Flat White

Is this really about Israel?

1 June 2021

3:30 PM

1 June 2021

3:30 PM

The reignition of Israeli-Palestinian conflict was as inevitable as it is tragic. Following the prompts of mainstream media, the world’s morally supreme have bombarded social media platforms with Israeli condemnation. This was as inevitable as the conflict itself.  

What celebrities, university dropouts subsisting off a parental allowance, and athletes offer in terms of expertise and insight into one of the world’s most complex and prolonged conflicts is not obviously clear. Had I known many of my social media contacts were experts in international relations, I would not have bothered reading journal articles. Next time I want an update on the South China Sea I will ask Connor from marketing. 

Brendon O’Neill’s Spectator UK article hypothesises why there is mass Western outrage over Israeli aggression but not over arguably comparable Turkish actions. In that article, O’Neill writes, “it seems to me that, increasingly, there is nothing very rational or normal about the hatred for Israel that sporadically sweeps the West.”  

I agree.  The outrage over Israel’s response to terrorists launching rockets across its border is emotional rather than rational.  

In The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, along with co-author and lawyer Greg Lukianoff, argue the myth that the world is a binary battle between good and evil people – of which each person believes they are part of the ‘good’ side – contributes to today’s climate of outrage, tribalism and unwillingness to engage with those holding different views. 

This, combined with Haidt’s other academic work which argues with robust evidence that humans intuitively reach conclusions and then use their logical reasoning to justify them, rather than the other way around, explains how so many people can unwaveringly believe they are both perennially correct and virtuous. Emotion comes first, rationality and logic second. 

If you intuitively believe Israel is an evil apartheid state that is indiscriminately killing noble Palestinians – which is not an unreasonable assumption to make given recent headlines and the accompanying photographs – finding evidence to support this intuitive conclusion is easy. Situational nuance and contradictory facts can be flagrantly disregarded. All that’s left to do is publicly demonstrate you are on the ‘right’ team.  

Seeking to convince those around us and, I suspect more relevantly, ourselves that we are always morally sound is as delusional as it is arrogant. Case studies abound – see the many vocal proponents of the ‘sanctity of traditional family values’ during the same-sex marriage plebiscite who were themselves the most dedicated practitioners of infidelity. Anyone who publicly projects their hatred of capitalism yet lives today in the most peaceful, wealthy, free and prosperous time of human history – owing to the innovation and free trade made possible by markets and private enterprise – is equally delusional. 

It is easier to bash Israel than it is to take the time to understand the situation. Those who do a little reading will be reminded that Palestine is under the control of Hamas, a terrorist group which according to those supporters of the Palestinian cause at the Guardian, ‘has cracked down on dissent, intervened in the school curriculum, enforced its strict moral codes and fostered a culture of hatred and violence. Hamas rockets often fall within Gaza’s borders, sometimes causing destruction, injuries and deaths.’ Innocent Palestinians are often tragic victims of conflict and oppression, but they are not exclusively victims of Israeli actions. 

What those who race to publicly show their support for the ‘right team’ with each fashionable moral issue must accept is that none of us are morally impeccable. I, for example, claim to care about animals yet I eat meat.  

In an issue that involves religion, conflict, politics, history and disputed territory there will scarcely be a clear ‘good’ and ‘bad’ side. Next time instead of rushing to demonstrate virtue, rush to a book and do some reading first. 

Shane Herbst is a Research Analyst at Mannkal Economic Education Foundation and is completing his LLB at Curtin University. 

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments