Monthly Archives: May 2009

Fareed Zakaria: Poster Boy for Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

I haven’t posted a lot on Iran because it’s not really an area I know a great deal about. But what I can recognize is the predictable tropes of cognitive egocentrism, and that’s what this latest by Fareed Zakaria is full of. I’ve been following his program on CNN segments of which we’ll be posting soon at the new Second Draft site for comment and criticism. There, it’s hard to know what he thinks aside from how he chooses his guests — Gerges is less of an analyst than an advocate, but Zakaria doesn’t seem to notice — but in this piece he’s wearing his colors loud and clear.

Lorenz Gude, one of our regular commenters here notes:

    I found myself pretty surprised by Fareed Zakaria’s piece on Iran in Newsweek entitled “They May Not Want the Bomb.” It is an example of apologetic propaganda that reminds me of hagiographies of Stalin.

Emerging Iran

Inside a land poised between tradition and modernity

How’s that for a start. It may be somewhere between the two conceptually, but to call it poised between them is to suggest those are its two possible (and imminent) directions. On the contrary, Khoumeini’s “Islamic Republic of Iran” is a terrifying experiment in anti-modern apocalyptic Islam. To leave that out of the picture already marks Zakaria’s (or is it the Newsweek editor’s) conceptual framework as critically deficient.

How about: Inside a land hijacked by anti-modern Islamists on the painful path from tradition to modernity

By Fareed Zakaria | NEWSWEEK
Published May 23, 2009
Religion Versus Reality
Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What’s the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons.

And they wouldn’t lie to us, would they? Zakaria seems to think that having nuclear weapons is like having dessert — something you can take or leave. Does he really mean this? Is this deliberate misinformation or just breathtaking naivete? As the kept woman said to the court when told that her senator lover denied having any knowledge of her, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime’s founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were “un-Islamic.” The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that “developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam.” Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini’s statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.

Of course they could be lying. And they could be doing that for the sake of Islam. After all, the Shiites are the original practitioners of Takkiya. As the Supreme Leader Khoumeini put it:

    Should we remain truthful at the cost of defeat and danger to the Faith? People say, “don’t kill!” But the Almighty himself taught us how to kill… Shall we not kill when it is necessary for the triumph of the Faith? We say that killing is tantamount to saying a prayer when those who are harmful [to the Faith] need to be put out of the way. Deceit, trickery, conspiracy, cheating, stealing and killing are nothing but means… (Murawiec, The Mind of Jihad, p.43).

Are these statements made in English and broadcast to us, or in Pharsee and broadcast to the Iranian public. Could it just be fodder for dupes?

And then, what about this:

    Iran’s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.

    In yet another sign of Teheran’s stiffening resolve on the nuclear issue, influential Muslim clerics have for the first time questioned the theocracy’s traditional stance that Sharia law forbade the use of nuclear weapons.

    One senior mullah has now said it is “only natural” to have nuclear bombs as a “countermeasure” against other nuclear powers, thought to be a reference to America and Israel.

    The pronouncement is particularly worrying because it has come from Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of the ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is widely regarded as the cleric closest to Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Nicknamed “Professor Crocodile” because of his harsh conservatism, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi’s group opposes virtually any kind of rapprochement with the West and is believed to have influenced President Ahmadinejad’s refusal to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear programme.

    The comments, which are the first public statement by the Yazdi clerical cabal on the nuclear issue, will be seen as an attempt by the country’s religious hardliners to begin preparing a theological justification for the ownership – and if necessary the use – of atomic bombs.

Does Zakaria know about this and doesn’t think it’s relevant? Is the Daily Telegraph misreporting?

It sure looks like successful cognitive warfare: An Exchange between Weisenthal Center and Maurice Ostroff about the Ban Ki-Moon forgery

I just received the following from Maurice Ostroff, who blogs at Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict. It begins with a response from Mark Weitzman of the Weisenthal Center about the forgery we discussed last week. Ostroff warns that they may be dismissing it too lightly since Pravda has posted it as true and solicited a raft of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic vitriol in the talkbacks.

