Monthly Archives: April 2008

War is not the Answer? Depends on the Question.

While on the Cape last week, I saw a number of signs that read “War is not the Answer.” I had only recently brought up this bumper sticker with my students in order to illustrate the problems of liberal cognitive egocentrism: No culture has ever proposed such an idea, with the exception of some messianic groups. Those that have (and survive), live in exile (Jews after Bar Kochba, Tibetans). Indeed, it’s hard not to savor the irony of these well-intentioned folks, living peacefully on the land of the Wampanoags whose plague-decimated numbers were finally reduced to some 400, and completely subjugated by “King Phillip’s War.”

A visit to the sponsoring site of this pacifist sign reveals that it is, indeed, a messianic pacifist group, the Quakers, who arose out of the messianic crucible of the 17th century English Civil War. They address the obvious question: “If war is not the answer, what is?

The practical instruments of negotiation, aid, and development assistance, the psychological instrument of respect for human dignity and equality, and the political instruments of human, juridical, and civil rights provide a more effective, just, and moral answer.

I agree with all of those “instruments” when they are practicable. But in the (hopefully rare) situation where they do not work, applying them actually backfires. Remember Gandhi’s famous non-violent resistance (suicidal) advice to the Jews when dealing with the Nazis — which, alas, too many instinctively followed. Such techniques only work when dealing with people who have a liberal conscience (like the British in India). When dealing with political cultures that seek dominion at any cost, such kindness registers as weakness and triggers aggression, not reconciliation.

Later today I will be on a committee examining a thesis on the failures of the US Intelligence Community in dealing with the “civilizational Jihad” of the Muslim Brotherhood against the United States. It is a staggering tale of political correctness that renders us dupes to demopaths who have learned to use every principle we treasure in order to dupe us into allowing them to flourish.

CAIR’s mission statement sought “to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” This sounds wonderful, but is not the true intent of the organization. The reality is that this is another organization within the [Muslim] Brotherhood running a deception campaign. The Brothers’ real objectives are to use CAIR as an instrument to influence the United States by mounting a public relations campaign under the guise of a civil rights campaign. The Brothers know how to use words and issues in ways that Americans want to hear. In one of the documents there [in the material entered in evidence at the "Holy Land Foundation" trial] is reference to a dictionary of terms that will placate the American public.

If they ever need any help, going to the “Friends’” site will give them all the buzz-words they need.

While meditating on these issues, I ran across the following piece in the Jerusalem Post by Caleb ben-David, one of their more reflective writers. It illustrates the problems of “peace advocacy” in prime-divider cultures where violence — male violence, to be redundant — is a norm.

Apr 24, 2008 12:23 | Updated Apr 25, 2008 1:39
Snap Judgment: The last journey of Pippa Bacca
By CALEV BEN-DAVID

The killing earlier of this month of Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, “Pippa Bacca,” has received little media comment outside the country of her birth, Italy, and that of her death, Turkey.

It should, though; Bacca was apparently a very special kind of “performance artist,” who saw her life, or at least the way she chose to live it, as her “brush,” and the whole world as her canvas. Tragically, the end of that life turned out not in the way she intended – nor left behind exactly the message that she had hoped it would convey.

Bacca, 33, set off from Milan last March together with fellow artist Silvia Moro on what they dubbed a “Brides on Tour” journey, with both wearing white wedding dresses and taking separate routes from Italy through southern Europe and the Middle East, with the intention of meeting up together at the end here in Jerusalem sometime this month.

The central point was to promote peace and faith in one’s fellow man, in part by doing the entire trip via hitchhiking. Although to many the idea of a single woman thumbing rides through some of the most conflict-ridden regions of the globe sounds more than a little naïve and dangerous, this apparently was the very point. The Web site they created for the “Brides on Tour” project declares: “Hitchhiking is choosing to have faith in other human beings, and man, like a small god, rewards those who have faith in him.”

Alas, on the way Bacca met a man who had a very different outlook, and in early April her corpse was discovered near the Turkish town of Gebze, southeast of Istanbul. Traced through his use of her cellphone, a local man was later arrested and confessed to her rape and murder shortly after he picked her up.

“We cannot blame all Turks for this incident,” Bacca’s mother told the Turkish press. “No one could have predicted my daughter would encounter such a maniac.”

Of course not – though a Western woman hitchhiking alone through the Turkish hinterlands surely must be aware of a very real element of risk.

I would be a little less understated in responding to this poor mother’s comment: “What are you talking about? Anyone with any knowledge of honor-shame, alpha-male behavior and its enormous power in cultures like that of Turkey could have predicted precisely this.” Of course, her sister, quoted in the NYT, anticipated my comment and refuted it:

    “Just read any newspaper — people get killed for playing music too loudly, and women get raped in the subway; there are fiends everywhere,” Ms. Pasqualino said. “This was not a question of Turkey or of religion.”

Not surprisingly, the comment was echoed by Turkish and Italian officials. And it may be true in some sense, although I do think the odds vary depending on the culture.

Bacca’s murder generated widespread revulsion in Turkey, sparking demonstrations by local women wearing placards declaring, “We are Pippa,” and demanding the government take greater steps to ensure that unaccompanied women in the streets are free from harassment.

This gets to an interesting tension within these cultures of male-dominance. Women generally live lives of quiet desperation. If Bacca’s murder were to give them voice, it would not have been in vain. But for that to happen, not only would these women need to speak up, but the international press would have to cover this story in its details and thereby shame Turkish officials into taking real measures.

Bacca’s artistic collaborator Moro, who cut short her own trip after her friend’s murder, told The New York Times she “still hoped to take to the road to finish the performance. Otherwise it would be a failure, and I don’t want the message to fail.”

“I am not disowning the project,” she added firmly. “This tragedy only highlights how difficult peaceful relations are and how much work there is still to do.”

This is classic messianic behavior in a state of cognitive dissonance. When your premise has been disproved, keep pursuing the goal, which is more important than reality testing.

INDEED. I sincerely hope Moro does carry on (with greater precaution) her and Bacca’s project, even the performance they were planning to stage in Tel Aviv at its end, when they were planning to ceremonially wash their wedding dresses.

Their journey, said Moro, was intended to show that “by overcoming differences and lowering the level of conflict individuals and cultures could come together… Meeting people was the key.”

But if their project is to retain its artistic integrity, it should honestly take into account Bacca’s tragic fate, and incorporate it into the work and the meaning it seeks to convey. And surely that message is that sometimes faith in fellow man and a desire for peace is not enough in this world; often it is wise, if not essential, to combine those elements with strong doses of hardheaded – and hearted – caution and concern, pragmatism and patience. If not, the end result may turn out to be not only failure, but violent failure that ends up defeating the very message of trust and peace the original effort was meant to convey.

Precisely. In other words, when one pursues peace only through negotiations when dealing with a bloody-minded foe, one ends up strengthening the very forces one hopes to overcome. PCP strengthens Jihad.

Strangely enough, I thought of Pippa Bacca this week while attending a press conference in Jerusalem featuring former US president Jimmy Carter discussing his own recent travels and encounters in the region, with the likes of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal.

This was performance art of its own kind – “ex-president on tour” – that was also all about promoting peace in the region. Again, meeting people was key, as was giving them the benefit of the doubt and taking them at their word, even when in contradiction to good sense. Fortunately for Carter, the conditions under which he traveled virtually guaranteed a safe final arrival in Jerusalem to close his trip.

If I am inclined under these circumstances to be far more generous to Bacca’s wanderings, it is in the certainty that at least in her case there is no doubt her motives were entirely good-hearted, and that the only possible harmful outcome of her trip was to herself, which regrettably did come to pass.

Pippa Bacca was a dreamer – and yes, perhaps so is Jimmy Carter. Peace, of course, is always worth dreaming about. But the longer I live in this country, and this region, the more convinced I become that peace is not made by the dreamers, but the realists, especially weary and wary old warriors such as Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, King Hussein, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak.

Peace is not made by simply choosing to have faith in other people – which one should – but by taking reasonable precautions that if that faith is not rewarded, the end results will not be cruelly catastrophic. Though I appreciate her idealism, this to me is the real meaning of Pippa Bacca’s final journey.

France2 Rushes (18 Minutes Version) Now Up at YouTube

Lots to see, even thought they cut out at least three of the most obvious fake scenes.

Self-Criticism and Identifying Demopaths: A Pressing Agendum for the Humanities in the 21st Century

Self-Criticism and the Humanities

Let me begin with a paean of praise for one of the most overlooked but essential dimensions of both the “humanities” and of democracy: Self-criticism. The ability to look inside oneself – or one’s culture – and introspect, to appraise another’s rebuke, honestly admit wrongdoing rather than point the finger, constitutes, in my opinion, one of the most important moral values and priorities of a humane culture. Without self-criticism, one cannot grow; one cannot learn from one’s mistakes. Without it, modern science is impossible. Without it, one cannot empathize with “the other”; one cannot listen well to another’s narrative.

With it, one can move into a larger world populated by other sentient beings, with whom we interact. With it we can hear other narratives, other experiences, other worlds. Like Montaigne, we become humanists by examining our own, and others’ experience; by seeing the world through our own doors of perception, cleansed of the blinding force of unexamined egotism; and then, as Robert Burns would say, “to see ourselves as others see us.”

From such introspection springs genuine tolerance – not the easy tolerance of indifference, but the passionate tolerance that can understand how someone else can see and experience the world in profoundly different ways. And from it arises real freedom, or, as Hegel might say in a moment of laconic lucidity: we are only free when we grant others freedom. In so doing, we can overcome that bane of human freedom, the principle that has governed most political and international relations for the past five millennia at least: “rule or be ruled.” Eli Sagan calls this the “paranoid imperative” because it projects ones own desires to dominate onto the “other” and justifies aggression as defense. Only empathic self-criticism can break the grip of that imperative.

