Thursday, January 23, 2014

Yitzchak Herzog’s peace: guts, Netanyahu--and pigs

Israel’s opposition leader and Labour Party head Yitzchak Herzog continues his battle to get Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  to sign a peace  deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA) (“Labor chief doubts Netanyahu’s ‘guts’ in peace talks”, 01/21/14, Times of Israel). Apparently, Herzog has given up arguing a rational case. For this Times of Israel article, Herzog adopts a new approach: he gets personal. He wonders aloud if Netanyahu ‘has the guts’ to make peace with the ‘Palestinians.’

Herzog is wrong. He doesn’t understand courage.

It does not take ‘guts’ to cave in to pressure from an 800-pound gorilla (the US). It does not take ‘guts’ to yield before threats of a massive boycott (from the European Union). ‘Courage’ is not what motivates you when you want ‘peace’ because you fear you will be ‘isolated on steroids’ (at the United Nations). In fact, caving into pressure and yielding to threats have never been called, ‘having guts’.

Such behaviours have another name: cowardice.

Why does Herzog twist the definition of cowardice into ‘guts’?

Put another way, why is Herzog trying to put lipstick (guts) onto a pig (cowardice)?

You can call caving in and yielding to threats ‘guts’ all day long. But most of us learned long ago that when you put lipstick on a pig, you still end up with a pig.

As every Jew knows, pigs aren’t kosher. What’s Herzog doing?

Herzog’s using a personal attack (to question Netanyahu’s ‘guts’) is interesting. The use of an ad hominum argument (dropping the subject of discussion to begin a personal attack on your opponent) often suggests failure—of the attacker.  In formal debate, the goal is to present the best factual case—to make the most compelling argument. The personal-attack tactic often comes into play when a debater knows he is losing. A personal attack is designed to panic an opponent into forgetting the debate topic in order to defend himself. 

A skilled debater can start a personal attack, then revert to the subject. He will score points for returning to topic. But if his attack is successful, his opponent, now flustered, will lose points because he cannot remain focused.

It’s a ‘dirty trick.’ But it’s legal (I think). If you want a crude example of how this tactic works, try an experiment the next time you’re arguing with someone over politics, sports or religion: in the most heated moment, shout, ‘you’re an idiot!’

Watch how your ‘opponent’ reacts. He will probably not stay on topic.

(Be careful how you use this tactic. You don’t want to lose a friend).

When you read the article above, you notice that Herzog doesn’t argue that peace will be good for Israel. He doesn’t support his case for peace with examples of positive peace dividends (a non-boycott is not a positive peace dividend; it’s a sword held to your neck to sign-or-else which will remain nearby after you sign). Instead, Herzog gets personal: he questions Netanyahu’s ‘guts’.

Calling cowardice ‘guts’ is not a rational proposition. It makes no sense. Does becoming non-sensicle suggest that Herzog’s entire ‘peace’ argument is nonsense?

You tell me.

There is a second concern with this interview. This Times of Israel article is not the result of a Herzog speech. It is not the result of an interview with Israeli journalists. It was the result of a Herzog interview with foreign journalists.

In addition, this article was not written by a staff member of the Times of Israel. It is a story from the Associated Press (AP) that happens to have been printed by the Times of Israel for its audience; news vendors often do this to show what others say about topics of interest.

It’s a fair and accepted practice, especially, we note, when the Times of Israel clearly identified the story as coming from the AP.

The concern is, the world press does not typically support Israel. The AP does not typically print stories that present Israel in a positive light. Many in the world already see Israel as a brutal occupier—illegal, inhumane, criminal. Now, the AP gets to showcase to its world clients (the outlets to which it sells its stories) the voice of a prominent Israeli politician suggesting that this brutal, inhumane nation may indeed be led by someone who doesn’t have the guts to sign for peace.

Herzog’s words hurt Israel. Worse, his words help Israel’s enemies. Through this interview, Herzog gives Israel-haters a new word to use in their attacks: coward.  

That’s not working for ‘peace’. That’s empowering Israel’s enemies.

Whose side is Herzog on?


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