Monthly Archives: May 2007

MSM Attention Deficit Disorder: If Israel Isn’t to Blame, Why Bother Discussing It?

Calev Ben-David has an excellent comment on the lack of the MSM’s interest in what goes on in the Middle East unless Israel’s involved. This was particularly noticeable last summer, when the the press flooded into Lebanon for the war, but left as soon as the Israelis left. Obviously, one expects more reporters in wartime… but no one but the bloggers, like Michael Totten and Charles Malik, hung around to see what was happening on the ground?

Snap Judgment: Media attention deficit disorder

Calev Ben-David, THE JERUSALEM POST May. 10, 2007
Ever hear of Anwar al-Bunni? It wouldn’t be surprising if you hadn’t. Syria’s top civil-rights activist has received precious little media attention over the years – even after being sentenced to five years imprisonment last month for promoting a declaration that called on Damascus to improve ties with neighboring Lebanon and respect its independence.

Although his conviction was dutifully protested by the US State Department, several European nations and Amnesty International, Bunni’s case still didn’t attract much journalistic notice. (It might have helped had Condoleezza Rice mentioned his case in her encounter with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem last week, but apparently the Bush administration’s policy of pushing democracy throughout the Arab world has taken a back seat to realpolitik diplomacy aimed at salvaging its Iraq policy.)

One reason Bunni’s case has gotten such little coverage is undoubtedly the success Bashar Assad has had in intimidating foreign journalists and keeping them from properly covering his nation’s internal affairs. Although the Syrian dictator made some noises in his early days of rule about reforming his country’s notoriously rigid restrictions on free speech, he has in reality just followed his father’s policy of severely restricting any genuine open expression by his subjects.

Even if Syria had a less repressive regime, though, one wonders if someone like Bunni would ever get the foreign press exposure he deserves. The international media, so interested in just about every detail of the Israeli-Arab conflict, demonstrates remarkably less interest when a story involves only the latter. What Israelis (or Americans in Iraq, for that matter) do to Arabs makes headlines; what Arabs do to Arabs, well, maybe AP will do a brief story on it.

Jihadis and “Revolutionaries” in Europe: Deadly Bedfellows

This piece, which appears at the Counterterrorism blog, strikes me as short on details and somewhat superficial. But it does address an issue of primary importance, well worth keeping on our radar screens. If anyone has references to further material on the subject, please cite it.

Left-wing Extremists and Salafi-Jihadists in Europe: Brothers in Arms?
By Assaf Moghadam, July 15, 2007

In recent months, a confluence of several events fueled speculation among some German officials that left-wing extremism in Germany is on the rise and may even turn to violence reminiscent of the terrorism practiced by the Red Army Faction (RAF) in decades past. Although Germany’s Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Schäuble, today rejected rumors of a renewal of left-wing terrorism in Germany as baseless, one still wonders whether Europe may witness a reincarnation of left-wing terrorism in the near future. Is it possible that left-wing groups and Salafi-Jihadist networks in Europe may cooperate in the future? To that end, it is worthwhile to examine some of the similarities between left-wing extremism rampant in Germany during the late 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s on the one hand, and the Salafi-Jihadist movement on the other.

Several events provided impetus to the renewed debate surrounding left-wing extremism in Germany. On March 25, 57-year old Brigitte Mohnhaupt, a member of the “second generation” of the RAF, was released after spending the last 24 years in a German prison for her role in the killing of nine people. A former colleague of hers from the RAF, Christian Klar, asked for an early release, only to be rejected by President Horst Köhler after the latter found him to be unrepentant. German fear that left-wing extremists are planning major disruptions at the forthcoming summit of the G-8 in Heiligendamm heightened concerns of a left-wing terrorist resurgence. In early May, the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz, VS) of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Johannes Schmalzl, noted that the “old spirit of the RAF” was wandering across the “leftist scene.”

Revealing Remarks about BBC in Gaza

I’ve added a new category: Intimidation of the MSM. I am convinced that this issues goes to the heart of a great deal of what’s wrong — not only are the media systematically intimidated in covering the Palestinians (and beyond that, but to a lesser extent, the Muslims around the world), but they won’t admit it. Like detectives, we have to look for the traces. The case of kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston offers good material to ponder. (Hat tip: LGF)

Again the BBC has an article about the (fairly feeble) attempts of Gazans to protest his kidnapping. As one Restaurant owner Mohammed Zomlot, who is from Gaza, said:

…the Palestinian community in the UK wanted to support Mr Johnston. “I feel that we are the people who really should care about Gaza, and who should care about Alan,” he said. “Because Alan, at the end of the day, he’s one of the people who cares about us and he works for us, and that’s why we have a responsibility to protect him, and we have to ask for his immediate release.”

