Recent posts on this blog have caused some people to ask why “political“ views are being expressed here. Why is there some “anti-Israel” expression by a practitioner of non-duality, or Zen. This reaction is understandable, and it seems to be a malady of our polarized world that people need to automatically fit you into some sort of philosophical “camp“, the better to size you up and understand your reasoning. Packaging things makes it easier for some people to feel that they understand you already, without doing the work of reflecting more deeply on the “why” of one’s views.
So, to clear this up: I am not pro-Palestinian. And I am not anti-Israel. If you could describe my views and interests (as if it really matters what they are), it would be correct to say that I am very, very, very pro–“human flourishing“. (I might even be a fundamentalist extremist in this regard.) I react with extreme vehemence towards anything that blocks the project of human advancement, or, the pursuit of practices and lifestyles which further the development of deeper self-awareness and self-determination.
Because of this, I naturally feel deeply pained by the movement of the American Christianist mind which is such a constant hindrance to the advancement of science, the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness among traditionally oppressed groups (women, gay/lesbian, the environment [an oppressed group if ever there was one], minorities, atheists, secularists, etc), as much as anyone can be enraged by the mullahs of Iran or the madrassas which grow the Taliban and the Islamic State. I deplore the police-state totalitarianism of modern-day Russia and Belarus, the bloody oppression in Myanmar, and of course the nightmare insanity which is North Korea.
In Palestine, there is just brutal assymetrical warfare against a native population in the interests of preserving the ethnic state of Israel. The moral conscience of the world is rightly insulted in the extreme by one of the most morally-inclined civilisations on earth enacting birthright laws, citizenship laws, residence laws, zoning laws, building laws, forced demolitions, land appropriations, and travel laws that humiliate and grind down a people. The settler movement appropriates land and buildings on a whim, displacing Palestinian families, or simply cutting off whole swaths of communities from any other contiguous connection with other Palestinian communities, forcing them through checkpoints and permit-checks that degrade and humiliate their dignity on a daily basis. Water rights are severely curtailed, cutting them off from the scarce water that runs through their own land, and which their forefathers drank for generations.
And what is especially maddening is that these normal degradations are all “justified” by some damnable ancient myths of land no more relevant or juridical than the claims of the Native Americans, or the ancient Greeks, for that matter. (And yet no less indefensible, especially in the case of the latter.)
So, I am not anti-Israel, and I am not pro-Palestinian. I criticise the insanity of all the Abrhamaic traditions equally. But when one of those traditions uses its disproportionate powers with utter impunity, you can’t not say anything.
My stomach turns at things that thwart the project of human flourishing. In this regard, I find the views of Sam Harris pretty strangely weird: He argues for the State of Israel’s aggressive “defense” merely from the point of view of his intense revulsion against the excesses of fundamentalist Islam (in this case, Hamas) and its annihilationist stance against the state of Israel. I do not believe many Palestinians would normally agree with the work of Hamas, but that they had been driven there by desperation. A land blockaded even to the fisherman prevented from dropping their nets off the coast, not to mention the lack of critical imports being allowed, including medicines and medical equipment, etc., and the inability to travel overland freely to visit relatives, turns a desperate people to its most strident voices. Israel “gave” Gaza to the Palestinians, and then blockaded it so severely that the Palestinians chose the only force that expressed the extreme of their understandably extreme rage. Voilà, Hamas.
It’s complicated on all sides. I know many, many really good Israeli Jews who feel torn and conflicted by the right-wing nut-cases who make policy in their name. My views also contain apparent contradictions: I have publicly criticised many aspects of conservative Islam before, which I detest (as I criticize most the the Judaeo-Christian myths and their continuing role in modern life). And yet I feel intense grief at the suffering of a people so ground down and humiliated, on the grounds of the flimsiest claims to territorial right by a power armed to the teeth by its former oppressors in Europe and the Americas.
The only two times I ever interfaced with law enforcement, it was to be arrested for protests against the apartheid regime in South Africa, during the 1980s. What is going on in Israel/Palestine right now is that same hideous beast of degradation and pitiless brutality which so enraged our generation then. It is an apartheid state — make no mistake about it.
Please forgive this essay and all of its seeming “opposites-thinking”. I just wanted to make it clear, for whatever it matters.
Not pro-Palestinian, not pro-Israel.
Pro human-flourishing. Pro waking-up.