Response from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre re: Speech of Secrtry grl of the UN

I have checked into the account of the reported speech of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that was supposedly given upon the occasion of Israel’s 60th birthday. According to the Department of Public Information of the UN, the speech is “categorically a hoax”. This can also be confirmed by the account of one of the (anti-Zionist) blogs that posted the forged speech, where he admits he was fooled and took it unknowingly from a neo-Nazi site. (This is the url for the blog, and this is the url where he acknowledges his mistake). Evidently, this is another in a long line of Internet hoaxes that are passed off as real.

I hope that the information above has been helpful. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.

Sincerely,

Mark Weitzman

Director, Task Force against Hate
Chief Representative to the United Nations
Simon Wiesenthal Center
50 East 42nd Street, Suite 1600
New York, New York, 10017
tel. 212.370.0320
fax 212.883.0895

Maurice Ostroff
5/501 Asher Barash, Herzliya, 46365 ISRAEL
Tel. +972 9 9595 261 Fax. +972 9 9509 667

http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com

To Mark Weitzman
Director, Task Force Against Hate
Chief Representative to the United Nations
Simon Wiesenthal Center

Report about the intention of UN Secretary General to ask the UN to strip Israel of UN membership!

Dear Mark Weitzman,

Thank you for your phone call. As discussed, I do not believe that this episode can be dismissed lightly on the strength of information on one or two not very serious blogs. The original report appeared on a very genuine looking UN News Center web site and it needs to be refuted prominently and officially by the UN.

Unfortunately the report and the negative references to Israel have been given credence by Pravda which alleges that the speech appeared on the official UN site but was removed under political pressure. See here.

Pravda is not uninfluential and has not issued any amendment to the report quoted above. What is more disturbing is that it is now running an additional thread on the same subject that is attracting a flood of anti-Israel talkbacks. See here.

Pravda’s claim that it received the report directly from its source at the UN cannot be overlooked by the Secretary General.

To prevent the allegations contained in the SG’s alleged speech about Israel’s conditional membership from snowballing, an urgent widely publicized clarification is needed from the UN and I respectfully suggest that in your capacity as Director of the Task Force against Hate of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, at the United Nations, you take up this matter at top level.

Sincerely
Maurice Ostroff

A visit to the site noted by Weitzman is instructive. Note how he frames the story — aha! it’s true (obviously) and it’s further proof that the Jews control the world media since they got everyone to take it down (including) the UN.

It has long been assumed that the zionists have complete control of the Corporate Media in the United States. AIPAC and its supporters have literally gotten away with murder over the past 60 years as a result of this.

But, there are still some that doubt that what I just said is a fact….. if the following isn’t enough evidence, then I don’t know what is.

On the 11th of May, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, called for Israel to be stripped of its membership in the world body. Did you read about it ANYWHERE? I know I didn’t until this morning when it was brought to my attention. The reasons….. here is just one of them;

The UN News Agency placed the Secretary General’s remarks on its official web site on May 11 and shortly thereafter, a news site in Israel called “News from Jerusalem” published the story on its web site.

Within hours however, the remarks of the Secretary General to the General Assembly were pulled off the UN site! In their place was a second address by the Secretary General, this one to the Security Council which was made the next day, May 12.
In addition, the May 11 story about ousting Israel from the UN was pulled off the “News from Jerusalem” site! In its place is a retraction challenging the validity of the source.

The above (in italics) is taken from a Blog, proving once again the valuable role played by the Blogesphere as the vehicle of getting the truth out to the masses. It is more than disturbing, it is downright frightening that our lives are in such control by the zionists.

Below is the full text of the Secretary General’s speech to the General Assembly….. pass it on, it must become public knowledge.

Desertpeace posted a rapid retraction:

A post I did earlier was based on what I thought to be ‘news’ from a reliable source…. NOTHING could be further from the truth.

The Blog I cite as the source of the article is a site run by one of the most despicable neo nazis living in the United States. The Turner Radio Network ( a blog attached to the Hal Turner show: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hal_Turner#cite_note-0 ) is maybe most unreliable source on the internet.

