Monday, July 31, 2006

The Comment Wars

James 4:1 (New Living Translation)

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn't it the whole army of evil desires at war within you?”

The war in the Middle-East has taken an ugly turn, as wars always do. It’s what almost inevitably happens when diplomacy and statecraft fail.

It’s quite easy to view the carnage and self-righteously declare that the whole thing could have been avoided. Well, of course it could have been, in the same manner that any war in history could have been avoided. What’s more, it’s even easier to vilify the actor in this morality play who has responded to the provocation to begin with.

One of the things that’s struck me over the past few days is that if anyone wonders how these conflicts begin with all they need to do is take a trip on the good ship Blogosphere. Once they get their ticket and get on board they’ll see how the wars of words all too often become shooting wars.

Ever since this conflict began I’ve been reading MidEastWeb, a blog moderated by Ami Isseroff, an Israeli peace activist. I’ve never met him, so what little I know of him is through the written word. He seems to me to be an eminently decent man. If I’m to believe what I read about him he’s dedicated much of his life to pursuing peace between Israel and her neighbors.

The thing that has set him apart in this conflict, though, is that he has supported Israel’s right to defend its territorial integrity. That position has, unfortunately, cost him.

How is it that a man of peace is now vilified by some former allies and viewed as a man of war, even a supporter of Israeli sponsored terror?

One of the things that’s quite clear to me about the Middle-East is more complex than we living in the safety of the free world could possibly imagine. I think, given that, men like Ami Isseroff are as complex as problems that now seem so intractable. A couple of years ago I read Eliot Cohen’s “Supreme Command.” In the book, Cohen looked at leadership in times of crisis. Among the leaders he greatly admired was David Ben-Gurion. In the fifth chapter he described the one-floor bungalow that Ben-Gurion retired to in 1963. There adorning the walls were four images that summed up, in Cohen’s mind, the complexity and greatness of the man. On his desk was a picture of Berl Katznelson. On a wall opposite the desk was a replica of Michelangelo’s Moses. In the living room there was a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. In the bedroom there was a picture of Mahatma Gandhi.

As Cohen noted:

“These four images capture much of the complexity of Ben-Gurion’s personality – Katznelson, his immersion in the fierce internecine struggles of labor with political rivals outside it; Moses, his roots in Jewish history and identity and his messianic aspirations for the Jewish people; Lincoln, his admiration for the English-speaking world and its greatest leaders in their most bitter contests for freedom and democratic rule; Gandhi, his appreciation of spiritual power even when its expression took form so completely different from his own. His own greatness resided, in great measure, in his ability to harmonize these contrasting and in some respects contradictory sides of his personality.” (Pages 133-134)

Am I saying that Ami Isseroff is a great man? It’s not for me to say, but I can say that he is a complex man and that I believe much of that complexity if founded on the twists and turns of Israel’s modern history. All he’s trying to do is harmonize the same contradictory elements of the Middle-East drama that are at the core of his life.

In a recent post Ami called the current war a “generic war,” he attempted to unravel some of the complexity, looking at the current conflict from both sides. It was well thought out, well written, and often compelling. He concluded the essay with these words:

“Unless these groups (Hezbollah and Hamas) are stopped, there is no chance that moderate forces will be empowered in Middle East. Their success, and the international legitimacy that is granted to them, will be the inspiration for similar tactics all over the Middle East, and will lead to many more “generic wars.” However, it appears increasingly doubtful that Israel alone can stop the Hezbollah. Stopping the Hezbollah requires a determined international effort.”

It all seemed very reasonable to me. Yet, one of the things I found surprising when I went back to the post a day after it was published was the level of vitriol aimed at him. One commenter, whose pen name is Sirocco, had this to say:

“I am dismayed that Ami Isseroff, whom I used to respect, appears to support this despicable campaign of war crime against the people of Lebanon.”

“Well, it suddenly makes more sense that he links to the likes of Little Green Footballs. My own link to him is now removed.”

