September 02, 2005

The perils of phony intellectual superiority

As one who is always open to new facts and figures, one thing that galls the hell out of me is folks who claim to "know" so much, consistently let you know it, throw in snide remarks that belittle your supposed lack of knowledge/facts ... but then offer up some real whoppers that can only make 'ya laugh.

Case in point: Dana Garrett over at Delaware Watch. First, back in early August, he made the extraordinary (extraordinarily wrong, that is) claim that Costa Rica once maintained

... death squads that were responsible for the mass killings and disappearances twenty years ago of peasants, trade unionists, human rights activists, leftists, just about anyone suspected of not toeing the government’s line...

His "proof"? A single line from a Counterpunch (yes, that Counterpunch) article from 2002. That's it! Unfortunately for this article (and Dana), this "fact" couldn't be more ridiculously wrong. Just scope out what a [far-left] former professor of mine thinks of Dana's "facts." Even a cursory examination via Google or a trip to your local library will prove Garrett's "facts" as utterly laughable.

But being wrong is certainly OK, though. It's just that Garrett's problem is not only that he's wrong, he's snide and arrogant about it. Because he thinks he's right. He has the "facts" -- no matter what.

This phony superior intellectualism has more recently extended into a discussion of the middle east. All the while yelling and screaming that he is only "REPORTING THE EVIDENCE," and that "it’s a practice that [he] highly recommend[s]; it’s quite liberating," Garrett offers up these boners in the following discussion:

Hube: Dana: Your Israel points would have a lot more merit but for the fact that the entire Arab (or Muslim) middle east wants the country destroyed. Annihilated. Obliterated.

Garrett: Your statement is nothing but pure bunk. In the 1980s the Arab League offered Israel full diplomatic recognition if it withdrew to its 1968 borders and that proposal followed a 1976 UN Security Council resolution setting out the same terms, a resolution that had the support of the Arab states in the UN and even the PLO, but was opposed by Israel & the USA. Actually, these terms have been offered many times and they have always been rebuffed by Israel and the USA.

Followed by the inevitable: Look, neither you nor I invent the facts, but you should at least have the intellectual integrity to report them accurately.

Unfortunately, Dana, you do invent facts. (But don't worry -- you do indeed have the intellectual "integrity" to report these invented facts accurately!)

Here's what [Israeli] Benjamin Kerstein (who runs the blog "Diary of an Anti-Chomskyite," which should sufficiently irritate Garrett as it is) said via e-mail about Garrett's claims:

I don't know what to tell you, it's just a bunch of outright lies. I know of no '76 offer of recognition from anyone, and as to what authority the UN would have over the situation anyways is beyond me.

Indeed. Further research shows no Arab "peace" offer in the 1980s that offered "Israel full diplomatic recognition" by all Arab states if it withdrew to 1967 borders. Saudi Arabia put forth a plan in 2002 whose main points were:

  • Israel is required to withdraw from all territories seized in 1967 - the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
  • In return, all Arab states offer normal diplomatic relations - including a peace deal that recognises Israel's right to exist and secures its borders.
  • The plan was formally announced at an Arab League summit in Beirut in March 2003.
Unfortunately, all Arab states didn't go for it, notably Syria, one of Israel's next-door neighbors. Iraq and Libya backed Syria's position.

Garrett also claims that Israel "provoked" its Arab neighbors to attack it in 1948, 1967 and again in 1973:

You were wise to frame that in terms of “attack” and not “provocations to attack.” Otherwise Israel isn’t looking very good.

Kerstein rejects that (rightly) thusly:

There was some cross border firing between Israel and Syria before the Six-Day War (1967) and between Israel and Egypt before the Yom Kippur War (1973), but they can hardly be called "provocation" on the part of Israel; they were part of long wars of attrition predicated on the Arab rejection of Israel and desire to destabilize her. If any country besides the participants can be accused of provoking these wars it would be the USSR. In '56 Israel attacked first because of its fear of [Egyptian president] Nasser's massive shipment of arms from the USSR.

