Complexity

One of the arguments often made at BDS-related debates is that the Middle East conflict is too complex for student senators or food coop members or church delegates to understand well enough to take a meaningful stance on the matter.

“Nonsense,” the BDSers sneer.  For, according to them, the issues are unbelievably simple.  Here is a photo of a dead Palestinian baby (with a grieving mother wailing over the body), and here is another picture of a fully armed Israeli soldier standing next to a frightening bulldozer or some piece of heavy military equipment. And with these simple premises in place, their conclusion is equally simple: “Do what we say!”

To a certain extent, our argument for complexity is actually a reaction to the other side’s specific over-simplified narrative.  But it also represents an effort to avoid over-simplifying narratives of our own, such as one that points out that the Middle East consists of dozens of Arab nations – all corrupt dictatorships of one stripe or another – that have built their politics around eternal enmity towards the Jewish state.

According to this narrative, the Middle East not only consists of more than Israelis and Palestinians but the very Israeli-Palestinian conflict the BDSers decry is the result of the actual cause of suffering in the region: what Ruth Wisse calls “The Arab War Against the Jews.” (something the boycotters faithfully ignore).

The thing is, this less-than-complex story that Israel’s supporters tend to avoid is far closer to the truth than anything that comes out of the mouth of those advocating for boycott, divestment and sanctions.  And never more has such stark simplicity been clear than in the recent and unfolding conflict in Gaza.

Perhaps an errant rocket or two per year could be blamed on forces outside the control of governing Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip.  But when Hamas itself boasts of firing thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets over weeks and months and years, then the subjecting of a sovereign nation to a modern version of the London Blitz cannot be seen as anything other than an act of war, requiring a military response.

The FACT that Hamas hides within and fires its missiles from civilian areas is also not open to debate, which is why those who challenge a reality backed up by countless photos, videos and live testimony choose to either ignore or deny this fact without actually providing evidence or arguments against its unquestionable veracity.

And then you’ve got those miles and miles of tunnels built with cement and other building supplies that countless people insisted Gaza desperately needed to rebuild an above-ground infrastructure devastated by the last wars Hamas started.  The fact that Hamas instead used that material (as well as aid money) to construct a different underground infrastructure for their fighters (leaving civilians to fend for themselves above) can only be denied by those born without eyes or those who have chosen to shield themselves from the truth at the cost of their humanity.

I can understand why simple narratives of good vs. evil tend to rub those of us with modern sensibilities the wrong way.  After all, even Israel’s most ardent supports can (and do) provide a long list of errors the Jewish state has made over the course of seven decades of siege.  And when the Jewish people produce a Baruch Goldstein or those responsible for the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir (killed in last month’s revenge attack for the kidnapping/murder of three Israeli youths) we are both shocked and called to question whether the cause we fight for might have contributed to the creation of such monsters.

But this kind of self-questioning, appropriate for anyone who values facing up to moral complexity (the mortal equivalent of wrestling with God), carries the risk of becoming a variant on the common error of letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.  For if one side in a conflict is ready to face (and fess up to) its own shortcomings while the other side will never admit responsibility for any error, crime or violation of moral norms under any circumstance, then we are actually abdicating moral responsibility when we respond to the other side’s perpetually pointing finger with confessions of our own flaws.

It’s been interesting to note that Israel and its supporters, usually all over the map with regard to messaging whenever a conflict such as this summer’s Gaza war arises, has been remarkably on-point this time around.  To a certain extent, this is because the points to be made are so glaringly obvious that little else needs to be said.

Hamas has chosen to shoot at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian ones.  Hamas leaders have enriched themselves and now sit comfortably in five star hotels in Qatar while others do the fighting and dying.  The organization’s genocidal designs are available for all to see in their charter and countless pronouncements made before, during and after their takeover of Gaza (and transformation of the area to an armed camp).  And the lies (including absurdly transparent use of fake images) demonstrate not just their cynicism but their contempt for everyone they hope will carry out the propaganda component of their current campaign.  Given all this, what else is there for Israel and its supporters to talk about?

Perhaps this is why PlanetBDS must suffice with their ghoulish count of the dead (which follows the Hamas talking point that anyone killed in Gaza is an “innocent civilian”) coupled with throwing Molotov cocktails at synagogues and screaming and tweeting a wish that Hitler had finished the job.  For without any actual facts or arguments to fall back on, shrieking ever louder (and accompanying those screams with violence) is all they have left.

Which means that those of us dedicated to fighting this scourge needs to brace for one hell of an ugly year to come.

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One Response to Complexity

  1. Michael Lumish July 31, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    What I find disconcerting is the willing disinclination among so many on the left to acknowledge that Hamas is a genocidal organization that is part of a larger movement throughout the Muslim Middle East, known as political Islam.

    The failure to acknowledge the obvious means that far too many people who concern themselves with this issue fail to place it within the larger context of what is happening throughout the area, more generally.

    In any case, Jon, terrific piece.

    Thank you.What I find disconcerting is the willing disinclination among so many on the left to acknowledge that Hamas is a genocidal organization that is part of a larger movement throughout the Muslim Middle East, known as political Islam.

    The failure to acknowledge the obvious means that far too many people who concern themselves with this issue fail to place it within the larger context of what is happening throughout the area, more generally.

    In any case, Jon, terrific piece.

    Thank you.

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