Monthly Archives: December 2005

Arab Self Criticism: The Gold Standard

Solomonia has a post from MEMRI of a Saudi politician engaging in self criticism. For those who don’t always know how to distinguish real moderates from demopaths, this one separates the men from the boys.

Iyad Jamal Al-Din How come this country (Israel) has developed a democratic regime, although it too has been at war and is surrounded by enemies, whereas the Arabs have not developed democratic regimes, using the existence of Israel as a pretext? How come Israel is not using the Arabs as a pretext for delaying its democratic development, its free economy, and its free press? Are they better, smarter, or stronger than us? We have oil, we have water, we have land, we have great minds – we have it all. Nevertheless, we have backward, tyrannical, and dictatorial regimes – and the peoples readily accept this. There is no real demand for democracy in Arab countries…

The touchstone of sincerity here is that not only does Iyad Jamal al-Din criticize his own people, but he has the presence of mind to note that the very excuses his own people use to avoid the taxing but productive path to democracy could have been used by the Israelis… and were not. It takes someone capable of psychologically accepting so unpleasant a contrast to be able to even see, much less articulate so telling — and for most Arab spokesemen humiliating — an observation. This is the gold standard of self-criticism.

Al Durah, icon of global Jihad in Smalltown USA

Earlier this year (last installment in October, 2005), Laura Mansfield published a six-part series on Islam in America. As a fluent speaker of Arabic, but allowing the Muslims who welcomed her to the Mosque to assume she did not understand what they were saying, Mansfield witnessed a dramatic difference between two discourses, one in English, one in Arabic: “two different doctrines are being promoted. One peaceful, friendly, warm, and fuzzy doctrine is being used to draw people in, with a focus on the wellbeing of their children. But the Arabic speaking sessions clearly have an anti-American tone.” The latter openly hostile to the USA, to the West; the other, classic demopathy, invoking all the good sentiments that Americans like to hear.

In her fourth installment, Mansfield writes of attending a “summer camp” for children. She described the address of the head of the Mosque to the children, some as young as five years old of which the following is an excerpt:

He ranted for around 10 minutes about the “kafirs” and how the ambition of these unbelievers used the name of Christ to work with the Zionists to kill all of the Muslims in the world.

Then, suddenly he shifted gears. He started discussing Jews and Zionists, explaining that they were the most hated creatures by Allah. He told the children that Allah in fact hated them so much that at one point he turned all the Jews into pigs and monkeys.

The focus shifted to politics again. The imam told the children to never forget the struggle of the Palestinians, who were only trying to regain their ancestral land, which has been their home for thousands of years. He told the story of Mohamed Durah, and explained to the audience how the 14 year old had been killed while “innocently going down the street with his father.” He emphasized that the killing was an unprovoked murder by the “Jewish sons of pigs and monkeys”. He reminded the children that the goal of every Christian and Jew was to kill every single Muslim, even the tiny babies.

Mansfield thinks that he has twice changed subject. He has not. His goal is to justify global Jihad to these children. His ten minute rant accuses all non-Muslims (really non Islamists, like some of them may choose to be, but they don’t know that yet) of trying to kill all Muslims (including innocents like themselves). This may strike even five year olds as less than convincing, given their generally decent encounters with most Americans. He then moves to the demonized other, the Jews, whom most of them have never met (or known they were Jewish had they met them). He thus can tar the Christians with their support and association of the apocalyptic enemy, the purely evil. Finally, he nails down the evil of the Jews with the tale of al Durah, a real live crime, witnessed by the whole world, that proves the genocidal intent of the Jews and therefore — and here liberal cognitive egocentrists will shake their heads in bewilderment — Christians. Full circle, from the initial accusation of genocidal desires against all unbelievers, through the Jews and Israelis, to the repeated attribution of genocidal desires to “every Christian and Jew.” QED

Note the use of al Durah to embody the nature of the Palestinian conflict on the one hand, and to describe the genocidal intent of the unbelievers who surround them (i.e., their fellow non-Muslim Americans). Even as the speaker emphasizes a demopathic theme (Western liberal values) that can resonate with his young, and somewhat Americanized audience — “they [Palestinians] are only trying to regain their ancestral homeland” — he weaves in both the demonizing language — “Jewish sons of pigs and monkeys” — and the classic paranoid projection — “they’re out to commit genocide against us.” This accusation of genocidal intent replicates almost to a detail the Nazi projection onto the Jews of desiring world conquest and the enslavement of all mankind. As they screamed about the “world Zionist plot,” they planned precisely that. Here, as with the Nazis, one has to pay attention to what those who accuse Jews and Christians in the manner have to say about what to do with these enemies, to understand what role this accusation serves in the plans of global Jihad. In their minds, these beliefs make their own genocidal desires mere self-defense.

