‘Good vs. Evil’ vs. ‘Weak vs. Strong’

 

As the fight rages between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza, those supporting Israel shake their heads at progressives around the world. How can a movement which boasts of its dedication to tolerance, feminism and LGBT equality endorse a terror state founded on thuggery and theocracy?

Israel is a modern, multicultural nation in a sea of medieval misery. Women can vote, gays can marry, and Arabs can serve in government. Just over the security fence, women are subjugated, gays are lynched, and there isn’t a Jew to be found (unless he has been kidnapped).

How can the Left be so enamored of the Palestinians? Are they simply immoral? Yes and no.

The Left has a morality, but it is different from that of most conservatives.

We on the Right tend to view struggles as “Good vs. Evil.” Our less religious allies might rephrase this as “Right vs. Wrong,” “Civilization vs. Barbarism,” or, more broadly, “Order vs. Chaos.” Nevertheless, when we see two sides duking it out, we tend to support the Good and the Civilized.

The Left mocks these tired notions of “good” and “evil.” And what is “civilization” but a Eurocentric justification for racism and colonialism? While it’s tempting to call progressives immoral — or at least amoral — the Left has replaced traditional morality with a morality of their own invention.

Progressives have dropped “Good vs. Evil” for “Weak vs. Strong.” The oppressor in any conflict is considered, for lack of a better term, “bad,” while the oppressed victim is an underdog who is worthy of support.

By viewing conflicts through this lens, progressives make several bizarre alliances. They will root for a gun-wielding murderer if the object of his crime was a cop. They will pat the back of a Yippie bomber if his quarry was the Pentagon. And they will support violently homophobic theocrats in Hamas over pluralistic secularists in Israel.

A substitute morality of “weak vs. strong” has a facile appeal since most of us enjoy cheering on the underdog. But if your morality is based on this paradigm, you’ll soon find yourself rooting for a genocidal Hamas over a truly liberal Israel.

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  1. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    ctlaw:

    Hamas firing rockets has nothing to do with protecting Gaza. Again, with your personal self defense analogy, the aggressor has no right of self defense against lawful self defense by the victim.

    Is resistance against occupation and theft lawful?  I would say it is, but despite that firing rockets at civilians in Israel is not lawful resistance.

    Unfortunately the perception is that when Hamas doesn’t fire rockets nobody bothers about Gaza because they think they can just wait them out till they give up and make peace with the same sort of outcomes the PA got for being peaceful on the West Bank. (ie zilch.) It’s a truly poisonous conundrum.

    • #31
  2. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    ctlaw:

    Israel imposed a military blockade not an economic one.

    Its effect, as applied, is economic:

    The blockade prevents development in Gaza. Egypt and Israel argue that the blockade is designed to cut off resources from terrorists, but really it has brought those who want a better life to their knees while the bad actors still have their rockets. Before the blockade, the United Nations provided food to 80,000 in Gaza; today it provides food to 830,000 .

    Israel and Egypt also view the blockade as a success because it pushed Hamas into a financial crisis. This is short-term thinking. It ignores the fact that the economic devastation from the blockade weakens the public and private sectors in Gaza and strengthens extremists and smuggling enterprises. Repression and deprivation fuel terrorism; economic development and inclusion can fuel long-term peace.

    //////

    Hindsight is 20:20 but refusing to recognise the Hamas win in 2006 is starting look a like a self goal if (if!) the goal is actual peace rather than a getting a better deal and more land in the final agreement.

    • #32
  3. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Zafar: rockets nobody bothers about Gaza because they think they can just wait them out till they give up and make peace with the same sort of outcomes the PA got for being peaceful on the West Bank. (ie zilch.)

     ZILCH?!

    Let’s see… under Israeli control, Palestinian arabs did quite well.

    From wiki:

    GDP per capita in the Palestinian territories rose by 7% per year from 1968 to 1980 but slowed during the 1980s. Between 1970 and 1991 life expectancy rose from 56 to 66 years, infant mortality per 1,000 fell from 95 to 42, the percentage of households with electricity rose from 30% to 85%, the percentage of households with safe water rose from 15% to 90%, the percentage of households with a refrigerator rose from 11% to 85%, and the percentage of households with a washing machine rose from 23% in 1980 to 61% in 1991.

    As for Gaza vs the PA: The PA is FAR wealthier per capita. It has achieved HUGE wins by not obsessing over killing Jews. 

    The PA has WON by not fighting. Hamas does not want to be wealthy: they want to kill Jews.

