By Louis Rene Beres

"All supporters of the Oslo Accords want peace."
"Mr. Smith is not a supporter of the Oslo Accords."
"Mr. Smith does not want peace."

Every first-year undergraduate student of logic should be familiar with the fallacy illustrated above. Known formally as Denying the Antecedent, it can emerge inadvertently because of incorrect reasoning or as the purposeful result of a calculated deception. In the above example, "Smith's" reputation falls victim to denying the antecedent.

In the ongoing controversy surrounding Oslo, supporters of the Israel-Palestinian agreements would have everyone believe that the opponents of these agreements do not want peace. For the most part, the charges of the "peace camp" routinely exhibit this fallacy. In reality, there is no automatic connection of any kind between one's acceptance or rejection of Oslo and one's commitment to peace in the Middle East. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that Oslo opponents are every bit as opposed to war and terrorism as are Oslo supporters.

This is not the only fallacy committed by supporters of the "peace process." Another frequent experience of Oslo opponents is to find themselves defending an argument that they have never actually offered. For example, in a debate concerning Oslo, an opponent of the agreement is commenting upon the persistent lack of Palestinian (PA) compliance. In response, the debater supporting Oslo launches into an attack on the Israeli Government's spiritual, moral and/or economic corruption. Here, by ignorance or by design, the Oslo supporter misses the point, because the Oslo opponent has never presented any defense of the Israeli Government's integrity. This fallacy is known formally as Ignoratio Elenchi.

Another pertinent fallacy is known as Asserting the Consequent. Here, Oslo supporters often advance the following argument: (1) All terrorist violence against Israelis by Palestinians is preceded by the lack of a full Israeli commitment to Oslo expectations; (2) There has been a lack of full Israeli commitment to Oslo expectations; (3) Therefore, we will have Palestinian terrorism against Israelis. By asserting the consequent, the misleading conclusion.

Two additional fallacies by Oslo supporters warrant mention. The first, known as the fallacy of the Loaded Question, is a political version of "When did you stop beating your wife?" Only now, in the context of national and world politics, it has become: "When did you stop hating and torturing innocent Palestinians?" The outcome of this contrived query is to place the Oslo opponent in the unfair position of denying something he likely never accepted or undertook, occasioning a diversion of the argument away from its actual internal merit.

The second of the two last fallacies involves discrediting Oslo opponents by questioning their motives. This particular form of reasoning, which is always invalid, is known formally as the Genetic Fallacy. An example would be as follows: "Smith opposes Oslo because he is unable to extract any personal benefits from this agreement. Therefore, Oslo warrants support." Or: "Smith opposes Oslo because he dislikes Oslo supporters. Therefore, Oslo warrants support." The allegations of motive ascribed to Smith, the Oslo opponent, may in fact be entirely correct, but these allegations are entirely irrelevant to the diplomatic promise of Oslo.

For the present, the arguments used by Oslo supporters to discredit Oslo opponents often remain mired in logical fallacies. To guard against these arguments, it is essential that Oslo opponents now recall the rules of correct reasoning and invoke these rules whenever they are violated. Although supporters of this "peace process" have every right to argue on behalf of their particular plan for the Middle East, they also have a corollary obligation to do so truthfully.


LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971). He is Professor of International Law, Department of Political Science, Purdue University and is author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security matters.

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