Monday, August 4, 2014

The Politics of Absolutes


Last week, I waded into treacherous geo-political waters by expressing an opinion on what's going on in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians. In the intervening week, things got worse as the death toll continued to rise, particularly for the Palestinians. In my remarks last week, I noted that there was sufficient douchebaggery on both sides of the equation. However, I think my tendency is to side with Israel from the basic point that the terrorist group Hamas which has usurped leadership of the Palestinians keeps striking first. After a 12 hour truce ended, Hamas was launching rockets back into Israel within 10 minutes. It was, as Jon Stewart described, as if some Hamas terrorist was impatiently tapping his wrist watch and saying, "C'mon! Let's get a move on! Those hated Jews aren't going to blow themselves up!" So forgive me, if you may, when I think that a nation being zapped by the rockets and bullets of terrorists has the right to defend itself.

But I'll be damned if Israel don't make it hard to stand up for them. When large numbers of Israeli troops march into Gaza and hundreds of Palestinians are left dead in their wake, it makes Israel's arguably very justifiable position of self defense appear more like less justified aggression. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems completely incapable of threading a needle when it comes to delivering a strong response to terrorist actions against Israel while maintaining at least a semblance of nuance and restraint. As I said before, it may be unfair to ask a country under constant threat of being destroyed on all sides to practice restraint. But when that country is bringing the full force of its considerable military might against refugees, even refugees who are more or less the enemy, this is to invite condemnation from the world community. When a UN school full of children gets blasted by Israeli artillery, even staunch, stalwart ally the United States has to step up and say, "Whoa, Israel! Maybe you need to throttle back a bit."

What we're seeing in Israel is distressingly familiar because we see it played out every day here in America: the politics of absolutes. Netanyahu is determined that no half measures will be taken in defense of Israel against terrorists. Anything less than a full and total response is seen as compromise and in the politics of absolutes, compromise is weakness and capitulation to the enemy.  The end result is that while Israel has a justification to strike back at the terrorist acts taken against its people, its significantly damaged its standing in the world community. But in the politics of absolutes, the only outcome that is acceptable is the total destruction of the enemy. This has been the view point of the so-called leaders of the Palestinians and we see how well that's worked out for them. Nonetheless, Israel's objectives are similarly absolute and if history is any guide, this will not turn out well at all. 

In such a conflict, the only absolute that has a chance is the absolute certainty of death and more death.  

An Israeli artillery cannon fires a shell on August 02, 2014 on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

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