Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Opting for humanity in an ocean of savagery

...MICHAEL HARARI: We don't know. All we heard was, through other people that came back, that another family that had also gone back had been targeted because they'd been across to us, treated in Israel. They come from across the border that was never porous and suddenly there's a little crack in the border. And people who have been taught to be your sworn enemies come across and they realise that we don't have horns. Within a few weeks we're sitting, having coffee together. And this is a drop in the ocean compared to the carnage on the other side, but something about the paradigm of the Middle East has changed for me just by playing a very small part of it in a small hospital.

Israeli impact on Syrians: Syrian girl (R),
with Israeli girl 
and Israeli medical clown in
Safed's Rebecca Sieff Hospital

[Image Source: New York Times]
Frimet/Arnold Roth..
This Ongoing War..
12 May '14..

As wars tend to do, the ongoing carnage in Syria provides insights into the nature of the combatants, of their friends and allies, of the news reporting industry, of the multilateral institutions that struggle to do something positive in the face of such hideously negative events.

More than 100,000 human lives have been forcibly, violently ended since it began in early 2011, and many times that number have been severely impacted in the Syrian kill-frenzy. More than 9 million Syrians (out of a total of 23 million) have been displaced, many of them fleeing their country for refuge elsewhere.

It's strongly arguable (though denied by the fighting parties themselves) that this is a war with a strongly religious foundation to it. It overwhelmingly involves Moslems: Shia groups side by side with mainly-Alawite government forces, backed by (Shia) Iranian technical, logistical and military support and with the involvement of (Shia) Hezbollah forces - all fighting to save the al-Assad dynasty's stranglehold on power. Against them, a variety of mainly Sunni rebel groups trying to destroy it and end Bashar al-Assad's rule.

We have no particular argument with the many Moslems who argue that their faith is "the Religion of Peace". It's a desirable aspiration, and if it's true, even better. Nor would we want to disagree with the way a prominent Moslem political figure put it in a 2002 speech:

Islam... is a religion of peace. However through the centuries, deviations from the true teachings of Islam take place. And so Muslims kill despite the injunction of their religion against killing especially of innocent people.

So if it's helpful, let's think of the savagery unfolding daily in the killing fields of Syria as the work of deviants. But then where does that leave the rest of us? What decent and good things can be done?


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