This is an article about war, peace, intent, and words.
This is a review of the words and phrases being employed, rather, deployed, as Russia and Ukraine continue to foolishly “duke it out”, and as Israel continues to destroy Gaza and the West Bank. While we are all horrified to witness Hamas’ attack on Israel and the death and suffering this has caused, we should be equally horrified at the unprecedented attack by the Israelis on many thousands of civilians in Gaza who are already living in an open-air prison.
The barbarism of war
Probably the basest expression of a human being is violence and his going to war. It means that the parties in disagreement or conflict are so bitter, angry, defiant, ideological, egotistical, or driven by other self-interested motivations that they aren’t willing to enter civilized dialogue through which reasonable agreements can be reached.
The killing of whole families, the damage to ancient, sacred structures, synagogues, churches and mosques, to people’s homes, the physical destruction is completely avoidable if leaders are willing to listen to each other’s plights, apologize, forgive, talk and reason, the higher human gifts with which we have all been blessed.
God knows that no one in their right mind wants to see or perpetuate the suffering of others, or their demise, yet this is currently rampant in our world without moral and dignified leadership. The horror of war is beyond rational conception. That grown men choose to settle their differences like barbarians even in this so-called advanced, 21st Century is truly deplorable. We are all deeply saddened and heartsick over the loss of life everywhere, in Israel/ Gaza, Russia/Ukraine, Yemen, in regions of Africa, Armenia and everywhere else there are “armed conflicts” and war , including in the streets of the U.S., now infamous for the number of its shootings.
What’s this all about Alfie? Where have we gone wrong?
As a society, we have taken a seriously wrong turn in our educational systems, families, and passing on of humanitarian values and sense of ethics if violence and war are as prominent in our societies as they are. I would say that we’ve turned away from nature and her innate intelligence, and away from some indigenous wisdom which, as attuned to the Earth as it is, keeps people humble in the face of the powers of the universe.
War should be recognized as a lazy leader’s way out of a conflict. Conveniently, it acts as a shield against one’s misdeeds, unpopularity, and even corruption while generating obscene profits for the military-industrial complex.
As Tevya said in Fiddler on the Roof, “If we live by the idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we’d have a world of eyeless, toothless people”. As Tevya rightly recognizes, this idea, no matter its Biblical origin, gets us nowhere. It’s a way to dig a deeper hole.
Aetiology of the warring, violent impulse
If we don’t get to the root of the problem, we’ll always have the problem perhaps with different faces. I suggest that the impulse to violence finds its root in the impulse of self-protection for survival. If our brain perceives danger or a threat in our midst, a healthy, appropriate impulse is to self-protect. Simply, it is a survival mechanism.
Beyond that, when people go beyond self-protection, keeping themselves alive, and go into attack mode seeking to end life or seriously harm another, we’re in a different space. The actions are no longer about moment-to-moment survival. One can say that one needs to eliminate the source of the threat, but that brings us to a series of existential puzzles, not to be dealt with here.
Perhaps though, it is safe to say that those who perpetuate violence and war beyond saving one’s life at the moment, but on a grander scale, wage war against another country, when we look at the perpetrator’s childhood, if not infancy, we can count on finding issues in which the one in questions feels abandoned, rejected, unattended to, uncared for, unloved. There was likely an absence of maternal and paternal affection expressed verbally, non-verbally, and tactilely.
Self-doubt, resentment, anger if not rage, and likely a sense of vengeance begin to brew in the mind and heart of a child who interprets his experience in the ways just mentioned. Please note that I am not saying that the infant wasn’t loved or cared for, but his experience, hence his interpretation was that he was not, or that it wasn’t sufficient. Or he wasn’t given what he wanted of fully sucking his mother’s breast in the case of breast-feeding.
Numerous potential influences shape our thinking and the subconscious, which edge some toward choices that are detrimental for so many.
Granted, for the sake of brevity, I point to just a few primary areas to consider when looking at the childhood of a would-be tyrant or perpetrator of war. Of course, it sounds simplistic. But the probability of accuracy is also likely significant. This is but a backdrop.
The intelligence of peace
All should be not on one side or another except on the side of peace. There is a tenet in the Buddhist teachings which says “Drive all blame into oneself”. Can you imagine if the leaders of countries at war were to stop blaming each other but themselves for being the cause of war? The greatest sages and philosophers of all time extoll the virtue of making and sustaining peace among people and inside themselves. Peace-making is what wins the admiration of the people. It earns Nobel Prizes.
Because it appears that due to our animal ancestry and base instincts, this may be challenging—all the more reason that it is meritorious to accomplish and sustain it.
Peace is the heartbeat of wisdom
Inside this idea, the heartbeat of Judaism is its age-old principle of “Tikun Olam”, repair, and heal the world. What the Israelis are doing now to the Palestinian people does not express anything near this sage and foundational principle. Calling Palestinians “animals” speaks about the speaker, not about who he is speaking of.
There is nothing Jewish, ethical, moral, or legitimate about wanting to wipe out innocent mothers, children, or anyone. As is also said over and over, Hamas is an ideology, that survives its current leaders—they may die but the idea goes on. Jews are smart enough to know that killing a person does not kill an idea. The only way is to sit and listen, sit and talk, break matzo, and make peace through just, fair, and reasonable actions. Peace: at the end of the day, there is no avoiding it.
The words & rhetoric of war make another war: the war of disinformation & propaganda
Careful review of the words, and phrases, in short, the rhetoric being deployed serves to cover up a litany of misdeeds and corrupt activity among the political class. The film Wag the Dog exemplifies how this is done, and the way it can be dramatically, even cinematically effectively portrayed and staged on screen and in real life.
We see this before our very eyes right now through one Prime Minister Netanyahu, and possibly another, President Biden.
Let’s take a brief look at some of the words being used right now in the media.
Word 1: Surprise. We were told that Hamas’ attack on Israel was a surprise. Was it really? The Mossad and the CIA may be the most sophisticated spy agencies in the world. You would think that Mossad watches every move that Hamas makes—their surveillance apparatus is second to none. Hamas has been their sworn enemy for decades and conflict has been flaring up for years, but over the past many months—it has hardly been a quiet, peaceful time between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Is it possible that it was a surprise, that such a heinous plan of Hamas completely, 100% escaped the piercing eyes of the Mossad and the CIA? Just what would be that probability?
I suggest that it was a surprise is unlikely. BBC reported that Egypt had warned Israel three days before the attack by Hamas. Patience and sound investigative reporting as conducted by journalists such as Seymour Hirsch, Matt Taibbi, Glen Greenwald, Julian Assange, The Intercept, Gary Null, Max Blumenthal, and others, will no doubt be asking a similar question and seriously pursuing a more through answer.
Phrase 1: Said PM Netanyahu: “This is Israel’s 9/11”. Really? This is a very clever statement by a man who is no stranger to rhetoric, propaganda, and deception. If the world believes this, people would feel great sympathy for the Israelis, an attack on innocent people ‘out of the blue’.
The attack was bad enough, some 1,400 people losing their lives and some 200 being held hostage—Hamas’ outrageous attack has no justification. But is it really “Israel’s 9/11”, of a country that has been holding the Palestinian people essentially hostage for the past many years which is also another form of attack? Hard-liners like to say that the Israelis have been kind and helpful to the Palestinians and no doubt there have been plenty of times when that has been very true. But what about all the other times of torture, oppression, illegal settlements, and driving Palestinians out of their homes?
This phrase, “our 9/11” itself also suggests the element of surprise. Ironically, it was the Mossad that knew of the pre-meditated attack on the World Trade Center and forewarned the U.S. government of it, as did other spy agencies (British, MI5) in advance of the attack, which warnings were summarily ignored by the CIA and/or the Bush-Cheney Administration.
Curious that Mossad knew what was about to happen on American soil 22 years ago but knew nothing about what was happening on their soil on Oct. 7. Well, the Egyptians knew and warned Israel. But this warning was ignored.
In these 22 years, the world has become increasingly dangerous. Surveillance and tracking technology have become increasingly advanced, making the probability of missing the signals all the more improbable.
Believing government, Any government…are you kidding?!
The U.S. government, as with the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, has not come clean publicly, but continues to hide under a veil of superficial reports, hoping to ‘buy off’ the American People’s perspective but it hasn’t worked in any of these cases. Virtually no thinking person believes the government in respect to these nor in respect to their narrative about 9/11. In short, governments have become experts in deception, even outright, bold-faced lies to the people they are supposed to represent. What does this say about their word, their integrity? On what basis should anyone believe anything from official government sources, except perhaps the U.S. Weather Service?
Of course, there are large swaths of government that are administrative, providing social services and the like. They are not involved in public statements, diplomacy, or policy. They are often dedicated public servants and I applaud them. It is the elected officials who are so often the culprits.
I suggest that the narratives of both the Ukraine-Russia battle and the latest eruption between Israel and Palestine are in the same bucket. More people are waking up and seeing a parallel in the COVID narrative—just too many inconsistencies in the story, cover-ups, and irrational perspectives, policies, and decisions that all had self-interest, profit, and self-preservation at their core, certainly not public health.
The use of the phrase 9/11 in respect to this attack on Israel also tacitly implies their right to attack anyone, any group, they feel is responsible for the attack on them as the U.S. did after the attack on the World Trade Center and with the moral license to do so.
Of course, for the U.S., this included a pre-emptive attack on Iraq and the mythical story of weapons of mass destruction which was a bold-faced lie promoted by Bush, Cheney, and their cabinet.
Politicians are so good at lying you would think that before running for office, they studied acting for decades.
The U.S. believed that Osama bin Laden was responsible for orchestrating the attack. He may well have been, or not—we will never know because the Obama Administration took justice into their own hands and plotted his murder which we believe, they succeeded at. But there wasn’t a trial, no presentation of evidence, but the presumption of his guilt, which is the opposite of the Democratic, judicial process. When blood is boiling, the judicial process and Democracy go right out the window. The international rule of law is laid waste to, even though a lot of it emerged after the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Best to just calm down, breathe deeply, get rational again, think, and then listen, speak, and act from some sense of center and neutrality.
Let’s find the cause, and find an alternative to blame
We sure know that the human psyche seeks out a cause, a proper thing to do. But it also seeks to attribute blame no matter what the facts may be or the absence thereof, as this seems to provide some sense of satisfaction and relief, no matter the accuracy of the attribution. This is one of the weaker character traits of the undeveloped human to be found in every stratum of society.
Fact and fiction cross paths in ways that favor those in power. Rhetoric is used, a propaganda machine set into motion that in turn fuels conventional, mainstream media, an organ of society that these days seems all too eager to do the government’s bidding. Growing up in this society, I was always taught that the press was the 4th pillar of Democracy, the pillar needed to challenge government’s power, its narrative and hold it accountable. It certainly wasn’t there to be its mouthpiece.
That function, the very life-blood of the press, has largely drained out of its body. The media has become an organ of government, paid for by corporations, and is no longer the voice of the People.
The U.S. went into Afghanistan and started a pre-emptive war to find one man who they believed was behind the 9/11 attack who was said to be hiding in a cave. Instead of sending, say a small, clandestine team of agents to find and apprehend him to bring him to justice, the entire U.S. Army was dispatched to Afghanistan which completely disrupted their society for the sake of finding one man.
Shouldn’t this be an embarrassment? Of course, yet we now tell a different story, that we were liberating women from the grip of the Taliban, but if that were the reason, God knows, that’s a noble thing to do. Why then hadn’t we done that long before 9/11?
None of it makes sense. That is, unless and until we discover that there is oil ‘in ‘dem dere hills’, and especially a need for an oil pipeline east and west. Now we may be glimpsing what was really behind that war.
So this is how far the aperture opens for Israel if they are allowed to say that the Hamas attack was their “9/11”. It’s not an innocent phrase at all but “fully loaded”.
Word 2: War. These days, most politicians prefer to use the phrase “armed conflict”. It’s so much gentler, don’t you think? War is so harsh, bold, certain, uni-directional, and unrelenting.
Unfortunately, in places all over the world, various militias attack their own people or another country as Hamas did to Israel on October 7. It was horrific, malevolent, and should not have happened. It hurt and killed so many innocent Israelis, some of whom, ironically were involved in helping Palestinians in different ways, from education, jobs, career development, non-profit organizations, and more. Such is the horrible paradox and irony, further testimony as to how Israelis and Palestinians act as a family with each other and have for a good part, for centuries.
The Israelis are my Jewish brothers and sisters so this wound runs deep. The attack was horrific and needs to be properly addressed. My precious niece was in Israel at the time of the attack and thankfully, she managed to get back to the U.S.
But what does redress look like? Is it the declaration of war? Bloodshed and vengeance unfortunately proceed, but the reaction is not typically called “war”. It may be an insurrection, or retaliation, but these days, it’s rarely called war.
When it is, this opens up a series of legal options, as well as funding sources and the dizziness of ‘the fog of war” during which heinous acts are often excused because of the reigning chaos and uncertainty of every moment.
