Monthly Archives: July 2007

The Suicide of Reason

I apologize for the long silence. Buried in revisions of my book. Will post some choice tidbits next week. In the meantime, wanted to leave you all with a strong recommendation. A new book came out this week by Lee Harris, whose earlier one, Civilization and Its Enemies, I use in my honor-shame course.

The new book is, The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam’s Threat to the West.

Brilliant, insightful, well-researched. The man understands our current “civilized” dilemma. A society that acts according to “reason” is extremely rare. And it has difficulty understanding those who don’t.

On Just What Not to Do: The Honor-Shame Logic of Walt-Mearsheimer

I posted a long essay on Kramer’s response to Walt-Mearsheimer, and one of my commenters posted a formulation of what I think represents a fairly standard line of thinking, what we might call the “commoner’s Walt-Mearsheimer,” the simple argument:

Now that the cold war is over, Israel and the Jews have ended up on the wrong side of America’s interest. I am not sure I agree with Kramer. I think it is arguable whether or not Israel is in America’s long term interest. There are over a billion Muslims whose main beef with America is its support for Israel. If the next president came in and announced a U-turn in America’s policy and sacrificed Israel, it would do much to ease the shame in the Arab world, and the move could probably be used to get help with the Iraq situation as well as create a unified front against Iran.

Agreed that this is a legitimate discussion, and deserves — demands — addressing. But let’s think clearly, and not repeat formulas from PCP that fail to understand the dynamic set in motion by Oslo, which now, in less than two decades, has completely transformed the rapports de force that have long characterized the asymmetric warfare between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and more recently have come to characterize the warfare between Islamism and the West.

First, let us consider the axiomatic foundation of the policy reading:

There are over a billion Muslims whose main beef with America is its support for Israel.

What is the evidence for this statement?

I’d say, primarily, it comes from what the Muslims — and here we’re dealing with a wide range, from diplomats to intellectuals to religious leaders — tell us about their grievances, in our languages. But what do they say among themselves? What’s being said in Arabic, rather than in our tongues? Here we need to pay attention to the Israeli situation, to the remarkable overlap and the frightening content of these concentric circles of discourse — Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim.

Once one considers the variable sources of evidence, rather than “stops” at the most obviously “targeted” discourse (i.e., in our language), then one begins to realize that this “official complaint,” may not only be a small fraction of the “real” forces at play, but it may even be a ploy. This latter conclusion certainly comes across in the remarkable revelation offered by Hassan Butts on the pages of the Guardian:

When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network, a series of semi-autonomous British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology, I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy. By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the ‘Blair’s bombs’ line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.

In my terminology, the dupes were doing the work of the demopaths. One could write the major part of the bizarre relationship between “Left” and “Islamism” in the 21st century in terms of this dynamic. If Butt offers us any insight into the forces arrayed against the West, against civil society, then accepting this demopathic ploys — it’s support for Israel, stupid! — as the axiomatic floor upon which one builds one’s “realistic” policy reasoning, would seem to be folly.

Once we’ve accepted this ludicrous misrepresentation, we’re offered a “solution” that actually will strengthen the very forces it pretends to deal with:

If the next President came in and announced a U-turn in America’s policy and sacrificed Israel, it would do much to ease the shame in the Arab world, and the move could probably be used to get help with the Iraq situation as well as create a unified front against Iran.

What we have here is the worst way to think about honor-shame culture. Ironically it represents precisely the kind of thinking encouraged by the ignorance of honor-shame dynamics. The very same people who reject any such discussion because that would be racist, come back with logic like this, logic that returns honor-shame issues to the heart of the discussion, but with the least real understanding of this crucial factor. On the contrary, it just capitulates to the outrageous demands of a self-destructive and immature culture that we soothe its fragile and aggressive sense of honor. This is precisely what not to do.

Timing a Disaster: VD Hanson Fisks the NYT

Victor Davis Hanson takes on a monumentally foolish NYT editorial. Part of what’s so stunning is the apparent belief that we can leave Iraq and our foes there won’t follow us around the world. It’s part of the same error that pervades discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is not about nationalism and it won’t stop at borders: it’s about global Jihad stupid.

The New York Times Surrenders
A monument to defeatism on the editorial page

Victor Davis Hanson
12 July 2007

On July 8, the New York Times ran an historic editorial entitled “The Road Home,” demanding an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. It is rare that an editorial gets almost everything wrong, but “The Road Home” pulls it off. Consider, point by point, its confused—and immoral—defeatism.

1. “It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.”

Rarely in military history has an “orderly” withdrawal followed a theater-sized defeat and the flight of several divisions. Abruptly leaving Iraq would be a logistical and humanitarian catastrophe. And when scenes of carnage begin appearing on TV screens here about latte time, will the Times then call for “humanitarian” action?

2. “Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.”

We’ll get to the war’s “sufficient cause,” but first let’s address the other two charges that the Times levels here against President Bush. Both houses of Congress voted for 23 writs authorizing the war with Iraq—a post-9/11 confirmation of the official policy of regime change in Iraq that President Clinton originated. Supporters of the war included 70 percent of the American public in April 2003; the majority of NATO members; a coalition with more participants than the United Nations alliance had in the Korean War; and a host of politicians and pundits as diverse as Joe Biden, William F. Buckley, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Francis Fukuyama, Kenneth Pollack, Harry Reid, Andrew Sullivan, Thomas Friedman, and George Will.

And there was a Pentagon postwar plan to stabilize the country, but it assumed a decisive defeat and elimination of enemy forces, not a three-week war in which the majority of Baathists and their terrorist allies fled into the shadows to await a more opportune time to reemerge, under quite different rules of engagement.

Toxic Narcissism of the Year Award: Islamic Conference Declares Islamophobia and Criticism of Islam Greatest Terrorism

I know this is a couple of months old, but Joshuapundit just alerted me to its existence, and I couldn’t resist posting on it. Note that the journalist reports the results of the conference without the slightest trace of irony or embarrassment. Now either we’re dealing with people so clueless that they don’t realize what fools they sound like, or, people who think think we’re such fools that if they keep a straight face, we’ll believe them. Come to think of it, that could be a “both… and…”

‘Islamophobia Worst Form of Terrorism’
Siraj Wahab, Arab News

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Nizar ibn Obaid Madani gestures during his meeting with OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in Islamabad on Wednesday. (AN photo by Siraj Wahab)

ISLAMABAD, 17 May 2007 — Foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) yesterday expressed grave concern at the rising tide of discrimination and intolerance against Muslims, especially in Europe and North America. “It is something that has assumed xenophobic proportions,” they said in unison.

Speaking at a special brainstorming session on the sidelines of the 34th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM), the foreign ministers termed Islamophobia the worst form of terrorism and called for practical steps to counter it.

The ministers described Islamophobia as a deliberate defamation of Islam and discrimination and intolerance against Muslims. “This campaign of calumny against Muslims resulted in the publication of the blasphemous cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a Danish newspaper and the issuance of the inflammatory statement by Pope Benedict XVI,” they said. During a speech in Germany last year, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said the Prophet had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things. The Pope’s remarks aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world.

“The increasingly negative political and media discourse targeting Muslims and Islam in the United States and Europe has made things all the more difficult,” the foreign ministers said. “Islamophobia became a source of concern, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but the phenomenon was already there in Western societies in one form or the other,” they pointed out. “It gained further momentum after the Madrid and London bombings. The killing of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004 was used in a wicked manner by certain quarters to stir up a frenzy against Muslims,” the ministers pointed out. Van Gogh had made a controversial film about Muslim culture.

The OIC foreign ministers deplored the misrepresentation in the Western media of Islam and Muslims in the context of terrorism. “The linkage of terrorists and extremists with Islam in a generalized manner is unacceptable,” they said. “This is further inciting negative sentiments and hatred in the West against Muslims,” they said. The ministers also pointed out that whenever the issue of Islamophobia was discussed in international forums, the Western bloc, particularly some members of the European Union, tried to avoid discussing the core issue and instead diverted the attention from their region to the situation of non-Muslims and human rights in the OIC member states.

Like the victims of real terrorism? Probably not. The unhappiness of the Islamic ministers with European Union members is a clear indication that elaborate sycophancy is not enough.

The foreign ministers said prejudices against Islam were not helping the situation. “Because of Islamophobia, millions of Muslims in the Western countries, many of whom were already underprivileged in their societies for a variety of reasons, are further alienated and targeted by hatred and discrimination.”

The selective application of the existing legal frameworks and anti-discrimination and anti-blasphemy laws in Western countries also came in for criticism. “They are being applied in a selective manner when the victims are Muslims,” the ministers said.

The ministers also noted the many praiseworthy initiatives to bring together the West and the Muslim world such as the EU-OIC Forum of 2002, Dialogue Among Civilizations, Alliance of Civilizations and various other interfaith dialogue meetings. “However, it remains a fact that anti-Islamic sentiments are being fanned in the West with the implicit and explicit support of racist anti-immigrant and ultra-right political parties and certain media outlets.”

The ministers agreed that in Europe there was a need to enhance efforts to promote greater understanding and awareness of Islam. “In the Muslim world, endeavors have to be made to dispel misperceptions about the West and to promote democracy, human rights and good governance.”

According to OIC’s European observers, the taking over of the European Union presidency by Slovenia in 2008 will augur well for Muslims. “Because Slovenia has declared that intercultural dialogue will be among the first four priorities of its EU presidency, it has accordingly set up a task force to implement the ‘European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008’ program.” The OIC observers said the Slovenian minister of foreign affairs had already invited the OIC secretary-general to Ljubljana before or during the Slovenian EU presidency to discuss possible joint projects.

At the end of the session it was decided to shortlist reputable Muslim and non-Muslim think tanks, academics and NGOs in the US and UK and other leading European countries for cooperation in monitoring and countering anti-Islam campaigns. The ministers said Muslim think tanks and NGOs in the Western countries should be encouraged and urged to develop closer contacts with their non-Muslim counterparts and to remain engaged in regular contact and dialogue. They felt the international media should be properly cultivated to motivate them to be more responsible in carrying out their responsibilities.

When I was a kid, the anti-honor/shame ditty ran: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” These fellows still live in a world where names others call me are far more serious that your broken bones. I think that qualifies as the most primitive stage of moral thinking according to Lawrence Kohlberg: “What’s in it for me?” The fact that such infantile reflections can take place on the public stage by a collection of diplomats from Islamic nations, represents an indictment of the quality of discussion in the public sphere — not only are they ridiculously self-absorbed, but we, apparently, have difficulty saying, “grow up.”

“We Already Denounced Muslim Terrorism!” CAIR and the Problem with Islam

The term demopathy first arose in the context of the stark contrast between CAIR’s ability to mobilize hundreds of people to protest “True Lies,” for depicting Arabs as unsympathetic terrorists. And yet, only shortly thereafter, Arab terrorists blew up a Jewish Community in Buenos Ares, I don’t remember an apology and certainly not a demonstration. Then I first understood the hypocrisy of the loud demand that we honkeys in the West observe most stringently not only our principles of civil rights, but also our consideration for the feelings of “others,” by people who had no dedication to the principles they invoked to the disadvantage of others. It’s clearly whose ox is geing gored. If it’s yours, says CAIR — if you have to restrain yourself for my sake — then that’s just fine. If it’s mine — I need to restrain myself for your sake — forget it. As I noticed this pattern everywhere, I asked friends and colleagues for a word to describe the phenomenon, and finally Brenda Brasher came up with “demopath.”

The following editorial by Joel Mowbray shows that, if anything, CAIR’s gotten worse. Back in 1982, it was still possible to deny that Muslims didn’t blow up the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Ares. Today? Only the all too numerous conspiracy theorists who flourish among Muslims, including in the West, can have Muslims denying that Muslims are involved in these acts of terrorism. Few things so starkly illustrate the problem with Islam today.

CAIR’s duplicitous ways

July 12, 2007

By Joel Mowbray – While the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been busy attacking syndicated columnist Cal Thomas recently for supposedly “Islamophobic” comments, the media-hungry group did not condemn the foiled terrorist plots in London or the successful one in Glasgow, Scotland.

Though CAIR’s Web site has a video clip of the Chicago chapter director lamenting the events in Britain and the group helped coordinate a St. Louis press conference of Muslim doctors who spoke out against the terrorists, CAIR itself did not condemn the actions of the Islamic terrorists in Britain.

Given that CAIR played a role in promoting its Chicago director and the Muslim doctors, some might wish to give the benefit of the doubt. The organization’s history, however, shows that this artful dodge is simply part of its modus operandi.

CAIR has mastered the art of appearing to oppose terrorism, while at the same time leading the charge against those who seek to thwart it.

A case in point is its curiously neglecting to condemn Britain’s Islamic terrorists, while during the same week blasting as “Islamophobic” Mr. Thomas’ remarks on local radio station WTOP expressing concern about fundamentalists from the “Middle East and South Asia” who are integrating into the broader Muslim society.

In a story for WTOPnews.com, WTOP quoted CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper claiming, “We condemn extremism. We’ve condemned terrorism… We’ve issued dozens of condemnations on dozens of terrorism attacks.”

CAIR has, in fact, condemned what it considers to be extremism and terrorism — when targeted at Muslims. If a Muslim is the victim of a possible hate crime or has been subjected to a religious slur, CAIR is there. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. And the group is well within its rights when it routinely rails against the United States and Israel.

What CAIR does not do, though, is denounce Islamic fundamentalists who promote a paranoid worldview in which America and Israel are the enemies of Islam, achieved by manufacturing mythical massacres that whip their followers into a lather.

They’re Laughing at You, You Dumb Infidels

In an extremely interesting and valuable set of reflections, former Jihadist in Britain Hassan Butt gives us a quick peek at how Jihadis feel about our efforts to appease them with PCP2.

When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network, a series of semi-autonomous British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology, I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy.
By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the ‘Blair’s bombs’ line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.

Could one ask for a better description of the interaction of dupes and demopaths than this? And note, the “progressive” useful idiots who repeat this drivel represent exactly the kind of people who have no self-respect. Isn’t it a violation of every “progressive” principle from which we derive our opposition to going into Iraq, to argue that if you don’t like the foreign policy of the country you’re residing in, you can blow up its civilians in protest?

This behavior is precisely the kind of thing we see in Pallywood. After running a fake injured compatriot past TV cameras provided by Western MSM (Reuters, AP, France2) and putting him into an ambulance supplied by Western institutions (Red Cross, UN), Palestinians walk away clapping their hands, smiling, laughing: “And those imbeciles in the West will run this crap on their news programs.” I imagine that the day Enderlin ran the al Durah story, Talal and his buddies were laughing themselves sick.

