Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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A statistic for a statistic

This post is being re-tweeted into my Twitter timeline.

As an example of the fatuous, idiotic, eye for an eye partisanship that inspires the supporters of both sides in the Israel – Palestine debate, it is beyond reproach. As an example of mature, intelligent thought it is beyond comprehension or justification.

Imagine it from the risk management perspective. Effort applied to the mitigation of risk is proportionate not to previous outcomes, but to the predicted outcome of the next instantiation of the risk and the likelihood of it occurring. Israel has cited, as the risks it is managing, Hamas missile attacks and the possibility that Hamas will use its cross border tunnels to launch new attacks. The lack of previous deaths in Israel from Hamas missile attacks is explained by Israel as being the result of its mitigation measures – the risk for Israel is that the mitigation measures will fail.

None of this justifies Israel’s attack on Gaza in my eyes, but neither does it explain the glib reciting of statistics as if proportionality means Israel can only slaughter the same number of Palestinians as Israelis have been slaughtered. Do the people who talk this tripe really want some kind of UN court to be established, demanding its quota of Palestinians for execution each time Hamas succeeds in killing Israelis? And yet that’s the kind of reductive simplicity that some would have us believe is the key to this debate; Israel has killed more Palestinians than Palestinians have killed Israelis, so Israel must be acting in an immoral fashion.

The conflict over Palestine won’t be solved by statistics, or cheap debating points recited endlessly on Twitter by those who wish to hector others in order to assert their moral and ideological superiority. Every method we apply to try and understand, to even define the problem that is the existence of Israel and the otherness of Palestine fails at the first hurdle. Its failure is mainly a monument to our desire to see complex issues and problems as singular, reducing one hundred years of history to whichever dimension or insight we wish to evaluate and deploy to assert how right we are, and how wrong everyone else who disagrees with us is.

The remedy, for Israelis and Palestinians alike, is not arguing but doing. The issue that is Israel and Palestine will not be resolved until sufficient Israelis and Palestinians refuse to consent to being proxies for other wars, other disputes, other manifestations of the desire for violence.

Pretending there is some killer fact, some argument that if only it were deployed sufficiently would suddenly change how everyone sees this interminable conflict is egotistical bullshit. Look at me, Twitter shrieks, I have the answer, the tools to fix it all, and it’s this. That rhetorical flourish, that moment of soapbox certainty is of the same hopeless character as all the sophistry of the paid spokesmen, the spin doctors of war who seek only to justify and to explain away.

So forgive me, Twitter, if I am silent on this one. Forgiveness, and the setting aside of violence, is an action, not an aphorism, and until sufficient Israelis and Palestinians take that action, all the aphorisms in the world won’t save us. As I typed that, I could hear the partisans firing up their quote machines, taking Twitter by the horns to demand that I accept that X is more in the wrong than Y, that A started it, not B, or vice versa. We have no time for this, for the trading of partial facts and endlessly repeated cliches that serve only to fill the space with noise and fury.


8 comments on “A statistic for a statistic

  1. Laurelai Bailey
    July 21, 2014


  2. jemima2013
    July 21, 2014

    I sat down to write the Sunday sermon, and wondered about confronting the anger being projected about the conflict in Gaza, for all the reasons you describe, so perfectly I chose to show off instead.
    This post is so spot on I want to send it to everyone who is using this conflict to hector and win points


  3. Sula
    July 22, 2014

    This from Richard Seymour (a writer I usually have a lot of time for) illustrates your point perfectly.


  4. jemima2013
    July 23, 2014

    thats a great illustration of Carters point


  5. Pingback: The Sunday Sermon | Sometimes, it's just a cigar

  6. Laurelai Bailey
    July 27, 2014

    this article is obviously wrong though


  7. cartertheblogger
    July 27, 2014

    Hi Laurelai.
    You’re entitled to assert whatever you wish, with or without evidence – and the quote you’ve cited from Desmond Tutu is not, I’d argue, relevant in this case. It’s like Sula citing Richard ‘Lenin’s Tomb’ Seymour – it’s not violence Richard, as a revolutionary, objects to, just certain types and forms of violence, and his motives and beliefs are open to question.
    If I refuse to get suckered into the relativism of ‘Hamas’s suicide bombers are legitimate but Israeli missiles are disproportionate and aren’t’ I’m not being neutral. I’m not turning my face away from Israeli violence, I’m refusing to get dragged into endorsing some violence above other forms of violence, and refusing to get drawn into the nauseating, hectoring Twitterspat world of people who take sides to make cheap political points when they really don’t give a shit.

    Do I need Richard fucking Seymour to tell me which side to be on? I hope not – the Leninists he worships and follows were mass murderers just as much as the IDF are mass murderers, and anyone who turns their head away from that because of a coincidental agreement about Seymour’s view of the current war on Gaza is as morally corrupt as the IDF’s leaders.


  8. Pingback: Traffic wardens and the Tricycle Theatre | Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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