Fog of Complexity: A Critique of "Between Hope and History: An Integral View of Israel-Palestine, Part 1"

On November 18 Corey deVos and Mark Fischler published a video of their discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict along with a transcript. I was very disappointed with the quality of their analysis and decided to write a critique together with a request for Corey and Mark to revisit the issue.

Commentary by Charles Marxer

This is an edited version of the transcript together with my comments.

[00:00:00] Corey deVos: All right, here we go. Mark Fischler. Good to see you. My friend

[00:00:04] Mark Fischler: Hey brother. I wish it was under other circumstance, like my Halloween party this weekend that my wife is throwing.

[00:00:16] Corey deVos: Yeah, I was, I was just about to say, I wish I could say I was looking forward to this conversation we’re about to have, but this is one of those conversations that is very much not fun to have, fairly uncomfortable to have. And you know, that said, I’m very, very fortunate to have access to your perspective as we sort of explore this issue.

And that issue today, of course, is gonna be the escalating conflict in Israel and Palestine. And more than anything, Mark, I really wanted to have an opportunity to check in with you, because I know you’ve been tracking this situation very, very closely.

And, you know, we were just talking pre-show about one of the reasons why these conversations are so difficult is because we’re sort of out of our depth here. And I don’t think that’s speaking just to us. I think that that speaks to virtually, if not everybody who is looking in on the situation. It is a situation that is just so exceptionally complex, politically, morally, ethically, spiritually and so forth ,that, um, well, it’s the blind man and the elephant problem. We have so many different perspectives out there, so many different people who are touching different parts of the elephant, and very, very, very few people, if any at all, who are actually capable of seeing the elephant. And, you know, in this case, again, I’m really grateful to be able to have you to talk to and to maybe sort through some of this just heartbreaking complexity that we’re seeing in the region right now.

CM: Your introduction suggests a new catchphrase: the fog of complexity. Despite the disclaimer, you and Mark proceed to create an analysis of the Israel/Gaza crisis that includes lots of truth claims and value judgments that, sadly and embarrassingly, do little to tease clarity out of the fog. The conversation has an ill-prepared, off-the-cuff feel to it that gets some things right, for sure, but leaves out important facts, distorts others, and misses the significance of some of the most important ones. As for those “very…very few people, if any at all, who are actually capable of seeing the elephant,” our presenters seem to have never heard of any of them, authorities like Walid Khalidi, Mustafa Barghouti, Noam Chomsky, Jimmy Carter, Norman Finkelstein, Jeffrey Sachs, and many other scholars and journalists who do have a comprehensive grasp of this 75-year old unfolding catastrophe.

That said, you know, it’s difficult I think being in an integral chair looking onto this, because it’s one of those situations, Mark, where we see, again, so much complexity, and there’s a part of us intuitively that says, you know, really only an integral, like, fully mature teal to turquoise perspective is gonna be able to sort through all of this and find a more peaceful path forward that, generates less suffering in the world. And yet, as integralists, I don’t think we’ve seen anything like that kind of solution emerge. So we’re kind of in that uncomfortable position where it’s like we need an integral solution here, but I don’t think any of us knows what it actually is. But at the very least, you know, maybe there’s an integral heart that we can bring to this in the meantime.

CM: Sure, let’s bring our Integral heart into our deliberations, but no solution to the problem will emerge there. As I have explained on the Community forum there is no such thing as an Integral solution to a political problem and therefore no Integral solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Which may partly explain your frustration with this issue and your failure to discover an Integral solution.


[00:05:08] Mark Fischler: So it, you know, I was texting on Instagram with one of my cousins who was, you know, on October 7th and the bombs were going off and you couldn’t go to a shelter. you didn’t have one of those locked rooms, and they were just sitting on their stairs, and it wasn’t, you know, they weren’t trying to invoke sympathy, they were just giving me a pragmatic picture of their reality, living 15 minutes outside of Tel Aviv.

