All Israel Apologists Have Are Ad Hominem Attacks

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readOct 26, 2023

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

The Washington Post has a new article out explaining why it and other mainstream media outlets have been citing the Gaza Health Ministry as a source on the daily death toll from Israel’s ongoing bombing campaign, noting that the ministry has an established track record of reporting such deaths truthfully and accurately.

“Everyone uses the figures from the Gaza Health Ministry because those are generally proven to be reliable,” Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir told the Post. “In the times in which we have done our own verification of numbers for particular strikes, I’m not aware of any time which there’s been some major discrepancy.”

This point is inconvenient for Israel apologists — including the president of the United States — who’ve been suggesting in recent days that the Gaza death count is untrustworthy on the basis that the Gaza Health Ministry operates under Hamas governance.

“I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” Biden told the press on Wednesday, adding, “I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”

Adam Taylor, the author of the aforementioned Washington Post article, correctly notes that Biden’s statements are a bit odd given that his own State Department considered Gaza’s Ministry of Health reliable enough to cite their death counts in its own reports as recently as a few months ago.

What changed? The information interests of the US empire changed.

When I drew attention to all this on Twitter a few hours ago I immediately started getting comments from Israel apologists dismissing the information I was providing because Human Rights Watch is bad and unreliable and because The Washington Post is bad and unreliable, in order to defend their belief that the Gaza Ministry of Health is bad and unreliable.

These are the tactics of people who have lost the argument. They understand that the soaring death counts from Israel’s ongoing massacre of Palestinians in Gaza is devastating to the information interests of the side they support, so they need to make up fairy tales about how The Washington Post, Human Rights Watch and the US State Department have been engaged in a years-long conspiracy to make Israel look bad.

Which is of course not to say that anyone should ever believe claims made by The Washington Post or Human Rights Watch on blind faith — I’ve had major criticisms of both of these institutions myself over the years. Believing they’re infallible would be as misguided as believing they’re always lying.

Which is exactly the point I’m trying to make here: it’s not about the source, it’s about the strength of the argument. Attacking the source instead of attacking the argument is what people do when they can’t attack the argument. It’s a standard ad hominem.

A lot of people think an ad hominem is when you say something that hurts the feelings of somebody you disagree with, but that’s not what that term refers to. An ad hominem is when you attack the character or motives of the person making the argument instead of attacking the argument itself; it’s a fallacious debate tactic designed to move the conversation away from the pursuit of truth and facts to just dismissing someone’s claims because you don’t like them. It can be entirely appropriate to interrogate someone’s motives and character when that’s the only information you’ve got to work with and is relevant to the conversation, but when it’s used as a substitute for addressing evidence and argumentation it’s a fallacy.

And that’s the only tool Israel apologists seem to have in their toolbox these days. It’s exactly what they are doing when they accuse you of being a “terrorist supporter” or an “anti-semite” when you criticize Israel; they cannot address your actual criticisms because Israel’s actions in Gaza are indefensible, so they attempt to malign your character or your motives to shut down the debate and keep people from listening to you.

The “you can’t trust those death counts because they come from the health ministry of an enemy government” line can be used in literally any war against literally any enemy. People who care about facts don’t look at what governmental loyalties a source has, they look at whether the institutions in question have a track record of being reliable or not, and whether its claims are supported by evidence.

You’d have to be a complete idiot to look at the photos and videos showing entire city blocks reduced to rubble in an area known to be packed full of children and not assume that there is a massive number of civilian deaths in Gaza right now. As Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp recently noted, dramatic increases in death counts in Gaza correspond directly with Israeli government statements about having increased the number of bombs dropped. This is what you would expect to see if the ministry was accurately reporting deaths.

Israel apologists are doing everything they can to minimize and justify Israel’s crimes in every way possible, because if westerners start looking objectively at the crimes themselves they will cease consenting to this horrific genocidal massacre that western governments are fully supporting.

They don’t have truth on their side, and they don’t have morality on their side, so all they can ever do is attack the sources of the ideas and information that are opening people’s eyes to the criminality of Israel and its western allies.

______________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece here are some options where you can toss some money into my tip jar if you want to. Go here to buy paperback editions of my writings from month to month. All my work is free to bootleg and use in any way, shape or form; republish it, translate it, use it on merchandise; whatever you want. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations: 1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Featured image via Adobe Stock.

--

--