Godwin’s Law in the Middle East Conflict

I recently saw a comment on a chat forum that grabbed my attention.

In a discussion about variations on Godwin’s Law – the semi-ironic observation by Mike Godwin that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 100%” – someone posted the following:

Any Israel vs Palestine thread usually devolves into:

Israeli side:
1. If you criticize Israel in any way you’re anti-Semitic
2. Israel is just better and this land belongs to the Jews
3. Israel is a democracy and lgbt (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual) people have rights there – as if this excuses the horrible things they’ve done

Palestinian side:
1. The Zionist lobby controls the US government.
2. Israelis are Nazis and practice Apartheid and ethnic cleansing
3. Jews are horrible and start all the wars and should go back to Poland

And both sides will call each other terrorists.

Although I hardly ever see anyone argue that “Israel is just better”  – there is some truth to the first two points on the Israeli side. All too often, Israel’s defenders use religious arguments that have little resonance with secular people, or assume a level of anti-Semitism lurking beneath the surface of a debate.

But since Godwin’s Law is usually invoked in an online discussion to declare a particular debate to be dead and the person who brought up Nazis or Hitler as the loser, the third point in the comment on the Israeli side requires some closer examination.

Interestingly, of all the arguments put forth, only the one about Israel’s record on gay rights required special explanation from the person who posted it.

The implication is that Israel’s strong record on human rights for gays is no longer viewed as something positive. Now, in some circles – ironically, those that place high value on gay rights – it’s a negative because it’s deemed insincere and meant to cover Israel’s “crimes,” ostensibly against the Palestinians.

HonestReporting covered this line of reasoning, known as pinkwashing, when it appeared in a Time magazine article and when the blogger known as Gay Girl in Damascus turned out to be a hoax concocted by Tom MacMaster, a heterosexual male and co-director of Atlanta-Palestine Solidarity.

Now, however, people are posting this argument in online debates, suggesting that the message has penetrated the general public.

Reversing the phenomenon may well require that the argument needs to be taken exactly as it’s posted above, explanation and all, and made a part of Godwin’s Law – on the Palestinian side.

“Attacking” Israel for its strong record on gay rights should be considered equivalent to invoking “a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler.”

So when someone says,” Israel is a democracy and lgbt (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual) people have rights there – as if this excuses the horrible things they’ve done,” the debate should be declared dead and the one making that argument should be declared the loser.

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