Tinder and International Armed Conflict

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Tinder, the matchmaking mobile app that pairs users based on mutual physical attraction, is not exactly the most obvious place you would expect to find yourself involved in a discussion on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but as the entirely clichéd but weirdly fitting Liverpudlian platitude insists: “life is full of surprises.”


The other night, I matched with a gal1 – as happens – but before I had time to offer even the most usual of introductions, she confessed to only being in London on a brief vacation, and next thing I know, Jennifer (this is by no-means her real name) is suddenly three and a half thousand kilometres away. We kept messaging a little and I found out that Jennifer is a twenty-something medical student from an affluent middle-class background who enjoys computer programming (she’s a self-confessed nerd), talking politics and playing drums in her spare time. Recently, however, the increasing pressure of her studies means that she’s had to limit the time spent entertaining many of her hobbies. We share a liking for the music of Led Zeppelin, The Cure, The Stokes, MGMT, Nirvana, Aerosmith, The Beatles, Artic Monkeys and The Rolling Stones, and both get a kick out of the I Fucking Love Science website. The last time I chatted to Jennifer, she was on her way to a bomb shelter following a warning that Hamas forces were planning a rocket attack near the hospital where she is currently interning.

Jennifer, as I should probably explain, comes from a small and predominantly secular town located along the demarcation line separating Israel from the West Bank. Through no misdoing of her own, she has been dragged into the latest chapter of a brutal and bigoted conflict that has been raging in the Middle East for generations. It is an ugly confrontation stemming from a difference in the promises that differing gods made to different people, resulting in two peoples of relatively equivalent size each claiming a celestially ordained right to the same land and more than prepared to kill to assert that summum jus.

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Right now, it’s Tuesday 22nd July and Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli Defence Forces led offensive in the Gaza Strip is in its 14th day. So far the operation has left hundreds of Palestinians dead and countless more injured while Israel has suffered a considerably more modest, but no less tragic, 27 fatalities.

It’s important to remember that myself and Jennifer are talking on a dating app, so we’re trying to keep the tone as light as possible (“if you could choose only one magical power which will it be? Teleporting, telepathy, invisibility, telekinesis, or flying? ) but it’s not long before talk turns to the conflict.

Political narratives like the Israel-Palestine situation not only insist upon a division in public opinion but actually try to direct it. The majority of people (or at least the young people) living in Jennifer’s region (or at least those with a similar socioeconomic background) would much prefer to see the two peoples coexisting in peace:

I have many Muslim and Arab friends, some Palestinian close friends… but the situation has been escalating. And the world kept quiet until we started working to lower the attacks… Maybe if you were living here you would have got the situation, because it’s not a normal life.

Jennifer tells me that she and her friends live in a state of “constant fright.” From a young age she was taught to take note of the nearest bomb shelters and to recognize unattended baggage. I would go crazy living in the midst of that kind of shit, but with a glibness not often found in such situations, she added “Yeah, but we’re not gonna let it take us down.” Signing off from our last conversation, and displaying an unexpected appreciation for irony, Jennifer told me of her good friend that had been at the mall when the Tseva Adom warning sirens began to sound, as panicked shoppers scrambled to the nearest shelter, and in a moment of remarkable cool under fire, the friend noticed that the song “Staying Alive” by the BeeGees was playing over the shopping centre’s speaker system. Overall, however, there’s a disheartening resignation and acceptance of violence in Jennifer’s outlook. Here is a trainee doctor, someone who has taken the decision to dedicate herself to the preservation of human life, and even she must accept that:

Saying no to violence is unfortunately not always the option I believe after living here. We made agreements with Jordan and Egypt and made peace and no issue there. We agreed to cease fire now and agreed with Egypt and Hamas rejected and continues firing rockets as we speak. So I’m sorry if it’s inconvenient hearing (it), but do believe Israel has the right to protect itself like many other countries will do so too.

“War” George Orwell wrote “may be necessary, but it is certainly not right or sane.” If Hamas put their weapons away then perhaps there could be an end to the war. However, for Israel to put their weapons away could mean an end to Israel. After all, the Hamas Charter is quite explicit when it says that “Israel will exist and continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.” For Jennifer and many like her, Israel’s military action and their use of violence is a matter of defence:

I don’t wish for harm, but when a group of people don’t want us here at all, wish for all of our deaths and shoot rockets indiscriminately, I believe we should work to stop it.

Israel says that the motivation behind its attacks in Gaza is an intention to prevent further cross-border attacks into southern Israel by Hamas militants, but as Arthur Koestler writes in Scum of the Earth, his 1941 memoir recounting his observations in France at the outbreak of the Second World War:

To fight a war only for the purpose of ending the danger of war is an absurdity. As if a person condemned to sit on a powder-barrel should blow himself up deliberately, out of sheer annoyance at not being allowed to smoke his pipe.

Jennifer welcomes the notion of a two state solution should it bring peace to the region, but she firmly believes that Palestinians must first work to curb the extremist contingent amongst their own. If people really want to help, they should raise awareness of Hamas and it’s brutality and fight against it. The young who grow up around Hamas, she says, grow up with hate and are taught to be warriors. If people want it to stop, she stresses, they should stand in front of that regime that shoots rockets at Israel. Israel has agreed to cease fire but Hamas want none of it. The organization has made a point of undermining any discussions that could lead to a two-state solution.

We live in a media saturated culture that seeks to simplify even the most complicated of situations into easily digestible mini-narratives, but the Arab-Israeli conflict is so drenched in blood and hypocrisy that the situation is far beyond that of an evil and imperialistic oppressor persecuting an innocent and oppressed victim. “The situation” Jennifer says “is messed up.” Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is without doubt in contravention of the Geneva Convention but that same treaty is quite clear in stating that “The parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.” Hamas launch rockets from densely populated civilian areas, they store munitions in public buildings – including schools and hospitals – and there is even talk of a donkey stacked with explosives being sent toward Israeli soldiers.

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Of course, with the torrent of misinformation and propaganda coming from both sides, it’s incredibly difficult to discriminate between the facts and the bobard. One simple aim on which we can all agree, however, is that the violence and killing must end. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” said Gandhi, and for Jennifer, working to end the violence will allow a space for discussion, negotiation and possible future reconciliation . At the moment, however, she believes the conflict to be too “emotional” and “blindly religious” for any progress to be made.

For the sake of posterity, the magic power I chose was telekinesis while she’s keen on teleporting – a romantic relationship would never work.

1My reasons for joining Tinder were twofold, firstly to satisfy my disgustingly overblown male ego, and secondly, I had the arguably misguided intention of examining and contesting the claim that Tinder is a tool for female empowerment in the 21st century dating environment – and that is not even to touch on recent events involving sexual harassment at Tinder HQ. In hindsight, what I actually found, as recounted in this post, is perhaps more interesting. back

This post was originally published at: http://criticaldispatches.com To read the original, and many other comments which we did not reproduce, go here. It was then continued in cergat’s site. We took the dispersed posts and comments from both sites and joined them into one in an attempt to make this discussion a bit more accessible.

To cergat's concern that there is no rich text in comments, as you may 
see in the comments below, in fact there is. Post a comment, and then 
go to "edit post" from your dashboard. Under the post will be listed 
all the comments for that post. Simply hit "edit" under the comment you 
want to add rich text to, and you will have almost all the options you 
have when writing a post. You can even add footnotes the same way you 
add them to a post. But the numbers will have to continue counting any 
footnotes you may have in the post itself, or else, you will have two 
footnotes with the same numbers, and if the readers hits [1] in the 
comment, they will jump to the footnote # 1 of the post, not that for 
the comment. The only problem is that you have to be commenting in your 
own blog to be able to do this, otherwise, you won't have the option to 
edit unless the blog owner in which you are commenting is willing to do 
it for you.

10 Comments

  1. Perhaps a note is in order here, not anything new by any means, but something which I see overlooked everywhere. You received many congrats on an “unbiased” and “beautifully written” article. While I agree with the latter, the former is way more complex than most people are prepared to realize. “Unbiased” to the Palestianian-Israeli conflict, may very well mean biased in the fashion of colonialism. That is, a biased European-Middle Eastern perspective. The call to leave aside all differences while embracing the things people have in common has a definite European tint to it, and one which completely disregards the difference between cultures. This sort of bias has been called “Westernization.” Now, I do not mean to say that you are wrong and Jenifer is right. I would not be so short sighted. I mean to say that both perspectives are local perspectives, but while we are prepared to view Jenifer’s view as local, your more internationally flavored European perspective is usually seen as universal.

