On the “Clash of Civilizations” in the Era of Trump

[NB: I wrote this last November, but forgot to post it. Better late than never, and given the reaction to Trump’s Executive Order about admitting people from seven Muslim-majority nations as feeding More »

An Earlier Earthquake in the Jewish World: Response to Eva Illouz

Haaretz passed on publishing an earlier draft of this response to a piece it had published. #Shocker It was subsequently published in a shortened form at The Algemeiner. An Earlier Earthquake in the More »

Alt-Mid to Alt-Lib: The far right’s new fascination with the Middle Ages

The Economist recently published a piece on the renewed interest in the Middle Ages. Like “fakenews” and “anti-semitism” these are issues that have been alive and well for over two decades without More »

An Earlier Earthquake in the Jewish World: Response to Eva Illouz

Eva Illouz wrote a dramatic New Year’s piece for Ha-aretz, in which she accuses fellow Jews who support Trump of falling prey to messianic fantasies and “betraying Jews, Jewish history and humanity,” and More »

Susan Handelman to Executive Director on MLA Boycotting Israel

A friend and colleague, and member of the MLA (Modern Language Association) for decades, just received an email  letter sent to all  25,000 members of the Association  from the Executive Director of More »

Macina Update on Georges Bensoussan Trial in Paris

A tireless warrior in the cogwar, Menachem Macina, frequent commenter here, left a long comment with an update on the George Bensassoun blasphemy trial in Chambre 17 in Paris. I post it here to give it the attention it deserves.

This is indeed a fascinating case that shows how crazy things have gotten in France. (I put some things together on my facebook page.)

Georges Bensoussan, a French Jewish historian and activist against islamism (with quite some credentials in this field), in a debate on the radio (high-brow France-Culture almost nobody listens to) explains how widespread antisemitism in the French Muslim community makes it vulnerable to the islamists’ attempts to set it up against French society.

He then is accused of incitement to hatred against the Muslim community by professional anti-racism organisations, with the lead being taken by the CCIF (against islamophobia). Other anti-racist organisations join in, among which the venerable old LICRA (against racism and anti-semitism) with its star witness Mohamed Sifaoui, an Algerian journalist in France who is a very outspoken critic of islamism and at the same time very much maligned by the CCIF for being former PM Manuel Valls’s sidekick and by the CCIF’s followers for being a ‘zionist agent’, who explains his testimony against Bensoussan with the wish not to leave the defense of the French Muslims entirely to the CCIF.

Apart maybe from the CCIF, nobody seems to be thinking about the sketch Dieudonné is going to make on Bensoussan, who is also associated with the French Shoah memorial, if he is ever found guilty by the court of incitement to hatred against Muslims, as the public prosecutor demands (with a fine of €1.500), after debates at the trial that lasted for 12 hours (till 1h30 in the morning). The verdict will be pronounced on the 7th of March.

The judge, who is Mme Siredey-Garnier, in the meantime has published a sort of opinion piece in the ‘Gazette du Palais’ in which she contrasts the 12-hour long Bensoussan trial with other hearings where she has to decide on the fate of some 23 illegal immigrants in about the same amount of time. The idea she tries to put forward seems to be that the Bensoussan trial is merely about a symbolic matter whereas the other cases are about real lives. But she reminds herself of the trials of Flaubert, Zola, Baudelaire and Charlie, which were also held before the same tribunal (17me chambre), and promises to do her duty by giving every case the attention it deserves.

Her piece inspired me to write a last message in support of Georges Bensoussan that I secretly hope will come to her attention (in French) and that on my part is meant as a simple plea for sanity: “Pour ma part, j’espère seulement que le juge jouera pleinement son rôle de juge, et admettra d’autres considérations que celles introduites par les parties avant d’arriver à une conclusion. Comme par exemple le fait qu’il s’agissait d’un débat contradictoire à la radio, et que dans ce cas on ne peut attendre de personne qu’il pèse vraiment tous ses mots. Que Georges Bensoussan est certes responsable de sa parole, mais qu’il ne peut être tenu responsable de toutes les interprétations malveillantes que d’autres veulent en faire. En d’autres mots, que le juge se rend compte que devant un tribunal révolutionnaire Georges Bensoussan serait facilement condamné pour incitation à la haine raciale. Mais qu’il décide ensuite que devant le tribunal d’un état de droit comme la RF il ne le mérite aucunement. Et qu’il condamne chacune des parties civiles à €10.000 de dommages pour procédure abusive, harcèlement et atteinte à la réputation de Georges Bensoussan.”

http://www.marianne.net/agora-proces-bensoussan-reponse-mohamed-sifaoui-100249704.html

 

On the “Clash of Civilizations” in the Era of Trump

[NB: I wrote this last November, but forgot to post it. Better late than never, and given the reaction to Trump’s Executive Order about admitting people from seven Muslim-majority nations as feeding global Jihad, it seems still highly relevant.]

Pundits are worried that Donald Trump and team – Bannon, Flynn, Pompeo – are “bringing back” the clash of civilizations (back to 2001). This regression, we are told, is a dangerous move that will play right into the hands of the Jihadis. Notes Fawaz Gerges:

What Trump and his followers do not get is that their inflammatory rhetoric plays into the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda, who labor hard to convince skeptical Muslims that the West is waging a war against Islam.

Indeed this sentiment inspired both Bush’s famous “Islam is a religion of peace” speech within a week of 9-11, and Obama’s aversion to any association of Islam with violence. “ISIS is not Islamic.” It goes along with hand phrases like, “We can’t go to war with 1.6 billion Muslims.”

Much has been written of late about the dangers of exaggerating things. Democrats/ Liberals/ Progressives exaggerate the flaws of their “right-wing” opponents, abusing terms like racism and xenophobia till it ceases to move people. Republicans/ Conservatives/ Realists paint with a broad brush, tarring all Islam with the stain of Jihadi extremism.

And the danger here involves not merely the outsiders who cease to respond to the exaggerated rhetoric intended to stampede them against those designated as “beyond the pale.” It also carries the danger of convincing true believers that the sky really is falling. In this sense, Trump may have won in part because his foes had so abused terms like racist and Islamophobe that some voters even warmed to him because he so openly mocked their politically correct strictures. And in the wake of his stunning victory (unforeseen in part because the mainstream of news and commentary so believed their own pack rhetoric), we now have “progressives” alarmed, even panicked, at the prospect of such a terrible man inhabiting the White House, a man so beyond the pale, that normalizing him would be Orwellian “newspeak.”

And yet the same folks who consider “normalizing Trump” an act of newspeak, would not dream of identifying the claim “Islam is a religion of peace,” as a variant on a central theme of newspeak: War means peace, peace means war. In fact Western infidels have formulated the problem of Islamic violence in a way that guarantees it won’t be understood, much less effectively addressed. Right now, certainly since the turn of the millennium, outside dealings with violent Muslims only made things worse

However well-intentioned, or defensive we infidels might be, whatever we do, we make it worse: if we appease, we invite further demands; if we push back, we elicit further hostility. And while we fail miserably to recognize danger and menace coming from without we consume our energies with internecine warfare between “left” and “right”: our tough cops assault our nice cops for being self-destructive fools, while our nice cops assault tough cops for their obscene and atrocious belligerence: each side correctly predicting the failure of the others’ strategies.

Meantime their tough cop (Jihadis) terrify, and their nice cops (Summoners) show us the path to proleptic dhimmitude, to submission. And the first and most important submission of the dhimmi is not to blaspheme, not to criticize, not to shame a Muslim publicly. Accusations of Islamophobia currently play the role of making substantive criticism of currents of Muslim religiosity impossible.

Thus what began as respectful, politically-correct concerns about not offending others, when applied to Muslims, has become so charged with anxiety (and fear) that anyone who addressed the more problematic aspects of Muslims response to the modern world, gets marginalized. As a result, serious discussion about “radical” and “moderate” Islam, and their relationships to each other and infidels, cannot take place, even though they’re key to responding to the challenge of global Jihad.

Reuel Mark Gerecht offers a fine example of the rhetoric that has made discussion so difficult. Even as he faults Obama for failing to address the issue at all, he then turns on the “anti-Islam crowd:

However, I do have a really big problem when certain individuals attempt to paint Islam, in all its 1400-plus years of glorious complexity, as a deranged civilization and faith, whose denizens and practitioners are somehow uniquely capable of violence because they are hard-wired to do so, via the Koran, the holy law, and whatever else the anti-Islam crowd thinks makes Muslims tick. This is just historically atrocious. It is often obscene.”

“Anti-Islam crowd thinks… deranged faith… Koran makes Muslims hard-wired for violence tick… just historically atrocious… often obscene.”

I’ve long learned to beware the term “just” used dismissively. It has a knack for pulling the rug out of a discussion: the anti-Islam crowd’s view of Islam and Muslims is just awful and tasteless, don’t listen to them. And yet, when one subjects Islam, Muslims, to historical scrutiny, it turns out that on just this subject of war and violence, Islam has the most expansive armory of sacred war phrases, which Mahdi warlords and their mujehaddin have used them, generation after generation, Mujadded after Mujadded, to wage war on Allah’s enemies. Any impartial assessment of the historical record on religious war and violence – thoughts and deeds – would fairly rank Islam at the top of the list in its intensity and recurrence. “Islam is a religion of peace,” as historical generalizations go, is about as misleading as one can possibly get to newspeak.

