Sunday, May 25, 2008

Those Scary Zionists

You may remember that a while ago I tried to set up a joint Arab-Israeli blog, as a place for civil disagreement, and then straightaway had to shut it down because my interlocutor probably wasn't an Arab, which sort of put a dent in the premise.

At the time, I issued a challenge to any other anti Zionists to come forward and engage in such a duel. I had only two conditions: that the discussion be civil, and that it be between two identified people - what I called "Google-able". Given the fiasco of the first attempt, this seemed reasonable to me.

No one has stepped forward so far. Yet there was one individual, who called itself "The Debater. This person claimed "I do possess degrees, have taught, and am a serious writer". Indeed, in the following exchange of e-mails, whoever it was demonstrated intelligence, learning, and the ability to disagree civiliy. What it refused to do was give any indication of its identity. I don't know its gender, country of domicile, anything.

It gave two reasons for this adamant refusal. The first was that identity should have no bearing on arguments. At first glance, this is a reasonable assertion. I might even wish, a bit wistfully, that it were true, and that arguments be won on the merits of their logic or strength of their factual basis. Moreover, my willingness to engage in such a joint blog experiment is grounded, I admit, in my expectation that I'll be able to demonstrate that in order to be seriously anti-Zionist one has no choice but to prefer value judgments over rational ones. Still, it takes a high degree of credulousness to believe that anyone sees the world in some objective mode, irrespective of their identity. No-one does that. The best one can (and should) strive for is the ability to reconcile objective facts and rational thought processes with the subjective perspectives we inevitably have.

This, however, is intellectual word chopping. At one point The Debater gave its real reason for insisting on remaining anonymous:
[I]n commenting about identity, try putting yourself in the shoes of an anti-Zionist who's being told to reveal his true identity. The charge of "anti-semitism", though undoubtedly true in specific cases, has been used as a weapon of character assassination to silence any form of opposition to Israel. I don't believe you do this but others who read the blog certainly can...... The blog opens us both not only to fair-minded Palestinians and Israelis who wish to learn in the spirit of intellectual and decent debate as we do, but also to emotion-driven fanatics who are not in the least interested in meaningful debate but in ad hominem, smear attacks. As an Israeli Zionist, you're immuned to this and is perhaps why you have not seemed to understand this sensitivity at the other side of the fence. I think you should be understanding and take into account these sensitivities in your debater. The repurcussions to a serious and scholarly anti-Zionist has been seen time and again, as you well know.
In other words: Being an anti-Zionist can be dangerous, because one will be smeared as an antisemite. I'll let that statement stand unanswered, because of the volumes it speaks on its own.


Marc said...


Well, I had emailed your challenge to a friend of mine. He, like your masked interlocutor, won't take it up because he insists that anonymity is fundamental to rational discourse. Nonsense. They lack the conviction of their ideas. They hide behind fear of being "smeared". So why doesn't Gore Vidal take it up? Or Chris Hitchens, who seems not to care one way or the other how he is perceived? Anyway, we wait patiently for a challenger along with you.

Anonymous said...

Being an anti-Zionist can be dangerous, because one will be smeared as an anti-Semite.

This must be the reason why there are so many Jews among the anti-Zionists...

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Chris Hitchens and Gore Vidal belong, so to speak, to another league than Yaacov Lozowick, so it's out of the question that they will bother to debate him. Witness Yaacov's desperate, but fruitless, efforts to engage Juan Cole (himself not nearly as prominent as Vidal or Hitchens) in a debate.

Yaacov insists that we, the anti-Zionists who do want to rationally debate with him, should reveal our true identities. The only reason I can think for this is that he wants us to be vulnerable to some kind of retaliation, from which we are shielded if we remain anonymous.

It is ideas, not personalities, that count in a debate. Yaacov's ad-hominems against The Debater and myself prove he has totally missed this point.

Marc said...

Who has missed the point? And what does "prominence" have to do with debate? Another red herring. Seems Lozowick can hold his own. And he doesn't need a rubber Nixon mask to do it.