During Operation Protective Edge, Hamas’ strategy of endangering their own population and threatening reporters to blame Israel, became so crude, the façade began to crack. Indeed, the Foreign Press Association of Israel
It’s hard when a journalist that you mostly respect, loses it, especially under pressure. Anshel Pfeffer’s article needs to be understood in the context of Jodi Rudoren’s remark explaining why she dismissed the
A friend sent me this note: US hypocrisy re Gaza civilians casualties We all want to minimize civilian casualties, but wars in urban areas are chaotic. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009,
During Operation Protective Edge, Hamas’ strategy of endangering their own population and threatening reporters to blame Israel, became so crude, the façade began to crack. Indeed, the Foreign Press Association of Israel and Palestine released an unwonted condemnation:
The FPA protests in the strongest terms the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month.
In response to the FPA statement, NYT correspondent Jodi Rudoren tweeted:
@joshmitnick Every reporter I’ve met who was in Gaza during war says this Israeli/now FPA narrative of Hamas harassment is nonsense — Jodi Rudoren (@rudoren) August 11, 2014
In a subsequent email exchange with the FPA, Rudoren called their statement “dangerous.” Lest some consider that further proof of journalists’ fears of the unmentionable, she clarified to Matthew Kalman:
I found the wording of the statement overly broad, and, especially given the narrative playing out in some social media circles regarding foreign correspondents being taken in by the Hamas narrative and not reporting on the war fully or fairly, I was concerned that it undermined what I consider to have been brave and excellent work by very talented people,” she said.
Note Rudoren’s ubiquitous focus on “narratives.” The FPA, in confirming pervasive intimidation, adopts the “Israeli narrative,” and confirms the “narrative playing out in some social media circles [i.e. what Anschel Pfeffer abusively calls the Jewish Jihadis].” That, in turn, undermines the “journalists’ narrative” which itself is under criticism for its remarkable similarity to the “Hamas narrative.” How can we let evidence undermine “talented, brave, excellent” reporters, and, not coincidentally, arouse the ire of those many players who insist on the value of the “Palestinian Narrative.”
The board was aware that any statement might feed into a pro-Israel propaganda campaign [sic] about the accuracy of reporting from Gaza that has angered many FPA members, but that did not deter them, any more than they had been prevented from issuing previous criticisms of Israel or the Palestinian Authority for fear they would be interpreted as anti-Israel or anti-PA.
Note the ease with which the FPA refers to Israel’s [strongly supported] contention about the inaccuracy of Palestinian claims as “propaganda” even as they have a long history of recycling Palestinian propaganda as news. I think this may relate to the most fundamental rule in the Hamas/Palestinian Media Protocols. Journalists may pass on any given piece of Pallywood staging or lethal narrative, but they cannot reveal the staging; they may demur in denouncing Israel for an own-goal Hamas-caused Palestinian tragedy, but they cannot reveal Hamas’ responsibility.
Above all, the most important principle at work here: do not undermine the Palestinian narrative; do not support the Israeli one. That, above all, is the “danger” Rudoren worries about. Far more candid than Rudoren, Matti Friedman puts it bluntly:
Our narrative was that the Palestinians were moderate and the Israelis recalcitrant and increasingly extreme. Reporting the Olmert offer—like delving too deeply into the subject of Hamas—would make that narrative look like nonsense. And so we were instructed to ignore it, and did, for more than a year and a half.
Purely as a tale of a journalistic lapse in informing their audience of writing under persecution, as a case study of the dilemmas facing journalists covering an asymmetrical war where the weak side does not hesitate to use violence while the strong adheres to democratic standards, respecting a free press no matter how hostile, this issue deserves a curriculum of its own in journalism school, and a literature in journalistic ethics.
We want to be nice; we don’t want to be mean. And we end up being nice to the mean and mean to the nice. If we understand that we face an apocalyptic enemy who views the “other,” the infidel, as evil that must be destroyed, then we can’t keep telling ourselves that money and economic programs will solve the problem.
As a colleague said to me once about Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, “I wouldn’t have that on my shelf.” She was a candidate for membership in “Historians against War along with the colleague who told me that if the Palestinians did suicide bombing, it’s because “what choice did they have.” In theory, an end to war is a messianic fantasy, not a scholarly discipline; in practice it means activists mistake the worst imperialists for allies an anti-imperial movement.
It’s hard when a journalist that you mostly respect, loses it, especially under pressure. Anshel Pfeffer’s article needs to be understood in the context of Jodi Rudoren’s remark explaining why she dismissed the FPA’s denunciation of Hamas intimidation of journalists during Operation Protective Edge as “nonsense.”
I found the wording of the statement overly broad, and, especially given the narrative playing out in some social media circles regarding foreign correspondents being taken in by the Hamas narrative and not reporting on the war fully or fairly, I was concerned that it undermined what I consider to have been brave and excellent work by very talented people,” she said.
