Monthly Archives: April 2006

The Right to Ridicule: Muddled Thinking from the Top

Ronald Dworkin, no mean thinker, has an extraordinarily muddled piece on Danoongate in the New York Review of Books.

The British and most of the American press have been right, on balance, not to republish the Danish cartoons that millions of furious Muslims protested against in violent and terrible destruction around the world. Reprinting would very likely have meant—and could still mean—more people killed and more property destroyed.

So we take Muslim violence as a “fact”, like nature, and work around it? One of the things that comes out in the study of cultures of “self-help justice” (feud and vendetta) is that the ground rules demand that retaliation be predictable, regardless of whether the initial damage was done intentionally or not. Any leeway means moving from “realism” to “constructivism” in modern poli sci terms, and then things get messy. Andy Bostom, in a recent lecture on the Armenian genocide as Jihad, explained that the very effort of the Armenians to relieve themselves of their dhimmi status provoked the genocidal rage of the Muslims. The point reminded me of the argument that Christopher Boehm makes in his work on Montenegran tribal feuds. As part of an explanation for the remorseless hostility of every other alpha male to the emergence of a leader, he comments that it makes evolutionary sense as a survival mechanism in that, were any serious leader to arise, the Turks would have exterminated them. Predictability of murderous violence: one of the lynch pins of dhimmi behavior.

It would have caused many British and American Muslims great pain because they would have been told by other Muslims that the publication was intended to show contempt for their religion, and though that perception would in most cases have been inaccurate and unjustified, the pain would nevertheless have been genuine.

This comment strikes me as the quintessence of what’s wrong with the way we think about these issues. British and American (and presumably other European) Muslims will be made to feel bad by other Muslims when they tell them that they’ve been diss’d. Why on earth should people not be expected to feel pain? What kind of infantilization is going on here? Why should we protect them from such “pain,” rather than expect them to reply intelligently to their Muslim brethren, and tell them that their infantile behavior in rioting over these pictures is embarrassing Muslims the world over. Or, better yet, tell them that they’ve been worked into a fever pitch by dishonest Muslims who faked really disgusting pictures of the Prophet to provoke them. Of course, that would be treating the Muslims in Europe as responsible members of the society.

True, readers and viewers who have been following the story might well have wanted to judge the cartoons’ impact, humor, and offensiveness for themselves, and the press might therefore have felt some responsibility to provide that opportunity. But the public does not have a right to read or see whatever it wants no matter what the cost, and the cartoons are in any case widely available on the Internet.

This is amazing. Part of what makes the cartoon scandal such a scandal is how mild the cartoons. One cannot possibly understand just how grotesque the reaction (and the need on the part of the really vicious Imams who stirred the toxic brew four months later to fake really disgusting cartoons) until you’ve seen how mild, respectful, even intimidated most of them are. The very notion that the MSM need not show us these cartoons — or better yet, go to the internet to get them — illustrates what kind of bankruptcy now reigns supreme in the world of our MSM.

Sometimes the press’s self-censorship means the loss of significant information, argument, literature, or art, but not in this case. Not publishing may seem to give a victory to the fanatics and authorities who instigated the violent protests against them and therefore incite them to similar tactics in the future.

Okayyyy…. but is there a “but” coming?

But there is strong evidence that the wave of rioting and destruction—suddenly, four months after the cartoons were first published —was orchestrated by Muslim leaders in Denmark and in the Middle East for larger political reasons. If that analysis is correct, then keeping the issue boiling by fresh republications would actually serve the interests of those responsible and reward their strategies of encouraging violence.

What? The evidence that it was concocted is a reason not to make it a deal of it? I’m at a complete loss here. I would have thought that confronting it was all the more important since the whole row was set off by people intent on intimidating the West. Prof. Dworkin seems to mistake the effects for the goal. He thinks that the Imams wanted to stir up violence and more violence, and anything we do that increases the violence plays into their hands. But what’s far more likely is that the violence is a means to the end of intimidating us. And that is precisely what Dworkin recommends we do: back down.

What’s so bizarre about the article is that Dworkin then goes on to argue on principle that no one should be free from ridicule, especially if they wish to benefit by the rules of the civil society game. But he does so, stumbling every time he deals with Muslims, into a moral relativism that shows a staggering lack of understanding. Take, for example, his handling of the Muslim accusation of “double standard” over the Holocaust:

Muslims who are outraged by the Danish cartoons note that in several European countries it is a crime publicly to deny, as the president of Iran has denied, that the Holocaust ever took place. They say that Western concern for free speech is therefore only self-serving hypocrisy, and they have a point. But of course the remedy is not to make the compromise of democratic legitimacy even greater than it already is but to work toward a new understanding of the European Convention on Human Rights that would strike down the Holocaust-denial law and similar laws across Europe for what they are: violations of the freedom of speech that that convention demands.

The idea that ridiculing the “Religion of Peace” for being mindlessly violent is somehow on a par with Holocaust denial is a moral capitulation of monumental proportions. It is actually a form of Muslim apologetic that fails to make the most basic case for moral thinking.

But in the end, somehow, Dworkin pulls the rabbit out of the hat:

If we want to forbid the police from profiling people who look or dress like Muslims for special searches, for example, we cannot also forbid people from opposing that policy by claiming, in cartoons or otherwise, that Islam is committed to terrorism, however misguided we think that opinion is. Certainly we should criticize the judgment and taste of such people. But religion must observe the principles of democracy, not the other way around. No religion can be permitted to legislate for everyone about what can or cannot be drawn any more than it can legislate about what may or may not be eaten. No one’s religious convictions can be thought to trump the freedom that makes democracy possible.

I didn’t see that coming. I guess the article is a good example of Muslim exceptionalism.

PJs V: What Were They Thinking?

[This is the continuation of my long multi-part post on the "Open Source/PJ" media launch at Solomonia last November. I have divided them up differently this time and made slight changes.]

Fashion Advice for the Ugly: I’d Rather be in my Pajamas Part 5

NB: This was written, the day after the launch, before the recent (and welcome) change back to PJMedia.

With What They Have Going for Them, What Were They Thinking?

Okay it’s easy to make fun of the MSM, what about OSM?

As Roger Simon put it, “What a day of juitjisui — we invite them [MSM], give them a place, and they illustrate what we’ve been saying along.”

Is this interpretation a brave face on a miscalculation? Or triumph of the Art of War?

Inviting the MSM seems more like a positioning move than a trick to get themselves to reveal what idiotarians they are. This was, a number of people sagely explained to me, “reaching out to the MSM” by giving them a place in the process whereby PJ Media sheds its maverick garb and attempts to establish itself as a portal from the blogosphere to the MSM.

Okay… but who is inviting whom? The MSMers clearly don’t get what’s going on; and hopefully the people driving OSM won’t forget what’s going on.

‘Don’t forget who gave you your prominence,” I said to one of the suited young Turks in OSM at the cocktail party, “don’t forget it is independent thinkers who form your most precious audience and took these blogger stars from obscurity to celebrity.”

“No one is forgetting that,” he replied. (Was that a defensive response? Working hypothesis…)

“Well the opening round, with all the MSM people showing us how little they understood, rather than featuring the bloggers and exploring the future, wasn’t very promising.” I said, choosing the role of gadfly rather than pressing the flesh and looking for a way in with this gatekeeper of OSM.

“We put a lot of effort into this event,” he replied (firming up the working hypothesis).

“That doesn’t mean you necessarily made the right choices.”

“Youíre freaking me out here,” he said, leaving me. (Maybe one shouldn’t criticize people on their launch day.)

I guess I can’t count on a call from him to join in planning new projects.

Fortunately, Charles, in a similar conversation during the same cocktail party, was far less thin-skinned.

Pedro on the other hand spent most of the time talking to the two other Europeans (“united against Eurabia?”) at the party: Paul Berger Englishman in New York (who, after discussing Israel and Palestine for almost an hour, said to Pedro “you’ve exhausted me!”) and Pieter Dorsman from PeakTalk (who, like Pedro, will probably apply for “political refugee status” in the US).

Late night conversation around a fire with Pedro, Glenn Reynolds, Mary Madigan, and Judith Weiss. Very smart, informed, opinionated people, unencumbered by the PCP baggage that normally chokes conversation. These are people who would not, as the French and Europeans do, choose slow strangulation rather than risk the embarrassment of saying something that might be considered inappropriate… something someone else could label racist.

It occurred to me, as I heard a number of people mention that they used to be on the left (Charles, Roger, Neo), that the blogosphere represents an interesting refuge from the increasingly self-ghettoized “left” that has, both in academia and in the MSM, isolated anyone who brings up politically incorrect attitudes. This process, of long standing, took a sharp turn to the insane with the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, and showed its full and astonishing lack of understanding, with the response of many on the left to 9-11 — “it’s all our fault; we’re the real terrorists; and if only we could change, they wouldn’t hate us so.The more idiotarian they get, the less they can tolerate serious criticism, the more isolated they must become, driving out anyone who has the nerve to suggest theyíre getting it wrong.

As a result, they shun, as Jill Hunter, in a variant on Neo’s experience, put it in the title of her self-published book, How I read the Quran and Lost all my Friends. So you get a left that is literally incapable of reality testing, so intent is it on avoiding any criticism. Some of the people thus shunned, end up on the right, neo-cons and beyond. But some of us refuse to be driven out of the left (if by left one means progressive thinking about freedom, decency and fairness), by people who have hijacked it (again) for loopy utopian projects laced with a not so secret admiration for vicious aggressors. As the conference continued it occurred to me, now I know where at least some of us go — the blogosphere.

How Old the Blogosphere?

Academics have a habit of doing retrospective conferences and collected essays at round-numbers dates (e.g., Essays in honor of … at his 60th birthday, or the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth).

I view the emergence of the blogosphere as a parallel phenomenon to the emergence of the “city of letters” that came out of the print world and, gathering a new and largely anonymous audience of letter writers, did an end run around the MSM of the day (universities and manuscript culture). And as far as I can make out, in the next four or so years, we’ll be coming up to the tenth anniversary of the blogosphere.

Anticipating a long period for the blogosphere of growth and maturing (hopefully not rotting before ripeness), this early period will be (probably already is getting) forgotten.

At this point, are there any early histories of the blogosphere? Are there any candidates for when it (as opposed to blogs) first could be dated?

The range of material — from testimonials, memoirs, statistical studies, analyses of its scope (I am particularly interested in the politico-journalistic blogosphere), of its relationship to the MSM, of its phases of growth — seems fairly limitless. Also seems like a multiple-person/group project.

Anyone interested in such a project please let me know.

Essays in Judeophobia VI: Arab-Israeli Conflict and Anti-modern Antisemitism

[This is the continuation of the essay on Anti-semitism which will appear in its entirety (eventually), here.]

The perspective developed above offers a wide-ranging analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Here we have a virtual morality play of the conflict between civic and prime-divider values. On the one hand, the Zionist (i.e., modernized) Jews, who come to the area with the most developed sense of civil commitments, quite unlike the imperialist Europeans (British, French, German). Many came with radical social values of egalitarianism and justice for the in-group, and non-coercive attitudes for the outgroup. On the other, the Arab Muslims, inheritors of a long tradition of prime-divider politics, with wealthy and arbitrary elites dominating impoverished commoners, to whom they threw the bone of dhimmi inferiors, religious minorities legally impotent before the law, against whom they could always direct their frustration and rage.

