Saturday, January 17, 2009

The argument of Numbers

"Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."



A. B. Yehoshua is one of Israel's finest authors and one whose novels I actually read more recently. As I wrote here before, I'm not a great fan of Israeli novels, but I do like Yehoshua's novels. They are rich, intricate and universal with a humour that is both subtle and ironic.

Yehoshua has recently published an open letter to Gideon Levy's recent articles in Ha'aretz. Yehoshua says:

There is something absurd in the comparison you draw about the number of those killed. When you ask how it can be that they killed three of our children and we cause the killing of a hundred and fifty, the inference one can draw is that if they were to kill a hundred of our children (for example, by the Qassam rockets that struck schools and kindergartens in Israel that happened to be empty), we would be justified in also killing a hundred of their children.

In other words, it is not the killing itself that troubles you but the number
....

...one could answer you cynically by saying that when there will be two hundred million Jews in the Middle East it will be permissible to think in moral terms about comparing the number of victims on each side. But that is, of course, a debased argument... you, Gideon, who live among the people, know very well that we are not bent on killing Palestinian children to avenge the killing of our children. All we are trying to do is get their leaders to stop this senseless and wicked aggression, and it is only because of the tragic and deliberate mingling between Hamas fighters and the civilian population that children, too, are unfortunately being killed.

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