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Joel Klebanoff: Stuff & Nonsense

To worry is to be. To be is to worry.

Incomprehensible Contrasts: Gaza/17

Scientists have searched for years and billions of dollars have been expended, but there is still no cure for AIDS. There are drugs that can turn it into a chronic disease rather than a near-term death sentence. However, that is not a cure. As I understand it, it’s a life sentence of a brutal, rigorous drug regimen. But the search continues and hope persists.

On July 17, 2014, a few AIDS researchers, including a leading researcher, and AIDS activists were flying to an AIDS conference in Australia. As they were over south-eastern Ukraine, someone, or maybe a group of people, about 33,000 feet below them made a decision that ended their lives.

At time of writing, the details were not definitively known, but it appears that pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists fired an anti-aircraft missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines flight 17, killing everyone onboard. There is some speculation that the rebels mistook the plane for a military craft, but even if that’s true they still, with intent, shot down a plane with the known effect that, if they were successful (and they were), they most likely would (and did) kill the people onboard.

The result: Some people who were looking for better ways to treat or, hopefully, a way to cure AIDS are dead at the hands of people whose purpose was to kill people. For all we know, one of the people on board might have been a key member of a team that would have finally found a cure for AIDS, but that path is now at a dead end, literally.

And who knows about the other people on the plane? (There were 298 people on board, all of whom died.) They might have led equally noble lives. One of them might have gone on to discover a cure for one or another form of cancer cancer or some other dread disease. Another might have brought forth a diplomatic resolution of a brutal conflict in the world or figured out how to end hunger in impoverished nations. We’ll never know. If they existed, those opportunities are now lost.

And even no one onboard would have gone on to do anything particularly virtuous, they did not deserve to have their lives taken from them. Period.

To my mind, the moral gulf between the life-savers—or even just life-livers—and the life-takers is incomprehensible.

Moving spatially away from the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 crash site, but coincident in time, the Gaza Strip is about 1,300 miles away in a straight line. Israel is beside Gaza.

Despite being a small country geographically and in population—Israel is a little more than 8,000 square miles (you could easily fit two States of Israel into the state of Maine) and has a population of fewer than 9 million people—Israel is one of the most innovative countries on the planet. Some of their medical innovations have undoubtedly saved lives. Other Israeli inventions have made our lives better in a variety of ways. It has a reputation as a “start-up nation.”

There is no magic to the land that Israel sits on. Israel is one of the few places in the Middle East that doesn’t sit on a large pool of oil. Nevertheless, it’s innovativeness has made it a relatively rich country.

Gaza, on the other hand, is dirt poor. According to the Washington Post, the per capita annual income in Gaza in 2011 was about $1,165. How do Gazans spend the little money they do have? For one thing, according to the same Washington Post article, Hamas spends about $1-million per tunnel for an untold number of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt and Gaza and Israel. The tunnels to Egypt are used to smuggle in weapons. The tunnels to Israel are used to attempt to kill or kidnap Israelis.

Those tunnels are not rough-hewn, dirt holes in the ground. They are mostly cement-lined and well equipped. The cement and equipment could have gone to building and equipping the schools and hospitals that Gazans desperately need. Instead, it went to building tunnels designed to spread mayhem and death.

Not satisfied with trying to kill through tunnels, Hamas and its affiliates in Gaza also fire rockets toward civilian populations in Israel—many hundreds of them, more than 1,500 in just one short period—with no attempt to limit their attacks to military targets.

They store those missiles in, among other places, schools, mosques and residences. On a couple of occasions, some of Hamas’ rockets were found hidden in a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school in Gaza. Hamas fires those rockets from residential areas and then screams faux outrage if civilians die when Israel tries to defend its own civilians by destroying the rockets and the structures they are launched from.

What do the Israelis do before their attacks? They drop leaflets and place robocalls to warn civilians in the areas about to be attacked to get out. In contrast, what does Hamas do? It tells its civilian population to ignore the warnings, stay where they are and become martyrs, presumably so Hamas can scream yet more faux outrage to worldwide audiences through the media.

There is absolutely no moral equivalence between Israel’s actions and Hamas’ actions. As with the dichotomy of life-savers and life-takers that was brought together in the downing of Malaysia Airline flight 17, I find the dichotomy of intents between the Israelis and Hamas to be incomprehensible.

