Here is Part III of “Paradigms and the Middle East Conflict.” For previous posts, see:
Paradigms and the Middle East Conflict: Introduction
PCP (Politically Correct and Post-Colonial Paradigms
I remind the reader that this is articulated, as the PCP, not as a study in nuance, but as the assertion of a framework. You are welcome to agree or disagree. Although by and large I find this paradigm more convincing that the PCP one, I hope I have presented it with the same neutrality as the first. Assessment of the two will follow.
HJP: HONOR JIHAD PARADIGM
The HJP understands the Arab-Israeli conflict through the prism of honor-shame culture and Islamic jihad. These elements of Arab culture are the main factors that have made it impossible to reach a solution to the conflict. Arab leaders view any compromise with Israel as “losing face,” since such an agreement would mean recognizing as a “worthy foe” an inferior group that should be subject. Such a blow to Arab honor cannot be tolerated for cultural and political reasons: losing face means to feel utter humiliation, to lose public credibility, and to lose power. In search of lost honor, Arab (and Palestinian) elites, never particularly concerned with the welfare of their masses, have shown a ready willingness to sacrifice the Palestinian people. The more their own people suffer and Israel can be blamed, the better for their cause. In recent decades Western academics and media, for reasons of political correctness and multiculturalism, and due to a strange inability to distinguish between Arab leaders and their victimized populations, refuse to acknowledge this pattern of exploitation. As a result, ignoring this explanation for the conflict, the increasingly hold Israel responsible. As long as this pattern of Arab honor-shame and scapegoating behavior prevails and the West enables it, lasting and fair peace in the Middle East will not be possible.
HJP: THE ARAB WORLD
The JP identifies Arab political culture as an example of “traditional” or “pre-civil society” culture. In what are known as “prime-divider societies”, the elite monopolize power, wealth, education, and the public sphere, while the masses live in poverty. In these societies the prevailing political axiom runs: “rule or be ruled.” The dominant alpha males (warriors, big men) set the rules of honor-shame and determine when and how often a man can legitimately shed the blood of another for his own honor. Such dynamics encourage patriarchal domination, intimidation of dissent, and political and religious imperialism. Borders are viewed as potential sites of expansion; war is the long-term norm.
THE CONFLICT IN TERMS OF HONOR SHAME
According to HSJP, the Arab-Israeli conflict is fueled by wounded Arab honor and frustrated religious imperialism. At the end of the 19th century, the Arab world, historically established by conquest and colonization, was confronted with humiliating defeats at the hands of a significantly more powerful Western culture. In the 20th century, the establishment of the State of Israel exacerbated this indignity by marking the victory not of a great and worthy enemy, but a tiny people who, in the entire memory of Islam, never fought back against their subjection. It was one kind of embarrassment to lose a battle against an Arab neighbor or a Western nation; that was part of the game. But to lose to an inferior people, an unworthy foe, represented a more existential humiliation.
The only way a warrior can restore his honor is to shed the blood of his enemy. In the case of Israel, the humiliation was so intense that Arab leadership called for a “war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” This rigid, hard zero-sum approach has guided Arab and Palestinian relationships with Israel. If Israel wins (a state, recognition, and peace), then de facto the Arab and Muslim world loses. Israeli independence, rather than also marking Palestinian independence, had to mark a Naqba – catastrophe – for the Palestinians.
More than a century since Zionism developed and more than half a century since Israel won its independence, Arab political culture continues to war with Israel’s existence. The HSJP, in some intuitive form, dominated most post-1948 Western perceptions of the conflict. The Arab side openly proclaimed their genocidal intentions, making themselves unwelcome in post-Holocaust Western public culture (e.g., UN/human rights talk). But after 1967, Arab and Palestinian spokesmen toned down the genocidal rhetoric (at least in foreign languages), and worked their way into the PCP as the “Palestinian David.” Perhaps the single biggest difference between PCP1 and HSJP revolves around how much one believes that the initial Arab attitude has changed: have Palestinian leaders given up their primary desire to eliminate Israel? PCP says yes; HSJP says no.