This case of a southern American mosque echoes an argument I made about the French with al Durah: as they repeatedly played al-Durah on TV for their own purposes — to erase the debt of the Holocaust, to indulge in moral Schadenfreude where they can delight in Israel’s moral confusion — they were also broadcasting it to an audience that saw a different message, a warrant for genocide not only against the Jews, but against the Christians. Only fools — dupes of demopaths — would believe that because they do not consider themselves Christian, that these Jihadi Muslims will also not consider them the “enemy.” In conspiratorial apocalyptic politics, “my enemy’s enemy is… my enemy.”

Mohammed al Durah, icon of global Jihad. Is there anything we can do about it being taught in such a manner to American Muslim children?

Al Durah as part of the Perpetual Motion Machine of Violence

Solomonia has a piece on the broadcast of a Saudi Arabian children’s TV show picked up by MEMRI. Interviewing a toddler, the host asks:

Interviewer: Why did they do that to Muhammad Al-Dura?

Palestinian Toddler: Because they are Jews, villains, dogs. You see? That’s why. They shouldn’t do that, because it’s called killing. They shouldn’t do this. We are not their friends. They shouldn’t do this. We are Palestinians, and they are Jews. They should not shoot people.

Interviewer: Is it possible that we will reconcile with them one day, and there will be peace between us?

Toddler: No.

A nice illustration of the ways in which Al Durah, which sure looks like a massive media error, duped by Pallywood, continues to contribute to the “endless cycle of violence,” by demonizing Jews in Arab culture.

For yet another example of the way that the Al Durah story serves in the war of hatred, see this children’s story, published recently by a Palestinian press.

“…’What about news of the intifada, granny?’ [And she answered: ‘Today I will tell you a story that roused the emotions of the entire world and exposed the Jewish crime very clearly. With Allah’s grace, a photographer who happened to be present took pictures of the crime and afterwards the incident was broadcast by all the media and all the television stations.’ [Note: The death of Muhammad al-Durra is then presented in detail using expressions which emphasize the evil and wickedness of the Israeli soldiers: “…The soldiers’ teeth protruded as they laughed aloud [when Muhammad al-Durra was shot] like the protruding teeth of wolves grinding the bones of an innocent lamb they have hunted out of the arms of its mother…].

Note several matters of interest: a) the role of the western media and the international reaction as critical affirmation — the killing heard round the world; b) the wickedness of the Israelis, i.e., scenario 1 — murder, demonic killing of innocent child; and c) the imagery of leering, mocking laughter.

There is perhaps no better illustration of how widely held this version of al Durah is believed in Palestinian culture than the statement from Marwan Bargouti in his final defense on trial for planning attacks targetting Israeli civilians (what I believe we mean by the word terrorism) during the second “Intifada”:

‘In the first year of the Intifada, 581 Palestinians and 34 Israelis were killed. This was because the IDF … is the least moral [army] in the world. I want to remind the entire world that saw how the boy Muhammad al-Dura was killed while the soldiers sat and laughed.’

– West Bank Tanzim chief Marwan Barghouti in the closing arguments of his Israeli terrorism trial in 2003.

In other words, for Marwan and his public, their fantasy is so real that they assume that the whole world saw what their fevered and paranoid brains (and Pallywood technology) concocted (not to mention the statistics that he cites).

Now here’s something the media can do to wind the “perpetual motion machine of violence” down. How about helping Marwan and his public do some reality testing?

And yet so-far, the unbreakable instinct of our western media is to play this kind of stuff down, rather than cranking up its exposure and pressuring the Arab world to cease.

Although it’s been a while, and things have changed somewhat, it’s worth reminding people that in late 2000 — right after the Al Durah libel — Palestinian mosques and TVs were ablaze with genocidal language that the media studiously did not report. In the most famous example, shortly after the savage lynching of two soldiers in Ramallah on October 12, 2000, the PA played a sermon in which Sheik Ahmad abu Halabaya defended the deeds of the Ramallah mob:

“Even if an agreement for Gaza is signed, we shall not forget Haifa, and Acre, and the Galilee, and Jaffa, and the Triangle and the Negev, and the rest of our cities and villages. It is only a matter of time… Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them.”

William Orme, the NYT correspondant quoted from this sermon on October 24, 2000 as follows:

“Israelis cite as one egregious example a televised sermon that defended the killing of the two [lynched] soldiers. ‘Whether Likud or Labor, Jews are Jews,’ proclaimed Sheik Ahmad Abu Halabaya in a live broadcast from a Gaza city mosque the day after the killings.”

Note that Orme is specifically giving this quote to illustrate Israeli complaints about incitement to violence. The sermon itself is apparently not enough for him to report the presence of genocidal incitement on Palestinian TV independently. On the contrary, he needs to a) make it an Israeli claim, and b) cite the most anodine passage as its only illustration (as Bret Stephens puts it, a sentiment “of the sort one might have heard in a Connecticut country club”). I must say that if a student ever cited an original source in so tendentious and dishonest a manner, he (or she) would fail. Orme wins awards.

Apparently, the NYT is still at it, five years later in the matter of giving its readership the background of a terrorist recently freed by Germany.

What are we doing with such startling lapses of judgment? Sparing the Arabs the embarrassment of sounding like Nazis? Is this a form of “leveling the playingfield” so that the Palestinians don’t sound so awful that people will no longer sympathize with them? Does it matter that these concerns open the door to hate-mongering and violence? Does it matter that by presenting us an “Al Durah killed by Israelis” the mainstream media opened the gates not only to genocidal Palestinian delerium, but to the scarcely more subtle desire of anti-Zionists to compare the Israelis to the Nazis,? Does it matter that, in not publicly and loudly revising their coverage of al Durah, they continue to keep these gates of hatred and violence open, and at the same time they obscure and devalue the serious, relevant, and frightening comparisons?

Is this the path to peace?

Comment on our two Video Essays: Pallywood and Al Durah

Second Draft recently received the following comments on our video essays: According to Palestinian Sources I and II: Pallywood and Al Durah. I intersperse responses throughout.

I have watched the “Pallywood” and “Birth of an Icon” videos. The former
clearly shows Palestinian propaganda in the making. The latter is not quite
as convincing because, as you point out, the cameraman’s unused footage has
been erased.

The unused footage has not been erased. It is not available to the public because France2 refuses to let the public see it. I have seen some of it (about 20 minutes before the sequence with al Durah — pure Pallywood) and some from the next day. I comment on its relevance to Pallywood here, and to al Durah here. One of the major accomplishments of any campaign to reform the press would be to get France2 to release those tapes for public viewing. Not only would it, a) confirm scenario 5, the staged hypothesis, and b) embarrass France2 enormously, but also c) be a salutary warning to other stations to be more careful about using Pallywood footage.

The implication of your film, with Mohammed al Durrah apparently alive and
well after he is supposed to have been fatally wounded, is that the boy is
still alive.

This is a matter of considerable discussion. One of the first things people assume upon hearing that it may have been staged, is that the boy is alive. Nahum Shahaf is convinced that this is so, and often uses this claim to attract attention to his dossier. We, however, take a different position. We cannot know what happened after the public filming of the incident. What we do think is that in the last take of the infamous sequence, the boy is not yet dead, and does not move like someone with a stomach wound. So the last time we see him he is alive. What happened subsequently is not clear at all.

It would not be too difficult for an honest journalist with
access to the PA territories to find him and his father, perhaps on the
pretext of interviewing the latter about Israeli atrocities. Finding the boy
alive would be a journalistic scoop that even France 2 could not ignore.

The problem is, how many honest journalists have access to the PA Territories? Pierre Rehov reports that before leaving the PA controlled area, he had to submit all his film to the PA for inspection. As anyone who paid attention knows, the Italian crew and the English journalist who filmed the lynching in Ramallah on October 12, 2000, barely escaped with their lives. Now that the Israelis have left Gaza completely, it would take more than just an honest journalist, it would take a courageous one to go looking for evidence of fraud around the al Durah case.

Clearly there are ethical and practical problems. I expect that the boy’s
family have long realised that he is at risk of disappearance or murder by
those who wish his story to remain a simple propaganda victory for the PA.
However, finding the boy alive would be the clearest possible demonstration,
to the Palestinian people as well as to the wider world, that the “news”
emanating from the Middle East is not to be trusted.

True. Of course, this issue of the danger to the PA of a live Muhammed al Durah is not new. It has to have been there from the start. It’s not clear what the situation is concerning the boy’s fate. I like to think that he’s tucked away in an oasis somewhere in Lybia and talks with his family by cell phone. But that’s not probable.

Pallywood Documentaries

In Friday’s Jerusalem Post, Sarah Honig has a column on the two recent works of an Israeli Arab cinematographer, Hany abu Assad: Ford Tranist, a film about Israeli brutality at checkpoints, and Paradise Now, a film that explores the psyches of suicide terrorists. In her opening discussion of Ford Transit Honig gives us a good description of another aspect of Pallywood:

Two years ago Israeli cinematheques offered their enlightened, avant-garde post-Zionist audiences a widely acclaimed “documentary” – Ford Transit – by Nazareth-born, Dutch-resident film director Hany Abu-Assad. Its defamatory portrayal of Israeli soldiers’ villainy at military roadblocks is probably what earned it the Freedom Spirit Award at the 2003 Jerusalem Film Festival and unstinting tributes from the American Sundance, Canadian Hotdocs and Dutch IDFA festivals.

Neither prizes nor praise were withdrawn when it emerged that the ostensibly genuine driver, around whose sorrowful story of mistreatment at Israeli hands the central theme revolves, was in fact an actor hired to play a scripted role.

The scene in which he is brutally beaten by a sadistic soldier was performed per the director’s meticulous instructions.

This was nevertheless marketed as a documentary under the incontrovertibly astute assumption that viewers aren’t likely to investigate – no more than Goebbels’s Nazi-era moviegoers were prone to probe his infamous rodent-Jew analogy.

