Hazem Saghieh
Hazem Saghieh

We Call on Others to Split Apart and Call On Ourselves to Unite!

Despite increasing talk of a “clash of civilizations” and “religious wars,” as well as the marked rise in anti-Islam or anti-Semitic hate crimes, we are seeing cracks in concepts that some assume to be totally rigid, like West and East or Jews and Muslims. All of these groups differ and disagree amongst themselves and splinter. Their inclination to do so can always grow, just as it could shrink, while actions and policies of this or that kind determine which of these contradictory trajectories ends up prevailing.
The democratic “West,” whose capitals and cities are home to the majority of protests expressing support for Gaza and its inhabitants and condemning Israel’s brutality, has shown how generational, intellectual, interest-based, and ethnic disputes can corrode the supposed unity of the West, or that of any other entity whose cohesion was assumed impenetrable. Even at the state level, it is no longer difficult to identify divergences between the United States, Britain, Germany, and countries like Spain, Belgium, and Ireland, or France’s attempts to forge a position that combines what its administration sees as alignment and a distinct position.
In these same countries of the first camp, Britain could not bear the idea of Suella Braverman staying on as Home Secretary, while we read new reports every day about the “hassle” that a substantial wing of his own Democratic Party and even people working in his administration are creating for Joe Biden. As for those who view international institutions as a solid and rigid bloc that does nothing but act on the whims of the US, they must have been shocked by the brave statements of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Today, there are many examples of Western intellectuals, artists, and others that affirm the fact that a genuine split has emerged, while many other examples affirm that Western unity is real. Israel and Jewish communities in general are not insulated from this climate, which the newspaper “Haaretz” provides an accurate mirror of on a daily basis.

In addition to famous voices like Israeli journalists Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, US political professor Norman Finkelstein, and the NGO “Jewish Voice for Peace,” cultural and media spaces are brimming with sharp debate despite the broad consensus among Israelis regarding what they see as a national existential threat. There is no harm, here, in mentioning the article of the philosophers Yitzhak Benbaji, Michael Gross, David Heyd, and Noam Zohar, who argued that the permanent displacement of the people of Gaza and any occupation or settlement activity in the Strip would be a crime against humanity committed by their country.

Regardless of the depth of Western defectors’ rupture with “the West” or that of Jews and Israelis from “Jewishness” and “Israeliness,” it should be welcomed and encouraged, rather than scorned for not fully embracing the perspective of Hamas or any viewpoint we find agreeable. However, the most effective way to encourage such defections is for us to appear prone to defections and disagreements ourselves, as well as to have a broad spectrum of views on how best to serve the interests of the Palestinian people, and ensure that their state is established and that Israeli occupation ends.

When we resort to slandering our own when they disagree and accusing them of treachery, as we publicly take comfort from the defections and disagreements of others, our behavior means we are either one of two things, or both. On the one hand, we could be opportunists who are not committed to any universal ethical principle that sets collective standards and values, and on the other hand, we could be inherently predisposed to militarism, leading us to favor the imposition of a militaristic strategy that bets on our unity allowing us to defeat our divided opponent, as generals do in war. We are, in fact, not an army on the battlefield, and the scope of our consensus is ultimately limited.

It is fractured by our vastly differing views of politics, ideas, our interests, and other matters, to say nothing about the fact that we are a collection of different countries and age groups with divergent experiences who disagree on all kinds of issues, even if our views on a particular issue can intersect. As for maligning difference and being skeptical of anyone who disagrees with us, it only leads to the militarization and policing of our lives, as well as spreading a culture of corruption and political degeneracy, and all of this comes with the inhibition of debate, as is currently the case in our countries.

Acting on the impulse to drag us into conflicts deaf and mute, uniform like the teeth of a comb, with nothing coming out of our mouths but verbatim reiterations of Hamas’s narrative, is a fast track not only to exposing us as trivial beings but also to portraying our cause itself as trivial. To do so would be to kill the Palestinian victims killed by Israel a second time.

Today, as the assault resumes following the truce and Israel goes back to launching savage attacks that some Israeli generals say could go on for months, it would be wise to present ourselves in a better and more diverse manner than we had before the ceasefire, when we were chewing on the same phrase or two that we have been having repeating for decades in a desert of words and imagination.