Monthly Archives: September 2006

Islamization of European Antisemitism: Bostom on the Unfolding Tragedy

Andy Bostom, author of The Legacy of Jihad, has written a sobering piece on the continuing rise in Europe of anti-Semitism, almost entirely of Muslim inspiration. I have argued extensively that this rise is directly related to the impact of the al Durah footage, and represents a particularly ugly marriage of European (Christian and post-Christian) anti-Judaism and Muslim Antisemitism — a 21st-century Judeophobic brew of Muslim appropriations of old anti-Semitic themes, and post-modern Moral Schadenfreude that could well destroy free Europe.

The Islamization of European Anti-Semitism
September 7th, 2006

On Thursday, September 7, 2006, as first reported by the Times of London this past Saturday (9/2/06), an All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Antisemitism is expected to issue its finding that anti-Jewish violence has become endemic in Britain, both on the streets and university campuses. A major surge of attacks has accompanied—and followed—the recent conflict between Hezb’allah and Israel. According to the Times,

“The report will call for urgent action from the Government, the police and educational establishments.”

However, in referring to the preponderance of the actual attackers, the Times provided only this vague allusion, “Muslims are over-represented,” seemingly oblivious to its own earlier poll whose results were published on February 7, 2006. These data revealed the twisted justification for such violent bigotry: 37 per cent of British Muslims believe the Jewish community in Britain is a legitimate target “as part of the ongoing struggle for ‘justice’ in the Middle East.”

A subsequent (9/5/06) report on the Parliamentary Enquiry in the Jerusalem Post was more forthcoming, and stated explicitly that “Islamic extremists” were responsible for “inciting hatred towards Jews”. As the Jerusalem Post also noted, the Parliamentary Enquiry’s results are consistent with data recently published in The Journal of Conflict Resolution by Yale University biostatistician Dr. Edward H. Kaplan, and Dr. Charles A. Small of the Yale Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism.

After discussing the overwhelming presence of anti-Semitic attitudes among European Muslims and their relationship to even more virulent attitudes in the Muslim world, Bostom links the phenomenon to the huge strides Eurabia has taken in this decade.

Nearly 2 ½ years ago, Bat Ye’or summarized the bitter harvest Western Europe was reaping from the sociopolitical and cultural changes it had sown by implementing this Eurabian vision:

Arab and Islamic anti-Israeli propaganda, barely disguised in academic and cultural packaging… imposed in universities, the press, and cultural centers. …Israel[‘s] usurped history and identity are projected onto the Palestinians… part of a global movement that is transforming Europe into a new continent of dhimmitude within a worldwide strategy of jihad and da’wa, the latter being the pacific method of Islamization…. this policy has promoted European dhimmitude and rabid Judeophobia.

And rabid Judeophobia is an apt characterization which applies not only to the current “Hezb’allah/Israel conflict-related” upsurge in attacks by European Muslims on Jews. Ten months ago, during a November 14, 2005 presentation at The Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., Stephen Steinlight, former director of education at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, and subsequently director of national affairs at the American Jewish Committee, cited data demonstrating that Muslim youths, or more appropriately, youthful Muslim thugs, engaged in an average of 12 attacks per day on Parisian Jews,

“putting the figures… close to [those] during the days of the Weimar Republic.”

The clear excess virulence of the Antisemitism in Europe’s Muslim versus Christian populations, combined with the evidence that globally, Muslims in Islamic countries exhibit even more fanatical Jew hatred than their European co-religionists, defies the “conventional wisdom” regarding the ultimate origins of Muslim Jew hatred in Western Europe, and beyond.

Bostom then goes on to show that rather than a vague amalgam of European anti-Semitic themes, this Muslim animus has its own independent sources and motives.

Read the rest. We — Europe! — cannot afford to ignore this phenomenon in their midst.

No Blood? We’ve Got Some

One of the more grotesque elements of the al Durah affair is the lack of blood in the footage. Jamal is allegedly hit by 8 bullets, Muhammad by 3, one fatal wound in the stomach. Since stomach wounds kill primarily from loss of blood, one would expect a sea of blood on the sidewalk where he lay. After all, Talal insisted that he bled for “twenty minutes” while the ambulance could not come because the Israelis were firing incessantly.

Having seen the tapes at France2 shot by Talal the following day, I know that in the morning, when Talal was there, there was no sign of blood behind the barrel. At most the area directly behind the barrel was a bit darker. (Enderlin suggested to me that the Palestinians had covered it over with sand. Even so, the area of “coverage” would have been much larger.)

[NB: Since I wrote this, Esther Schapira has been able to take a still from Abu Rahma's footage:]

Barrel next day - no blood

Apparently the lack of blood became a problem when the foreign reporters — stupid but not necessarily corrupt — came. For them, the Palestinian handlers of the affair needed blood. And so they supplied it.

PALESTINIAN BOY KILLED

Note the color (by the next day — even within an hour — the blood would have turned dark). Note also the placement. This is directly under where Jamal sat. But the boy, spilling his blood for twenty minutes, would have covered the area where the soldiers are standing and back towards the cameraman.

For a comparison, here is what a real dead person who has spilled real blood looks like.

Indeed, the presence of these men at a scene that should be an investigative site shows just how cavalier with the evidence the Palestinians acted in this case. As the general who should have investigated put it to an interviewer:

“When there are differences in the assessment of a specific case, when further inquiries prove necessary, then of course an investigation is mounted. But when there is an agreement over the identity of the culprit then no investigation is necessary.”
“Then what do you all agree on?”
“That it was the Israeli side that committed this murder.”

And then the reporters show up, like Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian, eager for the lurid story, exercising not a fraction of an ounce of critical judgment. Not one embarrassing question.

A circle of 15 bullet holes on a cinder block wall, and a smear of darkening blood. That is what marks the spot where a terrified 12-year-old boy spent his final moments, cowering in his father’s arms, before he was hit by a final shot to the stomach, and slumped over, dead.

Al Durah Affair I: France2 Rushes by Talal Abu Rahmeh

Many people have written me about the rushes from Talal abu Rahmeh. It was viewing them for the first time that inspired the term “Pallywood.” For those who have not yet read this essay at the Second Draft, I post here a revised version.

ON SEEING THE FRANCE2 FROM SEPTEMBER 30, 2000
Richard Landes

I had the rare privilege to visit Charles Enderlin at France2 studios in Jerusalem in October 2003, and view about 20 minutes of tape from Talal abu Rachmeh’s work of the same days as the Reuter’s cameraman’s rushes made available here. Although I had already become acquainted with this tendency to stage scenes of fighting and ambulance evacuation from viewing these Reuter’s rushes at the studio of Nahum Shahaf, the first person to argue that Al Durah was staged, I was in for quite a surprise. Talal’s work was considerably more obvious in its filming of fakes, many of them quite badly staged for the cameras. In fact, if the Reuter’s cameraman who filmed the footage you see at The Second Draft was, to some extent a photographer of Pallywood, standing back often and filming both the scene and the set, Talal was a Pallywood photographer, filming up close only the key “sight bytes” (as in the Molotov Cocktail scene).

