Walt-Mearsheimer on Osama, Israel and the USA: MSM is the Key to Inverting the Story

A close reading of Walt-Mearsheimer reveals that the MSM play a critical role in their “realist” perceptions. One might even argue that Walt-Measheimer’s thesis represents the best single illustration of the impact of Pallywood on our ability to perceive the world around us and make decisions based on those perceptions. Here they argue that Bin Laden is deeply moved in his hatred of the USA by our support for Israel, despite how cruel the Israelis treat the Palestinians. As those who have seen Icon of Hatred know, the footage of Muhammad al Durah played a key role in Bin Laden’s recruiting video.

As an introduction to Walt-Mearsheimer’s comments on Bin Laden, Israel and the USA, let me offer the reader some material on Osama and Al Durah from my upcoming book on millennialism:

    When Osama bin Laden produced a recruiting video in the months after the Intifada, he gave particular attention to the footage of Muhammad’s death. He exploited the footage of a defenseless child “cut down by the Jews” to delegitimize all the Arab regimes who, in their cowardice, do nothing to take vengeance. Against a backdrop of images of the Jamal and Muhammad al Durah, someone reads a well-known poem:

    Die in vain, my little one, Muhammad,
    In vain your little age melted away
    Let every leader be the ransom for your eyes
    His share in the war is condemnation and accusation
    Let every coward be the ransom for your eyes
    From a distance of thousand miles he warns
    O, boy, died by the hands of the Jews,
    Don’t call upon us since we are the same as the Jews.
    (A poem written by Dr. Ghazi al-Qusaybi, the Saudi ambassador to Britain and later the Saudi Minister of Education. (!) Note: The Arabic text is quoted many times on the internet, with variations (exact text of the recording).

    Perhaps inspired by Bin Laden’s call to vengeance of the “Jews,” Pakistani militants gave Al Durah’s image a central role in the first cyberspace Jihadi execution. The Daniel Pearl “execution video” announced the international Jihad of radical Islam against both Jews and journalists, and gave birth to a new genre that marks the 21st century.

    Within the montage, shots of Mohammed and Jamal are given a sort of starring role: After Pearl makes his final statement in the confession portion – ‘my father is a Jew; my mother is a Jew; I am a Jew” – there is a cut to Mohammed and father huddling together. Seconds before Pearl is laid on the ground and hands begin to saw at his throat with long knives, a still shot of Jamal al-Dura clasping his dying son flashes on the screen. After Pearl’s detached head is exhibited, hanging from something that allows it to twist slowly in the air, there is a long crawl over a black screen informing the viewer that “scenes like this will be repeated” unless the United States stops supporting Israel and its “massacres of children. (Gutmann, The Other War, p. 42.)

    These videos also recruit. By targeting Pearl as a Jew, the perpetrators at once fulfilled the apocalyptic hadith of killing Jews, and gave the signal for others to follow suit. Under the aegis of al Durah, the message went out that at last, the time had come.

    Osama bin Laden, invoking al Durah, claimed: “It is as if Israel – and those backing it in America – have killed all the children in the world.” (Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden ed. Bruce Lawrence (London, Verso, 2005), p. 147-8.)

    And after 9-11, Osama made the point in a specifically American context: “In the epitome of his arrogance and the peak of his media campaign in which he boasts of ‘enduring freedom,’ Bush must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Dura and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq. If he has forgotten, then we will not forget, God willing.”

Now let’s turn to how Walt-Mearsheimer handle the issue.

Oct 10, 2007 21:55 | Updated Oct 11, 2007 9:35
‘US support for Israel spurred 9/11′
By MATT RAND, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
BOSTON

US support for Israel was a “major cause” of the 9-11 attacks, according to University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard Professor Stephen Walt, who appeared at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week to promote their book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

“A critically important issue when talking about America’s terrorism problem is the matter of how US support for Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians relates to what happened on September 11,” said Mearsheimer, who played the role of attack dog, while Walt set the stage.

Notice the “brutal.” That’s Pallywood’s message.

Mearsheimer suggested that the notion of payback for injustices suffered by the Palestinians is perhaps the “most powerfully recurrent in [Osama] Bin Laden’s speeches,” who, he said, had been deeply concerned about the plight of the Palestinians since he was a young man. He said that Bin Laden’s concern had been reflected in his public statements throughout the 1990′s – “well before 9-11.” Citing the 9-11 Commission report, Mearsheimer and Walt argued that Bin Laden wanted to make sure the attackers struck Congress because it is “the most important source of support for Israel in the United States,” adding that Bin Laden twice tried to move up the dates of the attacks because of events involving Israel. Mearsheimer and Walt went on to argue that 9-11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences in the United States as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with US foreign policy favoring Israel. “Its hard to imagine more compelling evidence of the role US support for Israel played in the 9-11 attacks,” said Mearsheimer.

“In short, the present relationship between Washington and Jerusalem is helping to fuel America’s terrorism problem,” he went on to say.