Abu-Assad – a devoted disciple of the Third Reich’s brainwashing master, despite claiming liberal leanings antithetical to Goebbels’s celluloid contamination – has become the Left’s poster-child both here and overseas, embraced and adulated by a broad assortment of human-rights outfits, generally of the sort that cannot abide anything not inimical to Israel.

What Abu-Assad depicts as the monstrous barbarity of Israeli occupation parades as his recurrent motif and Europeans lap it up, pamper him with box-office triumphs, accolades aplenty and a plethora of awards. The fact that truth isn’t coolest in relativist milieus works wonders in Abu-Assad’s favor.

Comments:

  • Here we have full-blown Pallywood: a sophisticated director, sets, actors, scripts, careful editing… all packaged as the film version of news (a documentary), eagerly consumed by a credulous audience. Note Honig’s comment: “…marketed as a documentary under the incontrovertibly astute assumption that viewers aren’t likely to investigate.” Transpose to get Talal abu Rahma’s version of Pallywood: “…his staged raw footage presented as news under the incontrovertibly astute assumption that the Western media outlets aren’t likely to investigate (or even notice). And when confronted with the fakes, the Western media (or at least France2, twice) respond, “Oh they do that all the time.”
  • The eagerness of Western (especially European) culture to lionize such material is one of the great sources of Pallywood’s success. Somehow all the rules of separation between fiction and non-fiction, journalism and propaganda go by the wayside in the rush to honor someone who tells a “victim narrative”… a foritori when, as the human rights complex anticipates, the perpetrators are not only white, but Jewish. How delightful these truffles of moral Schadenfreude, how great the release of guilt for Europeans to be able to watch Jews behave like Nazis. If it’s necessary to stage the scene, so what? It surely the does happen, and therefore it’s nothing more than telling a “higher truth.”
  • If anyone wonders how the Israeli press could have been so remiss with the Al Durah affair, accepting it, adopting it, pushing it, defending it… note the role of Israeli “post-Zionists” in promoting and defending the propaganda, illustrating the bizarre and self-destructive workings of pathological self-criticism.

Muhammed al Durah alive? Who knows?

On December 12, 2005, Maariv, one of the Israeli newspapers without English translation, ran an article by Amir Rappoport on Muhammed al Durah. Below, I provide a translation.

IT MAY BE THAT MUHAMMED AL DURAH IS ALIVE

Findings that were presented by the head of the committee to investigate the death of child managed to raise doubts for the head of the National Security Council.

“The boy Muhammed al Durah didn’t die at all, he is living in Gaza,” so claims the physicist and right-winger Nahum Shahaf, who presented his findings recently before the head of the National Security Council, General (res.) Giora Eiland. The investigation claims that the photos documenting the death of al Durah were staged by the Palestinians for propaganda purposes.

The head of the National Security Council said to Maariv that after reviewing the findings, he did not rule them out. The right-wing physicist also tried to convince Eiland that Israel take the official position that the child did not die. However, in the words of Eiland, “It is difficult to remain indifferent in light of Shahaf’s findings, however, there is no ablsolute proof that the findings of the investigation are correct.”

Muhammed al Durah became the symbol of the intifada when he was caught with his father in the crossfire between IDF soldiers who were trapped in the post at Netzarim Junction, and a Palestinian mass moving in on them. The boy took cover behind his father’s back and in pictures documented by French television, he is seen waving his hands until he is shot and killed.

Up until today there was no argument regarding the question of whether or not Muhammed al Durah actually died, and Nahum Shahaf himself was at the head of a committee appointed by the former head of the Southern Command, Yom Tov Samia, who already in 2001 investigated the question of whether Muhammed al Durah was shot by IDF or Palestinian fire. The Shahaf committee then established, based on analysis of ballistic findings and calculations of the angles of the shooting, that Muhammed al Durah was killed by Palestinian and not IDF fire.

Nahum Shahaf didn’t give up and continued to investigate the matter. According to him, he has recently received new testimonies which establish not only that IDF soldiers did not shoot at Muhammed al Durah, but that actually, the boy is alive. According to him, he managed to gather findings according to which Muhammed al Durah was seen until at least a half a year ago in the marketplace in Gaza. “People were in the habit of calling him Muhammed al Durah, because they thought that he only resembled the boy who was killed, but it is really the real Muhammed.”

THE PALESTINIANS REJECTED SHAHAF’S FINDING OUTRIGHT

Nahum Shahaf is considered a man of the right, and in the past there were claims that his political views swayed his findings. Among other things, Shahaf has voiced claims regarding the findings relating to the murder to Yitzchak Rabin z”l. His full position on the Al Durah affair will be presented today on the “Reaction Time” program of Avi Jacobovitz on Radio Kol Chai.

Jacobovitz himself claimed yesterday that he interviewed Jamal Al Durah, the father of the boy, who told him in a recording that will be broadcast today that “The boy is alive.” In a conversation with “Ma’ariv” the father explained that the boy was killed, but that according to the Muslim faith he lives in the next world.

