Mark Humphrys (politics)


Why do people support the Palestinians? - Sunday Times article


Phoenix magazine's incoherent reply

Why do people support the Palestinians?

Mark Humphrys, Sunday Times (Irish edition), 23 Oct 2016.

This is a slightly longer version of the printed version.

Why do people support the Palestinians? It's a simple question, but a real mystery. If, as seems clear to me, every supporter of the world's democracies and opponent of non-democracies should broadly support Israel - and be broadly hostile to the Palestinians - why does the world not see it that way?

I recently met with an Israeli diplomat posted to Ireland who asked this question. Israelis encounter varying levels of hostility in Europe, and often wonder why so many Europeans take the Palestinian side. Many wonder could it be related to anti-semitism. Could parts of Irish Catholicism be hostile to Jews, for example? But living here in Ireland, it is obvious that other, more modern reasons are at play.

The Palestinian cause is, on the face of it, deeply unattractive. They are fighting against a liberal democracy in order to set up not a new democracy but rather an oppressive religious state (Hamas) or a thuggish autocracy (Fatah). In whatever they set up, there will be no elections and no civil liberties. So what is it about their cause that makes people support them?

The Palestinians hit all the right buttons

It seems they hit all the right buttons:

  1. They are (allegedly) the "oppressed" fighting against "oppressors". Yet when you look at their complaints, almost every last one is a consequence of the violence they direct at Israel. If they stopped the violence, Palestinians could have a very nice life.

  2. They are (allegedly) the "poor" fighting the "rich". The fact that it is their own fault they are poor (look at what the intifada did to their GDP) and the Israelis deserve their wealth because they worked hard to create it, is neither here nor there.

  3. They are (allegedly) "non-whites" fighting "whites". Many Westerners care primarily about crimes by "whites" or "people like us", and care little about crimes by "non-whites". Whether such a bias makes sense or not, to think of this conflict as "non-whites" versus "whites" is actually nonsense. Israelis comes from all over the world, including all over the Middle East (from which they were expelled). But for many Westerners, this is not about reality. All Israelis are honorary "whites".

  4. They are fighting against Jews - always a popular target. This is probably the main reason worldwide.

  5. They are Muslim, giving them a sympathetic constituency of 1 billion people. Muslims tend to sympathise with Muslims engaged in conflict with non-Muslims worldwide. Christians aren't like this. Christians worldwide are on their own, and get little support from western Christians. If the Palestinians were Christian, nobody would support them. And if they were fundamentalist Christian, the Western left would despise them.

  6. They are fighting a democracy. A wealthy democracy is a nice safe place for journalists to report from. In non-democracies, facilities are primitive and unpleasant, and journalists live in fear of arrest or death. Hence, lots of journalists in Israel. Hardly any journalists in the Sudan or North Korea.

  7. They are incredibly violent and barbaric, with deliberate attacks against the most defenceless civilians. If the Palestinians engaged in peaceful protest, few would pay them much attention. But when they engage in sadistic attacks against civilians, the world pays attention. The sane part of the word is revolted. But less sensible people have a different reaction. They believe (despite history's total lack of evidence for this) that if someone is willing to carry out such acts they must have a good reason. And so, due to the strange nature of humans, Palestinian barbarism gets them more support, not less.

  8. Violence is exciting. Many Westerners are excited by "revolutionary" violence against the West. These terror fans are everywhere on social media. If the Palestinians were peaceful, they would be of no interest to these people.

  9. Lack of compromise is exciting. If the Palestinians decided to give up on the "struggle" and pursue money, jobs, family and shopping, I would be delighted for them. Israel would pump money into their economy, their GDP would triple and their life would be much better. But their Western fans, to whom they serve a psychological need, would be horrified. They would feel betrayed by the Palestinians and would go elsewhere in the world to seek other uncompromising opponents of the West.