This is a nice summary of the kind of thinking that gives us Eurabia in Europe: if Muslims get violent over disagreement with our foreign policy, let’s change our foreign policy so that we have a rapprochement with closer to European foreign Policy. If our allies offend people who hate us, maybe they’ll love us if we dump our allies. In fact, any serious analysis of the dynamics of honor-shame culture (which seems to escape W-M entirely) predicts that following their advice would precisely backfire.

They said that US support for Israel motivates some individuals to attack the United States and “…serves as an important recruitment tool for terrorist organizations,” according to Mearsheimer. He said that US support for Israel generates huge support for terrorists in the Arab and Islamic world.

Here’s an allusion to the recruiting tape mentioned above in which the Al Durah footage — and other Pallywood scenes — play a prominent role. Let’s try restating that with an awareness — which W-M apparently lack — of how our own foolish and incompetent MSM contribute to the hatreds of the Muslim world:

Imagine the MSM giving that thesis as much coverage as they give to the W-M thesis.

Suggesting that Israel had outlived its usefulness to the United States, Walt added that “Israel may well have been a strategic asset during the Cold War,” but that “…the Cold War is now over.” He said that America’s unconditional support for Israel in the Middle East is “one” of the reasons “we have a terrorism problem, and it makes it harder to address a variety of problems in the Middle East.”

Now we come to the heart of darkness. If anything, Israel represents the key ally in the global conflict that has replaced the Cold War. We have a terrorism problem because terrorism is the key weapon that Jihadis use in their asymmetrical warfare against the West. (And manipulating the MSM to blame the victims of terrorism — the Israelis and the West — is the other major weapon.) Israel is only the appetizer, and tossing her into the maw of hatred that Jihadis generate will do nothing but stoke the fire. The idea that we can better address the problems in the Middle East by distancing ourselves from Israel emerges from so superficial an understanding of the Middle East that one has to wonder what drives W-M’s argument.

At the same time, Walt admitted the US’s problems in the Middle East would not disappear if it had a different relationship with Israel, and that the US “does benefit from various forms of strategic cooperation.” Walt also noted that Israel’s human rights record was not “significantly better than that of the Palestinians,” adding that any reasonably fair-minded look at the history of the conflict shows that “neither side owns the moral high ground.”

Now here’s something interesting. I especially like the “reasonably fair-minded look.” So even though Israel never — even in its most desparate moments — engaged in so morally depraved a campaign as suicide terror, even though Israelis never — even in their most deparate moments — ever brainwashed their people into wanting to commit genocide against the Palestinians, even though Israel’s response to suicide bombing has been surgical strikes and a barrier that everyone in Israel didn’t want, rather than all-out retaliatory massacres, which are the norm in the Arab world whenever the power-differential allows, “neither side owns the moral high ground.” This line attests better than anything to W-M’s moral equivalence, their complete incapacity to judge and assess. Is this because they are incapable, or because the crazy discourse of what was once the far left radicals who have been delegitimizing Israel for decades, has now gone mainstream, and they can make these outlandish claims anticipating that their readers will agree.

Again, this is the function of Pallywood, especially once weaponized by al Durah.

More significantly, though, the only way W-M could possibly come to this astounding conclusion is by their exposure to NGO cum MSM Pallywood. Indeed, when we look inside W-M, we find they are impervious to the well documented bias of groups like HRW. Discussing Gerald Steinberg’s sharp criticism of HRW‘s publications during the Lebanon War, they cite approvingly Rosa Brooks’ column (a former HRW employee):

    …anyone familiar with Human Rights Watch — or with Roth — knows this to be lunacy. Human Rights Wath is non partisan — it doesn’t “take sides” in conflicts. (W-M, The Israel Lobby, p. 328

The data mean nothing to W-M. They continue to cite the wild figures coming out of Lebanon as if no criticism had emerged, as if no subsequent proof of Hizbullah’s using Lebanenes civilians as human shields, had come out, no reconsideration — by HRW! — had occurred, . They count on the ignorance of their readers.

Mearsheimer and Walt argued that Israel and the pro-Israel lobby in the United States were two of the main driving forces behind the decision to invade Iraq. “It is hard to imagine that war happening in their absence,” said Mearsheimer, who added that Israel was the only country besides Kuwait where both “the government and the majority of the population favored the war.” He said that the Israeli government pushed the Bush administration hard to make sure that it did not lose its nerve in the months before the invasion. Mearsheimer said there was “no question” that the “neo-conservatives were the main driving force behind the war, but they where supported by the main constituents in the [Israel] lobby, such as AIPAC.”

Citing a 2004 editorial, Mearsheimer said that as President Bush attempted to sell the war in Iraq “America’s most important Jewish organizations rallied as one to his defense. In statement after statement, [Jewish] community leaders stressed the need to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Concern for Israel’s safety rightfully factored into the deliberations of the main Jewish groups.”