Anshel is picking up the relay for Jodi in this effort to marginalize these “social media circles.” Ironically, one of the certain denizens of these “social circles,” Honest Reporting, has just come out with a discussion of the Top Five Major Media Fails of Operation Protective Edge, which corroborate precisely the claim that has Jodi (and Anshel) so exercised: 5 media fails = Hamas narrative.
A group of arriving immigrants from North America at Ben-Gurion InterComments (3)
[snip - section on Lone Soldiers which isn't so bad, and which uses the term "Jewish Jihadi" as a quote from other critics with whom Pfeffer disagrees.]
There is another type of Jewish jihadi, the online one.
Now I have a problem with this. It reminds me of the point at which I stopped watching the well-done if ideologically problematic TV show The Newsroom. The absurd premise (that the protagonist was a Republican and an equal opportunity critic, when the show was solely committed to making the Republicans look like a**holes) had worn pretty thin. But the point at which the protagonist (whose name I happily forget), finally gets the courage to defy the owners and go after the Tea Party, which he calls the “American Taliban” made turning the show off pretty easy. Tea Partiers don’t throw acid in the face of women whose behavior they find offensive; nor do pro-Israel Jews online slit people’s throats or rip them in pieces and drive their body parts through the streets. (Nor do they defend people who do do that.)
You want to call us Jewish cogwarriors, fine. Jihadis? you just show how little you understand about the enemy (or how little you understand about people who are on your side, even if you’re embarrassed by them in front of your “progressive” friends).
For the last few weeks they have had one mission – get on Twitter and be a constant thorn in the side of journalists covering this conflict, especially those reporting on the ground in Gaza. Some are actual employees of “pro-Israel” NGOs funded by Diaspora billionaires and coordinated at various discreet levels with official government hasbara departments. Most are self-appointed defenders of Israel who believe that by spending their days and nights online they are ensuring the survival of the Jewish State.
It turns out, they are on the front lines. The combination lethal narratives from Hamas (and other Palestinians) turned into news by the lethal journalists who, either under orders from Hamas, or out of some bizarre underdogma-driven advocacy, has endangered not just Israel and the Palestinians, but the rest of the world as well.
Together they have stoked an ongoing debate on journalistic ethics, a field they know nothing about.
Wow! Shades of Enderlin and associates insisting that civilian critics know nothing about real journalism and therefore have no right to criticize real journalists, that they’re merely meddling where they don’t belong, and that their criticism is a form of infringement on the free press.
The media is not above reproach, and the question of to what degree interference and pressure by Hamas affected the coverage is a legitimate one. Many seasoned correspondents in Gaza insist they experienced no effective censorship, while others have said they were subject to intimidation. A statement by the Foreign Press Association denouncing these Hamas actions is currently dividing the foreign press corps, many of whom feel that denunciation has undermined their credibility.
We all want to minimize civilian casualties, but wars in urban areas are chaotic. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009, of the victims of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq from March 2003 to March 2008, nearly half, 46% were women and 39% were children.
By contrast, according to the UN, (not friendly to Israel) 12% of all Palestinians killed in Gaza were women and 23% were children, far lower than the percentages killed in U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.
However, men, most likely combatants, killed by the US, were only 15 % of their total, but most casualties by Israel have been men 65%!
Despite this superior Israeli record the White House, Pentagon, and State Department have all accused Israel in the harshest terms of doing too little to prevent civilian casualties. Yet Israel’s record on this score is much better than America’s.
Omertà, or the code of silence, is a classic example of how honor-shame concerns (the term comes from “manliness”) can shape a discourse, even a formal or informal conspiracy of silence. One’s honor depends on adhering to a “code of silence,” and breaking it not only brings shame, but in cases where the stakes are high, deadly retaliation. The effects of omertà guarantee that not only does one not talk about the forbidden topic, but one also denies the existence of omertà itself.
The great moral challenge to honor-shame systems concerns the problem of what to do when one must choose between lying for the sake of public honor and keep guilt private, or telling the truth and receiving public opprobrium but maintaining integrity privately. (The classic paradigmatic narrative is when Judah renounces an “honor-killing” for the sake of his own integrity.) In some senses, the emergence of democracy depends on the ability of key players to prefer the painful truth to the face-saving lie, and key “honor-groups” to respect that decision rather than to view admission of fault as a weakness that invites aggression.
Right now the evidence is strong that our mainstream news media (MSNM) are operating within a system of intimidation that imposes on them a code of silence about both reporting on the shocking behavior of Hamas in deliberately maximizing its own civilians’ casualties (bona fide war crimes), and the intimidating violence and surveillance of journalists with which they enforce that silence. They are therefore caught in a classic formulation of the honor-shame dilemma:
1) accept public shame and discrediting in order to uphold the integrity of journalistic ethics by admitting that they have been so systematically intimidated, or
2) save face publicly and be guilty of preserving an illegitimate credibility by denying the intimidation to which they submit and do not have the courage to challenge.
