In which I criticise Sam Harris (yes again)

I promised myself that I would not do any more Sam Harris stuff, it’s just too irritating. Of course, I lie.

I wanted to look up something in his article “Why I don’t Criticise Israel” and just found too much dumb. Must rant.

Let’s begin with this:

And there are millions of Jews, literally millions among the few million who exist, for whom Judaism is very important, and yet they are atheists. They don’t believe in God at all. This is actually a position you can hold in Judaism, but it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.

Ok, Sam. Basic Jewishness 101. Secular Jewishness is a cultural/tribal identity that exists independent of religion. Judaism is a religion. Conflating the two and then saying Judaism is superior because of atheist Judaism is logically wrong(as is assuming a religion is superior because of the number of people who don’t believe in it).

Let’s continue:

I don’t think Israel should exist as a Jewish state. I think it is obscene, irrational and unjustifiable to have a state organized around a religion. So I don’t celebrate the idea that there’s a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. I certainly don’t support any Jewish claims to real estate based on the Bible. [Note: Read this paragraph again.]

“This paragraph will excuse my blatant pandering to the worst of Israeli propaganda for the rest of the post. If you object, read this again and again and again, then invoke the name of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and begone to Azkaban foul critic!”

We need look no further than the fact that the rest of the world has shown itself eager to murder the Jews at almost every opportunity. So, if there were going to be a state organized around protecting members of a single religion, it certainly should be a Jewish state.

This is literally the next paragraph. The rest of the world? Really? Kim in Korea wants to murder Jews? Imraan in Iraq wants to murder Jews? Albert in Australia wants to murder Jews? The rest of the world? Really? Even at the height of the Inquisition, a concentrated part of the world did not seek to murder all Jews. The closest this is anywhere near accurate is applied to Nazi Germany which last I checked is not the “rest of the world”

It is worth observing, however, that Israel isn’t “Jewish” in the sense that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are “Muslim.

And here Sam makes his usual mistake of getting religion and ethnic/tribal identity mixed up. It is true that many Israeli Jews are secular. However the state of Israel, as a matter of policy gives preferential treatment to Jews, as defined by the state and the Orthodox Rabbinate(this is a schizophrenic issue and warrants discussion for another time). So yes, it is very much a Jewish state, as in, being Jewish ives you rights that a non-Jew does not have, in fact to a degree much more than “Muslim” Iran or Pakistan where Islamic law exists but there’s little distinction in the law between Muslim and non-Muslim.

if we ask why the Jews wouldn’t move to British Columbia if offered a home there, we can see the role that religion still plays in their thinking

Actually, the choice of Palestine had to do more with winning British Christian Zionist support but hey, who needs facts.

Needless to say, in defending its territory as a Jewish state, the Israeli government and Israelis themselves have had to do terrible things

Let’s also ignore that in order to create this “Jewish state”, Israeli terrorists expelled 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and have continued to do terrible things since then. It’s akin to a car thief who steals a car and then has to murder the owner, the owner’s family, the police investigating, etc. in order to “defend” his right to keep the car. Not exactly a moral act to say the least.

Note: I was not giving Israel a pass to commit war crimes. I was making a point about the realities of living under the continuous threat of terrorism and of fighting multiple wars in a confined space

These notes are starting to annoy me. Harris’ writing is not unclear, there’s no need for them and they just dig the hole deeper. Gaza is under occupation, Israel constantly breaches the so-called ceasefires it enters. So when Gaza legitimately defends itself against Israeli terror, they are called terrorists and it is fine to indiscriminately bomb them because they live in a densely populated area.

Washington D.C. and Tel Aviv are also densely populated, and have caused more deaths than every “Islamist” terrorist group combined times a few hundred times and yet, if there was indiscriminate bombing of either city, there would be a rightful outcry against this very clear war crime.

Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we—the Americans, or Western Europeans—have used in any of our wars.

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This is just hasbara. Yes, the US and Europe have committed horrific atrocities in fighting wars of absolute choice and continue to do so. However, that does not make Israeli war crimes any less bad, it just makes us moral monsters(but… but we’re the superior civilisation because we don’t have suicide bombers or something).

The Israelis simply are held to a different standard.

The Israelis and only the Israelis have been engaged in an illegal colonial venture for almost seven decades with the financial and military support of the West and have been given absolute impunity for the most heinous of acts because in Israel, the West has a free military base in the Middle East to bomb its enemies. So yes, they are held to a different standard, not the one Harris is thinking of.

One of the most galling things for outside observers about the current war in Gaza is the disproportionate loss of life on the Palestinian side. This doesn’t make a lot of moral sense. Israel built bomb shelters to protect its citizens. The Palestinians built tunnels through which they could carry out terror attacks and kidnap Israelis.

This literally sounds like it was copy/pasted from the Hasbara manual or the IDF website. There were no “terror tunnels” – there were tunnels to attack legitimate military targets and to get supplies in through the blockade. Israel builds bomb shelters because there is no restriction on importing building supplies like there is in Gaza and the “lawn isn’t mowed” every few years. I also doubt the bomb shelters, which ‘protected’ Israelis from Hamas’ home-made bottle rockets would have stood up to an IOF scale attack – the equivalent tonnage to the U.S.’s nuclear strike on Hiroshima.

Pictures-Tell-the-Story-Aftermath-of-Hamas-Rocket-Attack-Compared-to-Israeli-Airstrike

[Note: I was not saying that the horror of slain children is a moral illusion; nor was I minimizing the suffering of the Palestinians under the occupation. I was claiming that Israel is not primarily to blame for all this suffering.

Ok, really annoyed by these notes now. Israel is occupying, Israel is bombing, Israel is violating the ceasefire, Israel is keeping a siege which keeps Gaza a very densely populated area(made up of 80% of refugees who were expelled from Palestine during the Nakba and afterwards) but it is not to blame for the suffering? This is just insulting to the intelligence.

The charter of Hamas is explicitly genocidal. It looks forward to a time, based on Koranic prophesy, when the earth itself will cry out for Jewish blood

When you bring up the Khamas charter, you’ve really lost the argument. You are citing a 1988 document that has been ignored since the inception (which yes, Hamas should get rid of as it does not actually subscribe to the ideas in it and its mainly fodder for hasbara types).

but Khamas has never tried to kill “all Jews” in fact, it has repeatedly agreed to a partition along the ’67 borders – not exactly the actions of a genocidal regime. And since its election in 2005, it underwent a serious strategy shift, abandoning terrorist tactics in favour of legitimate guerilla attacks against military targets. Compare this with the Likud charter which calls for the annexation of all of Palestine, a Jewish-only state and has been put into practise by successive Likud regimes(and non-Likud regimes too).

Now, now.. Khamas wants to kill all the Jews…. really? All of them? Mortie in Brooklyn? Edith in London? Khamas wants them dead? Think about 1988, no internet, little contact with the rest of the world and the only Jews that most Palestinians knew(and much is still true today) are either soldiers of the occupations or settlers. Given that this is their only exposure to Jews, do you really expect them to be able to differentiate the nuances in Jewish culture and history – something most Jews themselves are incapable of doing.

The discourse in the Muslim world about Jews is utterly shocking. Not only is there Holocaust denial—there’s Holocaust denial that then asserts that we will do it for real if given the chance.

How much Middle Eastern history do you learn in school? I’m guessing next to none and yet we expect Middle Eastern countries to be knowledgeable about the Holocaust? Really? And THIS justifies the indiscriminate bombing of civilians… they’re bad on history. [note: (yes, I went there) he uses Muslim world.. the whole Muslim world? From Indonesia to Morocco to Nigeria to China?]

And this gets to the heart of the moral difference between Israel and her enemies. And this is something I discussed in The End of Faith. To see this moral difference, you have to ask what each side would do if they had the power to do it.

And this brings up Harris’ very annoying and disingenuous argument that relies solely on Israeli propaganda. Israel says it’s army is moral, therefore it is. Israel says Hamas is a terrorist group, therefore it is. To me, actions speak louder than words. Hamas’ actions say that if there was a resolution to the occupation, resistance would stop. Israel’s actions say, if we are not stopped, we will create a Jewish-only state and erase even the history of Palestinian existence.

What would the Jews do to the Palestinians if they could do anything they wanted? Well, we know the answer to that question, because they can do more or less anything they want.

Israel survives on Western support – that is why PR is such a huge game in Israeli politics. Therefore if Israel instituted open ethnic cleansing, it would lose Western support and likely cease to exist. So, no, they can’t do anything they want.

Well, it means that, when they drop a bomb on a beach and kill four Palestinian children, as happened last week, this is almost certainly an accident.

Accident? Or as numerous international observers who were on the scene, reckless negligence? I agree that Israeli soldiers don’t deliberately go out to murder kids. I just think, and the evidence supports this, that they don’t care. This does not make them more moral – it means they have dehumanised Palestinians to such a point where they don’t care.

But we know that this isn’t the general intent of Israel. We know the Israelis do not want to kill non-combatants, because they could kill as many as they want, and they’re not doing it.

Right, so they’re moral because they haven’t killed more. Going back to my car thief analogy – that would be the car thief arguing that he could have stolen more cars and killed more people to cover up his theft, therefore he’s a moral actor. Again, this is a PR driven military strategy on Israel’s part. No, it cannot go in and ethnically cleanse Palestine, if it could, I don’t doubt it would – not because Israelis are uniquely immoral, but because a society that lives with impunity, whose children are taught hate and fear from an early age – is not a mentally healthy society and is prone to acts of violence if given the chance.

There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could.

Because the Khamas charter says so.

The truth is that everything you need to know about the moral imbalance between Israel and her enemies can be understood on the topic of human shields. Who uses human shields? Well, Hamas certainly does.

Except that the only documented use of human shields is by Israel, repeatedly. But the way Israel defines a “human shield” is thus – a person who is in the vicinity of a Hamas member. So people who live in the same building as a member of Hamas(regardless whether that member is a military officer or a civilian or student member) is a legitimate target. The equivalent would be bombing an apartment building because one of the residents is a USMC Marine who served in Iraq and then labelling each resident a human shield for not evacuating in time. It’s unthinkable, yet this is “moral logic” to Harris.

by the Muslim use of human shields in these conflicts

So there’s a Quranic verse now to encourage human shields? Funny, my Quran says to protect the innocent. Again this is just blatant Islamophobia from Harris that has no basis in fact but that won’t stop him from blaming the Muzzies for teh bad stuffs. Ok, he has a note explaining himself but it doesn’t really help. There is nothing Muslim about human shields and the use of human shields is not a Muslim tactic, even if you confine that definition to Muslim combatants.

The Palestinians are trying to kill everyone. Killing women and children is part of the plan. Reversing the roles here produces a grotesque Monty Python skit.

There’s a word for this… something, something blood libel. Just shut up. The dehumanisation of Palestinians isn’t just confined to Israelis, it is visible in Harris – a man who can’t conceive that Palestinians are human beings, but no, just murderous beasts intent on killing all Jews and happy to sacrifice their kids to do it(because Islam, never mind the Christian and secular resistance that existed way before any ink was spilled on the infamous Khamas Ctharter)

And the truth is, this isn’t even the worst that jihadists do. Hamas is practically a moderate organization, compared to other jihadist groups. There are Muslims who have blown themselves up in crowds of children—again, Muslim children—just to get at the American soldiers who were handing out candy to them

So… if it’s a moderate organisation, then why did you just accuse them of being genocidal Jew haters and justify killing their kids because they’re so evil for the last too-many paragraphs? What’s the point of this? To point out that Muslims are so bad that killing them is not such a big deal, even if they are innocent civilians? Oh wait.

Every day that you could read about an Israeli rocket gone astray or Israeli soldiers beating up an innocent teenager, you could have read about ISIS in Iraq crucifying people on the side of the road, Christians and Muslims.

Israel possesses precision guided rockets.. they don’t “go astray” they are shot at things and they hit the target.. but yeah, ISIS is doing something bad so let’s just ignore that.

If Israel kills a dozen Palestinians by accident, the entire Muslim world is inflamed. God forbid you burn a Koran, or write a novel vaguely critical of the faith. And yet Muslims can destroy their own societies—and seek to destroy the West—and you don’t hear a peep

And here the tired Islamophobic demand that Muslims either condemn some vague notion of Islamism that is ill-defined and encompasses anything from supporting ISIS to going to pro-Palestinian rallies to respecting Mohammed as the Prophet of Islam (though that condemnation never seems to be sufficient) or they deserve any violence that they get. Again, Muslims are so bad, so irrational so why are people so upset about an “accidental” rocket killing dozens of Palestinians? They were just Muslims. [note: (bwahaha) I know they are not all Muslims, tell that to Harris]

So, it seems to me, that you have to side with Israel here.

No.

You have one side which if it really could accomplish its aims would simply live peacefully with its neighbors, and you have another side which is seeking to implement a seventh century theocracy in the Holy Land.

One side is good because it is “secular” the other side is bad because Islam, lets ignore what each side is actually doing.

Even on their worst day, the Israelis act with greater care and compassion and self-criticism than Muslim combatants have anywhere, ever.

Must not swear, must not swear…

What do groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and even Hamas want? They want to impose their religious views on the rest of humanity.

Lumping a resistance organisation whose explicit goal, which it states over and over and over, is to end the occupation with actual theocratic terror groups/states like ISIS is.. eh, predictable.

The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet.

Geddit? Because we’re surrounded by teh Muzzies who want to take away our freedoms?

I, for one, came very close in my childhood to living in Israel, I am eternally grateful to my parents that they did everything to make sure that didn’t happen. Living in Israel is not healthy, not just for Palestinians but for Israelis.

And ‘lo ends this rant. I’m sure I have misinterpreted everything Harris has stated because my little brain is not capable of understanding the great, mighty Harris who can’t seem to make himself clear on anything.

And now I need a kitten. I think this one is especially fitting for Harris.

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