For a dissection of this argument, see the devastating review by Leonard Fein, a prominent member of Peace Now. Among other things he points out how shoddy and flabby the book’s reasoning, in particular their recourse to editorials and their lack of any serious primary research.

    Methodologically, the book is a mess, adding unconnected little truths to one another as if together they constitute one big truth; relying far too heavily on secondary sources such as newspaper clippings and OpEd columns; riddled with internal contradiction.

What can we learn from the arguments of Walt-Mearsheimer? That Pallywood is a major psy-ops success whose impact on Western “intellectuals” produces suicidal policies. If he could, Osama would be voting Walt-Mearsheimer in 2008.

43 Responses to Walt-Mearsheimer on Osama, Israel and the USA: MSM is the Key to Inverting the Story

  1. [...] Walt-Mearsheimer on Osama, Israel and the USA: MSM is the Key to… …in which he boasts of ‘enduring freedom,’ Bush must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Dura and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq. Posted in Palestine | Trackback | del.icio.us | Top Of Page [...]

  2. Michael B says:

    Yep. Good, substantial, conscientious, probative work there, and throughout. What a labyrinthine and multi-layered mess; regrettably, ‘psy-ops success’ is, precisely, the right term.

    First and foremost it’s an ideological war and a war of primary and supportive ideas, of formative ideas, including idees fixes such as al-Durah was leveraged into: pre-packaged, off-the-shelf substitutes for thought, especially so when that thought, if it were to be more seriously tackled, would require a single-minded conscientiousness, gravitas and a willingness to move through the fog of oft-repeated deceits supplied by so many contingents among the MSM.

    And L’Affaire al-Durah, as singularly important as it is, is also, on another and different scale, but a microcosm of the vastly wider phenonmena.

    Admirable work here, you’re doing precisely what needs to be done; there’s no guarantee of success but there are plenty of people who are conscientious and if reached with cogent, thoughtful, humane forms of suasion, will in fact be persuaded.

    (And placing “intellectuals” in ironic quotes is also supremely apt. In part, the very term stemmed from L’Affaire Dreyfus, hence it has immediate and decisive moral, as well as more abstract and avant-garde, connotations – not to mention risk-taking connotations as well. But our era has produced a surfeit of status quo-seeking and content “intellectuals,” preferring cossetted confines and accepted forms to any more serious risk taking venture. Impersonators, pretenders and imposters.)

  3. Richard Landes says:

    you’re right about the dreyfus affair and intellectuals, as opposed to the mandarins who recycled what they were told (à la Emperor’s New Clothes). now the new mandarins, ironically, are the “dissidents”.

  4. fp says:

    rl,

    underlying the so-called realism in foreign policy is the thesis behavior of states is **universally** explainable in terms of their interests. and that one does not need to know about and involve cultural differences to understand those interests and the behavior induced by them. of course, what in practice this means is that the realists project their own culture on all states, which is what leads them to faulty analysis, bordering on the absurd.

    IOW, w&m’s claim to fame is that you don’t need to know and understand any culture but your own to be an expert in international relations and foreign policy. this is a violation of einstein’s “everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

    not to mention the inability of realists to deal with subnational and transnational actors.

    ignorance as expertise. that’s how mearsheimer can declare that iran is a peaceful nation just like any other.

  5. Eliyahu says:

    Listen, guys, I don’t think that mearsheimer really believes his own words. I believe that he is a fairly competent political scientist and is probably aware of the need to avoid projecting one’s own culture on other cultures, etc. I think that he and walt are conscious liars. See link:
    http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=35&x_article=1365

    Check out this interview of mearsheimer on NPR where he admits that the Bush Admin [to which he was a consultant, to the State Dept] had decided on the Iraq war before Israel even knew about it.

    Furthermore, it seems to me that a whole series of propaganda attacks on Israel, starting with Durban in 2001 and including w-m, carter, baker-hamilton, Polk-McGovern, christiane amanpour’s “God’s Warriors” series on cnn, chomsky&norman finkelstein’s drivel, etc. are part of a concerted anti-Israel campaign meant to prepare the ground for a final crushing of Israel at an international “peace” conference, such as condi rice [Riso Amaro] is conveniently planning for November at Annapolis.

  6. Eliyahu says:

    the article in the JPost doesn’t quote w-m directly as saying that US support for Israel is “unconditional,” that is the word used by the JPost reporter. However, it is used often by admirers of the book, such as the British journalopropagandist, Max Hastings. US support for Israel is not “unconditional” and has never been. Walt-mearsheimer know better than that lie. They are simply consciously lying. Prez Bush II is the first US prez to advocate another Arab state to be named “palestine,” although carter, Bush II, & clinton were moving in that direction. Bush has shown his pro-Arab attitude and his anti-Israel policy in several other ways. One such is the planned “peace” conference. See link:

    http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/2007/10/prescription-for-war-genocide-stop.html

  7. Michael B says:

    Truly, there’s no need for ironic quotes around mandarin; a more apposite term is difficult to conceive.

    Well, again, at least that part of the problem is identified :-/

  8. Eliyahu says:

    correction. I meant to say that:
    Carter, Bush One and Clinton were moving in the direction of a “palestinian state” even before Bush Two

  9. Eliyahu says:

    RL has shown that w-m accept the incitement of the Arabs, particularly the PLO/PA/Hamas crowd. W-m also indulge in incitement themselves by accepting Arab claims. Just as dangerous, if not more so, is the UN envoy, one John Dugard. He was quoted today on the BBC TV as saying that the Arabs ["palestinians"] had a right to mass murder Israelis because they [the Arabs] are an “occupied” people and as such it is natural for them to “resist.” They are just like the French Resistance, he went on.

    However, as far as I know, it was not the usual or proclaimed practice of the French Resistance to go around murdering German civilians. So Dugard is both a liar and an inciter to mass murder against Jews. He continues Hitler’s work. Didn’t the Nazis and other Judeophobes in Europe say that Jews were aliens in the various European countries that therefore they had no right to live in those places?? Isn’t Dugard’s argument essentially the same as that of the Nazis and other pre-WW2 European Judeophobes??

    By the way, for Dugard’s information, Germany, Austria, and Japan were occupied quite officially and unapologetically after WW2 by American, French, British, and Soviet troops [Japan only by Soviets and Americans]. Did the Germans, et al. have the right to murder the occupying troops or the civilians of the occupying countries???

    Of course, I do not agree that Judea-Samaria or Gaza were rightly labelled as “occupied,” since they were parts of the ancient Jewish homeland and had been assigned to the Jewish National Home under international law.

  10. Joanne says:

    I don’t think there is any concerted effort against Israel by all these sectors of our society. That smacks of conspiracy theory. Chomsky and Finkelstein have very little in common with the State Dept, and work quite independently of the latter. I believe, however, that these developments reveal a groundswell of anti-Israeli attitudes that has been growing among our government, intellectual, and media elites for decades.

    The growing sympathy for the Palestinians from the 1970s, due to the occupation, increased exponentially in the wake of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Then, in the the failure of Oslo, and the two Intifadas were all milestone events that have shaped the outlook of two generations.

    The pro-Israeli orientation of the overall political culture in the US is formidable, but a change in outlook has become pronounced among college-educated elites, and was bound to surface sooner or later. This is not a concerted campaign against Israel, but rather a gradual realignment of the prevailing views among our policymakers and opinion leaders. This change may or may not lead to a distancing of the US from Israel.

    Don’t forget, such changes have happened elsewhere. The White Paper in 1939 was a sort of official change of the British policy vis-a-vis Zionism. Stalin changed the USSR’s stance from pro- to anti-Israel in the early 1950s. Charles de Gaulle abruptly changed the French alliance with Israel to antipathy just before the Six-Day War, in 1967. In each case, there were two motives, I think: greater sympathy and understanding for the Arab case and, more importantly, a greater awareness that the Arabs were far more valuable and strategic allies than the Israelis–from an economic and political point of view.

  11. Joanne says:

    By the way, I should have specified that my last comment was in answer to the last paragraph in comment #5 above.

    Also, I should reiterate that the goal isn’t the crushing of Israel (except by Finkestein and Chomsky), but the distancing of US foreign policy from Israel. This isn’t good news for the Israelis, obviously, but it’s not the same thing as a concerted effort by Amampour, Chomsky, and our State Department to do away with another country.

  12. Joanne says:

    Sorry, one other point: On the part of the State Department, the goal is probably to try to effect (or at least appear to be trying to effect) some kind of progress towards a settlement of this long, sorry conflict. Of course, with Hamas in charge, this is largely futile.

  13. fp says:

    too bad that more attention was not paid to my own piece on w&m that I posted whole in another thread here.

    in it I claimed that what w&m do is typical scapegoating: the US has fucked up royally, is now in decline and they want to distract from those really responsible: the US elites, particularly the corporate vultures and their totally owned corrupt politicians, at the expense of an ignorant, gullible and apathetic public. w&m come from the business right, chomsky and finkelstein from the demented left, carter from the arabs who fund him, etc. therefore, it is not a conspiracy. rather it is a convergence of perceptions that israel is an inconvenient state, for their very different reasons, and only by getting rid of it will america be saved of its fate. it’s a convenient illusion.

    this has happened tons of time in history, when elites don’t want to take responsibility for their actions and find all sorts of scapegoats to blame to fool the masses. and the jews have always been the scapegoat of choice.

    i see references that the “american people” is with israel and does not buy this anti-israelism, so everything will be ok. bs. the american public is in generale at best schooled but uneducated, ignorant, unable to reason, gullible and easy to fool. as the US wanes and life becomes increasingly miserable for the masses, they will become more and more susceptible to anti-semitism and anti-zionism, as is already happening. there are phenomena in the US today that could not be dreamed would happen in the US even 5 or 10 years ago. stuff right out of der sturmer. and most of that started from the fringes and is spreading.

    the notion that the US is some sort of exception is wishful thinking poppycock. there are no exceptions. the american “era” is coming to an end and for the same reasons that rome fell: single dominant superpowers, without competition, overextend, become corrupt, lazy and arrogant, develop barbarians at their gates, etc. and instead of trying to solve problems, it ignores them.

