Ted Honderich, Persona Non Grata

Brian Leiter, on his Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog, reported back in 2005 in the paragraph below on a piece by Ted Honderich on the website CounterPunch -- and issued invitations to comment. The comments, including his own, follow his invitations.

Ted Honderich, now emeritus at University College London, is best-known to philosophers for his work on free will and determinism.  More recently, his views on the moral right of Palestinians to utilize terrorism against Israel have attracted considerable attention and controversy.  Professor Honderich here describes a curious series of events involving conference invitations that were withdrawn, relocated, protested, and so on.  One involves the LSE.  I'm opening comments, in case anyone has first-hand knowledge of these matters.  No anonymous postings, of course.  (By the way, the Counterpunch bio describes Honderich as Britain's "outstanding progressive philosopher."  Thoughts on this welcome, also.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 21, 2005 at 04.35 AM in Philosophy in the News | Permalink


I don't have any inside knowledge of the events discussed in Hondereich's article, and I'm not sure whether he is *the* outstanding progressive philosopher in Britain. I do think, though, that he is one of the most interesting political philosophers around, possessing a constellation of philosophical virtues that few in the field share. He is clear-headed and rigorous, but also challenging and radical - radical because he follows arguments where they lead, not because he affects radical postures. He is prepared to get his hands dirty by looking closely at difficult political questions (like terrorism and the Israel-Palestine conflict) and drawing provocative, surprising conclusions. He is not afraid of making himself unpopular, and does not set out just to bolster any liberal democratic or other consensus. In all these respects, I think he captures an approach that is unfortunately absent from most political philosophy these days. I wish that there were more like him.

Posted by: Simon Keller | February 21, 2005 08:15 AM

(1) Israel essentially offered the Palestinians almost everything (98% of the post-67 territories, plus compensatory additional territory) Honderich says they deserve in 2000-01. Given that, on what "moral" basis does he defend continued terrorism?

(2) Before (and, to some extent, even after) Oslo, the Palestinian leadership (PLO) did not recognize Israel's right to exist, and with the aid of a major power (USSR), sought as a policy matter, to destroy Israel, and replace it with a Palestinian state, with all non-Middle Eastern Jews to be expelled to Europe.

Thus, even if one accepts the very dubious (especially because this was the Palestinians' first, not last, resort) argument that terrorism is a valid tactic to use to achieve the goal of a Palestinian state in the territories formerly occupied by Egypt and Jordan, and currently occupied by Israel, the actual history of Palestinian terrorism (which actually starts in the 1920s, and ramps up with the founding of the PLO in 1964, obviously before the "occupation") doesn't match Honderich's justification.

Posted by: David Bernstein | February 21, 2005 12:14 PM

Very obviously Brian was not asking for comments on Honderich's views on the rights and wrongs of Palestinian terrorism (or did you think that he meant "first-hand knowledge" of Israeli politics and Palestinian terrorism?) So your comment seems off-track. However, since you bring it up, it's not obvious that Israel offered the Palestinians everything they were entitled to, for two reasons: because it's not clear there was an offer and because if there was an offer it's far from clear that it was everything they deserve. I'm not saying that either of these claims is false, just that it is reasonable to doubt them. See, for instance, "Camp David: A Tragedy of Errors", NYRB August 9 2001.

Posted by: Neil | February 21, 2005 05:46 PM

I think being a "great" political philosopher implies knowing what you are talking about, and not making statements, such as "the Palestinians are entitled to engage in terrorism in order to get a state in the occupied territories" if that state was achievable without terrorism. Not to mention that Hamas, among others, is not fighting for a state in the territories, but to replace Israel with a theocratic Islamic state.

Posted by: David Bernstein | February 21, 2005 06:27 PM

But David, I'm questioning whether it is true that it was possible to get a state without terrorism. Once again, I'm not saying that it wasn't. I'm saying that, on the extensive reading I've done, it is reasonable to doubt that it was. Honderich goes further: from "it's reasonable to doubt" to "it is not the case". There is a further question. Suppose it is true, as it may be (I repeat), that the offer made at Camp David and shortly after was fair, and that Arafat should have accepted it. He didn't. Now that offer is no longer on the table, nor is there any immediate prospect that it will be. How should a Palestinian militant react? Should they refrain from terrorism because their former leader, over whom the average Palestinian exercised little or not control, should have accepted the offer? Surely their decisions should be forward looking? They should choose means most likely to achieve their legitimate ends.

