An Integral Take on the Israel-Palestine War

The war is in its early days, and most of us are still dealing with our emotional reactions and trying to make the best sense of the horrors being reported from the region. I hope before long, integral intellectuals will provide us with commentary based on integral principles. Here is my take after careful reflection over the last few days.

Integral thinking is based on the importance of considering all relevant perspectives on an issue. The governments of the liberal democracies, including the United States, and most mainstream media in those countries are apparently incapable of doing that. That’s somewhat understandable in light of the shock people experienced when Hamas fighters invaded Israel. But now cooler heads must prevail, because the catastrophe being visited upon Gaza by a vengeful Israeli government threatens to undermine structures of order, moral standards of behavior, and international relationships, not only in the Middle East but worldwide.

So what are the perspectives that we must take seriously? The basic framework for our assessment has to be international law. The alternatives–tribal revenge codes and nationalistic ideologies–are antithetical to the world’s need for peace. In simplest terms the two main perspectives at play in the war are the Israeli and the Palestinian viewpoints. Hamas claims that its invasion of Israel was an act of self-defense against an occupying power that has attacked Gaza numerous times over the last several decades. That’s a valid claim. International law allows for military action by a people against unjust attack by another power. However, the deliberate killing of civilians and hostage-taking by Hamas fighters are serious war crimes which should be investigated and punished by the International Criminal Court when the war ends. It is this kind of nuanced thinking that led Yannis Varoufakis to refuse to condemn Hamas for its invasion while at the same time unequivocally condemning it for the atrocities committed during the invasion.

Israel has a legitimate perspective as well. As we are constantly told by the US and its allies, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Gaza and from invasion by Hamas. (The President of the US fails to mention Palestinians’ right of self-defense.) Again, that accords with international law. However, it is not legal for countries to defend themselves by any means whatsoever. Just war law requires any military response to an attack to be proportional and carried out with every possible attempt to protect civilians. Israel’s military response to the invasion is very far from meeting those legal standards. Its indiscriminate, non-stop bombing of Gaza killing and injuring many thousands, its cutting off of power and sources of fuel, food, medical supplies, and many other necessities, and its sealing off of the territory from the outside world in every possible way are far greater crimes than the atrocities committed by Hamas. Those too should be investigated and punished at the end of hostilities.

I consider the foregoing to be a proper integral consideration of the principal perspectives taken by the combatants in the current Israel-Palestine conflict. Those perspectives do not have equal moral weight. Integral Theory requires us to affirm the partial truths found in each perspective and to reject the invalid elements in each view. The foregoing analysis is admittedly only an outline. Nevertheless, I believe it justifies my conclusion that Israel bears the major burden of legal (and moral) responsibility for the death and destruction that is now occurring in Palestine. We integralists must add our voices to those advocating an immediate cease-fire, humanitarian relief in Gaza, and a serious renewal of international efforts to end the occupation and resolve the historical Israeli-Palestine issue once and for all.


Today I was in a discussion in a different forum, and current events in the Middle East came up. Some of the people in that discussion are aware of Integral, but it was not a specifically Integral discussion. Nevertheless, the video below came to mind and I mentioned it. The general analysis seems pretty consistent with today’s situation, even though the video is from several years ago.

From the Integral archives (June 2021), a good conversation on the Israel-Palestine conflicts:

Also, while I have not been deeply attuned to the work of Gabor Mate, this is a video I came across that I think is worth a listen:

While we have tended to think of Israel as a modern democracy, those notions have been shaken somewhat due to events over the past months with thousands of people protesting daily across Israel over the current leadership’s plans to weaken the judiciary. Israel has also been known for its technological advancement and sophisticated defense with its Iron Dome, and yet failed to register the attack by Hamas, and also apparently paid no heed to numerous warnings from Egypt of an attack on the horizon. Perhaps these two situations, along with the corruption charges against the current leader, will provide more fodder to encourage the world (and media) to be a little more even-minded when it comes to viewing both Israel and the situation with Palestine and the current war.

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Gabor Mate’s remarks were timely, balanced, and wise. Understandably, he couldn’t review the history of Israel/Palestine adequately in a short interview. The article linked here does a good job of doing just that, and it is up-to-date, posted just two days ago.

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Yes, a succinct article on some of the more recent history.

I thought I would link to this article to give a sense of how Hamas is viewed by some. It’s pretty stark, the atrocities, and the author thinks most people have been pretty naive about just how sadistic and terroristic Hamas is, and how much long-term planning has gone into the current attack on Israel. Towards the end, the author does note that there is a need to “disentangle Hamas’s anti-Jewish sadism from the legitimate cause of Palestinian nationalism,” something I think many people are beginning to understand. And judging from the media I’m reading, many people are aware of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the deprivation of the bare necessities for survival that Israel has instigated towards Gazans, and aware of the disproportionality of things if proportionality is measured in terms of lives taken–about twice as many Palestinians have now died as Israelis, if the reporting is accurate.

It’s a horrific mess, a wicked problem, with a lot of pre-history and religion and desires for land acquisition all figuring in, and regional tensions now adding to the mix. While most people can empathize with the open wound of the Jewish people–it’s only been 75 years or so since the Holocaust–it’s hard to come to terms with Israel’s refusal of the two-state solution. Both sides, Hamas and Israel leadership, seem to have genocidal or near-genocidal intentions, wanting to fully eliminate the ‘other.’ Not good.

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