There is also a sense of self-righteousness that accompanies the declaration and with it, an attitude of “anything goes” and “let the chips fall where they may”. Indeed, the fog of war prevails. Regarding what’s happening right now, the revenge Netanyahu may be feeling—and the self-righteousness—far outweighs any sense of proportion or humanity. He has ignored that the Palestinian people are not Hamas, they are only people, civilians, like you and me, living their lives. Families, children, babies, and fathers putting food on the table. But he is bombing civilians every day, now with a toll upward of 10,000 as of this writing.
He has violated international law so many times we would be hard put to count. Is it horrible that Hamas continues to hold hostages? It’s reprehensible. But bombing innocent children, and starving them out of food, water, and electricity is against every moral fiber in normal people’s hearts and the Jewish soul. But because this is now “war”, he acts like every act is justified and justifiable. They are not.
Why is there such a long-standing conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians? That’s not a question for this article but truly an important question, yes, for another article.
In brief, I think it’s fair to say that it probably did start with the disputes between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. Later, when the Jews did all they could to clear the Palestinians from Palestine, where they lived together generally peacefully several thousand years before, all hell did break loose and they have never fully reconciled, pretty obviously. Aside from legal claims to land, there are moral claims that each tribe has: the right to live safely and securely in their own homes.
On the ground, the two tend to get along like the brothers that they are, but in the Knesset, it’s been a war for many decades, and politicians like to keep it that way, as it seems, does the U.S., with exceptions to that rule as demonstrated by President Carter.
Word 3: Anger. Do we feel that it is okay and justifiable to slaughter and uproot an entire people because a single, unrepresentative representative of those people, Hamas, sprung an attack on other innocent people, the kind of action that emerges from unbridled anger?
If what we think of as a mature adult, he does not react violently even when he is in harm’s way—he first seeks to avoid danger. After, one thinks about, and reflects on what happened, why it happened, how to avoid it happening again, and address the cause of it happening even once.
Hamas has in its founding documents to essentially eradicate Israel. This is not friendly, it is not neighborly, it is provocative, hostile, and needs to be immediately eradicated from the script. But we should also ask: why is it there? What accounts for this level of rage and anger? Is it not pretty obvious that the Israelis, and before that, the Jews in that area have been uprooting the Palestinians for well over a century? Is there not a long-term, chronic problem here of inequality and oppression of one people over the other?
Word 4: Censorship: In a democracy, a free country with the First Amendment protecting free speech, people should be encouraged to speak their minds, not demonized for expressing their sentiments and views that are contrary to the prevailing perspective. Why is it that to feel compassion for the suffering of one tribe, the other tribe feels that their suffering is any less horrific and those who feel compassion for the most downtrodden should be demonized? It happened to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who, after expressing profound sadness about the attack on Israel, also expressed her grief about the force of the attack on Gaza killing ten times more people and was censured. Does AIPAC virtually own Congress?
There is a brilliant document that leading figures in the media and academia have signed called the Westminster Declaration. It’s about dismantling the “Censorship-Industrial Complex”. Whoever thought that such a thing even existed, except that it does, it’s subtle, it’s dangerous, it’s government-and-corporate driven, it’s 100% anti-democratic and it’s dark. I have my colleagues and good friends, John Steiner and Margo King, to thank for bringing this declaration to my attention. Government and corporatocracy are such a problem that the sacred pillar of Democracy, free speech, has now been derailed by the leaders of the “free world”, in India, Israel, England, Australia, Germany, France, and the United States.
This is another level of warfare, without guns but with words. Everyone needs to know about this and blow the whistle on this insanity.
As we move into a more AI-based world we are rapidly, like it or not, maintaining proper channels of free speech and communication will be vital to Democracies around the world. The very quality and value of our lives are at risk, and at stake.
We want peace everywhere, not just for one people, or one group, but for all. It’s hard but it’s worth the effort—there isn’t another option if we care about human survival and sustainability, let alone healthy longevity.
With all this said, our best chance at peace is to stop blaming the other, stop repeating history, and give space to each other to live securely, safely, and at peace.
When governments aren’t involved, this is how the people live side by side, as friends, neighbors, and family. Israelis and Palestinians work for each other, together and inter-marry.
On the ground, we know that people are just people, people of differing faiths live side by side and appreciate each other and the diversity they represent.
Governments, which have other agendas, all too often, get in the way of people instead of serving them, and this distinction is one we want to always stay abreast of—that unless a leader is pursuing peaceful co-existence, he is not a leader at all.