PERPETUATING THE PROBLEM: ZERO-SUM GAMES
The zero-sum logic that dominated Arab political culture towards Israel from the start, developed into a negative-sum approach after the Israelis defeated the Arabs in their “wars of honor.” The resulting attitude became ‘if we lose, then they must lose as well, even if it worsens our own conditions’. The Arab League accordingly imprisoned refugees in wretched conditions (“refugee camps”); and when they could have saved millions from Israeli occupation in 1967 by finally making peace, they answered with “the three No’s of Khartoum”: No negotiations, no recognition, no peace. Their priorities were clear: sooner the honor of the elite than the dignity of the people.
As Abba Eban remarked, Palestinian leaders have “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” But even this remark, reflects Eban’s cognitive egocentrism. For the Arab leaders he described, a positive-sum, mutually beneficial outcome does not represent an opportunity because it does not redeem Arab honor. Arab elites prefer losing wars to resolving the conflict by allowing Israel to exist. When they are weak they withdraw and cherish dreams of revenge. When they feel strong enough – no matter how delusional that feeling – they go to war with Israel (1948, 1967, 1973, 2000). Noting that the problem existed long before 1967, the HSJP views the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as the products of this zero-sum attitude, not its cause. Thus, the solution will not come from a return of these territories into the hands of the current leadership. That will more likely trigger even more aggressive behavior. It will come from a change in the zero-sum mentality of Arab and Palestinian leadership.
The Oslo “Peace Process” led to violence after Camp David 2000, according to JP, because Arafat never had the intention to make peace. Arafat acted with enormous reluctance, taking what he could, offering no concessions in return, and promising his honor-shame constituency that the concessions were not real, merely a “Trojan horse.” As the Palestinian saying goes: “That which has been taken by violence can only be regained by violence.”
In this kind of war, negotiations will not work. The Palestinians cannot make any significant concessions to Israel without losing honor. Additionally, they view concessions by Israel as marks of weakness, as invitations to further violence, rather than as invitations to put an end to the war. Arafat and the forces that brought on the Second Intifada interpreted Barak’s concessions at Camp David as a weakness (like the February 2000 retreat from Lebanon), and determined to exploit the opportunity with a show of force.
Very few Arab leaders have been able to make peace with Israel without losing their prestige or even their lives. Far from softening its attitudes over time, the Arab political peer group that assigns honor and shame has become increasingly bloody-minded. Arafat in 2000 preferred a zero-sum solution that preserved his honor amongst Arab leaders and the “street”, regardless of the misery caused to his people. Rather than nation-build, Arafat increased his honor by entering a disastrous war at an immense cost to everyone (negative sum).
SCAPEGOATING AND THE VICTIMS OF HONOR-SHAME ZERO-SUM
In all “prime divider societies”, the elites dominate and the general public, commoners, and uneducated poor suffer. The Palestinian and Arab peoples have suffered greatly, perhaps even more than the Israelis, from their elite’s zero-sum diplomacy. Palestinians who toil to kill Israeli civilians do not hesitate to use violence against other Palestinians who oppose their actions, including many times the torture and killing of so-called “collaborators”. Although Israelis have some protection from these terrorists (their army), Palestinians do not. Constantly exposed to the violent exploitation of their leadership and humiliation at the hands of a “foreign” rule (Israel), the Palestinian people are unquestionably the most miserable in the conflict.
Their misery, however, serves the greater Arab cause. The narrative of Palestinian victimization at the hands of the Zionist entity operates for the Arab elites as a “weapon of mass distraction”. It enables the elites to scapegoat Israel for the suffering that the Arab leadership has largely inflicted upon their people, and to direct the “rage” of the people against Israel. Over the last 60 years, this powerful WMD has been the only tool consistently able to unify the “Arab nation” in a collective solidarity. An increasing number of Western analysts and commentators, curiously unable to differentiate between the oppressed Arab peoples and their oppressing leaders (PCP2), have increasingly adopted this WMD and repeatedly blamed Israel for the plight of the Palestinian people. This tactic, however, shields the Arab elites by legitimating their claims, and thus prolongs the cycle of internal violence against the masses.