Read the rest.

Friedman’s Middle East Rules #5-6

Rule 5: Never lead your story out of Lebanon, Gaza or Iraq with a cease-fire; it will always be over before the next morning’s paper.

This doesn’t need a great deal of commentary. It basically reflects the radically different understanding of what a cease-fire means. Hudna — the Arabic term we translate as ceasefire — comes from the root word meaning “calm.” In Muslim circles it refers to the ten-year ceasefire that Muhammad agreed to with the Quraysh tribe who controlled Mecca. As soon as Muhammad had armed and felt confident enough, he turned a minor infraction into an excuse to break the ceasefire and conquer Mecca. Arafat referred to this Quranic incident in his “Oslo Trojan Horse” speech of 1994.

The history of hudnas in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict shows a basic pattern: Hamas offers them, declares them, unofficially violates them, and then, when Israel retaliates for their persistant violations, the media reports that Israel broke the violation.

It reminds me of when I was a kid, and my sister hit me under the table, and when I finally hit back, my parents yelled at me. “Never hit your sister.” And right my father was. But that’s family; my sisters were playing low stakes games. This is war, and the media, instead of being a responsible parent/observer, are making things much worse.

Rule 6: In the Middle East, the extremists go all the way, and the moderates tend to just go away.

This one is sadder than we can imagine, and deserves a lot of long hard thinking. Generally the pattern is: anyone who deals with Israel, if he is not a dead man, loses all “credibility” in the Arab world. It’s like a reverse Midas touch: anyone whom the Israelis or the West touch, turns to sh*t.

But rather than go after making friends with the likes of Hamas, we need to figure out how to make these folks the power brokers. In other words, if we were to stick to our guns, and work only with people who were genuinely committed to the values of civil society (and stay away from the demopaths), we could make these people power brokers. But that takes having self-respect.

The American Interest: Kramer takes on Walt-Mearsheimer

Martin Kramer’s response to Walt-Mearsheimer. Add your comments; I’ll add mine later.

The American Interest

MARTIN KRAMER

The question of whether Israel is or is not an asset to the United States is one we rarely bother to ask ourselves. Time and again, we see prominent Americans — presidents of the United States at the forefront — emphasizing their special relationship with Israel. In polls of American public opinion, Israel scores very high marks, while sympathy for the Palestinians, never very high, continues to drop. Why should we even ask ourselves whether Israel is an asset or a liability to the United States? Isn’t the answer obvious?

Most supporters of Israel, when pressed to go a bit deeper, will give two prime rationales for why the United States should back Israel. One is a moral obligation to the Jewish people, grounded in the history of Jewish persecution and culminating in the Holocaust. Israel, so this thinking goes, is something the civilized world owes to the Jewish people, having inflicted an unprecedented genocide upon it. This is a potent rationale, but it is not clear why that would make Israel an asset to the United States. If supporting Israel is an obligation, then it could be described as a liability — a burden to be borne. And of course, as time passes, that sense of obligation is bound to diminish.

Another powerful rationale is the fact that Israel is a democracy, even an outpost of democracy, in a benighted part of the world. But the fact is that there are many non-democratic states that have been allies of the United States, and important assets as well. Quite arguably, the Saudi monarchy is an asset to the United States, because it assures the flow of oil at reasonable prices, a key American interest. In contrast, the Palestinian Authority and Iran, which have many more democratic practices than Saudi Arabia, are headaches to the United States, for having empowered the likes of Hamas and Ahmadinejad through elections. So the fact that Israel is a democracy is not proof positive that it is an American asset.

Nevertheless, the Holocaust argument and the democracy argument are more than sufficient for the vast majority of Americans. On this basis alone, they would extend to Israel support, even unqualified support. And there is an important segment of opinion in America, comprising evangelical Christians, who probably do not even need these arguments. Israel is, for them, the manifestation of a divine plan, and they support it as a matter of faith.

But everywhere in the West, there is a sliver of elite opinion that is not satisfied with these rationales. It includes policymakers and analysts, journalists, and academics. By habit and by preference, they have a tendency to view any consensus with skepticism. In their opinion, the American people cannot possibly be wiser than them — after all, look whom they elect — and so they deliberately take a contrary position on issues around which there is broad agreement. In this spirit, many of them view U.S. support for Israel as a prime focal point for skepticism.

In March, two American professors subjected the U.S.-Israel relationship to a skeptic’s examination. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the former from the University of Chicago, the latter from Harvard, published a paper under the title “The Israel Lobby: Israel in U.S. Foreign Policy.” One version appeared in the London Review of Books; a longer, footnoted version was posted on the website of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. The paper caused a firestorm.

Critique from a Listener to the Lars Larson Show: Whose Side am I on?

I was recently on the Lars Larson Show, interviewed about the situation in Gaza. One of the readers had some criticisms which he sent me. I publish them below with my response. First his letter as he wrote it, then my interlinear response.

July 7, 2007
Professor Richard Landes
Boston University
Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Professor Richard Landes;

This is written to comment somewhat critically of your thoughts as expressed on the Lars Larson radio program recently regarding the Palestinian question. The root problem with the Palestinian crisis is America’s creation of the state of Israel out of Palestinian lands in the full flush of U.S. world domination following World War II. The lands did not belong to the United States to give away. And this to this day remains the underlying source of antagonism that animates not only Palestinians but nearly all Arab Muslims. A secondary matter is the power which American Zionist interests hold largely in terms of social propaganda over the American body politic, most obviously in this country’s Middle East foreign policy. In order to maintain the fiction of moral authority of Israel over the Arab world, American Zionists have crafted an entire view of the world that isolates the United States and leads it into its many wars in the region. Since the early 1960s, America has foolishly dedicated its considerable powers to preserving the Jewish state in the Middle East at enormous cost to itself as to the countless millions of Arab Muslims who protest this state of affairs. Frankly speaking, by the direction of your own political dialogue on the Lars Larson radio program, one suspects a similar dedication to the Zionist cause. If so, it would be more objective and sincere that you announce your position unilaterally favoring the Israel side and not speak with words that imply dedication to American national interest.

Here’s my response.

What’s Going on Here?

Please view and comment.

Suicide Anyone? How about them Brits

Steyn has a few choice words on English language problems, based on an important post from Melanie Phillips. It’s hard to get a sharper depiction of how political correctness acts as a form of cultural auto-immune deficiency: you can’t identify the enemy, and you shut down any spontaneous mobilization to defend the body (politic) from its attacks. Solomonia has some equally pertinent remarks on this ridiculous effort to appease the wrong kind of emotions.

Five guys named Mo
The Corner — National Review Online –
By Mark Steyn

If you’re a police commissioner or a government minister, what’s the first thing you should do if a chap with a name such as “Mohammed Asha” or “Muhammad Hanif” turns up in the news in connection with some wacky novelty such as a flaming Jeep Cherokee crashing through the airport concourse?

Britain’s new Prime Minister knew exactly what to do:

    Gordon Brown has banned ministers from using the word ‘Muslim’ in connection with the terrorism crisis… The shake-up is part of a fresh attempt to improve community relations and avoid offending Muslims, adopting a more ‘consensual’ tone than existed under Tony Blair.

