Paradigms: Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm

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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.

islam will conquer
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 rally 3 signs
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.


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

    4. Honor-shame

    5. Jihad

    6. Demopaths

    7. Pallywood, Hizbollywood

    8. Eurabia

    9. Dhimmi

    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.

    16 Responses to Paradigms: Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm

    1. Gershon says:

      Prof. Landes,
      Good seeing you at the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel yesterday! Your fill-in for Amir Gissin, Diretor, Public Affairs Dept. Israel Foreign Ministry, was perhaps something made in heaven.
      Hope Professor Abraham Sion, Chairman, Mass Media Research Center, can add something to your new program in Israel.

      In your brainstorming session “Blogosphere and Youtube,” we discussed the world assumes that if Israel admits stuff despite all the evidence, they are to be blamed. People don’t understand what is meant by self-critical. We need paradigmatical changes in discussions in Israel culture.

      Any loss by Israel is a win for Pals. Cognitive Egocentrist Problem.

      Who’s going to start that letter to the editor rejects blog?

    2. nancy says:

      Would you post a schedule where and when you’ll be speaking in the next few weeks? Interested in hearing you speak.

      Sorry I missed the conference. FLU hit our house big time. You guys opened the flood gates over at something, something, though. good job!

    3. Don Radlauer says:

      Very interesting series! I’m still in the middle of this article, but I wanted to raise one minor factual point before I forget it: Palestinian Islamic Jihad is in fact a Sunni, rather than a Shi’ite, organization. Virtually all Palestinian Moslems are Sunni, in fact.

      It is true, however, that PIJ (and even Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, to a degree) have become more “Shi’a-friendly” over the last few years, probably because of funding, training, and logistical support they’ve received from Hezbollah and Iran.

      It’s possible (and I’d want to consult with an Arabic-speaking Islam expert like Reuven Paz before taking this thought too seriously) that the Palestinians are less dogmatically anti-Shi’a than some other Sunni groups, if only because the Shi’a-Sunni conflict hasn’t mostly played out on their turf. As residents/migrants from a solidly Sunni swathe of territory (Egypt-Palestine-Jordan-Syria) they may not find Shi’a Islam as threatening as Saudi or Iraqi Sunnis do. (Again, I’m speculating here – don’t take this idea too seriously!)

      And now back to reading the rest of the article…

    4. Don Radlauer says:

      …finished reading.

      Very good series – a bit telegraphic in style, but then otherwise it would be a book all by itself.

      I tend to think that PCP is mostly wrong in its understanding of what’s actually going on in the Middle East (although I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s 100% wrong); on the other hand, it does explain a lot of the anti-Israel attitudes of many of the more “enlightened” citizens of the West.

      HJP seems to me to have a lot more explanatory power in terms of what’s happening on the ground in the Arab world – particularly on the Arab “street”.

      I would add one element to the mix – you could label it as a third paradigm, or perhaps view it as an additional part of the HJP: The Entrenched Elite Interest Paradigm. This basically says that power-holders in the Arab/Islamic world see themselves threatened by Western values such as democracy, gender equality, secularism, and so on (the list is long). In this context, Israel represents a major threat to the Arab world’s political and religious leaders: We’re Western, we’re modern, open, and (relatively) liberal, and – worst of all! – many of us speak Arabic. (Think of Israel as a sort of idea conduit: The West to Israeli Jews to Israeli Arabs to Palestinians to the rest of the Arab world – scary stuff!) As such, peace with Israel represents a huge threat to Arab leaders; “real” peace with Israel would mean contamination of their societies by ideas that would, in all likelihood, very quickly result in the deposition of all current power-holders. (For more on this, see Iran’s Kulturkampf on my blog.) A modern, democratic Palestine according to the Bush “June 24 vision” is also problematic – it would too easily form a part of the process of subverting the current order in the Arab world. A “Hamastan” Palestine would be much less of a threat.

      The main difference between this paradigm (which, obviously, addresses the behavior of Arab/Islamic elites rather than the masses) is that it shows Arab rulers as rational actors in more-or-less Western terms – that is, they’re no longer viewed as honor-obsessed primitives (admittedly, that’s a gross over-simplification of HJP!), but instead are essentially economic actors attempting to maintain their current positions of advantage in their societies.

      This paradigm is one that I haven’t seen discussed much; in fact, as far as I know I’m just about the only person who talks about it. What are your thoughts?

