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July 28, 2014

Atheist Sam Harris: Here's Why I Don't Criticize Israel

After establishing his secular/atheist credentials, and noting his objection go any state organized around religious identity (though he allows that if it were permissible for any state to be organized around a religious identity, that permitted state would be Israel, given the need for an Escape Hatch for the world's Jews as proven by just about all of the history of the last several thousand years), he begins explaining why he stands with Israel.

This is a long piece. I'm just excerpting parts of his best argument. I'm also cutting out a lot of his nuances, because, well, I can't just excerpt everything.

[T]his 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.

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....

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.

...

Consider the moral difference between using human shields and being deterred by them. That is the difference we're talking about. The Israelis and other Western powers are deterred, however imperfectly, by the Muslim use of human shields in these conflicts, as we should be...

Now imagine reversing the roles here. Imagine how fatuous--indeed comical it would be--for the Israelis to attempt to use human shields to deter the Palestinians.... Imagine the Israelis holding up their own women and children as human shields. Of course, that would be ridiculous. 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.

That's a very cutting point. Try to imagine it -- you can't. It's absurd. Not because Israelis wouldn't use human shields -- they wouldn't, but that's not the most absurd part.

The absurd part is the idea that Hamas would be in any way deterred by this, rather than thinking, "F***in' awesome!"


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posted by Ace at 02:37 PM

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