By Yair Lapid
I don’t accuse intellectuals of bias or of anti-Semitism but too many of them are certainly guilty of intellectual laziness.
Too many American and European intellectuals have taken moral relativism to its absurd extreme, falling back upon the ‘validity of every narrative’ and repeating the mantra that ‘every story has two sides.’ They treat those who have a clear moral stance as primitive. For them, if you take a moral stand or choose a side in a conflict you must lack the necessary tolerance to “see the other side.”
It seems a distant memory but not long ago intellectuals did the exact opposite. They were the ones who helped us differentiate between good and evil, between right and wrong, between justice and injustice. They didn’t delve into the childhood of Senator McCarthy or ask whether the Germans felt a genuine sense of hardship. The debate wasn’t over feelings but the essence of truth.
The betrayal of the intellectuals was especially noticeable during the days of the operation in Gaza. Ostensibly, there should be no question as to who enlightened people should support; on one side of the conflict stands a western democracy, governed by the rule of law, which warns civilians before striking legitimate terrorist targets. On the other side stands an Islamist terrorist organization, homophobic and misogynistic, committed to killing Jews, which does all in its power to murder innocent civilians and hides behind its own women and children when carrying out its vicious attacks.
But those intellectuals see it differently. For them, the Palestinians are suffering more and so they must be right. Why? Because they have turned suffering into the only measure of justice.
The suffering in Gaza is truly heartbreaking, but the causes are not clear cut. When Hamas forces civilians to stand on the roof of a building which is used as a terrorist command center despite knowing that the building will be attacked (and they know because we warn them), who are we to hold responsible? When Hamas places rockets and explosives inside UN schools and fires from within hospitals, who are we to hold responsible? When Hamas fires thousands of rockets and mortars at the cities of Israel and fails to kill hundreds of our children only because of our technological edge and the Iron Dome missile defense system should we blame ourselves for suffering less?
Those intellectuals betrayed themselves because they refuse to answer these questions or even to truly appreciate the complex global reality in which we all now live. Instead they stare at the photographs of the injured children in Gaza and compete as to who is the most outraged.
Hamas, of course, is acutely aware of the weakness of many western intellectuals and treats them as a tool in its propaganda war. There is significant intelligence information – not only in the hands of Israeli intelligence – which shows that Hamas believes, theologically, that there is no barrier to sacrificing the lives of the children of Gaza to garner sympathy in the western media. Those who are aware of the intelligence also know how the Hamas sees western intellectuals who buy into their gruesome propaganda – they are a tool, to be used and to be mocked.
Yair Lapid is the Israeli Minister of Finance and chairman of the Yesh Atid Party.