B’tselem’s Cognitive Egocentrism Increases Palestinian Violence

The Elder of Ziyon blog has an insightful post up about B’tselem’s decision to provide West Bank Palestinians with cameras so that they can document settler violence. B’tselem, through a shallow understanding of Arab culture, or through wanton desire to demonize Israeli soldiers and citizens, has likely caused an increase in violence through their move. Their cognitive egocentrism keeps them from understanding it, the cameras do not inhibit “Israeli aggression”. Instead, since they benefit from scenes of Israeli violence, Palestinians are actually encouraged to do whatever they can to cause Israelis to react so that they can be captured on film.

It should cause B’tselem to reconsider their policy, but B’tselem has never been about finding a just solution.

Do B’Tselem’s cameras cause terror?
In recent weeks there has been an increase in reported attacks in Judea and Samaria, both from Jews who live there as well as from Arabs. A perfect case in point is last week’s attack by an Arab in Yitzhar, where a nine-year old boy was injured and the Jews responded with violence against the village that sheltered the attacker.

Why are these attacks increasing now?

There are certainly a number of possible reasons: the tearing down of some checkpoints and the defeatist statements made by the Israeli government as it tries to come up with more and more concessions to please President Bush and Condoleeza Rice by the end of the year can surely be considered contributing factors.

But something else might also be a more direct reason.

In 2007, Palestinian Arab rights group B’Tselem started distributing cameras to PalArabs in the territories in order to enable them to take pictures and videos of any Israeli abuses they could find. This year some of the footage got a degree of publicity and the program has expanded.

Last week, Yochanan Visser of Efrat wrote a letter where he decried the attack on IDF soldiers by some settlers. But in that same letter came some details about the Jewish/Arab attacksthat were not publicized anywhere else:

This Shabbat a Palestinian stabbed a 9-year old boy in Yitzhar in his home, after which Jewish inhabitants of Yitzhar went on a rampage in the neighboring Arab village in which 8 Palestinians were wounded.

It is obvious that the situation in some areas in the West Bank is deteriorating. On the website of Israel -Facts Dutch monitor group we have been monitoring events in the West Bank for some time now. From the data we are collecting there evolves a picture of some very problematic areas, one of them Yitzhar. From these data we also learn that most of the reported incidents do not make it to mainstream media. In fact only the incidents like the one this Shabbat are reported. From our data we also learn that there are more Palestinian incidents against Jews than the other way around.

The same one-sided reporting accounts for the so-called “camera” incidents. From our own investigations we learn that these incidents are filmed at the moment of response to the original provocation. Like the incident on Shabbat also, some six weeks ago in Har Hebron the media reported that “settlers” set on fire a Palestinian field and also abused an arrested Palestinian in the presence of IDF soldiers. From further investigation we learned that it was the Palestinians who set the Jewish orchard on fire (not surprisingly for us because all the Jews living there are observant and would never make a fire on Shabbat) after which the Jews living there took revenge – this part was filmed.

We also learned that activists from leftist organizations like B’Tselem and Peace Now are fanning the flames in the West Bank. Their goal seems to be to provoke as many possible incidents in very sensitive areas like Hebron and Ni’ilin. They also publish mostly biased reports about events in the West Bank, apparently with the goal of further de-legitimating Jewish settlements there. The focus seems to have shifted from demonstrations to violent acts against IDF forces and Jews living in the West Bank.
I cannot say with certainty that the leftists are provoking these Arab attacks in order to video the responses, but it certainly seems that the Arabs themselves have started to do so.

Not that random rampages through Arab villages are justified, but there are great political gains to be made by provoking Jewish settlers into violence where cameras are waiting to catch them in the act. And while sometimes the Israelis have photographic evidence to show that attacks originated by Arabs (as in this weekend, when a 15-year old Palestinian Arab was caught on video lighting a Molotov cocktail outside Yitzhar) the grainy thermal security-camera video is not as dramatic as color video of enraged settlers attacking. (And even the clear evidence that the boy was lighting an incendiary device doesn’t stop the Arab media from saying that the IDF murdered him “in cold blood.”)

So we have a situation where the world media is seeing an apparent increase of Jewish violence towards Arabs, fanned by the existence of video, while in fact it is the other way around – and the number of unreported incidents of Arab violence are increasing dramatically.

(Even the Israeli media ignores much of the Arab violence. Early last year when I visited Israel I was doubly shocked by the desecration of a synagogue at a major Jewish shrine and theft of at least one Torah – and the fact that this incident was almost ignored even in the right-wing Israeli newspapers. One of my commenters mentioned that this is simply a “dog bites man” story and incidents like that happen with alarming frequency. So part of the fault has to lie with the Israeli media for ignoring stories that might bore some Israeli readers but open the eyes of the world.)

18 Responses to B’tselem’s Cognitive Egocentrism Increases Palestinian Violence

  1. […] B’tselem’s Cognitive Egocentrism Increases Palestinian Violence […]

  2. Richard says:

    Do you mean that the “peace” groups actually try to enable terrorists? Next thing you lying zio-neocons will be telling us is that the Quakers are sitting down to dinner with Ahmadinejad… Wait, they ARE sitting down to dinner with Maddinnerjacket…
    Oh whoops…
    (NO! Liberal Brain dissolves having failed Cognitive Dissonance test)

  3. Pelican's Point says:

    Cognitive egocentrism? I think I’ll disagree on this one. If the US was involved in a low level conflict with some people who were successfully able to kill our civilians fairly regularly over a many year period. And some third party group gave us a large number of video cameras to record their ill treatment of us, I seriously doubt any Americans would hesitate to use the cameras in the same way that the Pals are. We would try our best to induce them into doing something that would assure lots of You Tube hits.

    B’tselem’s actions and motives are hardly a result of egocentrism, cognitive or otherwise. There is a violent conflict underway and B’tselem has chosen the side they wish to see victorious. They knew how the cameras would be used before they handed them out (or else they are idiots) and are applauding the results, I am sure. They are combatants, pure and simple, hiding behind a facade of pacifism.

  4. oao says:

    B’tselem’s actions and motives are hardly a result of egocentrism, cognitive or otherwise. There is a violent conflict underway and B’tselem has chosen the side they wish to see victorious.

    Ah, but on what basis exactly did they chose one side?

    Whoo initiated and sustains the conflict based on lies? And if B’Tselem chose the site in total ignorance of that and delude themselves that the palestinians are the moral side, how is that NOT cognitive egocentrism?

  5. Rich Rostrom says:

    B’tselem’s goal is to discredit a Zionist faction whose actions they (B’tselem) view as pointless, wrong, and provoking. There is a rational case for this view. If Israel is not going to annex the West Bank, then the settlements are (in general) unsustainable; settler vigilantism is unjustified; and the settlements program certainly annoys and offends Arabs.

    Provocation with the intent of recording the response is a widespread practice. “Rev.” Fred Phelps and his malignant clan feed on this practice – provoking an attack with their outrageous rhetoric and then suing the attacker, with supporting video “evidence”. I’ve read of similar maneuvering by “gay rights” demonstrators and other leftists: harassing police with a camera waiting in the crowd.

    One major front of the Long War is mindspace; ever since Vietnam, the enemy has become more and more expert in generating media smog against the forces of civilization.

    The rise of the Web has allowed a certain amount of counter-attack; but without sustained effort to generate and disseminate countering media, the enemy will continue to advance in mindspace.

  6. Cynic says:

    Your point would be taken if there was not all the provocations over time where B’tselem has basically incited violence e.g. the fence at Bilin.
    Just a protest is not good enough: spit in the face of a border policeman, throw dirt at the soldiers
    Olive trees when they get pruned to produce a good quantity of fruit appear to “suffer” excessive cutting which has provoked “outrage” sometimes attributed to those nasty settlers. Many times it was the Arabs themselves who pruned their trees and then never a crowd to lose an opportunity, along with the support of the Left, turned their effort into a propaganda stunt for a cut on the side.

    As we have seen it is the stupid Israelis who never made use of modern technology to reveal the facts, apart maybe for the case of the “body” falling off the stretcher in Jenin.
    Then again where is B’tselem when the settlers have on occasion helped Arab hamlets with their water problems and done other nasty things?

    Rich R
    If Israel is not going to annex the West Bank, then the settlements are (in general) unsustainable; settler vigilantism is unjustified; and the settlements program certainly annoys and offends Arabs.

