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Closing Argument(s)

18 Feb

It might be getting time to wrap up the debate/discussion I’ve been having with Mike Lumish over at Israel Thrives regarding Israel and the Left.  Not that there isn’t a lot more to say about this subject, but I suspect that our attempts to find major disagreements could devolve into a Narcissism of Small Difference destined to deliver a diminishing return on investment.

But to keep things going for just one more column, I continue to take issue with the core assertion that drives much of Mike’s argument (one he claims I agree with in his last piece) that the current President supports (or “supported”) the Muslim Brotherhood, if by “support” he means (1) agrees with the goals of that organization and (2) wishes it to succeed.

This might seem like a small linguistic point, but within it lies the reason I suspect Mike is having such a hard time getting his messages accepted.  For, simply put, the argument at the heart of his critique is not strong enough.

But fear not.  For the somewhat technical analysis you are about to read is designed to strengthen, rather than weaken, the argument of my friendly opponent.  So if you can stand a few paragraphs of logical dweebiness, read on.

For the few of you remaining, there are a number of techniques that allow you to determine the strengths and weakness of arguments delivered in normal human language (vs. machine code which is much easier to check for flaws).

If you want to go back 2500 years, Aristotle’s syllogisms still pack a punch, although I’ve developed a growing preference for so-called Toulmin Diagrams in recent years.  But since those would take too long to explain, I think we can get what we need through use of the simplest structure for an argument: a set of premises leading to a conclusion.

With this in mind, Mike’s key points can be boiled down into an argument that looks something like this:

Premise 1: The Muslim Brotherhood is a totalitarian organization with goals at odds with the US and the West, which is also the wellspring of Jihadi violence in the Middle East.

Premise 2: President Obama and his administration have made decisions and statements (especially when the Muslim Brotherhood was in power in Egypt) that involved helping and praising that Brotherhood regime.

Premise 3: Only someone who supports the Muslim Brotherhood would help and praise the Muslim Brotherhood regime when it ruled Egypt.

===================================================

Conclusion: President Obama supports a totalitarian organization with goals at odds with the US and the West, which is also the wellspring of Jihadi violence in the Middle East.

Now there are two primary tests for determining the strength of an argument structured in this way.

First, the argument can be checked for validity and such a check is fairly simple.  For if accepting the premises of the argument requires you to accept the conclusion, then the argument can be said to be valid.

An iconic example of a valid argument would be “Toby is cat.  All cats are animals.  Therefore Toby is an animal.” which includes two premises (the first two sentences) that, if you accept them as true, requires you to accept the conclusion as also being true.  And if you look at Mike’s argument (as I’ve articulated it above) you will see that it is perfectly valid.

Now the way Mike’s argument has been formally structured was my work, not his, which means someone else might perform a translation that ended in a non-valid argument.  But as I’ll demonstrate, it is usually good practice to do your best to turn an opponent’s statements into a valid argument which can then be checked for soundness – the second test of an argument’s strength.

For an argument to be sound, not only must it be valid, but its premises must be true in the real world.  For many daft arguments are perfectly valid.  For example: “My wife is a mermaid.  All mermaids are leprechauns.  Therefore, my wife is a leprechaun.” is a valid argument, but the fact that my wife is the only thing in that argument which actually exists makes it unsound.

Now in the case of Mike’s argument, in the context of this discussion his first premise is totally acceptable.  In a scholarly context, someone might want to point out the complex interplay between the Brotherhood, Wahabism, Shiite fundamentalism and other religious and historic trends that have led to our current Jihad problem.  But for purposes of this conversation Premise 1 is perfectly acceptable in its present form.  And I think anyone who has followed US foreign policy over the last 5-6 years would agree that Premise 2 is on safe historic ground.

But a reasonable person can come up with a variety of alternatives to Premise 3.  For example, someone might make crappy decisions (like the ones we’ve seen the Obama administration make) because they suck at diplomacy/realpolitique due to incompetence, arrogance or a combination of both.  Or perhaps the President’s ideology blinds him to seeing forces (even Muslim Fundamentalist forces) fighting against an oppressive regime as new totalitarians in waiting (vs. successors to the civil rights heroes of old).