Finally, to put all my cards on the table, I don't think Palestinian terrorism is just. Not because I think terrorism is always wrong, but because I think that anyone who resorts to it has a very heavy burden of proof to shoulder: to show that the consequences are likely to be good enough to outweigh the suffering inflicted. I think that it is very likely that Palestinian terrorism makes the situation of everyone worse off, and makes a just settlement less likely. If one bomb could lead to the creation of two states with pre-1967 borders, I would support using that bomb. But instead every bomb strengthens the hands of the extremists on both sides (as the extremists on both sides well know).

Posted by: Neil | February 21, 2005 06:51 PM

[I wrote this comment before reading Dr Levy's second post. I apologize if the first
paragraph seems redundant.]

You may have grasped Professor Leiter’s point, but you are still missing part of Dr Levy’s (meta-)point. When you say that “being a ‘great’ philosopher implies knowing what you are talking about” you express an important, if rather obvious, truth; but you also suggest that Ted Honderich is incompetent, and that he is so because he ignores that the Palestinians were offered a state during the Oslo Accords. It is this last suggestion what shows the irrelevancy (and hence inadequacy) of your comments: for, as Dr Levy points out, “it’s not clear there was an offer and [..] if there was an offer it’s far from clear that it was everything they deserve.” An assessment of Honderich’s greatness as a philosopher must certainly take into account whether he is familiar with his subject matter; being disputable, the factual claims you present to prove that he is not fail to achieve that goal.

Like Simon Keller, I lack inside knowledge of the events discussed in the article quoted by Prof Leiter. All I can do is express my agreement with what Keller says. I agree with him that Honderich is "challenging and radical", and that he is so because "he follows arguments where they lead". I also agree that this is a virtue, and that this virtue is absent in most contemporary political philosophy. Thus, what seems to distinguish Honderich from others is that while many philosophers have the skill to do good philosophy, he has also the philosophical courage that most of his peers lack. Honderich is special, in a word, because he has the proper attitude for philosophizing —the attitude Peter Suber aptly terms the clinical one.

Posted by: Pablo Stafforini | February 21, 2005 08:00 PM

It is true, as Neil Levy notes, that I was not inviting a discussion of the merits of Honderich's position, though I do not object to such a discussion. I will insist though that posts not be anonymous, and I have deleted one post on that grounds, since I could not determine the name of the author. The safest way to not be anonymous is to post first and last name as David Bernstein has done, and to use an e-mail address or web page link that identifies the author.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | February 22, 2005 08:38 AM

I'm puzzled by the terms of debate here, because some of the attributes alleged in Honderich's favor seem confused. What does it mean that someone is "radical because he follows arguments where they lead", and that this exemplifies his "philosophical courage"?

I would have thought that following arguments where they lead is a very minor and common accomplishment among philosophers. If I follow an argument where it leads, and it leads to an absurdity, then I rethink the premisses. If I decide to retract some of them instead of endorsing the conclusion, is that because I failed to "follow the argument where it led" and manifested a failure of philosophical courage?

If the point is simply that what others thought were absurd conclusions, Honderich thought were positions worth embracing, is this obviously a *philosophical* virtue? (Rather than a political virtue, or a moral virtue--or some subspecies of vice?)

I'm sure there is much to be praised about Honderich's philosophical oeuvre, but are there perhaps clearer ways of phrasing his distinctive contribution?

Posted by: Tad Brennan | February 22, 2005 10:16 AM

Well, I think that Honderich's distinctive contributions are to be found in the substance of his writings, but as to the question of philosophical virtues, distinguish two things. First, there's the willingness to advocate original, creative, controversial and unpopular positions. Second, there's getting to those positions not because you want to show off or make a name for yourself, but because you have good arguments for them - arguments whose force can be appreciated by any reasonable, open-minded person. In reading Honderich, even when I strongly disagree with his conclusions, I often have the experience of realizing that there exist interesting political positions that I'd never have come up with myself, and that there are good, principled reasons - even if not always utterly compelling reasons - for holding those positions. I often feel that I've been made aware of, and shaken out of, my own complacency. And that's one of the good things that political philosophy at its best can do. So there.

Posted by: Simon Keller | February 22, 2005 11:26 AM

I consider myself "so there"-ed.

Posted by: Tad Brennan | February 22, 2005 12:50 PM

Between example and principle – Leiter’s ongoing academic freedom debate.

