Editor’s Wrapup: Proportions Sacred and Profane
Here’s a new definition for a word heard often during the summer war to criticize Israel’s reaction to the Hezbollah rocket attack and abduction of soldiers that began the conflict. Disproportionate: the last refuge of Israel bashers, used when they know that calling an Israeli action “unjustified” defies all logic.
A companion to “disproportionate” is “asymmetric.” Articles in this issue by Hanan Sher (page 18) and William Korey (page 14) deal with asymmetric aspects surrounding the recent conflict.
Asymmetric is generally less biased than disproportionate, but its use sometimes betrays a blind spot, as if the entire world exists on an even plane with the exception of the question at hand. If you read The Da Vinci Code, which introduced “the divine proportion” to the nonscientific world, you know that asymmetry is not only natural but, for some, sacred.
So I’ve started making an annotated list of many ways in which the Middle East is uneven—Israel aiming at military targets while Hezbollah and Hamas target civilians, that sort of thing. On my list is ethnic asymmetry: Israel has a sizeable Arab minority, while the neighboring countries are virtually Judenrein.
Israel’s Arab community exists because of people who chose not to leave their homes in 1948. People fled for many reasons, including exhortations from Arab leaders for Arab civilians to get out of the way so they could focus on attacking Jews. But for 60 years most Arab leaders have denied that any such warnings took place.
So it is with a sense of grim satisfaction that on August 9 we heard Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, do precisely what so many have denied for so long. “I have a special message for the Arabs of Haifa,” he said in a radio address. “I call on you to leave the city. Please leave so we don’t shed your blood.”
Read Yossi Klein Halevi’s article on page 10 and you’ll see that Haifa’s Arabs have a sense of proportion.