Notice that none of these descriptions is flattering to the current US administration, or dodges the fact that their decisions have made the world much less safe.  In fact, I would say they are stronger critiques than the original Premise 3 above since they do not claim to understand the psychological reasons behind someone’s (Obama’s) choices, and thus are less susceptible to the kind of challenges you are reading now.

If you read through the several exchanges Mike and I have had, you will notice that when this challenge has been presented (by me or others – albeit in a less structured/dweeby way) he has tried to reinforce his argument by providing more examples of Brotherhood ruthlessness and anti-Semitism or Obama administration perfidy.  But, as you can now see, all that does is boost the two premises about which there is already agreement, providing nothing to shore up that argument’s weakest link.

Now Mike could dispute my definition of “support” to mean support of Brotherhood goals and a desire to see that movement succeed.  But if that’s the case, why spend so much time and energy getting upset that others don’t agree with his core claim if the key term in that claim (“support”) is up for grabs?

I’m hoping this analysis highlights the key reason why I’m putting readers through so much tech-talk since my goal is not to smash Mike’s points but to provide him the means to make them stronger.  For I suspect that what he perceives as people being in denial over the important points he is trying to make actually represents a dispute over a problematical premise that Mike might not realize weakens his case, making it that much harder for others to accept what he is saying more broadly.

And given that his critique of the Left (especially the Jewish Left) hinges on a conclusion drawn from a potentially unsound argument (vs. other arguments over the Left and Islam/Israel which do not carry such a flaw), I return to my original promise that this type of analysis can only help to make my opponent’s arguments more powerful, presuming he is ready to adjust his language to strengthen the weak link and not be so hard on those who seem more than ready to agree with him on everything but his most fragile point.

UC BDS Mayhem

10 Feb

Back in high school, I recall a Model United Nations in which the only committee whose members weren’t stoned for the entire week roused up enough energy and creativity to cast a unanimous vote in favor of the UN starting its own Space Fleet.

That memory (which I may have tossed into a previous piece on the subject of BDS) came to mind as I learned that the University of California Student Assembly (UCSA) just passed a series of resolutions calling for the university system to divest from every place on the planet they don’t like, starting with Israel, moving through Russia, Egypt, Brazil, Mexico and Sri Lanka, finally ending with the United States.

So how did we get to the point where a student organization that almost no one has ever heard of (much less voted for), an organization with no mandate to vote on international affairs, whose members have little more than undergraduate-level expertise about any of the countries they’ve just condemned, feels it’s perfectly appropriate to declare nations (including their own) so loathsome that the school system they attend should break all financial ties to them?

When we BDS-watchers last encountered UCSA, they had just passed a pro-BDS resolution masquerading as a pro-free-speech resolution on the Sabbath before Rosh Hashanah, a move that earned them praise and warm kissed from Students for Justice in Palestine (which had pretty much dictated to them the wording of their measure) and scorn and ridicule from everyone else, including the students this group claims to represent.

In theory, this experience (as well as the many bruising BDS fights that have roiled student governments within the University of California system for over half a decade) should have taught student representatives to respect the opinions of those who voted them into office.  Unfortunately, the only lesson put into practice over these last 5-6 years was learned by SJP, that lesson being if you want to get your political opinion to come out of someone else’s mouth, make sure that you and your allies are the ones casting most of the (stacked) committee votes.

So after seeing their divestment resolutions voted down again and again in school after school, the Israel-dislikers put time and energy into getting their own people elected to office, making sure to not let voters know that their primary agenda item once elected would be to vote “Yes” for resolutions that were voted down time and time again by previous student Senators.  And given the low voter turnout and limited campus interest in what student government does or says, Students for Justice in Palestine is now claiming that the dominos are falling their way.

But what do these votes really mean?  After all, the presumption behind the BDS obsession with higher education is that since colleges were hotbeds of anti-Apartheid activism in the 1980s, if the boycotters can turn them into hotbeds of anti-Israel activism in the 2010s then their formula of “Israel = Apartheid” will be proven true.  (This is the same logic behind the argument “All dogs are animals.  All cats are animals.  Therefore, all dogs are cats.”)

