The Media and the Dysfunctions of the 21st Century: Address at the 7th Annual Herzliya Conference

We live in an unanticipated era.

Who in the heady, philo-Judaic years of the 1990s,
– when Oslo looked like a winning formula for peace in the Middle East, indeed a prelude to a prosperous and peaceful globe,
– and some predicted the disappearance of anti-Semitism in the West,
who in those years would have imagined the looming nightmare that takes shape in the anxious skies of January 2007?
– in which a paranoid, demonizing narrative, has moved to the center of the Muslim public sphere around the globe…
– where this explosion of hatred has activated apocalyptic millennial dreams of Jihadi world conquest and genocide…
– where suicide terrorism has struck at the heart of the American and European continents…
– where Europe has a Muslim “Street” where demonstrators promise a European holocaust, riot and vandalize, attack police in gangs, murder critics and their own daughters…
– where serious analysts wonder how many more generations – or even decades – democratic European civilization can last before overtaken by a demographic and theocratic Islamic revolution…
– where, starting in 2000, a global wave of anti-Zionism overnight spread to attacks on Jews and Jewish sites around the world.
– where Nobel Laureates compare the Israelis to the Nazis,
– where demonstrators cheer on suicide terrorists,
– where Jewish intellectuals call for the dismantling of the state of Israel based on the most facetious of post-colonial paradigmatic thinking…
– where mainline Christian churches vote for divestment from Israeli firms, and academics for a boycott of their Israeli colleagues…
And who, told of such an astounding developments, would have thought that the responsible leaders of the West — Gentile and Jewish — would respond to this madness with a reflex of placation, apology, concession… in short, appeasement?

As I said, we live in an unanticipated era.

Let’s start with the bad news.

First of all, as a historian of civil society, of the millennium-long struggle in the West to achieve this extraordinary marvel of the modern world, this experiment in human freedom, I want to say: European democratic civilization can fall before the Islamic challenge. Something similar happened before, in the 5th century, when a culturally superior Roman civilization fell to a primitive tribal Germanic culture. And if Europe continues on its current path, that will happen sooner rather than later.

Second, this is going to get worse before it gets better. Starting in October 2000, the most terrible form of apocalyptic movement, active cataclysmic – we are the agents in the vast destruction that precedes our millennial victory – entered the public sphere of world culture and rather than being beaten back, took hold and grew stronger. Once these movements, which in the past have killed 10s of millions, “take,” they are like forest fires. They cannot be stopped, at best they can be channeled. We are in for a long and unpleasant conflict that will demand a great deal from us.

Third, modern media play a critical role in Global Jihad’s success. Not just the use Jihadis make of modern technology to spread their message, but the role our modern MSM play in both disguising and encouraging the phenomenon. And the core of the problem, the ground upon which this dysfunctional relationship between Jihad and MSM first emerged, but also the most dramatic on which it plays out, is the MSM’s treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

There has been much discussion of whether or not the MSM has been unfair to Israel, including formal investigations into particularly obnoxious organizations like the BBC, and, by and large the answer is, “well, maybe… but it’s not so bad.” And Israelis, like the protagonist in Richard Farina’s novel, have been down so long it looks like up to them. “It could be worse… it has been worse… it’s getting better.”

But all of this is not nearly good enough. The MSM are the eyes and ears of modern civil societies. Without them we cannot know what is going on outside of our personal sphere, with them we can make our democratic choices in elections, assess foreign policy, intervene humanely in the suffering around the globe. But as any paleontologist will tell you, any creature whose eyes and ears misinform it about the environment, will not long survive. So it is with our civic experiment: especially in this period, where predators grow increasingly bold: a MSM that misinforms us, betrays the very people it is supposed to serve.

Let me cut to the chase. If this wondrous experiment in human freedom that was launched on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 18th century survives to the middle of the 21st century, historians will look back on the performance of the MSM in the first decade of that century, in particular its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and give the journalists’ “first draft of history” an F.

- An F for failing to source-check – any impartial study will show that journalists systematically and incorrectly favored Palestinian over Israelis sources of information during the Intifada
- An F for failing to correct their errors — leaving Israel between libel and silence.
- An F for obsessively reporting the Arab Israeli conflict while people suffered from genocidal campaigns in other parts of the world
- An F for giving into intimidation and practicing access journalism without informing their public
- An F for scarcely mentioning the tidal wave of paranoia and hatred that currently dominates the Muslim media
- An F for echoing and amplifying the demonizing narratives told about Israel which they treat with unqualified credulity
- And F for allowing our media to be exploited by totalitarian forces as a theater of war rather than protecting that civic public trust from such vicious propaganda.
So when historians look back, I think they will identify the MSM’s appalling performance as one of the main sources the West’s vulnerability to Global Jihad at the beginning of this century. How else can we explain the astounding success of what, only a decade ago, seemed like a racist bad joke: Islam wants to take over Europe? You must be kidding.

