Bothsideism: Let’s flip a coin
Associated Press just put out a photo feature entitled: “Scenes of sorrow and despair on both sides of Israel-Gaza border on week 3 of war“. BOTH SIDES. And Bari Weiss’ first newsletter related to the Hamas atrocities was called: “Two voices from Gaza” in which she publishes two short essays, one by an American Jew who once served in the IDF along the Israeli side of the border and the other by an American-Gazan who lost family in the bombings that came after 7 Oct. Like the AP article, presenting BOTH SIDES.
Yes, a border divides between two political entities, and because there are two entities, the border has two sides, a west side and east side, or north side and south side, or northeast and southwest sides, etc.
Bothsideism implies that both sides are equal, or equivalent. Or, in the case of Israel and our Arab Palestinian neighbours, that the narratives of both sides are equally valid.
1+1 = 2. Both sides are equal even as their forms are different. But 1 apple + 1 orange does not equal 2 apples or 2 oranges. It equals two fruits. Can we say that the equation 1 apple + 1 orange = 2 fruits is equal on both sides? Well, fruit needs to be defined. So this is not a simple issue.
Even though both sides of the same coin represent the same monetary value, they are not the same. One side is “heads” and the other “tails.” The meanings of the two sides of the coin are certainly different when flipping a coin decides which person/team gets something and the other does not.
Bothsideism in the case of Israel and her Palestinian Arab neighbours seems to lead to a preferred solution whereby the “truth” is seen as lying somewhere between the two narratives. And the resolution to the conflict is each side gives a little (or a lot) to get a little (or a lot). Given that the left likes the word ‘proportional,’ the things given and got should be proportional to each other, but in our case, they are not.
Even in a debate, in which BOTH SIDES of an argument compete, the audience votes on which side presented the most believable arguments and that side wins. They do not seek a so-called truth somewhere between the two sides. There is a winner and a loser.
But in the modern Jewish wars, the truth does not matter, facts do not matter. The debate is loaded from the starts. Even the unspeakable horrors of the massacres and abductions of 7 Oct 2023 do not seem to make much difference to bothsideism proponents.
Let us first look at the AP pictoral essay as an example of bothsideism.
On one side, we have 15 photos of devastation and grief resulting from bombings of buildings in Gaza by the IDF. The images portray massive destruction of buildings but mostly searching the rubble for survivors or possessions, pulling kids from the rubble, babies crying, mourning dead relatives. They did show a token missile launched toward Israel, but not the missile launcher or people manning it. Given that they have shot over 7000 missiles into Israel, there should have been many photo ops available.
One thing AP does not even ask is how many terrorist leaders lived in the buildings brought down or how many missile launch sites were there, for example.
On the other side, we have nine photos depicting the Israeli side of the equation: a fridge riddled with gun shots, a blood-splotched living room floor, an armed personnel carrier, two photos of people crouched down to take cover in an open space during a missile alert, four images showing grief and pain over kibbutz members who were killed while other members of their families are missing, perhaps taken hostage.
15 does not equal 9. Furthermore, they have sanitized the Israeli-side photos — no pictures of bodies decapitated by the terrorists, whether these are adults or infants, no pictures of bodies burned to ashes, no pictures of “innocent” Gazan civilians trotting into a kibbutz after a massacre to loot dead bodies and burned homes, no pictures of hostages being paraded in Gaza. Nothing to make the reader angry at Hamas. Everything to make the reader angry at Israel. Bothsideism at its best.
Another aspect: Human pain is the same. Human grief is the same. But, just like the law needs a motive to assign the appropriate punishment for murder, let us look at the motives of “both sides” in this story. Hamas terrorist attacks were personal — not in the sense that they had personal acquaintance with their victims (except the workers who likely mapped out the sites in preparation for these attacks), but in the sense of “up close and personal” — they could see the terrified eyes, smell the fear, hear the screams. And they went on and on and on …. with evidence of one young terrorist even calling home and bragging to his parents about having the blood of ten Jews on his hands — from his victim’s phone — and the parents were proud of him. The motive here was to kill as many Jews as possible before being forcibly stopped. Because had they not been stopped by armed civilians and the IDF, they would have continued their killing spree.
Israel’s attacks are not personal — you can say that it is easy to kill a million people from the air when you do not see the terrified eyes, smell the fear, or hear the screams. But we do. The whole world does and the world asks us to stop. Until 7 October 2023, we did agree to stop because the killing was not our motive. Stopping the terrorism and missile fire against us was the motive. So we stopped. We agreed to stop. We hoped it would be the last time.
But it was not the last time. And this time, we finally understand that we are fighting a fight against evil. The only way to beat evil is to kill it. And that is Israel’s motive.
Are the two motives equivalent?
Bothsideism by Bari Weiss
As mentioned in the first paragraph, Bari Weiss brought a double piece by Amjad Abukwaik and Jacob Katz in the first newsletter following 7 Oct. It enraged me. Naively, I thought 17 Oct was too early to hear “both sides?” I knew it would come — and that it would come before the IDF had the chance to destroy Hamas, the world will beg us to stop.
We, the citizens of Israel, are begging the government to ignore the noise outside our borders and to get rid of Hamas, something the IDF should have done decades ago so that there would not have been repeated rounds of hostilities, so that there would not have been the “odd” missile here and there but to which the IDF did not respond because it was only the “odd” missile here and there.
If Weiss wanted to bring both sides, the Israeli-sided article should not have been an essay written by a young American who volunteered for about two years in the IDF five years ago. While I give Jacob credit for coming to Israel now, in our time of need, and once more volunteering for the IDF, he can in no way have written anything remotely related to 7 Oct. It should have been written by an American whose family lost a young party-goer killed in the massacre or someone similar — perhaps someone from one of the kibbutzim in the Gaza Envelope where, in one case, 1/4 of the kibbutz was murdered. Someone who really has something to say about the precursor to Israel’s defensive/offensive strike at evil.
In the Gaza-sided essay, we have Amjad, who left Gaza while the Israelis were still there and it seemed to him that there were IDF soldiers on every corner. He briefly describes his youth in Gaza and then a visit last year that he made with his son — when there was nary an Israeli in sight. Why does his essay not mention that there were no more Jews or soldiers in Gaza since 2005?
Amjad writes that he wanted his son to “know how Gazans really live.” He does not write about showing his son the universities that are in Gaza. Or the shopping malls. Or the luxury hotels. Or the wealthier neighbourhoods. Where there could have been pride in what Gaza has been able to achieve and could achieve in the future. No. He drove his son to
a graveyard in Gaza City, where the poor sleep on the tombs and in coffins. We saw them there, living among the rats. And when we were ready to go, we got in our car and flipped on the headlights. We saw hundreds of rats, scurrying.
Why is there this obsessive need to paint a picture of victimhood?
Did Amjad not explain to his son how the Hamas leadership (some of whom planned and directed the atrocities from Qatar) keeps the humanitarian funds for themselves and lets the people starve? That that is why there are rats in the cemetery and not because of Israel?
I could go on — and I have written about these issues (how Gaza is not an open-air prison and not the densest place on the planet, about the potential of Gaza, including its universities, about agriculture in Gaza). But what is the point when there are those who are constantly trying to promote bothsideism? Israel has the right to defend herself, BUT, the Gazans have the right to resist an oppressive Zionist regime. Both sides.
I am looking forward to a bothsideism when Gaza and Israel will be competing with each other to see who has the most beautiful beaches, the most productive university research departments, the best soccer team. That will be a bothsideism I could get behind.