Inequality has gone hopelessly out of fashion. Obama declared economic inequality “the defining challenge of our time“.
The logic seems to go like this: all people are equal, and all human life is equal. Therefore all people of all kind in any place in the world must have an equal opportunity for anything they want. Therefore, we must show equal compassion for suffering that is ‘close’ to us (geographically, racially, culturally) as for suffering that is far from us. And if there is any conflict between two groups of people, the two sides must be considered to have an equally valid case.
But what if they are not? Well, that is where government, regulation and advocacy steps in. It is their job to get rid of inequality wherever they see it, and thus “restore the balance”. Whether its levelling the playing field in a sporting competition through draft picks, affirmative action (for race, gender, or anything you like), restoring income equality through taxation, or framing a conflict, this near-obsessive need for equality is what drives the approach.
Consider how this approach affects the Arab-Israeli conflict.
That Israel remains surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered by enemies who seek her destruction is of no consequence. Why? Because Israel has managed not just to survive but to thrive. Because Israel has transformed itself (by its own actions) from weak victim to an economic and military power, and the only genuine democracy in the region. Israel is the new ‘one percenter’, and those who seek to equalise the conflict using whatever rationalisation available, are the latest incarnation of the Occupy Movement.
What are their demands?
The first stage is that we equalise and count together victims of both sides: that we must mourn together the four victims of kidnap and murder – three Israeli and one Palestinian, that we may not pray for the safety of Jews under attack without also praying for the safety of those under attack in Gaza, that we must always acknowledge both sides of the conflict and the equality of their respective claims.
While a particularist may reasonably have a greater affinity for the victims they associate with more closely, it’s hard to argue that any one human life is worth more than another.
The next stage, however, becomes more insidious – the attempts to redress perceived “imbalance” using “equalisation policies”.
One example starts when people seek to simplify the conflict as a number game – using the death toll as a measure of conflict equality, which in turn leads to a false equalisation logic: more Palestinians have been killed, therefore Israel is acting in an over-handed manner, or Heaven-forbid, responding “disproportionately”, which is possibly the worst thing you could ever do in a world where equality is the primary goal.
There are very simple reasons for the stark difference in the death toll: Because Israel, after decades of attacks, chose to invest in bomb shelters, advance warning systems, and the Iron Dome missile defence system to protect its citizens, and because Hamas chooses to embed rocket launchers in residences and uses the population (often against their will) as human shields.
If there was a genuine interest in determining the relative ethical performance of the two sides in the conflict, what the world should be using are: the proportion of civilians killed, and the policies used. If we compare Israel’s conduct against that of Obama’s drone campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan, we would like find it is the US that should be accused of war crimes. And Israel’s policies – of warning civilians before an attack – is something no other army would ever do. On the other hand, Hamas targets civilians specifically, and the only warning issued by Hamas to Israel’s civilian population is the blanket “we will kill all of you infidels and redeem Palestine!”
You would think an organisation naming itself b’Teselem for the biblical verse declaring that all humans are created in God’s image would themselves consider all human life – Israelis and Palestinians – to be equal. But they too are blinded by the need to “equalise” the conflict that they too move into affirmative action-type behaviour, forgetting the very value – universal equality of human life – they purport to stand for.
They are not just fixated on the same “numbers game” of inequality. According to them, it is Israel’s bombing of the homes of Hamas leaders that is “illegal”, with barely a mention of Hamas’s indiscriminate bombing that targets civilians. They defend Hamas’s practice of operating out of residential areas with the stale claim of Gaza being so overpopulated that Hamas has “no choice” but to resort to using the homes of innocent civilians as a base of attack. And while acknowledging the illegality of Hamas’s missile attacks, they seek to minimize their impact because Israel has established defence systems.
What do these “equalizers” expect from Israel? That she fight with one arm tied behind her back to make the conflict more fair? That she allow her citizens to be deliberately targeted? Despite years of evidence to the contrary, they remain glued to the fallacy that “the occupation” is actually the root cause of everything.
Israel have become the latest ‘one-percenters’ in the war against inequality. Those fighting against inequality (of all kinds) want to chop down the tall poppies and bring them down to everyone else’s size. Their zero-sum-game approach mandates that they reduce the one-percenters to the level of the rest.
Israel’s actions are based on ethical best practice in the field of war. Israel regrets that civilians in Gaza have been killed, and do the best they can to mitigate these and still protect its own citizens from the constant missile attacks. That the world chooses to blame Israel for these deaths rather than Hamas is disingenuous. Playing the equalisation game only seeks to reduce Israel to the level of its enemies. Israel’s morality is absolute.