The result of their unwillingness to admit what’s going on is a public secret. Anyone who pays attention knows it’s true, but no one will admit to it. On the contrary, rather than admit, some, in order to deal with the cognitive dissonance of lying to their primary audience (Western information consumers) and enabling war crimes (Jihadi practices), they lie to themselves and pretend that they willingly, proudly, embrace the positions dictated to them.
One of the characteristics of people with Stockholm Syndrome is, in fact, that they are so thankful to be spared the violence of their captors, that they become their captor’s most ardent ideologues. How much of the media vindictiveness towards Israel reflects this metabolizing of intimidation into advocacy: I’m not intimidated, why no one will intimidate me; I’m for the little guy. Possible explanation for the widespread popularity among journalists of Underdogma.
In any case, it’s apparent to me that not only do journalists suffer from the potentially violent retaliation of Jihadis for whom journalism is a weapon of war, and journalists are either on their side or on their enemy’s side, but also from fellow journos who enforce the code culturally by punishing and banishing any journalist who might break the silence or defy what one journalist in an unguarded moment called, “the procedures for reporting from Palestine”, or, what I’d call “the Hamas Media Protocols.” Indeed, where are the journalists willing to “break the silence.” Or is it just the IDF that should have such self-critical members?
Rob Eisen, who teaches Jewish Studies at Georgetown University writes the following on my exchange with Paul Scham, of which Paul posted his response at his blog. My responses folded into his comments.
The honor-shame dynamic varies in content and intensity with different cultures, but it’s in EVERY culture because it’s a basic element of human psychology. There’s lots to say about this from the standpoint of evolutionary biology, something Landes just isn’t sensitive to.
I’m not sure what makes you think I’m not sensitive to this, when I actually explicitly make the point at the beginning of the essay to which Paul responds. (I’ve just realized that Paul did not post my response to him, nor did he link to the original article to which he was responding, so unless you exercised more than due diligence, you only know what I think through the mirror of Paul’s response.) But thank you for the opportunity to clarify.
The Times of London, not normally a paper that favors Israel has a great political cartoon out:
In part, it’s a response (finally) to a piece by a Palestinian French journalist who was interrogated by Hamas thugs inside Shiffa Hospital in Gaza City. The article, which was published by the French (very anti-Israeli) newspaper Liberation, has since been removed by the request of the author who apparently fears for his safety as long as it’s up. The Tablet has a copy of the article up. Elder of Zion published a translation, further discussed at the Algemeiner.
Hamas has threatened journalists not just for articles, but for tweets. One cannot underestimate the role of intimidation in shaping the news we read and hear. If one looks at the role that ideological advocacy plays among lethal journalists and their colleagues who tag along, it corresponds exactly to what one would expect from journalists for whom fear of Palestinian retaliation for publishing the truth about them, is only matched by lack of Israeli retaliation for telling lies of Israel.
The Times of London also published an excellent op-ed by Richard Kemp, British colonel who served with NATO forces in Afghanistan and has the nerve to call the Israeli army the most moral (by far) in the world.
Palestinian rockets are like the Nazi V1s. Civilian casualties were inevitable then and now
‘The Israelis are doing it all wrong. The RAF didn’t fly off to bomb Belfast in the troubles.” These words from a respected media commentator embody the extraordinary lack of understanding by so many in this country who think the Israelis’ fight with Hamas is like ours with the IRA and can be dealt with in the same way.
I have long argued that there’s a direct relationship between lethal journalism about Israel and the rise of an aggressive Muslim Street in Europe (and the rest of the West). This round of fighting, better than anything, illustrates the point… so much that one might hope that Europeans are waking up. This incident in The Hague (Holland), unfortunately, suggests that the Dutch are still struggling with reality, both moral and empirical.
Yesterday evening, this happened in The Hague, the “international city of peace and justice”.
Hear the Muslim mobs shout “Death to the Jews” (“Al mawt al Yahud”); make references to the genocide of Khaibar and shout “Those who do not jump are Jews” (with all Muslims present jumping):
This morning, the public prosecutors office issued a press release which understates the size of the demonstration (only 40-50 people — journalists counted over a hundred ‘activists’ and several hundred chearing bystanders).
The press release further states: “The police was present at the demonstration with an Arabic speaking police officer. The slogans overheard by this police officer were, at that moment, not considered as crossing boundaries. Hence, no arrest have been made.”
You can use google translate to get you an English version.
Apparently, the Muslim police officer lied about what he heard.
And also the Mayor of The Hague declared that no boundaries have been crossed.
This is unbelievable and totally unacceptable.
This calls for an international scandal. Please spread this message.
