notes on my note

so the law school has this crazy rule that you have to do a serious piece of writing in order to graduate.

i say, if i wanted to do a serious piece of writing, i would have gone to grad school instead of law school.

oh yeah, i did go to grad school.


and i failed to do a serious piece of writing either time.

but anyway, i've been nursing this idea for a note that would allow me to combine my ability to pass myself off as competent in semantics with my need to write something involving law, and also allows me to indulge in my favorite fiction, which is that international law has relevance to the conflict in the middle east.

basically, the idea goes like this: resolution 242 of the united nations security council was passed in the aftermath of the june 1967 war in which israel attacked (deal with it, zionists) egypt, syria and some other countries, and conquered the palestinian territories that it's been occupying illegally ever since (see above, zionists).

the resolution contains disputed language*. it calls for israeli withdrawal from "territories occupied in the recent conflict". the absence of a universal quantifier like "all", and a maximizer/totalizer like "the" before "territories" has engendered a debate over whether israel is required to withdraw from all of the occupied territories, or whether withdrawal from one dunam would be sufficient. it is a credit to the inventiveness of apologists for israeli hideosities, and a discredit to the notion that man is a rational animal, that many people actually take the second position seriously.

my goal would be to present a semantic analysis of the resolution. my present belief is that the text is ambiguous between a semantic universal and existential, while the anti-israel "pro-israel" position seems to be that it is unambiguously an existential. my arguments so far are from the compatibility of the sentence with an exceptive phrase like "except hilltops", and from the possible distribution of polarity-sensitive items, or whatever the pros are calling negative polarity items these days. the sentences (1) and (2), to which i added the diagnostic words in red, suggest a universal interpretation.

(peace should include)
1. withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict, except hilltops
2. withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories of any significance occupied in the recent conflict

to see that these are characteristics of sentences with universal interpretations, add "all" in front of "territories", and observe that the sentences sound right. to see that they're not compatible with existential interpretations, add "some" in front of "territories", and observe that they sound wrong. this does not show that these sentences lack an existential interpretation - only that they have a universal interpretation.

there is much more to be said on the subject, including an exploration of whether this fact has any legal significance, and a discussion of where the universal force of the sentence comes from. but i have two years to write this note, and only one day to write a memorandum in opposition to defendant's motion to dismiss, so i believe i'll go focus on that for just a bit.
* speaking of law, language, the occupation of palestine and "disputed": some ziotards try to dispute that "occupied territories" is accurate, and prefer "disputed territories", pointing to the fact that israel disputes that it legally belongs to the palestinians. this conflation of the adjectivalized participial form of the verb "dispute" with the sho nuff adjective "disputed" can be multiplied. observe: i hereby lay claim to all of england. therefore all of england is disputed territory, like palestine.

(i think i have notes somewhere on how to distinguish the participial adjective from the sho nuff adjective. one general test is compatibility with degree modifiers of adjectives like very/mad/wicked, or degree relations like -er/more/less/so/too/enough. compatibility with the adjective is sufficient but not necessary for concluding it's a sho nuff adjective.)

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