I share many of Professor's Leiter’s concerns about academic freedom. In the past few months he has addressed the matter through different examples: the controversy surrounding Columbia's Massad, Colorado's Ward Churchill's and now Ted Honderich. In his comments he has been analytically careful in differentiating between the moral and analytical validity of one's opinions from one's right to voice them. While he makes his political views clear, he seems to assume that they do not determine his opinions on academic freedom. However, the exclusive use of examples of silencing of like minded thinkers (those from the far left) and the lack of any counter examples, such as countless cases of boycotting Israeli professors within the academic arena, raise questions whether the arguments for academic freedom and freedom of speech are really what is fuelling the debate. The real test of Leitner's convictions on academic freedom is to be found in cases where people sharing his political views (not a rare commodity on university campuses) silence and exclude others from the academic debate, not the other way around. Until he tackles what are the harder cases for him, he cannot escape being suspected as an advocate of one side using the legal and moral arguments at hand, rather than a true defender of the principles themselves. Ideological dogmatism dressed up as radical criticism is just the ill which plagues activists such as Massad and Churchill, I do not think Leitner is cut from the same cloth, however he should be harder on himself at times.

Posted by: Ori Herstein | February 23, 2005 09:24 AM

Not sure I see the relevance of this posting: note that this post about Honderich is in the category "Philosophy in the News," not "Academic Freedom." Since Mr. Herstein has had the courtesy to post with his name, for which I thank him, here is just a brief reply: I have written about the academic freedom and First Amendment rights of Eric Rasmusen (whose derogatory, and rather preposterous, remarks about homosexuals almost led Indiana University to evict his blog from the university web site), John Yoo (whose views on torture led students to call for him to resign from the faculty), and, more recently, the Nevada economics professor, whose in-class comments on homosexuals also produced an uproar. I am not aware of any case in which an American university has threatened the job of an Israeli professor, though there have been cases in the last year where Islamic professors have had visas denied, so that their academic appointments could not be taken up in the US.

The simple, and unfortunate, fact is that in a right-wing country like the United States, the most serious threats to academic freedom arise for those on the left: this was true in the McCarthy era, it is true now. Even in the cases of Professors Rasmusen and Yoo, we did not have elected officials calling for them to be fired, as we have in the case of Professors Churchill and Massad. Isn't that obvious? Some sense of proportion is required in these matters. Ideological dogmatism seems to blind some to the vast differences in degree in the kinds of threats to academic freedom that are actually out there.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | February 23, 2005 09:33 AM

Dear Professor Leiter,
Thank you for your response. First I do apologies for my ignorance as to your writings, I should visit the blog more often. I retract my previous criticism on this point.

When I alluded to boycotts of Israeli professors I had in mind several petitions and cases of baring or rejecting Israeli scholars from academic conventions, positions and publications in Europe. I did not realize that the debate on academic freedom was limited to the boarders of the U.S., especially seeing Honderich is English.

Posted by: Ori Herstein | February 23, 2005 06:06 PM

I know most about the relevant First Amendment and academic freedom principles as they apply in the United States. As noted, above, I wasn't raising Honderich as an academic freedom issue, but rather out of curiosity as to whether anyone knew what happened at LSE and also because I was interested to find out what philosophers thought about the Counterpunch description of him (in this regard, my thanks to Simon Keller for his postings on that subject). I have heard of some of the European cases you mention, though know very little about them, and the one case I can remember (involving a journal edited out of Birmingham, maybe?) may even predate my blog. My opinion is that these boycotts are pretty reprehensible (and stupid) and are certainly not in the spirit of scholarly inquiry. Your question, though, does raise an interesting issue, namely, the nature of "academic freedom" protections in Europe, a subject about which I know almost nothing. Perhaps a topic for a separate thread.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | February 23, 2005 06:28 PM

I have previously attempted to post this comment, in support of David Bernstein's comments, above, though my comment was apparently deleted, perhaps being the one Brian referred to in his Feb. 22nd comment to the thread. If my previous attempt was the comment Brian was referring to, I have provided my name and email address (as I did then, though I only included my first name in the previous attempt, along with my email address), so I am hoping this comment makes it to the thread. I respect Brian's suggestion that he was not originally inviting discussion on the merits of Honderich's position, though he does not object to one, but, as David Bernstein pointed out, the merits of Honderich's position do relate to the question of Honderich's billing as Britain's outstanding progressive philosopher, a topic which was included in the original post, so I offer this perspective in that light.

In support of David Bernstein's comments, above, re: the extent to which the accuracy and validity of Honderich's logic - from premise to conclusion - informs one's evaluation of Honderich as Britain's "outstanding progressive philosopher" (or not...) I would like to also point out that, in the article quoted, Honderich makes the grossly inaccurate charge that Israel is involved in ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, an erroneous charge that I feel leads to an erroneous conclusion (i.e., the suitability of terror as a valid means of resistance.) In this instance, a false premise leads to a false conclusion, and would seem to decrease the appropriateness of Honderich receiving the aforementioned accolade. Whatever aspects to the conflict indict Israel or the Palestinians for various abuses, strategies and policies, ethnic cleansing is not one that is accurately applicable to Israeli policy, strategy or action, and is similar to other inaccurate hyperbole, which is dangerous and demeaning to accurate debate, in charges such as Bush = Hitler (and I am no fan of Bush, just for the record.)

Posted by: trey lewis | February 24, 2005 06:02 PM

Once again, I'm willing to defend Honderich though I still don't agree with him on the substantive issue of whether Palestinian terrorism is justified. Trey Lewis doesn't provide enough context when he says that Honderich is wrong when he uses the term ethnic cleansing. What Honderich actually says is that Israel is founded on "the ethnic cleansing of 1948". If it is true to say that Serbians engaged in ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the early 90s, it is surely true to say that Israel engaged in ethnic cleansing in 1948: there was a concerted and official plan to rid the country of much of its Arab inhabitants. This is not disputed by anyone anymore (though for decades it was denied). See the article here, by Benny Morris, a prominent Israeli historian:


Morris describes the policy as "partial ethnic cleansing". He also says that it was necessary and justified. I express no opinion on his views.

Posted by: Neil | February 24, 2005 08:51 PM

Since I wrote a short piece on the academic boycott for a popular journal I add for the sake of those who are interested some of the history of the boycott. I agree with those who believe that the boycott is clearly a violation of academic freedom. I also believe that the morality of boycotts (academic or others) should be investigated more thoroughly than has been done in the past.

The current academic boycott of Israel was launched in April 2002 in Britain, then spread to France and many other countries. It started with a relatively moderate petition by Professors Hilary and Steven Rose from the open university in London calling for the freezing of official European Union contacts with Israeli universities. This petition led to a second, more radically phrased French petition and a third Australian petition. The initiative got some support from various British organizations including one major British teaching union (NATFHE). The British initiative led some French universities to issue official declarations supporting the boycott. Most recently, in December 2002 the administrative council of Paris VI issued a resolution calling for an academic boycott, while a similar initiative was rejected by the Council of Paris VII.
The original quite limited call for academic boycott was understood and more importantly implemented by some signatories in a very broad manner. The original petition was not aimed against individual Israeli academics but only addressed institutional cooperation. Yet some signatories were more zealous and ambitious. Professor Mona Baker -- director of the Center for Translation and Intercultural Studies at University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology – came for the first time to the attention of the academic world when two Israeli professors were removed from their advisory position of two academic journals she edited. One of these professors, Miriam Shlesinger, has been a peace activist for many years and has chaired the Israeli branch of Amnesty International. Another incident demonstrating the some signatories’ zeal involved Oren Yiftachel, a left-wing political geographer and As’ad Ghanem, an Arab Israeli political scientist from Haifa University. A joint paper in which they severely criticize Israeli policies toward Arabs and describe Israel as “a state dedicated to the expansion and control of one ethnic group” was rejected by David Slater -- the editor of a British periodical Political Geography -- on the grounds that the authors work in Israeli institutions. More recently, an Israeli applicant to the Phd program at Oxford University got a letter from a head of a laboratory -- Professor Wilkie -- announcing that he would not accept anybody who has served in the Israeli army. Oxford University declared that Professor Wilkie’s letter violates Oxford University’s own rules prohibiting discrimination and initiated disciplinary proceedings. Professor Wilkie later published an apology.
These initiatives generated resistance, and counter-petitions in Europe and the U.S. Leading British and French academics have condemned the boycott and once the ramifications of what seemed a moderate proposal had been observed, even some signatories of the original petition (including the eminent biologist Richard Dawkins) expressed public reservations. The prestigious academic magazine Nature published an editorial condemning the boycott and calling upon scientists to encourage collaborative efforts of Israeli and Palestinian scientists. The largest British university lecturers’ union AUT voted by a large majority to reject the boycott initiative. In France the prominent philosopher Professor Bernard-Henry Lévy equated the academic boycott of Israel with Europe’s WWII-era persecution of Jews. Less passionate criticisms were made both by the left-wing mayor of Paris and the Director General of UNESCO. The heated debate led to accusations on both sides that intimidation is being used against academics that join or refuse to join the boycott or the anti-boycott campaigns.

