Once upon a time the most famous ship in history, the Federation Starship Enterprise, explored the universe bringing western-style enlightenment to alien civilisations. In turn, we encountered wonders which left us all enthralled at the great diversity of such an imagined universe.
In a sublime essay on the Politics of Star Trek, Timothy Sandefur traces what he sees as a the moral drift that progressively appears throughout the series over the years. Sandefur loves the evil fighting, freedom loving, morally certain Captain James T Kirk.
He then decries the morally challenged character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard as obsessed with the ‘Prime Directive’, the guiding value of the evolved Federation Of Planets which is hell-bent on not interfering in alien societies. This is the antipathy of Sandefur’s much admired Kennedy-esque ‘liberty no matter the price’ Kirk. The key point he is making is that this reflects a cultural change in Western values: from ‘preserve liberty at any price’ to a non-judgemental non-interference anything goes position. From fighting for what is Right, to avoiding fighting at almost any cost to ensure Peace.
We see this today most clearly in the fight against ISIS. From the Putin & Hollande “merciless” war to the Jeremy Corbyn “this isn’t our fight” (you do have to wonder what, if anything, given his record Corbyn would fight for).
If the charge of moral relativism can be applied to an imaginary television series like Star Trek, then it can probably be applied to anything else, like my recent article on the foreboding signs apparent in the all-too-real Israel-Palestine conflict.
In pointing out what I saw as the obvious signs of deterioration in the conflict (and which a beautiful Australianism sums things up so well, ‘blind Freddie could see that coming’), and then discussing the deficiencies in both leaders to organise a solution, a reader contacted me and said they were “uncomfortable with the equivalence between Abbas and Netanyahu, and the stabbings and the far right in Israel.”
There are 2 equivalences being suggested: the 2 leaders of their societies, and Palestinian random stabbings with the actions of the far-right in Israel (I thought the word I used in the original article, “torched” gave that away).
Arguing in favour of equivalence, Abbas and Bibi are both democratically elected (granted Abbas has not renewed his mandate, but who in their right mind wants him to test that with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim Brigades, ISIS and others vying for the job). They are both the top leaders of their respective societies, they are both mandated to discuss solutions to the Conflict, and so on. Nothing problematic here I would have thought.
The real issue, I surmise, is what side of the conflict you are on and how that translates into how you feel about these 2 men. From a right-wing Israeli perspective, Bibi can do no wrong and Abbas can do no right. Vice versa for the Palestinians I imagine.
Maybe the feeling is that Abbas could stop the stabbings if he chose to do so, and because he does not, he is morally inferior to Bibi, who…hang on a minute…Bibi called for far-right price tag attacks on Palestinians and Christians to stop and that cohort doesn’t listen to him. So maybe Bibi can’t stop them, while Abbas, if publicly and firmly said “Al-Aqsa is now safe, don’t lose your lives over it”, can stop his own. So that means Bibi is the powerless one and therefore more politically and morally challenged than Abbas. That can’t be right – can it?
At the end of the day, the 2 leaders have a choice – lead or play victim. That to me is the great moral imperative. Fulfil the destiny of your people through the office you have been elected to. To boldly go where no man has gone before. This is far and away more important than what we feel about the qualities of these 2 men.
As for the Palestinian stabbings and the Israeli far-right, my reader will not like this. Our crazies kill our leaders – their crazies kill theirs. Their misguided, misled and misdirected teens stab our people – our misguided nutters torch theirs. Their terrorists bomb Joseph’s Tomb – ours torch and vandalise Christian holy sites.
The real problem is that there are more of the Palestinians joining in these acts of terror than Israelis, and so that makes their society, according to my reader’s logic, morally bad. Really? Isn’t this what we rail against when it comes to body counts in war, it is argued by those who oppose Israel, in that because there are less Israelis and more Palestinians killed we are bloodier and morally compromised?
This is where the moral equivalence argument truly falls down. The number of deaths are different because we believe in the sanctity of life and, seemingly a lot of Palestinian society, and the butchers of Hamas, ISIS and Islamism in particular, worship a death cult.
Naming streets and squares to glorify attackers of Jewish civilians makes the Israeli case that what is Right comes before Peace because it tells us that can never really be peace because the desire for death on 1 side prevails over sanctity of life in the other. And no Israeli leader, driven by the deepest values of Jewish tradition should or will ever hand over the keys of our destruction to those who glorify in our deaths. Never again.
When the Palestinian Authority Minister of Women’s Affairs Haifa Al-Agha says that Palestinian mothers are unique because they celebrate with cries of joy when they hear their child has been killed while attacking Israelis, then we cannot make a territorial peace deal that sticks. Trust and moral equivalence go out the window when the worship of Moloch prevails in Palestinian Society.
In battle, Hamas fighters stand behind children while Israeli soldiers stand behind their officers. We leaflet, knock-knock and try to evacuate Palestinian civilian areas while Hamas tunnels into Israeli kindergartens to kill as many as possible. We embed lawyers into our combat units, while they embed pictures from the Syrian civil war into a gullible media willing to believe they are from Gaza. The IDF has no moral equivalence anywhere in the slaughterhouse that has become the Middle East, and maybe not anywhere in the world.
The moral distinctions may not be what my reader thinks, but funnily enough, the real difference may best be epitomised by that wonderful Vulcan greeting that Dr Spock used to say while holding up his hand separating his fingers in the ancient sign of the Cohanim, “live long and prosper”.