The Dangers of Honor: Response to Omar

Omar of Jordan, whose blog I cited yesterday has a long question up at his blog. Here is my interlinear answer.

Omar, we are pretty much on opposite sides of this particular issue, but I detect in your questions, even though they are fairly rhetorical (i.e., whose answer is obvious), some opening to a serious response. So here it is. I welcome your response.

But…they are fighting Israel, whoever they are!

I’m not allowed to thank Allah when I see an Israeli ship sinking in the sea, because I have to be more aware of what’s going on behind the scenes. I’m not allowed to thank Allah when I see Israelis who slaughtered my brothers in blood hide in shelters like dogs, because when I do, I’m an idiot who agrees on killing the Lebanese people. I’m not allowed to open that ancient box of dignity and have a look (without touching) at something that I really miss when I hear Hassan Nasrullah’s speech inviting me to have a look at that burning thing over there after uttering all the logic and the sense in the world, because if I dare to do that, I’ll become an oblivious Iranian agent. If I dare to raise my hands and ask Allah to help my fellow Muslims in their fight against that devil called Israel, then I’m a Syrian informer.

Before I commit any of these grave mistakes, can you please have some sympathy on me and try your best to enlighten me before it’s too late, can you please explain to my humble and slow mind how it’s better to repeat after Bush and Rice, how it’s better to give Israel a green light and to tell her that it’s the right thing to do, it’s not your resposibilty after all, it’s only a Shiite adventure. I’m finding this a bit hard to swallow, why should I curse the one whose fighting my enemy? Or maybe I shouldn’t have considered it my enemy in the first place!

Maybe that’s the case. As your opening Arab proverb states, one of the signs of a fool is mistaking an enemy for a friend. The inverse applies as well: mistaking a friend for an enemy.

Try a thought experiment. We are in 1900. The Arab world has, for a century now, awakened to realize that European culture has far outstripped them in technology, and they are on the defensive even in their own lands. Efforts at reform, starting with Muhammad Ali in the early 19th century have all failed. A new round of efforts known as “Arab nationalism” have begun. And all of a sudden, you start getting Jews from Europe coming to Palestine. They come because the Europeans are racists and anti-Semites. They have the secrets of modernity — both technological and cultural — and there is little love lost between them and the Christians they flee.

They could be your ideal allies. With them to help, you need not go to your real enemies, the European Christians, who have waged war with you for centuries and who even now, threaten to turn you into colonies. You can get all the information and insights you need from these Jews.

What if your people (Muslim Arabs) had treated them with your celebrated hospitality? My guess is, that the Arab world would not be the economic and political disaster area it is today, with the failure not only of Arab nationalism, but now the rise of Islamic theocracy, whose handiwork we can see in the Iranian’s treatment of their own sons in their war against Iraq, in the Taliban throwing acid in the face of women who do not wear the veil, and the massacre of populations — Christian, animist, Muslim — in the Sudan.

And again please, what’s so bad about Syria and Iran that is enough for me to stand with the US against them?

I’m not sure how to answer this. My guess is that you would have a very difficult time sustaining your blog in either place. You have picked two of the most oppressive regimes in the world (barring, of course, North Korea which is actually starving its people to death). Let me return a question: will you side with anyone who’s “on your side” (i.e., Muslim and fighting Israel) no matter how cruelly they treat your own people?

In other words, explain to me how important it is to consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization because it’s nothing but a Syrian tool. I for one never heard Al Assad expressing his ambition about conquering Amman, but again, he must be bad, because you know it’s impossible that our leaderships stab Lebanon in the back for nothing!

I have a little difficulty understanding what is apparently a lot of sarcasm. Correct me if I misunderstood.
1) Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization because it is a Syrian tool (actually, it’s more an agent of Iran than Syria, but it’s also independent). Hezbollah is terrorist because it teaches hatred that urges genocide, because it celebrates and participates in suicide terrorism (i.e., targeting civilians). And like most terrorist organizations, it terrorizes most and most often the very people among whom it exists and for whom it pretends to speak.
2) Assad and “Greater Syria”: I am astonished that you are unaware of Syrian designs on Jordan. Jordan, Israel and Lebanon are all part of “Greater Syria“, and the ambitions of the Syrians for your country are a major dimension of the politics of the last 60 years (including “Black September“). Surely you are aware of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon for the last half a century. That was foreplay.

It’s time for you to wake up, it’s time for you to realize what the Iranian and the Syrian devil is preparing for you, it’s time for you to understand that fighting Israel is not helping the Palestinians nor the Lebanese, it’s time to realize that anybody threatening Israel by any means is not helping the Palestinians and not serving the common Arabic interests which I have no idea what it is!

