Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass wrote a poem called Was gesagt werden muss, and was, as a result, banned from Israel. What prompted me to write this post was an opinion piece written by Mark Levine, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at UC Irvine, which can be found here.
I know it’s only an opinion piece, but given the high journalistic standards at Aljazeera, I’m disappointed that Levine’s piece was published at all. The title gave me hope, but the content is little more than a large steaming pile of tu quoque. Basically, it says “yes, Israel is guilty of atrocities, but so is the rest of the world!”
Levine makes the following observation in his effort to excuse Israel for its actions:
“Israel’s gluttony for Palestinian territory, and its willingness to encourage a regional nuclear arms race to keep it, is ultimately no different than the the gluttony for the 60-inch TV, the iPhone/Pad, the cavernous homes and cars…”
Maybe someone can explain this to me. I just don’t see how buying an iPhone is “ultimately no different” from forcing Palestinians out of their homes. The latter is much more similar to the Holocaust. So if he’s excusing Israel, he must similarly excuse the Nazis. Yet, the Holocaust has been used by Israel as a justification for occupying Palestine. How is this not recognized as a grave disrespect towards the Jews who lost their lives? I find it hard to believe that the victims would have wanted more suffering in their names. Israel’s existence tells the world, “to honor the 6 million who were murdered, we will force innocent people to endure some of the same treatment.”
Also of interest is his assessment of Grass’ poem:
We can also understand, however, why it’s in poor taste for a man who volunteered for the SS, an organisation whose sworn mission was to annihilate Jews, to talk about Israel “annihilating” the Iranian people.
Actually, I don’t. Isn’t it, by the very same logic, “in poor taste” for Israel to be in possession of nuclear weapons while condemning and threatening Iran over a nuclear program that may not even exist? Yet, that isn’t his opinion. He doesn’t seem to apply his logical fallacies in a consistent way.
This line of thinking isn’t isolated. A different article, The moral blindness of Gunter Grass, says:
Having served in the organization that tried, with a fair amount of success, to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth [Grass] should keep his views to himself when it comes to the Jews’ doomsday weapon.
If his observations are correct, why should he? Once again, the fact that he may have once been an SS member has no bearing on whether or not his criticisms are true.
It just doesn’t matter that it’s a former Nazi who wrote the poem criticizing Israel. It doesn’t matter that America is addicted to war, or that other countries are also guilty of human rights violations. The facts remain, and it’s disingenuous to pretend tu quoque arguments mitigate them in any way. Maybe professor Levine should have a course in formal logic (emphasis on logical fallacies) before he writes anything more.