According to General (res.) Eiland, after he looked deeply into the material, three possibilities exist. One possibility is that despite everything IDF soldiers did nevertheless kill the boy. The second possibility is that he was killed by Palestinian fire, and there exists a possibility is that the event was actually staged. “He aroused enough doubt in me that perhaps he is correct,” Eiland said. Shahaf’s findings were dismissed yesterday outright by the Palestinians.

Comments:

  • For those who might think that the Israeli media represent a monolithic voice defending Israel, note the repeated references of the journalist to Shahaf as a right-winger (my favorite — “is considered to be a man of the right” — that kind of writing will get students an F in a history paper… agency! WHO considers…?), to his position on the Rabin’s assassination, and to the Palestinian dismissal of his claims (without attribution or substance). As a student of mine remarked about Ha-Aretz’s coverage of this issue, “Why does it sound like a Palestinian paper?”
  • The article shows the lamentable state of an Israeli journalist’s knowledge of the affair: Rappoport thinks that the footage shows the boy “shot and killed,” when it shows nothing of the kind. He thinks that “up until today” no one had suggested that it was staged when, according to Shahaf, he’s been arguing “staged” from the beginning, and a furious controversy has been waged on this front for well over three years. (Note: when, in late 2004, I had the chance to speak with Amram Mitzne, then the favored candidate for Labor party after Peres, about the al Durah affair, he had never even heard of the “staged” hypothesis; in the Spring of 2005, Dennis Ross apparently didn’t know, and if he did, he had already pushed it out of his mind as a conspiracy theory.)
  • Eiland, although careful to hedge his bets (note his reference to “absolute proof,” has come out with a statement that significantly changes his public position on this: previously he had accepted the probability of Israeli culpability, a statement that Charles Enderlin has repeatedly used to insist on the validity of his broadcast, There he identifies the father and son as “the targets of fire coming from the Israeli position,” a claim for which he had no evidence at the time, other than Talal’s “testimony.” For Eiland to take even these cautious steps represents a major shift in attitude at the top of the Israeli government which has, till now, been extremely reluctant to touch this third rail.
  • Shahaf’s insistence that the boy is alive continues to get attention (note that the article leads with that claim), but, I suspect, continues to alienate most people who come across it (note the journalist’s visible hostility to Shahaf). Our position at Second Draft is that we cannot know what happened after the film was shot that day at Netzarim. The last time we see Muhammed on film, he is alive and apparently quite well. So we’re willing to argue, less tentatively than General Eiland, that we do not see him shot on film. But what has happened to him since is not something we think it makes sense to speculate on, much less make sensationalist claims about.
  • On the other hand, the fact that no journalist has seen worthy to investigate further suggests a) the laziness of the “investigative” wing of journalism on this score, all happy, like Rappoport, to adhere to the court version of the Emperor’s new clothes; and b) the intimidating atmosphere in Gaza, where the journalist would have to search for evidence debunking a martyr. As for the IDF and the famed Israeli intelligence services… where are they?
  • Quibbles aside, all told, it’s nice that things continue to cook on this case. Who knows, maybe the Israeli media will begin to come out of hibernation and begin to address it. Except for the war-mongers in the Arab and Muslim world (and their admirers on the radical left like Ramsey Clark), everyone would benefit, not just including, but especially the Palestinian people.

    Spielberg: Cognitive Egocentrist

    David Brooks has an sharply critical piece on Spielberg’s movie about Munich. In an interview with Time Spielberg articulates classic liberal cognitive egocentrism.

    “I’m always in favor of Israel responding strongly when it’s threatened. At the same time, a response to a response doesn’t really solve anything. It just creates a perpetual-motion machine,” he says. “There’s been a quagmire of blood for blood for many decades in that region. Where does it end? How can it end?”

    This is classic Politically Correct Paradigm (PCP1), from the concessive clause — “I’m all for (or against)…” followed by the inevitable “but the Israelis have to….” Here we have the “cycle of violence” which has locked “both sides” into responding to what (presumably) are similar or equivalent provocations, based on the equally classic presupposition that, by ceasing the violence, somehow the “cycle of violence” (or in Spielberg’s language, the “perpetual motion machine”) will wind down. Obviously the onus here is on the Israelis not to respond to Palestinian violence. What diplomat can, with a straight face, say “Let the Palestinians cease the violence, and then see how Israel responds.” And, to return to the obvious scenario, the Israelis restrain themselves until… what? Until the Palestinians grow tired of killing Zionist pigs? Is that what Spielberg really thinks?

    No, it turns out he has a more active solution:

    “The only thing that’s going to solve this is rational minds, a lot of sitting down and talking until you’re blue in the gills.”

