I had a discussion on Facebook recently over the Gaza conflict. I was posting about the horrific abuses of Israel, he was countering with the supposed equal abuses of Hamas. After we traded points a few times I came to see where our difference of opinion actually lay. You see, fundamentally we both see things from the same side - war is ridiculous and the atrocities of this conflict are completely inexcusable. Killing children or civilians is completely psychopathic. We both want an end to this conflict. And yet we were arguing.

Where my friend was hung up was that the article I had posted wasn't "balanced". It was calling out Israel on war crimes, human rights violations and the like, but it wasn't citing any of the equally horrific things that Hamas has done. The familiar "human shield" argument was trotted out, as could be expected.

On the one hand, this position is really indicative of someone who is not properly informed and relies on liberal media for information. In other words, it's the Zionist position, that both sides are equally at fault and that the situation is "complicated", and that Israel has a right to defend itself (against its prisoners, apparently).

But at the same time, I could see where he was coming from and the error in his thinking became glaringly obvious. It actually enlightened me as to the perspective of most people in the West, absorbing their CNN news bites, reading HuffPo, or other liberal outlets. As human beings, watching the actions of other supposed human beings, one naturally assumes that there is some form of logic behind their actions. The situation is "complicated" because the 'rights and wrongs' of it are difficult to tease out.

And because it's assumed that our leaders are logical people, there's a natural tendency to believe that the truth of the Israel/Palestine conflict lies somewhere in the middle, everyone has a perspective and all perspectives should be considered and validated to some extent. Certainly, it is not reasonable to totally reject one perspective in favor of another, because that's being 'biased'. One side says x, the other side says y, so the truth of the matter must lie somewhere in between. Both positions are taken as extremes upon a continuum, each party's natural bias pulling in the opposite direction.

This is what is commonly referred to as the "middle ground fallacy", where it is assumed that the middle position between two extremes must be correct simply because it is the middle position. It's an understandable mistake to make when seen from the perspective of two extreme positions like "too much" and "not enough". Take exercise, to use an example from the above link. Too much is bad and can lead to injury. Not enough is ineffective. In this case, it would, of course, be the correct answer to look to the middle ground, enough exercise to be effective but not too much.

But what do we do when the two positions equate to truth versus lies?

Here's a hypothetical situation. Two neighbours are in court over a dispute - one neighbour shot and killed the other's dog. The dog owner holds that his neighbour was in a fit of rage over a property dispute and shot the dog out of spite. The other holds that the dog attacked him and that he feared for his life. For the purpose of the exercise, let's say that the dog owner is telling the truth, that the dog was not attacking and the neighbour acted out of malice and the neighbor deliberately lies to cover up his abuse.

The judge, confronted with the two sides of the story, decides that the truth of the matter must lie somewhere in the middle. He therefore hands out a lenient sentence, a fine perhaps, and closes the case. Has justice been served here? The middle ground fallacy has impeded any possible justified recourse. It only serves to benefit the liar in this situation. The truth is done a disservice.

Now bring things out to a macro scale of world conflicts. It's a natural tendency to assume that both sides are on opposite sides a continuum and that the truth of the matter is somewhere between the two extremes, invoking the middle ground fallacy. My friend had said to me at one point in our Facebook back and forth, "there's evidence of war crimes from both sides of the conflict. Suggesting it's all Israel's fault or all Hamas' fault is not taking all the available evidence a looking at it from a balanced perspective."

But let's look at a case from history. What about the enslavement of Africans by the the white man for 200 years of American history? If one side of the continuum is "slavery is perfectly OK" and the other side is "slavery is fundamentally wrong", is the truth somewhere in the middle? Maybe a middle ground, like "slavery is wrong, but other forms of oppression are OK". Or "slavery is wrong but forced indentured servitude is OK"?

Of course not! There is a very clear answer and it doesn't lie between the two positions. The truth speaks loudly here; slavery is absolutely wrong on all levels and should never have existed in the first place, in any form.

The above is a simplistic example, but what we see playing out on the world stage is similar. There is a fundamental truth to the conflict in Gaza; the situation is not "complicated". The waters are further muddied, however, when one side of the argument is psychopathic, meaning completely devoid of human conscience. In this case, the middle ground fallacy only serves to further the psychopathic agenda. Any time an arbitrator invokes the middle ground, the psychopathic agenda is furthered and the truth is set back. As is the case with the dog, justice is not served.