So did the new Home Secretary [Jacqui Smith] :

    Any attempt to identify a murderous ideology with a great faith such as Islam is wrong, and needs to be denied.

In less than six years this has become a time-honored tradition. After the 2005 Tube bombings, the first reaction of Brian Paddick, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was to declare that “Islam and terrorism don’t go together.” After the 2006 Toronto plot to behead the Prime Minister, the Canadian Intelligence Service’s assistant director of operations, Luc Portelance, announced that “it is important to know that this operation in no way reflects negatively on any specific community, or ethnocultural group in Canada.”

In the old days, these coppers would have been looking for the modus operandi, patterns of behavior. But now every little incident anywhere on the planet apparently testifies merely to the glorious mosaic of our multicultural societies. Or as the Associated Press puts it, “Diverse Group Allegedly In British Plot“:

    LONDON – They had diverse backgrounds, coming from countries around the globe, but all shared youth and worked in medicine…

Were they really that “diverse”? Hey, who ya gonna believe? The Scotland Yard diversity outreach coordinator or your lyin’ eyes?

Now I find the comment by Jacqui Smith to be the most breathtaking. The “great religion” is beyond any criticism… and any attempt to point out the obvious “must be denied.” How many ways is that a violation of everything that made England a great source of culture — courage, human values, critical intelligence, empiricism?

A former student of mine now working on a thesis at the Joint Military Intelligence College in Washington took out a book from the National Defense Intelligence College Library by Sania Hamady, Temperament and Character of the Arabs. In it he found a warning, neatly hand-written in pencil, admonishing fellow readers to beware of the book’s content. It states,

    Note to readers, (1992). This book heavily overgeneralizes [sic] about a culture marked by diversity. Contrasting books worth reading include works by [Margaret] Nydell, [possibly Hisham] Sharabi, and E[dward] Said.

Evidently another critic of Huntington, Patai and other “generalists”, this individual felt compelled to notify future students that this work does not conform to the accepted discourse, and they turn the page at their own peril.

With political correctness dominating discourse even in our Intelligence Research, we are in serious trouble. Sania Hamady is a Lebanese Christian Arab, and her discussion, however it might bruise our politically correct discourse, nonetheless raises important issues about Arab and Muslim character. Here’s what a “progressive” has to say about this book:

    The work referred to is “The Temperament and Character of the Arabs,” the only book by Sania Hamady, published in 1960 (in English, by Twayne Publishers). None of the experts on the Middle East whom I asked have ever heard of her, and almost the only mentions of her book (in Hebrew) on the Internet are on sites of the Israeli right. The Hamady book is peculiar, to put it mildly. Put less mildly, Hamady’s book is chockful of prejudices, devoid of any proof and is on the brink of racism.

    Bukay quotes selectively the literary sources cited by Hamady on the frequency of the lie in the Arab society, on the notion that the Arab society is a “society of shame” in contrast to the Christian “guilt society.” (This contrast, according to Dr. Ron Kuzar, from the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Haifa, was popular among conservative circles after World War II, and today is common mainly in racist circles). It is also clear to Hamady why the Arabs have no sense of guilt. “The Muslims deny original sin in any form,” writes the Lebanese-born Hamady, who is described in the book as “an adviser for social development in the Protestant Service Bureau.”In short, the Muslims are simply not Christians.

Now part of the problem is that Hamady has some unpleasant things to say about the Arabs, like:

    “the Arab is preoccupied with his past. The pleasant memories of its glory serve as a refuge from the painful reality of the present. (p. 217).

But it’s not that Hamady is unsympathetic — clearly there are things she doesn’t like, after all she’s both Christian and educated, and the style of “honor-shame culture” with its alpha-male agonistics, is not her cup of tea. On the contrary, she can be exceptionally respectful of Arab feelings.

    Pride is one of the main elements on which Arab individualism rests… It is important to pay tribute to it and to avoid offending it. The Arab is very touchy and his self-esteem is easily bruised. It is hard for him to be objective about himself or to accept calmly someone else’s criticism of him… Facts should not be persented to him nakedly; they should be masked so as to avoid any molestation of his inner self, which should be protected.

Now you may want to call that racist, but that’s only because you don’t think that kind of behavior acceptable, so to accuse a culture of that level of immaturity is a generalized condemnation. What I find fascinating is that the current PC discourse about the Arabs — that Hamady, Patai, de Atkins are racists and Saïd et al. are “humanists” — is actually an implementation of Hamady’s advice: Don’t upset them, don’t criticize them, don’t bruise their extremely sensitive pride. Isn’t that precisely what the British establishment is doing right now?

And isn’t it time we stopped being condescending racists, treating them as children even as we loudly proclaim our respect for them?

The conflict right now divides along two mutually exclusive lines. The hawks say, “let’s get tough, only force will work.” The doves say, “let’s be nice, only talk will work.” How about some verbal confrontations? How about every Western newspaper publishing the Danish Cartoons (with the three fake ones identified as psy-ops incitement) so that Muslims the world over are embarrased by the revolting behavior of their co-religionists, rather than we and decent Muslims are subject to the temper tantrum of the touchiest and most violent of the lot? How about the Pope saying “you’ve got to be kidding!” when the Muslims violently insist he apologize for calling them violent? How about the Brits saying, “We take this level of self-criticism as part and parcel of a decent and tolerant society. If you can’t stand the heat, a) get out of the kitchen, and b) don’t expect us to take your criticism of us seriously until you can take the heat?

Maybe then we won’t look like Dhimmi in the eyes of people who come from an honor-shame culture which has us blinking constantly before their angry glare.

Failure of PCP: Ya’alon Nails It

Moshe Ya’alon, former chief of Staff, gets it. Would that the leaders of the West (including Olmert) did.

Ya’alon: Land for peace concept failed

Etgar Lefkovits, THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 4, 2007
The concept of land for peace is a proven failure in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and any future withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank will create a ‘Hamastan’ there too, former Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday.

The former military chief said that Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip and the creation of “the first Jihadist Arab entity” on Israel’s doorstep last month was “the last nail on the coffin” in a string of faulty conceptions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which have been the earmark of Israeli and Western policy for decades.

“The strengthening of Hamas after the Israeli pullout from Gaza and the Hamas takeover of Gaza necessitate a renewed examination of Israeli and international conceptions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, to my mind, are no longer relevant,” Ya’alon said in an address organized by the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem research institute, on the ramifications of the Hamas takeover of Gaza.

In a succinct address which tore at the most basic premises of Middle East peacemaking, Ya’alon said that the faulty conceptions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict included the notions that the Palestinians wanted – or were able – to establish an independent state on the 1967 borders, that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the creation of two states on the 1967 borders, that land for peace should be the basis for any peace agreement, that peace would bring security, and that the key to stability in the Middle East was the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Also known as the Politically-Correct Paradigm (PCP).

He argued that the violent Palestinian rejection of the peace offer put forward to them at Camp David seven years ago, which would have awarded them with a Palestinian state on upwards of 95 percent of the West Bank, and the refusal of both Hamas and the more moderate Fatah to recognize the existence of a Jewish state, negated the very essence of Israeli and international policymaking on the conflict – that the Palestinians want an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel on the 1967 borders.