So I’m excited to talk about this with you, and explore this spectrum of consciousness, this epic tragedy of humanity, and the long history of tragedy for our brother, Palestinian citizens and our brother Israeli citizens. So let’s try to, you know, sensitively, with awareness… And also, you know, I think everyone listening should know we aren’t experts, I don’t have a degree in, you know, this conflict by any stretch of the imagination. you know, we’re, we’re integralists really first here, looking at this. So, uh, please forgive us if we get any of the exact facts wrong. But we’re attempting to kind of bring an integral picture to the situation, where I do believe some answers may emerge, in terms of where things may need to go. So let’s try to lay out the contours of the map here, of the situation, and see where we go, brother.

[00:06:53] Corey deVos: Yeah, no, that’s great. Thank you for that. And you know, maybe one of the places we’ll start, Mark, is I’ll ask you to, you know, sort of give a short synopsis of the events that we’ve seen over the last few weeks. And you know, before we do though, I just wanna mention, I’m so glad that you invoked the stages of development. my buddy Vince Horn, who some people who watch this show are familiar with, he’s the founder of Buddhist Geeks, and he’s been on a few programs in the past. you know, he said something on Twitter a couple days ago that I found really insightful, which is that, you know, this conflict really breaks the pluralist frame in a lot of ways. And what he means by that is, you know, look for the victim. And you can’t, you can’t draw those kinds of clean lines when it in the pluralist frame, the green altitude frame, one of the things that we tend to do is look for the oppressor comes to this conflict, because the oppressors are also oppressed, and the victims are also…

[00:07:55] Mark Fischler: Also oppressing.

[00:07:56] Corey deVos: …engaging in tremendous violence.

[00:08:00] Mark Fischler: yeah that’s well said.

CM: With respect, that is not well said. It is not possible for a victim of oppression to oppress its oppressor; that’s a contradiction. Engaging in sporadic acts of violence, even terrorism, is not the same as oppression, which in the context of international relationships, means prolonged cruel and unjust control by one country or regime, the oppressor, of another country or population, the victim. The line between oppressor and oppressed in the 75 year history of the Israel-Palestine conflict is as “clean” as any you can draw anywhere in the last century. How about South Africa? Pretty clean line there defining what everyone recognized as an apartheid state. The line between Israeli oppression and Palestinian victimhood is just as clear, as the South African government itself has argued before the ICJ.

[00:08:01] Corey deVos: …not only does it break the sort of the green pluralist frame, but I think it breaks all of sort of those frames that we get from basically amber, from orange, from green. And that’s one of the things that, you know, I think pushes us towards integral consciousness, is we do need to take into account the sort of developmental spectrum that exists, not just within ourselves and, you know, that sort of guides our own responses and sometimes reactions to stories like this, but also, you know, the development that we see in the region itself. And you can’t just say “the region” because it’s a tangled web of different regions and different cultures and different beliefs and different sort of, you know, religious interpretations, not just between Judaism and Islam, for example, but within Islam itself. And you know, it really does, it breaks all of these different frames. We can’t easily take an amber frame of like, “oh, there’s good guys on this side who are a hundred percent good, and bad guys in that side who are a hundred percent bad.” I mean, I think all of us can agree that Hamas is pretty much the bad guy here, but we also wanna look at the kinds of conditions that generate things like Hamas in the first place. Right? And that’s not easily sort of dismissible as, as you know, good and evil, for example. So it really does break all of these sort of developmental, you know, frames that we use to make sense of reality.

