Art Levine

The Mask of Equivalency

When discussing the situation in Israel, you can bet one of the discussants will sagaciously declare that blame can be equally assigned. People have been chanting this hackneyed refrain for years and it’s wearing transparently thin. They must imagine by making such statements others will grant them an aura of thoughtfulness and independence. At this point, however, asserting the moral equivalency of the Israelis with the Palestinians has a different subtext. It hides the speaker’s cowardice, dishonesty and ultimate laziness.

By donning the mask of equivalency, the speaker announces, “I’m no small minded parochial partisan. Just the opposite. My broader vision allows me to comprehend the conflict in its entirety. That’s why I insist both sides are equivalent.”

This is essentially the position of a coward. The mask of equivalency allows the speaker to sit on the fence and remain neutral. They don’t have to take a position. They can vote “present.”

The position is also deeply dishonest. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered. Palestinians saw it as a victory and passed out sweets in the streets. There was muted condemnation and Palestinian police did nothing to bring anyone to justice.

A Palestinian teenager was also abducted and murdered. From across the Israeli political spectrum there were sharp and immediate condemnations. Nobody celebrated. The Israeli police lost no time in apprehending the suspects.

It takes a special kind of dishonesty to see this as equivalent.

Hamas in the Gaza Strip sets up missile launching facilities in civilian population centers. From apartment buildings, schools and mosques they fire missile after missile indiscriminately into Israel. These missiles are aimed willy-nilly at Israeli population centers, not military targets. Hamas sends no warning such missiles are on the way. The civilians have fifteen seconds to make it to a bomb shelter.

The Israeli Defense Force locates Hamas launching facilities. The IDF restricts its fire to the missile launching facilities. Before the IDF moves in to destroy the facilities, they send messages to the Palestinian civilians to clear the areas. Hamas, at this point, tells their civilian population to stay put so as to form a human shield. If the IDF fires, civilian casualties occur and Hamas screams “war crimes.”

Again, it takes a special kind of dishonesty to see these scenarios as equivalent.

Ultimately donning the mask of equivalency reveals the intellectual laziness of the wearer. It takes time and effort to stay abreast of events in Israel and think about the very different reactions to similar situations. One cannot be thinking too hard or too deep to see both sides as equivalent. It’s so much easier to employ intellectual shorthand and dismiss both sides as equivalent.

In this current situation, Hamas is clearly provoking the Israelis. Unlike the Israelis, the Palestinians celebrate martyrdom. Unlike the Israelis, Hamas is consciously targeting Israeli civilians. Unlike the Israelis, Hamas is willing to use it’s civilian population as human shields.

Let us drop the mask of equivalency and have the courage, the honesty and the industry to spell this out clearly.

About the Author
Art is a composer and playwright whose works promote positive images of Jewish culture and history. He currently lives in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and is a member of the Association for Jewish Theatre.