Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Three Ways to be Against Israel

It's an interesting thing, is Twitter. Whoever cooked it up must have been either a genius or extraordinarily lucky, because although it sounds like an absolutely whacky idea, the fact is that it creates value. The thing I've noticed this past week, as I've been using it quite intensively because of the operation in Gaza, is that it easily beats other media outlets in its speed of supplying news of immediate developments, but even more interestingly, it enables conversations with people from walks of life I would otherwise never come across. In spite of its highly limiting format, conversations with some of these people can be highly informative.
First, there are the Hamas terrorists themselves, to be found at their own Twitter account, @AlqassamBrigade. Their view of the world is very simple: What we do is heroic, what the Israelis do is the epitome of criminal. Thus they crow about all the rockets they shoot at various Israeli targets (and they name them specifically: no random shooting in a general direction), and they scream about all the awful Israeli atrocities. In the reality their achievements are less impressive than they'd have us believe, which means their intention to harm is greater than their ability to harm, while with the Israelis it's the other way around. Their ability to harm, if they only wished to, is greater by many magnitudes than what they're doing in reality. Such a consideration, however, belonging as it does to the realm of moral deliberation, would be utterly lost on the Hamas people for whom morality is a subjective reflection of their own bestial urges.
Then there are the deniers of time. These are people who look at the present and assume that whatever they see must be self-explanatory. If there's an Israeli blockade of Gaza, there must have always been an Israeli blockade of Gaza. If the blockade doesn't go back all the way to 1967 (some of them say it does), then only because Israel periodically replaces one form of persecution with another; the constant being that Israel always does its worst against the Palestinians. Confronted with past Israeli actions that are so well documented they can't be brushed aside, the explanation will always be that Israel is continually refining its methods of persecution, true, but the persecution never disappears, and the Israelis never intend it to. The events of September 2005-February 2006, for example, were not indicative of an Israeli willingness to have the Gazans demonstrate their ability to be constructive following an Israeli departure; no, they were merely a prelude to a new period in which Israel would persecute Palestinians from afar and at reduced cost.
Similar to the moral imbecility of Hamas, these people cannot think in terms of historical causation, and thus they, too, remove morality from the discussion. Israel cannot be understood as navigating its way through the moral and practical complexity of life, because Israel always intends to harm the Palestinians, and any modifications to its actions are merely tactical tweaks, not human deliberation. Of course, the Palestinians are the mirror image of the Israelis, and while some of their actions are sometimes not nice, they are always the victim, they are powerless, and as ultimate victims they cannot be required to make moral decisions. They're too busy trying, and only just succeeding, to survive.

Hamas makes no pretense of recognizing universal morality. Their knee-jerk apologists use the opposite tactic, and clothe their entire argumentation in the terminology of universal human rights. Yet since they refuse to perceive Israel as human, insisting on its a-historical and inherent and immutable evil and the Palestinians automatic justness, both groups end up in the same position: whatever the Palestinians do is good, whatever Israel does is evil, and moral thought is banished from the entire discussion.

Finally, in an entire different category, there are the well intentioned rationally-minded observers. These tend to be liberal in the American meaning, or left-leaning in the European political vocabulary. Their problem is not a deficiency of moral thinking, nor a disability to apply it to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their problem is the inability to accept the degree to which people can be immoral. They cannot accept that some people are so different from them as to be unrecognizable. The implication being, that if only everyone seeks hard enough it will be possible to resolve most differences. As a number of them have said to me in recent days: if your pessimism were to be justified, Yaacov, then there's no hope. There needs to be a resolution to the conflict. There must be a resolution to the conflict. If you're not seeing it it's because you're not truly seeking it – and this laziness is unacceptable; ultimately, it’s a moral weakness, since you're willing to remain in a state of war when it's possible to leave it.

Faced with the possibility that what "needs" to be, what "must" be, actually isn't necessarily so, they retreat into a form of speechlessness, of cognitive paralysis, from which they soon emerge by denial. How often have I heard the sentence "But if you're right, Yaacov, then there's no hope, and I refuse to accept that there's no hope".

The refusal to accept reality is sometimes highly admirable, as it motivates us ever to strive for something better; this determination is probably one of history's most beneficial motivating forces. Yet it needs to be tempered by humility: in spite of our determination to make the world a better place, ultimately it won't be anywhere near as nice as we'd like. Faced with terminal illness we can rail against fate but eventually the time will come for other sentiments. Faced with historical conditions beyond our power to change, there likewise comes a time when adaptation is more useful than millenarianism. Or, to return to Israelis and Palestinians: striving for a just peace is extremely admirable. Failing to reach it, however, since inevitable, cannot break the determination to live correctly.

And to think that all this can be found on Twitter…..


von Oskopia Kaleid said...

Their problem is the inability to accept the degree to which people can be immoral
This can be a really hard thing to learn. For a Katholic? For a person having been teached that the conflicts in the world are as simple as sharing chocolate or sand-box toys?

But if you're right, Yaacov, then there's no hope, and I refuse to accept that there's no hope
(Man hat mehr Eigenmacht ohne Hoffnung. ) The feeling of power is greater without hope. "Whithout hope" - that is not hopeless, because hopeless is not the opposite of having hope.

NormanF said...

The problem is the Islamists want to destroy Israel.

They're not looking for a compromise settlement - coexistence or even peace. There are truly evil people in the world.

That's what makes it so hard for rational people to grasp - that some people actually want to kill you!

The entire debate about Israel's actions in Gaza is disconnected from reality and has a surreal air about it.

Y. Ben-David said...

Yaacov-Glad to see you here again, I recall you announced you were giving up blogging some time ago. I recall you were a KADIMA supporter (I don't know how you feel about the destruction of Gush Katif under current circumstances!) but your work on the importance of Israeli control of Jerusalem is outstanding and I have distributed widely.

Regarding this piece: you really put your finger on it. The radical anti-Zionist Jewish Left (e.g. MJ Rosenberg, Rabbi Brant Rosen, Richard Silverstein) views the situation exactly as you state it....all Israel does is persecute Palestinians, all the time it is refining the way of persecution, all the concessions made by Israel and the withdrawals were insidious plots to increase persecution of the Palestinians.
Another odd thing they do, including those who consider themselves Zionists like Rosenberg and Silverstein (odd how someone who hates Israel and Jews so much can call themselves Zionists) is that, on the one hand, they keep calling for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, yet, at the same time, they accuse those who did make peace with Israel (Sadat, Mubarak) or who have negotiated with Israel as being traitors who are puppets of Israel and who are interested only in persecuting the Palestinians! A good example was the wikileaks about the Olmert-Abbas talks a few years ago....all of these people viewed Abbas as a "traitor" for making concessions to the Israel.
The conclusion I have come to is that these "Jewish Progressives" have come to completely identify psychologically with the Palestinians and they have completely adopted their world-view which centers on Israel being the enemy. A good example was how Silverstein went ballistic when a commentor mentioned the theory that Arafat died of AIDS. He said it was a vile Zionist lie, or something to that effect. What does it matter to him, anyway? But he has come to view the Palestinians as the essence of truth, justice and the right, so anyone who criticizes their beloved, legendary leader must be vile.
Very strange.

Stop BDS Park Slope said...

Has there ever been a conflict in history in which people advocated bringing two hostile people together?


Stop BDS Park Slope said...

Your type 2 should be the "reality denier" of which "The time denier" is a specific subtype. There are folks who believe before Zionism, it was paradise for Jews under Arab/Moslem rule. Or in 1947 the Jews attacked the Arabs to drive them out. Or there were hardly any Jews in Palestine before 1945. etc.