Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On the Tablet Women's March Story

As you've no doubt seen, Tablet published a long investigative piece on the Women's March organization -- covering turmoil in the ranks, weird patterns of money moving around, how the current leadership rose to power and attempted to consolidate its position, and, of course, antisemitism.

Others will no doubt offer more in-depth commentary, but I wanted to give some quick blush reactions to the main themes:

  • This was, on the whole, a well-reported and professional piece. It was not a drive-by, and it was not a hit job. Kudos to the authors on that.
  • I know the antisemitism portions of the article are the sexiest, but I think some are over-extending from the evidence presented. The claims of explicit, overt antisemitism by WM leaders tended to be thinly sourced -- either relying on inference or on accounts by persons unwilling to go on the record. The claims of implicit or negligent antisemitism -- or simple indifference to the needs and concerns of Jewish stakeholders -- were by contrast very well-supported. The latter, of course, is on its own well-worth criticizing.
  • Despite diligent efforts by the authors, it was hard to follow the parts of the article focusing on where money was and wasn't going, or suggestions of improper organizational structures designed to benefit certain insiders. On the whole, the conduct described was the sort where I couldn't really get a bead on how abnormal it was vis-a-vis other like organizations. Were these the sorts of claims you'd could dig up on any decent-sized non-profit if you dug around long enough, or is WM a uniquely bad actor? I couldn't tell.
  • The evidence that the Women's March was liked to Nation of Islam personnel for use in their personal security was relatively well-established. This linkage, of course, casts new light on why the Women's March was so markedly reluctant to condemn Farrakhan. And it is also striking given the conversations occurring on the left critiquing increased police presence in, e.g., synagogues, because of how such presence impacts communities targeted by police violence. The same argument, of course, applies to how queer or Jewish persons must feel knowing that Women's March security relies on a group like NoI. Either Women's March leaders thought about that parallel, or they didn't -- and neither option is all that great.
  • We already knew about serious tension between Women's March national leadership and regional or "rank-and-file" operatives, and this article definitely provides additional support for those who think that some in the former category are really running the ship ego-first, if you will. It definitely seems that some of the leadership viewed Women's March more as their personal fiefdom and launching pad to greater personal glory than as a grassroots, member-led women's organization that wasn't About Them, per se.
Finally, this wasn't in the article, but the response of the Women's March PR flacks -- offering to send journalists a "fact-check", but only if they wouldn't publish it(!?!), while demanding that journalists take down tweets referencing the Tablet story -- has to be one of the biggest own-goals in crisis management we've seen in contemporary journalism. It is the laughing-stock of journalistic Twitter, and -- to the extent the Tablet story suggests the Women's March organization is in disarray and deeply unprofessional -- has done massive work buttressing that narrative.

The Latest Anti-Vaxx Congressman

Newly elected Tennessee GOP congressman Mark Green is a doctor. He's also dipping his toes into the conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism.
A soon-to-be congressman from Tennessee told constituents Tuesday he believed vaccines may be causing autism, denying data from the Centers for Disease Control and other institutions disproving such a theory. 
Not only did Republican Mark Green, a Congressman-elect from Clarksville who is also a medical doctor, express hesitation about the CDC's stance on vaccines, Green said he believed the federal health agency has "fraudulently managed" the data. 
His remarks came in response to an audience question at a town hall meeting in Franklin from a woman identifying herself as the parent of a young adult with autism. The woman was concerned about possible cuts to Medicaid funding. 
"Let me say this about autism," Green said. "I have committed to people in my community, up in Montgomery County, to stand on the CDC’s desk and get the real data on vaccines. Because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines.
Anti-vaxx conspiracies are actually tend to cross ideological borders, though the precise vectors are a little different. On the left, the conspiracies generally focus on greedy pharmaceutical companies selling a bogus product (or worse, infecting children so they can sell yet more bogus products). On the right, the tale usually is one of malicious government bureaucrats or sneaky elites -- this, obviously, is the approach that Green takes.

There's something else interesting about this story, though. You'll note that while Green was responding to a question from a woman whose child has autism, her query did not (at least as reported) mention vaccines at all. She was worried about cuts to Medicaid funding.

Needless to say, "cuts to Medicaid funding threaten the health of my child" is not terrain Republican congressmen particularly like to stand on. Green's pivot to vaccines is not just a random grasp at a conspiracy theory. It is a deliberate political move -- an attempt to change the conversation away from Green's own policy positions (which, of course, are brazen efforts to strip health care from vulnerable populations) and onto something else. Don't blame my votes on Medicaid for threatening your child's health -- blame those sneaky, untrustworthy government bureaucrats!

Anti-vaccine politics, in short, are by no means the exclusive redoubt of the right. But at the moment they have a particular tactical benefit for conservative politicians: they are a ready-made narrative, which unfortunately has attraction for a lot of people, that distracts attention from their own unpopular policies and instead diverts attention elsewhere. That it also (in its conservative iteration) helps spread suspicion of "government" and "elites" in the process is a bonus.

Of course, the raw political benefit of relying on anti-vaccine conspiracies has to be balanced against the Republican Party's commitment to truth, the common good, and adherence to basic moral principles over transient political advantage. In other words, expect right-wing Republicans to begin embracing anti-vaccine politics completely and without any hesitation whatsoever.

What Naftali Bennett Teaches Us About "One State" Politics

Batya Ungar-Sargon has a stellar interview with right-wing Israeli politician (and Minister of Diaspora Affairs) Naftali Bennett. I highly recommend you read the whole thing: it is testament to what can be accomplished when an interviewer doesn't shy from the hard questions and doesn't let up until she gets an answer.

Perhaps the most striking revelation Ungar-Sargon manages to extract from Bennett is that his proposed ideal solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is one where many Palestinians are denied full civil rights in perpetuity.
So you’re saying that the security issues, the threat posed by a potential Palestinian state is such that it’s impossible to grant them full civil rights. 
Yeah. And another element is that we just have one tiny home — the land of Israel. They have I believe 200 times the size, the Arab world, the Muslim nation, the Arab nation, has 200 times the size. We don’t have another land. This is our tiny tract of land and I’m not about to sever it or divide Jerusalem, and 90% of Israelis would never do that.
Bennett's proposed solution (leaving aside Gaza) is for Israel to annex "Area C" of the West Bank and grant citizenship to everyone (Israeli or Palestinian) who lives there (Area C encompasses most of the land in the West Bank, and most of the settlements, but not most of the Palestinian population. Basically, it comprises primarily Israeli settlements and empty space, including -- most critically -- the empty space between Palestinian population centers. Areas A and B are not territorially-contiguous with one another, Area C bisects them into many small chunks). In the rest of the West Bank, and for the remaining Palestinians (the majority of them), Bennett proposes limited self-government but not statehood -- in particular, he does not support granting the Palestinian Authority control over immigration or an independent armed force. Israel would remain the ultimate sovereign authority, but most West Bank Palestinians would be barred from citizenship or voting.

