The Israel-Palestine Conflict, and Why Western Moralism and its Ruling Class Do Not Help

1.

The present slaughter by the IDF in Gaza, as with the Hamas-led murders on October 7 have been the occasion of much moral commentary. One way of looking at moral commentary is that the commentary is a means for bonding together to bring a peaceful solution, by drawing attention to the shocking nature of a situation. It is also a means by which people appraise a situation to identify who is responsible, who is guilty, who should be stopped, and who should be punished. Many people I agree with, and even admire, in their appraisal of geopolitical conflicts have expressed their moral outrage at what the Israeli government claims is a military act designed to eliminate Hamas, and what they and critics of Israel identify as an act of genocide. Many of those same people also insist that they in no way wish to justify the actions of Hamas or the other Palestinians who broke out of Gaza and murdered civilians. Frequently the moral claims are bolstered by an appeal to principles of international law such as the principle of proportionality or the rights of non-combatants in a conflict zone.

At some point, though, all this kind of reasoning is a variant of the kind of thinking in which one answers the question. “If it were up to me.” And this is the problem—for who the “me” is matters. That moral philosophy has taken hold of the Western imagination is most evident in how ubiquitous rights talk is and how commonplace it is for people to be asked by others to denounce or condemn something to demonstrate that they are good citizens of some moral commonwealth which exists in their imagination. Just as moral philosophy is an essential component of every Philosophy Department, corporations now present themselves as not just dealing in products, but as harbingers of global moral values. Not surprisingly a commonplace belief is that moral values can create a more peaceful world, and that moral values—and hence our moral reasons—are our bulwark against evil. I think this is delusional, even if the delusion is extremely widespread. What fuels the delusion is the belief that “we”—whoever that “we” are—know what is wrong with the world and how to fix it with our moral reasons. The insurmountable problem with our moral reasoning is not just the reasoning but the “us.” The “us” is a figment of our imagination—where we have a shared moral imagination we can indeed talk of an “us,” but this “us,” however it is constituted, is not universal, and believing that it should be universal is simply elevating one’s own self and other like-minded selves to a position of authority that does not exist at a global level. The desire to find universally rational moral truths does not mean that they are there—and even if we can identify truths that apply to what becomes of us by observing the longer term consequences of our actions, that does not help us in dealing with others who refuse to accept those truths; and thinking that it is simply a matter of persuasion, is something that even Plato had to concede (in the Gorgias) was not plausible, because the character of people is every bit as important as the reasons they hold. Shared reasons along with shared stories and commitments are intrinsic to communities; but communities in conflict are in conflict because their interests are in collision and their interests are in collision, because they no longer share or trust each other’s reasons and priorities.

When all reasons run out and one is only left with suffering and hatred on both sides, war is inevitable. Not all wars require hatred of the enemy, but when two peoples cannot coexist because they each harbour resentment against the other, because they are terrified of each other, because they each have their traumatic experiences, their memories, their wounds, and their reasons to hate, the idea that either people can simply take stock of what they are doing by being more reasonable, and act according to some view of justice that all right-thinking people could or should hold, is delusional. But it is just this kind of delusion that is widespread amongst people who, without having any skin in the conflict, other than their sense of justice, who not only take a side, but insist that all must take their side, for it is the only reasonable and just side. It may well be reasonable for those who not only appraise the same facts in the same way, but the problem is the weight that different facts take on in the larger communal consensuses and detestation is intrinsic to why certain groups are inimical in the first place. This is why facts rarely resolve anything, even if people think they will.

2.

The West has bred a class of moralising pedagogical professionals (academics, teachers, journalists, politicians, human resource people, DEI officers, etc.) who exist to take us into a better world. The West claims to know who is good and evil, and hence who we must be at war with, and what it is we must accept as the right account of any event. That reality is entangled and contradictory, that circumstances have an infinite array of aspects to them, that our knowledge is partial, that our interests are our interests, and that we are frequently incapable of discerning what benefits or harms us in the long run is rarely acknowledged by our professional moral arbiters. Not surprisingly what passes for moral reflection is frequently little more than sanctimony: “Do you denounce this?” And where genuine complexities of the sort involving life and death matters is required, we have a ruling class that is driven by what it wants, rather than by the possible, or what may minimize damage, or what compromises may be required to achieve certain ends. In a culture where everything is politicized, politics has been reduced to morals, and morals to abstractions which promise everything because the sacrificial component that is intrinsic to any genuine moral issue is dispensed with.