We should have all realized what the Palestinian leadership – Hamas and Fatah — were saying with the “no” of Camp David in the summer of 2000 and the violence of the “al Aksa Intifada” in the fall. But we didn’t want to recognize that the positive-sum logic of land for peace wouldn’t work. I remember at the height of the suicide bombing, I noted to a colleague that it was amazing how little outrage there was among progressives at such morally depraved behavior. “What choice do they have?” he answered without missing a beat. “What about Oslo?” I responded. “Oh, yeah, there was Oslo…”

“We are talking about [a Palestinian Authority which is] a gang authority and not a political authority,” he said.

Ya’alon said that stabilization in the region did not hinge on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as many Western leaders argue, but on the defeat of Islamic Jihadism, led by the Iranian regime.

Not only will an Israeli concession not reduce the threat- it will increase it,” he said.

“Israeli concessions today will impede not only Israel’s interests and those of the West, but of moderate Arab regimes in the region,” he added.

To which we need to add Europe. A Israeli withdrawal from the territories, or an American withdrawal from Iraq will endanger Europeans above all. They are vulnerable, and their radicalized Muslim youth increasingly aggressive. Throwing Israel into the maw of Jihadi hatreds — which is the natural extension of current European policy (minus Sarkozy) — will only fan the consuming flames.

The former military chief, who is expected to be a future top contender in the political arena, said that Israel must treat the Hamas-run Gaza Strip as an “enemy entity,” and should “disengage” from being the provider of water, electricity, and goods to the volatile coastal strip where 1.4 million Palestinians live.

At the same time, he opined that Israel should give the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority in the West Bank a chance to establish autonomy, while Israel would be in charge of security in the area.

Ya’alon said that any IDF pullout from the West Bank would lead to the creation of a Hamastan there, which, he said, would threaten both Israel and Jordan.

He added that he opposed the stationing of Jordanian – or any foreign – troops in the West Bank, calling it a fruitless idea that has been ineffective in the past.

Ya’alon’s tenure as Israel’s top military officer from 2002-2005 was marked by both a successful military crackdown on Palestinian terrorism, and his very overt falling out with then prime minister Ariel Sharon over his opposition to the premier’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

I personally don’t think Fatah is a good bet. What else can Israel do? Ironically, it’s the outsiders who can play a key role here: insist on dismantling the teaching of hatred, insist on shutting down the terror attacks in the West Bank, and then the Israelis can slowly loosen their headlock.

But that would take will. Maybe Sarkozy has that kind of vision and determination.

There’s still a huge amount we can do, if only we start challenging the Arabs and Muslims on the terrain of values. They have no right to demand what they do; and we have the right to demand a great deal more than we do. And we should do it.

Hamas Freed Johnston

Expect Western media — BBC in the lead — to write fawning pieces on Hamas’ dedication to protecting the press and their ability to “get the job done.”

Sources: Gaza BBC reporter freed
British journalist held hostage in Gaza reportedly freed. Witness says Johnston ‘looks fine and well’
Reuters
Latest Update: 07.04.07, 04:11 / Israel News

Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist held hostage in the Gaza Strip since March, was handed over by his Islamist captors to ruling Hamas officials on Wednesday, Palestinian sources close to negotiations for his release said.

The sources told Reuters they saw the 45-year-old Briton being taken into the care of officials from the Hamas movement, which seized full control of Gaza three weeks ago.

“He is sitting with his colleagues from the BBC office in Gaza,” one of the witnesses said. “He is talking to them and he looks fine and well.”

In London, no immediate comment was available from the BBC or the British Foreign Office.

One source involved in the effort to free Johnston said the journalist may join Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for a news conference before being taken to British diplomats for a journey home that would involve him leaving the Gaza Strip for Israel.

Johnston, the only Western correspondent working full-time in the troubled coastal enclave, went missing on March 12 when his car was found abandoned.

His captors later declared themselves to be the Army of Islam, an al-Qaeda-inspired group with links to one of Gaza’s powerful clans.

They issued Web videos showing Johnston and seeking the release of Islamists held prisoner by Britain and other states. Most recently, after Hamas officials threatened to free him by force from the clan’s stronghold, Johnston was shown wearing a suicide belt with the warning he would die if that happened.

Friedman’s Middle East Rules #4

Mideast rules to live by – Thomas Friedman
International Herald Tribune



Rule 4: In the Middle East, never take a concession, except out of the mouth of the person doing the conceding. If I had a dollar for every time someone agreed to recognize Israel on behalf of Yasser Arafat, I could paper my walls.

This one is a variant of Rule 1. If you can’t believe what’s said in English vs. Arabic, and what’s said in private vs. in public, you definitely can’t trust what’s said in someone else’s name. And the key bone that sticks in the throat of virtually every Arab public figure is the formal, public recognition of Israel in Arabic. (Exceptions have a short life expectancy.)

The sooner we realize this, the sooner we stop accepting prevarication and proxy concessions, the sooner we move on. On one level, this entire madness comes from the Arab inability to accept that Jews who should be subject (Dhimmi) can live, as their national anthem holds it “as a free people in our land.” And yet, when all is said and done, this is the price of modernity — to give up the religious imperialism of theocracy, to learn to accept the autonomy and independence of others, to cease defining your superiority — your honor — by your ability to lord it over — humiliate — subjects.

It’s a price the world community has a right to ask of the Arab and Muslim world, indeed must demand of them. Such a move would not only benefit all non-Muslims, it would benefit the vast majority of Muslims who live in a world of prime-dividers, where the elite ruthlessly exploit them.

And if the Muslims refuse to move into the modern world, the global community has a right to treat them with the suspicion and distance that such regressive behavior deserves. We must cease to be dupes of Muslim demopathic discourse.

Of course, that would mean that we appreciate the value of our own culture and its hard-won values of freedom and mutual respect. And in our world of multi-culturalism, that’s apparently a real doozy.

They Wanted Women’s Body Parts: Hitchens on the London Bombing

Hitchens brings out some disturbing details of the London bombing plot, links them to a larger problem with Islamism and pounds away at our averting our eyes in the face of such evil.

Don’t Mince WordsThe London car-bomb plot was designed to kill women.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, July 2, 2007, at 1:11 PM ET

Why on earth do people keep saying, “There but for the grace of God …”? If matters had been very slightly different over the past weekend, the streets of London and the airport check-in area in Glasgow, Scotland, would have been strewn with charred body parts. And this would have been, according to the would-be perpetrators, because of the grace of God. Whatever our own private theology or theodicy, we might at least agree to take this vile belief seriously.

Instead, almost every other conceivable explanation was canvassed. The June 30 New York Times report managed to quote three people, one of whom attributed the aborted atrocity in London to Tony Blair’s foreign policy; one of whom (a New Zealand diplomat, at that) felt “surprisingly all right about it”; and one of whom, described as “a Briton of Indian descent,” was worried that “if I walk up that road, they’re going to suspect me.” The “they” there was clearly the British authorities, rather than the Muslim gangsters who have declared open season on all Hindus as well as all Jews, Christians, secularists, and other kuffar or infidel filth.

On the following day, July 1, the same newspaper informed us that Britain contained a “disenfranchised South Asian population.” How this was true was never explained. There are several Muslim parliamentarians in both houses, often allowed to make the most absurdly inflammatory and euphemistic statements where acts of criminal violence are concerned, as well as several districts in which the Islamic vote keeps candidates of all parties uneasily aware of what may and may not be said. True, the Muslim extremist groups boycott elections and denounce democracy itself as profane, but this does not really count as disenfranchisement.