Self-criticism plays a key role in morality: without it, moral behavior is impossible.

Thus, self-criticism is an ongoing process. To overcome the paranoid imperative takes constant work. Otherwise even the most fruitful and mutually beneficial relations can spiral down into mutual suspicion and hostility. This holds for relationships with family and friends as it does with business partners and colleagues, with neighbors and neighboring peoples. And only through positive-sum possibilities can we escape the world in which war is the first answer: “plunder or be plundered.” Only with self-criticism can we live in peace. It is, therefore, no accident, that the emergence of democracy and freedom of speech correlate closely with cultures of self-criticism. So let me conclude the first section of my talk by arguing that we consider self-criticism one of the key components of any humane humanism, and that we cultivate its arts.

Difficulties

For all its bounteous gifts, self-criticism does not come easily. Honest self-inspection demands great emotional courage; it is deeply painful to us to realize our inadequacies, much less to admit them, even to our most intimate loves. And if the silent, whispered self-criticism is painful, how much the more public admission of weakness, of error, of fault! Losing face! How humiliating! How damaging in the eyes of others! How vulnerable! How dangerous! “Here in France,” a friend explained to me, “no one admits they’re wrong. It would be seen as a sign of weakness, it could be fatal.”

Indeed, it turns out, few cultures take introspection – a fortiori public self-criticism – as a high value. On the contrary, the vast majority of political cultures work hard to avoid any embarrassment to those in power. No medieval person would ever have expected – or wanted – to be governed by someone who had been through so humiliating an experience as that one through which we Americans put all our presidential candidates. For us, it is trial by fire that only gets worse once the president – democrat or republican – gets in office; for most pre-modern cultures, to diss a ruler in that fashion was to court the collapse of the social order. On the contrary, the behavior of a king was, by definition, opaque to the public gaze; no one could hold him accountable. And anyone who tried, ran the likely risk of death.

Thus self-criticism, especially on any kind of large, culture-wide scale, is doubly difficult. Not only does the human psyche rebel against public humiliation and loss of face, but self-criticism only really works if the “other” also engages in the art. Self-criticism entails the doubly difficult art of reciprocity, of both accepting and giving rebuke. And despite the pain in admitting wrongdoing, I suspect that delivering rebuke successfully is actually far more difficult.

And yet only when a society can organize a system of reciprocal criticism, in which the people and their rulers can rebuke each other, can one even hope to launch a democracy. Most polities adopt the paranoid position of systematic suspicion of bad faith: rule or be ruled. Notes Eli Sagan, the man who identified the role of this thinking in political structures: “Democracy, is a miracle, considering human psychological disabilities.”

So if even a city-state like Athens, for a couple of centuries, represents a political miracle, how much the more difficult, to launch a civilization-wide project of constitutional states based on the principle of equality before the law, backed up with free speech. That represents an unprecedented accomplishment in the history of civilization. And we today, at the dawn of the 21st century in the West, have the honor and privilege of inheriting that noble and rare experiment in freedom and moral self-criticism.

Problems: The Pathologies of Self-Criticism and Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome

Like all potent and difficult psychological talents, however, self-critcism has its pathologies. Whereas most people dislike and avoid self-criticism at all costs, some few find it exhilarating, and engage in it unilaterally. This passion for self-criticism has created, in our day, a kind messianic pathology, what I call masochistic omnipotence syndrome, in which, “everything is our fault, and if only we could be better, we could fix anything.”

To this end, we forfeit normal protections. “Who are we to judge?” we say, as we accept as valid the stories and deeds of the oppressed “other,” no matter how dishonest the narrative and its intentions might be. “One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter,” we solemnly repeat as if the two were mutually exclusive rather than independent identities, and, alas, all too often joint-identities. From moral equivalence: “We’re as bad as you are”; to moral inversion: “No, we’re worse than you are.” The Muslim terrorists who blow up fellow Muslims at prayer in Iraq are thus to Michael Moore “Minute Men” resisting American soldiers who represent the forces of the evil empire. And if we just do this kind of moral reckoning enough, we seem to reason, we will eventually elicit good will and negotiate an end to all conflicts. “War,” we all know, “is not the answer.” We have the responsibility to repent for our imperialism and ask forgiveness for our crimes against native peoples. And all of this might be reasonable in the framework of good intentions on both sides.

But some use these principles to criticize us, not because they respect and admire the values they invoke, but only because of the positional advantage it gives them. They have no intention of reciprocating. They do not believe in these values, and they see us as irremediably stupid and effeminate for embracing self-criticism and commitments to treating others fairly. To paraphrase Thucydides and Nietzsche, they only whine about fairness and resent the strong because they themselves are now weak; were they strong, they would dominate without hesitation.

For them, our self-criticism registers as signs of weakness and an invitations to further aggression. The vulnerability we painfully but magnanimously adopt triggers not reciprocity and reconciliation, but predatory hopes.

Let’s call these players demopaths. “They use democracy to destroy democracy.” They are not along for a free ride. They are hostile agents, and opening up to them is counter-indicated. No creature – no matter how powerful – who cannot detect hostile intent will long endure. And those who treat the accusations of demopaths as “in good faith,” who embrace the rebuke without concern for the effects, are their dupes, who empower demopaths even as they weaken the self-criticizers.

In the 21st century, already, demopaths and their dupes have already established a major beachhead with the language of human rights. At Durban, in the summer of 2001, a major conference against racism turned into a hate-fest of demonization, in which America’s heinous role in the 19th century slave trade, it’s genocide of native Americans, received prominent attention while the Àrab world’s ongoing slave trade and acts of genocide against black Africans, never got mentioned. And Western human rights NGOs played a key role in legitimating the proceedings.

Durban was a moral travesty of terrifyingly Orwellian dimensions. Its silences enabled the genocide in Darfur, the ongoing slavery in Mauretania and Saudi Arabia, even as it encouraged many in the world – including in the US – to view 9-11 as payback. And in 2009, we can expect not a self-critical repentance for the moral madness of Durban one, but a Durban II that will pick up where the first left off. Dupes and their demopaths… global victories for the haters.

Demopathy occurs on a daily basis. In yesterday’s Washington Post, one of the founders of Hamas, an organization with a certifiably paranoid and genocidal charter, whose preachers speak of a generation-long war against the West that only begins with the destruction of Israel and moves on from there to the taking of the crusader capital, Rome and a generation-long war of conquest of Europe and the two Americas, wrote an editorial entitled, “No Peace without Hamas.” This is information warfare, and it seeks dupes eager to proclaim “peace in our time.”

The collaboration of demopaths and their dupes leave their traces everywhere, including an allegedly feminist discourse that makes moral equivalence between private school dress codes demanding modesty among girls and a Taliban theocracy that threw acid in the face of women who did not go out veiled. Thus the terrifying silence of many feminists about the treatment of women in the Muslim world.

This is no laughing matter, despite how ludicrous some of these cases might seem. We who are privileged to inherent the wondrous – indeed the miraculous – world of a free society tend to take it for granted. We take self-criticism for granted.

But no. Democracy is an exceptionally difficult accomplishment, and among its demands, one of the most exceptionally difficult, is a culture of self-criticism. To assume everyone wants what we wants, that every other culture and religious tradition has made the transition from theocratic ambitions to the free and tolerant acceptance of the religious other in a secular political sphere, is folly. When we compensate for a lack of self-criticism among those hostile to us, by redoubling out own self-criticism; when we fail to challenge others to engage in self-criticism lest we embarrass them or hurt their feelings; when we prevent ourselves from accurately assessing other cultures lest we make politically incorrect statements, we only make things worse.

In fact, we actually deny autonomy to the “other” – he becomes a cipher for our politically-correct imagination – and we strengthen the very forces that lead to war, even as we pursue peace. Rather than show them the respect of expecting them to self-criticize when appropriate, we condescend, treat them as incapable, compensate for their failures rather than embarrass them by drawing some moral lines. This silent prejudice of no-expectations treats the “other” as an animal: no one rebukes a cat for mousing. And in so doing, we betray not only our own hard-fought accomplishments, but all those people in the world – the women, the slaves, the victims of genocide – who are crushed by merciless elites. “He who is merciful to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful,” says the Talmud


Alas, when those cruel elites turn to us and say, “how dare you criticize us; first remove the beam in your eye,” we don’t have the nerve to laugh in their face and, say, “who do you take us for, fools?”

Well demopaths do take us for moral fools, and most often they’re right. If we do not have the courage to stand up for our exceptional moral accomplishments and talents, if our humanists of the 21st century don’t learn to identify and confront demopaths, then the humanities of the 21st century will be neither triumphant, nor a participant in a peaceful and prosperous world.

Opinions Please: Is this Pallywood? Is this Demopathy?

This morning I received the following email:

Dear Professor Landes

I’ve followed your work on Pallywood and I wondered whether you would comment on the footage released yesterday from Gaza at the Bureij refugee camp, claiming that an Israeli tank shell killed two boys on a bicycle and a Palestinian cameraman. This clip, placed on the BBC website, bears the the logo Hamas TV.

What puzzled me was the following.

Two young men (and one bicycle) lie in the road. The young men show some traces of blood, the form of which resembles that produced by a knife wound. No sign of a shell crater or other damage is visible. In the distance is seen a collection of cars, one of which is claimed to belong to a cameraman killed by the the same shell. The footage continues by getting closer to this car. No obvious damage, fire or smoke is visible. A new camera angle then shows a vehicle marked with TV insignia in flames with heavy billows of smoke surrounding it and spreading prominently into the air. The camera of the camerman is displayed amid scenes of grief.