    • #33
  4. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Old Bathos: Recall that it was OK to condemn apartheid…

    Yes, same thing when we invaded Iraq, the lefties all had Free Tibet bumper stickers at the time.  The difference was that we were acting strong in Iraq, and weak in Tibet.

    They see being the victim as a virtue, and always like to see themselves as the virtuous ones, no matter how strong they are in fact.  Thus Obama is weakening the US to make it better. 

    It’s a nice post, Jon.

    • #34
  5. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Zafar: Hindsight is 20:20 but refusing to recognise the Hamas win in 2006 is starting look a like a self goal if (if!) the goal is actual peace rather than a getting a better deal and more land in the final agreement.

     If you’re not aware of the facts:

    Because Hamas did not recognize Israel and earlier agreements a substantial part of the international community, especially Israel and the United States, did not accept the Hamas government.”

    After the Hamas victory, Israel stopped handing over tax payments, and after Hamas took office, Washington and the Europeans suspended aid because Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and forswear violence.”

    By electing Hamas, the Palestinians chose war.  Now they’re suffering the consequences.

    • #35
  6. user_1184 Inactive
    user_1184
    @MarkWilson

    Zafar: Oppression is bad, so make sure your definitions flatter the side you support? Surely not!

    Zafar, I can’t sift out which part of this is sarcasm and which is sincere.

    • #36
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    iWc:

    ZILCH?!

    Let’s see… under Israeli control, Palestinian arabs did quite well.

     

     Well, they are mostly not blockaded, the PA gets its tax revenue, there is some level of trade.  So yes, they’re doing better than if they were under siege.  

    Otoh:

    israel-map-620x374

    Which is not so great in terms of ever having a viable Palestinian State (or a two state solution).

    Now I don’t think that a Palestinian State is any more an absolute good in and of itself than I think Israel as a Jewish State is (iow,  not at all) – what matters is individuals having equal political and civil rights in a representative democracy.  

    So – I actually am pro your Option 3 (one state, everybody is a citizen, religion irrelevant) – but I don’t see it happening soon, sadly.

    • #37
  8. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Mark Wilson:

    Zafar: Oppression is bad, so make sure your definitions flatter the side you support? Surely not!

    Zafar, I can’t sift out which part of this is sarcasm and which is sincere.

     Oh [it’s all] both, I suppose, Mark, to my shame.

    It frustrates me when people dance about describing something plainly because it makes one side or the other look bad.  An action is an action – it is what it is.

    • #38
  9. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Tuck:

    Because Hamas did not recognize Israel and earlier agreements a substantial part of the international community, especially Israel and the United States, did not accept the Hamas government.”

    I’m familiar with the facts, Tuck.  But then why pretend to support a democratic process in the first place?  Just straight up insist on a dictatorship and be done with it.

    And consider this – Likud’s platform explicitly rules out any sort of Palestinian State between the Jordan River and the Sea.  Is it reasonable for people who support a two state solution to therefore refuse to recognise any Israeli Government that is headed by Likud?  Is that logical?  Does it make sense?

    Imho no, no and no – but if we were consistent in how we applied logic you’d have to say yes to all three.

    • #39
  10. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Zafar:

    Mark Wilson:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Progressives have dropped “Good vs. Evil” for “Weak vs. Strong.” The oppressor in any conflict is considered, for lack of a better term, “bad,” while the oppressed victim is an underdog who is worthy of support.

    I see your point, but you should probably not use the term “oppressor” because it begs the question in your opponents’ favor.

    Oppression is bad, so make sure your definitions flatter the side you support? Surely not!

    The thing is, stealing from a murderer is still theft, and killing a thief is still murder. Trying to justify either theft or murder because of who the victim is seems to edge into junkie logic.

     If the thief is an armed robber threatening you with death or grave bodily injury, killing him is self-defense, not murder. If you start a war and lose, you don’t have a great deal of moral authority to complain if the other side takes your land and/or other stuff, whether they take it as reparations or simply to secure their territory. You’ve demonstrated your lack of trustworthiness, so don’t bitch about the other side not trusting you.

    • #40
  11. user_1184 Inactive
    user_1184
    @MarkWilson

    Zafar:

    Mark Wilson:

    Zafar: Oppression is bad, so make sure your definitions flatter the side you support? Surely not!

    Zafar, I can’t sift out which part of this is sarcasm and which is sincere.

    Oh [it’s all] both, I suppose, Mark, to my shame.

