Sam Harris on “moral equivalence”

October 13, 2023 • 9:15 am

A reader sent me a link to Sam Harris’s latest podcast (there is a free short and a paid long version), particularly relevant now with the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.  The reader’s email said this:

I know you don’t like listening to podcasts but really this one by Sam Harris is only 14 minutes long and well worth it. He brilliantly unpacks the notion of moral equivalence.

What bothers me most about the discussions going on now is the palpable moral obtuseness of many people—especially liberals—people who say that the dead Israelis had it coming because of the “settler colonialism” of Israel’s “apartheid state”. No, they did not have it coming; they were not representatives of the Israeli government.  As Sam says, “There are legions of the confused.” This is combined with the attitude that Sam describes: that the moral calculus in the war can be performed simply by counting the number of dead bodies on each side. No, it doesn’t work like that.

He then presents a series of claims that are “both descriptively true and ethically important,” contrasting two sets of facts describing behaviors we see today. Sam adds that “at this moment in human history, not every group has the same ethical norms governing its use of violence.”

His example is the use of human shields during armed conflict; some groups do this, and other groups are deterred by their use. What he means is not the use of hostages as shields, but “people who will strategically put their own noncombatants—their own women and children—into the line of fire so that they can inflict further violence upon their enemies, knowing that their enemies have a more civilized moral code that will render them reluctant to shoot back for fear of killing or maiming innocent noncombatants. If anywhere in this universe cynicism and nihilism can be found together in their most perfect forms, it is here.”

It is the jihadists, he says, who do this, and describes how it works in Gaza and how it worked in Iraq. Contrast that with the Israeli practice of warning civilians to evacuate buildings before bombing them.

Then he reverses the logic, asking you to imagine what would happen if Israelis used their own citizens as human shields and then try to imagine that the jihadists would be deterred by such a tactic. It’s unthinkable to think that this would be a deterrent!

His conclusion: “The image you should now have your mind is a masterpiece of moral surrealism. It is preposterous. It is a Monty Python sketch where all the Jews die. Do you see what this asymmetry means? Can you see how deep it runs? Do you see what it tells you about the ethical difference between these two cultures? There are not many bright lines that divide good and evil in our world, but this is one of them.”

Yet many don’t see that bright line, and they’re all over social media.

Sam also discusses the difference between the deaths of civilians as “collateral damage” (Sam calls it “a euphemism for ‘innocent civilians killed in war'”) and “the intentional massacre of civilians for the purpose of maximizing horror.”  Here numbers of the dead are not the way to calculate moral balance. As Sam says, “intentions matter.”  His ending is a brilliant piece of rhetoric.

It’s a thoughtful presentation, and yes, well worth 14 minutes of your time. Do listen.  It may help you untangle the web of twisted and misguided logic leading to the attitude that the ideology of Hamas (and of Palestinians in general) is morally superior to that of Israelis.

Click on the link below to go to the free short version (“preview episode”) or the paid longer one, which I haven’t heard as I don’t subscribe.

UPDATE: I had missed a piece Michael Shermer wrote on the same topic, “Moral equivalency and its discontents.”  A quote:

In assessing the initial response to the rape, torture, and murder of Jews in Israel by Hamas this week I can only conclude that the progressive Left denouncing Israel and celebrating Hamas have had to overlook and forget their moral conscience.

58 thoughts on “Sam Harris on “moral equivalence”

  1. I listened to the short version and agreed with what he said but my only issue is, like in his book “The Moral Landscape” he doesn’t move on to the difficult questions. In the current situation in Israel is what to do to have any sort of peace in the region for the next generation as clearly what has been done by both sides is not working. Maybe he addresses this in the paid version.

    1. That’s a pretty tall order to expect from anyone.

      I don’t buy the “what both sides have been doing is not working” argument. At least not if the context is over the span of Israel’s existence as opposed to just the current conflict. At least twice over that history all indications were that Israel would have agreed to a solution that included nearly everything the powers acting for the Palestinians asked for only for those powers to back out of the deal.

      It takes both sides to make peace. Failure to make peace doesn’t necessarily mean both sides are doing the wrong thing. Unless you mean to include existing as doing the wrong thing.

      1. I agree it’s a tall order but that’s why one wants to listen to public intellectuals like Sam Harris. In general I agree with Harris but he so often fails to get to the heart of the matter.
        Davis Brooks, who I generally find superficial, had a surprisingly good article on this missed opportunity for peace.
        and Nir Avishai Cohen, a major in the reserves of the Israel Defense Forces, had this column in the NYTimes as well.
        “I’m Going to War for Israel. Palestinians Are Not My Enemy.”

      2. Read David Brooks’s NYT op-ed today about how Yasir Arafat spurned Ehud Barak’s perfectly reasonable two-state solution under Bill Clinton’s peacemaking efforts in 2000. And it’s not the only time that Palestine has refused two-state solutions that were good ones. Let nobody say that Israel hasn’t tried.
        See here:

        Oops, I missed the citation of Brooks’s article when I wrote this (it’s just above).

        1. I agree with Brooks on that column and his quote “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.
          When the dust has settled on this current conflict I hope this type of compromise could be revisited.

          1. I’m of Irish descent and it only took 300 years after the Battle of the Boyne to get relative peace in Ireland.

    2. I think he is, for the moment, just dealing with the glaring issue of the “Moral Equivalence”. I’m darn near sure that Sam has no illusions that the problem of achieving peace in the region would be a simple or easy one, nor (I think) would he claim to be the one with expertise or influence to solve it. Here he’s just pointing out a serious failure of moral reasoning to which a great many people seem so readily able to succumb.

  2. Just to correct, there is just the one 14 minute version of this podcast, free for all from Sam’s website and also on YouTube

    1. Also, while this relatively short but complete podcast by Sam Harris is free to anyone, paid subscribers can easily share any of his complete podcasts with those who do not subscribe. Harris also grants free subscriptions to people pleading lack of money.

    2. Jerry, would be good if you could correct your article to make it clear the full 14 mins podcast is available to all – there is no “paid long version”, just the one free for everyone.
      Also, anyone can gain a free subscription to Sam’s website, you just need to email his support team.
      And any subscriber can now share all of Sam’s episodes to anyone, for free.

  3. I would like those who are knowledgeable about this subject to comment on whether the terms “apartheid state”, “occupation”, and “siege” are accurate descriptors of the situation in Israel/Palestine. I see these terms constantly thrown around by supporters of Palestine…for instance these words figure prominently in the tweets of Rashida Tlaib (US congress, Democrat).

    For example, does Israel really operate an “apartheid state” with regard to the Arab population, similar to what South Africa did with black people? Does Israel really “occupy” Gaza and the West Bank, and if so, why? And are the people in Gaza suffering under a long standing “siege” from Israel?

    If these descriptors are accurate, then I would be more inclined to support the plight of the Palestinians (NOT HAMAS AND ITS TERRORISM).

    But my understanding is that these terms are either entirely inaccurate, as is the case with accusations of an apartheid state perpetrated by Israel, or have some truth to them but need further explanation to understand the full context. For example, Israeli control of the Gaza borders and a blockade may be a necessary evil to try to prevent terrorist activity and protect its citizens.

    1. Anyone who calls Israel an “apartheid state” knows nothing about either Israel or apartheid. It is nothing more than code for “kill the Jews”.

      “For example, Israeli control of the Gaza borders and a blockade may be a necessary evil to try to prevent terrorist activity and protect its citizens.”

      No one ever mentions, for obvious reasons, that Egypt ALSO controls its border with Gaza and imposes a blockade and no one EVER mentions the reason why both countries do it.

      1. As Douglas Murray said this week, the security fences, walls and other defenses are not there to imprison the Palestinians: they are there to protect the Jews. Without them, Israel would already have been annihilated.

    2. I will give you the facts and let you judge for yourself.
      Arabs in Israel proper enjoy the same rights as Jews.
      The West Bank is legally occupied. Israel conquered it from
      Jordan, which held it illegally, during the six days war. Israel has never annexed it, leaving its final status to negotiation. No Arab entity agreed to take control of the area, recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and end the conflict. The result is that the only
      Way Israel has to “end the occupation” is a unilateral withdrawal, which would inevitably result in a hostile violent entity close to its population centers and strateguc assets. This is exactly what happened in Gaza.
      Israel isn’t occupying Gaza. It withdrew in 2005. Following a Hamas takeover in 2007, and using the territory for attacks on Israel, Israel is does not allow goods which can be used for terror into Gaza. Most goods are allowed.

      1. Thank you. So, as suspected, many folks in the media, academia, and government who should know better spout distortions about the situation. I am a life-long Democrat and person of the Left but it appears, on this issue at least, that the Left is too often a source of misinformation.