Another who calls himself Frederick said this:

“Sirocco is right. Ami used to be a intelligent person (my emphasis added), but he's now been reduced to sprouting the crudest of cliches. The prisoners' document show that Hamas is least moving toward a 2-state solution. What is the Olmert government doing to promote the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state? By placing a separation barrier in the heart of Palestinian communities, by annexing the Jordan Valley, by creating a Jewish belt around East Jerusalem, the Olmert government is making a Palestinian state an impossibility.”

About fifteen minutes later he said this:

“And, one more thing, Ami: It was precisely because Hamas was moving towards a 2-state solution that Israel reinvaded Gaza, just as Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to forestall a more moderate approach by the PLO.”

“But this is all irrelevant to Ami, who's become the Benny Morris (my emphasis added) of bloggers.”

Then, about twenty minutes after that he added this final salvo:

“Notice that Ami does not mention the violations committed by Israel against the Lebanon's sovereignty since 2000 -continuous over-flights into Lebanese air space, kidnapping of Lebanese nationals, refusal to provide maps of location of land mines.”

Later that day someone who identified himself as “OMFG” added the following insult to injury:

“I'm appalled by your comments. Don’t you people know that disagreeing with an Israeli is “ANTI-SEMITISM”!!! I hate this word, all it stands for is. “I'm a Jew I should be able to commit what ever dirty, ruthless crime there is ..and if you disagree then your an evil person for not letting me have my way...whaaaaaa!”. Israelis can hide behind their little mantra that they live in hell and all the boogey-men Arabs are out to get them. That doesn't make what your government does ok. Just as you want to be treated as individuals and not be judged by the actions of your extremist government, so too should you give the same respect to the citizens of your neighboring countries. Your double standards are not obscured. We all see what values and morals you hold. Those values will be your undoing.”

After reading the comments I went back to the original post to see, based on the comment thread, what I’d missed. Try as I might I couldn’t find anything in the piece in which Mr. Isseroff said or alluded to the notion that anyone who disagreed with him was an anti-Semite. I found nothing in the piece either advocated or supported war crimes. Yet, this was the conclusion some commenters came to. The more I thought about it all, the more I came to see that this was a classic case of asking for Betty Gabriel and getting Frankenstein. Ami Isseroff was asking for understanding and got overheated rhetoric in return. The hate was palpable; if the commenters, men of peace to a man, only could have gotten their hands on his throat they would have shown him what peace was all about. That’s how wars begin, that’s the core of this war, and that’s how the blogosphere is becoming an extension of the conflict.

You see, the blogosphere is just one more piece of this enormously complex problem. It’s war being waged on an electronic battlefield, with ad-hominems and distortions as the primary weapons.

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1 comment:

James Fletcher Baxter said...

At the sub-atomic level of the physical universe quantum
physics indicates a multifarious gap or division in the
causal chain; particles to which position cannot be
assigned at all times, systems that pass from one energy
state to another without manifestation in intermediate
states, entities without mass, fields whose substance is
as insubstantial as "a probability."

Only statistical conglomerates pay tribute to
deterministic forces. Singularities do not and are
therefore random, unpredictable, mutant, and in this
sense, uncaused. The finest contribution inanimate
reality is capable of making toward choice, without its
own selective agencies, is this continuing manifestation
of opportunity as the pre-condition to choice it defers
to the natural action of living forms.

Biological science affirms that each level of life,
single-cell to man himself, possesses attributes of
sensitivity, discrimination, and selectivity, and in
the exclusive and unique nature of each diversified
life form.

The survival and progression of life forms has all too
often been dependent upon the ever-present undeterminative
potential and appearance of one unique individual organism
within the whole spectrum of a given life-form. Only the
uniquely equipped individual organism is, like The Golden
Wedge of Ophir, capable of traversing the causal gap to
survival and progression. Mere reproductive determinacy
would have rendered life forms incapable of such potential.

Only a moving universe of opportunity plus choice enables
the present reality.

