The Third Option

By Paul M

So many choices. The world is full of thorny issues and you are free to care, or not care, about any of them. No matter how personal to you, or how distant, take your pick. But for the ones you do choose to care about, the right to an opinion comes packaged with responsibilities. First and most obvious is a duty to know at least a moderate amount, something beyond headlines and slogans, to justify your opinions. Sometimes you owe more than that.

In the past ten weeks the world has suddenly filled with people who care passionately about the situation in Gaza. Those people have a responsibility, to themselves and to us, to answer a question:

Who do you choose to let suffer, Palestinian Arabs or Israelis, mostly Jewish?

There is no third option.

The choice is stark, but it’s not symmetrical. Choose the first and the war continues. Palestinian civilians will go on being displaced, hurt and killed but when it’s over Hamas will be gone and they will remain. Gaza will rebuild and Palestinians will have a chance to decide whether to finally come to terms with Israel’s existence and make a life worth having, or to repeat the mistakes of the past hundred years.

Choose the other and Israel is pressured into a ceasefire. Hamas will thump its chest amid the ruins and declare victory. It will make impossible demands for the ransom of the hostages, inflicting unending pain on them and all Israelis. It will steal aid to rebuild its underground fortress and refasten its grip on its subjects. It will make good on its promise to keep repeating the depraved butchery of October 7th until Israel is either destroyed and its Jews slaughtered or returned to exile, or it throws off the shackles and decides to survive. Either way, it will guarantee more suffering for Palestinians too. And if Hamas really is victorious in the end, it and every other Islamist group will rise more powerful than ever and turn their attention on Europe and America.

I am permitted to take my own side in a fight, but it’s not just for that but all the reasons above that I choose for the pain now to fall on the Gazans. Most Jews feel similarly.

The Arab and Moslem street and even many Palestinians make the opposite choice, because the prospect of finally destroying Israel makes all the rest pale into insignificance. More Palestinian misery is a small price to pay and they don’t even pretend to care about Jewish lives or Jewish pain.

The decayed western left, which imagines it and the Islamists are allies, are also more than content with Israeli suffering. They can’t get beyond their contempt for western values to feel the fear they should have for the monsters they are nurturing.

But there’s one more constituency, perhaps the largest. It’s repeatedly said, and it should be true, that many people are clamoring for a ceasefire simply out of a humane impulse to protect civilians who are so obviously being hurt. That group, at least theoretically, ought to include the great vocal majority outside the Middle East. As the price of expressing an opinion they should be made to answer the question of whose suffering they are willing to tolerate. “No one’s” is not an option. That’s the unserious reply of someone who wants to feel virtuous, not someone grappling with a hard reality.

Making people confront the consequences of what they advocate is the crucial step in making reason govern emotion. “You are choosing who is to suffer. Who? Why? How much?” are the questions to ask of good people with lightweight opinions.