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We have to learn to accept that everything is 'and/also' not 'either/or'.

Everything is more complex and more nuanced than 'there are two sides and one is morally superior to the other'. This requires more effort and investment from us that simplistic moralising.

Watching Owen Jones and others use the death of children, the massacre of civilians, the terror and the horror of the last week to score political points has been honestly gut-wrenching. I’ve long thought that Owen likes the sound of his own voice, and his own opinions, a bit too much to be considered altruistic. This week he spent much of this time airing them on tv and online to nobodies benefit.

Owen represents the worst of the current political left. He is fixed in his view that his assessment is correct, that his judgement is wise and just. He justifies his position by interviewing people who share and reinforce his view but cannot engage in a meaningful way with people who do not. Because of this, Owen is part of the problem. No act is benign, and his intransigence and inability to realise and engage in nuanced discussion means we continue in this rut. And by we I do not mean me, or him – I mean the Palestinian mothers scared witless about whether their children will survive Israeli bombardment of Gaza this weekend. I mean the Israelis burying whole families of the dead and desecrated this week (not to mention the raped and terrified hostages). I mean the generational trauma of both Palestinians and Israelis and the generational impact of indoctrination and fear.

The greatest sadness in watching Owen and his ilk, is the sheer arrogant hubris, and utter absence of self-awareness. In banging his drum about who did what worse, who’s been violent longest, who can claim most dead most recently, he is perpetuating the very polarising paradigm that continues this conflict. That simplistic polarising engaged in by social-medianistas this week is not sufficient. It is too superficial. There is too much history, too much death, too much divergence in motivation and power. It is self-evident that this un-sophisticated attitude of ‘my pain is greater than your pain’ does not and can not work. If the assessed weight of piles of dead bodies, or a scale of outrage prompted by the horror of the mode of execution, provided a solution to this issue we sure as shit would have stumbled upon one by now.

This lack of nuance, the lure of the simplistically moral, is currently the curse of the left, on this issue and others. The refusal to recognise, or empathise with, perspectives that do not align with yours is childish and impractical. Simply brushing off the opinions of others because they do not fit with yours, or because in your great wisdom you judge them to be morally unacceptable, does not stop these perspectives and opinions existing. People do not fall into categories of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Apart from the juvenile over-simplification of evidently complex matters, this falls into the trap of believing there are ‘two sides’. There are many, many more side, or opinions, or perspectives than two and it is painfully naïve to perpetuate the idea that anything is this simple. Worse, it means you sometimes find yourself in bed with people you agree with on one matter and not on others (this, for example, is just extraordinary).

We will not find a solution if we cannot say that Palestinian children matter as much as Israeli children, and that both matter as much as the children in our own homes. We must also be able to recognise that Hamas are an observably terrorist organisation that cares less about the safety and security of their citizenry than they do about violent warfare. We must be able to accept this this is genuinely geo-political, and it is about Israel and Palestinians, and also about the UK, the US, Iran, Egypt, filthy money and selfish power. To move forward, to move away from death and destruction and brinkmanship, we need to be able to engage, to look each other in the eye and see each others humanity, to work together to build the ‘golden bridge’ that all parties can retreat across. We have to be able to accept that this is going to be a painful process and that everyone is going to have to make compromises, take a deep breath and think long-term (whether everyone is able to do this is a different matter).

We need a political, diplomatic solution to this and many other issues. To get to that diplomatic solution we have to be able to engage in 'and/also' narratives, instead of 'either/or'. Owen and those entrenched in the hard left of 'no debate' and 'the wrong side of history' do us, and those they claim to represent, no favours whatsoever.


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