Sam Harris, The Israel-Palestine Conflict, And Stuff.
About the Israel-Palestine conflict, whose side is right? On that score, I remain agnostic. However, Sam Harris, as seems to be his wont, gives us more reasons to doubt that he actually thinks things through:
“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. The Israeli army could kill everyone in Gaza tomorrow. So what does that mean? 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. They’re not targeting children. They could target as many children as they want. Every time a Palestinian child dies, Israel edges ever closer to becoming an international pariah. So the Israelis take great pains not to kill children and other noncombatants”
“What do we know of the Palestinians? What would the Palestinians do to the Jews in Israel if the power imbalance were reversed? Well, they have told us what they would do. For some reason, Israel’s critics just don’t want to believe the worst about a group like Hamas, even when it declares the worst of itself. We’ve already had a Holocaust and several other genocides in the 20th century. People are capable of committing genocide. When they tell us they intend to commit genocide, we should listen. There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could.”
— Sam Harris
End Quote. Well, Noam Chomsky will be blown away by such penetrating insight.
Of course Sam Harris here is suggesting that if the tables were turned and we had a flourishing, well-educated Palestinian state, who had the second strongest army in the world on the one hand, and an impoverished, disenfranchised and, one could — in fact, one should — say, subjugated bunch of Israelis on the other, we’d be seeing the Palestinians dining on the corpses of Israelis with wild abandon. Which is, needless to say, an overly-simplistic analysis of what is.
I think Sam’s completely disregarding what history shows us to be what usually happens in wars of this kind, where the one who has less bullets and tanks will tend to resort to, shall we say, terroristic means. I doubt that the Palestinians, if they were in Israel’s position, would choose to incur the wrath of the West or risk being “international pariahs” by wantonly killing Israeli children by the hundreds, if not thousands, like Sam suggests they would, because that would be, in the long-haul, detrimental to their ‘well-being’. I mean, Nato would be up their arses the moment they do. So they wouldn’t be much different from Israel if the tables were turned, me thinks. Although a persuasive argument can be made that their people would be less happy despite all the hypothetical progress –you know, Islamic laws being somewhat draconian and all.
The constant ‘OMG religion is a baddie!‘ theme is a recurring problem with Sam, it very much seems. He keeps putting a religious spin to everything because of the incentive he has in painting religion as the evil his books proclaim it to be. (And/or also because he really — really ignorantly — believes it to be evil) The Israel-Palestine conflict is a territorial and not a religious dispute, despite that both sides often use religion to justify their positions. The fact remains that if it wasn’t religion, it would be something else. Hitler used, among other things, an adulterated version of Darwin’s theory to justify much of the holocaust; Stallin and the extremist wing of the Russian Communist Party told themselves their strong hand policy was the only way to revive Russia; the Tamil Tigers largely have nationalistic rather than religious motivations for strapping explosives to their chests, etc. I could go on about this. The readily confirmable fact of the matter is that people will use all manner of justification for killing each other. It’s not like that will all suddenly stop the moment the Palestinians have themselves baptized in Sam’s brand of atheism.
Man is, for the most part, NOT a rational animal. He is a rationalizing one. And he will remain one with or without religion. And, granted the incentives are high enough, he’ll be able to rationalize his way into any position within a few minutes. Within a few minutes! That’s the real world.
Sam either doesn’t realize this, which makes him naive, or he refuses to acknowledge it because it’s easier to, or there’s more reward for him in, making religion out to be this bogeyman that keeps us immersed in a fecal stew of irrationality.