The Qur’an, the sayings, and the law in Islam all give a great deal of attention to non-believers – kufar, those who cover the truth – and much of it is distinctly hostile. War on the infidel qua unsubjected infidel, plays a role in Muslim thinking that has no parallel in any religion in recorded history known to me. For some Muslims (how many?) Jihad a religious vocation: it is a way of proving one’s fervor for Allah. Indeed it would seem fair to venture that historically and currently, Muslims have a lot of trouble dealing with the “infidel other.”

What attitudes and range of behavioral norms govern Muslim interaction with non-believers, those living within and outside of Dar al Islam? How to deal with dissenters and apostates, those whose voices challenge and undermine the faith’s hegemony? Just how important is it to Muslim identity that Islam’s destiny is Muslim rule over all other, false, religions? Where there was Dar al Harb (realm of war), there shall be Dar al Islam (submission). How many Muslims teach and how many learn that the meaning of Muhammad’s urging wala wa bara means “love your fellow Muslims and hate the infidels”?

How painful is the condition of Muslim believers in a modern world that subjects everything, Muhammad and the Qur’an included, into the same critical matrix. Fair treatment for Islam would be very embarrassing. it has thrown Moses and Jesus and their respective documents? And in what complex ways do Muslims deal with that pain? When the simple, arousing, absorbing, deadly appeal of jihadi triumphalism reaches young Muslims passionate about their faith, who can resist, how many are they, and what do they do to shut down the venue for violence.

These are all legitimate observations from the perspective of a free West, indeed one might even argue, indispensable observations. And yet, when weighed in the balance of Gerecht’s judgment, these historically-based observations, come out on the side of “atrocious and obscene.” It’s not that this is all there is to Islam, but that in its history, cases of hostility to religious “others” has led to “deranged [and destructive] episodes, repeatedly giving birth to “practitioners… uniquely capable of violence because they [we]re hard-wired to do so, via the Koran, the holy law,” the hadith, the histories, the tales of glory, the teaching of the global Caliphate. This is historically accurate. It’s Verités de la Palice. If it is “obscene,” one should ask: In whose eyes the offense?

The ability to disagree, to listen, to self-criticize, to empathize with other perspectives, has played a key role in success of civil polities. To talk about real issues, relevant issues, and try and understand them as best we can, is almost too self evident an activity to need defending. And yet, now, if one discusses such matters, rumblings of Islamophobia, of racism, of paranoia, of obscene and atrocious pronouncements, of a racist lack of empathy for the marginalized, for the not-privileged. This dynamic has led to a radical misunderstanding of the violent Muslim forces at play in these matters, initially concerning Israel, now a global phenomenon, come home to roost in your campuses, and even your halls of power.

Take a particularly critical topic: the emergence of sanctified suicide terror, the most potent weapon of global jihad in the 21st century. Historically speaking, one of the critical moments for apocalyptic movements, is when they go public. History is littered with the corpses of slain messiahs, including the most famous one of all. Most authorities throttle even peaceful millennial enthusiasm, a fortiori, millennial hostility. So when an apocalyptic death cult that believes they must destroy the world to save it appears, societies mobilize in opposition.

(Today, the vast majority of those killed by suicide bombing are Muslims.)

And yet, quite to the contrary, the first suicide-terror attacks were greeted with such unanimity on the Arab/Muslim street, that even the most staid theologians in Cairo, yielded to the pressure and legitimized both suicide and attacking civilians. The meme gave birth to a movement; the revenge poetry of pink mist. Certainly this is a tragedy for Muslims, who today, by far, suffer the most from this apocalyptic weapon unleashed upon their world.

The behavior of the West, however, was still more unusual. Rather than protesting this moral monstrosity, this paranoid hatred for a demonized “other” for whom one has no empathy – the Nazi formula – which was now reappearing in Islam, which threatened planetary peace itself. Western progressives, reacting to lethal reports of a “Jenin massacre,” cheered the Palestinian martyrs on, some wore mock belts in solidarity. In the history of civilizational-suicidal gestures, that ranks high, although the last 16 years have been very high in such incidents.

In the history of the millennial movement of global jihad, that moment in the early aughts (Spring, 2002), when infidels cheered on the most ominous new development in the war on themselves, will stand out as a major turning point. In their eagerness to believe in the IDF as Nazi, they, like the Arab theologians, threw out basic principles of humanity. It was a stunning loss of empathy for people who, only two generations earlier, had a special claim on European empathy.

And for whom did the progressives who shouted “We are Hamas!” in European capitals have empathy? For the Palestinian “people,” for their cause. The people whose culture had produced Hamas’ martyrdom operations, in which the apocalyptic meme of “pink mist” arose, designating that magic moment after explosion when your own blood mixes with the blood of your victims, and your soul ascends to heaven and your victims’ descend to hell. A case study of paranoid violence against an utterly demonized “other,” “martyrs” with no trace of empathy. So instead of identifying the phenomenon of martyrdom operation as a massive social problem, and more specifically, an tragic failure in even the most elementary forms of empathy, it cheered on the death cult as resistance, and protested when the autonomous infidel, under attack, defended.

Of course if Gerges and others were concerned with not radicalizing the Muslim world, they would have spoken out long ago against the own-goal lethal journalism that Western journalists and “progressive activists” have engaged in over the last decade and a half, depicting the Israelis as (Muslim) child-killers and the Western militaries as killers of hundreds of thousands of Muslims – when indeed and alas, Muslims kill many more Muslims than Westerners do.

#ASSO21C: How Kerry Knows Settlements an Obstacle to Peace

I’m a bit late on this one, but it’s such a good example of, and going into the list of Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century, that I have to fisk it. Last year, before the Obama Administration’s final flurry of attacks on the Israeli settlements, at the Saban Forum, John Kerry denounced the settlements as a “barrier” to any peace settlement:

I’m not here to tell you that the settlements are the reason for the conflict. No, they’re not.

Unless, as the Palestinian leadership does, you define any Israeli presence a settlement, like Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Ashkelon. So Kerry agrees that the settlements – by which he means Israelis living on the “West Bank” (including East Jerusalem?), are not the cause of the conflict – obviously, since the conflict precedes the “occupation.”

But

…and you knew this was coming…

I also cannot accept the notion that they don’t affect the peace process, that they aren’t a barrier to the capacity to have peace.

And I’ll tell you why I know that: Because the left in Israel is telling everybody they are a barrier to peace, and the right that supports it [them?] openly supports it because they don’t want peace.

Now this is truly a piece of work, and all the more remarkable because he actually explicitly invokes this contrast as his proof of why they settlements are a barrier. Let’s take the two one at a time:

Traduction française de mon article sur Edward Said et la Culture d’honneur et de honte

French translation of my article, “‘Celebrating’ Orientalism,” by Magali Marc and published at Dreuz.
Traduit par MAGALI MARC le 29 JANVIER 2017

 

 

Pour les lecteurs de Dreuz, j’ai traduit ce fort long texte, un exposé magistral d’un grand ami de Dreuz, Richard Landes*, qui est à lire absolument et à faire lire à nos amis bien-intentionnés mais mal informés, gauchistes, pacifistes, pro-palestiniens, anti-islamophobes, pasdamalgamistes, si tant est qu’ils soient encore nos amis…

La victoire de l’Orientalisme
Par Richard Landes
(publié dans le Middle-East Quarterly du site Middle East Forum)
Hiver 2017

Que l’on considère l’impact d’Edward Saïd (1935-2003) sur le monde universitaire comme un grand triomphe ou comme une tragique catastrophe, peu de gens peuvent remettre en question l’étonnante portée et la pénétration de son magnum opus, L’Orientalisme.

En une génération, une transformation radicale a dominé les études du Moyen-Orient : une nouvelle catégorie d’universitaires «post-coloniaux», ayant une perspective libératrice et anti-impérialiste, a remplacé une génération d’érudits que Saïd a dénigrés en les traitant d’«Orientalistes».

Cette transformation ne se limitait pas aux études du Moyen-Orient : Saïd et son paradigme post-colonial réunissaient un large éventail d’acolytes dans de nombreux domaines des sciences sociales et humaines.

Pourtant, quand on examine les événements des deux dernières décennies, on peut dire que les héritiers académiques de Saïd se sont plantés de façon spectaculaire dans leurs analyses et prescriptions concernant la façon dont il fallait s’y prendre pour régler les problèmes du Moyen-Orient.

Nulle part cela n’a été aussi évident que dans la lecture erronée du désastreux «processus de paix» israélo-palestinien d’Oslo et des fameux «printemps arabes» qui se sont rapidement détériorés en vagues de guerres tribales et sectaires, créant des millions de réfugiés, dont beaucoup ont littéralement détruit les malheureux rivages de l’Europe.

Une grande partie de cet échec peut être attribuée aux restrictions imposées par la pensée postcoloniale sur la capacité de discuter de la dynamique sociale et politique du Moyen-Orient. Si les experts et les journalistes ont été hypnotisés par les perspectives de paix arabo-israélienne et le mirage d’une vague de démocratisation arabe, c’est en partie parce qu’ils avaient systématiquement sous-estimé le rôle de la culture d’honneur et de honte dans les sociétés arabes et musulmanes et son impact sur la religiosité islamique.