  2. That is a very fair and balanced observation. I have completed rather a substantial amount of research and writing surrounding the discipline of cultural study in an academic context. It’s actually quite amusing given the subject matter of this particular, and markedly abbreviated little essay, that perhaps one of the most interesting and innovative writers on the topic was himself the Palestinian (though a very privileged, metropolitan, and as a great many could – and have – noted, somewhat bourgeois one at that), Edward Said. Unfortunately I’m a little occupied at the moment but would very much like to discuss the subject with you more, provided you are willing to do so of course.

  3. I read a good chunk of your blog and enjoyed it a lot. I was certainly aware of your education as it would be hard to overlook it. Since you mention Said, I made an interesting slip in the above comment. I said “westernization” where I should have said “orientalism.” Even though technically wrong, it is not all wrong, for orientalism is a technique that leads to westernization (the vice versa too might be true), and in any event they are connected.

    Time seems to be running faster lately for me as well, but I’d love to pursue this further with you when your schedule permits.

  4. Great comment, I totally understand where you’re coming from on this and your point is very valid. It’s very difficult for an observer, and certainly a commentator, to resist bringing their own ‘baggage’ into their critical thinking when addressing these sorts of scenarios. I, for example, grew up in the republic of Ireland and so have absorbed quite a lot with relation to conflict. It’s a part of our very recent history and is such a massive part of Irish culture – I guess it’s given us a long time to think about the topic as our state is so steeped in both oppression and violence, and of course, not forgetting the role of religious identity in this awful mess. It’s incredibly difficult to rationalise violence and as yet I haven’t reached any sort of conclusion that hasn’t left me feeling a terrible sadness – which is a little heavy, and to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t interfere too much with my day to day life.

  5. Ha. Then, you must know the joke about the Irish, who upon seeing two men fight at a bar’s entrance, asks, “Is this a private fight or can anyone join?” But I think a joyous violence of this kind is always less cruel than the neoliberal violence inflicted upon us in order to subdue us into tamed and perfectly peaceful creatures.

    By the way, both your comments (the first one about Said being bourgeois, and then the other one mentioning champagne socialists), strangely remind me of the macaque behavior.

    As you may know, the macaque are matriarchal, and they exhibit a very human behavior in their organization. This is not such a strange occurrence however, to some extent all monkeys and apes exhibit behavior similar to humans. But the macaques have their exiles. And while, we may often observe individual animals exiled from their herd or pack, none go as far as the macaques in this. The young of the tribe’s leader are very privileged for as long as their mother lives, for example they can drink from every lactating mother in the tribe if they please. But if the mother dies before they make it into adulthood and learn to fend for themselves, these “spoiled children” often become self exiled from the tribe and if able to survive at all will continue to live in solitude. Call it a monkey or ape hermit, if you like. The words “self-exile” might be misleading. Having been raised as an elite or “bourgeois” class that lived a pretty cushy life, the orphaned macaque is now defenceless, and the other mothers will no longer provide for it as they did before. The other members of the herd, too, seem to get a perverse pleasure out of mistreating it now that its mother is gone, and so, the young macaque, unable to endure this sudden mistreatment decides to go out on its own.

    So, here you have Edward Said who, as you pointed out was himself privileged and somewhat bourgeois, and who writes about the exile. But just like the macaque, whether he is bourgeois or not it does not refute the fact that he knows something which the society from which he is outcast cannot even begin to fathom. Another feeling, another type of thinking. And I think it is precisely here that we (and along with us the macaque as well), make the first stumbling steps to entering the supernatural order that Thomas Ligotti speaks about.2 Homo Sacer. Both sacred and accursed as the Latin “sacer” means.

    To understand this, a few words about “the savage” according to Jean-Jacques Rousseau are in order. For Rousseau, the savage was the natural man. Yet, savage and civilized stand in one line with one another, they are not as different as Rousseau might want us to believe. After all the social contract is not there before civilization, but concomitantly with it. The savage and the citizen-subject are part of the same lineage, in almost the same way as the grandchild and grandfather to give a shorthand example. The societal revolution therefore, never provides any solution to its problems: it never has and it never will. What happens in it is simply the illusion of the temporary suspension of the social contract until it draws another.3 Then, everything goes back in place. The social contract however was never broken. You might get a good sense of this if ever you vent against some system that needs to be demolished. We all have done it. What is the first rebuttal you hear from your opponents? “What is your system?” Which is the same as saying, “How would you draw the social contract?”4 If you indeed have some other system in mind, you might even find enough followers. But if you do not, no one will fight to overthrow a bad system for no system. This tells you that the social contract is never broken in revolutions, and that when the academics wonder stroking their beards and raising their eyebrows in front of the founding fathers’ drawing of the Declaration of Independence, struggling to find the legal justifications for it (such as for example, when the founding fathers use the supreme authority of God to break away from the authority of England, the inalienable rights of man, and so forth), this is only because they cannot fathom anything outside the society they already live in.

    A moment of savagery in the life of a civilization is far from being a threat to it. It is its guaranty! That is how we know for example that any anarchist allied with the left, is not really an anarchist. Or else, they are allying with a system to bring down another without realizing that when all is said and done, it will be the other system that wins, and that they themselves, if they are smart enough will simply gain a position through it, and will say to the rest of the anarchists out there who are waiting for a handout, “Oh fuck it. I fought hard enough. What did you do?”

    Only the barbarian brings an end to civilization, and with it to all its problems. This statement is misleading. I do not mean the barbarian as Shepherd, Savior or as Messiah, but quite the opposite: the attraction that such figures exert, in fact emanates from what may only be associated with the barbarian in them. This is also valid for the anarchist or the communist. The barbarian here must be understood as the one against nature, and in the end as supernatural, that is, not at all of the same stock and lineage as the savage. Not even of the stock and lineage of the exile, since here no lineage is possible any more, the exile him/herself initiating a series of powerful transformations henceforth nothing dares remain the same. The difference between the savage and citizen-subject on the one hand and the exile and barbarian on the other is similar to the difference between Being and Becoming philosophically. The barbarian is horror itself to civilization (therefore, it is not a coincidence that Thomas Ligotti writes horror) and civilization’s weapon against it is terror. Horror opens up an isolated system. Terror strives to keep it closed.

    ——————————————

    2 See for example Thomas Ligotti’s book “The Conspiracy Against the Human Race.”
    3 This is the example of the sleeping giant that Ahmad Shamlu gives. Society is like a sleeping giant who after sleeping for some time on one side, it gets tired and turns on the other side. Then, again after a few hours, it feels its arm has become numb and revolves again. In this it thinks it has made progress.
    4 Wasn’t this the critique that Slavoj Žižek directed to the occupy movement in his interview in This Is Hell Radio a week or two ago? (The interview can be found here. I have wanted to respond a few times to some of the posts in syntheticzero’s site, but have not found the time).

  6. That’s a very interesting post. However, I must confess, that as soon as you began discussing the social behavior of the macaque, and specifically the concept of self-imposed exile, I was actually put in mind of the depressed penguin in Werner Herzog’s “Encounters at the End of the World.” Which, if you haven’t already seen it, I would advise that you check it out; there’s something horribly sad, but, at the same time, utterly ridiculous (and kinda weirdly funny) about the whole thing. I very much enjoyed your examination of civilization and hierarchy and social order. In this instance I was reminded of a fantastic line in “The Freedom of the Press”, Orwell’s proposed preface to Animal Farm in which he speculated:
    “For all I know, by the time this book (Animal Farm) is published my view of the Soviet régime may be the generally-accepted one. But what use would that be in itself? To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance.”
    I guess it all comes back to this Evolution versus Revolution argument, society may never settle on an entirely satisfactory consensus on the matter, but it sure is nice to argue it out. After all, even after the most filling of scholarly binges, there’s always room for a little dialectic reasoning.

