COLUMNIST: Israel and Palestine

Israel and Palestine. The most stubborn, tangled knot of foreign interaction in generations has just become more stubborn and more tangled. It’s quite plain to see that both sides of the conflict are so awfully, painfully wrong at nearly every juncture. If we wish to see this mess clearly, this must always be kept in mind. It is far too easy with this conflict – and many other instances of our lives – to pick a side and stick with it, for the world is a much simpler place when it is cast in hard shadows of black and white. Far too frequently, this thinking is encouraged in the places we go to seek out news and information.Turn on a cable channel and Israel will be shown to be a shining beacon fighting to ward off the forces of evil that teem at its borders. Seek out the darker corners of the Internet and Palestinians are the innocent oppressed – suffering under the hammer-blows of America and the Jewish state.But this is not Tolkein’s Middle Earth – where all people and forces are plainly all good or all evil – and Israel and Palestine cannot meaningfully be thought of in simple terms of an ally versus an enemy, or an oppressor versus the oppressed. What is plain is that many bad things are happening in the region on the behalf of no one entity in particular. We must feel free to switch our allegiances, or swear by none from time to time, as circumstances change.Unwavering support of either side of the conflict makes it all too easy to write off the casualties and suffering of a great many people on the other side as somehow less important.So only if we work carefully to separate our own biases, may we pass a fair judgement of the matter. True; Israel is an ally of the U.S. True; they are the most democratic state in the region. True. there are many ideological and sentimental ties between our two countries.But we cannot let these characteristics so-cloud our judgment that we cannot see through to the towering disproportionality of response that has sprung up here. In other words, we must take care that we judge these conflicts by the closest-to-neutral criteria that we can find.And I think that any observer who judges the conflict by such criteria must see that the bulk of these most recent atrocities lie with Israel to blame. If we just count the numbers innocent killed, it becomes clear who is in the wrong here.