EXPANDING JIHAD AND THE IMPLICATIONS
Unlike the PCP, the HSJP argues that the Arab world’s abreaction to Zionism has become more virulent in the past forty years, not less. Since Nasser’s “secular” Arab nationalism failed to solve the problem in 1967, a more explicitly religious dimension increasingly came to the fore. The very idea of an independent, Jewish “Zionist entity,” had always represented a theological blasphemy as well as an unbearable humiliation. From its first century (7th-8th century CE), political Islam divided the world into two categories: Dar al Islam (the abode of peace where Islam rules) and Dar al Harb (the abode of war, “the sword”). Islam believes that the entire world will eventually convert and Dar al Islam will reign supreme. Additionally, once Islam conquers a territory, that land cannot revert to Dar al Harb (one of the reasons given for the bombing in Spain, once al Andalusia). Islam classifies Jews within Dar al Islam as a “protected” people (Dhimmi) [link to definition]; they are legally and culturally inferior, but not required to convert. For Jews to “live free in our land,” an independent Jewish state in the heart of Dar al Islam not only confounds Islamic religious beliefs, it insults God’s honor.
The longer the frustration and humiliation, the more the religious language becomes apocalyptic: i.e., the ultimate battle between Islam and the Jews. And their “end-time” scenario is at once cataclysmic – huge devastation must precede the victory of Islam – and active – we Jihadis are the agents of God’s wrath and destruction. According to a hadith which is increasingly popular amongst Palestinians, when the end of time comes, the Muslims will slaughter the Jews who are hiding behind rocks and trees. The very rocks and trees will call out, “O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come kill him.” Confronted with this text, which appears in virtually every schoolbook, officials will act as if they had never heard it.
Over the last twenty years this apocalyptic Jihad has spread in Muslim communities around the world. With the help of the internet, “local” jihad has merged with anti-Western sentiment, spread through both Shi-ite Islam (Khoumeini’s Iran, Hizbullah) and Sunni Islam (Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Taliban, al-Qaeda). Movements depicting Israel and the West as the deadly enemy of Islam have arisen even in the West. Jihadis view globalization as a Jewish-American plot to rule the world, against which they set their own globalizing project – the global victory of Dar al Islam). Israel then is just one of their targets; they have now set their sights on the entire world. The attacks in NY, Madrid, and London all express the growing militancy and impatience of this Islamist dream of world domination.
London protests over Danish Cartoons, February 3, 2006.
Thus, although Jihadis reserve particular venom for Jews and Americans, these groups are not their only targets. On the contrary, the Europeans, who seem to have thought that by siding with the Arabs and Muslims in both their media and diplomacy, would somehow escape Islamist aggression, may well be the prime target of their expansionism.
London Protests over Danish Cartoons, February 3, 2006.
Few religious expressions are as bloody-minded as current Jihad. All ‘infidels’ who oppose Jihadis, including European Christians, share the same fate, an attitude recently openly espoused by Anjem Choudary, in an interview on the BBC about the acceptability of killing non-Muslims civilians because their refusal of Islam is an “crime against Allah.” But the most striking element of current Jihadi is the condemnation of a billion Muslims whose practices are lax by their zealous standards; Westernized Muslims especially are denounced as kufr, or unbelievers, apostates deserving of death. The victory of Jihad may bring Islam to the summit of power, but it bodes ill for the vast majority of Muslims. Those Muslims who realize this find themselves caught between fearing the Jihadis and cheering them on for striking blows for Islamic honor against the despised West.
THE MEDIA AS PARTICIPANTS IN THE CONFLICT
From the HJP’s point of view, the press’s efforts to treat the Arab-Israeli conflict “even-handedly” by presenting both sides as “equally responsible” are not only morally self-defeating, but involve dangerously misleading inaccuracies. By failing to distinguish between the Arab elites and masses, and between the oppressors and oppressed, they fail to recognize one of the major causes of the suffering and the conflict. On the other hand, were they to focus on the injustices to which Arab governments and Jihadi leaders subject their people, they would tip the scales too far in Israel’s favor. Thus, the media is not even able to identify the greatest blight in the conflict – the Palestinians’ constant recourse to terror – as “terrorism.”
By focusing on the Palestinians’ plight at the hands of Israel, both the media and the progressive “left” fall prey to the Arab political culture’s larger strategy of victimizing their own people and feeding them scape-goating narratives. The media and progressives by viewing the conflict as the Israeli Goliath vs. the Palestinian David, unwittingly facilitate the continued victimization of the people they think they are helping. On one level, they swallow the “blue pill” of accusing the state of Israel, rather than swallow the “red pill” of examining the frightening world of Arab and Muslim hate-mongering. Since Israelis take criticism far more easily than Palestinians, the blue pill seems like an easier path to peace.
This ‘even-handed’ approach which intended to “listen to the Palestinian voice” does disservice to all parties involved. Israel’s image and credibility around the world have been shattered by the superficial and overly simplistic media portrayal of its role in the conflict. Less obviously, but no less devastating, has been the damage done to the Palestinian people. Their leaders can safely push harmful agendas while their people remain deprived of the most basic rights. The consequences benefit only the Arab leadership and the elite, who – amongst themselves – retain their tarnished honor, their smoldering rage, and their inappropriate credibility in the West.
This paradigm’s conclusions seem dark, with apparently no possibility for negotiations and war as the only apparent alternative. Although this is not necessarily true, it seems deeply depressing. Those who begin to comprehend HJP find it difficult to communicate with people strongly committed to PCP. Our media, talking heads, academic specialists, and even government strategic thinkers operate with a PC paradigm that systematically ignores or underplays key anomalies. Few pay attention to the way Jihadis see Westerners (Israelis, Americans, Europeans). Few, especially those against the war in Iraq, want to think that retreating from Iraq, like retreating from Lebanon or Gaza, will encourage Jihadis in other locations to further action. According to HJP, as much as they may hate to admit it, the Europeans, like the Sunni Iraqis, will be the first victims of US withdrawal from Iraq.
HJP argues that we are wading into a global war with an enemy of determined ferocity and unknown strength, and we are flying blind. Until we begin to address the issues of honor-shame and Jihad, and learn to distinguish between demopaths and genuine moderates, so that we can identify and resist the real enemies of civil society, not only will we not see peace in the Middle East, we will see Jihad spread, the world over. Although it may seem dark, some of that darkness comes from an unconscious “racism” of the PCP that does not believe that Arab and Muslim culture can change, and therefore considers the honor-shame issues non-negotiable. Actually honor-shame cultures are notoriously susceptible to public opinion: we just cannot seem to muster the courage to make the demands.
1. Explains the PCP anomalies, in particular the extraordinary consistency with which Arab leaders have made disastrous decisions for the Palestinian people.
2. Does not put the cart (occupation, invasion of Iraq) before the horse (Arab hard zero-sum attitudes towards Israel, Jihad).
3. Recognizes the historical dynamics of Muslim religious imperialism and its links with “traditional” authoritarian societies throughout history including the West.
4. Acknowledges the great efforts necessary to build civil societies and the discipline in overcoming the “rule or be ruled” attitude that such an effort entails, and therefore does not assume that Arab political culture has made that effort.
5. Acknowledges the danger that faces us all (including moderate Muslims who are considered apostates by the Jihadis).
6. Has the conceptual radar to spot demopaths.
7. Explains why, despite so much support from the “progressive Left,” the Palestinians are farther from civil society today (ruled by terrorists) than before the progressives came to their side.
8. Presents an alternative explanation to the “root” causes of terrorism – not poverty, not grievances, not territorial disputes – but a jihadist ideology with roots in frustrated dominance. the humiliation of failure before a small subject foe, and apocalyptic dreams of world conquest.