    Israel is in the bad position of being dependent almost entirely on a failing superpower, one with a tradition of dumping allies when shock and awe is no longer effective on enemies.

    this is the reality that few want to accept. the rest is commentary.

    fp
    http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

  14. Richard Landes says:

    posting for fp:

    Too bad that not more attention was paid to my piece on m&w that I posted
    whole in another thread here.

    In it I explained that what is happening now in the US is typical of
    societies in crisis which don’t want to take responsibility for their own
    fuckups: scapegoating. And the jews have been the most convenient scapegoat
    in history, because nobody really cares about them.

    m&w come from the business right with the intention to distract from the
    really responsible for the fall of america: the corporate vultures and
    their wholly owned corrupt politicans. chomsky and finkelstein come from
    the lunatic left who want to use a public at best schooled but uneducated,
    ignorant, unable to reason, gullible, apathetic and easily manipulated to
    get at the capitalist system. and carter, esposito et. al. are useful fools
    of the barbarians at the gates who fund them.

    it’s not a conspiracy. rather, it is a converging perception, for very
    different motives, that israel is an inconvenient state and that getting
    rid of it will solve america’s problems. it’s wishful thinking, because the
    problem is the collapse of america itself, which is now in the typical
    situation of a dominant superpower which, without competition, gets
    arrogant, ignorant, lazy, incompetent, overextended and corrupt, with
    barbarians accumulate at its gates.

    I keep reading that the american public is with israel and that, therefore,
    anti-zionism and anti-semitism will not take. bullshit. and so is the
    notion that america is some sort of exception in history. as america’s
    power wanes and life becomes more difficult for the masses, they are
    increasingly susceptible to scapegoating. that is clear from pronouncements
    right of der sturmer and judeophobic violence that 5-10 years ago were
    inconceivable in the US. as usual, it starts from the fringe and expands
    into mainstream, which is what we are witnessing now. that’s when the
    mearsheimers and walts and carters come out of the woodwork and get
    attention.

    israel is in the unfortunate position of almost total dependency on a failing
    superpower that has a history of dumping allies when it can no longer shock
    and awe its enemies. its existence is on shaky grounds, which induces a
    corrupt elite into the desperate and ultimately suicidal appeasement.

    this is the reality which, psychologically, is so very difficult to accept.
    the rest is commentary.
    fp

  15. Eliyahu says:

    fp acknowledges a certain convergence between w-m & chomsky’s crowd. Thanx.

    To both fp and Joanne, I ask that you examine chomsky’s sources of funding. Somebody got hold of chomsky’s income tax report [through the Freedom of Info Act] and it showed that he reported payments from –not the State Dept but the Defense Dept. Check out this info and then get back to me. I say that chomsky is a fake, like much of the rest of the “left” such as both Hitchens and Cockburn, both writers for the Nation at one time or other and both British. I know that they are now supposedly on opposite sides of the War on Terror and Islamic Oppression issues. Hitchens is very articulate on these issues and I agree with some of what he says. Which does not change the point. I may agree with some of what chomsky says too, althougth I notice how he blends intelligent perception with lies. That is an excellent propaganda method.

  16. fp says:

    eliyahu,

    I was careful to say convergence FOR DIFFERENT MOTIVES.
    they all want to dump israel, but the right is scapegoating israel to distract from the internal failures of the US; while the left see israel as a american tool of oppression.

    regarding fakes. I think esposito, carter w&m et. al. are fakes to a certain extent. I don’t think chomsky is, he has been consistent for a very long time. hitchens is somewhere in between: he is a bit of an opportunist and not always consistent, but when it comes to religion and islamism he is sincere.

    I happen to think that chomsky’s analysis of the corporate american system is quite good, because the system is mostly about economics. but when it comes to foreign policy he is a moron. because both the right and the left are essentially economic dogmas, they mostly ignores such factors as religion and culture which has no place in the dogma and they don’t understand — it’s a blind spot. hence their ignorance and faulty analysis.

    i too am ambivalent about hitchens. I am all the way with him when it comes to religion and islamism, but i think his position on iraq is flawed. while I understand his desire to remove saddam hussein, it was clear that the US did not know what it was doing getting into that mess and it was, therefore, counterproductive to hitchens anti-islamist position, so he’s not consistent. here’s some evidence for this:

    How Osama Bin Laden Beat George W. Bush
    http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20071022&s=bergen102207

  17. Joanne says:

    To fp,

    About Hitchens, you must remember that he is a virulent anti-Zionist. That is one aspect of his longtime politics that he has never given up. Here is a link to an interview with, of all places, the rightwing Frontpage.com, from a few years ago: http://tinyurl.com/yrcof2

    The link takes you to the second page of the interview, in which he deals with Israel/Palestine. To Hitchens’ credit, he doesn’t mince worlds, even when speaking to a conservative website, but he does give me the creeps precisely because he is so articulate and yet can be so wrong at the same time. You know the old saw about how lies make it halfway around the world before truth even gets its boots on. Hitchens has helped propel some lies well more than halfway around the world. I also disagree with him about Iraq, but that’s another matter.

    To give you a flavor of how he speaks in this Frontpage interview, here is a paragraph from the interview that neatly sums up his views:

    “The principal reason why this trivial squabble has become so dangerous to all of us is the “faith based” element. Even for the so-called secular Jewish nationalists, it always had to be Jerusalem and Hebron. (Never mind the silly idea of turning Jewish watchmakers from Hungary into farmers: now it turns Jewish bullies from Brooklyn into vigilantes.) What did they imagine would be the response of the followers of the Prophet? I think myself that not even the most secular and internationalist Palestinian could be expected to bear the indignity of being first chucked out of his land and then told that oranges didn’t grow in the “desert” of Haifa until 1948. One must not insult or degrade or humiliate people, let alone deport or dispossess them. Nor is one permitted to lie about history.”

    One of Hitchens’ motives is that he doesn’t like religion; that seems to be a BIG determining factor for him in his views vis-a-vis Zionism (and vis-a-vis Islam). Moreover, he makes the mistake that a lot of Westerners make in thinking that mainstream Zionism was at least somewhat a religious movement. The Jewish religion is a pillar of Jewish civilization, but that doesn’t mean that Zionism or any Jewish nationalism need be based on religion (for instance, the Bund). Hell, Irish anti-Brit nationalism hasn’t even been necessarily Catholic in philosophy, whether in 1922 or now with the IRA.

    Hitchens doesn’t like religion, and he doesn’t like Zionism because of its religious imagery (even though for many Jews that imagery has a more historic, nationalist, or sentimental significance). He also still holds the simplistic left-wing view that the Palestinians are the natives and the Israelis are the “colons.”

    Oh, and note the reference to how “silly” it was for Israel to turn “Jewish watchmakers from Hungary into farmers.” Never mind that those Jewish watchmakers won several wars and have built up one of the best armies in the world. And farming? He must be kidding! Israel excels at agriculture. Not a little condescension and racism to this image, wouldn’t you say?

    And then he says that, having done that “silly” thing, Israel now turns “Jewish bullies from Brooklyn into vigilantes.” So that’s it. That’s Zionism. That’s the Jews. I won’t defend the settlers; I detest them. But to Hitchens, all Israelis are settlers, and all Israeli land has been expropriated.

    You may have heard that Hitchens claims to be Jewish, because he has a female Jewish ancestor a ways back along a completely maternal line. He only found out that he was Jewish at the age of 38. It was the kind of thing his proper British family didn’t talk about. But he says that, since in Judaism the mother determines the religion, he’s Jewish… So, as a Jew, he can now say to his fellow Jews that Zionism is wrong. He brother, Peter Hitchens (who is pro-Zionist) is a political writer in Britain, and he’s calculated that they are 1/32 Jewish. Welcome to the tribe, Chris! What a cheesy gimmick!

  18. fp says:

    yes, i am aware of hitchens anti-zionism. despite the fact that he’s so virulently anti-religion, he still has his trotzkyst roots which cause him blind spots. it’s hard to get rid of those. he does criticize the islamist pals, but he’s under the illusion that they are not representative of the pal population.

    both he and chomsky make the same mistake of interpreting israel and zionism in religious terms. while i myself have serious problems with the structure of govt in israel which permits the religious parties to impose their superstitions on the nation and think the fanatic religious settlers are not less a disgrace in their beliefs and behavior than some of the islamists, the notion that israel is all about that, that’s simply blindness imposed by the leftist dogma, which both have in their blood.

    the point is that you’ve gotta be selective: sometimes they make sense and sometimes they’re idiotic.

  19. Joanne says:

    Regarding those small religious parties you mention, fp:

    Yes, they are a tragedy for Israel. Most Israelis are secular and the original Zionists were secular, but these religious parties can impose their views just because coalition governments need them. I wish that Israel had a first-past-the-post electoral system, like in the US or Britain, instead of proportional representation. That would have helped.

    The religious parties also unwittingly give ammunition to anti-Zionists, who point to them, and the laws they’ve helped enact, to show that Israel is a “theocracy.” It’s maddening.

  20. Joanne says:

    fp, there is a site called http://www.tinyurl.com, where you paste a long website address and it gives you a shorter substitute. I just learned about it myself.

    As for those scholars calling for “freedom in academia,” well, there are enough bashers on the left to offend those on the right, and enough on the right to offend those on the left. All you have to do is point to some heavy-hitting opposition–big statements by big names–and claim that you’re being persecuted.

    Conservatives say the left dominates academia, and the left say the conservatives rule everywhere else in this country because of corporate power. Both sides have a grain of truth, and both exaggerate. Oh well, I guess if “scholars” such as those in your link were to write balanced, nuanced, painstakingly supported articles, they’d get some praise from colleagues, but would otherwise be ignored, considered bores.

    I used to wonder how Chomsky managed to do all that prodigious amount of research for his books. Now I know: He makes it all up. ;-)

  21. Eliyahu says:

    fp & Joanne,
    re fp’s link to a conference at U of Chicago addressed by both chomsky & mearsheimer [left-right convergence], plus a host of other distasteful fanatics, liars, Judeophobes. The hypocrisy there was palpable [from my reading of the article in the Maroon]. Poor n finkelshtunk was there too. He was denied tenure. But how come nobody mentions how Prof Francisco Gil White was pushed out of the U of Pennsylvania?? He too was denied tenure for being too pro-Israel!! How come he is forgotten??

    Joanne’s concern about Israel’s religious parties giving ammunition to the anti-Zionists is misplaced, in my view. In fact, back in the 50s, Arnold Toynbee, the arch-respectable dean of anti-Zionism, complained that Israel was not authentic because it was dominated by secularists in its government [at that time the Mapai (Labor) Party], including Ben Gurion, Sharett, etc. So when the National Religious Party [NRP] became assertive after Begin’s election in 1977, the new line was no longer Israel’s inauthenticity [because of irreligion] but that it was now dominated by backward, fanatic religionists, blah blah. On the other hand, the same anti-Zionists who complain about Israel’s religious character [including some Arab spokesmen] do not complain about Pakistan which was founded as a state for the Muslims of India, regardless of where in India they lived before independence in 1947 or which of the many Indian languages they spoke. A few million people were displaced and massacred in India in 1947 when the British governor (or viceroy?) [Mountbatten] declared a time table for setting up two independent states, India and Pakistan. Hindus & Sikhs fled the areas supposed to become Pakistan, while Muslims fled what was to be the Indian Republic. Of course, few of those who complained about Israel’s religious character were concerned about Pakistan’s militantly religious jihadist Muslim character. The same indulgence goes for the Arab states, all of which but Lebanon declare themselves in their constitutions to be Islamic states or to favor Islam in legislation. So Israel’s religiosity or lack of same is just another excuse to bash the Jewish nation-state.

    I for my part believe that secularism is much like a religion and also can arouse fanatic passions, and work to deny empirical truth, etc.

  22. Joanne says:

    I think that secularism isn’t much like a religion, although secular political ideologies like Marxism and fascism can be, depending on how they’re handled. Secularists may be up in arms only because of the threat they see from from Islamists, the Christian right, and (in Israel) fundamentalist Jews.

    As for Toynbee, et.al., your point is well taken. Vis-a-vis committed anti-Zionists, it’s a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation. Still, there are pro-Zionists who are genuinely disturbed by the influence of the small religious parties in Israel.

  23. fp says:

    joanne,

    you’re trying hard to stay in the middle and not decide if one side has more evidence for its position, don’t you?

    academia has long been taken over by activists masquerading as scholars, who would not know the scientific method if it fell on them, and who would not care to know. a vast majority of those are leftists and post modernists. they will kick out any one who is not with the program and hire only themselves. yet they are the ones who whine that they lack academic freedom. it would be funny were it not so sad and damaging.

  24. fp says:

    eliyahu,

    On secularism i’m with joanne. the claim that it’s like religion is a crock. equating the two is evidence of poor understanding of what the two are.

    what religion and secular faith have in common is dogma; the religious dogma is rooted in the supernatural (which has social implications), the latter is purely social. the former cannot be invalidated by rational means, the latter can be but
    such evidence is not accepted. this is what distinguishes both them from secularism.

    note that secular religion and secularism are not the same, even if both eschew the supernatural.

  25. fp says:

    regarding my #14, I usually I am not much impressed by this guy, but even he seems to have gotten this one:

    The End of Exceptionalism
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/43356

  26. fp says:

    oops, i should have read it more carefully before I posted the link. it’s still interesting reading, but not related to my #14.

    and i’m still not impressed with the guy. his interpretation leave much to be desired.

  27. Michael B says:

    Secularism, at least as it has evolved in its more recent forms, isn’t obviously much like religion. Though that is part of its appeal.

    If religionists can be characterized, or caricatured, with their head in the clouds, then late-modern secularists can be characterized with their head in the sand. They are both pejorative characterizations that hold some weight as well. Merleau-Ponty, in “The Visible and the Invisible” and in “The Phenomenology of Perception,” took up what is represented in the challenge, relating it to problems of perception and problems inherent in “the phenomena” itself and the marrying of the two. On another though similar scale it relates to the reality/ideality nexus and divide.

