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This Whole Palestinian Thing
This Whole Israeli Thing?
Q: What’s your view on the current state of the Israel-Palestine situation?
Yikes. That might be a terrible question. Not only am I not likely to present anything special that you cannot find elsewhere but there is probably no position on this topic that won’t strike somebody as “problematic.” Perhaps, though, I could say a few useful words about the principles that I deploy in general when looking at geopolitical situations around the world:
The Collective Identity Fallacy. Israel is not an adequate representative of Jews-in-general. Aggressive, nationalistic and corrupt forms of the Israeli government are not adequate representatives of Israel. Hamas does not stand for, or embody, the Palestinian people. So it is important to be a lot more specific about who we are discussing…
The Sides vs Both-Sides Fallacy. It is not appropriate EITHER to take one side OR to treat both sides as equivalent. The tragedy of innocent people dying in Israeli-controlled or Palestinian-controlled territories is the same — utterly intolerable. And yet the overwhelming superiority of violence, bullying, marginalizing, dehumanizing, capturing & international deception seems to be predominantly on the Israeli side (see how that sounds like all Israelis are involved?). No one is every solely or equally to blame. Situations are co-created but the parties involved are not therefore equally responsible in either a practical or moral sense.
The False Mystery Fallacy. Uninformed members of the North American public or press tend to perk up when missiles are flying, do a minimum amount of research and try to diplomatically explain why this is an ancient, confusing situation in which two groups “over there” are doing something incomprehensible nested in ancient history. This is a hasty and largely inauthentic position that requires us to explore the issue in more detail and with a deeper personal sensibility.
Self-defense is Moral Only insofar as it is Precise. Does Isreal have the right to defend itself against Hamas missiles? Yes. Do Palestinians have a right to defend themselves against institutionalized violence and oppression from Israel. Yes. BUT — the moral right to defend yourself is only proportionate to the precision with which you target the actual attacker in their moment of attack or preparation. It is not moral to kill “some Hispanics” because you were attacked by “a Hispanic.” Morality drops off sharply as the precision declines. Likewise, policies like stop-and-frisk or mass-government-surveillance may legitimately be attempting to prevent attacks… but these are violations of human rights precisely (sic) because of the excessive generality of the target population. Clearly, this is specific to conditions. Perfect precision is not the prerequisite of moral action but we should be aware of this gradient and at least intend to maximize it.
The Development Problem. I would certainly not like to live under a Hamas regime but I also know that societies do not evolve toward civility, inclusion & well-being unless they are stable, relatively secure, able to access resources (without interference) and able to avail themselves of both self-esteem and the time/tools needed to heal traumas. So the non-ideal nature of immediate Palestinian governance is not problematic — it is a place to begin. It takes as long as it takes and it will suffer from the absence of any important supportive factor but clearly the basic functional conditions are a start.
I could probably list 5 more (and maybe I should in order to ward off confusions) but I’m sure you can glean a sense of my view from these principles even though they can be applied outside the Israel-Palestine conflict. On the whole, I think it quite appropriate for public opinion to be shifting toward greater support for Palestinians and greater pressure on the current instantiation of the Israeli military and political power structure — which is also the position of many Israelis.
And in the meantime, every innocent death AND every act of institutionalized bullying and apartheid steals something from my soul…