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Categorised as: stuff and nonsense


  1. Nickey says:

    The paradox is sad and frustrating? Imagine we could use just a tenth of that money to help the sick? In SA we have millions with AIDS and even more with TB and Hep. Quality medical care is directly linked with profits so no meds…..Sad!! Very informative and well written Thanks

    • Thanks.

      Yes, it blows my mind (not in a good way) that there can be such contrasts in the world. Some people dedicate their adult lives to improving and even saving lives and, in general, making the world a better place while other people work to blow it up and knowingly put their children in the line of fire while they do. I can’t comprehend how the DNA of both types of people can be so similar.

  2. People make choices. Some choose to dedicate themselves to medicine; some to political causes. Both think they’re doing “good.”

    • I have no problem with people pursuing political causes, quite the contrary. It’s political causes that determine if our government will throw us in jail or not for criticizing it. It’s political causes that determine which roads and transit will and will not get built. It’s political causes that determine if we will have universal health insurance or not. It’s political causes that determine whether any damned fool should be perfectly free without the risk of arrest to buy any type of gun no matter how deadly and carry it loaded in crowded places or not. Etc. Etc. Etc.

      I don’t have a problem with people who take up political causes even when I disagree with their cause (but don’t blame me if I take up a countering cause). What I do have a problem with—a big problem—is when people commit indiscriminate killing or, in most cases, even discriminate killing to further their causes.

      • My point is simply that there’s nothing incomprehensible about it. Those people you have a problem with operate out of a different sense of morality than you do. Their idea of good and evil is not the same as yours. They probably find your outlook as indefensible as you find theirs.

        • I’m just having a problem classifying mass murder with the objective of moving a line on a map as a sense of morality. I suppose I’m rather narrow-minded that way.

          • It’s perfectly comprehensible to me that you have a problem with it. The problem is, however, that they don’t have a problem with it.

            • Agreed. Completely. It definitely is a problem that they don’t have a problem with it, particularly for the innocent people who die at their hands and, in some ways, even more so for the victims’ loved ones who have to deal with their grief.

  3. Joel,

    This is a most thought=provoking post. I was shaking my head and praying for the souls on board that plane. when I hear news of the fighting (the endless fighting) I ray and I feel for those being hurt. What is the sense in any of this? You made me think more about those people on board and the fact that they could have had a cure for diseases, or written wonderful songs or ended hunger. My heart goes out to all the innocent people. Perhaps something big will happen and end all wars on this planet once and for good.

    • Yes. And who knows? Maybe someone on that plane was the one among us who would have had that the one big idea that would have ended all wars. Admittedly, I highly doubt it. But now we’ll never know.

      But my point goes much further. What most strains my ability to understand and accept not just the potential for good that was lost when that plane was shot down (or when innocents are murdered in conflicts) but the contrast of that with the evil of people who think it’s OK to shoot down a plane (or indiscriminately fire rockets at civilian populations and then use their own civilian population as human shields against people trying to stop the firing of those rockets) in pursuit of the goal of forcing the redrawing of a line on a map.

  4. Oliver Kane says:

    in an ordinary scuttle through the WWW, I came across the Joel Klebanoff blog. Wow! It is bracing to be reminded that in a shallow hateful time in current history, the occasional voice of reason and reasonableness pops up to remind us of simple truths and realities which the monied media moguls (the alliteration was to good to skip) have simply perverted into the language of the Middle Ages and the novel, 1984. It might all be considered a very bad joke if countless victims were not casualties. I’ve read that thousands of Einsteins, Mozarts and Rembrandts are lost to us because of the ethnic cleansing we know as the Holocaust. The numbers will be smaller for Israel, but no less of a loss to humanity. The numbers are even smaller for the loss of the Malaysian airliner, but the loss of even one life, taken in the name of a perverse ‘love’ of humanity or some divinity, the cause is no more admirable than the thugs of every sort throughout human history. Unless we refuse to engage the madmen without flinching or appeasing in some hopeless manner, evil will triumph and the ordinary, decent, folks will know only torment and torture. I don’t really know how to handle the barbarians, but someone must know enough to draw the line and declare, Enough!

  5. I can’t put any group of people who toss bombs at each other as the “life-savers.” That includes Hamas, the Israelis, those who shot down the plane you mentioned and America as well. (The list is much longer than that, of course, but I don’t have all night)

    Everyone has a rationale while it’s OK for them but not someone else. The truth is, you can’t wear the white hat while standing on a pile of corpses. Until people stop thinking broad-based murder is the answer to their differences, the ugliness will continue to cycle from side to side with nothing accomplished and misery in its wake.

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