Apparently not.

The free Western press encouraging the victory of totalitarianism? You must be kidding.

Unfortunately, whether they mean it or not, the MSM today has fallen into so many bad habits, so many pervasive compromises, that like the Augean Stables of old, they have encrusted layers of manure that resist any effort to clean. And unlike the old Augean Stables, which stank up the only the Peloponnesus, thanks to new technology, the MSMs failures stink the world over.

Which brings me to the basic problem Israel and the Jews face in this young and so-far deeply disturbing 21st century. They have been the major target of the Jihadi assault, and the main victims of the MSM’s failures. And so far, the response has been to take the same stance of concession and placation, to the Western media that the Western media take towards the Muslims: don’t criticize, don’t challenge, placate, mollify. Whatever you do, don’t attack.

“We don’t dare start a war with the media,” said one MFA official, “we can only lose.”
“Don’t expect the Israelis to fight back,” warned a prominent diaspora lawyer, “They won’t. They just won’t.”
Nor is this merely a problem of Israeli official hasbarah. The Jewish leaders in the diaspora, playing by the positive-sum rules of the late 20th century, responded painfully slowly to the sudden zero-sum turn of direction at the end of 2000. Indeed, like the Israeli government, they discouraged those – leaders or rank and file – who started to fight back.

I understand the arguments, the concerns, the kinds of damage that can come if the media turns on us. But that’s beginning to sound more and more like the joke about the two Jews in line for the showers at Auschwitz. One sneezes and the other whispers sharply, “Hush, Yankl, you’ll make it worse for us.”

I understand. When Israel has tried to defend itself, it made it worse; they have antagonized those who, if they want to, could do Israel even greater damage than they are already doing. As the Israelite leaders who had pleaded in vain with Pharoah for mercy reproached Moses: “You put a sword in his hand to slay us.” And as Moses complained to God: “Why will they listen to me? And I am uncircumcised of lips!”

So far, the bad news. Now to the good news:
- we have a window of opportunity,
- a growing audience, and
- an independent access to that audience.

First, as the Chinese ideogram for crisis indicates: danger also means opportunity. The worse things get, the more people wake up, the more they are willing to reconsider their paradigms and policies, the more they are willing to make sacrifices necessary to survive. And this is true across the boards: When did Pharaoh listen? When it hurt. When did his heart harden? When things got better. So not only are Europeans beginning to awaken to the nightmare they have inherited from their irresponsible leadership, but also to the role of their MSM in blinding them to its onset. Similarly, Jews and Israelis are beginning to realize that we must fight back. Even the MSM may begin to realize that, whatever excuses they come up with for their performance, they cannot, we cannot afford it any longer. And, as Bernard Lewis commented yesterday, maybe even the Muslims, realizing the power of the Jinn they have released from the bottle, and the unhappy fact that they will be the first consumed by its murderous zeal, will also reconsider who the enemy is.

Secondly, there are people waiting to hear from you, waiting for Israel to confront the suffocating dysfunction of paranoid Muslim defamation and MSM complicity, people waiting to hear Israel fight for its honor and dignity. Indeed they’ll be better equipped to defend themselves with Israel’s example.

Third, the blogosphere, and more broadly, cyberspace offer a means to reach the public without pleading for better MSM coverage. In the blogosphere there are legions of sharp analysts who do not answer to the siren call of political correctness and the pack mentality that has so many journalists cramming every incident into the storyline of the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian or Lebanese David. Internet sites permit vast amounts of information, including systematic critiques of the media’s performance to reach increasing numbers. Every paper, radio program and TV news station should have a blog that monitors it, critiques it, contradicts it where appropriate. In the end, a responsible MSM will thank the blogosphere for the criticism.

The 21st century has begun as an age of information affluence. We have access to seemingly limitless amounts of information. The real premium in the coming years and decades, will be on reliably accurate and relevant information. And although it’s the traditional job of the MSM to determine that, it will be in cyberspace that the issue will sort itself. Just as early modern science emerged in the city of letters created by print, not in the parchment culture of the medieval universities.

And so, let me conclude with some advice from a deeply troubled historian.

My advice to the Israeli and Jewish people: Know who you are. Do not become blinded by a compulsive self-criticism, in which it is always, it must always, be your own fault. Do not allow the narcissism of small differences between left and right wing, between secular and religious Jew, blind you to the exceptional range of shared values that have made Israel the sociological and historical miracle that it is. Take the occasion of the collapse of the Oslo paradigm – land for peace – and the revelation that the conflict is today land for war, a clash of theocracy with freedom around the world, to reexamine all the misconceptions that have plagued your political thinking for decades now. Cast off both your false sense of agency – we control this process – and mistaken finger-pointing at your Israeli foe – if only they would stop doing what they’re doing, things would be okay. Cast off the ridiculous language of political correctness that cannot distinguish between race and culture, between genes and education. Wake up to the open vistas and immense challenges of a new paradigm, a massive reinterpretation of what’s going on in our world, both inside and outside Israel. Rediscover your sense of moral outrage, your ability to fight back against a morally insane world.

My advice to the Israeli government: Open a mouth. Go on the offensive. Stop beating your breasts in agony over civilian lives that your enemies happily sacrifice into the maw of their death cults in front of an eager media that can turn the grotesque parade of dead children at Kafr Qana into a tale of Hizbullah resistance to Israeli aggression. Get yourselves a review committee to look over all the footage of the “lethal narratives” that come out against you, from Muhammad al Durah, the first blood libel of the 21st century and clarion call to global Jihad, to, most recently Gaza Beach and Qana. Challenge the fakes, the pervasive staging. And demand that the media do their own reviews before rushing, breathless, before their public with the latest tales of Israeli sins. Remind them of how often and how destructively they have been wrong. Hold journalists who work here to their own professional standards. Feed information to the blogosphere, not the MSM. Coordinate with the army of grass roots hasbarah organizations that have arisen, especially since 2000, to meet this tidal-wave of hatred and incitement. Identify and address, in every language you can muster, audiences of people who, instinctively, know that something is terribly awry, and want to hear your side. And spend a great deal more money on the effort: There is no theater of war on which you do not expend billions of dollars. And here you spend 10 million!? Hizbullah alone outspends you threefold in Hasbarah.

My advice to Jews in the diaspora: Stop being embarrassed by the media-driven image that you get of Israel. Stop trying so hard to please your liberal friends with your compassion for Palestinian suffering. Stop apologizing and start blaming the key contributors to that Palestinian suffering – the Arab elites who pointedly make the Palestinians suffer in order to blame Israel, and a media who present that suffering to us, just as that elite wants them to. Your fellow Jews in Israel have done wonders in the world of civil, open society; they represent the farthest outpost of civilization in a region still gripped by a typically medieval combination of theocracy, exploitation, and tyranny. In this global war, Israel is an invaluable, an irreplaceable ally to the forces of democracy and freedom.

My advice to Jewish leaders (this includes Israelis as well), especially the men: Stop the ego-battles, the cash-cow manipulations, the competitive, zero-sum career strategies, the monopoly on the podium, the hostility to new voices. Learn not the ways of sibling rivalry like Joseph’s brothers, but those of fraternal cooperation, like Moses and Aaron. We cannot afford to play by the old rules.

My advice to Europeans: Get over the politics of resentment in which you so want to see George Bush forced to leave Iraq that you don’t even think about the impact that will have on arousing your own Muslim populations against you, including those who will come from triumphant Iraq to your continent. Rediscover the Atlantic Alliance, your origin and geographical base, and work in concert against the Muslim world’s global pretensions, especially Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Get over your addiction to moral Schadenfreude about the Jews, in which being able to point the finger at Israel, blinds you both to the nature of an enemy who despises us all, and to the value of your natural ally, Israel. Start addressing the problem of Islamic theocracy now, and at all registers of the political spectrum, so that it is not a problem delayed until it’s too late, and left in the hands of the right-wing parties. Awaken! And soon! And sanely.

My advice to journalists, especially to the young ones. Be true to your profession – a noble one — not to your guild; to your standards and your readers – not your editors and your peer group. You move today in a drama akin to The Emperor’s New Clothes, where your guild plays the role of courtiers, insisting that the politically correct, post-colonial garment fits the situation magnificently. Your job is to provide information, as accurate and as relevant as possible. We, the citizens of a free society, will make our individual and collective decisions based on your reliable information. Do not prepackage and predigest our view of the world.

Break out of the pack. Pay attention to the compromises that violent intimidation demand, and be as honest as you can with your readers. And above all, blow the whistle. Break the shameful silence of omerta that has made of your “fourth estate” a rogue power that neither self-regulates nor accepts regulation.

***

The fundamental freedom, the one we can exercise at any moment in our lives, is the freedom to speak honestly, to challenge, no matter what the danger, the embarrassment, the ostracism, the economic hardship, the physical aggression. So this I say to all those who believe in the effort to establish a just and free society: Speak up!

Moses had God and Aaron on his side to convince Pharaoh despite his “uncircumcised lips.” But now, especially in the age of democracies, lo bashamayim he: matters are no longer in the hands of heaven, but bephicha uvilvovcha, in your mouths and in your hearts. So all we have is each other – our fellow Jews, our fellow humans around the world. And when that moment of truth arrives, as it has now, we can pass the test of freedom and speak with the voice of honest indignation.

32 Responses to The Media and the Dysfunctions of the 21st Century: Address at the 7th Annual Herzliya Conference

  1. Joanne says:

    The difference between genes and education? What difference is that? Are you a believer in nature over nurture?

  2. RL says:

    just the opposite. nurture over nature. indeed, my guess is that the gene pool between jews and arabs is pretty much identical, and nothing could be more dramatically different than their education/socialization processes.

  3. Cosmic X says:

    Fantastic post. I would like to add that matters are very much in the hands of Heaven. We however must make an effort and pray that Divine assistance will be forthcoming.

  4. 23hnqf124h1 says:

    “But as any paleontologist will tell you, any creature whose eyes and ears misinform it about the environment, will not long survive.”

    The Moslems have a much bigger problem with this than the West. Remeber the shock and awe when Baghdad Bob was deflated?

  5. Augean Stables at Herzliya

    Little Green Footballs

    Here’s the text of blogger Richard Landes’ interesting address to the Herzliya security conference in Israel: The Media and the Dysfunctions of the 21st Century.

    First of all, as a historian of civil society, of the…

  6. The Media and the Dysfunctions of the 21st Century

    The Media and the Dysfunctions of the 21st Century

  7. Rabbi Dov Sidelsky says:

    I am most impressed by the article.
    It should appear in many of the world’s leading
    newspapers, so that readers throughout the world
    will wake up to reality of Islam threatening world
    peace and morals.

  8. Solomonia says:

    Herzliya Conference Stuff

    This would be the real, big Herzliya Conference, not the one I spoke at (though it’s sponsored by the same entity). Here are some related links: Mitt Romney called for…

  9. abu yussif says:

    as a non-jew married to an arab in israel, i completely agree. israel has its issues, but minorities have way more rights and freedom here than anywhere else in the middle east, which is something to be proud of and to boast about. jews are self-critical to a fault and should be proud for whatever virtues they have built, even in light of the depravity that is thrown at them in this place.

    don’t be afraid or ashamed to do what is right. who cares what the world thinks, especially when they have no clue about what is really happening here?

  10. Lynne T says:

    abu yussif:

    can you tell me anything about a recent poll of Israeli Arabs that claimed that a majority are happy with their Israeli citizenship but cannot be candid about their sentiments for obvious reasons?

  11. Ariel says:

    I can’t express my gratitude to Dr. Landers for his work, with expossing the libels of the French TV and the exploitation of the clueless nature of some prestige journalists who cover the the conflict.

    But seeing this speech I am so grateful there is such a voice, I really can’t express the extent of it. I really hope the Foreign Minister is looking in to these words, and our own media, to be frank, who is trying to imitate the outragous media’s view in Europe, but still facts get often in its way.

    Thankyou, Dr. Landers.

  12. Bruce Kodish says:

    Brilliant essay. Should be widely, widely broadcast throughout the world.

    We potential victims of media malfeasance should begin to put MSM ‘feet’ to the fire of criticism–as long as it takes– to begin to make an appreciable difference in the level of reporting about the war against the Jews, Israel and the West.

    I recall something Korzybski wrote in Science and Sanity:
    “Ignorance is no excuse when once we know that ignorance is the only excuse.” (p.47)

  13. [...] sumers, can possibly trust the purveyors of information. As Richard Landes put it in an [...]

  14. Kurtlane says:

    Dear Sir, how specifically can I speak up? Write letters to the media? They don’t publish them. Write to other people’s blogs? They usually don’t publish them either. Participate in Jewish organizations? They seem interested in my money, rather than in me. What can I specifically do to speak up? Speak up where?

    Besides, I have found out that there is something inherently wrong-sided in rhethoric as such. The brutal lier can nearly always win any argument over an honest person. No matter how prepared an honest person seems to be for the lies of his opponent, the opponent routinely takes his breath away by proposing lies too enormous for his expectations. The audience sees only a clear defeat of the breathless honest person, and not the fact of lying.

    Moreover, as Churchill noted, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Therefore, a lier often bombards his opponent with 20 or more lies a minute, while an honest person would take days, weeks or months to verify each “fact.”

    These are just two of many inherent flaws in rhethoric as such. After all, if the Western people still trust Arabs after years and years of their lies, then they always will.

    No, the answer to Jihad is not in rhethoric. We Jews have been trying to persuade the world of our innocence for millenia, and the world merely proceeded killing us for ever more ridiculous reasons. The answer is in violence. (Military and police actions prefered, revolution if there is no other choice.)

  15. RL says:

    response to Kurtlane (RL in italics)

    Dear Sir, how specifically can I speak up? Write letters to the media? They don’t publish them. Write to other people’s blogs? They usually don’t publish them either. Participate in Jewish organizations? They seem interested in my money, rather than in me. What can I specifically do to speak up? Speak up where?

    I think the world can afford more blogs. As I suggested, I think every main media outlet deserves a shadow blog that critiques it. For an example, see Squaring the Globe, which tracks the Boston Globe. I even think a blog called Letters to the Editor that Didn’t Make It or something like that should be established to publish the letters of which you speak. I think this needs to be done extensively and systematically. And you can have special sections for various topics, the best of the letters, etc. In any case, if there’s something that really bothers you in coverage and you want to send it, with your comments to me, I’ll be happy to consider putting it up here.

    Besides, I have found out that there is something inherently wrong-sided in rhethoric as such. The brutal liar can nearly always win any argument over an honest person. No matter how prepared an honest person seems to be for the lies of his opponent, the opponent routinely takes his breath away by proposing lies too enormous for his expectations. The audience sees only a clear defeat of the breathless honest person, and not the fact of lying.

    That’s a nice description of the dilemma. Nor is it merely limited to lies, but also to grotesque comparisons (like the Israelis to the Nazis). I remember the first time someone in our Israeli-Arab dialogue group said, “I’m really tired of hearing Jews whine about the Holocaust.” Some of the participants actually quit subsequently, but at the time, we were all as stunned as you describe. That’s why I recommend a good dose of moral outrage. By and large, we try and be reasonable and fair, and we don’t know how to handle the whoppers that get thrown our way. I don’t recommend screaming in outrage, just having as a register a quiet but firm ability to reject in no uncertain terms the grotesqueries that get thrown our way, and then turning that around and saying, “if that’s the kind of comment you feel free to make, how can your listeners trust a word you say?” I think these are debating issues that need to get worked out. I heard that Wolf Blitzer was completely outmaneuvered by David Duke when he came back from the Holocaust Denial Conference in Iran. We have to prepare for these kinds of encounters, not assume that our foes are so stupid that we can win without thinking.

    Moreover, as Churchill noted, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Therefore, a liar often bombards his opponent with 20 or more lies a minute, while an honest person would take days, weeks or months to verify each “fact.”

    I think that was Mark Twain, who also said, “If you don’t read the newspapers, you’re uninformed. If you do, you’re misinformed.”

    This is the dilemma of the Israelis. Al Durah is now in its seventh year without an effective response. Gaza Beach took over a week and was only part of the issues. (We’re preparing a video study of the Gaza Beach rushes right now.) But as I said, I think there are effective responses, including keeping a list of lies. When the media went to interview Saeb Erakat about his claims of an Israeli “massacre” at Jenin after the final death count showed an inflation of tenfold in his claims, they should have confronted him with that before he got to answer another question. Since they won’t, an independent site should keep track of these matters and rate various spokespeople. Reliable and accurate information is now at an absolute premium as we realize this is a real war with real consequences.

    These are just two of many inherent flaws in rhethoric as such. After all, if the Western people still trust Arabs after years and years of their lies, then they always will.

    Here’s where I disagree with you fundamentally. The past cannot be a predictor of the future, since the picture is rapidly changing and people are waking up to the consequences of their failures.

    First, on this matter of lying, it has been a constant trope of the politically correct cognitive egocentrists to accuse anyone saying that the Arabs lie far more often and easily than Westerners (esp. Israelis) is a racist. Aside from the ludicrous notion that this accusation is based on genetics rather than culture (see my response to Joanne above), this is just an inadequate way of dealing with reality. In certain cultures lying does not have the same meaning as in ours. For some cultures, you lie in order to test the intelligence of your interlocutor. If he’s stupid enough to believe what you say, he deserves to be lied to. Whatever you can get away with is legitimate, especially with outsiders. We play by different rules, and have civil societies as a result. We have no business being so stupid as to think that because we have worked hard to reduce the role of lying (never gone) from our discourse, everyone else is with us on this one. Indeed in Islam, lying to infidels is not just acceptable, it’s theologically mandated: Taqiyya. A anthropologist colleague of mine told me that his informant in Afghanistan once said, “You Americans, you don’t lie.” In typical self-critical style, he began to self-deprecate: “No, it’s not true, we do lie…” and then he realized… it was meant as an insult. For them this is a game, and we’re just so stupidly earnest, we deserve their contempt.

    Second, on the consequences of believing. Once we stop being dupes of demopaths and challenge them, the dynamics will rapidly change. Since the terrible effects of believing the lies proferred are becoming clearer by the day, we can expect people to change their attitudes. Being gullible when it makes you feel good about yourself (what liberal wants to walk around distrusting people all day?) has to, at some point, cede to self-protection. Once shame on you, twice, shame on me. Okay, so it’s “seven times seventy times…,” but at some point people need to change their approach to these questions. What we need to do is develop the framework for understanding and dealing with the tendency of a) Arab sources to lie, and b) the media to believe them, so that as people wake up, they have constructive approaches to adopt.

    No, the answer to Jihad is not in rhethoric. We Jews have been trying to persuade the world of our innocence for millenia, and the world merely proceeded killing us for ever more ridiculous reasons. The answer is in violence. (Military and police actions prefered, revolution if there is no other choice.)

    The theme at the Herzliya conference was, exhaust the non-violent remedies before going for the violent ones. What “exhaust” means is up for discussion of course, but I think that a good deal of what’s wrong can be handled with the power of words (not mere rhetoric, but reasoning, and resistance). The Jews have failed repeatedly to convince the world that they are not trying to take over the world and enslave mankind, and paranoid, frustrated world dominators have repeatedly refused to listen. The real argument lies between the Jews and their enemies — the large number of people who do not know what to think. That’s the battleground. This time around Jews have an advantage they never had before: access to the public sphere and a society (Western) that is a) based on reasoning and empirical evidence, and b) committed to learning for history. It’s up to those of us who know how devastating Judeophobia is not only for Jews, but the dupes who believe the demopaths who malign Jews, to make the case convincingly. Tall order. Civil society and democracy thrives or falls on its accomplishment.

  16. Lynne T says:

    RL:

    I’m sorry. I can’t discern your response to kurtlane, but I can see the logic in what he has written above.

    After all, there are a lot of idiots in the media and academe who “reason” that the extreme violence and nihilism of the Arab/Muslim world in general and the Palestinians in particular is evidence of a poor and frustrated people who have suffered a grievous injustice at the hands of western civilization and for whom there is no adequate political solution to redress that grievance.

  17. RL says:

    response to Lynne:

    you wrote in while i was writing my response inside my editing function. so that’s now up, i’ll be interested in your thoughts. in the meantime, i’ll respond to your point:

    After all, there are a lot of idiots in the media and academe who “reason” that the extreme violence and nihilism of the Arab/Muslim world in general and the Palestinians in particular is evidence of a poor and frustrated people who have suffered a grievous injustice at the hands of western civilization and for whom there is no adequate political solution to redress that grievance.

    I agree that this has been a response so far… the “what did we do to make them hate us so” response to 9-11, and i agree that till now it’s had an enormous influence on the dominance of the PCP. the flaws in that paradigm are not only enormous in theory (among other things they rob the Muslims of agency and make them the puppet reactors to western behavior), and devastating in practice. it’s precisely this framework which is currently being challenged by clear thinkers like Woolsey and Ya’alon, who spoke at the Herzliya conference, and the contrast between their lucidity and the fog of cognitive egocentrism that infuses so much “progressive” thought that paves the way to hell with its good intentions. Peretz and Peres, who spoke right after that panel sounded hollow and silly.

  18. ellen says:

    Bold, honest and passionate words. I especially appreciate your concluding words of advice to the various parties concerned (the swipe at male egos was great!). How was the address received? I’m sure your address was a severe departure from the standard Herzilya Conference fare.

  19. RL says:

    thanks for your remarks. i really enjoyed reading it, and was immediately asked to give the same talk (the uncut version) at a conference held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs next month. given what i said about and to the MFA, i’d say there is an audience in the least likely places.

    as for my address and others, Malcolm Hoenline, Martin Kramer, Moshe Ya’alon, Bernard Lewis, and several others were as categorical as i was, and certainly Hoenline was as passionate.

  20. abu yussif says:

    lynne,
    sorry, i don’t follow polls very much. i know that sometimes polls are done among israeli arabs and arab east jerusalem residents on the subject of choosing to be part of israel or palestine and the results ALWAYS show most favor to have israeli citizenship. that says a lot.

    even so, i speak as part of the arab christian community which gets worse treatment from israeli muslims. the muslims, while despising israel and supporting the palestinians wholeheartedly, want to keep their good deal (on the israeali dole) going, complaining the entire way.

  21. [...] 2007

    Landes offers advice to everyone

    7th Annual Herzliya Conference The Med [...]

  22. DaMav says:

    An excellent and thoughtful article. But it misses one other arena which might merit attention here in the United States. That would be the almost slavish devotion of so many Jews to the party of Jimmy Carter, which has increasingly become a haven for all manner of anti-Israeli hatred and flirtation with Palestinian extremism. Jews would no doubt be in a better position to combat this alarming tendency were they considered to be in play between the parties and not a virtual block vote for the Democrats.

  23. igout says:

    #23: If a well wisher may comment?

    A Jewish guy once told me why the Jews are all liberals. He said that upto the estabnlishment of Israel, the Jews hadn’t had to actually run anything for 2000-some years. The Christias, the Moslems, they handled that grubby stuff. The Jews meanwhile killed time by thinking/argueing/dreaming about how things ought to be. Backseat drivers to the world, I guess. This, my friend said, made them perfect for and hopelessly glued to the Dem Party.

    Me? I’m not Jewish, but I submit the theory to the table.

    At the other end of the spectrum, well, the spectrum of the Goodies, the other day I listened to Beethoven’s arrangement of Highland Laddie, lyrics by SIr Walter Scott. It’s an account of the Battle of Waterloo. Don’t bother looking for pious sentiments about humanity, liberty, peace and such; nothing there but raw triumphalism, as we’ve been taught to name it. If war is to be, let’s not be hang-dog about it.
    As we get deeper into the falling darkness, maybe it’s time to uncork our good old Western gizm:

    ….of that dour, deadly Duke,
    scattering Frenchmen with his look

    We need our Wellington. Hope we get one.

    ‘night;.

  24. Exit Zero says:

    Richard Landes at Herzliya

    As Solomonia says, this this would be the real, big Herzliya Conference, not the one I spoke at..

  25. RL says:

    response to Igout #23:

    If a well wisher may comment?

    A Jewish guy once told me why the Jews are all liberals. He said that up to the estabnlishment of Israel, the Jews hadn’t had to actually run anything for 2000-some years. The Christias, the Moslems, they handled that grubby stuff. The Jews meanwhile killed time by thinking/arguing/dreaming about how things ought to be. Backseat drivers to the world, I guess. This, my friend said, made them perfect for and hopelessly glued to the Dem Party.

    Me? I’m not Jewish, but I submit the theory to the table.

    i’d say that’s a pretty facetious argument that tries to understand the role of exile in the peculiar Jewish mindset. i’d go a different direction. first, Jews did run things — their own communities, and were able to do that under (by our modern standards) awful conditions for millennia. and this accomplishment is huge because most cultures, once conquered and losing sovereignty, tend to disappear. hence the jews are the only nation to survivie the ancient world (including the winners like the romans). and the reason they could survive without sovereignty is that, because of their ethical commitments to exceptional levels of egalitarianism (eg before the law), they could hold together without the use of coercion.

    thus their attraction to democratic or leftist politics is in part a recognition that liberal politics in the political arena are close to the kinds of values that held them together for so long — charity, empathy for the suffering of others, do not do to others what you hate, etc. from the perspective of a history of political philosophy, jewish political thought is among the most leftist stuff in the ancient world, and the bible, the most subversive document.

    At the other end of the spectrum, well, the spectrum of the Goodies, the other day I listened to Beethoven’s arrangement of Highland Laddie, lyrics by SIr Walter Scott. It’s an account of the Battle of Waterloo. Don’t bother looking for pious sentiments about humanity, liberty, peace and such; nothing there but raw triumphalism, as we’ve been taught to name it. If war is to be, let’s not be hang-dog about it.
    As we get deeper into the falling darkness, maybe it’s time to uncork our good old Western gizm:

    ….of that dour, deadly Duke,
    scattering Frenchmen with his look

    We need our Wellington. Hope we get one.

    ‘night;.

    i think more in terms of Churchill. but in any case you put your finger on the problem for the Jews. the Jews in Israel want peace, don’t want to massacre or occupy Arabs. the Arabs — at least their current leadership — would be delighted to massacre and occupy Israelis. this dilemma is precisely the kind of dilemma that the jews avoided for millennia by letting the gentiles do the dirty work of “keeping order.” now that they have sovereignty, they don’t know what to do — not nasty enough to keep it, not suicidal enough to give it away. after two millennia of renouncing any claim to “honor”, they don’t have the kind of instincts to “get the blood up” as you put it.

    and the tragedy is that, rather than help, the outside world, and particularly the europeans, impose a radically false reading on the situation in which the Israelis are the imperialists and the Arabs the victims, rather than the Arabs the vicious imperialists and the Israelis the only ones (so far) to successfully resist their imperial claims on minorities in Dar al Islam.

  26. RL says:

    Andy Bostom writes:

    http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=1720

    Re: So when historians look back, I think they will identify the MSM’s appalling performance as one of the main sources the West’s vulnerability to Global Jihad at the beginning of this century. How else can we explain the astounding success of what, only a decade ago, seemed like a racist bad joke: Islam wants to take over Europe? You must be kidding.

    Actually Bat Ye’or wrote very clearly about the phenomenon in the early 1990s and gave this remarkably prescient interview published in translation in Midstream in 1994

    I do not see serious signs of a Europeanization of Islam anywhere, a move that would be expressed in a relativization of religion, a self-critical view of the history of Islamic imperialism…we are light years away from such a development…On the contrary, I think that we are participating in the Islamization of Europe, reflected both in daily occurrences and in our way of thinking…All the racist fanaticism that permeates the Arab countries and Iran has been manifested in Europe in recent years…

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  28. [...]

    Help Israel win and enjoy the salad

    Via the Augean Stables blog, read The Me [...]

  29. Kesher Talk says:

    Why Jews are Liberals redux

    An exchange between Richard Landes and a commenter on his blog, following his posting of his speech to the main Hertzliyah conference. Commenter: A Jewish guy once told me why the Jews are all liberals. He said that up to…

  30. Robert Schwartz says:

    My response at Kesher Talk:

    I do not believe that there is a cultural explanation for the political inclinations of American Jews. I am very skeptical about claims of prophetic sanction for this policy or that, and I have yet to see much connection between the Talmud and the ravings of the Democrat party.

    My own belief is that there are two major historical factors at work.

    First, the Jews who emigrated to the US came from Eastern Europe. Their first encounters with the larger political culture occurred in aftermath of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s rearrangement of the European map. Liberalism, as it was known in Western Europe and North America did not exist in Eastern Europe, save for some very rarefied intellectual circles.

    The political contest in that part of Europe was between radicals and reactionaries. The reactionaries were anti-Semitic and not a political home for Jews, who joined the radicals. By the second half of the 19th century, the radicals were socialists and communists, and so were the Jews. Further, the radicalized Jews were more likely to emigrate than the ones who tightly bound into traditional communities.

    When they arrived in the US they landed in the large industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest. The immigrant populations they landed among were Democrats, and the gentry, who were anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic, were Republicans, so they joined the big city Democrat machines. True to their socialist roots and because they were starting out at the bottom of the ladder in the US, they joined the nascent labor movement.

    When the Roosevelt revolution arrived the Jews gained a great deal of recognition and a lot of opportunity for government jobs. With the arrival of Nazism and WWII, Jews had all the more reason to back the interventionist Roosevelt. Truman, over the objection of his State Department, backed the creation of Israel, while Eisenhower sided with the Russians to support Nasser against Britain, France and Israel. My father, z”l, hated Eisenhower.

    By now support of the Democrat party is a not a thing that requires thought. The order that the Democrats created is the existing order. Jews have thrived mightily in it and they have every reason to support it. You might say that the impulse is really quite conservative.

    Another check on the cultural theories are the politics of the orthodox community and of the post 1990 immigrants from the FSU. You would think that if modern American liberalism had anything to do with Judaism that the orthodox would be at least somewhat sympathetic to it, but they are not. The “Russians” are also not liberals. They stayed in Eastern Europe and they do not romanticize the Soviet Union. If they had any socialism, it has been cured.

  31. [...] ummer. He is the man who made the ludicrous remarks I took out of the final version of my Herzliy [...]

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