That what purport to be the premier institutions—the elite training ground—of the ostensibly most developed and progressive nations on earth, proclaim their commitment to providing safe spaces, is but one more example of the failure of Western universities to take thought seriously. Serious thinking involves being party to serious consequences—and serious decisions implicate those undertaking them: they are risky; they must be risky because when we think and when we act, we cannot be sure of what the outcome will be. If we speak but are saved from the consequences of our speech, if we criticize but can cling to our own safety in the very moment that we seek to dismantle institutional practices that we disagree with, we are claiming a special status for ourselves—the right, so to speak, to be always in the right.

This is the kind of thinking that now rules in the West, that is the typical thinking of its ruling class and is transmitted to the generation being inducted into its rule. It is as self-serving as it is delusional. That it is loathsome to so many is indicated by the fact that the Western ruling class now must legislate against ideas and “speech” it deems hateful lest it lose its authority; it must censor and penalise any who do not accept the line of thinking that it deems as safe and progressive; and emancipatory; it must not allow erroneous information to be circulated; it must deem free speech dangerous. And with such a sense of the superiority of its reasons, this class must also lay claim to knowing what is just about any given conflict. This is a ruling class whose rule is grounded in its sense of self-righteousness.

Now, though, it finds itself in something of a turmoil, with pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian “supporters,” each laying claim to the higher moral ground, each trying to silence and shame the other by hurling epithets of abuse invariably involving the word “genocide,” each making accusations about who is responsible for all the bloodshed. What is discursively taking place out of Palestine, at least by those who have no s/kin there is reminiscent of what the French philosopher/sociologist Jean Baudrillard said about the Gulf War: it “did not take place.”

The various protests, and the multitude of analyses in which blame is morally apportioned are but the continuation of a way of being that, at least for a substantial number of those protesting, has nothing to do with the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, even when that appears to be the occasion. It is the same institutions, the same participants, the same processes, the same appeals to what is right, the same condemnations—the same performative and recruitment strategies of the ruling class that revolves around out-radicalising competitors for future held positions and promotions on a global scale. The event is secondary, as if it had no meaning in and of itself. But every real event demands a new response: an event—and this is especially true of the most violent and convulsive events—require that we reconfigure how we think by naming and seeing things differently: if we simply retort to the same tropes—the “Nazi” one now being all encompassing—we reveal that the event has not really impacted upon us at all, that we have not experienced what is unique about it, that we have not seriously thought about it: it is as if it did not exist. But that is precisely the problem with the Western ruling class, manufactured as if from some 3D plastic printer, formed from institutions where managers have visions, missions, plans that are as indistinguishable as the causes that accumulate for the ruling class to make its pronouncements about social justice—from fat shaming to Gaza.

Yes, there are critics of the Western ruling class and what Israel is doing in Gaza who are serious people and who make salient critical points. But while they may hold Israel to account by appealing to moral and legal arguments—they find themselves on the side of those who oversimplify and confuse their hysteria with seriousness. That is not their fault, but that remains the case, as does the fact that they cannot offer a solution that is any more than moral condemnation, or an active or tacit call to armed intervention by some other party, that would ultimately require the UN to intervene and thereby further push us into a world government that Western elites see themselves as leading.

The Western ruling class when it is not enabling disasters takes possession of them so that it can display not only its authoritative understanding of the event but that it may intervene, that it may decide and preside over who is to be judged and who to be recruited into its own world-making ambitions. That its record of achieving peace is so threadbare might make some of its members ask whether what it is doing has any other purpose than what Foucault, the most widely read spokesman of the 68ers for the new aspirant recruits of the ruling class, identified as the ethics of the self in which speaking truth to power, the post-Foucault formulation of parrhesia, is what we should strive for—which is but code for the self as ruler over the world it deems to be free. That is why and how the Israel-Palestine conflict is playing itself out in North American and British campuses.

