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From the mundane to the sublime

Mundane does not mean unimportant. The M&G published an unusually decent and balanced article on the “Peace Talks” about to get underway. They are to be complimented, but I have taken this opportunity to bring to the attention of readers of the newspaper to some of the implications for Israel generally overlooked by the mass media. This was submitted as a letter but here is a preview of the draft I sent in:

‘“Secret steps to Middle East peace” (2 August) refers: It has been a long time since I have had occasion to compliment the Mail and Guardian. In fact, I had long stopped either reading or writing for the Mail and Guardian in protest over its egregiously one-sided treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether the scrupulously factual and neutral tone adopted by Paul Lewis and Harriet Sherwood is or will be the norm remains to be seen. But perhaps it heralds a more honest approach to a conflict with serious implications for world Jewry and wide regional and global ramifications.

As one who started with a powerful commitment to a just two-state solution only to see my hopes incrementally whittled down by a radicalised Palestinian politics, the Islamist movement within Arab-Muslim communities and a virulently anti-Israeli project by elements of the Western Left with the passive and active complicity of much of the so-called liberal media in the West I, along with many others, had reached a point where it seemed that only the exercise of resolute and uncompromising power by Israel held any hope for her survival.

Does this “peace initiative” change anything on the ground? From Israel’s point of view it is fraught with danger. Abbas, as pointed out by Lewis and Sherwood, has publicly announced that no Israeli will be allowed in the new Palestinian State. Does that refer to citizenship, residency or even commercial, sporting or cultural interchange? Such a statement by an Israeli would be roundly condemned but coming from Abbas it is excused with barely an acknowledgement.

Coupled with the inflammatory refusal of Palestinian leaders to recognise Israel as a Jewish State, the on-going incitement in Palestinian schools and elsewhere and the fact that one of the Palestinian negotiators, Mohammad Shtayyeh’s Facebook page displays a map with Israel replaced by Palestine, even Israelis of liberal disposition view the negotiations with the utmost concern.

When one couples this to the release of prisoners responsible for numerous and entirely deliberate Israeli civilian deaths, the general reluctance of Western media to hold Palestinians especially, accountable for their actions and the violent instability of the Middle East and large parts of North Africa partly owing to the active participation of Islamist factions, the level of foreboding increases exponentially.

Our worst fears can be summarised as one of two alternatives:

Firstly, the talks fail after Israel has made considerable concessions following immense American and European pressure to concede vital security concerns, leaving Israel vilified by the Western liberal fraternity and facing an empowered and combatitive Palestinian entity. Secondly, a “peace agreement” is signed leaving Israel seriously weakened due to territorial, diplomatic and security concessions, only to be broken within a few years with Israel being once again the target of Western criticism and vilification.

Neither of these possibilities is at all far-fetched. The consequences of either are unpredictable but under such circumstances most of the broad pro-Zionist camp would finally ditch our “liberal” inhibitions and expect Israel to use its military and economic power solely in its own interests without heed to the chorus of condemnation from the usual quarters. If that happens, global instability will undoubtedly rise sharply with unpredictable consequences.

If, for that reason only, I hope that the Western media will for once, hold all parties equally responsible for their actions and bring even-handed scrutiny and pressure to bear on both sides.’

Let’s hear from readers!

The Sublime

A few posts ago I had a piece on the surprising rise of Christian theology as a “respectable” academic discipline. It received a few comments but neither the theistic position nor the atheistic denial seemed to me very persuasive. Since my philosophic understanding in this field is probably less than a couple of molecules deep, I fortunately came across the following article which provided the necessary gravitas and sophistication. It is a must read for Solar Plexusers with a decent attention span – especially those with “firm” opinions. Follow up its references, especially the Kuhn paper in Skeptic Magazine.

I am pleased to say it generally at least supports my own position that on the matter of God, the minimum intellectually  respectable opinion is that of agnosticism. How one chooses to live one’s life – as a “believer” or as a “skeptic” – is another matter. That partly depends on upbringing or temperament but it also depends on whether the presence of a deity, as minimally defined by philosophers, has any practical importance as to how one orders one’s life. Or to put it another way: does the personalisation of the “deity” add value or is it destructive or can it be both.

Let the comments flow. (PS. Let me know if you have difficulty accessing either article linked to this post).

Mike Berger


2 responses to “From the mundane to the sublime

  1. solarplexuss August 2, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    For me the key para is this “While Kuhn does not settle on a particular position, he does indicate that he thinks that either the existence of things is a brute fact without explanation, or there is something that is self-existent in the sense that its essence entails that its non-existence is inherently impossible. The only remaining question in the latter case would be what else we could say about this self-existent reality (e.g., whether we ought to ascribe to it the standard divine attributes).” I do not know what can possibly be meant as a “brute fact”. Thus we need an “explanation”. So far none has been forthcoming other than “there is something that is self-existent in the sense that its essence entails that its non-existence is inherently impossible”. That is hardly better than “brute fact” but it opens the doors to theism of some kind. It will not be the theism of most of the religions but the idea seems to me worth exploring. I suspect that it has been explored but I haven’t done the necessary reading – and unfortunately, am unlikely to do so.

    I would like to hear what David Benatar would have to say – or George Ellis for that matter.


  2. Sydney Kaye August 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    The article you attached on the subject of “nothing” is dense, but probably no more than that of the consequences of the Israeli/ Palestinian talks. Both can make your head ache before your brain kicks in.
    The discussion about the 8 ( or is it 9) levels of nothingness is an important diversion because it tackles yet another classical “proof” that God exists. Before they were worried about the economy and the Euro, the Greeks used to say “Nothing comes from Nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit)” and 17th century John Locke proved God with:
    1. Nothing cannot produce Something.
    2. Therefore Something produced Something.
    3. That Something had to be eternal .
    4. Therefore that eternal Something must be God.
    Well of course 2 doesn’t follow 1. For instance even if it is true that Something cannot be caused by Nothing, it allows for the logical possibility that Something wasn’t caused by anything (not Nothing). In other words no causation. Spontaneity? A Big Bang? Or else we can try to define nothing , as per the article. When I have a spare year I’ll follow all the links and have a crack at it.
    The other example of flawed logic is the link betwen 3 and 4; that even if there was a Something that produced the Something , there is no reason to conclude that it has to be the same eternal Something. That would mean the Something was caused by Something that caused the Something ; ad infinitum. That of course would not suit Theists because it leaves open the question of who created the creator.


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