Reason, not Rhetoric

by Andrew Arthur Schmidt | 5/24/02 5:00am

To the Editor:

Michael Mello's passionate rhetoric criticizing Chris Hedges lacks the logical reasoning expected of a Vermont Law School professor's editorial. Mello's attack against the pro-Palestinian reporter rests on the assertion that Hedges is a closet anti-Semite even though he says he supports Israel's right to exist.

Mello offers proof that Hedges does not accept an Israeli state. He writes of Hedges: "Consider his comparisons and characterizations. Israelis as modern slaveholders. Can anyone today argue that a state that supports slavery ought not disappear from the face of the earth? Israel as today's version of South African apartheid. Is the world not better off with the destruction of the South African apartheid state? Israel as 'ethnic cleanser.' Wasn't Hitler an 'ethnic cleanser?'"

Since all of these states were bad and Hedges says Israel is bad, then logically he thinks that Israel should be destroyed, and he is an anti-Semite.

I support the United States' right to exist even as a former bastion of slavery. I support South Africa's right to exist even though the state was oppressive. I even support Germany's right to existence after committing the most atrocious crimes in history. And I support an Israeli state that respects human dignity and international law.

Chris Hedges criticizes the oppressive actions of the Israeli government and calls for it to change its actions. He even criticizes the Israeli people for supporting the government. But this is not proof that he is anti-Semitic any more than criticizing slavery made Lincoln anti-American. Yes, Professor Mello, one can "argue that a state that supports slavery ought not disappear from the earth." Only slavery must disappear. Only the illegal occupation and the settlements must disappear.

Waving the anti-Semitic wand to fend off any criticism of Israel is dangerous. It stifles dialogue, and it weakens a term that can be used to defend the Jewish people against the racist and religious intolerance of hateful people.

Reason, not rhetoric, will bring eventual peace.