Monthly Archives: June 2006

Political Correctness and Islamic Judeophobia in Holland

This appeared today in the WSJ. (hat tip Anti-Dhimmi). It is a fascinating case study of a Europe torn apart by it’s incipient awakening to its danger. Some people are still playing conventional “post-modern” roles of appeasers and apologists who get nasty with people on their own side for offending people on the other side. Others are beginning to speak out. For those of you who think this is a sign of how bad things are, having worked on the al Durah affair in France, and the wall of homertà that descended there, this is a half-full cup.

Tying Down Academic Freedom
By PIETER W. VAN DER HORST
June 30, 2006

Earlier this month, after 37 years of teaching, I retired from the chair of Early Christian and Early Jewish Studies at Utrecht University. In my valedictory speech, “The Myth of Jewish Cannibalism,” I intended to trace the accusation that Jews eat human flesh from its Greco-Roman origins through the Christian Middle Ages and the Nazi period to the present-day Muslim world. Much of the Islamic vilification of Jews has its roots in German fascism. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” has been on the best-seller lists in many Middle Eastern countries. The sympathy for Nazism goes back to the Führer’s days. Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, even closely cooperated with Hitler. He spent the war years in Berlin and visited Auschwitz, a trip that inspired his plans to build a concentration camp in Palestine.

In the Middle East of today, the demonization of Jews has reached unprecedented levels. Jews are accused of every evil under the sun, from cannibalism to the attacks on the Twin Towers, to causing the tsunami, the bird flu, AIDS and so on. At the end of my lecture I wanted to point out that it is our shared duty to combat this kind of anti-Jewish propaganda in the Muslim world. Nothing too controversial for a speech at a European university — or so I thought.

Much to my surprise, though, the dean of the faculty asked me to delete the passage on Islamic Jew hatred. When I refused, she referred the matter to the highest university administrator, the rector magnificus, who summoned me to his office to appear before a committee of four professors (including the rector himself). The committee presented three reasons for removing the Muslim passages.

They claimed it was too dangerous to give the complete lecture because it might trigger violent reactions from “well-organized Muslim student groups” for which the rector could not take any responsibility. The committee also said it feared my speech would thwart efforts at bridge-building between Muslims and non-Muslims at the university. Finally, they claimed my lecture was far below the university’s scholarly standards, especially because of some sarcastic remarks about Dutch public figures (whom I criticize for their anti-Jewish position). “We feel we have to protect you from yourself,” I was told. The rector said I had 24 hours to drop the controversial section. If not, he would have to assume his “rectorial responsibility.” I wasn’t sure what this meant, but it sounded very threatening.

I went home in a state of total confusion. I sensed the committee had exaggerated the dangers to make me toe the line of political correctness. At the same time, I could not independently assess the risks. And so I decided to submit an expurgated text because I did not want to expose myself and others to potential danger.

But since the committee also challenged my academic reputation, I decided to ask several scholars for their opinion, including three professors of Islamic studies, history and philosophy. They all praised it as an excellent piece of work, well documented and eminently relevant. They agreed that my polemical remarks about the tenacity of this anti-Jewish myth are wholly appropriate and did not in any way diminish the academic value of my work. Most importantly, they concluded that the text would definitely not infuriate Muslims because I do not say anything offensive about Islam as such, the prophet or the Quran. When I informed the rector of the conclusions of my peers, his sole reaction was: “Yet my solution is the best.”

Only a day after my farewell lecture in its castrated form, the news about this case of academic censorship was on the front pages of many Dutch newspapers and broadcast on radio and TV. Without my knowledge, the colleagues who had reviewed my lecture had contacted the media.

The university soon launched a counterattack. The rector first suggested that my account of censorship was untrue, that no one had exerted any pressure and that I voluntarily adopted the university’s advice. When I insisted that the meeting I remembered was much more of a nightmarish nature than the friendly chitchat the university portrayed, a second, nastier line of attack ensued. I was suddenly pictured as someone who could have disgraced the university with a lecture that was supposedly beyond the pale. In the meantime, though, several newspapers had published the uncensored text so that everyone could form their own opinion. The expressions of support and gratitude I received were overwhelming and came from many academics at Dutch universities and prominent members of the Jewish community in the Netherlands. I did not receive a single negative, let alone threatening, Muslim reaction, although some of them said I could have spoken in less general terms, which is fair enough.

Fortunately, there are signs that the debate is gradually moving away from my incident toward the important issues at stake: academic freedom and Islamic Jew-hatred. If for fear of violence, real or imagined, academic freedom is curtailed, it bodes ill for our universities. If something as serious as Islamic Jew hatred cannot be subject of public debate, it bodes ill for society at large.

Mr. van der Horst is professor emeritus for Early Christian and Early Jewish Studies at Utrecht University.

Arab Reformer Meditates on his People’s Predicament

MEMRI posted selections from a remarkable article by an Iraqi reformer. The article is remarkable for its forthrightness, saying things I would hesitate to say if only because it’s so harsh. But it connects closely with much of what I was led to think as I wrote my paper on conspiracy theory. Now we need an analysis of why moonbats like Arab schizophrenics.

Special Dispatch-Iraq/Reform Project
June 21, 2006
No. 1190

Iraqi Reformist on Arab Society and Social Schizophrenia

In an article titled “Arab Society and Schizophrenia,” Iraqi reformist Dr. Abd Al-Khaleq Hussein, who writes on several reformist websites, argues that Arab society suffers from “social schizophrenia,” — the symptoms of which are similar to those of individuals suffering from actual schizophrenia. He further argues that the Arab governments must immediately launch social and political reforms which will gradually lead to democracy in the Arab world. If significant reforms are not carried out, he says, disasters will continue to strike the Arab word, and democracy will ultimately be imposed upon it through violent upheavals, as occurred in Iraq. In the article, he also called upon the Arabs to accept the help offered to them by the West – and especially by the U. S. – with the aim of facilitating positive change that will permit them to integrate into the international community.

The following are excerpts from the article:

This Split Personality Disorder Characterizes Not Only Specific Sectors of Arab Society, But [Also] the Governments, the Institutions of Civil Society, and the [Political] Parties

Schizophrenia’ is a word in ancient Greek that means ‘split personality’… but it is also used in the social sciences to describe societies afflicted by severe duality in their behavior and their [moral] standards. In fact, if we carefully compare the medical and social forms of this disorder, we will find that the symptoms are very similar…

Iraqi social scientist Ali Al-Wardi was the first to characterize the Iraqi people as suffering from this severe social illness, which he labeled ‘split personality.’ According to his theory, Iraqis suffer… from a conflict between the Bedouin values that have been passed down through the generations and the cultural values that the Iraqi society has acquired…

As an illustration, he presents the example of a young Iraqi who wishes to choose his own wife, just like an enlightened Western man, and to exchange love letters with her,… but when he hears that some other man has similar relations with his sister or cousin, he immediately turns into a ‘Bedouin’ and murders his beloved sister and her lover…

This split personality disorder characterizes not only specific sectors of Arab society, but [also] the governments, the institutions of civil society, and the [political] parties, especially the Islamic ones…

The social and medical forms of this disorder have similar symptoms. The most important of these is delusions from which the patient suffers… For example:

“Delusions of Grandeur”

A [schizophrenia] patient believes that he is exceptional and that others should treat him as though he is an important person. The Arabs also believe that they are more important than others in every respect. They [believe that they] are the best among nations…, and regard other nations with contempt. They acknowledge no religion [but their own] and are unwilling to coexist peacefully with other religions. [They believe] that their faith is the only faith that mankind should embrace, and that whoever fails to embrace it is an infidel.

In other words, all other religions are heathen, heretical and fabricated, and their followers should abandon them and embrace the Arabs’ religion — Islam. If they fail to embrace Islam, the Muslims are entitled to wage war upon them, to kill their men or convert them by force, to take their women hostage, to sell their children in the slave market and to plunder their property…

This disparaging view applies not only to non-Muslims, but also to other schools of thought within Islam. Each Islamic school of thought is full of contempt and hostility towards the others. The Salafis and Wahhabis, for example, are convinced that the Shiites must be killed, and that whoever kills them will be rewarded in the world to come…”

Paranoia

A schizophrenia patient believes that others are plotting against him with the aim of harming and killing him, even though he hasn’t a shred of evidence to prove this. This is exactly what happens with the Arabs, who are addicted to conspiracy theories. Whenever a disaster befalls them, they claim that it was brought about by a ‘hostile Western Crusader-Zionist’ conspiracy. They [say this] without bothering to think rationally and determine the true causes for their defeat...

A schizophrenic imagines that people have nothing better to do than to talk about him, gossip about him, and plot against him. Consequently, he lives in a constant state of intense doubt and suspicion towards others, including the people closest to him, such as his wife, whom he suspects of cheating on him… The patient believes that even broadcasts on TV or on the other media are directed personally at him.

This is exactly what happens in the Arab society with respect to foreign ideas and books. No society places books and ideas under siege the way Arab society does. Arab airports and sea ports are known for seizing books from the passengers. The Arabs are famous for translating the fewest books and for showing the greatest hostility towards the foreign sciences, to which they refer contemptuously… as ‘imported ideas.’ In addition, no people burn books and persecute intellectuals with more gusto than the Arabs.”

Somatic Delusions

“The patient imagines strange and illogical things, for instance that foreign bodies are moving inside him, even though there is no evidence to suggest this. Similarly, Arab societies and governments suffer from the illness of [constantly suspecting] espionage by foreign agents. This is why the Arab jails are full of political prisoners and oppositionists accused of spying for other [countries]. In the eyes of the Arab governments and societies, the political opposition and the liberal intellectuals are traitors and agents of foreign intelligence [apparatuses]…

Disorganized Speech

A [schizophrenic] patient’s speech makes no sense. There is no connection between the sentences, and the hearer or reader cannot understand what [the patient] means to say. The Arab societies display the same symptom – [it is] even [displayed by] people who present themselves as intellectuals and writers. We read them with the hope of understanding what they mean to say, but to no avail… And when you dispute [their claims], they say that the problem lies not with the writer but with the reader, since he is shallow and insufficiently educated, and that is why he fails to understand the ideas of the important writers and intellectuals…

Loss of Human Feeling

This is another phenomenon spreading through the Arab societies. Unrestrained terrorism and cold-blooded butchering of innocent people in front of the TV cameras provide [further] indisputable proof that Arab society is afflicted with this dangerous disease. It should be noted that the famous religious scholar Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi advised to refrain from showing the killings on TV. This means that he supports these acts, but advises not showing them in this manner, since they give Islam and the Muslims a bad reputation. In the eyes of some, this makes Al-Qaradhawi a moderate cleric.

The Patient Loses the Ability to Enjoy Activities He Enjoyed in the Past

This is also true of the Arab society today. During the course of their history, the Arabs used their powers of reasoning and exercised independent judgment in religious ruling [ijtihad]… in order to find rational solutions for existing problems. But a few hundred years ago… the gates of ijtihad were shut, the mind was shut down, and [clerics] began to rely exclusively on what was said by the founding fathers [of Islam] over 1,400 years ago, even if their solutions were inapplicable to contemporary problems…

Inactivity and Lethargy

Schizophrenia patients spend most of their time in idleness or slumber. Laziness,… sleepiness, fatalism and lack of productivity are also widespread in the Arab countries. A study published a number of years ago found that a Western worker is five times more productive than an Arab worker…

Loss of Zest for Life

This is a well-known tendency in Arab society. As bin Laden said in his address to the West, ‘you love life, while we thirst for death.’ This is an integral part of Arab heritage… This is why preachers in the mosques glorify death [in their sermons] to young people, [teach] them to hate life, and encourage them to carry out jihad terrorist operations…

Isolation From the World

Schizophrenia patients prefer to live in isolation from the rest of the world, and spend most of their time alone, detached from other people. They are uninterested in the company of friends and relatives, are unable to form friendships with other people or to maintain previous friendships, and do not care that they have no friends.

All these symptoms are also prevalent in the Arab society, and are due to faulty education from an early age. Most textbooks for children and youth teach hatred towards others, and [encourage the reader] to avoid the company of non-Muslims. More than that, [they instruct the reader] to avoid greeting a non-Muslim, and, if greeted by a non-Muslim, to reply in an aloof and contemptuous manner. [They also teach that] if you shake hands with a non-Muslim, you must afterwards wash your hands. Directives of this sort are published by all religious schools – even by moderate clerics, and certainly by extremist ones.

Arab culture also encourages isolation from the world. The world is divided into two camps: ‘believers’ and ‘infidels’… Sheikh Al-Islam ibn Taymiyya encouraged [the Muslims] to hate the unbelievers, saying: ‘When you spend time in the camp of the unbelievers – for purposes of medical [treatment], study or trade – harbor hostility towards them in your heart.’

Denial of the Disease

Schizophrenia patients deny that they are ill, and believe that they are completely well. They are hostile towards anyone who tries to treat them or wishes to help them. Similarly, the Arabs are unaware of the duality in their behavior and standards, and do not realize that they are backward and require immediate treatment in order to overcome their backwardness and [to avoid] the disasters that befall them. Anyone who tries to draw their attention to their own backwardness… is accused of treason and of being a foreign agent, usually [an agent of] the ‘imperialists,’ ‘Crusaders.’ or ‘Zionists.’ Consequently, intellectuals have been persecuted in Arab countries throughout the ages…

Mental Paralysis

A [schizophrenia] patient is utterly convinced that his notions are correct, to the point of [mental] paralysis… The same [phenomenon] is also widespread in the Arab society, which believes that only its own culture and notions – which have been handed down from generation to generation – are valid, and tries to eliminate those who think differently… [Schizophrenia] patients are unable to understand abstract ideas according to their context, and take everything literally….

A similar situation exists in Arab society, which cannot differentiate among various situations. Occupation of one country by another is a vile thing, but there are exceptional cases in which the occupation is necessary since it is for the good of the occupied country. This is true for Iraq, and for Europe during the Second World War. But Arab society regards the liberation of Iraq from an extremely vile, fascistic regime as an [act of] colonialism aimed at plundering [Iraq's] treasures and killing its people…

Al-Zarqawi, bin Laden, and Al-Zawahiri Could Not Have Perpetrated Their Atrocities Without Extensive Popular Support

Some may object [to my arguments], asking why I take the behavior of a single individual, a handful of people, or a group, [and present it] as the behavior of entire nations. Why do I ascribe the behavior of Al-Zarqawi, bin Laden or Al-Zawahiri to all Arabs? Why do I present the sin of one cleric as the sin of all clerics?

[But] the truth is that what happened in Algeria and what is currently happening in Iraq and in other parts of the Arab world does not result from the deviant behavior of individuals, but from general behavior that is inevitably caused by [our] culture.

Barbaric acts of mass murder were rampant in Algeria, with the number of victims reaching a quarter of a million. School girls were murdered for not wearing the veil. The murders carried out by ‘jihad fighters’ in Iraq have come to symbolize [the general situation there], which is condoned by Arab societies.

