Michael Jackson

Tribalism (3)… yet again      

The hostages are in a terrible, horrific situation.  They were captured, tortured, mistreated, witnesses to mass murder, and subject to possible instant death.  Israel is right in wanting desperately to get them back.  Netanyahu claims he is doing everything to achieve this; others dispute this.

Let’s try a moral hypothetical.  Suppose it were possible to drop atomic weapons on Gaza such that 80% of Palestinians (i.e., 1.6 million humans) would die, but this act would free all the hostages.  Would you do it?  If you would, then that is a fascist and racist choice.  Fascist because it uses mass murder of the “other” to achieve political and national goals.  Racist because it asserts that relatively few of your own are worth more than multitudes of “others”.

Let’s go to the other extreme.  Would you do nothing other than hope that a hostage negotiation exchanging hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israel would bring them back?   That is abandoning them to a possibly endless imprisonment.

Between these two extremes, the Scylla of atomic destruction and the Charybdis of lackadaisical indifference, lie many various paths.  Morally, if not numerically, the continued killing of women and children (over 10,000 Gazan kids under 14 and, perhaps, 10,000 women) is closer to the former alternative.

I understand that Israelis are still stunned, traumatized, and horrified by the barbaric October 7th atrocity.  That is reasonable and understandable.  But it does not give Israel a moral carte blanche to destroy tens of thousands of innocent lives.  Military experts rate the IDF’s kill ratio of two civilians to one terrorist as too low.  Given that Israel reckons about 10,000 terrorists have been killed then 20,000 civilians have been killed by the IDF estimate.  This IDF estimate is pretty close to the Gazan Health Ministry’s estimate of over 30,000 total deaths.  The invasion of Gaza is justified, given the October 7th atrocity, but it has been a disproportionate response by Israel.

Some possible methods to lower casualties include:

  1. Allow more food, water, and medical aid to cross into Gaza and improve its distribution inside Gaza
  2. Use more guided bombs.  I have read that about 40% of the Israeli bombs dropped are unguided. These unguided bombs can miss their target by up to 30 meters.
  3. Do not bomb areas that Israel has told Gazans to flee to.  Israel has dropped many bombs on areas that were supposed to be refugee zones.
  4. Drop fewer bombs and use more special forces to kill Hamas fighters.  This approach will have the consequence of more Israeli soldiers killed but many fewer civilians.
  5. Other methods of destroying Hamas infrastructure.  I like the flood-the-tunnel idea best since at least that avoids civilian casualties on the ground.

But the tribal instinct of only caring for our own suffering, our own losses, and our own tragedies precludes most Israelis from feeling much sympathy or showing rachmanos to innocent Gazan kids.

Very tragic, and very tribalistic.

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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