Monthly Archives: August 2006

Trigano on Media Manipulation in Lebanon in Liberation (!)

Shmuel Trigano, one of the most astute and penetrating critics of the French scene today, author of many books (helas only in French), the most recent of which is l’Avenir des Juifs de France [The Future of the Jews in France] (Grasset, 2006) and president of l’Observatoire du monde juif, director of the monthly journal, Controverses, has just published an article on media manipulation in, of all newspapers, the French daily Liberation.

Manipulés, les médias réactivent le mythe antisémite du Juif tueur d’enfants.
Guerre, mensonges et vidéos

Par Shmuel TRIGANO

QUOTIDIEN : Jeudi 31 août 2006 – 06:00

Mais où êtes-vous ? Où sont les grandes âmes, le scandale ? Le déclarations des plus hautes autorités politiques du monde ? Depuis le 1 août, je cherche désespérément dans les colonnes des journaux et sur les écrans la condamnation du bombardement d’un orphelinat par l’armée sri-lankaise dans sa lutte contre le mouvement terroriste des Tigres tamouls Quarante-trois écolières tuées, soixante autres blessées. Pas seize enfant sur vingt-huit morts, comme à Cana. On ne peut qu’être abasourdi devant l différence de traitement. Les victimes arabo-musulmanes seraient-elles plu précieuses que les autres ? Pas nécessairement, car qui s’émeut de meurtres de masse perpétrés en Irak par des Arabes sur d’autres Arabes Non ce qui est en question, c’est Israël ou, plus exactement, les Juifs.

No indignation about Sri Lankans bombing an orphanage in their struggle with Tamil Tigers (also famous for their suicide attacks), nor over the death of Arab civilians in Iraq by “insurgents,” but Qana… This is precisely what Charles Jacobs calls “The Human Rights Complex” — it’s not the victim that counts, nor how much the victim has suffered. It’s certain kind of perps who incite indignation.

hrc

And it shows. The Israelis, who hold themselves and are held to exceptional standards, know where every bomb goes, and can give maps and legal accountings for their every use of restricted ordinance. By contrast, the Sri Lankans comment on claims that they have killed 48 girls and wounded 60 with:

A military source admitted that air raids had been launched on rebel territory this morning but said they had no details of targets hit or casualties.

Can you imagine the pages of Counterpunch if the Israelis said that?

Toute personne sensée aura remarqué, depuis l’année 2000, quelque chose d’étrange dans les images du conflit : la centralité de la figure de l’enfant, des corps sanguinolents des victimes d’Israël. Il suffit d’ouvrir la télévision française pour voir le projecteur braqué uniquement sur les civils libanais alors que l’image d’Israël se résume à des blindés, des avions ou des soldats. Aucune société civile n’est visible : ni les dégâts matériels, ni les victimes et les drames. Pas de corps ensanglantés, ni de blessés, ni de cadavres ou de cercueils. Ce choix ne fait que réactiver une idée antisémite très archaïque : les Juifs tuent des enfants. Dans l’Antiquité, ils étaient accusés de cannibalisme, au Moyen Age et encore aujourd’hui dans le monde arabe de crimes rituels.

Trigano, who looks at historical developments in attitudes towards Jews (and more broadly, religiosity) has put his finger on something crucial here. There are periods — one can chronicle many of them — when Christians and Muslims become susceptible to a story of Jewish malevolence which, despite its wildly concocted nature, has a fatal attraction for the non-Jews. One of the big periods for this kind of thirst for blood libel was the turn of the 1900s, the period that generated Zionism. In 1892, the Russian Ahad Ha’am spoke of the blood libels as the dominant motif of the day: Gentiles ask rhetorically about the accusations: “Is it possible for the whole world to be wrong and the Jews to be right?” In 1896, Herzl, looking at enlightened France’s delirium over Dreyfus, called for a Zionist Congress. Between 1900 and 1905, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were forged.

And now, today, we are witness to a new round, this time played out on the global scale with global media, through a peculiar (and deadly) narrative about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

And the last episode, of course, was the coverage of the Israeli-Lebanese war, with the Lebanese victims and Israeli aggressors. It’s the kind of coverage that, while present in Israel and the USA, actually dominates most of Europe and much of academia, a bizarre and deeply troubling affair between “leftist” radical/revolutionary ideology and the demopathic discourse of global jihad: freedom, dignity, down with the American hegemon. Not coincidentally, the date at which the “radical left” and the global jihadis joined forces publicly and enthusiastically was October 2000, which also marks the beginning of Europe’s “Muslim Street.”

La fabrication délirante de ce mensonge suit les mêmes chemins qu’au Moyen Age. Affabulations et «mystères de la foi» mettent en scène et «prouvent» le meurtre, en construisant de toutes pièces une narration, un exemplum édifiant, comme l’a si bien analysé Marie-France Rouart dans le Crime rituel ou le sang de l’autre (Berg International, 1997.). Le récent scandale (vite étouffé) de la photo truquée de Beyrouth en flammes, diffusée par l’agence Reuters, face émergée d’un ensemble de trucages, nous montre comment l’ exemplum est fabriqué avec des images, alors qu’auparavant on agençait des mots pour mettre en forme le fantasme.

Par exemple, cette photo du magazine US News où l’on voit un terroriste du Hezbollah en pose guerrière devant un avion israélien abattu et en flammes : examinée de plus près, la photo révèle en fait l’incendie d’un dépôt d’ordures. Le trucage de l’image du réel est le plus souvent moins grossier : ce n’est pas la photo qui se voit manipulée mais son angle ou sa composition, avant prise de vue. Le spectacle des destructions de Beyrouth est ainsi surdimensionné. Ce sont toujours les mêmes prises de vue qui passent en boucle à la télé, pour donner une impression d’étendue. Le spectateur innocent pense que tout Beyrouth est en flammes. Comment saura-t-il que, en dehors du quartier qui sert de QG au Hezbollah, les gens vont à la plage ou sont attablés aux cafés ? Ou alors, on place, comme à Cana, dans une photo de destruction, un objet insolite : un nounours (bizarrement très propre au milieu des gravats), une robe de mariée (très blanche), un petit Mickey (très coloré)… La suggestion est ici encore plus forte que des cadavres: l’enfant absent, la jeune mariée promise aubonheur mais déplacée… On n’a jamais vu les «combattants» du Hezbollah, ni leurs bunkers systématiquement placés au milieu des civils, utilisés comme boucliers «moraux». On a gommé le caractère de milice fasciste du parti, ses provocations, ses tirs centrés sur la population civile israélienne.

This is crucial. The ability of the media to frame the story so it looks like what we’re being told it is — Beirut destroyed — is systematically exploited by people who know just what horrifies us most, the death of innocents. We don’t see them, partly because they manipulate our emotions and we look away. To question the authenticity of the tragic death of innocents is such bad taste!

Ce sur quoi il faut attirer l’attention de l’opinion, c’est la résurgence de l’accusation du meurtre rituel, c’est-à-dire le retour d’un stéréotype antisémite classique. Il est sciemment mis en oeuvre, de façon massive, par les médias arabes : la mort filmée «en direct» de Mohammed al-Dura à Gaza, puis Jénine, puis la plage de Gaza, puis Cana. Nous avons là une série d’événements pour le moins douteux quant à leur réalité exacte, qui nous sont parvenus à travers une mise en scène théâtrale par des reporters sous le contrôle de l’Autorité palestinienne, du Hamas ou du Hezbollah. Filmer dans ces régions dépend en effet, comme tous les journalistes le savent, de l’autorisation des pouvoirs en place, qui exercent un étroit contrôle sur les images et les accréditations qu’ils donnent aux reporters.

The degree of intimidation is, I suspect, as intense as is the denial of most journalists. The Fox reporters are again only the beginning. The media seem very much like dhimmi towards Arabs/Muslims and the products of their media, eager to be ingratiating and not to challenge them. This is not merely either ideological or pathological, it’s simple pragmatism in a culture where violence lies just below the surface.

Des simulations sont créées de toutes pièces au point que certains experts, comme le professeur Richard Landes, de la Boston University, parlent aujourd’hui des studios de «Pallywood» (du mot «Palestine»).

Thank you for the plug. With such a kind introduction, let me take the point one step further. Someday, we’ll be able to write an article entitled: “The early directors of Pallywood: The Golden Years, 1982-2006.”

A voir les photos les unes après les autres, on retrouve souvent, dans des situations différentes, les mêmes acteurs, jouant des rôles différents. Quoi qu’il en soit de la réalité exacte des différentes affaires et il ne s’agit pas ici de justifier tout , on constate qu’un scénario du type du légendaire «génocide de Jénine» (56 morts parmi les milices palestiniennes contre 23 soldats israéliens, au terme d’un combat au corps à corps pour éviter les victimes civiles) sous-tend tous ces exemples. Un scandale mondial est à chaque fois orchestré par les médias, avant que l’examen des faits n’en réduise la portée, et toujours en isolant comme par enchantement l’événement de son contexte et de la guerre menée contre les populations civiles israéliennes, sans doute, elle, jugée «juste». Entre-temps, l’impact a
été gravé dans l’imaginaire collectif. Le plus terrible est que cette camelote puisse trouver acheteur dans la gent médiatique occidentale sans aucun recul critique.

Precisely. The worst is that these fevered nightmarish narratives, designed to create hatred and incite to violence, are done so shoddily. How is possible that such cheap and obvious fakes should find such a vast audience in the western media?

Comment les journalistes peuvent-ils sous-traiter enquêtes et reportages auprès d’acteurs engagés dans le conflit aux côtés de mouvements totalitaires ? Que recherchent-ils ? Le spectacle brut et violent ? Les belles images ? Se rendent-ils compte que celles-ci incitent à la haine et au meurtre ?

That’s the hope — that the people in the media don’t realize what they’re doing. Because if they did, and did it anyway, on purpose!, that would be terrible… as terrible as the Palestinian accusations of crimes about the Israelis which, so far, our media uncritically replicates.

Le mal est profond, car la facilité avec laquelle de nombreux médias acceptent ce récit montre que subsiste un fond archaïque, toujours vivace. Le discours sur Israël est hanté par une forme nouvelle de l’antisémitisme, un antisémitisme compassionnel qui se focalise sur la «victime» des Juifs, forcément innocente et pure comme un enfant, sans pour autant formuler directement le nom du bourreau cruel et inhumain que sa victime désigne. Un antisémitisme «par défaut», que la moralité conforte.

The mal (sickness, evil) is deep, because the facility with which so many media accept this tale shows that there is an archaic bedrock, still lively. The discourse about Israel is haunted by a new form of antisemitism, a compassionate antisemitism that focuses on the “victim” of the Jews, automatically innocent and pure like a child, not explicitly naming the cruel and inhuman executioner which his victim designates. An anti-semitism “by default” conforted by morality.

Not sure what the last lines mean, although one reading might imply that the obsession with the victim of the Jew is part of a larger discourse intended to make of the Jew (the inhuman executioner of this tale), the victim of “justice.”

In any case, whether or not we call this anti-semitism or anti-judaism (I prefer the latter for most of the European part of this folly, the latter for the radical left and the jihadis), it sure is Judeophobia. And it’s dangerous not just for the Jews, but for the people foolish enough to believe these tales, and thereby throw open their gates to the worst hatreds and violence.

Open Letter to Jostein Gaarder II: Fisking Crypto-Supersessionism

However, the state of Israel, with its unscrupulous art of war and its disgusting weapons, has massacred its own legitimacy.

This statement presumably reflects complete credence in the dominant Mainstream Media version of events in Lebanon. You, Mr Gaarder, have taken as accurate that which the Arab photographers and journalists who consider themselves combatants in the war against Israel have produced, the echoed by your media, who are addicted to the narrative of the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian (and now Lebanese) David. Given the gathering mountain of evidence that many of these images are fabricated – especially those at Qana, which is presumably the major provocation for your prophetic outrage – don’t you think you need to pause before jumping in with both feet?

Israel’s “unscrupulous art of war” here is nothing other than the selective and credulous attribution of accuracy to what Arab media produce. Few statements better illustrate why Pallywood works: it appeals to precisely this thirst for ammunition to use against Israel. How treacherous the ground on which your moral indignation stands!

It has systematically flaunted International Law, international conventions, and countless UN resolutions, and it can no longer expect protection from same. It has carpet bombed the recognition of the world. But fear not! The time of trouble shall soon be over. The state of Israel has seen its Soweto.

Again we find the classic tropes of “progressive” anti-Zionism, invoking interpretations of international law as if they were already decided, and a UN whose deep corruption on both an ideological and fiscal scale goes unmentioned. This statement is a good example of a trajectory that we can draw from Muhammad al Durah to Durban to Jenin to the divestment and boycott campaigns. I understand you feel fully justified in your position. But as we shall see, not only is there important evidence you are mistaken, but that if you are, the consequences are truly frightening for everything you hold dear.

We are now at the watershed. There is no turning back. The state of Israel has raped the recognition of the world and shall have no peace until it lays down its arms.

This is choice language. Although you claim this is a warning, your judgment of Israel is remorseless. No turning back, no mercy, no relenting… and from a man who claims the moral high ground. Add to it the extraordinary claim that by laying down its arms Israel will have peace, or perhaps you mean that Israel will be destroyed but the world shall have peace. Do you, Mr. Gaarder, really believe this? Most Israelis would find this really malicious double-speak. But maybe it’s a reflection of some profound confusion, some feverish pacifist dream divorced from all reality.

Again, please put on your scientist’s thinking cap: What if the Israelis are not the problem? Will feeding them into the maw of global Jihad quiet the flames? Did giving Hitler Czechoslovakia work? If you are wrong, you have not only sacrificed the Jews – again! – but at your own peril. Does it make sense to be so supremely confident in your (and your media’s) judgment when so much is at stake, both existentially and morally?

Without defense, without skin

May spirit and word sweep away the apartheid walls of Israel. The state of Israel does not exist. It is now without defense, without skin. May the world therefore have mercy on the civilian population. For it is not civilian individuals at whom our doomsaying is directed.

I take this as a partial answer to my question. Spirit and word obviously applies to the moral spirit and the thunderous words with which you, Mr. Gaarder and your approving audience believe you all speak. May you have the power of the word to bring down Israel’s (evil) defenses.

Israel is (read: should be) without defense, without skin… in other words, the way the Jews were before the Holocaust, during the times of pogroms which, you have assured us, were the justifiable reason for a Jewish state that could defend itself. Now, because in defense of their people, Jews have killed some civilians – again, nothing that any country at war has not done – you want them defenseless again. Defenseless Jews certainly appealed to the Judeophobes of the Middle Ages who legislated that they could not bear weapons.

Here’s where we come to the crux of the issue of judgment about what is happening in the Middle East. The Israelis believe that they are surrounded by genocidal enemies. You, Mr. Gaarder, seem completely unaware of the evidence for this: are you aware of this. Have you ever visited Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI to see how the Arab and Muslim media speak of Israel and of Jews? If this is even partially true, then the defenseless posture you call for is a recipe for the slaughter of Jews. Of course no less a moral giant than Gandhi advised Ben Gurion to try non-violent resistance to the Nazis. Are you suggesting the same? Why not suggest it to the Lebanese? Disarm entirely and Israel will never again attack you.

And yet, even as you call for a situation that will likely trigger massive civilian massacres – just what your morality abhors – you add a touching concern for the “civilian individuals” of Israel, may “the world” have mercy on them. Never mind that the surrounding enemies of Israel do not think there are any civilians and want to kill them all. Again we are faced with two possibilities: you genuinely pray for mercy for the Jews in Israel even as you demand that they be defenseless, in which case you are at best a fool; or this is hypocritical piety, crocodile tears shed as a moral posture even as you demand the holocaust of the Jews you so despise.

We wish the people of Israel well, nothing but well, but we reserve the right not to eat Jaffa oranges as long as they taste foul and are poisonous. It was endurable to live some years without the blue grapes of apartheid.

I’m sure the people of Israel are touched by your pious wishes, and I hope you can understand if they don’t rush to thank you for your benevolence.

And if you don’t like the moral taste of Jaffa oranges, please, take them from some other country you think is morally superior to Israel… hopefully at least a place with no capital punishment. But while you’re at it, let me recommend that you watch out for the poisons that flood the media you so readily imbibe. They may be far more toxic, and their effects far more dangerous.

They celebrate their triumphs

We do not believe that Israel mourns forty killed Lebanese children more than it for over three thousand years has lamented forty years in the desert. We note that many Israelis celebrate such triumphs like they once cheered the scourges of the Lord as “fitting punishment” for the people of Egypt. (In that tale, the Lord, God of Israel, appears as an insatiable sadist.) We query whether most Israelis think that one Israeli life is worth more than forty Palestinian or Lebanese lives.

Now we return to the theological subtext of your moral tirade, and we find familiar phenomena: gross ignorance and malevolent projection. In particular, the phrase “We do not believe…” is quite striking. On what basis do you not believe? Because the Israelis who apologize look like used car salesmen? Or because it is so vitally important to your moral outrage that they have done this killing on purpose – murder – that you cannot allow them the possibility that it was both accidental and regrettable? Why do you believe whatever the Lebanese sources – partisan, manipulated, and/or intimidated by Hizbullah – tell you, but you refuse to believe Israeli spokesmen, even on so personal issue as their feelings?

Some of the answer seems to come with your immediate switch to the biblical account; and here we come face to face with your (unconscious?) supersessionism. The invocation of the Israelite celebration at punishment meted out to Egypt is particularly interesting. First, the only incident you can refer to relates the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Re(e)d sea, since at no other time in the narrative do the Israelites rejoice over the plagues that Pharaoh sends (they even shared some of them). Apparently you are not aware of the famous rabbinic tale of how the angels came to sing their morning song and God rebuked them, saying: “Forbear! My children [the Egyptians] are in distress, and you would sing!” This is the basis of considerable discussion both religious and political.

So, if we have this level of scruple over the enemy’s soldiers who planned to slaughter and enslave them, why would you, Mr. Gaarder, dismiss so blithely any protests of Israelis that they do not rejoice in the deaths of innocent Arabs? On what basis do you “note that many Israelis celebrate such triumphs”? Do you have any evidence of this? Are you aware of how often the Arabs celebrate? Do you care?

Is it that believing the blood libel – Jews murder innocent gentile children – is too important to let relevant information get in the way? Or is it that, however you feel about “fundamentalist” Christianity, you still accept their version of the Jews, no matter how that image has been distorted by a chosenness concept that cannot see the Jews for what they are, but needs to see them as the negative “other”?

Certainly, your confident dismissal of what the Israelis say about themselves, and your resounding silence about what Israel’s Muslim enemies say about themselves, suggests that you are not interested in an “I-thou” relationship with either group. And given what you say, it certainly seems that you are not dealing with real Jews, or that you know anything about Judaism and the Jewish ways of reading the biblical text. You are projecting your negative reading on to them and condemning them for your projections. The Jews have to be your fall guy; the Muslims just embarrass you. You can see neither for who they are, but only for who you need them to be.

This profoundly negative and projective reading of the “God of the Old Testament” is a common feature of zero-sum supersessionist Christianity: our God, of the New Testament, is loving and forgiving, but your Old Testament God is vengeful and violent. Of course the post-modern reality is otherwise. This Christian “grand narrative” of personal superiority at once underestimates the place of apocalyptic vengeance that lies embedded not only in the terrifying cataclysmic drama of Revelation, with its rivers of blood, but also the pervasive present of a loving and forgiving God in the Hebrew Bible. An understanding of the multiple narratives within both — let’s add Islam — all three monotheistic traditions reveal a far more complex and interesting dynamic at work… one in which your projections — are these from your Christian upbringing or from anti-clerical Enlightenment atttitudes? — produce far more heat than light.

But there’s more to this than just misreading the Jews. This rabbinic reading of the destruction of the Egyptians at the Red Sea offers insight into a key issue about the relationship between text and religious culture that accepts those texts as sacred. You have read the text as a fundamentalist (simple, literal, violent version), and assume that the Jews reads it your way. But the rabbis, for whom the God of the “Old Testament” is not primarily a God of vengeance, but one of love, have read it according to their understanding, just as they read “eye for an eye” as a form of egalitarian law handled by compensatory money damage payments. Here the Jews have read a compassionate God into the story, who weeps even over his chosen people’s worst enemy — the God of positive-sum for whom everyone counts; whereas you a (former?) Christian sees an insatiable sadist. Is your portrait of the Jews and their God a projection?

And yet this difference helps us address the larger and very troubling question of sacred texts and religious movements. Do anti-Jewish passages in the New Testament mean that Christianity, the religion of love, is inevitably committed to hatred? Or do the violent Jihadi passages in the Quran mean that Islam, the religion of peace is inherently violent and warlike? The point is not what the text says, but how people – individuals, communities, elites – read them.

So now let me answer your question about the value of another’s life. First of all, there are no people at war who do not treat their own people’s lives as more valuable than that of the enemy and their own civilians more valuable than that of the enemy. Caring about one’s neighbors is a moral luxury that civil societies can afford, and it does wonders for everyone’s well-being. But in the martial world of hard zero-sum it is not even possible without being suicidal.

Second, if we must make invidious comparisons about who cares more about the others’ life, what do we do when we discover that a) Israelis care more about Arab innocents than Arabs care about Israeli innocents — pin-point bombing vs. deliberately random bombing; b) Israelis care more about Arab innocents than Arabs care about Arab innocents — trying to avoid civilians vs using civilians as shields; andd c) Europeans like yourself care most about Arabs when the Israelis have killed them, not about Arabs killed by Arabs, or any other civilians killed by non-Israelis — where’s your outcry over the bombing of an orphanage by Sri Lankans in pursuit of Tamils? Are you calling for the dissolution of Sri Lanka?

And last, but not least, are you aware that, when it comes to reporting about casualties in the Arab world, forty can be one?

For we have seen pictures of little Israeli girls writing hateful greetings on the bombs to be dropped on the civilian population of Lebanon and Palestine. Little Israeli girls are not cute when they strut with glee at death and torment across the fronts.

Again we come face to face with your credulity and adoption of the Arab victim-Israeli demon narrative. Your account, like the Arab one, shows no empathy. These girls, who had been confined in shelters for days, who were encouraged by the press to write on the warheads, and who wrote messages Nasrallah, the man responsible for bombing them – civilians – at random, are not “strutting with glee at death and torment across the front.” Worse, your eagerness to see the Israelis in the worst light, comes hand in hand with your studious avoidance of any mention of the grotesque spectacles of children dressed up with suicide belts, and the rejoicing at the deliberate killing of children that one finds so commonly among Arab Muslims.

If this kind of behavior bothers you, why are you not mad with grief at the moral catastrophe that has befallen the Arab world and risks spreading to the Muslim world – taken over by an elite spreading a cult of death and murder? And why would you want to disarm the very people these people rejoice at killing?

The retribution of blood vengeance

We do not recognize the rhetoric of the state of Israel. We do not recognize the spiral of retribution of the blood vengeance with “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” We do not recognize the principle of one or a thousand Arab eyes for one Israeli eye. We do not recognize collective punishment or population-wide diets as political weapons. Two thousand years have passed since a Jewish rabbi criticized the ancient doctrine of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” He said: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

You may not realize it, but you’ve now stepped fully onto the stage of the classic Christian supersessionist reading of the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. “Old Testament”). Presumably your first sentence means we don’t grant moral authority or acceptability to Israel’s statements about why, in principle, it is at war. The second implies that the principle thus rejected is: “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.”

But as far as I can make out, you’ve made a classic double error. First, the carnal interpretation of an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” (a real eye for a real eye…) has nothing to do with Jewish readings of this text. Jewish literature, from the biblical texts onwards makes it clear that this is not a call to mutilation — Jews abhor that — but to monetary compensation. On the contrary, the principle embodied in the expression “eye for an eye” is one of equity – any man’s tooth is worth another’s. And this egalitarianism is at variance with virtually every other law code until modern times, in which the eye of an aristocrat counted for far more than the eye of a freeman, a fortiori, of a serf).

In other words, Jews, for millennia now, have renounced blood vengeance, unlike every other people (especially in the Mediterranean), including most periods of Christian and Muslim history. Indeed one can correlate closely the period of Christian culture’s enduring commitment to blood vengeance and their period of supersessionist theology, and correspondingly the period of renouncing blood vengeance with a willingness to shed supersessionist hegemonic claims. The people who have the hardest time renouncing blood vengeance, who carry it out not only on their enemies, but on members of their own households, are the Arabs. They are the ones who teach their children to hate the Jews (and Christians) so much that it is a blessing to blow yourself to shreds killing as many of them as one can.

So I don’t understand what’s going on in your mind, Jostein. Here you are, aggressively accusing the Jews of blood vengeance and murderous drives which they renounced – at least in principle, and significantly in practice – millennia ago. At the same time, you pass over in virtual silence the disturbingly plentiful evidence that the much larger number of people who have declared the Jews their ultimate enemy – to be exterminated – openly espouse and cultivate precisely this blood vengeance and these murderous instincts in their children. Now these are traits that you abhor and on the basis of which you condemn Israel to annihilation as a state and Jews to statelessness as a people.

And the framework in which you put this denunciation of Israel is a religious discourse, again classic supersessionism. If only the Jews had listened to their rabbi (obviously you mean Jesus even though it could have been Hillel three generations earlier) who tried to get them to give up blood vengeance! But you know so little about the Jews now, or then.

So my question to you is: Are you a straight and narrow-minded Christian supersessionist, out to get the Jews regardless of what else is going on because your self-image depends on it? Or are you unaware that that’s what you’re doing… unaware of the immense weight of Christian supersessionism – a form of chosenness that we both agree is arrogant and unacceptable – in your thinking?

And the Arabs and Muslims in all this? Do you really believe that all this hatred and violence is really “merely” a response to Israeli crimes? Or do you really not know about this hatred and violence.

We do not recognize a state founded on antihumanistic principles and on the ruins of an archaic national and war religion. Or as Albert Schweitzer expressed it: “Humanitarianism consists in never sacrificing a human being to a purpose.”

Part III and Conclusion Next…

Nasrallah’s Regrets: Just How Psychologically Sophisticated is He?

David Bedein has some interesting remarks on Nasrallah’s recent expression of regrets over kidnapping the Israeli soldiers and bombing Israel: “Whodda thunk they’d get so violent?” The apology has had a large impact in Israel primarily boosting the government of Olmert and Peretz in their claim that Israel won the war. (By the way, there’s an amusing piece at Counterpunch about how the Israelis won the ceasefire.) In any case, some specualation has ensued about what Nasrallah was doing in making so exceptional a public apology. And this speculation calls for some application of the rules of honor-shame culture to the calculations in order to avoid cognitive egocentric explanations.

Hezbollah Leader Has Surprised Many With Latest Comments
By: David Bedein , The Evening Bulletin

Jerusalem – Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has surprised almost every pundit in Israel by admitting that “he made a mistake by not estimating Israel’s forceful response to the kidnapping of two soldiers on the northern border”.

Note already that Nasrallah has adopted the general view that he “only” kidnapped two soldiers, not that he started bombing Israel with Katyushas as well.

Danny Rubenstein, an analyst with the newspaper HaAretz, said in a public speech that Nasrallah’s apology obligated him to reconsider his statement that Olmert had lost this word [sic? read: war]. Yet another pundit opined that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should send a huge bouquet of flowers to the Dahiya quarter in Beirut, with a card attached reading: “Thanks, Hassan”.

So apparently, the remarks come to save face for Olmert, and help his claims that Israel, under his leadership, actually did win the war. The sarcasm of the bouquet remark suggests that some people are annoyed at this unanticipated boost to Olmert and Peretz.

The Hezbollah leader, who has his own political problems, helped the Israeli prime minister and his government more than any strategic adviser. From now on, until the next elections, Amir Peretz and Olmert can repeatedly state to the public what they learned about “who won the war” by means of Nasrallah’s resounding remorse.
Prof. Mordecai Kedar, an Arabic Affairs expert at Bar Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, Israel, provided another perspective on Nasrallah’s statements, saying that the Hezbollah leader was pretending as if he was a head of state, sharing remorse with any of the civilians who had suffered in Lebanon. Kedar warned Israeli leaders not to read into Nasrallah’s statements any hint of remorse or regret for his actions.

Kedar is an excellent student of not just the Arab political world, but specifically of the role of honor-shame culture in the media, so this comment surprises me somewhat. I am not aware that “sharing remorse with any of the civilians who had suffered…” as a result of their own recklessness is a characteristic of Arab heads of state. Western heads of state, perhaps, but for Nasrallah to model himself on this peculiarly Western tradition of public self-criticism seems absolutely extraordinary. Are there any precedents for this? Nasser’s resignation?

Meanwhile, Prof. Yehoshua Porat, Prof Emeritus of Middle East Studies at Hebrew University, gave an interview to Israel Government Radio News in which he said that Nasrallah wants to see Olmert remain in power, because he perceives Olmert as a weak character – which is why, according to Porat, that Nasrallah made the statement that he did.

This reasoning may be accurate, but let’s at least recognize that it’s partially based on conspiracist’s classic reasoning: “cui bono?” — who profits? Since Olmert is the (incidental) beneficiary of this, then it must have been said to benefit Olmert. It’s not a full conspiracy (Nasrallah’s comments were staged in order to benefit Olmert), and there’s the rub. In order to work, one must imagine that Nasrallah is a cagey schemer who made these remarks to weaken Israel by saving a weak leader.

But in order to do so, Nasrallah has to made a double calculation of dubious probability.

1) He would have to have been capable of public humiliation purely as a strategy ploy. This would put his psychological evolution very much ahead of the vast (overwhelming) majority of his compatriots, for whom such willing public humiliation is not just unthinkable, it’s the kiss of death. Perhaps he felt as widely loved as Nasser and therefore able to withstand the public avowal. Still, it’s a posture of weakness that calls for immense mastery of one’s own emotions. Maybe he’s capable of it. Who knows?

2) To admit publicly that he misjudged, and that had he known he would not have done it — and mean it — means accepting double damage. On the one hand, he encourages those in Israeli policy circles to react overwhelmingly the next time something like this happens, and on the other, he undermines the psychological game of “who won,” that his colleagues and fighters have been playing ever since the cease-fire.

Neither of these strike me as likely sacrifices for the possible benefit of bolstering Olmert’s reputation in Israel. (It’s not the same, but parallel to the 9-11 conspiracist claim that, to boost sagging polls and make more money for his buddies, Bush was willing to blow up the Pentagon and the Twin Towers.) Why he made the remarks, I don’t know. But these explanations strike me as unlikely.

Open Letter to Jostein Gaarder I: Fisking Crypto-Supersessionism

Open Letter to Jostein Gaarder: Fisking Crypto-Supersessionism

Jostein Gaarder, the Norwegian science writer, novelist and children’s writer has written a thunderous prophetic denunciation of Israel that articulates well the moral posture of Europe when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It’s reach and vehemence prompted many complaints and accusations of anti-semitism. Gaarder apologized for perhaps having spoken in a moment of haste and outrage.

He admits he could have phrased himself with more precision, but that it would be too much work to do anything about it now. He also states that what he wrote, was motivated by “disgust for the war, and the wrongdoing of the Israeli army”.

The prophetic cry was published on August 5, 2006, in the immediate aftermath of the Qana bombing and the international outrage based on what we now know was systematically distorted numbers and staged photos, all designed to arouse precisely the kind of moral outrage so eloquently expressed by Gaarder. Thus his response represents a good gauge of the power of the media’s narrative on people’s thoughts and emotions.

The following is an open-letter fisking, asking Jostein Gaarder to take the time and effort to reconsider his hasty vehemence, explore the underlying assumptions and emotions that drove his prophetic language, and finally, examine the possibility that he might have been the dupe of demopaths… a phenomenon that Europe can ill afford these days.

God’s chosen people

Jostein Gaarder, Aftenposten 05.08.06

From the Norwegian by Sirocco

There is no turning back. It is time to learn a new lesson: We do no longer recognize the state of Israel. We could not recognize the South African apartheid regime, nor did we recognize the Afghan Taliban regime. Then there were many who did not recognize Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing. We must now get used to the idea: The state of Israel in its current form is history.

I am aware that you later argued that – in true prophetic style – this was meant as a warning, a call to the Israelis to repent, and not an end to Israel which, you believe, will happen if they continue along their (self-)destructive path. But surely you can understand that the formulation seems somewhat ineluctable… as if you had not the slightest hope or expectation that they might listen. This really is a form of “writing off” Israel.

In any case, I think there’s still a Serbian country and as far as I know you were not in favor of invading Iraq, so your two other cases — far worse and more deliberate than anything Israel did in Lebanon — have not led to disappearance nor, I presume, to calls for their disappearance from you. You need to ask yourself why you have a particular vehemence about Israel. On the scale of offenders out there in the world today (Sudan, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia), Israel is really low down, even if we accept every claim that came out of Lebanon.

We do not believe in the notion of God’s chosen people. We laugh at this people’s fancies and weep over its misdeeds. To act as God’s chosen people is not only stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity. We call it racism.

This language may surprise some American audiences, unfamiliar with the humiliating and mocking dimension with which European anti-Judaism so commonly expresses itself — the honor-shame language of public mocking. But after a relative hiatus in public after the Holocaust, since 2000 this spirit is common in the lands. In any case, derision aside, this particular comment leads us to a discussion of the nature of chosenness that can be very difficult and touchy… a discussion that Jews normally do not challenge Christians and Muslims about because these later monotheistic religions do not come out well in the comparison. But since this matter of chosenness seems to lie at the core of your complaint, Mr. Gaarder, let us grab the nettles.

Let’s begin by agreeing in principle, if not in tone of contempt, that certain forms of “chosenness” can be extremely arrogant and offensive – and, from the perspective of a just and tolerant civil society, highly destructive. (That they are “stupid” as you claim, only really makes sense from a fairly elevated perspective (i.e., “might makes right is immature and counterproductive”). Unfortunately many actors in the Arab-Israeli conflict, like Yasser freedom-from-the-barrel-of-a-gun” Arafat and his Jihadi successors would find neither stupid nor morally objectionable. Rather than use a silly term like stupid for so weighty and frightful an impulse I would suggest arrogant and oppressive notions of chosenness.

In any case, the form of (specifically monotheist) chosenness that is here denounced as arrogant and stupid, and certainly objectionable, is the imperialist form: “We, the chosen people have the one true faith; God has chosen us to bring it to the world, and if others do not respond appropriately to our true message, we have the right to subject them to our rule and humiliate them as a tangible sign of our God’s glory.” This kind of monotheistic sense of election is best described by its political formula: “one God, one king/emperor/rule, one faith.”

This imperialist formula of political monotheism lies at the ideological heart of most of the most violent religious wars — Jihad, Crusades, Holy War — and some of the most powerful empires of the last 2000 years: Roman, medieval German, Umayyad, Abbasid, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, British. Perhaps the single most violent and destructive of all chosenness episodes – the Nazis – although not monotheist, nonetheless expressed the most violent version of a racist, hate-filled notion of national (racial) election on record.

Permit me, if you will, Mr. Gaarder, a few quick comments about the history of this idea. It begins in Christianity, and finds its full measure with Eusebius’ remarks about Constantine: God’s image on earth, the ruler of the world as God rules in the heavens. It so pervades most Christian thought until the Protestants, that books have been written assuming that this is the only form of political monotheism (Peterson, Fowden). And it particularly characterizes a form of Christian self-awareness known as supersessionism: “We have replaced the Jews as the chosen people; we understand the true message of the Bible; we “sit on top of” (literal translation of the verb supersedeo) the Jews.”

This form of chosenness is everything that a liberal and progressive opposes. It is hard zero-sum: “We are right because you are wrong; we are good because you are bad; we have the true message because you Jews, in your stiffnecked literalism misunderstand your texts; God chose us because he rejected you.”

Such a hegemonic reading meant that for most of Christian history, the faithful had to read the Jews not as they were – a living and evolving religion and people with exceptionally interesting things to say – but as props on the Christian stage, as relics of a period before the torch had passed. German scholars thus refer to the Judaism of Jesus’ time as “Spätjudentums” — late Judaism — when it was really fairly early in Judaism’s lifespan (about 1500 years into what is now a 3500 year existence).

The reason I go into some detail here is that as you will see below, I think you are caught in precisely this kind of supersessionism, and one of the clearest signs of it is your profound lack of knowledge about Judaism, a natural consequence of needing the Jews to play a specific and negative role in your self-perception. A friend of mine called this “invidious identity formation”: “My self-esteem comes from your worthlessness,” a characteristic emotion of the kind of honor-shame calculus in which my honor comes from your shame. Given the commitment to very high moral standards that I detect in your prophetic cry, I assume you would consider such invidious and small-minded emotions profoundly unworthy. We don’t make ourselves look bigger by making others look smaller.

Now one more point before we get back to the Jews. There’s an even more noxious form of chosenness that sometimes appears for relatively brief moments that represents a danger to everyone including the believers themselves. In this form of “apocalyptic chosenness,” members passionately believe that they have been chosen by God to bring about a world-wide conquest that demands vast destruction and even genocide in order to bring about the messianic kingdom of imperial dominion that their “God” has promised them.

For example, there is an apocalyptic hadith in Islam which has become extremely popular these days:


The Day of Judgment will not come about until the Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them), until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: Oh Muslim! Oh Abdullah! there is a Jew behind me, come on and kill him.

Messiahs and their followers who believe that they are their God’s agents in this destruction and conquest, that they must “destroy the world in order to save it,” you get mass murderers who, uncontrolled, can leave dozens of millions dead in their wake, men like Hong Xiuquan, the Mahdi of Khartoum, Hitler, Mao, etc. This is precisely the kind of religious passion that every religion that wants to claim participation in a world culture of religious tolerance has to renounce. Especially in an age of nuclear weapons, we cannot afford such base and violent notions of chosenness.

So let’s return to the historical record which may surprise you. As far as noxious forms of chosenness (arrogant, imperialist, racist), the Jews actually have the best historical record (i.e., fewest examples) and the Christians and Muslims the worst (with the Muslims way out in front at this turn of the 3rd millennium). For every case of Jewish religious zealotry resorting to violence to impose its notion of chosenness (initial conquest, Jewish war of Independence to which you make reference below, Bar Kochba rebellion), we have literally myriads of examples among Christians and Muslims. Both religions, for most if not all of their almost 2000 and more than 1400 years of their respective existences, predominantly interpreted their notion of chosenness in consistently, one might even say dogmatically, aggressive, arrogant, domineering fashion over those who did not share their view of chosenness. In Christianity it’s called “the humiliated remant” (the Jews humiliated as proof of their crime of deicide), and in Islam it’s called the Dhimma (Jews and Christians humiliated to illustrate the superiority of Islam).

So we may agree completely that there are noxious notions of chosenness, just as there are noxious forms of monotheism. But to confuse all monotheism and all chosenness with this kind of attitude is to make a serious, one might even say, potentially fatal category error because it means one cannot distinguish constructive from destructive forms of both chosenness and, more broadly, monotheism. And in order to understand why the simplistic approach to “chosenness” can be problematic, we need to be aware of a very different definition of chosenness, one that is positive-sum and beneficial to both the “chosen people” and to their neighbors.

The opposite of this arrogant, zero-sum notion of chosenness as warrant for conquest and rule, for privilege, is a positive-sum notion of chosenness as responsibility. Here one is “chosen” to observe certain ethical standards, regardless of whether one’s neighbors respond favorably or not. This form of chosenness constitutes an obligation to meet certain moral standards; chosenness as responsibility rather than privilege.

Being chosen in this sense is considerably less attractive for many people since it’s far more demanding with far fewer advantages. Here political success is rare, hence control of one’s environment minimal, dependence on others for whom dominion is a sign of superiority, and humiliation at the hands of others a common phenomenon. And the Jews have learned to live creatively with this oppressed status for millennia without developing the kind of enraged fury that one finds so commonly among certain subaltern people now raging against every perceived conspiracy to humiliate and destroy them.

Whereas in the noxious form of chosenness, one’s political success (at any cost in life and destruction on all sides of the conflict) assures the chosen of dominion (or heaven for “martyrs”), in this form, success with “others” can only come voluntarily, only in the success of others: “through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Here God’s honor is manifested not by the military victory and political dominion of his “faithful” but by the manifestation of God’s ethical demands in the behavior of believers, regardless of their reward.

This notion of chosenness is positive-sum: the “other” benefits from one’s own ethical behavior; and the chosen benefit from that ethical interchange. This form of chosenness is actually highly beneficial and welcome from everyone who believes he or she is chosen, whether Christian, Muslim or Jew. In this sense, more than one people can be “God’s chosen” because more than one people “take on” God’s heavenly yoke of self-control and moral restraint, of concern for other human beings.

The political formula for this kind of monotheism is “No king but God”: God is radically different from man, and just as he cannot be “imaged” by earthly images, so his rule over man cannot be represented in the rule of man over man. So instead of a political order imposed from above by intimidation, societies in which people develop God’s kingship can become increasingly free because responsible. The voluntary acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven makes people responsible as self-regulating autonomous moral agents, and therefore they can grant each other the freedoms that an earthly monarchy cannot. Indeed, I’d argue that modern democracies (and, more generally, civil society) is based on this attitude.

And while this form of monotheism is not unique to Judaism – there are powerful Islamic and Christian variants – it is a key notion in Judaism. Indeed even as Eusebius formulated iconic imperial monotheism for Christians in the early 3rd century, the rabbis were embedding the phrase “no king but God” into their daily and yearly liturgy, meant for recitation by all Jews. Thus even as Christians were pursuing just the kind of chosenness you reject, Jews were pursuing something very different. And because of Christian supersessionism, they could not see the Jews as they were.

