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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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The Israel/Hamas War

My Jewish Humanistic/Integrative Perspective

Elliot Benjamin

I didn't think I would be writing any more essays on Integral World, as Frank Visser's AI surge on the site has left me feeling quite disenchanted, to say the least [1]. But there have been some writers who have continued to keep the faith of writing personalized IW essays, in particular Brad Reynolds, Joseph Dillard, Joe Corbett, and Ray Harris, and even Visser himself will occasionally contribute a non-AI essay, so I have started to soften up a bit about the situation here [2]. But what is prompting me to finally break the ice after nearly 6 months is the invitation that Frank Visser recently sent me to offer my integrative perspective on the Israel/Hamas war.

For this war has been an emotionally draining and deeply disturbing continuous horrifying event for me to witness, and I do want to offer my Jewish humanistic/integrative perspective on it. As in a number of my previous essays, I use the term “integrative” to refer to looking at various diverse perspectives that are contrary to one another, attempting to bring them all together but without using the particular assumptions and terminology of Ken Wilber's “integral” formulation [3]. And my use of the term “humanistic” refers to the basic core values of humanistic psychology that focuses on being empathic and genuine, as originally conveyed by humanistic psychology co-founder Carl Rogers [4].

To begin with, here are two crucial aspects of the horrific situation that I firmly believe:

  1. Israel has a right to defend itself from the abhorrent attack by Hamas that killed around 1140 Israel civilians;
  2. Israel does not have the right to indiscriminately bomb and kill Palestinians (currently nearly 21,000) in order to try to kill Hamas militants.

And this right here is the heart of the challenge for me to form an integrative perspective. The challenge is how to unify these perspectives, taking into account the extreme complexity of the situation that a number of IW writers, who are much more knowledgeable than I am about the historical and political ramifications, have described [2]. But my position and perspective can be summed up by the eloquent statement of United States Independent/Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders, that included the following crucial points [5]:

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders

“On a per-capita basis, if Israel had the same population as the United States, that [Hamas] attack would have been the equivalent of nearly 40,000 deaths, more than 10 times the fatalities that we suffered on 9/11. . . .
Hamas has made it clear, before and after Oct. 7, that its goal is perpetual warfare and the destruction of the state of Israel. . . .
Israel has done nothing in recent years to give hope for a peaceful settlement—maintaining the blockade of Gaza, deepening the daily humiliations of occupation in the West Bank, and largely ignoring the horrendous living conditions facing Palestinians. . . .
We must demand an immediate end to Israel's indiscriminate bombing, which is causing an enormous number of civilian casualties and is in violation of international law. . . . Israel cannot bomb an entire neighborhood to take out one Hamas target. . . . a reported 70 percent of the casualties are women and children, and that 104 U.N. aid workers and 53 journalists have been killed. . . .
There must also be a significant, extended humanitarian pause so that badly needed aid—food, water, medicine, and fuel—can get into Gaza and save lives.”

In addition to Sanders' decrying the horrendous Israeli settler violence toward Palestinians, he also made it clear that he is against a permanent cease fire, based upon Hamas' intentions to destroy Israel, and I am in agreement with him about this. But to stop the indiscriminate bombing is the key for me to what Sanders is stressing.

Sanders is suggesting that the most effective way to pressure Israel along these lines is to make our military aid to them conditional on this, and for this reason he voted with Republicans to not approve military aid to Israel, and he was the only Democratic senator to vote along these lines [6]. I will defer to the people who are more knowledgeable about this than I am, but I have concerns that making our military aid to Israel conditional will not deter them from doing what they want to do in regard to their way of going after Hamas while ignoring the vast number of innocent Palestinians they are killing in the process. As much as I hate to even think this thought, I fear that nothing less than a universal United Nations extensive attack of Israel's military capabilities would deter them, and of course the repercussions of something like this is our worst nightmare. But the reality is that for Israel, their soldiers' deaths in combat is a tragedy that is immeasurable to them, and they obviously do not feel the same about the numerous innocent Palestinians, mostly women and children, who they have killed by their bombs [7].

From my limited military understanding, I think that Israel changing their military tactics from widespread bombing to hand-to-hand combat would be far less successful in their goal of destroying Hamas, and would result in far more Israeli soldiers' deaths. However, for me, I believe that this needs to be done to put an end to the innocent Palestinians who are being killed by Israel. But I also understand that Israel needs to remove the threat of Hamas, and for this reason I am in agreement with Bernie Sanders that a permanent cease fire at the present time is not the answer.

In Brad Reynold's recent essay Integral Reflections on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict [2], he conveyed his following idealistic wonderment:

“Sometimes I wonder: what would have happened if Israel had taken the murderous blow of October 7 without a violent response—a major principle and tactic of Satyagraha—and instead appealed to the Arab nations, the US and EU, and the United Nations to WORK FOR PEACE and a final settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict while people of the world had sympathy for them? This could have possibly promoted a real and viable two-state solution—or even a one-state solution of equal rights for all citizens—yet the leaders, the extreme views of both sides, were having none of that!"

I had also wondered about something like this, but given the murderous intentions of Hamas toward Israel, I think that this would have necessitated the international community to take military actions to prevent Hamas from continuing to attack Israel, and that this would need to be a permanent state of affairs. But perhaps Reynolds is on to something here, and this is the kind of international involvement that is needed to finally end the war?

I'll leave things here at this point. It is difficult for me to be Jewish at these times, and what I need to remind myself is that I am completely against the murderous actions of Israel to the Palestinians, but I also still identify as a Jew, and in spite of the historical injustices that Israel has committed against the Palestinians, regardless of the political “complications” that were involved, Israel does have the right and the need to defend itself against the murderous actions of Hamas. But how to do so without killing multitudes of innocent Palestinians, or rather how to pressure Israel into doing so without killing multitudes of innocent Palestinians, is what I believe is currently the most important aspect of the war.

Notes and References

1) See Elliot Benjamin (2023), Frank Visser's Integral World ChatGPT Essays: Are They Essays? www.integralworld.net

2) See Brad Reynolds (2023), Integral Reflections on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Initial Thoughts www.integralworld.net that includes descriptions of essays and dialogues on this topic by Joseph Dillard, Ken Wilber, and Frank Visser/AI; see also some of the comments to this article for more perspectives.

3) See a number of my Integral World essays where I describe my use of the term “integrative” at www.integralworld.net

4) See Carl Rogers (1961). On Becoming a Person. Houghton-Mifflin.

5) See Bernie Sanders' statement in the New York Times on November 22, 2023: "Bernie Sanders: Justice for the Palestinians and Security for Israel"

6) See Jake Johnson (December 7, 2023), Sanders Lone Member of Senate Democratic Caucus to Vote No on Giving Israel Aid, at truthout.org

7) See The Associated Press December 24, 2023 article "A weekend of combat in Gaza kills 14 Israeli soldiers, in sign of Hamas' entrenchment" at www.wpr.org.






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