Posted by: Alon Harel | February 25, 2005 01:15 PM

Thank you, Alon, for some of the relevant details. It was the Mona Baker incident I was thinking of, which I see involved Manchester, not Birmingham.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | February 25, 2005 01:40 PM

I just had the opportunity of reading the description of Honderich. I do not think it is a problem of academic freedom. The invitation he describes is to the Palestine Society of SOAS which I assume is a student's body with its own agenda. They do not have a duty to invite people who disagree with their own point of view. If it was the university itself which disinvited Hoderich, it would be a different matter.

Posted by: Alon Harel | February 25, 2005 01:52 PM

The comment above which compares Serbian atrocities in the early 90's to Israel's self-defense in 1948 (in a war launced by a majority of the Arab states against Israel, in response to the UN resolution which granted statehood to Israel and proposed at the time statehood for the Palestinians) shows a complete ignorance of history, further ignored in the comment that the accuracy of the comparison is "not disputed by anyone anymore," and basing that suggestion on the work of Benny Morris and the website palestinefacts.org.

While I was glad to join the debate on this thread, it does not seem useful to engage in a battle of experts and websites, though ample resources exist on the web (and in libraries) to counter the comparison, as such a battle feels to me akin to debating Holocaust denial - perhaps a worthy effort at times, but I would think not on this thread or weblog.

For those who are interested, the erroneous comparison referred to above by Neil is specifically addressed at


and further info on other myths and facts in regard to the larger conflict can be found at -


The work of Benny Morris is far from becoming anywhere near the normative view of Middle East history (he is one of several current Israeli writers known as "revisionist historians," and has been challenged by others in that same group whom he relies on for documentation, as well as many other noted historians.) The same argument I posed above in regard to Honderich - false conclusions based on a false premise - applies here, with the additional caution of relying on false documentation and discredited "experts."

Posted by: trey lewis | February 25, 2005 06:45 PM

I did not say - and did not mean - that Israel's actions in 1948 were as bad as what happened in Bosnia. I said that if ethnic cleansing happened in Bosnia - if what happened there counts as ethnic cleansing (and it does) - then what happened in 1948 also counts as ethnic cleansing. I can see why you thought I was asserting an equivalence; it wasn't intended. It might be that the facts that, eg., Morris cites make an important difference to the morality of the case. Once again, my aim was more limited than you think - not to argue that Israel was unjustified, not to argue that it was as bad (or better, or worse) than the Serbian forces - but simply to argue that the term ethnic cleansing is appropriate.

Posted by: Neil | February 25, 2005 10:59 PM

I just followed the link Trey provided, and I'm feeling less charitably inclined toward him than I was. I took him to have misconstrued my intent, and thought that I was partially to blame becase my comparison to Serbia might suggest that I was equating Israeli actions with what happened in Bosnia quite generally. But the link Trey provides is to a site which addresses itself to the question whether ""Israel is pursuing a policy of genocide toward the Palestinians that is comparable to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews." Now, I did not mention the Nazis, and, as the site makes clear, the notion that Israel is engaged in such a policy is ludicrous. Trey, there are many moral faults which fall short of the Holocaust, without being forgiveable. To attribute to me the claim that you do involves a degree of bad faith or stupidity that is breath taking. You don't seem stupid, so I assume it is the former. I did not even argue that Israel was *wrong*! Responding to the claim that in 1948 there was ethnic cleansing by arguing that Israel is not as bad as the Nazis is as sound an argumentative move as responding to the claim that you have made an arithmetical mistake by pointing out that some people make bigger miscalculations.

Posted by: Neil | February 25, 2005 11:10 PM

Neil -
In my first comment, on Feb. 24th, I took issue with Honderich's suggestion that the term ethnic cleansing applied in the case of the Palestinians, specifically the line in the article linked in Leiter's original post where Honderich says -

"In passing, though, it asserts the moral right of the Palestinians to their terrorism -- to what as truly is their resistance to ethnic cleansing, their self-defence of their homeland."

