January 14, 2009

"Morally vacuous" Engagenik

I just read a wonderful letter in the Guardian. A group of Jewish intellectuals and academics wrote to the Guardian "as Jews" to denounce Israel's latest cull of Palestinians and to call for a boycott of Israel. Next up a professor, Robert Fine, who is also an Engage contributor wrote in to insult the people who dared speak out as Jews. Here's a chunk of his letter that was reproduced in full on the Engage site:
Why does it matter whether "we the undersigned are all of Jewish origin" (Letters, 10 January)? Perhaps it is meant to give a bad argument good authority.
It's usually Hirsh that does that abusive stuff. Maybe he was busy. Anyway, here's a response from a chap called Mike Wayne (that I missed yesterday) to Robert Fine's letter:
Professor Robert Fine asks why it matters that the authors of a collective letter condemning Israel's actions in Gaza should declare their Jewish origins (Letters, 12 January). Is it, he wonders, to "give a bad argument good authority"? No, it is to show that the aggressive colonialism of Israel does not represent the view of all Jews. But is his own signature as "professor" meant to give a bad argument good authority? Is he really saying that the civilian deaths in Gaza are the result not of a genocidal and racist policy, but due to accidental collateral damage and negligence? It is morally vacuous to reduce what is happening in Gaza to an academic seminar which does not confront the horror of what is happening.
Mike Wayne
Good stuff.

So what have we learned from Professor Fine? Beware of morally vacuous arguments.


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