Now there are multiple observations we can derive from such a statement.

  • Johnston was not a “balanced” reporter, but an advocate. “He worked for us.” One can well imagine that Johnston’s reporting reflected, articulated, translated the “Palestinian victim narrative” very faithfully in order to have Gazans describe him so. No foreign reporter in Israel would allow himself to fawn over the Israeli narrative the way Alan did over the Palestinian.

Nature’s Myths: Daphne Tree

Just received this picture from a friend (Hat tip: YK). It bears the most astonishing resemblance to the myth of Apollo and Daphne.

daphne real tree

Is this natural growth?

Compare artistic genius with nature’s:

bernini daphne

The MSM and Iraq: Dangerous Consequences to Inaccurate Coverage

Richard North has an important post up entitled: Who Will Give the True Picture? In it he ruminates on a wide range of issues concerning coverage of the Iraq war, both from the American and British perspectives. Among others, he cites an important article by an American Major in the US Army, Gerd Schroeder, who writes about the extensive and available news of positive developments in Iraq which the MSM, if they mention it, spin negatively. Concludes Schroeder:

Accurate, meaningful information that spans the full spectrum of subjects, including good news as well as bad is critical to getting a true picture of the war. If the information is slanted too far one way as it is now, the consequence will not just be defeat of the US, but could lead to mass murder and instability throughout the Middle East, Africa and the world at large. That does not mean that it will happen, but an American defeat would have a chilling effect on our allies and embolden our enemies.

Eloquently, but not sufficiently strongly put. Allow me to rephrase: British and American withdrawal from Iraq will register on the screens of Jihadis the world over as a stupendous victory as in the response of Ayman Zawahiri, as important — if not more — that the victory of Bin Laden and the Mujihaddin in Afghanistan in 1989, which has launched the current wave of global Jihad. Global Jihad Warming will shoot up several degrees, tepid supporters will become more fervent, fervent supporters emboldened to new aggressions. And after Iraq, which will descend into an apocalyptic bloodbath, the major victim will be Europe, with its restive and increasingly aggressive Muslim populations, and their latest non-ethnic (i.e. honkey) recruits. As Henri Desroche said about millennial movements, they “take” like forest fires, and once they do, one cannot “put them out,” only hope to direct them, to have them burn out with as little damage as possible. While our presence in Iraq makes those fires burn brighter (and our media play a key role in that), our departure would be the equivalent of pouring oil on precisely those areas which permit the flames to jump to other forest land.

A Vibrant Civil Society Goes to Civil War

The Minister of the Interior of the Hamas-Fatah “unity government”, Hani Kawasmeh (an independent), has resigned for the second time over the lack of cooperation he has gotten in implementing his plan to restore order in the Gaza Strip. Behind this resignation lies the perdurance of Palestinian addiction to violence, the karma Arafat’s “security systems, and behind that, of an honor-shame culture that knows no other way to solve its problems than “the barrel of a gun.”

PA Interior Minister resigns as four die in renewed factional fighting
Given the other sources I quote, the text of this article will appear in bold.

By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and Agencies

Warring Hamas and Fatah factions have agreed to a truce in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian government spokesman said Monday night, after a day of clashes in which four people were killed and the cabinet minister responsible for internal security resigned.

Hours later, Palestinian witnesses reported unidentified gunmen had abducted a lecturer from the Islamic University, which is largely known to support Hamas. There was no immediate comment from the Palestinian factions.

Officials said following talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, who has since taken over the duties of Palestinian Interior Minister Hani Kawasmeh, leaders from both sides agreed all gunmen aside from the Palestinian police would be removed from Gaza streets.

“Fatah and Hamas leaders have promised that both sides will end all forms of tensions, end armed displays, remove gunmen and checkpoints from the streets and swap hostages,” Palestinian cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad said.

The fighting continued for a second day after erupting Sunday in clashes that left five people dead. The fighting, sparked by tensions over who controls the Palestinian security forces, is the first since the two rival organizations agreed to form a unity government in February.

The Monday violence left at least four people dead, including three members of Fatah and a truck driver hit by a stray bullet. With Gaza City’s streets largely deserted, rival forces took up positions on rooftops and gunmen in black ski masks fanned out across the area, setting up checkpoints and stopping cars.

The situation looks like it does in so many parts of the world where tribal warrior clans with modern weapons take over public space — Afghanistan, Somolia, Lebanon in the 1970s, etc. To some extent this can be attributed to the lost opportunity of the years since 1993 when, with the Oslo process, the Palestinians had a chance to build the institutions of a civil society in the territory from which Israel withdrew. Obviously, the permanent militarization of the society — indoctrination to hatred and war (“resistance”) — contributed to the fact that every time Israel granted Palestinians autonomy, they used it to increase, not decrease their belligerence.

But an equally significant source of this failure is to be found among the proliferation of NGOs from the West who came to contribute to the development of a Palestinian democracy, organizations with “pacifist” agendas like International Solidarity Movement and well-intentioned “progressives” like Rachel Corrie who thought of (or presented) the Palestinians as gentle people who engaged in violence against Israel only out of desperation. These (in many cases earnest) do-gooders apparently found that currying favor with the Palestinians by affirming their grievances against the Israeli “occupiers” and remaining silent about the indoctrination of hatred and the immorality of suicide terrorism “worked” best for their goals. What we now see is how the failure of their Post-Colonial, Progressive Paradigm to understand the roots of the problem actually ended up reinforcing the strength of the Honor-Shame Jihad that really does make this conflict eternal.

One of the Palestinian “human rights” NGOs which claims to go back to the mid-1970s, published an article in 2005, Palestinian Civil Society’s Role in Advocating Adherence to International Law, which it abstracted as follows:

    It is well-known that Palestine has a vibrant civil society, with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on such varied issues as education, health, human rights, the environment, gender, youth, culture, and labour. In the 26 years since Al-Haq was founded as the first human rights NGO in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), the number of NGOs has multiplied, and they play an important role in providing services, raising awareness, challenging the occupation, and ultimately, in developing the foundation for a Palestinian state adhering to democracy and rule of law.

The article goes on to enumerate all the ways that Al Haq used the advocacy tools of civil society to attack the Israelis. Maybe if it had tackled (the far more difficult, painful and inflexible) problem of Palestinian sources of human rights violations. How painful it must be — if there’s an ounce of self-criticism among the Palestinian Human Rights community — to realize that “challenging the occupation” took so much more precedence over things like gender and (real) education, that democracy is about as far distant a prospect as one can imagine. “It is well-known that Palestine has a vibrant civil society…” Well known to whom? To the NGO community that demonizes Israel? To the academics who define civil society by the number of NGOs rather than the commitments to civic values? To the people who believe the nonsense that the media and the “visitors” to Palestine report?

EU proposes monitoring radical mosques: We are waking up…

European security officials have decided to monitor radical mosques. I guess a civil society has to be burned before it will infringe on people’s rights to privacy. The question is, how badly burned before it responds… even mildly? Hat tip: LGF

EU proposes monitoring radical mosques

By COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press Writer Sat May 12, 4:30 PM ET

VENICE, Italy – Security officials from Europe’s largest countries backed a plan Saturday to profile mosques on the continent and identify radical Islamic clerics who raise the threat of homegrown terrorism.

The project, to be finished by the fall, will focus on the roles of imams, their training, their ability to speak in the local language and their sources of funding, EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini told a news conference after a meeting on terrorism.

Italian Interior Minister Guiliano Amato said Europe had extensive experience with the “misuse of mosques, which instead of being places of worship are used for other ends.

I guess that depends on your definition of worship, no? Yelling Allahu Akhbar as you drive a 747 into an office building could be considered worship by some Muslims, no?

“This is bringing about a situation that involves all of our countries and involves the possibility of attacks and developing of networks that use one country to prepare an attack in another,” Amato said.

The transit attacks in Madrid and London — along with several thwarted terror plots — have raised concerns across Europe about the susceptibility of disaffected young Muslims to the messages of extremist clerics.

British police have said the bombers in the July 2005 London suicide attacks listened to the sermons of Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical cleric who was sentenced last year to seven years in prison for inciting followers to kill non-Muslims.

Britain also recently ordered the deportation of a Jordanian-born cleric, Abu Qatada, accusing him of links to terrorism and being a threat to national security. Abu Qatada is appealing.

Adel Smith, a well-known Muslim activist in Italy, said mosques in Italy are already extensively monitored and called the EU plan discriminatory.

“I think this is nonsense, I think mosques have been well monitored for some years,” he said in a telephone interview. “It is a form of religious discrimination.”

It’s unlikely they’ve been “well monitored” for years. And it is discrimination, but not prejudice. It’s based on painful experience.

Frattini emphasized the need of deeper dialogue with the Islamic communities “to avoid sending messages that incite hate and violence.”

This is an interesting remark: The reluctance of most Muslims to engage in any meaningful dialogue — you can come to the mosque and learn about Islam, they will not come to the Church or Synagogue to learn about your religion — is fairly well known by those liberal organizations dedicated to dialogue and looking to start one with Muslims. This doesn’t mean dialogues don’t happen, but they’re difficult to set in motion and they rarely “go” anywhere.

But now, when the West starts to get suspicious, Muslims want deeper dialogue. I’m in favor. Let’s start talking about the meaning of Dar al Harb and the formal position of the Muslims in my community on that topic. But let’s not engage in a dialogue where, unless I make you happy, you’re going to get hateful and violent. It is up to Muslims to control their violence and hatred, not up to us to appease them lest they get violent.

Separately, the security officials from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland also pledged to work with African nations to interrupt a new cocaine route from Colombia across Africa into Europe.

“They have created bases in Europe and we need to have our counter-bases,” Amato said, noting that the Spaniards have seen an influx of cocaine in the south and east of their country coming from beyond the traditional Atlantic route.

The officials proposed setting up drug-fighting bases in Portugal to monitor smuggling by sea and in Gibraltar to watch land routes.

Good luck to them. As LGF put it, we could use this in the US as well. And if it leads the Muslims to demand more dialogue, let’s do it… but on the terms of a civil discussion about hard matters, not a polite discussion aimed at placating aggression.

Final Thoughts on the Finkielkraut Debate

Final Thoughts on the discussion around Finkielkraut’s essay.

History and Its Role in Evaluating the Conflict

Much of this discussion dealt with the past, even the distant past. As a historian, I obviously think the past matters. But let me suggest some criteria for determining whether something from the past deserves our consideration. Above all, if the present still contains the clear marks of this past, then we must take it into account. This does not mean that we have to accede to the “memory” or what the guardians of that memory claim. It means we have to evaluate it.

For example, Jewish memories to a previous and culture-defining experience in this land, that took place over the last 3000 years, deserves to be evaluated. Is there independent evidence for this historical claim? Were the Israelites and Jews present millennia ago? Was that presence part of the kind of self-determination that we — as modern liberal Westerners like Jeff B — so prize? How was that memory carried to the present — under what conditions and in which ways was the memory of and attachment to the land carried over the intervening millennia?

Similarly for the Palestinians. Out of the hundreds of millions of refugees created during and in the aftermath of the second world war, the Arabs who fled Israel are remarkable in the sharpness of their collective memory and demand for a return to their land. Virtually no refugees from this period maintain their identity of refugees into a second (much less, now, a third) generation. How did this specifically “Palestinian” identity take shape and get passed on among this population? Who fostered it and how?

Thus, I would argue both identities — narratives if you will — deserve to be heard. In that, I am definitely post-modern in my openness. But they are not equal narratives in that they must be submitted to rigorous criticism. What is the evidence for Palestinian claims to descend from the Canaanites? Is there any evidence from the third millennium BCE? Is this connection corroborated or contradicted by the evidence that Arab presence comes from a imperial/colonial conquest that literally obliterated all but the most tenacious earlier cultures (Jewish and Christian)? We don’t say, “Oh, they both claim to go back millennia,” and then leave it with an agnostic, even-handed shrug.

Similarly, how did the Palestinians remember their past catastrophe and diasporic event? Was their identity built around what united them in a commitment to a culture that would and could survive the loss of (the illusion of) self-determination? Or was it build primarily around a teaching of grievance, a negative identity built around the accusation of a crime and the passionate hatred of the criminal? On what is their claim to the land based: on their desire to live free? or their desire for revenge?