Limits to tolerance

There are limits to our patience, and there are limits to our tolerance. We do not believe in divine promises as justification for occupation and apartheid. We have left the Middle Ages behind. We laugh uneasily at those who still believe that the God of flora, fauna, and galaxies has selected one people in particular as his favorite and given it funny stone tablets, burning bushes, and a license to kill.

Again, let us agree in principle. There should indeed by limits to tolerance, especially for a notion of chosenness which is a license to kill, which is a justification for occupation and apartheid policies, which is a throwback to the Middle Ages. My only quibble on that point is that, as a historian of the Middle Ages, I would recommend caution in assuming how much we “moderns” have left those ages and their passions behind. Part of our problem is that we assume we’ve completely overcome the medieval legacy and can act accordingly, when it may be that a) we Westerners (especially you Europeans) have not really left the Middle Ages behind, b) by pretending you have you do not even recognize when medieval attitudes drive your emotions, and c) by so acting as if all that medieval stuff were gone (except of course among those stiff-necked Jews) we actually increase the power of some of the worst medieval passions.

What I find most disturbing about the above statement, though, is the targeting of the Jews as the culprits – the obvious referent of “funny stone tablets.” (They certainly inspired the French revolutionaries who promulgated the “Declaration of the Rights of Man,” the foundation – I presume – of your own moral commitments to human rights and dignity.)

rights of man tablets

But why the Jews? I understand from your text that you think they have done terrible things, some of which may be the product of mistaken reports, a point we can return to. But even if we grant that all you think the Jews have done, is not the worrisome actor here from the perspective of noxious forms of chosenness and violent contempt for the rights of others… the Muslims?

It is Islam which, today claims that the God of flora, fauna and galaxies has selected Muslims as His exclusive favorite, and given it a license to conquer, to massacre unto genocide, and to install apartheid laws that discriminate against non-Muslims. Any brief moments attending to what Jihadis like Hizbullah and Hamas do and say in their native tongues, reveals a terrifying world of open, raw, ferocious genocidal hatreds. Nothing in current Christian or Jewish circles – except the worst of Christian Aryanism – can compare for morally base notions of chosenness.

But somehow, you do not think that worthy of mention. Can you explain why? (I ask, because one of the problems here is how highly sensitive Christians get to Jewish moral trespass, and how they fall silent in the face of ghastly behavior from others, especially their Muslim neighbors.)

So let me ask you to try a thought experiment. I presume from your tone that this will be difficult, but let me appeal to the scientific and philosophic spirit in the man who wrote Sophie’s World: try understanding what’s going on in the Middle East with a different working hypothesis. Certainly there are enough anomalies here to warrant such a mental exercise, and certainly the stakes are high enough to make all possibilities worthy of consideration.

What if the Israelis’ behavior – from the “occupation” in 1967 to the wall of the first decade of 2000 – does not derive from imperialist Jewish notions of their chosenness, but defensive measures against a highly aggressive and imperialist Arab-Muslim sense of chosenness? I know this sounds unlikely and apologetic, but I would argue as much about the information you unquestionably accept from your Arab and Muslim sources. So, if you can, humor me, please.

If your analysis is right – the Jews’ notion of chosenness is the problem — then your anti-Zionist solution might make some sense. But if you are wrong – that is, that it’s the Muslims’ notion of chosenness that has made this problem insoluble – then your solution promises to be a disaster. Having misread the source of the violence and shutting down the Israelis, you will give wings to the very forces of hatred and arrogance that you find intolerable (at least when they show up among Jews). This will bring down terrible crimes not just on the heads of those poor Jewish refugees of a dismantled Jewish state for whom you beg mercy, but all those Muslims now in the grip of’ vicious men who think that Islam is a religion of war, and hatred, and death.

And not far behind the unfortunate victims of your misjudgment, lies the fate of your own moral value system. How long do you think the values of mercy, respect, moral courage, freedom and justice that your prophecy invokes will survive the victory of the Jihadis who harass Israel on every side and even now set their sites on Europe, the West as well. Indeed, horribile dictu, around the world, Islamic societies have bloody borders with all its neighbors.

Do you really think Europe is immune to these aggressive currents? If we look at the notion of chosenness embedded in Global Jihad, Europe constitutes at least as much the target of their chosen mission – the whole world under Shariah – as the Israelis. And now that we live in an age of astonishing telecommunications, these sentiments resonate the world over. Muslims demands for a Sharia state in the midst of nation states of Europe shares this same sense of chosenness even as it cheers and sometimes copies the violence of apocalyptic groups like Hizbullah and Hamas.

You can listen to the voices that dismiss this argument as a Zionist plot, ignore these powerful and publicly dominant Islamic strains of chosenness and the immediate and instrumental violence they engender. Instead you can focus almost exclusively on Israeli violence, which you see not as a response to this external aggression, but intentionally driven by a noxious Jewish sense of chosenness. But you do so at your own peril. Misreading this situation is not cost free, as pleasing as it may be for you to morally excoriate the Israelis. Indeed, in so doing, you may be missing important elements of the larger picture, a picture that includes the fate of Europe as well as the Middle East. Believe me, I don’t think you’d like to live in a Sharia-ruled Europe.

Now the (over-)attention to the Jews may have its reasons. It makes a certain unhappy sense to want to dump on the Jews morally. There is a certain moral Schadenfreude in being able to say, “You Jews, 2000 years you were oppressed, and no sooner do you get power than you do it to someone else.” The extreme logic of this thinking, heavily promoted by the Palestinians, is that they are the new Jews, and the Israelis the new Nazis. One can well imagine the appeal of such a ferocious irony to many people who find the Jews a particularly frustrating people, and even more to those who might feel bad about their role, however passive, in the Holocaust.

But at some point those who can’t distinguish invidious comparisons (“Aha! We knew it all along. We Europeans are more moral than the Jews!”), and therapeutic rhetoric (“Let’s not criticize the Muslims, they need encouragement.”) from reality assessment (“What are the real sources of hatred and violence?”), will go down in history as a fools. Such foolish elites populated Western Europe in the 5th and 6th centuries, men who spoke and wrote precious words as their civil society fell apart around them, and a brutal culture of honor and shame and blood vengeance took over.

One might object that the late, Christian Roman empire was hardly an egalitarian civil society, but even so, it was far more sophisticated and civic than the tribal warrior culture that took over. For these Germanic warriors, the Sermon on the mount recited as, “blessed is he who takes vengeance for he shall have peace,” and Jesus “would not have been crucified” if they had been there to protect him. In such a brutal culture, thoughtful and literate men fled to monasteries to escape these brutes. I don’t think that this is a fate Europe should wish on itself for the coming centuries.

We call child murderers ‘child murderers’ and will never accept that such have a divine or historic mandate excusing their outrages. We say but this: Shame on all apartheid, shame on ethnic cleansing, shame on every terrorist strike against civilians, be it carried out by Hamas, Hizballah, or the state of Israel!

Again, we agree. Murder is bad, the murder of innocent children, despicable, morally revolting. And anyone claiming divine or historic mandate for such murderous deeds deserves condemnation. But again, despite tossing in Hamas and Hizbullah at the end of the paragraph, your target seems to be Israel.

And yet of the three “culprits,” the Israelis least fit your profile. It is the Jihadi Muslims who openly embrace a rhetoric of divine sanction for the most odious child-murder, not only in justification of the random murder of innocent Israeli, American and European children, but in the spiritual and physical murder of their own children as suicide killers, child sacrifices on an altar of hatred. These folks not only openly espouse their chosenness as a “warrant for genocide”, they celebrate the murder of children publicly, and encourage their public to relish the very moment of revolting violence.

On the Israeli side, attitudes differ dramatically. You cannot find a trace of the open embrace of killing children intentionally, of celebrating the death of innocents, or teaching hatred and a cult of child sacrifice. Do Israeli soldiers sometimes kill innocents? Yes, what army has not? Do they go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it? Yes. Do they apologize even when it’s not clear they’re responsible? Yes. Although it may anger you to hear it, no army in the military history has so risked its own soldiers’ lives to spare the lives of civilians among the enemy as the Israeli. These are measurable and verifiable assertions, not wild claims.

But let us pause a moment on this issue of murder, that is the intentional killing of people. Not all killing of innocents is murder; and only two approaches do not consider the distinction valid. At one extreme, the most primitive cultures of blood vengeance do not distinguish between intentional murder and accidental manslaughter: if you kill my relative, for whatever reason – even if he attacked first – I kill you or one of your relatives. At the other extreme, Christians have a tendency to ignore this distinction from an extremely high and pacifist morality that views all violence with overwhelming horror.

This moral attitude, which reflects the extraordinary moral demands of Christianity’s founder (e.g., Sermon on the Mount), appears in their mistranslation of those funny tablets’ command on the matter: What in Hebrew reads, “Thou shalt not murder,” in Latin and the thousand vernaculars that Christians have translated the Hebrew Bible into, it reads, “Thou shalt not kill.” (There are “heretics” in the Middle Ages who are burned for refusing to kill a chicken based on their reading of the mistranslation.) Given what you say in your prophetic cry, you clearly side with high pacifism and not blood vengeance.

But when you look at the situation in the Middle East, you seem to forget that few people share your high moral standards. Here we have people who, by your moral standards, represent the basest moral position imaginable, people who openly embrace murder of civilians – children! – and who look for every reason to stir up hatred. And as anyone knows, hatred comes far more easily when one imagines that the “other” has done damage “on purpose,” in the case of killing, murdered. As a little girl said when her aunt burned her arm cooking, “That’s okay auntie, you didn’t mean it.” When it’s by accident, it’s a lot easier to forgive; when it’s on purpose it calls out for vengeance if only to deter further violence.

If a five-year old can understand the difference, why do adults like you deliberately exclude the distinction and accuse Israel of murdering children. No documented case of Israelis deliberately murdering children exists (it is the heart of the unfounded libel around al Durah). Given the violent hatreds that teem among terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah, and how ready they are to accuse Israel of deliberately murdering their people even as they sacrifice their own, do you not think you should pause before jumping to conclusions that can only incite more hatreds?

After all, virtually every attack on Israeli civilians is intentional, the target of Muslim violence. And these attacks derive specifically from what you despise: the Muslim sense of chosenness, that they were chosen by Allah to kill every last Jew at the end of time. If you were wrong about Israel, falsely accusing them of murder in front of murderous enemies, would that not consist of incitement to murder, again, precisely what you deplore?

However, the state of Israel, with its unscrupulous art of war and its disgusting weapons, has massacred its own legitimacy…

Part II to follow

Shelby Steele on Western Guilt and Blindness

Shelby Steele, in a column in the WSJ, addresses one of the key problems of our ability to perceive what’s happening. It illustrates what I call “cultural AIDS.”

Life and Death
Western guilt blinds us to the nature of Islamic extremism
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BY SHELBY STEELE
Sunday, August 27, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

The simple back-and-forth of war can create the illusion that both sides have a legitimate point to make even when this is not so, and it is clear that Hezbollah’s cause has greatly benefited from war’s “equalizing” effect. This Shiite militia seems to have known that merely fighting Israel would gain legitimacy for its cause. A cease-fire would make it a “partner” in peace. The Goliath Israeli military would make it a David whose passion proved the truth of its cause. But amid all the drama of this war there has been very little talk of exactly what Hezbollah’s cause is.

And, of course, it is not just Hezbollah’s cause. There is Hamas, one more in a family of politicized terrorist groups spread across the Muslim world. Beyond these more conventional groups there is the free-floating and world-wide terrorism of groups like al Qaeda. In Europe, there are cells of self-invented middle-class terrorists living modern lives by day and plotting attacks on modernity by night. And around these cells there is often a nourishing atmosphere of fellow traveling. Then there are the radical nation-states in league with terrorism, Iran and Syria most prominent among them. From nations on the verge of nuclear weapons to isolated individuals–take the recent Seattle shootings–Islamic militancy grounded in hatred of Israel and America has become the Muslim world’s most animating idea. Why?

I don’t believe it is because of the reasons usually cited–Israeli and American “outrages.” No doubt Israel and America have made mistakes in the Middle East. Certainly, Israel was born at the price of considerable dislocation and suffering on the part of the Palestinians. And yes, there will never be a satisfying answer for this. Yet every Israeli land-for-peace gesture has been met with a return volley of suicide bombers and rockets. Palestinians have balked every time their longed-for nationhood has come within grasp. They have seemed to prefer the aggrieved dignity of their resentments to the challenges of nationhood. And Hezbollah launched the current war from territory Israel had relinquished six years earlier.

If this war makes anything clear, it is that Israel can do nothing to appease the Muslim animus against her. And now much of the West is in a similar position, living in a state of ever-heightening security against the constant threat of violence from Islamic extremists. So here, from the Muslim world, comes an unappeasable hatred that seems to exist for its own sake, a hatred with very little actual reference to those it claims to hate. Even the fighting of Islamic terrorist groups is oddly self-referential, fighting not for territory or treasure but for the fighting itself. Standing today in the rubble of Lebanon, having not taken a single inch of Israeli territory, Hezbollah claims a galvanizing victory.

All this follows the familiar pattern of a very old vice: anti-Semitism. The anti-Semite is always drawn to the hatred of Jews by his own unacknowledged inadequacy. As Sartre says in his great essay on the subject, the anti-Semite “is a man who is afraid. Not of Jews of course, but of himself.” By hating Jews, he asserts that his own group represents the kind of human being that God truly wants. His group is God’s archetype, the only authentic humanity, already complete and superior. No striving or self-reflection is necessary. If Jews are superior in some ways, it is only out of their alienated striving, their exile from God’s grace. For the anti-Semite, hating and fighting Jews is both self-affirmation and a way of doing God’s work.

So the anti-Semite comes to a chilling place: He easily joins himself to evil in order to serve God. Fighting and even killing Jews brings the world closer to God’s intended human hierarchy. For Nazis, the “final solution” was an act of self-realization and a fulfillment of God’s will. At the center of today’s militant Islamic identity there is a passion to annihilate rather than contain Israel. And today this identity applies the anti-Semitic model of hatred to a vastly larger group–the infidel. If the infidel is not yet the object of that pristine hatred reserved for Jews, he is not far behind. Bombings in London, Madrid and Mumbai; riots in Paris; murders in Amsterdam; and of course 9/11–all these follow the formula of anti-Semitism: murder of a hated enemy as self-realization and service to God.