As you might recall from the Marc Lamont Hill debacle, much of the controversy over his UN speech was his call for a single state "from the river to the sea." Hill nominally backs such a one state solution only insofar as it promises equal rights and citizenship for all its denizens; there are quite a few reasons to be skeptical about the vitality of those commitments.

But Bennett's proposal is for a one-state solution, from the river to the sea, which does not even purport to provide for equal rights and citizenship. And here we have a problem that I think demands serious attention and reckoning: it cannot be the case that the call for one state from the river-to-the-sea is more controversial if it (however nominally) carries a promise of equal rights compared to calling for a one state solution without even the patina of equality. If Marc Lamont Hill is beyond the pale, then far more so must be Naftali Bennett.

Of course, the hypocrisy argument depends on the relevant forum: nobody considers Naftali Bennett to be a progressive in good standing. But, particularly in Jewish spaces, we have to be honest with ourselves: who gets policed harder, the Hill-type one-staters or the Bennett-types? We might "disagree" with both, but do we ostracize both? Do we say both violate our partnership guidelines? Do we call for firing both from their media perches?

Certainly, for many progressive Jews -- including many progressive Jewish critics of Hill -- the answer is yes, and kudos for that consistency. But for many more mainline Jews, the answer is not yes, and they'd do well to acknowledge how limp their objections to someone like Hill must sound as a result. They can't cry bloody murder ever implicitly inegalitarian overtones in the call for a secular state for all its citizens if our response to its explicitly inegalitarian cousin is a sort of limp "agree-to-disagree" shrug.

There's one more little tidbit about the interview that I think is clarifying in an interesting way. In his effort to duck and dive around the fundamental injustice of his position, Bennett at various points suggests that the refusal to grant Palestinians (outside Area C) Israeli citizenship is no big deal because they could receive Jordanian citizenship instead. A quick look at a map of where Areas A and B are in relation to Jordan provide some suggestion as to why that's not really a useful offer.

But let's suppose Bennett modified his proposal just slightly. Let's say that he proposed to not just give Palestinians in Areas A and B Jordanian citizenship, but outright agreed to cede those territories back to Jordan outright. We can gerrymander the borders so they're territorially-contiguous with Jordan and each other. The result would be that most settlers (and some West Bank Palestinians) are annexed into Israel, with everyone becoming Israeli citizens; while most West Bank Palestinians become Jordanians.

My bare minimum requirement for a just Israel/Palestine solution is "every permanent resident gets full citizenship and voting rights in the state exercising sovereignty over where they reside." A two-state solution satisfies that criteria, as does a single secular river-to-the-sea state.

Some go further and suggest that this minimalist criteria is, more or less, all that matters -- and in particular, that if this criteria is satisfied, that there are no non-racist or ethnosupremacist justifications for caring about the demographic distribution of the new state. This is the claim that "pro-Palestinian" one-staters often level against two-staters -- that they are exhibiting nothing more than illiberal tribalism insofar as they think it is important and preferable that a Palestinian state have a Palestinian majority and Israel retain a Jewish majority. They are ever-so-nonchalant over the fact that their preferred solution would result in a Palestinian majority over the whole territory and state. Oh it does? Well that's democracy for you. Anybody who has a problem with that might as well back apartheid.

But here's the thing: the hypothetical "divide the West Bank between Israel and Jordan" solution would also satisfy this minimal equal-citizenship criteria (putting aside, for the moment, Jordan's decidedly-less-than-fully-democratic character). In that proposal, everyone gets full citizenship in the state that exercises sovereign jurisdiction over its territory. It happens to result in an arrangement where Palestinians are likely not the governing majority anywhere -- but hey, we're not supposed to care about that, right?

Wrong, obviously. I think most of those who purport to care only of establishing a basically liberal order between the river-and-the-sea would not be keen on a gerrymandered solution where the West Bank and Gaza are divvied up between Israel and its neighbors, even if all the governing jurisdictions were appropriately liberal in character. Insofar as such a state would result in Palestinians getting citizenship but nowhere being Palestine, would it really count as respecting Palestinian self-determination?

I think they'd say no. And I think they're right to say no! Palestinians qua Palestinians deserve a state -- they deserve a Palestinian state, where they exercise self-determination and they get to determine their own destiny. Rigging the borders so that one can claim formal neutrality but Palestinians happen to be minorities in every state is not actually a desirable option. And if I'm write, what this demonstrates is that pretty much everyone cares about demographics to some extent -- they care about collective liberation, they want to ensure that Jews and/or Palestinians as peoples get to self-determine. When they pretend like they're content with a sort of atomized individualism, where so long as everyone gets the ballot nobody has the right to complain, they're almost certainly counting on the assumption that their preferred class -- Jews, or Palestinians -- will be electorally dominant.

Again, I don't think that caring about the collective self-determination rights of Jews or Palestinians makes you a bad liberal. I think it is wholly compatible with liberalism, so long as you respect the rights of both groups to self-determination and your account of self-determination still provides for adequate protections for any minority groups in the state.

But the reason I'm a committed two-stater is that it's very hard to think of another outcome that simultaneously respects the self-determination rights of Jews and Palestinians while also satisfying the minimum equal citizenship threshold. The "make Palestine Jordanian again" proposal does, I think, a good job illustrating why even supposedly "secular" one-staters haven't fully drunk their own kool-aid.

Monday, December 10, 2018

What Happens When BDS Stops "Singling Out" Israel?

One of the most common arguments against BDS is that it "singles out" Israel for special opprobrium, even in the face of far more risible human rights atrocities being conducted elsewhere. This isn't the only argument against BDS, of course, and it is not bullet-proof, but it certainly has a fair bit of purchase. I, for one, think it has considerable legs -- and I'm not particularly convinced by those who act as if they're utterly baffled by the concept that double-standards can be evidence of prejudice.

But what if BDS stops singling out Israel? What happens if the movement to boycott Israel (or -- perhaps more likely -- certain companies alleged to be implicated in human rights violations in Israel and Palestine) becomes just one element of a larger and more comprehensive human rights program, one that really does target other violators under similar rubrics and with similar measures?

It is often asserted that the BDS agenda is one of singling out and bringing about the downfall of Israel. If one looks at the statements and ambitions of BDS founders, and many of its core activists, that's a warranted assessment. At the same time, many anti-BDS activists have suggested that a goodly chunk of what we might call "casual" BDS supporters don't share these more extreme views. Consequently, one often hears that if these more casual supporters were educated on what BDS was "really" about, they wouldn't support it.

Maybe. But it strikes me as at least as likely that they'd react by (a) supporting only a narrower range of demanded remedies (short of "dismantling the state") and (b) widening the array of offending states and parties for whom they think boycotts, divestments, or sanctions are appropriate.

The fact is that "BDS-style" advocacy has become increasingly popular on the left over the past few years, on many matters that have nothing to do with Israel. Think of calls to divest from fossil fuels or private prisons, or boycott campaigns against companies who advertise on this or that racist Fox program. Such initiatives are utterly ordinary on the left these days, they are part of the normal toolkit of progressive activism which is rarely thought to be controversial. People who have participated in these campaigns will find it strange to hear that, when they apply these same sets of tactics to Israel, that they're suddenly "singling out" a solitary wrongdoer. To the extent they find "What about Morocco? What about Russia? What about Turkey? What about Myanmar?" compelling, their most likely response is to shrug and add Morocco, Russia, Turkey, and Myanmar to their list of countries which should also be subjected to these sorts of tactics.

To be clear: this would represent a shift in BDS' orientation. As radical social movements move more mainstream, they typically moderate in both rhetoric and tactics (much to the consternation of the founding activists). The hard core of BDS does want to assert that there is something fundamentally different about Israel that deserves a relatively unique form of opposition -- they don't want the campaign to be genericized or generalized, in part because the sort of BDS which can be universalized across a wide range of human rights violators is almost certainly more confined that the total ostracization that BDS often demands on Israel (a settlement boycott is feasibly universalizable, an academic boycott much less so). They will fulminate bitterly against the "taming" or "domestication" of BDS; lament how it has been "co-opted" by moderates or sell-outs.

But I tend to think that this is a battle they'll lose (indeed, already the more radical elements of this campaign have already regrouped around "anti-normalization", rather than BDS, as an organizing mantra for more extreme measures of anti-Zionist exclusions). Sooner rather than later we'll see "BDS" actions which are not about Israel at all. If Israel is included in these "BDS" campaigns, it will be only because it falls under a more generic rubric of misconduct -- one country among many.

We're already seeing some evidence of this. To give a few examples:
Now to be sure: for now, these sorts of more "universal" BDS practices are sporadic, haphazard, and less well organized than the Israel-focused campaign. Nonetheless, I think this sort of activism is the way the wind is blowing. Instead of resolutions that specifically single out Israel, we'll see resolutions drafted with general language that is designed to include certain Israeli violations alongside similar practices by other nations. Instead of a campaign to ostracize Israel as the worst-of-the-worst, we'll see Israel portrayed as one of many other human rights violators, treated no worse and no better, with certain BDS actions as part of a range of tactics -- carrots and sticks -- designed to entice it towards improvements.

The bad news, for BDS opponents, is that this makes it harder to cast BDS as the product of single-minded anti-Israel fanaticism. The good news is that -- precisely because its rank-and-file aren't single-minded anti-Israel fanatics, they're more likely to channel BDS energies away from its most uncompromising and extremist ambitions and tactics: less academic boycott, more settlement boycott; less "Jews are European colonizers", more "end the occupation".

This will not be a smooth transition, and it won't be without a fight. The fact that organizations like Human Rights Watch still do often announce initiatives calling for a boycott of Israeli settlements, rather than "settlements", generally, seem like obvious own-goals if the group is trying to portray itself as adopting a universal human rights mission -- the likely explanation, then, is that the particularist Israel-focus continues to be a powerful mobilizing, mobilizing, and fund-raising tool. Likewise, there will no doubt be some who try to smuggle in a distinctive Israel-focus under the guise of "universal" language, gerrymandering the terms of debate so that Israel is the only country included.

Still, I suspect that five or ten years from now -- assuming no drastic changes in the Israel/Palestine situation -- that descriptive accuracy of the "singles out" complaint will have shrunk considerably. And then ... what? What happens to anti-BDS advocacy when this crucial talking point goes away? I don't think this automatically makes BDS a good strategy -- it depends on the particular targets and the particular context its operating in (again, settlement boycotts are far more justifiable than inside-the-green-line campaigns, much less cultural or academic boycotts).

But the reflexive pointing at the roots of BDS -- for whom "singles out" absolutely is a fair charge -- has blinded much of the Jewish establishment to where BDS is going. And I don't think our community is prepared for that future.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Antisemitic Hate Crimes are Like Any Other Hate Crimes

I want to flag three different stories about antisemitic hate crimes, all in service in the same fundamental message: Hate crimes which target Jews are not distinct from other hate crimes. They'd do it to Jews, they'd do it to other people too.

Case #1 is a sentencing decision in New York, where a judge gave no jail time to a man who
allegedly entered a Jewish nursing home in the Bronx and proceeded to "terroriz[e] residents," punctuating his rampage by "repeatedly bashing an 84-year-old man on the head with a fire extinguisher while shouting, 'I’m going to kill you, you mother f—ng Jew!'"
The judge concluded that the offender had a drug and alcohol problem, and recommended in-patient treatment in lieu of incarceration.

As someone who generally thinks we overincarcerate, I'm always leery about coming down too hard on judges for handing down sentences viewed as too lenient (this was always my worry in regarding the successful recall effort of Judge Aaron Persky, who gave only a six month sentence to a Stanford student convicted a rape). Of course, one can think we overincarcerate and also believe that a zero day prison term seems a bit light. But the bigger point is just to emphasize that Jews are not different from other groups in that, even in cases of brutal assaults, it is not the case that the rage of the criminal justice system reflexively rouses itself on our behalf.