    5. RL says:

      Response to DR:

      i agree fully with your analysis — and your blogpost about Iran. i remember when Sadat came to Israel the Syrian foreign minister said this was a catastrophe, that in a matter of years Israel would have colonized the whole middle east culturally. i do think, tho, that this is an extension of the honor-shame paradigm in several senses.
      1) the revulsion against western culture is primarily because it means giving up the honor-shame game (human rights means you can’t kill your daughter for shaming the family, free press means you can be criticized publicly — unless you’re charles enderlin).
      2) the leaders are connected to the street via these concerns, and their ability to remain in power depends on their ability to strike the right chords with “the street.”
      3) in appealing to the street, these leaders have aggravated all of the worst elements of the h-s culture to the point where they’re now in pathological form. the last thing an honorable warrior wants is to show weakness and to ask help from enemies, and yet palestinian identity is based on playing the victim before the whole world, and imploring christians to come to their aid.

      as for your comment here, i don’t understand:

      A modern, democratic Palestine according to the Bush “June 24 vision” is also problematic – it would too easily form a part of the process of subverting the current order in the Arab world. A “Hamastan” Palestine would be much less of a threat.

      i wdn’t go that far. either a democracy (real) or hamastan wd subvert the situation, which is really far more unstable than we think.

      The main difference between this paradigm (which, obviously, addresses the behavior of Arab/Islamic elites rather than the masses) is that it shows Arab rulers as rational actors in more-or-less Western terms – that is, they’re no longer viewed as honor-obsessed primitives (admittedly, that’s a gross over-simplification of HJP!), but instead are essentially economic actors attempting to maintain their current positions of advantage in their societies.

      it’s rational by h-s rules (including the zero-sum that gives us prime divider societies). i’m afraid they’re h-s to the core… even the most educated and seemingly westernized.

      This paradigm is one that I haven’t seen discussed much; in fact, as far as I know I’m just about the only person who talks about it. What are your thoughts?

    6. Very well done Richard. I would add to your ideas that much of the motivation for both Western appeasment, often in the guise of anti-Zionism, as well as part of the force behind the Arab Honor-Shame paradigm has to do with intense, even existential, anxiety about the future; both leftist ideology and Jihad ideology have been and continue to be spectacular failures and the modern world is not waiting for them to catch up but leaving their proponents further and further behind by the day. Modernity is extremely destablizing psychologically for people who lack the mental agility to take part and in the face of such fear/terror people and societies have a tendency to regress to earlier modes of thought and behavior. One such regression would be to an infantile position of dependency (Melanie Klein’s paranoid schizoid position ). Anti-Zionists and their nearly indistinguisable twins, anti-Semites, adopt profoundly inferior positions of helplessness. (See “Pity the Poor Anti-Semite” at
      Sadly those who benefit from the Arabic HJP (essentially Muslim men who exhibit the pathological narcissism endemic to HS cultures) have no incentive to give it up since they are ill equipped for any other active participation in modernity and have every incentive to fight to the death, or at least the death of their subjects, often including their own children, to hold onto their position. One prediction is that the most effective approach to combatting such a culture is to specifically target the leaders of the HJP, ie, targeted assassination.

    7. anon says:

      This is anon, second year law student at UB.
      I think its important to elaborate on why the issues in this blog are so incredibly important. The reason is that both discursive paradigms employed by what we think of as “right wing” and “left wing” still see the conflict through a Eurocentric prism. In general, politics in the Middle East has always been conducted based on power struggles. Diplomacy/pragmatism/compromise have always played a relatively marginal role. But most importantly many political debates that pro-Israel advocates engage in fail to address these deep rooted cultural issues. Pro-Israel advocates, and in the past myself included, continue to talk in the language of – if we make territorial concession X,Y,Z the result will be A,B,C. Apart from insinuating that pro-Israel advocates should be on the defensive it is more troubling because of its failure as a viable analytical framework.

    8. gal shalev says:

      Here are for example a random list of popular comments that one hears in these debates which need to be debunked:

      1. Israel in of itself is the bad party because it is more powerful – this is obviously false since the bad party is determined based on action. If one looks at political mechanisms in the Middle East it is extremely clear that if the opposite was true and Palestinians had the power they would NEVER cite Geneva Conventions are blink at civilian casualties. A cursory look at the way warfare is conducted in the Middle East would highlight this.

      2. Israel has killed more people therefore its the bad party – Dershowitz addressed this point in his article called arithmetic of pain yet I feel he did not go hard enough. Justice does not work based on this equation. What if country X had 101 people dead and country Y had 100 people dead and then it was vice versa after 2 hours – does justice function like a pendulum.

      3. This might not sound politically correct but the vast majority of Arabs I have debated with do not even know the historiography surrounding the events of 1948. I am not saying this exclusively because of the high illiteracy rates in the Arab world but rather from the same DEMOPATHIC modes of thinking that see morality and history as an entirely self serving mechanism.