A Feb. 24th response from you to my comment not only misquotes Honderich's article -
from my reading of Honderich's article, which was the basis for my original comment, your statement in the comment below where you say, "What Honderich actually says is that Israel is founded on "the ethnic cleansing of 1948" is totally incorrect - that is not what Honderich says in the article, and that is not what I quoted in my initial comment, and the charge itself is incorrect. So in terms of the debate we've been having on this thread, you begin your debate with me with a misquote of Honderich, upon which you base further errors. Your Feb. 24th comment includes the following -

"Trey Lewis doesn't provide enough context when he says that Honderich is wrong when he uses the term ethnic cleansing. What Honderich actually says is that Israel is founded on "the ethnic cleansing of 1948". If it is true to say that Serbians engaged in ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the early 90s, it is surely true to say that Israel engaged in ethnic cleansing in 1948: there was a concerted and official plan to rid the country of much of its Arab inhabitants. This is not disputed by anyone anymore..."

which I strongly disputed in my subsequent comment on Feb. 25th. The charge of ethnic cleansing is erroneous when applied to 1948, as is such a charge based on comparisons to Serbian atrocities in Bosnia in the early 1990's, a comparison you did make in your Feb. 24th post, excerpted above. (In a subsequent post, you claim you were not suggesting an equivalency between the actions of the Serbs in the 90's and those of Israel in 1948, but that you were only stating (twice in the subsequent post) that both actions constitute ethnic cleansing. Beyond the fact that Honderich's original statement which elicited my response did not refer to 1948, such a statement was wrong when Honderich said it as he phrased it in his article, it was wrong the first time you said it, and it was wrong the second (and third) times you said it. I included a link in my comment to document the error of the charge, and pointed out why I feel Benny Morris, for whom you seemed to rely upon in making the charge, is not a worthy source for documentation, despite your wildy inaccurate suggestion that the allegations behind the charge ("a concerted and official plan," etc.) "is not disputed by anyone anymore."

In offering documentation for my position, I offered a link to a four paragraph refutation of the charge (and a second link dealing with a wider variety of myths and facts about the Israeli/Palestinian and Israeli/Arab conflicts.) The section I linked to is constructed in a myth vs. fact format, and the heading of the section did indeed posit for refutation the myth that "Israel is pursuing a policy of genocide toward the Palestinians that is comparable to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews."

However, had you read all four of the paragraphs at the link (rather than merely the title to the section where the documentation appears, which seems from your latest response to perhaps have been the case, though I'll allow that you did read the entire four paragraphs and somehow missed the pertinent part) you would have found the following -

"The absurdity of the charge is also clear from the demography of the disputed territories. While detractors make outrageous claims about Israel committing genocide or ethnic cleansing, the Palestinian population has continued to explode. In Gaza, for example, the population increased from 731,000 in July 1994 to 1,225,911 in July 2002, an increase of 68 percent. The growth rate was 3.95 percent, one of the highest in the world. According to the UN, the total Palestinian population in all the disputed territories (they include Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem) was 1,006,000 in 1950, and rose to 1,094,000 in 1970, and exploded to 2,152,000 in 1990. Anthony Cordesman notes the increase "was the result of improvements in income and health services" made by the Israel. Since the intifada, the Palestinian population has continue to grow exponentially, increasing more than 20 percent just from 1995 to 2,000 when it reached 3,183,000.

You also charge me personally with either bad faith or stupidity, and suggest that I based my reasoning on Israel's actions being less egregious than those of the Nazis. I based my reasoning on the facts in the excerpt reprinted above, which was the link I provided in my earlier post - had you read the entire post, and read it carefully, you might have seen that it specifically addresses the ethnic cleansing charge with facts that are supported by many other sources as well.

Posted by: trey lewis | March 1, 2005 03:02 AM

(1) We are referring to different articles. I (oddly enough) took Brian Leiter to be referring to the article he provided a link to; you took him to be referring to another article. Honder *does* use the words I quoted in my posts in the article Brian linked to (it's still there; go and look).

(2) You say that you *included a link in my comment to document the error of the charge, and pointed out why I feel Benny Morris, for whom you seemed to rely upon in making the charge, is not a worthy source for documentation, despite your wildy inaccurate suggestion that the allegations behind the charge ("a concerted and official plan," etc.) "is not disputed by anyone anymore."*

I should say several things here. First, as I already said, the link you provided was to a site answering the charge that "Israel is pursuing a policy of genocide toward the Palestinians that is comparable to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews." Here's an analogy. Suppose you're a defense lawyer, and your client is charged with assault. Do you really think that basing your defense on the claim that Jack the Ripper did worse things will get your client off? It is bad argument, and it is an egregious attempt to smear me.