If political disputes were settled by logic alone, the fact that the BDS case for their campus activism is founded on a textbook fallacy would end the dispute.  But SJP, like its predecessors and eventual successors, are not in the logic or argument business.  They are in the “do anything necessary to give the illusion that our hatred of Israel reflects the belief system of more than just us” business.  And, as we have seen over the last few months, SJP’s “anything goes” mentality has done more to expose their fanaticism than anything Israel and its allies could achieve (even with the zillion-dollar budgets we receive from Mossad and the Elders of Zion bank on the moon).

One need only look at campuses where the SJP types feel in the ascendant to see political ids running wild.  At UC Davis, a divestment vote was followed by the painting of swastikas on the wall of the school’s Jewish fraternity.  This was after the group winning the vote began chanting “Allah Akbar!”, with one student senator squealing in a now-deleted Facebook post that “Hamas has taken over UC Davis!” (a phrase I suspect never appeared on her campaign literature).

This type of lunacy is just the escalation of what we have seen at other schools where the boycotters think they can get away with anything, including punching students who challenge them, surrounding political opponents in an attempt to intimidate, and that old campus standby of shouting down any speaker their opponents manage to bring onto campus.  Historically, this atrocious behavior was limited to a few small schools located in places where the wider community shared their anti-Israel views (notably Hampshire College in Massachusetts and Evergreen College in Washington).  But with these recent “wins,” the boycotters seem ready to bring their mayhem to much larger communities.

To understand why the BDSers overplay their hand time and time again, making their behavior the story vs. their preferred claims of political momentum, you need to keep in mind that:

  • Attempts to drag student government into their squalid project is actually a boobie prize that is meant to substitute for the fact that college administrators and investment managers no longer take their calls and are ready to announce before a BDS vote is even taken that they have no intention to take such egregiously manufactured “mandates” the least bit seriously.
  • Anti-Israel activism always ratchets up whenever there is a war in the region, like the one Hamas started last summer. And given the total disinterest across the entire BDS multiverse in stopping Hamas from launching the next war they are preparing for as you read this, it’s pretty clear that SJP et al can’t wait for more Palestinians to die so that they can march and scream and shove photos of bloody babies into everyone’s faces (even if some of those photos were taken in Syria).
  • And speaking of Syria, the other reason why divestment advocates have been so shrill in recent years is that their chants have to drown out the screams of hundreds of thousands of people dying across the Middle East at the hands of those who hate Israel just as much as the boycotters do.

As ever, Israel’s defenders are stuck having to do what they can, given that we are not likely to rev up a hate campaign against Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians to counter the one the BDSers have dedicated themselves to targeting Israelis/Jews.  And as much as “turning the tables” might sound good on paper, our side – to its credit – is not ready to wreak havoc in our communities just so we can score points against political enemies.

But we are hardly without options, even during a period when our opponents are feeling especially aggressive.

For we have already seen how that aggression can become the story, turning BDS victory laps into apology sessions where the Israel haters have to answer questions about swastikas and punches and other rude or violent behavior, rather than getting people to pay attention to their manufactured “victories.”  And just as SJP will never, under any circumstances, stop making accusations in order to answer questions posed by critics, so too we must talk only of those swastikas and punches and other appalling acts of rudeness and never mention this or that student vote, other than to put it into the context of SJP manipulativeness and misbehavior.

I was also happy to see Israel’s defenders walk out of recent votes, rather than stick around and pretend that a stacked Student Senate had any interest in what they had to say.  But this refusal to play by someone else’s rules will only be effective if we can figure out ways to get the other side to play by ours.  And while I’ve talked about what this could consist of in the past, I’d like to revisit our options over the next couple of weeks – in anticipation of those events I mentioned recently (as well as to get my mind off the shoveling left to do).

Comings and Snowings

4 Feb

Well a pair of Snowmageddons (which kept the kids home for four school days out of the last seven) has left little time for blogging.  More annoyingly, it also prevented me from making it to a talk by Matti Friedman that was moved from a snowy Monday to a conflict-ridden Tuesday.