The Turner Radio Network already spread many false news, and surely not in an innocent way: for instance:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/business/24turner.html

All of the above was pointed out to me by one of the editors of an Associate site, URUKNET.
For this I am grateful, and to you my readers, I apologise….

The ’speech’ supposedly written by Ban Ki Moon was actually meant as a satirical piece, written by Greg Felton.
An irony of the Net is that the Turner Radio Network is listed as a news site on Google, while my Associate, Uruknet is not.

To which I commented:

maybe the reason you got caught was because you so wanted to believe the contents of the forgery. and despite what Greg Felton claims, he did not make a “satire” but a forgery (i.e., he copied the letterhead of a public institution and tried to pass off his ideology — which apparently appealed to you). a satire is when you take ideas you don’t believe in and make fun of them, like Swift suggesting that the Irish eat their babies during the great famine. See my post.

meantime, like Greg Fulton, you seem to have a limited grasp on the difference between “fact” and opinion. it’s far from a fact that the jews control the media, and certainly not for the purposes of spreading zionist plots, not even the media they’re prominent in like the NYT. that’s actually one of the oldest of modern conspiracy theories and it radically misreads the dynamics of jewish participation in modernity, esp the media which engages in levels of self-criticism unseen in any other “ethnic” or “religious” group.

maybe this mistake might be the beginning of a reconsideration on your part. after all, you do have the courage to admit error.

Which he duly posted.

Flirting with Reality: Goldberg reviews Morris on Palestinian Irredentism

Nietzsche once remarked that thinking is like diving into an icy pond, going to the bottom and grasping a stone from the depths. Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, gets his feet wet and comes running out.

No Common Ground

By JEFFREY GOLDBERG
Published: May 20, 2009

In March, Muhammad Dahlan, a former chief of one of thePalestinian Authority’s multifarious secret police organizations, and once a tacit ally of the C.I.A., defended Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, from the charge, made by Hamas, that it had previously recognized Israel’s right to exist.

ONE STATE, TWO STATES
Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict
By Benny Morris
240 pp. Yale University Press. $26


First Chapter: ‘One State, Two States’ (May 24, 2009)

“They say that Fatah has asked them to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and this is a big deception,” Dahlan said. “For the 1,000th time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Rather we are asking Hamas not to do so, because Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist.”

This was not a helpful statement, at least not to the peace-processors in Washington and in Europe, and to their diminishing band of confederates in Israel and the Palestinian territories. But Dahlan’s comment helps buttress the main argument of Benny Morris’s new book, “One State, Two States.” Morris, a professor of history at Ben- Gurion University in Israel, argues that Arab rejectionism is so profound a force that only the terminally obtuse could believe that Palestinians will ever acquiesce to a state comprised solely of the West Bank and Gaza.

Nice beginning, especially when speaking to an audience of self-selecting liberal cognitive egocentrists.

Morris is equally dismissive of those who believe that a so-called one-state solution might work in place of a two-state solution. Muslim anti-Semitism and the deep cultural divide that separates Arab from Jew, among other realities, make this notion a fantasy. In this short book Morris asserts there is no one-state solution to the Middle East crisis, and no two-state solution. Morris does promote the possibility of a Palestinian confederation with Jordan, but he makes the case anemically and cursorily.

This is not to say that Morris isn’t convincing at times, for instance when he says that one-staters, like the constitutional scholar Daniel Lazar and the historian Tony Judt, who envision a utopian post-Zionist future, in fact are calling for Israel to be eliminated.

Yet Morris, like Judt, has an almost irretrievably dark vision of Israel’s future as a Jewish-majority state. The difference is that Morris does not believe that Israel’s mistakes — even the settlement movement that colonized the West Bank — are what might doom it. The culprit is the implacable fanaticism of Arab Islamists, who are unwilling to accept a Jewish national presence in what is thought of as Arab land, a position that hasn’t changed since the meeting of the third Palestine Arab Congress, in 1920, which rejected Jewish claims to the land since “Palestine is the holy land of the two Christian and Muslim worlds.” Subsequent events that seemingly contradict this belief — most notably, the P.L.O.’s ostensible recognition of Israel in 1988 — have been staged for the benefit of gullible Westerners, Morris writes.