Needless to say, Al-Zarqawi, bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri could not have perpetrated all these atrocities without extensive popular support, without constant recruitment [of new jihad fighters], and without the cultural and ideological support that is [ingrained] in the [Arab] heritage and education. Surveys conducted in a number of Arab countries showed that the majority supports the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization, and that bin Laden himself enjoys great popularity, especially in the Gulf countries…

If Arab Governments Do Not Begin to Lead Their Peoples Towards Democracy, History Will Force it on Them

Based on the above, I believe that Arab societies… suffer from duality in their standards, their views, and their behavior, and require immediate treatment if they want to heal, to overcome their backwardness, and to live in peace with the international community…

Obviously, it is difficult to change the people’s entire outlook overnight, especially when the governments constitute an obstacle to reform. The process is difficult and will take a long time, but there is nothing to prevent it from starting today… The ball is in the court of the Arab governments, who must understand the reasons for their backwardness and the backwardness of their people.

The problem with these governments is that they have always objected, and still object, to gradual and peaceful development… [which occurs naturally] in the course of history. Democracy is the order of the day, and if the Arab governments do not begin to gradually lead their peoples towards democracy, history will force it on them through violent [upheavals], as occurred in Iraq…

It should be noted that over 200 years ago, the Western peoples went through what the Arab peoples are experiencing now. They managed to resolve their problems, to build an advanced civilization, and to make economic, social, scientific and technological progress — but [this happened] only after reason was liberated from [the shackles of] fairytales and lies, [and after they] separated religion and state, established regimes that were secular, liberal and democratic, and gave freedom of speech and thought to [their] intellectuals.

I guess most Arabs and western “progressives” would consider this man the Arab equivalent of an Oreo. I, of course, think he’s right on. What we need now is a) an analysis of the relationship between humiliation and schizophrenia, and b) an explanation of how our “progressives” could find this schizophrenic personality so attractive.

Der Speigel on Hamas

Der Spiegel ran a piece on Hamas that indicates that at least some people are waking up… and not a second too soon.

The Ongoing War against Reality

By Henryk M. Broder

Many are treating the apparent recognition of Israel by Hamas as a sign of hope. It’s not. Indeed, the Palestinians have no such intention — and have left Israel with only military options.

Once again the Palestinians are in the process of shattering the Israeli dream of peace. The building of a tunnel under the border, the attack on an army post and the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier haven’t just served to stir things up in the stagnating Middle East war. The attack also served to bring the Israelis face to face with the limits of their power. And to provide the Palestinians with a short-lived though uplifting feeling of superiority. It’s difficult, after all, to categorize an assault on an army unit as an act of terrorism.

Recent history has seen the Palestinians firing homemade, short-range Kassam rockets from Gaza into Israel and Israel responding with “targeted assassinations” — which have often resulted in civilian deaths. That was, though it may sound cynical, Middle East business as usual — and also mirrored the situation in the north where Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon has hardly resulted in instant peace there.
All or nothing

Now, however, the conflict has reached a new level. The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza last summer has more than anything motivated militant Palestinians to demonstrate to Israel that the conflict is not primarily about territory, the end of the occupation and the return to the 1967 borders. Rather, it’s about all or nothing. It’s about the control, not the division, of the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Were the Palestinians to invest only a tiny percentage of the energy they consume in internal conflict and resistance against Israelis into the reconstruction of the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank and Gaza would be much better off.

And the Israelis? Those who believed that unilateral action and the construction of a fence would result in the security that negotiations have been unable to provide are now being confronted with the bitter reality. Fences and walls cannot provide absolute security — and no matter how high such barriers are, they can still be dug under. The question they are asking themselves is this: “What is cheaper: ending or continuing the occupation?” What’s the point of military withdrawal when those Palestinians who want a peaceful resolution are unable to assert themselves — and those Palestinians who want to continue fighting merely feel vindicated and encouraged?

As usual in such moments — with the tunnel at the end of the light coming ever closer — those who have a stake begin to clutch at whatever straw they can. The Europeans are once again trying to whitewash things. One hears a lot these days about the so-called “prisoners’ document” — that mysterious paper in which representatives from Hamas and Fatah have agreed on a common position on Israel. It is said to be nothing less than an “indirect recognition” of Israel.

Ignoring the rules of democracy

Leaving aside for a moment what exactly an “indirect recognition” means in practice — no attacks within the 1967 Green Line? No attacks on Saturdays and holidays? No attacks on women and children? — one salient fact is being forgotten. Israel and the PLO have already long since recognized each other in the Oslo Accords and all the agreements that have come since.

One of the basic rules in any democracy is that a new government accepts the treaties made by the old. Germany’s Christian Democrats, for example, didn’t annul the agreements struck by Social Democrat Chancellor Willy Brandt with East Bloc countries in the 1960s even if, when in opposition, they did everything in their power to torpedo the policy.

For Hamas, however, such rules don’t seem to apply. The “prisoners’ document” is a paper that is supposed to re-establish and solidify the “national unity” of the Palestinians. Inferring therein a recognition of Israel — no matter how indirect or implicit it may be — merely shows a tendency toward self-delusion. Nobody has yet seen the entire paper, but those bits that have been released are just as incoherent as they are explicit. And everything is discussed. Indeed, the only thing that doesn’t appear is any mention of a recognition of Israel — neither in pre nor in post 1967 borders. Only one conclusion can be drawn: Even after 40 years of occupation, the Palestinians have still not accepted reality and still dream of a return to the way things used to be.

Indeed, if there is a clear message provided by the paper, it is this: The Palestinians do indeed want a two-state solution. One in those regions — the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — occupied in 1967. And one in that region that is today known as Israel. One shouldn’t forget that the PLO was founded in 1964 with the goal of freeing Palestine from the Zionists — three years prior to the Six Day War when Gaza was still under Egyptian control and the West Bank was a part of Jordan.

Either complete victory or utter defeat

Back then, talking about the “Occupied Territories” meant Haifa, Tel Aviv and Beer-Sheva. And in this respect nothing has really changed to this day. The only difference between Hamas and Fatah — which is overlooked by “the document” — is the question of how Israel should be defeated: either militarily or through the implementation of a “right of return” policy. Israel therefore has the choice as to whether it is wiped from the map either in battle, or by peaceful means. Whoever hopes Israel will embrace these two alternatives is kidding themselves: there is no third possibility.

Israel has no other choice but to stand tough because every climb down and withdrawal is interpreted as weakness. Furthermore the word “compromise” is a foreign word in the Arab world. You either prevail or go down in a blaze of glory.

For this reason a “ceasefire” is the most Hamas is prepared to offer Israel, which the Europeans insist on misinterpreting as the first step towards recognition. Rather, it’s merely a tactical pause in the war against Israel.

News about the new confrontation on the border between Gaza and Israel has largely displaced reports of the looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza. It’s also important to find out how a government that can’t even provide for its own people is getting the means to assemble, clothe and arm a new 3,000 man force. And who is arming and paying the salaries of these masked, hyper-agile young men who are storming the streets wielding bazookas? Is that what a “humanitarian catastrophe” looks like?

Hamas, though a problem for Israel, is a catastrophe for the Palestinians. It’s a difference that no document can set aside.

Wow. I’d only add that supporting Hamas is a catastrophe for the Europeans.

The 72 virgins and Honor-Shame Culture: Part I

I have always marveled at the notion that these suicide terrorists do this so they can go to heaven and get their 72 virgins. Now aside from the possibility that it may be 72 white grapes that await them, I must confess that as a notion of heavenly delight, 72 virgins strike me as strange to say the least. I would imagine that if one’s idea of heaven was sexual delight — itself a fairly carnal vision, especially for those who claim to despise this world — the last thing one would want would be a virgin. Wouldn’t one much prefer a woman of experience?

The comedian B.J. Novak has a very funny routine on this which you can see here on the 72 virgins. It reminds me of the joke (which I’ll try and make short):

    Three guys go to heaven and are told not to step on the ducks. They think, “no problem,” but when they get to heaven it’s full of ducks. They’re careful, but after a while one of them does. Immediately an angel appears and chains him to an extremely ugly woman naked whose talking a mile a minute. “She is your punishment,” the angel explains.

    The other two are verrrry careful, but after a while the second one slips too. The angel appears with an even uglier, more verbose woman and chains him to her. “But why a worse punishment?” “Because you knew better and you still did it.”

    The third one shuffles around barely lifting his feet for what seems and eternity when, all of a sudden, the angel appears and chains him to a quite attractive woman. “But wait,” he says, “I didn’t step on a duck.” “I know,” replies the angel, “she did.”

It’s what one might call a post-modern joke: there are other narratives than those of (already or future) dead white males.

But alas, this is not really a laughing matter.

Why virgins? I suspect it’s because, unlike women of experience, virgins have no point of comparison. Whoever deflowers them and owns them need not worry that his performance might get a lower score than some other alpha male. I do not want to belittle that concern. It is unquestionably one of the great worries of all men, spoofed quite nicely in the person of Hector Gorganzolo at the end of American Sweethearts. There are few things that can shame a man more thoroughly and permanently than to have his sexual performance demeaned in public. The anxiety alone can cause impotence.

But it’s one thing to worry about these things (what male does not, at least at some point?), and quite another to build your social structure and religious dreams around them. And yet, in honor-shame culture, the gender relations largely turn around this testosteronic sexuality: men gain honor by seducing and mastering women, women preserve their honor by remaining a virgin till they are married. In some senses this emerges from evolutionary pressures: males want to spread their seed far and wide, females want to find and keep a good provider.

According to evolutionary evidence (apologies, Ann Coulter), one of the key things that allowed humans to emerge, was the ability to care for their babies, with their exceptionally long period of infant helplessness and childhood immaturity, over an extended period of time. This made the increasing intimacy between couples, and the choice of long-term partner for the woman and the man, an increasing priority, an evolutionary advantage. Marriage, and even more, monogamy, represent the cutting edge of a transformation of human sexual behavior that defines human evolution. Not coincidentally, the growing intimacy of human sexuality – coupling from the front, the tenderness of hairless skin and sensitive palms, lips with which we speak – all of this mark our emergence as humans, apart from the animal world and from the dominance of alpha male behavior in sexual relations. Intimacy, trust, mutual interdependence… these are the specifically human traits that bring out our greatest potentials.

So the world in which predatory males deflower obedient virgins à volonté is an obvious throwback to some of the deepest but least considerate drives in the male psyche. In that sense, if we could characterize this fantasy of 72 virgins as the promise that drives the jihadi’s dream, it would rank among the most primitive, male chauvinist fantasies imaginable.

Nor is this fantasy restricted to the twisted imagination of suicide terrorists (as if that were not enough). We find it in the disastrous collapse of civil society and the protections it offers women in the Muslim-dominated neighborhoods of Europe where infidel women are treated as sex-objects of the most degraded and degradable kind, and Muslim women are trapped in a world of enforced virginity and honor-killings. Ou pute ou soumise. [Either a whore or subject.] This terrifying article by Rose George about the conditions in France’s “sensitive zones” (the lost territories of the Republic) discusses one of the most revolting aspects of “suburban” culture in France — tournantes (gang rapes). There we find a world in which honor-shame rules straight from the Mediterranean, as old as time, juiced up with neo-Islamic hatreds, have turned the life of young women into a nightmare from a post-apocalyptic Hollywood movie.

Forged from traditional cultural prejudices about the inferiority of women, and a street code based on survival of the strongest, the law that rules the banlieue is brutal and inviolable. “Women are the guardians of honour,” says Bellil. Girls have to be virgins. They have to study at home, look after the men, never go out. That makes them filles biens (good girls), and out of danger. Anyone else is a slut. “Once you’re in the projects, you follow the rules. If you want a ‘French’ life, if you want to go out, wear make-up, you get a reputation.” The reputation is irreversible.

And you can expect to be treated, not as an outcast, but as gang-rape prey.

“Usually, it goes like this – a boy approaches a girl with his gang behind him.” He might buy her a drink. He might persuade her to kiss him. “It’s all premeditated. It’s a hunt.”

The girl will be fragile, or unprotected, or a runaway. Or she’s just broken the rules of the banlieue. (One teacher reported his pupils as saying, “Nightclubs are full of slags because if they’re in a club, they must be a slag.”) She gives in, and the boy says, “Be nice or I’ll tell your parents/friends/the neighbourhood.” Then he says, “Be nice to my friends, too.” “The trick is to isolate the victim,” Genestal says. “Once she’s seen as easy, no one will help her, not even the girls.”

This is the code of the banlieue. At a family planning class, a teenage boy says, “French girls are for fucking and Arab girls are for marrying.” The woman who told me this was shocked, not only because the boy was white and “French”, but because all the girls in the class applauded. Being more macho than the lads is an escape route, explains Deflaoui. To the extent that girls act as touts. Nadia was delivered to her rapists by two girls she knew, who had been asked to find a “dick-sucker”.

Of course the politically correct will insist that this isn’t Muslim, just like the riots aren’t Muslim, because other boys also do it. And that’s about as true as the riots aren’t Muslim. We’re dealing here with the intersection of honor-shame culture and neo-Islamic identities.

[tr. by editor] Nonetheless, the links between afro-maghrebin immigration, hatred of whites — or the West — and the resurgence of this phenomenon, is undeniable: statistics, facts and testimony all confirm it. Furthermore, the phenomenon of gang rapes recurs in identical conditions in other Western countries, committed by delinquents of the same ethnic and cultural origins as their French counterparts. People desiring to know more in these matters can click on the links under the menu “viols en réunion” (collective rapes) to the right of this page.

The presence of free riders — including “Gaulois” — does not represent a fundamental alteration of the landscape, although there are sociologists ready to argue, based primarily on court records (which do not take into account pervasive intimidation) that this is neither a new nor an increasing problem, and newspapers — surprise! Le [Im]monde Diplomatique — ready to praise them for their courage in opposing the use of denouncing tournantes as a way to “stigmatize” the banlieues. (I’d like to see M. Gresh, author of the piece, a proud anti-Islamophobe and firm supporter of France’s Eurabian foreign policy, send his daughters to school in those neighborhoods.)

For a further article by George on the same problem in France (part II), and two in England (where it seems to be more a problem of race than ethnicity), see here and here. Note: George’s articles on France date from 2003! If anything, I would guess things are worse.

Post-modern moral equivalence tells us we can’t judge these cultural traits as inferior, that we dare not speak of primitivity or evolutionary retardation; or, alternatively, that there really is nothing there and all this brouhaha is just the creation of an Islamophobe media. This is worse. It’s an assault on everything that civil society strives for by a predatory culture that has contempt for our “understanding”, hatred for our ways, and indulgence for everything that makes man into an animal… or worse. As for the authorities’ reluctance to tackle this problem — from law enforcement to school authorities to journalists — I can tell you how it registers on the screens of the people who inhabit honor-shame cultures: People who can’t protect their women from predatory packs of alpha males out to spread their seed (and STDs), especially their daughters, are beneath contempt.

On this one, I’m with them.

******
Next: Why Women become Suicide Terrorist when they’re not promised 72 anything.

Ha-Aretz and the Beach Tapes

[Lest anyone think I only report the stuff that supports my point of view...] (Hat tip: Solomonia,)

Avi Issacharoff, co-author of an important book on the second Intifada, The Seventh War, and journalist for Ha-Aretz (a cross between the NYT and the Guardian), has seen the full tape from the Gaza Beach. His report:

The harshest images were edited for TV

By Avi Issacharoff

GAZA – When Zakaria Abu Arabid, a journalist with the Ramatan news agency, arrived at Al-Awda Hospital in Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp two weeks ago on Friday to photograph casualties of an incident in the Beit Lahia area, a staff member told him that Israel had shelled the Lahia beach. He headed to the spot.