Hating Israel is a safe way of hating the West

Many leftish Westerners desire a safe way of hating the West, a safe way of declaring their moral superiority to the culture of plenty they grew up in. Hating the entire West is too hardcore, but hating a small part of the West works. It is Israel's bad luck that it fits the bill. Hating Israel is a safe way of hating the West, a way of signalling your virtue without risk.

So the Israeli diplomat and other Israelis should not take Irish hostility personally. It's not really about the conflict. It's not about them. It's about us.

Dr. Mark Humphrys is a lecturer at Dublin City University.

He only likes her because she is violent.
(Image not used in Sunday Times.)

If good people commit disgusting atrocities, they must be "driven" to it.
Some Westerners actually believe this.



Aidan Corr (Letters, 30 Oct), though he may not mean to, actually illustrates the central problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he takes issue with my article of 23 Oct. I suggested that the Palestinians should abandon the "struggle" and pursue prosperity, jobs, family and "shopping". Corr sneers at this as obviously absurd. But he never explains why it is absurd.

The fact is that the "struggle" has brought nothing but misery to the Palestinians. Hardly anyone recalls that the Palestinians after 1967 prospered under Israeli occupation. With the terrorist leaders like Arafat exiled, Palestinian GDP per capita rose from, in 1990 dollars, $ 1,790 in 1967 to $ 5,312 in 1999. That is, the Israeli occupation made the "oppressed" Palestinians 3 times richer. There was also a massive rise in Palestinian life expectancy from 54 to 73. This was all destroyed when Arafat ruined the Palestinian economy by launching the intifada, cheered on by Western supporters who claim to be "friends" of the Palestinians. In reality, these "friends" have brought the Palestinians nothing but misery, by encouraging them to keep up the "struggle" for honour, blood, land and revenge, rather than doing some compromise deal with Israel.

If the Palestinians abandoned the struggle and made a compromise, Israeli investment, driven out by Arafat and Hamas, would flood back in. The Palestinians would become part of the dynamic Israeli high-tech economy. Their territories would open up for a tourism explosion. Their GDP would double or triple within a generation. I would love the Palestinians to be rich and at peace. But this will not happen. First, because Palestinian political and religious leaders prefer the "honour" of the struggle to the "shame" of compromise. And second, because their Western supporters encourage them to keep going on that road.

If Palestinians want to be happy, they should abandon the war and pursue other things. If they want to be miserable, they should follow the advice of their Western supporters and carry on doing what they are doing.

Dr. Mark Humphrys

Brendan Delaney's letter says Palestinians carry out jihad because they are "depressed". This is nonsense. In reality, there is no evidence that Islamic suicide bombers and jihadis are "depressed". Rather, they are soldiers in a war.

If anything, the problem is the opposite - they are optimistic. They believe in jihad. They have hope in the glorious future that jihad will bring. That is the problem.

The letter also says that Palestinians will "compromise" - by getting 100% (100%!) of what they want. If this is a "compromise", I'm not sure what lack of compromise would look like!

Finally, the letter complains about Palestinian unemployment and poverty - while supporting the "resistance" that causes it!


Politics      Religion      Since 1995.      New 250 G VPS server.

Banned in Iran: This site is banned in Iran.

Blocked on Twitter by the regressive left and Islamists: I love debate. I love ideas. But the Western left and their friends the Islamic right do not return the favour. Their response to opposing ideas, whether expressed politely or robustly, is often to block. See Who blocks me on Twitter.

I like debate. But I do have rules. See Who I block on Twitter.

Twitter is broken, 2016 to 2022: I am on Twitter at markhumphrys. Twitter was a great place for debate before 2016. You could meet everyone in the world, and argue about ideas. Starting in 2016, Twitter became increasingly broken. It became full of reporting and bans and censorship. In 2019, Twitter even started shadowbanning me for no reason that was ever explained, or could be appealed. By 2022, everyone was looking for a better place to debate.

Twitter is saved, 2022: In 2022 Elon Musk bought Twitter and started to end the censorship. It looks great so far. Twitter seems to be saved.