    This is nothing short of breathtakingly careless (including the colloquial reference to being fed up). Maybe Spielberg should try talking to Benny Morris about what went wrong people at Camp David in 2000, and spend a few hours a day reading the contents of Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI. Instead, Spielberg surrounded himself with a sterling team PCPers including Dennis Ross, evangelist of “peace negotiations” at almost any risk, and most importantly, screenwriter Tony Kushner, a “doctrinaire progressive” according to Leon Weiseltier, and, to judge from the book he edited and his recent interview with Ha’Aretz, someone who’s got few doubts about his criticism of Sharon and Israel, and even fewer about dismissing his Jewish critics as base and, basically, un-Jewish.

    And in my opinion the hysteria comes from the fact that these people fundamentally know that their position is indefensible. That they are advocating for something that they know is almost impossible to advocate for. Namely, a Jewish state that does not acknowledge its own crimes, because that’s not Jewish.

    Together, and without consulting the main actors themselves on either side, they have apparently put together a politically correct movie… Hollywood makes room for Pallywood.

    Where will Spielberg find his Palestinian “rational” actors ready for his decisive all-nighter? Rationality means, by him as by so many of us liberals, a positive-sum thinking, But as anyone who pays attention to what is said in Arabic may have noticed, that approach has, until now, found few if any proponents among Arab leadership, Palestinian or otherwise. On the contrary, what seems to characterize most decision making among Arab leaders about Israel is a hard-line zero-sum approach — Israel must lose in order for us to win — one that has willingly inflicted great suffering on its own people just to get a PR advantage over Israel. Indeed, repeatedly getting nothing rather than all, Arab elites have consistently chosen lose-lose: instead of the zero-sum joke “poke out one of my eyes, so that my neighbor will lose both eyes,” Palestinian leadership seems to prefer to poke out both its people’s eyes just to get one Israeli eye.

    And if Spielberg finds some real moderates, like Sari Nuseiba, will they carry any weight in a society whose elite culture publicly preaches a self-destructive, hate-filled paranoia, and who groom demopaths like Saeb Erakat to play the victim card?

    “What can we do if we can’t find them…? I’ve got it! Create them in Hollywood!” Simone goes to the Middle East.

    So in support of his liberal dream, Spielberg has apparently fantasized such a figure and put the kinds of words into his mouth that both he and Kushner want so desperately to hear:

    There is an entirely fictional scene in the movie in which Avner and his Palestinian opposite number meet and talk calmly, with the latter getting a chance to make his case for the creation of a homeland for his people… Without that exchange [Spielberg comments], “I would have been making a Charles Bronson movie–good guys vs. bad guys and Jews killing Arabs without any context. And I was never going to make that picture.”

    Of course the Munich massacres themselves constitute quite a context, along with the kind of hate driven “ideology” that produced them and the barbaric attacks in Israel that preceded. And then there’s the astoundingly self-destructive tendency of the West to lionize Arafat (thank him for your wait in security lines at airports) and to play down any outrage at the attacks on Israelis (the Olympics did go on). Of course, the problem with that is, were Spielberg to explore that angle, he could no longer fantasize publicly about rational people sitting down and working it out.

    Spielberg’s final remark here about how, without his moral agenda “I was never going to make that picture…” reminds me of the numerous times that people in the MSM told me they would not either make or run a documentary about Muhamed al Durah as a fake without “balancing” it. Unless we can find an equivalent Israeli fault/crime/shortcoming, we won’t show the Palestinians in such a bad light. At one point, the Nobel Peace committee considered giving the prize to “Peace Now,” but decided not to because they couldn’t find a Palestinian equivalent. Heaven forbid the world should become aware of how committed many Israelis are to peace despite the dangers (some consider Peace Now suicidal), and how little that sentiment plays in Arab culture. Moral Equivalence become dogma, even-handedness become compulsion.

    Granted Spielberg wanted to get the voice of reason and hope into his film: he is by instinct optimistic and it is one of his great strengths. But why put that voice in the mouth of a terrorist? How does Spielberg count on the near-miraculous redemption of a culture of men who have convinced themselves that targeting civilians by teaching their children merciless hatred is the way to get what they want? Is he so religious that he can rely so heavily on God’s intervention?

    Where does all this hope lead Spielberg? Apparenlty towards solepsistic Jewish self-criticism: four dimensional Jews, agonizing over the need engage in violence when they’d rather not, against a backdrop of two dimensional Arabs, cardboard figures with no depth, no real passions — except, of course, the acceptable ones like civic nationalism, that we liberals believe they should have. Notes Brooks:

    Understandably, he doesn’t want to portray Palestinian terrorists as cartoon bad guys, but he simply doesn’t portray them. There’s one speech in which a Palestinian terrorist sounds like Mahmoud Abbas, but beyond that, the terrorists are marginal and opaque.

    And that’s not Mahmoud Abbas, necessarily, that’s the Mahmoud Abbas he wants us to believe in, that Dennis Ross believes in, and that we all want to believe in. No wonder Speilberg did minimal historical research, especially with the real players, in this international drama. This is his fantasy, and it makes him feel morally virtuous: without that, he “never would have made the film.”