    It frustrates me when people dance about describing something plainly because it makes one side or the other look bad. An action is an action – it is what it is.

    What I meant by my original post was that Jon created a tautology when he said, “The oppressor in any conflict is considered, for lack of a better term, ‘bad,’ while the oppressed victim is an underdog who is worthy of support.”  Oppressor is a loaded term, and oppressors are always bad, by definition.  What he really meant is that the Strong is wrongly assumed to be the Oppressor, and he sought to challenge the notion that Israel is oppressive. 

    Mine was a point about clarity in language, not about manipulating definitions to flatter loyalties.

    • #41
  12. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Mark Wilson:

    Mine was a point about clarity in language, not about manipulating definitions to flatter loyalties.

    Fair point, and sorry about my response.

    But here are some terms which are descriptive (as is oppression, btw) – and which people do argue about using in this context:

    occupied
    disputed
    apartheid
    ethnic cleansing
    ethnocracy
    racism
    terrorism
    rules of war
    refugees
    settlers
    colonisation

    All descriptors, but also all coming loaded with a baggage of right or wrong, or good and bad.  It’s hard to get away from.

    • #42
  13. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Carey J.:

    If you start a war and lose, you don’t have a great deal of moral authority to complain…

     They didn’t ask to be colonised.  The Yishuv and the Nakba came to them unasked.

    David Ben Gurion had this to say:

    “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it’s simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out.”

    • #43
  14. user_64581 Member
    user_64581
    @

    Supporting weak vs strong is a policy that would tend to prolong, even perpetuate, every conflict in the world.  Works quite well in this instance.

    • #44
  15. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Zafar: “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel….”

     I can imagine the same being said about most conflicts, before they take place. Why, after all, should the Germans or Japanese have made peace in 1939 or 1941, respectively? Or the Serbs make peace with the Bosnians in 1992, or the Iraqis make peace with the Americans in 1990 or 2003?

    After the war is over, though, making peace under the new, much worse conditions is rational. For the vanquished in virtually all wars, losing makes it clear that peace, even when dictated by the winner, is better than perpetual conflict. But not for the Palestinians. 

    But for the Palestinians there are no conditions, no defeat so total, no amount of prolonged suffering, that provokes them to make peace.  They are a fortunate people. Their enemy defeats them consistently, but is not allowed to punish them beyond what international opinion and the enemy’s own humanity will countenance. And unlike the Japanese in China, or the Serbs in Bosnia, or the Syrians in Syria, it is only the Israelis who must account for every dead civilian. 

    • #45
  16. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    There is some ambiguity as to what would qualify as “making peace”. Hostilities between groups have been greater and less at various times, and of course there have been gestures towards peace on the side of Palestinians, as for example when Yasser Arafat recognized the Jewish state. 

    With Jews and Palestinians still living in Palestine, in close proximity to one another, symbolic displays of victory and surrender are not going to settle anything; what is needed is for people to find a way for all of them to go on living tolerable lives. That that has not happened reflects numerous missteps on the part of many people, both Israeli and Palestinian. But even if Hamas issued an unconditional surrender tomorrow, that would not settle things if present and future Palestinians could not see a plausible path to a better life. Despairing people will always be dangerous and prone to violence.

    • #46
  17. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Rachel Lu: But even if Hamas issued an unconditional surrender tomorrow, that would not help much if present and future Palestinians could not see a plausible path to a better life. Despairing people will always be dangerous and prone to violence.

    This is fallacious.

    Unhappiness and poverty do not lead to violence. India and China and Bangladesh and countless other places are FAR FAR poorer than Gaza – and there are no suicide bombers or terror tunnels.

    Hamas do not want better lives. They want dead Jews. If they wanted better lives, they would not take foreign aid and, killing 160 children in the process, pour it all into building tunnels to kill Jews.

    • #47
  18. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Rachel Lu: symbolic displays of victory and surrender are not going to settle anything

    No. It is going to take REAL victory and REAL defeat. 

    Only then can people decide to figure out what to do after violence is no longer a viable option.

    • #48
  19. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Rachel Lu: But even if Hamas issued an unconditional surrender tomorrow, that would not help much if present and future Palestinians could not see a plausible path to a better life. Despairing people will always be dangerous and prone to violence.

    What is stopping such a Gaza from being something like a Hong Kong (pre-handover) or a Singapore? Not Israel. It’s Hamas and the factors within Arab Islamic society that give rise to a Hamas. The despair relates to Hamas and its ilk telling the people to kill Jews rather than build lives for themselves.

