What is Hypocrisy? The various dictionaries offer definitions such as: “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform”. The focus of attention usually trends in this direction “especially: the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion “.
Note that these are skewed against those who claim to adhere to standards, particularly moral ones. Perhaps that is because religion tends to call out very high, generally unattainable ideals. This has led to a systemic problem. It is increasingly difficult to find a non-hypocritical “true North” in a post-modern, post-religious age when even claiming a desire to adhere to standards, particularly moral ones, exposes people to the label of hypocrisy. The label is typically applied by those who have proven their supposed lack of hypocrisy by adopting amoral stances, outside the above “especially” focus. Far from indemnifying such attackers this approach is an indictment. Thus I prefer the second definition offered by Dictionary.com: “a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude”.
I’ve long been an outsider, judged by such publicly approved attitudes. At first this was due to circumstances beyond my control, then by choice. Normal is relative. It depends on where you live. Even the worst criminals on the planet justify their deeds. I’ve spent decades trying to unmask any and all hypocrisy, in myself and within approved and desirable segments of society. A better answer to the question What is Hypocrisy? is the intent of this blog. It is a thorny issue which is quite challenging to address, as you’ll see clearly in a moment.
To properly understand it we need a good test case. The aggregation of religious, social, economic, legal and just about any other kind of history you can name has produced what I believe to be the perfect case study. It is the current situation in what is called the “Holy Land” the center of Middle East conflict, the flame causing the pot of Islamic Jihad to boil, the issue at the center of what seems to be an emerging global crisis that threatens to suck us inexorably into a third world war. I’m talking about the issue of Palestinian Statehood. There is no better question available today, on which to test our ability to apply standards of truth and fairness, than this one. Would we be part of a fair and impartial jury, if one could be constructed, to resolve this conundrum?
The title of a recent article in the New York Post: “The Myth at the Heart of the Palestinian’s dilemma” sums it up. Popular sentiment, and publicly approved attitudes increasingly embrace the myth that Israel is the cause of Palestinian misery and their failure to obtain statehood, including the false facts and outright lies incorporated within it. The article presents, for example, that many leaders and influencers are increasingly adopting the narrative around the existence, past or present, of a Palestinian State – which is patently false.
This quote in the article jumped out at me “Many of those “peace-processers” — the NGO workers and the diplomats in pursuit of book deals or their Nobel Prizes — mean well.” This simple statement illustrates the point about adopting a publicly approved attitude. They have done so. But the adoption of the attitude is not the pretense, not where the hypocrisy lies. Most are no doubt sincere in adopting it.
No, the hypocrisy lies in the publicly approved attitude itself. How does wholesale hypocrisy happen? How do we become systemically hypocritical, to the point where honest brokers are crucified by popular demand? I have a clear answer, but first, let me address the issue of Palestinian Statehood.
My children are currently 4 and 7 year olds who, not surprisingly, occasionally fight. Their squabbles often ignite at the island in our kitchen at which they usually eat breakfast and lunch. There are three high swiveling bar stools, but the children usually decide to sit next to each other, vs. having a chair between them. Let this island stand as a metaphor for the Holy Land, and the children and their choice of proximity stand for the Jews and the Palestinians.
If my 7 year old daughter grabs the green bowl her 4 year old brother quickly screams “I wanted the green bowl” and proceeds to lunge for it. My daughter has been known to respond by swiveling the back of her chair to her brother, declaring “You’re in jail”. Howls of emotional pain erupt from inside this prison. Pushing and/or banging of the backs of chairs against the edge of the counter can quickly erupt, and given the fragile nature of small fingers, and the relative height of the chairs, adult intervention is called for. It is necessary to protect the innocent and/or not so innocent alike, not to mention to keep our household on schedule. Even if deadly force is not being used, trips to the emergency room can be quite disruptive to the whole family.
Our approach is often to treat both parties as equally guilty. But, as loving parents teaching kindness, respect, fairness and most importantly, truthfulness and exercise of sound judgment, sometimes we have to take a side in a given altercation. In the case of the Holy Land, the Jews ended up with the green cup. The League of Nations unanimously awarded ALL of Palestine to the Jews.
This, of course, encouraged Jews to continue their ongoing settlement in the recently liberated territory. When the United Nations later amended this, the Jews accepted a reduction in territory and proceeded to establish a Jewish State called Israel. No amount of Palestinian protest can, or should, change that. The Palestinians, however, rejected the arrangement. They have endorsed a path of violence to get their way. No amount of “well-meaning” to the contrary can alter these facts. And I submit that most of the world today is practicing systemic hypocrisy against the nation of Israel.
It could be maintained that the Torah is the foundation stone of the Jewish state. In the book of Deuteronomy chapter 25:13 we read the following: “Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.” The next verse says don’t even have them in your house. Later books call the practice an abomination. What does this have to do with hypocrisy?
Simply this. A false scale can be used to skew justice and truth – and it represents the warped equilibrium which underlies hypocrisy. To straighten that which is bent, let’s examine the different ways in which the scale gets warped. There are two different types of false weights in our bags.
The first is a double standard. We generally know what this is, but it’s important in this blog to define it. It is applying a different measure to two things that are the same. In this context it is holding Israel to a higher standard than that to which we hold the Palestinians (or Iranians, or Syrians, or Turks, or the US for that matter). And yet this is done all the time, in which every supposed excess Israel commits in self-defense is put on the gold-scale, whereas horrific and systemic human rights abuses by others are glossed over. But as egregious as the double standards are, which are applied to Israel, the second type of scale-warp is much, much weightier, in terms of its ongoing impact.
The second type of hypocrisy that tips the scales is a mirror image of a double standard. It is treating two things that are different as though they are the same – called a false equivalency. Comparing the history of the origins of the State of Israel, whose rights under the League of Nations and the United Nations Mandates were being systematically undermined by the British, to the Palestinians today, is one example. The struggle of the Jews to establish a state and the means to protect themselves from their aggressive neighbors has little, if anything, in common with the various intifadas, much less with Hamas. Treating Palestinian aggression and Israeli self-defense as equal or asking both sides to “stop the incitement” is another example. At the level of governments and the United Nations it is pretending that there is a Palestinian State. This is why I earlier called Sweden’s “recognition” of a Palestinian State out as completely hypocritical. By allowing such a move and even worse, supporting it, one begins to turn truth and judgment upside down. If this kind of delusional fraud is not counteracted systemic hypocrisy and the martyrdom of innocents is an inevitable result.
I encourage you to begin evaluating issues using this simple, but effective tool. Unless we throw out our bag of diverse weights fair and honest judgment will elude us. And lest anyone think this is a trivial point, or a matter of semantics, let me move forward in time from the words of Moses to quote his successor. In Matthew 24:51 Jesus addresses any servant found unfaithful at His return, promising to “cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites”.
As for me and mine, we will continue to work hard to identify any diverse weights and measures and to banish them from our house.