“Truth is an empty cup.”
Frank Herbert

Chapter House Dune

A Veil

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The facts as I know them are that:

  1. There is one Khader Adnan who has been detained in Israel.
  2. He is detained under what is termed in Israel “administrative detention” – a military procedure that bypasses civil detention law.
  3. He has been on a hunger strike for 65+ days and is at mortal risk.
  4. The media and popular opinion, as it comes to me via Twitter, is protesting his detention.
  5. By the time I finished writing this post it seems Adnan is to be released (sometime in the future).

I didn’t read many of the pieces about the story because I am simply not that interested. However I did read this response that someone wrote to the UN who apparently put forth an unpopular statement on the subject. Again I found nothing interesting in the article itself however the image at the top of the post caught my attention:

What caught my attention was the veiled woman – Khader Adnan’s wife as she leaves with her family the hospital where Adnan is being held. That veil and the popularity of the subject alerted me that something was wrong in this “debate”.

No One Has Facts

No one knows what is the actual story behind Khader Adnan and yet everyone has an opinion and is convinced the argument being had is an intellectual one.

It is no coincidence that no one has facts, it is a systemic choice made by the Israeli army. An army that, like most armies, is charged with protecting its society. However, unlike most modern day armies this army is constantly pushed to the edge. It operates in tough conditions facing real life threats more complex then any other army on the planet (that I can think of). For the record and because it’s easy to confuse the two let me be clear: protecting life (biological life – the kind that is terminated by explosives and bullets) within your borders is not the same as protecting oil-interests in other distant countries.

Why did the Israeli military choose to hide facts? I don’t know but my guess would be that the facts are just too complicated for a simplistic, superficial social debate. This is what seems to be happening in the media – however this is not what I referring to. I am referring to Israeli society itself – where you can also find social opposition to the military “administrative detention” and other military activities.

There can and there should be an intellectual debate about “administrative detention” but the chance of such a debate taking place in a society where a president is sentenced and sent to prison on account of rape charges are not very good. We currently live in a world where socieites are not led by intellect or by intellectuals (and pretending otherwise is … foolish).

In Israel, for example, society and government are dominated by a mindest of fear induced by a history of war and reinforced by sustained threats and a further induced perception of threat. In the USA, for example, society and government are led by financial thought – hence the amazingly powerful system of a government corrupted by lobbying. In both cases the dominant forces are (a) a brutal and honest reflection of the dominant values in their respective societies and (b) strong inhibitors of more advanced intellectual debate, thought and leadership.

It is within this sticky social situation (a matter of internal affairs!) that the Israeli army needs to perform. It would not be able to function properly until it, to some extent, isolated itself from public ramblings. It would ultimately fail to do its job of protecting Israeli society if it let that quasi-intellactual debate penetrate. Ironically, should it fail to do its job,  Israeli society would no doubt turn against it, blame it and strike at it using the same superficial quasi-intellectuality.

Ironically, I believe that the army’s behavior of isolating itself is, actually, an expression of intellect at work. I would even go further and suggest that its treatment of Adnan, within the difficult circumstances that it operates, is actually moral – however I’ll get to that in a bit.

Note1: A Social Struggle

Israel is undergoing intense internal struggle around these issues. Recent years have seen a rise in subservient behavior both amongst young Israelis before and after recruitement and amongst career soldiers – all questioning (against military law) missions and assignments they believe to be immoral and unjust.

I also believe that within the overall security system in Israel there actually are intellectuals. People who for the most part outlive the country’s short and extreme political cycles. People who for the most part are making a huge effort to get their job done efficiently and morally. I believe that the burdern on their shoulders is huge because they do not have civil service partners to support AND LIMIT them. They are FORCED into a position of self-regulated action.

Ironically my greatest criticism of the Israeli army is that it aims for too high a moral ground. I believe that too often it places the lives of Israeli soldiers at risk when it can easily use brute force with much less risk and probably much greater efficiency. I believe it does so out of either a misplaced morality or to protect itself from social (local and international) blowback (protection it should but does not receive from Israeli government and society).

My point is that the military and its role in society is being challenged by its own society . The case of Adnan has and should have nothing to do with that struggle. I also find it distasteful when non-Israelis criticize the Israeli army. If you want to take a serious shot at this complex matter then aim your arrows at Israeli society – the people who send our an army to do a difficult task. However you fill find that doing so intellectually and fairly is far more difficult and much less satisfying then going after the soldiers holding the guns.

Note2: A Personal Struggle

Disclaimer: Israel happens to be an intense country and inevitable social challenges and frictions within it are accordingly intense. I invite anyone who is critical of it to look beyond their emotions and learn from it – look deeper and see the subtle workings. Then look back at your country, your home, and see similar patterns at work. I believe that ultimately the very concept of country will have to be re-examined.

