A new amorality in the Middle East

John Hall johnhall@evergo.net
Sun, 31 Mar 2002 19:12:01 -0800


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Postmodern Palestine
The new amorality in the Middle East.


here is a postmodern amorality afloat - the dividend of years of an
American educational system in which historical ignorance, cultural
relativism, and well-intentioned theory, in place of cold facts, has
reigned. We see the sad results everywhere in the current discussions of
the Middle East and our own war on terror.
Palestinians appeal to the American public on grounds that three or four
times as many of their own citizens have died as Israelis. The crazy
logic is that in war the side that suffers the most casualties is either
in the right or at least should be the winner. Some Americans nursed on
the popular ideology of equivalence find this attractive. But if so,
they should then sympathize with Hitler, Tojo, Kim Il Sung, and Ho Chi
Minh who all lost more soldiers - and civilians - in their wars against
us than we did. 
Perhaps a million Chinese were casualties in Korea, ten times the number
of Americans killed, wounded, and missing. Are we then to forget that
the Communists crossed the Yalu River to implement totalitarianism in
the south - and instead agree that their catastrophic wartime sacrifices
were proof of American culpability? Palestinians suffer more casualties
than Israelis not because they wish to, or because they are somehow more
moral - but because they are not as adept in fighting real soldiers in
the full-fledged war that is growing out of their own intifada.
We are told that Palestinian civilians who are killed by the Israeli
Defense Forces are the moral equivalent of slaughtering Israeli
civilians at schools, restaurants, and on buses. That should be a hard
sell for Americans after September 11, who are currently bombing in
Afghanistan to ensure that there are not more suicide murderers on our
shores. This premise hinges upon the acceptance that the suicide
bombers' deliberate butchering of civilians is the same as the
collateral damage that occurs when soldiers retaliate against other
armed combatants. 
In fact, the tragic civilian deaths on the West Bank make a
less-compelling argument for amorality than the one revisionists often
use in condemning the Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo bombings. Then British
and American planes knowingly incinerated civilians in their quests to
shut down the warmaking potential of the Third Reich and imperial Japan.
Unlike what the B-17s and B-29s did to stop fascist murdering on a
global scale, the Israelis are not carpet-bombing indiscriminately.
Rather they are doing precisely what we ourselves were forced to do in
Mogadishu: Fighting a dirty urban war against combatants who have no
uniforms, shoot from houses, and are deliberately mixed in with
civilians. So far the Israelis have probably killed fewer civilians in a
year of fighting on the West Bank than our trapped soldiers did in two
days of similar gun battles in Somalia.
An ignorance of historical context is also critical for such postmodern
revisionism. If the conflict is due to the Israeli occupation of the
West Bank, then the first three wars for the survival of Israel itself
must be conveniently ignored. If there is a push for the exchange of
land for peace, then we must overlook that some in the Arab world who
have suggested just that bromide in the past three decades were either
assassinated or executed. And if we accept that both sides are equally
culpable for the current killing, we must forget that less than two
years ago the Palestinians rejected an Israeli offer to return 97
percent of the West Bank, along with other major concessions - assuming
that unleashing the present intifada could get them still more.
Facts mean nothing. The dispute is purportedly over the principle of
occupation - but next-door Syria holds far more Lebanese land than
Israel does the West Bank. The dispute is supposedly over ethnic
intolerance and gratuitous humiliation - but Kuwait, quite unlike
Israel, ethnically cleansed their entire country of Palestinians after
the Gulf War. The dispute is said to be about treating the "other"
fairly - but Syria and Iraq summarily expelled over 7,000 Jews after the
1967 war, stole their property, and bragged that they had rid their
country of them. The upcoming Arab Summit could spend weeks just
investigating the Arab murder and persecution of its own people and
Jews.
Multicultural distortion also appears in a variety of strange ways.
Palestinian spokesmen harangue Americans about their tilt toward Israel.
Yet they also speak in grandiose terms of an "Arab summit" and a global
Islamic brotherhood. Apparently, fellow Muslims, Arabs - and kindred
autocracies - are supposed to support Palestinians unquestioningly
because of religious, cultural, and political affinities. Yet we
multicultural Americans are not entitled to exhibit similar sympathy for
Israel, which like us and unlike Mr. Arafat's regime, is a Western,
democratic, open, and free society. 
Why do such bankrupt arguments find resonance? I think the causes have
now permeated well beyond a few coffeehouse theorists blabbering away in
Cambridge or Palo Alto. Rather it is because we live in a society in
which playground fights in our schools are now often adjudicated by
concepts such as "zero tolerance" and "equal culpability." Rather than
exercising moral judgment - and investing time and energy in such
investigation - our school principals simply expel any student caught
fighting, as if the bully and his victim occupy the same moral ground. 
Our schoolbooks devote more space to Hiroshima than to the far, far
greater casualties on Okinawa. Students are not told that the two
tragedies are connected - as if the American bombing to prevent an
enormous bloodbath on the Japanese mainland is somehow not a direct
result of the Japanese imperial military's efforts a few weeks earlier
to unleash 2,000 kamikazes, and through suicide attacks and banzai
charges kill every American (and tens of thousands of civilians) on the
island rather than surrender. 
Rather than do the hard work of learning about the historical
relationships, conflicts, and similarities between Islamic and Christian
culture, East and West, and Europe and Asia, our teachers simply avoid
the trouble. They claim that all cultures are just "different," and
thereby hope to avoid the hard and unpleasant questions that might
prompt hurt feelings and eventual enlightenment, rather than ensure
their own immediate raises and promotions. No wonder I have had college
students who affirm that British imperialism in India was no different
from Hitler's attempt at dominance in Europe - as if there were gas
chambers in New Delhi, as if the Nazi "super-race" might have sought to
eradicate the caste system, or as if Gandhi's civil disobedience would
have worked against Himmler.
I do not think there is some grand postmodern scheme afloat to undermine
the legacy of empiricism, history, and logic. Rather the spread of such
amorality is simply a result of our own sloth and timidity - and perhaps
ultimately the dangerous dividend of an increasingly affluent and
cynical society. Teachers, professors, and reporters embrace such
dubious notions because they either bring rewards or at least the
satisfaction of being liked and in the majority. 
It is also less demanding to watch television than read, safer to blame
or praise both than investigate the culpability of one, neater to create
rather than recall facts, and better to feel good about oneself by
adopting platitudes of eternal peace and universal tolerance than to
talk honestly of evil, war, and the tragic nature of man. When you
combine such American laziness and lack of intellectual rigor with
worries over oil and anti-Semitism, then our baffling nonchalance about
the current war against Israel begins to make sense.
Moral equivalence, conflict-resolution theory, utopian pacifism, and
multiculturalism are, of course, antirational and often silly. But we
should also have the courage to confess that they bring on, rather than
avoid, conflict and killing, and breed rather than eradicate ignorance.
In short, they are not ethical ideas at all, but amoral in every sense
of the word.
 