Two weeks later, Abu Arabid and Haaretz view the now-famous tape of Huda Ghalia as she runs along the beach and finds the body of her father. The most gruesome images, it turns out, were censored for television.

The camera starts rolling during the trip. A narrow road, then a left turn onto a dirt road. On the horizon, the sea and then growing awareness of the horrific sights. When Abu Arabid, 36, from Beit Hanun, gets out of the jeep the camera shows an ambulance and people standing around.

The picture zooms in on a pile of bodies, uncovered and blasted apart. The people urge on Abu Arabid with calls of, “Shoot it, shoot it.” The injured are loaded onto stretchers, including a girl without an arm. A Palestinian man carried the remains of the body of a young girl and runs toward the ambulance. An earsplitting siren wails in the background.

Abu Arabid’s camera shoots the removal of the dead and wounded, near where the three bodies had lain earlier. He focuses on a young girl with black hair wearing sweatpants: Huda, who takes a few steps and then starts running while calling for her father.

She throws herself on the ground and the camera shows the body of her father. She cries out for him and hits herself. The camera pans to a pot filled with food and then returns to Huda. A young man tell her her father is okay although he knows the man is already dead. Huda, in wet clothing, sand stuck to her pants, pleads with the paramedics: “Take him to the hospital, he’s alive.”

Abu Arabid photographs the body parts being collected into bags, plastic beach toys strewn on the sand, an Israeli Navy ship off the coast.

“No one can remain indifferent to the pictures, the pain of the children,” Abu Arabid says. “I looked at the tape afterward and broke into tears, how can one not?”

The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung cast doubt on the authenticity of the picture and made its own determinations without checking the facts: Why were bodies covered with sheets?, it asked – although they were not. Why were Huda’s clothes dry? – although they were actually wet. Mohammed Salman, Abu Arabid’s boss, is considering a suit against the German paper.

“If a foreign photographer had taken the pictures, no one would have had doubts. Because we are Palestinian journalists they immediately claimed we staged it,” Salman said, adding, “How can one stage such horror?”

Of course, if a foreign photographer had taken the footage there would have been fewer doubts. Palestinian cameramen have a deservedly bad reputation as propagandists from a society of fear and intimidation with an unfree press. And of course one can stage not the horror itself (unless, God forbid, Hamas actually planted a mine and wanted Palestinians blown up), but the footage of the horror.

I would like to see these tapes.

That there was an explosion, everyone agreed. That there would be body parts, one would have expected.

What roused the suspicion of many, was that there was something staged about this footage, and that its pathos might have been aimed at covering up the possibility that this explosion was not Israeli but Palestinian. Issacharof shows no sign of understanding what to look for and what to ask (unlike the reporter from Suddeutsche Zeitung, who got the admission from Arabid that Houda had asked to be photographed).

Did he ask Arabid what he would feel if these were Palestinian bombs that did this damage? Would he have photographed it? Would he be expressing the same horror? If he did, his article shows no trace of it.

And had Houda thought that it was a Palestinian mine that killed her family? What would she have done?

Gaza Beach Pallywood Flushes out Al Durah Scammer in chief, Charles Enderlin

The Gaza Strip scandal has had its secondary fallout. Enderlin, the journalist without whose credulity or dishonesty the Muhammad al Durah affair would never have seen the light of day, and with whose expert help it lit up the world of anti-semitism and Jihad, ran this latest Pallywood footage with his usual professional negligence. One viewer, Emilie Dorra, 23, a close reader of Philippe Karsenty’s Media Ratings, a (rare) media oversight organization in France which has taken on the Muhammad al Durah affair with great courage, immediately sensed something was wrong. She called France2 to complain and they promptly invited her and another citizen critic, Michel Cohen, to come take on Charles Enderlin and Eric Mounier, two France2 professionals, in the studio. (For the francophones who read this blog, you can see the debate here, and the transcription here. I recommend watching the emission since everyone should see Enderlin prevaricating in action.)

The problems for Enderlin started when Michel Cohen, another critic, mentioned the al Durah affair. The comments are Emilie Dorra’s posted at Media Ratings:

Once we were live, everything went well, except for when, at a certain point, M. Cohen began to speak of the affair al Durah. A friend behind the scenes told me later that the producer of the show exclaimed, “No! why is he speaking of the al Durah affair? We have a court case in process, it shouldn’t be mentioned.”

[Note, this is one of the ways that France2 has protected itself from any controversy -- while the case is in court, nothing can be said.]

At that point, Enderlin responded, as he often does, not by dealing with the issue, but by invoking the opinion of others, often by distorting their meaning if not their content. Here, he recalls a court decision last month in a Tel Aviv court.

Now, Mr. Cohen evoked the Mohammed al-Dura Affair from the beginning of the Intifada. Well let me remind you that last mongth a Tel Aviv court produced a judgment according to which the Israeli army investigation [which argued that the Israelis could not have shot the father and son), after the death of the “little Mohammed,” well this investigation was not scientific, not professional, started with with preconceived ideas. Therefore, we consider the Israeli army’s investigations as having the same credibility as other investigations. We are journalists, not scientists. We act in function of the reactions of one to the other. [Here Enderlin is claiming that the NGO spokesman Marc Garlasco's investigation is as credible as the Israeli one, so who knows what's going on?] When the Israeli army starts by saying, “yes it’s an Israeli shell” [which no Israeli army spokesman ever said], and then says, “it’s not us,” then launches an investigation, we follow such things with a great deal of caution [i.e., skepticism].

As the transcriber of this debate, Menahem Macina, wrote in his multiple and extremely interesting notes, this reference to the Israeli court case seems highly suspicious and worthy of investigation. Another news agency in the forefront of the Al Durah affair, the Metulah News Agency (MENA) did just that. Their findings reveal the characteristic ways that Enderlin spins his comments dishonestly. At MENA’s request, the Israeli army issued the following statement:

“The court did not call into doubt the Israeli army’s investigation but declared that the inquiry undertaken by Mr Duriel — who was a member of the team conducting the research, but was dismissed from his functions by general Yom Tov Samia who was in charge of the team — was unprofessional. For this reason [the court] declared that Mr Hauptman’s assertions concerning Mr Duriel did not constitute defamation.

In no way did this court consider the quality of the definitive investigation undertaken by the Israeli army [in the Al-Dura case] and, moreover, it specifically rejected a proposal requesting it to examine this inquiry, even though it was requested to do so by the defending party.

The court only gave its decision concerning the subject that was limited to Mr Duriel’s inquiry.”

MENA goes on to comment:

The readers of the Ména will appreciate the fact that Charles Enderlin, not content with voluntarily confusing the army’s commission of inquiry with Mr Yossef Duriel, a civilian that it dismissed for serious professional misdemeanor, [ed: he gave a premature interview with 60 Minutes in which he argued that the Palestinians shot al Durah on purpose which was not the conclusion of the investigation], establishes, on the basis of his own untruth, the reason for which journalists should place the credibility of Tsahal’s inquiries on a par with other inquiries. That means on the same level of reliability as inquiries undertaken by the Palestinian Authority, by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP — which are, is it necessary to remind France 2, considered to be terrorist organizations by the USA, the United Nations and the European Union — as well as those made by any NGO that call into doubt the conclusions of the Israeli experts.

At this point both MENA and the participants in the program should have added that, given the history of Pallywood, the most suspect of all sources in the Middle East conflict are Palestinian, and now given what we know about Mr. Garlasco, so are the “independent” NGOs in the area. Enderlin, however, has not processed the existence of Pallywood, even though he admits “they do it all the time.” As a result he can just plunge forward into the thicket of error from which uninformed viewers could not possibly find their way out:

“Therefore we consider the inquiries of the Israeli army with the same credibility as other inquiries ; we are journalists, we are not scientists. We react according… we react according to each others’ reactions.”

This is precisely the kind of Alice-in-Wonderland logic that he used with me about trusting the Palestinians on al Durah (who did no investigation) “as much as” the Israelis. When journalists like Enderlin are as skeptical of Israeli sources as they are credulous of Palestinian sources, we all have a problem because the filter that the media should use to rid the system of poisons works exactly in the opposite way. More AIDS infected needles plunged into the body social of an unsuspecting European public.

Who’s Afraid of Eurabia: Fisking the Economist

The Economist, reportedly one of the most level-headed of European weekly news journals available, tackles the problems of Eurabia. The results are pretty astounding. Economist in blockquote bold. (Hat tip: LGF)

Contrary to fears on both sides of the Atlantic, integrating Europe’s Muslims can be done

THIS week George Bush was in Vienna, doing his best to mend relations with his allies. The list of disputes between the United States and Europe remains long and familiar: Guantánamo, Iraq, Iran, the common agricultural policy. Less easy for Mr Bush to talk about, let alone fix, is the equally long list of different attitudes from which so many transatlantic tensions seem to spring—opposing prejudices on everything from capitalism and religiosity to Mr Bush’s “war on terror”.

These underlying emotions—what a British historian, Sir Lewis Namier, once called “the music to which [political] ideas are a mere libretto”—occasionally converge around a particular issue, such as Guantánamo Bay or Hurricane Katrina.

I have identified one of the key elements of this music, the one that explains much of the European anger over Guantanamo, Iraq, Iran, outsourcing torture, etc., namely ressentiment of the most self-destructive kind, disguised as moral indignation.

This can be unhelpful: Katrina made America look like a failed state, Guantánamo is not a typical example of American justice. Now a similar caricature—this time about Europe—is forming in America (see article). It is known as “Eurabia”, and it represents an ever-growing Muslim Europe-within-Europe—poor, unassimilated and hostile to the United States.

No, hostile to the West… including Europe.

Two years ago, the White House’s favourite Arabist scholar, Bernard Lewis,

That’s quite a way to describe one of, if not the most prominent scholars of the Middle East (definitely more than an “Arabist”) alive today.

gave a warning that Europe would turn Muslim by the end of this century, becoming “part of the Arab West, the Maghreb”. Now there is a plethora of books with titles like “While Europe Slept” and “Menace in Europe” (see article). [ed: and Eurabia?] Stagnant Europe, goes the standard argument, cannot offer immigrants jobs; appeasing Europe will not clamp down on Islamofascist extremism; secular Europe cannot deal with religiosity (in some cities, more people go to mosques each week than to churches). Europe needs to study America’s melting pot, where Muslims fare better.

That’s a fair description. Why do I get the sense that it’s about to be dismissed rather than elaborated?

Londonistan calling

Such advice gets short shrift from European leaders, who often blame Muslim militancy on American foreign policy.

Isn’t that just what European Muslims do? See the debate between Melanie Phillips and Asghar Bukhari of the MPACUK: Bukhari explains how the terrorism is the product of English foreign policy, as if terrorism is an appropriate way to express dissent in such matters (in which case one would imagine that the house of Parliament should have been blown up by Jews sometime between 1945-48 when Britain prevented survivors from Hitler going to Palestine, and sandbagged the creation of Israel, wouldn’t one?).

This argument that terrorism is a response to foreign policy is a staggeringly contemptuous comment about civil society, as if anyone who has a complaint has, if not a right, an understandable indulgence to engage in this kind of morally abhorrent violence aimed at innocent civilians. The moderator tried to take on Bukhari’s argument himself, rather than letting Melanie Phillips do it (mistake), but surely one response is to say, “Sir, if you can make this argument, you have no idea what democracy is about. Surely you can’t expect me to take your arguments seriously.”

But the British (and Europeans, and our “left”) are astoundingly vulnerable to this argument. Why so, is puzzling. But I suspect that part the appeal of the idea that Muslim militancy is a response to American foreign policy is a brilliant way to scapegoat the USA for hatreds that derive far more from the infinitely more brutal and intrusive imperial adventurism of 19th and early 20th century Europe. At this point the hostilities are so deep and so systemic that the idea that a “nicer” foreign policy can have any real impact on them is close to delusional. It’s also, in conditions of Eurabia (which the Economist is trying to dismiss) suicidal.

But something similar to Eurabia scares many Europeans too. Terrorism is part of it, thanks to the Madrid and London bombings (as well as September 11th). But it goes wider than that: the past two years have seen riots in France’s banlieues, the uproar about Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the murder of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film-maker, and now the virtual exile (to America) of his muse, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Oh that…

Pretty short list of worries. How about honor-killings, and mosque hate preaching, and plans to take over Europe… for starters?

Fears about “Londonistan” and so on have helped Europe’s far right;

I think that a great deal of the reluctance of the media — including the Economist — to let people know how bad it is, to, for example consult and cite the kind of horror show MEMRI and PMW reveal about the media in the Arab and Muslim world derives from a fear that if people knew how bad it was, then they would vote right wing. One French media moghul said as much during the riots 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.

on the other side of politics, a bizarre alliance has sprung up between the anti-war left and Islamic hardliners.

Thanks for mentioning that.

But the respectable centre is split between France’s strict integrationist approach (banning Muslim children from wearing head-scarves in state schools) and the more tolerant multiculturalism of Britain and the Netherlands. The debate about Turkey (and its 71m Muslims) joining the European Union is increasingly a Eurabian one. Meanwhile, at the centre of all this fuss Europe’s Muslims are themselves riven by inter-generational arguments on everything from whether there is a European version of Islam to which cricket team to support.

Ah, so here’s the payoff to first mentioning the far right and far left. Then you can present the vapid center as “respectable.” The lamentable situation, that this brief summary gives you no clue to, is that both the integrationist and multiculturalist approaches have failed for similar reasons. At least in both the French and Dutch case it comes from a profound indifference and lack of engagement with these immigrant communities — they do their thing we do ours — which has ended up transporting the culture of the southern Mediterranean, with its tribal patterns (including honor killings and turf battles) to the North.

The British case, however, is even more worrisome. They actually have — America-like — succeeded in integrating many of their Muslims. And still that hasn’t worked. The blokes who blew up the London subway last July were highly successful members of British society. And the latest Pew Poll finds that hatred of the West is highest among British Muslims and non-Muslim distrust of Muslims correspondingly lowest in Britain, something that may just be related to Britain’s exceptional multi-culturalism and tolerance.

As Melanie Philips says (this is reason #2 of 3):

Britain’s grievance culture, which holds that minorities cannot be blamed for any wrong they may do because they are all victims of the majority, has lethally reinforced the sense of paranoia and victimisation which fuels the jihad.

This goes deeper than we want to imagine.

Take for example, the last line of the last paragraph in question:

Meanwhile, at the centre of all this fuss Europe’s Muslims are themselves riven by inter-generational arguments on everything from whether there is a European version of Islam to which cricket team to support.

Wow. You wish. Not a mention of the debate about whether to denounce terrorism, reports on which are deeply disturbing.

Dutch Muslim rapper Yassine SB wrote a song about his anger over Van Gogh’s murder but scrapped plans to perform it out of fear of being ostracized by the Islamic community. He also turned down requests by a popular Amsterdam radio station to sing a song against terrorism.

“If you sing that, it’s like you choose the Dutch, not Muslims,” said Yassine SB — the initials stand for his surname Sahsah Bahida — who is popular among Dutch North African youths like himself for his songs against racism.

People will say ‘you are a traitor,’” said the 20-year-old musician…

But there is another reason for the silence — one that for many overrides all others.

Why, many Muslims ask, should they have to speak out against, or apologize for, actions of radicals who do not represent them — people they do not even regard as true Muslims?

