The Lobby strikes back.
Part 1. The relevance of expertise and credentials.
It is enormously instructive to consider the response to our article in the Age by an official representative of the Israel Lobby in Australia – Danny Lamm, president of the State Zionist Council of Victoria.
I’ll address other points subsequently, but in this blog, it’s worth remarking on the situation that any disinterested reader confronts when reading the two Opinion articles. The fact that they are diametrically opposed and contradict each other about certain basic factual matters is the most striking feature of these debates. This is significant because there ought to be no dispute about factual issues that can be decisively answered according to the evidence, when it is clear. After all, in the case at issue, we are not dealing with quantum physics or string theory where it’s a bit difficult to figure out who is right about fundamental disputed matters. Whether or not Israel is appropriately described as a racist state responsible for ethnic cleansing and whether or not it is “taking all the right steps along the pathway to peace” should be easier to adjudicate. (Lamm’s response to these claims is just absurd, as I’ll note in a follow-up blog).
In this regard, one of the standard rhetorical moves by Lamm is very telling: He says that we have been in “damage control” since the publication of our article “unsurprisingly (given their lack of credentials and expertise in this area) [that] demonstrates their lack of understanding of the complexities of the conflict.”
This is such a typical ploy by those who are trying to defend the indefensible (in Orwell’s words). Of course, it’s an insult to the intelligence of the readers since it is essentially telling them to trust the alleged “experts” rather than think for themselves. Translating, it means, “yes, the evidence of your own eyes and your own intelligence may suggest that Israel is an aggressor and abuser of human rights and international law, but just trust me and those experts who reassure you that it’s not the way it seems.” In particular, readers are discouraged from taking seriously the evidence we cite and the sources we indicate since we have no relevant “credentials and expertise”. The irony in all this is that we have exactly the same expertise and credentials as Lamm and other official Zionist spokespersons – that is, none! History and politics is not quantum physics or relativity theory where expertise is required. Any ten year old can understand the facts and, of course, this is exactly what the Israel Lobby spin doctors like Lamm try so hard to prevent – that is, the possibility that people might use their own native intelligence to consider the evidence for themselves.
For our part, we have not asked readers to trust us as experts because of our credentials. On the contrary, we have made a point of indicating as far as possible in a short op-ed piece that there is a body of evidence that is quite contrary to the standard narrative and official mythology – evidence that deserves to be taken seriously. We don’t expect anyone to accept these claims on our authority! Indeed, we don’t expect that you should accept what is said by the sources we cite either. Just read them.
When such surprising and admittedly shocking facts are presented, it is to be expected that they will appear incredible to those who have been victims of the mainstream brainwashing and Israel Lobby propaganda. We sought to alert people to a radically alternative picture of Israel that does not fit with the comforting picture that Lamm rehearses.
Of course, checking our account may require some effort since the media are not themselves reliable, but it’s not hard to adjudicate conflicting positions on the central claims in dispute. Lamm and the Lobby rely on the fact that most readers – especially those who are already sympathetic to their position – will not make the effort to read Pappe, Morris, Finkelstein, Shlaim, Reinhardt, Said or any others to will provide an alternative account. Of course, these writers may not be reliable either and I don’t suggest they should be taken as “authorities” either. Sadly, there is no other way to find the truth in history and politics than to just compare competing accounts and the evidence they cite. There just is no higher authority to tell you the truth and people need to be encouraged to rely on their own intelligence rather than accept so-called experts such as Lamm who want to tell them what to think.
Despite the appearance of controversy in the mainstream media, sometimes there is no serious dispute about the evidence when it is taken into account. Contrary to the most widespread, popular view, there is little dispute about the history of Israel among historians themselves. Of course, maintaining the impression that the official Zionist myths are defensible serves certain obvious purposes, but this doesn’t mean that they can be supported by the evidence, as we tried to indicate.
The method of arriving at some plausible, credible picture is actually quite simple – it’s the method of critical thinking that characterizes the Western scientific tradition since the Presocratic Greeks. It’s the method whose virtues have been extolled by philosophers such as J.S. Mill and Karl Popper – namely, consider seriously the radically alternative falsifying views that may refute your favourite theory. Consider the evidence that is contrary to your beliefs. Psychological studies confirm what we all know – this is to some degree unnatural, as the 17th Century philosopher Francis Bacon also famously pointed out. Nevertheless, taking contrary evidence seriously is the only way to test one’s prejudices and to ensure that your beliefs are rational and supported by the evidence. Surely that’s obvious. So, don’t believe a word of what we say, just read something other than the usual, official self-interested accounts of the Israel Lobby spin doctors. A good place to start is in Israel’s own admirable sources such as the daily Ha’aretz and the Israeli journalists such as Amira Hass, Gideon Levy. They don’t have any credentials either. We also mentioned Israel’s human rights organization B’Tselem. Funny that Lamm didn’t accuse them of lacking relevant expertise.