Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
This writer recalls moments from his childhood when the punishments meted out to him and to his peers for misdeeds committed by them was greeted by the same with wide-eyed, jaw-dropping and muscle numbing shock. It is a reaction that he has observed in children over many years, including the 12 years that he worked in the education system in Jamaica, the land of his birth.
On many occasions the outcry against the retribution or punishment inflicted on the guilty for their infractions by parents, by teachers, or by other competent authorities seemed to drown out the nature, seriousness, severity and magnitude of the infractions themselves.
“What did we do?!”, they would ask, without recalling their misbehaviour and repeated requests to desist.
The behaviour of children, the world over, is but a microcosm and a precursor of the manifest realities in the world of adults. The recent flare up in the Middle East between the Palestinians in Gaza and the nation of Israel, which seems destined to develop into another major conflagration of armed conflict, is indicative of such a tragic reality. And, the question at such times as this is often, “Why is all this happening?”
People, it seems, frequently, tend to express their rage and voice their dismay at what they deem to be the “effect” without giving an ounce of serious, honest, and mature consideration of what really was the “cause” of the “effect” in the first place. What is even more confusing is that they often use what is really the “cause”, which was never really the “effect”, as a remedy for what they, falsely, deemed to be the “cause”. And so, the outcome is akin to fighting a disease with the same disease (and not in the scientific sense of incorporating some aspects of a disease to form an inoculative treatment or vaccine), hoping for some sort of relief; or fighting fear, hate and disrespect with the same fear, hate and disrespect in the hope of achieving and maintaining peace. Who remembers the threadbare excuse of mankind for using war to end all wars?
What happened in Israel recently, with the surprise military attack on them by Hamas, is but another case in point in world affairs of skewed interpretations of political “cause and effect”, and of “fighting fire with fire”. It is so easy for the world to view the attack made by the Palestinians as the “cause” of Israel’s actions towards them in the decades long tension that has been in existence between the two peoples and not, in all probability, the “effect”.
This is not an attempt by this writer to justify any acts of atrocity committed by either party against each other over the years. But, as every earthquake has an epicenter and as every hurricane has an eye, the dynamics of every situation, fanning outwards, both in time and in space, ought to be analyzed from ground zero.
We know what the Jews had endured at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. We remember from the dog-eared and dusty pages of history the rank disrespect shown to them. We grieved at the utter denigration of their humanity, and at the macabre and brutish lawlessness inspired by the white Aryan racism of Hitler and his minions towards them. These led to overcrowded train cars, to barb-wired concentration camps with their gas chambers and their ovens which spewed the ash of human remains into the air. But it seems that Israel has learned nothing from its experiences with the Germans, or from the Blacks who suffered at the hands of the Afrikaners in the days of Apartheid South Africa.
The nation of Israel has violated 28 resolutions of the United Nations Security Council which are legally binding on member nations. The very international laws that were instituted and which were crucial to the formation of that nation have been constantly ignored by the same when it suited Israel. And the people who have often been left drawing the short straw and constantly denied basic respect and justice have been the Palestinian people.
Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, for example, has been deemed illegal by the international community. This has been compounded and exacerbated by Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied land — property taken by force with false claims of Israeli sovereignty, by their ongoing illegal practice of ethnic cleansing, and by their enforcement of a system that is a sister to South African Apartheid. All this is not new information and is known even to those in the United States who support Israel.
Studies done by the United Nations and other international organizations “have found that Israel violated the human rights of Palestinian people on a massive scale, including torture, imprisonment without charges or trial, land confiscation, harassment at checkpoints, unwarranted civilian shootings, not punishing Israeli settlers’ crimes against Palestinians, unwarranted disruption of medical care, commerce, employment, free movement, destruction of public and private property, family separation, etc.”
Again, Israel has been found guilty of violating the Geneva Convention in response to Arab rebellion. “How so?” one might ask. The Israeli military is known to have taken massive action against entire Palestinian communities, by destroying entire neighbourhoods of homes, by confiscating communal farmlands, by bulldozing homes, by blocking off certain areas, and by not allowing civilian populations to leave their houses for extensive periods of time. This is called collective punishment because it punishes entire communities for the actions of a few. As was stated before, this is not new information, and it is all public knowledge. In this current conflict between these two peoples what, therefore, are the true causes and what are the true effects?
As an aside, at the time of penning this op ed, this writer anticipates expressions of outrage from the United States Congress, coming from both the Republican and Democratic caucuses, who always proclaim that the United States is an avowed ally of Israel. But, how, specifically, will the MAGA members of the Republican wing respond to calls for increased military and other support from the nation of Israel in its fight against Hamas? How, will they reconcile their call for ceasing all material support for the Ukraine, another very important ally, to focus on the needs of American citizens at home, as they have asserted, and then comply with similar requests that might be made by the Israelis? And how will they affirm the right of Israel to exist and not that of the Ukrainians? The correct actions in both scenarios can only be arrived at by first having done a proper evaluation of “cause and effect”.
The analytical framework of “cause and effect” should be used in the conflict in the Middle East by the MAGA wing of the Republican party to assess the rationale, the morality, and the legality of the Israeli methodology used to interact with their Arab neighbours, and also to examine their own actions within their own borders in the United States.
The MAGA Republicans often trumpet their Evangelical religious tradition as the yardstick by which everyone — Christian and non-Christian — should be judged. And so, to borrow one of their own expressions, “What would Jesus do?”
Philosophers, politicians, social scientists and religious prelates have all struggled to identify the “cause and the effect” of human thought and behaviour. They have not yet, managed to understand that phenomenon to the fullest, and thus, they have not been able to eradicate warfare, an outcome of that phenomenon, and they have been barely able to contend with the recurring malignancy of violence as one tending to the persistent growth of weeds in a garden of flowers. Every action, in that respect, is born out of an ideological paradigm.
There are many schools of thought in respect to how to effectively address social ills, and although they may differ markedly in their approach, many of them still fall on the side of basic humanity, of common decency, and of a universal understanding of equity and justice. One such view was expressed by the late Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, in a speech that he delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in 1963. A few words taken from that speech should provide some perspective on the “causes and the effects” of some forms of conflict which occur in the world. Until Israel and Russia, who are both members of the U.N. Charter, take heed to his words, then what he asserts will keep coming to pass:
“Last May, in Addis Ababa, I convened a meeting of Heads of African States and Governments. In three days, the 32 nations represented at that conference demonstrated to the world that when the will and the determination exist, nations and peoples of diverse backgrounds can and will work together in unity, to the achievement of common goals and the assurance of that equality and brotherhood which we desire.
On the question of racial discrimination, the Addis Ababa Conference taught, to those who will learn, this further lesson:
that until the philosophy which holds one race superior, and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned;
that until there are no longer first class and second-class citizens of any nation;
that until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes;
that until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race;
that until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained….”