Many find the very idea of being asked or expected to denounce such acts “extremely offensive and insulting,” said Khurshid Drabu, a senior member of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Nice piece of demopathy, Mr. Drabu. We Muslims are insulted by being asked to denounce Muslims who, shouting Allahu Akhbar, blow themselves up in the midst of infidel civilians. And they successfully address this kind of indignation to the same audience that won’t allow Israelis in the country without denouncing their government’s “apartheid policies.” They know their target audience.

Note that the composer of this article introduces this last remark with the comment that “for many” this overrides all others, even as it contradicts the previous rapper’s deeply disturbing comment on how if he were to criticize, he’d be ostracized by the Muslim community which Mr. Drabu claims to represent. Given the choice between the two contradictory explanations — fear of the Muslim consensus in support, or sense of indignation at being asked to denounce people who do not “represent” them — I’ll go with the former in a minute, and so, apparently, will Big Pharaoh, who knows “bullsh*t” when he reads it. The reporter, however, gives us the demopaths explanation as overriding for many Muslims. After all, that’s probably what she heard most often.

Is Eurabia really something to worry about? The concept includes a string of myths and a couple of hard truths. Most of the myths have to do with the potency of Islam in Europe. The European Union is home to no more than 20m Muslims, or 4% of the union’s inhabitants. That figure would soar closer to 17% if Turkey were to join the EU—but that, alas, is something that Europeans are far less keen on than Americans are. Even taking into account Christian and agnostic Europe’s lousy breeding record, Muslims will account for no more than a tenth of west Europe’s population by 2025.

It doesn’t take a majority for a mafia to take over an area. The idea that you can a) calculate how many Muslims are in Europe now (French estimates vary from 3-7 million — a gap of 4 million!), b) know how many there will be in 20 years, and c) draw any intelligent conclusions from those numbers based on past experience with other minorities, is unworthy of serious intellectual discussion.

Note that there is no mention in this perfunctory analysis of the demographics of the stunning age differential.

The ratio of Muslims to the total population of the EU countries ranges between 3.5 and 5.5%. However, the ratio of Muslim youth (between 45 and 50% of the Muslims) to EU youth is between 16 and 20%. In other words, in a few years Muslims will constitute 16 to 20% of the European workforce, and could therefore influence policies and decision-making.

And this doesn’t address the issue of the newest school cohorts, starting in kindergarten, with upwards of 25-30% Muslims. Does this matter? Or, in the words of a Dutch reporter to whom David Pryce-Jones commented that in a generation Holland would be a majority Muslim, “So what?”

Well, Muslim students are in fact problematic to say the least, and when they hit a critical mass, you get school meltdown. For those who don’t know, a tournante is a gang rape, a specialty of the “lost territories.”

But not to worry, these demographics of youth appear below in the Economist’s editorial as “good” news.

Besides, Europe’s Muslims are not homogenous. Britain’s mainly South Asian Muslims have far less in common with France’s North African migrants or Germany’s Turks than they do with other Britons.

Now here’s a pretty piece of cognitive egocentrism. Part of what is so terrifying about the latest developments is the emergence of a new, global Islamic identity that has enormous appeal to the second generation of immigrants to Europe from the Muslim world. This new identity has a large component of Salafi and Wahhabi traits which, even as they unite and give a Muslim identity to those who adopt it, inject ferocious hatred towards the West in its adherents. So this “Europeanization” of the younger generation of immigrants, many of whom do not even know their native tongues, does not mean they’ve been converted/seduced by the consumer paradise of tranquil, post-testosteronic suburbia. And to think that it does, ignores some vital evidence.

Arguments about alienation are also more complicated than they first appear. Many European terrorists were either relatively well-off or apparently well-integrated. The Muslims who torched France’s suburbs last year were the ones who seldom attend mosques. First-generation immigrants (with the strongest ties to the Muslim world) seem to be less radical than their European-educated sons and daughters. And the treatment of them is far from uniform either: for all the American charges of “appeasement”, the FBI is a downright softie compared with France’s internal security services.

Here’s a good case of intellectual obfuscation. All the details here appear in my previous comment to indicate there’s something to worry about. Here it appears as a laundry list to illustrate how “complicated” matters are (soon they’ll be called “subtleties”) with no further analysis… in other words as an impediment to drawing any (negative) conclusions. And the fact that we have varying kinds of hostile Muslims in Europe — from the “well-integrated” born-again Muslims to the scarcely disciplined racaille of the French suburbs — does not mean there is no connection between them. But of course, that would mean considering hostility to Western values and life-style (including women’s rights) as a source of the problem… and we all know it’s just America and Israel they hate.

Give us jobs, education and a seat on the city council

Given these subtleties, perhaps the most dangerous myth is the idea that there is one sure-fire answer when it comes to assimilating Europe’s Muslims. In some cases, integrationism goes too far (France’s head-scarf ban was surely harsh); but multiculturalism can too (Britain is now reining in its Muslim schools). America’s church-state divide and its tolerance of religious fervour are attractive, but its fabled melting pot is not a definitive guide either: many American Muslims are black, and many Arab-Americans are Christian. In some ways, a better comparison (in terms of numbers and closeness of homeland) is with Latinos—and nobody in Europe is (yet) talking about building a wall to keep Muslims out.

This is a deeply confusing paragraph, skimming the surface of “fine” distinctions, made with a confident touch (“surely harsh,” “fabled melting pot not a definitive guide,” “better comparison”), that really lead nowhere. The subject is dealing with European Muslims, and ends with a comparison with Catholic Hispanic immigrants to the US, in which the ideology of Jihad, the propensity and support for terrorism, and ambitions for global Sharia have vanished.

As for the wall to keep Muslims out, thank you for the (yet). Of course given how morally outraged (and deeply unfair) the European World Court was about Israel’s attempt to defend herself from the assault of her Muslim neighbors, it will be all the more difficult for Europe to resort to the same techniques… which they’ll do long before they suffer the kind of injuries and deaths that the Israelis did before they built their wall.

Yet amid all this hyperbole, two hard realities stand out. The first is the importance of jobs. In America, it is easy for a newcomer to get work and hard to claim welfare; in Europe the opposite is true. Deregulating labour markets is a less emotive subject than head-scarves or cartoons, but it matters far more.

Okay, I’m not an economist, and I’m definitely not up on the situation of European labor markets. I do know that in France the latest efforts to even a partial deregulation aimed at making youth more employable provoked riots, so I’m not sure why the Economist would call this “less emotive.” But beyond that, do I detect here a classic expression of that great PCP bromide “poverty causes terrorism?” Didn’t this same author just point out the economic well-being of England’s terrorists? And this is billed as a “hard reality”? Did I miss it? Was terrorism dismissed as a myth? Or is it the second “hard reality”?

Second, the future of Europe’s Muslims, no less than that of America’s Latinos, lies with the young. For every depressing statistic about integration—France’s prisons hold nine times more young men with North African fathers than ones with French fathers—there are several reassuring ones: a quarter of young Muslim Frenchwomen are married to non-Muslim men; Muslims are flocking to British universities and even popping up in white bastions like the Tory party.

I guess after the first “hard reality” we should have expected something like this, but it has me slack-jawed. From bromide to valium. Muslims flocking to British Universities, where they will learn from their post-colonial professors all about how to explain, expand and exploit their grievances (as does the “well-spoken” Mr. Bukhari), to employ demopathic arguments in order to dupe liberal cognitive egocentrists like the editorialists at the Economist… this is good news? As Melanie Phillips says (reason #3 in explaining why the more the Brits are nice to their Muslims, the more they hate them):

The specific paranoid conspiracy theory which animates Islamist grievance, which holds that the West is on a mission to destroy Islam and that the strings of the West are being pulled by the Jews, is actually reflected back and reinforced by the accepted discourse in Britain which holds that America is a rogue superpower out of control, which talks up western ‘atrocities’ in Iraq, which demonises Israel and which proclaims that the Jews are a conspiracy which has hijacked American foreign policy in the interests of the Jewish state.

When I was a graduate student in medieval history, what impressed me the most about Brits was that, no matter how much beer and scotch they drank, they had incredibly sharp and critical minds. What’s happened?

In 50 years’ time, Americans may be praising this generation of European Muslims for leading the enlightenment that Islam needed.

From your mouth to God’s ear. But it won’t happen if you close your eyes and hope it will. Like the Oslo “Peace Process,” that’s backfiring. Eyes wide open, and work hard to communicate the values that we all share and that Islam must learn to share if there is to be a peaceful global community — about mutual respect, about not nurturing hatreds, resentments, and imperialist ambitions, about tolerating criticism.

Europe’s Islamic experience will be different from America’s: geography and history have seen to that already. Integration will be hard work for all concerned. But for the moment at least, the prospect of Eurabia looks like scaremongering.

Are we waking up yet? Apparently not… “for the moment.”

Update: MP Michael Grove writes this in today’s Times about the problem (hat tip Drinking from Home):

The British State does not have the courage to face down the advocates of political Islam. Islamists in Britain scent weakness. Just as Islamists abroad believe the West does not have the stamina to resist for long, so Islamists within the UK believe the momentum is with them. Islam’s Leninists have drawn the bayonet, probed, and found mush.

“Mush…” not a bad description of the Economist editorial.

Moral Perfectionism and Cultural AIDS

Diana West has an interesting meditation in the Washington Times on the moral perfectionism of the 21st century West.

Deluded America

By Diana West
Published June 23, 2006
I can see it now, I think. It is on the right-hand page of a book by or about Winston Churchill, and it is a quotation by Churchill on the subject of war. Specifically, what happens to a civilized society when it goes to war with a barbarous one. I can’t find it (yet), but what I remember as being the main point was that if the civilized society is to prevail over the barbarous one, it will necessarily and tragically be degraded by the experience as a vital cost of victory. Partly, this is because civilized war tactics are apt to fail against barbarous war tactics, thus requiring civilized society to break the “rules” if it is to survive a true death struggle. It is also because the clash itself — the act of engaging with the barbarous society — forces civilization to confront, repel and also internalize previously unimagined depredations. This is degrading, too.

In Churchill’s era, the more civilized world of the Allies was necessarily degraded to some intangible extent by what it took to achieve victory over barbarous Nazism. For example, bombing cities, even rail transportation hubs, lay beyond civilized conventions, but these were tactics the Allies used to defeat Hitler. However justifiable, civilization crossed a previously unimagined and uncivilized line to save, well,civilization. Thentherewas Hitler’s Holocaust — an act of genocide of previously unthinkable scale and horror. Who in the civilized world before Hitler had ever imagined killing 6 million people? And who in the civilized world retained the same purity of mind afterward? Civilization itself was forever dimmed.

The question is, did bombing Dresden to defeat Hitler or dropping two nuclear bombs to force Japan to stop fighting make the Allies into barbarians?

I think most people would still say of course not and argue that such destructive measures were necessary to save civilization itself — and certainly thousands of mainly American and Allied lives. But if this argument continues to carry the day, it’s because we still view that historic period from its own perspective. We view it from a perspective in which Allied lives — our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons — counted for more than Axis lives, even those of women and children.

How quaint. That is, this is not at all how we think anymore. If we still valued our own men more than the enemy and the “civilians” they hide among — and now I’m talking about the war in Iraq — our tactics would be totally different, and, not incidentally, infinitely more successful. We would drop bombs on city blocks, for example, and not waste men in dangerous house-to-house searches. We would destroy enemy sanctuaries in Syria and Iran and not disarm “insurgents” at perilous checkpoints in hostile Iraqi strongholds.

In the 21st century, however, there is something that our society values more than our own lives — and more than the survival of civilization itself. That something may be described as the kind of moral superiority that comes from a good wallow in Abu Ghraib, Haditha, CIA interrogations or Guantanamo Bay. Morally superior people — Western elites — never “humiliate” prisoners, never kill civilians, never torture or incarcerate jihadists. Indeed, they would like to kill, I mean, prosecute, or at least tie the hands of, anyone who does. This, of course, only enhances their own moral superiority. But it doesn’t win wars. And it won’t save civilization.

Why not? Because such smugness masks a massive moral paralysis. The morally superior (read: paralyzed) don’t really take sides, don’t really believe one culture is qualitatively better or worse than the other. They don’t even believe one culture is just plain different from the other. Only in this atmosphere of politically correct and perpetually adolescent non-judgmentalism could anyone believe, for example, that compelling, forcing or torturing a jihadist terrorist to get information to save a city undermines our “values” in any way. It undermines nothing — except the jihad.

Do such tactics diminish our inviolate sanctimony? You bet. But so what? The alternative is to follow our precious rules and hope the barbarians will leave us alone, or, perhaps, not deal with us too harshly. Fond hope. Consider the 21st-century return of (I still can’t quite believe it) beheadings. The first French Republic aside, who on God’s modern green earth ever imagined a head being hacked off the human body before we were confronted with Islamic jihad? Civilization itself is forever dimmed — again.

Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, RIP.

Comment

This reminds me of a talk I heard by Yitzhak Sokoloff about the Israeli assault on Jenin in the Spring of 2002. He described the extraordinary lengths to which the Israeli army went — partly as a result of the Supreme Court ruling forbidding the use of air power — to avoid civilian casualties. So rather than give the residents of that small warren of streets in which the terrorists who had so savagely attacked Israel during the previous two years with suicide bombing, 24 hours to evacuate and then level the place at no cost to Israeli lives, they went in, house by house, hand to hand, losing 23 men in the process.

As he elaborated on the Israelis unwillingness to use the forces at their command, my friend leaned over to me and said “This isn’t moral integrity, it’s moral insanity.” At no point in the history of warfare has any army shown such concern for the lives of the enemy and the enemy’s civilians at such a cost to their own men. Many Israelis are proud of such restraint and self-sacrifice, and it is a fundamental tenet of Judaism that one of the three conditions under which a Jew should prefer death is when ordered to kill an innocent person.

But on another level, this is kind of moral perfectionism that may just drive everyone crazy. How else can we explain the frenzy of denunciation that accompanied the media coverage of this event, the “Jenin massacre” that Palestinian sources so easily exploited , and that, at the height of that frenzy kicked off the divestment and boycott movements that only now are beginning to stall. Only in a world where newspeak reigns can the most extraordinary acts of military restraint become a watchword for “crimes against humanity.”

Nor are such inversions of moral reality without cost. Having held the Israelis to grotesquely high standards and then reviled them for “falling short,” the West finds itself held to those standards as well (by the same dishonest or misled ideologues). Having tied the Israelis hands behind their backs as they deal with the ugliest forms of moral debasement, we find the rest of the West similarly handicapped. Under “normal,” relatively peaceful conditions, such ideological madness might only hurt the Israelis. But under conditions of global Jihad — which were in part encouraged by this attitude — we find ourselves in real danger. As with the appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s, the very restraint we show in the face of a similar threat increases the number of people who will eventually die in this war.

Moral perfectionism, with its components of moral equivalence (if not inversion), liberal cognitive egocentrism, and Masochistic omnipotence Syndrome all produce an inability to distinguish friend from foe. Just one more illustration of the way in which anti-Zionism is a form of cultural AIDS.