La dynamique «honneur-honte» dans les dimensions politique et religieuse

Les termes honneur-honte désignent des cultures où l’acquisition, l’entretien et la restauration de l’honneur public triomphent de toutes les autres préoccupations.

Alors que tout le monde se soucie de ce que les autres pensent et veut sauver la face même si cela signifie mentir, dans les cultures d’honneur et de honte, ces préoccupations dominent le discours public : il n’y a pas de prix trop élevé à payer– y compris la vie– pour préserver l’honneur.

Dans de telles cultures politiques, l’opinion publique accepte, attend, exige même que le sang soit versé pour l’honneur.

Dans de telles sociétés, quand les gens critiquent publiquement ceux qui sont au pouvoir– ceux qui ont l’honneur– ils attaquent leur être même. Si ces derniers ne répondaient pas– de préférence par la violence– ils perdraient la face.

Les sociétés autoritaires permettent donc à leurs mâles dominants de supprimer violemment ceux dont les paroles les offensent.

Conséquemment, les cultures d’honneur et de honte ont une immense difficulté à tolérer la liberté d’expression, de religion, de la presse tout autant que de traiter avec les sociétés qui pratique cette tolérance.

Dans les cultures où les gens se font eux-mêmes justice, cette insistance sur l’honneur peut signifier tuer quelqu’un qui a tué un parent, et dans la culture japonaise, l’honneur peut signifier se suicider.

Cependant, dans certaines cultures d’honneur, cette préoccupation signifie tuer un membre de la famille pour sauver l’honneur de la famille. Le «jugement public», dont le verdict détermine le sort de la communauté demeure le vecteur qui motive le besoin de sauver la face, et définit les façons de faire. Le terme arabe pour «commérage» est kalam an-nas, (la parole du peuple), qui est souvent sévère dans son jugement des autres.

À ce sujet, le psychologue Talib Kafaji a écrit :

«La culture arabe est une culture de jugement, et tout ce qu’une personne fait est sujet au jugement… induisant de nombreuses peurs… avec de graves conséquences sur la vie individuelle. Éviter ce jugement peut être la préoccupation constante des gens, presque comme si toute la culture était paralysée par le kalam [an] –nas.»

Autrement dit, dans la société arabe, tous les individus sont les otages les unes des autres.

En dépit de sa résonnance «orientaliste», cette attention à un jugementalisme paralysant et omniprésent fournit des aperçus importants sur les dysfonctionnements du monde arabe d’aujourd’hui.

Les cultures d’honneur et de honte ont tendance à être à somme nulle : les hommes d’honneur gardent jalousement leur honneur et considèrent l’ascension des autres comme une menace pour eux-mêmes. Dans les cultures à somme nulle de «bien limité», l’honneur pour une personne signifie la honte pour les autres. Si l’autre gagne, vous perdez. Afin que vous ayez le dessus, l’autre doit perdre.

Ceux qui sont juste en dessous continuent de défier ceux qui sont juste au-dessus, et l’ascension n’est possible que par l’agression. Tu n’es pas un homme tant que tu n’as pas tué un autre homme. La prise des biens d’autrui –par le vol ou le pillage– est supérieure à la production. Domine ou soit dominé. Le visage noirci (de la honte) est lavé dans le sang (de l’honneur).

Cette même mentalité dite «à somme nulle», «gouverne-ou-soit-gouverné», qui domine la plupart des interactions dans la politique des cultures d’honneur et de honte, a son analogie dans la religiosité du triomphalisme, la croyance que la domination de sa religion sur les autres constitue la preuve de la vérité de cette religion.

De la même manière que les chrétiens ont pris la conversion de l’Empire romain au Christianisme comme un signe que leurs revendications sur les Juifs avaient triomphé ; les musulmans triomphalistes, dans une expression suprême de la religiosité inspirée par l’honneur, croient que l’islam est une religion de domination destinée à gouverner le monde.

Cette dynamique d’honneur et de honte explique en grande partie l’hostilité arabe et musulmane envers Israël, ainsi qu’envers l’Occident.

Israël, un État de Juifs libres (c’est-à-dire, des infidèles non-dhimmis), vivant à l’intérieur du Dar al-Islam historique (royaume de la soumission), constitue un blasphème vivant. La capacité d’Israël à survivre aux efforts répétés des Arabes pour le détruire constitue un état permanent de honte arabe devant toute la communauté mondiale. Cela fait de l’hostilité musulmane triomphaliste envers Israël un cas particulièrement grave d’une hostilité généralisée envers les infidèles et les musulmans «modérés».

Tout effort pour comprendre ce qui se passe dans le monde arabe aujourd’hui doit tenir compte de cette dynamique religio-culturelle.

Pourtant, dans l’ensemble, cette dynamique n’est pas seulement ignorée, mais ceux qui en parlent sont réprimandés pour (prétendument) contribuer à aggraver le conflit plutôt que de le comprendre.

Une grande partie de cette ignorance (à la fois active et intransitive) remonte à Saïd, qui a fait de l’analyse «honneur-honte» un péché «orientaliste» particulièrement impardonnable.

Avant même que n’arrive la contribution de Saïd, l’anthropologie s’était éloignée de cette analyse. Lui en a fait un dogme. A tel point que, dans le dernier tiers du XXe siècle, il est devenu paradoxalement honteux– voire raciste– qu’un anthropologue discute de l’«honneur et de la honte» arabe ou musulmane.

La honte de Saïd et la désorientation de l’Occident

L’Orientalisme de Saïd a exploité une tendance occidentale à l’autocritique morale concernant l’analyse des autres cultures, dans le but de protéger son peuple de la honte. Pour lui, la critique des Arabes ou des musulmans reflète les préjugés ethnocentriques de l’Occident et de son projet culturel discriminatoire de domination impérialiste.

Ce n’était pas ce que les orientalistes croyaient faire, eux pensaient qu’ils offraient des observations précises concernant les caractéristiques et les conditions d’une autre culture et de son histoire.

Pour Saïd, au contraire, tout contraste entre les cultures de l’Occident démocratique et celles des Arabes et des musulmans– certainement ceux qui montraient ces derniers sous une lumière peu flatteuse– étaient des exemples lamentables de xénophobie hostile dirigée contre des «inférieurs», et ne pouvaient pas constituer une réflexion sur une réalité sociale.

À propos du dix-neuvième siècle, Saïd a écrit : «Tout Européen qui parlait de l’Orient était raciste, impérialiste et presque totalement ethnocentrique».

Saïd a lancé un plaidoyer en faveur d’une alternative : il fallait à tout prix éviter d’orientaliser l’Orient, encore et encore.

Sans l’«Orient» il y aurait des érudits, des critiques, des intellectuels, des êtres humains pour lesquels les distinctions raciales, ethniques et nationales seraient moins importantes que l’entreprise commune dans la promotion de la communauté humaine.

Bien compris, cet appel demande aux chercheurs de ne pas parler de différences ethniques, raciales ou religieuses, alors que la plupart des moyen-orientaux vous diront que ce sont des questions culturelles très importantes pour eux.

Ainsi, dans la nouvelle édition d’«Orientalisme» publiée en 1994, SaÏd se plaignait-il de la focalisation croissante de l’Occident sur le danger que représente l’islam : «les médias électroniques et imprimés ont été inondés par des stéréotypes dégradants qui amalgament l’islam et le terrorisme, les Arabes et la violence, l’Orient et la tyrannie.»

Linda Sarsour’s tweet on those who disagree with her

Linda Sarsour, the controversial but highly acclaimed co-chair of the Women’s March, tweeted out her good will towards those who disagree with her.

I think this raises some important questions. First, what does it mean to bring in love in these matters? Normally the formula is “we can disagree and I can still listen to you, tolerate you, interact with you civilly.”

Second, what kind of conditional is that? Who decides when disagreement “is rooted in her oppression, in denial of her humanity? She does? What if her definition of what “oppresses,” “denies her humanity,” threatens her “right to exist” is extremely sensitive? What if she takes offense at the disagreement by claiming it threatens her very being?

And what happens then? Does she hate those she disagrees with?

French Jewish Historian Sued Over ‘Far-Right Rhetoric’ Against Muslims

The use of accusations of Islamophobia to enforce Caliphater blasphemy codes and block the expression of any criticism of Muslims in Europe has long been acknowledged. The most disturbing trend in this verbal warfare is to criminalize Islamophobia as “hate speech.” Today in France we have a good example of this problem.

French Jewish Historian Sued Over ‘Far-Right Rhetoric’ Against Muslims

(JTA) — One of the world’s leading historians on the Jewish communities in Arab countries is being prosecuted in France for alleged hate speech against Muslims.

The Morocco-born French-Jewish scholar Georges Bensoussan, 64, is due to appear next month before a Paris criminal court over a complaint filed against him for incitement to racial hatred by the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, the group recently announced on its website.

Note that Bensoussan is the author of the first book on the new Anti-Semitism of the 21st century, Les territoires perdus de la République (2002), in English, The Lost Territories of the Republic. It chronicled the way in which a vicious anti-Semitic (and anti-French) hate speech had taken over many schools in France, especially in the banlieues (Zones Urbaines Sensibles). He published it under the protective pseudonym of Emmanuel Brenner.

