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Both sides are right

Posted By Obadiah Shoher On February 26, 2009 @ 9:28 am In Islamic terrorism | 10 Comments

Terrorism is a means of war like any other, a reasonable tactic against a stronger enemy. In every war, supportive civilians are targeted. The Israeli government misrepresents terrorism as evil for a reason: immoral people can be reformed. So we only need to persuade the bad Muslims to abandon their evil ways. Wrong; they are good Muslims. Far from being immoral, they are right—from their perspective. They fight for what they believe is rightfully their land. And conflicts about rights usually end in one side’s annihilation.

People may have a discussion about rights if they understand rights similarly. Inside a society, that’s generally true: everyone agrees that the right of ownership belongs to the person who created a thing and is entitled to compensation. The owner is the person who bought the thing; even the wildest robber understands that stealing doesn’t convey ownership. Not so between groups which understand rights differently. Palestinian Arabs have every reason to consider the land of Israel theirs: their ancestors lived here, Muslim texts declare the land to be Islamic, and the country was under uninterrupted Islamic rule for 1,100 years. Jews have every reason to believe the land is ours: God commanded us to take it (the Promise, Muslims believe, has been revoked), we had statehood here, and we re-took it recently in several wars. I deliberately omit the irrelevant decisions of the barbarian conference called the UN. Both Jews and Arabs believe they are right. The land is way too small to share: minuscule Israel and miniscule Palestine are equally non-viable states, indefensible.

When both sides are right—in their own worldview—the conflict [1] cannot be resolved in goodwill. Sometimes such conflicts are resolved by compromise when both sides are tired of fighting. If the object is too small to compromise on it, and the balance of power is highly unequal, there is no room for meaningful compromise. Arabs did not try to compromise or consider Jews’ rights when the Arabs felt themselves to be stronger.

Rights are an intra-group phenomenon. Jews are right. Arabs are right. The mosquitoes in the drained Israeli swamps also thought themselves right. Power is the only thing that matters here.

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[1] the conflict: http://samsonblinded.org/blog/