My friend Paul Scham, who’s on the National Advisory Board of J-Street and teaches about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at University of Maryland, as well as one of the editors of Israel Studies Review, read my piece on Honor-Shame and the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Tablet and wrote a response, to which I wrote a response, which the Tablet, after considerable editing, has published. Both Paul and I are publishing the unedited versions of our work on our blogs, so that the five zealots who want to follow every detailed turn of our discussion can do so at their leisure. Comments welcome.
Honor and Shame are not the Problem: A Reply to Richard Landes
Richard Landes’s article on the honor-shame problem is erudite, articulate, and stimulating. It is also largely irrelevant to understanding most of the Arab world today. Such broad sweeps of historical generalization are titillating to historians and others but do not take account of the immense variation within the Arab and Muslim worlds and the fact that fundamental changes have occurred and are occurring within the last few decades, to say nothing of the last century. Relying on a strict cultural determinism, as Landes does, is a disservice to understanding these dynamics.
A number of writers have recently written on what is now widely evident, that Hamas is pursuing a war strategy that depends critically on maximizing their own civilian casualties: the more, the more gruesome, the better. I append to this post a bibliography of essays identifying and analyzing this strategy.
Hamas’ strategy works like this:
Cyclically attack your enemy’s civilians in such as way as to provoke a violent retaliation.
Hide behind civilians (neighborhoods, schools, hospitals) so that the retaliation does your civilians the maximal damage.
Produce an industry of lethal narratives portraying Israel as ruthless murderers of civilians (a projection of Hamas tactics and desires).
Have these lethal narratives circulated by journalists as news, so that international opinion rises up against Israel.
Survive until that international outrage forces the Israelis to pull back and save you.
Repeat, with each reiteration making Israel weaker on the military battlefield and more isolated in the global community.
Given how merciless and self-destructive this strategy, it has proven surprisingly effective. As Jeremy Bowen explains, each round is a race in time between the moments the Israelis strike (back) and the time an incensed international community intervenes decisively to stop the “humanitarian crisis.”
And as Christiane Amanpour puts it to Tony Blair, the more the casualties mount, the less time Israel has:
And thus, we find the same self-destructive and murderous “cycle of violence” in which Hamas targets both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, playing out once again, with ominous consequences both for those in conflict, Palestinians and Israelis, and also for the global community, which increasingly discovers that every round of local violence here provokes greater violence and hatred around the world.
This cannibalistic strategy depends heavily on the world’s news media – the outsider “information professionals” – playing a critical, dual role: on the one hand playing up the suffering the the maximum. No other conflict in the world gets the attention that this one does, despite how much bloodier and more tragic they may be.
But the terribly suffering alone will not suffice. If the world blamed Hamas for that suffering, their war strategy would backfire and they would lose decisively, both in the kinetic war (military battlefied) and the cognitive one. The information professionals’ second and equally crucial task is to blame Israel for the violence. Without that, no world outrage against them, no intervention on Hamas’ side, no next round.
The question then is, why would the Western media, which by all markers considers itself progressive, play so critical a role in so destructive and belligerent a war strategy? Otherwise put, why do the Palestinians have “friends” – the information professionals – journalists, academics, NGOs, activists – who consistently strengthen their predatory elites?
Notes Oren at the end of his piece:
Just as Israel must relentlessly scrutinize its military actions in Gaza and their consequences, so, too, must journalists take a hard look at the way they cover this conflict. They must not allow themselves to act as accessories to Hamas’s murderous strategy that delegitimizes Israel and prolongs the Palestinians’ suffering.
