Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We're Not All The Same

Recently, my friend in teacher Dr. Joel Hoffman blogged about a common, but ultimately incorrect, belief: the belief that we are all, at our core, similar:
Obviously, there were differences: financial, cultural, religious, and more. Some people owned private jets and others couldn’t afford dinner. Some children grew up with families in homes and others on the street. Some religious leaders worshiped one god and others worshiped many or none at all. Some languages and cultures demanded formality while others all but precluded it. And so forth.
But I thought that when it came to what really mattered, most people were certainly like me. And — the other side of the same coin — I thought that I could figure out the differences without leaving my home.
I was the modern anthropological equivalent of the 19th-century armchair scientist.
As he points out, as violence continues in and around Israel, it's especially important to remember this: not everyone is the same, deep down. I'm not claiming that it's genetic — that one group of people are inherently, irrevocably different (or better) than another. But, whatever its source, reality seems to be that some of us are deeply, fundamentally different from others. The feeling that, at our core, we're all alike, and that if we could just sit down and talk to each other, we could always get through our differences, might be noble. But it might not be true. And, if it's not true, pretending that it is can have real, life-threatening consequences.

That same point was made, more explicitly, in a recent op-ed by David Horowitz (someone who, it must be noted, is generally seen as pro-peace) in The Times of Israel. The members of Hamas are not like us. They are not generally good people who, driven by hopelessness, do terrible things but who, if only given a chance, will gladly see that we're all brothers, and will make peace.

They are evil.

I try not to use that word lightly, ever. But, it's hard to argue that it doesn't apply to Hamas:
Actually, we are grappling here with people who have lost “tzelem elohim” (the image of God), who have spurned the divine gift of life, rejected the sheer joy of drawing breath on this planet. The terrorists of Hamas and others like them – inspired, armed, funded and trained by the ideologically and territorially rapacious rulers of Iran – do not ultimately seek to live and let live. They strain to kill and be killed.
It may be difficult to accept, but the evidence is everywhere. It was clear when Hamas killed its own people while seizing power in Gaza in 2007. It is clear in a terrible history of suicide bombings against Jewish, Christian and, again, Muslim targets. It is clear in Hamas’s ruthless deployment in Gaza – its savage readiness to open fire from right next to mosques and schools, and to take children out with its rocket crews in the cynical appreciation that its decent, humane enemies might then hold their fire and thus enable it to continue to wreak destruction.
Every decent person wants to see an end to violence in and around Israel. Every person I know, however much they love and support Israel, would love to see an end to the fighting, and a drawing back of Israel's troops from the border with Gaza. But, suggesting that, if Israel's and Hamas's leaders would just put down the guns for a moment, have a cup of tea together, and share their stories, somehow this will lead to peace — well, that just sounds na├»ve. And, frankly, if Hamas's leaders are evil, then that's exactly what they'd want. Because, that's exactly how the keep getting away with acts of terror.

I'm not saying it as well as Horowitz — but give his article a read and, in all sincerity, tell me if there's a flaw in the thinking. Because, this is one of those times when I'd love to be wrong. I'd love to go back to a world in which I could believe that, deep down, we're all good. Because, I really can't look at Hamas, and other similar terrorists, and believe that.

As always, I want to be perfectly and explicitly clear — I don't think that every Palestinian is evil. And I believe that the death of every single innocent, whatever side they may be on, is a tragedy. It breaks my heart to see pictures of people suffering in Gaza, especially knowing that the immediate cause of that suffering was Israeli military power. But, wishing and praying that the fighting may end is not the same as thinking that Israel is wrong to fight. Despite pithy slogans to the contrary, sometimes it really does make sense to fight for peace. Sometimes, it's the only possible way to peace:
For anybody who genuinely seeks to preserve innocent lives,everybody‘s innocent lives, should long since have faced the fact that doing so requires marginalizing and ultimately defeating Hamas and its ilk.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

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