    The land was taken in a defensive war against the Jordanians, who were begged not to take part in Nasser’s
    offensive, and so lost it to those terrible Zionists who had hoped to bargain it for peace.
    What annoys the Arabs more was the fact they did not win.
    They could have resolved this whole business peacefully years ago but insist on sacrificing UNWRA’s troops.

  7. Cynic says:

    Just a thought:
    couldn’t you get the media rushes from 2000 just to show the anchor reading about the stone throwing kids while the live shots were showing gunmen firing from the protection of trucks and cars; the stones being brought in baskets by way of ambulances while the teachers, way behind the kids, were shouting instructions from loudhailers?

  8. -s- says:

    Bassem Eid runs PCHR (pal. center for human rights) and used to work for B’tselem. He says that 10-15 years ago the world couldn’t care less about Palestinian human rights abuses and couldn’t get enough reports about alleged Israeli abuses – just like now, huh? He left B’tselem about 10-15 years ago when they decided to stop reporting Palestinian abuses and focus only on Israeli misdeeds.

    This tells me several things.

    #1 – the world (who pretends to care) truly doesn’t give a rat’s behind about Palestinians and they never have……but rather, they care about criticizing/hating Israel – which they cannot get enough of. No surprise to us.

    #2 – B’tselem knows this and knew there was no point reporting Palestinian abuses when no one wished to learn about them. And why risk pissing off Arafat at the time, who thought such reports undermined his efforts? Who needs that threat when no one really cares anyway?

    So much for B’tselem’s noble mission.

    They’re still reporting Muhammad al-Dura as a victim of the IDF in their casualty reports and now they’re creating more news, being the activists they are, by inciting more Palestinian violence with these cameras.

    Not to mention that there was an article recently at JPOST about Palestinian children’s use of these cameras – what is b’tselem doing encouraging children to tape incidents of violence and therefore be in harm’s way – and do or say nothing to warn against this? Children shouldn’t be involved in violence. Rule #1 if you’re a legit humanitarian org.

    Isn’t their founder/president a leader in Israel’s communist party? This might explain intent.

  9. -s- says:

    We’re not the only ones who see B’tselem as political activists.

    Betselem: The Ambiguous Boundary between Public Education and Political Activism

  10. Pelican's Point says:

    To 6: Maybe we don’t understand the term cognitive egocentrism in the same way.

    To: 7: a) I don’t understand Israel’s WB settlement policy. Although I can think of several possibilite motives I have no clear ideas about it. I’d say I generally agree with Cynic’s take on it in (8). b) The rest we agree.

    To 8: Maybe I didn’t explain myself well enough in (5) but I think your comment supports my premise – that B’tselem’s motives were to discredit the IDF, not just to allow the aggrieved Pals tools with which to expose unfair treatement at their hands. I agree with your comment to Rich R.

    To all: It seems to me that the cognitive egocentrism that many in the west project on the Pals is the irrational expectation that since “our side” would generally prefer peace to conflict, and since they are really just like us at heart, then they will respond like we would to peaceful entreaties. i.e. given the chance for a peaceful settlement and some reasonable comprimises from their adversaries, there would be great pressure from their people to accept it rather than continue an unnecessary war.

    My point was simply that I can’t easily see how cognitive egocentrism could have been underlying B’tselem’s motives in this case. What did B’tselem hope that the Pals would do, as a result of being “at heart” just like Americans or Israelis or Brits, that would produce a greater force for peace between the them and the IDF, now that they had many digital video cameras in their hands?

    I agree with the definition of cognitive egocentrism as provided by RL in this forum. I generally don’t think it applies to those who are engaged in conflict and see themselves as on one side or the other. I believe that conflict causes an opposite mindset. Participants in conflict become radicalized and generally adhere to the belief that their enemy is depraved, lacks all moral motives and embodies inhuman animal-like indifference to suffering – while believing the exact opposite of themselves and their comrades in arms. From following B’tselem for a few years now, I’d say that describes their attitude toward the IDF and the Pals, respectively, pretty well.

    It seems to me that cognitive egocentrism OTOH is an example of naivete and irrational hope by bystanders that if they pretend everyone wants peace (just like they do) then bitter adversaries in war will have no choice but to fall into that view of reality and peace will break out. I think it applies to people who don’t really understand the psychology of conflict – like most Americans, especially prior to 9/11. I don’t think it applies to B’tselem (although it probably applies to many who send checks to B’tselem).

    To give Lazar credit, this was his 2nd sentence:

    B’tselem, through a shallow understanding of Arab culture, or through wanton desire to demonize Israeli soldiers and citizens, has likely caused an increase in violence through their move. He made the larger point that I do agree with and here he even allowed for the possibility that it was not an example of cognitive egocentrism at work. (Which unfortunately is at odds with the title of the article.)

    Note: I think RL’s recognition of the phenomenon of cognitive egocentrism as a motive is very valuable to this discussion (of the I/P conflict).

    I do have a small problem with the label. I don’t think what he describes has much to do with cognition – except perhaps after the fact in somewhat lame attempts to justify the actions and positions of those who are infected with it. I think the phenomenon itself is an emotional expression and that those who express it did not come to it through some process of objective reasoning. I’d say it is more an example of wishful hoping than wishful thinking . But that’s a small point compared to the value of the concept in explaining the motives of many of the naive Western bystanders to the conflict.

  11. Cynic says:

    My point was simply that I can’t easily see how cognitive egocentrism could have been underlying B’tselem’s motives in this case.

    Having followed B’tselem’s behaviour for many years now and having worked with and observed the “other” side I came to the conclusion that B’tselem was not in touch with reality.
    A beautiful analogy comes to mind when I think of a “Dog Whisperer” episode where Mr Milan chides the owner of a chihuahua for holding the dog like a baby instead of holding it as the “bitch” would, by the scruff of the neck.
    Marvelous isn’t it how we project our feelings onto the other expecting exactly the same reactions, even from animals. Just like Churchill’s crocodile.
    And then we deny those defending themselves the right to those exact same feelings we expect.
    The IDF soldiers, both Jew and Muslim (yes plenty of them especially in the border police who work alongside the conscripts) are young in their late teens or early twenties and suffer the indignities of having to back down from spit and other dirt hurled at them by members of “another clan” egged on by B’tselem operatives.
    Unfortunately your media did not show the results of several bombings of checkpoints by suicide bombers where the conscripts blown to bits are once again replaced by their close friends who only minutes before had completed their stint at the “Barricade”.
    How do they feel? How do they react when they are forced to prevent the damaging of the security fence at Bilin, for example, by political louts inflamed by B’tselem invective?
    B’tselem is no better than those “environmentalists” screaming that terrible Palin is ok with shooting wolves from a plane (part of a culling procedure) to cut down on the loss of caribou calves which provide sustenance for the native peoples.
    Oh the poor wolves. And the caribou calves; and the “locals”?Nah, they don’t deserve any consideration.

    What we come down to is that there is not cognitive egocentrism only in B’tselem’s behaviour but also a degree of the “derangement syndrome” so prevalent now in the US since Gore’s defeat.
    B’tselem does not exist in a vacuum but is part of the Ilan Pappe, Chomsky, Ronnie Kasrils et al world where the apparent cognitive egocentrism is a facade to cover the innate hatred for their “mothers” as opposed to Edipus’ problem.

  12. Cynic says:

    I have tried to reply to Pelican’s Point but WordPress seems to be stopping my comment from appearing.

  13. Eliyahu says:

    The issue of B’Tselem’s sources of funding has not been treated yet. It includes the Ford Foundation [a demopathic troublemaker from way back], jimma carter’s Carter Center in Atlanta, the BCCI bank [owned mainly by the govt and Sheik of Abu Dhabi before going bankrupt], various German churches and trade unions, other EU institutions, etc. Draw your own conclusions about B’tselem’s political innocence.

    As to the mental makeup of B’tselem’s activists, I have met and spoken with some young women who worked for the group. They were very naive, narrow in their knowledge and experience and understanding of the world, ignorant in short. One is not quite right mentally in my opinion, not necessarily malicious, but well-indoctrinated or brainwashed –and ignorant of the world and its ways. Another, American, was a student at –or even a graduate from– Yale. She too was rather simplistic in her thinking, naive and ignorant –and probably not well acquainted with the male side of life, that is, with boys. I was shocked upon meeting her at the low level of a Yale student. What did an Ivy League education mean anymore? I asked myself.

  14. Eliyahu says:

    I’d like to amend the funding list somewhat. The BCCI bank gave millions to the Carter Center, not directly to B’tselem. The Carter Center also receives major funding from the Bin Laden Group of Saudi Arabia. See their annual report for 2006, for instance.

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