I remember you’ve talked about how Arab leaders don’t see something wrong with lying to Western media outlets. I was reading שומרי הסף and came across an interesting comment by Avi Dichter (former head of Shabak) on the phenomenon: בלא מעט מפגשים, כולל עם קולין פאוול שהיה מזכיר המדינה, ואחריו קונדוליסה רייס שהחליפה אותו, תמיד אמרתי להם: “אנחנו לא מוכנים לסבול יותר את תרבות ה’יעני’ של הפלסטינים.” ואז אמרו לי: “מה זה תרבות ה’יעני’?” אמרתי להם: “‘יעני’ זו מילת מפתח בערבית.” ואני אדגים לך אותה באמצעות סיפור אמיתי. בבית לחם היה מחבל, רב-מחבלים, בשן עטאף עבייאת שעמד מאחורי ירי המרגמות לעבר שכונת גילה בירושלים בשנת 2001. בשלב מסוים נשיא ארצות הברית בוש ויאסר ערפאת עסקו בשם עטאף עבייאת. תאר לעצמך – נשיא ארצות הברית דרש מיאסר ערפאת להכניס את עאטף עבייאת לכלא, ויאסר ערפאת התחייב שהוא יעצור את עאטף עבייאת ויכניס אותו לכלא. כי ישראל איימה שאם זה לא יקרה היא תיכנס לבית לחם כדי לפגוע בו. אחרי זה שמעון פרס שהיה שר החוץ הזעיק אותי לפגישה בירושלים עם אבו-עלא, שהיה יושב ראש המועצה המחוקקת שלהם, עם ג’יבריל רג’וב שהיה ראש השב”כ הפלסטיני ביהודה ושומרון, ועם סאיב עריקאת שהיה העוזר של יאסר ערפאת. ואז אני נכנס לחדר ויושבים שלושתם מול שמעון פרס, ושמעון פרס אומר לי: “אבי, הם אומרים שעאטף עבייאת בכלא.” ידעתי שזה קשקוש כי הוא היה בדיוק באיזה מבצע הכנו אז. אני אומר: “שמע, אדוני שר החוץ, אני צקווה שאתה לא מקבל את הדברים האלה.” אז הוא אומר לאבו-עלא: “אבו עלא, please tell him.” ועברנו לערבית כי באנגלית קשה מאוד לסכל טרור. ואז אבו-עלא אומר לי: “אבי, אני אומר לך, האיש עצור. האיש בכלא.” אני אומר לא: “אבו-עלא, אני מצטער, האיש לא בכלא.” ואז מהר מאוד ראית שהוא לא חזק בגרסה, הוא מסתכל על סאיב עריקאת ואומר לו: “סאיב, מיש היכ? (לא כך?)” סאיב עריקאת, האמן לי, אין לו מושג מי זה עאטף עבייאת, אין לו מושג מה בכלל קורה סביב הנושא הזה, אבל ניד הוא שולף מהמותן ואומר – “definitely” – ברור לחלוטין שהוא בכלא. ואז שניהם מסתכלים על ג’יבריל רג’וב ואומרים לו: “ג’יבריל, הוא בכלא, נכון?” עכשיו ג’יבריל יודע שאם יש מישהו שיכול לעצור את עטאף עבייאת זה רק הוא. והוא במלכוד. כי ג’יבריל יודע שהאיש לא בכלא. מעבר לזה, הוא יודע שאני יודע שהאיש לא בכלא, והכי גרוע, הוא יודע שאני יודע שהוא יודע שהאיש לא בכלא… ואז לוחצים, אומרים לו: “ג’יבריל, הלוא כן?” הוא בכלא, נכון?” ואז הוא אומר: “יעני…” עכשיו “יעהי” זה הוא בכלא, “יעני” זה הוא לא בכלא, ו”יעני” זה איפה שאתה רק רוצה… יום אחד היתה משלחת מארצות הברית אצלי וסיפרתי להם את הסיפור. בסוף שאלתי אותם: “הבנתם את המשמעות של המילה?” אז הם הסתכלו אחד על השני ואחד אומר – “יעני…” אמרתי: “אז הבנתם.” תרבות ה”יעני” היא אם כל חטאת במערכת היחסים שלנו עם הפלסטינים באותה התקופה. (דרור מורה, “שומרי הסף,” 2014, pg 259-60)
Matt’s quick translation:
In a number of meetings, including with Colin Powell, who was the Secretary of State, and after him Condoleeza Rice, who switched him, I always told them, “We aren’t willing to suffer any more of the Palestinians’ ‘ya’ni’ culture.” They replied, “What’s ‘ya’eni’ culture?” I told them, “‘Ya’ni’ is a keyword in Arabic.” And I’ll give you an example from a true story.
In Bethlehem there was a terrorist, an arch-terrorist, by the name of Ataf Abayat, who was behind the mortars fired at the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem in 2001. At a certain stage President Bush demanded that Yassir Arafat put Ataf Abayat in jail, and Yassir Arafat agreed to arrest him and to put him in jail, because Israel threatened that to enter Bethlehem if he didn’t.
After this Shimon Peres, who was the Foreign Minister, summoned me to a meeting in Jerusalem with Abu-Aleh, who was the head of their legal committee, with Jibril Rejub, who was the head of Palestinian interior security in the West Bank, and with Saib Erekat, who was Yassir Arafat’s assistant. I entered the room and the three were sitting across from Shimon Peres, and Shimon Peres told me, “Avi, they say that Ataf Abayat is in jail.” I knew that it’s not true because he was just in an operation that had been planned. I said, “Listen Mr. Foreign Minister, I hope that you don’t believe this.” Then he said to Abu-Aleh, “Abu-Aleh, please tell him.”
And we switched to Arabic because it’s very hard to stop terror in English. Abu-Aleh said to me, “Avi, I’m telling you, the man is under arrest. He’s in jail.” I told him, “Abu-Aleh, I’m sorry, the man is not in jail.” And very quickly you could see that he wasn’t certain of his version, he looked to Saib Erekat and said to him, “Saib, mish hech? (is it not so?)” Saib Erekat, believe me, has no idea who this Ataf Abayat is, has no idea what’s going on at all with this topic, but immediately responds, “definitely” – of course he’s in jail. And then both of them look at Jibril Rajub and say, “Jibril, he’s in jail, right?”
