In reading an insightful article by Simon Montefiore in The Atlantic, I was struck by the complex tapestry of opinions, facts, and tragedies that surround the Israel-Palestine conflict, particularly in the aftermath of the devastating events of October 7. The contours of human suffering and political machinations were laid bare in a way that resonates deep within me.
The simplicity of stating the profound, the articulation of the obvious, seems ever more necessary in a world where what should be transparent is clouded by ideology. To kill civilians, elderly folks, and babies is an act so morally reprehensible that it should require no debate. Yet here we are, in an age where some intellectuals and activists find ways to twist narratives and excuse the inexcusable.
The ideology of “decolonization,” as Simon Montefiore pointed out in his article, has become an alarming vector for excusing or even glorifying violence. This ideology, under the guise of promoting social justice, has warped the context in which we discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict. It portrays one side as the oppressed and the other as the oppressor, assigning roles that eliminate any room for nuance or human complexity. In doing so, it not only hampers any meaningful dialogue but also creates a perilous moral landscape where the killing of civilians is either justified or conveniently ignored.
The notion of “decolonization” in this context threatens to obscure the humanity of Israelis, categorizing them merely as “settler-colonialists” and thus stripping them of their individual complexities, histories, and sufferings. This ideological lens becomes especially dangerous when it is used to rationalize the kind of large-scale, indiscriminate violence we witnessed on October 7. It absolves one side of culpability, blurring the lines of accountability and undermining any hope for negotiated peace.
Indeed, the “decolonization” narrative operates on the assumption that compromise or negotiation equates to betrayal, thereby foreclosing the only viable path to a two-state solution, and, by extension, peace. It fails to recognize that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not a black-and-white moral or ethical equation, but a complicated situation that involves real people, not archetypes or symbols.
It’s unsettling that, even in the face of undeniable horrors like the October 7 attack, there still exist voices that echo not in condemnation, but in justification or even applause. The painful irony here is that some of these voices come from people and platforms I once admired, respected members of the global press and intellectuals, who seem to have abandoned reason for the venom of antisemitism.
The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas spoke about the “face-to-face” encounter as the ethical foundation of human interaction. The face of the other demands a response; it calls us to responsibility. Yet, when narratives are manipulated and distorted, the ‘face’ of the Israeli civilian seems to vanish, making it easier for some to absolve themselves of the moral imperative to condemn the taking of innocent life.
Martin Buber, another significant Jewish thinker, elaborated on the concept of the “I-Thou” relationship, emphasizing the genuine dialogue and mutual respect that should exist between individuals. This is the antithesis of the dehumanization we see today, where Israelis are lumped into monolithic categories like “settler-colonialists,” essentially stripping them of their individuality and, by extension, their humanity.
It’s as though we have abandoned the profound teachings of these thinkers, choosing instead to adopt a twisted form of morality where antisemitism is disguised as political critique. This is not the progressivism I subscribed to; this is not the intellectual honesty I value. What’s most disheartening is that some influential voices, ones I used to hold in high regard, have succumbed to this.
The world we navigate today seems increasingly devoid of nuance, where complex issues are flattened into easily digestible, binary oppositions. It’s heartbreaking to witness the moral gymnastics some will perform to sidestep the simplest yet most challenging of ethical principles: the inherent value of human life.
So here we are, at a juncture where ideologies risk overshadowing the age-old wisdom of thinkers who taught us the sanctity of human interaction, of seeing the ‘face’ of the other. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we have strayed so far from these principles that we’ve lost our way entirely, allowing hatred to blind us to the simple, undeniable tragedy of lost human life.