Second, how is the claim that the Palestinian population in Gaza has grown supposed to be relevant here? Ethnic cleansing refers to the removal of members of an ethnic group *from a particular place*. It is not, as you seem to think, genocide. The fact that people from that ethnic group are alive and increasing elsewhere is simply irrelevant to the charge. Indeed, if the ethnic cleansing occurs through removal of the people, rather than killing them, you'd expect their population to grow in the place to which they were removed.

Third, you say you pointed out why Benny Morris is unreliable. What did this consist of, precisely? It consists of saying that Benny Morris was unreliable. Excuse me for not being all that convinced.

Fourth, you're right that Morris's claim is dusputed. You dispute it. Reputable historians don't dispute it, thought.

(3)Once again, we were quoting from different documents. But I'm also prepared to defend the claim that Israel engages in ethnic cleansing *now* - for instance, in East Jerusalem. See that notoriously anti-semitic newspaper, the Washington Post:


Posted by: Neil | March 1, 2005 05:55 PM

Neil -
In regard to your most recent comment, above -

1) In regard to the Honderich quote and the article from which it comes, you misquoted Honderich in your earlier comment, and I quoted him correctly. We are not referring to different articles, we are referring to the same article, the one that was linked to in Leiter's original post, which I read before my initial comment on this thread (apparently more closely than you did.) I included the correct quote in my initial response to you on March 1; you included a quote from a third party who protested Honderich's appearance at a speaking engagement. (If you re-read the article, you'll see the attribution, complete with quotation marks...)

2) First, as I said in my earlier comment, the item I linked to in order to document my response to your earlier comment does refer to ethnic cleansing, as stated in the excerpt I copied for the thread - "While detractors make outrageous claims about Israel committing genocide or ethnic cleansing..." Though the item from which this excerpt is taken does deal with the additional outrageous and erroneous charge of genocide in the situation we are discussing, at no time was I suggesting what you imply I suggested in regard to the "less than so not at all" argument; because you apparently did not see or chose to ignore the reference in the item to ethnic cleansing, you therefore made an assumption in regard to the "less than so not at all" argument and my reasoning, which is not only an argument I did not make, but which I also find inappropriate. I included that link for documentation for two reasons - first, I do consider the two charges discussed in the item (genocide and ethnic cleansing in the situation we are discussing) to be equally erroneous and outrageous; also, mass deportation and genocide are often included in definitions of the term "ethnic cleansing," so my link to an item including this wider discussion was, in my view, appropriate; secondly, in preparing my response to your earlier comment, I searched on the web for documentation that I could easily excerpt and link to in my reply, finding seven or eight sources which specifically refuted the charge, with the one I included being the easiest one for me to excerpt and link to (the others either required registration, were only abstracts, or were in a PDF format that I found unwieldy for these purposes.) You are the one who chose to ignore the reference to ethnic cleansing in the documentation link, and focus only on the issue of the Nazis and genocide, and then unfairly accused me of making an argument I did not make. You go on to (unfairly) accuse me of unsound reasoning, either bad faith or stupidity, egregiously smearing you, and attributing to you a claim I did not attribute to you, all based on your erroneous suggestion of an argument I did not make in the first place.

Secondly, your most recent comment has clarified what I think is a major source of our dispute, which might provide one of those "agree to disagree" moments, enabling us to end our exchange on this thread, so that we can both spend our Internet time on more productive pursuits. My strong initial (and continued) exception was/is to your repeated contention that "if it is true to say that Serbians engaged in ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the early 90s, it is surely true to say that Israel engaged in ethnic cleansing in 1948..." While I appreciate your admissions in various comments that there are important and inherent differences between the two, and your statement that you do not agree with Honderich's conclusions as to the justification for terrorism, and your comments as to certain Israeli actions not being "wrong" or that were justified, it has finally become apparent that we have different definitions for what does or does not constitute ethnic cleansing, a distinction that might have saved us both much time and effort had it been made earlier. In your most recent comment, above, you state, "Ethnic cleansing refers to the removal of members of an ethnic group *from a particular place*." I do not feel that is an accurate or adequate definition of the term, in either its colloquial or legal sense, as the proper definition of the term deals with aspects of force, intent, purpose, design, and agency, and I do not agree that such a definition (encompassing those integral aspects) applies to the dislocation of Palestinians in 1948 or since. Ethnic cleansing, in its appropriate definition, is a crime against humanity, and that is why Serbian leaders are currently on trial in the Hague, and Israeli leaders are not. Serbia attacked Bosnia; Israel was attacked after a UN approved declaration of statehood and a partition plan which was rejected by Palestinian leaders and the Arab world, and while atrocities and violence were committed by both parties, and while both parties bear varying degrees of responsibility for the dislocation of Palestinians before, during and since 1948, and for the resolution of the conflict today, the two situations (Bosnia in the early 90's and Israel in 1948) are not comparable, in neither degree nor definition. I (and the majority of reputable Israeli historians) do not agree with your contention (based on Morris' work) that the recognized government of Israel had a concerted and official plan to rid the country of much of its Arab inhabitants. Such a plan was in place by Serbian leaders in the early 90's against non-Serbs; such a plan was not in place by Israel against the Palestinians in 1948, or since, and I would again reference the International Criminal Court, and the majority of reputable historians.