Case #2 concerns a recent spate of alleged attacks on Bukharin Jews in Queens, which the NYPD has thus far refused to classify as hate crimes. I mention this in the context of the oft-reported statistic that Jews are among the most common victims of hate crimes in America (including, by far, being the most targeted religious group), and the occasional retort one hears to this fact that most of the reported cases are "only" vandalism or property crimes.

As these cases demonstrate, though, there is considerable concern in the Jewish community that many of the more severe attacks against us don't get recorded as hate crimes (even if they are acknowledged as crimes). To take a striking example: the 2014 FBI hate crimes dataset records no instances of homicides stemming from antisemitic motivations. Why is that striking? Because 2014 was the year where a White Supremacist killed three people at a Kansas City-area JCC. While it was reported at the time that the suspect would face hate crimes charges, the offense apparently never made it into the FBI database.

Again, the point here is that it isn't the case -- as some imply -- that the high levels of reported antisemitic violence is an artifact of the police being ready to jump on each and every incident which has even a whiff of antisemitic motivation. For Jews, like for anyone else, it can be a hard, uphill slog to even have severe violence against us acknowledged to be, and reported as, an incidence of hate.

Case #3 is actually two cases -- one of the Queens incidents mentioned above, and a Menorah vandalized in broad daylight in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In both cases, non-Jewish bystanders immediately came to the aid of the victimized Jewish community -- chasing away the attackers in Queens, helping put the Menorah back upright in Cambridge.

Here, we see a different sort of similarity between Jewish and non-Jewish hate crimes targets: For each, there are good people of all backgrounds, races, religions and creeds, who will stand up and do the right thing. Antisemitism is real, racism is real, Islamophobia is real, misogyny is real, homophobia is real -- all these things are real. But there are allies, and there are helpers. We're not alone. Thankfully, having friends who have our backs is another thing that Jews and non-Jews still have in common.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Lessons from the UN's Failure to Condemn Hamas

A UN General Assembly resolution that would have condemned Hamas for terrorism and incitement was rejected today. The resolution received a majority of votes (87-57, with 36 abstentions), but did not pass after an earlier vote pushed by the Arab League successfully required the resolution to secure a two-third majority.

Some lessons to draw:

  • Let's not get too excited about Israel's new "friendship" with Arab states. There's been a lot of talk about Israel's increasingly warm ties with Arab nations, and to be fair, it isn't entirely a mirage. But it hasn't progressed anywhere close to the point where an Arab state is willing to vote to condemn a Palestinian actor in an international forum. American diplomats had sought to pick off at least a few Arab League nations as aye votes -- not only did they not succeed, they didn't even convince these countries to adopt the potentially face-saving route of voting against the resolution while allowing it pass or fail on a majority vote. Push came to shove, and the Arab League continued to stand as a rock-solid wall against anything that looks like it might deviate away from the UN's extreme and reflexive anti-Israel slant.
  • Nothing that is viewed as a "victory for Trump" is going to pass easy, particularly when it comes to the Middle East. As much as everyone likes to tout Nikki Haley, miracle-worker, the fact is that the Trump Administration's bull-in-a-china-shop orientation to foreign policy has severely circumscribed its negotiating leverage in international fora. This resolution, had it passed, would have been viewed as a major international triumph for the Trump administration. Nobody wants to give Donald Trump a major triumph in anything right now. In large respect, the failure of this resolution is the fruit of Trump's alienating unilateral recklessness in decisions like the embassy move. Trump-tactics come with a cost, and it's paid in the defeat of resolutions like this.
  • Is criticizing Palestine the "last taboo" in international diplomacy? We hear so much about how it's "impossible" or "taboo" to criticize Israel. Clearly, nobody has ever told the UN that -- it criticizes Israel all the time (indeed, sometimes it seems like it literally spends all of its time criticizing Israel). But, as this resolution demonstrates, even a single solitary denunciation of Hamas (not even the Palestinian Authority -- just Hamas!) yields a knockdown, drag-out fight -- and a fight that few are surprised to see Hamas ultimately win. That's a testament to just how sacrosanct and untouchable the United Nation's anti-Israel orientation really is.
  • Chile, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland (among many others) are weasel states. I mentioned before that the Arab League successfully moved to require that the anti-Hamas resolution require a two-third majority. That vote was extremely close -- it passed by a 75-72 margin, with 26 abstentions. Among the abstaining states were Chile, Norway, New Zealand, and Switzerland -- all of whom proceeded to vote in favor of the resolution they'd just ensured could not pass. Nice try. Even worse than them were states like Argentina, Japan, and the Bahamas, who outright voted in favor of the two-thirds requirement before voting to pass the resolution. Nobody is fooled by this play.

Edward Said on the One-State Solution

Edward Said was a fervent proponent of a one-state, binational solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But unlike some, he at least recognized legitimate reasons to worry about it. These quotes, from an interview Said did with Israeli journalist Ari Shavit, are very illuminating:
 On the status of the Jews in the bi-national state he tirelessly advocated, Said told Shavit, “But the Jews are a minority everywhere. They are a minority in America. They can certainly be a minority in Israel.” 
Regarding the fate of that minority in Arab Palestine, Said conceded, “I worry about that. The history of minorities in the Middle East has not been as bad as in Europe, but I wonder what would happen. It worries me a great deal. The question of what is going to be the fate of the Jews is very difficult for me. I really don’t know. It worries me.” 
In addressing this concern, the critic of imperialism looks to “the larger unit” and recalls another empire. “Yes. I believe it is viable. A Jewish minority can survive the way other minorities in the Arab world survived. I hate to say it, but in a funny sort of way, it worked rather well under the Ottoman Empire, with its millet system.  What they had then seems a lot more humane than what we have now”
Each of these are interesting in their own way. The first is striking for just how blase it is -- Jews have been minorities before, they can be minorities again. What's the big deal?

Of course, history suggests that it might be quite a big deal, and in the next segment Said -- to his credit -- at least acknowledges that. In contrast to those who suggest that only an Islamophobe could possibly worry about the status of Jews as minorities in a single state, Said at least has the historical literacy to recognize there are real reasons for concerns. It "worries" him. It worries us too! It's a very real and live worry!