Now Jibril knows that if someone can arrest Ataf Abayat, it’s only him. And he’s trapped. Because Jibril knows that the man isn’t in jail. Beyond that, he knows that I know that he’s not in jail. And worst of all, he knows that I know that he knows that he’s not in jail… And they press him and say, “Jibril, is it not right? He’s in jail, right?” And he says, “Ya’ni…” Now “ya’ni” means he’s in jail, “ya’ni” means he’s not in jail, and “ya’ni” means whatever you want.
One day a delegation from America was with me and I told them this story. At the end I asked them, “Did you understand the meaning of the word?” They looked at each other and one said, “ya’ni…” I said, “Then you understood.” The “ya’ni” culture was the mother of all misunderstandings in the our relationship with the Palestinians during that period.
If it sounds like one of R.D.Laing’s Knots, it’s because it is one of them. And the way out is not to say, “whatever.”
The academic boycott of Israel (“Unity amid divisions”, Features, 17 July) is a boycott of institutions not individuals, and there has been a tidal shift of opinion in favour of a boycott – this week, a fourth US academic association voted to support it.
As so many others, I have been involved in a facebook conversation with people highly critical of Israel’s behavior. In particular, I’ve exchanged a number of comments with someone. Given the problems of responding on facebook (hit the return and it’s over), I’ve decided to answer to a long and thoughtful comment he made here at my blog. I welcome his responses.
I totally agree. Hamas is trying to gain western sympathy through higher body counts.
If only Israel seemed in any way interested in lifting the blockade that puts Hamas in such a position where they feel they need our sympathy.
You are aware that every time Israel lets in anything that can be turned against her, Hamas will do that, yes? The international community and the NGOs and the UNRWA assured Israel that the tons of cement they allowed in would be used for building structures for the sake of Gazans, and they were instead put in tunnels to Israel whose only function was to kill Israelis by the thousands.
Ari Shavit has a good piece of analysis up at Ha-aretz. For those who are mesmerized by statistics (often cooked), it’s worth a read. While it’s so easy for Hamas (and Fatah) to say, “my side right or wrong,” it’s really hard for Israelis to say “this time we’re right” even when we are.
Those who are even slightly forgiving of Hamas are cooperating with a fanatically religious tyrannical dictator. Hamas are Palestinian neo-Nazis.
When the fighting ends, they’ll start to ask difficult questions. Did Israel do everything in its power to utilize the many years of relative calm to advance the peace process? Was the United States careful not to leave a vacuum in place when the Kerry initiative failed? Did Israel’s security establishment accurately estimate the raw threat presented by Hamas, and the possibility that it would resort to conflict? Did Israeli society provide the Israel Defense Forces with the backing that it needed in order to sufficiently prepare for war? Did the bug of political correctness drive the far-left crazy? Did the blood and suffering of the last few weeks make Israeli democracy closed-minded and intolerant?
When the time comes, all of these questions will require not-so-simple answers.
But now, as soldiers are being attacked from all directions, there are other, more basic questions that must be asked. Who are we fighting? What are we fighting for, and are we justified?
Who are we fighting? A fascist organization that terrorizes the people of Gaza, oppresses women and gays, and shuns all democratic values of freedom and progress.
If you want to glimpse an understanding of the gap between Western and Arab cultures, and why Hamas continues to bomb Israel even though its people are suffering so, consider the following.
In 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, a BBC reporter asked the Arab League’s ambassador to the UN (probably didn’t know there was such a thing), why, if Israel says it will stop if Hamas does, and you are so concerned for the casualties among Gazans, Hamas doesn’t just stop firing:
Sort of the opposite of what one might expect. To understand why, a recent speech by a Kuwaiti cleric. In the words of Elihu Stone (H/T), a one stop shopping site for everything from suicidal Arab honor-shame to the moral gulf that divides us.
Samuel Laurent parle des réseaux djihadistes en France, et l’apport de mujahideen revenants de Syrie en Europe par les milliers…
Est-ce que cette fois ci, lors d’une operation du Tsahal à Gaza, que les européens commencent à se reveiller au sujet du lien entre leurs journalistes meurtiers et la djihade qui se deroulent à l’intérieur de leurs propres sociétés?
Liberation, journal de gauche, publia sur les manifs illégaux un article anonyme qui illustre bien la partie-prise des “professionels de l’information” aux côtes des djihadis, avec tous les distortions morales et empirique qui en suivent. Illustration de la faillite de l’intelligentsia européenne au début du 21e siècle.
Lise Haddad, Présidente du Mouvement pour la paix contre le terrorisme ( MPCT)” envoya la lettre suivante en réponse.