Although these protests have no impact whatever on the actual event of the war of extermination that is transpiring in Gaza, it is the case that the pro-Israeli Jewish component of the Western ruling class has now been out manoeuvred by an alliance in which even the rainbow coalition including the trans lobby can identity their emancipatory demands with the people dying in Gaza. Up until but yesterday accusing an opponent of being an anti-Semite sufficed to close any oppositional voices to the ruling class—that no longer works today. And the ADL—an organization that has played a major role in setting the template for the very behaviours that are now being turned against North American pro-Israeli Jews, and which has done far more to inflame anti-Semitism than to cauterize it—now looks like it might have to reinvent itself as an outpost of Arab rights.

This war undoubtedly signals a partial changing of the priorities within the Western ruling class, away from Jews supporting Israel toward Arabs, Muslims, and non-Israeli Jews. I say partial because the Western ruling class, through various political decisions, has long since not only welcomed Muslims into its lands and institutions, but has also sought to allay itself with Muslims in its continuance of the eradication of all Christian institutional influence. The Western ruling class has long since happily used the term “Islamophobia” to denounce those who question the wisdom of large-scale immigration of Muslims into once Christian lands. This term sat neatly in the arsenal alongside “homophobia” and “transphobia” and “anti-Semite,” “racist,” “sexist,” and the other weaponized terms that are deployed to protect its policies.

The contradictions that hold the liberal progressive order are bursting at the seam due to the Hamas led attack in October and the subsequent Israeli mass slaughter in Gaza. That the ruling class purports to be the bearer of what is true and just is the conceit that alienates it as much from Muslims, at least those of whom who do not have to shape their narratives to receive their salaries from the institutions that employ them, as it does from Israelis who now find themselves being stridently denounced by students and professors from elite universities within the West. In any case, irrespective of the Western ruling class which neatly folds its own survival with justice into such a neat fit that its members can no longer tell the difference between the two, in the world outside of the brains of our Western ideo-crats, survival always trumps justice, and justice only makes sense within communities.

No reasons will convince supporters of Hamas that they are not freedom fighters, no reasons will convince the IDF they are not defending the existence of their people. What is happening in Gaza is an accelerated version of the dispossession and murder that is the basis of nations and empires. The Israelis are no better and no worse than other colonisers—though that is meaningless for those who are the victims of dispossession. It is the case that everyone living in North America is a beneficiary, albeit unwitting, of the blood spilled in the past, most notably the blood of native Americans. Not all Americans owned slaves, and the argument that the American economy was primarily dependent upon slavery is astonishingly silly, but it was dependent upon the great expansion, the great land seizures, the great expulsion, and wars against the native indigenous people, whose disunity assisted their terrible fate in the 19th century. Western Europe, and Australasia have their respective histories about conquest and dispossession, but they are not so different from ̛Israel.

In sum, in the Western world for Israelis to be singled out for their mass murders by people who themselves stand on stolen lands is ridiculous—any concept or principle which defies your own existence is ridiculous, but the volume of moral clamouring is often in inverse relationship to the moral character of the persona doing the clamouring. This is not to deny that what is transpiring in Gaza is mass murder. People who they think their existence is not part of the great human tale and trail of blood, that they are morally pure are amongst the most dangerous and deluded, for they have thought themselves out of reality and set themselves up as self-appointed divine judges. Jews, Christians, Muslims are as easily deluded as everyone else, but their respective traditions and chronicles all make mass slaughter part of their history.

The tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has much to do with the desire—which each sees as the right—to return home.

A commonplace among Jews, albeit not one held by all Jews, is the belief that Israel has been the land given to them by God and thus it is their right to return to their homeland. Having a real belief does not make that belief true—for it is the belief itself that is dictating the reality, rather than the belief being drawn from the reality. Although the what of the belief differs among Muslims and Jews, and even allowing for the great divide between ideological Zionists and anti-Zionist Jews who live in Israel or elsewhere, the fact is that faith is faith, and what primarily cements it, is what it does, what lives it makes and what communities it builds, in spite of the questionableness of the foundational “historical events” from which peoples take their respective orientations.