The complaint, which leading French scholars dismissed as attempt at “intimidation” in a statement Friday, was over remarks about anti-Semitism by Muslims that Bensoussan, author of a definitive 2012 work entitled “Jews in Arab Lands,” made last year during an interview aired by the France Culture radio station, the Collective said.

The Collective based its complaint on two remarks by Bensoussan.

« Aujourd’hui nous sommes en présence d’un autre peuple au sein de la nation française, qui fait régresser un certain nombre de valeurs démocratiques qui nous ont portés….».

“Today, we are witnessing a different people in the midst of the French nation, who have a regressive effect on a certain number of democratic values to which we adhere…” read the first quote flagged.

From an empirical point of view, this is simple observation. Anyone who is familiar with the behavior of French Muslims in these “zones urbaines sensibles” knows the degree to which they show open contempt for democratic principles and norms: shame-murders, butchering teachers in front of the class, rapacious looting, exclusion of women from public places, taking over public space (main roads) for prayer, murders, rapes and assaults. And all of this, while it might have appeared before, became much more pronounced in the 21st century.
You can argue these are not all French Muslims. But you cannot argue that the culture their deeds reflect, is merely marginal to the French Muslim community. The voice of a violent, triumphalist, Muslim rap holds a place of power within that community, especially among youth, and in that world, Muhammad Merah, who filmed himself gunning down little Jewish children outside a school in Toulouse, is a hero. He is a “real man,” like Usama.

An Earlier Earthquake in the Jewish World: Response to Eva Illouz

Haaretz passed on publishing an earlier draft of this response to a piece it had published. #Shocker

It was subsequently published in a shortened form at The Algemeiner.

An Earlier Earthquake in the Jewish World: Response to Eva Illouz

Richard Landes

Eva Illouz wrote a dramatic New Year’s piece for Ha-aretz, in which she accuses fellow Jews who support Trump of falling prey to messianic fantasies and “betraying Jews, Jewish history and humanity,” and claiming for the “liberal Jews” like herself, the sole mantle of “authentic opposition to anti-Semitism.” Invoking Freud’s definition of the uncanny (das Unheimliche), or the anguishing sense that behind the familiar lies something profoundly foreign and menacing, she claims that “the [Trump-riddled] world at the beginning of 2017 elicits the same feeling of the uncanny: It is the same old world we knew, yet we sense it has become inhabited by foreign ghosts, hybrid creatures never seen before.”

This striking image of uncanny recognition among the familiar, so brilliantly explored in the Body Snatchers, reminded me of my own experience of the uncanny, back in 2000, at a time where, dissident that I was, I found my home on the left. Then, suddenly, I realized that fellow Jews – good, smart, imaginative Jews, people I loved to talk with, argue with, struggle with – had suddenly become deaf to the cries of their own people, faced with the unleashing of a terrifying hatred. When you told them that every criticism of Israel that they leveled was true many times over among our enemies, they indignantly declared, “Don’t compare Israel with the Arabs.” Instead, they rushed to announce “as a Jew,” that they abhorred the abominations committed by Israel.

Somehow, for these uncanny Jews, their moral urgency about Israeli crimes went hand in hand with a corresponding reluctance to discuss Palestinian behavior. “Don’t change the subject.” “What choice do they have?” “Don’t demonize the Palestinian people.” “One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” “We’re worse terrorists.”

And yet, within this matrix of alternating moral indifference to Palestinians (and other Jihadis), and hysteria about Israelis, arose a reckless cognitive disorientation, uncannily sustained by alter-juifs who felt compelled to denounce their own people. Palestinian hostility, unreported, unexamined, unrecognized for the horrendous, genocidal hatreds it harbored, could be inserted into a post-colonial narrative in which Israel was the colonial, racist, Goliath and the Palestinians the indigenous victims, the plucky Davids or, alternatively, the victims of Israel-Nazi genocide.

Thus genocidal Jihadis could masquerade in the global public sphere as heroic “resistance fighters,” struggling for “human rights.” Protesters of Israeli brutality proudly proclaimed their identification with genocidal Jihadi groups.

We are Hamas London 2009

And if these lethal narratives of Israelis and images of Palestinian suffering inflamed the West, driving even good Jews to distraction, then how much the more did it inflame Muslims the world over. They confirmed again and again, the global Jihadi narrative: Jews were killing innocent Muslims with impunity! The final battle against those who wish to destroy Islam – Israel and the West – has begun. Progressive leftist, alter-juifs, and Jihadis shared a common messianic enemy: destroy Israel (and American hegemony) for world peace!

For-World-Peace-Israel-Must-Be-Destroyed

The uncanny at the turn of the millennium, then, went far beyond the progressive Jews and their “friends.” For, alas, this exercise in self-laceration, of prophetic rebuke of one’s own people under attack, took place in the cyberspace-enhanced global public sphere. There malevolent minds, enthralled at any news of Jews (a fortiori sovereign Jews) behaving badly, eagerly devoured the uncanny “self-”accusations of “righteous Jews.” After 2000, comparisons of Israel with the Nazis went mainstream on the progressive Left. In the new replacement narrative, the Al Durah icon “replaced, erased,” that of the boy in the Warsaw Ghetto, just as Gaza replaced that ghetto in the compassionate heart of haters of Zion. The Israeli Goliath – already an uncanny image –morphed into the Israeli Nazi: the secular Antichrist. This marriage of pre-modern sadism and post-modern masochism, this Antichrist Israel, was sanctified at Durban in 2001, where the cult of Al Durah presided as patron saint.

Demonstration during Durban. Al Durah effigy in bottom center.

Demonstration during Durban. Al Durah effigy in bottom center.

Four days later, 9-11 brought a shower of Schadenfreude, from professed lovers of freedom.

Of course, the fiercest foes of Jewish freedom, from the supersessionists, to the most delirious Judeophobes, embraced this replacement narrative with glee. And, insofar as they thought themselves progressive, this glee worked much to their own damage and to the damage of a progressive and peaceful world. When, in 2002, drunk on a wave of lethal journalism about the IDF “massacre” at Jenin, demonstrators wore mock suicide belts to cheer on the Palestinian “resistance,” they actually helped glorify a terrible new apocalyptic weapon, blight of the new century, soon to be turned on their own people and other Muslims. Tony Judt’s response to the wave of outrage at reports of Israel’s “massacre” at Jenin, spoke for many a progressive Jew: in the pages of the NYRB, he complained that Israel’s misbehavior puts innocent, good, Jews, like himself in danger! In his estimation, it was time for Israel, relic of nationalist and imperialist currents of the past, to retire from history.

The uncanny horror first happened for me in 2000 – witnessing the reaction of Jewish progressives to the sight of their own people – the only sovereign Jews in the world – fighting off a suicidally vicious Palestinian onslaught and joining together with movements that celebrated those hatreds. Rather than acknowledge the failure of Israel’s good faith efforts at a positive-sum peace, when faced with deeply nurtured hatred, and their own disastrous advice to ignore belligerent signs in the PA and go on with the “peace process,” “liberals” preferred turning against the “right-wingers” whom Israelis elected to clean up the disaster that they themselves had wrought with the Oslo “peace” process.

hartford_courant

When Eva Illouz deplores today’s “right wing” pro-Trumpers as people for whom “Nationalism has replaced historical memory as the nexus of Jewish institutions and Jewish identity,” she might think about the several times that Jewish internationalism has done just that; these are “foreign ghosts, hybrid creatures” we have, alas, “seen before.” When she claims that “only liberal Jews in Israel and in the democratic world can claim to be the authentic opponents of anti-Semitism,” she might consider the decades of terrifying, uncanny, unrepentant behavior among those (claiming to be) liberals, behavior that has enabled and globally promoted the most poisonous of Jew-hatreds, thereby feeding global Jihad, the worst imperialist movement of our day.

If, instead of penning alarmed and divisive rants that prolong the earthquake about which she warns, she were to introspect, she might find the empathy to understand her fellow Jews who find the persistence of progressive Jews and Israelis in promoting anti-Semitic anti-Zionism in the global public sphere uncanny, something that has terrified those of us who do track anti-Semitism, over the centuries and millennia.

At the same time, she might find the self criticism to consider how those who reject the global left’s moral leadership are not deplorables, and why the decision of her fellow progressive Jews to partner with wolves in progressive clothing who grotesquely accuse Israel of genocide, has made them just as uncanny to their fellow Jews who disagree, as these critics – some now Trumpists from “anger and despair” – are unrecognizable to them.

Indeed, she might even ponder the possibility that Obama’s policies, perceived by many, including some pretty smart people, as civilizationally suicidal, might have contributed to a popular abreaction, without which a candidate like Trump could never have “taken” with the American public, including with some Jews.

Then, in that silence and opening borne of self-reflection, maybe sane, progressive, tribal, Jewish voices might arise above the din of civilizational madness that grows louder every year in this troubled dawn of the new millennium.

 

Alt-Mid to Alt-Lib: The far right’s new fascination with the Middle Ages

The Economist recently published a piece on the renewed interest in the Middle Ages. Like “fakenews” and “anti-semitism” these are issues that have been alive and well for over two decades without the WMSNM paying much attention. Now that they can be attributed to the “far-right,” they’re back in vogue as “new.” The piece is intellectually as disturbing as its claims about the “right’s” fascination with the MA: it offers a flattened MA, tailored as a refutation of the tribal emotions so common among people back then.