Victor Davis Hanson, author most recently of Carnage
<http://www.nrbookservice.com/BookPage.asp?prod_cd=C5894>  and Culture:
Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power.
http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson032902.asp 
 

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  <p><b><font size=3D5 color=3Dblack face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:
  18.0pt;color:black;font-weight:bold'>Postmodern =
</span></font></b><st1:City><st1:place><b><font
    size=3D5 color=3Dblack><span =
style=3D'font-size:18.0pt;color:black;font-weight:
    bold'>Palestine</span></font></b></st1:place></st1:City><br>
  <font size=3D2 color=3Dblack><span =
style=3D'font-size:10.0pt;color:black'>The new
  amorality in the </span></font><st1:place><font size=3D2 =
color=3Dblack><span
   style=3D'font-size:10.0pt;color:black'>Middle =
East</span></font></st1:place><font
  size=3D2 color=3Dblack><span =
style=3D'font-size:10.0pt;color:black'>.</span></font><o:p></o:p></p>
  </td>
 </tr>
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  <p class=3DMsoNormal><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span
  style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'><img width=3D1 height=3D1 =
id=3D"_x0000_i1025"
  =
src=3D"cid:image001.gif@01C1D8E7.EF7260A0"><o:p></o:p></span></font></p>
  </td>
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src=3D"cid:image002.gif@01C1D8E7.EF7260A0" align=3Dleft =
v:shapes=3D"_x0000_s1026"><![endif]><font
size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span class=3DGramE>here</span> is a =
postmodern
amorality afloat &#8212; the dividend of years of an American =
educational
system in which historical ignorance, cultural relativism, and =
well-intentioned
theory, in place of cold facts, has reigned. We see the sad results =
everywhere
in the current discussions of the </font><st1:place>Middle =
East</st1:place> and
our own war on terror.<o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>Palestinians
appeal to the American public on grounds that three or four times as =
many of
their own citizens have died as Israelis. The crazy logic is that in war =
the
side that suffers the most casualties is either in the right or at least =
should
be the winner. Some Americans nursed on the popular ideology of =
equivalence
find this attractive. But if so, they should then sympathize with =
Hitler, <span
class=3DSpellE>Tojo</span>, Kim <span class=3DGramE>Il</span> Sung, and =
Ho Chi <span
class=3DSpellE>Minh</span> who all lost more soldiers &#8212; and =
civilians
&#8212; in their wars against us than we did. =
<o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>Perhaps a
million Chinese were casualties in =
</span></font><st1:country-region><st1:place>Korea</st1:place></st1:count=
ry-region>,
ten times the number of Americans killed, wounded, and missing. Are we =
then to
forget that the Communists crossed the <st1:place><st1:PlaceName><span
  class=3DSpellE>Yalu</span></st1:PlaceName> =
<st1:PlaceType>River</st1:PlaceType></st1:place>
to implement totalitarianism in the south &#8212; and instead agree that =
their
catastrophic wartime sacrifices were proof of American culpability?
Palestinians suffer more casualties than Israelis not because they wish =
to, or
because they are somehow more moral &#8212; but because they are not as =
adept
in fighting real soldiers in the full-fledged war that is growing out of =
their
own <span class=3DSpellE>intifada</span>.<o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>We are
told that Palestinian civilians who are killed by the Israeli Defense =
Forces
are the moral equivalent of slaughtering Israeli civilians at schools,
restaurants, and on buses. That should be a hard sell for Americans =
after
September 11, who <span class=3DGramE>are</span> currently bombing in =
</span></font><st1:country-region><st1:place>Afghanistan</st1:place></st1=
:country-region>
to ensure that there are not more suicide murderers on our shores. This =
premise
hinges upon the acceptance that the suicide bombers' deliberate =
butchering of
civilians is the same as the collateral damage that occurs when soldiers
retaliate against other armed combatants. <o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>In fact,
the tragic civilian deaths on the </span></font><st1:place>West =
Bank</st1:place>
make a less-compelling argument for amorality than the one <span =
class=3DGramE>revisionists</span>
often use in condemning the <st1:place><st1:City>Dresden</st1:City>, =
