Predisposed Bias?

Upon my return to Hong Kong from my summer Hawaii vacation, Japan Airlines provided me a plethora of newspapers during which I acquainted with an article from The Washington Post named ‘Dueling views after a Palestinian teen is killed’. The article reads the story of a Palestinian teenager tragically shot by an Israeli army commander, ultimately leading to his physical demise.

I was immediately presented with two sides of the situation: the Israeli commander only shot the teenager in the act of self-defense; the teenager merely throwing a harmless rock ‘symbolising Palestinian resistance’, ‘posing no lethal threat’, being met with an unfortunate (some might say – out of line) punishment.

While the language of the article suggests an undeniable note of underlying bias towards the Palestinian teenager, clearly rhetorically asking the reader, ‘Could rocks really pose a serious, lethal threat to armed, trained and protected soldiers?’, I cannot help but understand that the Israeli commander did what had to be done, and indeed, in self-defence.

I understand that many would sympathise with the Palestinian, yes, I agree that if his aim was legitimately only to throw rocks to show Palestinian resistance, he did not deserve to be killed. He could’ve grown up, acquired a wealth of knowledge and eventually leading Palestinians to justice and peace. He could’ve even been a great father to an adorable newborn with a beautiful wife, leading an enchanting life. He did not deserve to have his future hurled away from him, catapulting into a trap of death, as if it were a petty rock.

However, that is not all. They often say, ‘to truly understand what someone went through, walk a mile in their shoes.’ So imagine, for no more than a moment, that you fight in the shoes of the Israeli officer, in completely foreign ground, away from your family, witnessing a concerto of bloodshed and uncalled for injury accorded to innocent civilians. The only instrument keeping you fighting being the hope that this would bring about peace and justice to your country, as well as the harmony of making your family proud. In the middle of your mission, you are in a sea of riot, unable to determine the enemy from the civilians. Order is out of question as you are hit with a hard, oval-shaped object. Your years of militant training have guided you to instinctively regard the alien object as an item of danger. A bomb. It is impossible to ascertain if the alien item is an item of danger, the most prudent and rational solution is to eradicate the source that poses lethal threat, and in an adrenaline-fuelled millisecond, you shoot the man, to protect yourself.

Conceivably, the method of execution is not beyond miscalculation, but it was and is the only solution, the teenager could’ve very well been aiming to take down the army with a bomb, and you would’ve saved not only yourself, but your men and your country. However, like all man-made actions, nothing is impossible and this, unfortunately, was the product of a miscalculation, leading to the death of an innocent.

Both parties of the scene were acting on what they thought was right, even though their definitions were different. As readers, we are usually quick to assume that the ‘bully’ doesn’t have a reason, and are even faster to conjecture that the ‘bully’ is indeed the ‘bully’, but it is not always the case. Was this an act of self-defence nonetheless, or was this the prejudice outcome of a powerful man in a crowd of powerless people? Is right and wrong, black and white? Grey? Or a completely different colour?’

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