  7. Macaques and penguins, now we know that we are getting somewhere… 😛
    I did think in fact whether or not I should mention the macaque example at all. The reason I decided to go ahead with it is because it offers a conceptualization of a new type of thought or feeling which is very hard to exemplify through homo sapiens. And curiously, it happens to be easier to explain by taking an example from the social behavior of apes because of an error in our thinking. We believe our species to be guided or determined more by culture than biology. There is some truth in it. But are these two really exclusive? How could some living thing be determined by its biological constitution in such a way that it would allow for it to also be transformed and molded by culture. And one must include in this transformation not only the human being that is molded from her/his environment from an early age, but also the adult, who adjusts her/his behavior according to what is learned by way of books. By way of philosophy. And here again, the question rises, what is human? For these transmogrifications to take place, human must be precisely what Kierkegaard in “Fear and Trembling” could not bring himself to admit.5
    But when it comes to the ape, we comfort ourselves into believing that here at least things are simple. Here finally biology is again an unshakeable rock. We can lean on it, and it will hold us. It will show us our roots. How misguided we are. Anthropologists above all. In anthropology the greatest part of the study of humans is subsumed under cultural anthropology, such as ethnology for example. But when it comes to apes, all of a sudden it is biological anthropology. And so, when pointing out a transformation in the macaque, the powerful realization of the hypocrisy of the society in which one has lived so far, the hypocrisy of life itself, what then can biology say to defend the very core of its own existence as a discipline, when survival is no longer a determinant?


    5If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the foundation of all there lay only a wildly seething power which writhing with obscure passions produced everything that is great and inconsequential, if a bottomless void never satiated lay hidden beneath all — what then would life be but despair? If such were the case, if there were no sacred bond which united mankind, if one generation arose after another like the leafage in the forest, if the one generation replaced the other like the song of birds in the forest, if the human race passed through the world as the ship goes through the sea, like the wind through the desert, a thoughtless and fruitless activity, if an eternal oblivion were always lurking hungrily for its prey and there was no power strong enough to wrest it from its maw — how empty then and comfortless life would be! But therefore it is not thus…”

  8. Daniel Tutt’s review, The Amputated Father: Kojève’s Theory of Revolution and Authority is a striking example of what is (not only today but what has always been) lacking in most, not to say all theoretical frameworks focused on the societal, and all its concerns.

    Just a short excerpt from the article:

    Kojève identifies four ‘pure’ types of authority that include the authority of the father, master, leader and judge. Each of these four types of authority has a distinctive ontology, metaphysics and philosophical school of thought that refined it over time.

    and then,

    Paradoxically, it is through revolution that the authority of the father returns in bourgeois revolutions. The bourgeoisie want to forget their origins as commoners, to disown their shameful past and they amputate the father.[x] The amputation of the authority of the father necessarily leads to the emergence of the authority of the leader and this is the origin of the era of bourgeois domination. But ultimately, this present-oriented mode of authority fails because it is what Kojève calls “non-human”; it does not have a past or a future, food and sex are paramount and such a society will bring about the end of history as Kojève defined it in his lectures on Hegel.

    Kojève’s vision of revolution is thus developed in an antithetical relation to bourgeois revolution, and entails a combination of the Master, Leader and Judge and the foreclosure of the Father.

    While the bourgeoisie may be a prime historical example of the amputation of the father to disown their shameful past, an amputation furthermore that leads to the emergence of the authority of the leader, I think a reader of Agamben would be especially equipped to envision another, far more important amputation here that does not result in the emergence of any such type authoritarian figures: Homo Sacer.

    As was pointed out earlier in the above comments, the exile, differently from the bourgeoisie, arrives on the scene not from humble but aristocratic beginnings. In the fall from that position (legitimate through heredity; acknowledged through history), the first thing the outcast disavows (or is disavowed from) is society itself. Its disentanglement from the earlier master/leader position is a two-fold process. The exile is toppled off from the position of power (master/leader) and then exiled. But this position itself or the aspiration to it, is not rejected until later, after the first rejection, which is that of society itself, and then, of all societies. With the rejection of all societies, the aspiration to any type of leadership is effectively annihilated. An erasure occurs here, as rage gradually turns to coldness. The exile purges all traces of history, i.e., its connection with the Name of the Father; extirpates every vestige of hereditary connection (viz., cuts oneself off also from the Mother, or the Real). In other words, the exile takes upon oneself the curse that was bestowed on it by society, but because of this, must also find ways to give it away, to spread the pestilence across all that stands.

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