One might add that there is a large population of non-Muslim “South Asians” who do not behave in this manner. Disenfranchisement is not the cause of terrorism, otherwise the world, filled as it is and has been for millennia, would be a cesspool of terrorism.

Only at the tail end of the coverage was it admitted that a car bomb might have been parked outside a club in Piccadilly because it was “ladies night” and that this explosion might have been designed to lure people into to the street, the better to be burned and shredded by the succeeding explosion from the second car-borne cargo of gasoline and nails. Since we have known since 2004 that a near-identical attack on a club called the Ministry of Sound was proposed in just these terms, on the grounds that dead “slags” or “sluts” would be regretted by nobody, a certain amount of trouble might have been saved by assuming the obvious. The murderers did not just want body parts in general but female body parts in particular.

I suppose that some people might want to shy away from this conclusion for whatever reason, but they cannot have been among the viewers of British Channel 4′s recent Undercover Mosque, or among those who watched Sunday’s report from Christiane Amanpour on CNN’s Special Investigations Unit. On these shows, the British Muslim fanatics came right out with their program. Straight into the camera, leading figures like Anjem Choudary spoke of their love for Osama Bin Laden and their explicit rejection of any definition of Islam as a religion of peace. On tape or in person, mullahs in prominent British mosques called for the killing of Indians and Jews.

Liberal reluctance to confront this sheer horror is the result, I think, of a deep reticence about some furtive concept of “race.”
It is subconsciously assumed that a critique of political Islam is an attack on people with brown skins. One notes in passing that any such concession implicitly denies or negates Islam’s claim to be a universal religion. Indeed, some of its own exponents certainly do speak as if they think of it as a tribal property. And, at any rate, in practice, so it is. The fascistic subculture that has taken root in Britain and that lives by violence and hatred is composed of two main elements. One is a refugee phenomenon, made up of shady exiles from the Middle East and Asia who are exploiting London’s traditional hospitality, and one is the projection of an immigrant group that has its origins in a particularly backward and reactionary part of Pakistan.

To the shame-faced white-liberal refusal to confront these facts, one might counterpose a few observations. The first is that we were warned for years of the danger, by Britons also of Asian descent such as Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali, and Salman Rushdie. They knew what the village mullahs looked like and sounded like, and they said as much. Not long ago, I was introduced to Nadeem Aslam, whose book Maps for Lost Lovers is highly recommended.

He understands the awful price of arranged marriages, dowry, veiling, and the other means by which the feudal arrangements of rural Pakistan have been transplanted to parts of London and Yorkshire. “In some families in my street,” he writes to me, “the grandparents, parents, and the children are all first cousins—it’s been going on for generations and so the effects of the inbreeding are quite pronounced by now.” By his estimate and others, a minority of no more than 11 percent is responsible for more than 70 percent of the birth defects in Yorkshire. When a leading socialist member of Parliament, Ann Cryer, drew attention to this appalling state of affairs in her own constituency, she was promptly accused of—well, you can guess what she was accused of. The dumb word Islamophobia, uncritically employed by Christiane Amanpour in her otherwise powerful documentary, was the least of it. Meanwhile, an extreme self-destructive clannishness, which is itself “phobic” in respect to all outsiders, becomes the constituency for the preachings of a cult of death. I mention this because, if there is an “ethnic” dimension to the Islamist question, then in this case at least it is the responsibility of the Islamists themselves.

The most noticeable thing about all theocracies is their sexual repression and their directly related determination to exert absolute control over women
. In Britain, in the 21st century, there are now honor killings, forced marriages, clerically mandated wife-beatings, incest in all but name, and the adoption of apparel for females that one cannot be sure is chosen by them but which is claimed as an issue of (of all things) free expression. This would be bad enough on its own and if it were confined to the Muslim “community” alone. But, of course, such a toxin cannot be confined, and the votaries of theocracy now claim the God-given right to slaughter females at random for nothing more than their perceived immodesty. The least we can do, confronted by such radical evil, is to look it in the eye (something it strives to avoid) and call it by its right name. For a start, it is the female victims of this tyranny who are “disenfranchised,” while something rather worse than “disenfranchisement” awaits those who dare to disagree.

Look it in the eye, call it what it is, and denounce it to the heavens. The only way such cultures of death thrive is because we, in some strange version of modesty, look away from such horrors. This is not about race, but about culture, even if the other side makes it about race. And it’s time to assert our culture’s remarkable respect for tolerance by showing profound disapproval of the vicious intolerance that has us in its cross-hairs.

They’re prisoners of their world of honor and shame. We have a great deal of power over them even without the use of violence. We just — so far — refuse to use it. And worse, we attack those who do.

The Liberation of a Movement’s Death: Hazem Saghieh Discusses New Possibilities

Hazem Saghieh discusses how the death of the sacred cow of Palestinian liberation can liberate the Arabs from being held in thrall to that scapegoating narrative. But no sooner does he acknowledge the past problem, than he gets very obscure. Keeping their eye on this profoundly disturbing ball is not going to be easy for the Arab world, so long steeped in their scapegoating conspiracy narrative. (Hat tip: Frédéric Gandus)

The Palestinian Cause and the Cause of Palestinians
Hazem Saghieh Al-Hayat – 24/06/07//

Perhaps the gravest thing that happened in Gaza, as many observers noticed, is that the “sacred cause” and the “primary Arab cause” is no longer a concern.

This result exceeds the impacts of the 1967 defeat, raising substantial questions about our minds, societies and peoples, and even about our individuals and their daily lives. Since 1948, we have shaded ourselves with that cause; judged the world on the grounds of its stances on it, and judged our regimes and thoughts on its standards. Our rulers practice despotism under its name, and aspirants reach their political, prestigious, cultural or financial ambitions by climbing its ladder. Civil wars and epical collapses find their justifications in it, and sinners are forgiven merely because they show an inclination to it.

Scientific and technical revolutions have blown from behind our heads, and there have been economic shifts to which we paid no attention because we were so preoccupied with the “cause.”

However, that was a big lie. Let us imagine a historian who decided – after a while – to write about the stage we live in today, and let us borrow from him a paragraph which he can’t escape writing: “After less than a year from what the Lebanese Hezbollah considered a victory over Israel and a victory for the Palestinian cause, this cause is dying in Gaza. It is now required – after scores of years of calling for Arab unity – to unite the two parts of Palestine, as well as uniting Iraqis and the Lebanese.”

This means that a certain approach is responsible for what happened and happens, pointing out the limits of absurdity and rashness which are costly not only to peoples and communities but also to mind and meaning. Perhaps, we may say – in this context – that our life without a “sacred cause” has a liberating effect, just as people are liberated when an unchangeable, undoubted, unaccountable state of things collapses. Moreover, this may lead to a certain emancipation from our “mother” cause and our entrance in the realm of maturity where children – after becoming adults – can run their own affairs without firm, binding and predetermined references.

From here on, the article deteriorates.

It was wished that the Palestinian cause would have withered away after being resolved justly. Nevertheless, such a solution has been impossible because of the Americans and Israelis; yes, and also because of us, Palestinians and Arabs alike. Now we are before a potential opportunity although it has been produced by a terrible and bloody context.

I guess it’s an improvement to get “even-handed” about this, and the “yes, and also because of us” signals a willingness to take some of the responsibility. It would be nice to reconsider a bit more profoundly just how much the use of the Palestinian cause as an excuse for so many Arab sins, has skewed their view of Israel and the US. But I guess that’s still not on the agenda.