Each individual human being possesses a unique, highly
developed, and sensitive perception of diversity. Thus
aware, man is endowed with a natural capability for enact-
ing internal mental and external physical selectivity.
Quantitative and qualitative choice-making thus lends
itself as the superior basis of an active intelligence.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. His title describes
his definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall
that his other features are but vehicles of experi-
ence intent on the development of perceptive
awareness and the following acts of decision and
choice. Note that the products of man cannot define
him for they are the fruit of the discerning choice-
making process and include the cognition of self,
the utility of experience, the development of value-
measuring systems and language, and the accultur-
ation of civilization.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however
marvelous to behold, deserve neither awe nor idol-
atry, for man, not his contrivance, is earth's own
highest expression of the creative process.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and
significant act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean
fulcrum upon which man levers and redirects the
forces of cause and effect to an elected level of qual-
ity and diversity. Further, it orients him toward a
natural environmental opportunity, freedom, and
bestows earth's title, The Choicemaker, on his
singular and plural brow.

Deterministic systems, ideological symbols of abdication
by man from his natural role as earth's Choicemaker,
inevitably degenerate into collectivism; the negation of
singularity, they become a conglomerate plural-based
system of measuring human value. Blunting an awareness
of diversity, blurring alternatives, and limiting the
selective creative process, they are self-relegated to
a passive and circular regression.

Tampering with man's selective nature endangers his
survival for it would render him impotent and obsolete
by denying the tools of diversity, individuality,
perception, criteria, selectivity, and progress.
Coercive attempts produce revulsion, for such acts
are contrary to an indeterminate nature and nature's
indeterminate off-spring, man the Choicemaker.

Until the oppressors discover that wisdom only just
begins with a respectful acknowledgment of The Creator,
The Creation, and The Choicemaker, they will be ever
learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.
The rejection of Creator-initiated standards relegates
the mind of man to its own primitive, empirical, and
delimited devices. It is thus that the human intellect
cannot ascend and function at any level higher than the
criteria by which it perceives and measures values.

Additionally, such rejection of transcendent criteria
self-denies man the vision and foresight essential to
decision-making for survival and progression. He is left,
instead, with the redundant wreckage of expensive hind-
sight, including human institutions characterized by
averages, mediocrity, and regression.

Humanism, mired in the circular and mundane egocentric
predicament, is ill-equipped to produce transcendent
criteria. Evidenced by those who do not perceive
superiority and thus find themselves beset by the shifting
winds of the carnal-ego; i.e., moods, feelings, desires,
appetites, etc., the mind becomes subordinate: a mere
device for excuse-making and rationalizing self-justifica-

The carnal-ego rejects criteria and self-discipline for such
instruments are tools of the mind and the attitude. The
appetites of the flesh have no need of standards for at the
point of contention standards are perceived as alien, re-
strictive, and inhibiting. Yet, the very survival of our
physical nature itself depends upon a maintained sover-
eignty of the mind and of the spirit.

It remained, therefore, to the initiative of a personal
and living Creator to traverse the human horizon and
fill the vast void of human ignorance with an intelli-
gent and definitive faith. Man is thus afforded the
prime tool of the intellect - a Transcendent Standard
by which he may measure values in experience, anticipate
results, and make enlightened and visionary choices.

Only the unique and superior God-man Person can deserved-
ly displace the ego-person from his predicament and free
the individual to measure values and choose in a more
excellent way. That sublime Person was indicated in the
words of the prophet Amos, "...said the Lord, Behold,
I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel."
Y'shua Mashiyach Jesus said, "If I be lifted up I will
draw all men unto myself."

As long as some choose to abdicate their personal reality
and submit to the delusions of humanism, determinism, and
collectivism, just so long will they be subject and re-
acting only, to be tossed by every impulse emanating from
others. Those who abdicate such reality may, in perfect
justice, find themselves weighed in the balances of their
own choosing.

That human institution which is structured on the
principle, "...all men are endowed by their Creator with
...Liberty...," is a system with its roots in the natural
Order of the universe. The opponents of such a system are
necessarily engaged in a losing contest with nature and
nature's God. Biblical principles are still today the
foundation under Western Civilization and the American
way of life. To the advent of a new season we commend the
present generation and the "multitudes in the valley of

Let us proclaim it. Behold!
The Season of Generation-Choicemaker Joel 3:14 KJV