If you think the situation in Israel is about politics, think again.
Why the recent events are far more about human nature and an unhinged news media.
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Political extremist failed to grasp the seriousness of the moment
Chaos erupts as protesters block roads, clash with police after judicial bill passes
A failure of leadership
These were some of the headlines following Monday’s passage of a bill by the Knesset’s coalition, restricting the use of Israeli Supreme Court’s reasonableness standard, despite widespread public protests.
Yet these events (and those still to come) are far less about religion and politics, and far more about human nature and an unhinged news media.
Starting with the former, human nature was produced by natural selection working at two levels simultaneously.
First, individuals compete with individuals in every group, and we are the descendants of primates who excelled at such competition. This gives us the ugly side of our nature, and it explains the overwhelming in-fighting and territorialism we see amongst political factions and religious groups.
Second, human nature was shaped as groups competed with other groups, a dynamic that has plagued the Jewish world since its origins, and comes to life nowadays through flailing Israel-Diaspora relations, as well as religious denominations such as ultra-Orthodox, modern-Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and so forth.
In Israel, the breakdown is often secular versus religious, central Israel versus the “periphery” and, once upon a time, Ashkenazi versus Mizrahi/Sephardic. Now, of course, we’re seeing it amongst the Knesset’s coalition and opposition, and each of their constituents.
As Charles Darwin said long ago, the most cohesive and cooperative groups generally beat the groups of selfish individualists.
“We’re not always selfish hypocrites,” according to Jonathan Haidt, author of the international bestselling book, The Righteous Mind. “We also have the ability, under special circumstances, to shut down our petty selves and become like cells in a larger body, or like bees in a hive, working for the good of the group. These experiences are often among the most cherished of our lives, although our hive-ishness can blind us to other moral concerns. Our bee-like nature facilitates altruism, heroism, war, and genocide.”1