And then the final section, which is perhaps the most ironic -- calling back to an older, truly imperial order where the territory was not in Jewish or Palestinian hands. Maybe things were better off when some third party was in charge and could force the Jews and the Palestinians to stop squabbling and live together. Call it the "no state for two people" solution -- but the yearning for a far more explicit period of foreign dominion is, to say the least, fascinating from a figure like Said.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Republicans Don't Care About Democracy

I remember, after Trump won, but before he was inaugurated, reading some cockamamie plan for how Democrats could get Merrick Garland's nomination through the Senate. It had to do with when new Senators were sworn in and Joe Biden presiding over the Senate for the last time and basically meant slamming the nomination through during an extremely short period when the new Senate members hadn't officially taken office so the body was operating at just two-thirds of normal capacity -- with those two-thirds happening to have a Democratic majority.

I had no idea if it would actually work. And it's not as if I didn't understand the temptation. But I distinctly remember -- as despondent as I was over the election results, and as furious as I was about how Senate Republicans acted regarding Garland -- that this just wasn't fair play. It was an obvious abuse of form over substance, designed to subvert the outcome of a democratic election. There were, I thought, deeper dangers that lurked about when that sort of move became acceptable.

With what we're seeing in Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina, that is feeling more and more like a sucker's move.

As the 2016 election season closed, we all remember the alarms raised when Donald Trump indicated he wouldn't necessarily accept the results if he lost. That fear was mooted when he ended up winning -- though we got a taste of it in North Carolina -- but now two years later we're seeing these anti-democratic impulses surge back in full force.

What has become evident is that the principle of majority rule scarcely even has pull as a reason when it comes to the Republican Party. The blase attitude toward the fact that in four of the last five presidential elections their candidate has lost the majority vote is one thing, as is their unsurprising reverence for the massively anti-democratic effects of the Senate.

But couple it to the ruthless use of partisan gerrymandering, which has allowed for Republicans to retain massive legislative majorities even in states where they are in the electoral minority. Couple with it open use of voter suppression techniques, often tracking racial lines, usually done with the outright endorsement of conservative judges. Couple it with transparently partisan power grabs like those we're seeing this week. And couple it, of course, with the overwhelming popularity amongst Republicans of an undemocratic thug like Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office.

Put all those couplings together, and you have a Republican Party that at this point that cannot be said to value democracy. Indeed, given their conduct over the past few years, it's almost impossible to put together a good-faith case that Republicans do care about majority rule. That's not something we could say 20 years ago. But it poses an existential threat to the continued vitality of the American experiment.

So let's be clear: If the republic falters, it will be the Scott Walkers, the Robin Vos's, the Pat McCrorys, just as much as the Donald Trumps, who will deserve blame, and who will and should go down as villains in the American history books.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Vectors of Threat for Academic Freedom

The prospect that Temple Professor Marc Lamont Hill might be dismissed from his tenured university position -- the Chair of the Temple University's Board of Trustees said he would "look at what remedies we have", but suggested that many on the board and the administration would like to fire Hill -- has sparked a renewed round of the ever-popular "who's the real threat to academic freedom" game. For all the belly-aching conservatives have issued over liberal universities which can't tolerate opposing viewpoints, there sure are a lot of cases where conservatives have successfully censored progressive academics!

I doubt that Hill will end up being fired, and it's been good to say many conservative academics make clear that any such university sanction would be an egregious violation of academic freedom (see, e.g., Robert George, Jonathan Marks, and Keith Whittington -- FIRE, which sometimes is viewed as conservative though I don't think that reputation is deserved, also has come out swinging backing Hill's academic freedom rights).

But this case did help crystallize in my mind the different vectors of threats to academic freedom, which may help explain how both the left and the right think it's self-evident that the "other side" is the real danger (beyond the usual self-serving reasons I mean). To generalize:
When threats to academic freedom bubble "up" from below -- come from students or faculty -- they tend to come from the left;
When threats to academic freedom percolate "down" from above -- come from politicians or the Board of Trustees -- they tend to come from the right.
Front-line administrators (like Deans), who can encounter pressure from both sources, are "swing votes".

No doubt there are exceptions. And I hasten to add that this typology only holds on a political axis -- along other axes of campus identity (e.g., racial, sexual, or religious lines), there are different stories to be told about who and what prevents certain groups from engaging as equals in campus discourse.

But on the purely political side of things, and based on my admittedly non-scientific recollection of cases, this distinction seems to hold up pretty well. Start with the threats progressives face: It is the Temple Board of Trustees threatening Hill's job. Steven Salaita was "unhired" by the Univeristy of Illinois' Board, validating a decision by the Chancellor. It was UNC's board which voted to shut down centers and clinics which clashed with conservative political priorities, for nakedly political reasons.

If you move over to cases of conservative academics being targeted, examples like Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State or Charles Murray at Middlebury are primarily cases of student behavior. Academic BDS campaigns almost exclusively emanate from students or faculty, while facing strong administrative resistance (see Pitzer or Michigan). And the more general claims that conservative views are "unwelcome" or that college is an "unsafe space" to be a conservative are typically directed at the conduct and outlook of students and faculty.

No doubt this divergence is in large part attributable to the relative political make-up of college faculties and students versus governing boards or political overseers (in retrospect, it also explained the instincts behind my "Do Jews Need a Protest Politic" post, which posited that campus groups who protect their rights via administrative action rather than student protests will automatically code as conservative). But the differences between these threat-vectors has significant practical ramifications, that go far in explaining why both conservatives and liberals think they're the primary victims of academic freedom violations.

On the one hand, it perhaps shouldn't surprise -- though many people were surprised -- that there have been more "political" firings of left-wing professors on campus than right-wing professors, and the gap has gotten bigger over the past few years. And if you think of who has the capacity to issue blunt, sweeping, heavy-handed assaults on academic freedom -- terminating employment, shuttering a program, passing a law -- then that figure makes sense. For the most part, students and faculty can't do that (or at least, not with much greater expenditures effort).

So the liberals can justly point out to the conservatives that, if they're the political orientation threatened by the elements within academia that have the de jure authority to end a career or eliminate a program with the stroke of a pen, then they are the group more threatened by academic freedom violations -- period.