For those in the know, Freidman wrote the most talked about story on Israel and the media last year entitled An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth.  And, in addition to writing a defense of that piece against lame attempts to discredit it/him, he has also been on the speaking circuit, providing all-important context to understand the media phenomenon he writes about so well.

Fortunately, this transcript from a recent talk in the UK probably includes most of what he said last night here in Boston.   And since the BDS brigade has chosen to ignore rather than smear this former AP journalist/whistleblower, you can assume his is writing about and saying truths that they do not want others to know about.

Moving onto events I actually plan to get to, any and all West Coast BDS fighters are invited to the StandWithUs 2015 Anti-BDS Conference where yours truly will be speaking alongside the best in the business with regard to battling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions “movement.”  The list of my fellow speakers represents a who’s who of thoughtful pro-Israel thinker and activists, and I’ll leave it to readers to guess which one of them got into a legendary fight with my mother more than 25 years ago.

The event takes place March 21-23 in Los Angeles and while it is not free, it is certainly worth it, so I hope to see some of you there.

Closer to home, I’m also doing a gig in Providence Rhode Island the evening of February 25.  I’m not sure about attendance policies, but if you are interested in going (or just meeting up), drop me a note and I’ll let you know the details.

Finally, a friend of the family recently forwarded me (via my wife) a note from Hillel in California regarding the mayhem currently underway in a UC system where the BDSers recently cracked the code of how to get BDS resolutions passed by student governments, regardless of the fact that their opinion remains nothing more than the bigoted beliefs of a ruthless minority that refuses to take no for an answer.

I’ve written about the topic so many times, it’s hard to know where to start on this subject (although this piece is as good a place as any).  But as the sun (and the children) rise for the first day of school since last Friday, I must defer writing anything new on this topic for another 24-48  hours.  So tune in towards the end of the week for some further thoughts on whether the sky is actually falling over on the Left Coast, or if we are just seeing another example of impotent fantasy politics turning another institution (student government) into a laughingstock.

BDS Bombast for 2014

13 Jan

I had almost forgotten the ritual of the end-of-year BDS Boast Sheet – that document the BDSers promulgate annually to celebrate their marvelous successes, which they claim as proof of their inevitable triumph.

Unlike previous years, this year’s sheet includes some actual (vs. just pretend) “victories,” notably the Presbyterian Churches (PCUSA) divestment decision and the American Studies Association (ASA) boycott vote.

Regarding the former, when I was debating the PCUSA’s 2012 decision to vote down divestment over at The Daily Beast, I pointed out that if the BDSers really put their backs into it for two more years, they might finally get back to where they were ten years earlier when divestment first passed at the church (before being voted down in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012).

And, sure enough, by insisting votes never end until they get what they want, the BDSers were able to get a smaller, older and more political-homogenous church to do their bidding this time around – but only with the hypocritical but telling caveat that the church also insisted it’s decision not be seen as constituting participation in the BDS “movement.”

With regard to ASA, enough has happened since that vote (including condemnations raining down on the organization from the rest of academia and other academic associations fleeing from BDS having seen what it did to ASA) that we should probably start thinking of the American Studies Association as the Olympia Food Coop of academic groups: an organization that will cling to its boycott no matter what as they scream in our faces about their wonderfulness and bravery while similar organizations look upon ASA as an example of why BDS should be avoided at all cost (and act accordingly).

Speaking of reactions, one of my favorite elements of BDS bragging is their attempt to spin everything – including those organizing against and condemning them – as further examples of their own success.  Thus, the perfectly legitimate response of Jewish organizations and more questionable response by state legislators to the ASA boycott represents “panic” over BDS potency (rather than a normal reaction by an insulted minority group or a demonstration that the first BDS-inspired sanction activity ended up being directed against them).

Similarly, a famous actress pushing an Israeli company during the Superbowl (and then giving the finger to critics) has been transformed to a story about how “Scarlett Johansson Helps Bring BDS Into the Mainstream.”  Which leaves us in the situation where both condemnation and defeat are both being presented as examples of victory.