<st1:State>Hamburg</st1:State></st1:place>,
and <st1:City><st1:place>Tokyo</st1:place></st1:City> bombings. Then =
British
and American planes knowingly incinerated civilians in their quests to =
shut
down the <span class=3DSpellE>warmaking</span> potential of the Third =
Reich and
imperial =
<st1:country-region><st1:place>Japan</st1:place></st1:country-region>.
Unlike what the B-17s and B-29s did to stop fascist murdering on a =
global
scale, the Israelis are not carpet-bombing indiscriminately. Rather they =
are
doing precisely what we ourselves were forced to do in =
<st1:City><st1:place>Mogadishu</st1:place></st1:City>:
Fighting a dirty urban war against combatants who have no uniforms, =
shoot from
houses, and are deliberately mixed in with civilians. So far the =
Israelis have
probably killed fewer civilians in a year of fighting on the =
<st1:place>West
 Bank</st1:place> than our trapped soldiers did in two days of similar =
gun
battles in =
<st1:country-region><st1:place>Somalia</st1:place></st1:country-region>.<=
o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>An
ignorance of historical context is also critical for such postmodern
revisionism. If the conflict is due to the Israeli occupation of the =
</span></font><st1:place>West
 Bank</st1:place>, then the first three wars for the survival of =
<st1:country-region><st1:place>Israel</st1:place></st1:country-region>
itself must be conveniently ignored. If there is a push for the exchange =
of
land for peace, then we must overlook that some in the Arab world who =
have
suggested just that bromide in the past three decades were either =
assassinated
or executed. And if we accept that both sides are equally culpable for =
the
current killing, we must forget that less than two years ago the =
Palestinians
rejected an Israeli offer to return 97 percent of the <st1:place>West =
Bank</st1:place>,
along with other major concessions &#8212; assuming that unleashing the =
present
<span class=3DSpellE>intifada</span> could get them still =
more.<o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>Facts
mean nothing. The dispute is purportedly over the principle of =
occupation
&#8212; but next-door =
</span></font><st1:country-region><st1:place>Syria</st1:place></st1:count=
ry-region>
holds far more Lebanese land than =
<st1:country-region><st1:place>Israel</st1:place></st1:country-region>
does the <st1:place>West Bank</st1:place>. The dispute is supposedly =
over
ethnic intolerance and gratuitous humiliation &#8212; but =
<st1:country-region><st1:place>Kuwait</st1:place></st1:country-region>,
quite unlike =
<st1:country-region><st1:place>Israel</st1:place></st1:country-region>,
ethnically cleansed their entire country of Palestinians after the Gulf =
War.
The dispute is said to be about treating the &quot;other&quot; fairly =
&#8212;
but Syria and Iraq summarily expelled over 7,000 Jews after the 1967 =
war, stole
their property, and bragged that they had rid their country of them. The
upcoming Arab Summit could spend weeks just investigating the Arab =
murder and
persecution of its own people and Jews.<o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>Multicultural
distortion also appears in a variety of strange ways. Palestinian =
spokesmen
harangue Americans about their tilt toward =
</span></font><st1:country-region><st1:place>Israel</st1:place></st1:coun=
try-region>.
Yet they also speak in grandiose terms of an &quot;Arab summit&quot; and =
a
global Islamic brotherhood. Apparently, fellow Muslims, Arabs &#8212; =
and
kindred autocracies &#8212; are supposed to support Palestinians
unquestioningly because of religious, cultural, and political =
affinities. Yet
we multicultural Americans are not entitled to exhibit similar sympathy =
for =
<st1:country-region><st1:place>Israel</st1:place></st1:country-region>,
which like us and unlike Mr. Arafat's <span class=3DGramE>regime,</span> =
is a
Western, democratic, open, and free society. <o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>Why do
such bankrupt arguments find resonance? I think the causes have now =
permeated
well beyond a few coffeehouse theorists blabbering away in =
</span></font><st1:City><st1:place>Cambridge</st1:place></st1:City>
or <st1:City><st1:place>Palo Alto</st1:place></st1:City>. Rather it is =
because
we live in a society in which playground fights in our schools are now =
often
adjudicated by concepts such as &quot;zero tolerance&quot; and =
&quot;equal
culpability.&quot; Rather than exercising moral judgment &#8212; and =