    And that is not mere equivocation.

  28. Eliyahu says:

    fp, you don’t like what you call the “supernatural.” How about the metaphysical which is the foundation of much of what is called “secularism” ??
    By the way, do you recall that during the French Revolution, ceremonies were held to worship the Goddess of Reason?

    Further, it has been demonstrated that certain Christian prejudices stayed with the ostensibly secular Left, particularly in regard to the Jews and Judaism. Kant & Hegel, it seems, were much imbued with Judeophobia of medieval Christian origin. Marx took much from Kant-Hegel, including his views of Jews. And this was passed on to Lenin, Stalin, etc.

    In any case, many Leftists [and secularist Rightists] are absolutely impervious to facts and reason, as you have probably experienced directly. Their creed or cult makes them fanatic, incapable of taking in new facts that don’t fit their prejudices. So are the secularists necessarily superior to the religious?

  29. Eliyahu says:

    correction: After Kant-Hegel, I should have written “including their views of Jews”

  30. fp says:

    mike,

    if you want to say that there are idiots among secularists, that’s trivial — of course they are. that, however, does NOT translate into “secularism is like religion” — that notion is sheer nonsense.

    the problem is that, as usual, you come from an abstract theoretical perspective, which biases you, because indeed, the academia, usually on the left, is chockful of idiotic secular religionists, which I explicitly distinguished from secularists.

  31. fp says:

    eliyahu,

    it’s not a matter of whether I like it or not, it’s nonsense.

    the rational basis for secularism is utilitarian, not metaphysical: reason is useful because it works.

    that certain individuals are actually secular religionists without realizing it is hardly a surprise: religiosity fulfills an acute psychological need of which some of the most intelligent individuals may not be conscious of. indeed, this is what all religions exploit and had it not been for that, it would have been easy for reason to eliminate superstitions in various forms a long time ago.

    that’s why i call those secular religionists, not secularists and why I make that distinction.

    note that I am NOT saying that reason is sufficient and morals are not necessary. what I am saying is that the supernatural is hardly a pre-requisite for morals and it’s never been in practice, only used to keep people in line and under control.

  32. Michael B says:

    I merely alluded to some philosophical issues – which have real-world, existential import. Part of that import serves to suggest reality isn’t so easily sundered into secular/religious categories. One reason many people, when invoking those categories, tend to invoke the extremes (of the bell curve, if you like) is because doing so serves to dichotomize the two. But it’s in the middle of that bell curve where the more interesting set of issues, philosophical and existential, are to be found.

  33. fp says:

    i try to stay closer to the real world.

    i use a test to determine whether a person is religious, whether of the secular or supernatural kind. I ask the following question:

    Is there ANY ideal evidence that would be satisfactory enough to invalidate your belief in [the pertinent belief here] and if so, what is it? Plug any belief or dogma — god, marx, hitler, guru X, whatever.

    If they cannot specify any, I deem them religious.

    Up to this point, nobody from the 3 major religions, at least one cult, marxists or fascists have specified any such evidence.

  34. Michael B says:

    You’re impossible. The middle of that bell curve is the real world, your backhanded dismissiveness notwithstanding. You’ve additionally granted yourself a kind of immunity since you’ve not staked out your own positive program, beyond some platitudes and generalities. That constitutes a type of redoubt, a redoubt that, by your definition, is “religious.”

  35. fp says:

    no, you’re impossible.

    religion is faith impervious to ANY counter evidence. I have defined a test which I use to determine it.

    a program does not mean religion, which is what I think you imply. it is only if it is based on beliefs in the supernatural and/or societal principles/arrangements which are not based on evidence and cannot be invalidated by any evidence.

    according to this definition a person is either religioous or is not (there are many who are and don’t realize it, hence the test). how the bell curve applies in this context escapes me. it’s an example of an abstract theorist dealing with the real world.

    I am an atheist, but probabilistic, not dogmatic, in the sense that until somebody produces, for example, evidence of supernatural phenomena of the kind claimed by religion, I will assume that for all practical purposes there is no god. if and when such evidence is produced, i will change my mind. i think that at least during my lifetime my atheism is safe.

  36. Michael B says:

    You are, and in a facile and highly tendentious manner, conflating conceptions that better pertain to superficial vs. more probative categories with conceptions that belong to reality vs. abstract categories.

  37. fp says:

    such pomposity makes it easy I rest my case.

    note that i responded to your argument — such as it was — while you have not. not that I am surprised.

  38. Michael B says:

    Pomposity? That’s a bit much; I characterized your argument. I noted that you spoke in too general terms and with platitudes, you’ve done nothing to address that criticism; labeling yourself doesn’t engage the subject matter. Have the last word if you care.

  39. fp says:

    well, let people compare my 38 with your 39 and judge for themselves.

    last word is right — i’m gonna force myself to refrain from reacting to your comments.

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