"The only sustainable way to fight back against those who seek to divide us is to create a world where understanding and empathy can spread faster than hate." - Facebook founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Recently Mark Zuckerberg took a lot of heat for seeming to suggest that we could somehow simply "love-bomb" terrorism out of existence.
Fox News commentator Greg Gutfeld lectured him: "Naive pacifism is the barnacle on the boat of vigilance." At the Mixed Martial Arts forum, a commenter said sarcastically: "Wow, why doesn't he try walking up to an ISIS checkpoint with a box of cupcakes and see how that turns out."
But a closer examination of Zuckerberg's comment reveals a more nuanced stance - one that actually makes sense. As we know from our experiences at home, at school and at work, hammering at people endlessly is not equivalent to managing them. Even if their conduct is completely inappropriate, endless war is not the answer. For one thing, it makes reconciliation impossible as both sides are traumatized and hate pours oil on the fire of hate. For another, it's damn expensive. And for a third thing, memories of the killing and other war atrocities destroy the possibility of post-conflict peace.
The destruction caused by endless war and its associated horrors, as well as the hatred caused by criminal capitalism, is amplified by pervasive communication technologies. Yesterday, for example, the New York Times reported the story of a Guatemalan woman gang-raped at the hands of local soldiers and police and Canadian mining officials. They were there to evict her from land that was technically not hers, but they took the opportunity to torture her as well. With that story online, all of us can read and react with outrage.
In 2016, in fact, we look at business, politics and military conflict as being all of a piece. The turning point began for me about 15 years ago, with the August Sbarro pizzeria massacre in Jerusalem and then the 9/11 attacks a month later. I realized on a very gut level that terrorists may appear to be striking out against a problem ("oppressor,") but that their real objective is to promote fear, hatred and destruction.
People acting out violently on the one side. People responding violently on the other. Hate, hate, and more hate.
What does all that hatred generate? A lot of waste, along with continued hate. The U.S. alone has committed in excess of $5 billion to support Palestinian self-rule - and despite efforts to ensure that money actually goes to the people, it is constantly diverted by terrorists, including use as reimbursement for continued acts of terror.
The shocking revelation that thousands of Palestinian terrorists, including men who have masterminded suicide bombings and murdered children, are given cash handouts from aid money will cause anger and disbelief, particularly in the wake of the Brussels massacres. - "Revealed, How UK Aid Funds TERRORISTS," The Daily Mail (UK), March 27, 2016
As we know, most people are not haters- just the opposite. But it is the nature of terrorism that innocent, peace-loving people living in terrorist regimes operate under the threat of arrest or death if they appear to be "collaborators." For example, just a month ago, Tawfik Okasha was expelled from Egypt's Parliament after having dinner with the Israeli ambassador. The media have covered in gruesome detail public executions by Hamas killers wielding AK-47s.
It is critical to a terrorist to keep the hate going. And hatred is enabled by creating a cause, a shared enemy, particularly an enemy who appears to be a Goliath keeping innocent people down. Only a hatred that appears completely rational can justify a chant that calls for the elimination of an entire state, e.g. "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."
Channeling hatred as a tool of war requires sophisticated propaganda. Per Hitler's Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels: "Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred."
That such tactics work is confirmed by the success of the long-running Arab terrorist campaign to label Israel a "Nazi state," an "apartheid state," and a "colonizer" despite its being ranked as the state with the highest democracy level in the Middle East.
That such tactics work extraordinarily well is confirmed by the accusation by none other than a Jewish activist, the head of "Peace Now," that pulling a terrorist's knife out of your throat and defending your life is actually immoral and illegal - a form of "extrajudicial killing."
Back to Mark Zuckerberg.
As the terrorist attacks spread, far and wide, is it really so crazy to suggest we try something else, besides simply reacting to other people's hate?
Clearly, in the short-term, there is a need to destroy terrorists who dominate the world from behind the muzzle of an AK-47. Most Americans agree it's time to deploy ground troops against ISIS and most Americans do support torture if it means taking a terrorist out of play. And in Israel, although people disagreed with the way Prime Minister Netanyahu handled the mechanics of his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, they supported his hardline approach toward defending Israel's security.
Yet leadership requires that we look ahead, past our immediate instincts toward survival and self-interest.
