Michael Jackson

The Hypocrisy of a Cosmopolitan    

I am a cosmopolitan.  I am a rooted cosmopolitan (see an early sketch of this idea in a previous blog TOI:   ).  I regard myself as a child of the Enlightenment, but rooted in certain identities which include Jewish, British, American, and Israeli.

Let us trace the cosmopolitan hypocrisy by looking at the current Israel-Gaza war.  I was and am appalled by the horrific Hamas atrocities of October 7th.  I am appalled by the captivity of the remaining hostages and their continual death toll in captivity.  I am appalled at the killing of 10,000 Gazan kids.  As an aside here, I know that some readers will dispute the current 27,000-plus deaths published by the Gazan Ministry of Health.  You do not need to believe them.  I can quote the IDF numbers.  The Israeli army estimates it has killed 10,000 terrorists.  It also estimates that their civilian-to-terrorist death ratio is 2 to 1, i.e. 20,000 dead civilians.  The IDF total of 30,000 killed is thus within 10% or so of the Hamas number.  I should add that Western military experts think the real ratio is 3 to 1 which would increase the estimated Gazan death toll to 40,000.  I have written about “numbers” morality and statistics in my TOI blog:

So where is the hypocrisy?  Surely to be appalled at the terrible civilian deaths and injuries on both sides is not hypocritical.  Equally, the tribalistic attitudes on both sides leading to utter indifference to the appalling losses on the enemy’s side is not hypocritical, however morally blemished, even morally rotten it may be.

The hypocrisy of a cosmopolitan, even me, a rooted cosmopolitan, is displayed in the contrast between our feelings about this war, “our war”, and other distant (mentally, geographically, and culturally) conflicts.  For example, the current brutal RSF (Rapid Support Forces) campaign in Sudan against African tribes in western Sudan does not arouse such strong feelings in me, even though many uncounted women and children are being brutally murdered.  Similarly, I do not have such strong feelings about the vicious campaign in Myanmar against the Rohingya Muslim minority (even though I tutored immigrant Rohingya children as a volunteer).  The brutalities in such far-flung places as North Korea, Haiti, or Syria do not impact me the same way as the Israel-Gaza war.  In all these places, civilians and children suffer, are tortured, and die.  Yet our feelings and thoughts are not the same.  This is the hypocrisy of a cosmopolitan, rooted or otherwise.  It is my hypocrisy.

On the other hand, bloodthirsty tribalism is exhibited by those who never evince the slightest sorrow or even interest in the deaths of innocents on the other side.  There are many such tribalists on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides and in their supporters across the globe.  To these tribalists, five thousand killed kids on the other side have less meaning than a thrice-used rotten tea bag (I refrain from stronger language to adhere to Times of Israel’s fine standards of moderated language).  And, yes, you tribalists, every 5-year-old of any nationality, ethnicity, religion, or culture is innocent.

The dichotomy between cosmopolitan hypocrisy and bloodthirsty tribalism is not 100% black and white.  There are some gray areas.  However, most of us, by our thoughts and deeds, have decided which side of the moral see-saw we descend on.   Therefore, I,  in having to choose between the Scylla of cosmopolitan hypocrisy and the Charybdis of bloodthirsty tribalism, will always take the former.

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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