Saturday, January 31, 2009

Science or Alchemy?

I spotted an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune entitled "How words could end a war" and its authors champion intangible symbolic concessions, like an apology or recognition of a right to exist.

This seems to me almost infantile thinking, so empty and insignificant. It's like all you have to do to succeed in getting a girl into bed is to tell her you love her. Now, I am quite aware that happens, and it happens a lot, but it doesn't mean that it's just or correct or will all turn out for the best in most cases.

Here's the basis for their study:

...the essentially religious nature of the conflict. But research we recently undertook suggests a way to go beyond that. For there is a moral logic to seemingly intractable religious and cultural disputes. These conflicts cannot be reduced to secular calculations of interest but must be dealt with on their own terms, a logic very different from the marketplace or realpolitik.

Across the world, people believe that devotion to sacred or core values that incorporate moral beliefs - like the welfare of family and country, or commitment to religion and honor - are, or ought to be, absolute and inviolable. Our studies, carried out with the support of the National Science Foundation and the Defense Department, suggest that people will reject material compensation for dropping their commitment to sacred values and will defend those values regardless of the costs.

But they don't understand all the words:

For example, Mousa Abu Marzook (the deputy chairman of Hamas) said no when we proposed a trade-off for peace without granting a right of return. He became angry when we added in the idea of substantial American aid for rebuilding: "No, we do not sell ourselves for any amount."

But when we mentioned a potential Israeli apology for 1948, he brightened: "Yes, an apology is important, as a beginning. It's not enough, because our houses and land were taken away from us, and something has to be done about that." This suggested that progress on values might open the way for negotiations on material issues.

The authors, Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges, (see here for more bio info), while pointing out the fault line of Western approaches to the Arab-Israel conflict fall into the trap of not understanding thye understanding of the both sides to the hostility/animosity displayed.

Another example is Binyamin Netanyahu in their article:

We got a similar reaction from Benjamin Netanyahu, the hard-line former Israeli prime minister. We asked him whether he would seriously consider accepting a two-state solution following the 1967 borders if all major Palestinian factions, including Hamas, were to recognize the right of the Jewish people to an independent state. He answered, "O.K., but the Palestinians would have to show that they sincerely mean it, change their textbooks and anti-Semitic characterizations."
Bibi really doesn't believe, as most Israelis would agree, that this (sincerely mean it, change their textbooks and anti-Semitic characterizations) would ever come about and some of us think it's not enough. We do so belive because we've been through a lot of this before. Why would the Grand Mufti Haj Amin El-Husseini have aided Hitler to the extent of recruiting Bosnian Muslims into the Wehrmacht? Is antisemitism perhaps intrinsic to the Arab outlook on Jews or is it an instrument? But if an instrument, if what the Mufti did in World War II should be considered today, after all we know of the horro of Hitler, why should there still be antisemitic propaganda?

But the most ridiculous claim these two academics make is this:

Making these sorts of wholly intangible "symbolic" concessions, like an apology or recognition of a right to exist, simply doesn't compute on any utilitarian calculus. And yet the science says they may be the best way to start cutting the knot.
"Science"? What science?

Here's another take.

4 comments:

galia said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OikJP_sc3A&feature=channel

YMedad said...

See, Galia, it's not that difficult to be a little bit on my side, although a nuclear Iran would be dangerous for all the rest of the world as well. And imagine how many Pals. would go poof if Iran drops a bomb on us. In 1990, many of Iraq's rockets fell in Pal. property

galia said...

I just thought that was really funny video. and ok i got another one for you
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB__0qRHBRc

Trust me i wouldn't want anybody to drop anything either.

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