Thirdly and fourthly, as for Benny Morris, if you re-read my comment, I did discuss, albeit briefly, the term "revisionist historian," as it applies to Morris, so your suggestion that my response to your use of him in making your own argument is by no means of the "yes he is/no he's not" variety. Perhaps the most ludicrous error you have made in your comments is to suggest that I am the only one who disputes his scholarship, or that no reputable historian does. That is simply a false statement, as false as saying no reputable scientist disputes evolution. (Some scientists do dispute evolution, but the majority do not; some historians, such as Morris and other revisionist historians, agree with you, and disagree with me, but it is simply false to suggest that no reputable historian disputes Morris or his scholarship or conclusions.)

3) As stated in response 1) above, we are not quoting from different documents; one of us (me) is quoting correctly from the article linked to by Mr. Leiter; you have quoted incorrectly from the same article.

As for the Washington Post article you link to in your most recent comment, I am sure you are aware of the fact that Jordan was in control of East Jerusalem in 1967, when the area was lost to Israel in a defensive war; since then, the disputed area has been subject to subsequent negotiation, laws and treaties, and the Israeli Supreme Court has responded to individual violations of Israeli law and treaties concerning the land and its inhabitants, with the current roadmap being the most recent attempt to determine its status. Many countries in the world today have similar disputes over borders, territories and ruling authority, with historic grievances and current negotiations toward successful resolution (Northern Ireland, Cypress, Gibraltar, and Kashmir, for example.) As discussed in item 2) above, the proper definition of the term "ethnic cleansing" does not apply in this situation anymore than it does to 1948.

This thread has turned into a time-consuming and somewhat snarky exchange between just you and me, so my preference would be to bring our exchange on this thread to a close, since the major focus of our exchange has devolved into charges and counter-charges as to which one of us is a more precise reader or quoter, and it does not seem an appropriate use of Mr. Leiter's weblog for that debate, nor does it serve the purpose of the original post. If you email me directly, I can send additional links to refutations of both Morris and the ethnic cleansing charges, although I think we have both sufficiently made the points we wished to make.

Posted by: trey lewis | March 2, 2005 10:53 AM

Neil -
The paragraph in regard to Benny Morris and his critics, in my comment above, should have read -

That is simply a false statement, as false as saying most reputable scientists dispute evolution. (Some scientists do dispute evolution, but the majority do not; some historians, such as Morris and other revisionist historians, agree with you, and disagree with me, but it is simply false to suggest that no reputable historian disputes Morris or his scholarship or conclusions.)

Posted by: trey lewis | March 2, 2005 05:41 PM

I am only commenting on Honderich's statement that:
"At the LSE, the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Sciences, which is not exactly the college's philosophy department, departed from a habit. For whatever reason, it would not host the Philosophy Society's meeting in its usual room to hear the paper..", which I am not sure is central to the debate here, which I haven't followed.

As anyone who has ever been there knows, the CPNSS has only one seminar room, T206. Many seminars of the Philosophy Department, the BSPS, and many smaller public seminars of the Phil Dept are held there. It has a capacity of about 25 people sitting comfortably if the tables in it have been removed; there is no standing room.
This might be large enough for a regular meeting of the Philosophy Society - a student society - but is unlikely to be large enough to host what Honderich himself describes as a "large" meeting.
>>> I am suggesting that the only reason the meeting was moved was that there was not sufficient space in T206. I take it that Honderich is suggesting something else; at least, he might easily be understood as doing so.

I don't know where the talk was held, but if this was a large room, like the Old Theatre, the New Theatre, or the Peacock Theatre, this would be rather good evidence for my suggestion. Any participant to the meeting could also give an indication of the number of people present.

I am an LSE graduate, but haven't been to any seminars there for quite some time now.

Posted by: Christoph Schmidt-Petri | March 30, 2005 06:39 AM


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