The far right’s new fascination with the Middle Ages

Jan 2nd 2017, 12:05 BY S.N. | CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA

UNTIL fairly recently, it was rare to find Americans who were passionate about both medieval history and contemporary politics.

Guess that makes me, who am writing a book subtitled A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century, rare.

Barring the odd Christian conservative, medievalists tended to lean left: a Marxist grad student, say, mucking around in land ownership patterns to show how past inequalities gave birth to present ones,

NB: not to show how much past inequalities have been overcome, even though none of these Marxists would choose to live in the inequities of the Middle Ages.

or an environmentalist activist, perhaps, fascinated with vegetable-dyed handspun clothing.

I certainly don’t fit either “type,” despite having been accused of being “marxicisant” by Dominique Barthelemy because I thought peasants thought (demotic religiosity) and their actions, based on that thought, especially at the advent of apocalyptic dates, like 1000, was consequential.

My regret is that we have not seen more medievalists work on the rural and urban commune movement of the new millennium (11-13th centuries)… lay textual communities, laboratories of civil society, adumbrations of democracies to come.

But when Americans invoked historical events in politics, they tended to be more recent—the founding of the republic; the struggle against slavery and segregation; victory over Nazi Germany.

This has changed. Since the September 11th attacks, the American far right has developed a fascination with the Middle Ages and the Renaissance—in particular, with the idea of the West as a united civilisation that was fending off a challenge from the East.

Had the “mainstream” of the public sphere, alerted by honest information professionals, developed an interest in medieval apocalyptic beliefs and “holy war,” which might have made Al Qaeda and Hamas more understandable as apocalyptic global imperialists, radicals might have been embarrassed to be associated with the folly of seeing them as “resistance warriors” just like us.

We are Hamas London 2009

Anti-Israel Rally, London, January 2009

An Earlier Earthquake in the Jewish World: Response to Eva Illouz

Eva Illouz wrote a dramatic New Year’s piece for Ha-aretz, in which she accuses fellow Jews who support Trump of falling prey to messianic fantasies and “betraying Jews, Jewish history and humanity,” and claiming for the “liberal Jews” like herself, the sole mantle of “authentic opposition to anti-Semitism.” Invoking Freud’s definition of the uncanny (das Unheimliche), or the anguishing sense that behind the familiar lies something profoundly foreign and menacing, she claims that “the [Trump-riddled] world at the beginning of 2017 elicits the same feeling of the uncanny: It is the same old world we knew, yet we sense it has become inhabited by foreign ghosts, hybrid creatures never seen before.”

An earthquake in the Jewish world

A feeling of the uncanny accompanies the start of the new year, as Jews witness their religious and political leaders aligning themselves with anti-Semites and anti-democrats | Opinion

By Eva Illouz | Jan. 1, 2017/Rewritten by Richard Landes,  Jan 1, 2003

Over the last three years (2000-2003), like many others, I have followed the news with an undefinable mixture of dismay, fascination and terror. When reality evades our grasp, we may reach for familiar concepts to cope with its elusiveness.

In 1919 Sigmund Freud wrote a short essay, called “The Uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche,” in German), in which he attempted to understand a particular kind of anxiety and fear elicited by art or literature (for example, the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann) or events (such as recurring coincidences), the uncanny. Unheimlich is the opposite of Heimlich, the familiar, domestic and homey.

Freud’s stroke of genius consisted in understanding that psychically “unheimlich” is not the opposite of “heimlich,” but rather a sub-category of it: It is the strange that occurs within the home, as when a child looks at the face of his mother and suddenly senses that behind her face hides a ghost or a witch (countless horror movies tap into the feeling of the uncanny, turning grandparents, parents or children into possessed creatures). The uncanny is thus the very special form of terror we feel when we look at someone or something that is familiar, yet fail to recognize it. It is the anxiety that derives from actually seeing a foreign creature in the well-known body and face.

The world at the beginning of 2003 elicits the same feeling of the uncanny: It is the same old world we knew, yet we sense it has become inhabited by foreign ghosts, hybrid creatures never seen before.

The “moral leaders of the democratic world, the global progressive left,” uphold undemocratic values reminiscent of the world that the United States crushed only 70 years ago (the name of Goebbels been frequently evoked in the context of Charles Enderlin, with regard to the vicious war propaganda he has disseminated, promoting global Jihad, not rebuked but emulated and admired by his colleagues). This man is far closer in war propaganda journalism, to the Palestinian journalists who concoct footage to spur their people to hatred, than to any “modern” journalist who takes his professional commitments seriously. The Western interference in Israeli affairs, executed with the active collaboration of academia and the Mainstream news media – the apple of the left’s progressive eye, of the presumed guardians of “truth” of “bearing honest witness,and bringing social justicerevealing to all forces that undermine Western civil polities from within its epicenter. Two specters now haunt the world, and seem to have taken possession of its soul: the past specter of the mad messianic wars of the Middle Ages and the future one, of an auto-induced newspeak.

But perhaps most unheimlich of all are the new alliances that have materialized in the Jewish world. The new century/millennium brought, an alliance of a kind never seen before, between Jewish progressive groups, a large percentage of secular Jews (in both the U.S. and Israel), and Jihadi associates and supporters, the same who, during and after the wild protests against Israel, cheered mischievously at Palestinian and Arab Hitler admirers, whose own genocidal meme, “drive the Jews into the sea!” we hear loud and clear on our campuses, with the “social justice” cry, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

Fake News and Queer Theory: Feminists on Anti-Semitism at Hebrew U.

This post is now up at Times of Israel.

I just attended a session at the Sassoon Center for Antisemitism at Hebrew University on Sartre and the Jewish Question.

11:15-13:15 Session 3 Sartre, Fanon, and the Subject of Decolonization

Chair: Martina Weisz, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Louise Bethlehem, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Sartre, Fanon and the Subject of Decolonialization: Preliminary Remarks

Vinzia Fiorino, University of Pisa Jean Paul Sartre, “Frantz Fanon and Carla Lonzi: a Bizarre Genealogy”

Nina Fischer, University of Edinburgh “Minor (Transnational) Intersections: Jews and Aboriginal Australians between Anti-Semitism and Racism”

Sarika Talve-Goodman, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem “Blackness and the Body in a Transnational Frame: From ‘Anti-Semite and Jew’ to Black Lives Matter”

Revital Madar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem “A Moment of Inconsistency: Letting the Black Body into the Sphere of Western Humanity”

About half way through the introductory remarks by Bethlehem I realized I was actually witnessing the kind of parody that I had only imagined in reading Judith Butler: a presentation thick with feminist, queer theory, jargon, promoting a radical (even messianic) political agenda of liberation and authenticity, that, among others, considered axiomatic the identity of Black and Palestinian suffering; and the corresponding racism of Israelis and American whites.

Sarika Talve-Goodman traced an arc of “racially marked bodies unfit for personhood,” and the “heterosexism” that drove this inhumane way of treating the “other,” from European racist imperialism (Fanon) through Israeli treatment of Palestinians and police treatment of Blacks in the US. In her “intersectional and herstorical perspective,” all this is part of a liberationist agenda aimed at challenging “violent imperial masculinity” with “a theory of sexuality” that promotes a “non-homophobic, non-racist politics.”

All of this discourse might just have been an academic matter, amusing to some, obviously very grave from the perspective of its performers.  But these revolutionaries take their vocation seriously. These were not theoretical speculations divorced from the real world, but attempting at least, to engage the world, and presumably, to influence the world, profoundly. And part of the movement involves making common cause with other victims of hierarchical (state, hetero-patriarchy) interventions.

(Talve-Goodman advertised her approach as offering to “open our collective eyes to new dimensions of state interventions into our lives.”)

Ferguson, she asserted, became “ground zero” in the global struggle against racism. “For a moment, Ferguson became the world.”  And in that moment, that the Palestinian and Black movements came together in intersectional solidarity. The brave new alliance of the coming years of world struggle against racism.

Susan Handelman to Executive Director on MLA Boycotting Israel

A friend and colleague, and member of the MLA (Modern Language Association) for decades, just received an email  letter sent to all  25,000 members of the Association  from the Executive Director of the MLA informing them about the three proposed resolutions  that will be discussed and voted on at the annual MLA conference meeting in January, all of which concern the Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians.”

Dear Colleague,

If you are attending the 2017 MLA Annual Convention

 in Philadelphia, I write to remind you that the Delegate Assembly meeting will be held on Saturday, 7 January 2017, starting at 11:00 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom Salon GH at the Philadelphia Marriott. The meeting is open to all current MLA members.

The Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee (DAOC) establishes the agenda for the assembly meeting each year. The DAOC has placed three regular resolutions, proposed by members, on the agenda for consideration at the 2017 assembly meeting.

  • One resolution calls on the MLA to refrain from endorsing a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
  • One resolution calls on the MLA to endorse Palestinian civil society’s call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. 
  • One resolution calls on the MLA to condemn attacks on academic freedom in Palestinian universities.

These three resolutions are now posted online with supporting materials from the proposers. Because the first two resolutions appear to conflict with each other, they will be discussed by the assembly in an order to be determined by lot.