My puzzlement is:

- whether the injuries displayed on the young men are compatible with a tank shell
- whether a tank shell could have hit both the youngsters and a car 100 meters away
- why the car is not on fire in one image and is very prominently in flames in the other

I only had time to look through it once. No time to pursue, but definitely intending to return to it.

As I walked out this morning, I saw that a picture on the front page of the NYT. I presume the photo was taken before the boys subsequently became full victims of Israeli attacks in the footage used by the BBC. They both look quite solidly alive, to judge by both their expressions.

bicycle boy

Please look at both, see if there are more evidence on the web, and let me know what you think.

Here are two more pictures of these two (I think).

bicycle kids 2

and

bicycle kids 3

See commentary at Light at the End of the Tunnel.

Update: LGF has other elements of the story, mostly on the death of the cameraman.

And the same day, we get an editorial that I think ranks high on the demopathy scale, on the opinion page of the Washington Post. Please send in your fisking points, as well as any remarks about how this relates to Carter’s activity.

No Peace Without Hamas
By Mahmoud al-Zahar
Thursday, April 17, 2008; A23

GAZA — President Jimmy Carter’s sensible plan to visit the Hamas leadership this week brings honesty and pragmatism to the Middle East while underscoring the fact that American policy has reached its dead end. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acts as if a few alterations here and there would make the hideous straitjacket of apartheid fit better. While Rice persuades Israeli occupation forces to cut a few dozen meaningless roadblocks from among the more than 500 West Bank control points, these forces simultaneously choke off fuel supplies to Gaza; blockade its 1.5 million people; approve illegal housing projects on West Bank land; and attack Gaza City with F-16s, killing men, women and children. Sadly, this is “business as usual” for the Palestinians.

Last week’s attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot should not surprise critics in the West. Palestinians are fighting a total war waged on us by a nation that mobilizes against our people with every means at its disposal — from its high-tech military to its economic stranglehold, from its falsified history to its judiciary that “legalizes” the infrastructure of apartheid. Resistance remains our only option. Sixty-five years ago, the courageous Jews of the Warsaw ghetto rose in defense of their people. We Gazans, living in the world’s largest open-air prison, can do no less.

The U.S.-Israeli alliance has sought to negate the results of the January 2006 elections, when the Palestinian people handed our party a mandate to rule. Hundreds of independent monitors, Carter among them, declared this the fairest election ever held in the Arab Middle East. Yet efforts to subvert our democratic experience include the American coup d’etat that created the new sectarian paradigm with Fatah and the continuing warfare against and enforced isolation of Gazans.

Now, finally, we have the welcome tonic of Carter saying what any independent, uncorrupted thinker should conclude: that no “peace plan,” “road map” or “legacy” can succeed unless we are sitting at the negotiating table and without any preconditions.

Israel’s escalation of violence since the staged Annapolis “peace conference” in November has been consistent with its policy of illegal, often deadly collective punishment — in violation of international conventions. Israeli military strikes on Gaza have killed hundreds of Palestinians since then with unwavering White House approval; in 2007 alone the ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed was 40 to 1, up from 4 to 1 during the period from 2000 to 2005.

Only three months ago I buried my son Hussam, who studied finance at college and wanted to be an accountant; he was killed by an Israeli airstrike. In 2003, I buried Khaled — my first-born — after an Israeli F-16 targeting me wounded my daughter and my wife and flattened the apartment building where we lived, injuring and killing many of our neighbors. Last year, my son-in-law was killed.

Hussam was only 21, but like most young men in Gaza he had grown up fast out of necessity. When I was his age, I wanted to be a surgeon; in the 1960s, we were already refugees, but there was no humiliating blockade then. But now, after decades of imprisonment, killing, statelessness and impoverishment, we ask: What peace can there be if there is no dignity first? And where does dignity come from if not from justice?

Our movement fights on because we cannot allow the foundational crime at the core of the Jewish state — the violent expulsion from our lands and villages that made us refugees — to slip out of world consciousness, forgotten or negotiated away. Judaism — which gave so much to human culture in the contributions of its ancient lawgivers and modern proponents of tikkun olam — has corrupted itself in the detour into Zionism, nationalism and apartheid.

A “peace process” with Palestinians cannot take even its first tiny step until Israel first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem; releases all prisoners; and ends its blockade of our international borders, our coastline and our airspace permanently. This would provide the starting point for just negotiations and would lay the groundwork for the return of millions of refugees. Given what we have lost, it is the only basis by which we can start to be whole again.

I am eternally proud of my sons and miss them every day. I think of them as fathers everywhere, even in Israel, think of their sons — as innocent boys, as curious students, as young men with limitless potential — not as “gunmen” or “militants.” But better that they were defenders of their people than parties to their ultimate dispossession; better that they were active in the Palestinian struggle for survival than passive witnesses to our subjugation.

History teaches us that everything is in flux. Our fight to redress the material crimes of 1948 is scarcely begun, and adversity has taught us patience. As for the Israeli state and its Spartan culture of permanent war, it is all too vulnerable to time, fatigue and demographics: In the end, it is always a question of our children and those who come after us.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a surgeon, is a founder of Hamas. He is foreign minister in the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, which was elected in January 2006.

Daily Freep Article on My Work

I mentioned the article about my work on Pallywood and Al Durah. Here it is. Aside from some slight incoherences, it seems fair. I append the two comments by students.

A look at Mideast propaganda
Matt Kaplan

Issue date: 4/10/08 Section: News

A banner [shown in a power point presentation] at the Newton Public Library bore the Star of David, and equated the symbol of Judaism to a swastika and a slain Palestinian child to make a strong statement about the growing conflict in the Middle East and how some Westerners may be deceived by Palestinian propaganda.

Boston University College of Arts and Sciences professor Richard Landes spoke a week ago about symbolism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and about Muhammad al-Durah, a Palestinian boy who was allegedly killed by Israeli troops in late 2000 to trigger anti-Israel sentiment in Europe. Landes said he does not think Israelis killed al-Durah – he said Palestinians staged the boy’s death for cameras through a medium known as “Pallywood.”

Landes coined the term “Pallywood” to mean systematic Palestinian attempt to stage scenes for Western cameras, effectively serving as anti-Israeli propaganda for the Western press, he said.

“This was run as news and seized upon by a world anxious for nasty stuff about Israel,” Landes told attendees.

Landes said after the speech that in two hours of propaganda footage, “the best we got is a fake ambulance scene.”

Landes founded the Center for Millennial Studies in 1996, a BU organization dedicated to studying the millennium and its impact on apocalyptic thought, which he said surrounds claims of radical Islam.

Jack Schuss, a member of the Boston Israel Action Committee, which sponsored the lecture, said he thinks Landes’s thoughts on the subject of Palestinian and Israeli conflict are noteworthy.

“On the subject he’s very knowledgeable” he said.

Andrew Gow, a University of Alberta history professor, said he met Landes at the first conference for millennial studies in 1996.

“This is a guy with enormous insight and intuition,” Gow said. “[His] eagle eye pierces to the core of the matter. His ideas are often utterly original. He’s willing to pursue a question because he’s curious about it.”

Landes goes against established precedent by asking new and oftentimes controversial questions using techniques shunned by tradition historians, Gow said.

“I think his work is controversial. I think the establishment doesn’t like it,” Gow said. “They’re objecting as much to the conclusions as to his methods.”

Although trained as a medieval historian, Landes uses skills honed as a historian in his analysis for Pallywood, Gow said. Historians need to detect abnormalities inside and outside a text to determine its authenticity, and Landes has applied this skill towards raw video footage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gow said.

Landes has analyzed select, raw footage of clashes between Palestinians and Israelis and discovered that, as outlined in his 2003 movie Pallywood, Palestinians sometimes stage scenes in front of Western cameras to deceive Western audiences into being more sympathetic toward their cause, Landes said.

Landes said he thinks the mainstream media disseminates one-sided news coverage because of a fear of angering Palestinians and jihadist Muslims, and because they want to help people they feel are oppressed.

In his presentation at the Newton Library, Landes detailed his evidence and said he thinks the al-Durah incident was staged, and the incident sparked anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments in France.

“There is no cost to saying nasty things about the Israelis,” Landes said. “You say something bad about the Palestinians and the best you can hope for is to not be let back in . . . You have this masochistic postmodern narrative where we are guilty.”

Here are the comments.

Aaron Larocque
posted 4/10/08 @ 12:35 PM EST
This is a bit biased. Israel seems to do the same thing when an Israeli boy gets killed, but they retaliate with great military force. Recently a prominent Rabbi in Israel has been quoted “The Talmud states that if gentiles rob Israel of silver they will pay it back in gold, and all that is taken will be paid back in folds, but in cases like these there is nothing to pay back, since as I said – the life of one yeshiva boy is worth more than the lives of 1,000 Arabs,” added Rabbi Eliyahu. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has also been quoted saying that if radicalists in Palestine continue attacking, they will face a “shoah,” which is the Hebrew word that refers to a holocaust. Israel’s deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio: “The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger ‘shoah’ because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.” The anti-Israel sentiment is not without basis, and westerners are deceived if they think that Israel is doing no wrong.

George Viglirolo
posted 4/13/08 @ 2:55 PM EST
According to Matt Kaplan’s narrow “Look at Mideast Propaganda” (DFP, 10 April 2008), Professor Landes “thinks the mainstream media disseminates one-sided news coverage because of a fear of angering Palestinians and jihadist Muslims.” Others would argue that one-sided news coverage is of quite a different sort — one that stems directly from the very legitimate fear of being labeled anti-Semitic.

The truth is that there has never been, in the U.S. at least, an open, honest, objective discussion–either in the political halls of power, or in the local and national press–of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It would surely be more than an academic exercise to examine scrupulously what each side has suffered.

Note that neither of them confront either my argument or the evidence.

Israeli Left Dupes of Demopaths

The ever-vigilant head of Israel’s CAMERA, Tamar Sternthal, has uncovered an interesting gaff by an Israeli “Peace” group in an ad they ran in the Israeli paper, Ha-Aretz. It reveals a great deal both about the demopathic nature of Palestinian media and the way that the Western left, with their eagerness to self-criticize, is a willing dupe to their deceptions. (HT: GS and TS)

Gush Shalom Falsely Accuses Israel of Killing 5-year-old

In a page A2 advertisement in Ha’aretz Friday (April 11), Gush Shalom falsely accuses Israel of having killed a five-year-old, Abdallah Bahar.

gush shalom ad

The text reads:

    5-year-old Abdallah Bahar Was killed this week In the Gaza Strip By army fire.
    Not a single word about this
    Was published by
    Yediot Aharonot, Maariv
    or any TV channel
    Only Haaretz published a photo.
    In the democratic State of Israel
    There is no need for
    A military coup d’etat
    In order to muzzle the media.
    The editors do it themselves.

Note the rapidity with which they move from the refusal of the Israeli papers to publish this “information” to claims that the “democratic state of Israel” muzzles the media. Shades of “If Americans only knew,” an organization dedicated to mainstreaming every claim that the Palestinians make about the terrible Israelis. The only problem is… the child was killed by Palestinians.

But, as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights documents in an April 8 release entitled “Misuse of Weapons by Armed Groups and Security Personnel,” Behar was killed by a Palestinian mortar shell which accidentally hit near his house.

    A Child Killed and His Brother Wounded in al-Boreij

    On Sunday evening, 6 April 2008, ‘Abdullah Mohammed Bahar, 4, was killed and his brother, ‘Abdul Jawad, 8, was wounded when a mortar shell fell near their house in al-Boreij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

    According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 15:00 on Sunday, a mortar shell fell near a house belonging to Mohammed Suleiman Bahar, 51, in the east of al-Boreij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. As a result, two of the owner’s children were wounded when they were playing near the house: ‘Abullah, 4, wounded by shrapnel to the head and the chest; and ‘Abdul Jawad, 8, wounded by shrapnel to the head. The two children were evacuated to al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah town, but ‘Abdullah died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

    PCHR is gravely concerned for the increasing number of casualties resulting from the misuse of weapons. PCHR calls upon concerned authorities to take necessary measures to ensure the non-recurrence of such incidents, which cause civilian fatalities, and to ensure protection for civilian and their property.

Note that Bassem Eid, the head of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitor has estimated that over 15% of Palestinian casualties during the Intifada were caused by Palestinians. Note that when Enderlin claimed the Israelis killed Muhammad al Durah, and the world heard about it, it was unthinkable that the Palestinians might have done it. As Enderlin later said, “it corresponded to the situation on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” Who, prisoner of liberal cognitive egocentrism, would dare imagine that Palestinian culture could possibly be so likely to kill their own children?

Sternthal ends her post with some penetrating questions.

Some questions:

1) Does Ha’aretz have any policy requiring the fact-checking of ads for factual accuracy? Will Ha’aretz print a correction about the ad which contains a false, defamatory charge against Israel? Ask Publisher Amos Schocken (aschocken@haaretz.co.il).

2) What evidence does Gush Shalom have that would negate PCHR’s findings that Behar was killed by a Palestinian mortar? If none is available, will Gush Shalom retract its accusation? Contact info@gush-shalom.org .

Or is the ability to trash their own country so critical to their search for “peace” that covering up the depravity of their country’s foes just too important? Indeed, one doesn’t need a military coup in order for the “peace”-advocacy journalists to censor themselves.

Meantime, as Gerald Steinberg from NGO Monitor pointed out to me, B’Tselem still lists Muhammad al Durah as slain by the Israelis.

Date of Incident 30/09/2000 Name: Muhammad Jamal Muhammad a-Dura age: 12 sex: M Citizenship: Palestinian Residence: al-Bureij Refugee Camp, Deir al-Balah Location of Event: in Netzarim Junction, Killed while fighting?: No Cause of Death: Gunfire Notes: Killed during clashes. His father tried to protect him.

How on earth can an outsider understand the pathological relationship between Palestinian pre-modern scapegoating and Israeli post-modern masochistic self-criticism?

Reconciliation-Hearted to Bostom: It’s really not a zero-sum

Andy Bostom has a response to my post on the Bostom-Künatzel debate. He has asked me to stick to substantive issues, which I agree is where we need to go in this discussion. I will, however, make a couple of asides about rhetoric [in brackets] since Andy’s tone has, on occasion, created unnecessary friction. Here are my responses.

Richard the Reconciliation-Hearted
April 6th, 2008 by Andrew Bostom

grail knight

Actually, I’m mostly known as Richard Artichokeheart.

Has Medievalist Richard Landes chosen his arguments all that wisely?

[Let me guess, that's a rhetorical question the answer to which is... no. :-) ]

Richard Landes, invoking understandably, his background as a Medievalist, with a special interest in millenarian movements — attempts a thoughtful “reconciliation” of what he attributes to be the positions of Matthias Kuntzel, and myself, vis a vis Islamic Antisemitism. But Landes’ discussion has two fundamental flaws.

[Normally, one first goes over the strengths of the argument before going for the weaknesses, but okay. Andy's a no-nonsense guy.]

First, Landes ignores (and likely does not appreciate) Kuntzel’s complete failure to understand the jihad,

[Although this is not purely a matter of substance, it is significant. I neither ignore, nor fail to appreciate the issue, nor do I think it appropriate to use terms like "complete failure to understand" (even if it's true, which I don't think it is).]

which lead Kuntzel to opine, remarkably (on p. 13 of his book “Jihad and Jew Hatred”),

    The [Muslim] Brotherhood’s most significant innovation was their concept of jihad as holy war, which significantly differed from other contemporary doctrines and, associated with that, the passionately pursued goal of dying a martyr’s death in the war with the unbeliever. Before the founding of the Brotherhood, Islamic currents of modern times had understood jihad (derived from a root signifying “effort”) as the individual striving for belief or the missionary task of disseminating Islam. Only when this missionary work was hindered were they allowed to use force to defend themselves against the unbelievers resistance. The starting point of Islamism is the new interpretation of jihad espoused with uncompromising militancy by Hassan al-Bana, the first to preach this kind of jihad in modern times.

There is simply no way to reconcile this statement with either classical Islamic doctrine — entirely consistent with Al-Banna’s views — or the tragic, but copious historical evidence of how jihad campaigns, in accord with this doctrine, were (and continue to be) conducted across, Asia, Africa, and Europe. I amass incontrovertible evidence of this living doctrine and history in the The Legacy of Jihad.

There are, in fact, several ways to reconcile these statements with the ample documentation of Bostom’s work. First, note that Küntzel refers to “Islamic currents in modern times.” Küntzel may, indeed, underestimate the importance of Jihad as holy war in Islamic tradition, and overstate the “innovation” of the Muslim Brotherhood when it comes specifically to Jihad, but that hardly means that the Muslim Brotherhood’s reformulation of Jihad doesn’t contain important new elements that included an anti-modern anti-Semitism typical of fascism and Nazism. It’s one thing to say Küntzel underestimates the vigor of an earlier Jihadi and anti-Semitic tradition in Islam, quite another to dismiss his argument that Hassan al Banna’s and the Mufti’s version had new elements that, even if they existed before (see below), took on new and ominous forms.

What do my colleagues think?

One of the regular commenters at my site asks the following:

One question, if you can comment openly on it without doing yourself political harm: how are you getting along at BU these days?

You mention reading/teaching Orientalism in your seminar (with a critical eye). Do you get a lot of blow-back for this counter-revolutionary activity? Do your faculty colleagues shun you? Do student-activists disrupt your lectures?

I hope the answers are no, but my acquaintance with the academic world makes me suspect otherwise.

As problematic as tenure seems in these MESA-dominated times, the practice is worth keeping, I think, when it protects scholars like you and Salzman, who would otherwise be swept away on a tide of politically correct layoffs.

Funny you should mention that. It’s a question I get a good deal. Up until now, I would have said most of them don’t really know. When I went to the Pajama’s Media launch in November 2005, my first documentary, Pallywood had been up for two months. Most everyone I met there had seen it. I doubt that any of my colleagues, even in my department, even know about it (except those I’ve shared a copy with). And if they have, they haven’t spoken to me about it.

They probably suspect something, since an unknown individual from Florida named Jon Tate wrote a lengthy letter to me, appealing to me not to attend the One Jerusalem conference and rub elbows with “so many men of war.”

Dr. Landes:

There are forces in the world today intent on erasing The Age of Enlightenment from history. Fundamentalists in the Middle East, Evangelicals in the United States and settlers in Israel are all dragging the world backwards; out of the Age of Reason. Political leaders ride the wave. Christian fundamentalists thrust Bush to power. Netanyahu and Likud and Kadima are pushing the Greater Israel agenda of the Israeli settlers and ultra-right Jews. Ahmadinejad and the Muslim Republic backs Hezbollah and Hamas.

These factions feed off each other. The US backs Israel with weapons and money. Israel oppresses Palestinians and threatens the Arab world. Muslims attack Israel and America. Bush and the neoconservatives invade Iraq, inflaming the entire Middle East. Iran launches orbital rockets and develops nuclear power, incensing the Israelis. Israelis push for hard-line Bush policies via the neoconservatives. It is a circle of violence, destruction and death that will lead to nothing but pain and suffering for the entire world.

All men of reason must learn to effectively resist these dangerous and backward looking social movements. All men of reason must find a way to marginalize and overcome these factional elements. If we fail, reason dies. Millions of men, women and children die.

Mr. Landes, why are you meeting with so many men of war at the upcoming Jerusalem Conference? Will you be speaking words of fear and war or will you be speaking words of wisdom and reason? (Jerusalem Conference Program Schedule attached below).

He then took the liberty of sending the following circular letter to all my department colleagues, my dean and provost, and several other key figures at BU:

To Whom It May Concern:

I wrote the attached email letter to Dr. Richard Landes in the History Department at the College of Arts & Sciences at Boston University. I copied in most of the department as well some of the faculty at the College of Arts & Sciences. I have no grudge against Dr. Landes nor do I intend any harm to his person or his reputation. I do not know Dr. Landes. For all I know he is a terrific human being.

I sincerely hope Dr. Landes is not very offended by my email letter. Judging by the attendance list at The Jerusalem Conference next week, he appears to be acquainted with a number of people who are very familiar with all manner of death and destruction. With this in mind, I am writing this short note in hopes that someone will look into my circumstances in the event I myself should turn up dead or disappeared or otherwise destroyed. For the record, I am not a depressed loaner; I do not contemplate suicide or murder and I am not looking for attention.

I own two businesses. I pay my taxes. I have no criminal record. I have a beautiful wife and three bright and lovely daughters. In short I am very happy. I wrote the letter to Dr. Landes as a concerned American citizen, wondering why so many of America’s prominent military men and academics will be in attendance at the upcoming Jerusalem Conference.

No response is required. If you don’t mind, I would appreciate it if you would simply archive this email… or better yet forward it to a friend.

My Thanks,

Jon Tate
14-B Live Oak Street
Gulf Breeze, FL 32561

I would not even know about the second letter had not a couple of colleagues sent it to me. But overwhelmingly, no one has even mentioned it to me. It could have done serious damage to my career (and may have). Certainly, if I had a politically correct chairman, that could have hurt me. We’ll see the next time I approach the administration about applying for grants.

In the meantime, this unspoken situation is about to change. As a result of the Jerusalem Post article, the student newspaper, the Daily Free Press, assigned a journalist to do a profile on my work, specifically because I seem to represent such an oddity in academia. It hasn’t appeared yet, but we’ll see, a) if it’s a hatchet job, b) how my colleagues react.

Moreover, BU will be holding a full day conference on the “Creating the New Humanist in Undergraduate Education” in which I will be the first speaker (9:30-45). My subject: “Identifying Demopaths.” Here’s the submission I sent.

Identifying Demopaths: A Pressing Agendum for the Humanities in the 21st Century

“He who is merciful to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful.” Talmud
“Opposition is true Friendship.” William Blake

Although the world has seen earlier “globalizing” drives (from Alexander’s oecumene to Dar al Islam, to Britain’s global empire), never has globalization occurred on so widespread and intense a scale as today. With astounding and unprecedentedly inexpensive new technology of both transportation and communication, this current round of globalization penetrates deeper and faster into the indigenous cultures, at once creating undreamed of opportunities and provoking intense anxieties and frictions.

One of the most problematic dimensions of current globalization derives from the encounter between progressive Western values — human rights, gender and legal equality, self-criticism, tolerance, pacifism, freedom of speech and press — and the values that characterize many traditional cultures — aristocratic privilege, patriarchy, authoritarianism, imperialism, belligerence, censorship. Normally, progressives would have no difficulty identifying and denouncing proponents of these pre-modern values: indeed the modern west was built on their overthrow.

Our current dilemma derives from a peculiar form of post-modern, post-colonial, cultural relativism that privileges the “other” — especially the “victim” of our aggression — and refuses to condemn other cultures. “Who are we to judge? After all, is not imposing our values on other cultures a form of imperialism?” And in some cases, where the other responds to this show of respect with mutuality, this pluralistic tolerance encourages felicitous cultural encounters and eases the sometimes bruising dynamics of globalization.

But in other cases, such an approach can backfire. Specifically this problem applies in cases where Westerners encounter “anti-modern” forces that not only do not share our progressive sensibilities but are hostile to them and seek to destroy them. For anti-moderns, the very existence of gender-equal civil societies is an existential assault on their honor, their manhood. They respond to progressive values with violent invective and calls to destroy democratic cultures. But because the battle they fight against the overwhelmingly powerful democratic West is so asymmetrical, they must disguise their motives. This they do most effectively by presenting their hostility in a language of victimization and grievance, justifying their hostility and demands for concessions according to a set of progressive values they have no intent to abide by were they in a position of strength. These demopaths “use democracy to destroy democracy.”

Up till now, progressives treat democracy as some kind of invincible, immortal entity that can survive anything, including falling prey to the hypocrisy of demopaths. Somehow, the reasoning seems to run, being nice to everyone including people who, by our own principles of niceness are decidedly not nice, seems to trump self-defense. For a healthy and humane 21st century, Western progressives need to learn the difference between being slow to judgment and not allowing oneself to judge, between self-criticism and self-flagellation, between granting honor by avoiding unpleasant conversation and showing respect by confronting those who embrace regressive values.

We’ll see what happens.

The Supression of Mention of Palestinian Barbarism Part II: Ideology

I put up an earlier post on the role of intimidation in the reluctance of the Western media to publish material on hate-speech and other forms of unacceptable behavior (by progressive standards) of Palestinian groups. Some criticized me for emphasizing intimidation over ideology. Now we have an excellent example of how ideology — various forms of PCP — plays a key role in supressing any awareness of these problems in the American public. The American Jewish Committee tried to run an ad that would encourage American audiences to feel empathy for the citizens of Sderot under daily attack from Qassams shot from Gaza. A NYT-owned affiliate refused to run them. Their reasons give a fascinating insight into how some people think. Executive Director of the AJC, David Harris tells the tale and puts it in a larger framework:

What happens when the shoe’s on the other foot?
David A. Harris
Executive Director
American Jewish Committee
April 6, 2008

A small but influential chorus of American voices has made a mantra out of the notion that criticism of Israel is stifled by the pro-Israel community.

Indeed, when NYU professor Tony Judt’s lecture at the Polish Consulate in New York was canceled in 2006 by the consul general, because Poland did not subscribe to Judt’s view of a one-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a group of intellectuals rushed to his defense.

In a widely-publicized petition, they asserted that “We are united in believing that a climate of intimidation is inconsistent with fundamental principles of debate in a democracy. The Polish Consulate is not obliged to promote free speech. But the rules of the game in America oblige citizens to encourage rather than stifle debate.”

Let’s set aside the absurdity of the entire effort. After all, Judt had given countless lectures before that October date, not to mention his articles on the subject in the New York Review of Books and elsewhere. None of his defenders could cite a second instance of ”intimidation,” nor, for that matter, would they be able to cite an instance since then, either. In fact, Judt’s meeting was moved to a different venue in New York and that was that.

But there’s another side to the coin. While Judt and his erstwhile supporters, joined by Jimmy Carter, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have been making their case about their inability to be heard – ironically, in think tanks, universities and media outlets only too happy to have them speak out about how they cannot speak out – some are trying to silence a very different viewpoint.

On behalf of AJC, I do a weekly national 60-second radio spot. The time is purchased as any advertisement would be. For the past nearly seven years, it has been broadcast across the United States on the CBS radio network, on hundreds of stations, without incident.

Earlier this year, we expanded the reach by adding in the New York area WQXR, a popular classical music station owned by the New York Times.

For the week of March 31, here was the text to be aired:

    Fifteen seconds. Imagine you had fifteen seconds to find shelter from an incoming missile. Fifteen seconds to locate your children, help an elderly relative, assist a disabled person to find shelter.

    That’s all the residents of Sderot and neighboring Israeli towns have.

    Day or night, the sirens go on. Fifteen seconds later, the missiles, fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza, hit. They could hit a home, a school, a hospital. Their aim is to kill and wound and demoralize.

    Imagine yourself in that situation.

    The sirens blast. 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The time to seek shelter has ended. The missiles hit.

    This is what Israelis experience daily. But, amazingly, they refuse to be cowed. Help us help those Israelis. Visit ajc.org.

The spot was broadcast several times, as is customary, on the CBS radio network, but WQXR refused to do so.

Here’s the written explanation from Tom Bartunek, president of New York Times Radio and general manager of WQXR:

    ”In my judgement several elements of this spot are outside our bounds of acceptability. First, the opening line— `Imagine you had fifteen seconds to find shelter from an oncoming missile’ — does not make clear that the potential target of the missile is not our listening area, and as a consequence, runs the risk of raising anxiety in a misleading way.

I think that was the point of the ad: get people to realize what kind of anxiety people in Sderot feel. Heaven forbid that New Yorkers, who have had their experiences dealing with Islamists who target civilians, should realize that it’s happening in Israel on a daily basis.

    Second, the description of the missiles as arriving `day or night’ and `daily’ is also subject to challenge as being misleading, at least to the degree that reasonable people might be troubled by the absence of any acknowledgement of reciprocal Israeli military actions.

This is rich. Note the contorted syntax as well as the logic. Let’s deconstruct this passage, first merely by getting rid of the passive tense: “Reasonable people” — who? — might feel that the ad misleads by claiming that Sderot is bombed day and night, daily, because this claim does not mention that there are reciprocal Israeli military actions? Huh? How do the Israeli military actions affect whether this is happening day and night? Perhaps because it might unduly influence the audience into feeling sympathy for the citizens of Sderot without assuring that same audience that, because Israel is also bombing the Palestinians, they somehow “have it coming”?

Salzman on Tribal Islam: Insights of an Anthropologist

Phillip Salzman has written an important new anthropological study of tribalism — and the honor-shame culture that lies at its heart — with important implications for understanding Islam today. Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has an excellent review that draws out these implications.

I and My Brother Against My Cousin
Is Islam the best way to understand the war on terror? Tribalism may offer a clearer view of our enemies’ motivations.
by Stanley Kurtz
04/14/2008, Volume 013, Issue 29

Culture and Conflict in the Middle East
By Philip Carl Salzman
Humanity Books
224 pages, $34.95

On the morning of August 29, 1911, a half-starved Indian stumbled down from a remote canyon near California’s Mount Lassen and surrendered at the corral of a nearby slaughterhouse. Reluctant, in accordance with tribal custom, to divulge his personal name, he called himself simply “Ishi,” or “Man.” It took an anthropologist working with phonetically transcribed records of historic Indian languages to establish communication and identify Ishi as the last-known member of the Yahi tribe.

The Yahi were fierce predatory raiders–as were hill tribesmen the world over with their remote sanctuaries and a lack of property to defend. Lowland Indians feared them, and the Yahi offered the stiffest resistance to the flood of settlers who entered California during the 1850s Gold Rush. In the end all but a few dozen of the several hundred Yahi were killed, and the survivors vanished into the remotest parts of their mountain territory, living a life of concealment, at bare subsistence level, for 40 years. The renowned anthropologist Alfred Kroeber dubbed this refugee group “the smallest free nation in the world.” Ethnologists of the day considered the Yahi way of life during the four-decade concealment “the most totally aboriginal and primitive of any on the continent.”

I thought of Ishi while reading Philip Carl Salzman’s new book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (Humanity Books, 224 pages, $34.95). It is a major event: the most penetrating, reliable, systematic, and theoretically sophisticated effort yet made to understand the Islamist challenge the United States is facing in cultural terms. A professor of anthropology at Montreal’s McGill University, Salzman specializes in the study of Middle Eastern nomads. He, too, is something of a last survivor of a once proud band. What Salzman has managed is to have preserved, nurtured, deepened, and applied to our current challenge a once-dominant anthropological perspective on tribal societies: the study of tribes organized into “segmentary lineages.” It was one of the great achievements of modern anthropology. Yet, over the past 40 years, scholars have largely rejected and forgotten the study of segmentary lineage systems.

Nearly a century after Ishi’s surrender, the United States finds itself locked in a struggle with fierce jihadi warriors shaped by the pervasively tribal culture of the Islamic Near East. Whether hidden in the mountain sanctuaries of Waziristan or in the fastness of the Iraqi desert, the heart of the jihadi rebellion is tribal. The classic tribal themes of honor and solidarity inspire and draw recruits to the cause–from among lowland peasants and educated urbanites as well. Yet tribalism has been vastly overshadowed by Islam in our attempts to understand the jihadist challenge.

The anthropological understanding of tribal social structures–especially in Africa and the Middle East–has been shunned for 40 years as exaggerating the violence and “primitivism” of non-Western cultures, discouraging efforts at modernization and democratization, and covertly justifying Western intervention abroad. Decades of postmodern and postcolonial studies have conspired against the appearance of books like Salzman’s. That an academic, “on the inside,” could have worked in relative concealment long enough to produce this book is testament to the possibility of cultural survival. Indeed, fully appreciating what Salzman has to teach us will first require us to dust off our records of his all-but-forgotten language, and trace the trajectory of its destruction.

As with other fundamental sociological terms like “state” or “class,” it is difficult to provide a precise meaning for the word “tribe.” Whatever their similarities, there are important differences between relatively small hunter-gatherer Indian bands in the California hills like the Yahi and large Middle Eastern tribes professing a world religion and interacting in complex ways with nearby states.

In the Islamic Near East, however, the term “tribe” has a fairly specific meaning. Middle Eastern tribes think of themselves as giant lineages, traced through the male line, from some eponymous ancestor. Each giant lineage divides into tribal segments, which subdivide into clans, which in turn divide into sub-clans, and so on, down to families, in which cousins may be pitted against cousins or, ultimately, brother against brother. Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between these ever fusing and segmenting ancestral groups.

The central institution of segmentary tribes is the feud. Security depends on the willingness of every adult male in a given tribal segment to take up arms in its defense. An attack on a lineage-mate must be avenged by the entire group. Likewise, any lineage member is liable to be attacked in revenge for an offense committed by one of his relatives. One result of this system of collective responsibility is that members of Middle Eastern kin groups have a strong interest in policing the behavior of their lineage-mates, since the actions of any one person directly affect the reputation and safety of the entire group.

Universal male militarization, surprise attacks on apparent innocents based on a principle of collective guilt, and the careful group monitoring and control of personal behavior are just a few implications of a system that accounts for many aspects of Middle Eastern society without requiring any explanatory recourse to Islam. The religion itself is an overlay in partial tension with, and deeply stamped by, the dynamics of tribal life. In other words — and this is Salzman’s central argument — the template of tribal life, with its violent and shifting balance of power between fusing and fissioning lineage segments, is the dominant theme of cultural life in the Arab Middle East (and shapes even many non-Arab Muslim populations). At its cultural core, says Salzman, even where tribal structures are attenuated, Middle Eastern society is tribal society.

In reviving and updating classic anthropological studies of tribal kinship, Salzman is implicitly raising one of the great unresolved problems of political philosophy — one whose implications in today’s environment are anything but theoretical. When anthropologists first decoded the system by which lawless and stateless tribes used balance-of-power politics to keep order, they quickly recognized that their discovery cast new light on Thomas Hobbes’s “state of nature” theory.

From one perspective, Middle Eastern tribal structures completely contradict Hobbes’s notion of what life in stateless societies must be like. Far from being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” life outside the state turns out to be collective, cohesive, and safe enough to generate a stable and successful world-conquering civilization. Man as such is not, therefore, inherently individualistic, as Hobbes, the founder of modern liberalism, presumed.

Yet scholars have noted continuities between Hobbes’s account and the conditions of life in segmentary tribes. Edward Evans-Pritchard (1902-73), the anthropologist who first described these societies, called them systems of “ordered anarchy,” implying that, kin-based organization notwithstanding, life in segmentary systems necessitates endemic, often preemptive, low-level violence and neverending mutual distrust: what Hobbes might have recognized as the state of nature’s “perpetual and restless desire of power after power.”

And despite collective guilt and powerful group-based pressures for conformity, anthropologists commonly characterize segmentary tribal systems as intensely individualist, egalitarian, and democratic. This is arguably the central paradox of Middle Eastern social life. Muslim tribal society is both fundamentally collectivist and profoundly individualist. In the absence of state power and formal political hierarchies, no man of the tribe can, by right, command another. All males are equal, free to dispose of their persons and property and to speak in councils that determine the fate of the group. This tribal tradition of equal and open consultation is singled out by those who argue that democracy is far from alien to Middle Eastern culture.

So which is it? Are Near Eastern tribes laboratories of individualism and democracy or generators of kin-based loyalties that render the Middle East refractory to modern, liberal governance? Does life in stateless communal tribes represent a radical alternative to anything Hobbes might have imagined possible? Or does the bold and martial egalitarian individualism of tribal life actually confirm Hobbes, thereby encouraging hope for gradual, liberal cultural change?

It is difficult to answer such questions when the mere mention of the word “tribe” is now all but banished from public discourse. Contemporary anthropologists, especially those influenced by “postcolonial theory,” have in many respects repudiated the culture concept. For these anthropologists, the very notion of a distinctive culture is held to entail excessive generalization and to subtly imply that non-Westerners lack rationality. The rebellion began in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the newly independent states of Africa. The last thing modernizing intellectuals and politicians in these countries wanted was to have their societies thought of as essentially tribal or connected in some fundamental sense with the “aboriginal” or the “primitive.” Although by the 1960s anthropologists had come to look upon the subtleties of tribal social structure as anything but simplistic primitivism, in the public mind the word “tribe” remained an insult. So to respect the perspective of exasperated Third World intellectuals, why not buck up regional pride by studying a sophisticated modern metropolis or a brilliant Muslim philosophical text instead? Why must anthropologists actually highlight those “primordial” loyalties most likely to undermine the modern state? (Anthropologists must highlight them precisely because they cut against modernization, Salzman would reply.)

On top of all this, decades before 9/11, the rise of terrorism as a tactic in the Palestinian struggle against Israel suggested embarrassing continuities between the endemic violence of traditional tribal life and the present. Edward Said’s 1978 Orientalism was the key work in the rise of postcolonial theory, and Said, a savvy Palestinian academic and advocate, was particularly keen to keep the focus on American and Israeli policies that he claimed explained terrorism, rather than on any causes internal to Palestinian society. By attacking efforts to link terrorist violence to Middle Eastern culture as bigoted “Orientalism,” Said and his followers gave a hard edge to already widespread Third World complaints about Western scholarship. That move, coupled with the growing number of faculty members entering American universities from outside the West, put paid to all but a remnant of the anthropological study of Middle Eastern tribes. The triumph of Said’s perspective meant that by the post-9/11 era, when we’d need it most, the systematic understanding of Muslim tribal violence was largely lost.

I am rereading Said’s book with my seminar right now, and this time I have the overwhelming sense that Said’s effort is essentially an effort by someone profoundly shamed by the dysfunctions of his society — he claims to have originally thought of this project while visiting Beirut during the horrendous civil war that killed tens of thousands of civilians — to say to outsiders: “Don’t look! And if you do, don’t you dare say anything negative or I’ll call you a racist.” (For those interested, I have an essay on Said and honor-shame culture.)

Facing Failure: Avi Issacharoff interviews the former Head of the Al Aqsa Brigades

Avi Issacharoff has a fascinating interview with Zakariya Zubeidi about the failure of the Intifada. What Avi can’t do, and I can, is point out that these reflections come from someone who is bitter about the failure of the Intifada not because it was a mistake, but because it was incompetently carried out. Like the Palestinians bitter about the Naqbas of 1948 and 1967, they’re not ready to rethink fundamentally, just to bitch about Arab leadership’s incompetence and corruption. So while the interview is revealing to those of us in the West who want to know about what went on inside the Palestinian leadership during the “spontaneous” eruption of violence in response to Sharon’s visit to the Haram al Sharif (Temple Mount), it offers little in the way of openings for a real solution.

zakaria zubeidi
Former Al-Aqsa commander Zakariya Zubeidi

Last update – 10:47 04/04/2008
‘Marching toward total ruin’
By Avi Issacharoff

JENIN – “When you see Zakariya, maybe you’ll be surprised, but he looks like just any other Palestinian man now. Without armed men, without a weapon, just an ordinary guy,” related an acquaintance of Zakariya Zubeidi, until not long ago the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in Jenin.

This is a subtle way of saying, here’s a guy who used to walk with swagger, a weapons-bearer with wise guys who could intimidate anyone he wanted (i.e., fellow Palestinians).

Though Zubeidi is no longer hiding from the Israel Defense Forces, for a number of hours the people at the theater where he works tried to find him. Zubeidi didn’t answer his mobile phone even when the commander of the Palestinian security forces in Jenin, Suleiman Umran, called him. In the end, a woman who works at the theater explained that he usually sleeps late and maybe that’s what he was doing.

In the past, Zubeidi used to show up briefly at his house, in the Jenin refugee camp, together with his wanted colleagues, before disappearing for fear that Israelis would ambush him. The only reminder of those days are the framed pictures of the “martyrs” killed recently in the camp, and the huge poster of Saddam Hussein posted in one of the alleys leading to Zubeidi’s home. The door is opened by his son Mohammed, who immediately summons his father. He comes down in sandals and a black T-shirt, and promises that in a few minutes he will come to the theater offices. Zubeidi arrives in his officer’s “battle” jacket and mountaineering shoes, but without a weapon and without his erstwhile colleagues from the brigades.

What are you doing these days?

Zubeidi: “Nothing special. We’ve shut down the Al-Aqsa brigades and I haven’t yet received a full pardon from Israel. I’m at home a bit, at the theater a bit.”

Why haven’t you received a pardon?

“They lied to us, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The PA promised us that after we spent three months in PA facilities and if we didn’t get involved in actions, we would receive a pardon. The three months ended and nothing happened. We still need to sleep at the headquarters of the security organizations. They promised us jobs and they haven’t materialized either. Some of us are getting a salary of NIS 1,050 a month. What can you do with that? Buy Bamba for your children? They lied to everyone, they made a distinction between those who were really in the Al-Aqsa Brigades, whom they screwed, and groups that called themselves by that name, but in fact were working on behalf of the PA.”

I wonder what he expected in the way of “jobs.” On the payroll? Or something productive? In any case he clearly has a sense of entitlement — so what if I engaged in terrorist activity, they owe me.

So why have you stopped?

“In part because of the conflict between Fatah and Hamas. Look, it’s perfectly clear to me that we won’t be able to defeat Israel. My aim was for us, by means of the ‘resistance’ [code for terror attacks], to get a message out to the world. Back in Abu Amar's day [the nom de guerre of Yasser Arafat], we had a plan, there was a strategy, and we would carry his orders."

And what was this "message to the world"? That the Palestinian resistance would fight to the last man? That the Israelis are vicious, genocidal killers? That we poor, suffering Palestinians are brave and need the world to help us get our "legitimate rights?" It's interesting that the terror attacks were seen primarily as a way of "getting the message to the world" rather than to the Israelis. And of course, initially, that worked. People were demonstrating in favor of these suicide terror attacks in European cities; models wore nothing but suicide bomb belts; Palestinians were the cause du jour. And accordingly Arafat was elated.

In effect, are you saying what Amos Gilad and intelligence always said, that Arafat planned everything?

"Right. Everything that was done in the intifada was done according to Arafat's instructions, but he didn't need to tell us the things explicitly. We understood his message."

This remark is worth pondering on several levels.

Anti-Semitism, Nazis, and Muslims: Is it Islamism or Islam?

Keith Pavlischek has an interesting meditation which begins with a discussion of a debate between Andy Bostom and Matthias Küntzel about the nature of Islamic anti-semitism. This debate has recently turned even more vituperative, alas, as a result of a book review by John Rosenthal of Klaus Gensicke’s Klaus Gensicke. Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten: Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten in Policy Review. Pavlischek’s opening discussion focuses on the debate’s substantive issues and highlights their significance.

Jihad, Jew-Hatred, and Evangelicals and Jews Together

By Keith Pavlischek
Thursday, March 27, 2008, 6:14 AM

An instructive and fascinating debate has erupted over what at first glance may seem an academic point. The debate is between Matthias Küntzel, the author of Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, and Andrew Bostom, the editor of The Legacy of Jihad and author of the forthcoming book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History.

The debate is not over whether contemporary Islamism is vehemently anti-Jewish but over the historical roots of that Jew-hatred. Küntzel locates the current rabid Jew-hatred specifically in the influence of Nazi ideology. Bostom, alternatively, insists that the legacy of Islamic Jew-hatred is far more ancient and deeply rooted in classical Islam. Bostom assembles a wealth of historical material and concludes, “According to the full range of hadith concerning the Jews, stubborn malevolence is the Jews’ defining worldly characteristic: rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead them to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature.”

Contemporary Islamic Jew-hatred, according to Bostom, cannot simply be linked to the influence of Nazi propaganda but rather with an entirely explicable reaction to the very existence of Israel. Explicable, that is, given Islam’s traditional hostility to Jews. According to Bostom, “The rise of Jewish nationalism—Zionism—posed a predictable, if completely unacceptable challenge to the Islamic order—jihad-imposed chronic dhimmitude for Jews—of apocalyptic magnitude.” He then quotes his mentor, Bat Ye’or, who explained: “Because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad.”

One crucial implication of all this is that the Israeli-Palestinian “problem” has less to do with any particular policy pursued by Israel than with the Jew-hating ideology intrinsic to Islamist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood (not to mention the Islamic Republic of Iran). Also, the deep-seated Jew-hatred of the Islamists should disabuse us of the notion that the threat of Islamism will wither away with the establishment of a Palestinian state.

I don’t intend to weigh in on the particulars of the Küntzel-Bostom debate, except to note that it has profound implications for how we name the enemy. Do we call them Islamofascists, which tends to suggest their current form of Jew-hatred is originally modern? Or do we call them Jihadists, suggesting a more ancient and intrinsic connection to Islamic theology and political understanding (with consequently diminished prospects for reform)? In any case, the debate is instructive, with both sides presenting plausible (and not mutually exclusive) explanations.

I agree here with Pavlischek. Not only are these issues crucial, the positions are not mutually exclusive (hence my dismay at the stridency of the debate). All of the books here discussed support the Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm (Israel is a theological blasphemy to an honor-shame form of religiosity that can only feel good about itself when it debases its parent religion); and challenge the Western cognitive egocentrism of the Politically Correct Paradigm that insists on seeing the conflict as one of rival nationalisms that, hopefully, can be resolved by compromise. Indeed, those tempted by the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis would do well to ponder Pavlischek’s comment: “the deep-seated Jew-hatred of the Islamists should disabuse us of the notion that the threat of Islamism will wither away with the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

The rest of the article treats the matter of Jewish discomfort with Christian support for Israel. That is an entirely different issue, about which he has some interesting things to say, despite completely ignoring the major source of the discomfort — i.e., the underlying apocalyptic beliefs that fuel some of the most passionate support for Israel, beliefs that make the Zionist fervor a time-bound phenomenon, an instrument in the hastening of Jesus’ return, at which point Jews will vanish from the earth either in the battle of Armageddon or by converting to Christianity.

The debate between Küntzel and Bostom, despite the excess of heat it has generated, also sheds important light. Küntzel’s point is that although there is a long history of Jew-hatred in Islam, since Hassan al Banna, and even more, since the establishment of Israel, that hatred has shifted from what I call anti-Judaism (“we” are right and proud because you are wrong an humbled) to anti-Semitism (your very existence threatens us, we must exterminate you before you destroy us). This is the shift that the Nazis made in their turn to what Goldhagen calls “exteminationist anti-Semitism” and Friendlander calls “redemptive anti-Semitism” — i.e., salvation comes from wiping out the Jews. I think, it is correct to see the rebirth of Jihad in the 20th century as a) a virulent form of anti-Semitism that incorporated much of the European tradition — blood libels, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, etc. — even as its earlier traditions of Jew hatred provided the fertile soil for this transfer.

Bostom may well be correct in showing that even this kind of genocidal thinking existed, if not in precisely the form it now takes, throughout Islamic history. My own suggestion here is to view this exterminationist anti-Semitism as the product of apocalyptic time: that’s how it operated in Christianity (e.g., the slaughters of the First Crusade), and how it operates now in Islam. Fundamentally, as far as I can make out, Bostom and Küntzel agree on a key point: the existence of Israel has driven Muslims, long accustomed to throttling and humiiating Jews, into paroxysms of hatred. Today, for Muslims drenched in the frustration and humiliation of a tiny Israel resisting their efforts to restore the true nature of the world order and return the Jews to dhimmi status, it has morphed into a desire to kill all Jews everywhere.

So if we want to understand the dynamics, we are best advised — I think — not to look for a permanent state of genocidal Jew hatred, nor for a once-only appearance in the modern world, but for its episodic emergence in paranoid apocalyptic moments when Muslims (or Christians) think they are fighting a Jewish enemy that refuses to accept its place at the bottom of the hierarchy (as in the case of modern Zionism), and that the genocidal element takes on a particular power when Muslims and Christians believe that they are engaged in the apocalyptic battle of the Endtimes.

Hopefully this suggestion may permit us to move on to the important discussion of what is going on in Islam today, and how we can deal with it.

Erlanger, Intimidation and the Western Ignorance of the Palestinian Hate Industry

Twelve days after the al Durah footage hit Arab TV screens, a mob of Palestinians shouting “Revenge for the blood of Muhammad al Durah” savagely lynched two Israeli reservists whom the PA Police had taken into custody, and dragged their body parts through the streets of Ramallah. The viciousness of the behavior stunned not only Israelis, but even the most sympathetic journalists then in Ramallah. Israel’s responses, all aimed at property not people, included bombing the transmitters of “Voice of Palestine” which, they claimed, were inciting the violence with their broadcasts.

On October 24, 2000, William Orme covered the issue with a piece entitled “A Parallel Mideast Battle: Is It News or Incitement?” in which he explored Israeli claims that Palestinian incitement was a major source of this sudden and terrible violence that swept away the “Peace process” that the NYT editorial board had so enthusiastically supported.

He quoted a Palestinian spokesman who dismissed these claims out of hand, and presented the Israeli objections as overblown and against free speech:

”This [radio station which the Israelis had bombed] was the voice of the intifada, and people could express their feelings without censorship,” said Ibrahim Milhem, the host of ”Good Morning Palestine,” a popular call-in talk show. ”The only way Israel could stop it was to bomb it… Every word the Israelis hear on the Voice of Palestine they think is incitement… But what they are hearing is Palestinians demanding our rights.”

Then turning to Israeli claims that they bombed the station in the same way that NATO had bombed stations in Yugoslavia where the official media incited violence, he presented the Israeli case:

Israelis cite as one egregious example a televised sermon that defended the killing of the two soldiers [at Ramallah on October 12, 2000]. “Whether Likud or Labor, Jews are Jews,” proclaimed Sheik Ahmad Abu Halabaya in a live broadcast from a Gaza City mosque the day after the killings.

“Huh?” the reader might reasonably exclaim. “This is what the Israelis are kvetching about? That’s the best they can do? Aren’t there Israelis who say, ‘Fatah, Hamas, what’s the difference?’”

To the uninformed reader, this passage seems to support Milhem and more: “any word the Israelis hear they think is incitement.”

But this is the full text of his speech:

“The Jews are the Jews. Whether Labor or Likud the Jews are Jews. They do not have any moderates or any advocates of peace. They are all liars. They must be butchered and must be killed… The Jews are like a spring as long as you step on it with your foot it doesn’t move. But if you lift your foot from the spring, it hurts you and punishes you… It is forbidden to have mercy in your hearts for the Jews in any place and in any land. Make war on them any place that you find yourself. Any place that you meet them, kill them.” PA TV, October 13, 2000

What has happened here? Did Orme think that these genocidal comments were unimportant? Or did he think that it would be better if his audience — Americans “back home” — didn’t know about such matters? Is this his judgment of what’s the “news that’s fit to print”? And if so, why such a bizarre judgment? Certainly as an historian, if a student offered me a paper with such a quotation, I’d give him back the draft and say, “what’s wrong with you?”

So what’s wrong with Orme, who is no freshman writing his first paper, but a professional journalist who had been writing for the NYT since 1985? There are many possible, overlapping explanations, including the problems this would pose for the “framing narrative” of the conflict to which the press — NYT included — subscribed quite profoundly.

But for now, I’d like to focus on one, perhaps the most insidious because of the heavy pressure not to mention it: intimidation.

How to Celebrate 60 Years of Disastrous Choices and Self-Inflicted Suffering? Keep on Trucking

Asaf Romirowsky has some interesting thoughts on the way the Palestinians are dealing with the 60th anniversary of their disastrous decision to reject the UN partition plan and follow the zero-sum advice of their Arab “brethren.” As so much of Palestinian self-definition, it’s based on a combination of pathological honor-shame (loudly proclaiming their victimization by a dhimmi people) and relentless longing for that lost honor that can only be regained by wiping Israel off the map. And of course, none of this would make any sense if there weren’t so many dupes in the West, eager to consume the demopathic discourse of violated Palestinian “inalienable rights.” This conflict will move rapidly towards resolution when the West (more specifically, the Left) tells the Palestinians — and the Arabs — to grow up and get a life rather than marinate in fantasies of destroying the lives of others. Of course to do that, the Left would have to want to put an end to Palestinian suffering more than they want to contribute to Israeli suffering.

Palestinians Continue to Think It’s 1948

by Asaf Romirowsky
Jewish Exponent
April 3, 2008

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The Palestinian narrative sees Israel’s 1948 War of Independence as the al Naqba — “the catastrophe.” The birth of a sovereign Jewish state is perceived to be the root of all evil because this supposedly solidified how the small Jewish community robbed the Palestinians of their land.

That is the recurring mantra found in Arab historiography — a hypersensitive focus on discrimination and inequality. In general, Arab scholars tend to ignore the huge corpus of materials found in the archives on the war and zoom in on what are legitimate or illegitimate claims, using U.N. resolutions as the be all and end all.

Here we are, on the eve of Israel’s 60th anniversary, and the Palestinians are still the only nationality that identifies and defines itself by its refugee status. Since the end of World War II, there have been approximately 140 million refugees worldwide. All have been assimilated with the exception of one — the Palestinians. Ergo, as long the Palestinian refugee problem exists, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue.

And now, in order to illustrate how long the Palestinians have suffered, the Palestinian Authority has embarked on a new initiative to commemorate Israel’s 60th anniversary by calling on all Palestinians living in the Diaspora to converge on Israel by land, sea and air to forcefully implement the Palestinian “right of return.”

The design — drawn by Ziad Abu Ein, a senior Fatah operative and deputy minister for prisoners’ affairs in the P.A. — states that the Palestinians have decided to implement U.N. Resolution 194, calling for a right of return for all Palestinian refugees.

The proposal of this plan now — notwithstanding if this ever came to fruition — is clearly geared toward embarrassing and hurting Israel during the anniversary celebrations by highlighting the right of return and, in essence, motivating Palestinians to act out against Israel by any means possible.

Article 11 of the resolution, passed in December 1948, states that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible.”

Solomonia posts my talk at the Newton Public Library

For those who might be interested, Solomonia has posted a video of my talk at the Newton Public library.

The talk:

Question and Answer:

Apparently it will be also screened on Newton Cable TV.

The Martyrs who dare criticize Israel: Nidra Poller explicates the Guigue affair

I wrote a brief comment on the Guigue affair in an earlier post. Now Nidra Poller gives the deep background.

The Martyrdom of an Anti-Zionist French Official
By Nidra Poller
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 03, 2008

A high ranking French official publishes an anti-Zionist diatribe on a French Muslim website and gets sacked. He wasn’t violating a taboo, just disgracing his uniform.

French citizens do not enjoy the same broad freedom of speech granted to Americans, but when it comes to criticizing Zionists and the State of Israel the difference is hardly visible to the naked eye. The abrupt dismissal of sous-préfet [vice-magistrate] Bruno Guigue, author of a text that compares Israel to the Third Reich, is not strictly speaking a free speech issue. As a high-ranking civil servant, i.e. in the service of the State, Guigue is expected to refrain from the public expression of extreme statements, opinions, or affiliations.

Nothing Guigue wrote in the controversial article posted on the French Muslim website www.oumma.com violates current “standards” of discourse on the subject. He might have been sued 6 or 7 years ago for claiming that Israel is the only country whose snipers take shots at Palestinian girls coming out of school, but authors of such statements are rarely taken to court these days. The high-profile hate speech conviction of Edgar Morin, Sami Naïr, and Danièle Sallenave, authors of a comparable diatribe published in the snooty newspaper Le Monde in 2002, was overturned on appeal.

Bruno Guigue is an « énarque, » a graduate of the prestigious national school of administration, breeding ground of almost all French politicians Left and Right—with the notable exception of Nicolas Sarkozy–which accounts for the monotonous similarity of their mindset and operating methods. Guigue, who considers himself a specialist on the Middle East conflict, is the author of several books and countless articles in the same vein as the incriminated specimen.

Read the rest.

Pallywood Strikes Again!

Pajama’s Media has posted a report I produced on the court case in Paris. It focuses on the way that Enderlin and France2′s video presentation to the French court replicated the very errors for which they’re being criticized — that is, running staged scenes as real news. Amazing. Even when they’re on notice that people are watching them, they can’t stop doing it.

Interview with Yoram Getzler

An interview I had with Yoram Getzler in January of 2008 is now available. This was just after I had given a couple of talks in Jerusalem and Herzliya and received the staggering remark from one professor, “So what if al Durah was faked; we’ve killed over 800 of their children, what does it matter one more or less?” I posted on this, but this interview is considerably more lively with indignation. Listening to it, I realized how many details I’d forgotten.