Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
I am proud to have been both on the writing and receiving end of many response columns. Causing such productive and healthy debate is one of the greatest benefits of writing for The Diamondback. That is why I was pleased when I saw Shane James write a response to the column I wrote last week pledging support for Gov. Larry Hogan's executive order.
Hogan's order prohibited the state of Maryland from doing business with companies that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, which pressures Israel to grant Palestinians human rights and end the occupation. I made the argument that, while BDS is not inherently anti-Semitic, many of its actions are. BDS holds Israel to a double standard it doesn't apply to other countries.
I was then disappointed to find James' article riddled with logical fallacies and poor rhetorical analyses. In an effort to increase the quality of rhetoric and teach future responders what not to do, I will now endeavor to expose where James' logic went wrong and how it could have been improved.
First, James aptly summarizes my argument. He then proceeds to write, "BDS does not apply any special, extralegal standards to Israel," and establishes why BDS' demands are founded in international law. Hopefully, one quickly realizes how his response doesn't match my claim.
James commits a common logical fallacy known as the straw man argument. In this fallacy, person B is responding to person A's assertion. B claims that A's argument was something other than what A actually said, so person B can reply to that argument instead. James' response assumes I claimed BDS sets Israel to "extralegal standards," which is simply false. My argument was that it applies standards no other country is held to. As I show with evidence, many other countries commit atrocious human rights violations but do not receive such penalties.
Before we move on to the next piece of his op-ed, James commits two more logical fallacies.
First, he assumes "moral equivalence," that all violations of international law are worth equal time and attention. While the plight of Palestinian people is truly atrocious, it isn't at all morally equivalent to events in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. Those places are significantly worse, yet little attention is paid to some of them.
Second, he uses a red herring, a tactic used to avoid key issues by discussing a separate argument. He spends the next 279 words justifying BDS on legal grounds, an argument with which I am in total agreement.
Eventually, in one of his last paragraphs, James finally addresses the double standard, writing, "BDS activists also work to promote human rights in other countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia." He provides zero evidence to support that claim. I have yet to see Students for Justice in Palestine, the organization James belongs to, criticize the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Lebanon or Jordan for the horrible human rights violations — and even the massacres — they commit against Palestinians. Claiming one thing when reality is another isn't even a fallacy. It is a simple invention of fact.
To his credit, James does note that Students for Justice in Palestine is a part of ProtectUMD, a coalition of student groups that support and protect marginalized communities at the University of Maryland. However, this argument hurts James in the end because, while ProtectUMD's demands are commendable, it asks this university to discuss BDS with regard to Israel alone. ProtectUMD singles Israel out without regard to the human rights violations occurring around the world.
There are fantastic organizations such as Oxfam and Amnesty International that criticize Israel, but also acknowledge the rest of the world. They are good examples of how to both fight for Palestinian justice and not be anti-Semitic.
With his logical fallacies and lack of evidence, Mr. James wrote a poor response. I am excited to see more response articles as well as students debating important topics, but let's argue better.
Moshe Klein is a junior economics and government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.