We also expect one or more emergency resolutions to be proposed by members. An emergency resolution that has been circulated for signatures calls on the MLA to endorse the statement from the American Association of University Professors on “higher education after the 2016 election.”

The DAOC and the Executive Council have provided three key opportunities at the convention for members to discuss the issues surrounding the resolutions or the resolutions themselves:

1. On Thursday, 5 January, from 5:15 to 7:00 p.m., there will be a Town Hall Meeting on the question, Should the MLA endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions?  Members not attending the convention will have the opportunity to participate online and to listen to a live stream of the discussion.

2. On Friday, 6 January, from 10:15 to 11:30 a.m., there is an Open Hearing on Resolutions, where members and delegates may discuss the resolutions on the Delegate Assembly’s agenda and any emergency resolutions that are submitted. No votes will be taken at this session. 

3. On Saturday, 7 January, at 11:00 a.m., the Delegate Assembly meeting begins; votes will be taken on the resolutions that are on the assembly’s agenda.

Any resolution approved by the Delegate Assembly would need to be reviewed by the Executive Council and forwarded to the full membership for commenting and a vote. 

The council and DAOC are committed to providing opportunities for thoughtful and respectful discussion at the convention, and I hope that you will be able to participate. I look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia.

Rosemary G. Feal
Executive Director

Professor Handelman responded as follows:

Dear Ms Feal,
Thank you for all your hard work on behalf of the Modern Language Association.

I have been a member of MLA since 1977 and have, and have been a literature professor since 1979.

I received this message from you below about Delegate Assembly resolutions regarding the Israel- Palestinian conflict.

Aside from the complexities of that situation , I don’t need to tell you about what’s happening in Aleppo, or the million people in Mosul who are trapped in the fighting between ISIS and Iraqi forces. I read your message and I asked myself: “THIS is what the MLA is discussing and making resolutions about?”

I am sorry to say that I am ashamed and embarrassed as an MLA member.

Below is a three minute youtube video of an Israeli-Arab newscaster making a plea in English about the genocide in Syria .

Would that the MLA could be as eloquent and an honest and deeply moral as she is here, and fulfill its aspirations to be a serious ethical and cultural voice, instead of diminishing and reducing itself to discussions of boycotting other academics, and further lose credibility.

Please take two minutes to watch it.
Perhaps you can induce the MLA to make some kind of public stand about this, instead of wasting its time on inappropriate ideological combat.

See this article about Lucy Aharish and the few minutes she took to say these words in English on her news broadcast.

With best wishes for a successful convention,

Yours truly,
Prof. Susan Handelman

I was recently reminded of #IDD (Israel Derangement Disorder), when the NYT posted a wave of articles about Trump’s ambassadorial choice for Israel, even as civilians were slaughtered in Aleppo.

In this case, we find the MLA, in its BDS-induced obsession with Israel’s unacceptable violations of Palestinian “civil and academic rights”, while all around her exists a political environment where the power players – including the Palestinians – grant no rights or freedoms to their own people, much less to their minorities, and who readily treat their own people’s lives with contempt. And even as that happens a staggering scale before our eyes, in Aleppo, in Mosul, in Yemen, in Nigeria, in Sudan, progressives like the PoMoPoCos at the MLA keep their eye on that oh-so gratifying world of narratives about sovereign Jews behaving badly. Indeed, so strong is their obsession, that they endanger their 501C3 status just to pursue completely tangential issues.

Those whom the gods would destroy they first drive mad. And so it goes with the social justice warriors of the 21st century.

Said’s Disorientations

MEQ just published my article on Edward Saïd. They entitled it “‘Celebrating’ Orientalism,” which I presume is meant to be ironic. My more direct title was “Disoriented by Saïd: The Contribution of Post-Colonialism to 21st century Jihadi Cognitive War.”

While a number of people have noted how long the piece was, including Elder of Ziyon, it was much longer when I first submitted it. I post below the longer original version for the three people who might be interested in further details, deconstructing Saïd’s covert tribalist and Orientalist attitudes.

The section on Oslo, also highlighted by Elder, has been translated into Polish, by Malgorzata Koraszewska at her blog, Listy z naszego sadu.

Disoriented by Saïd:

The Contribution of Post-Colonialism to 21st century Jihadi Cognitive War

Although Edward Saïd’s impact on the field of Middle Eastern Studies, and beyond, across the social sciences and the humanities, has been viewed from many perspectives, as a brilliant triumph, or as tragedy, few question the astonishing scope and penetration of Orientalism on the academic world. Here I wish to investigate the (unintended) role played by Saïd, and the post-colonial school of thought his works fostered, in the way that the West has so far handled the cognitive-war that triumphalist Muslims[1] wage in their stated goal of imposing Dar al Islam on democratic polities.

Orientalism played a central role in a transformation of academic discourse in the last two decades of the second millennium, assuring the ascendency of critical theory and post-colonialism.[2] The book, despite its enthusiastic reception among many, also received extensive criticism on both the micro and macro level – the multiple (uncorrected) errors that, in many cases reveal a profound ignorance about the history of the Middle East, the selective focus (nothing on major school of German [non-imperialist] scholarship), the tendency to the same essentialism when dealing with Western scholars that it condemned when dealing with inhabitants of the constructed fantasy, the “Orient,” and of course, the reductive thesis (knowledge essentially a form of wielding power, a tool imperialism).[3] Here I wish to look at what may be an unintended consequence of this book’s success – its contribution to the success of the subsequent cogwar waged by global Jihadis against a West they wanted to invade.

In the last five years alone, Saïd’s epigones in academia, journalism, punditry, and policy, have been spectacularly poor in their depictions and analyses of, and prescriptions for acting in, the Middle East. One might even venture to say that they misread every major development, from the democratic “Arab Spring” (2010) to today’s regional melt-down of state apparatus. And the lamentable state of President Obama’s understanding testifies to their signal failure.

Thus this collapse comes under the blows of the most savage kind of tribal and religious warfare, whose very presence, much less remarkable appeal to Muslims in the West, the post-colonial academy studiously avoided discussing.[4] Now we witness the displacement of tens of millions of refugees fleeing these political catastrophes, now pressing, not as conquerors but as victims, at the gates of Europe. In all this, Western information professionals have catastrophically failed in their task of informing knowledgeable, intelligent and effective decision making.

If we have any hope of figuring out what to do for the rest of the 21st century in dealing with this generational war that Western democratic societies have to fight with the forces of global Jihad, we need to rethink our reliance on Edward Saïd’s cognitive and moral compass. The remainder of this essay is dedicated to furthering that agenda by examining one critical area of scholarship that Saïd’s influence has blighted – the topic of honor-shame cultures – and applying it to one of the more catastrophic and persistent diplomatic blunders of the late 20th century produced by that cognitive damage – the Oslo Accord and the ensuing “cult of the occupation.”

Progressive and Caliphater Millennialism: Interview in Mishpacha Magazine

Machla Abramowitz interviewed me in Mischpacha magazine. It was initially done as coverage of a talk I gave in Montreal on BDS and Cogwar (definitions posted here), but mutated into a much more complex discussion of messianism and the progressive left. The (slightly) longer version I post below may clarify some of the obscurities in my published responses.

For anyone interested in a more extensive discussion of the unfortunate convergence of progressive left and jihadi millennialism, see “Progressive and Jihadi Movements in Action: A Study in Interacting Millennial Currents in the Early 3rd Millennium (2000-2020).”

The End Game

Millennialism: where progressivism and jihad meet.

By Machla Abramovitz

Mishpacha Magazine, 29 Cheshvan, 5777.

They believe in the coming of a messianic epoch, one in which humanity will unite and peace and justice will reign. Their enemies are conservatives and traditionalists, or those who fail to comprehend the arc of history and humanity’s final destiny.

No, they’re not an apocalyptic cult hatching a plot in a South American jungle hideout, but modern progressives who subscribe to the idea of “millennialism.”

Richard Landes, a former professor of Medieval Studies at Boston University, and currently the senior fellow with the Center of International Communication at Bar Ilan University, is one of their leading critics. For decades, Landes has been studying the phenomenon of millennialism, or the belief that a messianic era of justice, peace and abundance is coming soon, often preceded by a massive disruptive (apocalyptic) event. Now, with the election of Donald J. Trump and the protests that have exploded nationwide, the world is witness to many expressions of millennialism, and, as is common, to disappointed expectations. The arc of history that bends towards justice has lurched into reverse.

The Low Countries at their lowest: Dutch Lethal Own-goal Journalism

I only now have become aware (thanks to Twitter) of Hans Moll‘s book (2011) on Holland’s most presitigious paper (only in Dutch alas) and Bruce Bawer’s review of it for Frontpage in English. Here I reproduce Bawer’s with comments.

The Low Countries at their lowest

A Dutch journalist exposes the systematic left-wing slant of his country’s most respected newspaper

Bruce Bawer, Frontpage, December 1, 2011

NRC Handelsblad is arguably the most respected newspaper in the Netherlands. Hans Moll was for many an editor there. He is not an editor there any more. In his new book, Verzwijgen als of het gedrunkt staat, of Hoe de nuance verdween: NRC Handelsblad over Israël, de Islam en het integratiedebat (How the Nuance Vanished: NRC Handelsblad on Israel, Islam, and the Integration Debate), Moll provides a very valuable document of our time: an insider look at the kind of day-to-day reportorial and editorial decision-making, in matters big and small, that leads a newspaper to convey a less than objective view of the world.