At one point, some youth are evacuating a “wounded” comrade, when one of them sees another ambulance with more cameramen. He puts the wounded boy in a headlock and yanks him over to the other ambulance, dragging the other “evacuators” with him. At another point, a boy faked a leg injury, but instead of drawing big kids who could pick him up and rush him past the cameramen to an ambulance, he only attracted little kids. He shooed them away, looked around, and, seeing that no one was coming to evacuate him, straightened up and walked away without a limp. The experience of watching Talal’s work was literally surreal, Alice in Wonderland. I was astonished. It gave me information vertigo. What was going on?

An Israeli cameraman working for France2 who was watching the film with me and Enderlin at the time, snickered at one point. When I asked him why, he said, “because it looks so fake.”
“That’s my impression as well,” I remarked.
To which Enderlin responded, “Oh, they do that all the time. It’s their cultural style. They exaggerate.”

At that point, I should have asked, “then how can you justify using fake footage in your news broadcasts?” But being focused entirely on al Durah, I asked: “Well if they stage all this, why can’t they have also staged al Durah?”
“They’re not good enough,” he shot back.

When I walked out of the office, I was in shock. They do this all the time!?!

“It’s their cultural style”? Enderlin’s condescending “orientalism” really disguised an information catastrophe. The joke was on us all – the responsible media, the trusting public, the “scoop”-hungry journalists who rummaged through these cheap scenes, looking for something they could use in the evening’s broadcast. That’s when the term Pallywood first occurred to me.

Other journalists who saw Abu Rachmeh’s rushes in Paris at France2 in the Fall of 2004 had the same impression and got the same answer from France2 executives. In a radio interview, Daniel Leconte recalls:

… the staging which obviously they were obliged to acknowledge as we sat around the table with the representatives of France 2, that is was staged – which is pretty outrageous (quand même extravagant) – and when we said to them, “You can see it’s staged,” one of them said, smiling, “Yes, but you know well that it’s always like that.” [To which Leconte responded:] “You may know that, but your viewers still don’t know.”

At least Leconte and Jeambar still adhere to principles of modern journalism, even if, sadly, they have chosen to speak no further on the subject. (Nidra Poller will be writing shortly about the way in which French journalism suffocates dissenting perspectives, which is what these trials are all about.)

PATV “journalists” have no scruples about doctoring film with shots from other days — in this case a shot of an Israeli firing rubber bullets in a riot caused by the al Durah footage into the al Durah footage so it looks like he killed Muhammad on purpose — in order to “tell a higher truth.”

“These are forms of artistic expression, but all of this serves to convey the truth and explain a specific event. We never forget our higher journalistic principles to which we are committed of relating the truth and nothing but the truth.”

(One needs to see the footage, which comes from an interview in Esther Schapira’s movie, to appreciate the self-satisfaction of the PATV official speaking. He has no idea that this violates the basic principles of modern journalism. He’s proud of what he’s done.)

Charles Enderlin responded to the scandal caused by these revelations with a defense that suggests he has “gone native.” He used Talal’s footage to run his story “because it corresponded with the situation on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

Leconte commented to one journalist: “I find this, from a journalistic point of view, hallucinating,” said Leconte, himself a former journalist. “That a journalist like him (Enderlin) can be driven to say such things is very revealing of the state of the press in France today,” he added. And that Leconte and Jeanbar have, despite their initial courageously defiant remarks like this, fallen silent on this issue, is equally revealing.

Newsmen in the American MSM whom I approached with this material were not quite as outrageous as Enderlin, but then they were not quite so courageous as Leconte and Jeambar, either. As one journalist at ABC put it, “I’m convinced by your argument about Pallywood, but I don’t know how much appetite there is for this kind of thing here.” At the time I didn’t realize fully how intimidated our MSM are.

Or as another put it, making allusions to the omnipresent commitment to “even-handedness” – “if we did something on this, we could not do it on this alone.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well we’d have to do something on what the Israelis do to manipulate images.”
“And if you don’t have anything remotely resembling this degree of dishonesty?”
“Then we won’t do anything.”
And they didn’t.

It is partly out of the refusal of the MSM to police itself (even rival networks!), and partly out of the brazen refusal of France2 and Charles Enderlin to release their incriminating tapes, that inspired me to launch the Second Draft.

[Note the following section was written last year and may need updating. Please check again soon.]

To urge France2 to release the tapes of Talal’s work on September 30, 2000 and the following day, October 1.

Arlette Chabot is the News Director of France 2 Television who was present when Denis Jeambar, Daniel Leconte and Luc Rosenzweig saw the rushes. She knows how bad the situation is, and needs to know it won’t go away. As of now, Enderlin and Abu Rahmeh continue to work together for France2 and inform the French public on the situation in the Middle East.
Send email to:[email protected]

Patrick De Carolis is a newly-appointed President of French Television. He should know that his predecessors have presided over massive journalist incompetence.
Write to: [email protected]

Dominique Baudis is President of Conseil Superieure de l’Audiovisuel (roughly translated as the French Broadcast Authority) which concluded that journalists should not broadcast stories that cannot be conclusively proven and should correct reports promptly and with the same prominence as the original story.
Submit comment by going to the following website:

http://www.csa.fr/outils/contact/contacteznous_formulaire.php

If you wish to write in French, cut and paste the following:

Madame, (ou Monsieur)

Je vous écris pour vous demander de bien vouloir rendre publics les rushes qui ont été tournés par Talal Abou Rahma le 30 septembre et le 1er octobre 2000. Ceux qui ont vu ces images affirment que ces rushes contiennent de nombreuses mises en scène, que votre correspondant, Charles Enderlin a présenté comme des informations réelles. Compte tenu du fort impact de ces images et des doutes sérieux concernant son travail, le public devrait avoir le droit d’accéder à l’information brute, tourné par Abu Rahma, qui lui a permis de tirer ses conclusions dramatiques.

Je vous remercie de bien vouloir tenir compte de ma demande et de m’informer personnellement de la suite que vous comptez donner à ma requête.

Bien à vous.

——-

[I write you to ask that you make public the raw footage that Talal Abu Rahma filmed on the 30th of September and the 1st of October, 2000. Those who have seen this footage assert that it contains numerous staged scenes which your correspondent, Charles Endeerlin presented to the public as real news. Given the powerful impact of such images and the serious doubts concerning the work of these two men, the public should have the right to see the primary sources which permitted him to draw his dramatic conclusions.

I thank you in advance for taking into account my request and informing me personally of the ways in which you intend to pursue this matter.