      2. I believe that the argument that there is no occupation at all, is valid under International law.

        A nation can not “occupy” its own territory. The 1948 borders of Israel are very well defined and became valid under International law the instant Israel declared its independence on May 15th, 1948. Those borders are from river to sea and include all of Judea and Samaria, ie, the West Bank. There is no other entity that has a claim to this territory, while seven International treaties and the Mandate for Palestine (still valid law) establish the provenance of the Jewish state.

        Here is a treatise on the exact topic from two experts in International law, published in what I believe is a peer-reviewed law journal:

        1. Your argument has its merits, but the fact is that Judea and Samaria are held as an “occupied territory“ under Israeli law.
          If the area was indeed part of Israel, you’d have to explain why its Arabs residents are not citizens.

          1. As I understand it, J & S have that designation simply because it was considered more convenient in 1967 than to raise the contentious re-annexation/ sovereignty issue. Almost certainly a mistake, although it did allow for want Israel wanted – the right to control the area militarily.

            Also, I believe that the terminology Israel uses is not “occupied territory” but is “disputed territory”. Israel has also quietly and consistently referred to the sanctity of its sovereign borders, by which it means its 1948 borders.

            From 1967 up until 1988, the Arabs in J & S were Jordanian citizens. Jordan revoked their citizenship then in order to foment the Palestinian issue. And then Oslo happened, and these non citizens were given their own self-determination through the PA.

            Imho, Jordan owes Israel an enormous moral and political debt. They should, in an ideal world, repatriate the J & S Arabs in Jordan and restore their citizenship. There is no way Israel can make them citizens with full voting rights – it would be the end of the state. But that is a separate issue from whose land it is, a question which I believe has only one valid answer.

          2. No, it’s not a separate question. If it is part of Israel, then the residents are too, and denying them citizenship would make Israel an Apartheid state. Some people say we are already there, but the facts are that Israel was forced to take control of the area in a defensive war, and since then had no partner who wanted or could guarantee that it won’t be used for attacks against Israrl. No sane country would withdraw in such conditions, but this is military occupation. This is a legal term, not a value judgement. I personally think that we have every right for this land. The wisdom of holding it is a different matter.
            The terminology used in Israel, for political reasons, makes no difference. Israel wisely did not annex Judea and Samaria and left their future to be decided on the negotiations table, when the time comes.

          3. I don’t think it follows from a strictly international law perspective that Israel would have to grant Israeli citizenship to residents of J and S if it formally annexed those conquered territories. Germany grants German citizenship only to children of German parents. Turks (say) who have lived in Germany for generations do not become German citizens. They are citizens of Turkey by descent. The citizenship of residents of J & S is finessed by calling them citizens of the Palestinian Authority. (It’s a principle of international law that no one can be stateless.) That’s as far as Israel needs to go. Strictly as a matter of practical policy, it can deem that no one born in the territories, even after they might be annexed, can become an Israeli citizen.

            It could also say that no one from the (hypothetically former) territories can internally migrate into Israel proper. This is a stickier issue. If J & S are not part of sovereign Israel, merely “disputed”, then Israel can apply border controls to keep them out. Sovereign states are supposed to allow free movement of all people, citizens or not, within the country once they have been admitted at the border. Israel could not permit this unconditional permanent free movement of these non-citizens, even less than it could permit the people of J & S to vote in Israeli elections. Hence there is practical value in not annexing the territories but regarding them as disputed with a border as hard as it needs to be.

            What pejorative name people use to refer to a country that doesn’t allow all residents a path to citizenship is beside the point. (Strictly, apartheid applies only to the former regime in South Africa because they set it up and named it. You can’t just look at another country’s socio-political system and say, “Oh, that looks like apartheid to me.” (Well, you can, but no one has to give uptake to the claim.)

          4. “Germany grants German citizenship only to children of German parents. Turks (say) who have lived in Germany for generations do not become German citizens.”

            That’s not how it is. What is true is that in Germany, like in most countries, being born in Germany does not grant one automatic German citizenship. That does happen in some countries, such as the USA (even if the mother is there illegally when the child is born); those countries tend to be ones with large-scale immigration in the past 200-300 years.

            Turks who live in Germany can, and do, become German citizens. It’s up to them if they want to. There are some requirements (for Turks or anyone else): knowledge of German, basic knowledge of German society (there is a quiz), ability to support oneself and one’s family, and so on.

            One reason many don’t is that they want to remain Turkish citizens.

            Until very recently, only in exceptional cases could Germans have additional citizenships: parents have different ones (child has both, perhaps more than two if one or both parents had more than one), born in a country with citizenship-by-birth (choose when you turn 18 which you want to keep), people from countries who became naturalized in Germany who come from countries where it is not possible to give up the citizenship. Several years ago, naturalized citizens were allowed to keep their other citizenship if it is from another EU country. Also several years ago, children born in Germany to parents who are here legally and who live a certain minimum amount of time in Germany have German citizenship in addition to what they inherit from their parents, but had to decide at 26 which they wanted to keep. It was also possible to get (back) another citizenship if not being able to do so would be a big disadvantage and it is beyond your control, e.g. you inherit some land in a country where only citizens can own land.

            Just a few weeks ago, the law was changed so that now there are no restrictions; one can have Germany citizenship and others as well. The official reason was that there were so many exceptions and so many people with more than one citizenship that the distinction wasn’t worth keeping. Some politicians think that it will encourage integration. I think that it will do the opposite.

            Note that some countries, such as Turkey, would give former citizens their citizenship back if they had given it up to become naturalized elsewhere. Until a few weeks ago, that could mean that they could lose their German citizenship, but in practice there is no way to enforce the rule.

            Each country, also within the EU, has its own citizenship laws. The Netherlands is even more restrictive than Germany was back when Germany was more restrictive than now.

            Back to the original claim: No, having German parents is not the only way to get German citizenship. Anyone who meets the requirements can apply, and if it is denied the state has to show a good reason. Both my wife and I moved to Germany as adults and are naturalized German citizens with no German ancestry.

            Each country makes its own laws about citizenship; that also applies to Israel.

          5. There is a difference between immigrants, people who have left the country, and people who live on the land. All your examples are not similar to the Israel situation in the West Bank.

          6. I appreciate Phillip Helbig‘s correction. If I understand correctly, Germany’s policy until recently was aimed at preventing German citizens from having dual citizenship, not to prevent foreigners from becoming German citizens. I apologize for the error. I also wasn’t criticizing Germany’s citizenship policy, only noting it as an example of a country that put some higher barriers to citizenship than, say, Canada does.

    3. Recently, sometime earlier this week, a regular commentor that hails from South Africa commented on the claim “Israel is an apartheid state.” Perhaps they will see your question and reply.

      Their view, paraphrased and crammed into a nutshell, was that it is a ridiculous claim and that people making it have no idea what apartheid is.

    4. Ethnic conflicts are fought over superiority in status, and ethnic grievances are not based on some abstract principles. Therefore, those who focus on legal discrimination tend to miss the point. The success of Jews relative to Palestinians must feel very humiliating to the latter, regardless of any biological and cultural explanations for this discrepancy.

      The greater number of prominent anti-apartheid voices have labelled Israel an apartheid state. They can be dismissed, but in doing so Israel apologists have at times argued like Apartheid apologists: Yes, individuals Palestinians are clearly better off under Jewish rule than under their own government, but that was also true for blacks in South Africa (and the rest of Africa) under white rule. And a majority of Israeli Arabs favors a one-state solution that would increase their power at Jewish expense. The prevailing worldview in Western countries holds that ethnic differences are the result of malice (like systemic racism), and if white South Africans or American Southerners who dominated blacks are viewed as a scourge, it can seem like special pleading that Israel should be allowed to segregate its population from Muslims by walling them off and insist that its state is by law intended for Jews only.

      1. Who is saying that Israel should be allowd to it can seem like special pleading that Israel should be allowed to segregate its population from Muslims by walling them off and insist that its state is by law intended for Jews only???
        You do realize that Israeli Arabs have full citizen rights, MKs, judges, senior military officers, doctors, etc., right?

        1. Israel passed a law in 2018 that explicitly defined Israel as a Jewish state, and the Wikipedia page on Arab citizens in Israel lists many points of dispute between them and the Jewish majority (not least among them immigration restrictions), though also noting that relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel are peaceful.

          1. The badic law defines Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Israel is the expression of the Jews’ right for self determination, a right recognized in the UN charter. It does not give Jewish citizens more rights than Arab citizens.
            Immigration has nothing to do with Apartheid. By definition, potential immigrants are not citizens.

    5. Every bit of that language is employed to deceive those outside the area and get them to support and fund the Palestinian cause.
      My time working in Israel convinced me that the Israelis consistently show remarkable restraint in dealing with continuous violent aggression from the Arabs.