Hatred and murder are self-realization because they impart grandeur to Islamic extremists–the sense of being God’s chosen warrior in God’s great cause. Hatred delivers the extremist to a greatness that compensates for his ineffectuality in the world. Jews and infidels are irrelevant except that they offer occasion to hate and, thus, to experience grandiosity. This is why Hezbollah–Party of God–can take no territory and still claim to have won. The grandiosity is in the hating and fighting, not the victory.

And death–both homicide and suicide–is the extremist’s great obsession because its finality makes the grandiosity “real.” If I am not afraid to kill and die, then I am larger than life. Certainly I am larger than the puny Westerners who are reduced to decadence by their love of life. So my hatred and my disregard of death, my knowledge that life is trivial, deliver me to a human grandeur beyond the reach of the West. After the Madrid bombings a spokesman for al Qaeda left a message: “You love life, and we love death.” The horror is that greatness is tied to death rather than to achievement in life.

The West is stymied by this extremism because it is used to enemies that want to live. In Vietnam, America fought one whose communism was driven by an underlying nationalism, the desire to live free of the West. Whatever one may think of this, here was an enemy that truly wanted to live, that insisted on territory and sovereignty. But Osama bin Laden fights only to achieve a death that will enshrine him as a figure of awe. The gift he wants to leave his people is not freedom or even justice; it is consolation.

White guilt in the West–especially in Europe and on the American left–confuses all this by seeing Islamic extremism as a response to oppression. The West is so terrified of being charged with its old sins of racism, imperialism and colonialism that it makes oppression an automatic prism on the non-Western world, a politeness. But Islamic extremists don’t hate the West because they are oppressed by it. They hate it precisely because the end of oppression and colonialism–not their continuance–forced the Muslim world to compete with the West. Less oppression, not more, opened this world to the sense of defeat that turned into extremism.

But the international left is in its own contest with American exceptionalism. It keeps charging Israel and America with oppression hoping to mute American power. And this works in today’s world because the oppression script is so familiar and because American power cringes when labeled with sins of the white Western past. Yet whenever the left does this, it makes room for extremism by lending legitimacy to its claim of oppression. And Israel can never use its military fire power without being labeled an oppressor–which brings legitimacy to the enemies she fights. Israel roars; much of Europe supports Hezbollah.

Over and over, white guilt turns the disparity in development between Israel and her neighbors into a case of Western bigotry. This despite the fact that Islamic extremism is the most explicit and dangerous expression of human bigotry since the Nazi era. Israel’s historical contradiction, her torture, is to be a Western nation whose efforts to survive trap her in the moral mazes of white guilt. Its national defense will forever be white aggression.

But white guilt’s most dangerous suppression is to keep from discussion the most conspicuous reality in the Middle East: that the Islamic world long ago fell out of history. Islamic extremism is the saber-rattling of an inferiority complex. America has done a good thing in launching democracy as a new ideal in this region. Here is the possibility–if still quite remote–for the Islamic world to seek power through contribution rather than through menace.

Mr. Steele, research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, is the author of “White Guilt” (HarperCollins, 2006).

For those interested in further analysis along these lines, I also recommend a close reading of the work of Pascale Bruckner.

Pallywood and Al Durah Up at YouTube

YouTube, a pretty interesting site for finding, among other things, old TV videos, has just posted both Pallywood and Al Durah: Birth of an Icon, the first two sections of a larger project called, “According to Palestinian Sources.”

For those who have had trouble downloading from Second Draft, you may want to view them there. Also good for forwarding to others who are not particularly computer literate.

Pallywood
Al Durah: Birth of an Icon

Part of the reason I have not blogged recently is that I’m working on Part III of this project tentatively entitled, “Al Durah: The Uses of the Icon,” based to a significant degree on the material on Reception and Consequences.

Many people who have seen Pallywood have not seen Al Durah, which is too bad. I actually intended Pallywood as a preparation for examining the Al Durah material. (Cleaning out the cognitive egocentrism at the doors of perception so that people might even admit the possibility that the al Durah footage might be staged, rather than the standard response: unthinkable).

For those who want to catch up on the Al Durah case, which comes to court in France next month, please view the documentary (18 minutes), send it to friends, check out the discussions at the Second Draft, and check in from time to time as I discuss issues related to the trials that will begin on September 14, 2006.

Open Letter to Jostein Gaarder: Fisking Crypto-Supersessionism

Coming out soon I hope (written, awaiting links).

Coyote Ugly: The Left in Bed with Jihadi Islamism

Ellen Horowitz has done another great cartoon: Coyote Ugly?


Courtesy of Ellen Horowitz

Coyote Ugly is the term used to refer to someone who, in a stupor of indiscretion goes to bed with someone so ugly that when she wakes up she would sooner chew off her own arm rather than risk waking the person in bed next to her. In the hopes that the “left” has finally begun to awaken, here’s a tribute to their dilemma. In this case the dilemma is not so much waking up an ugly person with whom one wants nothing to do, but rather waking up a “lover” whose violent response to rejection promises serious trouble… much closer to the dilemma of a real coyote caught in a real trap.

Good Questions All: Responses to Ken Lydell’s Comments

Ken Lydell who has an excellent blog comments here often and left this series of questions as a comment to my radio interview. I think they raise excellent points particularly since they address issues of what lies behind outrage and indignation in terms not of what’s been done to you, but who did it.

Great interview! Your view has much in common with mine.

Some things to think about. From 1517 until France and England took charge of the Arab world the Turks bled the Arab world dry through taxation, treated Arabs as inferiors and with great cruelty suppressed Arab dissent. Arabs were docile subjects in spite of the honor-shame dynamic of Bedouin culture. Nevertheless, Arabs bear no ill will towards Turks. Why not?

Excellent question. Churchill, the Orientalist racist, once famously remarked that the Arabs don’t mind being oppressed as long as it’s by one of their own, which seems to mean, any Islamic regime. They admire the fierce independence of the Beduin, but they are caught in the humiliating hierarchy of bureacracies at work for “aristocratic empires.” Patai, whose book has significant flaws, but nonetheless is right far more often than the current crop of (anti-)Orientalists, has a chapter on this aspect of Arab character in hierarchy — lots of authoritarianism, humiliating those below while subservient to those above. He cites a particular Arabic term for the personality type, I think, if you can find it.

France and England did not ruthlessly exploit the Arab world. In fact, they did quite the opposite and it is likely that they spent more money improving the lives of their Arab subjects than they earned from their colonial possessions. This was a sea change from the systematic oppression of the Ottoman empire. So why the great resentment at this brief episode of European colonialism?

Another excellent question. I’m not a specialist on the imperial period, so can you offer some examples of this argument “ei bono” (to their advantage). People are understandably reluctant to believe these kinds of claims. I’d investigate the problem in terms of the classic split between a powerfully positive-sum formula (european technology and civil society) in the hands of aggressive capitalists and messianic missionizers aiming at maximum exploitation.

The honor-shame dynamic of Arab culture is pre-Islamic. There are other elements of Bedouin culture that interact with Islam and contribute to Arab irredentism. What are they?

What is the traditional role of Muslim clergy in Muslim societies? In what ways is modernity incompatible with that role?

Another excellent question. My working hypothesis is that what I call demotic monotheism is, when consistent, hostile to the dynamics of honor-shame warrior culture. Indeed its demotic (popular) dimension, monotheism challenges the domineering attitudes of this mentality of honor to the strong, shame to the weak. That’s why Nietzsche called it a slave morality — it treats strong and weak equally before the law and in principles of fairness. That’s why some apologists can legitimately argue that Islam is against honor-killings. But the kind of monotheism that gives into honor-shame reverses the attitudes: you are wrong because we are right; your humiliation proves us right; our God is honored by the subjection of unbelievers. That’s where theocracy justifiably gets its bad name.

Answers to these and other interesting questions can be found in David Pryce-Jones “The Closed Circle” and Raphael Patai’s invaluable “The Arab Mind”.

Bring some passages you like from these books and we can discuss them. I don’t have my copies available.

Ken Lydell

How the Europeans Self-Destruct, Alas!

Ellen Horowitz, again.

ellen2blog

I will post an essay with this political cartoon as the symbol at a later date. In the meantime, I recommend my essays on France, especially the one on the consequences of Al Durah.

Interview with Me on the Background to the Middle East Conflict

Tovia Singer of Israel National News Radio has a talk show where he interviewed me. The interviews are available. The titles are his, a bit more sensational than we medievalists normally go for.
I’d say:
“Islam at War with World because of a not uncommon pathology of Honor-Shame mentality”
and
Europe willing to Self-Destruct Because it Can’t Give up Moral Schadenfreude at the Expense of the Jews.
But that’s why he’s got the show and I’ve got the blog.

A7Radio: Islam at War w/ World Because of Honor-Shame Mentality
16:48 Aug 13, ’06 / 19 Av 5766

A7 Radio’s “The Tovia Singer Show”

How to use XML?

Renowned Boston U Historian:
Islam at War with the World because of Honor-Shame Mentality (Special Three-Part interview)

In an eye-opening interview, Dr. Richard Landes, noted professor of History at Boston University and founder of The Second Draft, exposes the medieval mindset that nourishes Islam’s war with Israel and the US.

Listen Now -or- Download

Also on Tovia Singer:
Europe Willing to Commit Suicide Just to Destroy Israel?

Exclusive interview with BU history professor continues as the medievalist exposes the media and continent that astonishingly supports a teaching of contempt.

Listen Now -or- Download

Meditations on Reutersgate: What’s Going on in the MSM?

Zombietime has an interesting roundup of the picture scandal. I couldn’t find anywhere to leave a comment, and since he has some interesting speculation on “why?” — a problem I’ve been thinking about since I first stumbled upon Pallywood some three years ago — I thought I’d put some of my ruminations here, with links to my earlier formulations on this at The Second Draft.

Indeed the name Augean Stables comes from my realization of just how “bad it is” with our newsmedia.

And, PS. the first Pallywood footage I saw was at Nahum Shahaf’s studio, and it was Reuters’ footage.

What to make of all this? As is demonstrated on this page, Reuters has committed not just one instance of fraud, and not just one type of fraud, but four distinct categories of fraud.

Now, of course there is a real war going on, and there is real damage, and authentically tragic scenes. No one is denying that. So, with all the actual honest footage of unstaged war imagery floating around, why is Reuters resorting to supplementing its coverage with obviously fake photos? Several theories have been posited in opinion pieces since the scandal broke. Here’s a summary of the various possibilities.

Theory A: The Reuters editorial staff is sympathetic to the aims of Hezbollah, and is using propagandistic images exaggerating Israeli violence to increase world pressure on Israel to stop its attacks, thereby giving Hezbollah a chance to regroup, and claim moral superiority.

Stage magicians sometimes used what is called the “smoke-and-mirrors” technique, in which chaotic and distracting effects on stage draw the audience’s attention away from the magician’s sleight-of-hand. According to Theory A, Reuters is resorting to “smoke-and-mirrors” by taking advantage of the chaos of war, and the chaos of the international media coverage, to promulgate staged or contradictory news reports. Working on the assumption that no one person would ever see enough different media outlets to notice the fraud, which only becomes apparent when comparing different images which are published in a wide variety of media outlets, Reuters has slipped the false reports into the news stream.

Doss, a commenter on Little Green Footballs, made a very well researched comment showing the systematic bias in Reuters editorial captions to photos of the war in Lebanon, with links documenting each point. According to Doss, “Every time, if an Israeli is hurt, it was a “rocket” that did it; if a Lebanese/Hizb is hurt, “Israel” did it. Humans hurt Lebanese, but inanimate objects hurt Israelis, according to Reuters.” This clearly points to an anti-Israel bias on the part of Reuters.

The hostility to Israel seems pretty widespread in the Western press, and part of the reason for the success of Pallywood, at least since 1982, when Western anchorman stood in front of cameras with Beirut in the background and made comparisons with Warsaw. The question is, why?

The simplest answer, antisemitism, is also the least penetrating. Most of these reporters are not only unaware of any prejudice against Jews (well maybe not some of the Europeans), but many think of themselves as honorable and moral people, even passionately committed to progressive values of compassion. To call them anti-semites, even, to use the Marxist term “objectively” (i.e., unconsciously but in practice) antisemitic, I think short-circuits a whole range of valuable analysis and does not take these journalists seriously as autonomous moral agents — they are making choices, and by and large they believe these choices to be morally correct.

Here in brief are some of my contributions to this issue:

Underdoggism and Leveling the Playing Field

A PCPer Swallows Red Pill: Painful Revelations of the War of Two Fronts

Thane Rosenbaum, literary editor for Tikkun, a journal whose extraordinary efforts to self-criticize for peace led me to formulate the expression Masochistic Omnipotence Complex has woken up to the brutal reality of the Jihad Paradigm. He deserves admiration for his courage, although those of us who woke up earlier would appreciate just a tiny mea-culpa for having dismissed us as a bunch of right-wing war mongers. How fittingly revealing that he had to/chose to go to the pages of the Wall Street Journal, where those who wake up find they have to go to get a say in the MSM.

Red State Jews

By THANE ROSENBAUM
August 9, 2006; Page A10

This is a soul-searching moment for the Jewish left. Actually, for many Jewish liberals, navigating the gloomy politics of the Middle East is like walking with two left feet.

I would know. For six years I was the literary editor of Tikkun magazine, a leading voice for progressive Jewish politics that never avoided subjecting Israel to moral scrutiny. I also teach human rights at a Jesuit university, imparting the lessons of reciprocal grievances and the moral necessity to regard all people with dignity and mutual respect. And I am deeply sensitive to Palestinian pain, and mortified when innocent civilians are used as human shields and then cynically martyred as casualties of war.

