Sunday, July 20, 2014

Empathy for the Palestinians

As war rages between Israel and Hamas, Jon Stewart and Nicholas Kristof believe that it’s just the right time to show off their superior capacity for empathy.

As the therapy world touts the transcendent virtue of empathy, Jon Stewart, a cult figure to America’s youth, a man who missed his calling as a propagandist, is trying to elicit empathy for the people of Gaza.

After all, the more we feel the pain of the Palestinians in Gaza the more we will pressure Israel into stopping its assault on the terrorist state. Stewart might not know what he is doing, but his empathetic approach can only help Hamas. He feels no such empathy for the Israelis.

Here’s Stewart on the Israeli response to Hamas rocket attacks:

Both sides are engaging in aerial bombardment, but one side appears to be bomb-better-at it. (Studio laughter at the wordplay.) Most Hamas rockets are neutralized by Israel’s Iron Dome technology, and Israeli citizens can even now download a warning app. (Cut to clip of Israel’s US ambassador Ron Dermer explaining how Israelis can know where and when they’re being attacked.) So Israelis seem to have a high-tech, smart-phone alert system.

The Times of Israel responded well:

Having falsely implied that Israel is as keen on killing as Hamas is, Stewart now seems to be criticizing Israel for not being as vulnerable as Hamas would like it to be to those Hamas rockets that are sent to kill us. He seems to be bashing us for having those tech smarts. It’s a bad thing that we developed a unique, astonishing Iron Dome missile defense system, without which hundreds of us would be dead? It’s a bad thing that we developed an app to warn us that the rockets designed to kill our citizens are heading this way?

Stewart’s remarks were widely attacked.  Having more than enough arrogance to be unmoved, Stewart returned to the same topic the next night with his guest Hillary Clinton:

Can we at least agree the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is overwhelming, and that the world must do more for the people who are trapped by this conflict?

Clinton was on her game—for a change—and clearly exposed the flaw in Stewart’s empathetic reasoning:

Yes, and they’re trapped by their leadership. Unfortunately, it’s a two-pronged trapping. They have leadership that is committed to resistance and violence, and therefore their actions are mostly about ‘how do we get new and better missiles to launch them at Israel,’ instead of saying ‘hey, let’s try and figure out how we’re going to help make your lives better.’

Of course, Stewart is nominally Jewish, which puts his efforts beyond disgraceful. Then again, so is Nicholas Kristof, a man who likes to regale us with his moral outrage about injustices around the world. In the current conflict between Israel and Hamas Kristof prefers to be more even-handed. Because, after all, when war is afoot, it is best to empathize with the losing side.

This morning Kristof took to the New York Times to explain that each side in the Israel/Hamas conflict has a point. Thus, he took moral equivalence to its absurd limit:

On the contrary, this is a war in which both peoples have a considerable amount of right on their sides. The failure to acknowledge the humanity and legitimate interests of people on the other side has led to cross-demonization. That results in a series of military escalations that leave both peoples worse off.

This paragraph shows how not to think. The Israelis are fighting terrorists who want to destroy them. The people of Gaza elected Hamas. Many of them were dancing in the street after terrorists murdered three Israeli teenagers. Many of them were dancing in the streets when the World Trade Center was destroyed. Should we feel empathy for their moral depravity?

Kristof continues:

And Palestinians are absolutely right that they have a right to a state, a right to run businesses and import goods, a right to live in freedom rather than relegated to second-class citizenship in their own land.

As it happens, Kristof is echoing the points that Philip Gordon, representing the Obama administration, made at the onset of the conflict.

As for Palestinian rights, these have, as Hillary Clinton said, been taken away from the Palestinian people by the Palestinian leadership. Had that leadership been willing to renounce its lust for murdering Jews its people could long since have had a state. The offer has been on the table for decades.

As for living in freedom, where in the Arab Middle East does anyone live in freedom? When Hamas leaders took over Gaza they could have ushered in a new era of freedom. They could have built businesses. Instead they dug tunnels into Israel, the better to terrorize the Israeli people. And they amassed an arsenal of rockets and missiles. And, of course, they imposed Sharia law, not a practice of freedom. It's rallying cry is not construction, but deconstruction.

Like Jon Stewart, Nicholas Kristof is Jewish. He too should hang his head in shame.

Not to limit ourselves to Jewish intellectuals, let’s take a look at what thought leader Andrew Sullivan has had to say.

Sullivan has used the current conflict to defame the president of Israel. Does he recognize that during a war, such actions express solidarity with the other side? I doubt it.

In this paragraph he is comparing Benjamin Netanyahu to Vladimir Putin, the defensive incursion into Gaza with the shooting down of a civilian airliner:

Both have been riding nationalist waves of xenophobia – and have done their best to inflame it some more; both believe that military force is the first resort when challenged; both have contempt for the United States under its current president; both regard Europeans as pathetic weaklings and moral squishes; both use a pliant mass media to instill the tropes of paranoia, wounded pride and revenge; both target “infiltrators” in their midst, whether it be African immigrants and Palestinians or gays and Westerners; and both have invaded and threatened their neighbors. Perhaps most important of all: both have lost control to the even more enraged extremists to their right.

Is it not pathetic to see a champion of gay rights attacking the only nation in the Middle East that allows gays to live their lives freely? Why would Sullivan make himself part of the propaganda campaign defending a regime that sees homosexuality as a capital crime?