It’s when they start getting into big dollar “wins” that the more-familiar BDS bullshit starts to float to the surface.  For example, I happen to live in Boston yet the story of Veolia’s loss of a $4.5 billion dollar contract with the city as a result of BDS efforts (rather than just an example of a company winning some and losing others) was news to me.

Similarly, other stories of pension funds or Microsoft or local, national or international organizations making billion dollar decisions based on BDS lobbying continue to never be accompanied by statements from these allegedly boycotting organizations explaining to the world what they are doing and why (vs. having their business decisions interpreted by BDS tea-leaf readers).  And, as I have described previously, absent such statements political divestment (vs. normal business transactions) cannot be said to have occurred.

The wording of that Boston decision (towards the top of the page under January) is telling, given that it provides the boycotters just enough wiggle room to worm out of accusations of dishonesty (given that it never actually says the city’s decision was the result of their campaign, rather than just coming afterwards post-hoc fashion).  Which points out how much boast sheets like this one are designed to delude allies as much as they are the public.

This would explain why they prefer anecdote to actual data, including the data found in a report that confirms what I described years ago: that during a decade and a half when the BDSers were trying to bring the Israeli economy to its knees, that economy more than doubled in size with exports to an allegedly boycotting Europe growing close to 100% and even products from the dreaded “Occupied Territories” selling gangbusters around the world.

Now this segue into reality also needs to take into account the fact that BDS acting as a transmission belt for anti-Israel propaganda does have an impact, even when they lose this or that vote. And it also needs to take into account that reality now includes murderous anti-Semitism returning in a big way to Europe with the forces of Islamist imperialism on a lethal march throughout every part of the Middle East that is not being subjected to boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns by those presenting themselves as morally perfect.

Unfortunately, most of us are not in a position to impact how these geo-political pathologies play out in the coming years.  But we do have it in our power to prevent those toxins from poisoning our schools, our churches, our cities and the rest of civil society.  We can (and have) prevented the BDS arm of the anti-Israel war movement from winning many real victories (which is why they have to keep boasting about fake ones).

And so the battle continues…

Partisanship

9 Jan

The start of Mike Lumish’s latest contribution to our ongoing discussion succeeded in making me blush, which is why I’d like to start off by paying him an even bigger compliment by thanking him for making me think, particularly about closely held beliefs.

For while I feel pretty confident in my understanding about what the BDS “movement” is all about, I’ll admit that the writing you may have read on this site regarding Left vs. Right matters is fairly optimistic with regard to the existence of a pro-Zionist (or at least anti-BDS) Left that I’m hoping will stand firm against the Israel haters on that end of the political spectrum (much like the anti-Communist Left helped to prevent Marxism from bullying its way into dominance of progressive politics in an earlier era).

But as the business cliché points out: hope is not a strategy.  So even though many allies in various BDS fights (not to mention most Democratic Congressmen and self-styled radicals such as this person), fall into the category of a Left that loves the Jewish state (or at least hates it less than they hate the boycotters), Mike provides important balance by highlighting the increasing encroachment of dark language, thought and values into mainstream liberalism – something we all must take very, very seriously.

Moving from mutual appreciation to debate, Mike seems most (and legitimately) concerned about my characterization of his position as stemming from partisanship.  And given the priority he gives that critique in his recent piece, the Principle of Charity obliges me to also prioritize that issue as well.

First off, I need to point out that my comment on partisanship was directed not at him personally, but at everyone dealing with the intersection of Middle East and domestic politics (which, given the state of the world and the behavior of the present US administration, should include all of us).

Now this is not my way of worming out of a critique my interlocutor finds objectionable.  Rather, it is a way to highlight how our partisan instincts provide both benefits and risks with regard to how we all approach difficult and important political matters.

Despite the negative connotation often attached to the word “partisan,” it’s worth noting that a partisan alignment is a perfectly natural and useful way to find our way in the world.  We all need some way of making sense of the many political issues that confront us on a regular basis, and aligning ourselves with a political belief system is a reasonable way of navigating such complexity.