In this respect, though, the facticity of what is being claimed can be contested in all manner of ways. Again, that is true of all religions which appeal to historical events. In the case of the faith about the Jewish homeland being thousands of years old, one can object that this is preposterous, that there is shared DNA of Semitic peoples, that the matrilineal roots of Ashkenazi Jews are European in origin, and so forth. Such reasons do not shake the faith of those who are committed, committed in flesh and blood, committed to kill and be killed for this belief. Likewise pointing out that Muslim sacred sites in Israel only go back to a more recent date than sites that can be biblically referenced is not going to change any Muslim’s mind, who thinks that the majority of Israelis are alien colonial occupiers and land thieves.

Reason does not exist sui generis. It is a fragile component of human beings—it comes and goes; reason is not with us from our birth, it takes time to develop and be cultivated; it can be vanquished by disease and infirmity; it is rarely used well, and practice only “perfects” it, if what is being practiced is real; it is astonishingly inventive and just as astonishingly destructive; it can go wildly wrong, and it can simply run out. In spite of ancient philosophers who wanted to see the cosmos as reason writ large, even if we grant that if laws exist this suggests mind is as intrinsic to reality as its matter, this does not change the fact there is precious little of it amongst human beings, and what little there is, is driven by interest, by feelings and selective facts that are woven into trajective (heritages) and prejective (future-orientated) communal propulsions and pulls.

Moreover, our reasoning is primarily activated by what we feel—which might, as the philosopher Leibniz claimed, even indicate that all the components of an organism have their own perspicacious-ness—and this in turn dictates what we choose to reason about. And for the most part, the beginning of our reasoning comes from the traditions and institutional pressures, openings, and general circumstances that are part of a social complex.

The hysterical moralising know-it-all from an elite Western university is itself (sic.) the result of countless acts and decisions of ancestors and contemporaries that have created an environment in which it is cultivated to behave a certain way and be rewarded for it. Its success is part of what Nietzsche called a will to power; it is predicated upon all manner of other social types being censored, punished, extinguished. This is no different than what happens in Israel or amongst the Palestinians or any other people—each communal group is an organism of selectivity, cultivation, and breeding. Cultures breed/cultivate people who adopt positions and participate in world-making so that they may get their way—that way may be death, especially if the priorities of type cultivation are sterile, and/or the ruling class is delusional enough to engage in alliances which are inimical to its long-term survival. Delusions most commonly are shored up by moral talk—morals now are the idolatrous replacement for God; they are no less grounded in faith. Kant said morals were based in rational faith, but while morals are composed of reasons they are not grounded in reasons: nothing is grounded in reason alone; reason is dependent upon “hardware,” even if it performs a very different function to the hardware.

Moral talk is often simply delusional talk—large claims laid out against the sky of reason’s own conjuring. It should not be surprising that in a political culture such as has emerged in the Western world where anything imaginable, anything desired may be considered a moral imperative, a right, that a ruling class that excels primarily in talking, in reasoning on any given topic that takes its interest, that the understanding of some of the most basic aspects of reality, such as the dictates of war, or even its own character, are smothered by pseudo-moral abstractions, or proclamations about what is really just. That it can breed people who write large tomes on the nature of justice, which suffer from the grandest of philosophical conceits, that justice is a philosophical creation, is in part why this group deludes itself into thinking it can create the narratives which in turn will create the institutions that will bring not only world peace, but emancipation for all. All that is needed to stop the IDF massacre in Gaza, or Hamas scheming more incursions and retaliations/acts of terror (take your pick) are more Diversity officers. Of course, there are the more conservative types who realize DEI is intellectual excrement, but their appeal to a philosophical solution, even if more intellectually refined, comes out of the same conceit in which chains of conceptual claims take precedence over the intransigence of the real. The most philosophical of Shakespeare’s plays is The Tempest, and his most philosophical character, Prospero, resorts to magic. Good old Shakespeare, that great Renaissance man, like that other great Renaissance philosopher Ficino, he understood that philosophy and magic are but variations of the same desire to make the world submit to our words, to our incantations.