      I really think it is beyond the ability of most Western folks to comprehend the level of antisemitism among the Palestinians. Of course, as in every society, there are a large number of people who just want to live their lives and take care of their children, but the desire to eliminate every Jew in the world is fundamental to the Palestinian identity. And yes, that is meant literally.

      The walls and checkpoints exist to provide Israeli Jews some small respite from what would otherwise be unrelenting attacks. Importantly, they are the least punitive solution to the problem, not the cause of the hostility, but a response to it.

  4. Fourteen minutes well invested. I don’t listen to podcasts but that was more than tolerable — it was valuable.

  5. A brilliant piece. There is indeed a bright moral line. One cannot fail to see it when it is pointed out with Harris’s clarity. Do I believe that there are people of good will who are “confused” about what Hamas is doing? Perhaps some are confused, but those who defend Hamas publicly are not confused.

    1. “. . . but those who defend Hamas publicly are not confused.”

      I think many could be. Though I might use “ignorant” and or “detached from reality” rather than confused.

      Though I am sure that there are plenty who are not confused at all, “true believers” that really believe that Jews deserve to be killed.

  6. And in the spirit of a never-ending cycle of vengeance, Israeli President Herzog stated that there are “no innocent civilians,” thus sanctioning the horror that’s about to unfold when the ground assault commences.

          1. The first of many hits from a Google search on “Did Israeli President Herzog state that there are “no innocent civilians.”


            From the article . . .

            ““It is an entire nation out there that is responsible,” Herzog said at a press conference on Friday. “It is not true this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up. They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat.”

            I don’t have a problem with this. It seems accurate to me. It also seems to be true that he said it. Why deny it?

            What’s not true is the extrapolation that many anti-Israel sources have made, that Hezog meant to imply that Palestinian civilians were legitimate targets. He did not say that, and in fact denied it when he was asked if that is what he meant, right after he said it.

          2. No Golan, the article I linked to did not misquote him. And the video you linked to is incomplete. The article I linked to actually quotes what he said in your video, but it also quotes some things he said before the moment your video started.

            By the way, did you even read my comment or the article I linked to?

            Somehow I knew you would insist that the paraphrase “there are no innocent civilians” in Gaza must be precisely what he said or it’s not true. And I sort of get that with the rampant bad faith misinterpretations and quoting out of context that goes on today. But in this particular case , that paraphrase of what he actually said is pretty accurate and in context of all of his comments it is what he intended to convey.

          3. The differece between the quote in HuffPost and what you said makes an important difference in meaning. HuffPost is the only link I could find for this claim (all other sources link to it), and it is notoriously biased against Israel. The paraphrasing changes the meaning of what Herzog actually said.
            I read what you wrote. Again, even according to your source, he did not say anything close to “there are no innocent civilians in Gaza”, which suggests, regardless of your intention and excuses, that civilians in Gaza are legitimate targets.

  7. In addition to WEIT, I often turn to Sam Harris’s comments (have read and reread all of his books and subscribe to his podcasts) when I am seeking clarity on many topics.
    It may be confirmation bias on my part, but I overwhelmingly agree with misters Coyne and Harris and find that you both parse events with exceptional clarity, allowing me to discuss our common views with people in my physical orbit.
    Yes it’s a shortcut for fact checking for me, as I almost never feel the need to “do my own research” if either of you take a position.
    Honorable mention: There are about 30,000 Thai Nationals working in Israel some of whom were murdered in the initial attack, others who are presumed to have been taken hostage.
    My interest in this is simply that we visit Thailand as often as we can and have people in Chiang Mai we consider family. Except for these two handfuls of grandkids we have, my wife and I would simply spend a large part of our retirement in Thailand.
    This is a link to an Al-Jazeera article regarding the Thai people in Israel
    Thank you for all you , and Sam, do.

  8. Naturally, quite a of the commentators over at Pharyngula, when not engaging in overt antisemitism and the odd bit of blood libel, are busy trying to mitigate Hamas and their genocidal nihilist philosophy.

    I fact, PZ has a post up essentially saying “both sides” are as bad as each other…

    There is similar nonsense online from some of the regressive left grifters who constantly stalk Sam Harris – namely Eiynah (NiceMangos) and her band of fleas. Like PZ’s “horde”, they also constantly mitigate Hamas and make excuses for them.

