The war for and over Ukraine and the Hamas attack on Israel

The only thing that makes any sense is a moral compass
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

October 7 is an unfortunate but apt day to highlight a long read published by Persuasion, the nonprofit digital magazine and community that looks to address testy and tangled issues from a philosophically liberal perspective.

The long read is by Michael Walzer, a leading political theorist in the United States and the author of books such as Spheres of Justice and Just and Unjust Wars. He discusses some of the reasons America is supporting the Ukraine war.

Mr Walzer’s commentary comes on the very day that Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, catching it by surprise and leading to a rising toll, fears of a major escalation and a sense this may be an inflection point in the entrenched conflict.

His words are particularly significant today, when Hamas launched its suicidal attack on Israel. There have been many testy exchanges on social media on the rights and wrongs of what happened, but really, there can be no excuse for violence, not for Hamas to attack Israel, nor for Israel to wreak violence on innocent civilians in Gaza. Constant and bitter debate continues about the long and painful history of the struggle for Palestinian statehood, Israel’s behaviour and the attitude and culpability of the West but again, the only thing that makes any sense is a moral compass, which brings me to Mr Walzer.

Consider his opening remarks about why liberal democrats are supporting American military aid for Ukraine.

“The reasons most commonly given are legal and moral: to defeat aggression and defend Ukrainian sovereignty and its very new democracy. These two reasons are really one, since Russian aggression threatens both sovereignty and democracy—the creation of a satellite regime in Ukraine on the old Soviet model, or the transformation of Ukraine into a Russian province on the older Tzarist model. Certainly, liberal democrats want a world in which Ukrainians are free to shape their own political life. So we are committed to ‘the liberal world order’.”

Is this not the very yardstick to consider the Israeli-Palestinian issue as well? To allow Palestinians to be a sovereign people, free to shape their own political life, while Israel lives in peace and security with its Palestinian siblings.

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