Post in Which I Disagree With Ilya Somin

I read The Volokh Conspiracy on a daily basis. It’s in the blogroll. I don’t agree with a percentage of what’s said there, but most of the posts are extremely well-written.

Ilya Somin had a post yesterday titled “Why Does Israel Get So Much More Left Wing Criticism than France?” Note that it’s not a right wing talking point type of deal; he didn’t just pull the topic out of thin air, it was inspired by another post by Sasha Volokh suggesting the connection between anti-Israeli sentiment and antisemitism is overstated that made an analogy to France.

I am not going to do a quote-respond on it, but I don’t agree with a big part of it. I have three main issues.

First: I could easily turn the question around and ask why France receives so much more right-wing criticism than Israel. Yes, I am familiar with tu quoque, but that’s not my point. I just see it as an example of how ridiculous the question can seem when it doesn’t match one’s ideology.

Second: Somin emphasizes only the differences between Israel and France that are convenient to his argument. France is bigger and stronger than Israel, with a long and questionable foreign policy history. That is true. But France also wasn’t created out of thin air on territory that was already inhabited a little over a half-century ago either. Nor is it the only functioning democracy in a volatile region. And I could go on. The comparison is apples and oranges, at best.

Third: “From any objective viewpoint, France’s policies are far more important than Israel’s and deserve far greater attention.” Really? Any objective viewpoint? The only democracy in the region, the homeland of the Jews, the number one recipient of US foreign aid, and a country of paramount strategic import in the war on terror is objectively less important than a long-stagnant quasi-socialist state in Western Europe? Subjectively, maybe. Objectively, decidedly not.

Surely there is a correlation between antisemitism and anti-Israeli sentiment. By definition, those in the former category are going to be part of the latter. But just as surely, there are those among us who think that the combination of the aforementioned attributes of Israel merit extra attention to its policies. We aren’t giving France $2.5+ billion dollars a year, after all. And besides, Americans hate France.


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