"Leveling Up, Not Down"
To say something else about Helen Thomas, one thing I’ve seen raised in a number of quarters is the selectivity or hypocrisy involved in condemnations of her. I think that’s right, but I also think people have to be careful with the deployment of pure hypocrisy arguments, which are always the tool of people trying to defend weak positions. North Korea’s egregious human rights abuses don’t mitigate Israel’s human rights abuses. Mike Huckabee’s support for cleansing the entire area west of the Jordan River of its Arab population is disgusting but doesn’t somehow make Thomas’ view that Israeli Jews should be deported to Poland okay.
Which is to say that with hypocrisy we should be trying to level up—to hold everyone to higher and better standards of conduct—rather than to level down by using observations of hypocrisy to minimize bad behavior. In my opinion, it’s a huge problem that people who openly or implicitly support massive displacement or perpetual disenfranchisement of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians are considered respectable figures in American and Israeli politics. But you tackle this problem by tackling it and by tackling the religious fanaticism and bigoted nationalism that give it welcome.
I wanted to clarify that I’m trying to hold up my colleague and deskmate Matt Duss’ post on Thomas and Huckabee as a positive example of using the interest in Thomas to try to draw attention to the neglected story of Huckabee’s support of ethnic cleansing. This is the way it should be done. A lot of Americans rightly have strong feelings against what Thomas said, but should be encouraged to take a wide view of the principles at work.