Yoram Schweitzer has now responded twice to me, and I think it about time to close down his and my exchange, but not before one final, brief reply on my part.
(To recapitulate, the sequence, all published in The Jerusalem Post, began on July 21 with my article, "Samir Kuntar and the Last Laugh," which criticized the Israel-Hizbullah exchange; he replied July 24 with "Not That Bad a Deal," disagreeing on specifics and castigating me for even opining on the matter; on July 28, in "May an American Comment on Israel?" I justified my right to an opinion; today, he replied in "Obfuscation and Oversimplification.")
Schweitzer has quietly but completely retracted his initial criticism of me. On July 24, he dismissed my views as "patronizing and insulting, overlooking as they do the fact that the government and public have the right to decide for themselves …, and to shoulder the resulting price," then for good measure castigating me for doing so from my "secure haven thousands of miles away." Today, it's all sweetness and light:
The right to voice one's thoughts, irrespective of the degree of one's first-hand knowledge of the issues in question, is a linchpin of academic, and indeed democratic, discourse and is not in dispute. The problem with Pipes' last two offerings doesn't lie with the fact that he isn't an Israeli citizen.
Well, thank you. But then, Schweitzer continues: "Rather, it is that he reduces a complex issue to a sound byte, completely ignores the context of the matter at hand and harshly attacks Israeli officials for their handling of this latest crisis."
Sound byte? Well, first the proper expression is "sound bite." Second, it refers to "A short and easily remembered line, intended by the speaker to be suitable for media repetition." My article on the Israel-Hizbullah exchange may be wrong, but it is certainly not a sound bite. It's even less a sound bite when one notes how it fits into my history of writing against disproportionate Israeli exchanges going back over two decades, including "Kuwait's Terrorism Policy Sets an Example" (1986) and "Hezbollah's Victory, Israel's Decline" (2004). (August 3, 2008)
Sep. 21, 2008 update: For a curious epilogue to this debate, note the comment by Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary, offered from the opposite political perspective from my own. In the course of discussing the place of Arab citizens of Israel, he observed that Diaspora Jews can view relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel more objectively:
I remember in the early days of the conflict [the second intifada] my cousin in Afula had her car stoned on her way to work. And I was living in Palo Alto and no one was stoning my car. I was in a better position to imagine a scenario where Arabs and Jews can live peacefully together.