On the one hand, we have a society in which the discourse of civil society has advanced so far in practice, that they launched the most successful experiments in radical communist egalitarianism in recorded history (kibbutzim). On the other, we have a prime divider society where the elite violently defend their right to distribute wealth as they see fit. On the one hand, a culture committed to values of impartial justice, free press, and vigorous self-criticism, on the other, a classic case of the Anthropologists’ “shame culture,” an honor society that held sacred the right of a man to shed the blood of another for the sake of his own honor. On the one hand, a culture in which a rigorous epistemology of skepticism and demand for honesty informs both the journalistic and academic standards; on the other, one in which lying, especially to outsiders, is an art.

Normally the results of such a culture clash, played out on the home turf of the prime-divider societies, and not accompanied by the massive use of military force, dooms the experiment in civil society. Only with great difficulty do civic (modern) cultures successfully resist the hostility of prime-divider societies, who try to destroy the civic experiments in their midst — as Walter Map put it, “if we let them in they will drive us out.” Characteristically, even predictably such pressures drive the leadership in these revolutionary experiments in egalitarianism to adopt techniques of totalitarian control in order to survive. The French, in a pattern we would see repeat with variants all over the world for the next two centuries, started in 1789 with a revolutionary enthusiasm for egalitarianism (liberté, égalité, fraternité) only to swing wildly towards a paranoid terror that maintained its purity by shedding the blood of anyone – even its own – who criticized the leadership. Under pressure the political pattern of revolutionary movements seems quite consistent: the older patterns of prime-divider culture resurface with a vengeance – the violent reaction to criticism, the remorseless grip on the mechanisms of power, the projection of blame onto enemies, real and designated. Prime divider values triumph, and the revolutionary movement subsides and the political culture returns to a different but recognizable prime divider – the restored monarchies, the “Third Republic.”

The common accusation against Israel – that it is not “really” a democracy, but rather an apartheid state – gets the story precisely wrong. Under conditions of enormous security and self-confidence, it took America centuries to stop committing genocide against natives, and grant African-Americans full civil rights. Under the conditions of radical insecurity and immense pressures of attack, no democracy has survived, even in terms of the rights of the “in” group, much less those of a hostile minority. Except Israel. The apartheid is about two different cultures with radically different atmospheric pressures — a prime divider society with a heavy, debilitating atmosphere that favors honor-sensitive alpha males, and a civil, open society in which women and beta males can also carry public weight. The more hostile the former, the more the latter must insulate itself from the atmospheric pressures of hostile prime divider societies. (The current “barrier” is actually a form of space-suit. — added RL)

Indeed, were people to have an historical perspective, the endurance and continuously expanding world of Israeli democracy over the last half-century – the free press, the academic revisionism, the multiple parties, the almost complete lack of assassination (except, tragically but exceptionally, Rabin), even the presence of Arab members of parliament (who continuously push the very limits of the system) – represents an anomaly almost as exceptional in the history of politics as the survival of Jewish communities under the crushing pressures of diaspora for millennia represents in the history of culture.

Essays in Judeophobia V – Modernity as a Conspiracy to Enslave Mankind: The Protocols Reveal “Jewish” Goals

[This is the continuation of the essay on Anti-semitism which will appear in its entirety (eventually), here.]

Modernity as Conspiracy to Enslave

Theories about a conspiracy of illuminati who secretly sought to take over and rule the world go back to the 18th century, and initially focus on the secret society of the Masons. To some extent they may well be right. To judge from Mozart’s The Magic Flute (1791), written at the height of enthusiasm about the French Revolution, the Masons constituted a secret society dedicated to getting rid the authoritarian elites and their monarchical systems that ruled Europe at the time.

“He is a prince!” gushes one character about Tamino. “He is more than a prince, he’s a man (Mensch),” corrects the Mason. Just as Rip Van Winkle noticed when he awakened after the American Revolution and found that the caps (commoners) no longer showed deference to the hats (gentlemen), the Masons sought a world in which deference was gone, a world where the prime divider had ceded to world of equality in which all men “can walk upright.”

The key issue, of course, concerned the purpose of this overthrow. For the elites who felt threatened, the secret work of the Masons could only signify the work of men who, like themselves, sought to dominate others. Thus the purpose of a vision of world “liberation” on the part of the Masons could only mean the intention of world “domination” to the prime divider elites. Thus they heard such “noble-sounding” sentiments as merely the trap, the weapon whereby these people planned to disarm their opposition. Only an imbecile would possibly believe in such ideas as “Liberty, equality, fraternity.”

Thus the intelligent elites who were taking over were using these notions to gull the foolish and greedy masses. These duped mobs who overthrew their aristocracies for promises of freedom and prosperity had a nasty surprise awaiting them. After losing their only real, if iron-fisted, protector, they would be at the mercy of forces over which they had no control, especially those of the technologically enhanced market place. When these new manipulators had achieved their goal – constitutional democracies everywhere, they would then engineer a global crisis that would then permit them to enslave the entire world. At its simplest, these conspiracies represented a political argument made explicit by Plato and Thucydides: the painful order of prime divider society is better than chaos and enslavement of democracy.

PJs IV: Who’s in which Millennium?

[This is the continuation of my long multi-part post on the "Open Source/PJ" media launch at Solomonia last November. I have divided them up differently this time and made slight changes.]

Who’s in Which Century/Millennium?

At first I didn’t quite get it. Everyone I talked to who blogged was uniformly interesting, no matter how much we might not agree on some matters. Independent thinkers all, combining nicely two difficult traits — assertiveness and modesty. What a delight. It really was a convention of the people who, at the emperorís parade, would have been unashamed to ask the embarrassing questions. And as I contrasted the quality of conversation in the halls with the panel discussions, I realized that I was walking through liminal terrain, between the two-dimensional, colorblind paradigms of the 20th century, and the emerging stereoscopic color-rich vision that begins to emerge from the blogs.

Want to know whatís going on in France? Check out Belmont Club, Brussels Journal, or Jihad Watch. They leave MSM coverage in the dust. Red pill or blue pill? How do you want to reality test? Read them both, all, by all means. What’s really happening? We won’t know until later, in the meantime, without the blogs, we would have very little idea that there’s more to this than what the MSM report.

A discussion later that evening on about one of the more colorful of the bloggers having been “on the bus” with Ken Kesey, reminded me of a story Tom Wolfe tells in Electric Koolaid Acid Test about when Kesey first took acid as part of hospital experiments conducted in the 1950s, shortly after its discovery. Some were given the drug, some a placebo. Within a short while, it was obvious who got the acid and who got the placebo.

Similarly, within a short while in any given conversation, it was clear who was in the 21st century, and who in the 20th. How stimulating to talk with OSM bloggers. How familiar the holding actions and resistances of those who, weighed down with the baggage of political correctness, still have a reflexive confidence in the MSM.

All this became clear in a random conversation with a photographer who came to see one of his friends attending the launch. We were at the bar later that evening, talking about the MSM and the blogosphere, and I remarked that the difference in coverage of the French Intifada was stark, with the blogosphere on it from night one, and the MSM waiting till the end of week 1 before mentioning it in the back pages.

“Not true,” he insisted. “The pictures were up at a newswire services the first day.”

“Maybe, I don’t know,” I replied, “but what you say makes it worse. The media had these pictures from the start, and didn’t use them or mention the story for days?”

“Look, the MSM have to make decisions about whatís important to their readerships’ lives, so if they didn’t cover it for a couple of days, that makes perfect sense. It just wasn’t that important.”

“First of all, it was five days, not two. Secondly, that very attitude is part of the problem. The blogosphere understood immediately how significant these riots were, partly because they have been paying attention to the RoP and Eurabia whereas the MSM have been systematically ignoring these issues. And so, when the MSM finally wake up to the riots they didn’t deign to be worthy of attention until day five, on day six they already know what they’re about, explaining to us that it has nothing to do with Islam, but it’s “really all about poverty and discrimination.” (As if the two are mutually exclusive.. as if eliminating Islam from the picture will make things clearer…)

I spare the reader the blow-by-blow, although if you want the other guy’s version (with me as a gung-ho supporter of OSM, and demonizer of the MSM), it’s here, with me as “Boston Guy.” My suspicion that I was speaking with a PCPer is there confirmed.

“It sounded like classic rioting with all the classic reasons for rioting. It was horrible but wasn’t directly affecting my life, as I was working very hard to get a guy elected governor of New Jersey. People riot for a reason, things burn and then change comes for better or worse.” Probably worse, as long as people continue to think in terms of “classical” rather than religious terms. Of course that would mean overcoming cognitive egocentrism.

Finally, when he had repeated his comment about, “so what if they didn’t cover it for the first two days, it wasn’t important…,” Pedro stepped into the conversation and quietly asked, “Do you blog?”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

[It turns out he has his own blog, with occasional postings and no mechanism for comments.]

“Let me tell you about a French expression,” I cut in with what was surely an excessively triumphalist and dismissive tone that lacked the modesty I normally praise, c’est très deuxième millénaire,” that’s very second millennium, or, to be a bit more immediate, you have a very 20th century attitude. You might want to get up to speed in the 21st century.” [I shudder as I reread this -- not very nice of me.]

“You don’t know anything about me, and I find that presumptuous and insulting,” he said with considerable justification as he grabbed his stuff and left, apparently thinking that I thought of the NYT and the MSM as part of an “evil conspiracy.”

I’d prefer “persistently incompetent MSM.” I guess we all hear what we want to hear. I’m actually quite critical of thinking conspiratorially or projecting it onto people who do not explicitly embrace it. But I had been abrasive and probably deserved it.

There’s a wonderful passage in C.S.Lewis’ The Great Divorce, his answer to Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, where he describes how people first respond to heaven. They are overwhelmed by the intensity, they are unprepared for it, they are fragile, the very grass cuts their thin skins, they need time to adjust. Of course that takes the ability to acknowledge that there’s something to adjust to.

Next: What Were They Thinking?

PJs III: Keynote: Preaching to the Great Unwashed

This is the continuation of my long multi-part post on the “Open Source/PJ” media launch at Solomonia last November. I have divided them up differently this time and made slight changes.

Keynote: Preaching to the Great Unwashed

But the best was for after lunch. Glenn Reynolds (a.k.a InstaPundit) introduced keynote Judith Miller. Why Judith Miller? Why not Glenn Reynolds (whose book “An Army of Davids : How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths” with a scheduled date release of March 2006 is already a best-seller at Amazon)? Like Elizabeth Hayt in the first panel, she admits she doesn’t blog, she only really found out about them when she was in prison and didn’t have internet access, and actually, she admitted later in the discussion as she entertained the suggestion that she really should blog, she finds the prospect quite “terrifying.”

Why is she here? Because she’s the Martha Stewart of journalism? The current MSM celebrity? Because various key legislation swirls around her case? Okay. Whatever. I guess I just happen to have other concerns. But wait, what’s that she’s saying?

“Let me tell you the five commandments of journalism.”

Huh?!? What does she think she’s doing?

Apparently she views herself as the representative of serious mainstream journalism who has come to give some elementary ethics and advice to these junior journalist bloggers so that they too could aspire to the heights of mainstream excellence.

Is this dramatic misreading of the audience due to “lack of curiosity” as Austin would put it dryly, or the result of such intense cocooning that she doesn’t know to whom she speaks? (Are these two sides of the same coin?) Is this a whiff of that characteristic arrogance that has given us so much MSM misbehavior, including the Olympian disdain that prompted Dan Rather to talk about those “those guys sitting around at 2:00 AM in their pajamas”? Oh wait, she’s also NYT, or was.

It could only get surreal from this point on. Her first three commandments were elementary, known to anyone in the room, perhaps useful to recall, but hardly keynote timber. But then the whopper: “Fourth commandment: If you are wrong, acknowledge it prominently, and follow up with further stories.”