Palestinian Medical Practices and Mark Garlasco’s Beggared Imagination

Here’s a picture of a child being brought into the hospital by what seems to be (judging by his one hand gloved) a hospital orderly.

girl to hospital

I’m neither an expert in hospital procedures, nor in the behavior of wounded children. But I have seen enough of Pallywood to be suspicious. One of the main features of Pallywood is the brutal treatment of the “wounded” — little use of stretchers, grabbing people and rushing them in front of the camera, very few if any signs of injury (the white cloth near her neck may mean the injury is against the orderly’s chest, but again not a sign of blood).

boy pallywood

Now in most Pallywood footage the apparent explanation for the rush is, presumably, the presence of the terrible Israelis shooting wildly at anything that moves (despite the observable fact that the players take the wounded back in front of the Israelis, and after the evacuation, stand around in front of the Israeli position with no signs of concern). Here, however, we’re looking at a girl begin brought from the ambulance to the hospital… so no need for a rush, unless this patient is so badly wounded that she needs immediate attention. But then, all the more reason for a stretcher. And given the plethora of ambulances and equipment available to the Palestinians, one could hardly argue that they’re short of equipment. And finally, given how the picture has been cropped, there’s no sign of blood or injury on her body.

So what’s going on? I can’t say, and the thoughts I’m writing are entirely of a hypothetical nature.

[Update: I was right to maintain the hypothetical nature of my conjectures. A reader has left the URL of an uncropped photograph if this girl being taken to the hospital.

young girl to hospital

The injury is to her hand, and it does make sense to carry her, so my introductory example does not work.]

Other blogs, including a series of posts from the very beginning of the affair at Déjà Vu, and lengthier ones at Adloyada, the indefatigable Atlas Shrugged, and Solomonia, have important discussions of these questions. I know nothing about the girl, where she was allegedly injured, and what the nature of her injuries. But it does raise important questions about the nature of Palestinian medical practices, and may connect with another issue, the handling of the wounded once they are in the hospital.

Doctors from Israeli hospitals report that they received the two victims from the Gaza Beach explosion in strange condition: all the shrapnel had been removed from their bodies in procedures that were neither called for, nor good for the patients.

Niham suffered serious damage to her abdomen and upper limbs, with cuts all over her body as a result of the surgical intervention performed on her at Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

Strengthening claims that the IDF was not responsible for the explosion, the Tel Aviv hospital said that no shrapnel was found in her body, except for one piece that was not reachable by surgery and would have to be left there. The damage to her body was “without doubt” caused by shrapnel.

Ichilov hospital did not accuse Shifa Hospital in Gaza of directly of removing shrapnel for no medical reason, but it said that it had never received a patient who was in an explosion with all the shrapnel removed (except for one unreachable piece).

“This is surprising and raises questions” about the care she received in Shifa, the Ichilov spokeswoman said. Asked whether Ichilov surgeons had contacted Shifa doctors who treated the patient to ask the reason for the incisions to remove shrapnel, the spokeswoman said: “We are not in such close contact with Shifa. We received the medical report on the patient, and that’s all.”

Similar reports came from Sourasky Medical Center where a member of the Ghalia family, Ahyam, was sent.

The only reason I can think of for such invasive and unnecessary procedures is to remove incriminating evidence. In other words the doctors working at Shifa hospital were afraid that the explosion was of Palestinian origin, and in order to cover-up, they removed the shrapnel. The presence of one piece of shrapnel they could not reach and that the Israelis could remove without danger to the patient reveals precisly that. Now, according to the IDF, the second piece of shrapnel is also not of Israeli origin.

An additional piece of shrapnel was removed during surgery on Adham Ralya on Wednesday, June 14, and was sent for initial analysis by the IDF Technology Unit. “Examination of the second piece of shrapnel,” said Major General Kalifi, “proves conclusively that this was not a 155-mm shell. As also has been demonstrated by the first piece of shrapnel, based on analysis of the composition and content of the shrapnel, and of course on examination of the explosive compounds found on the second piece, evidence of 155-mm shells was clearly absent.”

There remain questions. The Palestinians have produced a whole range of evidence, from time codes noting the presence of victims in the hospital early enough for Israeli shelling, to craters in the sand made by the Israelis 155 mm shells, to fragments of those shells, one with the name on it, one of which allegedly had the blood of one of the victims of the beach bombing on it.

These reports were given further credibility by the conflicting reports on Israel’s channel 2 and channel 10 on the nature of the shrapnel, with Shlomi Eldar of Channel 10 supporting the Palestinian version. Every self-critical scruple of Israeli journalism then becomes an opening for claims in the Muslim media to accuse, as in this Turkish article. And of course, there’s always the Jewish, masochistic messianic blogs like Tikkun Olam ready to declare that the IDF’s claims are unraveling even as some of us see that happening to the Palestinian claims.

Actually, in the case of channel 10, it’s not apparently scruples, but that peculiar (but not uniquely) Israeli/Jewish pathology of excessive self-criticism and siding with one’s enemies. Miri Regev, the spokeswoman from the IDF commented today in Maariv:

“Most Israeli reporters… ask hard questions, investigate, criticize… and make sure to operate in accordance with professional ethical codes that require caution and responsibility… To my great sorrow, throughout the period that the Rhalia family story has been in the news, the Channel Ten news department, led by journalist Shlomi Eldar, has chosen to adopt, without any question, the speculations and the questionable and fabricated evidence with which the Palestinian side tried – and still tries – to influence the world media… This is not genuine investigative journalism. This is wanton journalism… that prefers not to be bothered by the facts.”

As one of my students commented after reading the al Durah dossier and in particular this article: “I thought Ha-Aretz was an Israeli paper. Why does it sound like a Palestinian paper?” For the outsider, uninformed by the enormous gap separating an almost pathologically self-critical Israeli press from an even more pathologically demonizing Palestinian press, the situation favors the Palestinians. They accuse Israel; Israelis admit they’re guilty. Case closed.

The main proponent of the Palestinian side is the allegedly impartial representative of Human Rights Watch (which presumably wants to find out who did this terrible deed, not make up their mind beforehand and engage in propaganda), Marc Garlasco.

He said he examined the site a day after the explosion and acknowledged that wind and the number of people who trampled the area after the blast made conclusions difficult. Nevertheless, he said shrapnel he found lodged in a car near the explosion and other samples collected by the Palestinian bomb-disposal unit made clear it was from a 155mm shell.

But the circumstantial evidence seems powerfully in favor of a Palestinian shell, with an outside chance of an Israeli shell that had not exploded and remained on the beach. The Palestinian evidence, which Garlasco produces in full confidence, seems highly suspicious. In the footage from Ramattan we see no crater, but he’s found a crater and shell fragments. The scene was thoroughly compromised from the start, which he admits, but Garlasco finds the Palestinian evidence compelling, largely because he can’t believe they’d be so dishonest as to fake it.

“If the Israeli allegations of tampered evidence are to be believed, many Palestinians would have to have engaged in a massive and immediate conspiracy to falsify the data,” said Garlasco. “The conspirators – witnesses, victims, medical personnel and bomb disposal staff – would have had to falsify their testimony, amend digital and hand-written records, and dip shrapnel into a victim’s blood. It beggars belief that such a huge conspiracy could be orchestrated so quickly.”

Apparently, Garlasco has no awareness of the lengths to which Palestinians will go — and have gone — to falsify testimony. Nor does he process the information at hand. If the doctors will butcher their patients — children! — in order to remove evidence, then what won’t they do? Unaware of the systematic falsification of evidence, only one aspect of which is Pallywood, Garlasco’s imagination is beggared by the thought of such activities. Indeed, he embodies all the attitudes that make rethinking al Durah virtually impossible.

I understand him. I too found my imagination beggared by the viewing of Talal abu Rahme’s rushes at France2. I walked out of France2 studios in shock. I had no idea they could be so openly and systematically dishonest. Beggared in both cases — Garlasco’s and mine — was our liberal cognitive egocentrist imagination: we would never do that! Heaven forbid we accuse them of such base activities. That would be racist.

The only real question here is: is Garlasco’s comment mere rhetoric, or will evidence lead him to stretch his limited imaginative capacities?

Let us recall, here, that the behavior of Shifa’s doctors now replicates closely their behavior in the Al Durah case. Muhammad and his father were taken there after the incident at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000. They did no examination of Muhammad’s body aside from taking gruesome pictures of a boy whose stomach had been blown open. I unfortunately do not have a copy of this photo, although I saw it among the France2 rushes from the following day. If that gaping stomach wound that goes from his abdomen to the top of his chest is real, then he must have been shot by a dum dum bullet in the back and the entire scene photographed by Talal should have been bathed in blood; if not, then the doctors butchered a boy’s dead body. If so, this would not be the only case of such grotesque practices: see the testimony of an Australian human rights activist working in the Palestinian Authority and her horrifying realization of what was going on in the hospitals there, recorded by Pierre Rehov in The Road to Jenin.

Despite claiming almost a dozen wounds in the father and the son, Shifa produced no bullets. They were smarter about not sending the father to an Israeli hospital (his boss and friend, Moshe, the Israeli contractor, called him right away and offered to pay all fees), instead they sent him to Jordan. The hospital claimed the bullets had passed through; but the “investigators” on the ground found none. To this day, an either credulous or dishonest Charles Enderlin claims that the Palestinian general still has them in a sack in his desk.

Collaboration to produce devastating propaganda against Israel by Palestinians? The Palestinians have lots of practice, and Garlasco is either a babe in the woods, or an eager dupe (or maybe both, and eager babe in the Gaza woods). And right there by his side is a Western media, captive to the same politically correct attitudes and concommitant lack of imagination, who, once the tale goes problematic, cease to cover the story, leaving Israel once again between libel and silence.

In the long run, what the evidence strongly points to is that Palestinian society has produced people in positions of authority — journalists, hospital staff and doctors, politicians, “activists”, teachers — who do not hesitate to abuse their own people in search of vengeance on Israel. They can only succeed, however, by dint of the kind of “naïve” advocacy of Western specialists who can’t imagine how bad it can get, despite the evidence. And that, to some extent, is due to the exceptional reluctance of the Western media and intelligentsia to let the Western public know just how bad it is in places where terrorists run the show.

Who would imagine that the Palestinians would victimize their own? It beggars the imagination.

Mainstreaming Conspiracy Theories IV: Moral Equivalence and Multiculturalism

[Note: This is the final installment of a revised paper delivered last week at a conference in Jerusalem on Antisemitism, Multi-culturalism and Ethnic Identity at Hebrew University under the auspices of the Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Antisemitism, June 16, 2006. The first installment can be read here.]

Moral Equivalence, Multiculturalism, and Conspiracy Theory

Brief note: I’m in favor of multiculturalism of the variety described in Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s book The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. I’m terrified of a particularly dangerous form of multi-culturalism informed by what strikes me as a virtually suicidal adherence to such dogmas as “moral equivalence.” By and large I will be treating the latter form, which I consider pathological.

This kind of thinking, which I have dubbed the PC Paradigm (in the liberal form, Politically correct, in the radical, Post-colonial paradigm), certainly has its appeal. Since the early 1980s it has dominated both the media talking heads and the academic discourse about the Middle East… forbidding us, on pain of accusations of racism, from identifying primitive cultural traits, (like warrior honor-shame culture), and their pathologies (like “playing the victim” and honor-killing your daughter when she’s raped by your son), from discussing the less savory aspects of Islamic imperialism, and their lengthy pedigree (like Dar al Harb, and dhimmitude).

Moral Equivalence constitutes an important dimension of multi-culturalism as it is currently practiced. “Who are we to judge?” All cultures have their own sets of values, and to imply a hierarchy of values is a form of cultural imperialism that we must renounce in order to live in peace with each other. In a kind of therapeutic act of good will that features our generosity, our stupidity and our secret condescension, we say: “Don’t worry, we are as bad as you are.” Saïd’s Orientalism appeals fundamentally to such sentiments.

Now this kind of “therapeutic approach” is the inter-cultural variant of a peculiar trait of modern civil societies, and that is their extraordinary willingness to be self-critical. Self-criticism is at the core of modern society’s abilities – without open criticism and the ability to change one’s mind and learn from one’s mistakes, there would be no modern academy, no science and technology, none of the transformative elements that permit a civil society. But self-criticism can become pathological, a kind of intellectual form of beaten wife syndrome: “if he’s angry it must be my fault.” At its extreme, it has a kind of messianic quality to it, a kind of masochistic ominipotence fantasy, in which if everything is our fault, then by changing we can fix it. Thus we have the spectacle of a culture (the West, with Israel in the lead) willing to publicly self-criticize at levels never achieved in the recorded history of civilizations.

And at its most pathological levels, it produces not just moral equivalence, but moral inversion: “we (Israel, the US, the West) are not only as bad as you are, we’re worse.” It is that kind of moral disorientation that has fueled the massive failures of the “progressive left” since 2000, its hate-fest at Durban, its feeding frenzies over Al Durah and Jenin, and were it not for the world cup, the Ghalia family’s tragedy in Gaza. In a sense, when Chomsky declared in the wake of 9-11, that Americans were the worst terrorists, he opened the door to the conspiracy theories that teem through Western culture today.

Think of the reaction of a 9-11 conspiracist to the suggestion that Hamas planned the Gaza Beach massacre of 6-9-06 because of sagging polls, the threat of Abbas’ “peace referendum,” and a desire to embarrass Olmert before his trip to Europe. Outrage! “You racist! How dare you suggest that these people would be so base! You must really hate these people to imagine that.” And yet he or she, without hesitation, embraces far worse thoughts about our own administration, a product of over two centuries of sustained effort to purge such vicious behavior from our elected elites. How intellectually and morally crude! How self-destructive.

In that sense, 9-11 actually constitutes a new direction in the history of Conspiracy theory. Normally Conspiracy theories operate in order to scapegoat someone else and assert both one’s innocence and one’s right to violence. It depends on what psychologists call cognitive egocentrism: “they” think like “we” do – libido dominandi all around. 9-11 Conspiracy theory, as part of a larger project of morally equivalent multiculturalism, actually reverses this process.

Left-wing Conspiracy theories, progressives who believe in 9-11 systematically project good will onto the cultural “other” – Islam is a religion of peace, Bin Laden and Hamas have good reason for their anger, if only we’re nice to them they’ll be nice to us. Thus the next step after blaming Bush is to exonerate Bin Laden: Bush is creating an Islamic boogy man who does not exist; the Americ an government’s behavior since 9-11 presents a greater threat than Bin Laden. Bin Laden is an agent of the USA. Meanwhile, the “other” – global Islamism, particularly in its dominant Salafism – systematically projects bad will onto us (concessions, apologies cannot be sincere or meant to help, they are either a trick or a sign of weakness). This Moebius Strip of cognitive egocentrism is very dangerous and policies based on it tend to explode in the faces of those who earnestly seek to make them work. They have brought us Oslo, the current French response to their own Intifada, and the Anglican bishops dialogue with Islam as described by Margaret Brearly yesterday, to take a few examples.

Why would such good intentions lead so quickly to hell? Why is not “good neighborliness” working right now?

Partly, because we are dealing with demopaths, with people who use the language of democracy, human rights, moral equivalence, tolerance, not because they believe in them, but because they can use them to disarm us. Demopaths “use democracy to destroy democracy.” And when you let them in, they plan to push you out. Right now the largest collection of demopaths and their dupes can be found at the interaction between Islamists and westerners. From our point of view, it’s dialogue and moderation; from theirs, it’s Dawa, or the verbal dimension of Jihad of conquest.

Given the radical instability of sustaining such an intensely inaccurate view of reality, those who insist on seeing their enemies as innocent, must find an explanation for what the evil that continues to flourish despite (I would argue in part because) of their efforts. And here we get the peculiar post-modern twist. We’re the ones at fault. We’re the evil ones. If Bush did 9-11, then the world makes sense: they are angry with us for our aggressive imperialist ways; our leaders continue to act in aggressive imperialist ways; if we stop them, then everything will be better. Get out of Iraq, withdraw to the West Bank, give money and programs to the “lost territories”, open dialogues and dismantle the apparatus that, whatever its origins like the Anglican Church, have brought us civil society.

And in so thinking, speaking, and acting, those with Bush Derangement Syndrome and an according attraction for 9-11 conspiracy end up thinking and speaking like the paranoid Muslims who initially cheered on 9-11 and then, when it didn’t go well for them, immediately blamed it on a conspiracy. This convergence of “left,” “progressive” conspiracism (far more mainstream among Europeans) with the most aggressive versions of global Islamist discourse, represents a genuinely terrifying example of an alliance of dupes and demopaths around the Moebius strip of cognitive egocentrism. For the Western dupes (among whom I suspect are some demopaths), this is the height self-criticism and commitment to overcoming our imperialistic impulses; for Islamist demopaths, this is a standard expression of imperialist ambitions demonizing an enemy. Both positions are poison; and together, they’re weaponized poison.

Now in this entire talk, I have scarcely spoken of Jews and anti-Semitism. That will have to await another conference or discussion. But let me just make the following brief observations:
1) the more fevered the Conspiracy theory, the more the Jews play a key role
2) post-modern anti-zionism reflects this fevered quality: Israel, whose behavior in both the battle field and the street has set standards that no other nation has come near, becomes a symbol of moral degradation; the Palestinians, whose behavior sets new lows in moral degradation, become the chosen people.
3) the Jews, via anti-Zionism play a key role in the culture conflict at work now. The British boycott illustrates the phenomenon: like some mafia making an undercover cop kill another one to prove loyalty, the left wants Jews to kill Zionism in order to be “admitted.” Any “liberal” who defends Israel gets exiled from the “progressive” camp. The result is a catastrophe for any real liberalism.

And if the driving wedge of the culture conflict which can, under current conditions, kill us, is the status of the Jews, it may follow that the route to resolving the culture conflict is also the Jews. If the Anglicans had the generosity of spirit not to still harbor supersessionist fantasies about the Jews, they could turn to the real and dangerous supersessionists, the Muslims, and, instead of engaging in a private and deadly embrace with them, insist that the measure of their ability to get along with the Jews was the mark of their sincerity in wanting to participate in civil society. The same for the French and their Muslims, whose aggressions against the “Republic” began soon after they turned on the North African Jewish communities with which they had shared neighborhoods from the time they immigrated. And the same for the world community who, if they want a genuinely multi-cultural globe in the 21st century (to say nothing of the 3rd millennium), need to say to the Muslim and Arab world: “Learn to live in peace with Israel; as long as you harbor fantasies of revenging your honor, as long as you treat your own commoners like cannon fodder, and as long you will not accept the consequences of your failed aggressions, do not come to us with complaints about how “they” oppress “you.”

But in order to do that, the West would have to act with honor, and not with an eye to the loss of contracts that offending the notoriously prickly egos of the Arab and Muslim world might entail.

On the West’s Problems with Islam

Youssef Ibrahim, an Egyptian-born American reporter for the NYT and the Wall Street Journal, wrote a remarkabe op-ed for the New York Sun on the nature of the Islamist threat to Muslims and “infidels” alike. (Hat tip Antidhimmi)

America and Islam: Collision Inevitable?

BY YOUSSEF IBRAHIM
June 19, 2006

In its war on terror, America is unquestionably on a collision course with Islamic fundamentalism. The question is how far Islamic fundamentalism is from a collision with Islam itself, as interpreted today by the vast majority of ulemas, imams, theocratic schools, and many of its 1.1 billion followers.

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the world has learned a great deal about politicized Islam, which has spawned Islamic fundamentalism, jihad, and jihadis. And it has become clear that Islam needs a serious self-examination.

The rejection of others – which is a basic foundation of Islam that is built into Islamic texts and practices – makes it impossible to divorce the religion from the violent impulses it inspires.

Would that this were clear to many. Speak with a religion major at a major American university, and you’ll probably hear that Islam is fundamentally different from Islamism and Jihadism, that the terrorists had hijacked the religion… you get the idea. My question to Mr. Ibrahim and to everyone: To just how many people has this “become clear”? How often has anyone heard anyone say that the basic foundation of Islam is the rejection of “others”?

Here are some important reasons why Muslims need to re-evaluate where religious practice ends and tyranny practiced in the name of Islam begins.

1.While Islam may appear a tolerant religion in many verses of the Koran, that tolerance is highly conditional on the submission of others to Muslims’ collective will. The holy book is full of references to those who are not Muslims as “infidels.” The Koran speaks in incredible detail of the need to do battle with infidels, to isolate them from the masses of believers, and to persist in efforts to convert them. Thus, as the Koran repeatedly states, the good practice of Islam cannot be limited to the worship of God or service to society. It must encompass spreading the faith, even at the edge of the sword.

2.Virtually all Muslims, including self-described moderates and liberals, believe what the Koran and the Hadith affirm: that Islam was God’s final monotheist revelation. As such it supersedes, indeed cancels out, all previous revelations. It follows, then, that those who belong to any other faith are in need of conversion. In its much venerated and often quoted Sura 9:29, the Koran specifically defines those who are not Muslims and live under Muslim rule as “Dhimmis,” people who under Islamic law “must surrender to the pacts contracted between non-Muslims and their Muslim conquerors.” That concept should absolutely be revisited and revised by Muslim scholars if we are to believe they want peace. The burden of proof of tolerance falls heavily on the nation of Islam.

This strikes me as a critical point. The NYT recently ran an adulatory article about “moderate Muslims” in America. No wonder Ibrahim had to go to the Sun to publish this piece despite decades of work for the Times. It concluded with these remarks by Imam Zaid Shakir, one of the two featured “moderates.”

He said he still hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law, “not by violent means, but by persuasion.”
“Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country,” he said. “I think it would help people, and if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be a Muslim. Because Islam helped me as a person, and it’s helped a lot of people in my community.”

Now I am not questioning Mr. Shakir’s sincerity in saying that his conversion to Islam has done him good, that it helped him; nor that it can, has and will help others. But the idea that therefore the US should become a Muslim country, that one size fits all, strikes me as the most outrageous megalomania, particularly given the abysmal record of Muslim societies. This is a man who once cheered the Taliban. He claims to have changed, to have given up his violent ways. But apparently, the terrifying examples of “Muslim countries” like the Taliban and Iran (to take a Sunni and Shii example), have not even dented his commitment to the theocratic principles of Islam. This is “moderation” only in comparison with the violence of the Taliban, not anything that we would understand as moderate and tolerant. My guess is that Shakir has more in common with Tariq Ramadan than with Youssef Ibrahim.

As for the journalist who wrote this up, either she is abysmally ignorant of what this remark means — that any Muslim who is honest with you about his or her desires, is engaged in the treasonous endeavor of wanting to overthrow the constitution of the United States — or she (and her readers) are so relieved to find someone that sounds moderate, and so incredulous that such an endeavor would ever succeed, that she is willing to throw it in as a toss-off line at the end of her paean of praise.

3.The aggressive demarcation of Muslims and infidels runs through all Islamic religious texts and speeches communicated to the faithful in millions of mosques across the globe. It is accompanied by much lament over the loss of Spain and chunks of Europe once part of the Muslim empire. The whole notion that Islam is an umma, or nation, unto itself that cuts across borders and comes before nationalities, bears the seeds of menace. Indeed, Muslim immigrants in Western nations are encouraged by their preachers to prevail in their societies and “spread the faith.”

Islam as practiced today in virtually all Muslim countries does not fashion itself merely as a spiritual value, but as a conquering force with a need to dominate – not so far from the next step of Islamic fundamentalist theology, which motivates jihadis.

In millennial terminology, Ibrahim is pointing at the tendency of millennial apocalyptic scenarios (i.e., the means by which the corrupt and evil world is transformed into the millennial kingdom) to turn from transformative to cataclysmic. It’s only one step from Dawa (conversion through preaching) and Jihad (conversion by the sword), and that step most often comes when Dawa no longer works… then our moderate preachers cease to be Mr. Nice Guy. (There’s an amazingly apologetic book on the Wahhabis (Wahhabi Islam : From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad) by a “post-Orientalist” which emphasizes that the Wahabbis are not unrelentingly violent, they believe in trying Dawa first.)

This overwhelmingly hostile orientation, relayed to the faithful by texts and preachers, has led to Islamic regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which is barricaded in deep isolation but uses its huge wealth to export reactionary Wahhabi ideologies to the world, setting up madrassas, mosques, and theological seminaries across the globe.

In Europe, America, Canada, and Australia, it has been easy for Muslim fundamentalists to take over Muslim immigrant communities because Islam promotes confrontation with others. Mosques, religious schools, and the imposition of the veil are tools of domination, not assimilation.

These issues must be dealt with. Much of the task falls to Muslim scholars in Muslim nations, and the work is imperative. Darkness, fear, and xenophobia are the understudy of terror.

The West does not have to bend backward. Indeed, it is time to push back – at the edge of the sword, if need be.

How does a religion which, for over fourteen centuries, considered the uncovertable infidel as to be killed or dominated, which has profoundly dysfunctional relations with the autonomous religious “other,” come to terms with a world in which getting along with the “other” is part of the basic elements of civil society?

No wonder as globalization has become more intense, Muslim reaction has gotten more violent. Not to get millennial about this, but the world has until 2076, the year 1500 in the Muslim calendar, to get Islam to at least begin the momentous shift from imperial to civic modes of interaction. As Ibrahim suggests, it’s primarily the work of Muslims, but those willing to do the work need help from us, and that means we push, we ask hard questions, we embarrass the apologists and strengthen the real moderates. Of course that means telling the difference between demopaths and moderates. No easy task, no more urgent one.

Hadil Ghalia and al-Durah

From Conceptwizard Info:

Who can forget the heartrending video clip of young Hadil Ghalia running over the Gaza sands, looking for her family? There are many parallels between this and the photos of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Durah, caught between Israeli and Palestinian gunfire. Yet, there are so many inconsistencies in both scenarios that we should at least stop to question the genuineness of what we are being shown.

Whether or not Hadil lost her family as the result of a stray Israeli shell, or the explosion of a Palestinian device or mine, is of little consequence. She lost her family, as young al-Durah lost his life, because she is living in a war zone. She has become a media legend, playing the starring role in a masterfully directed video clip that has been widely broadcast in the world media – pushing aside even the ubiquitous football for a few minutes. As a result, some bewildered Israelis even began to parrot a popular Israeli columnist, who noisily confessed “his shame” in Israel’s most widely-read daily. Yet the facts, both for al-Durah and for the Ghalia family, tragic as they may be, remain inconclusive. That is sometimes the nature of warfare.

Why does a terrorist cell, with a missile on board, drive through the most crowded area of Gaza – and why doesn’t anyone lift a finger to stop them? If the Palestinians mined the beach (which they admit), and if the beach is being used as a base from which to launch missiles against Israel, then why did the Palestinian authorities allow their population free access to this same beach? How is it that the photographers so conveniently happen, always, to be at the right place at the right time? These are just a few of the pertinent questions. (We could also ask, of course, why the world media doesn’t broadcast pictures from Israel’s southern town of Sderot, whose children have been traumatized and injured by over a thousand (1000) rocket attacks in the past month – all launched from inside the Gaza Strip. But that is the famous double standard at work.)

Mainstreaming Conspiracy Theories III: American Conspiracies and 9-11

Conspiracy theory in West

The situation in the West is different that in the Middle East. We have considerable resistance to conspiracy theory – as we also do, not coincidentally, to apocalyptic narratives, especially cataclysmic ones. One might argue that these resistances are indispensible elements of a successful civil society, and that when they fail — as they did in France in 1793, or Russia in 1917 — you get tyranny and terror.

Before 2000 there were certainly important elements of conspiracy theory at play in Western culture – Kennedy assassination and UFOs, to take the two most popular forms – but voicing these conspiratorial narratives was a ticket either to obscurity or to Hollywood. While Westerners may have played with conspiracy theory for fun (X Files), Arabs and Muslim killed for it (Iraq-Iran war). For the West, conspiracies are a last resort to explain reality; in the Middle East, the first and often only resort.

But conspiracy thinking cuts deeper into Western attitudes than simple contrasts like this suggest. Nazism and Communism both imploded on their paranoia, and totalitarianism is a Western invention. The lack of scholarly attention to the subject may understandably reflect the profound unease that non-conspiracists feel when getting involved in these exceptionally intricate and overheated explanations for reality. But understand them, we must. Especially now that Petrie dish of the internet has changed the dynamics so much at so dangerous a time. The ease of communicating Conspiracy theory through cyberspace, on the one hand, has combined with a serious culture war between a “progressive secular left” and a “conservative, fundamentalist, right” on the other, to increase the appeal of Conspiracy theories just as they become more readily available.

The approach and passage of 2000 have played a significant role in intensifying Conspiracy theory culture in the United States: the mythical imagination – UFOs, unknown underground races, scientific experiments gone awry – combined with the politics of impeachment to foster an ever-expanding menu of possibilities to believe in. Clinton had more conspiracy theories circulating about him than the previous half-dozen presidents. And in his first term, George Bush has surpassed him handily. In particular the events of 9-11 have fostered an immense range of conspiracy theories not only – and immediately – in the Arab and Muslim worlds, but in the West as well. Indeed, one might argue that these have penetrated farther and effected people more, than any previous case of presidential conspiracy theory.

Here’s where the bad faith Republicans demonstrated with their scorched earth assault on Clinton (e.g., publishing the most lurid details on the internet even as they complained of how the media were polluting our children with their sexual permissiveness), has intensified the political culture wars. These in turn, have made the receptivity to Conspiracy theory even greater among the left. Democrats have the same (if not greater) hostility to the current Republican president as did the Republicans for “Billary.” Indeed this hostility has prompted Charles Krauthammer to coin the expression Bush Derangement Syndrome:

Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.

Considering the deranged behavior of the Republicans over Clinton’s trysts in the back corridors of the White House, and before that, the ferocious attacks on virtually every American president, one might better call the latest version, Presidential Derangement Syndrome, Version 43.2.

The hostility between “liberals” and “conservatives” in the USA, a reflection of the larger “culture wars” that plagues every “modern” culture to some extent, feeds Conspiracy theory by making the people on both sides eager to believe the worst of their opponents. In the case of the most recent, current, and still as-yet undetermined Conspiracy theory – namely Bush and 9-11 – the role of personal animus plays a significant role in the attraction of 9-11 Conspiracy theories. This is true both of Europeans across the political spectrum, and people on the American “left.” (Here, I observe that, by and large, the Canadians share European patterns.)

This animosity is critical in imagining a President capable of, at worst plotting to destroy three of the most important American sites, kill thousands, if not tens of thousands of Americans, all in based on motives that range from sagging polls, a desire to avenge his father in Iraq, Halliburton contracts in wartorn Iraq and Afghanistan, and plans for a new fascist world order. The degree of bad faith that these conspiracies accept as “assumed” in the logic of the argument says a great deal about how they view their fellow Americans. In order to have a conspiracy on the level argued for – that is, active planning and cooperation – we would need the following phenomena:

    • A President and a tiny inner circle capable of thinking in these terms about politics, power, and American citizens, planning this during the first 9 months of the administration, and keeping it secret from everyone else in the cabinet.
    • Multiple members of the FBI and CIA willing to work on this kind of malevolent and radically unconstitutional deed, without a leak, before or (even more unlikely) after. (Even in 24 season 5 which plays a 9-11 presidential conspiracy, there are people of integrity in the inner circles of power.)
    • Contemplating such a damaging attack – both for the economy and the prestige of the USA – during one’s own presidency for either petty or megalomanic motives would make sense to a man like George Bush, chosen to bring good times to rich people.

In other words, people who believe in a conspiracy theory have an immensely low opinion of the people in our government. In a sense, they consider our elites every bit a unprincipled and predatory as earlier aristocracies who would, indeed, sacrifice commoners’ lives with little hesitation. One might even argue that this particular conspiracy, when attributed to an American president, represents one of the most terrible of all such theories, far worse in its moral implication the one about Roosevelt and Pearl Harbor.

Nor are Conspiracy Theorists unaware of the issue, but for them it explains the reluctance of people to believe their Conspiracy theory, rather than a reason not to. As Paul Griffin, author of The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11, writes: “It is very difficult for Americans to face the possibility that their own government may have caused or deliberately allowed such a heinous event.”

But of course Griffin, whose work is riddled with errors and inconsistencies, and others feel no need to explain how our government could get involved in such morally aberrant behavior and no one leaked it. It goes without saying for Griffin and others, that this kind of thing can and does happen. Like all conspiracy theory, this one assumes that people in power are naturally evil.

The success of Conspiracy theories about 9-11 represents a relatively new stage in Western European Conspiracy theory. Unlike the Arab and Muslim world, where Conspiracy theories were already mainstream before 2000 and become virulent afterwards, in the West, Conspiracy theories were banished from the mainstream. Take the attitude towards the Protocols of the Elders of ion, for example, the very mention of it stigmatized the speaker.

9-11 Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, have invaded the private public sphere — the coffee house, tavern, dinner table conversations — and are knocking at the gates of published discourse and the elected officials. Mainstream media still refuse to give these conspiracy theories any credibility, but just under the surface these ideas simmer. In 2003, when I spoke with a journalist for ABC about al Durah, he asked me at the end of the conversation what I thought of these rumors that Mossad knew about the bombing beforehand, suggesting that in his circles the idea circulated with at least plausibility. In 2006, I asked my class how many had heard the conspiracy theories about Bush’s involvement, and two-thirds reported hearing them from at least one source who considered the hypothesis likely. Now we have our first (annual?) conference on 9-11 conspiracy, and an article about it in the NYT topped its list of “most emailed.”

These conspiracy theories about Bush show all the signs of serving the normal functions of Conspiracy theories: demonizing and scapegoating the target while exculpating major sources of the problem. In other words, far more than a real battle of “facts,” these Conspiracy theories represent a major piece in a chess game of culture wars, in which one sees the near-enemy – here Republican administration – as far worse than the far enemy – in this case Global Jihad. Indeed recognizing this near-evil – Chomsky’s Fateful Triangle – enables us to deny the very existence of the far-enemy. Behind the 9-11 deception Bush has launched a “false war on terror.”

We have met the enemy and he is us. As for those Muslim fellows out there who rant and scream about wanting to massacre us, they are artifacts of our imperial arrogance. When we stop oppressing them, they’ll stop wanting to kill us.

Next: Moral Equivalence, Multiculturalism, and Conspiracy Theory

One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words II: Moments before the Wild Grief

When I saw the footage from Ramattan that PATV ran at PMW for my analysis, I noticed that Houda can be seen in the footage, standing quietly looking at the evacuation of what is presumably her dead family. Only after the last body has been removed does she then enter her wild grief and run erratically in the direction of the body near the sand dunes. Here is the photo of her just before her iconic moment.

houda before grief

Now I will grant that she may be in shock in this picture and then something snaps. That’s a possibility. I think that when you view the entire footage of her performance, however, the camera’s attention plays a greater role in her movements than the internal dynamics of overwhelming grief according to this more generous but naïve hypothesis. This latter, “spontaneous grief” hypothesis cannot explain how, before we see her here, she has already had the presence of mind to ask the cameraman to asked him at the site of the tragedy to photograph her mourning over her dead father, “to show the world Israeli crimes.

Mainstreaming Conspiracy Theories II: Arab Conspiracy Thinking before and after 2000

Conspiracy theory in Arab/Muslim world

It is something of a commonplace that the Arab and Muslim media are full of conspiracy-thinking. Indeed, anyone bold enough to defy Edward Saïd’s prohibition on seeing Arabs as different from Westerners, remarks among the most salient features of Arab culture a propensity to conspiracy theory: Everything is part of a plot; every motive has secret and malevolent motives. The frequency with which even quotidian political events are conceived as the playing out of conspiracies confirms what observation also notices: this is a culture where the political axiom “rule or be ruled” dominates.

Nor is this kind of thinking a recent phenomenon. After WW II, for example, the Nazi conspiracy theories about the Jews, in particular, their foundational conspiracy theory, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, found earnest welcome in the Arab world. It provided the perfect escape from facing the nature of their failure to wipe out any trace of an independent state made by dhimmi. This same need to explain their humiliating failure by blaming the conspiratorial malevolence of others accounts for why one of the major disagreements in the Arab world today is whether the US is a pawn of Israel or vice-versa.

Dan Pipes’ 1998 book, The Hidden Hand, describes the role of conspiracy theory in the Arab world. There he finds a mentality that pervades almost all forms of thought, that contributes fundamentally to both the insolubility of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the economic stagnation of the Arab world. But he also finds that conspiracy theory works primarily as a depressant: the forces are so great, the Arabs such victims, that nothing can be done. Pipes finds this quality among the most damaging:

Imagining conspiracies of malicious, omnipotent adversaries can induce a profound sense of hopelessness. After all, how can an enemy so shrewd, so powerful, and so vast be challenged? At the same time, how can one negotiate or compromise with such an implacable and evil force?

Since 2000, however, things have changed significantly in the Arab world on two major levels. First, the intensity, variety and sophistication of the conspiracy has risen exponentially. The elaborate film and TV series that depict the most horrendous, bloodthirsty Jewish conspiracies to destroy Arabs and Islam have brought public discussion of these themes to a new and vivid prominence. Similarly the variety of conspiratorial narratives, taken over from the Europeans (e.g., blood libels) and given new twists (e.g., Humantashen made with Christian or Muslim boys’ blood), appear in prominent and respected mainstream media. Any glance at the contents of many of the most mainstream of Arab media (from the PATV to Al Jazeera, to al Ahram) reveals an intensity of paranoid hatemongering conspiracism with few parallels in recorded history. Indeed, some future, impartial judge will probably find the early 21st century Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism was even more fevered (if, hopefully, less effective) than Nazi anti-Semitism.

Right after 9-11, 60 Minutes ran a piece on the conspiracy theory that the Mossad was responsible (can’t find this, pretty sure it was CBS). The narrator expressed astonishment not at the existence of such a rumor, but its pervasiveness, even in educated circles, even in non-Arab countries (he was attending a wedding in Pakistan). That TV program should have been a wake-up call to the problem of an entirely different mentality operating in the Arab and Muslim world, where conspiracy is not relegated to the commoners, but publicly embraced by the elites. Even in moderate, pro-Western Muslim circles one finds an almost naïve recourse to CT. In a recent statement by the apparently genuinely moderate Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) [they’re against Sharia law]), their spokesman, Tariq Fatah, expressed relief at the recent pre-emptive arrest of the terrorists in Canada, and, while attacking Muslim extremists, let this comment slip:

It is ironic that Muslim extremists are portraying themselves as anti-imperialist, when in fact Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are nothing more but a creation of the CIA.

Note how the conspiracy theory – with all its profound misunderstandings of how things “work” – allows Mr. Fatah to deny any Islamic dimension to the imperialism of Al-Qaeda.

But in addition to new intensity since 2000, we also find an even more alarming switch from passive to active. Indeed the emergence of global Jihad has accompanied, fed, and ridden on the wave of this intensified conspiracism. One might suggest – I would – that the turn of the millennium has shifted the gears of the Muslim world from passive to active, that the narrative of conspiracy that had previously had so soporific an effect now offered the very rhetoric of incitement to aggression.

This shift to the offensive, already in motion among certain, relatively marginal jihadi figures like Abdullah Azzam and Bin Laden and organizations like Hizbullah, Hamas and al Qaeda, first encountered success in the public arena with the outbreak of the Intifada in the Fall of 2000. The previously marginal found eager ears for conspiracist narratives that incited to action, not to fatalism, militant Islamism and global Jihad. From that point on a new and more aggressive form of Conspiracy theory took on world-wide proportions: from the outbreak of the Intifada, to the convening of the Durban conference, and 9-11. It continues to spread, from the Middle East to Europe, the USA, Far East Asia, etc.

Like most active cataclysmic conspiracy theory (there is a massive conspiracy out there and we can and must fight it), this one has heavy doses of apocalyptic rhetoric, symbolism and, accordingly, absolutist logic. Suicide terrorism first receives its terrifying justification in the framework of an apocalyptic battle between good and evil; and after 2000, receives large majorities of support in opinion polls. In other words, in the Arab world, conspiracy theory has, since 2000, both taken over even more of the public sphere – i.e., taken over the mainstream – and gone active… a highly ominous development.

Next: Conspiracy theory in West

The Gaza Beachgate Tarbaby: All the Usual Suspects Get Stuck

The Gaza Beach Affair has netted a whole string of the usual suspects whose actions contribute so much to our inability to understand what’s happening in our troubled world. The list is actually quite long, and very revealing.

1. Palestinian forces (militants/activists/freedom fighters) whose use of weapons is so stunningly reckless that they regularly kill their own people. In this case they seem to have buried a bomb on a beach (to prevent Israeli invasion?), and never bothered to tell families at the beach about the danger. (I’d rather risk the great white sharks off the beach in South Africa.)

2. Pallywood cameramen, working with fancy equipment, taking pictures that they stage in order to get their “message” out, their “victim narrative.” In this case, the cameraman’s work is about as fishy as you can get, and his rather unself-conscious interview with Thorsten Schmitz is quite revealing. (It’s almost as if he doesn’t know that there are certain things he shouldn’t be saying.)

3. Palestinian children, brainwashed to hate Israel, ready to perform for the cameras in order to “show the world Israeli crimes.” In this case, little Houda Ghoury, whose happy awareness of the camera is scary for someone so young and so tragically afflicted with the deaths in her family.

4. Western media ready to mainstream Pallywood. Perhaps the best example is CNN, with their warning to the viewer: “This report includes graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.” This was exactly what happened with Al Durah. Once the audience has been primed to believe that they are seeing a terrible thing, they see it. So we have the media full of stories about the “heart-rending pictures of Houda Ghalia.”

5. Israeli Officials ready to take responsibility without showing any skepticism.

6. Israeli “progressives” ready to assault their own army as monsters and call for a policy of appeasement towards the Palestinians.

Then when the Israeli army investigation came up with strong evidence that the Israelis did not do that damage, we got the back-up troops ready to come in and do damage control.

7. NGO groups “fighting” for “human rights”, long a loud voice in the anti-Israel corner, rush in to support the Palestinian version. Human Rights Watch “expert” Marc Garlasco, appears at the right moment to claim his own investigation which blames Israel. His testimony, presented as “expert and unbiased opinion” is full of holes.

8. More Western press ready to present Garlasco as a balance of equal weight to the Israeli investigation, this time working overtime to “prove” Israel wrong. In particular English papers, like the Guardian, the Times, who apparently cannot tolerate the idea that Israel might not be on the hook here.

9. “Progressive” Jewish blogs like Tikkun Olam, who are so eager to blame Israel for the event that they refer to the Times article as a “piece of gold.”

And in the meantime, the major victim… the Palestinians.

One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words I: Mourning in the Embrace of Hamas

This photo, taken a couple of days after she lost her father and most of her family on a Gaza beach, shows Palestinian icon Houda Ghouri posing with a Hamas leader (i.e., in all probability the people who are responsible, intentionally or not, for her family’s tragedy).

houdi and hamas

This picture accords with the account of the Suddeutsche Zeitung reporter, Thorsten Schmitz that the young girl asked the cameraman to catch her grief: “She asked me to film her. She wanted to be seen with her father and show the whole world what crimes Israel commits.”

Would she have asked to show the crimes of Hamas? Is Houda a classic product of the Palestinian education system that has kindergarten graduation ceremonies like this?

kindergarten graduation

[Young girl performing graduation ceremony where she and her classmates mimick the behavior of the Palestinian who, after savagely killing two Israeli reservists in Ramallah on October 12, 2000, came to the window and showed his bloody hands to the cheering crowd who were chanting, “Revenge for Muhammad al Durah”.]

Mainstreaming Conspiracy Theories I: Culture Wars, Moral Equivalence and Suicidal Paradigms

Conspiracy Theories from Margins to Center Stage: Dynamics and Implications
Paper delivered at the conference on Antisemitism, Multi-culturalism and Ethnic Identity at Hebrew University under the auspices of the Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Antisemitism, June 16, 2006.

Introductory Remarks: Two Anecdotes

Let me begin with two anecdotes from a relatively calm, non-radicalized American campus.

No. 1: I once suggested to a colleague in African-American Studies that we have a conference on conspiracy theory. He blanched somewhat, and said, “but how could we control the audience?”

No. 2: I was on a panel consisting of three rappers, and an African-American professor discussing apocalyptic themes in hip-hop music. The notion that the US government was injecting AIDS in African-American communities came up so often that a member of the audience asked, “how many on the panel believe these AIDS conspiracies?” The three rappers all said they did. The African-American professor said, “I don’t want to answer that, because if I say I do, I’ll lose credibility with my colleagues, and if I say I don’t, I’ll lose credibility with the brothers.”

Between them, these two anecdotes tell us two extremely important elements of conspiracy theories:

1) Conspiracism is volatile: even talk about conspiracies and they can run away with your audience. In James C. Scott’s terms, conspiracies are “hidden transcripts,” pushed out of what’s permissable to say publicly. Just to speak of them, is to court an eruption of hidden transcripts into the public sphere. And given that the Shoah came to us via a people in the grip of mass paranoia, believers in a giant Jewish conspiracy that acted as a warrant for genocide, this is no small matter.

2) Conspiracism is far more common than the public record registers. More than the three rappers, the professor’s response reveals both the depth of the belief and its community-wide validity. No one can question this one without being viewed as having abandoned the community, here, without becoming an “Oreo.” It suggests that within certain communities, a public transcript at complete variance with that of the larger culture exists.

Conspiracy Thinking: Definitions and Dynamics

A conspiracy theory seeks to explain either one extremely important event (singular conspiracy), or a whole pattern of events (global conspiracy) by positing a small group of conspirators who are manipulating the public’s perception in order to a) carry out a nefarious deed of great damage to the public, and b) have the public blame the wrong agents. Most singular conspiracy theories tend to work on the principle of cui bono (to whom the good? i.e., who benefits?), and concern past events which they explain. They also tend to be passive – who can fight such powerful hidden forces? They are cognitive and emotional booby prizes: “Now we know why we’re screwed and it’s not our fault.”

Most global conspiracy theories seek to explain larger cultural phenomena, in particular, modernity (earliest modern Conspiracy theories begin in the late 18th century with the Masons (Illumiinati) blamed for democracy in America and France). Because they warn about a conspiracy in progress, they often (almost always) involve a critical question of timing – how far advanced is the conspiracy? Global conspiracies, because they have not already happened, can, under the right circumstances, become active. The most powerful large scale conspiracy theories convey a sense that the final stages have been reached; that a great battle looms; that if action were not imminent, it will be too late.

All global conspiracy theories have apocalyptic elements in all three senses of the word: they are radical and stunning revelations about the opaque present; they are part of a larger cataclysmic final transformation, of the world, and they are about to happen, imminent. Virtually all active cataclysmic apocalyptic (we are the agents of the huge cataclysm that precedes/accompanies the great apocalyptic transformation) has global conspiracy theories as a central element of its discourse (Nazism, Communism, Global Jihad).

Psychological dynamics: Appeal?

Conspiracy theories explain catastrophes as the work of men who appear beneficent, but secretly conspire to bring about those catastrophes. They assume the worst of these men, so consumed by the desire to dominate others that they will stop at nothing – including the most dastardly conspiracies – to achieve their goal. Conspiracy theories simplify the moral universe: the bad things that happen to us are not our fault, they are the fault of evil others. Future-oriented Conspiracy theories seek to warn an innocent victim population of the plots that these unscrupulous “others” even now set in motion against them. In particular, global Conspiracy theory tends to scape-goat. As René Girard has pointed out – scapegoating emphasizes the innocence of the scape-goater and the guilt of the designated victim. “Conspiracism,” points our Chip Berlet, is a particular narrative form of scapegoating that frames demonized enemies as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good, while it valorizes the scape-goater as a hero for sounding the alarm.”

Conspiracy theories work on several psychological levels. Cognitively, they offer a gratifying world view that explains everything. All details cohere, unnoticed or unexplained facts fit into place, everything connects, gains shape and color. To the believer, now semiotically aroused with his new hermeneutic, the troubling world makes sense. Furthermore, Conspiracy theories tend to engage in systematic projection of bad faith onto the conspirators, or the cognitive egocentrism of bad faith. The articulators and believers in Conspiracy theories live in a universe where everyone is driven by libido dominandi, everyone wants to dominate and, as Eli Sagan so eloquently puts it describing the basic political axiom of the pre-modern world, it’s “rule or be ruled.” The only motivation possible among the conspiring “enemy” is a ruthless lust for power. And finally, Conspiracy theory is Gnostic: it is powerful hidden knowledge, available only the initiate, attractive, even true by very virtue of its being proscribed.

The emotional blandishments of Conspiracy theory are at least as attractive as the cognitive rewards. They offer above all freedom from any responsibility: failures, setbacks and sufferings, are not the victim’s fault; they are the work of the conspirators. The dualistic moral universe of “us” and “them” that Conspiracy theory provides shows up in stark and simple contrasts with no grey areas. Conspiracy theories are a quintessential expression of what, using James Scott’s term, we might call a hidden transcript of resentment.

Furthermore, Conspiracy theory at once eases the conscience – we are not at fault, we are innocent – and liberates it – no limits on what we must do in order to defend ourselves. The more dire the conspiracy, the more liberated the violence of the response: anything is permitted when struggling for one’s very existence against some agent who is plotting to destroy “us.” Conspiracy theories are narratives that justify aggressive action; the worse the conspiracy, the more aggressive the justifiable action. At their worst, they are “warrants for genocide.”

Conditions for conspiracy theory

I wish to posit the argument that Conspiracy theories are always present at a low level in any society. The real question is, when do they take over and drive a culture to act on paranoid fears. Or, to take up a problematic suggested to me by Anthony Kauders on Tuesday, how does it go from the public sphere of private conversations – coffee shop and tavern culture – to the published sphere, part of the public discourse. To take a graphic example, when and how did the paranoid chatter of the sans culottes become the policy of the Committee of Public Safety; when does paranoia dominate the public and political discourse.

Singular Conspiracy theories arise from specific events – Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, 9-11 – and unless they are connected to a larger plot, remain relatively low key. Collective or global Conspiracy theories tend to arise in civil societies, among what we might call “Nietzsche’s ‘blond beasts’ as losers”: those who, formerly dominant predators, having lost the authoritarian powers of aristocratic societies, imagine modernity as an unfinished conspiracy designed to replace their (now former) aristocratic dominion with a new and far more vicious form of universal slavery. These latter Conspiracy theories seem to be a natural companion of modern societies. When modern societies fall into conspiracy theory… when, for example, those in power invoke a clear and present danger to eliminate any criticism since criticism is part of the conspiracy, historically the consequences are grave. The French revolutionary terror, repeated on a colossal scale by the Russians and Germans and Chinese in the 20th century, represents the catastrophic results that can ensue from such madness taking hold.

Conspiracy theory seems to be a low-level constant, a marginal but enduring discourse. The key issue in terms of conditions under which Conspiracy theory takes over public discourse concerns less what produces such thought – it (Indeed, meditating on Scott’s work, I suspect that conspiracy thinking is a major dimension of most “hidden transcript” discourse in most cultures, especially in ones where an aristocratic minority has managed to monopolize power (i.e., successfully pull of a conspiracy of dominion). Given their destructiveness, successful modern societies have developed a healthy resistance to Conspiracy theories. They tend to break out at moments of crisis, when social forces that seem out of control bring ruin upon many (e.g., the great Depression), and they work best in populations filled with a sense of unavowable guilt which they eagerly project onto another party.

The more the conspiratorial narrative identifies marginal and vulnerable populations as the conspirators, the more they appeal to the desire to victimize the innocent and dishonestly absolve guilt. The dishonesty of this kind of scapegoating conspiracy theory of course leads to seriously self-destructive behavior, misidentifying the source of the suffering. As a result, although attacking the mistaken foe may offer immediate if temporary psychological relief, in the long run intensifies the grip of those who do impose the suffering. When European populations rose to the paranoid call of rumors about witches and Jews and lepers poisoning their wells and blighting their lives, they ended up putting themselves ever more firmly in the grip of an ecclesiastical Inquisition that blighted European life for centuries.

At the simplest level, by alleviating the need for self-criticism – indeed, declaring self-criticism a form of betrayal of the cause against the conspirators – conspiracy theory relegates the cultures that indulge in it to a cycle of failure and depression: when serious consideration of past errors cannot take place (i.e., history is dishonest), societies have flat learning curves. Moreover, rendering all relations with the “other” conflictual, makes it difficult to solve problems with positive-sum outcomes (win-win). Conspiracy theories are the crystallization of a whole world view of absolute scarcity: every relationship, every event is zero-sum; every motive hostile; every exchange an attack; everyone suspect.

Given its destructive capacities, Conspiracy theory discourse tends to get banished from public space; and when it does appear, it gets beaten back with silence, contempt and hostility. So one of the keys in determining when one gets an outbreak of conspiracism, comes from paying attention to what happens when a Conspiracy theory discourse goes public. If it gets well received by the public rather than rejected, the culture in which such a narrative “takes” is in for a rough ride, especially if that narrative is a global or future-oriented conspiracy theory.

Role of media
For conspiracy theory to go public it must have means of communicating itself. Many who think conspiratorially never go beyond their own selves, since when they share their concerns with family and neighbors they are rejected and find no friendly ear, or if so, only the ears of other losers. The existence of means of communication for people whom the “gatekeepers” normally keep out of public discourse vastly increases the ability of conspiracy theory to “take” among a larger audience of people who can be reached. Thus, print, telephone, and especially the internet have immensely increased the scope of conspiracy. Indeed, given the capacity of the internet to bring together people from all over the world to exchange conspiracy theories and anomalous “facts,” the number of identifiable conspiracies, and the heat their discussion generates has grown exponentially in the last 20 years. If anything, the WWW represents a Petrie dish for conspiracies. This is especially evident in the increase of the number of conspiracies circulating about the last few presidents. Bill Clinton had more than all the previous sevesan – Nixon and Kennedy included – and Bush surpassed Clinton’s record in his first term. I’ll come back to this point. First, let me make a side journey, via the Middle East.

Next: Conspiracy theory in Arab/Muslim world

The Germans do the work

Pallywood Investigation German-style:
(from German newspaper Sued Deutsche)

German daily Sued Deutsche, said pictures taken by Zakaria Abu Irbad, 36, a cameramen with the Palestinian independent news agency Ramattan, contradict Palestinian claims that an IDF shell killed the Ghalia family and point to the possibility that the event was staged to hold Israel responsible. Irbad was the first journalist to arrive at the s cene after the attack and Ramattan sold footage of Hadil weeping on the beach by her dead father to all major news broadcasters. The newspaper said in footage of the beach taken by an IDF drone at the time of the attack, five craters left by IDF artillery shells could be seen, but that 250 meters away people could also be seen. The paper said it is strange that although shells exploded 250 meters away from a beach site where Palestinian families congregated, no one was seen running away or panicking. Irbad told the newspaper he was told of the attack by paramedics who guided him to the scene. But no paramedics are seen until later in the footage, raising suspicions that he was first to reach the scene. Moreover, if Irbad was the first to get to the scene, why were most bodies covered by sheets? Who was there first to cover the bodies? The newspaper asked.

‘Did girl give instructions to cameraman?’

The newspaper also doubts Irbad’s claim that Hadil was not injured because she was in the water when the shell exploded. His footage show her dry and fully clothed. Another question raised by the newspaper is a shot of a man carrying a rifle next to the dead body of Hadil’s father. The newspaper said in earlier footage, the same man was seen lying on the beach among the injured.

And this:

The footage also shows paramedics in green clothes and a dozen of bearded men looking for evidence. The newspaper asks whether the men are Hamas affiliates and wonders why they were preoccupied with collecting evidence rather than helping the injured.

Did Hamas men hide evidence from the scene, as claimed by eyewitnesses interviewed by Israeli broadcasters?

The newspaper said Irbad evaded most of the questions addressed to him.

Asked why he didn’t try to calm Hadil instead of filming her he said: “She asked me to film her. She wanted to be seen next to her father to show the world the crimes that Israel is committing.”

The newspaper finally asks: “Did the shocked 10-year-old girl, who had lost her father minutes earlier, give the cameraman direction instructions?”

Divestment from Czechoslovakia

I have been at a conference on Anti-semitism and Multiculturalism, so I haven’t been able to blog much. I’m preparing part 2 of Gaza Beachgate. In the meantime, this remarkable piece, allegedly from 1938, shows extraordinary parallels with today.

A CALL FOR BOYCOTT AND DIVESTMENT

by Steven Plaut
Prof. Haifa Univ.

We thought you would be interested in the following document, uncovered by archeologists in Britain. It is a statement that was issued by the Union of British University Lecturers in the year 1938, and was endoxrsed by the civil servants union of Canada, by the Presbyterian Church, and by a host of progressive Jewish professors.

In the interests of history scholarship and accuracy, we reprint the document here in full:

A Call for Divestment in Czechoslovakia
From the Union of British University Lecturers February 12, 1938

Dear Learned Comrades:

The Union of British University Lecturers is calling upon lovers of justice and peace throughout the world to boycott all official institutions of Czechoslovakia and especially the Czechoslovak universities. While we have tried other forms of persuasion, the racist regime in Czechoslovakia continues to abuse the human rights of the country’s ethnic Germans, denying the Sudeten Germans their right to self-determination.

As was declared by our representatives to the recent goodwill conference held in Berlin, sent there to express out friendship and understanding for the Reich’s peace proposals, we must unambiguously denounce the racist apartheid regime that has long been operating in Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovak colonialists are illegally occupying the lands of the Sudeten Germans. This occupation must end.

In recent months the Sudeten victims of Bohemian occupation have launched a protest movement, which we fully endorse. Regretfully, some the victims of occupation have also engaged in terrorist activities directed against the Czechoslovak apartheid regime. We believe that blame for this should not be assigned to the victims of racism, the Sudetens, and understand the desperation that underlies these Sudeten German operations. Indeed, we urge peace-loving states and churches around the world to join the authorities in Berlin in providing funding to the political groups now operating among the Sudetens and representing them.

Recently, the main political group speaking on behalf of the Sudetens has been the Sudeten-German Party (SdP), headed by Konrad Henlein. While some in the world are justifying the Czechoslovak decision not to conduct negotiations with the SdP because of its openly nazi orientation, we demand that Czechoslovakia open immediate talks with it. After all, the SdP enjoys the popular support of the bulk of the Sudeten population and refusal to conduct negotiations with it is anti-democratic. And besides, who are the Czechs to dictate which party and leaders should represent the Sudeten people?

Oppressed people unfortunately often are forced into use of violence. And in this case, the Sudetens were victimized by Czechoslovak state terrorism and racism for well over a generation.

So what if Czechoslovakia has free and open elections, freedom of speech, and other manifestations of liberal democracy? We consider Czechoslovakia to be a phony democracy, with false freedoms existing only on paper, so long as the Sudeten Germans are second-class citizens. That is why we cooperate with the anti-apartheid groups and movements operating within the Third Reich, which are heralding the struggle against Czechoslovak oppression of Germans.

Sure, the Czechoslovak political leaders have offered to consider some forms of local autonomy for the Sudetens. But these offers are humiliating and amount to little more than the creation of German Bantustans for the Sudetens, who would continue to suffer from Czechoslovakian domination. Why should the Sudetens be denied complete self-determination and the control of their own state and army? Why are Sudetens any less entitled to statehood than Czechs and Slovakians? So what if the German Reich already controls most of Central Europe? That should not preclude the rights of the Sudetens to have their own state? Czechoslovakian universities must be boycotted because of their collaboration with the racist regime in Prague! The universities continue to discriminate against Germans by conducting their classes in Czech, and by refusing to allow swastika banners to be hoisted on campus. We have also received reports that there were attempts in one university to expel a pro-German professor, although those attempts failed. Another university conducts courses in a satellite campus located inside occupied Sudetenland!

Accordingly, we believe that researchers and scholars at Czechoslovakian universities need to be taught a firm lesson. This can only be accomplished using the same divestment tactics that were so successfully utilized in other struggles, such as against the Italian conquest of Ethiopia.

Part of the statement for divestment includes this: “Czechoslovakia continues to grab the lands of the Sudeten people for ever-expanding Bohemian settlements, building Czechoslovakian-only roadways, and the construction of a giant wall and fence that is confiscating a significant portion of the Sudeten land. 83% of the Sudetenland water has been taken for Czechoslovakian use, leaving Sudetens with desperate water shortages. Czechoslovakia has destroyed the homes of more than 28,000 Sudetens in four and a half years. Hundreds of thousands of ancient fir trees and vast tracts of agricultural land have also been destroyed.”

The Union of British University Lecturers has also voted for and hereby demands the divesting of funds from all companies that support the Czechoslovak occupation of the Sudeten Territories. Our resolution contains statements of action:

– That a committee be convened in the conference to create and maintain a list of companies that support in a significant way the Czechoslovak occupation of Sudeten territories. The list will be delivered to all university associations, conference churches and conference investment managers.

– We call upon Czechoslovakia, as well as the U.S. government, Britain, the government of Poland, and the newly-elected Sudeten leadership to respect all people and find solutions based on international law and human rights.

– We affirm the right of Sudeten Germans to freedom of movement in all lands, and believe that Prague should be declared an open city for people of all faiths and creeds.

Peace can yet be achieved. Boycott Czechoslovakia Now!

How many “progressive” anti-Zionists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

“That’s not funny.”