However, we know that this opportunity – in this situation we are witnessing – is very theoretical, and that fragmentation in Gaza and Iraq turns all the gold we hold in our grip into dust. This may turn the atrophy of the Palestinian cause into promoting hostility against the Palestinians, especially because of the Syrian exploitation of some of them and others as well, not to mention the ethnic conflicts in the region.

If this happens, things will be very grave and appalling. The end of the Palestinian cause which – in other circumstances – would have created opportunities for the concerned communities does not mean the end of the cause of Palestinians, the victims of Israel, the victims of us, Arabs, and the victims of the Palestinian cause in particular.

Exclusion of the revenge-related, retaliatory and racial logic toward them, as well as the exclusion of converting them into more impoverished and marginalized categories is an indisputable humane and moral condition. It is also an element of stability of Arab nation-states; this is only if supposing that such stability would emerge.

If I understand — I’m assuming that the lack of clarity is a function of the translation at least as much as of the original text, just to be even handed — he’s saying we shouldn’t turn on the Palestinians and start making them our scapegoat. Agreed. The really sad thing here is, were the Palestinians not used by the Arabs as their sacrificial offering on the altar of a scapegoating narrative that targeted Israel — i.e., were they allowed to pursue positive-sum solutions with the Israelis — these folks would be not marginalized and impoverished, but the most sophisticated and well-off Arabs in the world.

In the same sense, we can say that only the establishment of such stable and confident nation-states can meet the conditions of thinking of a just solution for the Palestinians and their causes. We should notice here that the question of Palestinians, as well as Kurds, labor market, water and security… etc. is of the kind that crosses national borders, which naturally allows for large-scale overlapping between wills and interests of neighboring countries, and raises countless sensitivities and fears.

Does this include such sensitive things as recognizing that one of the cross-border entities is Israel, and that their “wills and interests” might need to be honored rather than vilified?

All this is an additional reason for the consolidation of Arab nation-states which are motivated by self-confidence and satisfaction about the future, with which these states will solve the issues that must be solved.

The cause of Palestinians tops these issues, especially after the sun of the Palestinian cause has set.

I’m not sure what the author meant, nor what his readers derive from this. On one level (my hopeful projection?) this is a call to get on with life and start dealing with things like Israelis and Kurds in a positive-sum way. The obscure and allusive language may reflect the inability of Arabs to say such things explicitly… yet, and this excursion in exploring the Arab world when it’s free of the standard excuse for not growing up, is already huge. Sophisticated Arab readers, accustomed to reading between the lines, may well see this; while others, accustomed to screaming bloody murder when they are offended, may not have enough to seize upon here so that they can take it to “the street.”

Who knows what this all means?

BBC Needs Bias Anonymous: Damian Thompson Nails It

Damian Thompson has a short sharp takedown of the BBC’s latest expedition in self-representation — a report on the importance of impartiality.

The BBC can’t kick its addiction to bias

By Damian Thompson
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 19/06/2007

When it comes to accusations of Left-liberal bias, the BBC is a bit like an alcoholic. People have been sniggering about his drinking for years; he pretends not to notice. There have been complaints; he brushes them aside. Throwing up at that wedding reception? Someone spiked the punch.

Propositioning the boss’s wife? That was a joke. But, deep down, the drunk knows he has a problem. More to the point, he knows that everyone else knows. So, nervously, he’s prepared to admit that he might be a little too fond of the sauce.

Yesterday, the BBC Trust published From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel, an 81-page report with the subtitle Safeguarding Impartiality in the 21st century.

That’s a bit like the late Boris Yeltsin talking about safeguarding his sobriety. It is, however, the first time that the corporation has attempted to address the question, so we should read the report carefully.

The first reaction is to sigh with relief. The report acknowledges that “mainstream opinion” was wrong to attack monetarism, to belittle Euro-sceptics as small-minded and blinkered, and to assume that multi-culturalism would solve the problems of immigration.

Justin Webb, the BBC’s Washington correspondent, is quoted as saying that “in the tone of what we say about America, we have a tendency to scorn and deride.” (Would “we” in this instance mean Matt Frei, I wonder?) Roger Mosey, former head of BBC television news, says he has “some sympathies with what Janet Daley says generally about a liberal/pinko agenda”.

Stephen Whittle, a former controller of the BBC’s editorial policy, says that its journalists work within a straitjacket of unchallenged liberal assumptions.

You’re telling me. A few years ago, I wrote a column called “Beebwatch” for this newspaper. That involved listening to hours of BBC output every day. It was a maddening experience. I simply could not believe the ease with which representatives of Lefty pressure groups commandeered segments of Woman’s Hour and Today, their soprano nagging accompanied by pizzicato clucks from the friendly interviewer.

I was outraged and, like many outraged people, became a raging bore on the subject. After the column finished, I worried whether I might have exaggerated the problem.

But then I met Robin Aitken, a BBC reporter for 25 years, who reckons that during his time on Today, The Money Programme and Breakfast News he couldn’t have formed a cricket team from Tory sympathisers at the BBC.

His book Can We Trust the BBC? argues that the Left-liberal culture at White City is basically intact. Aitken, admittedly, is a Conservative, so perhaps he would say that. But Rod Liddle, former editor of Today, definitely isn’t, and in The Spectator last month he listed the groups that the BBC thinks it’s OK to be horrible about: evangelical Christians, the Countryside Alliance, multi-national corporations, supporters of Israel.

Ah yes, Israel. One of the few BBC journalists criticised in yesterday’s report was Barbara Plett, who burst into tears when Yasser Arafat was airlifted out of his compound and then boasted about it in an article. She was caught red-handed, in other words; the incident became famous and so the report produces her as a burnt offering.

In contrast, we are told only that “a BBC News presenter” was unwise to write an article in the Daily Mirror entitled “Why the World Needs Hillary”. That means you, Gavin Esler, though I had to use Google to find out.

Which brings us to the real reason this document has appeared. Google, YouTube, Al-Jazeera, Fox News: all these outlets provide competition for the BBC. The report acknowledges as much, referring in typical Beeb style to the “alternative vision” of Al-Jazeera, but to Fox’s “avowedly opinionated” stance. Suddenly, the BBC finds that its reputation for impartiality has become its unique selling point, the only thing standing between it and privatisation.

Time to panic. For years, the corporation has ignored the little voice in its head that says impartiality went out of the window with Margaret Thatcher; it could afford to, because its critics had no redress and few media outlets.

But now anyone can mock the BBC on a blog or YouTube, or watch an excellent internet channel, 18 Doughty Street, founded by centre-Right entrepreneurs: the BBC report calls it “a harbinger of partisan television”, but the truth is that, because it operates outside an ideological straitjacket, it is less partisan than, say, Radio 4.

This report is a step in the right direction. But, as anyone who has ever dealt with an alcoholic will confirm, it is best not to get your hopes up. Nothing will happen without a desire to change; and I don’t think Auntie is ready to come off the sauce.

Maybe if our tippler were to let people see just how many empty bottles of there are in the basement closet — as in, release the Balen Report on Middle East reporting bias — there might be just a bit more likelihood that it will take the necessary steps to get on the wagon. Of course, since arrogance lies at the heart of much of the BBC’s attitude, it will take a modesty that only belonging to BNA (Biased News Anonymous) could hope to foster. The very fact that the BBC’s report is entitled “Safeguarding Impartiality” — as if this were something the BBC had and needed to preserve — strikes me as not very reassuring.

Friedman’s Middle East Rules #3

Mideast rules to live by – Thomas Friedman
International Herald Tribune



Rule 3: If you can’t explain something to Middle Easterners with a conspiracy theory, then don’t try to explain it at all ­ they won’t believe it.

I’ve repeatedly discussed the prominence of conspiracy theory in the Arab world as both a function of a) explaining away humiliation and impotence (3 million Israelis didn’t defeat 300 million Arabs, America did it), and b) projecting ill-will. This latter, more fundamental mechanism operates according to the basic rules of prime-divider society: since everyone works according to the political axiom “rule or be ruled,” no one can make a generous offer that he really means. It must be a ruse. Ditto with any “positive-sum” solution. As Arafat said about Camp David: “It was a trap.” And from his zero-sum universe, where any Israeli “win” is a loss for the Arabs, it was indeed a trap.

A remarkably self-critical post by the Jordanian blogger Omar, illustrates one aspect of this tendency to assume conspiratorial motives behind all action. He writes:

Arabs often see themselves as being more aware than others in what matters politics, they like to think of themselves as not being fooled like other nations and that they know why everything happens. In general, they have this thought of that most people around the globe are being fooled either by their governments or by their misleading media tools, while they (Arabs) are not.

What he means here — I think — is that Arabs assume people’s nasty motives: no one is in good faith; anytime someone claims altruistic motives, they are manipulating. Since all conspiracy theories are based on the assumption of (really vicious) malevolence on the “other side,” to see conspiracies everywhere is to assume malevolence in everyone. And as I’ve suggested, that paranoia often represents a projection of one’s own state of mind.

Hence, Westerners have the pitiful tendency to believe people who claim honest intent, and therefore, they are, to the Arab way of thinking, suckers. As a result, they can look down on us, as Omar describes here, for being so credulous. The irony of this self-perception (which, to his credit, Omar criticizes), is that to the Westerner, there is no example of a culture more credulous, more willing to believe the most outlandish nonsense than the Arabs. As Joanne commented:

Darwish has GOT to be kidding. Omar, too.

Arabs weren’t being fooled by their own media. By media that promote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? By media that promote the blood libel, that say that Israel tried to make Arabs infertile with poisoned chewing gum and that Israel is developing a special bomb that targets Arab genes (!)?

Of course, the Arabs always know better. They were always more savvy. Unlike naïve Westerners, they KNOW that the Jews control the US and British governments. They KNOW that the US government caused 9/11. They KNOW that 4,000 Jews stayed home from Twin Towers on 9/11, having been warned away. They KNOW that the Jews control the Western media. They’re so savvy, they KNOW that the Jews want to extend Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates.

Add to that, the predictable accusations in the Muslim media that Israel and the United States are behind the Gaza meltdown. Cui bono? Who benefits? If the meltdown hurts the Palestinians and benefits the Americans and Israelis, they must have done it:

The political [policy] of the conspirators in Washington and Tel-Aviv, [aimed at] spreading destruction and undermining the unity of the Arab societies in these three countries, as well as in other [countries] that they are able to influence with the help of their agents within them – is termed ‘creative chaos’…
Al-Thawra (Syria), June 18, 2007

Paradoxically, believing that everything stems from base motives (one definition of a cynic), actually makes people more susceptible to manipulation, more likely to believe nonsense as long as it’s phrased in ways that make sense. Hence Friedman’s deft formulation of the problem.

And, if I can reflect for a moment on the nature of the Israeli soul, we come to the great tragedy of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Israelis, even the most hard-bitten and bitter, are almost to a person desirous of a peaceful solution that benefits everyone. The sabra (cactus pear), hard and prickly on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside, is not the Israeli term for a native born by accident. That’s why the Israeli peace camp is so large, varied, and Pavlovian in its desire to believe Palestinian good will in the hopes that things will go better, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

And yet, in the most colossal illustration of the Moebius Strip of cognitive egocentrism, nothing the Israelis do can penetrate the hermetically sealed mistrust of the shrewd Arabs. So rather than economic cooperation — which should solve terrorism, no? — the Arabs see chewing gum that causes sterility and shampoo that makes you bald.

And rather than outsiders who can intervene in this tragic cognitive deadlock that threatens mutual destruction, the “progressives” come in to show their “solidarity,” armed with their Post-colonial paradigm, and confirm every fevered detail of Arab paranoia.

Darwish on Gaza: A Poet Looks into the Abyss

Mahmoud Darwish, noted Palestinian poet, reacts to the devastating Gaza revelations with some remarkable, scorching self-criticism. I append comments, understanding that I am working with a translation and may well misinterpret.

MEMRI Special Dispatch-Palestinian Authority/Reform Project
June 29, 2007
No. 1639

On June 17, 2007, renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish published his reflections on the internecine fighting in Gaza in the London daily Al-Hayat. Darwish is known both for his literary output and for his political activism; he was a member of the PLO Central Committee from 1987 until 1993, when he resigned in protest of the Oslo Accords.

The following are excerpts from Al-Hayat (London), June 17, 2007.


Leading Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish on the Events in Gaza

“Did we have to fall from towering heights and see our blood on our hands, in order to grasp that we are not angels, as we used to believe? Did we also have to expose all our faults before everybody, so that our true nature should not remain virginal? How much did we lie when we said: ‘We are an exception.’ That you believe yourself is worse than to lie to another. To be friendly with those who hate us and cruel to those who love us – that is the baseness of one who aggrandizes himself and the arrogance of the lowly.

Interesting on a whole series of levels. Let’s take them one at a time:

    Did we have to fall from towering heights and see our blood on our hands, in order to grasp that we are not angels, as we used to believe?

Apparently, yes. The blood was on your hands a long time ago, in Lebanon, for example. Only the wildest fantasies — like your poetry — could have you thinking you were angels, and only, apparently, the most spectacular failures could get you to reconsider.

    Did we also have to expose all our faults before everybody, so that our true nature should not remain virginal?

Apparently so. If it hadn’t been in public, a global shame, you could have continued to lie to yourselves, to pretend that you were virginal. And just what does it mean to say: “so that our true nature should not remain virginal?” You never were, you were born as a sacrifice to hide Arab shame. Is this an expression of the honor-shame attitude that holds that as long as others don’t know, it hasn’t happened?

    How much did we lie when we said: ‘We are an exception.’ That you believe yourself is worse than to lie to another. To be friendly with those who hate us and cruel to those who love us – that is the baseness of one who aggrandizes himself and the arrogance of the lowly.

This is strong stuff. It also underlines the (non-racist, non-condescending) observation that Palestinians/Arabs know about lies and lying to oneself. They are not unaware of these issues, and when confronted with a stark situation, are capable of searing self-criticism. I’d love to know who Darwish has in mind when he refers to those who hate and love us. It does remind me of my exchange with Omar, whose blog at the time had an opening quote from an Arab proverb about how one sign of a fool is his inability to distinguish friend from foe. What I was trying to say to Omar was, “you have been fools for believing that your leaders — Arab and Palestinian — are your friends.” Is this what Darwish means? But then to whom have the Palestinians been cruel who love them?