Monthly Archives: April 2009

They Spit Into the Well from Which They Drink: Real Moderate Muslims denounce European Muslim Demopathy

MEMRI has an interesting and refreshing translation from two liberal Gulf Muslims on the situation of Muslims in Europe. In addition to denouncing the systematic abuse of their freedom that their European hosts offer them, they describe the way the radicals have taken over the Islamic communities there. The definition of demopathy is “using democracy to destroy democracy.”

We infidels had best pay attention.

Special Dispatch – No. 2309
April 10, 2009 No. 2309

Liberal Gulf Writers: Muslim Groups in Europe Are Exploiting Europeans’ Openness

Two recent articles in the Gulf press discussed the attitudes of European Muslims towards the West. On December 2, 2008, Bahraini liberal Shi’ite cleric Dhiya Al-Mousawi published an article in the liberal Kuwaiti daily
Awan on the Mumbai terrorist attacks, some of the perpetrators of which were Muslims who were naturalized British citizens. The second article, by liberal Kuwaiti columnist Khalil ‘Ali Haidar, was published October 5, 2008 in the UAE daily Al-’Ittihad. Both writers criticized Muslim groups in Europe for harming the West while at the same time enjoying Western freedoms and services. Haidar treated the subject more broadly, criticizing all Islamic movements and parties in Europe on the grounds that they are promoting Islamic extremism, that they have taken control of the lives of the European Muslims, and that instead of attempting to bridge the gap between the East and the West, they have consciously brought about isolation, alienation, and, ultimately, jihad-motivated terrorism against the West.

Following are excerpts from Al-Mousawi’s and Haidar’s articles:

European Muslims Are Spitting Into the Well from Which They Drink

In an article titled “When the Terrorist is British Born,” Al-Mousawi wrote: “…It is sad that in Western countries there are thousands of Muslims who receive citizenship for themselves and their families after having been expelled from their respective homelands. [The West] gives them asylum, work, shelter, and health insurance – [yet] they are the first to turn their backs on their second homeland. Worse, some of them think nothing of committing suicide in the squares, in the very countries that have granted them and their families protection… It is odd that some sheikhs curse and revile the West from the pulpits of the Western [mosques,] and wish for the destruction of the [Western] countries, as the police of those countries guard them…” [1]

The Islamists Have Taken Control Over the Lives of the Muslims in the West

Al-Haidar wrote, in a similar vein: “The problem of Europe and the U.S. is neither the Arabs nor the Muslims. It is the Islamists, both parties and groups, who have taken over the political, religious, social, and cultural life inside and outside Islamic and Arab countries. [These parties and groups] have influence over the Muslim minorities of the Western countries… They have focused on imposing restrictions on the first generation [of immigrants], on brainwashing the second generation, and on excommunicating unions, organizations, and mosques. For many years – in fact, since the end of the Second World War – Western countries have been welcoming Arabs and Muslims, and providing [them] with extensive opportunities for preaching and [other] activities. They have treated them with amazing kindness. With time, the Muslims grew in power, and tightened their grip on the very heart of these societies.

“The presence of Islamists [in the European countries], with all their different parties, groups, and schools of thought, has been a testing ground for relations between their Muslim minority, which has been influenced by the indoctrination [carried out by different] parties, and these democratic societies. For many years, Islamists, and especially the Muslim Brotherhood, have complained about the oppressive [policies] of Arab regimes, the freezing of freedoms, surveillance, etc. [Abu A'la] Al-Mawdoudi’s[2] writings, [originally in Urdu], have gained popularity in the Arab world, corrupting the youth and distorting their outlook. [Al-Mawdoudi] proclaimed to the entire world, and especially to [his] liberal European opponents, the advent of a new social order superior to Western democracy on every count – in liberty, flexibility, religious tolerance etc. – that will be introduced under the leadership of Muslim youth uncontaminated by the filth of Western civilization and its materialist [values].”

What Do I Think of the Arab-Israeli Conflict? Answers to a Questionnaire

I was recently asked by some students from a Christian private school in Lexington to answer some questions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. I post them here, just in case any readers have suggestions to make in the future when I deal with these issues.

What do you think is the root cause of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

On one level, it’s a conflict between two different people for the same territory. But there are plenty of such conflicts that have been resolved, including ones where the damages in lives destroyed and uprooted have been far more terrible than what the Palestinians refer to as the Naqba. In India and Pakistan the division created tens of millions of refugees and over a million people were slaughtered by both sides. In Cyprus, tens of thousands were uprooted to divide the island in two. so the issue is not what happened, but why this conflict, more than any other, is so impossible to solve.

Here, I think the only viable explanation is to understand the blow to Arab/Muslim honor at the creation of a free and independent state run by non-Muslims in Dar-al-Islam. (For a larger discussion of this, see here.) As the Athenians explained to the Melians: “It’s not so terrible to be conquered by those who should rule (like the Spartans, or in this case the Christians), but it is unbearable to be defeated by those who should be subject (like the Melians or, in this case, the Jews).”

If you don’t know about the Muslim principles of Dar-al-Islam (the realm of submission where Muslims rule) and Dar-al-Harb (the land of the sword, with which Muslims are at war), you can’t possibly understand either the permanent hostility of the Arabs to Israel (including their refusal to recognize her), or the willingness of the Arabs to keep the Palestinians suffering in refugee camps so that they can be used as a weapon against Israel.

By Muslim standards, the very existence of Israel is a theological blasphemy and an unbearable affront to their honor. That’s what the Naqba is about. If it were about the terrible suffering of the Palestinians who had to flee as a result of the war (which is what the “pro-”Palestinian would have us believe), then the Arabs and Palestinian leaders would have done something to make their lives better (including using a tiny fraction of the trillions of petrodollars Arab countries have taken in in the last half-century). Instead they confined them to permanent refugee camps (no cement floors allowed, they had to live in tents and the mud for years).

It’s striking that during the Oslo peace process, when the Palestinian authority had control of both refugee camps and territory, they didn’t take one refugee family out of those camps. Indeed, the problem of Oslo was not too many Israeli settlements, but of too few Palestinian settlements. The PA did not behave as if they wanted a state, but as if they wanted to destroy the Israeli state.

What solutions would you offer to solve this problem?

The Dupe and Demopath: The Rubin Report analyzes Stephanopoulos’ lame interview with Ahmadinejad

Barry Rubin, the prolific analyst whose every essay is well worth reading (not to mention his books), has a new blog, The Rubin Report. Here’s a piece from today’s selection that hones in on the dysfunctional (or should I say, counter-functional) relationship between a demopath (Ahmadinejad is among the finest) and a dupe. It’s a classic clash between PCP and HSJP.

SUNDAY, APRIL 26, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness of Wishful Thinking: Ahmadinejad and the “Two-State Solution”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave an interview to George Stephanopoulos of ABC. He knew what he was saying but others want to insist on refusing to understand him.

First the relevant exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinian people negotiate an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian people vote and support that agreement, a two state solution, will Iran support it?
AHMADINEJAD: Nobody should interfere, allow the Palestinian people to decide for themselves. Whatever they decide….
STEPHANOPOULOS: If they choose a two state solution with Israel, that’s fine.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, what we are saying is that you and us should not determine the course of things beforehand. Allow the Palestinian people to make their own decisions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if they choose a two state solution, if they choose to recognize Israel’s existence, Iran will as well?
AHMADINEJAD; Let me approach this from another perspective. If the Palestinians decide that the Zionist regime needs to leave all Palestinian lands, would the American administration accept their decision? Will they accept this Palestinian point of view?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ll ask them. But I’m asking you if Palestinians accept the existence of Israel, would Iran support that?….
STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinians sign an agreement with Israel, will Iran support it?
AHMADINEJAD: Whatever decision they take is fine with us. We are not going to determine anything. Whatever decision they take, we will support that. We think that this is the right of the Palestinian people, however we fully expect other states to do so as well.

And how did the Israeli online service of Yediot Aharnot newspaper, YNet News, play this? Here’s the headline: “”Ahmadinejad ‘fine’ with two-state solution.”

Well, not exactly. He refused to say that. All Ahmadinejad said was that he would support what the Palestinian people decided. What does that mean?

First, he personally believes that they would never accept a two-state solution so there’s nothing to worry about in that respect.

Second, of course, he knows that Hamas would never agree to such a thing and Hamas already controls how people vote in the Gaza Strip. One might presume that if a referendum was held there, the vote would be “100 percent” against a two-state solution. In addition, Hamas and others opposing a two-state solution would get between 30 and 70 percent of votes in the West Bank. A lot of Fatah supporters would also vote against it. The exact numbers aren’t important because whether the number is the higher or lower figure such a proposition would always be defeated.

Third, any two-state solution would only be made by Fatah. Iran supports Hamas. If Fatah and the Palestinian Authority were to make a deal with Israel, Tehran would still back Hamas in overthrowing that government, using the deal to portray its rival as treasonous. Once Hamas took over the state of Palestine, it would tear up all the agreements and invite in the Iranian military.

So in effect Ahmadinejad just said that he would never accept a two-state solution but why put that in clear words when the dumb Westerners can be left to interpret it as they wish.

But Ahmadinejad also put a little bomb in the interview which no one seems to notice. Let me repeat one of his answers:

AHMADINEJAD; “Let me approach this from another perspective. If the Palestinians decide that the Zionist regime needs to leave all Palestinian lands, would the American administration accept their decision? Will they accept this Palestinian point of view?“

What’s he saying here? “All Palestinian lands” might sound like saying the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem to Western ears, but everyone in Iran and among the Palestinians knows this means: all of Israel plus all the territories it captured in 1967.

So here’s what the Iranian president is saying: Suppose the Palestinians vote that they want all of Israel, would the United States accept that? The answer, of course, is “no” and so, Ahmadinejad is saying: I’m the one in favor of democracy and you’re against it.

(According to him, of course, Israelis have no rights to a state so they don’t get to vote.)

Ahmadinejad has built his own career on regarding the West as extremely stupid, cowardly, and easy to fool. Many or most of his colleagues in the Iranian regime agree with him.

I could write at this point that the one exception was when in the mid-1980s the United States was appearing ready to attack Iran unless it ended the Iran-Iraq war. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini did so but I think he was misreading American intentions (albeit to the credit of U.S. policymakers in pulling off that bluff).

Still, I’m tempted to say that up to now that the Iranian leaders’ assumption has never proven to be wrong.

Ralph Peters on 21st Century Diplomacy and War

Oao has drawn our attention to a piece by Ralph Peters in Security Affairs. I think it’s well worth considering in terms of what has made us so vulnerable. I am personally still convinced that we can do a great deal to fight this enemy in the world of discourse, but that does not mean it does not also include some decisive victories in warfare. But Peters has some harsh words for the Western media as well.

I welcome comments on any aspect of this important think-piece.

Wishful Thinking and Indecisive Wars

Ralph Peters
Security Affairs

The most troubling aspect of international security for the United States is not the killing power of our immediate enemies, which remains modest in historical terms, but our increasingly effete view of warfare. The greatest advantage our opponents enjoy is an uncompromising strength of will, their readiness to “pay any price and bear any burden” to hurt and humble us. As our enemies’ view of what is permissible in war expands apocalyptically, our self-limiting definitions of allowable targets and acceptable casualties—hostile, civilian and our own—continue to narrow fatefully. Our enemies cannot defeat us in direct confrontations, but we appear determined to defeat ourselves.

Much has been made over the past two decades of the emergence of “asymmetric warfare,” in which the ill-equipped confront the superbly armed by changing the rules of the battlefield. Yet, such irregular warfare is not new—it is warfare’s oldest form, the stone against the bronze-tipped spear—and the crucial asymmetry does not lie in weaponry, but in moral courage. While our most resolute current enemies—Islamist extremists—may violate our conceptions of morality and ethics, they also are willing to sacrifice more, suffer more and kill more (even among their own kind) than we are. We become mired in the details of minor missteps, while fanatical holy warriors consecrate their lives to their ultimate vision. They live their cause, but we do not live ours. We have forgotten what warfare means and what it takes to win.

There are multiple reasons for this American amnesia about the cost of victory. First, we, the people, have lived in unprecedented safety for so long (despite the now-faded shock of September 11, 2001) that we simply do not feel endangered; rather, we sense that what nastiness there may be in the world will always occur elsewhere and need not disturb our lifestyles. We like the frisson of feeling a little guilt, but resent all calls to action that require sacrifice.

Second, collective memory has effectively erased the European-sponsored horrors of the last century; yesteryear’s “unthinkable” events have become, well, unthinkable. As someone born only seven years after the ovens of Auschwitz stopped smoking, I am stunned by the common notion, which prevails despite ample evidence to the contrary, that such horrors are impossible today.

Third, ending the draft resulted in a superb military, but an unknowing, detached population. The higher you go in our social caste system, the less grasp you find of the military’s complexity and the greater the expectation that, when employed, our armed forces should be able to fix things promptly and politely.

Fourth, an unholy alliance between the defense industry and academic theorists seduced decisionmakers with a false-messiah catechism of bloodless war. In pursuit of billions in profits, defense contractors made promises impossible to fulfill, while think tank scholars sought acclaim by designing warfare models that excited political leaders anxious to get off cheaply, but which left out factors such as the enemy, human psychology, and 5,000 years of precedents.

Fifth, we have become largely a white-collar, suburban society in which a child’s bloody nose is no longer a routine part of growing up, but grounds for a lawsuit; the privileged among us have lost the sense of grit in daily life. We grow up believing that safety from harm is a right that others are bound to respect as we do. Our rising generation of political leaders assumes that, if anyone wishes to do us harm, it must be the result of a misunderstanding that can be resolved by that lethal narcotic of the chattering classes, dialogue.

Last, but not least, history is no longer taught as a serious subject in America’s schools. As a result, politicians lack perspective; journalists lack meaningful touchstones; and the average person’s sense of warfare has been redefined by media entertainments in which misery, if introduced, is brief.

By 1965, we had already forgotten what it took to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and the degeneration of our historical sense has continued to accelerate since then. More Americans died in one afternoon at Cold Harbor during our Civil War than died in six years in Iraq. Three times as many American troops fell during the morning of June 6, 1944, as have been lost in combat in over seven years in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, prize-hunting reporters insist that our losses in Iraq have been catastrophic, while those in Afghanistan are unreasonably high.

We have cheapened the idea of war. We have had wars on poverty, wars on drugs, wars on crime, economic warfare, ratings wars, campaign war chests, bride wars, and price wars in the retail sector. The problem, of course, is that none of these “wars” has anything to do with warfare as soldiers know it. Careless of language and anxious to dramatize our lives and careers, we have elevated policy initiatives, commercial spats and social rivalries to the level of humanity’s most complex, decisive and vital endeavor.

One of the many disheartening results of our willful ignorance has been well-intentioned, inane claims to the effect that “war doesn’t change anything” and that “war isn’t the answer,” that we all need to “give peace a chance.” Who among us would not love to live in such a splendid world? Unfortunately, the world in which we do live remains one in which war is the primary means of resolving humanity’s grandest disagreements, as well as supplying the answer to plenty of questions. As for giving peace a chance, the sentiment is nice, but it does not work when your self-appointed enemy wants to kill you. Gandhi’s campaign of non-violence (often quite violent in its reality) only worked because his opponent was willing to play along. Gandhi would not have survived very long in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s (or today’s) China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Effective non-violence is contractual. Where the contract does not exist, Gandhi dies.

Note that my definition of honor-shame culture states: a culture in which a man is allowed, expected to, even required to shed blood for the sake of his honor, and my definition of a civil polity is one which systematically substitutes a discourse of fairness for violence in dispute settlement. We want to act as if the social contract of a civil polity were extended by verbal fiat — a form of wishful thinking — to everyone. Unfortunately, civil behavior is at a big disadvantage where some players do not disarm, and even greater disadvantage when its own leaders are dupes of demopaths.

Appeasing Iran: How Should Obama play the game

I’m thinking of giving this article to my students on the honor-shame course final with the following query: how does an honor-shame analysis of the interaction between Presidents Obama and Ahmadinejad help figure out whether Obama’s approach will work, and if not, what approach might?

The Logical Fallacies of Appeasing Iran
Pajamas Media
Posted By Nicholas Guariglia On April 24, 2009

Roger Cohen, one of the op-ed columnists for the New York Times, has, as of late, made it his personal pastime to defend the theocratic killers ruling Iran. One of his recent columns, entitled “Israel Cries Wolf,” mocks and belittles Israeli concerns regarding Tehran’s nuclear program, citing warning statements made by Israeli leaders over the years, most of which have (yet) to come to full fruition. Today, his chief target is the newly sworn-in premier, Benjamin Netanyahu. The following excerpt captures Cohen’s inane argument ad captandum:

    I don’t buy the view that, as Netanyahu [said], Iran is “a fanatic regime that might put its zealotry above its self-interest.” Every scrap of evidence suggests that, on the contrary, self-interest and survival drive the mullahs.

    Yet Netanyahu insists … that Iran is “a country that glorifies blood and death, including its own self-immolation.” Huh?

    On that ocular theme again, Netanyahu says Iran’s “composite leadership” has “elements of wide-eyed fanaticism that do not exist in any other would-be nuclear power in the world.” No, they exist in an actual nuclear power, Pakistan.

    Israel’s nuclear warheads, whose function is presumably deterrence of precisely powers like Iran, go unmentioned, of course.

This is an important passage, because it underscores the logical fallacies employed by proponents of appeasement with Iran. By utilizing three commonly used tricks, Cohen throws everything he has at the wall in just a few short sentences — hoping something sticks.

Cohen’s first error: equating Western-centric models of rationality to those of our theocratic enemies. “Self-interest and survival drive the mullahs,” he swears — and not “self-immolation” as he claims Netanyahu believes. This is false. While it is true that the Iranians might have a Persian “superiority complex” and would rather hire Arab terrorists to blow themselves up — Lebanese, Palestinians, Jordanians, Iraqis, etc. — whom they ethnically look down upon, it is a mistake to believe Iranian “self-interest” coincides with Israeli or American self-interest.

Think of it this way: Why do would-be suicide bombers run away from U.S. military units while engaging them on the battlefield? Why did the operational planners of 9/11 flee Tora Bora into Pakistan? Why do al-Qaedists and Taliban militiamen seek refuge from air strikes overhead? According to Cohen’s universe of zero-sum logic, these suicidal extremists should welcome their own demise, should they not? One is either a self-immolating fanatic or pursuing coherent self-interest, as personally defined by Cohen himself — right?

The truth is a little bit more complicated. The sincerest jihadist prides himself on a fanaticism that is as tactical and patient as it is theological. Just as Mohamed Atta’s crew donned cell phones and hobnobbed casinos and strip malls — growing parasitic on the society they vowed to destroy, coming to lust what they claimed to loathe — so too it is common, in fact widespread, for a Khomeinist mullah from Iran (or a Wahhabi prince from Saudi Arabia) to indulge in the financial niceties, personal pleasures, and opportunities offered by civilized normalcy. But, as with Atta and his eighteen cohorts, the transition from such immediate real-world self-interest to fantastically dogmatic supernaturalism and brutally self-and-mass-inflicting violence is an easy process, indeed.

Iran’s current president talks into water wells, hears voices, and anxiously awaits the return of the “hidden imam” — and with it, the end of the world. Iran’s former president, and perhaps future supreme leader, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is wanted in Argentina for knocking down a large office building. And he’s supposedly the “moderate” in Iran’s leadership.

The rest of the clerical regime, from the Orwellian-sounding Assembly of Experts to the Council of Guardians, is as ideologically unhinged as any governing body in the world. Cohen scoffs at this fact at our own peril.

Cohen’s second error: applying a false comparison between Iran and Pakistan. This point has been raised for years — and as current realities stand, it has never made less sense. Pakistan is an immense challenge, but the problem it poses to the world is one of intrastate warfare: a government incapable or unwilling to impose its sovereignty over all of its territory. In other words, there are factions within Pakistan that are openly hostile to the United States. But the government itself, led by President Zardari, is at least publicly an ally in this joint effort.

In Iran, however, the government itself is openly adversarial. All apparatuses of the state fall under the dominion of Ayatollah Khamenei, a murderous old man who does not think within our geopolitical constructs. Should the Pakistani government ever fall to al-Qaeda-linked clerics, then Cohen’s parallel would make a semblance of sense.

His third error: applying moral equivalence between a liberal democracy and a ruthless theocracy, while advocating Cold War doctrine to an inherently asymmetrical conflict. Israel’s nuclear program is morally and politically superior to Iran’s program, just as France’s nuclear program is acceptable and North Korea’s program is not.

Additionally, deterring what Thomas Friedman once coined “the undeterrables” is impossible, particularly given the fact that Iran could sell or proliferate its nuclear expertise to other rogue entities, black market networks, or terrorist groups. To paraphrase Dennis Miller, one of the last great comedic wits: Iran doesn’t have to shoot the nuclear three-pointer; they could pass off the assist to their teammates, instead.

Which brings us to President Obama, who has consistently and deferentially referred to Iran as the “Islamic Republic” — perhaps subliminally signaling that we seek no regime change and recognize the political legitimacy of the ruling clerics. This is worrisome, especially given the news that Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau indicted Le Fang Wei, a Chinese financier, for duping several American banks and peddling nuclear materials to the mullahs.

Reportedly, Fang Wei set up four bogus import-export companies that worked with six Iranian shell firms, with the largest recipient believed to be a subsidiary of the Iranian defense ministry.

There were some 58 transactions in all, including shipments of banned materials from Beijing to Tehran between 2006 and 2008. Among them: 33,000 pounds of a specialized aluminum alloy (used in long-range missile production), 66,000 pounds of tungsten copper plate (used in missile guidance systems), and 53,900 pounds of maraging steel rods (an incredibly hard metal used in uranium enrichment to make the casings for nuclear bombs).

Herein lies the asymmetry to Iran’s nuclear pursuits: if their military program is shut down, they will continue to secretly weaponize their “civilian” nuclear program; if that is shut down, they will acquire atomic materials through third parties — sometimes, as in this case, from within the borders of the Great Satan itself — and across the black market; if those efforts are stifled, the mullahs will ascertain the bomb from their rogue allies in Pyongyang or elsewhere.

There are many avenues the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad-Rafsanjani regime may travel, all of which must lead to a U.S.-led roadblock at the nuclear intersection. But there is no evidence that this will be the case. More than three years ago, Joe Biden, then in the Senate, told the Israelis they would eventually have to accept a nuclear-armed Iran. Today, Vice President Biden warns Israel not to take action against Iran’s nuclear program.

This is untenable. Mr. Obama must be wary of these insufficient Cohen-like rationalizations and avoid falling prey to their deceptions. He must understand the urgency of the situation, for if he votes “present” on this issue as well, there will be repercussions to pay.

Ahmadinejad’s Folly: Steinberg and Bayefsky on the First Day of Durban

Analysis of today’s events at Durban by Gerald Steinberg and Anne Bayefsky. Renounce Durban strategy and go after the abusers of human rights. Too bad so few people use the term demopath.

Apr 21, 2009 2:44 | Updated Apr 21, 2009 2:45
Analysis: Ahmadinejad buries the Durban process
By GERALD STEINBERG
GENEVA

The corridor discussions in the United Nations building before Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s arrival focused on two questions: Would he tone down his usual Holocaust denial and threats against Israel in order to appear reasonable? And if not, would diplomats from countries like Britain, France and Norway – those that decided to participate in contrast to Canada, the US, Italy and Germany – fulfill their pledge to walkout if the “red lines” of Holocaust denial and racism were crossed.

We did not have long to wait – the speech was as bad as or worse than the usual Iranian diatribes, and the European diplomats left, being embraced and cheered by Jewish students, NGO leaders and human rights mentors Elie Wiesel and Alan Dershowitz.

Good sign, I’d say. What do you think oao? Among other things it shows how clueless the anti-Zionist party. They are so used to getting away with saying anything, that they make mistakes like this. Ahmadinejad, who was messianically proud that no one blinked when he spoke at the UN in NYC, had a distinctly different reception.

These momentous events took place on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Citing the theme “never again,” participants agreed that this should also mark the end of the Durban process that began at the infamous UN anti-racism conference in that city in 2001. Instead of focusing on real examples of discrimination and mass murder, that event had been hijacked to attack Israel using terms such as apartheid, war crimes and racism. In the official NGO forum, participants that included Human Rights Watch and Amnesty adopted a boycott strategy.

Say it ain’t so, RL: Is the West doomed?

In a post on the hypocrisy of the “self-”critical left, Diane left a note on the ominous signs that the West was committing suicide. I didn’t answer it at the time, but I’d like to address it now.

I just started Ibn Warraq’s “Defending the West” last night. It promises to be a slow but highly rewarding read. And a couple of days ago I finished Shelby Steele’s “White Guilt.” Is it my imagination, or are there increasing numbers of books out there by serious and credible people challenging the “progressive” anti-Western, anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-Zionist orthodoxies?

Or am I allowing myself to be lulled into a false sense of security/hope by completely tuning out the MSM?

oao would have us think the end is near. Say it ain’t so, RL. You’re the milleniallism scholar. The end is never near, right?

You may think — as do I — that Ibn Warraq and Shelby Steele are “serious and credible people,” but, like Khaled abu Toameh, these folks tend to be dismissed by the progressive camp. On the other hand, unlike oao, with whose analysis in detail I often agree, but with whose overall conclusions about the utter collapse of Western educational systems and the doomed state of the West I disagree, I think the future remains undetermined, and in fact, we still have great power and resources if only we’d use them. (And that’s not military power, I’m talking about.)

On the contrary, this battle is far from over. And although every day and week that we delay in dealing with it (e.g., Iranian nuclear power) seriously, the eventual costs are all the higher. I don’t think that Europe, for example, will start fighting back until some significant area — a city like Malmo or Rotterdam — gets turned into a toxic Sharia-zone.

On the other hand, I think that events like the debacle of Durban II are hopeful signs, not only the defection of so many key Western nations, but the walk-out of Ahmadinejad’s rant, to the accompanying cheers of the peanut gallery. On the other hand, having a schizophrenic president, who takes away with one hand what he gives with the other, doesn’t help.

While it’s true that “the end” has yet to happen, immense catastrophes have — like the collapse of the Roman Empire, or the “apocalyptic” World War II (which made the unimaginable World War I look like small potatoes, and which the Germans would have won had the US not entered). So I take no comfort in the fact that the apocalypse hasn’t yet happen.

Indeed, unlike in the past, where only God could bring about the end, now — even as we no longer believe in God — we now have the power to destroy human life on earth. So especially for atheists, who think that the reason the End hasn’t come has nothing to do with God’s involvement, the present offers the first serious threat of annihilation.

On the other hand, I have a perhaps irrationally optimistic sense of the resilience of the West. In particular I don’t think that most “liberals” are intentionally suicidal (unlike the radicals), and I do think they can and will wake up.

The issue is still how long it will take and how high the eventual cost. But we can wake up too late. At least a new dark age will reduce our carbon footprint.

What’s Going on Here?

Of all the bizarre handshakes these days two have struck me as particularly bizarre.

Here the President of Switzerland greets Iran’s President Ahmadinejad as he arrives to participate in the UN Conference on Racism in Geneva.

Swiiss and Iranina Presidents

Here President Obama shakes hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas.

obama and chavez

In both cases the eagerness seems embarrassing. What’s going on?

Even when they lie, they support (belated) Israeli claims: PCHR publishes list of Casualties

Elder of Zion has an important analysis of the casualty figures just published by PCHR, the premier, UN-accredited Human Rights organization in the Gaza Strip. Not only do they transparently misrepresent Hamas and Islamic Jihad “activists” as civilians, but, when you do the math, they support the Israeli claims that only 12 people died near the Jabalya school. For the full post with links, go to the original posting.

PCHR lies about “civilians” and agrees with IDF about Jabalya

PCHR finally came out with the English translation of their list of victims of the Gaza operation, and already a number of things merit attention.

PTWatch, in the comments, quickly looked at Hamas’ list of “martyrs” from Gaza on its Al Qassam website and immediately found four people who Hamas happily claimed as members of their terrorist group – and who PCHR called “civilians.”

#576 Ayman Mohammed Mohammed ‘Afana
PCHR -> civilian
AlQassam -> martyr & fighter

#959 Amir Yousif Mahmoud al-Mansi
PCHR -> civilian
AlQassam -> martyr & fighter

#406 Ali Zuheir Mahmoud al-Houbi
PCHR -> civilian
AlQassam -> martyr & fighter

#133 Mohammed Salah Hassan al-Sawaf
PCHR -> civilian
AlQassam -> martyr & fighter
To this list you can add #257, Ayman Fou’ad Eid al-Nahhal, whom PCHR identifies as a “policeman/civilian.”

And Hamas clearly isn’t publicizing the names of all of its members. These are just the ones on their website that they admit were killed. Both parties are lying.

There are other terrorists listed as “civilians,” such as #864, Tareq Mohammed Nemer Abu ‘Amsha, who CAMERA noted that Ma’an listed as a member of Islamic Jihad al-Quds Brigades.

Intriguingly, some of the terrorists that CAMERA mentioned, who were listed in the weekly PCHR casualty reports, are mysteriously missing from the final report. Is PCHR protecting itself from listing too many dead terrorists? Were they never killed to begin with? It is something that people should be asking PCHR.

One other relevant part of the report: PCHR lists people who were killed “near” and “opposite” the al-Fakhoura School in the Jabalya camp on January 6th. You may recall that the UNRWA told me explicitly that they stood by the casualty figures of 30-50 dead at the school even after the IDF claimed that only 12 were killed. The PCHR itself claimed at the time that 27 civilians were killed instantly at the school.

The Email of Taha Abdul-Basser, Harvard’s Muslim Chaplain, on the question of death for Apostasy in Islam

I discussed this controversy in a previous post. I publish the email in question here with some further comments. The whole text is worse, even, than the “damning” quote used in the Crimson article.

Indeed, I think this controversy gives us a striking insight into the nature of taqqiya (dissembling for the sake of Islam). “Sure Muslim law demands the death penalty for apostates, but since it’s not applicable in the West, it’s not an issue.” I have no doubt that the hardliners in the Boston Muslim community are furious. This should never have gone public.

Taha Abdul-Basser’s email to a Muslim student on the legal principle in Islam on death for apostates.
(Bold and italics are mine; where the author want’s to highlight the passage _is enclosed in underscores_.)

Wa-iyyakum.

I am familiar with these types of discussions.

While I understand that will happen and that there is some benefit in them, in the main, it would be better if people were to withhold from _debating_ such things, since they tend not to have the requisite familiarity with issues and competence to deal with them.

Debating about religious matter is impermissible, in general, and people rarely observe the etiquette of disagreements.

There are a few places on the Net where one can find informed discussions of this issue (Search “Abdul Hakim Murad”|Faraz Rabbani” AND “apostasy”) . The preponderant position in all of the 4 sunni madhahib (and apparently others of the remaining eight according to one contemporary `alim) is that the verdict is capital punishment.

Of concern for us is that this can only occur in the_domain and under supervision of Muslim governmental authority and can not be performed by non-state, private actors._

Some contemporary thought leaders have emphasized the differing views
(i.e. not capital punishment) that a few fuqaha’ in the last few centuries apparently held on this issue, including reportedly the senior Ottoman religious authority during the Tanzimat period and Al-Azhar in the modern period. Still others go further and attempt to elaborate on the argument that the indicants (such as the hadith: (whoever changes his religion, execute him) used to build the traditional position apply only to treason in the political sense and therefore in the absence of a political reality in which apostasy is both forsaking the community and akin to political treasons in the modern sense, the indicants do not indicate capital punishment.

This is a shockingly vague and non-commital paragraph which betrays, to my mind, at best a lack of interest in the issue. But even if the good chaplain is not concerned, not tortured by this hadith, shouldn’t he know more to instruct his charges? Why is he not interested and eager to lay out the authorities and arguments that do, in fact, argue for an evolution in Muslim thinking away from so primitive and barbaric a principle? Don’t Muslims love to cite the principle (taken from the rabbis) that to slay a person is to slay mankind (Sura 5:32) in order to insist that they would never approve of terror?

Harvard’s Muslim Chaplain Notes the Wisdom of Killing Apostates

There’s been an interesting controversy at Harvard over a private email from the Muslim chaplain there, Taha Abdul-Basser (a graduate of the class of ’96) [and a blogger - rl] to a student about the Islamic position on how to deal with apostates.

taha abdul-basser
Photo: Harvard Islamic chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser, Harvard class of ’96.

The chaplain finds much “wisdom” in the law that calls for the death penalty for apostasy, and urges the student not to give in to the pressure “of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse.”

The article interesting, among other things, for its multiple cases of Muslim students who disassociate from the chaplain but want to remain anonymous “to avoid conflicts with Muslim religious authorities,” or “for fear of harming his [or her] relationship with the Islamic community.” The talkbacks are also highly revealing. I comment below on both.

Chaplain’s E-mail Sparks Controversy
Published On Tuesday, April 14, 2009 1:45 AM
By MELODY Y. HU
Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Islamic chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser ’96 has recently come under fire for controversial statements in which he allegedly endorsed death as a punishment for Islamic apostates.

In a private e-mail to a student last week, Abdul-Basser wrote that there was “great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment [for apostates]) and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand.

Since this becomes the source of considerable discussion below, let me clarify how I read this. While Abdul-Basser is not explicitly endorsing execution for heresy, he is at once urging the student to consider seriously the principle in which he sees “great wisdom.” And at an earlier point in his email, he observes that death for apostasy is sharia law in all four of the major Islamic schools:

The preponderant position in all of the 4 sunni madhahib (and apparently others of the remaining eight according to one contemporary `alim) is that the verdict is capital punishment.

Hikma is indeed not merely a term, but a principle in Islam. Here’s one Islamic site’s discussion:

    Studying the Qur’anic verses where wisdom is mentioned, we can add to the above explanation the following points:

  • Wisdom means the subtleties and mysteries of the Qur’an. Since the Qur’an is, in one respect, the correlative of the book of the universe and, in another, its interpretation and explanation, its subtleties and mysteries are also those of the book of the universe. The Qur’an indicates this in this verse (2:269): He grants the wisdom to whomever He wills, and whoever is granted the wisdom, has indeed been granted much good.
  • Wisdom means Prophethood and the meaning of Messengership. The scholars of the Hadith have interpreted it as Sunna (the way of the Messenger). The verses, God granted him (David) kingdom and wisdom (2:251), and We granted Luqman wisdom (31:12), refer to this meaning.
  • Wisdom, in both its theoretical and practical aspects, means goodwill, which is mentioned in: Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation and preaching (16:125).
  • Some have defined wisdom as correct judgment, and acting as one should act and doing what is necessary to do at the right time and right place. We can elaborate on this meaning, which can be re-stated as being just, moderate, balanced, and straightforward…

(The author discusses the issue of apostasy and coercion in religion here.)

For another discussion, see F. Burham, “Wisdom (Al-Hikmah): A Paradigm for Social Sunan

I note the following: as far as I can make out, the chaplain, even without formally endorsing the principle, finds much of value in it. Since this principle formally contradicts the widely cited “there is no coercion in matters of religion (Sura 2:256)” which Muslim apologists regularly present as “proof” that Islam is tolerant, I wonder what Abdul-Basser thinks about the contradiction.

Furthermore, the allusion to the “hegemonic modern human rights discourse” bespeaks someone who has read his Saïd and has no problem trotting out post-colonial jargon to protect a discourse of violence, even to endow it with a certain “wisdom.” And, along with many of his non-Muslim post-colonialists, Abdul-Basser mistakes the nature of liberal hegemony: it is precisely its renunciation of hegemonic control that characterizes freedom of speech, not the coercive hegemony of a tradition that finds those who want to leave so threatening that they must kill them.

The e-mail was forwarded over Muslim student e-mail lists and later picked up by the blogosphere, sparking debate and, in many cases, criticism of Abdul-Basser from those who have interpreted his statement as supporting the execution of those who leave the Islamic religion.

“I believe he doesn’t belong as the official chaplain,” said one Islamic student, who asked that he not be named to avoid conflicts with Muslim religious authorities. “If the Christian ministers said that people who converted from Christianity should be killed, don’t you think the University should do something?”

CLARIFICATION: The April 14 article “Chaplain’s E-mail Sparks Controversy” included a quotation from a named Harvard student, who was later granted anonymity when he revealed that his words could bring him into serious conflict with Muslim religious authorities.

On the hypocrisy of the “self”-critical left

There’s an interesting brouhaha over rumors that Joseph Massad is getting tenure at Columbia which brings out some interesting details about the double standard of the ferociously critical left when it comes to criticism of their own work. Massad, for example, went running to Columbia for help suing someone who had criticized his work, even as he complained about being sued.

Now we also have Prof. David Newman of the Political Science Department at Ben Gurion complaining of the neo-McCarthyism of Campus Watch and Israel Academia Monitor because they keep track of and expose the ferociously “self”-critical things that some professors teach their students about their own and other Western cultures. Now all Newman has to offer as evidence for the McCarthyism of these organizations is:

The last few years have been “in season” for attacking the academic left, a form of academic McCarthyism that is hard to recollect going back 10 or 20 years. Most pernicious and consistent is the self-styled Campus Watch, created by the neo-con critic of the Israeli left, Daniel Pipes. It uses students and faculty to spy on those teaching courses on Israel and the Middle East. Anyone who so faintly utters a word of criticism is immediately labeled as such, including some of the best critical scholars of Israel today.

Two points here.

1) Keeping track of what Professors teach in class is not spying. In principle anything we say in class is the product of our research, and we should not be embarrassed by having it made public. The notion that a classroom is a private place and revealing what goes on in it is a violation of privacy, a form of spying, is itself revelatory of the mindset of a certain kind of academic regression in which the classroom becomes a site of personal propaganda… something well illustrated by Massad’s bullying.

2) The notion that Campus Watch goes after “anyone who so faintly utters a word of criticism” is the classic refuge of the hyper-self-critical left. Campus Watch and Israel Academia Monitor only target the most outrageous groups, groups who, even as they accuse Israel of racism, apartheid, and even genocide, and call her moral right to exist into question, breathe not a word about Palestinian transgressions or the legitimacy of their claims. The notion that this represents “faint criticism” is nothing short of ludicrous. Only people who are abusing their professorial privileges would consider monitoring and publication of what one lectures to students as “spying.”

On the subject of self-criticism, I’m right now reading an excellent critique of Edward Saïd’s Orientalsm by Ibn Warraq, who rightly points out that Saïd exploited the West’s exceptional tendency to self-criticism in order to render it vulnerable to an Arab world incapable of self-criticism.

In cultures already immune to self-criticism, Said helped Muslims and particularly Arabs, perfect their already well-developed sense of self pity. There is a kind of comfort and absolution in being told that none of your problems are your making, that you do not have to accept any responsibility for the ills besetting your society. It is all the fault of the West, of infidels. There is no need even to take responsibility for self-determination, it is easier to accept money from the Western donors and treat it as one’s rightful due from them, that is a kind of jizyah. [See David Samuels' ""In a Ruined Country" on how Arafat played the game. -rl] The attraction of Said’s thesis for third-world intellectuals is thus easily understandable.

Just How Bad can the NYT Get? Jeffrey Woolf fisks Ethan Bronner on Religion and the IDF

I was just at a panel discussion at Boston College about “Israel Apartheid Week” (about which more later). One of the questions posed (in part in response to Dexter van Zile’s comment that the “Apartheid Narrative” scapegoated Israel for the world’s ills) ran somewhat as follows: “Don’t you think that Israel participated in its own scapegoating by not letting in the Western press.

As part of my answer, I tried to explain how, if Western journalists actually did their job, it would have been good to have them in Gaza, but that given how wedded (read: addicted) they are to the framing story of Israeli Goliath / Palestinian David, the chances that they would actually reveal to the West just how systematically Hamas sought to victimize its own people and literally create a humanitarian crisis were pretty slim.

Most people don’t realize just how bad the MSM is in its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, how reluctant they are, for a variety of reasons that span the spectrum from ideological to venal to cowardice, to reveal to their audiences the moral depravity of the Palestinian side. The best current example of the obsession of the Western press with every blemish of the Israelis and their corresponding obliviousness to the Palestinians is probably the work of Ethan Bronner, the NYT mideast correspondent.

Here, Jeffrey Woolf fisks Bronner on the topic of the impact of religious impulses in the Israeli army during the Gaza war. One can easily imagine that the Palestinian version of this article would involve discussing their genocidal ideology, and a host of other problems that would make his remarks — even before Woolf’s corrections — pale in comparison. Alas, don’t expect them anytime soon.

Fisking Bronner on Religious Soldiers
[There is so much wrong with this piece, I decided to pull an Augean Stables.]

    A religious war within the Israeli Army

    By Ethan Bronner
    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    JERUSALEM: The publication late last week of eyewitness accounts by Israeli soldiers alleging acute mistreatment of Palestinian civilians in the recent Gaza fighting highlights a debate here about the rules of war. But it also exposes something else: the clash between secular liberals and religious nationalists for control over the army and society.

The credibility of these charges has since been seriously impugned and they are, in any event, extremely distorted. See here.

    Several of the testimonies, published by an institute that runs a premilitary course and is affiliated with the left-leaning secular kibbutz movement, showed a distinct impatience with religious soldiers, portraying them as self-appointed holy warriors.

    A soldier, identified by the pseudonym Ram, is quoted as saying that in Gaza, “the rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land. This was the main message, and the whole sense many soldiers had in this operation was of a religious war.”

The quote is second hand, therefore, suspect. Even if accurate, though, Ram obviously did not understand that מלחמת מצוה does not mean jihad. It refers to a war to defend Jews from attack or to conquer the land of Israel. The booklets do not stress the latter, only the former. Furthermore, since when is it bad to believe in God, in His Providence or in His promise of the Land of Israel to the People of Israel?

Counter-Panel on Israel-Apartheid Week at Boston College

For those in the Boston area who would like to attend, I’m on a panel tomorrow with Dennis Hale (Boston College) and Dexter van Zile (CAMERA) at Boston College which will respond to a week of “Israel-Apartheid” events there. April 6, 7:15 – 9:00 pm, in Carney 303. Come with questions.

Islam, A Religion Like any Other? Tom Holland weighs in

Tom Holland is an extraordinary (non-academic) historian who normally specializes in ancient history. His latest book is an excellent survey of the year 1000 which takes my side in the debate over whether the population of Europe saw that as an apocalyptic year (my position) or not (most of the academic historians). His latest meditations on the failure of Christians (in his case, English [post-]Christians, to understand how fundamentally different Islam is from their own understanding of their own religion offer a fine counter-part to the well-meaning cognitive egocentrism of Chris Seiple.

Kingdoms not of this world
Tom Holland
Published 02 April 2009

To imagine that Islam can be transformed with a little nudge here and there into a kind of Church of England with hijabs is absurd, writes Tom Holland. For Christians and Muslims worship different gods, and this has a huge influence on the relationship between religion and state, even in the modern world

There is an optimistic notion, one popular among mystics and atheists alike, that all gods are essentially the same. “I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Zoroastrian nor Muslim”: this may sound like a manifesto for the National Secular Society, but was in fact written in the Middle Ages by the great Sufi poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi. His vision of enlightenment, one which saw the reality of God as being akin to the veiled peak of a mountain, taught that the world’s religions, though called by different names, are all simply paths that lead to the one identical summit. The appeal of this philosophy, in a multi-faith society such as Britain’s, is obvious. Indeed, at a time when even our future king frets at the prospect of ruling as the defender of merely a single faith, it must have come to rank as the new Establishment orthodoxy. What could be less 21st century, after all, than to believe that the road to heaven might lead through the Church of England alone?

And yet, for all that, the pretence that peoples of different faiths are heading towards the one single destination does simultaneously stand in the finest tradition of Anglican humbug. The Church of England, ever since Elizabeth I declared herself reluctant to make windows into men’s souls, has been dependent for its existence on fudge. The pews may be emptier nowadays than they used to be, and yet the English, by and large, remain wedded to presumptions that are the theological equivalent of milky tea.

“That would be an ecumenical matter” – so Father Ted coached the deranged Father Jack to reply to anything, no matter how challenging, that might be put to him. The joke would have been even better suited to a vicar. The C of E was deliberately fashioned to provide Protestants with as big a tent as possible. Nowadays, with an urgent need to accommodate not only Catholics, but peoples from a non-Christian background as well, that tent necessarily has to appear yet bigger still. Hence, it would seem, the widespread Anglican conviction that there is no problem that cannot somehow be put to rights by an interfaith forum. Far from diluting the peculiarly English brand of Christianity, the ethos of multiculturalism is in many ways the quintessence of it.

Nevertheless, as the schism over homosexuality that is dividing Anglicanism itself has served wearyingly to demonstrate, compromise depends on people’s willingness not to push their own convictions too far. Unfortunately – or fortunately, according to on one’s point of view – not everyone is prepared to sacrifice deeply held principles on the altar of muddling through. Inevitably, the more grandstanding there is, the less sustainable becomes the fiction that people’s beliefs and ethics are all somehow of a kind. The big tent starts to look ragged, to come apart at the seams. A suspicion grows that the philosophy paraded daily on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day just might be wrong, and that the various gods namechecked before the eight o’clock news might not, in fact, all be the same.

The resulting sense of dislocation is hardly unique to our own times. The pagans of classical antiquity, who would cheerfully adopt the gods of alien pantheons and mix and match them with their own, were invariably brought to experience this sense of dislocation whenever they confronted Christianity’s one true God. Christians in turn might sometimes feel a similar uneasiness when obliged to contemplate the deity of Islam.

For instance, it is said that shortly after Muhammad’s death in 632AD the followers of the Prophet sent an embassy to Heraclius, the Christian emperor in Constantinople, demanding the surrender of his dominions and his conversion to Islam, on pain of invasion. “These people,” the emperor is said to have responded in some bemusement, “are like the twilight, caught between day and nightfall, neither sunlit nor dark – for although they are not illumined by the light of Christ, neither are they steeped in the darkness of idolatry.”

Not even Tony Blair at his most histrionic has ever put it quite like that – and, self-evidently, 7th-century Byzantium, with its murderous power struggles, its delusions of grandeur, and its imploding economy, was far removed from the Britain of New Labour. Nevertheless, Heraclius’s simile does pose in peculiarly acute form a question with which Christians have always had to wrestle: are the similarities between their own faith and Islam more profound than the differences?

NYT Does it Again: Noah Pollack fisks Bisharat

Noah Pollack does an excellent job of taking apart a particularly nasty op-ed which, predictably alas, the Grey Lady had no problem publishing.

He Forgot about the Poisoned Wells
NOAH POLLAK – 04.04.2009 – 2:23 PM

The New York Times publishes an op-ed today by George Bisharat, the U.S. academic whose professional mission is the indictment of Israel for war crimes, no matter how implausible. His piece starts with a lie that the Times itself had an important hand in promoting:

Chilling testimony by Israeli soldiers substantiates charges that Israel’s Gaza Strip assault entailed grave violations of international law.

Except that there never was any “chilling testimony” — there were rumors circulated by an anti-IDF activist, which were breathlessly republished by Haaretz and its American counterpart, the Times. His opening claim does, however, set an appropriately mendacious tone for the rest of the piece. Bisharat says that Israel committed six separate violations of international law during Operation Cast Lead, and the first one he cites lays the foundation for the five that follow:

[Israel violated] its duty to protect the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. Despite Israel’s 2005 “disengagement” from Gaza, the territory remains occupied. Israel unleashed military firepower against a people it is legally bound to protect.

Bishara doesn’t explain how it is conceivable under international law that Israel is still occupying Gaza, but consistency has never been the hobgoblin of international law fetishists. He cites the Fourth Geneva Convention elsewhere in his piece, so he must be familiar with its definition of occupation: “the Occupying Power shall be bound, for the duration of the occupation, to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory.” As Dore Gold wrote in an analysis after the Gaza disengagement,

what creates an “occupation” is the existence of a military government which “exercises the functions of government.” This is a confirmation of the older 1907 Hague Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, which state, “Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.” The Hague Regulations also stipulate: “The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.” What follows is that if no Israeli military government is exercising its authority or any of “the functions of government” in the Gaza Strip, then there is no occupation.

Bisharat continues by charging that Israel is violating Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions by imposing “collective punishment” on Gaza. This claim depends on every resident of Gaza being considered a “protected person” under the Geneva Conventions, which they are not, because Israel is not occupying Gaza. The blockade may be a bad policy, an ineffective policy, or an immoral policy — but it is not a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Side question: Why do people like Bisharat never condemn Egypt for its involvement in the blockade?

Bishara continues his indictment by saying that Israel was

Deliberately attacking civilian targets. The laws of war permit attacking a civilian object only when it is making an effective contribution to military action and a definite military advantage is gained by its destruction.

The level of dishonesty on display here is pretty amazing. Throughout Cast Lead, Hamas used all of the “civilian objects” cited by Bisharat as military installations. Rockets were fired from schools, mosques were used as weapons depots, and the Islamic University of Gaza was used as an explosives production facility and rocket storehouse. Why does Hamas use conspicuously civilian infrastructure for terrorist purposes? One reason is to make the job of Hamas’ western apologists and useful idiots so much easier.

Read the rest.

The Liberal Dilemma: A Dupe of Demopaths Explains how to make inter-religious dialogue work

In my honor-shame class today we read about honor-killings, and their role in restoring men’s sense of well-being by killing disobedient women. The discussion was very lively as we tried to figure out how to deal with the mutual contradictions between liberal beliefs about human nature, and the evidence from the dossiers on honor-killings that depict a profoundly cruel and tyrannical mindset on the part of the men defending their family honor, and — perhaps more distressing — the larger community supporting, if not demanding, their behavior.

As part of the exercise in dealing with the moral problems, I assigned the article below by Chris Seiple on how to dialogue with Muslims. At one point, a student made the classic liberal case that honor-killings are morally repugnant and wondered aloud how, given the peer-pressure involved, we can get Muslims to oppose them. I put to him the classic progressive challenge: isn’t that cultural imperialism? Who are you — we — to tell them what to do? In struggling with the problem, he ended up crying out “auuuugghhhh” in frustration.

Students laughed; some clapped. Exactly. What do we do?

I don’t have a clear answer to that now, but what I do think I have to offer is some thoughts about what we shouldn’t do. And I want to use the deeply well-intentioned Seiple’s meditations as guide to all the errors involved in the current fashionable approach (this one by a Nobel Prize winner) to dealing with Muslim honor: respect their sense of honor; do not engage in gratuitous provocation; avoid insult. Seiple’s essay highlights brilliantly how liberal thinking literally twists itself into its opposite and creates the Moebius Strip of Cognitive Egocentrism. Prepare to have your head hurt.

HT: Dan Pipes. See also Doc’s Talk

10 terms not to use with Muslims
There’s a big difference between what we say and what they hear.

By Chris Seiple
Christine Science Monitor
March 28, 2009 edition

ARLINGTON, VA. – In the course of my travels – from the Middle East to Central Asia to Southeast Asia – it has been my great privilege to meet and become friends with many devout Muslims. These friendships are defined by frank respect as we listen to each other; understand and agree on the what, why, and how of our disagreements, political and theological; and, most of all, deepen our points of commonality as a result.

I’d very much like to hear about those points of commonality, deepened by these discussions. I have difficulty understanding what “frank respect” means. We’re frank because we respect each other? Or we frankly (overtly, obviously) show respect for each other. I have difficulty, given the subsequent discussion, imagining Mr. Seiple being frank about anything.

I have learned much from my Muslim friends, foremost this: Political disagreements come and go, but genuine respect for each other, rooted in our respective faith traditions, does not.

Again, I don’t understand. Right now, I think there are some very long-term political disagreements. And one of them concerns just the topic he wants to oppose to what he considers transient political issues — the alleged tolerance and respect that Muslims [don't] have for infidels. How many of the Muslims that Mr. Seiple has met in his world travels, who expressed their respect for his faith, really meant it?

(I’m certainly not saying “none,” but I do think that any fervent Muslim will have difficulty feeling genuine respect for non-Muslims. As far as I know, there is no category in Islam as in Judaism of the “righteous gentile.”)

And while I am willing to believe that some of his interlocutors genuinely respect Seiple’s religion and outreach, I’m also fairly confident that a number of them told him what he wanted to hear and felt contempt for his lack of conviction in his own faith. Indeed, one of the things one must ask oneself is not, “what do these interlocutors say to may face?” but “what do these interlocutors say to their fellow Muslims behind my back.

(Again, I’m not even saying that in cases where they make fun of us to their fellow Muslims they do so because they feel it; it could be just yielding to [heavy] peer pressure.)

If there is no respect, there is no relationship, merely a transactional encounter that serves no one in the long term.

This is pure “positive-sum” thinking. If one rethinks this from a zero-sum perspective (i.e., pre-modern Islam [or Christianity]), the “merely transactional encounter” becomes a vehicle for manipulating the “other” into taking a submissive posture which a) forbids him to uphold his values or crticize mine, b) compels him to let me press mine without opposition, and c) creates a long-term advantage for my side, then it unquestionably serves me “in the long run.” Seiple assumes that his interlocutors share his deep mutuality (frank respect), and that they understand that only through that will the long run win-win occur.

But what if they’re not thinking that way? What if they’re in the “I win only if you lose” game? Whatever any individual Muslim may be thinking, I suspect that if you present Seiple’s message — only through deep mutual respect for our differences and commonalities, and an acceptance of each other’s “otherness” will peace come to our sorely troubled planet — and get a candid response from the majority of Muslim leaders around the world today, you’ll get either outright laughter or profound hostility.

As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them. Obviously, we are not going to throw out all of these terms, nor should we. But we do need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.

If I understand correctly, Seiple’s now offering us a list of terms that he feels are likely to hurt efforts at “building relationships” with Muslims, and that he learned this from his “dear Muslim friends” — i.e., those he believes have a deep and frank respect for him and his own religious convictions.

1. “The Clash of Civilizations.” Invariably, this kind of discussion ends up with us as the good guy and them as the bad guy. There is no clash of civilizations, only a clash between those who are for civilization, and those who are against it. Civilization has many characteristics but two are foundational: 1) It has no place for those who encourage, invite, and/or commit the murder of innocent civilians; and 2) It is defined by institutions that protect and promote both the minority and the transparent rule of law.

This is an amazing passage… conceptually breathtaking in its disinformation. Let’s begin with the confident assertion: Invariably, this kind of discussion ends up with us as the good guy and them as the bad guy. On the contrary, for those Muslims who view this as a “clash of civilizations,” it’s a no-brainer: they’re the good guys and we’re the bad guys. They care about honor and morality, and we’re a bunch of corrupt, self-indulgent sinners.

This statement betrays how little Seiple actually empathizes with (he overflows with sympathy for) his Muslim interlocutors, and only sees things from his own perspective… which, great-souled man that he is, he will gladly renounce (i.e., the sense that his civilization is better), for the sake of mutual respect (a characteristic Western idea).

But it gets better. Seiple then sets up the opposition between those in favor of civilization and those against it, and defines civilization quite explicitly. 1) It has no place for those who encourage, invite, and/or commit the murder of innocent civilians; and 2) It is defined by institutions that protect and promote both the minority and the transparent rule of law.

Mr. Seiple apparently has no knowledge of civilizations — including European — before the latter half of the 20th century. His first condition is clearly aimed at denouncing terrorism. Of course, unless you insist that civilians are only “innocent” under certain specific situations, we have a Muslim world which is almost unanimous in its approval of killing “non” innocent Israeli civilians, and many more who approve of killing civilians — infidels and Muslims — for political ends. In addition to the “tiny minority” who actually attack civilians, there are widening gyres of Muslims who encourage and invite it.

But the second definition is even more striking and contradictory. This is a purely self-referential Western (or democratic) definition of civilization. Transparency is a modern notion, reinforced by a free press which can report without fear the transgressions of those in power (including judges). As for protecting and — especially — promoting minorities, that is a peculiarly post-WWII phenomenon, fruit of a world aghast at the Holocaust, legislating Geneva Conventions for the world, instituting the United Nations, promoting human rights around the world. No earlier civilization promoted minorities. On the contrary, they saw their authority as a license to put minorities in their place.

Islamic “civilization” (the scare-quotes are in application of Seiple’s definition) does not make the grade here. Dhimmi may mean “protected” (and Seiple may have that in mind), but anyone who knows anything about Islam knows that a) the protection was from the choice of conversion or death, b) there were other groups (pagans) who were not so “protected,” and c) that “protection” involved not promotion but systematic humiliation and subordination.

So what Seiple’s done here is a classic inversion of meaning. In defining “all” civilizations, he’s done just what he said we shouldn’t — made a Eurocentric (Occidento-centric) value judgment that “we are better” (i.e., our values are better than any other; indeed they are the very measure of civilization). But to avoid the “clash of civilizations” he’s granted “civilized” status to everyone else. “They” are civilized like “us.”

To Fight or Diplomatize: Karsenty Takes on the AJC

Philippe Karsenty has been threatening to write a piece about the behavior of the American Jewish Committee in the al Durah affair for years now. He’s finally done it. It lays out a classic dilemma between the confrontational and the accommodational approach to dealing with the problems of anti-semitism in the current scene.

This critique is echoed both in its particular target of the AJC, as well as the more general problem of the American Jewish leadership (a fortiori, Jewish leadership in other countries).

Mar 30, 2009 20:24 | Updated Mar 30, 2009 23:22
The American Jewish Committee deserves better leadership
By PHILIPPE KARSENTY

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If ever an issue begged for the intervention of a Jewish organization of international stature, it was the Mohamed al Dura affair. This notorious blood libel accused Israeli soldiers of shooting to death an Arab boy in Gaza on September 30, 2000. Though the event was actually a staged hoax, it was broadcast the same day on French public television station, France 2. Mohamed al Dura became an icon for all Muslim children. The story triggered rioting, terrorism and mayhem throughout the Muslim world; unleashed the Second Intifada; was the pretext for Daniel Pearl’s beheading, and was referenced in Osama bin Laden’s recruitment tapes prior to 9/11.

For seven years I worked to expose that hoax, and was sued for my effort.

The American Jewish Committee is one of the world’s most active Jewish institutions. It would have been entirely consistent with its mission to have stepped forward to aid me in my efforts to counter a libel that dishonored every Jew.

But under David Harris as executive director, only silence and obstruction were forthcoming.

Harris is renowned for his diplomatic skills, his warm friendship with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and his contacts at the highest levels of other European governments. Some have complained to him that his representative in France, Valerie Hoffenberg, never once objected to France 2′s hoax or supported my efforts to expose it. In fact, Hoffenberg was waging a behind-the scenes counter-offensive to cover-up the al Dura lie by blocking my access to some French officials, lobbying Jewish leaders against me, and claiming that the phony news report was authentic. Harris’ response was always polite and reassuring: “I will look into it,” he promised.

Yet nothing ever changed. It finally became clear that Hoffenberg was not acting on her own initiative, but faithfully adhering to AJC policy. Because of Hoffenberg’s activities, AJC France was actually my most destructive foe.

That would be a significant exaggeration. Enderlin and France2 were Karsenty’s most destructive foes. I don’t think it helps to exaggerate.