Silence. My jaw dropped. Even she squirmed, distancing herself sotto voce from the NYT editorial policy on this. This woman wrote for a paper with a scandalous record of “correcting itself,” with some of the worst misreporting on its record, including the Holocaust on the back pages just to name one of the more staggering… Nor does it have any institutional memory of such catastrophic failures, as it careens into a similar lack of understanding and a systematic downplaying of another round of genocidal ferocity aimed at Jews.

One of the main causes of the blogosphere’s success comes precisely from the brick wall that descends from the MSM any time serious corrections are in order. The case we work on at Second Draft, that of the “martyr” Muhammed al Durah is one that had spectacularly destructive initial impact and never got “followed up” on even as plentiful evidence emerged that the media had gotten it wrong emerged… with few exceptions that really went nowhere, for five years now. Embarrassingly wrong. Anyone who has read Renata Adler on the combination of superciliousness and arrogance that characterizes the NYT attitude towards self correction had to laugh at this lesson in MSM ethics. Or cry.

After all, what characterizes the blogosphere — and may explain Miller’s terrified attitude towards it — is that if you have a thin skin, you’re doomed (well, not so Juan Cole — added). Don’t expect polite coddling, don’t expect to escape correction — immediate correction — if you mess up. Bloggers are accustomed to a level of give-and-take which the MSM has systematically insulated themselves from — with tragic consequences. (Could we say that blogging is on one level the record of letters to the editor that the MSM refused to publish?)

Next, Part IV: Who’s in What Century/Millennium?

Essays in Judeophobia IV: Antisemitism in Civil Society (Modern)

[This is the continuation of the essay on Anti-semitism which will appear in its entirety (eventually), here.]

With the advent of constitutional democracies, with the American and French revolutions, we find a significant shift in the attitude towards Jews. Rather than the built-in hostility of prime divider societies, we find two major mutations in the gentile attitude. On the one hand, secular (post-) Christian Westerners felt, reasonably, that if all people were to be free and no Church should run the state apparatus, then they should include the Jews in the new dispensation. Thus modern constitutional states, as a matter of principle emancipated the Jews from the legal and social inferiority to which Christian Europe had relegated them. Jews could now join in the open, meritocratic competition for professional and economic advancement.

On the other hand, specifically in those Christian millennial circles most closely allied with democratic thinking, we find a peculiar innovation in the apocalyptic scenario. Whereas medieval Christianity had viewed any Jewish messianic activity as the “work of the Antichrist,” a strain of Protestantism viewed the return of the Jews to Israel as a necessary and positive step in the preparation for Jesus’ return. Although this scenario still involved the ultimate conversion of the Jews to Christianity, it delayed it significantly, and interjected a lengthy period of mutual cooperation and respect between Jews and Christians before that day of reckoning. These two philo-Judaic attitudes (secular and millennial) overlapped for a considerable period of time, during the lengthy (and still on-going) process of the Jews’ return to Israel before Jesus’ return. And in that space, I will argue in future work, democracy — tolerant, positive-sum, iisonomic — was born.

By the calculations of the secular democrats, the emancipation of the Jews should have led to their rapid assimilation and ultimate disappearance. In a sense this constituted a secular version of Luther’s atttitude towards the Jews – of course they rejected the previous nonsense: we too see its follies. Jews therefore had understandably rejected the superstitions of our predecessors (for Luther, Catholicism, for the Enlightenment, Christianity), but now they would become citizens and leave behind their own superstitions. Civic commitments to the rule and protections of the law prevented the disappointment that many “modern” gentiles felt in the persistence of Judaism, but hostility nonetheless flourished. Ironically, one of the few things that the enlightened thinkers of 18th and 19th centuries did not reject from Christianity was that religion’s attitude towards the Jews (Voltaire, Gibbon, Fichte).

Far more serious than this “polite” Antisemitism, however, the modern age gave birth to a still more virulent version that resulted from a development that surprised everyone, gentile and Jew. When the gentiles emancipated the Jews, they thought they were doing a favor to a shriveled population fossilized in their ancient superstitions. At best they expected them to gratefully vanish into the powerful currents of the modern age. What they did not realize (and I suspect the rabbis of the time did not realize either), was that the Western constitutional states had just adopted rules of the game (equality before the law, including intellectual meritocracy) that Jews had been playing by for over three millennia. It turns out that, despite the democrats’ initial sense that these rules are self-evident, these rules of civil society are extremely difficult rules, whose implications continue to unfold in an ever-changing scene over the course of centuries. The Jews therefore had an enormous advantage once the surrounding culture adopted them.

As a result one of the greatest unanticipated consequences of modernity, was the immense, astonishing success of Jews. Far from being swallowed up in the process, Jews rose to great prominence in all walks of life – the professions (especially law and medicine), academia, finance, commerce, journalism. Indeed, any profession that called for opening oneself to stiff criticism (academia, science, law, journalism) was a site of predilection for Jews, trained in a “culture of Machloket” [dispute] and the “love of rebuke” [resignation under chastisement] (Ethics of the Fathers, chapter 6:6).

Nor was this “mere” stiff competition. Jews not only played the game well, they changed the rules. Marx, Freud and Einstein literally changed the way that we think about the world and ourselves. Nor did this only happen at the level of the elites. Poor Jews, Eastern Europeans fleeing the pogroms to Western Europe and the US, became a particularly active laboring group with a distinct predilection for socialist and communist thought. Finally, perhaps at the conjunction of the elites and the commoners, “modern” Jews showed a particular interest and talent in the rapidly emerging world of the “public sphere” – the world of newspapers, pamphlets, journals; later, radio, film, television. Jewish prominence in all aspects of this central new dimension of modern life created a sense among some gentiles that the defining elements of their culture had been taken over by the Jews.

This exceptional success alarmed many. Above all, it deeply disturbed those members of an older aristocratic elite who found themselves frustratingly handicapped by the modern egalitarian rule-set, and further hemmed in by their increasing transparency under the public gaze of journalists. It also alarmed those below the prime divider, whose “medieval” identities had, in significant part been formed around their sense of superiority to the even more lowly — Jews, women, lepers, vagabonds.

To crabs in the basket, the sight of Jews getting out from underneath them created emotional turmoil. Just as the Christians and Muslims legislated that no one could build a higher house of worship than their own, they needed to make sure that they had a population inferior to them, a bone to gnaw on in their misery. And they did not like losing the Jews whom they ritually humiliated and occasionally battered just to reassure themselves that they were not the bottom of the barrel.

When we move from the crab basket to above the prime divider and the new elite we find people who discovered that, by the new rules, they were in a disturbing and unexpected competition with these newcomers. Some chose to continue to play by the tolerant rules, despite their confusion about the Jews, their talents, their intentions, their loyalties. These elites, including the Jews they tolerate, have come – very slowly – to dominate most Western academic circles, constituting one of the most vital and creative elements of modern culture, and drawing in their wake even those who would rather not play by modern rules in the academy. Here again we find the biblical formula illustrated: those who bless you (Western academy) will be blessed; those who curse you (Nazi, Soviet, Arab universities) will be cursed.

But the story is never-ending. Just as the triumph of civil society seems both assured and spectacular (industrial and communications revolutions), we begin to find the reemergence of recessive forms of anti-semitism that had dominated in the medieval world. Now they have mutated under the conditions of modernity and the pressures of civil society. In academic circles of “semi-modernized” (ultimately anti-modern) intellectuals, for example we find a scientific language of racism aimed at putting the Jews back below the prime divider. These people followed modern (“civc”) rule sets only because they were the established game. They had more profound commitments to the prime-divider values of incumbency and honor at others’ expense. They resented competition, especially from foreigners whom they did not understand, who hated the humiliation of losing control. (Sartre makes this point in Antisemite and Jew.)

Whereas in medieval culture, the authoritarians who played by the rules of the dominating imperative controlled political and public voice and legislated against Jews to assure their humiliation, in modern culture these people found themselves increasingly under pressure, either marginalized, or under growing scrutiny while they watched the Jews grow steadily in influence. And of course the printing press (both in books and newspapers) proved one of the most sensitive areas where this new configuration of conflict played itself out. The older authoritarians found the greatest threat to them in the arena precisely which attracted Jews with great commitment to the civic values of free speech, the transparency and criticism of elites and the de-mystification of power, the education and exposure of the larger public to a wide range of opinions and information. For these authoritarians who watched their power wane precisely as that of the Jews waxed, only one answer made sense: Conspiracy… conspiracy not to create democracy but, in classic projective style, to enslave mankind.

Next: Modernity as a Conspiracy to Enslave Mankind: The Protocols Reveal True “Jewish” Goals

Essays in Judeophobia III: Antisemitism in Prime Divider Societies, the Middle Ages

[This is the continuation of the essay on Anti-semitism which will appear in its entirety (eventually), here.]

Optimists think that civil society should put an end to Antisemitism, whereas the pessimists think that Antisemitism is a permanent element of human nature (even Jews are susceptible). The perspective suggested here suggests that both are misconceived.

Antisemitic sentiment, in this view, derives from those authoritarians who benefit most from the prime divider, both the elites and their agents of domination among the commoners. Jews, with their iconoclastic intellects, their developed moral discourse, their educated and assertive (chutzpadik) commoners and responsive and responsible elites, offer a counter-example to the aristocratic insistence that prime dividers are necessary for social order.

As long as the Jewish communities in a larger diaspora culture remain relatively separate and interact only to a limited degree, they do not present a serious threat. But, especially in cultures that at least nominally prize biblical values of social justice (Islam and Christianity), easy and positive-sum intercourse between Jews and lay commoners tends to create conditions favorable to the flourishing of civil society: contracts and credit (which necessitate mutual trust), economic initiatives, religious and moral discussions, rule of law and equity. Here the presence of the Jews as a kind of social leaven creates a threat to many with a stake in the prime divider.

These two elements of Jewish-gentile interaction have operated in a kind of dialectic, especially notable in Latin Christian society, which runs roughly as follows. We begin with a period of extended Jewish-gentile interaction based on a Christian “philo-Judaism” during which the forces of civil society flourished, and economic, legal, and cultural transformations favored initiatives from below. Elites might initially favor, even encourage such interactions because they proved so fruitful and hence enriching for them as well as for the commoners involved. But over time, the kinds of transformations such interactions wrought began to threaten the grip of elites, began to subtly but recognizably alter the socio-economic landscape, creating new and potentially aggressive forces to reckon with.

Thus the continued influence of Jews on an increasing assertive and articulate Christian commoner population triggered the emergence of hostility specifically among those – elites and commoners – who stood most to lose from the new rule-set and the way it undermined the interests of the prime divider. For these people, the constantly changing social and economic landscape created deep anxiety, fear of change, fear of being left behind by change. Denunciations of greed and economic exploitation aimed attacks at those who profited most from new market relations, and attacks on the Jews served as a scapegoat aimed at undermining the new “modern” forces at work in the culture. And at some moment, the gathering forces of this hostility manage to seize upon a widespread social malaise to explode in violence against the designated scapegoat. Soon thereafter, coercion and violence attack the other forces of civil society within the culture – religious dissent and autonomous commoners.

In the history of Jewish-Christian relations, the full cycle of this dialectic remains largely hidden from view, especially the initial period of cooperation since it takes place largely at the level of commoners where little gets recorded in the surviving documentation. Violence, however, pogroms, expulsions, inquisitorial attacks, blood libels and their consequences, leaves a more visible documentary trace. Looking back at this documentation, historians tend to see an almost unbroken string of anti-Jewish outbreaks, a lachrymose narrative of hatred and violence. But my own work on the 11th and 12th century, and subsequent inquiries into later periods like the Renaissance and the Reformation suggest that when we see a violent outbreak of anti-Jewish sentiments, we should look to the previous period of evidence of more philo-Judaic attitudes and the kinds of socio-economic changes that such positive Jewish-Christian interactions encourage.