9. Provides a bigger narrative/framework to the Arab-Israeli conflict that can explain why even where the “Zionists” have nothing to do with local conditions, there is war, tyranny and oppression in the Arab world.
1. Anomalies/Mysteries — unexplained problems highlighted by this approach:
Why are “Progressives” so anti-Zionist (an explicitly progressive cause), and so philo-Islamist (an explicitly violent, male chauvinist, and authoritarian cause)?
Why do the Europeans behave in such suicidal fashion, making allies with Islamists and assaulting Israel? (Eurabia)
Why are human rights advocates so reluctant to discuss matters like Southern Sudan? and treatment of women and minorities in the Arab world? and so uniquely focused on Israeli violations of Palestinian rights?
Who could claim to be “Gays for Palestine” when gays are the object of honor-killing in Palestine?
Why does the academic community broadly oppose discussing this material?
How come the Israeli press and academia accept and reinforce PCP’s perceptions when they are so dangerous to Israel’s survival.
2. It insists on a frightening and deeply disturbing vision of the current situation that negates most liberals’ hopes about negotiating a solution.
3. It runs the danger of becoming essentialist (the Arabs are this way and can’t change), and beyond that, racist (they are genetically so).
4. Falls into the trap of Western cultural superiority and condescension to others.
5. Has no obvious peaceful solution to offer for this conflict; indeed the only immediately obvious solutions, given this paradigm’s analysis, are either unacceptable to civilized consideration – ethnic cleansing and worse; or they are currently unthinkable – Arab nations all recognize Israel as a pre-condition to negotiation.
6. Supports the war camp’s arguments that the only response to such an enemy is to fight him till “unconditional surrender”.
7. Forces us to think very negative thoughts about “others”, to the point where pointing out their failings seems like “hate speech”.
8. Runs the danger of mis-identifying as demopaths people who are genuine democrats and underestimating the good-will of the larger culture.
9. Slippery slope, an invitation to / excuse for empire, globalization as homogenized Americanization.
10. Lets Israel off the moral hook, and reduces the pressure on Israel and the West to self-criticize.
11. Makes us confront people who get angry and even violent when criticized.
12. Seems to mean that “dialogue is out of the question” and therefore “HJP does not advance you one bit.”
1. Islamo-fascism / Islamo-bolshevism.
2. Dar al Islam, Dar al Harb
3. Suicide terrorists
7. Pallywood, Hizbollywood
10. Arab-Israeli conflict
11. Oslo War, Oslo Jihad
1. After 9-11 there are two kinds of people in the West: those who understand we’re at war, and those who don’t.
2. There is a civil war going on in the Muslim World, and if the Jihadis win, everyone suffers.
3. Terrorism does not come from poverty but from cultivated hatred and paranoia.
4. Visit Palestinian Media Watch and Middle East Media Research Institute and listen to what Arabs say in Arabic.
5. Islam is a religion of peace, when there’s no one left to kill. (Said of Augustus’ Pax Romana)
6. If they will kill their daughters for shaming their family, what do you think they’ll do to the Israelis and the West for shaming their religion and culture.
7. Antizionism is a Weapon of Mass Distraction.
8. The Palestinian people are the greatest victims of their leaders’ decision to go to war rather than begin to develop a civil society that takes care of its own people.
9. When the Palestinians love their children more than they hate Israel, there will be a chance for peace.
10. The Palestinians have despaired of destroying Israel by themselves and therefore look to enlisting Westerners of good will to unwittingly participate in their effort by making Israel a pariah state.
11. It’s not the “Green Line,” it’s the shoreline.
12. Arabs may want democracy but they refuse to pay the price in discipline (e.g., giving up honor killings).
13. It’s culture, not race; it’s education, not essentialism.
14. Not all Muslims are suicide terrorists, but almost all suicide terrorists are Muslim.
15. Not all anti-zionists are anti-semites, but almost all anti-semites love anti-zionism.