“Quand au lendemain de la commémoration de la rafle du Vel d’hiv, des synagogues sont brûlées ainsi que des magasins juifs et des” voitures de Juifs” dans une banlieue parisienne, il me semble extrêmement grave qu’un journal aille encore semer la haine et faire flamber les tensions. Voilà pourquoi je décide de répondre à cet article d’un courageux anonyme au pseudo d’Horace Benatier qui étale ses titres académiques mais cache son identité pour s’extasier devant l’organisation de cette manifestation interdite, samedi 19 juillet.
Il parle de “désobéissance civile” à propos du maintien d’une manifestation pro palestinienne interdite sans considérer que cette interdiction intervient après une première manifestation sur le même thème dans laquelle avaient été tolérés les cris de “Mort aux Juifs” à Paris et de “nous sommes tous des Mohamed Merah” à Nice avec une première synagogue attaquée rue de la Roquette, des Juifs molestés.
Pendant la manifestation interdite de si haute tenue morale, des slogans antisémites n’ont pas seulement été criés en marge de la manifestation, mais bien au coeur de celle-ci, et le fait de le nier constitue une forme de négationnisme contemporain. Que les curieux aillent se renseigner sur les témoignages tweeter des riverains qui effarés, ont filmé ces images d’un autre temps. Une de mes proches, habitant à 100 mètres de la manifestation, a entendu ces cris de haine et a craint pour sa propre intégrité. Quelle douceur, quelle dignité!
Je retiens de la part d’un “haut fonctionnaire” et “maître de conférence”, cette formule: “La manifestation fut un succès [...] Par la dignité et la justesse verbale («Israël assassin, Hollande complice»)” dont ces manifestants ont fait preuve “. Quelle dignité et quelle retenue dans le fait de traiter en hurlant un pays “d’assassin” et le chef de l’Etat français de complice d’assassinat! Sur quels critères juridiques précis? Mystère. Monsieur l’enseignant masqué s’emballe dans un élan lyrique.
Quelle incitation à la douceur et à la retenue! Il est vrai que Netanyahu aurait eu l’heur de plaire à cet Horace bien peu cornélien en laissant s’abattre des centaines de missiles sur tout son territoire, sur ses aéroports, hôpitaux, écoles, maisons, faisant ainsi des milliers de morts israéliens mais la stratégie cynique et visiblement efficace au plan médiatique du bouclier humain prisée par le Hamas (organisation terroriste selon les critères internationaux) ne semble pas correspondre à la mentalité israélienne.
Les populations civiles palestiniennes sont prévenues à l’avance par l’armée israélienne des bombardements en retour des tirs de roquettes et seul le Hamas les incite à rester pour servir de martyres, c’est aussi le Hamas qui refuse d’accorder ou de respecter les trêves ou le cessez le feu. Si cet Horace crypté voyait des criminels creuser un tunnel jusqu’à son domicile pour effectuer des enlèvements ou pour le tuer avec sa famille , sans doute les accueillerait- il chez lui et mourrait-il avec grâce, retenue, dignité. Sans doute croit-il que condamner les populations palestiniennes à vivre sous la tyrannie d’organisations terroristes et fanatiques est la marque de sa grande âme et qu’encourager les Mohamed Merah formés en Syrie à venir massacrer des enfants juifs dans leur école en France et des soldats musulmans ou pas pendant leur permission constitue un acte de bravoure démocratique et de désobéissance civile.
Les jeunes casseurs de banlieue sont nourris de haine contre les Sionistes, une haine semée par les islamistes et entretenue par les bonnes âmes sensibles qui défilent dans les rues aux côtés de gens éructant des “morts aux Juifs”, ils sont abreuvés de haine contre les Juifs sous le fumeux prétexte qu’ils soutiennent Israël, ils se déchainent contre les commissariats de police qui essaient de faire respecter les valeurs démocratiques et qui représentent la force de protection de l’Etat français “complice d’un Etat assassin” d’après monsieur Horace Benatier, ils les attaquent donc à coup de pierres (intifada à la française), de barres de fer voire d’obus de mortiers comme à Argenteuil.
Le mystère reste qu’en pleine crise de la société civile,de bonnes âmes éduquées puissent penser ainsi et que Libération publie de tels articles.
Pamela Olson reported on facebook (at Gershom Baskin’s page) the following remark (which, judging by her page, she fully approves of):
“As a couple of people said on my comment thread lately: The entire presence of Israel is a bit like if I went to the house I grew up in (but haven’t lived in for 25 years) and said that it was my house now and the people currently living there (some distant relatives of mine) have to live in the closet. And I’ll beat the shit out of them if they try to come into the main part of the house or protest the whole situation in any meaningful way. What is worse is that it has been thousands of years and the current Palestinians are likely the offspring of the same people who were the original Jews who at some point converted to Christianity or Islam (or Communism or atheism or Buddhism or whatever).”
