Wednesday, April 17, 2002

In thinking more about the moral uniqueness of the Israeli outrages against the Palestinians, I am struck by the fact that the Israelis seem to feel that whatever harm they do to the Palestinians is morally unimportant, for it is done to achieve God's Will. They don't hate the Palestinians as they don't hold them in sufficient regard to hate them. The Palestinians are simply in the way. What is un-modern and anti-humanist about this is the idea that there could be religious or eschatological goals which render the concerns of human beings completely unimportant. It is these religious goals which must be paramount, for no one, not even the Israelis, could seriously believe that the Palestinians represent any real threat to Israel (despite a constant barrage of Israeli propaganda about how the Palestinians want to drive them into the sea, the Israelis have one of the largest and perhaps the best armies in the world, and the Palestinians have nothing to fight with except their very deaths). The pride taken by the Israelis in killing or brutalizing the Palestinians has to be the pride taken by those who see their efforts as leading to a goal which transcends this mortal coil (for the purposes of world popular opinion the Israelis are making some efforts to hide the results of the massacre in Jenin, but don't even seem to care how much is being discovered, including the obvious joy taken by Israeli soldiers in brutalizing the Palestinians). Of course, the whole thrust of modern liberal humanism going back to Kant and developed in the light of the Holocaust by many thinkers, including many Jewish thinkers, is to deny that there could be any goals which would justify such treatment of fellow human beings. It is sad to see Israelis making the argument that the rest of the world lacks the moral authority to judge what the Jews do based on the fact of the Holocaust, when the message we should get from the Holocaust is that everyone has a right to, and a moral obligation to, complain about and try to stop any crime against humanity (we're still not very good at this, given the recent outrages in Rwanda and the Balkans, which could have been prevented if we really cared). It is no longer enough simply to refuse to follow evil orders - we all have an active obligation to do whatever we can to ensure that evil orders aren't followed by anyone.