Somebody needs to tell the ambassador about Godwin's Law


By Dan Judelson
November 4, 2010
Share

Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies predicts that the longer an internet discussion continues, then the greater the likelihood of a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis. There are other versions - one at least predating Mike Godwin's formulation - and several variants and corollaries but it is Godwin's which has, over the last 20 years, become familiar.

So what is one to make of a letter from His Excellency Ran Curiel, Israel's Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentary and Head of Mission to the European Union? In reply to an inquiry in July this year from Heidi Hautala MEP, chair of the EU Parliament's Human Rights Committee regarding the status of a Knesset bill proposing new rules governing the conduct of NGO's, Ambassador Curiel more or less warns the MEPs off because of European history:

Embarking on such a wrong path may lead us all to dwell on Europe's own credentials past and present.

Now there are several things to say here, not least that a strict interpretation of Godwin's law might not apply. After all, it was partly formulated to cover absurd reductio ad Hitlerum analogies and Curiel is referring to Europe's actual history. Notwithstanding the accuracy or otherwise, is it a wise thing for an senior ambassador to write? It's perilously close to saying "European criticism of Israel is only based on antisemitism." Is Israeli diplomacy strong if it resorts, in the first instance, to a cack-handed attempt at moral blackmail?

Which brings us back to one of the corollaries of Godwin's law. Guardian journalist Zoe Williams came up with it in 2002, in the context of trying to work out, the next day, who might have won a drunken argument. Whoever mentioned the Nazis first, lost, she wrote. As Nick Cohen put it in Pretty Straight Guys:

It's an egregious, dozy, meaningless, emotive catch-all.

Complaints about the state of Israel's PR offensive are legion. The ambassador's words hardly comfort those who wish for something less than megaphone diplomacy - including H.E. Curiel himself.

COMMENTS

TheBrit

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 23:13

Rate this:

0 points

If only Israel would listen to the majority of us who think that what they are doing is wrong and needs more positive PR. After all you only need to look on the BBC to see who gets all the positive PR and its not the Israelies. Thanks for the insight into Godwins law.


Dan Judelson

Thu, 11/04/2010 - 23:27

Rate this:

0 points

Brit, I think there may be a contradiction in what you have written above.

the majority of us who think that what they are doing is wrong and needs more positive PR

I think the first part of that is broadly true, though i do not know whether we constitute a majority. But if what - to be precise, if some of what - Israel is doing is wrong, no amount of positive PR will change that. Positive PR will surely come from what Israel does - though perhaps that is what you meant anyway?


Jonathan Hoffman

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 02:11

Rate this:

-2 points

Cite the full letter please.

All I find is Chris Davies' version and he is a notorious hater. I don't trust a JFJFP person, you are quite happy to march with terrorist and Ahmadinejad supporters.


telegramsam

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 02:57

Rate this:

1 point

Jonathan, I really wouldn't go down the path of mentioning who marches with whom if I were you, given your Ahava bedfellows.


Anthony Posner

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 07:38

Rate this:

-1 points

tsam,

"the longer an internet discussion continues, then the greater the likelihood of a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis."

You referred to The Nazi EDL on your 4th comment. The discussion started at 22.13 and you posted it at 01;57. So the internet discussion only lasted 3.45hrs before referring to The Nazis.

What conclusions can we draw?
(1) You are obsessed with The Nazis or
(2) You are intellectually dishonest, because you you only brought them up to prove Godwin's Law.


telegramsam

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 08:50

Rate this:

1 point

Not wishing to burst your bubble in any way, Anthony, it is, after all, your only source of fun, but I didn't mention the EDL Nazis. That's your interpretation. And given that Ahmadinejad is a latter-day Nazi, don't you think Jonathan (01.11) was the first? Or, irony of ironies, it was Dan himself who was the first because he mentioned them in the original posting, in the first line? Now grow up.


Anthony Posner

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 09:09

Rate this:

-1 points

Tsam,

I am giving "The Godwin JC Blogging Award" to you.

You always directly equate The EDL with The Nazis. So whatever the discussion... it could be about the price of Kosher chicken, you will inevitably say:
" But Jonathan eats Kosher chicken with The EDL Nazis outside Ahava. Here is the photo."

Ahmadinejad, ironically enough is a holocaust denier, so it is a mute point whether he is actually a Nazi. I prefer the broader term "Islamofascist".


Dan Judelson

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 09:13

Rate this:

1 point

I have the original exchange of letters between Hautala and Curiel. Happy to send copies to anyone who wants to see them.

Irony of ironies, it is the ambassador who loses no time in bringing up European history, at the very first opportunity.


Jonathan Hoffman

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 12:00

Rate this:

0 points

Please send me the letters


Dan Judelson

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 12:37

Rate this:

0 points

I have an old BT email address for you Jonathan, where I have sent the PDF's but I do not know whether it is current.

An email to danjudelson@jfjfp.org with your contact details (for anyone who would like to see the letters) is the alternative if your address has changed.


amber

Fri, 11/05/2010 - 18:41

Rate this:

0 points

Mt Judelson, your post makes no sense. What the ambassador said was not an analogy. It may have alluded to Europe's Nazi past - but it was not an analogy in the sense you describe.

Like jfjfp is concerned about Israel's image...when they march with those who would destroy it.


Dan Judelson

Sat, 11/06/2010 - 13:32

Rate this:

0 points

Amber, I covered exactly the point you make in my post, in the paragraph after the quotation from Ran Curiel's letter. The issue is whether the ambassador was right to resort to a "dozy meaningless catch all."

POST A COMMENT

You must be logged in to post a comment.