3.

Most of reality including the contingency of a birthplace, one’s existential placement in life, has nothing to do with morals, or justice. That is also true for refugees seeking new lives in new lands because they want to survive or have a better life. Likewise, nations which want to survive cannot simply have open borders—but that has nothing to do with justice in any absolute moral sense being deduced by reason alone. Laws may be dressed up morally, but they express interests and decisions, contingencies and circumstances that provide the kinds of content that peoples and/or rulers (who may or may not be acting in concert with most or few of the rest of the nation) deploy in their pronouncements and exhortations; but for those seeking survival it is not generally the result of any moral deliberation (I leave aside certain situations quandaries involving sacrifice for others, family members, the nation, one’s comrades, excepted, which are sacrificial institutions and orders by their very nature).

That Israelis wish to preserve their nation for their citizens is nothing exceptional; though there are no shortage of pro-Israeli North Americans who happily defend Israel’s right to choose who can be its citizens but happily push for de facto open borders in the US; just as there are Israelis who think that lands elsewhere, such as Egypt, should take in outcast Palestinians, thus ignoring the political connections between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the political instability within Egypt and the enmity between the government and the Brotherhood.

Just as the United States and Great Britain and Switzerland have been condemned for not allowing open entry for European Jewry in the Nazi years, Israelis condemn other Arabs for not taking in their Arab brothers and sisters. But Arabs are not just brothers and sisters, any more than the Jews are, any more than the Muslims are, any more than Christians are, and any more than secularists are. Indeed, in the case of the Jews, the schism between North American anti-Zionist progressives and Israelis is as serious as the internal hostilities in Israel which may well have prompted the Hamas decision to take advantage of the internal strife occurring in Israel and attack. The Israelis response in any case to that incursion was as predictable as it was typical of a nation tearing itself apart—it momentarily unified in its response to the enemy, and thus bought itself more time (though even now the mass demonstrations against Netanyahu are re-occuring). The cost though was mass murder, justified at least to itself and its external supporters as “self-defence.” That this justification would not convince anyone who did not already have an unwavering commitment to the right of Israel to exist is irrelevant. That this mass murder would be called “genocide” by those who have identified the multifarious acts of war perpetrated by Israel since its existence was also not surprising.

Calling mass murder “genocide” had been a way in which the specialness of the holocaust had initially been undertaken—it was also a contributing factor in forming a narrative that makes of Nazism a unique evil (and it is almost expected amongst philosophers and college students and journalists that when discussing evil, the paradigm to be invoked is Nazism). Evil flourishes in such rhetorical distractions that draw attention away from the fact that evil is typical not exceptional, that states are built on violence, that modernity is just a mass produced, highly industrialised version of typical large group behaviour competing for resources and their own future. Justifications and moral allotments are then trotted out by people with their own interests to try and make some sense of how some kind of order might reign—the best of the moralists are trying to minimize murder, unfortunately, though, none knows what will transpire in the future, or whether the peace that is brokered today may not be just a moment that enables even far greater violence.

Order only reigns where people can find some common life-purpose—that is the only type of reason that really means anything, when people, swept along by their heritages, competing visions of the future, collide. Ultimately only they can sort it out—all the side-taking from the side-lines is completely meaningless, at best, and all too frequently, the means for drawing more and more lives into the maw of a larger vortex of evil: war on a global scale.