    9. gal shalev says:

      Another important factor and this applies to all political thought processes is information deficiency. Invariably people have a limited number of hours in their days and lives and they will not allocate that time to read the scholarship on a particular subject. Therefore the people who are agains the war in Iraq and are against colonialism will be inclined to see the Israeli-Arab conflict through the same prism. It is a sort of intellectual knee jerk or lazy approach. The same can be said of all political sides of the spectrum. I for example would probably state my opinion on the Baltic conflict intuitively due to my lack of any real knowledge on the subject.

    10. Cynic says:

      Invariably people have a limited number of hours in their days and lives and they will not allocate that time to read the scholarship on a particular subject.

    11. Cynic says:

      The following was meant to appear after the above quote, but disappeared:
      But is this sufficient excuse for our political leadership and journalists/editors misleading the general public?
      They have had many years of historical analysis since the demise of the Ottoman Empire to absorb the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict and 5 years to get up to speed on understanding the Koranic culture of 9/11 to only be scolded for knee jerk reactions or laziness.

      not that i’m a defender of our augean media, but on this score, i think our academics are the most responsible. ironically, journalists like David Pryce Jones (The CLosed Circle) have done much better jobs than the academics from MESA. SPME (Scholars for Peace in the Middle East) has held a conference on Chomsky and Saïd, in which I have a paper I’ll post here soon. I guess “Augean Stables” also describes academia where the ME is concerned. But that’s another blog. Maybe we could call it: Intelligence does not exclude Stupidity.

    12. gal shalev says:

      I think there are a number of factors in your question. One of the main or arguably the main reason is the rise of Edward Said and the post-modern approach to historical analysis. Without going too much into length we are talking about the general ideas of cultural relativism and colonial frameworks, etc….. This is not to detract for the merit of this analytical framework but it has had devastating effects on people’s objective approach to the conflict. It has led to a kind of knee jerk approach that everything is the West’s faults regardless (and everything can be explained in this manner).

      i actually have much less problem with the post-modern, non-objective approach than i do with the idiocy of “moral equivalence” that considers all narratives equal. while there may be no objective truth (certainly nothing that can be reduced to words), and while we should listen to as many narratives as possible, that hardly means that we don’t judge and evaluate narratives, that there is no dishonesty and honesty. as anyone in intelligence can tell you, if you treat all your sources as equal, you die of stupidity. (are you listening, Europe?)

      The second mistake is the non-academic one that I mentioned previously and that is the rational Western approach of thinking that if we just did X,Y,Z peace would appear or something of this nature. We are thinking in a Western way that puts sanctity of life above honor/shame which is the polar opposite of the Palestinians behavior ( the body of evidence is huge in this regard and particularly illuminating is the many interviews with Palestinian families who glorify their child’s martyrdom).

      not to mention when they kill their daughters and sisters. the real travesty is when our media can present the death of civilians in qana as evidence of israeli lack of concern for human life, when it illustrates not only hizbullah’s desire to kill as many israeli civilians as possible and their contempt for the lives of their own people.

    13. gal shalev says:

      Actually in a more direct manner, my impression, and I could be wrong, is that the honor/shame paradigm has never been utilized by decision making in the West whether from the left or the right. I think the framework of analysis discussed in this blog is fairly recent and appears in other articles I have read from, for example, David Pryce-Jones……

      it’s extremely hard to “apply” the h-s approach. apparently the wardens at Abu Ghraib had read Patai’s The Arab Mind. it will take more than awareness of the problem to know how to treat it in policy decisions. mostly it can tell us what won’t work, not what will.

    14. gal shalev says:

      One other point worth mentioning is the barrier the paradigm creates when engaging in political debate. It is natural and commonplace that a reaction to this type of analysis will be an accusation of racism. If you are debating and saying this or that about certain aspects of Arab culture you are engaging in racism which puts you rhetorically on the defensive. Another aspect is the difficulty of explaining the paradigm itself since it would take lets say 10 minutes to explain the paradigm and no one is going to wait 10 minutes while you lay out the explanations on honor/shame, etc…

      two good points.

      my answer to the first is: “this is not about race, or genes, but about culture; and if you don’t think there’s any difference, then why shouldn’t we go back to the theocracy/inquisition/constant wars/monarchy/aristocracy of the middle ages.”

      as for the second, it’s good to ask: “what do you think honor killings are about? can you imagine living in a society where not only do males kill their sisters and daughters, but the community demands it of them even when they don’t want to?

    15. […] with Dore Gold, James Woolsey, Bernard Lewis, and Moshe Yaalon. It was remorseless in its rejection of the PCP and the illusory notion that if we just cre […]

    16. shahbaz zaidi says:

      you r mixing culture and islam on the otherhand islam is giving u very clearcut answers.

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