It is somewhat unfortunate for me to do this, but after contemplating it for a while, I have finally decided that I can no longer be a Sam Harris fan and I am leaving all Sam Harris groups on facebook. I say that it is unfortunate because I have a lot of respect for Harris’ intellectual skills and in the past I enjoyed reading his works. This is my opinion, and I know some may disagree with me!
When it comes to his criticism of religion I actually agree with most of what he has to say. For this reason, it’s hard for me to say this because his works have always been instrumental in shaping my views on theology. But on foreign policy he is consistently wrong, not only because he takes a simple approach without actually investigating the big picture, but he easily buys into what the State and mainstream media sells. It seems like Harris’ only intent, when he speaks about politics, is to find a way to further condemn religion. I am extremely critical of religion as well, but I get out and travel and meet lots of people so I understand why for some people religion is a necessity. It doesn’t make them bad people. Religion is just so easy to blame for everything, and of course it does cause a huge amount of damage, but when you don’t know or refuse to understand what the big problem is the most convenient and simple fallback is to just blame religion.
Harris recently made a statement about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he does make a few good points as he always does, but he is fundamentally wrong about several major issues, not to mention how much he actually ignores.
1) Harris says, “When Israel drops a bomb on a beach and kills four Palestinian children, as happened last week, this is almost certainly an accident. They’re not targeting children”. He is wrong, because he doesn’t know that, he is just making an assumption through buying into the same state-sponsored statements that can be extremely manipulative. Of course, if Israel went in and wiped out Gaza they’d know for sure that it would lead to WW3 and the probable end of the State of Israel. Hatred and racism exists on both sides leading to violence. Israel, unlike the Palestinians, tries to justify it as collateral damage or an accident. It’s happened many times. In fact the only reason that Israel tries to limit the death of women and children is due to its own personal self-interest. Let’s not kid ourselves here, when Israelis pull up lawn chairs to cheer on bombs launched on Gaza or when an IDF soldier posts a picture on twitter proudly stating how he killed a dozen Palestinian children, how could you say with certainty that if they harmed an Arab it is surely an accident?
2) Then he goes on to tell us how all Arabs and Muslims want to kill and destroy the Jews. Look, I’m no fan of religion and I disagree with Islam on theological level, but I don’t generalize, I see the bigger picture. That proposition is simply not true, it’s not even close to being true. There are Jewish people in the Iranian parliament right now, there are 10,000 Jews living in Iran, and you want to tell me they are surrounded by 70 million people who want to kill them? When I read Harris’ End of Faith, though I agreed with a large part of what he had to say, I disagreed with his general assessment of Muslims, simply because he is wrong. He lists a bunch of countries where over 90% of people support terrorism. These pew polls that could have been conducted in a biased manner shouldn’t be the deciding factor on the issue. This is just sickening - to say people who are terrorized the most are the biggest supporters of it. I have many relatives in the Middle East, not a single of them supports terrorism, and in fact they strongly condemn it and are under a much bigger threat of it than the people who claim to be “fighting a war on terror”.
3) Harris also ignores a very fundamental fact, people in Gaza are not just dying and suffering from lack of food and medical aid, but they can’t go anywhere, sure the settlements are no longer in Gaza, but the people there are still under Israeli and Egyptian control. They are blockaded, they can’t do anything, they’re suffocating and even then the overwhelming majority of people in Gaza want nothing to do with Hamas’ violence. The only reason they voted for Hamas was because Hamas was the only organization that brought them social welfare and promised to build schools and hospitals, not commit acts of terrorism. I love how Harris justifies Israeli crimes under the premise of them being under pressure, yet he can’t see it the other way for people who are under a lot more pressure.
4) Harris says, “There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could.” I can’t even describe how ignorant it is to say something like. There are 1 million Arabs living in Israel, I’m not talking about Gaza or the West Bank, but Israel itself. If we have “every reasons to believe” that they want to kill all Jews in Israel, wouldn’t you think there would be some attacks within the borders of Israel on a daily basis perhaps, let alone more regularly, like every single one attacking Israelis? You hear about more mass shootings in the U.S in a single year!
5) Israel at one point supported Hamas to counter Arafat and secular nationalistic PLO. Harris ignores this fundamental fact, people need to ask themselves bigger questions instead of just allowing a diplomatic voice direct them to think and assume things which are not true. As I said Palestinians only supported Hamas in the hopes of more social welfare, the building of schools and hospitals - not to be terrorized.
6) Harris brings up human shields by Palestinians. This claim has been proven wrong many times, which is not to say it has never happened. Of course, many people would strongly support this premise because it allows them free themselves from any guilt when Palestinian children are killed. Anna Baltzer, who is a Jewish-American activist, toured Gaza and Israel and has said that in fact there is no proof of the Palestinians are consistently using human shield, this is utter nonsense, but she does go on to say Israel uses human shields. Watch her interview with FOX news, yeah on FOX of all places for that matter. We know of specific cases, such when the IDF used Nidal Abu M ‘Khisan. He was sent in to knock on the door of a terrorist who then shot him. Harris says, “The Palestinians are trying to kill everyone. Killing women and children is part of the plan.” A claim that is so preposterous that it overtakes ignorance. It’s made to dehumanize Palestinian people, and Harris should really be ashamed of himself for making such statements. “Killing women and children is part of the plan of the Palestinians”!! Are you kidding me? NO, they are part of the plans of some fanatical hateful extremists.
Other well known journalists have also made it clear that the Palestinians are not using human shield! Jeremy Bowen, who has spent a great deal of time in Gaza says there are absolutely no evidences of human shields being used. There are many making similar statements.
7) Harris also seems to forget that the Palestinian cause had always been and still is to a great extent a secular cause. He gives way too much merit to Islamic fundamentalism, which is the typical paranoia driven agenda of the State.
8) He goes on talking about how there is no outrage over ISIS terrorizing people in Iraq. This old game of, “where is the condemnation when it comes to other crimes” is extremely ignorant. First of all it ignores the fact that Iraqis and Syrians are not just condemning ISIS but they suffer from the terrorism more than anyone else, they are fighting against them! Just take Iran for example. Think about how much protesting and political uprisings have gone on against the Islamic republic in the past 30 years! It’s not that people are not protesting ISIS or other terrorist organizations, they are, they put their lives on the line to do it, but who are they going to protest to? When a demonstration takes place against something Israel does it’s typically done in front of an Israeli embassy or consulate in the hopes of making a difference, where are people going to protest ISIS? The day ISIS sets up its headquarters in Toronto, I’ll be first in line protesting against the mere existence of the group. The other important issue is Western governments are not actively supporting groups like ISIS or Hamas, they call them terrorists, as they very well should. Many of the demonstrations take place in the U.S and Canada in the hopes of having the government reconsider their strong support for Israel. I don’t even agree with that because I am not against Israel. I am very supportive of Israeli people and I don’t think these protests should ever be directed at hurting or harming Israeli people
I am not Pro-Palestinian or Pro-Israeli, I’m pro-human rights, more importantly I care about facts, unfortunately in this ever-growing image-based society the language of the internet seems to dictate “facts” because most people just don’t take the time to investigate further, so a man who is very intelligent and knowledgeable on other subjects can make false claims in a 15 minute recording online and present it in a calm and collected voice, and many people end up buying into everything he says.
The fact that Harris is fails to accept these fundamental facts and decides to use global conflicts to further his own agenda, which undermines the suffering of millions and fuels more hatred, is sickening.