But there's another way of viewing the problem. It's true that boards and politicians have greater blunt dominative authority which, when exercised, poses a greater threat to academic freedom than any power faculty or students hold. But it's also true that board and politicians "touch" the day-to-day operations of academia far more infrequently than faculty and students do. What the latter lack in bluntness, they make up for in terms of omnipresence -- the conservative complaint regarding the state of academic freedom tends to rely less on direct cases of censorship by administrators and more about an atmosphere or mood where certain views are shunned or difficult to air (see this profile of conservative women at UNC, or this account from NYU). It is not a single act of censorial pronouncement that silences conservatives on campus, but the constant prick and needle of dismissiveness, eye rolls, "jokes", and shunning that together creates a landscape where conservative views are effectively unable to be aired.

So the conservatives could reply by saying that a few stray bolts of administrative lightning might be flashy, but they hardly overwhelm the suffocating blanket of ubiquitous liberalism which they see as draped over their academic communities. It is nuts, they would argue, to suggest that in general academic squelches liberal ideas and facilitates conservative ones.

One reason that I suspect progressives would find this argument frustrating is that it adopts a view of power that conservatives tend not to find attractive in other contexts. When speaking of racism, for example, conservatives are not generally sympathetic to any understanding of the term other than deliberate de jure action by an official authority. The complaints about eye rolls and dismissals are -- dare I say it -- best characterized as "microaggressions", and we all know how conservatives feel about those.

This framework also has some difficulty distinguishing between bad de facto "censorship" and simple widespread negative reactions to ideas. After all, thinking "this idea is wrong" -- or even "this idea is racist" -- is not censorship, it's judgment. That one's speeches are met with protests, one's classroom contributions are met with snickers, and that nobody wants to date you after that column you wrote calling abortion murder -- none of these would be viewed as a form of oppression by conservatives but for the fact that conservatives are experiencing them.

Hence, the conservative appeal to this framework in the academic context reasonably comes off as opportunistic. It also opens the door to a more expansive liberal retort, identifying a still-further basic threat to, if not "academic freedom", then at least the diverse and pluralistic exchange of ideas. If academia is built for a particular type of student -- one who is, on average, wealthier and Whiter than America writ large, then it follows that certain types of views and arguments will most likely be systematically underrepresented and underconsidered. If, for example, campuses are poorly equipped to engage with and include undocumented immigrant students, that likely has an impact on the way campus debates about immigration will proceed. This argument relies on a similar (albeit not identical) understanding of power as does the conservative case; if they admit one, they really should have to admit the other.

Be that as it may, I do think that a focus on the vectors of threats to academic freedom -- the different ways in which those threats manifest when they stem from politicians and boards (right targeting left) versus when they stem from faculty and students (left targeting right) -- can help explain the sense of talking past each other that is so prevalent in these conversations. 

Brazen acts of censorship, firings, or political interference are more likely to stem from the right. Day-to-day discomfort, including microaggressions, and an overall atmosphere of having to "walk on eggshells" are more likely to be the product of the left -- though any consistent theory of academic freedom then has to also admit that these same dynamics might also "censor" or "chill" other campus outgroups (such as racial, religious, or sexual minorities). The former is more nakedly wrong and more individually dangerous, but also rarer. The latter is more omnipresent, but also primarily an issue in aggregate and in any event more complicated at the case level.

And then even below those, there's a whole additional layer of ideas and perspectives which are not aired on campus because their proponents never make it to campus, because campus isn't built for them. Different vectors, all threatening the pluralistic exchange of ideas in different ways.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

"From the River to the Sea": A Guide to the Perplexed

So we're all talking about the phrase "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" -- which, after Temple Professor Marc Lamont Hill said it at a UN conference, reportedly caused his termination from CNN.

I don't want to talk about Hill directly though. Quickly: He should face absolutely zero professional consequences at Temple -- that's a straightforward academic freedom issue. There is no academic freedom analogue to a sinecure at CNN, but I probably wouldn't have fired him either -- then again, I have a pretty high bar for firing people in cases like these. Certainly, the network that employs Rick Santorum doesn't have much of a leg to stand on in this respect.

What I do want to do is give some context -- hopefully helpful -- to the slogan "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." I do not wish to directly challenge anyone's substantive political commitments on the score. Much the opposite: my assumption is that there are a great many people for whom the phrase "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" sounds wholly innocuous if not laudatory -- who doesn't want freedom for all people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea? -- and are a bit baffled that such a statement could trigger such an intense backlash.

In particular, my target audience is someone I imagine thinking along roughly the following lines:
  1. They support freedom for all people who happen to reside between the Jordan and Mediterranean;
  2. They read "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" as a pithy way of expressing the above commitment;
  3. They've noted, with some confusion, that many Jews seemed to react extremely poorly to the use of this phrase; and
  4. They assume that there's at least a decent chance that the reason for this negative reaction is not that the Jews in question are opposed to all or some people between the Jordan and the Mediterranean being free, and accordingly wonder what the actual reason is.
That fourth proviso is important. I say that while fully recognizing the sad truth that there are plenty of people -- Jewish and not -- who really don't desire or care about the freedom of all people in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.

Still, I stress this element because I think that thinking along these lines is a good habit to get into: when a marginalized group reacts with strong negativity towards a statement or program which seems, on a facial semantic level, wholly unobjectionable or laudable, it's good practice to hold open the possibility that they have reasons for their rejection that are not purely venal, selfish, or stupid. 

This is habit shouldn't just extend to Jews, of course. In the recent controversies over Louis Farrakhan's antisemitism, for example, some Black (including some Black Jewish) authors expressed concern over the way discourse on antisemitism honed in on Farrakhan. Many White people, for whom Farrakhan's antisemitism, homophobia, and all-around awfulness seemed obvious and uncontroversial, were perplexed by this response, and some resolved that confusion by saying "wow, Black people just can't condemn even obvious bigots like Louis Farrakhan!" But this was a bad response. Certainly, some people had that problem (just as some people really do simply object to the notion of a free Palestinian people). But a cursory reading of many of the authors in question would demonstrate that their issues had nothing to do with failing to recognize Farrakhan's bigotry. The better move was to instead figure that the hesitation regarding how the Farrakhan/antisemitism discourse was proceeding stemmed from something more complicated than the naked inability to see obvious antisemitism for what it is.

So, to swing it back to the case at hand: when Jews respond poorly to a statement that you read as simply an uncontroversial call for freedom, you can either think (1) "wow, Jews sure do hate freedom!" or (2) "wow, there's probably something more complicated going on here -- I should investigate!" This post is dedicated to those who take door #2.