  9. There is no symmetry of guilt between Hamas and the Israelis, because there is a big difference between the deliberate terrorist mass-murdering of innocent people and the unintentional killing of innocent people as regrettable yet unavoidable “collateral damage” in the context of justified counterterrorist military action. If Hamas hadn’t attacked the Israelis, the innocent Palestinians unintentionally killed by the Israeli army would still be alive; so Hamas are ultimately responsible for their death.

    1. Note that by “unavoidable (human) collateral damage” I mean “human collateral damage unavoidable by the Israeli army given the demographic situation in (the) Gaza (Strip), which is (mis)used by Hamas for their tactical advantage”.

  10. There is no moral equivalence to what Israel is doing (despite the Hammas ruthlessness) killing over 2000 civilians and wounding nearly 10,000 including 30% of them children is
    blatantly immoral and to view it otherwise displays a moral flaw whether you are Jewish or not. Israel is creating a new holocaust on the Palestinians (no food, no energy, no water, no medicine) Indiscriminate bombing as the results prove.

    1. “New Holocaust”? – So you’re saying the Jews are the new Nazis by planning to commit genocide of the Palestinians. If that’s not a ridiculous antisemitic conspiracy theory, I don’t know what is.
      What is a reality and anything but a conspiracy theory is that Hamas expressly intends to eliminate the state of Israel and to expel the Jews from their homeland (or “Palestine”, as Hamas would say). Moreover, Hamas, and not the Israelis, are the ones who don’t give a damn about how many innocent Palestinians die. They are even satanically happy about large numbers of dead innocent Palestinians, because they add grist to their propaganda mill.
      If you seriously think there is a moral symmetry between the terrorism of Hamas and the counterterrorism of the Israeli army, or even a moral asymmetry in favor of Hamas, you really need to adjust your moral compass!

    2. I agree Hugh, too many are too quick to say the brazen bombing of innocent Palestinians is unavoidable. To me it seems totally avoidable. Children are dying, families destroyed and it’s being brushed off as collateral damage. Sickening.

      1. Unavoidable? Seriously? Do you know ANYTHING about what Hamas is doing? They are putting themselves under hospitals, in high-rise buildings with civilian, and other places that they can use civilians as human shields. How can the killing of civilians be TOTALLY AVOIDABLE?

        Even to say something like that reveals a breathtaking ignorance, both of what Hamas does and of Israel’s attempts to avoid killing civilians. Comments like these disgust me in view of the fact that Palestinian terrorists deliberately TRY to kill civiians.

  11. To understand the response in general – i.e. support of Hamas by the Regressive Left – I found myself considering the role of the dialectic, and then what Marcuse writes in Repressive Tolerance (~1965). Sorry this ran long – A couple excerpts (bold added):

    “According to a dialectical proposition it is the whole which determines the truth–not in the sense that the whole is prior or superior to its parts, but in the sense that its structure and function determine every particular condition and relation. Thus, within a repressive society, even progressive movements threaten to turn into their opposite to the degree to which they accept the rules of the game.”

    “The comparative evaluation in terms of the number of victims is the quantifying approach which reveals the man-made horror throughout history that made violence a necessity. In terms of historical function, there is a difference between revolutionary and reactionary violence, between violence practiced by the oppressed and by the oppressors. In terms of ethics, both forms of violence are inhuman and evil–but since when is history made in accordance with ethical standards? To start applying them at the point where the oppressed rebel against the oppressors, the have-nots against the haves is serving the cause of actual violence by weakening the protest against it.”

    -Herbert Marcuse
    Repressive tolerance
    from: Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Herbert Marcuse,
    A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), pp. 95-137.

    … so I think Marcuse is telling us (or, the R. Left) : the dialectic views the violence as the same in kind and only different in degree. It is the top-down view of history that matters – the “whole”, holistic – which determines History, in Marcuse’s theory – and apparently is the rationale for the praxis, the “protest” of the (Regressive) Left. The reaction to that produces dialectical political warfare that pushes the dialectic inexorably left and upward to the end of History (if I follow the Marxist/Hegelian jargon).

    1. I thought of an actual distinction in the observed violence – in contrast with Marcuse’s meaningless synthetic distinction :

      Only one group can be said to be merely practicing / carrying out its religious doctrine – namely, Hamas (or other such groups) and the doctrine of Islam.

  12. It would seem that the Palestinians, after having chances to self govern in a two state solution, have resolved to see the total eradication of the Jews their core value. Maybe Hamas is to blame, but average Palestinian civilians accept the Hamas rule in Gaza. They don’t have to.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *