Sometimes, it’s not possible for one to morally choose a side; sometimes both sides have behaved in such a deeply twisted and evil fashion for so many years that all one can do is condemn all parties concerned. In such a situation, picking a side is nothing but partisanship and bad faith. This, I think, is the approach one must take toward the Israel-Palestine conflict. This point is simple and obvious, but is easily lost in idle discussions about who is to blame in the latest atrocities and whether or not one side’s action is justifiable or not. The only possible answers to those questions are “both,” and “no, nothing by either side can possibly be justifiable at this point save unconditional surrender to a less bloodthirsty authority, such as Robert Mugabe.”


8 Responses to “Gaza”

  1. Daniel Goldberg Says:

    The undeniable and important fact that both parties to this conflict — and many others, incidentally — have committed or are responsible for atrocities does not imply that the parties are morally equivalent.

  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    I’m not sure that’s true, when the atrocities are so severe and so widespread on both sides. It seems like the purest absurdity to say “but I only tortured your grandmother for 20 minutes, while you tortured mine for 25: I’m morally superior!”

  3. Daniel Goldberg Says:

    Of course it’s true. The fact that two parties are morally culpable for an act or series of acts does not in and of itself imply they are equally morally culpable. Now, in fact, they might be — and I suspect we disagree on that — but that state of affairs certainly does not follow from the premise that each party bears moral responsibility for the act or series of acts.

    And I tend to think the moral complexity of the issues involving the IP conflict — one which I have studied and have nonacademic experience with — goes a bit beyond whether a grandmother has been tortured for 20 vs. 25 minutes. I’m sure you do too, which is why the analogy seems to me to be a bit of a strawman.

  4. Daniel Goldberg Says:

    (I’m already breaking my resolution not to engage in blogospheric commentary on the IP conflict, so I’ll just stop here, before I start ranting and raving and become entirely insolent).


  5. Paul Gowder Says:

    A sensible resolution! I’ll just add one more thing, which is that I think a general case can be made for the incomparability of extremes in cases like this — or at least the practical incomparability.

    Consider the good end: are we really capable of comparing, say, Goethe and Mozart? Various philosophers have arguments for formal comparability in such cases (Ruth Chang’s are most convincing IMO), but practically, the imagination boggles at actually making the comparison. And in such a case, doing so is more likely to represent one’s own preferences and biases than a passably reasoned judgment.

    The same, I think, holds true with cases of extreme atrocities. Which was worse, slavery or the holocaust? Well, it might be that there is some ideal procedure according to which we could say which was worse, but actual human beings won’t do it — the moral imagination is just stymied at the very notion. And so anyone who purports to say which is worse is, I’d suggest, speaking from self-deception or bad faith.

    Readers other than Daniel, who wouldn’t be violating any resolution by doing so, can replace terms in the above with the IP conflict. :-)

  6. Daniel Goldberg Says:

    Consider the good end: are we really capable of comparing, say, Goethe and Mozart?

    To quote Budd from Kill Bill vol. 2, one of the coolest movies ever made: “If you wanna compare a Hattori Hanzo sword, you can start by comparing it to every other sword that could have been made, that wasn’t made, by Hattori Hanzo.”

  7. Daniel Goldberg Says:

    phucking hanging tags

  8. Uncommon Priors » Oh the things people do… Says:

    [...] 5. On the subject of atheism, I’m rather not convinced that being an atheist entails a one-sided condemnation of Israel in the latest bloodshed. Basic human decency entails a two-sided condemnation. [...]

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