The Twitter Duel between Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and blogger Jeffrey Goldberg about Ayalon’s widely-viewed video (214,000 views and counting) illustrates the difficulty of holding a debate in 140-character increments — particularly when arguing the video asserted Israel would retain the West Bank “forever” and Palestinians should “f— off,” which the video did not.
The video explained the history supporting the characterization of the West Bank as “disputed territory.” One would think the term “disputed territory” inherently acknowledges the existence of competing arguments and the consequent need for negotiation, but we need not speculate: Ayalon reviewed the same history in a December 30, 2009 Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled “Israel’s Right in the ‘Disputed’ Territories,” which concluded with these words:
[T]here is this perception that Israel is occupying stolen land and that the Palestinians are the only party with national, legal and historic rights to it. Not only is this morally and factually incorrect, but the more this narrative is being accepted, the less likely the Palestinians feel the need to come to the negotiating table. Statements [referring to the “occupied Palestinian territories”] are not only incorrect; they push a negotiated solution further away.
Ayalon’s tweet to Goldberg asked, “Can you please give me the reference to the future of the West Bank that you allege is made during the video?” Goldberg responded he did not understand the question. Ayalon tried again: “What in the video made you state ‘The West Bank belongs to Israel now AND FOREVER’ and then launch into expletives?” Goldberg responded there was only one expletive. And so it went.
At Tablet (where Goldberg is moving his blog next month), Marc Tracy awarded the fight through the first eight rounds to Goldberg, using a boxing score system that gave Goldberg rounds for twit-zingers such as this: “Have you done more to end the West Bank occupation, or solidify it?” Since Ayalon’s point was the territories are “disputed” rather than “occupied,” Goldberg’s question was on the order of, “Have you done more to stop beating your wife, or continue beating her?” Wow, a TKO — cue the “Rocky” music!
Goldberg is not a careful reader of diplomatic statements, having egregiously mischaracterized Benjamin Netanyahu’s November 11, 2010 statement and now Danny Ayalon’s video. He owes an apology, if not to Netanyahu and Ayalon at least to his own readers, who deserve a more trustworthy analysis, even if limited to 140 characters.