investing
time and energy in such investigation &#8212; our school principals =
simply
expel any student caught fighting, as if the bully and his victim occupy =
the
same moral ground. <o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>Our
schoolbooks devote more space to =
</span></font><st1:City><st1:place>Hiroshima</st1:place></st1:City>
than to the far, far greater casualties on =
<st1:place>Okinawa</st1:place>.
Students are not told that the two tragedies are connected &#8212; as if =
the
American bombing to prevent an enormous bloodbath on the Japanese =
mainland is
somehow not a direct result of the Japanese imperial military's efforts =
a few
weeks earlier to unleash 2,000 kamikazes, and through suicide attacks =
and
banzai charges kill every American (and tens of thousands of civilians) =
on the
island rather than surrender. <o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>Rather
than do the hard work of learning about the historical relationships,
conflicts, and similarities between Islamic and Christian culture, East =
and
West, and </span></font><st1:place>Europe</st1:place> and =
<st1:place>Asia</st1:place>,
our teachers simply avoid the trouble. They claim that all cultures are =
just
&quot;different,&quot; and thereby hope to avoid the hard and unpleasant =
questions
that might prompt hurt feelings and eventual enlightenment, rather than =
ensure
their own immediate raises and promotions. No wonder I have had college
students who affirm that British imperialism in =
<st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>
was no different from Hitler's attempt at dominance in =
<st1:place>Europe</st1:place>
&#8212; as if there were gas chambers in <st1:City><st1:place>New =
Delhi</st1:place></st1:City>,
as if the Nazi &quot;super-race&quot; might have sought to eradicate the =
caste
system, or as if Gandhi's civil disobedience would have worked against =
<span
class=3DSpellE>Himmler</span>.<o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>I do not
think there is some grand postmodern scheme afloat to undermine the =
legacy of
empiricism, history, and logic. Rather the spread of such amorality is =
simply a
result of our own sloth and timidity &#8212; and perhaps ultimately the
dangerous dividend of an increasingly affluent and cynical society. =
Teachers,
professors, and reporters embrace such dubious notions because they =
either
bring rewards or at least the satisfaction of being liked and in the =
majority. <o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>It is
also less demanding to watch television than read, safer to blame or =
praise
both than investigate the culpability of one, neater to create rather =
than
recall facts, and better to feel good about oneself by adopting =
platitudes of
eternal peace and universal tolerance than to talk honestly of evil, =
war, and
the tragic nature of man. When you combine such American laziness and =
lack of
intellectual rigor with worries over oil and anti-Semitism, then our =
baffling
nonchalance about the current war against =
</span></font><st1:country-region><st1:place>Israel</st1:place></st1:coun=
try-region>
begins to make sense.<o:p></o:p></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>Moral
equivalence, conflict-resolution theory, utopian pacifism, and =
multiculturalism
are, of course, antirational and often silly. But we should also have =
the
courage to confess that they bring on, rather than avoid, conflict and =
killing,
and breed rather than eradicate ignorance. In short, they are not =
ethical ideas
at all, but amoral in every sense of the =
word.<o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></font></p>

<p><i><font size=3D3 color=3D"#666666" face=3D"Times New Roman"><span
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt;color:#666666;font-style:italic'>Victor Davis =
Hanson,
author most recently of <a
href=3D"http://www.nrbookservice.com/BookPage.asp?prod_cd=3DC5894" =
target=3D"_blank">Carnage
and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western =
Power</a>.<o:p></o:p></span></font></i></p>

<p><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:12.0pt'>http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson032=
902.asp
<o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

<p class=3DMsoNormal><font size=3D3 face=3D"Times New Roman"><span =
style=3D'font-size:
12.0pt'><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></span></font></p>

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