The modern faith in the rational makes us queasy about admitting that our political choices are anchored in a belief system that allows us to make decisions on matters we may know little about.  This is why with every election cycle, reasonable people publish useful checklists that let you select your personal preferences –  issue-by-issue  – with a candidate selected for you by an algorithm designed to match you (dating-service like) with the candidate you most agree with.

But every time I have filled out one of these surveys, I’ve found myself questioning any result that asks me to vote in a way different than the partisan way I have voted before.  And this is not an entirely irrational reaction.  For my partisan loyalties reflect a belief system I have chosen after thinking about multiple issues over many years.  So even if the particular issues facing us right now might give the edge to the candidate from a different party, my partisan instincts are actually reminding me that today’s issues might not be tomorrow’s (since they weren’t yesterday’s), which means a system of political beliefs might actually anchor, rather than replace, broader, long-term independent thinking.

At the same time, embracing a belief system always runs the risk of creating unthinking habit (i.e., unreasoning bias).  And in the case of partisanship, it can also lead to the dangerous tendency to look to others who share your belief system (or claim they do) before making up one’s own mind.  So while partisanship is a useful means for making sense of things, it becomes dangerous when it serves as a complete replacement for reflection and independent thought.

Putting aside abstract plusses and minuses of partisanship, let’s also not forget the human factor that goes into most decision-making (political or otherwise).  For if you don’t trust the candidate that some survey says agrees with you more than does that other guy to actually walk the walk (by prioritizing and acting on those issues of agreement), then why should they be owed your vote?  And as much as personality traits might also seem a poor substitute for rational arguments over issues, most of the successes and failures of any leader can be traced to their character vs. their embrace of this or that political position.

This is my usual long-winded way of urging caution with regard to reading too much into things like the large percentage of the Jewish vote that remains Democratic, even in an age when the current Democratic occupant of the White House seems so hostile to Jewish interests (notably with regard to Israel and the Middle East).

I think Mike and I are going to have to agree to disagree over when Obama’s statements regarding the Arab Spring constitute an endorsement of the Muslim Brotherhood (vs. deluded wishful thinking combined with overheated rhetoric).  But there is no disagreement that the current President’s choices: from cutting endless slack to Islamist foes of both Israel and the US to picking needless fights with the Israeli government, make it a perfectly reasonable choice for Jews who support Israel (which describes the majority of us) to refuse to vote for him.

But that didn’t happen last election, did it?  And one reasonable interpretation of the – at most – minimal change in Jewish voting patterns between 2008 and 2012 is that American Jews have their heads “buried in the sand” in such a way that we cannot abandon partisan (i.e., largely Democratic) loyalties, even for the sake of a Jewish state we hold dear.

But another possibility takes into account the fact that Jews (like all Americans) were not casting a vote on each and every issue of importance to them, but were rather making a narrow choice between two individuals.  And had the Republican candidate been more appealing in ways having nothing to do with Israel and the Middle East (as was Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984), who knows how the Jewish vote might have gone?

Even if I don’t expect to ever see a total party realignment of the Jewish public, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of Jews voted for Obama for the same reasons the majority of Americans did: they liked him better than the other guy. And just as some voters were ready to engage in wishful thinking with regard to issues like Obamacare in order to overcome doubts when the time came to pull the lever in November 2012, I’m guessing many Jews were hoping for the best when they cast their votes in both 2008 and 2012 – not because they were ignorant of the President’s failings, but because the only other option on offer (voting for Mitt Romney – who also came with baggage) did not provide them enough reason to overcome their partisan instincts.

Upon reflection, it may simply be some of the language Mike has used in the past that gives the appearance (vs. the reality) of disagreement between us.  For while he has told me directly that I’m not included in the list of those who have their “heads buried in the sand” with regard to the threat to Israel and the Jews from the Left, I think it has been his willingness to characterize those who do not buy into his analyses (which, if you read his work regularly, you’ll understand to consist of a number of complex and challenging arguments) with this head/sand charge that has rubbed me (and others) the wrong way.

As someone who also proposes a multi-faceted worldview, and who also feels frustrated that not enough people embrace that worldview in toto, I can understand why it is sometimes tempting to try to grab those who know should agree with you by the shoulders and try to shake some sense into them.  But knowing how much such shaking can become the issue (and cloud the very arguments I want people to follow and buy into), my preference is to be patient with those who seem to be taking too long to “get it,” rather than trying to shame them into understanding.

Scorching the Earth

7 Jan

While I’ve always tried to link to individuals and groups whose efforts have inspired this or that piece on Divest This, my New Year’s resolution is to highlight the important work of organizations who may have gone unsung on this site, the first being The Israel Project an informational clearinghouse for detailed and accurate information about Israel and the Middle East.

I’ve been a subscriber to their Daily TIP mailing for quite some time, and it was a recent piece they sent out regarding the latest tactic of Abbas and Co to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to subvert it for their own purposes that provided the title – and subject – for this piece.

The Israel Project’s mailing spelled out (and footnoted) the facts and history behind previous Palestinian infiltration, cooptation and coercion efforts designed to turn an international organization created to fight for a worthy cause (the preservation of cultural heritage – UNESCO, the furtherance of human rights – UNHCR, and now international law – the ICC) into weapon systems directed at you-know-who.

Like similar efforts at infiltration and cooptation we see taking place within civil society organizations by the BDS “movement,” the PA’s attempt to join global treaty organizations in order to subvert them reflect a repeating pattern of leveraging the openness and liberality of the many for narrow and illiberal ends of the few.

Just as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) demands the right to speak from every platform in the land while denying their own platforms to anyone else, anti-Israel propagandists (including Israel’s alleged “peace partners”) are demanding that anyone dedicated to a progressive or humanitarian cause must bow down before them, while all the time refusing to subject themselves to rules or standards implied by phrases such as “human rights,” or “international law.”

And so the next international organization becomes corrupted to the point of uselessness (beyond generating indictments of their new member’s favorite political enemy).  And while it is obvious why someone like Abbas would like to hear his charges come out of the mouth of a respected entity like the International Criminal Court, it’s not entirely clear what the rest of the planet gets out of such a deal.

After all, these organizations (not to mention the causes they fight for like cultural heritage, human rights and international justice) are all human constructs, and fragile ones at that.  Given how recently the nation state became the key organizing principle for human societies, the notion that we must be evolving into a global order where everyone enjoys equal  human rights (just as citizens of a nation are supposed to have equal citizen rights) is just that – a notion.  Or, more specifically, it is a cause that needs to be argued for (especially to those nation states being asked to sacrifice some of their rights for the benefits of participating in such a new – and allegedly beneficent – global order).

But what happens when nations or individuals and organizations acting on behalf of nations take over the organizations meant to undergird such a new order and turn them into tools of national statecraft (or warcraft)?  Under those circumstances, are human rights and international law still beneficent principles we should all be fighting for, or slogans behind which the ruthless hide in order to get others to do their bidding?

A few years back, I recall a visitor to this site claiming that even if the global institutions being built were less than perfect, we should still support them since any problems simply represented growing pains in an evolutionary process that was destined to lead to a better world, just as biological evolution leads to continued improvement of a species.  But even biological evolution is hardly on a pre-destined trajectory towards perfection.  Yes, on the whole it has led to progress.  But it has also led to dead ends, mutations and the termination of species that could have flowered (and even evolved into something superior to luckier survivors) had they not met some random catastrophe that wiped them off the board.

In a similar way, a mutated “evolving” global system in which tyrants get to decide who is a human rights violator (a list that never includes them), one where faux-nations get to indict real ones for imagined crimes is a system no genuine supporter of things like human rights and international justice can embrace.

Which is why anyone dedicated to transforming the world into something other than a planet full of competing nation states – even if such advocates have nothing but loathing for the Jewish one – should be first in line to condemn attempts to corrupt our already corrupted global institutions still further.  For an International Criminal Court that can indict Israel in the name of “Palestine” is the same institution that can indict anyone without the power and ruthlessness to take over and twist it to their own narrow purposes.  And whatever you want to call such a process, calling it “justice” is a sick joke no genuine advocate for justice should find funny.