Generally, there is no justification that matters to anyone who is a belligerent that the enemy could give to make him change his mind, though occasionally people are so revolted by the evil they are participating in that they also see the perspective of their enemy and may even be convinced that the enemy is doing less evil than their own side. There are a number of Israelis, including former IDF members, and Palestinians, most famously Mosab Hassan Yousef (the “Son of Hamas”), in this situation. They are among the voices that I find the most powerful, for they acknowledge the evil they are implicated in, though they invariably end up being hated by their own as traitors. I myself am generally moved by the stories of those people who, not out profit or cowardice, become traitors because they have the courage to look starkly at the horror that their families, loved ones, and neighbours are engaging in, and take a stand to try and prevent that evil. To be sure, taking that step may simply be seen by their own people/ group as being but pawns of the enemy who are also purveyors of horror and death. And, indeed, the attempt to escape evil by acting upon one’s conscience and affirming the reasons of one’s former enemies may well make one too willing to embrace the justifications of the evil of the former enemy. War itself generally occurs today when peace between peoples has broken down because all good will has broken down. That is why it is understandable seeking the good look for the origin of a war. And while there are cases of innocents simply being attacked by predators, who have come out of nowhere like demons from the darkness, this, at least in the modern industrialised world, is an extremely rare occasion. Though, as is the case with the Palestine-Israel war, our rhetorical justifications for the battles we engage in, or the sides we take if we are simply outsiders/bystanders tend to be based upon this ‘model’ of conflict.

But when conflict has spiralled over decades, untangling the unmitigated good from the evil becomes increasingly impossible because the acts of war are all undertaken on the basis of some justification based upon injury that require violent retaliation. Appealing to the origin itself, as a means of decisively identifying who is innocent and who is guilty, no longer helps us establish peace, because the origin is to an event like seeds to a forest. Hegel once famously identified the source of tragedy as the conflict of two rights. And although what inevitably transpires in the allocation of moral blame in war involves the location of the origin from whence the violence was set in train, the fact is that the originators of what will lead to mass violence frequently have no idea that they are contributing to conditions which will belatedly explode. That is another aspect of the tragic, i.e., that the act that has devastating consequences is generally not even noticed for what it is when it is carried out. Had Oedipus known that King Laius was his father he encountered on the way to Thebes, so much evil would have been prevented; but the meaning of an action is all too frequently hidden from the actor, at the time of its undertaking. And that was true of the Jewish refugees fleeing Russia in the late 19th century, as it was of the Zionists who thought that they could placate local animosities as they were buying up land, as it was for the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who moved into Mandatory Palestine for better work opportunities provided by the British prior to the Arab revolt of 1936-9, only to find themselves amongst the hundreds of thousands of displaced Arabs who had existed there for centuries, as it was for the hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern Jews who found themselves fleeing lands they too had lived in for centuries as retaliation for the establishment of the state of Israel.

A consequence of all the mass population movement and displacement is that there is nowhere for the Palestinians within the occupied territories to go. Likewise, Israelis who have been living in Israel for more than a generation or two also have nowhere else to go, something generally ignored by political activists in the West, who are secure in being citizens of their own country.

The Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur has rightly said the Palestinian paradigm for their circumstance is based on Algeria—but the pied-noir had not lost their French citizenship. Gur also points out correctly that far too many commentators, not to mention protesting students who are barely adults and have read almost nothing on anything, mistakenly think that Israel is full of ideological Zionists, and ignore the fact that the biggest source of Israel’s population is simply refugees who want to live with other Jews because they feel they may live more safely with their own kind, commencing with Russian refugees from the Pogroms (Gurr repeats the myth of anti-Jewishness being a spontaneous and self-generating ideological paranoiac figment divorced from any class animosities). Then there is the fact just mentioned above that the original refugee migrants/colonisers (take your pick) purchased land from absent Arab landlords. That too is true—and it is remiss of anyone weighing in on the rights and wrongs of the war not to mention that it is thus internal class divisions with the Arabs of Palestine that also enabled their own dispossession. Again, anyone who can see that this kind of dispossession is exactly what has been occurring in Western Europe and North America by the combination of large immigration waves often of refugees, and the influx of foreign capital primarily benefitting other owners of capital and property would be jeered at by the very people who see Israel as purely evil and the Palestinians as purely good.