Enough throat-clearing. What is the "more complicated" that drives many Jews' sharp antipathy to the phrase "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free"?

First, some history. This phrase does indeed predate Hamas. But its historical pedigree has tended to be tied to more maximalist elements of Palestinian politics -- the branch which really doesn't see a place for Jews (or at least an equal place) anywhere in Israel or Palestine, and who have at times quite explicitly endorsed the project of pushing Jews into the sea.

At the most basic level, then, the triggering aspects of "from the river to the sea" stem from its association with a brand of violent anti-Zionist maximalism which, particularly around the War of Independence in 1948, spoke of throwing Jews into the sea (the internet is replete with debates over whether this or that Arab leader really said this or that precise quotation, but there doesn't seem to be much controversy that the general rhetoric of "pushing them into the sea" was present at that time and was perceived as a genocidal threat).

The traumatic associations here cannot be overstated -- just a few years after a third of the world's Jewish population was massacred, a goodly chunk of the survivors living in the nascent Israeli state were threatened with a renewed genocide that promised the Jews living west of the river that they would soon find their final resting place in the sea. Insofar as "from the river to the sea" reverberates with that history, it should not surprise that it is viewed as a threat.

The above account explains why, for some Jews, the "river to the sea" rhetoric is perceived as outright genocidal, and for many, that's enough. But another line is that the "river to the sea" language is a call for the "destruction of Israel." In broad strokes, this claim is that the slogan seeks the elimination of the state "Israel" and its replacement with something else -- namely "Palestine" (think the "Make Israel Palestine Again" slogan). This interpretation presents a more complex case.

The question of when a state is "destroyed" is peculiarly metaphysical -- it evokes the Ship of Theseus -- but the slogan's defenders seem to have an apt rejoinder: they are not calling for the destruction of Israel, but its reformation. All they want, in Hill's articulation, is a secular, equal state -- not a "Jewish" state or a "Palestinian" state, but a state for all its citizens where all those permanently residing between the river and the sea enjoy the same, full, free rights. Just as America didn't stop being America when it passed the Fourteenth Amendment or the Civil Rights Act, neither would Israel cease to be Israel if it changed its laws to provide for that vision of secular liberal equality. It would simply be an Israel with better laws and institutions than Israel does now. And just as urging civil rights for American Blacks did not entail desiring the subjugation of American Whites, neither is calling for freedom for Palestinians a demand for the oppression of Israeli Jews.

One interesting feature of this rejoinder, however, is that it suggests that the slogan need not actually be "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." It could just as easily run "from the river to the sea, Israel will be free." Indeed, on a purely semantic level, that would seem to be the more accurate expression. The state that currently exists, and where objectionable unfreeness currently obtains, is Israel. The state which would be passing the equivalent of the Civil Rights Act would be Israel, not Palestine. If the political program on the table is really a set of statutory reforms designed to provide secular equality, the name of the state need not change.

Nonetheless, I suspect that most of those who chant "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" would reject the substitution. This suggests that there is a replacement going on: Israel-with-better-laws is not viewed as the same thing as a free Palestine. That, in turn, indicates that the political ambitions are not reducible to simply establishing political rules in the river-to-sea territory that replace "Israeli" or "Palestinian" or "Jew" or "Arab" with just "citizens".

The trick is that the slogan does not refer to freeing Palestinians. It speaks of freeing Palestine -- a territory, not a people. When we speak of freeing a people, we usually are referring to individuals who lack certain legal rights and prerogatives. When we speak of freeing a territory, we usually are speaking of a land that is under foreign dominion. The former is the language of, e.g., segregation -- people lacking full citizenship rights. The latter is the language of the occupation: Palestine, the land, is ruled by outsiders -- i.e., Israel. This status would not itself be cured by the extension of citizenship rights (any more than, say, France giving Algeria equality in the French state would have "freed" Algeria, though it arguably would have freed the Algerians). And this also explains why a slogan saying "Israel will be free" rings so odd: free from who? Israel already controls the territory in question; there's no foreign domination to speak of. It is Palestine that currently is occupied by an external power, and so it is Palestine, not Israel, that needs to be freed.

Put another way: the grammar of the slogan gives a hint as to what is meant by the word "free". It isn't the freedom of individual liberties implied by a call for a secular, equal state; it is the freedom of liberating an occupied territory from foreign domination. That's not wrong, it's just different. If I wrote "from California to Texas, Mexico will be free", any normal reader would take that to be saying that this entire stretch of territory should be under the rule of Mexico -- that these Mexican territories are under the foreign domination of the United States, but one day they will be freed (restored to Mexico). You can endorse that revanchist claim or not, but it'd be very weird for me to insist that this slogan actually was just urging that the Chicano/a community be treated fairly by whatever country happened to rule from California to Texas.

So let me stress: on its own, the claim that there is a territory "Palestine" that is currently under alien rule by Israel is not objectionable. Indeed, it is the locus insight of a two-state solution: there is a Palestine -- the West Bank and Gaza -- which Israel occupies or has occupied, that territory is not Israel's (i.e., Israel is a foreign or alien power to it), and that territory should revert to Palestinian control. Likewise there are territories which are properly Israeli (they are not foreign or alien, these lands are its "homelands"), and so those territories are rightfully under Israeli control. Put aside the usual half-million complications, and this is roughly my position: Israel should control Israel, and Palestine should control Palestine. Two states for two peoples.

But the formulation of viewing Israel as the alien outsider occupying the land of Palestine is not the same thing as a call for equal rights. More to the point,, this formulation takes an ugly turn when it is conjoined with "from the river to the sea". Whereas in the two-state model there is an equality between Israeli and Palestinian entitlements -- both are "home" in at least some of the territory, neither are wholly alienated or excluded -- if Palestine as a political entity extends from the river-to-the-sea, then none of the territory is "Israel's", Israel is foreign to all of it, and the demand that it be reverted to Palestinian control really is a demand that Israel disappear in a very tangible way. In a different way, this would be the (or a) problem with "Greater Israel" -- it implies that Palestine is nowhere, that there is no Palestine to be freed (which, of course, is a claim right-wing Israelis make all the time -- "there's no such thing as Palestine" -- and suggesting that Palestinians are foreign interlopers on Jewish land).