Thus, in the period just before the explosion of crusading violence in 1096, we find a century of extensive Jewish-Christian interaction, the emergence of autonomous, self-regulating urban communities based on remarkably egalitarian law codes (communes), and the rapid spread of agricultural, commercial, and productive capacities within the European economy. When, in 1084, the bishop of Speyer, following the example of the archbishop of Mainz , granted the community of Jews in his town the right to rule themselves according to their own laws. At the dawn of European economic growth, the Jews were prized players. And when the violence came, it often came not from those who had interacted with the Jews, but those who had “lost ground” as a result of the economic growth such interactions had fostered.

PJs II: Morning Panels — There’s Something Happening Here

This is the continuation of my long multi-part post on the “Open Source/PJ” media launch at Solomonia last November. I have divided them up differently this time and made slight changes.

First Panel: Whimper of Joke?

I didn’t check the program, trusting that it would be stellar. We finally sit down, at our tables with outlets and wireless, and then have Roger and Charles tell us about OSM. Good stuff. I’m following on my computer — what a great way to take notes at a conference, look up anything I want while the speaker speaks. And then the first panel. Lifestyles.

Lifestyles? I look up from my computer and watch in astonishment and growing horror as a bevy of smart beauties take their seats, introduced by a witty moderator, each one a specialist in that great lifestyle arena — fashion. And behind, occasionally adding a comment in a disembodied voice, the great Manolo, whose Dadaesque blog on shoes and other fashion accessories I quickly visited.

“Wait a minute,” I thought, “the last time I looked in my computer, France was still burning (smoldering the MSM would insist), and we’re listening to what?”

I look at Pedro with astonishment. He smiles at me and raises his eyebrows. Then the panel begins with Elizabeth Hayt, fashion columnist for the NYT and author of I’m No Saint : A Nasty Little Memoir of Love and Leaving (2005) and when asked the very deep question “what do you think the blogosphere means for fashion?” replied with refreshing if somewhat disconcerting candor: “I’m not sure why youíve asked me here, I don’t blog, I don’t even think blogging is useful, it’s for rich people with too much time on their hands.”

I blinked. Excuse me? Wait a minute, whatís going on here. Isnít this woman making a fine career in fashion, that field for people with too little money and too little time on their hands? Did I go to the wrong place. Is this the People Magazine blog launch?

Pedro leaned over and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “It must be a joke.”

fashion panel

I looked around to see who got it. The faces were wonderful. Some staring in disbelief, some smiling, some annoyed, the people with computers started to work… Sol had a poker face with the traces of a bemused smile on the edges of his lips, no way to tell what he’s thinking; Tom Bowler pulled his glasses down and a blank stare descended over his face. One of our tablemates leaned forward and whispered in Pedro’s ear: “I think theyíre waiting for Larry Kudlow.”

The situation became particularly surreal when the nice looking blonde girl on the panel, began talking about the make-up styles of celebrities: “I trash them every Saturday.” Stunned silence. Some people started moving uncomfortably in their seats, others looked bemused and, others like Pedro, were slowly becoming aware that the joke was on us. I felt like the Roman soldiers in Life of Brian trying desperately not to laugh as Pontius Pilate talks about his fwend Biggus Dickus and his wife Incontinentia Buttox. I wondered how many people out in cyberspace were dropping out in astonished dismay.

As Austin Bay put it later, in an interesting conversation with me, neo-neocon and Pedro, Elizabeth Hayt “was quite admirable in her lack of curiosity.”

What? New York Times? Uninterested in the world around it? How can you say that?

Second Panel: Which Century are We in?

The second panel was good, although much of the discussion revolved around the kind of sports thinking that Charles had deplored in his opening comments. It does not help to think in terms of liberal, conservative, right, left, the two teams that you try to “balance” in order to be “fair” or “objective.” And yet the panel had been stacked to give us those 20th century notions center stage, especially with David Corn and John Podhoretz (author of Bush Country : How George W. Bush Became the First Great Leader of the 21st Century—While Driving Liberals Insane) who started going at each other before we even heard from Claudia Rosett.

Much reworking of the old debates about objectivity and facts vs. opinion and partisanship, about the difference between gumshoeing (what the best of the MSM claims to do — gathering facts) and thumbsucking (what the worst of the blogosphere thrives on — ruminating narcissism). Richard Fernandez of Belmont Club illustrated the sterling quality of the best bloggers, ferociously smart, modest of demeanor, thinking about the question he’s been asked, speaking in paragraphs.

He explored what it is that makes information as accurate as we can shape it, how we pursue theories (I’d prefer to call them “working hypotheses” — like, is the first panel an intentional joke?) and see how they firm up over time as we take in more data (after five minutes, apparently not), how we need to think about what would have to be true in order for what we (or someone else) think has happened to also be true (someone thought this would be a great way to show OSM’s broad spectrum of interests, and managed to convince the board). Listening to Fernandez was in some ways like revisiting the very exploration of thinking about reason and reality-testing in the 16th and 17th centuries, that made the West an open society, the place where both modern academia and modern science were born after the advent of printing.

The discussion ended with an observation on the difference in our idea of whatís going on in Iraq that we get from bloggers there and from the MSM here, prompting Podhoretz to make the classic “right-wing” argument that we really won the Tet offensive, and that the MSM (thank you uncle Walt), took it away by presenting it as a catastrophe, an observation that Austin Bay affirmed later that afternoon. But to bring this argument up to speed, John took it a step further, proffered the interesting analogous argument that, had there been bloggers in Vietnam, we would have won the war. Interesting, perhaps going too far. Worth a thought, an exploration.

“Oh yeah,” responds Corn in classic “left-wing” style, “well what about Latin America?!?”

“Oh yeah,” says Podhoretz, “well what about Irving Stone!”

And with a crescendo into the puerile arguments that have produced our current state of self-ghettoization, the panel came to an end with a promise to look further into these matters. (I hope OSM follows up on this one.)

At lunch we talked about the morning sessions, and I remarked about how it would be nice to know the statistics about who was following the webcast, and be able to trace what I suspected — looking at the members of the audience “drop out” — was a precipitous drop-off as the first panel went on. “It was webcast?” one of our table companions gasped, blushing bright red.

Ouch.

Finkielkraut on “Self-Hating”: Guide to the Left

Among the many profound and perceptive remarks that Alain Finkielkraut made in two lectures at BU, one on “Laïcité” [secularism], one on the Plight of the Jews — hopefully soon to be podcast — one remark came, en passant in answer to a question about the Ha-Aretz affair. Referring to the journalist from Ha-Aretz, an Israeli paper notorious for its aggressive credulity for any accusation against Israel and for its hostility to what it considers any form of “right-wing” Zionism, he remarked that the journalist was acting neither as an impartial journalist nor a friend; but that he had ambushed Finkielkraut with this interview.

This prompted an aside on so-called “self-hating Jews.”

They are not self-hating,” he said pausing, “they love themselves. It’s other Jews they hate.

They hate other Jews for embarrassing them, for making their idea of what Judaism is (should be) — the quintessence of liberal love for humanity and creation — look bad. “Surely you can’t justify Sharon! Sharoooon!”

One of Finkielkraut’s points was precisely that “the other side of the coin of anti-Zionism was a self-loathing of the French, as anti-French as anti-Zionist. [I'd start thinking of a cube, because we now have at least three major components: anti-Zionist, anti-American, anti-French/British/German... , a "Western derangement disorder cube."]

Apply the insight from Jewish “self-hate” to this problem of the left, and we can see what makes the Left so vulnerable to American Derangement Syndrome, ADS. When they view Bush or Wolfowitz or Cheney as capable of anything evil, and worthy of any debasement history can devise for them, they are not self-hating. They do not identify with these people as part of the same civilization and culture as they. These are “not us,” and therefore “we” not only perceive in them the elements that “we” reject — desire to make lots of money, abuse of power, lack of concern for the downtroddern — but can assume that this is all that moves them. They have no commitment to any of the “real values” that define us; they are capable of any atrocity (as we are not); they must go.

Hence: they do not make mistakes, they lie; they do not try however unsuccessfully to really solve serious problems (even if not the way we would), they conspire to rape the globe. How easy to hate such men.

On the other hand, we love ourselves. “We” go to anti-war rallies and stand up to the bully Americans to protect those poor wretched of the earth, the Iraqis. We won’t tolerate that one hair on one Iraqi child’s head be harmed by ordinance paid for by our taxes. Are they victims of Saddam’s unbearable tyranny? “I’m not sure I trust the MSM on this one… it may be very exaggerated. Didn’t Michael Moore get a shot of them flying kites before our invasion?”

And so we witness a kind of perversion of that extraordinary capacity for self-criticism that lies at the heart of the modern world. Moral narcissists use the self-critical tradition of their own culture to accuse themselves (really other Westerns, the ones we hate), of the worst crimes in the book. The violence from others? Understandable reaction to the intolerable behavior of our leaders (who must go, and then things will work). From PCP1 to PCP2, and into the Moebius Strip of cognitive egocentrism where dupes of demopaths enable demonizing scapegoaters — a breathtaking journey to self-destruction. From a healthy instinct to self-criticize into a vortex of pathologies, masochistic omnipotence syndrome with (under current conditions) its suicidal tendencies.

After all, if you’re in a war and you wish — and work — for your own side lose because you’re pissed with the leadership, you asking for a very bad future.

On the Leftern Blogosphere, Self-Criticism, and Juan Cole

Sisu and Solomonia have an excellent combination of blog posts on the Juan Cole to Yale development. It raises all kinds of issues about the tone of blogging, the response to criticism, and the incredibly thin skin and readiness to abuse (to protect that thin skin) on the left. As Sissy points out, in a comment that links the Left with the French and the Arabs: they are waking up (barely) “on the wrong side of history.” Fascinating developments.

Letter of Condolence to Big Pharaoh and Apologies

Big Pharaoh (hat tip PJMedia) lives up to his reputation for straight shooting in his analysis of an Egyptian website poll showing that 49% of those who voted believe that the Mossad blew up Dahab — twice as many people as any other possibility. He discusses the response of a well educated friend:

“Israeli tourists don’t go to Eilat (a southern Israeli resort) anymore. Dahab and Sinai is much more cheaper and so they come to Egypt instead of spending their holidays in Israel” she explained.

“So you’re telling me Israel targeted a resort that is frequented by its own people and could have killed Israelis just to stop them from sunbathing in Sinai???” I asked.

“Yes. They could kill a few of their citizens to save the tourism industry there” she shot back.

Now this logic is particularly interesting since it concerns purely internal Israeli financial calculations. By this logic, Egyptians do not even figure in the calculus, it’s all about Israeli economic interests.

As students of conspiracy theory regularly point out, the way that people imagine the conspirators represents a projection that tells you about the way they think. Here a member of the Egyptian elite (on top of the prime divider) contemplates a government strategy that, for a minor economic advantage, kills a couple of dozen people (including “their own”) without a second thought. That’s not Islamic fanaticism, that’s classic aristocratic contempt for the rest of mankind.

Moreover, the sheer casualness of the analysis — of course Israelis would kill a few of their own civilians for an uptick in the Eilat tourist trade — gives a stark insight into one half of the Moebius strip of cognitive egocentrism. The Israelis are capable of any disgusting deed, including knocking off their own people for temporary economic gain to the owning class. Never mind that they will sacrifice their own soldiers’ lives to avoid casualties to the enemy’s civilians. No wonder Jenin must be a “massacre.” If it were seen for what it was, how could people go on with this kind of analysis. No wonder there can’t be peace between these people, when one side cannot begin to imagine what’s going on on the other side — and the two sides are not! the same.

