The gaza debate wages on… Letter from Paul Franks-Professor of Philosophy (UTM)

Dear Editor:

It is easy to simplify a complex conflict: just ignore the interests of one conflicting party, or else ignore the reasons why that party feels threatened. Voila! No complexity remains. But in fact the conflict has been made even more intractable.

You concede too much to Gabriel Galang’s letter, which is full of factual errors whose promulgation can only prolong the conflict. To take just one crucial example — there are too many to dissect here — you accept his correction of your statement that Hamas refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist, on the grounds that Khaled Meshal “stated in April last year that he would accept a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders and would grant a 10-year truce.” But accepting a Palestinian state is hardly the same as recognising the State of Israel. According to the Al Jazeera report of Meshal’s comments in April 2008, he said explicitly, “It is true that in reality, there will be an entity or a state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land . . . But I won’t deal with it in terms of recognising or admitting it.

” Does Meshal’s statement differ from the quotation from Hassan al-Banna featured in the founding Covenant of Hamas: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it”? Another Hamas leader interviewed at the time said that the Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders would be “transitional”. Since the Hamas Covenant rejects “so-called peaceful solutions” in principle, and speaks of an apocalyptic war in which even stones and trees will help Moslems kill Jews, is it any wonder that Israelis have difficulty accepting a truce that would last only ten years, giving ample opportunities for armament in preparation for war? An unequivocal statement that Hamas is prepared to recognise Israel and make peace is yet to come.

You write, “I never said the issue carried a complex moral dilemma. In my opinion as well, it doesnt.” Again, this is an oversimplification that can only prolong the conflict. There is more than one side, and each has both right and wrong on its side, which is precisely what makes the situation morally complex. Recognising that Israelis, like Palestinians, have the right to selfdetermination and have reasons to believe that their self-determination is under serious and violent threat, would be a productive step.


Paul Franks

Professor of Philosophy (UTM)

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