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Eureka: Reflections on the conflict in Israel
by Jay Gutman
2017-10-09 08:00:19
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One anecdote stroke me as being particularly meaningful. I was sitting near the water cooler when a Muslim colleague of mine came by to get some water. He asked me if the water was clean, I told him I just had a glass myself. Then he said “listen carefully, small bacteria never kills bigger bacteria.” I tried to joke that of course herpes would not cure AIDS but then he got serious and asked me to remember what he said.

is01_400_01Now of the thousands of Muslims I have spoken to, from Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan all the way to Morocco and Mauritania I must say I have found lots of kind, warm hearted people. They say hi, invite you to lunch, acknowledge you and you can have great conversations with them.

When it comes to Israel, I have had some Muslims tell me they scratched beneath the surface and found out that, for example, thousands of Palestinians were working in Israel and that relations between Israelis and Palestinians are often more ideologically loaded than they should in modern discourse.

But back to the bacteria thing. Small bacteria can never kill bigger bacteria. Bacteria? Are Judaism and Islam bacteria? That's never how I saw things. I always saw potential, invention, creativity, liveliness, happiness among both people and in both religions. I always saw simple people trying to get on with their lives.

But the bacteria story is one I hear a lot in the Islamic world and elsewhere. One where one people try to control another, try to defeat another, try to strip another of its religion. A lot of Muslims have told me that the Jews are trying to convert them and the rest of the world. Well with 18 million Jews out of a world population of 7 billion, we've got a long way to go I guess. And the number of Jews is actually decreasing, because over half the world's Jewish population (I'm guesstimating) marries outside the tribe.

OK now here's a story. To be honest I don't really read the news. I get a lot of my news from books, and read the occasional paper. I remember being stuck at home for a week, and all I could do was read and watch the news. All I could hear was something like Islam, terrorism, attack, terrorist, arrested, attack, attack Islam, terrorist, arrested, Islam, danger, Islam, terrorism. Well if you read the news everyday you're going to get the impression that it's Muslims versus the rest of the world.

Now I went to the library try to find books about Judaism and Israel. The titles were something along the lines of lobbies and power and finance and what have you. So indeed if that's where you get your information from you're probably going to feel like it's bacteria fighting each other.

I guess it all has to do with inductive versus deductive reasoning. If you read mainstream news you're probably going to fall into the inductive conclusion that Israelis and Jews are out there to get you. Same goes for Jews. If your view of the Muslim is that of one who's out to get you you're probably using inductive reasoning. If you meet Muslims and Jews and decide to chat with them, only to realize they're just trying to move forward with their lives, you'll probably be using deductive reasoning.

But, I must say, a large portion of the world uses inductive reasoning, and uses that very inductive reasoning when they carry out attacks. That's what strategists need to keep in mind.

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