Yet, since 9/11 and the second intifada, where suicide bombings and beheadings have become the calling cards of Arab diplomacy, and with Hamas and Hezbollah emerging as elected entities that, paradoxically, reject the first principles of liberal democracy, I feel a great deal of moral anguish. Perhaps I have been naïve all along.

And I am not alone. Many Jews are in my position — the children and grandchildren of labor leaders, socialists, pacifists, humanitarians, antiwar protestors — instinctively leaning left, rejecting war, unwilling to demonize, and insisting that violence only breeds more violence. Most of all we share the profound belief that killing, humiliation and the infliction of unnecessary pain are not Jewish attributes.

However, the world as we know it today — post-Holocaust, post-9/11, post-sanity — is not cooperating. Given the realities of the new Middle East, perhaps it is time for a reality check. For this reason, many Jewish liberals are surrendering to the mindset that there are no solutions other than to allow Israel to defend itself — with whatever means necessary. Unfortunately, the inevitability of Israel coincides with the inevitability of anti-Semitism.

This is what more politically conservative Jews and hardcore Zionists maintained from the outset. [Editors note: realists. I consider myself a progressive in exile; and I was exiled by this kind of labeling.] And it was this nightmare that the Jewish left always refused to imagine. So we lay awake at night, afraid to sleep. Surely the Arabs were tired, too. Surely they would want to improve their societies and educate their children rather than strap bombs on to them.

If the Palestinians didn’t want that for themselves, if building a nation was not their priority, then peace in exchange for territories was nothing but a pipe dream. It was all wish-fulfillment, morally and practically necessary, yet ultimately motivated by a weary Israeli society — the harsh reality of Arab animus, the spiritual toll that the occupation had taken on a Jewish state battered by negative world opinion.

Despite the deep cynicism, however, Israel knew that it must try. It would have to set aside nearly 60 years of hard-won experience, starting from the very first days of its independence, and believe that the Arab world had softened, would become more welcoming neighbors, and would stop chanting: “Not in our backyard — the Middle East is for Arabs only.”

It is true that Israel has entered into peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have brought some measure of historic stability to the region. But with Israel having withdrawn from Lebanon and Gaza, and with Israeli public opinion virtually united in favor of near-total withdrawal from the West Bank, why are rockets being launched at Israel now, why are their soldiers being kidnapped if the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and the intentions of Hamas and Hezbollah, stand for something other than the total destruction of Israel? And if Palestinians and the Lebanese are electing terrorists and giving them the portfolio of statesmen, then what message is being sent to moderate voices, what incentives are there to negotiate, and how can any of this sobering news be recast in a more favorable light?

The Jewish left is now in shambles. Peace Now advocates have lost their momentum, and, in some sense, their moral clarity. Opinion polls in Israel are showing near unanimous support for stronger incursions into Lebanon. And until kidnapped soldiers are returned and acts of terror curtailed, any further conversations about the future of the West Bank have been set aside.

Not unlike the deep divisions between the values of red- and blue-state America, world Jewry is being forced to reconsider all of its underlying assumptions about peace in the Middle East. The recent disastrous events in Lebanon and Gaza have inadvertently created a newly united Jewish consciousness — bringing right and left together into one deeply cynical red state.

Mr. Rosenbaum, a novelist and professor at Fordham Law School, is author, most recently, of “The Myth of Moral Justice” (HarperCollins, 2004).

And what happens the moment there’s some respite, and the demopaths take over for the jihadis, talking sweet words of reason? Will all this awareness go out the window in a rush to swallow more blue pills?

An Honorable Arab: Riad Ali Reflects on Israeli Arabs’ Choices

An Israeli Arab, reporter for the Israeli TV station Channel 1, writes an editorial in Ha-Aretz that offers a glimpse of what might be, were integrity and honor to prevail among a people who, alas, seem to have lost their moral compass. Note the description of Arab-Israelis caught up in the enthusiasm for the war on Israel, and Ali’s eloquent description of how that’s a losing game even if they win… dare I say it, honor’s poisonous allure. My great admiration to Riad Ali for a morally (and physically) courageous and clear-sighted essay.

In the name of Allah

By Riad Ali

It tears one’s heart and stills one’s breath to see the images coming from Lebanon. The same goes for the images in Israel, and this is not added for the sake of balance.

But sorrow and grief over the war’s victims shouldn’t blur its prime objectives, both in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories. When the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza adopted suicide bombing as their strategy in fighting Israel, I concluded that their war against the occupation is over, and an indiscriminate war on Jews has begun. I was convinced then, as I am now, that at that moment, the Palestinians lost the war, at least in the moral sense.

In one of my reports from Gaza, I talked to a Palestinian boy by the name of Haled. He was 10 years old at the time. He said he wanted to be a teacher. When we switched to the topic of the intifada, Haled said that he had another dream – to be a shahid. I asked him how could he be a teacher and a shahid at the same time. Ten-year-old Haled had no answer. He was only a child. It was then I realized that the Palestinian people have lost their inner compass. A whole generation of children was born and reared in their midst, and all their hopes and aspirations are to die a holy death.

A Palestinian moral-ethical debate on the status of the suicide bomber never took place. The saboteur was and remained a shahid, with all of the positive attributes that the word carries in Islamic terminology. Palestinians who still opposed the bombings did so on tactical grounds; that is to say, if it had furthered their cause, they would have seen no wrong in it.

A similar process happened with Hezbollah. If before 2000 the organization could have had the benefit of the doubt and claim it is fighting Israeli occupation of Lebanon, today it is clear to see that its war is against Jews wherever they may be. You have to be deaf in order not to hear the voice of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as it emerges from Nasrallah’s throat, and naive in order to believe that the purpose of the arsenal Nasrallah has accumulated is the release of prisoners and the liberation of the Shaba Farms.

This is the time to address the Arab citizens of Israel, and tell them that the time has come for them to decide where they stand. And they should do so for their own sake, and not for the sake of the Jews. For the sake of the values they want to instill in their children. For the sake of retaining their intellectual dignity. It is clear to all that a Hamas-led Palestinian government and a Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon will not bring democratic societies with a flourishing political and social pluralism. It is clear that in regimes such as those, the rule of law, human rights, the freedom of religion and worship, women’s rights, the freedom of creation, the freedom of movement, the freedom of expression and thought – all will be alien, ridiculed concepts, to say the least.

Ideological Islam has long been master of the Palestinian society’s agenda in the West Bank and Gaza. But what worries me is that the same Islamic agenda that rules there rules also here in Israel, and crosses all parties and movements including those who consider themselves to be secular. The spirit of battle has overtaken the believers, and all who consider themselves as part of the Islamic nation also have to take part in its war. If not with guns, then with funds, and if not with funds, then through words, and if not through words, then in heart, as the Muslim preachers tell the masses.

I am not at war with the Jews, nor with the people of Israel. I have an argument with the Jews, and I have an argument with the State of Israel. On one point I do not argue, and that is the right of the Jewish people to their own independent state. To the best of my understanding, this war, as with the intifada, has to be judged from this perspective.

Arab citizens of the state who truly believe in the principle of two states for two peoples and those who believe in a democratic liberal society must ask themselves if the Islamic ideology that is leading the war today against Israel and the West in the guise of a war against the occupation and heathens is representative of their ambitions. We must separate the pain and sorrow for the innocent victims from the purpose of the war, as seen by those who lead it – in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and in any place where people seek to liberate land in the name of Allah.

Response to smintheus: Conspiracy vs. Manipulation

Smintheus fires back his response to my “obtuse” criticism. Interesting stuff. I’ve only kept the most relevant because it’s very long. But do read the whole thing.
Smintheus’ blogpost in bold.

On being smeared

How low will the superpatriots stoop to justify the neocon agenda of war, war, and yet more war? Pretty darn low, apparently.

After my post the other day on the Qana bombing, the reaction to it among the Fighting 101st Keyboardists was hyperbolic and uncomprehending. By rejecting their conspiracy theory, it turns out I’ve handed a victory to the terrorists.

Why is staging a photo-op a conspiracy theory? Smintheus uses the term with obvious derision, as if to suggest that Arab journalists and their buddies in Hizbullah might have arranged a photo-op was somehow up there with Mossad and the Bush administration blowing up the World Trade Center or the CIA knocking off JFK. Smintheus, do you distinguish between manipulation and conspiracy theory? Why is it so hard to believe that Qana photos might have been faked?

Are Arab photographers and hospital personnel automatically above suspicion? Do you even know about Pallywood? Or is that more conspiracy theory?

You might not be aware of it, but your dismissal of criticism as conspiracy theory recoups the reaction to the accusations of al Durah as staged: you Zionists are just as conspiracy-minded as the Arabs. What this suggests is that any time you accuse someone of manipulation you’ve become a conspiracy theorist. I find it hard to believe that smintheus follows such a procedure in his own life — never met a manipulative person? never steered clear? — much less in his analysis of the neo-con warmongers. So why is manipulation unthinkable from the Arabs? Would that be racist of me? Or would this be an example of the “human rights complex“, in which it’s the identity of the perp that counts. People of color can’t be guilty.

hrc

If I have you wrong, smintheus, please let me know. I don’t see anything on your blog about Darfur, but I do see stuff on the UN Human Rights Commission on the record of the USA. Do you know anything about the people who run the show over there? For example, their neglect of Sudanese genocide for decades. Or do you not care as long as they come out with what you want to hear?


One superpatriot even insinuated that I’m dangerously psychotic, literally. He described what purport to be the clinical details of a mental breakdown dating to the 1970s. It is despicable, all the more because the author is allegedly a practicing psychoanalyst. And ‘ShrinkWrapped’ is no lonely ranter; his blog is a favorite among right wingers. Just the other day, Wolcott took aim at him for making “the narcissism of the Left his house specialty.”

I notice you link to Walcott — interesting essay, witty but low on substance — but not to Shrinkwrapped. I cannot find anywhere in Shrinkwrapped’s post where he insinuates, literally, that you are dangerously psychotic. He makes an analogy to psychosis. He suggests that the condition of the left today (you are not the target but the illustration of the larger problem) is dangerous. But your own favorite, Wolcott, is careful to remind those he criticizes for misusing the word “literally.”

But attributing an actual mental breakdown? I suspect that it’s slanderous-and anyhow, it’s malicious in the extreme.

Okay, I’m confused. Shrinkwrapped never even uses the expression mental breakdown. And his point, as I understand it, is that the same mechanism that operates in the psychotic episode he describes — the necessity to maintain self-esteem even as things begin to fall apart — also characterizes your and other “leftist” reactions. I think he saved the “literal” psychotic comparisons for the Jihadis.

Ellen Horowitz Nails It: Hezbollywood’s Dead Child Porn Cult

The production team (minus the editors “back home” who can’t wait to get the pictures and give the rewards).

qana cartoon

Post on Washington Post Removed

I have now seen several photographs of the scene with the man I thought was getting up. His position is more or less the same in them all, suggesting rigor mortis.

qana multiple

I apologize to my readers and to the Washington Post (if the photo editor did check before running the picture) for jumping to a hasty conclusion about this picture.

The evidence for and analysis of extensive staging at Qana, in particular the effort to get the most photogenic pictures of dead bodies and agonized ambulance workers is to be found here (hat tip Robert Schwartz). We also found extensive evidence of directors in Pallywood.

I thought there were no men killed at Qana. This sure looks like a man as do several others.

No doubt this is a tragedy. It’s the meaning of the tragedy we need to plumb… so that such tragedies do not repeat. The danger of misunderstanding is that many more will happen.

The “Left” Takes on the Qana Affair: Fisking the Daily Kos

An extremely revealing piece at Daily Kos on the Qana Affair (hattip LGF) Smintheus, who has been known to rail against the MSM for getting their stories wrong, expresses his serene confidence in the MSM getting it right. One has to ask — as with the critics of Qana — how much what one wants to believe effects the evidence… in this case, apparently, a deep desire to believe Israel guilty, and the Hizbullah and the MSM innocent. Let the evidence and forensic reasoning prevail; but in the meantime, since smintheus thinks it’s already case closed, let’s look closely at his forensic reasoning and those he cites with approval.
[smintheus in bold, blockquote]

The Paradox of Idiocy: Wingers ‘expose’ Qana photos as staged
by smintheus

Wed Aug 02, 2006 at 02:52:54 PM PDT

Between my orchard and flower bed sits an overgrown thicket of scrub and poison ivy. Years ago, you could occasionally venture in to pick a few mediocre grapes growing in a tangle there. But it’s become an outright nuisance in what ought to be a central part of our landscape. Only a colossal effort could make it productive again.

So too the territory occupied by right wingers in the U.S. If they’ve anything valuable to say, you couldn’t discover it midst the chaotic and noxious weeds of their minds. And the bombs raining down in Lebanon have just watered the gardens of the superpatriots’ hatred.

A perfect specimen is an absurd little weed that the true-believers rushed to cultivate when it first popped up the other day. After a British blogger managed to convince himself that wire service photos from Qana had been staged, wingers in the U.S. competed to embellish the baseless accusation. And though the AP published an article rebutting the charge, fevered minds on the right are having none of it.

Nice literary introduction, but in a sense quite damning. This is not a man with an open mind, nor is he addressing an audience with an open mind. The text is apparently written by a bien-pensant for an audience of bien-pensants: we all know what to think here. And of course before examining the evidence, we know that one side is inhabited by fevered minds, true believers, chaotic, noxious haters. If this sounds like a description of Hizbullah and an introduction to the possibility that they staged the death and evacuation of their own people for the sake of a PR victory through the agency of a predictabley salivating press, it’s not.

Here is really all that you need to know about the Bush partisans. Mere facts stand little chance against their cherished fictions. Bile points the way toward ‘truth’. Any inconvenient news can be chalked up to a corrupt media. The enemies of Oceania are expert propagandists. Nothing can be the matter with any of Bush & Co.’s wars. The right wingers’ ability to uncover the various reasons why that is so, day after day, when leftists meekly accept biased news coverage, reveals their own deeper intellectual powers.

It’s the paradox of idiocy. The idiot treats his own misinformed foolishness as a mark of distinction, the height of sophistication. The refusal to see sense is a natural corollary of the inability to see it.