CM: Whatever “breaking frames” means, I agree that a rigid good guys/bad guys interpretation of the conflict is unacceptably crude. But then you decide that the black hats can be identified after all: “I think all of us can agree that Hamas is pretty much the bad guy here.” Can all of “us” agree then, by implication, that Israel is “pretty much the good guy here?” Not if you object to state terrorism, and not if you take a serious look “at the kinds of conditions that generate things like Hamas in the first place. Right?” Conditions like a 15-year old apartheid with all of its attendant evils. And also, not if you take an honest look at the grotesquely disproportionate military response to October 7, which by November 18 was already causing outrage across the globe and being condemned as genocide. The bias against Hamas here is obvious, and it’s unworthy of Integral thinkers who are supposed to bring nuance to any analysis and be guided by the axiom “everyone is right.” So what is Hamas right about? Here’s a nuanced answer: Hamas resistance fighters were entirely justified by the right of self-defense (re-affirmed by the UN General Assembly in 1983) to invade Israel on Oct 7 and to kill any IDF personnel they could find but not to abuse and kill Israeli civilians, which are war crimes.

And that gets especially pronounced, I think, Mark, because whenever we face something that is just so incredibly complicated and so incredibly heart wrenching, right, it’s difficult I think to hold that kind of complexity, for any of us to hold that kind of complexity. So what we often tend to do is sort of reconsolidate to prior stages, prior frames from earlier stages that sort of, you know push a sort of simplicity, a more simple narrative, or a more simple sort of sense of meaning that we can extract out of this. So a lot of people I think we’re seeing right now in social media and elsewhere are really sort of reconsolidating to an amber, you know, sort of, “we need to go in there and, you know, get rid of these filthy animals.” And, you know, we’re actually starting to see a lot of dehumanizing rhetoric emerging on, on both sides of the conflict, and that’s, that’s precisely the direction we do not want to go.


[00:11:10] Mark Fischler: So uh, to understand the life conditions that create the level of that invokes barbaric acts is absolutely important. The to understand why, know, Israel is a ethnocentric nation is important, and ultimately why we have to move to deeper stages of human development on all sides that the beautiful Palestinian people and the beautiful Israeli people and their cultures can be celebrated in a web of humanity. So, let’s get into a little bit about some of the facts, and then let’s keep moving through this.

So October 7th, Israel is completely unprepared for Hamas and their invasion from Gaza, essentially, and you murder and kill 1400, uh, Israelis, mostly civilians, women and children murdered on the streets, at kibbutzes, on farms, at a music festival. Uh, 200 were taken kidnapped, you know, it was truly barbarism. you know, a son was calling his parents, talking about how he killed 10 Israelis, and you’re crying and celebrating and praying for his safety. Another Hamas person, you know, murdered, mowed down a grandmother, used her phone and, uploaded the video of her murder onto Facebook so that her grandchildren were the first to see that. Just true barbarism being played out.

CM: We now know that some (perhaps most) the stories the Israeli government told about October 7 are lies, but I grant that some of the actions committed by the Palestinian invaders were atrocities, even “barbarism,” if you prefer. But as we now witness on a daily basis, there is plenty of barbarism still happening on a colossal scale, and it is almost 100% committed by IDF forces in Gaza and by Zionist settlers in the West Bank. Hostage taking? Since Oct 7 Israel has captured thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, subjected them to torture and degrading treatment, and detained them without due process. Israel is not to be outdone in the barbarism sweepstakes.

Now you get Israeli retaliation from a, you know, a very amber-led government of Netanyahu. Benjamin Netanyahu has been in leadership off and on for over 20 years, I 19 he’s been Prime Minister. Airstrikes have already killed, you know, Hamas said at least 1200 children, reports that I just saw said that over 7131 are already dead. Humanitarian aid trying to be delivered, but some being blocked into Gaza. We’re looking at an urban warfare, with 700,000 people packed in 20 square miles into Gaza’s largest city, and Israel is about to invade. you know, hospitals have been blow you know, this has all the makings to get uglier and uglier. A prediction sadly borne out with at least 33,000 killed as of April 5.


[00:15:09] Mark Fischler: And there’s a history, right, that goes along with this. Why are we here, why are we in this situation that we’re in, that I think we should at least touch on a little bit, do a little history so that folks can at least understand. And then look at, you know, the situation today and where things maybe have to go. So maybe let me trace a little bit on that.