Indeed again. And at that time, the U.S. did not provide Israel with the massive military assistance (that it does today) to counter the Russian aid. Oh, did I mention the closing of the Suez Canal itself to Israeli shipping? Further, this does not include the fact that Nasser had also closed off the vital Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping in '56 (he did it again before the Six Day War, too).

Actually, I made a slight error when I said that Israel was attacked three major times (1948, 1967 and 1973). In 1967, Israel attacked first. But, for Mr. Garrett, who's so preoccupied with "provocations," consider:

While Nasser continued to make speeches threatening war, Arab terrorist attacks grew more frequent. In 1965, 35 raids were conducted against Israel. In 1966, the number increased to 41. In just the first four months of 1967, 37 attacks were launched.5

Meanwhile, Syria's attacks on Israeli kibbutzim from the Golan Heights provoked a retaliatory strike on April 7, 1967, during which Israeli planes shot down six Syrian MiGs. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union-which had been providing military and economic aid to both Syria and Egypt-gave Damascus information alleging a massive Israeli military buildup in preparation for an attack. Despite Israeli denials, Syria decided to invoke its defense treaty with Egypt.

On May 15, Israel's Independence Day, Egyptian troops began moving into the Sinai and massing near the Israeli border. By May 18, Syrian troops were prepared for battle along the Golan Heights.

Nasser ordered the UN Emergency Force, stationed in the Sinai since 1956, to withdraw on May 16. Without bringing the matter to the attention of the General Assembly, as his predecessor had promised, Secretary-General U Thant complied with the demand. After the withdrawal of the UNEF, the Voice of the Arabs proclaimed (May 18, 1967):

"As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall not complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence."

An enthusiastic echo was heard May 20 from Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad:

"Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united....I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation."

On May 22, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli shipping and all ships bound for Eilat. This blockade cut off Israel's only supply route with Asia and stopped the flow of oil from its main supplier, Iran. The following day, [U.S.] President Johnson expressed the belief that the blockade was illegal and unsuccessfully tried to organize an international flotilla to test it. (Link.)

I'd ask Garrett: If you're suddenly surrounded by a group of thugs in downtown Wilmington, DE who're intent on killing you, would you wait for them to strike first, or would you make the first move in an attempt to save your own life? Would the law recognize your [possible] life-saving preemptive attack as legitimate self-defense? The answer is yes, it would.

I know this post won't change Garrett's mind. Folks like him are already so consumed by such a sense of self-righteousness and superiority that virtually nothing can dissuade them that they are, well, wrong.

(Thanks also to Dave Gerstman for his contributions.)

UPDATE (12 April, 2006): See here for more.

Posted by Hube at September 2, 2005 11:45 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Kudos for the nice fisking job on Dana's revisionism. Somebody has to do the work and you made it look easy.

I am a simple guy and much of my emotional, rather than intellectual support for Israel involves a vivid image of the Israeli Jew - half Ninja, half Tasmanian Devil - surrounded by a few million Arab warriors. There is a clear gap between the Jew in the center and the Arab throng. They throw rocks and poke with sticks, but none dare get close because whenever they do there is a blur of activity and a cloud of dust. When the dust clears the Jew is cleaning himself off and a million Arab warriors are nursing wounds and complaining about how the Jew doesn't fight fair.
I have issues with American Jews not speaking out when American Christians are under attack from their liberal colleagues, but no difference on issues will ever result in America abandoning Israel. We just love a feisty underdog and nothing exemplifies that more than little Israel kicking ass and driving all the Jew haters crazy.

Posted by: mikem at September 3, 2005 12:38 AM

I have to agree with your first commenter. My attachment to Israel as the underdog is visceral. It was once a shared vision for the majority of Americans.

Perhaps the Palestinians, aided so thoroughly by the French, were able to capture the victim, underdog image without ever having to produce anything. Before "victimology" became an actual course of study, we admired underdogs who fought back, not victims mired in their helplessness.

And you're right: self-righteousness trumps reason every time. You can feel its presence when the pressure behind your interlocutor's statements seems to build up a head of steam and you want to back away before his head explodes...

Posted by: dymphna at September 7, 2005 05:46 PM

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