If we are to do that, then it pays to consider what Mark Zuckerberg is saying.
For the root of the terrorist problem is not the fact that bad people have a lot of guns. Nor is it that we somehow lack the will to fight.
Just the opposite - a U.S. drone operator recently said, about his current occupation, that "it's like playing a video game for four years." We dehumanize our enemy in order to kill him, or her.
The root of the problem is our mutual acceptance of inhumanity. This is what former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (may she rest in peace) was referring to when she famously said: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."
Centuries ago, the great Jewish sage Maimonides talked about Messianic times, what to expect from the Messiah, and what life would be like in this golden future age. He described a world where the pervasive normal order of things included world peace, abundance, and a shared focus on worshiping the One True G-d.
Before this beautiful age could be ushered in, however, there would be a great and terrible war. The belief in this war, which has different names, is shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. But the Jewish approach to this belief differs somewhat from the other two religions - according to mystical tradition (kabbalah), a spiritual war may substitute for the physical one.
In this war, the enemy is not ISIS, Al Qaeda, or the Taliban. Rather, it is inside ourselves, and if we don't conquer our own ego on the spiritual level we will be forced to engage in physical combat.
The most appropriate term for this war, in my view, is actually jihad - a holy war - in its purest sense - the struggle to contain one's animalistic nature. As the Jewish sage Ben Zoma said: "Who is strong? He who conquers his own evil impulses."
The final war is indeed love versus selfishness:
"(The last war is) between the good forces in us that want to achieve bestowal, love of others, brotherly love, “love thy friend as thyself,” and those forces that still keep us in exile. Let’s hope that we will succeed in it, without an eruption of physical war, but we will complete it and finish it and succeed at the spiritual level."
This is why Mark Zuckerberg was right. It is why the mission of his company, Facebook - "to make the world more open and connected" - is ultimately a spiritual one and an early expression of the Messianic age. (It is not a coincidence to me that the Hebrew numeric equivalent of the first three letters of Facebook is 6, 1, 3 - or 613 - the number of commandments in the Torah.)
Zuckerberg's comment also hints at the misguided way we are thinking about what "terrorism" really is.
It is not about fighting Muslims, even if the enemy appears to us in religious garb. The Dalai Lama once said "there are troublemakers in every religion" and Jews, Christians and Muslims are very capable of twisting ideology this way and that. As a Muslim colleague once said to me: "Truly religious people never have a problem with one another."
It is about calling out and taking down people who are thoroughly and totally motivated by greed, lust and the need for power.
The good people in this war are the ones who are motivated by conscience. They don't need the allegiance of legions of people. They don't waste their time on big houses, fancy cars and golden toothpicks. They don't steal, they don't kill unless it's in self-defense, and they definitely don't use and abuse other people.
When Zuckerberg says we must win this war with love, what he means is that we must refuse the conscience-less behavior of evil people. Whether they are capitalist exploiters or out-of-control pseudo-religious zealots.
And we do what we have to do to take military, economic or political terrorists out of circulation - using all the legal tools available to us. But we do not hate them in return.
In the meantime, while we fight "out there," we also create a "moral economy" based on "goodness, fairness and justice." Because SAYING that you love people and ACTING ON THAT LOVE are two completely different things.
The day we take care of the people on this planet the way they deserve to be cared for -
The day we stop mouthing platitudes of social progressiveness while lauding people with more money than they can ever count -
The day we stop enabling and protecting ruthless evil killers who mouth religious platitudes while delivering innocent people to death's door -
The day we actually decide to get in there and give a damn and make a difference in the war against the evil caused by huge, aggressive, destructive egos -
The day we personally keep our mouths shut when we could have taken a cheap shot at somebody else -
That moment we decide to start being for other people, instead of serving the greedy master I, I, I -
That will be the day that terrorism, in all its forms, can and will finally cease.
Until that day we are, sadly, forced to waste a lot of time and money on a physical war with no end in sight. Using drones, tanks, and machine guns. Catching more and more innocent victims in the crossfire - creating more, more, more and yet more ridiculous hate.
A single candle overpowers lots of darkness.
No matter what the critics say, Mark Zuckerberg is right.
All opinions my own.