Commentary | Hyde Park: You call that proof?

Gilad Ben-Shach did make a good point in his January 22 article “Applying some logic to conflict terminology,” when he said, “I hope The Daily adopts more rigorous editing procedures, so that the situation is properly portrayed.” I couldn’t believe he got his Mathematical “proof” to be published.

As a math student, I couldn’t stand seeing my noble field being exploited and misused. A proof he calls it? Let me have the pleasure of rewriting his proof for you.

In the math field, whenever someone makes a claim, we never believe it unless we prove it. So let’s start with a claim. “Israel doesn’t occupy or siege Gaza, and Hamas rockets are threatening Israel’s existence.”

Just to clarify something for the non-mathematicians, I don’t think I’ll be proving my claim if I follow Gilad’s “logic” by just saying, “Period.” after my claim. I actually need to prove the claim.

I need to find some evidence for my claim by actually doing some research. Here’s what I find: the Guardian says that Israel killed in three weeks around 1,400 people and injured another 5,000, 60 per cent or more were women and children. But this isn’t really helping my proof.

I found that a Washington Post article, “Israeli Siege Leaves Gaza Isolated and Desperate,” the Independent, and Amnesty International have numerous similar articles. Please email me if you need links. In math, we call news like these “counterexamples.” If one counterexample is made to a claim, then our claim automatically fails. Here we have three counterexamples; we are in trouble.

We conclude that our claim “Israel doesn’t siege Gaza” is false. Given the new evidence, let’s fix our initial claim, “Israel sieges Gaza killing 1,400 and injuring 5,000 but doesn’t occupy it, and Hamas rockets are threatening Israel’s existence.”

Further investigation by the New York Times uncovers that Israel admits using white phosphorus in its war on Gaza. Israel doesn’t seem to care. It would’ve used nuclear weapons if it could, but that would be dangerous for its people who live very close to Gaza.

Math is all about logic, yet not all mathematicians get that. If we state the facts, we find that the rockets fired from Gaza killed less than 30 people from 2008 up until today. The rockets cannot travel beyond a 50-kilometre radius. To keep my dignity as a mathematician, I cannot really conclude that Hamas rockets are threatening Israel’s existence.

My claim isn’t sound in the mathematical world. I’ll have to change it again to gain acceptance in my logical field. “Israel sieges Gaza killing 1,400 and injuring 5,000 but doesn’t occupy it, and Hamas rockets don’t threaten Israel’s existence.” My claim now has passed the testing phase and is considered valid. The process we walked through is called a “proof.”

If Hamas doesn’t threaten Israel’s existence, then why did Israel drench its hands in blood? A question I leave for the other mathematicians to deal with.

Mohamed Smaoui is a U2 Math & Computer Science student. You can contact him at mohamed.smaoui@mail.mcgill.ca.


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