Michal Cotler-Wunsh

David and Goliath: Perception and Misconception

Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent literary success by the name of “David and Goliath” is fundamentally about the advantages of seeming disadvantages and about the disadvantages of apparent advantages. Gladwell suggests that: “We have a definition in our heads of what an advantage is – and the definition isn’t right. And what happens as a result? It means that we make mistakes. It means that we misread battles between underdogs and giants. It means that we underestimate how much freedom there can be in what looks like a disadvantage.”

It is difficult to imagine a more precise and relevant paradigm for the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian people, most recently demonstrated in the current situation. There are without doubt distinct disadvantages to living in Gaza. There are definite disadvantages in health care, education and other basic needs. There are definite disadvantages in personal security and fundamental freedoms. There are most definitely disadvantages in the prevalent poverty and lack of employment.

Yet the terrorist organization of Hamas, which openly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, has, in twisted cruelty, manipulated these real disadvantages into advantages. The Hamas has made the outright decision to sacrifice the 1.8 million disadvantaged citizens of the Gaza Strip, turning their suffering into an advantage to be utilized to further the goals of Hamas. The very organization claiming to be the ‘freedom fighters’ of the Palestinians in Gaza are in fact viciously utilizing the scare tactics and manipulation of the terrorist organization that it is, against the very people that it claims to represent.

The other side of the equation has proven just as accurate in this most recent round. As Iron Dome continues to perfect itself even as the barrage of rockets fall daily, as sirens sound throughout the country, the apparent advantage of the most advanced missile defense system has turned into a disadvantage. As brave and resilient citizens of Israel resolve to continue living and to win the war against terror simply by refusing to allow it dictate their lives, the astonishing advantage has turned into perceived disadvantage. As the military reiterates its determination to do everything possible to avoid hurting innocent civilians in Gaza, ‘knocking on roofs’, calling civilians to leave and aborting vital missions if the chances of hurting civilians are too great, these incredible moral and ethical tenets have been turned into disadvantages. As adults daily commit to feign routine for the sake of their children’s emotional well-being, as they brave the sirens with a smile in order to reassure those around them who are frightened, these very real advantages of a healthy society have been manipulated into disadvantages.

It is time to begin questioning perceptions of the disadvantages manipulated maliciously into advantages to benefit a terrorist organization. It is time to begin addressing the misconceptions of advantages that have been twisted and turned on their very head into disadvantages that reward the aggressor. It is time to question the notion that those with less perceived power are the powerless. It is time to consider that power imbalances are not as they seem. It is time to responsibly define what an advantage is and avoid the mistakes made as a result of misreading battles between perceived underdogs and misconceived giants. Mostly, it is time that we accurately assess how much freedom there in fact is in what appears as a disadvantage.


About the Author
The writer is a lawyer, research fellow, and policy and strategy advisor. She served as an MK in Israel’s 23rd Knesset, co-founding the International Bi-Partisan Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism.