Monthly Archives: February 2007

Double Standards, Moral Equivalence, and Suicidal Good Intentions

An excellent meditation on the problems of moral equivalence in the midst of a thrash of civilizations.


Double Standards and Appeasement

By Bruce Thornton

Acceptance of a double standard has always been a sign of inferiority. To let someone behave according to one set of principles or values while demanding that you be subjected to others is to validate a claim of superiority that justifies the inconsistent and unfair behavior. A double standard can also reflect incoherent thinking, a failure to apply consistently a principle that presumably has universal validity. In the West’s struggle with Islamic jihad, doubts about the superiority of Western values have coupled with a breakdown in ethical reasoning. The result is the appeasement of jihadist aggression and the confirmation of the jihadist estimation of the West’s corruption.

This is a syncopated account. Double standards are part of life. People who try to live an honest and morally upright life apply them all the time as a part of a therapeutic encounter with others. You don’t expect the same of everyone, and sometimes someone who’s not very disciplined needs encouragement. Our problem is that this therapeutic discourse has been not only mistaken for reality, but turned into a politically correct dogma. And in the framework of dealing with the Islamist/Jihadi attack, it’s proving fatal. Certainly something we cannot afford.

That’s why many Muslims demand from Westerners a hypersensitivity to Islam, all the while that Christians and Jews in Muslim countries are subjected to harassment, assault, and the looniest kinds of slander and insult. In the West, respect for Muslim ways such as the veil for women is supposed to be granted as a self-evident right beyond argument or debate. Yet Western ideals and values, such as the equality of the sexes, are derided, disrespected, and rejected as self-evident evils. The worst inconsistencies, however, involve the violation of core Western ideals, most importantly free speech. Many Muslims demand the right to deny the Holocaust, recycle Nazi-era anti-Semitic drivel, characterize Christianity as polytheistic idolatry, and excoriate a decadent, corrupt Western civilization. But no such criticism of Mohammed or Islam is tolerated, and in fact is met with violence and threats.

This paragraph delineates nicely the contrast between an integrity-guilt culture in which freedom, in particular, freedom of speech, is honored, and an honor-shame culture in which freedom of speech must be subordinated for the sake of image. The pressure from them is on us to show them the way they want to be seen. Thus a demopathic organization like CAIR can get thousands out to demonstrate against movies that portray Muslims as terrorist, but not much of a peep of public protest against Muslim terrrorists.

The past few years have seen numerous examples, from the riots over the extremely mild political cartoons featuring Mohammed, to the uproar over the Pope’s quotation of a Byzantine emperor. The exercise of free speech in all these cases is met with rage, violence, and hysterical demands of “respect” for Islam, but there is no reciprocal respect for Western values. And for the most part, we in the West go along with this double standard, and thus accept the logic of the jihadist position: we are weak and unsure of our beliefs. Our craven behavior is a sign of our inferior status and our justified subjection to those who passionately believe in the rightness of their faith.

I think it’s a bit more complex. It’s a combination of lack of confidence (are we embarrassed to stand up for ourselves?) and overweening arrogance. The “progressives” who espouse this stance think they’re the cutting edge of the moral universe, and covertly have complete contempt for the “authentic” cultures to whom they condescend with their generous concessions. And they translate their moral superiority into a kind of cultural invulnerability. We can allow them to say anything, hold back our criticisms, and freedom will flourish. Now that we have cultures committed to tolerance, they will last forever. So they don’t even see how vulnerable they are.

Let’s be clear on the roots of this cowardly response––the West has lost its faith. We have created John Lennon’s juvenile utopia in which there is “nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.” Shorn of transcendent validation, now all our beliefs are contingent and negotiable, easily traded away for security or comfort. At the same time, the therapeutic mentality bestows on the non-Western “other” a finely calibrated sensitivity to his culture, no matter how dysfunctional, all the while it refuses to extend such consideration to its own. Why would it? Haven’t generations of Western intellectuals and artists told the world how corrupt and evil the West is? Having culturally internalized this self-loathing, we are vulnerable to those who are filled with passionate intensity about the rightness of their beliefs and the payback due to us for our various historical sins such as colonialism or imperialism or globalization. And then we wonder why the jihadist considers us ripe for conquest, and destined to be subjected to the superior values of Islam.

That’s a golden paragraph. I’d disagree with the opening lines just in pointing out that this is one Western response, and granted, the currently dominant one. But I think Western culture is actually far more vibrant than the cramped world of politically correct has to show for, and that we can expect to see — already see — signs of both intellectual and moral resilience. As for the rest of the analysis above, it’s spot on, especially on the way that primitive responses of humiliated rage in the rest of the world (some of them valid) feed off of Western self-criticism to assault the West precisely for what we’ve done right. The biggest imperialists today, openly acknowledged, are the Islamists. And our chattering classes can’t even say it. But have no problem accusing the least imperialist of the powerful nations on the planet — Israel and the USA — of unforgivable imperialism. My sense is that the jihadis are laughing in disbelief at how easy we’re making it for them.

Consider the following cautionary tale, from San Francisco State. Last October the College Republicans held an anti-terrorism rally during which posters painted to look like the flags of the terrorist gangs Hamas and Hezbollah were walked on. Since those flags have the name of Allah in Arabic, a complaint was filed in which the College Republicans were accused of “incitement,” “creation of a hostile environment,” and “incivility.” The complaint is now headed for trial before one of those campus star chambers created to monitor and police student behavior.

You don’t have to be a Constitutional scholar to see that this investigation is a gross violation of the students’ First Amendment right to free speech. This sort of institutional intervention creates what the ACLU––which never seems to make a peep about this sort of “progressive” censorship––likes to call a “chilling effect.” The Vice President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Robert Shilbey, has pointed out the obvious: “At a public university, stepping on a flag—even burning an American flag—is without question a constitutionally protected act of political protest. The right to protest is at the very heart of the First Amendment, and means nothing if only inoffensive expression is permitted.”

Here’s where the double standards and incoherence of much politically correct behavior comes in. On any college campus in this country, every day, inside of class and out, you can encounter speech that is “insensitive,” “uncivil,” or “hostile.” But of course, this speech is directed towards Christians, or “conservatives,” or Israel, or Republicans, or “straight white males.” Nobody attempts to censor this speech or haul people before tribunals to answer vague charges such as “incivility,” which will be defined according to the subjective standards of the complainants. And if someone does complain, the faculty and administration will immediately go into high dudgeon mode and start preaching the glories of
unfettered free speech no matter how offensive. In other words, free speech for me but not for thee.

It’s actually a double-double standard. Not only can we not say nasty things about them which we can about ourselves (double standard), but they can say about us what we cannot say about them. Again, the dysfunctions of self-criticism in contact with honor-shame. We protect their feelings, but we’re “big men” and can take the criticism without becoming enraged. Pushed to its limits — as many have done it — and you’re incapable of even honest indignation and self-defense.

But the ill effects of this hypocrisy are nothing compared to the damage done when the institution caters to the unreasonable demands of those Muslims who, convinced of their spiritual superiority and righteousness, are active enemies of the West and think they are justified in imposing their standards on everybody else, even if those standards violate a core political value such as free speech. And when the appeasement comes from the university, which supposedly exists in order to foster what Matthew Arnold called “the free play of the mind on all subjects,” the message is quite clear: we don’t really believe in all these goods we profess and benefit from, but we will abandon them at the first
threat. And if we don’t believe in them, why should the jihadist?

Which suggests the following speculation. Universities will begin to separate into those dedicated to “the free play of the mind on all subjects” and those dedicated to politically correct taboos. The latter, violating their principles consistently, will begin to lose their authority. The best minds will prefer the realistic and free institutions. With cyberspace making knowledge far more democratic, the big dinosaurs, no matter how powerful now, are in for a chill.

Honor Killings, Silence, and the Meaning of Speaking out

What can we learn from the latest monstrosity in the world of Arab honor-killings. This one occurred in Israel, in the Ramle, a town with a large Arab population. Understanding the dynamics to this terrible “custom” sheds a fierce light on the nature of the Arab-Israeli, and more broadly Islamist-Western conflict.

Abu-Ghanem women speak out against serial ‘honor killings’

The murder of Hamda Abu-Ghanem, whose bullet-riddled body was found in mid-January at her parents’ house in Ramle, surprised nobody.

As police set about their investigation, everyone was aware that the victim’s brother had been threatening to kill her, and that long before the murder, she had taken refuge in a battered women’s shelter.

It was a typical “honor killing,” meant to remove some perceived stain on the family’s reputation.

The perpetrators of most honor killings in the Arab community are not apprehended. Hamda’s murder, however, was one too many for the women in the Abu-Ghanem family. She was the eighth woman to be murdered in the extended family in the last six and a half years. All her predecessors also lost their lives in “honor killings.”

This time, instead of keeping mum when the police questioned them, the Abu- Ghanem women gave detailed testimonies of everything they knew. One said she had seen Rashad enter the house where Hamda was. Shortly afterward she heard shots and seconds later saw Rashad, the key suspect, fleeing from the building.

Blogging and Dictators

Nick Cohen has some interesting comments on the alleged power of the blogosphere in relationship to the power of tyrants. They raise important questions about the potential role of the blogosphere in the 21st century.

A connected world proves no threat to tyrants

As a blogger is jailed, promises that the internet would challenge dictators have proved illusory

Nick Cohen
Sunday February 25, 2007
The Observer

Every now and again, an established journalist goes into print to rage against the bloggers. Our old role of gatekeepers who decided what news and opinions the public should hear is crumbling under pressure from the net. The loudest wails came after American bloggers tore into the political coverage of CBS during the 2004 presidential election campaign and exposed a tendentious documentary. Jonathan Klein, a former CBS News executive, snapped: ‘You couldn’t have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances [at CBS] and a guy sitting in his living room in his pyjamas writing on the net.’

This is also what led one observer to remark that this was a “Gutenberg moment,” when a new technology of communications permitted the emergence of a body of thinkers who broke the monopoly on the public sphere enjoyed by the masters of the previous technology of communications (e.g. print vs. manuscript culture, or now, cyberspace vs. print culture).

What’s in PA’s Schoolbooks? PMW vs BTS

PMW has an important comment on the latest generation of Palestinian school books and the way that certain peace groups process the material therein. A thirty-five page report from PMW has led Hilary Clinton to condemn the books, but now a “peace” group — Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (BTS) — has written to Clinton urging her to reconsider, to see these books as committed to democracy and a peaceful solution.

    Its own examination found that the textbooks were problematic but “in contrast to those in use throughout most of the Arab world, are unusual in that they endorse democracy.” Additionally, while they ignore Jewish contributions and much of the history of the State of Israel, Brit Tzedek says the textbooks endorse “peaceful resolution of the conflict.” Brit Tzedek suggests that PMW’s alleged agenda colored its conclusions.

    “Allying yourself with those of Israel’s supporters who distort truth in the interest of their hawkish political views does not contribute to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor further Israel’s long-term interests,” the letter said.

Nothing describes better how differently people from the PCP world process the same data as people from the HJP. For the latter, the material is catastrophic and part of the warmongering ideology that has so contributed to the current “cycle of violence”; for the former, the material is an improvement, moving in the right direction, committed to civic values like peace and democracy. It’s not clear what BTS’s remarks are based on, so we’ll have to see how this shakes out, but right now, the evidence suggests that the people with their eyes open are at PMW.

As for agendas, are the folks at Brit Tzedek v’Shalom naive enough to think that they don’t color their assessment of these materials with their agenda? Or do they think we’re too stupid to notice? I would actually argue that the abysmally low expectations that the people at BTS have for the Palestinians — okay so they deny Jewish history… but they’re for democracy — is part of the racism of low expectations.

At the end of their article, Marcus and Crook throw down the gauntlet to Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. Let’s hope they respond.

Feb. 24, 2007 21:34 | Updated Feb. 24, 2007 21:41
Supporting peace education in the PA?
By ITAMAR MARCUS AND BARBARA CROOK

Anyone who hopes for peace should be horrified by the content of the latest set of Palestinian schoolbooks. In many respects, these new books for Grade 12, written by Fatah-appointed Palestinian educators, are the worst of the textbooks produced by the Palestinian Authority since 2000.

These newest books deny Israel’s right to exist, anticipate its destruction and define the conflict with Israel as religious, not merely territorial.

Paradigms: PCP vs. HJP

This is the final installment in the series on Paradigms, in which I compare and contrast the two opposing paradigms on the Middle East.

PCP vs. HJP
A Personal Assessment
By: Richard Landes

As the exposition of these two paradigms indicates, they both have strong and weak points, and they both tend towards a level of generalization that hopefully disturbs people. But as Kuhn says: “From the start [observations] presuppose a paradigm… [that] embodies a host of expectations about nature [in the current discussion about human nature], that fails to function the moment these expectations are violated.” (Kuhn, Structure, p. 126). The question then, is less: Which one is (much more) right? But: When does one or the other help us understand the situation better? And: How do we keep track of both so that we can observe carefully rather than be blinded by our expectations?”

Both unquestionably simplify. PCP1 [Politically Correct Paradigm], whose strength is its commitment to the basic positive-sum principles of civil society and a willingness to engage in self-criticism even under fire, has immense difficulty registering the depth of hostility and zero-sum commitment in Arab political culture. As a result, it tends, through “even-handedness,” to want to attribute equal amounts of good and bad faith to both sides as a kind of “therapeutic” intervention. PCP2 [Post-Colonial Paradigm] goes still farther in the demonic “self”-criticism of the West whose sins justify any violence and the romanticization of Arabs and Muslims as opponents of empire. From moral equivalence to moral reversal.

Political Correctness and the Rise of Islamism

Tough article by Amil Imani, an Iranian expatriot and apparently an ex-Muslim spares no delicate sentiments nor does he accept the standard distinction between Islamism and Islam. His comments on the issue of political correctness’ current counterproductive role and Islam’s danger describe the dynamic of demopaths and their dupes. It’s the same dynamic that makes the MSM major contributors to the success of Jihad in the 21st century.

Political Correctness is the Incubator of Islamism

by Amil Imani

14 Feb, 2007

Time and again we are told by the politically correct “experts” not to worry about Islam posing a threat to our way of life. We are repeatedly lectured that only a very small minority of Muslims are troublemakers who are giving the peaceful masses of Muslims a bad name. We are also informed that the terrorists, who happened to be Muslims, are the disaffected and the young. And not to worry, since as the fire of youth turns to ashes of old age the rebellious will mellow, as they always have.

With heavy assurances like this, coming from so many know-it-all authoritative figures, we can sleep soundly without the aid of sleeping pills. After all, people reason that these pundits are “experts” whose job is to know and tell it like it is. Those who voice contrary views must be a bunch of racist, alarmist hate mongers. Who is right?

Wouldn’t be more prudent to let the facts settle the matter, rather than blindly accepting either position? Of course it would, except for one huge problem. In the face of threats, people tend to go to the mind’s medicine cabinet and take a few denial and rationalization pills, in the same way that it is the aspirin bottle they turn to when a headache strikes. Why not? We are the Easy Species. We love effortless, quick and simple solutions. And that’s not invariably bad. It has given us all kinds of labor and time saving devices.

Yet, the Islam problem is very real and deadly. Neither the pronouncements of the experts, nor the tranquilizing pills of the mind can make it go away. It is here and it shows every sign of imposing itself on us. Let us look at some of the facts.

I wouldn’t call what follows “facts.” Observations, even accurate observations might be a better term. A lot of judgments involved, many of them seem to me quite sound. I must admit that even my fairly realistic mind rebels against the idea that Islam should disappear. But I’m working on the last chapter of my book on millennialism, on contemporary global Jihad as an apocalyptic millennial movement of the most dangerous kind — the kind that, when they “take,” end up killing tens of millions of people, like the Taiping, the Communists and the Nazis — and I’ve been reading the Qur’an. Hard to disagree with his observations, even though he makes Andrew Bostom look like a moderate.

In Praise of Envy

I recently ran across this essay by Robert Lewis, the editor-in-chief of the Arts and Opinion Journal on envy. Since I give a good deal of attention to that particular emotion as a specifically zero-sum emotion, this essay presents the “other side” of the coin — envy as spur to emulation, competition, and self-improvement. The wonderful short book by Peter Walcot, Envy and the Greeks, and the more ponderous tome by Helmut Schoek, Envy, both emphasize this elemental emotion as advantageous… up to a point.

IN PRAISE OF ENVY
by
ROBERT J. LEWIS

_____________________

Not much, if anything, has been written positively about envy. It is “a stubborn weed of the mind . . . pursues a hateful end by despicable means,” observes Samuel Johnson in The Rambler. It’s “the only passion which can never lie quiet for want of irritation: its effects therefore are everywhere discoverable.” Which is another way of saying that if we were to encounter someone without envy, we would probably regard the person as a bit odd, not unlike Dostoyevsky’s other-worldly Prince Myshkin, the hero of The Idiot.

As far as I know, no one has taken issue with the inclusion of envy as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. In the last issue of Arts & Opinion, Geoff Olson points out that the “sin” is unique in that “Unlike anger, pride, lust, gluttony, greed or sloth, envy never gives the illusion of short-term pleasure. From the moment it starts, envy only brings anguish and sorrow.” He then goes on to quote Gore Vidal, a writer whom most writers in their right minds should envy: “Every time a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” I would argue that if it weren’t for envy, Vidal wouldn’t have become one of America’s most esteemed men of letters.

Envy does bring pleasure, called Schadenfreude, although granted that’s a derivative that comes when others fail, rather than the “straight-up” experience of pain when someone else succeeds. Vidal’s remark, however, is telling. It may explain how he became a great writer — as an historian my favorite of his books is Julian — but it also explains why his characters are so deftly drawn and nearly universally unattractive. Anyone with his talents, who still envies his friends (no less) is a deeply unhappy man.

Amalek? You Must be Kidding… Alas, No

In the ongoing struggle over what’s legitimate criticism of Israel provoked by Alvin Rosenfeld’s essay, “Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Antisemitism,” this article in the Jerusalem Post makes the same tired claims of gagging dissent. But this one takes it a step further, illustrating the very thing it rejects: it embodies crossing the line where criticism becomes irresponsible. Here, believe it or not, Jews criticizing Jews whom they think go too far in their criticism of Israel, are compared with genocidal zealots. I kid you not.

In the Diaspora: The Amalek syndrome

Samuel Freedman, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 8, 2007

The Jewish calendar is moving toward Purim, and with it one of the most troublesome passages in the Torah. For all the boozy, costumed boisterousness of the holiday, it also means reading the verses in Deuteronomy that urge all Jews to “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

For those who don’t know the whole story, the Amalekites are the people par excellence who should be exterminated to the last woman and child (Exodus 17; Deuteronomy 25). No people had so dismal a record of wanton violence, targeting the weak — children and elderly.

In the last two weeks, Diaspora Jews have experienced the latest version of what I call the Amalek Syndrome – an effort not to eradicate our external enemies but to invalidate, delegitimize and disenfranchise the supposed traitors within. I speak, of course, of the report written by Alvin H. Rosenfeld and published by the American Jewish Committee, which charges a variety of left-wing Jews in the United States, Canada and England with abetting the resurgent anti-Semitism of the jihad era.

Now I find this breathtaking. To compare Rosenfeld’s essay with an effort to target “traitors from within,” and wipe out dissent akin to the effort to wipe out Amalek, defies any informed reader’s credulity. Surely this is a spoof.

“[T]he arguments for the elimination of the Jewish state – every anti-Semite’s cherished dream – are contributed by Jews themselves,” Rosenfeld, a professor of English and Jewish Studies at the University of Indiana, asserts in conclusion. “Given the drift of ‘progressive’ Jewish thought, that, too – perverse as it is – should come as no surprise.”

The old saw that even paranoids have enemies certainly applies here. Rosenfeld is sadly correct in identifying the upsurge of anti-Semitic rhetoric and action in both the Arab world and the Western European nations with large Muslim communities. He singles out some of the most virulent Jewish critics of Israel, such as Jacqueline Rose and Michael Neumann. But he casts his net so widely, so indiscriminately, so demagogically that it implicates even proven Zionists and amounts to an attempt to quarantine the entire possibility of critically discussing and debating the Israel-Palestine issue.

Apparently not a spoof. Okay, so: “Rosenfeld is right in some cases, but he goes so far that…” that what? that he’s like Saul and the Amalekites? The most generous possible reading of this staggeringly inappropriate analogy is that it reflects “prophetic inflation” (what Rosenfeld calls “overwrought rhetoric”). And this excessive language — Gitmo = Gulag — is, imnsho, the core of the problem. Note also, that Freedman will not return to this issue later and name “proven Zionists” who presumably represent the “entire” range of possible criticisms of Israel. (Presumably he’s thinking of Richard Cohen of the Washington Post who wrote a bullying essay shortly after Qana, and who although not nearly as bad as Neumann or Rose, represents the degree to which the delegitimation of Israel’s right to exist has penetrated supposedly “liberal” circles.

Fisking a Genuine Demopath: Mish’al at the Guardian

It’s not every day one gets a chance to fisk a genuine demopath. So often, it’s not clear whether folks are demopaths or dupes (like Noam Chomsky — does he really believe he’s working for progressive values?). But here we have Khalid Mash’al, the head of an apocalyptic and genocidal organization (Hamas), who the very day he wrote this for the Guardian, gave an interview to Al Hayat, the London-based Arab newspaper in which he said not “peace and justice” but their equivalent in Arab-speak:

“Israel and its allies are at their most difficult hour, and victory over the Jews is nigh…”

And for those who do not know what “victory over the Jews” means to a member of Hamas, let me quote their charter (which should be read in toto by anyone who wants to understand what they’re dealing with):

the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

    “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (Article 8 )

Let’s see what he says to the English.

Our unity can now pave the way for peace and justice

The Mecca agreement gives the west the chance to break with its policy of blackmail and recognise Palestinian rights

Khalid Mish’al
Tuesday February 13, 2007
The Guardian

A historic new phase in the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence has begun. Last week’s Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah will pave the way for the first ever truly Palestinian national unity government. Hamas and Fatah, joined by all the other Palestinian factions, will now seek to rebuild Palestinian society following the destruction brought upon it by Israeli occupation and resume the campaign for our national rights.

On the Dangers of Conspiracy Theory: Polio from the Muslim Clerics of Pakistan

The Guardian has a story on the return of polio to Pakistani children due to rumors that the vaccine was a secret American plot to sterilize Muslims. In a culture where every move from an outsider is suspect, presumed to be a trick to harm you, it’s very hard to process so “altruistic” a campaign as one that claims it’s designed to keep your children healthy. Nice bundle of anti-modernism, paranoia, anti-Americanism, and self-destructive behavior. (Hat tip: ES)

Polio cases jump in Pakistan as clerics declare vaccination an American plot

· Rumours leave thousands of children unprotected
· Aid workers increasingly targeted by tribal militants

Declan Walsh in Peshawar
Thursday February 15, 2007

The parents of 24,000 children in northern Pakistan refused to allow health workers to administer polio vaccinations last month, mostly due to rumours that the harmless vaccine was an American plot to sterilise innocent Muslim children.
The disinformation – spread by extremist clerics using mosque loudspeakers and illegal radio stations, and by word of mouth – has caused a sharp jump in polio cases in Pakistan and hit global efforts to eradicate the debilitating disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recorded 39 cases of polio in Pakistan in 2006, up from 28 in 2005. The disease is concentrated in North-West Frontier Province, where 60% of the refusals were attributed to “religious reasons”. “It was very striking. There was a lot of anti-American propaganda as well as some misconceptions about sterilisation,” said Dr Sarfaraz Afridi, a campaign manager with the WHO in Peshawar.

Interesting. So Islam has made paranoia is a “religious reason.”

The scaremongering and appeals to Islam echoed a similar campaign in the Nigerian state of Kano in 2003, where the disease then spread to 12 polio-free countries over the following 18 months. Pakistan is one of just four countries where polio remains endemic. The others are Nigeria, India and Afghanistan.

[snip]

What has happened to France? Delacampagne on Redeker

Christian Delacampagne has written an excellent piece on the Redeker affair in Commentary. I post below some of the highlights with commentary. The essay, which includes some personal reflections on Delacampagne’s own personal experience of France’s academic political correctness, has also prompted another of the clear-thinking Frenchmen, Guy Millière to discuss similar personal experiences at MENA.

The Redeker Affair
Christian Delacampagne
January 2007

This past September, Robert Redeker, a French high-school philosophy teacher at Saint-Orens-de-Gameville (a small city near Toulouse) and the author of several scholarly books, published an op-ed article in the newspaper Le Figaro. The piece, a response to the controversy over remarks about Islam made a week earlier by Pope Benedict XVI, was titled “What Should the Free World Do in the Face of Islamist Intimidation?” It was a fierce critique of what Redeker called Islam’s attempt “to place its leaden cloak over the world.” If Jesus was “a master of love,” he wrote, Muhammad was “a master of hatred.” Of the three “religions of the book,” Islam was the only one that overtly preached holy war. “Whereas Judaism and Christianity are religions whose rites reject and delegitimize violence,” Redeker concluded, “Islam is a religion that, in its own sacred text, as well as in its everyday rites, exalts violence and hatred.”

Having been posted online, the article was read all across France and in other countries as well, and was quickly translated into Arabic. Denunciations of Redeker’s “insult of the prophet” spread across the Internet. Within a day after publication, the piece was being condemned on al Jazeera by the popular on-air preacher (and unofficial voice of Osama bin Laden) Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi. In Egypt and Tunisia, the offending issue of Le Figaro was banned.

This is interesting. Anyone familiar with Jihadi rhetoric knows well that Redeker’s description is precisely what these fellows pride themselves on, what they admire in both the Prophet, PBUH, and their religion. This reaction is pure demopathy: how dare you tell the West what we’ve been telling each other?! This offends not Islam, but the picture of Islam, the religion of Peace that we’ve been selling our dupes and dupettes.

The Hyper-critical Jew’s Contribution to Antisemitism

Several of my last posts were on the problems of Jewish self-criticism, the ways the MSM has difficulty presenting the conflict, and the ways in which it contributes to anti-Semitism, partly because the hyper-self-critical Jews either don’t know or don’t care about the impact their remarks have on non-Jews, partly because the non-Jews don’t understand just how inaccurate this hyper-self-criticism can be. Now we have a most bizarre incident, where an Israeli historian at Bar-Ilan University has published a book in Italian giving credence to the blood libel. The book sold out its 1000 copies in a week (mine still hasn’t sold its 1000 copies in a decade), and sites hostile to Israel are only too happy to present the material in a calm and reasoned manner.

For a thoughtful post on this with good links, see the reflections of a UC Berkeley graduate student, “A Factual Basis for the Blood Libel? Not Really,” at Kishkushim [Nonsense].

A medievalist colleague of mine, Johannes Heil, a German scholar in Heidelberg has written a valuable review of the controversy, translated by Andrew Gow, an occasional commentator here at this blog. I quote at length from the piece below, along with some passages from newspaper articles in the Jerusalem Post and Ha-Aretz.

Johannes Heil, Ignatz Bubis-Lehrstuhl für Geschichte, Religion und Kultur der europäischen Juden, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Heidelberg/Germany
Translated by Andrew Gow, Dep. of History and Classics, University of Alberta, Edmonton/Canada.

“Pasque di sangue” – Ariel Toaff and the Legend of Ritual Murder: A Comment

The Italian historian Ariel Toaff has just published a book, and his colleague Elena Loewenthal has called it ‘a scandal’. This title is frequently bestowed in Italy, but in this case, it seems to have been earned (Ariel Toaff, Pasque di sangue. Ebrei d’Europa e omicidi rituali [Bloody Passover: Jews of Europe and Ritual Homicide] Bologna: Il Mulino 2007). A quick look at the background will suffice. If there is such a thing as a timeless uber-narrative of Jew-hatred, it is the accusation of ‘ritual murder’. Pious chroniclers, merciless priests, fanatical social critics, anti-Semitic pamphleteers, murderous rulers and even recently afternoon soaps in the Arab world have illustrated all sorts of things with the legend of ritual murder: a negative version of mysticism of the Cross, blood-thirsty usury, the healing of Jewish physical infirmities, world-spanning lust for power, Zionist aggression.

Self-Criticism and the Middle-East Conflict

SELF-CRITICISM AND CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT

Self-criticism stands at the heart of any experiment in civil society.

Only when we can acknowledge errors and commit to avoiding making them again, can we have a learning curve. Only when scholars can express their criticism of academic colleagues, and those criticized are able to acknowledge error, can scientific and social thinking develop. Only when religious believers can entertain the possibility that they may not have a monopoly on truth (no matter how convinced they might be of their “Truth”), can various religions live in peace and express their beliefs without fear of violence. Only when political elites are willing to accept negative feedback from people who do not have their power, only when the press can oppose those who control public decision-making, can a government reasonably claim to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

But self-criticism is difficult, especially if it takes place in public. Public admission of fault can provoke a powerful sense of humiliation, and involves an obligation to cease the erroneous behavior and attitudes. Most people actively dislike admitting error, fault, or failure, and will go to great lengths to avoid public concessions. We all develop elaborate means to protect ourselves from such public shame and obligation, by rationalizing or finger-pointing at some other party whom we try to coerce to take responsibility for the problem, either by manipulating public opinion or using force. The extreme expressions of such efforts to avoid responsibility involve scape-goating and demonizing, in which the sacrifice of the assigned “guilty party” is necessary to cover our own refusal to admit any fault.

And yet, self-criticism can become a valuable acquired taste. All positive-sum outcomes depend on some degree of willingness, if only implicitly, to admit fault, to share the blame, and to make concessions to the other side. Without self-criticism and its accompanying learning curve, there is little progress. Hence progressives rightly emphasize self-criticism.

MASOCHISTIC OMNIPOTENCE SYNDROME (MOS) AND THE PATHOLOGIES OF SELF-CRITICISM

Temple-Mount Watch

It’s a regular practice of Palestinians, when things are going badly for the extremists, to pick a fight with Israel. Generally this comes in the form of either a provocation — suicide terrorism works — or a piece of Pallywood — Gaza Beach worked well. Right now the Palestinians are at a nadir of sorts: they’re killing each other; they can’t stop killing each other; and “the whole world” sees what a profoundly dysfunctional political culture they’ve got. Sooooo, they need to pick a fight.

Enter the archeological activity of the Israelis near the Temple Mount / Haram al Sharif. Over the past week a growing chorus of complaints about Israeli activity, increasingly shrill and angry, have complained that

“What Israel is doing in its practices and attacks against our sacred Muslim sites in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa is a blatant violation that is not acceptable under any pretext,” the monarch was quoted by the state news agency Petra as saying.

“These measures will only create an atmosphere that will not at all help in the success of efforts being undertaken to restore the peace process,” the monarch said.

And that’s from the King of Jordan, a “moderate.” Like so many other aspects of life with Muslims both in the Middle East and around the world, others must yield to their outrage over deeds that they imagine. The conspiracy world in which they live means that anything remotely resembling an attack on them becomes a causus belli, and a cause for loud protest. And they count on the unwillingness of the West to fight over such matters, to have them back down. A good description of the “spirit of Munich” that reigns over a dying Europe today.

So the plan is, either force the Israelis to back down, or push for a confrontation so that, as soon as some Palestinian civilian is hurt, the MSM can come in and do their “politics of compassion and outrage” job to rally world opinion against the Israelis who refuse to be reasonable… like the Europeans.

And what the Israeli government should be doing right now, is telling every station in the world that this is an invented grievance, that there are no plans to tunnel under the Dome of the Rock or the al Aqsa mosque and destroy it. Probably, if the thing explodes and Israel is once more on the hot-seat accused of crimes against the poor Palestinians, they’ll then come out with their defense. Too late, once again.

Watch this space.

Why do they CAIR about Jack Bauer: We need more voices like this one

A fine piece on the 24-CAIR controversy. Since I first realized what demopathy was (didn’t yet have the word for it) when CAIR mobilized thousands to protest Muslims portrayed as terrorists in the movie True Lies, (1994) but couldn’t mobilize one mouth to protest Muslims behaving as terrorists in the attack on the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Ares the same year, I am particularly interested in their movie-based complaints. If civil society survives, it will be because people like Zuhdi Jasser speak up. (Hat-tip: Lisa Magnas)

Why Do They CAIR about Jack Bauer?
24 is an opportunity for American Muslims to fight the real enemy: Islamism.
January 29, 2007, 5:00 a.m.
By M. Zuhdi Jasser

Yet again, the old, tired “major” American Muslim organizations have come out in full force to object to something unobjectionable. This time, they’re angry about the storyline of 24, the highly popular TV drama on Fox: When the recent premiere episode ended with a terrorist network detonating a nuclear device in a Los Angeles suburb, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced its fear that “this would serve to increase anti-Muslim prejudice in American society.” The show had begun with a depiction of an America gripped in fear after an eleven-week run of suicide bombings, apparently by radical Islamist terror cells, in cities across the country.

The show addresses a real concern. While the U.S. has not been the victim of an attack since 9/11, a vast array of networks have been dismantled around the world — including a plot run out of London that was targeting the U.S. And, since 9/11, there have been a number of successful attacks upon civilian populations in other parts of the globe — in Bali, Istanbul, Spain, London, Egypt, Jordan, and other places.

As an American and as a Muslim, I find 24 to be not only a profoundly engaging program, but one whose portrayal of Muslims in quite fair. In the show, the president’s sister works for a “leading” Muslim civil-rights organization in D.C.; she is portrayed as a protector of constitutional freedoms. The head of this Muslim organization, who is in detention, reports to authorities on prisoners’ terrorism-related conversations that have alarmed him.

Time Magazine on French Fertility: Why the MSM is in Trouble

Time Magazine has a piece on French fertility rates this week that illustrates nicely what’s wrong with the MSM. It is well written, apparently widely informed, lively and touches on lots of different topics, segueing nicely from the diplomatic, via statistics, to the bedroom. But when all is said and published, the article treats the hole issue with a tongue-in-cheek and breezy facts that do not allow the reader to understand any of the weighty significance of the issues it raises. Michel Gaudet has the “other side” of this up-beat coin.

Why France Is Really A Breed Apart

Thursday, Feb. 01, 2007 By JAMES GRAFF

At the beginning of 2006, French prime minister Dominique de Villepin lamented the chorus of commentators gleefully singing dirges for France. A year later, he has his counterexample: in 2006, France pushed past Ireland to become the most fecund nation in the European Union, with an average of two babies per woman. Is there any surer sign that the French aren’t embracing decline so much as they are each other? The Lyons daily Le Progrès was among those expressing congratulations to the women of France. “Bravo for having done this in such a gloomy climate,” wrote its editorialist. “Everyone talks about a France becalmed, aged, in decline — and there you are with your babies, bawling and squalling their denials. Will they ever make enough noise to finally make us optimistic?”

Michael Lerner Weighs in, Disturbingly

I received a circular email from Michael Lerner of Tikkun Magazine with comments on the Rosenfeld controversy, asking me if I would “bring this to the attention of your community and to the media?” It represents more of the “they’re trying to gag us” complaint, with a particularly disturbing dual theme: as the title states: “there is no New Antisemitism” on the one hand, and the not-even implicit threat that not acting as he and his fellow progressives advocate — more concessions from Israel — will really lead to the new antisemitism. I think Michael’s thinking is seriously misguided, so I am fisking his piece below. I hope that Michael will respond.


There is no New Anti-Semitism
by Rabbi Michael Lerner


That’s quite a title. So since 2000, the outburst of virulent hostility to Israel, and beyond that to Jews, especially in Europe, unprecedented since the Holocaust is not “new”? But it does exist, no? Or has Michael been reading The Nation? Presumably we will immediately get evidence supporting the article’s title.


The N.Y. Times reported on January 31 about the most recent attempt by the American Jewish Community to conflate intense criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Alas no. No discussion of on what basis Lerner thinks this new Antisemitism is non-existent; apparently an assertion in the title is enough. Instead we get the opening chords of the claim that bad people are trying to silence criticism of Israel by calling them antisemites. At least Lerner’s concedes that it’s “intense” criticism (apparently his version of Judt’s “harsh” criticism).

This is the issue guys. Just when does “harsh, intense” criticism of Israel become irresponsible, especially when joined to a troubling silence about (or pro-forma denunciations of) Palestinian/Arab/Muslim behavior (suicide terrorism), attitudes (Judeophobia), and beliefs (paranoid conspiracy theories), far more vicious than anything Israel has mustered — including the delirious cutting edge of the new Antisemitism? Let’s address that, please, rather than claim you’re being conflated, smeared, or gagged.

Mush: Timothy Garton Ash Seeks the Center

Timothy Garton Ash tackles the problems of Islamism and the inadequacy of such terms as “multi-culturalism”. He looks for a middle ground, but his plow mostly scratches the surface and turns over little soil.

The demagogic cliches of right and left can only make things worse

Beyond boo-words like multiculturalism, the reality is that young British Muslims are deeply alienated

Timothy Garton Ash
Thursday February 1, 2007
The Guardian

The following correction appeared in the Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications column, Friday February 2 2007

The comment piece below said that a Populus poll commissioned for Policy Exchange showed a majority of British Muslims saying they had more in common with Muslims in other countries than they did with non-Muslims in Britain. In fact this was based on a misreading of one graph from the poll, which showed a majority disagreeing with that statement.

Multiculturalism is under attack. The Daily Mail runs a front page story saying “the doctrine of multiculturalism” has alienated an entire generation of young Muslims. David Cameron delivers a speech describing multiculturalism as one of five “Berlin walls of division” that we must tear down, along with extremism, poverty, uncontrolled immigration and educational apartheid. According to Cameron, Ken Livingstone has been messing up London with this ghastly ism. A conservative thinktank, Policy Exchange, and a Conservative party working group both issue reports describing multiculturalism as part of the problem for which the party claims to be the solution.

So, plainly, multiculturalism is a bad thing of the left, which the right will fight. But apart from being a bad thing, what is it? In a speech last autumn, Cameron gave this answer: “When I say ‘multiculturalism’, let’s be absolutely clear what I’m talking about. I’m not referring to the reality of our ethnically diverse society that we all celebrate and only embittered reactionaries like the BNP object to. I mean the doctrine that seeks to Balkanise people and communities according to race and background.” Well, I’m glad we’ve got that clear. Multiculturalists are people who have a doctrine that leads them to seek to Balkanise Britain – meaning, presumably, to separate into ethnically based communities in a state of violent hostility to each other. Livingstone is the Slobodan Milosevic of Greater London. Readers will instantly recognise in Cameron’s “absolutely clear” definition that oldest of politician’s friends, the straw man. Set him up so as to knock him down.

If I can just suggest an explanation here, Cameron is skipping a step in his logic. The point is not that multi-culturalism seeks to do this — on the contrary, it couldn’t be more desirous of the opposite! — but that the unintentional consequences of its foolish application lead to this result. And in that sense, Ken Livingstone is the balkanizer of London, not because he’s a Milosevic type, but because he hugs that kind of type, especially when they are “people of color,” and takes gratuitous swipes at committed citizens who happen to be that type’s favorite whipping boy. Taking someone else’s straw men to set up your own may “work” as a rhetorical ploy, but I don’t think it helps your readers deal with a difficult problem.

What Matters to the MSM: Who Gets Killed or Who Kills?

Sarah Honig of the Jerusalem Post has an interesting meditation on the death of Yihyeh Abu-Bakra, a two-year old shot dead during the civil war between Hamas and Fatah in Khan Younis in Gaza. The media scarcely reported on the case, the AP’s Sarah El Deeb merely giving a anonymous comment in the course of an article about the violence generally:

In one incident, a 2-year-old boy was fatally shot while traveling in a car in the southern town of Khan Younis, hospital officials said. Hamas and Fatah officials accused each other of firing the deadly shot.

The AFP’s Sakher Abu Al Oun was equally laconic:

Among the victims were a two-year-old child who was caught in the crossfire of a firefight in the south Gaza town of Khan Yunis and a 16-year-old boy killed in Jabaliya, according to medics.

All of which provoked the following meditation on the lad’s sorry fate. (Hat tip SH)

Another Tack: The slaying of Yihyeh Abu-Bakra

Sarah Honig, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 1, 2007

Let’s indulge briefly in a hypothetical case history. Two-year-old Yihyeh Abu-Bakra is shot dead in Gaza. He’s an incidental victim, classic collateral damage. A stray bullet ends his short sojourn on this earth, exceedingly prematurely. The Arab media – not unexpectedly and with suspect instantaneous certitude – proclaim that the fatal projectile was fired by Israelis. This assertion, albeit a tad too immediate, is accepted as gospel around the globe.

Photos of the martyred infant are dramatically splashed over every front page everywhere. What fodder these prove for post-colonial discourse! The free world’s decent and upstanding citizens all know who deserves sympathy. They likewise know who aimed at the wee underdog.

Jewish Hypercritics of Israel Criticized: How Dare You?

The NYT has a discussion of a controversy within the Jewish community about when criticism of Israel not only oversteps the bounds of decency, but rather feeds the current wave of anti-semitism that began in late 2000 and continues to gain momentum. Before discussing the article, which I think misframes the issues in critical ways, I want to make some remarks about what I think is at stake here (using the terminology developed at Second Draft and Augean Stables). The American Jewish Committee, a liberal, mainstream organization which has been as dedicated to defending the rights of others, as it has been of Jews for the last century, and, until quite recently, reflected the Politically-Correct Paradigm PCP1 position (pro-Oslo, pro-dialogue, pro-negotiations), has published an essay that criticizes Jews who, embracing the Post-Colonial Paradigm PCP2 criticize Israel so harshly and categorically that in some cases they have called for the dismantling of the state. In so doing, Rosenfeld argues, they actually feed the anti-Semitic delirium that, since 2000, has grown stronger by the year.

The primary issue at stake in this debate concerns the nature of criticism, more precisely, since we’re talking about Jews criticizing Israel, “self-criticism.” This is one of the most difficult issues to deal with right now for a number of reasons:

  • 1) Jews have a tradition of ferocious self-criticism that goes back to the prophets (actually to the composition of the Torah): when the Assyrian empire conquered the northern regions, or the Babylonians, the southern, the prophetic response was not to castigate the vicious invading imperialists, but to castigate the Israelites for not keeping their bargain with the Lord. Prophetic rhetoric — say calling the Israelites “men of Sodom” — does not offer “impartial appraisals” of the situation, but rather operates as a kind of “whip of shame” to lash the Israelites into returning to the right path. This tradition is evident throughout Jewish history, especially in the lively debates within the rabbinical community, as evidenced in the Talmudic exchanges.
  • 2) The ability to take self-criticism requires an important ability to overcome the emotional dynamics of honor-shame, in particular the prevailing attitude among honor-shame alpha males that a public criticism is an attack on one’s manhood, and, as the rules of those cultures tend to go, one can, even must shed the blood of another for the sake of one’s own honor. The ability to take criticism without violence — and even more, to acknowledge fault publicly — is a key marker of civil society and a free press, and demands a very high level of emotional maturity. In honor shame cultures the instinct is to point the finger and, in extreme cases, demonize the “other” rather than take responsibility.