The "Make Israel Palestine Again" slogan crystallizes the view that -- beyond the particular legal regime that might be enacted -- there is something more fundamentally wrong about there being an "Israel" of any sort, that it represents a sort of alien intrusion whose existence in itself thwarts the existence of a free Palestine. Palestine is not fully free so long as there is an Israel, because any territory that Israel might occupy is occupied. When Hill said that he "just got off of a flight from Palestine", referring to a flight that almost assuredly departed from (pre-67) Israel, he's not making a statement about the existence or not of legal rights. He's making a statement about the true lawful ownership of land that has been usurped. The land -- all the land -- is Palestine. Israel -- all of Israel -- is a foreign occupation. And while I don't think it is fair to Hill to suggest he supports genocide against Israeli Jews, I do think it is fair to say he believes that the great bulk of Israeli Jews are fundamentally foreign interlopers anywhere the reside from the river to the sea -- which is why he can characterize the entire conflict is being "about land theft, expulsion and ethnic cleansing by foreign settlers to indigenous land."

If the entire presence of Israel anywhere from the river to the sea is an alien imposition on Palestine, then the net result is that Jews are deemed foreigners everywhere from the river to the sea. In addition to echoing some specific antisemitic tropes (the Jew as the eternal outsider/foreigner/wanderer), this sort of otherization very often comes attached to decidedly inegalitarian projects and attitudes towards Jews, and accordingly it tends to cause skepticism about the feasibility, durability, and sometimes sincerity of professed commitments to full equality in a secular state. At the very least, it isn't really compatible with the professed neutrality of this state -- one group is in its home, the other is at most a tolerated outsider. At the extreme, triggers those more terrifying "into the sea" worries (even if here the Jews might be given the courtesy of boats, that they might "go back where they came from").

This connection is far from speculative. When Helen Thomas snapped that Jews in Israel should "get the hell out" and "go back to Poland", Mondoweiss suggested that this was a salutary gesture -- it would certainly inject some new vigor into Polish Jewish life (as one Jewish wag replied, "I'm deeply touched by this gesture of philanthropic ethnic cleansing."). More recently, I recall reading a thread by a (Jewish) anti-Zionist who acknowledged that, if and when Palestine was freed "from the river to the sea", it was very likely that many Jews in Israel would leave. This, he assured us, was not a bad thing or a problematic thing -- it was a normal fact of decolonization, no different from the pied-noirs returning to France upon Algeria's independence. The incongruity of where "returning" would refer to in the Jewish case -- what, exactly, was our France in this scenario? -- was overlooked, as was the sheer historical audacity of just assuming that a sudden mass migration of Jews would be absorbed by the other nations of the world without any friction whatsoever. Such troublesome thoughts are easy to avoid thinking, when one sees Jews in Israel as settlers, colonizers, foreigners, and outsiders -- of course they can go back to "where they came from".

So in addition to the historical pedigree, another reason why "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" might provoke a strong reaction is that it is taken to imply that Jews are foreign to all of the land from the river-to-the-sea, that we are outsiders and interlopers in its entirety, that the goal isn't the creation of a Palestinian state but the elimination of a Jewish homeland, that Palestine will be freed only when Israel is gone, and that while our departure from the land may or may not be explicitly desired, it will not be viewed as any more tragic than any other colonizer uprooted from lands he had occupied.

So those are some associations or implications of the "river to the sea" slogan that help explain why many Jews react so strongly against it. There is a particular historical overlay between this rhetoric and the more explicitly violent, even genocidal, rhetoric that has been directed at Israel since its foundation; there is also the implied demand that "Israel" be struck down and replaced by "Palestine" -- suggesting that more than just a demand for equal citizenship and a neutral state is at issue -- and the corresponding portrayal of Jews as utterly and completely foreign presences in all the river-to-the-sea land.

Perhaps you find these rationales compelling, perhaps not. But -- as odd as this is to say -- my goal wasn't exactly to persuade.

Recall what I said my ambition was and who I said my desired audience was. My audience was those persons who found the slogan innocuous and who were confused why so many Jews reacted so sharply against it; my ambition was to explain those reactions in ways that don't reduce to "Jews hate the idea of Palestinians being free."

What had concerned me most about much of what I had been reading wasn't that many people thought this slogan was a straightforward and praiseworthy call for freedom. It was the jump from "this slogan seems to be about freedom" to "if Jews object to this slogan, it must be because they hate freedom." The jump should have been to "if Jews object to this slogan, there's probably something more at work -- and while I don't know if learning what it is will change my mind, I should at least by willing to hear it out".

I do not think that, if you had never heard "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", the case for why this slogan raises Jewish hackles is self-evident. I just dumped a lot of history and analysis on you; I fully get why someone who isn't versed in that history or analysis would hear those words and not have it raise any alarm bells whatsoever. Indeed, I get why some might be perplexed at how it even could raise alarm bells for someone else. I also get why someone who wasn't versed in the relevant history and was dropped from a mountain hut wouldn't immediately get why "all lives matter" is objectionable. Context is something acquired, it isn't innate. We can't ask for people to be born with the necessary context. We can ask that they be aware that there might be context left to acquire.

So I tried to give context, and hopefully you found the context informative and maybe even persuasive. But I'll frame my ambitions even more modestly: all I hope to have accomplished is that, even if you didn't find my above analysis ultimately persuasive, you would nonetheless agree it presents an explanation for Jewish unease or unhappiness about this slogan that isn't flatly risible, as it would be if we simply detested Palestinian freedom. At the very least, there's a genuine issue here that goes beyond the superficially absurd. And if that seems like a rather small victory, think of how big of a step it is from "these people just hate the idea of Palestinian freedom."

This is the habit I seek to inculcate. Whether we're talking about Jews or any other outgroup, it is good practice to assume that if alarms are raised, they're probably not raising them based on the obviously stupid, venal, or self-interested reasons. There's a strong chance there's something more complicated going on.

So go ahead and assume we have the basic capacity for empathy, reasoning, and analysis that would take us beyond the obvious traps, and see where the path takes you. Maybe you conclude we're still wrong. Maybe you conclude that we're right. Maybe there's a more nuanced position in the middle you end up landing on. No matter what, you've done us the service of treating us as epistemic equals. And that's no small thing.