Discover more from Conviction by Jason Hicks
The denial of personal evil in trying to shift the blame for terror from Hamas to Israel
To absolve people of personal moral responsibility is to dehumanize them.
And that is what we’re seeing with explanations of the Hamas massacre of 10/7 that blame Israel as the “root” cause. Even if (forgive me assuming this for the sake of argument) Israel as a state were fundamentally unjust, that does nothing to explain the evil that was committed that day. Nothing.
Unless you think Palestinians are not capable of morality.
The liberal denial of original sin
The Catholic understanding of “original sin” is not that of a “stain” on us, but that humanity does not exist in a condition of choosing the good without a struggle against the possibility of choosing evil.
Quite simply, we are all capable of evil, and if I look into my heart, I know that of myself and shudder.
Yet the tendency for liberals is to deny personal responsibility.
Crime, poverty, etc. are by default the fault of the structure of society, not the individual. With things like poverty that can be true: people can be born into conditions that are all but impossible to escape. But to extend that to the act of committing evil against other human beings, to absolve them of moral responsibility because of the “context,” is to treat them as an animal, incapable of human dignity.
In theological terms, it is to say they cannot be an “image” of God.
It makes no sense to absolve terrorists of their moral responsibility while holding Israel morally responsible for everything it does
This leads to positions that are not fully rational and so do not make any sense when spelled out.
During the Second Intifada, in the face of suicide bombings targeting civilians, I thought only a greater evil—the “context” of the society—could drive someone to do something so unfathomably evil.
Yet I held Israel morally responsible for collateral damage to civilians taken in its self-defense.
Writing it out like that sounds wretchedly stupid—because it is. But it was an ideological confusion that led to that intellectual failure. While aiming to side with the weak against the stronger, I held Israel to one, higher, standard and Palestinians to another, lower, moral standard. It was, in that sense, bigoted against Palestinians.
We’re seeing this play out when Jewish Voices for Peace says “the root of violence is oppression" in response to 10/7.
In the name of being pro-Palestinian, they’re saying that Israel alone is capable of morality and thereby denying humanity to Palestinians. Whatever Israel has or has not done in the past, the people who carried out the atrocities of 10/7 are morally responsible for those actions. Unjust actions cannot force you to kidnap and murder children. Nothing can remove morality from you.
For this kind of liberal thinking, the more evil the act, the more evil the larger “context” must be. So while an act like 10/7 will cause some to sit up and rethink, it will cause others to burrow their heads deeper into the sand of blaming Israel alone. They will think they are good for protesting Israel while ignoring the radical evil of 10/7.
We must be clear that a naive liberalism that denies personal responsibility for evil actions is dangerous.