Best wishes,]

————–

The Al Durah Trials: Portrait of French Culture at the Beginning of the 21st Century

This fall three trials will take place in Paris at the Palais de Justice on the Ile de la Cité concerning the Al Durah affair.

palais de justice

Palais de Justice

I will be covering these trials in person on this blog and encourage others to follow the events closely because these trials — the issues, the mechanics of justice, the reaction of the public — tell us and will tell us a great deal about French society at the beginning of the 21st century. As a result, I will try to post something daily on the issues, stakes, and dynamics of what is happening. My first posting will be a memo on the overall issues.

1. Introduction

Starting on the 14 of September, 2006, there will be a series of three trials of individual French citizens who used internet sites to publish criticism of France2’s coverage of the Muhammad al Durah affair. Each of these trials invokes an 1881 law on press freedom that protects the individual, group, ethnicity, or religion from defamation that “strikes at the honor and consideration (reputation) of ”the individual or institution in question” (either France2 or Charles Enderlin).

The statements for which these individuals have been brought to trial are mild by American standards: “come protest France2’s gigantic manipulation…” “Charles Enderlin has committed grave professional errors…” “grave presumptions of disinformation exist around this affair…” “France2’s continuous refusals [to open an investigation] constitute so many brutal and unacceptable obstructions in the search for and demonstration of the truth.” Yet many of the people I have consulted on this matter think that France2 will win their cases. “French justice is not like American justice,” one Frenchman said to me. “C’est trucquée.” [It's fixed.]

These trials all come before the juges d’instructions in Room 17 of the Tribunal de grande instance de Paris, Palais de Justice. This is a magnificent courtroom, the high court of French Justice.

grande instance

The trials will take place fairly rapidly (two to three hours for each one), and the decisions will come within several weeks.

Two of these trials were initiated by France2 and Charles Enderlin in late 2002 when the first substantial evidence of either gross negligence or criminal manipulation first became available, and provoked public demonstrations concerning al Durah. The evidence was MENA’s short documentary and Esther Schapira’s longer Three Bullets and a Dead Child. The third trial (first to reach the court) dates from two year later and concerns an article written by Philippe Karsenty at his Media watchdog site, Media Ratings, in which he argues explicitly that the al Durah footage was staged and that heads should roll. The trials were inaugurated at a time when France2’s version enjoyed almost complete dominion in public opinion, even among Jews. At the time, France2 could count on widespread support for their position from other journalists. The plaintiffs aim at using the law of 1881, designed to keep journalists from abusing their freedoms and defaming members of the public, to stifle public criticism of a case of journalistic negligence that defamed an entire people.

Since then, however, a great deal has changed. Fallow’s piece in the Atlantic Monthly (June 2003), multiple articles on the internet, and Nidra Poller s piece in Commentary, have shifted opinion among those who are informed. Only people who have not seen the evidence still argue for scenario 1 (Israelis on purpose), even if most remain shy of scenario 5 (staged). In addition the material available at Second Draft has made it possible for anyone to view the evidence for him or herself, and Pallywood has become not only a widespread term, but a spur to rapid skepticism at Palestinian and now Lebanese efforts to produce new icons of sympathy and hatred.

But the shift goes still further: even among French media elites the word is out. In November of 2005 the scandal almost broke when two independent journalists – Daniel LeConte of Arte and Denis Jeanbar of L’Express — saw the Palestinian cameraman Talal abu Rahma’s rushes (what he recorded during the previous half hour). The embarrassment was palpable. Apparently, Jeanbar and Leconte were as astonished as was I, and also commented on the pervasive staging. They got the same answer from Enderlin’s boss that I got from Enderlin: “Oh, they do that all the time.” “You may know that,” responded Jeanbar, “ but your viewers don’t.”

And they still don’t know. The measures protecting media from having to admit error in this matter mobilized. Some heavy efforts from people of influence got both independent journalists to stop discussing the matter. If the public sees the rushes, this private embarrassment could become a terminal catastrophe for France2.

In the final analysis, these are not arcane French legal matters at stake, but tests of the French ability to meet 21st century challenges. This is a Dreyfus affair played out in an international theatre in which the country’s success or failure has global implications.

2. Scope of the Issue:

The reported death of the young Al Durah operated in the Arab and Muslim world, and to a lesser extent in the media and academic world of the West, as a powerfully iconic instance of blood libel. A father had stood by impotently as the Israelis – in cold blood – shot down his pathetically terrified son. The Israelis deliberately kill innocent and defenseless children. In the West it appeared as a “real” proof of Israeli malevolence and a justifiable source of outrage to a beleaguered people fighting for their independence.

Almost immediately, in demonstrations all over Europe, a combination of radical “left” and Muslim “immigrants” denounced Israel’s barbarity. The vehemence of these repeated demonstrations often spilled over into violence, especially against Jews. Europe got it’s “Arab/Muslim Street” as a result: both its vulnerability to public violence, and a major injection of anti-Semitic discourse.

manif place de la republique
[Demonstration at Place de la Republique, Paris, date unknown, possibly October 7, 2000.]

But the evidence cannot support charges of Israeli evil intent or culpability and the icon operated as a call not to Palestinian liberation but to global Jihad. Europeans, who thought they had a “get out of Holocaust-guilt free card” were actually waving the flag of global Jihad, in which they, as infidels, were as much the targets of the hostility as the Israelis, in front of their Muslim populations, and approving (or looking the other way) as the violence against Jews increased alarmingly.

The Al Durah case is a mutli-faceted tale that can tell us a great deal about the disturbing direction of events in Europe (and the West) since 2000. It brings into play:

1. The radical misreading of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a Palestinian struggle for national independence rather than a part of global Jihad, which has the Europeans siding with the forces of global jihad against themselves.

2. The ways in which this pro-Palestinian rhetoric has introduced an Arab street in Europe and strengthened the forces of Islamism and Jihad around the globe.

3. The roles played by the French and European media in this process, and the exceptional denial that permeates French public life on the issues of Eurabia and global Jihad.

4. The fundamental significance of anti-Zionism in European perceptions of the Al Durah icon, and how Al Durah as a 21st century blood libel has opened the gates to both Islamic anti-Semitism and more overt European anti-Zionism.

5. The ways that French (and European) politicians have ignored the rise of anti-Semitism in their midst through repeated denial.

6. The relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism and the dimensions of France’s “politics of resentment.”

7. The close connections between the French media (especially AFP) and the French foreign policy elite (Quai d’Orsay)

8. The ways the French legal system has functioned both in encouraging anti-Jewish violence with its lenient sentencing of anti-Jewish comments and deeds, and is now being used to silence any criticism.

9. Overall, the way the al Durah affair has played out in France over the last 6 years shows in painful detail the dysfunctions of French culture and politics, and illustrates the ways in which Eurabia operates. We can see clearly that Europe has become vulnerable to aggressive Islamism and Jihadism in the cause and effect of Pallywood’s success among European media gatekeepers. The European media are astonishingly credulous when considering video footage that is transparently dishonest.