     

    • #49
  20. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    iWc:

    Rachel Lu: symbolic displays of victory and surrender are not going to settle anything

    No. It is going to take REAL victory and REAL defeat.

    Only then can people decide to figure out what to do after violence is no longer a viable option.

     So, kill all the men, rape the women, salt the ground? What level of victory would make you happy?

    Ben-Gurion (as Zafar’s quote illustrates) was very much set into the mindset you suggest. “Win thoroughly so they respect and fear you” was his idea, and perhaps with the surrounding Arab states that sort of worked. With the Palestinians it didn’t, because they were  suddenly displaced and homeless and shrugging their shoulders and getting on with life wasn’t really possible.

    Again, without denying that Palestinians have made lamentable mistakes and in some cases done heinous things, I also think that part of the problem here was not Israel’s “refusal to win thoroughly” (which they have done militarily several times) but rather their tardiness and insufficiently energetic attention to the necessity of forging a livable arrangement with the Palestinians. In the spirit of Ben-Gurion, they’ve long had these strong impulses (not exceptionless, but strong) to focus all attention on dominating and not giving the enemy any quarter. That’s pretty effective for dealing with an already-established country like Egypt, but it’s dangerous when you’ve got a million and a half people quarantined for decades in a reservation just off your southern border who feel like their whole way of life has been taken from them and they have nothing left to lose. 

    I don’t know what can be done at this level of deterioration, but you shouldn’t think that your “win thoroughly” strategy hasn’t been thought of or tried; it’s pretty central to the Israeli mindset, historically at least.

    • #50
  21. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    iWc:.

    Unhappiness and poverty do not lead to violence. India and China and Bangladesh and countless other places are FAR FAR poorer than Gaza – and there are no suicide bombers or terror tunnels.

     

    There’s actually quite a bit of poverty generated violence in India and Bangladesh (and probably China) – but the thing is most of the population in these countries has a plausible belief that their lives will get better – iow they have hope.  The more hope, the less likely people are to fall for extremism – the less hope, the more likely.

    With Israel blockading Gaza and devouring the West Bank while talking about talking about the preconditions for talks with the PA, there doesn’t seem to be a plausible good outcome for Palestinians.

    • #51
  22. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Zafar: With Israel blockading Gaza and devouring the West Bank while talking about talking about the preconditions for talks with the PA, there doesn’t seem to be a plausible good outcome for Palestinians.

    The fact that Israel tries to prevent Iranian arms from reaching Gaza is not the reason Gaza is a dump. Israel has similar, if not more, control over the West Bank and that does far better than Gaza.

    • #52
  23. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Rachel Lu: So, kill all the men, rape the women, salt the ground? What level of victory would make you happy?

     The PLO was murdering Israeli civilians and children as early as 1969. It was chased to Jordan, then to Lebanon, then to Tunisia — never defeated — and rehabilitated as a Palestinian governing body in 1993. Arafat directed terror operations until his death, and Fatah continues to survive. Where’s the total Israeli victory?

    Similarly, Hamas has been murdering Israeli civilians for some two decades. Each time Israel gets close to eradicating its leadership, people like you complain that Israel is being too heavy-handed and needs to stop. There has been no total Israeli victory.

    • #53
  24. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Rachel Lu: without denying that Palestinians have made lamentable mistakes and in some cases done heinous things, I also think that part of the problem here was not Israel’s “refusal to win thoroughly” (which they have done militarily several times) but rather their tardiness and insufficiently energetic attention to the necessity of forging a livable arrangement with the Palestinians

    Rachel, your Gazan friends are not targets of Israeli action unless and until they start firing on Israel. In contrast, every Israeli man, woman, and child (including, say, Judith Levy and her children) are targets of Palestinian violence. Is that understandable because Palestinians lack “hope” for a better life? Is it merely one of those “lamentable mistakes”? Or is there potentially something evil to it?

    Separately, would you excuse Al Qaeda or Taliban tactics (including, say, hijacking US airliners to get the US off of Saudi soil) as understandable tools of desperation?

    • #54
  25. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Son of Spengler:

    Rachel, your Gazan friends are not targets of Israeli action unless and until they start firing on Israel. 

     

    Unfair, SoS.  And most Gazans are in Gaza because of Israeli actions.

