human rights abusers. But I seem to have left out one critical excuse for this imbalance which usually sounds something like:
“Israel is in violation of [umpty-ump UN resolutions, condemnations by these-or-those human rights organizations, or two-trillion acts of (undefined) international law]” The implication being that once other nations generate this much condemnation by the “international community,” you’ll find BDS organizers only too ready to condemn them with the same vigor they today condemn Israel alone.
Central to this (highly dubious) explanation is what classical rhetoric referred to as “argument from authority” (in this case moral authority) which rhetoric actually considers a fallacy (a fallacy of defective induction if anyone is interested).
Now clearly an appeal to authority is often justified in everyday life. We prefer our doctor to provide us medical advice and our mechanic to fix our car and would hesitate to be either the patient or the driver if these two experts decided to switch jobs for the day. But this appeal to authority is seen as a fallacy within the field of debate because authority alone does not necessarily confirm truth or falsity to what an authority is claiming.
In fact, it is because of our tendency to trust experts/authority figures that we must be doubly on our guard to ensure we don’t automatically accept the truth of what someone says simply because that someone is an expert in the field. And, needless to say, an authority in one field (say linguistics) making claims about another field (such as politics) should be granted no more (although certainly no less) automatic trust as the aforementioned auto mechanic.
In the case of the “accusation laundering” described above, it is the moral authority of organizations like the United Nations and human rights NGOs that we are being asked to accept without question. This is why BDSers inevitably retreat to the names of organizations like the UN Human Rights Council and their resolutions as show stoppers, the ultimate proof of the truth of their claims against the Jewish state.
But if automatic trust of concrete authority (in the form of subject-matter expertise) is already a trap we must carefully avoid, how much more cautious should we be in granting an individual or institution our unvarnished trust due to their alleged possession of the more nebulous quality of moral authority? This is especially true for institutions such as the UN which, despite residual warm-and-fuzzies associated with its noble foundations (supplemented by our memories of trick-or-treating for UNICEF) may represent the most advanced stage of moral rot brought on by the very forces behind the BDS movement itself.
This piece does an extremely good job mapping out the mechanism whereby, in the case of Middle East diplomacy, a powerful bloc of nations has managed to turn virtually all the machinery of the UN into tools for their own narrow political purposes. But one need not track down all these corruptions to see this phenomenon in action. One need only look at the UN Human Rights Council (which spent nearly half its time drawing up condemnations of Israel, 32 resolutions that now serve as ammo in the BDS wars) under the leadership of such human-rights champions as Gadda’fi Libya to see how history often provides bald exposure of such global hypocrisy and moral decay.
Now that Libya’s Brotherly Leader, Guide to the Revolution and King of Kings (and former UN Human Rights Committee whitewash recipient) is actually committing the very atrocities the Human Rights Council has fantasized about and projected onto Israel for years, we can start to see the full cost of the BDS sewer system which, in laundering accusations of Israel, soils everything in its wake.
In 1975, when the same constellation of forces corrupting UN human rights machinery today managed to push through the now-infamous “Zionism = Racism” resolution, then US Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned that if the UN (and other organizations originally created to protect smaller countries from larger ones) becomes yet another mechanism for the strong to bully the weak, then to whom can the suffering turn as a court of last resort?
Today, we’re seeing just how prophetic Moynihan was as the world’s most brutal states hide behind barricades they have built for themselves at the very institutions created to curb their brutality. And with every UN agency, every human rights organization, every cause on every issue now just one more forum to focus on and assault the Jewish state, we can start to see the true price of letting this corruption have its way, so long as it only focused its attention on the Jews (whoops! I mean “Zionists”).