If the public could view the complete Al Durah video (Talal’s “rushes”), I think the reaction would be astonishment — and indignation at the media. It would be obvious that there is a direct correlation between media manipulation of information and the broad public support for anti-Zionism. But, absent the complete video, the eagerness with which Europeans “learned” about Muhammad al Durah’s “death” at the hands of the Israelis, made the fake so much more acceptable. In like fashion, the shocking news from Kafr Kana has triggered a horrified call to cease fire immediately. The West is being victimized by its enemies’ manipulation of images, for those deceitful icons and faked reports are received uncritically, even when not enthusiastically, by the West’s own media. Given that synergy between Islamist malice and easily-duped news outlets, how can the Western public make intelligent decisions?

Al Durah represents a major error of the French media that have severe problems living up to their ethical standards (déontologie). The consequences of this particular error have had a catastrophic impact on both Israelis (their reputation) and the Palestinians (led into a losing war with this picture as incitement). They have also done serious damage globally to the fabric of civil society. If free and responsible (hence reasonably accurate) media are the eyes and ears of civil society, then we are flying blinded by this kind of information over very dangerous terrain. The ability of French courts to defend the rights of citizens to criticize the media’s work and make their criticisms known, to assess the evidence before them fairly, and to understand what is at stake in their decision – all of these matters will be played out this fall in the Parisian court.

Much in our troubled world hangs in the balance. The more people know, the more the judges become self-conscious about making their decision, and the more we can hope that France will make a sane decision from the perspective of both the law and the media. And if the French courts decide against these defendants, then at least those of us paying attention will have a sense of just how reliable French society is, and how resilient it will be in these coming years.

Clash of Narratives: Fisking Paul Scham

A long-time friend of mine, Paul Scham, has written a piece on the role of historical narratives in peacemaking in Bitter Lemons, and asked for comment. He was a passionate worker for the success of the Oslo accords, and coordinated Israeli-Palestinian joint academic projects at the Truman Institute of the Hebrew University from 1996 to 2002. With Walid Salem and Benjamin Pogrund he is coeditor of Shared Histories: A Palestinian-Israeli Dialogue (2005). He is currently an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.

AN ISRAELI VIEW
Historical narratives and peacemaking

by Paul Scham

In the aftermath of the second Lebanese war, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict almost seems shoved to the side, at least for many Israelis. Yet it is still a fundamental cause of Middle East instability, and its root causes must be dealt with if there is ever to be peace.

Careful language: “still a fundamental cause of Middle East instability…” Nonetheless, I think that even such circumscribed language as “a” fundamental cause, is profoundly mistaken. If Israel disppeared tomorrow, the fundamental cause of instability would remain — the dysfunctional nature of Arab political culture and the inveterate tendency of the authoritarian rulers of Arab socieites to use scapegoating to distract their masses from the misery they inflict on them. Indeed, I think there would be more rather than less instability: Jordan would be invaded in a minute by either “Palestine” or Syria.

It is usually assumed that agreement on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, difficult as they are, will settle the problem. These issues are well known: borders, settlements, nature of the Palestinian state to be created, security (for both sides), refugees (including the Palestinian claim of “right of return”), Jerusalem and water. All are undeniably important, and of course a comprehensive peace is not possible without dealing with all of them, and perhaps a few others.

However, there is a set of deeper issues involved that also must be dealt with. Both sides are uncomfortable with half of them, and insist on the other half. I call these the “intangible issues”, and for Israelis and Palestinians they are as important as the “tangible issues” listed above–perhaps, in certain respects, more so.

I agree. Indeed, I would argue that the intangibles are the critical issues, and that all of the “well-known issues” are relatively easily resolved once the intangibles have been addressed. I’m not sure Paul and I agree on what the real intangibles are.

These intangible issues are located in the historical narratives of the two sides. Until recently, the rule of Israeli-Palestinian interaction had usually been, as noted by Uri Savir in his history of the Oslo process, “no history”. History was considered too hot to handle. In fact, during the 1990s those of us who dealt with the “other” side, whether as negotiators or in academic or NGO (track II) meetings, found we could generally talk freely about the present and the future, but the past would often cause tempers to explode and thus was shunned.

There was good reason for this, because the historical narratives of both sides portray a peace-loving people attacked and brutalized by another that wants its land. The peace-loving side has tried as best it could to find a workable compromise, but all its efforts have been stymied by the other. Both sides agree on this. They disagree, however, rather strongly, as to which of them is the peace-loving side. Most people on both sides are affronted to the depth of their respective national consciousnesses at the idea that their side has not, with occasional and pardonable lapses, done all it could (and perhaps too much) to solve the conflict.

Paul and I regularly clash on the topic of what I call the “both sides…” reflex. Any time I say something like, “Muslim religious extremism…” or “terrorism and hate teaching…” he responds with “both sides…” Here he’s done a truly remarkable job of phrasing the case in terms of “both sides.” And on one level he’s right: both sides do have narratives that paint themselves as the “good guys” and the other as the “bad guys.” It’s like when people in the MSM claim that they must be doing something right since “both sides” criticize them. The only problem is that just because both sides tell narratives doesn’t mean they are symmetrical, and certainly not equally honest. Similarly with the media, if one side has high tolerance for the criticism and yet feels they’re being unfairly raked over the coals, and the other side has no tolerance for criticism, and complains at the slightest negative coverage, then saying “both sides” are complaining so we’re doing well, is pure self-deception/self-indulgence.

While there is no space here to go into the extensive national narratives themselves, they are particularly important to two vital aspects of the conflict, namely, right of return and Jerusalem. For Palestinians, right of return is inextricably bound up with the central feature of their national narrative, the Naqba, or catastrophe, of 1948, and the dispersion that followed. Israel’s refusal to recognize the occurrence of the Naqba except solely as a result of Arab actions, and its consequent unwillingness to accept any responsibility for it or to deal with the claim of the right of return is understood by Palestinians as an implicit, or even explicit, negation of their national existence. (Of course, Israelis are absolutely convinced that such an acceptance would lead to a flood of Palestinian claims for repatriation in Israel, which it would then be obliged to honor.)

Thanks for the parenthetical clarification.

I see two major problems here:

1) Israelis, particularly of the negotiating school, have been accepting significant elements of responsibility for the Naqba for decades, and have even affected the school curriculum. Paul has to present the Israeli position as “solely as a result of Arab actions, and its consequent unwillingness to accept any responsibility…” as absolute, and ignore the massive, often stunningly overblown, even dishonest, efforts to self-criticize on the part of the “new historians.” Indeed, there is nothing remotely resembling this kind of self-criticism among the Palestinians who, even as they use the absolutist language in accusing Israel for blaming the Naqba entirely on the Arabs, do very little to examine clearly the ways in which their own leaders and the Arab elites who form their peer group, have contributed to Palestinian suffering.

2) As a history teacher I always object to the use of the passive, which almost always obfuscates agency. Here, the expression “is understood by Palestinians as an implicit, or even explicit, negation of their national existence” operates precisely as a screen that disguises the core of the problem. This particular interpretation — that Israel refuses to acknowledge their contribution to Palestinian suffering — is not a passive phenomenon, the product of a natural view of events. It is a driven ideological position characterized by a demonization of Israel — they are entirely guilty and they deny it all — and a demand that reparations for this sin include the effective destruction of Israel (the parenthetical aside). What’s missing here on the Arab side is the self-criticism that marks the Israeli effort at negotiation. No admission from Palestinian historians that their own leadership tried and continues to try to wipe out Israel. The very formula presented by Paul — Israeli refusal to acknowledge any (read all) responsibility for the Naqba, denies Palestinian statehood — is misleading to the point of dishonesty. The Palestinian refusal to acknowledge any responsibility for the Naqba is part and parcel of their continued desire to deny Israel statehood. The passive employed — “is understood” — masks the intense ideological indoctrination to hatred and annihilationist ideology afoot in Palestinian and Arab culture. To present it as a kind of natural result of Palestinian perspectives rather than a sharpened weapon misleads the reader.

This “clash of narratives” neither can nor should be dealt with in the facile “moral equivalence” that we find here.

While the two are not exactly comparable, the Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish historical relationship with Jerusalem, and Yasser Arafat’s claim that the Second Temple did not exist or, if it did, was located in Nablus, is similarly understood as a fundamental unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

No, the two are not even remotely comparable. The Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish historical relationship to Jerusalem is an act of supreme bad faith. It came, moreover, during the Oslo negotiations, when according to the post-Zionist theory, the extensive self-criticism and willingness to concede on the part of the Israelis would lead to a similar gesture of generosity on the part of the Palestinians (PCP). Instead it led to a new round of irredentism accusations and profound contempt for Israel and its national aspirations (JP). (It also led to Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, which was neither gratuitous nor unprovoked.) Arafat’s remarks are actually part of a revisionist school of historiography, articulated even in American academic circles, that the Palestinians are the descendents of the original Philistines. This kind of argument amounts to a facetious form of supersessionism or “replacement” theology which appeals to the worst in Christian Judeophobia.

(The only connection I can find between current Palestinians and the Philistines is that they both engage in child-sacrifice. But that’s probably not what Paul has in mind.)

What is needed is an acknowledgement of the narrative of the other; a gesture of respect that takes it seriously, but does not deal with its historical truth. Not that historical truth is irrelevant or unimportant. But it is the province of historians, while the historical narrative is the possession of the whole society. (In fact, the work of Israeli and Palestinian professional historians, even apart from that of Israeli “new” or revisionist historians, is much closer to that of the “other” than are the national narratives.)

I don’t understand this at all. I may have missed something, but what I saw in 2000 was that, in response to the exceptional Israeli effort at showing “respect” for the Palestinian narrative, despite how dishonest, hate-mongering and self-indulgent it has and continues to be, the Palestinians showed vicious contempt for the Israeli narrative. As for the distinction between historians (who assess evidence and deal in what is accurate or not) and the “whole society” which has its “narratives”, I think that is a catastrophic division. The whole point of the exercise of history is to inform, educate, and even challenge the larger public to deal with reality, to reach levels of self-criticism and maturity that permit a society to learn from its past. And that is precisely what has not yet happened among Palestinians and Arabs who still live in the dream palace, with all the catastrophic results for that culture that one might expect, especially in matters of education.

Acknowledgement of the historical narrative of the other is not, of course, a magic bullet that will make peace possible. However, recognition of elements of the other’s narrative and acceptance that the two sides necessarily have very different–and legitimate–views of the past, can help to lead to joint acceptance of responsibility, which will go a long way toward dealing with the claim of right of return for many Palestinians. This will not be easy, for each side’s conviction that it bears none of the blame is matched only by the other side’s certainty that it bears virtually all of it.

There you go again Paul. The nice symmetrical language of “both sides.” No. The Israelis tried very hard to admit a significant measure of guilt. They even invented massacres they had committed just so they could confess — much like the patients in the asylum confessing wildly to anything in Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And they did this exceptional, historically unprecendented public self-criticism precisely in the hopes of achieving what you are still recommending. And in exchange they got dismissed, then blind-sided with a vicious blood libel that set of a genocidal war. You, like George Soros, like so many other people who cannot learn from history, are still repeating your failed solutions as prescriptions for the future. How about a little self-criticism here? No one reading your text would know that what you are recommending has already been tried… with disastrous results.

Ultimately, the conflict is not primarily about dunams of land or numbers of returnees; it is about full acceptance of the national legitimacy of the other. Acknowledgement of the other’s narrative is a step in that direction. For example, public discussion of the separation of the “right” of return from the “reality” of return could change some of the dynamics on both sides. Likewise, Palestinian acceptance of the historical and religious importance of the Temple Mount and the destroyed Temple to the Jewish people need not detract from the significance of the still-standing Haram al-Sharif to Palestinians and other Muslims.

This touches on the problem at the most superficial level imaginable. It fails to understand the radically different relationship that the Jews and Israelis have to history — some of the most sophisiticated and self-critical in the history of historiography — and that of the Palestinians and Arabs — some of the crudest, self-indulgent, propagandistic and doctrinaire in the history of historiography. What lies beneath these narratives, what makes the Palestinians and Arabs incapable of responding to the Israelis gestures in kind, is the matter of honor and shame. If you don’t address that, all your “let’s acknowledge each other’s legitimacy” talk is bandaids on a gaping, suppurating wound.

As Israeli negotiator Elyakim Rubinstein said at Camp David in 2000, “the peace process shouldn’t be the arena in which truth is pronounced.” However, acknowledgement of the importance of one’s own historical narrative to the legitimacy of the other side may be necessary before we can finally settle on the tangible issues.

Ending on a pious and flat note. If your enemy has developed a lethal historical narrative aimed at delegitimating you as preparation to your annihilation, then acknowledging it can be an act of suicide. Paul, you come perilously close to illustrating the catastrophic “post-modern” relativism that all narratives deserve recognition, all narratives are equal. They are not. Objectivity may not exist, may not be possible. But that does not mean honesty and dishonesty do not exist, and are not possible. The core of this problem can, if we want to focus on narratives as cause, be reduced to one terrifying, irreducible issue: the Dream Palace of the Arabs and the particularly vicious lethal narratives with which they adorn those walls.

I know it’s not politically correct, and it won’t sell well in the “dialogue” groups to which you address your prodigious and open-hearted efforts. But sometimes, the truth hurts, and the immense effort to spare the Palestinians the wounds to their immensely delicate narcissistic ego end up hurting everyone — the Palestinians above all — much more.

Open Letter to Jostein Gaarder III: Fisking Crypto-Supersessionism

This is the final installment of my response to Jostein Gaarder. I do hope he responds. For the full text, see here.

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.”

The quote from Schweitzer seems like it needs a bit more context and detail, but if I can extract the meaning you wish to give it, it apparently means that humanism is treating human life as so sacred that one would never willingly sacrifice (another’s) life in order to achieve an instrumental goal. If this is the meaning, then few cultures on the planet can compete with Israel for its dedication to life, even another’s life.

But by the same token, there is no culture right now in the world more harshly non-humanist by Schweitzer’s definition than the Arab-Muslim world, where not only killing others is one of the first resorts for solving disputes, but now they even teach their own children to kill others for the sake of the “cause.” This is a cult of death.

So viewed impartially, this statement of principle in which “anti-humanist” states do not deserve recognition means two things:
1) all Arab states are illegitimate (not to mention Sri Lanka, North Korea, most Muslim nations, many African ones…)
2) if we want to hold up to these states an example of humanism despite the highly anti-humanist trend in the surrounding cultures, that would be Israel.
And yet, as obvious as these things might seem to me, they seem not just foreign but unthinkable to you. What is happening here?

It’s reminds me of the paradox of European thinking about the death penalty as a measure of humanistic achievement. The USA is inferior to Europe because they still have such an archaic and blood-vengeful practice. Europeans like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who go to the US and get involved in executing people by law should lose their citizenship. But when Europeans turn to the Middle East, they revile the only country that, with the exception of Adolf Eichmann, has never imposed the death penalty and they glorify cultures in which we find men killing daughters and sisters, executing accused collaborators in the streets, murdering rivals and enemies. How inconsistent can you get before you notice the problem?

Compassion and forgiveness

We do not recognize the old Kingdom of David as a model for the 21st century map of the Middle East. The Jewish rabbi claimed two thousand years ago that the Kingdom of God is not a martial restoration of the Kingdom of David, but that the Kingdom of God is within us and among us. The Kingdom of God is compassion and forgiveness.

Two thousand years have passed since the Jewish rabbi disarmed and humanized the old rhetoric of war. Even in his time, the first Zionist terrorists were operating.

Now the supersessionism imbedded in the discussion comes out of the closet into full light of day. Apparently, Mr. Gaarder, you are still fighting shadow debates between Christian supersessionism and (projections of) Jewish beliefs designed to make the Christians feel superior. Are you aware, for example that as early as biblical times, the tradition held that David could not build the temple because his hands were bloodied by wars which were perhaps necessary, but not holy? Are you aware how pervasive the language of peace in Judaism and in Zionism? Do you care?

Typically your supersessionism works in zero-sum terms (“our inner kingdom is good and true, your external one is crude and wrong”), and typically it completely misunderstands what Judaism was about back then and what Zionism is about today. Where is your sense of history? Jesus may have humanized the rhetoric of war, but over centuries and millennia, Christians militarized the rhetoric of peace, and spilled much blood, especially Jewish blood in the process. You present Jesus’ teachings as if Christians caught on right away and Jews turned a deaf ear. Actually the more the Christians accused the Jews of being crude, belligerent distorters of God’s message of love, the more they did just that, with their Crusades, inquisitorial courts and pogroms. Are you not even a tiny bit afraid you might be doing the same thing again?

Israel does not listen

For two thousand years, we have rehearsed the syllabus of humanism, but Israel does not listen. It was not the Pharisee that helped the man who lay by the wayside, having fallen prey to robbers. It was a Samaritan; today we would say, a Palestinian. For we are human first of all — then Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. Or as the Jewish rabbi said: “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others?” We do not accept the abduction of soldiers. But nor do we accept the deportation of whole populations or the abduction of legally elected parliamentarians and government ministers.

Now it’s impatient supersessionism!

“We’ve been trying to beat (our) sense into you Jews for 2000 years and you still won’t listen! Can you be surprised that we hate you?”

And that vaunted Christian unconditional love and forgiveness…?

Never mind that the story of the Samaritan represents a typically Jewish self-critical tale – Jesus tells his disciples that “we” Jews have neglected poor people in need, and this Samaritan’s kindness is a reproach to us Jews (or as they say in Yiddish, “a shanda lagoyim,” a shame before the gentiles). Never mind that such self-criticism plays a negligeable role (so far) in the Palestinian culture with which you try to make the link. (Imagine, if you will, a Palestinian saying, “you know, we talk about how bad the Israelis are, how about us?”) There may well be Palestinian good Samaritans. I even remember a story about a man who returned two lost Israeli kids. But when other Palestinians murder young hikers brutally in caves or tear Israelis apart in the streets of Palestinian cities before howling mobs, it seems a bit more than strange to frame one’s condemnation of Israel with praise of Palestinians.

Such, apparently, is the workings of supersessionism. The logic does not count; the zero-sum, I-am-right-you-are-wrong resolution counts.

We recognize the state of Israel of 1948, but not the one of 1967. It is the state of Israel that fails to recognize, respect, or defer to the internationally lawful Israeli state of 1948. Israel wants more; more water and more villages. To obtain this, there are those who want, with God’s assistance, a final solution to the Palestinian problem. The Palestinians have so many other countries, certain Israeli politicians have argued; we have only one.

This is an especially nice formula that reveals the degree to which your analysis completely ignores the behavior and attitude of the Arab world. Between 1948-67, it was the Arabs (and Muslims) who refused to recognize the “internationally lawful Israeli state of 1948,” and that refusal produced the war of 1967, preceded as it was by a month of Arabs dancing in the streets of Cairo, Damascus, Amann, and Bagdad chanting “drive them into the sea.”

The vision here articulates the Post-Colonial Paradigm (PCP2) in which Israel plays the role of the ruthless expansionist aggressor that figures so prominently in Arab and Muslim conspiracy theory. Most Arabs believe that the two blue stripes of the Israeli flag represent the Nile and the Euphrates, and signal Israeli imperial ambitions to establish dominion over the whole Arab world. Okay, Arabs who live in closed societies that brainwash them believe this think it’s true… but educated, intelligent Europeans with access to multiple sources?

The USA or the world?

Or as the highest protector of the state of Israel puts it: “May God continue to bless America.” A little child took note of that. She turned to her mother, saying: “Why does the President always end his speeches with ‘God bless America’? Why not, ‘God bless the world’?”

Aside from the fact that this is taken from a fairly cheesy American movie, few people in the world have as much desire for world peace than the Jews, and few as generous a view of the outside world than the Americans (who devised the Marshall Plan, an unprecedented act of generosity towards defeated enemies). Any school in Israel is filled with pictures and poems about world peace. Indeed, the very notion of Jewish chosenness — “through you all of the families of the world will be blessed” – is precisely about what you seem to think is a high moral plane — a dream about a time when everyone lives in peace. Not to get repetitive but… find me the anti-Zionist Muslim who believes he is Allah’s “chosen” who also wants to bless all mankind (unless his notion of blessing is making everyone a Muslim).