When I was living in Israel I went through a personal struggle over the right to spend my life with Andreea. It is a complicated issue and story (details here) but suffice to say there is a painful black hole  in Israeli legislation when it comes to family status. Our struggle lasted  7+ years, we won and two years after the matter was concluded we left Israel.

To this day the legislation around this matter has not been addressed. It was however politically abused (and probably will be again) when a right-wing party used it on their election agenda (there is a deep and widening chasm in Israeli society between orthodox and secular citizens, so … by “opposing” the primitve religious hold over family law this political party managed to string along some secular votes) and then deserted it after the elections. Though this issue causes much needless suffering and generates heart-wrenching stories I believe that it will be a long time before it will can be properly addressed. It takes a forward thinking – an intellectual process that Israeli society (on many levels) cannot at this point accommodate.

Though we (and others) won our specific struggle against the country we also came to realize that our values are simply not aligned with the defacto values of Israeli society. By going up against the country we saw its true face and realized that if we wanted to live in peace (= be truthful to our values) then we would have to do so somewhere else.

My point: Despite personal grievances against the state of Israel I do not expect it to be just. Israel, despite some appearances, is a country at war and more importantly is a country that perceives itself as at war. When a society is preoccupied with its survival there simply is no room to have a proper discussion about the more subtle aspects of how a society should function.

Dignity?

Noam Chomsky has been quoted, quoting Adnan as saying “my dignity is more precious than food”. Though I agree with the statement as a moral truth, I have some reservatoins about Adnan’s right to use it.

Warning: unrelenting irony ahead.

My position has absolutely nothing to do with Israeli society, Israeli army, Adnan’s detention or his hunger strike. It has to do with a chill that runs down my spine when I see his wife dressed with a veil (and checkout the gloves too – I have a feeling they aren’t there because its cold but rather because she isn’t allowed to show any skin in public) through which she can just barely see the world. I can’t help but ponder what kind of “dignity” Adnan is referring to.

I would suggest considering that, though it may be hard to swallow, the Israeli army is actually following the morality Adnan is (undeservingly?) preaching. Assuming Adnan is a security-related asset (true or contrived) then the Israeli army could easily bypass (even if it is illegal, as we’ve already established the miitary operates outside civil law) his hunger strike with something like intravenous nourishment. However it isn’t doing so. It seems that the Israeli army is actually upholding his dignity (by letting him put it on the line) and not just over food but over national security.

What more, it may come to be that by risking or even sacrificing his life Adnan may actually become an expression of the moral truth he is putting out. However I believe that , sadly, that statement may get trampled and overlooked by the same kind of quasi-intellectual debate that is currently being had.

In the Words of Robert Pirsig

… the Metaphysics of Quality says that what is meant by ‘human rights’ is usually the moral code of intellect-vs.-society, the moral right of intellect to be free of social control … But what the Metaphysics of Quality also makes clear is that this intellect-vs.-society code … is not the same as the society-vs.-biology codes of morals that go back to a prehistoric time. They are completely separate levels of morals. They should never be confused …

… Unless you separate these two levels of moral codes you get a paralyzing confusion … [that] dominates all thoughts about morality & society today … There are no chains more vicious than the chains of biological necessity into which every child is born. Society exists primarily to free people from these biological chains … has done that job so stunningly well intellectuals forget … and turn on it … with shameful ingratitude ….

… the 20th century intellectual faith in man’s basic goodness as spontaneous and natural is disastrously naive … a devastating fiction … cannibalism, not cooperation, was a pre-society norm … American Indians … ambushed & tortured [other tribes] … maybe it is man’s basic goodness which invented social institutions to repress this kind of biological savagery in the first place …

… We must understand that when a society undermines intellectual freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally bad, but when it represses biological freedom for its own purposes it is absolutely morally good.

… The idea that biological crimes can be ended by intellect alone, that you can talk crime to death, doesn’t work … The instrument of conversation between society & biology has always been a policeman or a soldier and his gun …

… It is immoral to speak against a people because of the color of their skin, or any other genetic characteristic … But it is not immoral to speak against a person because of his cultural characteristics … these are changeable and they do matter … The fight to sustain social codes isn’t a war of blacks vs. whites … or poor people vs. rich … or … stupid people against intelligent … It’s a war of biology vs. society … and intellect, to end the paralysis of society, has to know whose side it is on, and support that side … Where biological values are undermining social values, intellectuals must identify social behavior … and support it all the way without restraint. Intellectuals must … limit and destroy destructive biological patterns with complete moral ruthlessness the way a doctor destroys germs … Read more

 

Offtopic?

I have nothing to say about “administrative detentions” nor about the one specifically relating to one Khader Adnan. I know that I know nothing about it.

However my intellect objects to social norms which places women behind veils … and that leads me to believe that treating Khader Adnan’s story as a human-rights issue is … wrong.

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