Sunday, November 7, 2010

The "Rogue Israel" debate that should never have taken place

This is sort of cross-posted or rather excerpted and adapted from Israel News.  I know others wrote about Gabriel Latner and the "Israel is a rogue state" debate, but I think they missed the main point, didn't they? The fact that the question was put to a debate at all, and came close to being accepted, is prett frightning  

The rogue debate about Israel

The bad news about 19 year old Gabriel Latner is that he is not a gentleman. It seems he didn't play fair in a debate about the proposition "Israel is a rogue state" held by the Cambridge University Cambridge Union in the UK. The proposition itself is ungentlemanly of course. It rather like holding a debate on "How often do you beat your wife?"

Gabriel Latner argued against the proposition, even though he had enlisted as a supporter. Supposedly that is not what got him barred from the Cambridge Union. He is reported to have told his opponent Lauren Booth, "I am going to nail you to the fucking wall up there." After the debate, he refused to apologize to her. If he really did all that, then he is no gentleman, of course.  Booth is Tony Blair's sister-in-law, a convert to Islam, a journalist and avid supporter of Hamas. We should always treat bigots and advocates of genocide with courtesy.

Part of the good news is that the proposition was defeated, a rarity in UK academia. YNET reported the event. The win was probably due to the skill of the pro-Israel team and not to Latner's efforts. In the UK, a proposition that Israel is a rogue state is a close call that requires the best British brains to examine whether Israel is better or worse than Iran under Ahmadinejad for example, or Sudan or Libya. The proposition was only defeated narrowly, 53 to 47%, by reports.

Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss reflexively attacked Latner as a "neoconservative," par for the course, and tried to blame the win on Latner's tactics. His headline read, "Cambridge debate on Israel is undermined by wily neocon (is that redundant?)." It never occurred to Philip Weiss that the proposition "Israel is a rogue state" ought to be defeated in any debate not held in a closed ward. In a reasonable world, respectable academics would not even raise the question, and people like Booth would not be invited to debate it. Perhaps Latner's tactics helped, or maybe they hurt.

Israel bashers are not known for telling the truth, Latner did not necessarily win the debate for the pro-Israel side, and he is not a neo-conservative.

Another bit of  good news is that Phillip Weiss fell into his own trap. So sure was he that Latner must fit the Weiss stereotype of the religious fanatic conservative warmonger Zionist, that he invited him to an email debate and, after mauling them as best he could by removing paragraphing and probably by selective quotes, Weiss  actually published the answers and the text of Latner's remarks at the debate. Next step for Weiss is to get Latner drunk in a bar and then film his answers to touchy questions about Israel. Not very gentlemanly, but that is the sort of thing Mondoweiss does.

Despite Weiss's probable mauling of Latner's words and obvious cheap journalistic tricks, Latner came through rather well.

Latner is a 19 year old Canadian agnostic with a life long attachment to Israel and Zionism. He is precisely the sort of young Jewish academic Zionist that Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss and the Israel basher lobby claim does not exist. Zionists, by the received Gospel according to Mondoweiss and company, are all superannuated religious fanatic and conservatives.

Here is Latner in his own words, as reported by Mondoweiss:

"I am not a neocon. I have absolutely no patience for any ideology that promotes the use of military force in any situation where the preservation of human life does not demand it."

Weiss's comment on this is worthy of the prosecution in a Nazi trial of a Jew:

Latner's defense is like someone who volunteered for Heidi Fleiss saying that they believe in abstinence.

A Zionist must be guilty by definition, no matter what he says. Heidi Fleiss is a well-known madam. What does that make Weiss?

Weiss also obsessed about the fact that Latner was a volunteer with Sar-El, an organization which supports the IDF. The IDF has to be bad, right?? It defends Israel. Weiss has no problem, presumably, with Booth's support of the genocidal Hamas terrorists. We can be sure they are not Zionist, and Booth is not a Zionist, right? Nobody went into the minutiae of Weiss's past and his various public positions, in the way that he questioned Latner, but I bet that would make interesting reading. It would probably be irrelevant.  That sort of argument is called ad hominem.  It is dirty pool. Not gentlemanly.

Here is why Latner supports Israel, in his own words:

As for my attachment to Zionism, that's harder to answer. I'm not sure how 'attached' a person can be to an ideology (I'm not being sophistic here, I'm just not very good at philosophy). I did go to a non-sectarian Jewish school for three years. I was dubbed an 'apikoros' by the staff. [free-thinker] I was raised by fairly secular Jewish parents in Reconstructionist Judaism. I'd consider myself 'Jewish' as a matter of culture and heritage…

My personal beliefs on 'Zionism' are fairly simple: I believe Israel has a right to exist, and to secure itself. I believe the Palestinians, Tibetans, Taiwanese, Kurds, and every other stateless population has the right to a homeland. I think that the last 150 years of conflict in the Middle East (let alone the last four or five millennia) is far too complicated for anyone but a scholar to understand. I think there is enough blame to go around. Israel is wrong when it permits settlements to be built. I think it made a mistake when it kept the Gaza Strip after '67. I was happy when Israel pulled out of the occupied territories. Then again, I am constantly afraid for my friends in family living there. Israel does face a serious threat. But I think every time Israel overreacts, new extremists are born. So yes, I could be considered a 'Zionist', but I think that term has been hijacked to a degree. I'm pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, and pro-Peace.

Latner let down the side here  (maybe he did not, what did Weiss hide in the ellipses??). But he can't duck the accusation: He is a Zionist. Guilty as charged.

Weiss also reported , or claims to have reported, Latner's debate remarks. He admits that he mauled the remarks by removing paragraphs, using this lame excuse:

I lose paragraphs when I transfer copy from one program to another and don't have the time to stick them in

Would you believe this? With all the resources of "The Nation" magazine at his command, Weiss can't find software that will not maul someone's text. Funny thing, but all us mendicant bloggers never lose any paragraphing unless we want to do so. Weiss would not allow this to be done to his own text, of course. He is telling us, "The computer ate my homework." Some other things might have been "lost" in this way...

[ Read The rogue debate about Israel at Israel News for Latner's debate remarks.]

Latner used reasonable arguments, though he could possibly have found more in the Israel Advocacy Handbook.

That is hardly the point. Can anyone believe this proposition was ever debated??? It is certainly hard to believe that the proposition, "Israel is a rogue state," almost won. At any rate, the incident proves that there really are young liberal Zionists, though Weiss and company would have us believe they do not exist, and though the word "Zionism" has been hi-jacked as Latner notes.

Here is the really bad news: The campaign for delegitimization of Israel has been a resounding success if the proposition  "Israel is a rogue state" can be debated seriously in a western university. The proposition that Iran is a rogue state would not even come up for debate.

The brainwashing propaganda of Mondoweiss and "The Nation" magazine and the other Hamas groupies  has scored a great success if someone like Latner thinks he has to use subterfuges to defend Israel, and has to apologize for being a Zionist. Weiss and his Hamas groupie friends have made Zionism into a dirty word, haven't they? Weiss and Lauren Booth don't think they have to apologize for supporting the Hamas. Isn't that strange?? Genocide and racism are respectable, but Zionism is not.

Hat tips: Elder of Ziyon wrote about this as Why Israel is a Rogue State (Gabriel Latner). The Balfour Street blog just called it "Why Israel is a Rogue State" and Ray Cook called it "Gabriel – arch, but no angel. How a Cambridge student defended Israel."

Ami Isseroff