If we found a religion tomorrow that fully supported glossectomising the female half of the population for “religious reasons”. Such as scripture stating “thy woman shall remain silent” or some equally insightful parable, would we be able to conclude that this cult of linguistic sacrifice was not making the most of the human experience? Of course we would. If anything could be described as immoral it would be removing the tongues of half the population on the erroneous pretence of ancient wisdom. Unnecessarily harmful cosmetic surgery seems to be a prevailing theme in countless faiths. I’m yet to hear a biologist describe foreskin as the appendix of the genitals but even if it were equally pointless there is a reason they don’t remove the appendix unless it’s absolutely necessary. In spite emotional stunting, erectile dysfunction, physical pain and even death arising as potential complications, they have no reservations in removing it for the benefit of an all-powerful deity with a circumcision fetish.
Though the issue of circumcision is one that merits edification from the faith elders, there are more reasons to be sympathetic than critical of the worlds jews. Given the hampering scale of Jewish persecution in bygone centuries it’s only fair to say, on balance, that the 14 million global Jews are victims of historical oppression rather than the oppressors. In the ever fraught tension between Israel and its Islamic neighbours, I have a harder time criticising Israel than most westerners. The second world war saw over 30% of the global Jewish population exterminated through a horrifying diversity of methods, and across an inexcusable range of countries, who were tacitly complicit in the attempted eradication of Judaism, not just as a religion but as an ethnicity. In light of this, it seems Jewish concerns regarding safety and statehood are of international importance. If anyone does deserve a state in which to protect themselves, surely it is the victims of the largest pogrom the world has ever seen? Clearly with this new role in international politics, they have the responsibility of compassion towards their Arab neighbours, but the men, women and children of Israel are right to be paranoid about the wide-scale circulation of anti-Jewish propaganda beamed through Palestinian TV from news coverage right down to childrens cartoons.
There are some clear examples of the Israeli Government overstepping physical, ethical and political boundaries in Palestinian territory, but given their record of historical grievances, their trepidation is entirely warranted. It’s genuinely hard to dispute Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel”. This seems like an honest assessment of the conflict, with Israel being forced to fight back against an enemy who deny the holocaust ever happened, but promise to make it happen if they prevail. Israel are encountering this mentality on all sides, bordering hotbeds of anti-semitic sentiment in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and the historically deranged state of Palestine. It’s Israel’s enduring conflict with their Palestinian neighbours which has caused one of the great moral confusions of our time. Seemingly, the socially acceptable viewpoint in the west is that, due to Israeli settlements repeatedly occurring on Palestinian land, the retaliation of human shields, suicide bombing and customary acts of terrorism are entirely justified. Somewhere between the premise and the conclusion of this argument there has been a truly horrible misstep. Supporting the Palestinian regime, despite their nefarious political and military tactics should not be the appropriate response to this conflict. Western criticism of Israeli settlements is one thing, but waving a Palestine flag in support of a Government imbued with extremism can only exacerbate this seemingly intractable conflict.
This is not to say that Israel are entirely innocent in all of this, far from it, but the public perception of this conflict is so one-sided as to virtually paint portray a state-sponsored genocide. The best exhibition of the moral discrepancy between Israel and Palestine is exposed in Sam Harris’ example of human shields. The argument being, when Palestinian soldiers march across the battlefield clutching their wives and kids to their chests as a means of defence, this genuinely works as an effective deterrent against Israeli gunfire. On the contrary, It would be a tragic miscalculation on the part of any Israeli soldier who deployed human shields as an ethical restraint against Palestinian gunfire. This delusional appreciation of Hamas’ moral character would not subside the death toll, but rather double it.