Most people still think that the PLO changed their charter. They voted to change their charter at some point in the future, and people like Hanan Ashrawi voted against it. Part of the reason we don’t know about it is that both the media , authors like Graham Usher (chaps. 10-11), and the proponents of the Oslo Process like President Clinton were so eager to move on that they pretended that it had already happened. Details and extensive references here.

When on journalist reported on Ashrawi’s no-vote — on the basis of good honor-shame concerns (“This will appear to be a succumbing to Israeli dictate.”) — she was told by her editor that that can’t be true because, “Ashrawi is a moderate.”

On the Moral Failures of the Left: Kamm meditates on the dangers of identity politics

A friend of mine who lives on the West coast remembers a trip I made out there in early 2002. “All you could say was ‘Where’s the outrage?’” And, of course, I was talking about the suicide terror campaign against Israel and the eery silence, not only from the “left” — which, it turns out, was celebrating the terrorists — but the liberals, the people who should have been most indignant at the appalling sight of a culture that does blood sacrifices of its own youth in order to act on its hatreds. What I eventually learned was that the they had been taken in by the “yes it’s indefensible… but…” position.

All told, I became rapidly convinced over the course of the early years of the aughts (’00s) that the year 2000 — from Camp David’s failure in August to the outbreak of the Intifada in October, marks a major failure of the modern, liberal world. At that point, having urged Israel to make massive substantive concessions on the promise of peace — letting Arafat back in, giving him a free hand to arm his “police” force, to control his own media and educational systems — in exchange for promises of recognition and commitment to making peace. When Arafat turned down the offers of Camp David, and later when he revelled in the violence of the Intifada, that was a moment where the liberal left, if it believed in its values of positive-sum negotiation, mutuality and peace, should have turned to Israel and apologized for having urged such a dangerous, even suicidal “peace process” on them.

Instead, it turned against Israel and made Arafat and his suicide-bombing Palestinian Jihadis the heroes of resistance against the Israelis. If the Palestinians hated Israel so, it must be because the Israelis have deprived them of hope. How could it be their fault? How could we hold them responsible for their hatreds? Wouldn’t that be “blaming the victim?”

Now, from the Times of London, an essay by Oliver Kamm examines the role of a certain kind of identity politics associated with authoritarian (if not fascist) communities who are given more than a free ride.

From The Times
May 23, 2009
How the Left turned to the Right
Oliver Kamm

Liberal over-sensitivity to the beliefs of others is undermining freedom of speech, so giving reactionaries an easy ride

I attended an academic conference in late 1989 on the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Martin Jacques, editor of the now-defunct journal Marxism Today, put a brave face on the rejection of the ideals he espoused. He argued that these revolutions would expand the variety of left-wing views in Western Europe.

I recall arguing with him from the floor that the opposite was true. Of the two principal left-wing traditions in Europe, insurrectionary socialism and pro-Western social democracy, only the second retained credibility.

It is obvious now that we were both wrong. The revolutionary Left has made fitfully fruitful tactical alliances, such as the bleakly comic amalgam of Leninists and Islamists who formed and then rent apart George Galloway’s Respect party. But in its own name it remains a minuscule if variegated sect.

Actually, in retrospect, the radical left, groups like International A.N.S.W.E.R., was saved by anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism.

Some articles I’d like to blog on but don’t have the time

The following list constitutes a quick collection of articles I’ve saved to comment on. Inclusion in the list does not mean I agree with their point of view.

Jakub Grygiel, The Power of Statelessness

David Steinberg, If the Terrorists Misinterpret Islam …

Steve Emerson, State Department’s love affair with Islamists

Steve Emerson, Radicals in Our Prisons
How to Stop the Muslim Extremists Recruiting Inmates to Terrorism

Alan Dershowitz, Double Standard Watch: Obama’s got it exactly backwards

Myra Guarnieri, Identity and crisis, a review of Surrounded: Palestinian Soldiers in the Israeli Military

Bruce Bower, The Inner Worlds Of Conspiracy Believers

John Rosenthal, The Photo France does not want you to see.

