Monday, July 26, 2010

Not All Criticism Is Hateful


Yesterday, David Harris wrote an open letter of sorts at Huffington Post to the "chorus of chronic, compulsive critics of Israel" and displayed a false choice that seems to be used again and again in the Middle East dialogue: either you support everything Israel does or you hate Israel, side with terrorists and might be anti-Semitic. This attempt to stifle legitimate debate is both dishonest and ridiculous.

Because Harris doesn't actually point out exactly who he considers to be within the "chorus" to whom he's writing, it can only be assumed that he means critics of Israel generally. Harris writes:

Your narrative is pre-cooked, airtight, and impervious to reason. It's filled with a hatred of Israel that eludes logical explanation, a blindness that shuts out any contrary evidence. For you, Israel can do no right other than to close up shop and call it quits, while the Palestinians, your hallowed victims on a pedestal, can do no wrong.
If it's true that Harris is writing to all critics of Israel then he's either misunderstanding criticism or being disingenuous. People don't criticize Israel because they hate it, they do so because they understand that Israel, as a democracy in the Middle East, can do better- like any country can do better- than it is now. Those in the Palestinian territory can, indeed have, done much wrong. Lobbing rockets into Israel is wrong, period. Running to Hamas for governance was wrongheaded (though understandable in the sense that Hamas has done a very good job of making itself look charitable to the people). But allowing settlements to move onto innocent people's land and failing to properly vet targets for civilians is also wrong and it's not hateful to say so.

Harris continues:

Could it be that your real ideal is a Hamas-run society, with its all-enveloping political and religious suffocation, relegation of women to the status of virtual male property, intimidation of the tiny Christian community, unadulterated anti-Semitism, and reverence for the cult of violence?
No! He's absolutely missing the point. Just because there's a two-sided struggle and a criticism is made of one side doesn't mean the other side is necessarily right. Two sides can both be right and wrong on certain things. To think otherwise would be to oversimplify complex international relations. Of course, violence, anti-Semitism, religious persecution and female subservience are wrong. And Harris has a great point that many critics spend so much time criticizing Israel that they forget to criticize the other side; but that doesn't make their critiques of Israel any less valid. More of an effort should be made to point out each side's flaws- but we must admit that each side has flaws.

Harris goes on to point out other places where critics fail to criticize both sides equally in an attempt to say that this proves critiques of Israel to be wrong- it doesn't. Israel, like every country, has made mistakes. It's alright. I'm American- I get that. Hamas, Hezbollah and other similar organizations are certainly much worse: they call for violence, an eradication of an entire country and a distorted view of religion to bring hatred and intolerance further. But that's not all critics.

Why isn't it legitimate to point out flaws on each side? Why can't the discussion be full? Why try to link Israeli critics all together in one bunch? It's intellectually dishonest and impedes the progress of a peaceful settlement. I'm not saying that it's the only thing that does, but if we can take one road block out of the equation, why not try?

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