Then there was a Norwegian poet who let out this childlike sigh of the heart: “Why doth Humanity so slowly progress?” It was he that wrote so beautifully of the Jew and the Jewess. But he rejected the notion of God’s chosen people. He personally liked to call himself a Muhammedan.

Sorry to be dense, but I don’t know to whom you refer. In the meantime, let me offer one small answer to his question about why mankind progresses so slowly. It’s partly because people pretend to achieve moral heights that they are not ready for, so when they inevitably fail, things can actually regress. For example Christianity began with the highest of moral demands (forgive seven times seventy, love your enemy) and developed some of the lowest moral standards (culture of hatred, scapegoating and inquisition, holy wars against both infidels and “heretics”). Similar (and more rapid) regression among Muslims who, in the life of the prophet, turned from warning people of God’s coming punishment, to inflicting God’s punishment with their own swords.

And behind these excessive claims to spiritual evolution and their regressions, lies the problem of spiritual envy. When people covet the sacred texts of others and try to seal their theft by annulling any claim of the original culture to its own sacred scriptures, one gets exegetical arrogance among the interlopers who claim to supersede. When people pretend to moral heights they have not achieved, and harshly condemn others not for what they have done, but in order to feel better about themselves, then they confound the moral progress of everyone, rewarding the undeserving and humiliating those who deserve recognition. That’s not a formula for moral evolution.

It is very difficult to overcome the desire to dominate, what Augustine called libido dominandi. It takes both trusting and being trustworthy, both generosity of heart and modesty. And when we fail, the warmongers and the oppressors win.

Much as you think you and your culture embody the best traits, your cruel judgments towards Jews and foolish credulity towards cruel Muslims does not speak well for your actual moral status, and they bode ill for the poor humanity, whose halting steps forward are constantly dogged by fools and tricksters. I know you think it’s because of Jewish stiff-neckedness that things go slowly, but if you had just a bit more modesty, you might begin to see that possibly their stiff-neckedness is a quiet reproach to you that you should seriously meditate on, rather than a sign of their obduracy and your moral perfection.

Calm and mercy

We do not recognize the state of Israel. Not today, not as of this writing, not in the hour of grief and wrath. If the entire Israeli nation should fall to its own devices and parts of the population have to flee the occupied areas into another diaspora, then we say: May the surroundings stay calm and show them mercy. It is forever a crime without mitigation to lay hand on refugees and stateless people.

Do you really think this will absolve you of the forces you unleash with your doomsday prophecy? When in history have Arabs been kind to refugees? And specifically to dhimmi who have revolted (like the Armenians in 1915)? Do you realize that, at best, you have recreated Augustine’s role for the Jew — stateless, homeless, barely protected in degradation? And at worst, you have served the forces of massacre and genocide. Don’t you want to get out of the Middle Ages?

Peace and free passage for the evacuating civilian population no longer protected by a state. Fire not at the fugitives! Take not aim at them! They are vulnerable now like snails without shells, vulnerable like slow caravans of Palestinian and Lebanese refugees, defenseless like women and children and the old in Qana, Gaza, Sabra, and Chatilla. Give the Israeli refugees shelter, give them milk and honey!

In a short but profound book on Envy and the Greeks, Peter Walcott wrote that people who envy like to condescend, to show mercy and generosity to those who are far beneath them, but they hate and cannot abide people who are their competitors. Your extraordinary solution – let the Jews be defenseless and we will protect them with our prayers and give them milk and honey – literally recreates the conditions of envy he describes. Turn the only first rate economy in the Middle East, one flowing with milk and honey on its own, into a 23rd Arab Muslim state with another wretched economy deriving from an authoritarian (medieval) culture of impoverishment, and then put everyone on the dole. Does that not strike you as just a wee bit strange?

Let not one Israeli child be deprived of life. Far too many children and civilians have already been murdered.

I must confess that as a student of Christian-Jewish relations over the last thousand years, this moral tirade delivered in a moment of “grief and anger” stands out as one of the more interesting examples of Christian self-deception and malice. Here you are, in the wake of the mind-boggling Holocaust, still so wedded to your invidious identity formation of supersessionism that you would condemn the Jews to another massacre even as you pray for their souls and bodies. And the terrible irony at the core of your moral outrage is that it is not directed against real Jews doing real things, but against your negative image of who the Jews “really” are.

To look from the perspective of the proverbial Martian come to earth (or a just Judge, or a future historian) weighing the evidence, I think that morally speaking you come off as something of a playground bully picking on the little guy on the block. Scarcely a word of criticism about the atrocious behavior that permeates societies and nations numbering in the hundreds of millions and who have declared immortal enmity to the Jews, combined with ferocious anger at the Jews for doing a tenth of what these enemies do.

Your “moral indignation” will not, I think, wear well. If you and your bully friends succeed in isolating and destroying Israel, then the real victors — not moral Europe, but the Jihadis — will mock both your moral values and your moral pretences. If you fail, people will realize how profoundly unfair you have been in your judgments.

Ironically, you take the very notion of chosenness that derives from your own arrogant sense of supersessionism (we are morally superior to the Jews because we [claim to have] listened to that rabbi 2000 years ago and they don’t listen to us) and project it on to the Jews in order to condemn them and deprive them of statehood. This may feel good in the short run, as does most bullying, but false and cruel judgments are not cost free. He who is merciful cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful. And in a world where the cruel are rewarded and the merciful punished, there is little hope for the high moral values you claim to represent.

Now Israelis and Jews cannot really stop you from bullying them. They can cry out in pain, protest in anger, try and mobilize more fair-minded people to defend them. But if you want to be a moral bully, and lots of your readers approve there’s not much anyone can do to stop you, except appeal to your ability to be self critical.

I don’t have a great deal of hope here, since the nature of what you’ve written suggests that you feel prophetic. But let me try to reason with you on the basis of your values.

What you’ve written will, in coming years, stand as a classic statement of how Europe lost its moral compass.

The indictment will include at least six counts:

  • thirsting after idols — images manufactured in the Middle East as blood libels against the Jews — and bowing down to their truth even as the evidence tells you these are false images.
  • using those idols to work yourself into a moral rage and demanding suicide of a people who were almost wiped out by a European wave of genocidal hatred less than two generations ago.
  • showering your moral disgust and impatience on a people struggling for their very life against a remorseless enemy
  • ignoring in your obsessive moral calculus of Israel’s sins, this remorseless enemy’s behavior, and the ways in which it violates your own value-system infinitely more than the Israelis violations
  • endangering your own people, culture and civilization in refusing to discuss or reveal to the public the devastating genocidal discourse among Israel’s Muslim enemies, a language that terrifyingly resembles that of your genocidal forebears — blood libel, world conspiracy, genocidal intentions and more…
  • failing to mention to your own culture the danger it runs in allying with genocidal cultural forces — the West is also a target of their hatreds.