Khaled Abu Toameh, Islam Today

Sam Ser, Explaining War

On the Power of Statelessness: Why Palestinians prefer not to have a state according to Robert Kaplan

In a mediocre article, replete with logical non-sequiturs (especially at the end), Robert Kaplan, national correspondent for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, tries to spin off from more substantive article by Jakub Grygiel (“The Power of Statelessness: the Withering Appeal of Governing”). Although the analysis is superficial and the policy suggestions at odds with the analysis, it’s worth looking at for both what it occasionally says that’s valuable, and as an example of how hard it is, even for smart people, to think clearly about the Arab-Israeli conflict. (HT/YP)


Do the Palestinians Really Want a State?

Why landlessness may be its own source of power
by Robert D. Kaplan

The statelessness of Palestinian Arabs has been a principal feature of world politics for more than half a century. It is the signature issue of our time. The inability of Israelis and Palestinians to reach an accord of mutual recognition and land-for-peace has helped infect the globe with violence and radicalism—and has long been a bane of American foreign policy. While the problems of the Middle East cannot be substantially blamed on the injustice done to Palestinians, that injustice has nonetheless played a role in weakening America’s position in the region.

Obviously, part of the problem has been Israeli intransigence. Despite seeming to submit to territorial concessions, one Israeli government after another has quietly continued to bolster illegal settlements in the occupied territories. The new Israeli government may be the worst yet: Its foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, is so extreme in his anti-Arab views that he makes the right-wing Likud prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appear like the centrist he isn’t. The prospects for peace under this government are fundamentally bleak.

Alright, so Kaplan’s not the sharpest pencil in the box when it comes to Israeli politics. But all this is really just a set-up. In the meantime, I think it worth noting that if the “moderate” Abbas were an Israeli politician, whose views in his native tongue were duly translated and broadcast globally by the likes of Ha-Aretz, then he’d appear as a far-right, ultra-nationalist, racist, intransigent, war-monger. It’s only the skew of comparing politicians from a civil polity with those from a prime divider society that permits the kind of cheap throw-away lines such as that used by Kaplan above. Indeed, my guess is that if any Israeli politician were to say in Hebrew the kinds of things Abbas says in Arabic, he’d be debounced as an intransigent and banned as a racist.

And yet this Israeli government faithfully represents the Israeli electorate, which is in utter despair over the impossibility of finding credible partners on the Palestinian side with which to negotiate. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas’s more moderate Fatah movement may be willing to live in peace with Israel, but it has insufficient political legitimacy among Palestinians to negotiate such a deal. With Fatah and Hamas facing off against each other, the Palestinians are simply too divided to plausibly meet Israel across the table. And because the Palestinians are unable to cut a deal, a majority of Israelis, as shown by the recent election results, have apparently given up any hope for peace.

Well that’s quite a feat. The despair of the Israeli electorate is not just over the present “stalemate,” but about the repeated failure of concessions to ameliorate the situation. Oslo “Peace” Process (1993-2000), leaving Lebanon (2000), leaving Gaza (2005), all have led to more aggression, including suicide bombing. It’s this ferocious and relentless will to aggress on the part of the Palestinians, fed by a media that constantly incites to genocidal hatreds, that has them worried.

But there is a deeper structural and philosophical reason why the Palestinians remain stateless—a reason more profound than the political narrative would indicate.

It’s nice of Kaplan to recognize that (his and the consensually accepted) “political narrative” doesn’t get to the point. But instead of going to matters of honor and shame, he goes to an interesting, but largely “rational” analysis of the strategic advantages of statelessness.

It is best explained by associate Johns Hopkins professor Jakub Grygiel, in his brilliant essay, “The Power of Statelessness: the Withering Appeal of Governing” (Policy Review April/May 2009). In it, Grygiel does not discuss the Palestinians in particular, but rather the attitude of stateless people in general.

Statehood is no longer a goal, he writes. Many stateless groups “do not aspire to have a state,” for they are more capable of achieving their objectives without one. Instead of actively seeking statehood to address their weakness, as Zionist Jews did in an earlier phase of history, groups like the Palestinians now embrace their statelessness as a source of power.