Not just “less than objective” – PoMo-PoCo’s insist that’s that’s not possible anyway – but a self-defeating view of the world, utterly disorienting for those who are the target of Jihadi Caliphaters. The important point here is the link between the way the media portray “reality” – or, in their terms, bear witness to their time – in the conflict between Israel and her neighbors, and the way the portray Islam, both in the Middle East and at home. a

In other words, disoriented about Israel’s conflict has a direct link to disorientated about Muslim (im)migrants in the democracies these journalist allegedly inform. Mistaking the players in one place, means mistaking them at home, where one can less afford being wrong about an enemy. For an excellent discussion of how the Netherlands went from a paragon of democracy to a besieged nation in the course of the aughts (’00s) read Abigail Esman Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (2010). Bruce Bawer has at least two books dealing with this issue: While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within (2006) and Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (2009).

Moll’s accounts of his professional experiences do not necessarily apply only to his own former employer. Like many other “newspapers of record” across Europe and in the U.S., NRC Handelsblad leans to the left, and the stories Moll tells about his newspaper provide insight into the mentality of journalists and editors at elite dailies ranging from The New York Times to The Guardian to Le Monde.

In the wake of the media debacle of the 2016 elections, one former NYT editor, Michael Cieply, offered some thoughts on how “narrative driven” much of their coverage (not published by the NYT). In a sense the media has long been a vehicle for redemptive action, and in its role as critic, it plays a crucial role in making democracy work. But now, we have journalists as a pack, seized with a consensus that held: a) Israelis do terrible things which we cover in intense detail; and b) Muslims rarely do terrible things, which we dramatically undercover.

Bibliography of Articles on the MSNM’s Trumpfail

The unanticipated victory of Trump has left the MSNM in something of a quandary. Their scarcely concealed advocacy for Clinton, and contempt for Trump, for his supporters, even for pundits expressed the heretical speculation that he “might” win, have combined to produce the  spectacular shift from 85% odds in favor of Clinton (NYT) to 95% in favor of Trump in little more than 2 hours, once real returns started coming in Tuesday night.

In addition to the immense consternation Trump’s victory has caused, it has also produced some interesting introspection and self-criticism on the part of at least some journalists. Below is a preliminary collection of the articles that engage in this auto-critique. I welcome other suggestions, and annotations/comments on the articles themselves. Eventually, I’d like to compare the media failure with reporting the US Elections to their failure with reporting the Middle East conflict: the same “liberal” advocacy, narrative-driven reporting that ignored realities on the ground.

Brian Beutly, “Shame on Us, the American Press,” The New Republic, November 8, 2016.

Michael Cieply, “Stunned By Trump, The New York Times Finds Time For Some Soul-Searching,” Deadline Hollywood, November 10, 2016. Cieply worked for the NYT and has interesting things about the culture at the Times:

It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”

The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.”

Will Rahn, “Commentary: The unbearable smugness of the press,” CBS News, November 10, 2016.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that, with a few exceptions, we were all tacitly or explicitly #WithHer, which has led to a certain anguish in the face of Donald Trump’s victory. More than that and more importantly, we also missed the story, after having spent months mocking the people who had a better sense of what was going on.

This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there’d be a winking “we did it” feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic.

Tiffany Gabbay, “A Rebuke to the Media From Joe Scarborough,” Truth Revolt, November 11, 2016

When Mark Halperin suggested that there was a pathway for Donald Trump as president of the United States, I won’t name names because so many of them are my friends and there’s no need to name names now because the time for recrimination is over. But reporters at some of the best newspapers in the world, anchors at some of the best networks in the world, mocked and ridiculed — Mark Halperin, I want you to think about this. They mocked and ridiculed him not for saying that Donald Trump is going to be elected president of the United States. They mocked and ridiculed him for saying there was a slight chance that Donald Trump could be elected president of the United States.

Michael Goodman, “New York Times: We Blew it on Trump,”  NY Daily News, November 11, 2016

Had the paper actually been fair to both candidates, it wouldn’t need to rededicate itself to honest reporting. And it wouldn’t have been totally blindsided by Trump’s victory.

Instead, because it demonized Trump from start to finish, it failed to realize he was onto something. And because the paper decided that Trump’s supporters were a rabble of racist rednecks and homophobes, it didn’t have a clue about what was happening in the lives of the Americans who elected the new president…

As media columnist Jim Rutenberg put it in August, most Times reporters saw Trump “as an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate” and thus couldn’t be even-handed.

That wasn’t one reporter talking — it was policy. The standards, developed over decades to force reporters and editors to be fair and to build public trust, were effectively eliminated as too restrictive for the Trump phenomenon.

The man responsible for that rash decision, top editor Dean Baquet, later said the Rutenberg piece “nailed” his thinking, and went on to insist that Trump “challenged our language” and that, “He will have changed journalism.”

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Dean Baquet, “To Our Readers, From the Publisher and Executive Editor,” NYT, November 13, 2016

Jim Rutenberg, “News Outlets Wonder Where the Predictions Went Wrong,” November 13, 2016

How the Mainstream Media Missed Trump’s Momentum, PBS, November 13, 2016

Some earlier reflections when Trump won the nomination:

Nate Cohen, “What I got wrong about Donald Trump,” New York Times, May 4, 2016

Sean Trende, “The Value of Data Journalism,” May 12, 2016

Nate Silver, “How I Acted Like A Pundit And Screwed Up On Donald Trump,” Fivethirtyeight, May 18, 2016.

 

Slogan on the Wall Behind Al Durahs

One of the slogans of the Second Intifada (aka “Al Aqsa intifada,” aka Oslo Jihad) is “What was taken by force must be retaken by force.” It’s a classic motto of zero-sum honor-shame cultures in which a blackened face must be washed in blood, and in which negotiations (like Oslo) are evidence of cowardice and humiliating to those who follow the honor code.

We find this slogan written on the wall behind Muhammad al Durah and his father.

Segment 5 of 7 Raw Al Durah Footage: Muhammad Down and his Father Swaying from Al Durah Project on Vimeo.

Best view at 11 seconds.

Here’s a still with the beginning clear on the left.

take5

 

Also on a mural of Al Durah:

al-durah-mural

Few slogans better illustrate why the Oslo “Peace Process” was doomed from the start because the Israelis and Americans did not pay attention to the pervasive signs that for the Palestinians, Arafat in particular, this was about honor and not “the peace of the brave.”

Spencer Pack to ConnColl Faculty on Harassing Jewish Faculty

Spencer Pack, who invited me to speak at ConnColl about the Pessin Case, has written to the faculty about their President, Katherine Bergeron’s response to claims of harassment of Jewish members of the community. He has sent me the note and given me permission to post it.

Reflections on the new Connecticut College Tradition of Harassing Jewish Members of the Community

For the third semester in a row now, Jewish members of the Connecticut College community have been harassed by other members of the community. On February 4, 2016, I wrote on this listserv that “in my opinion, this harassment of Jews on campus in the name of fighting for social justice should end, immediately”.  Partly in response to this posting, President Katherine Bergeron wrote in a March 28, 2016 email to the members of the Connecticut College Community that she had “been troubled to receive a number of emails and calls from alumni and parents about recent allegations of anti-Semitism on our campus”.  She then baldly assured us that she found “the charges entirely unfounded…”.

I find this response pathetic.

Either I was completely clued out and totally ignorant of what was happening on campus; or President Bergeron was. Unfortunately, the events of the past semester help demonstrate who was correct on this issue.

In my opinion, the posting of the mock eviction notices throughout the dorms at the end of the last semester by the “Connecticut Students in Solidarity with Palestine” is clearly a continuation of the new Connecticut College tradition begun Spring 2015, of harassing Jewish professors and students in the name of fighting for social justice. Containing lies and half-truths at best, these posters were not meant for discussion or debate.  They were not put up in public venues such as the student union, the library, or academic buildings. No; they were posted only in the dorms, and at the very end of the semester when students were preparing for their final exams. Thus, the goal was not reasoned discussion or education. Rather, for the second semester in a row, posters in support of the BDS movement were meant to distract Jewish students from their studies; from preparing for their final exams; to harass Jewish students.

Subsequently, someone had the excellent sense to file a bias complaint over these scores of posters put up throughout the dorms on campus – and that person is to be applauded. This bias complaint compelled the administration to follow due process and carefully investigate whether this was indeed a bias incident, as held by the college’s criteria for bias. Thereupon, some of our student activists were so incensed with this mere filing of a bias complaint, and the subsequent necessity for the administration to follow due process and investigate said complaint –  that they felt compelled to occupy offices in Fanning in protest.   Moreover, in this inanity, the occupation of first David Canton’s, and then President Bergeron’s office, these “student activists” had the support and encouragement of some of our colleagues.

Introduction to Dexter Van Zile’s Submitted Under Protest

Dexter Van Zile’s book, Submitted Under Protest: Essays Written in Defense of Western Freedom has just been published. Reviewed by Ardie Geldman at The New English Review.

