What Martin Buber Can Teach Us about Political Life

Looking at the degraded state of political discourse in America, Paul Meilander turns to the thought of the 20th-century Jewish philosopher and theologian Martin Buber. Meilander admits that Buber’s most famous work, I and Thou, is a “frustrating book” that is often “fragmentary, allusive, vague,” and “overwritten.” But he also finds in it some surprising lessons:

[Buber’s] dialogical vision does not provide us with a direct model for political interaction. . . . Rather, Buber describes a certain attitude or stance toward the world and toward other people that in some fashion we need to recapture. His vision is as much educative as political, calling for a particular kind of character formation, a training in the attitudes and virtues necessary for relationship and mutual respect. He offers what we might call a pre-political preparation for politics, a call to develop in ourselves and in others the disposition of openness to encounter.

Before we declare other people our political allies or foes, we must first encounter their fundamental humanity. This is not a prescription for a wishy-washy, half-hearted politics aiming at moderation for its own sake or dreaming foolishly of an elusive human unity. Instead, it is a call to let others appear to us first in their concrete personhood before we concern ourselves with their propositions and plans, the various things they might want to do for us, to us, with us, or in spite of us.

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: Martin Buber, Religion and politics, U.S. Politics


Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion