There is no excuse for murderous behavior. It ought to be dealt with immediately and with the full force of The State. Understanding motives is different from excusing the behavior. In Israel, there is a divide between those who have ceased to care about the living conditions of the Arab populations on the West Bank and in Gaza, and those who see their Arab neighbors as human beings struggling, as we all do, to improve their lives.
The “political correctness” that some see as paralyzing calls for the government of Israel to craft more nuanced programs, to recognize the important moral distinction between “security first” and “security only” policies. Those who scorn “politically correct” messages view them as a source of paralysis. I see it as democracy.
Recently, once such critic, Daniel Hartman, cited as an example of the paralyzing flaws of political correctness, John Kerry’s attempt to characterize the Paris attacks as “senseless” rather than as motivated by an understandable rationale . Similarly, many accuse the Obama Administration of softness because it chooses not to use the phrase “Radical Islam” in descriptions of the terror threat. The semantics could be called “political correctness,” a pejorative. Or one could call such usages “the language of diplomacy,” which recognizes the interplay of competing interests and the desire to defuse incendiary situations. Which would you prefer?
Recently, Mrs. Clinton altered her stance on the terror threat by acknowledging the legitimacy of the phrase “Radical Islam.” I don’t think this shift is helpful in a policy sense. Rather, it is an attempt by her campaign to align herself with Jewish and Christian elements who see themselves as more American and morally superior by virtue of their religion.
The reason I have drawn comparisons between the 1948 Presidential campaign and the current one is to better understand the crucial role of external, international threats in our democratic discourse. Politicians demonize “the other” because the rhetorical tactic is an effective way of establishing the moral superiority of the speaker. But there are dangers in employing such tactics in that they tend to reduce policy choices to the passive vs the aggressive. The sensible middle way, The Tao, is far less likely to be achieved. True statesmanship seeks to find the middle path.