J. Pharoah Doss: Human shields and moral non-starters

During the 2016 presidential election, Marc Lamont Hill, a notable scholar known for his progressive politics and support for Palestine, was interviewed about his decision to favor a third-party candidate rather than the Democratic presidential nominee.

Hill stated he would not vote for a candidate whose support of a particular policy ran counter to his moral principles. Hill characterized as a “moral nonstarter” any policy position that contradicted his sense of social justice.

In the same year, for instance, three states held referendums on whether or not to legalize the death penalty. Voters in each state decided to maintain capital punishment. However, Hill told the interviewer that, given the nation’s history, supporting the death penalty in the United States is a “moral nonstarter.”

Let’s fast forward to the present.

Gaza launched a surprise strike on Israel on October 7th. Hamas terrorists slaughtered hundreds of Israeli citizens in what has been called the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

Hill was interviewed on the Bad Faith podcast a few weeks later.

Hill chastised the media for portraying Hamas as a terrorist organization rather than a democratically elected government, arguing that when Hamas is not recognized as a real political party, Israel finds it easier to avoid diplomatic solutions.

Hill interviewed Hamas’ senior spokesperson, Osama Hamdan, prior to his appearance on Bad Faith. Hill asked Hamdan if Hamas knew beforehand that Israel would respond disproportionately to any act of aggression, and how does Hamas justify their strike, especially when the Palestinian people have no choice in the decision and Hamas knows that Israel’s reaction will kill many innocent Palestinians?

Hamdan stated that Palestinians were dying regardless due to the deplorable conditions Israel had created in Gaza and that their assault was retaliation for decades of oppression during the Israeli occupation.

Hill told Bad Faith’s host that Hamdan wasn’t prepared for the question, and Hamdan’s response wasn’t the best. As a result, Hill decided to speak for Hamas and convey their position to the public at large.

According to Hill, Hamas begins from the philosophical position that the only way for a “national liberation movement” to achieve victory is through armed struggle, and since Palestinians have been dying slowly under current conditions, Hamas has no moral dilemma in attacking Israel. Hill claimed Hamas had a legitimate argument, and Hamas shouldn’t be portrayed as barbaric, fanatical, or unreasonable. Hamas reasoned that if their Oct. 7th offensive made Israel launch a disproportional counterattack against Gaza, the deaths of Palestinian people would garner enough public sympathy to elicit international intervention and transform the situation in Gaza.

Left-wing intellectuals praised Hill for articulating Hamas’s viewpoint. Sadly, none of them bothered to ask what happened to Hill’s “moral non-starters” and how that concept applied to what he said in the Bad Faith interview.

Let’s go back to 2016. Voters in three states that examined the death penalty in referendums opted to maintain the practice. Despite the inherent democratic nature of a referendum, Hill maintained that the outcome was a “moral nonstarter” in light of America’s history. Clearly, Hill was alluding to the lynching of African Americans that occurred in the Jim Crow South, as well as the fact that racism influenced the sentencing of minority offenders.

Hill, on the other hand, expects Hamas to be considered a democratically elected government, regardless of their post-election history. Israeli settlements in Gaza were demolished in 2005, and Israel’s soldiers withdrew. An election for the Palestinian Legislative Council was held in 2006. Hamas received 74 of the 132 seats available, while a rival political group received 45. Neither Hamas nor their political opponents were interested in sharing power; a civil war ensued in 2007, with Hamas seizing control of Gaza after Hamas either executed or expelled their political opponents.

No one disputed Hamas’s electoral victory, but the manner in which they usurped power and executed their opponents should constitute a “moral nonstarter,” delegitimizing their authority. The essence of democratic rule is not found in the electoral process; it’s in the consent of the governed.

According to Hill, the October 7th attack was done in order to generate worldwide sympathy for the Palestinian cause by inciting Israel to invade Gaza. After the international community saw how many innocent Palestinians Israel was willing to kill in order to destroy Hamas, public opinion would turn against Israel.

This strategy acknowledges that Hamas uses the Palestinian people as human shields. This should be regarded as a “moral non-starter,” with the perpetrators depicted as barbaric, fanatical, and unreasonable.

Israel regards Hamas’s takeover of Gaza, use of human shields, and killing of civilians as “moral non-starters,” whereas leftwing intellectuals like Hill do not believe Israel has any moral credibility that allows them to judge the actions of the oppressed, even if the oppressed commit “moral non-starters” like terrorism.



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