Since you have basically presented my position (although in a fairly simplistic way), I can only assume that the above was meant to be sarcastic. Let me just make two points here, starting with your closing question about the “common Arabic interests.” It seems to me that can go one of two ways: either the common Arab interest is the honor of the Arabs as strong and virile so that Arab leaders can strut on the stage of history, no matter what the cost to their own people, or it is the creation of states in which justice rules fairly and commoners have dignity.

If you want the former, then destroying Israel is important. If you want the latter, then allying with Israel is important. The pursuit of Arab honor (as defined by an elite who do not hesitate to exploit and sacrifice Arab commoners in search of their goal) has doomed the Palestinians to misery, to imprisonment in “refugee” (really concentration) camps, to statelessness, to occupation.

In 1967, for example, after the disastrous Six-Days War, the Arabs had a chance to get the entire West Bank and Gaza for a Palestinian state, free over a million Arabs from the yoke of Israeli occupation (and humiliation). Instead they proclaimed the three No’s of Khartoum, which effectively said, “our honor [i.e., Arab League leaders] is more important than the freedom and well-being of the Palestinian people.” No one consulted the Palestinians. They were the designated sacrificial victim on the altar of Arab “pride.

The point here is that “that ancient box of dignity” you would be happy only to look at has been poisoned. Your people (Arabs, Muslims) have so feverishly pursued one notion of honor that they have destroyed the very meaning of honor. As a result, they eagerly seek to play the victim before the whole world — look at what these wicked Israelis are doing to us! — when no honorable warrior would play the victim; they kill daughters for getting raped; they grind the faces of their poor and then blame Israel. This is not honorable. This is not dignified.

For some, it doesn’t need much analysis, wait for you bastards’ point of view, and simply follow. It’s not the same for me.

I’m for not simply following someone else’s point of view too. Take your own stance.

In your opening remarks you seek to avoid rejoicing over your enemies damage, a term called Schadenfreude in German, and, I believe, Shamtan, in Arabic. It is an important emotion to avoid, for as your proverb points out, if you mistake your enemy for your friend, you may, taking his enemies as yours, be rejoicing over your real friend’s suffering.

In your title you say, “But… they are fighting Israel, whoever they are!” Well who are they? And are you prisoner of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” at all costs? Are you aware that Hezbollah is out to turn Lebanon into a Sharia state and impose dhimmitude on the Christians (and the “lax” Muslims) there? Do you care? Does it matter to you that Christian Lebanese are cheering the only people who stand a chance of breaking the yoke of terrorism on those among whom terrorists live.

Listen to the words of a Lebanese Christian, your friend’s enemy and your enemy’s friend. You can dismiss the Christian Lebanese as fascist if you want, but they are no less fascist than your Islamic and “Arab nationalist” movements.

For the millions of Christian Lebanese, driven out of our homeland, Thank you Israel, is the sentiment echoing from around the world. The Lebanese Foundation for Peace, an international group of Lebanese Christians, made the following statement in a press release to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert concerning the latest Israeli attacks against Hezbollah:

We urge you to hit them hard and destroy their terror infrastructure. It is not [only] Israel who is fed up with this situation, but the majority of the silent Lebanese in Lebanon who are fed up with Hezbollah and are powerless to do anything out of fear of terror retaliation…

The once dominant Lebanese Christians responsible for giving the world the Paris of the Middle East as Lebanon used to be known, have been killed, massacred, driven out of their homes and scattered around the world as radical Islam declared its holy war in the 70s and took hold of the country. They voice an opinion that they and Israel have learned from personal experience, which is now belatedly being discovered by the rest of the world.

Ask yourself if you don’t care what your allies do… as long as they attack Israel. Ask yourself if, when your friends, Arab Muslims, say “line up against the Jews and the Christians in a zero-sum war, our side right or wrong, you want to simply follow.

17 Responses to The Dangers of Honor: Response to Omar

  1. Cynic says:

    I for one never heard Al Assad expressing his ambition about conquering Amman, …

    Then Omar of Jordan does not know his history. Has he not been taught that Syria, under his father’s Baathist hand was planning on invading Jordan around the time that Arafat attempted his coup?
    I believe that Israel at the behest of the US prevented that happening.

  2. RL says:

    Jordan would not exist today were it not for Israel, and the Palestinians have made it clear that they consider Jordan part of Palestine, a claim that they will only make after they get a chunk of Israel.

  3. Antidhimmi says:

    It’s too bad that Omar believes that his Arab dignity requires that he side with anyone fighting Israel-even Muslim fanatics who see Islams’ solutions in Sharia; a set of laws Omar may disagree with. Not only might he find an Islamic state oppressive, but his choice reflects total ignorance of the ethic of democracy. The one state where Arab votes really have meaning is in Israel. Arab Knesset members have made statements that are clearly treasonous, yet the silly Israelis don’t imprisoned them, an act that would be considered a mild restraint in most Arab states where political murder is the usual solution to problems of dissent. Omar’s blog is representative of the tragedy of the Arab world.

    The Arab motto suggested by Omar’s blog ought to be –choose backwardness-its what we know.

  4. Before I start, I’m not sure if you’re the frenchfregoli who I was argueing for the last two days or not, but anyway, I’m going to overlook any relation and respond to you in general,

    I don’t believe that we’re on opposite sides about everything, the problem from my point of view is that you know less about the Arab world and about me, you base your opinions on information that are facts only according to you.

    Let me start by your thought experiment, ok, our “friends” had arrived to Palestine, you’re inviting me to welcome them with hospitality, do you have any idea that Jews had been living in the hospitality of Arabs for over a thousand years, what made us change our minds suddenly? mmm, maybe the Haghana gangs that were commiting genocides in Der Yasin to terrorise native Palestinians, or maybe Palestinians, regardless to their legendary hospitality, don’t like, just like every decent human, somebody coming from poland taking over their houses over a night and butchering them and their innocent families, maybe because those “peaceful” Jews wanted, and still do, to conquer lands from Iraq to Egypt claiming that it’s what their god had promised them 3000 years ago! Only by stumbling across this idea of yours, I feel so disappointed.

    let’s turn to your analysis to my question about what’s bad about Syria or Iran, I have two points to explain:

    1) You haven’t got my question correctly at all, because simply you haven’t read it correctly, what’s the other part of the question? “that is enough for me to stand with the US against them?”

    2) Would I stand with anyone fighting my enemy? Isn’t that a human nature my friend? What’s better for me, living under the Syrian regime or under the Israeli regime? what’s better for me as a Palestinian, supporting Syria (a country that’s fighting my everlasting enemy) or hiding behind the US; a country that’s conquerring Iraq and torturing my brothers and raping my sisters for the sake of oil, not to mention its very obvious imperialistic ambition to the area as a whole? Why should I now, after the situaition exploded, judge what the Syraians are doing to their people inside prisons, not just judging them, but stabing their resistance in the back, overlook the Israeli terrorist crimes and give them a green light to continue their cowrd attacks on civilains?

    The search for the Arab honor, which you obviously have no idea what it is, didn’t cause our problems, this honor, which you obviously consider a stupid idea, can be defined by the following: “It’s your reaction when you wake up in the morning, whether you are in Gaza, west bank, Lebanon, or Jolan (syria), on the smell of your children’s burning corpses”. I hope that you come to realize this stupid honor one day, and then tell me what to do about it.

    Now, let’s turn to this doomed “Greater Syrai” project that you think I have no idea whatsoever about! Your prejiduce is exactly what I call total ignorance, do you really think that this project is Al Assad’s invention, let me sum up , this project is every Arab’s dream, there isn’t a single arab who doesn’t want the Arab Greater Unity, it’s called Greater Syria because originally, Syria was the formal name of the area from modern Syria through Palestine , Lebanon, and Jordan. Arabs were fighting for this dream since ages, but the opressive regimes of us had often fought back, some arabs who follow the ideology of nationalism had succeeded in taking over and controling some countries (e.g. Syria, Iraq, and Egypt) but once they were in control, they turned to be worse than the regimes before them! The Syrian regime is one clear example on that.

    Another ignorance you show here, you consider Arab leaders representitives of the their citizens! By talking about the Khrtoum summet, you’re insulting every Arab reading about this! Those leaders represent themselves, they represent their own intrests of stabilizing and legitimizing their regimes, you can read about their bloody history everywhere, the Syrian regime might be the most obvious one only because the US chose that.

    You have the right to imagine Hezbollah’s members as aliens coming from another fascist planet, you have the right to reflect what you see in the movies and in the western media on whoever you choose, I won’t blame you in that, actually I blame them. I wonder how easy it is so easy for you to justify a full destruction of a country for the sake of two kidnapped soldier, I wonder how could you waste your time in useless debates about who to blame? How could you be so blind, how could you accuse Hezbollah of what’s happening in Lebanon, how could you compare kidnapping two soldiers in an effort to exchange them with other Lebanese soldiers with the destruction and butchering of Lebanon?

    Now, about the Christians in Lebanon, put yourself in their shoe, they’re being butchred by the Israeli planes at the very moment, their country is being destroyed by the Israelis, is it logical that they turn to Israel and ask her to continue what it’s doing?! Does it make any sense to you in a perfect world? It sure doesn’t, but in Lebanon it does; Lebanon my friend is a land of racism, everybody carries an amount of racism that varies according to his family, age, origin, and most importantly religion. Christians in Lebanon, like it or not, carry the most intense and disgusting amount of racism against muslims in general and more against Hezbollah and Shiites, if you think that I’m exaggerating here, you have all the books in the world to read about the Lebanese civil war and about the unbelievable disgraceful crimes that Chritsians have committed during that disgusting war, in simple words, KKK and Hitler would be considered moderate compared to Maronites in Lebanon.

    My friend, you have all the right in the world to condemn my positions and beliefs, you will never understand the amount of frustration and misery that we live in, you have the right to think that we’re playing the victims, you have the right to believe whatever you want to believe about Israel and about the situation in the middle east, but I only beg you not to judge me before you know how does it feel to live 60 years of homelessness, and how does it feel to wake up everyday on urgent news telling you that your brothers in Gaza were butchered, to stand with Hezbollah in his resistance isn’t backwardness, supporting Nasrullah isn’t an act of blood seeking, Hezbollah, unlike every other Arabic resistance militia is capable of fighting back, Hezbollah is capable of making the Israelis feel what we have been feeling for the last 60 years, if you were Palestinian, your visions won’t be the same, if you go through what this nation had gone through, you’ll make a deal with the devil if he’s capable of fighting your slaughterers.

    What I’m doing in my blog isn’t an urge for terrorism, what I’m doing is a poor effort of supporting the only weapon my brothers in Lebanon have for the time being.

    take care.

  5. Omri says:

    Well, Omar, the first thing you should do when you wake up to the smell of a child’s corpse is STOP HIDING BEHIND CHILDREN.

    It’s amazing how people like you condone that kind of cowardice and then wonder why you have no honor. It is because you DO NOT ACT WITH HONOR.

  6. M. Simon says:

    Omar is screwed. The Arab League sides with Israel.

    Rarely have I seen such an uprising, indeed an intifada, against those little turbaned, bearded men across the Muslim landscape as the one that took place last week. The leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, received a resounding “no” to pulling 350 million Arabs into a war with Israel on his clerical coattails.

    The collective “nyet” was spoken by presidents, emirs, and kings at the highest level of government in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, and at the Arab League’s meeting of 22 foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday. But it was even louder from pundits and ordinary people.

    Perhaps the most remarkable and unexpected reaction came from Saudi Arabia, whose foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, said bluntly and publicly that Hezbollah’s decision to cross the Lebanese border, attack Israel, and kidnap its soldiers has left the Shiite group on its own to face Israel. The unspoken message here was, “We hope they blow you away.”

    From NY Sun.

    I do not believe greater Syria is in the cards.

  7. jodetoad says:

    First, thanks for the blog, I learned something when reading about game theory. Having read voraciously on this for quite some time, I had seen the shame/honor stuff; and tribalism, to the extent I understand it, sure doesn’t simplify matters. The game theory fits right in.

    It’s damned sad. I’m a sober alcoholic (for many years), so I know how hard it is to try to wipe your mind free of attitudes and ideas that are self-destructive. Presuming you’re willing.

    It’s harder than anyone can imagine who hasn’t done it. More than anything else, it’s a disease of attitude and responsibility. I remember being concerned about my pride in a gutter. The entire universe is absolutely different than I thought.

    I remember people trying to show me how self-destructive my attitudes were, and my response was: why do they hate me? they don’t even know me!

    So in this other context, when I see the riots over cartoons, the rejection of reform, the resentment of comment from outsiders, the long-term grudges, it reminds me very much of my own bad old days.

    Everyone wants peace. And yet, carrying on the analogy to alcoholism, sobriety usually results from disaster, “hitting bottom”. It is still the case that most alcoholics are not cured, and drink til the day they die. Something drastic enough can open their eyes, but the window of opportunity is short.

    I don’t even like to kill ants in my kitchen, but from this perspective, one wonders if war is not the only solution, and carried on past today’s politically correct level, to absolute and undoubted defeat? We do hear some sane voices from the middle east, but winning hearts and minds might work in 2 or 3 thousand years. We don’t have that long. And we may not be given a choice in any event.

  8. M. Simon says:

    Ah, Omar is a Palestinian. That explains a lot.

    As usual they are being deserted by their “friends”.

    As usual they are picking the wrong side in a fight.

    Are they ever screwed.

    They have become so disgusting that not even their friends want them.

    I’m betting the Arabs give a green light to the Israelis to thump the Palis really hard. Which will happen once the Lebanon deal is over.

    Omar is not going to have much honor or much of a country left after this is over. Well he will still have his hate.

    Here is my conspiracy theory of the day: the Israelis fixed the Pali elections so that Hamas would win and the Palis would be screwed.

    Saddam was their friend – gone.
    Iran took Saddam’s place – soon to be gone.

    And the Iranian people: in general they hate the Palis and like the Israelis. They still have fond memories of a Jewish beauty who became their queen.

    My advice to the Palis – side with the Jews. They are winners.

  9. trophyb says:

    find your saying that refugee camps are really concentration camps offensive. Regardless of who is responsible for keeping the Palestinians there, concentration camps a la Nazi Germany, they are not.

  10. Cynic says:

    Maybe this link will show who has a lot of responsibility for keeping those people as refugees:

    Why Palestinians Still Live in Refugee Camps

    What is perhaps surprising is that the United Nations also opposed the program, and passed harsh resolutions demanding that Israel remove the Palestinians from their new homes and return them to the squalid camps. For example, UN General Assembly Resolution 31/15 of Nov. 23, 1976:

    Calls once more upon Israel:

    (a) To take effective steps immediately for the return of the refugees concerned to the camps from which they were removed in the Gaza Strip ……..
    Similarly, UNGA Resolution 34/52 of November 23, 1979

  11. RL says:

    to trophyb:
    don’t confuse concentration camps with death camps. they were invented by the soviets in the 1920s and their purpose was to concentrate large numbers in highly confined areas. but you’re probably right, it’s in bad taste. i won’t do it again.

  12. Antidhimmi says:

    Oh Omar, though obviously intelligent and well-educated, you are a prisoner of your own myths. I’ll just address one. You said “Jews had been living in the hospitality of Arabs for over a thousand years”. I won’t be petty and suggest that Jews preceded Arabs in the ME by several thousand years so the notion of Arab hospitality is a smidgeon patronizing.

    Never mind. We should talk about the mythic hospitality of Islam and of Arabs to non Muslims. Undoubtedly if you know your history you have passing familiarity with terms like ‘dhimmi peoples’ and Jizya and devshirme. If you don’t, I’ll provide a necessarily brief overview. Under Sharia law that has dominated much of the Muslim world, Dhimmi peoples were allowed to live (by that I mean stay alive) under certain discriminatory laws that were more or less followed during different periods of Islamic history. Under Sharia, Dhimmi people’s testimony in court could not be believed over that of Muslims, they couldn’t build houses higher than those of Muslims and had to step aside if passing a Muslim on the street, couldn’t own a horse or use a leather saddle. They could not defend themselves if attacked by a Muslim, and under pain of death could not criticize Islam. Non-Muslims also had to pay the ‘Jizyha’ a special tax paid only by non-muslims that often was confiscatory and forced those subject to it to either convert or sell themselves into slavery. The Devshirme was a Turkish innovation ( I know they are not Arabs) in which non-Muslim children were taken from their families, usually before puberty, forcibly converted to Islam and then drafted as Janissaries in the Turkish Army.

    You mention that the Christians in Lebanon hated the Muslims. Could it be that the behavior of the Shiite community had some bearing on their hatred. Perhaps you have heard of Damour, a massacre that preceded the phalangist massacre at Sabra and Shattila, in which 100s of Christians were murdered in the most horrible fashion.

    But all that’s history right. And you only want to remember the history that supports your victim narrative and justifies any crimes your compatriots commit.

    I have other bad news for you Omar. You are not a refugee except under the most contorted UN definitions possible. Your grandparents or parents might have been refugees but you were not born in the land that you claim and you are a citizen of Jordan. By your definition, I’d be a refugee from Austria, a country I would never trade for the US.

    My only advice to you Omar is choose life rather than the beliefs of a loser death cult that considers paradise having 72 virgins at their disposal.

    You’ll be happier and the food is generally better.

  13. […] 1:54 pm — Print This Post This is the second part of my response to Omar’s long response to […]

  14. Kesher Talk says:

    Propaganda wars in the Middle East blogopshere

    Yes, the blogosphere is enabling some nitty-gritty verbal wrestling in the Middle East. Richard Landes (who is in Israel for the year; maybe he will post about his experiences) argues about history with a Jordanian named Omar. Talk about “competing…

  15. […] ho Darwish has in mind when he refers to those who hate and love us. It does remind me of my exchange with Omar, whose blog at the time had an opening qu […]

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