Let’s take it statement by statement, and construct an appropriate analogy:
“As a couple of people said on my comment thread lately: The entire presence of Israel is a bit like if I went to the house I grew up in (but haven’t lived in for 25 years) and said that it was my house now and the people currently living there (some distant relatives of mine) have to live in the closet.
H/T Walter Sobchak: Its more like we were expelled from the house by a gang of bikers, they were succeeded by a gang of drug dealers, and they in turn got pushed out by the mafia, who let a bunch of their low life cousins live there.
From the Romans to the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Ottomans, and the British — There were no legitimate peaceful transfers by bequest or purchase. Every transfer was by conquest. The Palestinian Arabs were subjects of the Ottomans and were treated by the Ottomans as lowly peasants (fellahin).
It is a maxim of the law that you cannot take good title from a thief. The Arab peasants could not take good title from any of the conquerors.
Jews lived in the closet or basement of that house, even though it was theirs, for all those long years, being pushed aside by imperialist aggressors, the last of whom was the distant relatives, who ran the place down into a deserted wreck.
When the Jews came to move back in, they rebuilt the place with plenty of room for everyone, including the distant relatives, whose families flocked to move in so they could share in the improved conditions. If in 1900 the place could only house under a million, the same area now houses 10 million.
And I’ll beat the shit out of them if they try to come into the main part of the house or protest the whole situation in any meaningful way.
And if they are willing to play by the rules that make this house liveable to so many, then they’re welcome, but if they come in with their old imperialist games of “we have to run the show or we’ll burn the place down,” then we will make it most unpleasant for them.
What is worse is that it has been thousands of years and the current Palestinians are likely the offspring of the same people who were the original Jews who at some point converted to Christianity or Islam (or Communism or atheism or Buddhism or whatever).”
What is worse is that it has been over a thousand years, and the current Palestinians are the offspring of the imperialist Muslims who came in and conquered the area in the early 7th century, and made life miserable for anyone who didn’t join their imperialist religion (or whatever). And they continue to pursue these unbelievably primitive and regressive attitudes to the detriment of everyone.
And what’s even worse is that people on the outside who think they’re being “fair,” but who don’t have a clue about the history, don’t hesitate to make up silly and hostile analogies that show as profound a lack of understanding, as Arabs political culture shows a lack of affinity for democracy.
A Palestinian protester aims sparks from a flare toward Israeli security forces during clashes near the Israeli checkpoint in Hebron on Feb. 25, 2013. (Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)
Anthropologists and legal historians have long identified certain tribal cultures—warrior, nomadic—with a specific set of honor codes whose violation brings debilitating shame. The individual who fails to take revenge on the killer of a clansman brings shame upon himself (makes him a woman) and weakens his clan, inviting more open aggression. In World War II, the United States sought the help of anthropologists like Ruth Benedict to explain the play of honor and shame in driving Japanese military behavior, resulting in both intelligence victories in the Pacific Theater and her book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Taking her lead, the great classicist E.R. Dodds analyzed the millennium-long shift in Greek culture from a “shame” culture to a “guilt” culture in his Greeks and the Irrational, where he contrasted a world in which fame and reputation, rather than conscience and fear of divine retribution, drive men to act.
But even before literary critic Edward Saïd heaped scorn on “honor-shame” analysis inOrientalism (1978), anthropologists had backed off an approach that seemed to make inherently invidious comparisons between primitive cultures and a morally superior West. The reception of Saïd’s work strengthened this cultural relativism: Concerns for honor and shame drive everyone, and the simplistic antinomy “shame-guilt cultures” must be ultimately “racist.” It became, well, shameful in academic circles to mention honor/shame and especially in the context of comparisons between the Arab world and the West. Even in intelligence services, whose job is to think like the enemy, refusing to resort to honor/shame dynamics became standard procedure.
Any generous person should have a healthy discomfort with “othering,” drawing sharp lines between two peoples. We muddy the boundaries to be minimally polite: Honor-killings, for example, are thus seen as a form of domestic violence, which is also pervasive in the West. And indeed, honor/shame concerns are universal: Only saints and sociopaths don’t care what others think, and no group coheres without an honor code.
But even if these practices exist everywhere, we should still be able to acknowledge that in some cultures the dominant voices openly promote honor/shame values and in a way that militates against liberal society and progress. Arab political culture, to take one example—despite some liberal voices, despite noble dissidents—tends to favor ascendancy through aggression, the politics of the “strong horse,” and the application of “Hama rules”—which all combine to produce a Middle East caught between prison and anarchy, between Sisi’s Egypt and al-Assad’s Syria. Our inability, however well-meaning, to discuss the role of honor-shame dynamics in the making of this political culture poses a dilemma: By keeping silent, we not only operate in denial, but we may actually strengthen these brutal values and weaken the very ones we treasure.
Few conflicts offer a better place to explore these matters than the Arab-Israeli conflict.