The following article by Gregory Harms, co-author of The Palestine-Israel Conflict, first appeared on Jan Cole’s ‘Informed Comment’, on Wednesday 13th August. We have reproduced it below courtesy of the author. To go to Juan Cole’s original article on Informed Comment, click here.
Almost two-thirds of Americans feel Israel’s operations in Gaza were justified. When given sufficient information, and when thinking outside ideological parameters, Americans commonly draw reasonable conclusions and are in agreement by a two-thirds majority. In the case of the Gaza-Israel conflict, a knowledge deficit and ideology are to explain why the population misjudged what is morally unambiguous.
After World War II, novelist George Orwell stated in an essay, “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” His point was that defending any of the war’s savagery required a vocabulary that softened the realities; one could not support a brutal policy or campaign and, at the same time, use precise language. Exact wording, which exposes the brutality, doesn’t tell the right story. The feeling of moral righteousness must remain intact.
Many ethical situations are clear and, as a result, we draw the appropriate moral conclusions. Be it child abuse, or murder, or rape, there is general agreement on these issues and therefore societies across the globe do not accept such acts within their value systems. There might be disagreements in deciding when to apply these labels; but one would be hard pressed to find a community that openly accepts, for example, mistreating infants or random killing. Human societies depend on such values and would disappear if they didn’t.
Shown one man, in the abstract, wantonly murdering another, most are likely to judge the act negatively. We see the situation for what it is and assess it accordingly. The reason is simple enough: we have all the facts (which are few: one guy murdering another) and we are thinking clearly (uninvested, clinical, impartial). Oftentimes, however, within the political realm a fog settles in. While we retain our core values, label application becomes more contentious.
A recent CNN/ORC poll revealed that 57 percent of Americans were in agreement with Israel’s operations in Gaza. This level of approval also existed during Israel’s previous two major campaigns there, in 2008-09 and 2012. Americans in general view Israel favorably, a statistic that is quite stable. And while not an issue in itself, approval of Israel’s military conduct, as the numbers indicate, is reflexive. This isn’t the product of mere fondness and suggests other forces are at work. Read the rest of this entry »