When people hear my analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of honor and shame, they quite consistently challenge me in one of two ways: 1) “That’s racist”; and 2) “So what do you suggest we do?”
The sous-texte of such a challenge is: “This is a cultural problem so deep there’s nothing one can do to change it.” Indeed, right under the surface of the argument that this is racism lies a particularly nasty “essentialist” argument that Arabs cannot grow up; they will always be stuck in a world of excessively touchy honor to which they will consistently sacrifice not only the lives of those they feel have “humiliated them,” but their own welfare as well.
And yet, the self-same people who dismiss trying to change Arab/Muslim attitudes towards honor, regularly seek to appease and cater to those same concerns. The entire edifice of Western appeasement — don’t provoke them by criticizing them — rests on an astounding abdication of the great power we have to influence them, indeed, a surrender to their weakest trait: their desperate need for “respect.”
Caroline Glick’s recent column on the Annapolis meeting offers an ideal opportunity to examine not only the dynamics of this misconceived policy, but also how to change it constructively.
Column One: Apartheid, not peace
Caroline Glick , THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 30, 2007
This week the Bush Administration legitimized Arab anti-Semitism. In an effort to please the Saudis and their Arab brothers, the Bush administration agreed to physically separate the Jews from the Arabs at the Annapolis conference in a manner that aligns with the apartheid policies of the Arab world which prohibit Israelis from setting foot on Arab soil.
Evident everywhere, the discrimination against Israel received its starkest expression at the main assembly of the Annapolis conference on Tuesday. There, in accordance with Saudi demands, the Americans prohibited Israeli representatives from entering the hall through the same door as the Arabs.
Glick is absolutely right to put this in the context of apartheid, since apartheid is all about humiliating others, all about the efforts of insecure people to reassure themselves of their superiority by showing how they can visibly dominate others. This is the logic of the dhimma in Islam, where those who refuse to convert to Islam deserve humiliation because they were irrational enough to reject Islam. Several scholars have noted the correlation between the insecurity of Muslims and the intensity with which they insisted on humiliating the Dhimmi:
The periods when Islamic states were strong generally coincided with more relaxed attitude towards dhimmis; however, treatment of non-Muslims usually became harsher when Islam was weak and in decline. Over time, the treatment of dhimmis tended to develop in cycles, such that periods of when restrictions imposed on dhimmis were relaxed were immediately followed by the periods of pious reaction when such restrictions came to be enforced again.
The Saudi demand not only not to shake hands with the Israelis not only reflects this apartheid mentality, but also expresses their utter refusal to recognize the Israelis as legitimate. No better symbol of the fundamental problem in this conflict: an independent Jewish state cannot — must not — exist in the heart of dar al Islam. For the Americans to allow this at a alleged “peace” conference represents the height of folly. It is a clear signal to the Saudis — and their fellow Arabs — that they can continue to militate for the elimination of the humiliating Zionist entity.
Granted, the Americans were in a pickle. They desperately wanted the Saudis to come, and [did not think they] were not in a position to tell them to either grow up or not come. But they could have isolated the Saudis, by having them come through their own door, and the Israelis and the others come through the main door. Standing firm on this — you cannot insist on the humiliation of the Israelis — seems to me to be a fundamental principle that should underlie all US diplomacy. This should be non-negotiable.
At the meeting of foreign ministers on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called her Arab counterparts to task for their discriminatory treatment. “Why doesn’t anyone want to shake my hand? Why doesn’t anyone want to be seen speaking to me?” she asked pointedly.
Apparently, allowing the Saudis to come made sure that everyone stepped into line. It is one of the characteristics of an honor-shame culture (and the MSM) that pack mentalities rule. If you shake hands with the Israelis along with many others, that’s okay; if you are the only one to shake hands with the Israelis, then you are ostracized. One of the ways the US could have handled this Saudi demand, was to insist that all the other delegations shake hands with the Israelis.
Israel’s humiliated foreign minister did not receive support from her American counterpart. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who spent her childhood years in the segregated American South, sided with the Arabs. Although polite enough to note that she doesn’t support the slaughter of Israelis, she made no bones about the fact that her true sympathies lie with the racist Arabs.
As she put it, “I know what it is like to hear that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian. I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness.”
Rice’s remarks make clear that for the Secretary of State there is no difference between Israelis trying to defend themselves from a jihadist Palestinian society which supports the destruction of the Jewish state and bigoted white Southerners who oppressed African Americans because of the color of their skin. It is true that Israel has security concerns, but as far as Rice is concerned, the Palestinians are the innocent victims. They are the ones who are discriminated against and humiliated, not Livni, who was forced – by Rice – to enter the conference through the service entrance.
The problem of Condoleeza Rice’s projections of her own “liberal” cognitive egocentrism onto the Arab Israeli conflict are well known. Indeed, her insistence on seeing the conflict through the screen of American race relations — Israeli checkpoints are like Jim Crow laws; Abbas, like MLK, wants peace — call into question her renowned intelligence, and illustrate how easily even the most intelligent conservatives are subject to the kind of idiotic analogies that so often drive “progressive” thought.
Of course, the Israelis should have seen this coming, and hit CR with a pack of information distinguishing between the predicament of the Palestinians and that of the African Americans, as soon as she started making this grotesque analogy. She should be publicly ashamed to make such hair-brained comparisons that illustrate the worst of “progressive” thought these days. Instead, she feels she can make these kind of remarks as part of a “balanced,” “both sides suffer pain” speech that encourages the worst kind of thinking.
Annapolis shows that long-range thinking is completely absent from both the Israeli and the American agenda, and as a result, the long-range Arab thinking consistently positions itself well. The core of the conflict is honor-shame; and the core of its resolution will be to address these issues. Israelis owe it to themselves and the rest of the free world to think these things through carefully, and be prepared not only to make some demands the next time these issues arise, but to make clear why those demands are in everyone’s favor — Israelis, Westerners, Palestinians, Muslims… the whole world. No one but the most regressive warmongers can benefit by this complete abdication in the face of the demands of Arab “honor.”
UPDATE (HT: Judith Rosay): Caroline Glick has subsequently retracted this report which both US and Israeli government officials have contradicted, denying that there were separate entrances at Annapolis. This obviously changes the tenor of my remarks about US behavior which was considerably better than I had feared. The underlying analysis remains; as does the revolting behavior of the Arabs at Annapolis.