I wanted to bang my head against a wall!

I have said countless times before that the root cause of the darkness we’re living in is our unwillingness to look in the mirror and start criticizing ourselves and the cult of death we allowed to infect our society. We don’t want to admit that many of our children are willing to kill themselves in order to massacre others. We don’t want to admit that religion needs renewal and reform to suit the year 2006 and not 1006. We don’t want to admit anything of that. Do you know why ladies and gentlemen we don’t want to do that? We’re just busy and in a constant state of denial. We’re busy hating America. We’re busy blaming Israel.

We are also living in a disgusting state of narcissism. We think we are the best nation handpicked by God. Our nations have the best religion approved by heaven. Nothing wrong can be in us, nothing wrong can be in our culture, and nothing wrong can be in our religious beliefs. It must be the evil “outsiders.”

This is a good example of “chosenness as privilege” rather than as “responsibility.” It gives an excellent view of the “normative” view of chosenness that historically has informed both Muslim and Christian supersessionist thinking — we are the new chosen people who replace the old (for Christians, Jews; for Muslims, Jews and Christians). When one then projects that envious and imperialist notion of chosenness back onto the Jews, one gets the widespread dislike of Jews for being so arrogant as to think of themselves as the chosen people.

There is no doubt whatsoever that all Egyptians condemned this terrorist attack and were shocked when it happened. Yet I am not really talking about this specific attack. I am referring to our general condition that gave birth to murderers from Bali to New York. Many are to blame here. Our repressive governments, the economic disaster they created, the humiliation millions of youth are feeling, and above all the deadly religious rhetoric that wants to draw us hundreds of years backward.

Allow me to add to your list, a media (both Arab and Western) so eager to believe the worst about the Israelis, so ready to forgive any excess from the Palestinians (chosen people of the left), that when the bombings first started many people — even good-hearted people — they found it relatively easy to say, “what choice do they have?” So in addition to your own cultural problems, Big Pharaoh, you have a supposedly enlightened West eagerly (if unconsciously) feeding your people’s own worst instincts. It’s hard to fight that.

I thought we’ll finally start looking in the mirror once we ourselves get bombed by terrorists. I thought that once we get torn into pieces by suicide bombers we’ll realize that the Palestinian suicide bomber will not end up in paradise but in the lowest pit of hell. Unfortunately, I was wrong. We’re still so busy to look in the mirror and see the ugly face there.

One could restate this in terms of a European lament: “Once the suicide terrorism has hit us, then we’ll rethink our championing of the Palestinians.” But Madrid and London, like 9-11, had mixed results. Many rushed to appease and self-criticize (really to blame the West), and only some people began to rethink the situation rather than to continue to slide into moral disorientation. Apparently there are too many psychological factors lying behind the demonization of Israel and the “chosenness” of the Palestinians for a mere suicide bombing or two of one’s own people to cause such a massive paradigm shift.

My condolences to you, your people, and your painful predicament, and my apologies for the unconscionable ways in which my culture’s supposed progressives contribute so irresponsibly to all our suffering, yours, ours, the Muslims who must live through this wave of fascist theocracy, and, perhaps in first place, the suffering of the Palestinian people.

A Cry From the Heart: What to think about when the headlines announce a terror attack

This essay, written by an Israeli emergency-room doctor is dedicated to victims of terror from the streets of Israel to Dahab in the Sinai to the regularly bloodied streets of Iraqi cities. [I have not corrected the spelling and grammar -- from his keyboard to you.] Hat tip Avi Zuber, HDL.

A letter from the heart, Israel 04/2006

This is not a political letter, rather I would like to call it a letter of impression, an impression of a situation that the end is far from what I can imagine, it is a letter describing a situation which I wouldn’t wish on any of you, a situation far from what most of the logic people would realize, and unfortunately I don’t believe it has a solution.

It started Monday 17.04.06.

I started my day as usual at 06.30, waking up to a morning of what we call here “Hol Hamoed”- which is the week after Passover, our religious holiday, and went to the hospital, to be on time( something which is not so familiar to me in the past few months…I’m always late to work ).

This day was suppose to be special in a sense that I had to work together with the Chief of Internal Medicine ward, we were suppose to work together until 1300 and then I was due to go to my scheduled duty in the ER.

As you know me; I love internal medicine, it is the field of medicine where I think one can use his knowledge and work with his mind… but on the other hand I like the manual work of medicine – Surgery … (or as most of the people that I work with say- I have the charm of a surgeon but the mind and patience of an internist…), hence this day was a kind of stressful to me, I thought that it was sort of a test which the Chief will be putting me into, to see if I can fit into his ward.

As the day went, I think I managed quite ok, I knew some of his questions, and some other ones I didn’t know, but the time was short(as it was a holiday and we worked half days during the holidays) and I had to go to my duty in the ER at 1300.

I stayed a bit more in the ward to help him, and finished my work there around 1330, and I rushed to the ER to start my duty.

I arrived to the ER, and started to do my work; I kind of love the work in the ER, it has it charm (at least during day time and not at 0400 when the stupid people start to come with the most stupid complaints…), it has its action, and of course for me as a young and motivated doctor, it gives an immediate satisfaction.

And then it all started;

Exactly at 1340 we got the call that a suicide bomber hit a crowded Falafel Restaurant in Jaffa, a part of Tel-Aviv down town….

Immediately we started to evacuate the injured and sick people that were in walking position from our ER, and started to arrange the Hall for the arrival of the wounded from the Terror attack.

Mostly from that moment I remember an old lady, in her 80′s, which fell a few hours earlier in the street and cracked her head on the floor, getting an ugly scar on her forehead and an hematoma around her eye, she waited patiently to get her CT scan, and as she heard the terrible news, she immediately told me that she is OK, and she can wait, and walked to the other side of the ER!

So there we were, waiting for the first ambulance to arrive, “cleaning” the ER from those who can leave, waiting, preparing, and mostly I think that most of us were thinking….

Slowly slowly ( it took something like 10 minutes until the 1st ambulance arrived, but it seemed much more then that) the ER was starting to look like in the movies- the surgeons, anesthesiologist, vascular and orthopedic surgeons came down, nurses rushed to prepare what could be prepared (infusions, intubation gear, chest tubes, medications…. Etc.), and we were waiting and thinking- WHY???? Why for god sakes should a stupid thing like this happen? I can accept army to army conflicts, I can somehow accept war; I can understand a civil resistance, but I cant and wont understand why a Pearson, (they said he was less then 18) would walk into a crowded restaurant in the middle of the day and blow himself up and kill innocent people!!!

As the 1st ambulance arrived we all rushed and started to work, there I was treating the body guard of the restaurant, he stopped the terrorist with his own body, you can imagine in what state he was, we fought for him, but unfortunately he didn’t make it.

Then we moved to the 2nd patient, he was around his 40′s, and seemed Ok (i.e., OK in a sense that he had suffered a big open fracture on his leg, and he was suppose to undergo a huge orthopedic operation later), we started to examine him, and then he crashed …., we presumed that he had suffered a massive blast injury, and rushed him immediately to the OR, where they operated on him, unfortunately he didn’t make it as well…. , later on I read the newspaper that said that he was protecting his 2 children with his own body (luckily they only suffered minor injuries).

Then I moved on to the another patient, there was a big drama around her, when I arrived I saw that the chief of surgery moved back immediately after opening her chest, and another senior Dr started open chest compressions; she had suffered Aorta tears, and other blast injuries, she was then rushed into the OR.

After these 3 patient we were called to the orthopedic ward, were a survivor from the attack arrived, she was cleared earlier by FAST, but suddenly she started to have abdominal pain, so we examined her, and took her immediately to the OR, after opening the Peritoneum we searched for the injury, searched the intestine, and there it was, a screw was stuck in her descending colon, A SCREW!!! It is unbelievable, what a monster would build a device like this: explosives, metals, screw- who can explain this to me??? A FUCKING SCREW!!!

We finished the operation and then she continued to her orthopedic and vascular part of the operation.

At this stage I first noticed my watch, the time was 1800, and we were working for the past 5 hours, and didn’t even notice how the time flew by.

I returned to the ER, passing the Hugh crowd of families, friends outside of the OR, trying not to look, or get stuck by one of them to answer questions that I couldn’t, and mostly don’t want to answer….

I’ll spare you the rest of my duty details; you can imagine that when I went out from the hospital the next day around 1100, I was like a ZOMBI….

On my way home, I stopped by and bought a newspaper, to read about what had happened, and then I saw them, the faces, the smiling, happy pictures of the people who were killed in the attack I saw how they usually looked like and not how they looked like lying on my ER table, thanks to this devil (I don’t know of a different word that can describe him). This devil that destroyed everything for 9 families, and several other families, which their relatives only went to eat lunch in a Falafel Restaurant, on a sunny holiday afternoon!

I know that we are not saints as well, I know that our IDF hurts innocent people as well, but one thing I know for sure, I was a soldier, I faced a few situations as well, but I/we did it against army/ guerillas fighters, we tried to decrease the amount of innocent casualties to ZERO, we canceled operation, we maintained casualties among our soldiers just to avoid hurting the innocents, we NEVER and will not EVER aim to hit the innocent!!! In a war there are unwanted casualties, but going to explode yourself in the middle of a crowded restaurant is not war, it is something beyond that, it is something words cannot describe!!!

Unfortunately there is not a visible solution, leaders have not been able to put this conflict to an end for more then a decade now, and if you ask me, I don’t think they will be able to for as long as we are dealing with terrorists (Arafat was a terrorist, Hamas, Hezbollah, El Kaida are terrorists in mask of resistance parties), only when the civilized world, will unite and work against these animals, and only when we the small people, will put an end to this, try to stop the vicious cycle and only when You- my friends who sit there and talk with your friends, families telling them what an unbelievable situation this is, describing to them how easy it is to loose everything that you have and love, only then will people know, and maybe then will start to do something to stop these monsters.

Unfortunately the media doesn’t describe the events as they are, sometime it is a “nicer” picture of a tank entering a small village, how the “BIG” and “EVIL” Israeli army is against the poor Palestinian, I agree; but believe me — the things that I saw during those 6 hours in the ER/ OR/ family waiting rooms, is not something that the media should be filming, and if it would have been filmed, it would have left an impact 7 times much more then a tank driving in the 1st street of Gaza.

I want to finish this letter in an optimistic pray, that those who were severely injured will be better soon, and hopefully the white dove signaling Peace will be flying again here in ISRAEL…..

You can FWD my mail to your friends, maybe by this way this war can be solved.

All the best

Ory Wiesel

Anti-democratic Media: We’ll Decide what you should know

Little Green Footballs links to an astounding article by Greg Mitchell, publisher of Editor and Publisher. It illustrates precisely the way in which MSM journalism has become openly activist in the “good” cause of “peace.” It also illustrates the condescending (indeed anti-democratic) attitude that the MSM takes towards its public: let us keep from them any information that might lead them to the “wrong” political conclusions. We’ve already seen this principle openly adopted in France:

Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television,

said M. Dassier, owner of France1 TV last November during the Frantifada. As I noted then, this sudden awareness of how media coverage can inflame or douse the fire came curiously late for the Israelis who had the ugliest (and often most dishonest) claims about them regularly splashed in front of the European public.

Will Press Put Out Fire on Iran?
The media dropped its guard in the run-up to the attack on Iraq. Will they redeem themselves if pressure builds for an air strike or war against Iran? There are some indications that some lessons may have been learned.

By Greg Mitchell

(April 13, 2006) — If you have watched any baseball at all, even the occasional World Series game, you are probably familiar with the concept of the bullpen ace getting a chance for “redemption.” That is, he can blow a game one night and come back the next in the ninth inning and save the day, or even the season. Announcers always say, “he got a chance to redeem himself.”

Newspapers may be in the role of bullpen stopper right now, with the current Iran “semi-crisis.” In baseball lingo, they should try to “put out the fire” there, after losing one for the home team in Iraq three years ago.

Most interesting imagery which may, just may, confuse the fireman with the pyromaniac and vice-versa. This is written in high BDS style: Bush the pyromaniac, Iran the innocent by-stander.

To those who would say that this inflates the power or even role of the press in America today, I would reply: You don’t expect the Democrats to keep us out of war, do you? Just as they would not stand up to the president on Iraq for fear of appearing “weak on terror,” they would likely be wary of appearing “weak on the Tehran Bomb.” Let’s face it: All the Democrats want to do right now is stagger through to November with an unpopular president in office, and hope that, maybe, they can re-take at least one house of Congress — without having to stick their necks out.

So the media, usually only a middle-reliever or in a mop-up role on this playing field, might have to pitch with the game on the line.

This is nothing short of a full “advocacy” position. We, the MSM, represent another “warrior for peace.” The extensive use of sports imagery — where the zero-sum nature of the game and the clear identity of the enemy (W) — is astoundingly simplistic. It’s harder to get a more open embrace of the PCP principles that we have been arguing for some time permeate our media. Obviously we, enlightened progressive journalists, are for peace. That such thinking, since 2000, has become openly counter-productive does not cast the slightest shadow over the untroubled brow of our journalist.

Surely the public would not go for a U.S. attack on Iran, given the Iraq disaster?

As I suggested in a comment to Joel Fishman noted earlier, this is precisely our dilemma. The case for an action — a joint action of all sane nations — against Iranian nuclear armament could hardly be more compelling, and yet, because we have allegedly screwed up in Iraq, such an action should be unthinkable. Again, Greg Mitchell does not even pause to contemplate the meaning of a millenarian fanatic who openly embraces using such weapons as something worthy of mention. (This is similar to the presentation of the Palestinians as people who are subject to an occupation where “if anyone in your family does anything, your house will be destroyed,” where “anything” is actually “suicide terrorism” (but we can’t mention that lest we demonize them, or call into question the dignity of their “freedom fighters”).

Think again. A new Los Angeles Times poll–taken before the nuclear news from Tehran this week–found that 48% said they would support military action if Iran continues to produce material that could be used to develop nuclear weapons; only 40% said no. One in four would back use of ground troops.

And if people knew more of what was going on — which, thanks to MSM, they don’t — then the numbers would be still higher.

Thankfully, there are signs that the press may be ready to douse a few flames. Recent media accounts have often cast a skeptical eye on the trumped-up Iran threat, and reporters are already asking probing questions at White House briefings — before the war this time, not months after an attack.

Today, for example, a trio of New York Times reporters (banishing the ghost of Judith Miller) declared, right at the start of a front-page piece, that “Western nuclear analysts said yesterday that Tehran lacked the skills, materials and equipment to make good on its immediate nuclear ambitions, even as a senior Iranian official said Iran would defy international pressure and rapidly expand its ability to enrich uranium for fuel.”

Nuclear analysts, they noted, “called the claims exaggerated. They said nothing had changed to alter current estimates of when Iran might be able to make a single nuclear weapon, assuming that is its ultimate goal. The United States government has put that at 5 to 10 years, and some analysts have said it could come as late as 2020.”

“They’re hyping it,” David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, told the Times. “There’s still a lot they have to do.” Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. al-Rodhan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington called the new Iranian claims “little more than vacuous political posturing” meant to promote Iranian nationalism and a sense of atomic inevitability.

Here is a perfect example of when the basic principle enunciated at The Second Draft — that what we need above all is “accurate and relevant” information, comes into play. How do we know that the “experts” are telling us what we need to know, and how much are they telling us what they want us to know. Anyone moved by the arguments of Zbigniew Brzezinski about fearing the anger of the Muslim world is likely to tell us what they think we should know. No doubt the anger of over a billion Muslims is something to worry about, and we don’t want to pick a fight over nothing. But as serious a concern as it might be, it must be placed alongside the fear of a nuclear-armed apocalyptic Muslim world, and the increased aggression we invite by backing down on fundamental principles like not allowing madmen to get nuclear arms.

I’m not a specialist in this, and so I can’t judge the scientific details, but the dismissive language the authors cited in this article use — “hyping,” “vacuous political posturing” — does not inspire confidence. I’m sure a brief look at the language of the appeasers of the 1930s would deliver a host of such estimates about the Germans’ rearming.

An analysis today by The Washington Post’s Peter Baker implied that the crisis was cooling, since military leaders, among others, supposedly feel the U.S. air strikes are not really in the offing and America might, after all, learn to stop worrying and “live with” the Iranian bomb.

Wait a minute. First it’s, “don’t worry they’re years away…” to “we can live with them getting it.” So is the “cool your jets” a way of sliding into this? And if so, can we live with an Iranian bomb?

But Baker also noted Condoleezza Rice’s statement yesterday calling on the United Nations to take “strong steps” against Iran and Karl Rove complaining during an appearance in Houston that it is hard to find a diplomatic resolution because Iranian leader Ahmadinejad “is not a rational human being.”

And I suppose that’s demonizing and posturing.

We also have to remember that Bush administration officials asserted, three to four years ago, that there was, of course, no firm inclination to invade Iraq.

Characterically, Baker’s own newspaper, on its hawkish editorial page, proceeded to hike the temperature by raising the specter of Iran wiping Israel off the map and claiming that while “some” in Washington say the Iranian bomb is 10 years away, “some independent experts say three.” So there’s an equal chance of either? It’s like saying “some” scientists say global warming is a fact but “some” disagree.

Bingo. Hence the importance of reliable, accurate, and relevant information… not spinning the news to bring about the results you want. Just as, presumably, Mr. Mitchell would not want us blindly believing the “expert” who tells us not to worry about global warming, should he not show more seriousness and discrimination in discussing whether we need to worry about Iranian nuclear weapons? Or am I missing something here?

All of this bullpen talk may be nothing but “bull.” But let’s hope this game does not get out of hand, and the ace in the bullpen, the U.S. press, can just do its job, day by day, winning a few, losing a few, without having to get the American team out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth.
Greg Mitchell ([email protected]) is editor of E&P.

Gasp!

David Paulin of The Big Carnaval discusses this article in great detail. While I agree with the vast majority of his telling criticisms, he has one final remark that I’m not sure I agree so fully with. Pointing out that the online editor of E&P, David Hirschman has an article on how the “Creeping democracy of Web influences Print Coverage, takes a parting shot at one of Hirschman’s comments.

What caught my eye, however, was this zinger: “So what can newspaper editors and publishers do to reclaim their power as arbiters of public taste? So far that’s unclear.” David, I see why Greg hired you.

Presumably, that last bit of sarcasm indicates that Paulin disapproves heartily. I disagree. It is precisely the job of MSM to be arbitors of taste.

We certainly do need people to filter out the demopathic propaganda, the deliberate lies, the mad paranoid fantasies that any culture readily produces. The point is not that that shouldn’t be the MSM’s job, but that they should do it well, and that right now they are not, most decidedly not.

Right now they — and Gregg Mitchell in particular — are acting like the courtiers in the Emperor’s New Clothes, where instead of being tagged a fool, the courtier who can’t “see” and praise the emperor’s new clothes — the PCP — is tagged a warmonger and a racist. (Ironically, because they’re in the opposition, they often enough think of themselves as dissidents.)

As for the web/blogosphere as a site of reliable news, that’s a hard sell. Cyberspace abounds with the most virulent madness, and anyone venturing into the blogosphere is just as likely, if not more, to fall into the dream palaces of self-brainwashing, as to land on their feet. If 30,000 people downloaded Pallywood in its first three months, millions download the snuff movies put out of Jihadi executions.

I have great faith that the blogosphere will produce the most important, insightful and creative responses to our current crises (they sure don’t seem to be coming out of academia)… but that will only happen when the MSM begins to realize that their loyalty is not to a political agenda, but to trusting the public to respond to the challenges of our situation by informing them. Ultimately it will be the MSM who will help to introduce the best of the blogosphere, and the symbiotic — if necessarily conflictual — relationship between the blogosphere and the MSM will form a key element of a stable 21st century global civic culture.

I look forward to the day when the MSM does reclaim their rightful positions as responsible arbitors of public taste. But that will come from modesty and discipline, not whining about wacky free-lancers in their PJs.

As Blake put it so succintly: “Opposition is true friendship.”

Takfir: The Islamist attitude towards Apostates and the Sources of “Moderate” Muslim Silence

David Cook, in his extremely valuable Understanding Jihad (pp. 141-2), addresses the Islamist/Jihadi attitude towards Muslims who do not measure up to their revivalist standards.

One of the great innovations of Sayyid al Qutb, the great Muslim apocalyptic thinker at the heart of much modern Jihadi theology, was to declare that there was no more “Dar al Islam” because the leaders of supposedly Muslim nations were too secular. He declared these non-observant Muslims apostates (kaffir) suffering in a state of Jahaliyya (pre-Islamic ignorance), and as such, legitimate targets of Muslim violence.

Cook here notes that the way modern Jihadis have used this attitude has shrewdly avoided direct violence against Muslims but nonetheless intimidating them. It explains why we have so few voices denouncing suicide terrorism. There may well be many Muslims out there who are, like Zuhdi Jasser, disgusted by what supposed “true believers” do in the name of Islam, but they have to take into account the factors Cook elaborates here:

One cannot understand radical Islam, let alone globalist radical Islam, until one comprehends the importance of the doctrine known as al-wala ‘wa-l-bara‘ (loyalty or fealty and disloyalty or disassociation). Basically, this is a polarizing doctrine by which radicals – and this idea is emphasized almost exclusively by radicals, so virtually any book or pamphlet on the subject will be written by radicals – maintain their control over what constitutes the definition of “Islam.” Islam is defined according to this doctrine not only by the willingness to fight, but also by the polarities of love and hatred: love for anything or anybody defined as Islam or Muslim, and hatred for their opposites or opponents. In other words, anybody who demonstrates what radicals define as “love” for what is a non- or anti-Muslim position, or associates closely (or sometimes in any way) with non-Muslims, must be a non-Muslim and is excluded, by definition, from the Muslim community.

This is a formal ideological (and apocalyptically dualist) version of the old problem in the African-American community known as the “oreo” — black on the outside, white on the inside. Any Muslim who has adopted notions of tolerance and freedom of thought is, by definition, betraying the true Islam.

It is self-evident that this doctrine is of crucial importance for radical Muslims, not only in their war with the outside world, but also in their attempts to gain spiritual prestige and power within the Muslim world. One of the principle reasons for the ineffectiveness of moderate or anti-radical Muslims is the power of the doctrine of the al- wala ‘wa-l-bara‘ over even those Muslims who do not accept the radical Muslim vision of the future. Al-wala ‘wa-l-bara‘ enables radical Muslims to assert control over the definitions of who is and who is not a Muslim and it forces those who would wish to challenge that control into silence or into being categorized as “non-Muslims.” Thus, it is not a question of whether a minority or a majority of Muslims support or oppose the actions and agenda of radical Islam or globalist radical Islam. It is impossible to know in many cases what Muslims really think or feel concerning a given operation. The crucial fact is that Muslims in the vast majority, whatever they truly believe, are unwilling to disassociate themselves publicly from radical Islam. This passivity is the work of the doctrine of al-wala ‘wa-l-bara‘.