Why you do this? That’s for you to figure out. That’s your dark night of the soul, your encounter with your own hardnesses and stiff-neckedness. But what I can tell you is that, from the perspective of a history of civil society and its heroes 1750-2100, you, so far, are going down as a tragic fool, whose anti-Zionist moral convulsions presaged the fall of Europe to Muslim forces in the first third of the 21st century (my barber’s guess). Is this the story of Europe you want to see written? Is this the prophetic role to which you aspire:

Pretentious Genius with Catholic Hatreds Jumps on High Horse and Plays Fool at Height of Terrible Crisis?

Can’t you do more for the generations you teach than this invidious narcissism in which you shoot your own allies in the moral and philosophical quest for a just society, while feeding the real forces of hatred and violence gathering strength?

And you wonder why we advance so slowly?!?!

There’s a famous joke about a man who has died and gone to heaven and an angel shows him around heaven. In one place there’s a field with people in saffron robes dancing and playing musical instruments. “That’s the Hindu heaven,” the angel explains. In other, there are people sitting in lotus positions with the heavens sparkling all around them. “That’s the Buddhist heaven.” In another people sitting around tables, eating, drinking, singing songs and arguing. “That’s the Jewish heaven.” Then they pass between two high walls and the angel says nothing. “Wait,” says the newcomer, “what’s behind these walls?” “Hush,” the angel responds, “that’s the Christians and Muslims. They think they’re the only one’s here.”

The tragedy of both Christian and Muslim anger at Jews for thinking they are the “chosen people” derives from a dual misunderstanding. Both Christians and Muslims rapidly developed the claim that there was no salvation outside their religion — a position Judaism has never adopted. They then projected that invidious zero-sum attitude onto the Jews, whose refusal to convert to their brand of monotheism they took as a direct insult, rather than a justified rebuke for their misunderstanding of what chosenness was about.

You, Mr. Gaarder, whether you know it or not, have fallen prey to such a sad and petty act of bad faith.

In the past, perhaps, Europe could afford such invidious identity formation. Sure it led to Crusades and Inquisitions, but hey, mostly it was the Jews, the heretics and the infidels who bit the dust. And who, in such authoritarian societies, would notice a couple of degrees more of totalitarian tendencies. But today, with democracy, civil society, and weapons of mass destruction, you cannot afford this kind of misguided moral hysteria. Woe to the man zwho cannot tell who are his enemies and who his friends. You bring woe not only onto Israel, but onto yourself and the moral Europe you hope to lead.

Remember, chosenness — and surely the prophet considers himself chosen — is a responsibility.

Blinded by Concept: Fisking Soros calling the Kettle Black

George Soros has published a piece in the Boston Globe where he weighs in on Middle Eastern issues. The man is unquestionably intelligent, comes from a part of the world where the rules of civil society (or “the open society” as Popper and he both like to put it — I agree) do not have much purchase, and has had ample time to see how good liberal intentions can backfire in the Middle East, and yet he seems wed to a blinding concept even as he chastizes the current administration for just that.

Blinded by a concept
By George Soros | August 31, 2006

THE FAILURE OF Israel to subdue Hezbollah demonstrates the many weaknesses of the war-on-terror concept. One of those weaknesses is that even if the targets are terrorists, the victims are often innocent civilians, and their suffering reinforces the terrorist cause.

In response to Hezbollah’s attacks, Israel was justified in attacking Hezbollah to protect itself against the threat of missiles on its border. However, Israel should have taken greater care to minimize collateral damage. The civilian casualties and material damage inflicted on Lebanon inflamed Muslims and world opinion against Israel and converted Hezbollah from aggressors to heroes of resistance for many. Weakening Lebanon has also made it more difficult to rein in Hezbollah.

This is interesting logic. No interest here in how these results come about — i.e., Hizbullah uses live civilians as shields and dead ones as props, and the media tell their story, sometimes with grotesque enthusiasm.

lebanon crushed

And if we don’t attend to that, then how do we fight terror which — typically, by principle — victimizes civilians, including “their own”? What for me is the key of where we need to work (among other things the way the media mishandles the coverage), for Soros is a “fact of life” which we have to work around. The ability to treat such a thorny and critical problem so cavalierly suggests two things:
1) GS has no moral expectations or even minimal standards of behavior to which he will hold either the media or the Arab world. They are forces of nature whose predictable behavior one needs to treat as givens.
2) GS probably has other, better ways of solving the problem, so he can toss this one (a more responsible media, moral demands of Arab and Muslim culture) as a bone of concession to the other, terrorist, side.

Another weakness of the war-on-terror concept is that it relies on military action and rules out political approaches. Israel previously withdrew from Lebanon and then from Gaza unilaterally, rather than negotiating political settlements with the Lebanese government and the Palestinian authority. The strengthening of Hezbollah and Hamas was a direct consequence of that approach. The war-on-terror concept stands in the way of recognizing this fact because it separates “us” from “them” and denies that our actions help shape their behavior.

So, in late summer of 2006, GS still thinks the Oslo Peace Process represents the winning formula: “we can work it out, we can work it out…. life is very short and there’s no time for bombing and fighting my friend…” This astounding example of the survival of a relic of the 1990s well into the first decade of the aughts (00s) provides us with the full range of assumptions that motor a dysfunctional liberal cognitive egocentrism.
1) Negotiating political settlements rather than military action: the liberal axiom (now dogma). The notion that the Lebanon and Gaza withdrawals went bad because Israel didn’t negotiate beforehand shows no awareness of their extensive efforts to negotiate, more importantly, the a priori bad faith of Arafat, the systematic refusal of the peace-party to acknowledge that something was desperately wrong with, say, PATV, and how, as a result, the whole “peace process” backfired. (Of course there’s a narrative about how it’s Israel’s fault — settlements — that, like so many other mainstream narratives about the Middle East, end up ignoring the larger and genuinely terrifying situation.)
2) There was someone to negotiate with, someone who wanted to resolve the problem, not someone addicted to a narrative in which their honor could only be assuaged by Israel’s demise. This is the necessary corollary of the axiom above. To the hammer, everything looks like a nail; to the progressive, every conflict is a potential positive-sum. There must be people of good faith on the other side! If they’re not there, make like the economist from the joke, “assume moderates who make rational choices.”

The entire discourse here acts as if global Jihad were not an issue, as if, when we get violent, they do too, and if only we negotiated, they would too. How far then, is GS from considering that the forces we are dealing with represent some of the most dangerous and violent in the history of mankind: an active cataclysmic apocalyptic movement. If Thane Rosenbaum can wake up, why is Soros not only pushing the snooze button, but doing it publicly, urging everyone who takes him seriously to do the same?

A third weakness is that the war-on-terror concept lumps together different political movements that use terrorist tactics. It fails to distinguish among Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, or the Sunni insurrection and the Mahdi militia in Iraq. Yet all these terrorist manifestations, being different, require different responses. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah can be treated merely as targets in the war on terror because both have deep roots in their societies; yet there are profound differences between them.