Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Refuting The "My Tax Dollars" Argument

In the world of discussion that is in the internet, it is common to find users who have a single-minded devotion to slander Israel while invoking the language of human rights. Pro-Israel users often call into question their motivations for doing so: Why would someone who only cares about human rights and not bashing Israel just ignore human rights violations in all around the world? In response to this, we have all seen anti-Zionists and critics of Israel use the "my tax dollars argument." I thought that I would share an example of that from the recent Huffington Post thread. Take a look at the second paragraph:

Now here is the thing about using the "tax dollars" argument from the anti-Zionist perspective: It works very well, in the sense that it can be used to shield against accusations of an inordinate interest in the Jewish state. It is not bulletproof, of course, because US tax dollars support many nations that behave far worse than Israel (including the Palestinians). This argument is a good way for anti-Zionists to justify their one-sided hatred and focus on Israel whilst ignoring the brutality and heinous crimes happening everywhere else in the world, such as in the Sudan and the Congo. However, there are two major problems with it, and those who use it must take care.

The first problem is the unspoken implication that you (i.e. the person making the argument) are really just approaching these issues from a position of moral selfishness. "It's okay with me that people are murdered by the hundreds of thousands in the Congo," you are saying, "just so long as I personally don't feel responsible for it." Notice also that it means that it would also be acceptable for Israel to continue "oppressing" the Palestinians as long as US aid is ended. It makes it pretty much impossible for anyone pursuing this line of argument to try and take a higher moral position from his or her opponent, which is a problem for Palestinian supporters, who usually rely on faux morality in order to overcome their opponents' arguments. It is difficult for someone of any moral standing to declare that it is more than okay for genocide, apartheid, etc to happen just so long as he or she is not paying for it. That's not the viewpoint of a "pro-Palestinian" individual (or really a "pro-anything" individual), it is the opinion of a morally lazy and selfish individual. A truly pro-Palestinian person would defend the Palestinians and their cause whether the US was involved or not. I guess that is where you separate the sheep from the goats.

The second problem with using the "my tax dollars argument" is that once you start using it you need to stick with it lest your hypocrisy be exposed. Let me explain what I mean using the "international law" example: You cannot on the one hand criticize Israel for using your tax dollars to do bad things and on the other criticize Israel for breaking international law. You have just said that you don't care about countries who break international law (like Sudan) just as long as you don't feel personally responsible for their actions. By declaring that it is really the tax dollars that are bothering you, you are also saying that it is okay for Israel to break the law so long as you aren't funding it. That doesn't make you someone who cares about international law, in fact it makes you the opposite: Someone who couldn't care less about international law except when using it as a talking point. To what end? To stop Israel from using his or her tax dollars, i.e., to stop feeling personally responsible for the bad things that happen between the two sides. Not to end the violations of international law.

This problem spreads from international law to all the other arguments that anti-Zionists use to justify their one-sided condemnation of Israel. "I care about human rights!" No you don't, you just don't want to feel responsible for human rights violations. "I care about the welfare of the Palestinian children!" No you don't, you just don't want to pay for their mistreatment. "I care about peace between the two sides!" No you don't, they can fight each other til doomsday and as long as you aren't paying you couldn't care less. "I care about justice!" No, you just don't want to feel guilty. And so it goes. That is what is being said every time that someone uses the "my tax dollars argument," because the flip side is that without the tax dollars you wouldn't care at all.

People who use the "my tax dollars argument" actually put themselves in a double bind: They are forced to concede that they either only care about the tax dollars (which makes them liars when they pretend to care about human rights and international law) or that they are flip-flopping between whatever talking point fits the conversation (which only further calls their true motivations into question). Of course there is a way out of this logic trap: All you need to say that is that you care about international law, human rights, etc anyway but the fact that Israel is being financed through American tax dollars makes it particularly galling. That is all right, but then you must also be equally aggressive toward other US-backed regimes that mistreat international law and human rights, which include the Palestinains. Of course that should be easy for you since your real motivation is misuse of your taxes and international law, not simply bashing Israel...right? However as we have have seen anti-Zionists rarely keep their criticisms balanced for very long.

This is why I suggest that pro-Israel users keep an eye on comments like the one quoted above where the anti-Zionists claim to be motivated by the "my tax dollars" argument, because they never stick with it.


  1. This is great. Dealing with the "it's my tax money" by pointing out that most of it gets spent on American products was always a weak rebuttal.

    Framing the "it's my tax money" proponents as having no problem with genocide and the breaking of international law so long as they don't pay for it is very helpful.

  2. The anti-Zios' argument is really one of self-interest, not of idealism. The only time they care about the Palestinians is when Israel is in the picture. They could care less that Palestinian Arabs are deprived of rights and freedoms throughout the Arab World and treated like sub-human trash. In contrast, Israel for its flaws, treats them decently even though they are Jew-hating savages.

  3. Great piece Zach.
    Too bad that the anti-Zios will never, ever, admit to any wrong or responsibility on the part of the Palestinians. *Nothing* is the fault of, or responsibility of the Palestinians, so they will continue to USE the "my tax dollars" talking points in an attempt to support their falsehoods and propaganda. They have NO PROBLEM, whatsoever, with US tax dollars going to the Palestinians, in fact, they claim that the Palestinians "deserve" and "need" US tax dollars. And then in the next breath, they will refer to Israel as "the welfare state".
    They will continue to scream "deflection" each time their "humanitarianism" comes into question, they will continue to deny, deny, deny, and they will continue to bash Israel and Jews for anything and everything.
    It won't matter that other countries simply get ignored for actions similar or far, far worse, because *other countries* are not their cause or mission, therefore, do not matter one little bit.

    It is all about their obsession with anything anti-Israel, and anything anti-Jewish that fuels them,
    and will continue to do so.

  4. Egypt is #2 in US tax dollar aid as it practices gender apartheid against Egyptian women and blockades Palestinians at the Sinai/Gaza border. But we don't see any anti-Zios protesting that.

    Neither do they protest Lebanon depriving Palestinians there of basic human rights. More apartheid they pay for with their tax dollars, as Lebanon receives US aid as well.

  5. Of course what you say is obvious to most of us who have ever had to argue a point, especially in a formal setting. However the Media controls the perspective of the masses. We no longer talk about an Arab-Israeli conflict, but an Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where we have turned from David into Goliath (so much for the Jewish controlled Media!)
    Take into account that Israel houses the 2nd largest foreign press contingent after the US and you understand that it is under a microscope like noone else.

  6. Ask them, "so are you expiated yet?"

    Only bashing Israel can *expiate* their guilty-feeling selves from the weight of living the White Western 1st world good life in an unequal world.

    With Israel bashing, they get to bash something partially Western, partially White for any potential infraction, and in so doing claim pseudo-moral points against their being White, Western enjoyers of the 1st world good life.

    But they'll never really be expiated, never achieve yearned for grace, no matter how much bile and blamefare they inflict on Israel. Their soulsick selves will chase that carrot forever, like hungry ghosts.

    "Are you expiated yet?"

  7. This is very helpful. But the refutation doesn't work if the "tax dollars" issue is just ONE of the arguments our opponent makes. If somebone says, "Israel's occupation/oppression/etc. is illegal, immoral, AND an abuse of US aid dollars in service of an illegal and immoral purpose" then he or she is enlisting legal, moral, AND financial/self-interest support for the claim.

    1. Actually, the tax dollars argument fits very nicely into a refutation of the illegal/immoral bullshit; both statements rely on a moral values calculus that has everything to do with emotions and nothing to do with facts (just as the tax dollars bit amounts to abdicating any concern about the myriad non-Israel atrocities that don't involve U.S. funds in any way, so do the illegal/immoral bits amount to relying on either lies or bad soul feelings that aren't part of legitimate policy considerations). Israel has the legal and moral high ground, that's why the bogus self-interest crowd keeps going back to the asinine tax dollars argument--and why it keeps failing to bring in more agreers.


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