In all of their actions, radical Muslims seek criteria to differentiate between the true and the false, and then to expose the latter. One of the most effective methods by which this is accomplished is suicide attacks or “martyrdom operations.”

Read the rest of the book.

Media War of Attrition: Inbar on Implications of Walt-Mearsheimer

Efraim Inbar wrote an article for the Jerusalem Post at the beginning of May which bears close consideration.

What went wrong?

Jerusalem Post, April 2, 2006.

The recently published study “The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” by two important professors of international relations, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, blames the Jews for pushing the US foreign policy into the wrong direction at great cost to Washington. The researchers portray themselves as “realists” whose cold analysis has only the national interests of America at heart.

The main thrust of the argument is easily refutable. The two professors are clearly wrong in their ascription of US support for Israel to the machinations of the Israeli lobby.

All polls show consistent support for Israel over many years on the part of a large majority of Americans from all walks of life, and most of them were never exposed to the Israeli lobby. Americans like Israel for what it is: a vibrant and embattled democratic society, which is a natural ally for the US. The proposition that the US would be better off by not lending its support to Israel betrays ignorance of what the Middle East really is, and of the real causes of anti-Americanism in the region. The negative attitudes towards the US and the West are deeply rooted in Arab and Muslim culture and have little to do with American aid to Israel.

In reality, the case for supporting Israel as an important strategic ally due to its strategic location and political stability, as well as its technological and military assets, is almost self evident. Methodologically, it is strange to see realists, whose powerful intellectual paradigm relates little importance to domestic politics, ascribe such a powerful role to any lobby.

To put it slightly differently, the power of the Israel Lobby lies not in its money (Arabs have much more) or its numbers (there are already many more Muslims in the USA than Jews, and Jews don’t vote in a block for pro-Israel candidates), but on the compelling logic of the case, on the deep similarities in values and commitments between Israelis and Americans. Not only is Israel the only reliable ally in the Middle East (something W-M seem to have no clue about), but it is America’s only ally not subject to the politics of resentment.

As to the bizarre anomaly of “realists” ascribing importance to domestic lobbies, I believe that Noam Chomsky has weighed in against the W-M thesis on just that basis.

But the methodological anomaly is important — as Imbar explores below. It signals a deep level of self-contradiction in the paper. On the simplest level, the paper is based on the astounding “realist” notion that Arab allies are as good as Israel (and far wealthier and more powerful), and therefore since it makes more “sense” to ally with them, only the nefarious impact of some mysteriously effective “lobby” can explain how US foreign policy could be so far out of wack. As I’ve noted before: this is the basis of French (and more broadly European) foreign policy, the heart of the Eurabian “deal.” If the shape of Europe isn’t enough evidence against such foolishness, I don’t know what is.

However, despite its shallow analysis and the probable desire of the authors to be provocative and take the spotlight, it would be a mistake to ignore the Mearsheimer-Walt paper. This study is not just the result of the frustration experienced by senior academics when their advice against going to war in Iraq went unheeded. The Mersheimer-Walt study is serious because it is symptomatic of the mood in many intellectual circles in the West. Its value judgments are a great source of concern.

These researchers and others have stopped seeing Israel as morally superior to its foes. Unfortunately for Israel, Palestinian interpretation of the conflict is increasingly gaining credibility in the West. Israeli new historians, whose publications were quoted in the Mearsheimer-Walt study despite their poor scholarship, also provide ammunition to the Palestinian case. For many, Israel has become the culprit in the Arab-Israeli conflict. While Israel still has strong bastions of public support, public opinion in most Western countries – America is a clear exception – has shifted in the past decades and is critical of Israel, often taking the Palestinian side.

This is a good a description of the long-range influence of Pallywood, and particularly the impact of Al Durah. It bespeaks the enormous impact that media, especially systematically inaccurate media can have on our thinking.

There is a long-range danger in the emergence of an international consensus questioning the legitimacy of Israel. A new Zeitgeist, which accepts the position that Israel was born in sin, and blames its behavior for the subsequent negative regional repercussions, would make Israel’s elimination expedient – indeed even morally acceptable – to Western regional interests.

And of course the obverse of this is the role of Anti-Zionism as cultural AIDS. As long as you see Israel as the Middle Eastern villain, with all the implications of a reasonable but unjustly treated Arab world as the victim of Israeli perfidy, you’ll come up with the lame and self-destructive foreign policy thinking of W-M, dupes to demopaths, wandering blindly through the straights of Scylla and Charybdis.

Israel is a strong state, but because it is a small country it is more dependent for its well-being than large powers on the vagaries of the international community. Becoming a pariah state is dangerous.

To some extent, Israel itself is at fault for the change in attitudes. Israel bailed out the PLO from its crisis, and brought Yasser Arafat from Tunis to the lawn of the White House in 1993, bestowing unprecedented legitimacy upon him and his cause. Israel’s reluctance to remove the mask of the corrupt and authoritarian PLO leader, who turned a blind eye to terror, allowed the Palestinians to deny their blatant violations of the “peace process.” In fact, its continuation was contingent largely upon Israeli self-delusion.

The frequent references to the casualties of Palestinian terror as the “sacrifices for peace,” helped Arafat hide Palestinian cruelty and cynicism. Portraying the Palestinians as reasonable partners for peace, rather than a society mesmerized by violence, united by abysmal hatred towards Jews, and largely partner to widespread Arab anti-Western sentiments, undermined Israel’s case.

At home, Israel’s undue tolerance of organizations that side with the Palestinians and obstruct Israel’s war effort has played a role in the deterioration of Israel’s moral standing. For example, while various organizations encourage draft-dodging and accuse IDF officers of being war criminals (causing great public relations damage as well as violating Israel’s penal code), the authorities are reluctant to bring such groups to court.

In addition, an education system that exposes the Israeli student to the fabrications of the new historians has undermined the main asset of Israeli society: conviction of the justice of the Zionist cause.

This whole process has been analyzed well by Kenneth Levin in The Oslo Syndrome. And it’s not uniquely Israeli, rather it’s part of a wider pattern of liberal cognitive egocentrism in the grip of an aggressive form of political correctness. It’s a kind of “moral perfectionism” that the Jews have historically excelled at — prophets blaming Israel for being conquered by nasty imperialist regimes like the Assyrians, Babylonians, etc. — and now permeates a wide range of thinking, notable for its foolish inability to appreciate the time for such moral perfectionism and the time to gather stones together.

Israel has to recapture the upper moral ground in its conflict with the Palestinians. With a Hamas-led PA in power the task is easier; but Jerusalem needs clarity of purpose and a sophisticated strategy, as well as determination and resources, to help the enlightened world appreciate that we are fighting the bad guys.

The writer is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

Okay, but what does that last paragraph on the agenda mean? Part of the problem is that merely stating the obvious — the immense moral gap between Arab/Muslim/Palestinian commitment to the values of justice, fairness, civil rights, tolerance, etc. and the Israelis — does not work very well.

Even pointing out to people that in their anti-Zionism they are contributing to their own self destruction has limited effect.

Part of the answer, I think, lies in making clear to people what’s at work in the culturally rare (but in civil society over-abundant) trait of self-criticism. When Israeli “post-Zionists” self-criticize, they manifest, perhaps in pathological quantities, this very rare ability to listen to the outside voices, to accept responsibility, to introspect. This takes maturity and emotional courage, especially when done in public. For people to interpret the work of these men as a blot on Israeli claims to moral superiority when, in fact, they illustrate the immense gap between Israel’s mature and self-critical culture and the demonizing and scapegoating reflexes of Palestinian society, is a colossal mistake.

Part lies in a deep analysis of the psychological resistance to serious moral reasoning… scapegoating (sorry LB), moral Schadenfreude, the roots of moral envy and the politics of resentment.

Part lies in an ability to keep a compass when people seem to have gone morally mad.

Patience, however, may not be a virtue we can afford.

Joel Fishman on the 21st Century Challenge of Iranian Nukes

Joel Fishman writes in Makor Rishon:

Joel Fishman
Makor Rishon
21 April 2006

Twentieth-Century Turmoil and the Iran Nuclear Crisis

From time to time, people have asked if the study of the past is relevant and if practical lessons can be learned from specific historical precedents. There is a certain consistency in human behavior and in that of societies in the context of tradition, interaction with their neighbors and geographical realities. Therefore, in certain instances, the study of the past may offer information helpful to policy-makers. Similarly, a systems analyst endeavors to identify things that can go wrong in a business and industrial setting, suggests a range of outcomes, and offers the means of dealing with uncertainty and its consequences. An historian does the same, using the historical method. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that “the study of the past provides no answers unless questions are first asked.”

[and the better the questions, the better the answers... RL]

Our question is: what insights can the examination of historical precedents offer in the case of the present Iranian nuclear crisis? There are two types of answers: 1) One with regard to the dynamic of illegal rearmaments following the precedent of Nazi Germany in the early thirties, and, 2) The stakes involved in the event that Iran should succeed. Who would benefit most from an Iranian success and at what cost to others?

Leopold Schwarzschild, a German Jewish journalist who fled Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power, lived in Paris until the summer of 1940 when he emigrated to England. In 1943, he published a book entitled, World in Trance, which described the interwar period, particularly Germany’s preparations for war during the Weimar and Nazi eras. One of Schwarzschild’s most valuable insights was that during the process of rearming Germany experienced a state of acute vulnerability which offered a brief but unparalleled opportunity to those who wished to stop Germany, if only they only had the will to do so. He described the situation just after Hitler’s rise to power, as follows:

No gift of prophecy was needed to see this [the official policy of going to war], no genius needed to understand its implications. Germany would now begin to arm as fast as possible, because the first stages of rearmament would be the dangerous period. A certain amount of time was required to make her newly emerging mass army capable of putting up a serious fight. This period was also the period of reprieve for Germany’s opponents, their last opportunity to stop her. It could be done only by force, certainly not by words or pieces of paper, but still without any real bloodshed….

The game for both sides was simple. For Germany and the other powers there was only one question: Would Germany be permitted to go through the period of military weakness unmolested? Or would she be forced to abandon her fatal path?

Despite current Western abhorrence of fascism and war, it should be remembered that certain leaders view Nazi Germany as a model for emulation and the use of war as a legitimate tool of state policy. We may observe that the case of Nazi Germany would serve as the classical model for any state intending to rearm illegally. It is more than likely that Iran has been following the model of Nazi Germany, so our appreciation of this historical precedent is all the more valuable. In the light of the above, it is possible that Iran’s loud threats of retaliation in the event of outside intervention are a calculated bluff, whose purpose is to win time and divert attention from its current weakness. Furthermore, in light of Iranian goals and determination to achieve them, any American “diplomatic package” or a “Grand Bargain,” as in the case with North Korea, will not be effective. “Words and pieces of paper” will not solve this problem.

If we look at the broader historical significance of issue, it is not entirely coincidental that both Russia and China, who have been selling Iran nuclear technology and material, are interested parties in the outcome of this dispute. Both are members of the Security Council who possess veto power and have supported Iran’s challenge to the mechanism of non-proliferation. Although major changes have taken place in the former Soviet Union since 1988 and the Soviet empire has ceased to exist in its traditional form, Russia’s policy has shown a remarkable continuity over the decades. The KGB, its ruling political elite has kept its grip on the levers of power in a manner similar to that of the German General Staff during the Weimar era.

