Professor Accuses Israel of Slow-Motion Genocide

In a case of self-deprecatory irony, Todd May, a Philosophy Professor at Clemson University mused, “Philosophers are often renown for two things: their ability to think logically and their irrelevance to public discussion and debate.” The accuracy of such a sweeping generalization is questionable, but in May’s case it is certainly true. The reason is not difficult to discern. Sensational assertions and a thin veneer of logic might be persuasive in a college classroom where students must defer to the professor, but the general public is not obliged to credit unworthy arguments. To be taken seriously in the public arena demands more than the ability to apply logic, it requires adherence to facts — a characteristic lacking in professor May’s writings on Israel.

May’s lack of factual accuracy was again exposed in an op-ed appearing in the Anderson Independent-Mail on May 25, 2008, where he accused Israel of perpetuating a “slow motion genocide” against the Palestinians. The professor’s charge is absurd. Since 1948, the Palestinian Arab population has increased from just over a million to over six million, doubling in size with each new generation. This extraordinary population increase is not only due to large family size, but is also a result of dramatic improvements in the health and longevity of Palestinians. In 1967, when Israel took over the administration of the West Bank and Gaza, the average life-span of a Palestinian was 48 years and infant mortality approached 100 per 1000 live births. Access to clean drinking water was limited and illiteracy was rampant. Today, despite the hardships caused by the on-going conflict, Palestinians live to 72 years on average, infant mortality has dropped to 23 per 1000, most residents of Gaza and the West Bank have clean drinking water and literacy is nearly universal among those born after 1967. To equate such documented facts with genocide is neither credible nor logical.

May has been disseminating similar nonsense about Israel for a long time. During the height of the suicide bombing attacks against Israel in April 2002, he demanded that America cut its support for Israel (Counterpunch magazine, April 16, 2002) accusing Israel of committing massive human rights violations and comparing the Jewish state to genocidal regimes like Pol Pot’s Cambodia. He wrote, “If the U.S. media begins to pay due attention to what Israel has done in Jenin, that would go a long way toward remedying the problem.”

This is a reference to the IDF incursion into Jenin, where Palestinian officials accused Israel of committing a massacre. A UN investigation rejected the spurious allegation, but May has a vested interest in perpetuating the charge since he co-authored a book premised on alleged Israeli war crimes. The professor’s charge is absurd based on the evidence. The UN investigation found 52 Palestinians died in the nine day incursion, as opposed to 23 Israeli soldiers. At least half and as many as 45 of the Palestinians were identified as combatants. The Israeli death toll was actually unusually high due to the decision by Israeli commanders to send troops in to the crowded city rather than use stand-off weapons in order to minimize civilian casualties (13 of the Israelis fatalities resulted when a booby-trapped building was detonated).

May equated the Middle East’s only liberal democracy with a criminal. He wrote “The longer a criminal uses my support to commit crimes, the more urgent it becomes that I stop supplying that support.” The fact that Israel has been under attack since its founding, first by Arab states and later by Arab terrorist groups, apparently has no weight in May’s thinking.

An article titled “The End of the Holocaust,” which he penned during the summer war against Hezbollah in July 2006, reveals an even more unsavory side to this strident opponent of American support for Israel. May accused Israel of using “the silent extortion of the Holocaust” to carry out repeated massacres. Using words that can only torment those who remember the genocide directed against Jews, he added “for Israel’s neighbors (and non-Jewish citizens), perhaps the crime is LWA: Living While Arab.” May’s characterization does not reflect the reality of the circumstances of Arabs, and non-Jewish citizens in general, living in Israel who enjoy more freedoms than any Arabs in the Middle East. Recent polls of Israeli Arab opinion repeatedly show that the majority of Israeli Arabs prefer living in Israel over any other country despite complaints about discrimination in employment and government services.

Concerning Hezbollah, identified by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, he opined, “nor is its murderousness a match for that of the IDF.” Apparently years of education in logic cannot compensate for moral obtuseness. May failed to distinguish between Israel’s military response and Hezbollah’s unprovoked cross border attack and bombardment of northern Israel. Why is May unable to comprehend that by attacking civilian populations in northern Israel, while dispersing themselves within civilian populations in Lebanon, Hezbollah is guilty of war crimes? The fact that more Lebanese died than Israelis attests to the more lethal military capabilities of the Israeli forces and to Hezbollah’s tactic of launching rockets at Israel from residential areas.

A more reasoned and rational understanding of the conflict was provided by another philosopher, Bernard Harrison, who wrote:

The principle that every Israeli, including women and children, is a legitimate target has been repeatedly and expressly proclaimed and acted upon by the Palestinians and rejectionist Arab states …. To kill civilians has been the whole point of innumerable actions both by Al-Fateh and by such “Islamist” fascists groups as Hamas, Hizbollah, or Islamic Jihad. On the other hand, while actions undertaken by the Israeli armed forces have resulted in the deaths of Arab civilians, the object of these actions has not been to bring about those deaths …

CAMERA refuted May’s most recent diatribe, in which he leveled his “slow motion genocide” charge, with a letter published on June 26, 2008 by the Anderson Independent-Mail. The letter is reproduced in full:

In “Aiding and abetting an occupation (On My Mind, May 25), Todd May repeats unsubstantiated anecdotes from a group of disaffected Israeli soldiers to depict Israel in the worst possible light. He tries to bolster his case against Israel with the baseless and easily refuted charge that the Palestinians are experiencing “a slow motion genocide.”

The facts do not support his argument. The West Bank and Gaza have experienced one of the world’s highest rates of population increase over the past 60 years, increasing from 1 million in 1948 to over 6 million. The United Nations World Health Organization and the Palestinian Authority confirm dramatic improvements in Palestinian health and living standards over the past 40 years since Israel captured these territories in a defensive war.

Despite the difficult situation existing in the West Bank and Gaza, the average lifespan has increased from 48 in 1967 to 72 in 2006. Infant mortality has declined from over 100 per 1,000 live births to under 23 according to the most recent data. Literacy among young Palestinians has become nearly universal, higher than any Arab country. This, and much more data, are readily accessible in reports published by the United Nations World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

While discrimination against minorities requires constant vigilance in all countries, including Israel, religious minorities in Israel are free to openly practice their religion without fear of persecution and are able to participate in unfettered free elections.

One would expect a more balanced and factual argument from a university professor.

May’s misrepresentations and defamations do not reflect well upon the university that employs him as a chaired professor. Thankfully, unlike the captive audience of the classroom, the public arena has no reason to refrain from exposing his erroneous assertions.

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