Michael Jackson

Gaza war in black and white    

Hamas must be eliminated. Kill or expel all the Jews. Jordan is Palestine. Israel denies Israeli Arabs all rights. Move the Gazans out. Jews are European imperialists. Freeing all the Jewish hostages is more important than the lives of thousands of Gazan kids. Zionism is racism. There is no such thing as the Palestinian people. Zionism is an instrument of British imperialism. Repopulate Gaza with Jewish settlers. Hamas’s actions on October 7th were justified. Every Gazan is complicit in the Hamas atrocities. Every Israeli is a legitimate target. Arabs are backward. Hamas are liberators. The Muslim world has always been backward. October 7th was a false flag event staged by Israel. Arabs can never have democratic governance. Jews control America. Palestinian leaders will always be corrupt. The rapes and baby killings of October 7th are fake news. Current Gaza residents voted for Hamas.  

All of the above statements envision the Israel-Gaza conflict, and the larger Israel-Arab conflict, as one of black and white. The statements dealing with the current and the past are incorrect or immoral. All the statements referring to the future are immoral, genocidal, or impossible to achieve.

The black-and-white polarization is made worse by ascribing to one’s opponents statements they never made.  An interesting example happened when a neighbor in an email commented on my “Netanyahu lusts for war” post. He stated: “Too bad you feel that Israel – Jews need to roll over and let Hamas have its win and begin the next cycle of violence against Israel.” My article never stated that Israel should never have started the war, but my blog post’s reference to the war stated that there should be less bombing. That is a radically different position from the statement “Israel – Jews need to roll over and let Hamas have its win.” My neighbor sees the Israel-Gaza conflict as a black-white dichotomy. These are the same sentiments that President G. W. Bush expressed in his 2001 statement, “Either you are with us or are with the terrorists.” For my neighbor, I am with Hamas.

This style of straw man argumentation increases polarization because it attributes to the opponents more extreme positions than those held by them. It increases anger at the opponent and inflates one’s self-righteousness in having fact-based beliefs rather than holding one’s opponent’s spurious beliefs. The alternating conflicting statements in the opening paragraph are irreconcilable and are beyond discussion between the opposing adherents of each set of beliefs. Yeats’ famous line “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” describes the difficulty the moderates, including me, on both sides, feel now. The extremists control the actions and narrative.

Like many other conflicts, the Israel-Gaza reality is neither black nor white; it is a pulsating confusion, alternately darkening and lightening the grayish center. Hamas did perform terrible atrocities.  Israel has treated Palestinians, and particularly Gazans, badly for well over half a century. These beliefs do not justify Hamas’s mass murder on October 7th, nor the Israeli indiscriminate bombing that has already killed over 9,000 kids.

The war marches on. People are buried. Truth, justice, peace, and morality are buried with the dead.

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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