I wonder if smintheus is capable of reversing his rhetoric’s referent: might it not be he and his audience who treat their beliefs as a mark of distinction and the height of sophistication. Might they not “refuse to see.” Might there be some of us who find neither sides’ partisanship appealing and long for independent thinkers who examine the evidence and abide by the feedback of the real world?

The real issue, especially here, is how we reason about the evidence. For someone about to help us analyze controversial evidence, this is hardly a promising start. We have yet to learn one detail, and already we know which side we’re on. And why, a priori, that side should include Hizbullah and the press under their tutelage, I honestly don’t understand.

Another’s Life: Lessons from Kafr Qana

Another’s life

The current conflict in Lebanon brings to the fore one of the most basic questions any culture must try to answer: What is the value of another’s life? All people must struggle between the instinct of survival (my life is worth more than yours), the instinct for domination (I have a right to take your life) and the instinct of solidarity (our lives are equal in value). And all cultures provide a range of answers.

The conflict in Lebanon between Israel and Hizbullah, like the war with Hamas, pits against each other two cultures with radically different answers to these questions. On the one hand, Israeli culture values life in all its aspects, including the sanctity of the life of others. Their soldiers take risks to spare civilians on the other side, unprecedented in the history of warfare. Aware of Israeli inhibitions, Jihadi groups use their own people as human shields in fighting the Israelis.

Over the last few years, these Jihadi groups have developed a full-blown death cult in which they raise their children to want to die killing others. As uncomfortable as such statements might seem to a cultural egalitarian who recoils from invidious comparison, the enemy openly embraces the contrast: Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah noted after a prisoner exchange:

“We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.”

The current war centers around this differential attitude towards life and death in three major ways:
1) how each side views the lives of their own people and the lives of their enemies.
2) How the media reports the story in terms of these issues
3) The effects of that reporting on the nature of the conflict

Muslim Death Cult

At once Arabs complain that the world considers Arab blood cheap. And yet, their own leaders say the same thing.

Our blood is cheap compared with the cause which has brought us together and which at moments separated us, but shortly we will meet again in heaven… Palestine is our land and Jerusalem is our capital” Yasser Arafat (Maariv, Oct. 4, 1996).

Even as they deplore it, Arab intellectuals acknowledge the depths of the problem: Wrote Tunisian intellectual Al-Afif Al-Akhdar:

“Why do expressions of tolerance, moderation, rationalism, compromise, and negotiation horrify us [Muslims], but [when we hear] fervent cries for vengeance, we all dance the war dance?… Why do other people love life, while we love death and violence, slaughter and suicide, and [even] call it heroism and martyrdom?”

In a highly popular music video produced for the PA by a Western company in December 2000, partly to recruit kids for the intifada, the “shahid” Muhammad al Durah calls on the youth of Palestine to follow him to martyrdom. The words of the song begin like this:

How sweet is the fragrance of the shahids [people who have died for Allah]. How sweet is the fragrance of the earth. Its thirst quenched by the gush of blood flowing from the youthful body. How sweet is the fragrance of the earth.”

Among the most terrifying elements of the Jihadi death cult is the revival (and now widespread use of) an apocalyptic Hadith which sees the final battle as one in which the Muslims slaughter every last Jew… with mother nature’s help. Here is one of countless citations, notable for its addition of dehumanizing rhetoric:

“The Prophet said: the Resurrection will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims kill them. The Muslims will kill the Jews, rejoice [in it], rejoice in Allah’s Victory. The Muslims will kill the Jews, and he will hide… “The Prophet said: the Jews will hide behind the rock and tree, and the rock and tree will say: oh servant of Allah, oh Muslim this is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!. Why is there this malice? Because there are none who love the Jews on the face of the earth: not man, not rock, and not tree – everything hates them. They destroy everything, they destroy the trees and destroy the houses. Everything wants vengeance on the Jews, on these pigs on the face of the earth, and the day of our victory, Allah willing, will come.” PA TV, September 10, 2004

Schadenfreude and Killing the Enemy’s Civilians

The celebrations of Palestinians at news that Israeli women and children have been killed, are of course, legendary, including their response to 9-11, which Arafat, with the help of a cooperative western Media, quickly suppressed. What is still more disturrbing because done, if you will “in cold blood,” is the exhibit which recreated a terror attack at Sbarro Pizza from the summer of 2001. Palestinians can go and derive pleasure at viewing Israeli body parts in papier-maché dipped in red paint “flying” through the air.

In an internet debate with Abu Basir al- Tartusi, a Syrian jihadi scholar residing in London who criticized both the London 7-7 bombings and urged that the thirst for revenge among his fellow jihadis be subordinate to law and legal rulings (fatwahs), one of his opponents wrote that Muslims

Muslims need no fatwa each time an attack takes place on enemy soil, since “this is an integral part of the Muslim Sunnah,” or the Prophet’s traditions. He urged Muslims to show joy for every tragedy suffered by oppressors, resisting any sympathy. Moreover, he claimed that any condemnations of the London bombings contradict Islam: “I warn my believing brothers to stop criticizing their brothers, the mujahedeen, especially these days.”

Most cultures acknowledge the presence of Schadenfreude, but generally they disapprove it. To have the leaders of the people make it into a cultic emotion deviates from the norms of almost any culture, and some Arab intellectuals are painfully aware of this. Commenting on the video of the Nicolas Berg beheading that Iraqi jihadists posted on the internet so others could enjoy the view, an editorial in the Lebanese Daily Star on May 13, 2004, warned of what might happen if this issue is not addressed:

As the war on terror continues, the voices coming from the Arab and Muslim world celebrating death over life have been heard more often than those criticizing this philosophy. An “The region’s kings, princes, and presidents need to learn a valuable lesson from this abhorrent incident: that fractured societies produce real-life theaters of shame like the Berg murder in a systemic manner, and that similar fractures are infecting their own societies. If the Berg beheading does not catapult the region’s leaders from the world of lethargy to the world of vigorous action to establish law and order in their own societies — and beginning with themselves — then they will be considerably weakened…. What more is needed to galvanize Arab leaders into action? Today, a man named Berg was put to the sword; tomorrow, it could be the Arab nation torn asunder by the same savagery.

If anything the situation is worse in 2006. And the media still don’t seem to understand.

Media and the Problem of Arab and Muslim Death Cult and Genocidal Delirium

This entire phenomenon of the Jihadi worship of death has received relatively little attention from the media — almost an inversion of how pervasive it is in the Arab and Msulim MSM. Take, for example a case that happened in the first month of the Intifada, and presented the media with an opportunity to reveal to the public precisely what the Israelis and the Jews were complaining about. The day after two Israelis were savagely torn apart by a mob of Palestinians in Ramallah shouting “revenge for the blood of Muammad [al Durah],”, and “Allahu Akhbar,” Shiekh Ahmad Abu Halabiya gave a sermon which played on PATV.

“The Jews are the Jews. Whether Labor or Likud the Jews are Jews. They do not have any moderates or any advocates of peace. They are all liars. They must be butchered and must be killed… The Jews are like a spring as long as you step on it with your foot it doesn’t move. But if you lift your foot from the spring, it hurts you and punishes you… It is forbidden to have mercy in your hearts for the Jews in any place and in any land. Make war on them any place that you find yourself. Any place that you meet them, kill them.” PA TV, October 13, 2000

In discussing Israeli complaints about the nature of their enemy and the sources of his hatred, specifically pointing to this genocidal sermon, New York Times journalist William Orme presented the evidence as follows.

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

Now what would possess a journalist to so poorly misquote a terrifying passage directly reminiscent of the Nazis, from people who were acting on this genocidal rhetoric daily? He even misrepresented the subject of the sermon — not the killing of two Israeli soldiers, but of all Jews. To the uninformed, it makes the complainants look petty, whining. Only Orme can answer why he did that.

In the meantime, Orme’s behavior is much closer to the norm than to the exception. The western press dramatically under-reports the Jihadi death cult. It appears in neo-con journals, and constitutes hate-speech and Islamophobia. But it is not hate speech to reveal the presence of hate-speech, especially when the speakers also act on this speech.

In the meantime, the public knows as little about the Muslim death cults, as they do about the Israeli army’s extraordinary efforts — often at the cost of their own lives — to spare Muslim civilians used as human shields by their “warriors.” Israelis even write academic papers struggling with these issues. And Israeli soldiers die because of their inhibitions on firing at terrorists hiding behind women and children. The most exceptional example of this was at Jenin in April 2002, where the Israelis, rather than bomb the part of the refugee camp where the suicide terrorist network had taken root, went in house to house to avoid civilian casualties. The result was 23 soldiers dead soldiers for Israel, and accusations of an Israeli massacre of Palestinians in the media.

Kafr Qana and the Cult of Death

In a sense the current conflict between Israel and both Hamas and Hizbullah underlines the importance of moral thinking in the life of nations and disputes between peoples. Tony Blair articulated it quite well to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council where he characterized it as a struggle between moderate, benign values versus the hatred and intolerance of fundamentalism.:

“Even the issue of Israel is just part of the same wider struggle for the soul of the region,” Blair said. “If we recognize this struggle for what it truly is, we would be at least along the first steps of the path to winning it. But I fear a vast part of Western opinion is not remotely near this yet.”

The press coverage, in the tradition of “politics of outrage” civil-rights media coverage, reflects and amplifies that moral dimension. But it since the 1960s many things have changed, and the media begins to resemble a parable of the dangers of moral confusion. As Blair puts in with his British understatement, they are “not remotely near” understanding what’s wrong.

What has happened at Kafr Qana illustrates precisely how a highly moralistic press — committed without question to the value of human life, especially of children and other innocents — can invert the very imbalance at the core of the conflict and arouse a misplaced indignation that contributes to the very conflict it, in its moralism, deplores. After the collapse of the residential building in Qana, the media have presented the Israelis as those who show no respect for life, falling prey to the ghoulish strategies of Hizbullah in spilling everyone’s blood including those of their own civilians for the sake of a PR victory. As a result they handed Hizbullah that PR victory and rewarded the very behavior that it thought it condemned.

And even as they condemn the Israelis for their wanton killing of Lebanese, despite their regrets, they somehow don’t notice that Hizbullah celebrates the killing of Israelis as a means to restore “their honor.”

We cannot control how people judge us. We can ask for fairness, set standards, adhere to them as best we can and hope others will too. But ultimately, every person, every media outlet and every viewer makes the final call and judges others as he or she wants to – fairly or unfairly. Jews can scream in pain and outrage at comparisons between Jews and Nazis, but they can’t stop people — even other Jews — from enjoying the moral sadism of accusing them.

But one can point out that there is a price to pay for judging unfairly (as LGF puts it: overdrawn at the bank of karma), and at times of danger, that price can be fatal. In the process of their moralizing coverage, the media have set in motion forces that threaten the very culture of life which created a free press and which, in their moralizing, they pretend to uphold.

Imagine if the story at Qana had gone like this: Initial shock, hard questions, revulsion at the parading of the corpses, connections made with the cult of death in Jihadi culture, connections to the snuff movies that jihadis are giving the world (execution videos) since 2000, refusal of the Western media to jump at the bait of ghoulish PR and thereby mainstream the snuff movies to a public audience, the hard questioning of all the Lebanese including Hizbullah spokesmen on the responsibility of Hizbullah for what happened.

This could have been an occasion to shame Hizbullah publicly, globally, for its atrocious behavior, its sick and destructive attitude towards the life of its own people, its transparent and dishonest manipulation of the public, and its bloody betrayal of the very people it claims to represent. All the voices of Jihad – especially the most bloodthirsty – would be humiliated before the eyes of the world. All the voices of moderation and humanity in the Arab world would have found a public platform from which to address the Arab world and deliver a well-deserved rebuke for their childish egocentrism and unfairness. The temperature of global jihad warming might have dropped by as many as 3 degrees. The initiative could have passed (even briefly) to all those in the Arab world who see the terrifying dangers of global Jihad and realize this is not a beast we want to feed, who show enough constructive realism to resist suicidal honor.

Instead the snuff movies are out with the blessing of an outraged world. Muslims the world over are fed on them constantly, a magnificent contribution to the cult of death with which hundreds of millions of Muslims – whether they like it or not – are force-fed by their TV programmers. People who can articulate a humane vision are drowned out. Men like the Pakistani Seattle “lone gunmen” represent precisely the kind of “unconscious sleeper” activated by these images, to plunge into Jihadi genocide.

The forces of hatred and resentment have once again flooded our system thanks to a media that, like some unintelligent Pavlovian dog, cannot unlearn self-destructive behavior. The temperature of global jihad warming has gone up 3%.

That’s a swing of 6 degrees.

And the reverse — 6 degrees lower — could have been accomplished by the power of the word alone. Not a shot fired by the forces of civil society and peace. Just a self-respecting and honorable press.

Alas! If only the press had a tenth of the sense of honor that the Arabs have; and if only the Arabs had a tenth the willingess to criticize their own culture that our press has — we would all be the happiest people in the world.

Those of us who do not want to see outright war, but who acknowledge what we face, do not think that, as a culture of freedom with a free and honest press, we can afford to continue losing such magnificent opportunities to contribute to a peaceful and prosperous global civil society.

So the challenge is out to our media mired in their Augean Stables. Do you have the courage to stand up to the Jihadi death cult, resist their intimidation, and keep your moral compass? Or will you continue to shoot your own side — the side that values human life — in the foot in pursuit of “the scoop” and the moral Schadenfreude of humiliating Israel globally, and then respond by defending your behavior?

Prognosis… dubious. Unless the public hold the media responsible.

Fisking D.J. Deeb

In these days of quasi-war in the Middle East, all kinds of “takes” on the situation find their way into print. Here’s one by a man named Deeb, author of a book on why the Oslo Processs failed, and, as you will see, an ardent proponent of PCP2 (Post-Colonial Paradigm). According to his own self-description he is

an Adjunct Professor of History and Government at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, MA, and at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, MA. He teaches Social Studies fulltime at Reading Memorial High School in Reading, Massachusetts. He also serves as an elected member of the Greater Lowell Technical School Committee and Dracut School Committee in Dracut, Massachusetts. D.J. is the author of The Collapse of Middle East Peace: The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Peace Accords (New York: IUniverse, 2003).