Another historical issue: What do we make of the reason why the Arabs are the majority in the land? Is this just a given of history (as it seems to be for Jeff B who seems to think Occam’s razor slices this issue off)? Or is this 15 century old history a relevant variable. Those who adhere to the HJP argue that this history deserves close attention because it still lives in the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims throughout the area — they are still profoundly attached to the social, religious and cultural contours of an imperial colonial system in which they dominate, and much of their anger and hatred derives from the frustration of this need to dominate (women, minorities, non-Muslim dhimmi, heretics, dissidents, Beta males). For those who wish to forget history, the cognitive egocentrism of PCP makes sense: they are like us; they want freedom like us; they are willing to live and let live with their neighbors like us. For those with any sense of the millennium and a half of Arab dominion in this area, the power of the very imperial impulse — libido dominandi — that, according to Jeff B, any moral human in the 21st century must instinctively oppose, continues to motivate much if not all Arab and Muslim behavior towards Israel and the West.

Finally, when assessing the claims of people to want autonomy, self-determination, to live in dignity — the progressive ideal — I think one of the most critical clues to the authenticity of the claims lies in how the leadership who articulate both the identity and the claims treat the people they claim to represent. Indeed, the very mark of a civil society comes from the ability of the elite to empower and hold themselves accountable to their commoners. If the leadership consistently treats their own people’s lives with contempt, immiserates them, makes choices that prolong their suffering rather than ameliorates their condition, then I think it’s up to us to suspect their claims… to consider the possibility that their passions derive not from their stated intentions, but from other, less legitimate (by progressive standards) sources.

Finkielkraut’s Analysis of the Left’s Fatal Attraction for the Palestinian Cause

As for Finkielkraut’s essay, I think that even if he only partially answers it, he raises a fundamental question. Why would the “Left” make adherence to the Palestinian cause a virtual shibboleth of adherence, and this specifically when the Palestinians had turned to perhaps the most morally revolting tactic of recruiting and sending out children to be suicide terrorists? Why, when on every scale of progressive values — social work, human rights, no death penalty, freedom of the opinion, emancipation of women, environmental concerns — the Israelis rank far higher than the Palestinians/Arabs, do leftists show such exceptional attachment to one of the ugliest moral cultures on the planet?

Here I’d like to offer a two-part explanation. First, we need to explain why the Left in both countries compromised by their cooperation with the Nazis — continental Europe — and in countries that consistently resisted — England, the USA, Canada — should be united in a policy that Finkielkraut attributes in large part to Holocaust guilt. He does this, primarily by pointing out how central to the anti-Zionist discourse the invocation of the Holocaust:

“An excruciating memorial highway,” writes Alain Brossat, “leads directly from Auschwitz to Jerusalem via Deir Yassin, Hebron, Beirut, and Shatila.” Nothing demonstrates the relationship between the universality of the Palestinian cause and the genocide of the Jews more clearly than the directness of this highway, and the correlative definition of state Zionism as that which converts the “capital of victimhood” into the “capital of power and violence.”

It is the astonishing and ludicrous baptizing of Jerusalem as the “capital of power and violence” when places like Sudan, Iraq and Algeria bathe in real blood, suggests the symbolic importance of that “move.” In order to play its role in the imaginative universe of the progressive moral thinker, Jerusalem has to be the “capital” of everything that’s bad, especially now that it’s in the hands of the people who suffered the most from “everything that’s bad,” namely the Jews at the hands of genocidal Nazis. It’s a way of exercising some kind of imaginative control over the moral universe. On the one hand, it affirms the sad observation that “no sooner does a victim become capable, but he turns into a victimizer,” and on the other, it specifically permits particular vituperation against the people who should most have resisted the call of “power and violence”… the Jews.

But the move is at once inconsistent and dishonest. Even if empowered victims do consistently turn into victimizers, they do so at variable rates and with variable intensity. French revolutionaries became first terrorists then imperialists within a decade of their initial liberation (1789-99). Communists in Russia and China turned from liberating to devouring their own people — to the tune of over a hundred million between the two of them — within years of their revolutions. And in the case of Palestinian “revolutionaries,” there is not even the pretence to treating the “other” fairly or with respect. They make it explicitly clear that their intention is to subject the Jews who survive their victory massacre according to an age-old formula of Dhimmitude. So the move from a) to b), from bemoaning the sad tendency of man to speak of fairness only when he’s weak, to preferring the Palestinians over the Israelis is doubly dishonest.

Under conditions of threat far more serious and existential than that faced by either the Chinese or Russian people, the Israelis have sustained a people’s democracy for half a century longer than any earlier “liberation” movement that took power through violence. The treatment of Palestinians which the “progressive left” so bitterly denounces today — checkpoints everywhere, the “apartheid” wall, the closing of the territories to Palestinian labor — do not date from the early “occupation,” but to the period after the second Intifada. It was a long time coming; and no matter how bad it might be — this is a war-zone, let’s not forget — it’s better than the Arabs treat their own people. So to make Israel the emblem of this moral failure rather than appreciate how, under extremely difficult conditions, Israel has resisted the call of totalitarianism and terror better than any other nation/liberation movement in her position, suggests a serious historical deficiency on the part of the “Left” that deserves attention.

Furthermore, it seems completely counterindicated to then turn and idolize the Palestinians, who show every sign of representing the worst in human nature, the burning rage to take vengeance, the eagerness to demonize scapegoats rather than self-criticize, to turn the violence and subjection around against the “oppressor.”

The virulence of “progressive” criticism of the Zionists — comparing them readily to Nazis and accusing them of genocide — strikes me as an expression of moral Schadenfreude. That is to say, the Left takes a particularly intense pleasure in being able to attack and demean Israeli morality. Indeed, the desire — need? — to so assault Israel morally seems so powerful that nothing will stand in its way. To acknowledge historical and contemporary information that robs one of this pleasure is more than most seem able to resist. I suspect that some of the frustration that commentators experienced in their debate with Jeff B derives from his impervious attitude toward the evidence they proferred. What seems important to them cannot make a dent in the libido accusandi that self-proclaimed “progessives,” enemies of imperialism, feel.

So what’s going on? My explanation runs as follows.

The “Left”‘s animus towards Israel is not a direct result of Holocaust guilt. It is the result of moral competitiveness. Because it turns out that if anything in history illustrates the rapidity with which a liberation movement turns into an oppressor, the Left offers the worst and most terrifying examples. In comparison with the behavior of other “leftist” movements of the 20th century — the communist revolutions, the experiments in communal living, the ability to self-criticize — the Zionists stand out as the most faithful to the progressive principles that put them into power, the most resistant to the intoxication of power. Every excuse that the Left proffers for its icons — Robespierrians, Soviets, Maoists, Cubans, Salvadorans — focuses on the threat to the revolution. Repression was necessary; paranoia understandable. By those standards, the Zionists, for whom both the revolution and the people were at risk of annihilation, had every reason and excuse to go totalitarian and imperialist.

But they didn’t. They have resisted the siren call of totalitarian paranoia and imperial conquest for almost 6 decades now, a record that no other leftist revolution can match, or even approach. What do they get for their accomplishment? The praises of the left — finally a revolution we can be proud of, one that sustained freedom and democracy even in the most dire dangers?

No. Quite the contrary. In order to avoid the embarrassing comparison, one that might call for a serious level of self-criticism and moral modesty on the part of the non-Zionist “left,” they prefer to go into high moral dudgeon, shrilly denouncing the Zionists as a “right-wing” imperialist, colonialist movement. And they systematically abuse and manipulate the poor leftist Zionists who, addicted as they are to prophetic rhetoric and self criticism, cannot take enough responsibility for the world’s ills on their own broad shoulders.

And in so doing, the “Left” engage in precisely the kind of bad faith that marks the greatest failure of the Western Left in the 2oth century — their tireless apology for the moral monsters their own ideology had spawned — Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. It is this, not the Holocaust, that drives “progressive” rage against Israel. Only with this righteous (and simplistic) indignation can the Left continue to pose as the moral cutting edge of humanity — their apparent raison d’être. And it is with this indignation that the Left not only fails to live up to its progressive values — including the one they so demand from Israelis, self-criticism — but unleashes the most regressive, genuinely oppressive, imperialist forces in the world. We view, therein, one of the most appalling cases of the “narcissism of small differences” that has so plagued leftist politics from its earliest stages.

As for Holocaust guilt, the Nazi crime with its terrifyingly wide range of collaborators and sympathizers and indifferents, casts its shadow over all subsequent history. The appeal of assaulting Israel to those who feel conscious or unconscious guilt for their own or their culture’s terrible failure to oppose it — Finkielkraut’s explanation — gives this Leftist moral vendetta with the Zionists a broader, even a world-wide appeal. It makes it possible to jump from their own envious brooding into a wider market. And as a result, the Left reproduces the very “sin” they so wish to deny. Once again they apologize for, justify, conceal, and ultimately encourage the death cults that they presumably oppose with every fibre of their moral being.

To paraphrase Eliyahu eloquently-put farewell comment to Jeff B: “If anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools, then anti-Zionism is the anti-imperialism of fools.” A folly we can little afford these days.

Alas for everyone!

The Finkielkraut Debate: Jeff B vs. alia

While I was gone, an excellent and sustained debate occurred around my last posting, an essay by Alain Finkielkraut on the Left’s “Chosen People,” the Palestinians. Most of the comments found the article interesting and even compelling; one, Jeff B found it, or at least parts, offensive. In the process a number of commenters — Eliyahu, Lynne T., Michael B., Sophie, Cynic, Joanne, Chevalier de St. George, Abu Nudnik — tried to respond the Jeff B’s arguments. The result was an extensive discussion of a number of topics, primary among them, the question of imperialism — Zionist and Arab. I was both pleased and impressed by the level of the discussion, and thank all the participants for their patience, erudition, serious thought, and endurance. This is the kind of discusssion I’m proud to have at my blog.

I offer below some responses, largely to Jeff B, whose comments are most at variance with my own interpretations of the problem.

Finkielkraut remarks:

To today’s humanists, this definition is gratifying. For if the extermination of the Jews is perpetuated through the Jewish oppression of Palestinians, then the inveterate blamers turn out to be blameworthy themselves. And if those toward whom we behaved shamefully are now behaving shamefully themselves, then there is no more need to feel ashamed. Put differently, if the eye watching Cain is also the eye of Cain, then Cain has no more need of a bad conscience. He can rest easy. In short, the Palestinian cause has provided a humanity weary of apologizing for having abandoned six million Jews to their deaths the unhoped-for opportunity to relieve itself of the burden of repentance. The malicious indignation, the enthusiastic contempt, and the hardly surprising use of economic terminology certainly lend credence to this explanation.

To which Jeff B responds:

According to Finkelkraut, progressive condemnation of Israel revolves around guilt over the Jewish Holocaust. Perhaps. But perhaps there is another source of guilt that drives progressives, particularly progressives in former colonial powers. For centuries the European nations held a large fraction of the earth’s population in virtual serfdom, ruthlessly exploiting their resources and denying them the most basic of human rights and freedoms. Tens of millions died, hundreds of millions suffered to keep Europeans prosperous and powerful decade after decade. From Mexico to Morocco to South Africa to India to Vietnam the Europeans actively and cruelly suppressed the desire of the colonial peoples for self-determination. Perhaps a less arrogant, less self-absorbed person than Finkelkraut could look beyond his own group’s recent tragedy and see that progressives are motivated by a much older, much more universal guilt. Perhaps he would see that colonialism in the twentieth century, no matter how democratic, no matter how much the colonizers have suffered, can not be accepted.

Now I think this gets at the core of a variety of issues. Language aside (“arrogant… self-absorbed…”) Jeff’s rejection of Finkielkraut articulates the standard “progressive” justification for their hostility to Israel, the imperialist, colonialist aggressor. As a numerous comments pointed out, comparing European and Israeli “imperialism” is counter-factual to the point of absurdity. While European colonialism was indeed brutal, and led to the deaths of tens of millions of natives, sacrificed to the economic advantage of the conquerors — presumably the reason for Jeff B and others’ moral indignation — those characteristics contrast dramatically with the Zionist presence in the Middle East which occurred not through conquest followed by settlement but, on the contrary, occurred through purchase of property, reclaiming of wasteland, and led to a rapid growth of the indigenous population, a widespread rise in the economic well-being of everyone involved, and, until the declaration of war on the nascent Jewish state, neither violence nor dispossession of Jews against Arabs. Jeff responded to the critique with a reiteration of his position. (I’m sticking here with the subject of Holocaust guilt vs. anti-imperialism as a motivator for progressive support for the Palestinians.)

Sand Storm: Symbolic of…?

I’ll be posting again soon, including a long one on the Finkielkraut debate. In the meantime, here’s a photo of the sandstorm that just hit the Israeli Negev from Sinai at a speed of about 60 kph (40 mph). These photos were taken from an altitude of 8,000 ft. the sand wall was about 4,000 ft high moving from the west to the east. (Hattip: Eviathar ben Zedeff)

sand storm 1

Symbol of the oncoming assault of the West by Islamism? Symbol of an impressive-seeming power which nonetheless passes with minimal damage primarily caused to those who do not heed the warnings? Awesome demonstration of the wonders of nature? Your opinion is as good as mine.

sand storm 2