And this brings up another fundamental issue with the common perspective on the Israel-Gaza conflict - the woeful lack of education about the existence and actions of psychopaths.

Regular readers of SOTT are more than familiar with the research on psychopaths and that they comprise the upper echelons of our societal elite. As I stated in my last article, with Joe Quinn:
Regular readers of this website should be familiar with the idea that psychopaths are the ones 'in charge' here on planet Earth. Or, at the very least, the actions taken by these 'elite' are not informed by a conscience as it is normally understood by normal people. It's not that editors are imbued with the ability, or the qualifications for that matter, to diagnose psychopathy at a distance. It's simply the fact that it's easy enough to determine whether or not actions taken on both a micro and macro scale are informed by a conscience.

For example, the ordering of drone strikes against civilians, no matter how many alleged 'terrorists' are 'taken out', is an act that is devoid of conscience. Lying about weapons of mass destruction, chemical attacks against civilians or 'homegrown terror plots' in order to justify violent military or police action against foreign or domestic populations is a conscienceless act. Deceptively spying on the private communications of your own citizens, and then lying about it to the world, is acting without conscience. In short, the maxim: "By their fruits, ye shall know them" can take us a long way in separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak."
One could add that bombing a UN school full of displaced people, including children, in the dead of night in Gaza is also a conscienceless act:
Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, condemned "in in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces".

He said in a statement: "Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN-designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced."
Or perhaps the United States "resupplying Israel with ammunition even after condemning shelling of Gaza school":
According to [CNN], Pentagon officials have confirmed that the US will honor a request from Israel for several types of ammunition, including 120mm mortar rounds and 40mm ammunition for grenade launchers. The exchange will not be an emergency sale, the unnamed officials said, and is coming from a stockpile of weapons maintained by the US in Israel worth more than $1 billion.

Only moments beforehand, however, the White House officially spoke out against an attack attributed to the IDF from earlier that day on an UN Relief and Works Agency school in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp. Officials in Gaza say the shelling killed at least 15 and wounded 90 others, and is but the latest strike waged by the IDF in a war against Hamas that continues to claim the lives of Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire.
As this blatantly illustrates, we need to pay attention to the actions, not the words. Profits are valued over the life of children.

Again, from my piece with Joe Quinn:
Paul Babiak, Ph.D., and Mary Ellen O'Toole, Ph.D., describe the psychopath in this way:
Beneath the cleverly formed façade - typically created by psychopaths to influence their targets - is a darker side, which people eventually may suspect. They can be pathological liars who con, manipulate, and deceive others for selfish means. Some corporate psychopaths thrive on thrill seeking, bore easily, seek stimulation, and play mind games with a strong desire to win. Unlike professional athletes moved by a desire to improve performance and surpass their personal best, psychopaths are driven by what they perceive as their victims' vulnerabilities. Little research exists on their inner psychological experiences; however, they seem to get perverted pleasure from hurting and abusing their victims.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) research indicates that psychopaths are incapable of experiencing basic human emotions and feelings of guilt, remorse, or empathy. This emotional poverty often is visible in their shallow sentiment. They display emotions only to manipulate individuals around them. They mimic other people's emotional responses. Some lack realistic long-term goals, although they can describe grandiose plans. The impulsive and irresponsible psychopath lives a parasitic and predatory lifestyle, seeking out and using other people, perhaps, for money, food, shelter, sex, power, and influence.
Sounds like an apt description of our political and financial world leaders, does it not?
Again, we see here a psychopathic agenda played out on the world stage. There is no middle ground in this situation. Innocent civilians are held in an open air prison, their food metered out by the calorie, denied access to building materials, educational materials, all the things we take for granted in daily life, and then attacked and killed without provocation (say what you will about Hamas rockets, however ineffective, the civilians have done nothing to provoke these attacks). These are actions not informed by human conscience.

Unfortunately, as we watch actions play out on the world stage, one fundamental flaw in correctly understanding these events lies in the belief that we are dealing with the actions of human beings. We automatically assume that 'They're like us. They have their biases and blind spots, but at the core they can be reasoned with and a resolution can be reached.' But we're not dealing with human beings. What we're observing on the world stage are the actions of psychopaths. Not drawn along racial lines, as many racist philosophical tenets would have you believe, but lines of power.