I fisk him here because, like Robert Fisk, almost everything he says is a systematic misrepresentation that reflects his dogma, but he presents as “facts.” Mr. Deeb is a high school teacher. I pity his students.

NOTA BENE: Mr. Deeb’s article and mine appeared in the Valley Patriot as a Point Counter-Point. My piece appeared under the unacceptable title: Local Social Studies Teacher has Anti-Semitic World View. I do not think that title appropriate at all. I never either accused Mr. Deeb of such an attitude (which is, to my mind an extremely grave accusation), nor have I even suspected him of such delirious hatred. Misguided ideologue, perhaps, but hardly anti-semitic. I apologize to Mr. Deeb, and call on the Patriot Ledger to change the title. My recommendation: “Local Social Studies Teacher Misleads the Public with Palestinian “Victim Narrative”.

[Deeb in bold.]

YO BLAIR & BUSH: ISRAEL MUST ACCEPT SOME BLAME FOR MIDDLE EAST ESCALATIONS!!
By D.J. Deeb

The tragic recent events in Lebanon are sad, but were a predictable outcome of Israeli government policies and the lack of interest and leadership from the Bush Administration in facilitating a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Bush Administration has two standards: One for Israel; and one for the rest of the world.

Nice opening. No pussy-footing here. Blame where it belongs: On Israel and on the USA. If only we would change, everything would go swimmingly.

Space will not permit me to give a comprehensive historical account of the events leading up to these tragic developments however, my book, The Collapse of Middle East Peace: The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Peace Accords (New York: IUniverse, 2003), does just that. I urge all of you who are interested to obtain a copy through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or order it through your favorite bookstore.

I do not have the book available to me. The editor’s blurb at Amazon presents it as “objective” and blaming “both sides.” Two of the three reviews are bizarre to say the least.

Lebanon, like Israel, is a parliamentary democracy in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the Lebanese military and government has been left in a weakened state following more than 25 years of civil war. Syria also occupied and controlled much of Lebanon until just last year. In addition, Palestinian refugees and their descendents who fled Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 war and subsequent conflicts constitute nearly 10 percent of Lebanon’s population. Permanent peace and stability in Lebanon requires a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Okay, here we go. Aside from the small detail that the refugees in Lebanon fled in 1948, it seems worthwhile noting that the refugees after 1967 came as a result of Black September, 1970 when Jordan chased out of its territory a population of Palestinian “guerillas,” led by Yasser Arafat, who tried to take over the government, and that when they arrived in Lebanon, they promptly created so much tension as to trigger the civil war (1975-82) in which over 150,000 civilians died. Israel’s only participation in this was to spare the Palestinian guerillas who fled the Jordanian troops’ slaughter and allow them to pass into Lebanon, and not to accept such a vicious and remorselessly belligerent population — towards Arabs as well as Israelis — within their own territory. You wouldn’t guess it from Deeb’s summary.

As for Lebanon’s status as a parliamentary democracy, if Israel in its national boundaries had as bad a record as Lebanon — Palestinians Arabs in refugee camps denied citizenship, armed militias, occupation by a major dictatorship across the border, very limited freedom of press — then I think people could justifiably claim Israel is not a democracy. The hard truth is that Lebanon was destroyed long before this latest incident. As one Lebanese has put it:

Lebanon a victim? What a joke!

Before the Israeli attack, Lebanon no longer existed, it was no more than a hologram. At Beirut innocent citizens like myself were forbidden access to certain areas of their own capital. But our police, our army and our judges were also excluded. That was the case, for example, of Hezbollah’s and the Syrians’ command zone in the Haret Hreik quarter (in red on the satellite map). A square measuring a kilometer wide, a capital within the capital, permanently guarded by a Horla army [1], possessing its own institutions, its schools, its crèches, its tribunals, its radio, its television and, above all… its government. A “government” that, alone decided, in the place of the figureheads of the Lebanese government – in which Hezbollah also had its ministers! – to attack a neighboring state, with which we had no substantial or grounded quarrel, and to plunge US into a bloody conflict. And if attacking a sovereign nation on its territory, assassinating eight of its soldiers, kidnapping two others and, simultaneously, launching missiles on nine of its towns does not constitute a casus belli, the latter juridical principle will seriously need revising.

What is Deeb’s doing in presenting Lebanon as the functional equivalent of Israel when it is barely a state? Is this political “affirmative action” at work here?

The bombardment of Lebanon and its civilians, which constitutes a gross violation of international law, began in the second week of July following the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by pro-Palestinian Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon. The Israeli government responded by raiding infrastructure targets in Lebanon, killing countless civilians, endangering 25,000 Americans, and practically destroying the Lebanese airport in Beirut. Why would Israel bomb the Beirut airport knowing that it would trap 25,000 Americans? Are Israeli leaders looking to drag the United States into another Middle East war?

The question of legality of the response — here presented as unquestionably illegal — is complex and fraught with unintended consequences. Applied too strictly, international law that aims at the containment of conflicts actually contributes to their perpetuation by denying the stronger side (often democratic and hence committed to legal actions) from finishing the conflict with a clear victory.

The rhetoric of “countless civilians” is typical of Deeb’s inflated language. Largely due to Israeli scruples about warning people to flee target zones (and hence warn the Hizbullah about intentions), the casualties, however regretful are considerably lower than they would be if Arabs flew those bombers. The casualties so far are far fewer than the average per month during the seven-year-long civil war (almost 2000 per month).

To understand these latest developments, one must understand the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel routinely destroys the homes of innocent Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, imprisons countless women and children, and regularly confiscates Palestinian land for illegal Israeli settlements. Israel uses American supplied tanks and bulldozers to carry out these operations. Hezbollah has offered to release the Israeli soldiers in return for the release of Palestinian and Lebanese women and children held in Israeli jails.

Here we have Deeb at his best. We must understand the “complicated” Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he tellls us wisely, and then proceeds to give a completely one-sided account in which Israel is the routine guilty party and the Palestinians the hapless and innocent victims. No mention that the homes destroyed are those of suicide terrorists who have blown themselves up among Israeli civilians as the result of hate-teaching systematically sponsored by the Palestinian Authority; no mention that the legal status of the land “confiscated” is not Palestinian and that the settlements are disputed but only by one partisan school “illegal”; and pure dishonesty in claiming that the prisoner exchange is for — again that word — “countless” women and children.

Up until now negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, culminating with the famous Camp David Talks in the summer of 2000, have all failed to achieve a permanent peace settlement because Israel has refused to acknowledge United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for negotiations. These Resolutions collectively call on Israel to return the areas it illegally occupied during the 1967 war (the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights). This will allow for the creation of an independent Palestinian state and lead to a permanent peace agreement between Israel and Syria. In addition, the Arab League unanimously endorsed a Saudi Arabian proposal in 2002 to make peace with Israel and normalize relations if it complies with these two Resolutions. Currently, 4 million Palestinians are living in exile and approximately 1 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are being subjected to Apartheid-like conditions. The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 constituted 78 percent of historic Palestine, while the remaining 22 percent was illegally occupied from the Palestinian Arabs in 1967. It is only this latter 22 percent of the land that is now being disputed.

The litany of Palestinian propaganda in the guise of a “history” of the “complicated” conflict goes on. Let’s take them sentence by sentence:

  • Up until now negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, culminating with the famous Camp David Talks in the summer of 2000, have all failed to achieve a permanent peace settlement because Israel has refused to acknowledge United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for negotiations. It was Yasser Arafat who walked out on Camp David, and he who rejected the negotiations much to everyone — including President Clinton’s distress. Nor was this unpredictable: From the very beginning of the Oslo Process, Arafat and others made clear (in Arabic) that the concessions the PLO made were a Trojan Horse permitting them to prosecute the war of liberation of all Palestine — “from the river to the sea.” It was he who set off the “Al Aqsa Intifada” in response to extensive offers to return land. Deeb’s account is, like the Palestinian playbook from which it is drawn, stunningly dishonest.
  • These Resolutions collectively call on Israel to return the areas it illegally occupied during the 1967 war (the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights). This will allow for the creation of an independent Palestinian state and lead to a permanent peace agreement between Israel and Syria. Again Deeb misleads us. The resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from territories (not “the areas”) it occupied, and this in exchange for peace and recognition. The Arabs (Palestinian leadership of Yasser Arafat included) rejected these conditions immediately (Three No’s of Khartoum, September 1967), and have never showed any sincere commitment to revising that position since. When Egypt did, the Israelis promptly returned Sinai, and would have returned the Gaza Strip but Egypt didn’t want it. The notion that Israel’s withdrawal would lead to peace has to be one of the most ludicrous claims around these days. Perhaps back in the 1990s, liberals everywhere could hope that such a development would lead to peace, as long as they didn’t consult the websites that translated Palestinian statements in Arabic.
  • In addition, the Arab League unanimously endorsed a Saudi Arabian proposal in 2002 to make peace with Israel and normalize relations if it complies with these two Resolutions. More deeply misleading information. Saudi Arabia is presented as an honest broker and the return of the refugees which would destroy Israeli democracy goes unmentioned. Deeb makes no mention of the possibility that this is part of the “staged strategy” for destroying Israel.
  • Currently, 4 million Palestinians are living in exile and approximately 1 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are being subjected to Apartheid-like conditions. Aside from the inflation of the statistics, the use of the most grotesque rhetoric of “apartheid” marks Deeb not as an “objective” or impartial observer, but of a radical ideologue. At no point did the Apartheid regime in South Africa have a black supreme court justice, or universities where 20% of the student population was black. The comparison with South Africa is not only deeply dishonest — indeed Israel, especially at the age of 60 — has a better record on treating her Arab minority than say, the Americans and their slaves. But the most terrible irony here is that Israel treats her Arab citizens far better than Arab country’s treat their own Arabs.
  • The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 constituted 78 percent of historic Palestine, while the remaining 22 percent was illegally occupied from the Palestinian Arabs in 1967. It is only this latter 22 percent of the land that is now being disputed. Another classic piece of Palestinian propaganda: historic Palestine (itself a recent phenomenon) included Trans-Jordan which was split off in 1922 to form an Arab nation (Jordan) on 77% of Palestine, where Jews could not settle. Jews at partition in 1947 were offered 16% of “historic Palestine” which they accepted; the Arabs refused the offer of 84% of Palestine and went to war.
  • This past February, we witnessed a new Palestinian Authority emerge led by a Hamas-majority in the Palestinian parliament within the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank. This development can be directly explained as a Palestinian reaction to Israeli brutality and lack of seriousness in negotiations. Well I guess it “could be explained…” this way if any explanation will do. The tragic issue here is that a disastrously malevolent organization which abuses children by teaching them to love death and killing won an election on a platform that included principally the destruction of Israel. Indeed the real lack of seriousness in negotiations — Arafat’s contribution — has something to do with Hamas’ warning:

    The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?

    To present Hamas’ victory as the response of an exasperated Palestinian people to Israel’s lack of earnest desire for peace is literally to reverse historical causality.

Deeb continues:

While the Bush Administration rightfully demands that Iran comply with United Nations Resolutions calling for it to disband its nuclear weapons program, it turns a blind eye towards Israel. The Israelis are in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call on Israel to return to its June 1967 borders. Instead of complying with these Resolutions, Israel continues to build more settlements in violation of the Geneva Protocol of 1949. More than 54,000 acres of Palestinian land and more than 21,000 new Israeli housing settlements have been constructed illegally since 1993. If the Bush Administration wants to be seen as credible player in the region in the eyes of the international community, then it needs to demand that all sides comply with international mandates.

The entire conflict comes down to the Arab nations’ refusal to recognize the UN’s creation of the state of Israel (which predates by 19 years both the “occupation” and the “illegal” settlements). The idea that the USA should treat a democratic country under siege by irredentist dictatorships (like Iran) in the same manner as it treats those dictatorships, that it should insist that Israel make concessions without corresponding Arab concessions, is not only morally dishonest, but a recipe for disaster. The wars in Gaza and Lebanon right now come from Israeli withdrawals that Arab leaders have treated as signs of weakness and invitations to further aggression.

The United States gives more than $5 billion a year in American tax dollars to Israel. Without our financial assistance, Israel would likely cede to exist as an independent nation. Certainly giving this amount of money each year to Israel affords us some leverage. The Bush Administration has done little to advance the peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The President likes to talk about spreading “democracy,” yet he refuses to have any contact with the democratically-elected government of the Palestinian Authority. You can’t have it both ways, Mr. President! The United States negotiated agreements with the Soviet Union, which was much more of a threat to our interests, during the Cold War.

Among all the misleading statements above, let me just focus on one as emblematic of Deeb’s dishonest rhetoric: yet he refuses to have any contact with the democratically-elected government of the Palestinian Authority. Either Mr. Deeb, who supposedly teaches History and Government to our high school children, has no real awareness of what democracy entails, or he doesn’t care. It is well known among historians and political scientists, that the great danger to democracy is “one man, one vote, one time.” Would Deeb be insisting that the US recognize Hitler as the democratically elected chancellor of Germany even as he turned the nation into a totalitarian state? Does he care that Hamas shows no trace of democratic intention either where its neighbors are concerned or where its own people are concerned?

I believe that a two-state solution, which acknowledges an independent Palestinian state and a secure Israel rooted in Resolutions 242 and 338, should be the ultimate goal of the parties. In the meantime, the Bush Administration must demand that Israel show restraint in Lebanon. Although the Lebanese government is fragile, it constitutes another democracy in the Middle East, which is in our long-term best interests.

And, after a lengthy and deeply one-sided assault on Israel, the grand finale… let’s all be friends. I pity Deeb’s students, who are subjected to what psychologists call “schizophrenogenic behavior,” in which one minute he’s feeding them dishonest radical anti-Zionist propaganda and then seamlessly switching to liberal, feel good, let’s all be friends, rhetoric.