A long-standing objective of Russian policy – which coincides with that of Iran – has been to eradicate the American political, military, and economic presence in Iran and to make its weight felt generally in the region. Thus, selling nuclear know-how and conventional weapons to Iran has become an effective and profitable means of pursuing this objective. A secondary, but considerably important objective which dates back to Lenin is the Russian desire to destabilize and undermine the Western and European orientation of the world state system, which, from 1815 to the First World War, generally succeeded in maintaining a condition of order and equilibrium. According to the Princeton Sovietologist, Robert C. Tucker, “The basic fact of contemporary history to which the new ‘Eastern orientation’ in the Russian communist mind and the new post-Marxian working theory corresponded was the collapse of the Europe-centered international order in and after World War I. As this working theory saw from the beginning, the defection of Soviet Russia from the European system [during the First World War] signalized most dramatically and consequentially the collapse of the old order.”

It should be remembered that the Soviet Union, which was relatively weaker than the United States, adopted an indirect strategy of engaging in a “prolonged conflict” against the West which became known as the Cold War. The type of asymmetrical warfare included waging wars and staging confrontations simultaneously in different parts of the world and endeavoring to weaken its adversaries from within.

One of the main Soviet methods was using proxies, which permitted denial of direct responsibility for its actions and their consequences. It is noteworthy that Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly studied at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, the Communist Party’s elite school for revolutionaries. In the present case, Russian support for Iran has been understated and covert, because Iran is a state, as opposed to a revolutionary movement, and the degree of “deniability” is limited. This is one of the risks which Russia must minimize and which exposes it to considerable vulnerability.

In light of the most obvious historical precedent and of a wider international perspective, it is clear that there are several important questions at hand: 1) Will Iran succeed in arming illegally? 2) Will the world allow it to do so at Iran’s moment of maximum vulnerability? 3) What will be the ultimate effects of Iran breaking out of the international system? The consequences of the first two are clear enough, but the effects of the third are less obvious. If the international community cannot enforce the existing nuclear non-proliferation agreements, and two of its strongest members undermine this effort, it is more than likely that the United Nations, which has not distinguished itself, will go the way of the League of Nations. Fear and terror will become the governing principles of the new order, replacing the fabric of the international relations based on law and trust. As Lenin hoped at the beginning of the twentieth century, the center of gravity of international relations in their new form will move from the Occident to the Orient. If enlightened leaders find this prospect unacceptable, they will have to act effectively and soon.

Dr. Joel S. Fishman is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Comments (RL)

This analysis recoups the one I’ve been laying out in terms of “waking up.” In the case of Iran, not only do we have the problems of defecting “allies” like USSR and China, but also the warping impact of Bush/American Derangement Syndrome. People are so worked up about Bush lying to us to get us into Iraq, than any argument about intervening in Iran is immediately met with scorn and fury.

As a result of the massive European objection to Western troops in Iraq, there’s no chance of doing anything in Iran, no matter how indicated it might be. Now, those with BDS can say, “that’s all Bush’s fault, blame him.” And those of us who may not like Bush but are not deranged by a self-destructive desire to see him humiliated, say, “it’s at least as much Europe’s fault for wishing failure on this enterprise.”

But that still doesn’t help us to attack the problem. One of the USSR’s great advantages in the Cold War was countries like France who, pursuing their own grandeur, were only too happy to do things that harmed the colossus they so resented, the USA. As I’ve said before at this site, I’m not sure we can afford such politics of resentment this time around.

As for the decline of the UN, I know many people who, filled with indignation at the way the the Anti-Zionist agenda has kidnapped UN deliberations and made it a by-word for moral insanity, and for corruption and hypocrisy, would be only too happy to see the institution fail. That, in my estimation, would be a kind of UN Derangement Syndrome. Those historians who know how long and hard visionaries fought to have an institution where wars could be avoided by serious dialogue before a world community of nations committed to treating each other fairly, understand how dangerous its failure might be.

It would, to take liberties with Joel Fishman’s analysis and jump to an implied conclusion, unleash the dogs of war. Once unleashed, no one can control how wild and long they may rage.

Demopaths show their Fangs: Are they Jumping the Gun?

Steven Emerson reports on a demonstration of the Islamic Thinkers Society in front of the Israeli consulate in NYC. The website is classic “civil society”:

Our struggle is always intellectual & political non-violent means.

The slogans chanted tear aside any mask of civility.

Zionists, Zionists You will pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way!
Israeli Zionists You shall pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way!
The mushroom cloud is on its way! The real Holocaust is on its way!

We are not your average Muslims, We are the Muslims of Was al Sunnah

We will not accept the United Nations, they are the criminals themselves
They get paid by the Israeli and the US government to do their job.
We don’t recognize United Nations as a body
We only recognize Allah

Israel won’t last long… Indeed, Allah will repeat the Holocaust right on the soil of Israel
Takbeer!
Response: Allahu Akbar!

* * *
No wonder they call you sons of apes and pigs because that’s what you are.

We know many government services are watching us
Such as the FBI…CIA…Mossad, Homeland Security…
We know we are getting on their nerves
And so are you….
So we say the hell with you!
May the FBI burn in Hell
CIA burn in Hell
Mossad burn in Hell
Homeland Security burn in hell!!

Islam will dominate the world
Islam is the only solution
Islam will dominate the world
Islam is the only solution
[editor's note -- purely by non-violent means of course!]
Takbeer!
La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur Rasool Allah

Another mushroom cloud, right in the midst of Israel!
Takbeer!! Allahu Akbar!


Dan Pipes wonders
if this might not be salutary in waking people up to the real agenda behind their previously civil facade. It seems to be a race between the cognitive egocentrism of the liberals who refuse to believe any American Muslims could really be this base, and the triumphalism of Islamists who, encouraged by the slowness of Americans to realize what they’re up to, start to speak more freely.

The real problem for the West is: how do we wake up to the danger without becoming fascists? And the time constraint is, the longer we take to wake up, the more likely we will fall into fascism when we do. Right now, the politically correct view that insists on seeing the best, no matter how unrealistic, actually makes the situation much worse.

Demopaths and their Dupes: The Politics of Art at PSU

At Pennsylvania State University, a serious case of politically correct suppression of free speech emerges. According to an Article by Jessica Remitz in the PSU’s Digital Collegian, the University has decided to cancel an exhibit by Joshua Stulman on terrorism because the exhibit:

“did not promote cultural diversity” or “opportunities for democratic dialogue”

Such logic, despite Stulman’s claim not to understand, is fairly clear.

Cultural Diversity — By criticizing Palestinian terrorism, Stulman showed his cultural imperialism, since by more diverse cultural standards, one could call these folks “freedom fighters,” or, with a bit less cognitive egocentrism, “martyrs for Jihad.” Who are we to impose our cultural uniformity on these people, and their countless supporters in Palestinian and Arab culture? (Answer, for those who might be confused here… we shouldn’t.) Such an exhibit, by criticizing Palestinians for siding with suicide terrorists, was implicitly if not explicitly aggressive and negated their culture.

Opportunities for democratic dialogue — here we slip over into the realm of Newspeak. The phrase means one cannot hope to dialogue with Muslims if one puts them on the defensive. To promote democratic (presumably understood as inclusive) dialogue one needs to be more open and less critical.

The professor from the Department of Visual Arts who cancelled the exhibit explained that Stulman’s controversial images did not mesh with the university’s educational mission:

The decision to cancel the exhibit came after reviewing Penn State’s Policy AD42: Statement on Nondiscrimination and Harassment and Penn State’s Zero Tolerance Policy for Hate, he wrote.

In other words, for those still too thick to understand, to promote outrage and rejection of Arab Muslim practices (like suicide terrorism!) is actually a form of hate-speech because it encourages people to dislike this culture.

Sensing this implied concern about hate-speech, Stulman commented:

“It’s not about hate. I don’t hate Muslims. This is not about Islam,” Stulman said. “This is about terrorism impacting the Palestinian way of life and Israel way of life.”

This reminds me of when David Cook first submitted his manuscript on Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature for publication, two of the three readers recommended against publication since the book constituted “hate speech.”

Now it’s not that the book is not about hate speech. Indeed, Cook remarked that every day he worked on this literature he felt like he needed to take a bath to wash off the relentless hatred that he encountered on every page. What they really meant was that the book chronicled such vicious hate speech on the part of Muslim thinkers that readers would be strongly influenced towards a dislike of Muslims — and certainly the kinds who join organizations like Hamas, Hizbullah, al Quaeda and Islamic Jihad.

Thus to preserve “cultural diversity” and to prevent the reading public from experiencing such negative feelings, these enlightened scholars, much like the administrators at PSU, feel that they should protect us and the potential objects of our disapproval. In so doing they make a category error. To denounce as hate speech that which reveals the presence of hate speech is like arresting the fireman and letting the pyromaniac escape.

This is also, as one of my students suggested to me last week, a form of left-wing fascism, a manipulation of the public that arrogates to itself the right to make up our own minds for us on what we should be exposed to and what we should feel. And it certainly reflects the kinds of problems that plague the MSM right now in their decisions on what we should see, and how to frame it. As one media mogul put it during the Frantifada last November:

“Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television,” says M. Dassier, owner of France1 TV.”

But, you might ask, this is the exact opposite of decisions made to allow certain forms of hate speech to flourish, as in the case of the Swedes and the imam of Stockholm. Isn’t that the opposite effect? And if so, why does it so often seem that the voice being strangled for the sake of keeping hate speech down is the voice pointing out the existence of the hate speech?

The article gives us a clue.

Stulman said advertisements for the event were defaced in the Patterson and School of Visual Arts buildings, one of which had a large swastika on it.

Stulman, who is Jewish, said he felt threatened and abused by the Nazi symbol and is concerned for his artwork and his personal well-being.

How much of this sudden and mysterious change of heart of the administration comes from aggressive Muslims students, angry at the negative exposure this exhibit might give to causes they hold dear to heart, invoking the “zero-tolerance for hate speech” clause even as they threaten violence if they don’t get their way?

And how much of the appeal to the law reflects a strategy of invoking laws they have contempt for (no sign here of denouncing hate speech among the suicide terrorists), thus creating a climate in which they can continue to spread their hate unopposed?

And how much of the reaction of Professor Garoian represents a real (if quite foolish) moral confusion and how much just plain cowardice?

Update.

Another article, presumably by someone who’s not a close friend of Stulman’s, in the CentreDaily finally gives us an idea of what the Nazi symbolism is:

In one of Stulman’s paintings, an Arab-looking man is extending his right arm in a Nazi salute. On his headgear is written type in Arabic, translated as “I am a murderer.” The colors of the painting match the colors of the Palestinian flag: red, black, white and green.

It is meant to shock and challenge, but it is not an anti-Muslim statement, Stulman said. The painting is to show “the appropriation of Nazi symbols and its use in Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” he said.

“This is a terrorist, and I think anyone who sees this painting will see a terrorist,” he said.

I still don’t know what’s going on here. But I do know, for example, that Mein Kampf is a hot item in both the Arab World and in Palestinian circles from before 2000; that in our Pallywood movie there’s a sequence near the beginning where the Palestinians unfurl a Nazi flag, and it’s hard to imagine that they’re doing this to say “The Israelis are Nazis”; that one of the members of the Hamas party team, known affectionately as “Hitler,” won by a landslide in the most recent elections.

Acccording to the description, moreover, there’s nothing specifically about Islam in this particular piece. The symbols are Nazi and Palestinian. Those worried about a claim that Islam is developing Nazi-like traits actually reveal their own unconscious fear of precisely that, a response similar to the outrage over the Danish cartoon depicting Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. Scream about the stuff that’s most accurate because it hurts the most.

I could go on and on. I am personally not inclined to play the Nazi card, but I will not have people pretend that somehow it’s as shocking to have the Israelis call the Palestinians Nazis, as vice-versa. That’s the worst kind of moral-relativist even-handedness. It’s the kind of sloppy thinking that has us in such bad shape.