Michael Jackson

Tribalism, (again) 

I wrote a blog called TOI: Tribalism about Tribalism in times of war and how it leads to dehumanization.  I want to return to this theme in this post.  I decided on this topic after examining many posts and responses across the TOI Blogs.

Nearly all TOI bloggers and respondents are pro-Israeli.  They emphasize these main points:


  1. Hamas committed atrocities of murder, rape, torture, destruction, and burning people on October 7th
  2. Israel must destroy Hamas
  3. All Gazans are complicit
  4. The Israeli invasion and occupation of Gaza must continue no matter the cost in terms of Gazan lives and extensive property destruction
  5. A ceasefire means Hamas wins

There are also a few less repeated points.

  1. Hamas leaders are corrupt
  2. The Palestinian Authority is corrupt and ineffective
  3. Israeli Arabs are treated well
  4. The Israeli Army is the most humane in the world
  5. Most Arabs, especially Palestinians, hate Jews.
  6. We cannot trust any dead or wounded figures coming out of Gaza, except (the slightly less horrific) IDF numbers.  Even the latter we will discreetly ignore.

Some of these points are true; some false; and some questionable.  Some are aspirational.  Many involve moral evaluations.  At the bottom of this post I will challenge the veracity of four of these points.  My thrust in this article is not so much to state how tribalism distorts the truth but how it ignores so many other salient truths.  Let me also state that were I able to read a blog in Arabic from the West Bank, Jordan or Al Jazeera  their all-encompassing tribalism would be as strong, probably stronger.


A few, only a very few, of the pro-Israeli posters make these points.

  1. We will bomb, main, kill, orphan, and widow innumerable Gazans.  We will totally destroy and disable buildings and infrastructure including schools, hospitals, refugee centers to achieve our goal. 30,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000 dead Gazans; it does not matter.  We do not want to appear as those who are willing, even happy, to eliminate other groups of humans.
  2. Because Hamas is totally responsible for the October 7th atrocities and the subsequent invasion, we maintain an air of innocence as to the carnage, mayhem, destruction, death, suffering, and desolation of this war.  We repudiate and never want to discuss the obvious points made by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who said correctly “This (the Hamas October 7th atrocity) did not happen in a vacuum”.  Let us just ignore these following facts.  Israel has oppressed the West Bank and Gazan Palestinians for nearly 60 years.  The multiple ways include army violence, discrimination, legal disabilities, lack of democratic rights, settler violence, land confiscation, limitation of water rights, refusal of building permits, travel limitations, blockade, and economic discrimination.
  3. The language and actions of the oppressed and oppressors differ markedly.  The former are suffused with the angry sting of persecution and forced inferiority.  The oppressed are human; they rebel.  The language and actions of the oppressors effuse moral heights and the air of effortless, self-satisfied superiority.  This smug consciousness is supported by the iron backbone of military suppression, sham pre-determined legal rulings, and a political structure moving towards fascistic autocracy.
  4. The whole land, “From the River to the Sea, Israeli Land will be”, is ours.   That is why a few months after the Six-Day war, the Israeli Labor government decided that official maps of Israel would not show the green line (i.e., the pre-1967 borders of Israel).  That is why in early 1973 (again, under a Labor government), as a soldier based in an army base near Ramla (not Ramallah), I was involved in preliminary land annexation on the West Bank (closing off of lands allegedly to be used as army firing ranges).


A.  All Gazans are complicit

Given that the Hamas election was 17 years ago and only over-18 year olds could vote, that means only Gazans 35 years or older voted for Hamas which received about 45% of the vote.   Running the numbers against the Gazan population pyramid structure, a maximum of 10% of living Gazans voted for Hamas.  For more details on this, see my post TOI: Statistical Verification    Anyway, even if someone voted for Hamas in 2006, are they responsible for the October 7th, 2023 atrocity?  Is every G W Bush voter in 2000 responsible for the Iraq mass killings and overall debacle?

B.  Israeli Arabs are treated well

There are three distinct groups of Arabs under overall Israeli military control:  1. Israeli Arab citizens living within Israel’s green line borders  2. West Bank Palestinians  3. Gazan Palestinians who are subject to an extra-national blockade and tight travel controls.  The latter two groups are not treated well and anyone who asserts they are is either a fool or a liar.  The first group is always used as the example of being treated well.   Let us examine an economic aspect.  From the Times of Israel Arab and Jewish income   “The average net financial income per standard person, accepted as a measure of standard of living, in Jewish households was 1.9 times higher than in Arab households,” the report noted.”

In the US, Black median annual income is $53K and White $81K i.e. about a white:black 1.5 ratio as compared to an Israel Jew:Arab ratio of 1.9  In other words, Israeli Arabs do considerably worse than American Blacks in relation to the majority group. 

C.  The Israeli Army is the most humane in the world

This is because of allegedly unparalleled humanitarian concern and rigid rules of discipline against abuse of civilians.  It is true that most armies have not dropped leaflets telling those living in bombing targets to evacuate nor have other armies treated wounded civilians so carefully.  But few other armies have bombed residential structures or caused mass civilian casualties (at least since the post-World War 2 revisions of the Geneva Conventions).  Not the Canadians, Norwegians, Swedes, Spanish, Dutch, or Italians.  Of course, expansionist imperialists or dictatorships like the Americans and Russians do these types of indiscriminate bombings.  Even more so, do rebel and fundamentalist armies in Africa and the Muslim world.  However, comparing the Israeli military to these “collateral damage irrelevant” expansionists is like saying democratic values in Israel are higher than those of Saudi Arabia.  This bar is set way, way too low.

D.  Israel must destroy Hamas 

I agree, except it cannot be done.  See my blog post TOI: Eliminating Hamas

So, dear readers, you are tribalists.  Me, too, since I support the invasion, but perhaps in a lesser category.  Tribalism is a bad aspect of being human.  It leads to dehumanization which is far worse than tribalism.

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.