An ongoing discussion on face saving-of which this is the third article-focuses on a central premise: face-saving and posturing adds little to no value to solving problems; it prolongs human suffering and extends misery across a range of problems and situations around the world, from US austerity policy to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Aside from benefiting individual and collective ego, it ultimately fosters a situation in which nobody gains and everybody loses out.
Between examples of this face-saving dynamic within Palestinian and Israeli culture, there is a seemingly endless reservoir of discussion. Opening this discussion with the Israelis may be a good starting point, simply for the sake of convenience (many social scientists, anthropologists and ethnographers seem to find the Palestinian face-saving dynamic a bit more complicated and lengthy in its description). Israel, in common with its ally America, has a problem of loud radicals in its political ranks. In addition-also like some political sub-cultures found in America (and most any part of the word facing hardship, for that matter)-it has a problem with political sloganeering, emotionally-charged rhetoric, and partisan talking points. Nearly every Israeli agrees-as do most Americans, I would hope-that Israelis have a right and a priority of self-defense, self-preservation, and a right to live in a state of dignity and peace of mind rather than perpetual fear and physical attacks. We all tend to agree on this-but cannot seem to agree on how to best achieve this end. This is where the Israeli radicals are categorically separated from the moderates: radicals are willing to remain engaged in a state of perpetual conflict and unending hardship, even if only to save face and avoid the appearance of 'weakness'.
Due to this environment of political clichés and partisan radicalism, as well as (both real and exaggerated) fears of neighboring Palestinian and wider Arab encroachment, many Israeli policy makers, social commentators, and political leaders tend to give intellectual honesty a back seat in order to appear ‘strong’ or ‘loyal’ to the pro-Israeli cause. This, of course, is misguided and counterproductive to the Israeli cause, in the same manner that ignoring or downplaying intellectual honesty is counter-productive to any noteworthy cause. However, the current atmosphere of the Israeli political climate, and the radical side of Israeli politics, leans toward face saving and the avoidance of admitting error, as if honestly and loyalty somehow clash. The truth is, they do not-in fact, they are mutually reinforcing.
By seeing (1) their loyalty to fellow Israelis and (2) the ability to be intellectually honest as a conflicted dichotomy rather than a set of complimentary values, these people are providing cover to the radicals. These radicals bring no long term value or humane benefit to the table-they are apologists for ongoing misery and counter-logical insanity. This leads to a situation where nobody wins and everybody ultimately loses one way or another. While we may rightly blame radicals for his situation, those in a position to speak out and challenge these radicals from within are often silent; by way of their silence, they are tacitly endorsing the radicals, by lending credence to their views and actions. Realizing and admitting this is a good starting point for moving forward. Like any political crisis, it is easier said than done.