Is following a valid argument?

Whatever Israel does is wrong regardless of the fact that so many other countries do worse.

When I raised this concern in a recent debate, my opponent accused me of changing the subject. He said we are talking about Israel now, not Chechnya or Darfur. This reminded me of a famous exchange between Harvard’s former president, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, and the great American judge Leonard Hand. Lowell announced that he wanted to reduce the number of Jews at Harvard, because, “Jews cheat.” Judge Hand replied that “Christians also cheat.” Lowell responded, “You’re changing the subject. We are talking about Jews.”

-Alan Dershowitz on JPOST

“Jews cheat” is a statistical claim and if you want to make a policy based on that then you have to show specifically  that  “Non-jews don’t cheat” so often. This is the meaning of the reply of the judge, “Christians also cheat”.  In the case of war crime of Israel, no one is saying that “All jewish states does war crimes” more often then others. But, they are pointing at specific incidents of crimes.

If you respond to an accusation, which is not statistical but an specific crime,  by saying that others also have done it then you are certainly changing the subject.


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