Saturday, December 21, 2013

Willful Blindness, Conscious Disregard, and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The question sometimes comes up, how can the Ari Shavits of Israel and the United States-- people in a position to know the real history of the conflict or who can hardly fail to know it--disregard or not know about it?

In the January 9, 2014 issue of the New York Review, Judge Jed S. Rakoff discusses the issue of whether the top officials of banks whose underlings were engaged in criminal fraud,  but who claim no knowledge about it, should be prosecuted.  Here is his answer:

"This, of course, is what is known in the law as “willful blindness” or “conscious disregard.” It is a well-established basis on which federal prosecutors have asked juries to infer intent.... And while some federal courts have occasionally expressed qualifications about the use of the willful blindness approach to prove intent, the Supreme Court has consistently approved it. As that Court stated most recently:


The doctrine of willful blindness is well established in criminal law. Many criminal statutes require proof that a defendant acted knowingly or willfully, and courts applying the doctrine of willful blindness hold that defendants cannot escape the reach of these statutes by deliberately shielding themselves from clear evidence of critical facts that are strongly suggested by the circumstances"


Jim Donnellan said...

Superb point!

pabelmont said...

JS: Thank you. The "wilful blindness" test is beautiful and should be raised as to any person -- in banks, in business, and particularly in government, who knows or should know of a crime (or the like) and by silence gives consent to it (or hides it from others).

The hiding of the facts about Zionism has been a major piece of the business of media, politicians, and Zionist organizations for many years.

Anthony Greco said...

Rakoff’s willful blindness is a more or less conscious decision to ignore facts that are readily available. I think resistance to the realities of the Israel/Palestine conflict often involves something psychologically more profound. It reflects the operation of a deeply imbedded ideology that makes it possible to dismiss or ignore inconvenient realities without a conscious decision to do so. I see an analogy between the implicit, unquestioning faith that many of its defenders have in Israel with the similar allegiance that communists for decades gave to the Soviet Union. Both communism and Zionism were motivated by noble impulses and won the allegiance of large numbers of decent, idealistic people who resisted acknowledging how those ideals were betrayed in practice. Communists [Zionists] “knew” that accusations of horrible human rights abuses couldn’t be true because the Soviet Union [Israel] was inherently good and decent. Reports of Soviet [Israeli] crimes could be dismissed because they were surely the products of capitalist [anti-semitic] propaganda, which either invents or distorts “facts” or omits important context. I certainly don’t mean to imply that the misdeeds of Zionism have been anything comparable in scale to the crimes of communism, but I think the ideological/psychological defense mechanisms of the two sets of true believers have operated in similar ways.

Jerome Slater said...

I quite agree with this excellent analysis. But note your working: "more or less" conscious decision. This leaves open the possibility that something not quite the same as simple lying is going on.

For example, people like Foxman and Dershowitz just lie--but others, like Michael Walzer, Tom Friedman, David Remnick, need a somewhat more complicated explanation. Such as your comparison between true believers in Zionism and commnunism.

Jerome Slater said...

Correction: "working" in the first line of my response to Anthony Greco of course should be "wording"