[00:15:37] Corey deVos: no, I think that’s great. Well, first off, I just wanna thank you for sort of giving that, that overview of recent events, you know, and, and one of the difficult things here that, one of the things I really want to impress upon our audience right now, is just how critical humility is right here, and being comfortable with uncertainty. Because I think one of the things that we’re seeing, and this is particularly true of warfare in the social media age, is that the cloud of war, the fog of war is so dense, and, you know, can be really, really difficult to see through, to the point where it’s hard for people to agree on what the facts are. And I think you did a really great job of sort of laying out the objective facts as we know them today. And, we need some humility here. Because, you know, for example, how trustworthy is Hamas when it comes to reporting its own casualties, right?

CM: The casualty figures from Gaza are reported by the Gaza Health Authority, not by Hamas – a source whose reports of deaths in Gaza have been trusted for many years, and no one as far as I know, is challenging their numbers today. As above, the bias here against Hamas is disturbing. How trustworthy is Israel when it comes to reporting its actions and other events in Gaza? (It’s a rhetorical question. Israel lied about the beheading of babies by Hamas fighters, systematic rape, the Al Shifa hospital, the participation of UNRWA workers in the Oct 7 invasion, the measures it takes to “protect” civilians, etc.)

We sort of need objective sort of neutral, you know, observers in order to ascertain, in order to answer questions like that. And unfortunately we don’t have that in place. It’s too dangerous for that kind of, you know, neutral perspective to be able to, you know, give us a more sort of sober perspective on what’s actually happening in the region. All of which is just to say that, you know, as we are sort of “doing our own research” to kind of figure out what the facts are, what the motivations are cetera, let’s hold it all, you know, sort of with the gravity and the lightness that is required here. the gravity is, I think, you know, sort of self-evident. I mean, we’re talking about just an absolutely massive loss of life, we’re talking about a tremendous amount of suffering being created today, every single day in the region. And yet the lightness comes from just sort of that recognition that, again, none of us have access to all of the facts here. All we have are sort of, you know, interpretations of interpretations of interpretations. Of course, none of us have all the facts, but we do have some of them, a lot in fact, many easily learned from the many in-person and online interviews with Palestinians and videos shot on the ground in Gaza, available from the Internet and from those journalists that can somehow evade the Israeli assassination program.** A perfect example being the hospital bombing. you know, at first it was like, oh, Israel just intentionally, you know, bombed this hospital full of kids. And then it, you know, later came out that, no, that was either, you you know, that was most likely an unintentional sort of, you know misfire of a missile…. by Hamas – that was the Israeli claim, later proven to be false, just one of a constant stream of lies pushed by the Israeli spin machine and repeated almost word for word by the western media.

It’s simply not true that no reliable reports on casualties and other important facts about this war exist. You have to make an effort to find independent sources you can trust, but that’s what real “research” requires. Israel bombed that hospital and is still attacking it. Israel has bombed all the hospitals. Those are facts. you don’t have to look beyond the mainstream media to get reports of the attacks (click here for a sample listing). And of course now someone’s like, well, how, you know, how intentional was it really? 100% intentional by the Israeli military. The evidence is simply damning.

And in fact, if we feel a perspective or sort of a response to any of this that feels high certainty, I would, you know, invite ourselves to sort of hold that and take a careful look at that and really try to, um, you know, figure out how much certainty is actually appropriate considering how much fog there is obscuring our view of, the actual events as you are on the ground.

[00:18:38] Mark Fischler: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I think about, you know, Ken’s ability to talk about context, it’s turtles all the way down, right? you know, like there’s context within context, within context. And as we said at the beginning of the show, we don’t have all the facts. And, this is, we really have to be, you know, as Pema Chodron’s great book I think is called Being Comfortable with Uncertainty. And as integralists, it’s absolutely necessary that we hold that, and we hold the space for, you know, truth to emerge, and to be comfortable with that truth as it emerges. So yeah, let’s let’s hold that. So thank you for your wisdom and insight as we kind of continue to kind of look at this and bring our insights to it.