    This optimism about the “other” is hardly new for Spielberg. His early movies on UFOs systematically projected the best onto these “others” from Outer Space. The following is an exerpt from a chapter on UFOlogy in my manuscript on millennial movements, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience (without the footnotes). The opening quotation is from Richard Dreyfus (who plays the protagonist Neery) on the filming of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the first UFO movie in which the ETs were kind, cuddly creatures.

    “We all felt that this particular project had a noble agenda. This was a big idea that Steven was talking about. It wasn’t just a sci-fi movie, it wasn’t about monsters from the id. It was that we are not only not alone, but that we have relatively little to fear. People don’t realize, or it’s hard for people to remember, that Close Encounters was truly the first cultural iconic moment that said, ‘Calm down we’re okay. They can be our friends.’ That really was a huge statement that I and lots of other people wanted to participate in.”

    Some of Close Encounters pushes the limits of self-parody – the artistic soul of a gentle French movie maker (Truffaut) frees us from our paranoia so we can greet the aliens properly; the alien beings send out their children to call the best of us (Dreyfus) on their ship.

    It has been deservedly spoofed. Prof. Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) in Mars Attacks articulates precisely this voice. Asked by the media-hound president (Jack Nicholson), what to make of these creatures, who have just vaporized the general sent to welcome them along with other troops and by-standers, the professor responds: “Logic dictates that given their extremely high level of technological development they are an advanced culture, therefore peaceful and enlightened. The human race on the other hand is an aggressively dangerous species. I suspect they have more to fear from us, than we from them.” Meantime the Mars aliens read a message from the President filled with vapid wishes for understanding and laugh as they plan their invasion.

    Spielberg, on the other hand, gives us a determinedly optimistic take in his two first UFO films: uncanny but adorable childlike aliens, one of whom would return to visit 6 years later in the “saccharine movie ET…[where] a merely alien-looking entity… at heart is just like us” – or rather, like our inner child. Here the generation gap between simple and good-hearted children and insensitive, conspiratorial, and destructive adults takes up where Childhood’s End had left off. UFO pop psychology – we’re okay, they’re okay – tells us the monsters in our closet are of our own imagining… all we need to do is hug them. “We have seen the enemy,” says Pogo famously, “and he is us.” Just us?

    Of course we know nothing about ETs, and imagining them is purely a Rorschach test. We know a lot more about Palestinian terrorists.

    What might Spielberg have done had he not been a prisoner of the Politically Correct Paradigm (PCP1) with its built-in susceptibility to become the dupes of demopaths? He might have consulted Neo-Neocon’s meditation on shame and the sources of rage and violence. He might then have begun to meditate on the dynamics of honor and shame culture, their role in the Arab world, and the relationship between Israel’s very existence as a humiliation to both Arabs and to Islam and the development of global Jihad.

    The problem of course, is that when you bring Arab concerns with honor and shame to the attention of egocentrist liberals, they try as hard as possible not to further bruise that wounded pride, not to embarrass them, not to criticize them publicly. It may work for children some of the time perhaps, but not with hostile adults who take our unwillingness to criticize them and our corresponding eagerness to “affirm” them through our own self-criticism, as an invitation to further violence. And the demopaths and their enthusiasts know how to play on our unwillingness to confront the touchy Arab pride, know how to mobilize our moral indignation with accusations of racism, apartheid and colonial subjection not about their own morally base behavior, but Israel’s.

    (I remember vividly a session in an Arab-Israeli dialogue group I was in during the worst of the suicide terrorism. I was looking to the Arabs to condemn it simply and clearly, and not excuse it or explain it. In vain. And when I voiced my opinion that encouraging children to blow themselves up in the midst of civilians was a moral abyss that linked child-abuse to mass murder, one of the nicer participants got vehemently indignant, and accused me of de-humanizing the Palestinians. I thought I was pointing our how the Palestinian leadership was dehumanizing its people; the Israeli/Jewish participants jumped on me for being so critical, for not validating our Arab interlocutors.)

    To avoid this trap, Spielberg would have to think one step further. Were he to show the (by any liberal standards) grotesque culture of hatred that motivated the Munich massacre (along with attacks on children’s houses in kibbutzim), and depict the irredentist, wipe-out-the-humiliation-that-is-Israel rhetoric that animated the PLO well before the “occupation,” he could have made several major contributions to the peace he allegedly wants to see:

    1) He could have warned the dupes of demopaths about what the real sources of the problem are and made them less susceptible to claims that “if only Israel would… then there would be peace.”

    2) He could have shamed Palestinians who, being susceptible to what others think, would find this exposure of their ugly (and, amazingly, hidden) dark secrets deeply shameful in the eyes of those people whom they try most to “win over” — namely the liberal/progressive westerners who make such useful dupes.

    3) He would have strengthened the hands of real moderates in the Arab world who fear even mentioning this world of cultivated hatreds lest they be accused of “betraying” their “people”, and who can only bring this up when it is clear that others’ awareness of it is causing problems. Indeed, he could have put his eloquent speech of reason where it belonged, in the mouth of beleaguered genuine moderate ignored by a western media too eager to think well of terrorists — insurgents, freedom fighters, future moderates — to notice him.