This has no bearing on the fact that women and children and male civilians who simply want peace are being slaughtered in Gaza. Those who delight in it are swept up in the tornado of evil, as are those who cheered the initial incursion. But that is what war is: the triumph of death. War is based on countless reasons/justification though it itself breaks out because the desired end cannot be reached through reasonable speech. This is not an argument for pacifism—for in all manner of situations pacificism is not an option. It is simply to point out that evil is an existential not even a moral condition, and when reasons are used to justify murdering people, it is evil that has triumphed. Evil is the accumulation of acts which congeal and then explode, lacerating all in its wake. Bombs and bullets are instantiations of evil. “Preserve us from evil” is a mighty formulation, for it identifies the fact that most evil in the world is not merely consciously made by our own hands, not the result of deliberation, but is as a wave that sweeps us into channels of decision and modes of action that have been prepared over generations and which foreclose other less terrifying and savage options.

The horror that is going on Gaza has been over a century in the making—and this present phase of the war has involved miscalculation and ostensible self-interest on both sides: it has suited Netanyahu to favour Hamas over the Palestinian Authority because Hamas eschews a two-state solution, while I think Hamas wildly underestimated the scale of the Israeli response to their incursions of October 7. Miscalculation, like evil itself, is the inevitable accompaniment of human action. Evil is a contagion which is as ferocious in devouring the good as the bad—to think our moral ideas are genuine bulwarks is just ridiculous; at best they are the decor put in place after all the surveying, engineering and architecture are done.

By acting as it has, Israel has destroyed much sympathy and good will; but in fighting for survival people always do the most terrible things. I have been struck by the irony of how both sides all justify the terrible things done for their cause. War ultimately sorts out which peoples and pathways continue. This war is over a century old—it did not start in October, and both sides will not stop until the other is destroyed. Though the sides now exist on a global scale. One other false notion identified by Gur is that Israel is an outpost of US imperialism—as was the case with the British empire, the Israelis will use whatever empire they can to get support, even if that means extortion and blackmail (Epstein) to get that support. The tide is turning in the US—Arab money and demographical transformation will eventually replicate what is going on in Western Europe—and it will be Israel’s undoing. The Jewish population is too small and too divided in its interests to shore up Western Europe and eventually the USA as bulwarks of support.

All the ink spilled and all words spoken on the war by us outsiders, which call for either the destruction of the Palestinians or the destruction of Israel (and there is no solution that is being presently put forward that is not just a duplicitous way of ensuring one or the other) does not help anything. Whenever I read or listen to an argument, even very good ones, by those defending/ condemning one side or the other in toto they all identify some salient facts, but neglect others—and that is the point: the facts that matter are weighed differently by the belligerents, and trying to adopt the position of a referee only illustrates how used we are to confounding things of peace—notably games and courtrooms with matters of war.

In the long run I think the Israelis will suffer a terrible defeat; and by that I mean the death of millions. Though existing as we do within the penumbra of another global war, it may well be that this war is just a vortex drawing all into it, and that Western Europe and the United States plagued as they are by their own internal divisions may also only be a decade or two away from their demise.

I do not welcome that. I do not think the university people screaming against the Israelis think that that will happen. I do not say this to justify what Israel is doing—but they are doing it to try and “buy” more life. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are suffering intolerably, and this will only harden their resolve to kill every Israeli. Every position one takes on this issue only illustrates that we are immersed in sin, and it is intrinsic to our origins; and that is why I think only prayers and miracles may really help—and if one does not believe in prayer or miracle, then even hope itself is preferable to reason ever circling around the same elements and formulae of facts that do not lead out of but take more and more people ever further into war. That will sound facile to the modern intellectual who is philosophically self-assured, as were the intellectual well-meaning Zionists and refugees seeking a homeland in Israel, as are the pan-Arabists/pan-Islamists, Cold War warriors, and all the others who have contributed to this hell now occurring.

I take no solace in what I think. Indeed, on every important topic, I wish I could find a position that was the “right” one held by the good, true, and beautiful, but I inevitably am drawn by what I see, not what I want to see. Our tears for all who are devoured by evil, as well as the charitable actions undertaken towards those who suffer make the world a more hospitable place than all the clamouring in which evil is simply what our enemy does.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen booksHe also doubles up as a singer songwriter. His latest album can be found here.


Featured: Palestinae, by Jodocus Hondius, 1570; printed by Abraham Ortelius, ca. 1595.