    • #55
  26. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Innocent Palestinians are in the line of fire all the time, SoS, as I’m sure you realize. And even if Israelis do, say, drop leaflets first, Gaza is so small and crowded that they don’t have many places to go. Israelis are dramatically better off in this regard. There are many places in Israel that are not in the line of fire and not at all likely to be, and they are also able to go abroad far more easily. I feel for Israelis, absolutely, but I don’t think there’s any question that your average Gazan civilian has it far worse.

    But if you too are dissatisfied with the level of Israeli victory, I turn the question to you. What level of victory would be satisfactory? In the ancient world, when a conqueror was looking to  subdue beyond question a disobedient population, they would do more or less what I suggested. Slaughter every able-bodied man, rape the women to show total subjugation and also muddy the ancestral line, and perhaps reduce the town to rubble or salt the ground. Is that what Israelis should do?

    Barring that sort of genocidal crushing of a whole population, I’m not sure there is any kind of “total victory” that will reliably stop people who are miserable, hopeless and trapped from again lashing out against those they see as their oppressors. So with all these people calling for “total victory” I really am curious whether that’s what they mean.

    • #56
  27. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Zafar:

    Son of Spengler:

    Rachel, your Gazan friends are not targets of Israeli action unless and until they start firing on Israel.

    Unfair, SoS. And most Gazans are in Gaza because of Israeli actions.

     I disagree that the charge is unfair. Show me evidence of Israeli targeting of civilians. On the contrary, Israel’s efforts to spare civilians–at the cost of endangering Israeli soldiers–are extensive and well-documented. Israel has been meticulous about documenting the military nature of all its targets–especially those that Hamas has converted from civilian to military use.

    And I also disagree that Israel is exclusively the reason Gazans are in Gaza. For the sake of argument, let’s say that three generations ago, after Arab rejection of the UN partition plan, Jewish self-defense displaced some of their parents and grandparents (I think evidence suggests it was a small number, as opposed to the number that voluntarily left their homes). Even so, three generations later, Arab rejection of Israel and refusal to resettle displaced Palestinians (particularly on the part of Egypt) has played as much, if not more, of a role in keeping Gazans in Gaza.

    And I dis

    • #57
  28. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Rachel Lu:

    Innocent Palestinians are in the line of fire all the time, SoS, as I’m sure you realize. …. I feel for Israelis, absolutely, but I don’t think there’s any question that your average Gazan civilian has it far worse.

     I see you sidestepped my questions regarding whether hopelessness is a moral defense for targeting civilians. You did so by comparing outcomes–“both are in the line of fire”–and in a specious way, besides (Israel does much more than drop leaflets). It appears that you are providing good evidence in favor of the OP’s thesis.

    • #58
  29. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Rachel Lu: What level of victory would be satisfactory? In the ancient world, …. Slaughter every able-bodied man, rape the women to show total subjugation and also muddy the ancestral line, and perhaps reduce the town to rubble or salt the ground. Is that what Israelis should do? Barring that sort of genocidal crushing of a whole population, I’m not sure there is any kind of “total victory” that will reliably stop people who are miserable, hopeless and trapped from again lashing out against those they see as their oppressors. So with all these people calling for “total victory” I really am curious whether that’s what they mean.

     You also sidestepped my clarification of “total victory”. Israel has never been permitted to crush the opposing military (PLO, Hamas, Hezballah, et al.). Perhaps after that is achieved, you are correct that some other group will rise to take its place. But it’s just as conceivable that no such group will arise, and that Palestinians (like the Egyptian military) will come to accept Israel as a fact of life. That would be a much more fruitful outcome for the Palestinians as well as the Israelis.

    • #59
  30. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Rachel Lu: Innocent Palestinians are in the line of fire all the time, SoS, as I’m sure you realize. And even if Israelis do, say, drop leaflets first, Gaza is so small and crowded that they don’t have many places to go.

    it’s not like the Israelis say “Get out of the Gaza strip.” They say “Get out of this one apartment building that’s atop a Hamas rocket factory that International law allows us to take out without the courtesy of this warning.”


    Rachel Lu
    : Israelis are dramatically better off in this regard. There are many places in Israel that are not in the line of fire and not at all likely to be, and they are also able to go abroad far more easily.

     The whole lesson of this Hamas rocket campaign is that everywhere in Israel is in the line of fire. As for going abroad, note: 1) the impracticality (are you going to send out the entire civilian population?) and 2)  the fact that Obama essentially prevented any Israelis from coming to the US during this episode.

    • #60
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