Sam Harris is an atheist Jew who believes that Judaism ought to disappear as a religion, and who also doesn’t qualify as your typical Zionist supporter of the state of Israel (to say the least). At the same time, Harris understands the difference between Israel and her enemies, and has a debate about the issue with Andrew Sullivan, who very plainly does not understand the difference between Israel and her enemies.
The story of the debate is covered here. And of course, the following excerpt is incredibly revealing on so many levels:
Sullivan: It’s ethnic cleansing.
Harris: Fine. But I don’t want us to slide off this point. Go back and read your blog post. You call it genocide, and you draw the concentration camp implication in a way that does not differentiate between the Jewish version, designed to get civilians out of the way, and the Nazi version, designed to reduce them to ash.
Sullivan: But the idea that anybody would come close to that is horrifying.
Harris: They’re not close at all. This brings me back to the other topic I mentioned at the top of this call, regarding why it’s so damn hard to talk about this issue in the first place. We have to be honest about the plain meaning of words. When you use a word like “genocide” to describe a person’s intentions—
Sullivan: I didn’t.
Harris: You do in your blog post. Just go back and look at it.
Sullivan: I’m looking at it right now.
Harris: Do a keyword search for “genocide.”
Sullivan: I’m not good at doing that kind of thing.
Harris: Just type control-F, or command-F, and then “genocide.”
Sullivan: I see now: “Genocide and ethnic cleansing.” You’re right. But he does believe in killing every civilian in Gaza who resists—
Harris: Andrew, he does not believe in killing every civilian in Gaza. He’s talking about combatants. I only know this person from your blog, but I read what you wrote, and I read what you quoted. The man wants to separate the civilians from the militants so that the IDF can bomb the hell out of the militants.
How precisely does one take seriously a pundit who doesn’t even recall the wild and serious charges he is flinging about? On the upside, I suppose we could always applaud Sullivan for having proven Orwell right yet again.