Again, from Joe Quinn:
As clinical studies on the psychopathic mind make clear, psychopaths periodically experience a compelling drive to give vent to their destructive instincts. In the case of psychopaths in positions of power, this usually means some kind of 'war' where innocent civilians (aka 'non-combatants') are targeted for the most brutal suffering. In the specific case of the Israeli psychopathic 'elite', the psychological profile goes something like this:

Netanyahu and his ilk have a deep, almost unconscious desire to obliterate the Palestinians, to 'erase them from the pages of history', because the Palestinians stand in the way of them achieving their goal of a idealized Jewish state where they reign supreme. The Israeli/Zionist ideologues are frequently and privately enraged at the Palestinians because the Palestinians force the Zionists to struggle to find a way to achieve their racist goals without tarnishing their own self-image as 'seeking peace' 'defending the Jewish people' being 'the only Democracy in the Middle East' etc. To the psychopaths in Israel therefore, all Palestinians are 'evil', but there's a problem: the Palestinians are not evil and their cause is just by normal human standards.
But what about Hamas? Aren't they equally guilty of psychopathic actions against Israeli citizens? While the world looks on, the media portrays the conflict as Israel versus Hamas. But at their root, again, if you look at actions, not words, from the perspective of who wants the conflict to end and who wants it to continue, Israel and Hamas are both on the same side - working to further the conflict rather than end it. Both their efforts serve to continue or escalate the conflict, both maximize the number of casualties and both ensure the audience will be forever polarized. Are they in cahoots? It's hard to say, but Joe goes into some detail on this here.

Here's just a little taste from Yasser Arafat to Corriere della Sera on Dec. 11, he said:
"We are doing everything possible to stop the violence. But Hamas is a creature of Israel which, at the time of Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Shamir [the late 1980s, when Hamas arose], gave them money and more than 700 institutions, among them schools, universities and mosques. Even [former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin ended up admitting it, when I charged him with it, in the presence of [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak."

In an interview with L'Espresso on Dec. 19, Arafat said:

"Hamas was constituted with the support of Israel. The aim was to create an organization antagonistic to the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization]. They [Hamas] received financing and training from Israel. They have continued to benefit from permits and authorizations, while we have been limited, even [for permits] to build a tomato factory. Rabin himself defined it as a fatal error. Some collaborationists of Israel are involved in these [terrorist] attacks. We have the proof, and we are placing it at the disposal of the Italian government."
As a caveat to the above and the idea that the Hamas leadership are 'in it together with Israel'; both normal human beings and psychopaths will engage in resistance to a brutal military and economic occupation against a defenceless civilian population, but only the psychopath or seriously 'ponerized' individual will engage in that kind of brutalization of the innocent. There is a clear qualitative difference between the crimes of an aggressor and occupier and the 'crimes' of someone resisting that aggression and occupation. The 4th Geneva Convention makes this very clear, as Richard A. Falk (american professor emeritus of international law and UN Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories") explains:
" international law, Palestinian resistance to occupation is a legally protected right.[...] Israel's failures to abide by international law, as a belligerent occupant, amounted to a fundamental denial of the right of self-determination, and more generally of respect for the framework of belligerent occupation -- giving rise to a Palestinian right of resistance.[...]

Throughout the occupation and very visibly during the two uprisings, Israel has reacted to Palestinian resistance with the excessive use of lethal force, including the targeting of civilians and children. Both the "creation of facts" and the use of such force -- greatly escalated during the fall 2000 uprising -- constitute repeated violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention."
How many dead civilians will it take before we realize that the people in charge are the cause here? We can't expect human actions of conscience from those who don't possess one. So let's all stop waiting for a solution from that particular source.

My friend and I ended our interaction on civil enough terms, but he remains convinced that the truth lies in the middle ground. There is no middle ground when it comes to the Israel-Gaza conflict. There never is when you're dealing with psychopaths. Because in the end, it's not about a battle between Israel and Hamas, it's about psychopaths versus thinking, feeling human beings. With the middle ground fallacy so firmly embedded in my friend's thinking, he'll probably never see the truth about what's going on on the big blue marble. And in this day and age, that's a dangerous position to be in, as is made clear in this extremely important book.