Strangely enough, Sullivan’s myopia echoes the attitude of another gay rights activist, Michel Foucault, who inexplicably found much to like in the rule of the Iranian ayatollahs.

As for the Arab governments in the Middle East, they have taken the opposite take. They are not rallying to the Palestinian cause. Quite the opposite.

The New York Times reports today, in the guise of a news article that offers a different sort of empathy for Palestinians who feel betrayed by their fellow Arabs:

Three years ago there was a hope that a growing movement for democracy might make Arab countries more supportive of the Palestinians, as governments grew more responsive to the people and their demands.

But during the latest bloodshed in Gaza, the opposite has occurred, according to supporters of the Palestinians, who found the official Arab reaction incoherent, at times providing cover for the Israeli military assault.

The governments were accused of dithering at critical moments during the recent Israeli military offensive, where in the past, Palestinians counted on them to at least muster some diplomatic pressure to make it stop. Their feuds broke out in public, and Egypt even blamed Hamas, the Islamist movement in Gaza, rather than Israel, for dozens of Palestinian deaths.

Obviously, Hamas counted on the diplomatic pressure exercised by the Obama administration, on the jihadis rioting in Paris, and on American Jewish intellectuals. In that, it did not miscalculate.

But, if it expected other Arab governments to come to its rescue, it was clearly wrong.

Egypt, in particular, has turned its back on Hamas:

The antagonism has continued under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who led the ouster of Mr. Morsi and who has kept Egypt’s border crossing with Gaza all but sealed, further isolating not just Hamas but all the Palestinians trapped in the fighting there. A few hours before Israel launched its ground assault of Gaza on Thursday, Egypt’s official state news agency provided the Israelis with an unexpected boost.

In a statement, it quoted the country’s foreign minister as blaming Hamas for the deaths of at least 40 Palestinians. The statement, which also criticized Qatar and Turkey, said the deaths would have been prevented if Hamas had signed an Egyptian cease-fire initiative.

On Twitter, Anshel Pfeffer, a writer for Haaretz, the left-leaning Israeli newspaper, encapsulated the surprise at the turn of events: “Incredible that #Israel is going into #Gaza and the greatest Arab state, #Egypt is not saying a word of criticism, just blaming #Hamas.”

One must add that President Erdogan of our NATO ally Turkey, an Islamist nation that President Obama likes, has declared Netanyahu to be worse than Hitler.


Anonymous said...

This article says it all:

Anonymous said...

Netanyahu had a good quote

“We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

Anonymous said...

Interesting study.

Christians, especially Evangelicals, love the Jews and dislike Muslims, but American Jews prefer Muslims over Christians, especially over Evangelicals.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Definitely interesting... but not very encouraging for American Jews.

Sam L. said...

Does anyone within a 500-1000 mile radius of Gaza and the West Bank like the Palis? Remember, those other Arabs told them to flee before they attacked Israel in '48, and none but the Jordanians took them in in '49)(and threw them out in '70). The Palis are the useful idiots of the Arabs, and the Pali "leaders".

Ares Olympus said...

I've been thinking of the predicaments of conflict and conscience.

The Israel/Palestinian conflict is trouble from the start for Israel. It's like a fight between siblings, and "neutral" parents or authority figures are by default going to come down on the side of the younger/weaker sibling, even if the weaker one started the mess.

So if "empathy towards the weaker but more desperate sibling" is unhelpful, what's to be done?

I have to admit, I'm more afraid of Israel than I am of the Palestinians, that is to say, Israel has nuclear weapons, and so they have a much greater ability cause trouble in the world. So the older sibling not only is stronger traditionally, but he's paranoid about his own survival so much that he's ready to kill millions of innocent people with a nuclear attack on a large city in Iran to make sure he never loses the ultimate loss.

The ultimate threat for Israel might be if the U.S. withdraws our foreign aid and military weapons, and "lets" the wider Arabic/Muslims threaten their existence.

I imagine there are perhaps 25% of Jews in Israel who, if real war came, they'd rather leave than fight, and another 25% would be willing to flee on a long protracted war that systematically destroyed the economy of Israel, so in the end what you'll have is the most militant and paranoid Jews standing for their homeland, and who would rather die than surrender, and also would rather kill millions, rather than surrender their ambitions.

Maybe its Karma, the oppressed Jews, persecuted and murdered in the millions eventually create children who are willing to kill millions with the press of a button.

I wonder if the trade would be worth it? If the militant Jews had their death ritual, and killed millions of Muslims with their nuclear weapons in a final blaze of glory, would that finally end the curse of the Jews, and then they could become ordinary humans again, sinful and unworthy by their pride and arrogance?

Then the remaining Jews could see what hatred creates, and go there no more.

Of course then who is going to save the Muslims from themselves, after millions of their tribe are murdered? I don't suppose their version of God has the compassion to forgive their enemies and let go?

Anonymous said...

I will not sympathize with the Palestinians simply because they're worse at killing people than they want to be.

Anonymous said...

Things nuts in London.

Sam L. said...

Ares. Jews have already seen what hatred of them brings, and continue to see it. I have thought that if the Israelis acted as they have been accused/slandered of acting, the fear of them would be palpable.

London--Lots of muslims in England, and socialists.

kaganovitch said...

Kristof btw is not jewish

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you for the correction.