I wrote an Preface, which I post here:

Preface

Richard Landes, Medieval Historian, Critic of 21st Century News Media

In years to come, when historians begin to sort out the massive moral and cognitive disorientation of the progressive left in the first decade of the 21st century, they will want to read these pages carefully. The year 2000, best known for disappointing believers in the Y2K scare, also proved a dramatic turning point for global Jihad. In the Fall of the year 2000, the balances shifted dramatically in the war between global Jihad and the West. Quite suddenly, the vastly weaker side militarily, launched a cognitive war campaign on multiple fronts, aimed at paralyzing the West’s defenses and inciting true believers to take up Jihad. Jihadis gained the upper hand without most in the West even noticing. For some pessimists who did pay attention, while Europe slept, the unthinkable became the inevitable – a Muslim Europe.

In Europe more than any other democratic zone, a civil-society Maginot Line collapsed: widespread hostility to Jews, fueled among Muslims by paranoid apocalyptic preachers, and among everyone by lethal journalists reporting what amounted to blood libels against the Jews as “news”, led to increasingly violent public demonstrations, to schools overrun with anti-Semitic bullies, to unrestrained hatred of sovereign Jews. Jihadis participated energetically in all aspects of the attack, especially at the protests where, shouting “Death to Jews,” they fomented riots targeting initially Jews, but really, all infidels. The situation today, unimaginable two decades ago, has Europe, with an already restive and violently anti-Jewish/anti-infidel Muslim population, now further hit by waves of aggressive refugees from a radically dysfunctional Muslim world in the throes of merciless religious wars they blame on the West and bring with them to the West.

One of the key elements in the stunning reversal of fortunes in favor of Jihadis fighting the West was their ability to find allies in the Western pubic sphere, who shared their narrative of world redemption through the elimination of Israel, “our global misfortune.” FOR WORLD PEACE ISRAEL MUST BE DESTROYED!

For-World-Peace-Israel-Must-Be-Destroyed

Sharing this Zionist enemy brought progressives and Jihadis together in a catastrophic “anti-imperialist” alliance sanctioned by no less than the pacifist (!) Judith Butler, foremost proponent of post-modern critical theory, who in 2006, welcomed Hamas and Hizbullah as members of the “global progressive left” on the basis of their “anti-imperialism.”

Not only did this astonishing statement ignore the moral chasm that separates progressives from Jihadis on virtually every value Butler says she holds dear, but it is based on a fundamental error of reasoning. Espousing anti-American imperialism hardly makes one anti-imperialist. On the contrary, it can, and in the case of Jihadis, does arise from imperialist rivalry. Thus did Judith Butler, and more broadly, the PoMo-PoCo progressive “Left,” take the most regressive religious imperialism on the planet into the bosom of their global movement because of a shared hatred of US and Israel.

Suicide Bombing, Western Disorientations and (Partial) Realizations

JP. O’Mally writes a review in the Times of Israel of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East:

LONDON — In the closing sentence of  Patrick Cockburn gives a chilling warning to his readers.

“The demons released by this age of chaos and war in the Middle East have become an unstoppable force.”

Amidst the larger analysis, Cockburn identifies suicide terror as a key factor in making Jihadi warfare unstoppable.

While the Middle East has been far from stable in the 100 years since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Cockburn argues that the territory has now entered into an unprecedented phase: civil wars across the region where Sunni fundamentalist jihadis play a leading role.

“What people often miss about [Sunni] jihadism is that if you have a suicide bomber it allows you to organize with great military precision a very powerful weapon,” says Cockburn. “That’s one of the reasons why IS (Islamic State) dominate the opposition in Syria and Iraq — because they are all lead by suicide bombers. They are fighting people who have air power and sophisticated equipment. But suicide bombing is the lethal precision that allows them to break through.

Cockburn, like many who now acknowledge the danger to the West of this apocalyptic weapon, lays much of the responsibility at the feet of the West, led by Bush, for the impact of their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, for our misunderstanding and wrong-headed meddling in situations we don’t understand, interventions that worsened matters in the Arab world so badly, that by the “Arab Spring,” the blow to the political system that should have brought on democracy, instead led to the collapse of many, if not all Arab political structures in the face of this ferocious Jihad.

Review of James Palmer, Apocalyptic in the Early Middle Ages

 

The Medieval Review 16.10.19

Palmer, James T. The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. pp. 274. $29.99 (hardback). ISBN: 978-1-107-44909-1 (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Richard Landes

CIC, Bar Ilan University

[email protected]

I once asked a great medievalist, who had written on Raoul Glaber and the heresies and paradigmatic cognitive shifts that emerged suddenly in the early new century/millennium, why he never looked at the issue of the apocalyptic year 1000. “You know, as a graduate student I wanted to, but my advisor told me, don’t open that can of worms.” He might better have said, that hornet’s nest, because if one pokes around in there, one meets, as Michelet did from Ferdinand Lot, and I did from Sylvain Gouguenheim and Dominique Barthélemy, with vigorous, indignant, hard-hitting denial, roundly applauded by colleagues. [1]

Apparently, it violates some hard-wired medievalist conviction to suggest that the denizens of an entire generation of Western culture acted as if they were participants in the End-Time drama–whether they believed that this apocalyptic transformation would lead to the millennial kingdom on earth, or the End of the world entirely. No, it seems, leaders of the past (clerical and secular) kept their sangfroid in the face of (what to those of future, hindsight-endowed generations appeared to be) ludicrous prophecy. Augustine, historians have assured us, was the “true conscience of Christianity,” who guided his generation through “the dangerous thinking” at the time of the fall of Rome, and established the dominant orthodoxy in which neither apocalyptic beliefs nor millennial ones had a significant place. Up until a generation ago, most historians thought there was no millennialism between Augustine and Joachim of Fiore, and up until two generations ago, most medievalists thought Joachim was an insignificant thinker who would harm the reputation of any scholar foolish enough to consecrate her time to his study.

So when James Palmer set out to write a book on The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages, which would cover the period from the fall of Rome up to Y1K as he calls it, he was, at the very least, opening several cans of worms, in particular the two other “millennial” dates that preceded 1000 in Christian traditions of dating the apocalyptic advent of the messianic kingdom of the saints–das tausandjähriger Reich–to the end of the sixth millennium since creation. According to chronologies that variously calculated the number of years from creation, the year 6000 came twice within this book’s purview, in 500 (Y6K I), and in 801(Y6K II). While a few historians have made much of this tradition of millennial calculation, [2] no medievalist has yet to give a book-length treatment to the range of these dates, and no historian of either the “Fall” of Rome or the Carolingian imperial experiment has integrated this into their analyses.

Palmer does his best to strengthen the anti-apocalyptic (Augustinian) reading of history. For him the changes in calculation of the age of the world derive not from a desire to avoid facing an apocalyptic year 6000, but rather from “scholarly concerns.”

But…the roots of changes in chronological systems lay not in an aversion or attachment to their apocalyptic implications, but rather in debates about computistical orthodoxy… The results, I will argue, muddied the water for understanding the passing of the world’s 6,000th year considerably, which makes it harder to determine if the silence of the sources is quite as deliberate as it might at first sight seem [italics mine]. (141)

Unpacked, this question mal posée–as if the scholarly drive and apocalyptic agenda were mutually exclusive [3] –sufficiently muddies the waters so that if historians wish to continue writing the biographies of men like Theodosius and Clovis, or Charlemagne and Alcuin, or Otto III, Aethelred, and Robert, with no reference to the possibility that they lived in an apocalyptic generation, they can do so comfortably.

Ironically, but consistently, experts in computus and chronology tend to promote the most non-apocalyptic/a-millennial versions of their subject. [4] Hence if one might consider Palmer’s knowledge of both chronology and computus as one of his great strengths, his understanding of apocalyptic dynamics, including their relationship to chronological discussions, constitutes one of his weaknesses. He discusses Augustinian eschatology as a regnant norm: commentaries on Revelation produced a perception of eschatology in which “it did not matter if the end was imminent or not.” The expanded role of this de-apocalypticized spirituality (apocalypse here meaning sense of imminence), produced a “politicized apocalyptic discourse in the direction of reform and combatting heresy.” (105)

Alternatively, Palmer emphasizes the predominance of a sense of “‘psychological imminence’ rather than ‘chronological imminence'” [italics mine], that favors penitential attitudes, and institutionally acceptable forms of apocalyptic reform. He ends up with so spiritualized a notion of apocalyptic, however, that he can lump personal sense of Judgment together with collective forms. “The difference,” he notes, “between what would happen to an individual if they [sic] died the very next day, and what would happen to them if the world ended in a non-millenarian scenario, is quite minimal: they would be judged.” (14-15)

On this abstract and solipsistic plane, perhaps there is no difference; but the magic of apocalyptic moments is the collective anticipation of simultaneous public Judgment for all mankind–the quick and the dead! The final reckoning takes place “before the eyes of all living creatures.” Apocalyptic moments, in this context, differ drastically from individual, solitary experiences of imminent Judgment. Indeed, far more unites apocalyptic believers whether they are part of a “purely” millennial movement (messianic era to begin now), or “purely” eschatological one (Last Judgment at End of the World). All those swept up in apocalyptic time, share the sense that history hangs on the hinge of salvation, and “we” are the generation chosen to live at that cosmic culmination and turning point.