Proportion and Hypocrisy

December 31, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Posted in International | Leave a comment

Back on Gaza for a moment, and the bloggers at the right-wing Commentary magazine have been predictably supportive of Israel’s actions and trenchantly critical of its critics, particularly those who condemn the bombings as ‘disproportionate’. Here, Michael J. Totten argues that a ‘proportionate’ response would, on practical terms alone, achieve nothing, whilst J.G. Thayer dismisses it as a horrific fallacy.

I’m bound to disagree with these men over whether the scale of the military assault is justified and I still can’t see how Israel will achieve any long-term security objectives, other than perhaps demonstrating the extent of their arsenal. However, I do share a slight cringe whenever the word ‘disproportionate’ is used to describe these events. More often than not, the people who use that adjective never articulate some ‘proportionate’ alternative, or explain how they might achieve their objectives through ‘proportionate’ means. No, it’s normally used by people who believe that Israel has the right to defend itself, but can’t articulate how Israel should defend itself. That doesn’t preclude you from speaking out, of course, but it does suggest you should find a different adjective.

That said, you can’t argue that proportionality doesn’t apply and then write something like this about liberal magazine The Nation‘s fundraising appeal for victims of the Gaza attacks:

Apparently the sympathy of The Nation, which loves to wallow in the perceived victimhood of every imaginable “marginalized” group, doesn’t extend to Jews.

Sorry, but if you’re going to describe the argument that Israel’s attacks are ‘disproportionate’ as a ‘horrific fallacy’, you can’t then moan when charity is disproportionately aimed at Palestinians. At least, not if you want to look consistent.

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