Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On not heeding Popper

In a recent post on his blog, Yaacov told us that in certain fields of human knowledge, such as history, no laboratory experiments can be carried out to prove or disprove a theory. In such cases, second best is, according to Austrian philosopher Karl Popper,

to formulate your thesis, and then do your utmost to find facts that will disprove it; only when your repeated attempts to disprove your thesis fail, and you can find no facts that might weaken your position, only then can you begin to assume that perhaps you're right - and perhaps not, since there still may be facts out there that will disprove you, only you haven't found them yet.
For reasons that are themselves undisclosable, I can't reveal my identity. I told this to Yaacov very clearly when he invited me to set up a joint blog. He accepted such terms; with reservations, admittedly, but he did accept them. To my surprise, however, after we had published our first few posts he wrote me to ask if I might be a certain specific person. As could be expected, I answered that since we had agreed that my identity would be secret, I wouldn't discuss it.

From then on, events took a weird turn. Yaacov let me know that certain people had written him to 'expose' me as a non-Arab. He didn't need to know my full name, but asked me to prove my Arabness. Of course, it's very difficult to prove your ethnic origin without disclosing your name.

But, who were those mysterious informers who had denounced me? It's not too difficult to imagine. In the last few months I've been active debating Zionists on their own blogs, in some cases dealing them humiliating defeats. While English-language Zionist bloggers seem to be more tolerant of dissension, Spanish-language ones are not imbued with a comparable openness, coming, as they mainly come, from Argentina, a country still in transition to a full democracy. The result has been that I've been blocked from participating in quite a few Zionist blogs in Spanish. In the face of that, I decided to switch languages and participate more actively in blogs in English. One of the Argentinian bloggers, not content with having expelled me, decided to try and hinder my contribution to English-language blogs as well.

And here is where Popper comes in -- or, rather, does not. When that blogger contacted Yaacov to "expose" me, a student of Popper, as Yaacov likes to call himself, could have used a little skepticism. He could have looked for all evidence that might disprove what was being said about me, and even if he found none he should have given me the benefit of doubt, since "there might be facts out there" that had escaped his radar.

But not for nothing do they say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For all his professed admiration for Popper, Yaacov didn't even begin to do the homework prescribed by his idol. So I helped him a little and pointed to evidence on the web according to which it would be very illogical to think that I was the person I was claimed to be. Yaacov did not comment on this and was adamant that I should prove that I'm an Arab.

Finally, I decided to give in. I offered to provide him with the full disclosure of my name, as well as with documentation that was second-best to an ADN test to prove my ethnic origin, if only he would provide me with all the details of the exchanges with his informers.

Yaacov didn't acquiesce even to this, and I decided to call it quits, as would have any reasonable and self-respecting person in my position.

As a final thought I'll quote Eleanor Roosevelt: "Great people discuss ideas; average people discuss events; small people discuss other people." By the way, I understand that gossiping is looked down upon in Judaism.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Shutting Down

Judeo-Arab Conspiracy has been active less than two weeks, but we're shutting down. The reason for this is that I (Yaacov) raised doubts about Ibrahim's identity, and Ibrahim did not allay them.

I explained my motivation for inviting Ibrahim to join me in this exercise here. Already then we had a built-in problem, in that my identity is clear and transparent, and Google will tell you all about me, while Ibrahim ibn Yusuf is not the person's real name. I was willing to accept this, since I know from experience how hard it is, perhaps even impossible, to find an Arab willing to engage an Israeli in dialogue between equals. Israelis who start by beating their breasts are alright, but not the ones who are comfortable with their country. Apparently, Arabs who talk to that sort put themselves in danger in their own communities.

In my eagerness to engage in this dialogue I was obviously not careful enough. I asked Ibrahim some questions, and decided to accept his word when he responded. Perhaps this was a leftover from my "peace camp" years: we like to assume that the folks facing us are like us, their motivations are similar to ours, the only difference being that they're on the other side of the argument. Anyway, I didn't see any real danger in setting off on this joint project, so set off we did.

The next thing that happened was what anyone who understands the Internet could have foreseen: I began to get responses from readers who thought they knew who Ibrahim really is, readers whom I otherwise would never have encountered. Some of them supplied me with telephone numbers, creating a deeper level of contact than mere e-mails.

When I confronted Ibrahim with the information I was getting, he refrained from disproving it. Faced with the likelihood that there is nothing particularly Arab about him, I don't see how we can continue blogging at a place that defines itself as "A joint blog of a Jewish Zionist and an Arab Anti-Zionist".

The Challenge:

I continue to believe that Israel's positions (though not every single action) are generally defensible, and am willing to stand up to anyone who feels otherwise. Should there be anyone out there who wishes to continue where Ibrahim was not, they know where to find me. They will, of course, need to be google-able, if there is such a word.

Until then, it is my intention to desist from responding to anyone who is not willing to stand forth and identify themselves with their positions.

Yaacov Lozowick