A Rebuttal to Sam Harris

I have just read the latest blog post of Sam Harris, Islam and the Future of Liberalism. While I love Sam’s work, and just finished reading his latest book, Free Will. I find myself for the first time disagreeing with him, particularly the over-simplified version of the Palestinian – Israeli conflict.

I’d love a response from Sam, but I doubt I’d get it.

My Message:

Hi Sam,

 I just read your post “Islam and the Future of Liberalism” and would like to discuss a few points that you made.

 Philosophically, you and I are on the same page, and I find myself agreeing with you on a lot of what you say when it comes to religion.

I just wanted to specifically speak on the notion that you bring up of Israel being too jumpy, and how the fault correspondingly lies with the religious nature of the Palestinians. 

Being myself an arab, and having a huge arabic extended family who didn’t have the luck of being able to leave the middle east at such a young age and receiving a western education, a lot of what you say is true, and I say that from experience.

However, what I would like to add is the effect of Israeli, and by extension US politics, and force in dealing with the Palestinian state have an equal if not greater role in the over-simplified version you wrote. While blame goes both ways in the region, it cannot be denied that the policies of Israel to the Palestinian people since its inception, have been one of power and force, as has many an empire that came before it.

This, as I’m sure you would agree are ripe grounds for the radicalization of the Palestinian youth, coupled with the extremely poor education, and the squalid conditions they live in, critical thinking is not particularly in abundance. This allows those extremist few to peddle their snake oil on the disaffected youth, and from this, nurture it into the culture.

100 years ago, jews and muslims lived in relative harmony in the region, and the jewish people of the time forced upon the Palestinians their state instead of just living in harmony. As im sure you would completely agree, taking over a country simply because your holy book tells you so is not an acceptable reason to do so, not when you have the opportunity to do so simply by way of immigration. Of course, as more jews immigrated, these created tensions; as it has done so in almost every country affected by large immigration, a current example being Sweden with its increasingly muslim immigration.

So, my basic point is that you over-simplify the nature of the conflict in the region, and you seem to put more onus on the Palestinian side, instead of what I believe to be at more fault, the Israeli side. Also, the jumpiness of Israel to pick up their guns only increases the resentment, and various other socioeconomic conditions that breed the radicals that are prevalent on the Palestinian side, thereby further aggravating the prospects of peace, not to mention the high human cost of lives in Palestine compared to Israel in the ongoing conflict. 

I’m not saying that Palestinians are fairies, but they are a reactive people, who have been subjected to forces beyond their control, which allow the fertile soil needed for radicalism and violence; and as you say in your book ‘Free Will’, free will is an illusion, and the way they react is already chosen for them. 

 I’m sure you can say the same for the Israeli side, they are equally compelled and subject to their own illusion, but they have the luxury of higher education, a higher standard of living, and more fruitful circumstances into which they can develop and exercise their conscious drivers, whereby they should be able to choose and debate between the various terrible thoughts in their head and look past them to realize that the actions they have taken to date, are counter-productive, with 64 years of evidence to back it up.

I’m sure you won’t fall into the same liberalism you speak of this in article and think I’m attacking your view. I have a great deal of respect for you, and I love your work. I just finished up ‘Free Will’, and while I done some research into the subject some years ago, it had faded from conscious thought to where I fell under the illusion again. It inspired me to add a chapter to my own book ‘Random Rationality’ that I’m writing on the issue.

Thanks for reading.



If you liked this post, you may enjoy the following:

My Problem with Israel

Hit me where it hurts...

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