    “But,” you reply, “if you shame them, you enrage them, and therefore produce more violence.” (This, incidentally is the French intellectuals’ argument for why no one should say the M-word in discussing the riots.) On the contrary, such behavior at this point only encourages threats and violence from people who realize that they can do almost anything to westerners and meet with timidity and appeasement. Masochistic omnipotence syndrome (MOS): “It’s all our fault, and if only we were better we could fix anything.” It’s how battered wives and children of divorces (sometimes) think; it’s how dhimmis think.

    I would suggest the opposite approach: only by using the major weakness of Arab culture — their overriding concerns for what others think — can we hope to turn this situation around without too much violence. Only when the “moderate” Arabs and Muslims are ashamed and humiliated before the world (as they were by the grotesque behavior of the Chechin terrorists at Beslan), do we find truly self-critical voices emerging from their midst. Only when Palestinians and Muslims have to face public disapproval for the hate-mongers and mass-murderers in their midst, will they begin to react against them.

    Until then, as long as the heat only comes from their own terrorists — who do not hesitate to terrorize their own — why should “moderate” spokesmen and women of the Arab world choose integrity and courage (no matter how often they appeal to these standards to judge Israel)? The easier path (one we make easy) is to appease their own terrorists and indulge in misplaced pride as entitled victims. If we let them do it, why shouldn’t they blame us for their violence and in so doing, hide their shameful and dangerous hatreds?

    It is quite notable, that when you listen to the moral indignation of the Palestinians about Zionism and Judaism and think about what they do to both Israelis and their own people, and what they glorify in other Arabs be they in Iraq or Sudan, you realize how fragile their moral position. Take, as a topical example, what Mohamed Daoud, the master-mind of Munich, would have told Spielberg had he bothered to consult:

    They [the Israelis] carried out vengeance against people who had nothing to do with the Munich attack, people who were merely politically active or had ties with the PLO… If a film fails to make these points, it will be unjust in terms of truth and history.

    This indignation about Israeli collateral damage comes from a man who masterminded a deliberate attack on civilians at an international celebration of brotherhood. And instead of puncturing this moral charade, progressives try to assuage wounded egos by leveling the playing field, and focusing on morally compromised Israelis. Daoud need not fear that no one consulted him: Spielberg and Kushner are on it.

    By giving the Arab and Muslim world a pass, by making them the beneficiaries of a grotesque moral affirmative action that “understands terrorism,” we only encourage the worst. And that will not — Steven Spielberg’s best intentions aside — lead to peace.

    My advice to the great filmmaker: If you wish to be the great storyteller of this critically misguided generation — and you could be — if you want to help us find a way through the heavy whitewater and jagged shoals of early 21st-century globalization, and towards a properous, responsible, peaceful and pluralistic world, tell the tale of Muhamed al Durah. It might help you recognize that, like everything, film can be used for good and for evil; that evil really does exist; and that disguising it in liberal egocentrism only makes it stronger.

    After all, this battle with Jihad still may be won with discourse and minimal violence. For that, however, we need real courage, not doctrinaire progressivism, no matter how well written and performed.

    PS. As the professor said, “Read the book? I haven’t even lectured on it yet.” Stay tuned for when I’ve actually seen the movie.

    We Are Worse Than Them …

    In an interview to Portuguese newspaper Publico Swedish writer Sven Lindqvist, author of Exterminate All The Brutes, gives another example of moral equivalence:

    Of course that now in Afeganistan many more people died than in the attacks of September 11.

    He also wonders if,

    One day Bin Laden will have [in the West] the status of Kenyatta [leader of the African nationalist movement Mau Mau] or Nelson Mandela.

    After all they were also considered terrorists …

    On moral equivalence read here and on radical post-colonialism here

    *Book of the Month* December 2005

    Al Qaeda in Europe: The New Battleground of International Jihad (Hardcover)
    by Steven Emerson (Foreword), Lorenzo Vidino Prometheus Books

    Interview with the author here

    There is a part of the radical Islamists’ leadership that talks publicly about conquering Europe. Sheik Yusuf al Qaradawi, one of today’s most influential Sunni clerics, is very open about it, as he has repeatedly predicted that “Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor.” But additionally, secularists have expressed a similar vision. In 1974, for example, former Algerian President Houari Boumedienne proclaimed in a speech at the U.N.: “One day millions of men will leave the southern hemisphere to go to the northern hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory.” The greatest majority of Muslims who come to Europe just want a better economic future and, in all likelihood, completely ignore these plans. But Europe has to win the battle for the hearts and minds of these Muslims. Governments must be relentless and aggressive in opposing the radical minority while, at the same time, offering a good alternative to its new citizens. But who wants to integrate in a society that is ashamed of itself? We are not making our case more appealing than the radicals’ and that is why so many Muslims are rejecting our culture. If we reject it ourselves, how can we expect them to embrace it?