Interesting point, except that it ignores the past. At no point in this process have any Palestinian leaders showed any real desire for statehood. The “now” is an a-historical attempt to describe a “new” development.

New communication technologies allow people to achieve virtual unity without a state, even as new military technologies give stateless groups a lethal capacity that in former decades could be attained only by states. Grygiel explains that it is now “highly desirable” not to have a state—for a state is a target that can be destroyed or damaged, and hence pressured politically. It was the very quasi-statehood achieved by Hamas in the Gaza Strip that made it easier for Israel to bomb it. A state entails responsibilities that limit a people’s freedom of action. A group like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the author notes, could probably take over the Lebanese state today, but why would it want to? Why would it want responsibility for providing safety and services to all Lebanese? Why would it want to provide the Israelis with so many tempting targets of reprisal? Statelessness offers a level of “impunity” from retaliation.

But the most tempting aspect of statelessness is that it permits a people to savor the pleasures of religious zeal, extremist ideologies, and moral absolutes, without having to make the kinds of messy, mundane compromises that accompany the work of looking after a geographical space.

And of course, if the world is willing to dump on Israel for its inherent messiness as a state, and give the stateless a free ride, why not?

Grygiel raises a challenging proposition. If his theory is correct, then the Palestinians may never have a state, because at a deep psychological level, enough of them—or at least the groups that speak in their name—may not really want one. Statehood would mean openly compromising with Israel, and, because of the dictates of geography, living in an intimate political and economic relationship with it. Better the glory of victimhood, combined with the power of radical abstractions! As a stateless people, Palestinians can lob rockets into Israel, but not be wholly blamed in the eyes of the international community. Statehood would, perforce, put an end to such license.

The closest that Israelis and Palestinians ever came to peace was at the end of the Clinton Administration in 2000, when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak of the center-left Labor Party offered a slew of concessions to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat—only to have Arafat reject them. Arafat’s epitaph was that he remained loyal to the cause of his people, that he never compromised, and that he was steadfast to the bitter end. He may have seen that as a more morally and emotionally satisfying conclusion to a life of statelessness than that of making the unenchanting concessions associated with achieving statehood.

Even if Grygiel’s theory is right, the United States should apply ample pressure on the new Israeli government to compromise with the Palestinians—ratcheting up the rhetoric and slowing down arms deliveries if necessary. It should do this because it is the right thing to do, and because it will help the U.S. to reestablish credibility in the Muslim world. But the U.S. should also brace itself for an Israeli-Palestinian conflict that may never end, because the Palestinians may already have what they want.

Now there’s a brilliant ending to an otherwise interesting article. It’s as if he says, “ignore what I just said and act as if the prevailing paradigm — force Israeli concessions in the hopes of bringing out Palestinian moderation — were still good. Because it’s “the right thing to do.” By whose standards?

Does this man even believe what he says? Or is he just bowing to the “conventional wisdom”? And one wonders how phenomena like the “emperor’s new clothes” can happen.

In any case, what a pedestrian conclusion: wake up and go back to sleep.

Cognitive Warfare or Anti-Zionist Fantasy? Ban Ki-Moon calls for the revocation of Israel’s membership in the UN

I got this announcement that Ban Ki-Moon, in a speech to the UN General Assembly, had called for the revocation of the state of Israel’s membership in the UN.

If it hopes to play a meaningful role in the 21st century, the UN must do more than simply promise to enact reforms. It must search deep within its soul to redress the fundamental violations of its founding principles, which have long since ceased to have any force. That recommitment must begin now, for it was 60 years ago today, May 11, 1949, that Israel became a member of the UN. The UN cannot hope to achieve any measure of peace or justice as long as it condones war crimes, which it does every day that Israel is allowed to flout its terms of admission.

The past cannot be undone, but the future can change. As its newly elected Secretary-General, I promise that the UN will no longer be a passive enabler of genocide. Therefore, I will ask the General Assembly to meet in special session at the earliest possible time to strip Israel of its membership. Ordinarily, a motion to expel a member nation would have to come at the recommendation of the Security Council, but this is not an ordinary motion. Because Israel is in violation of its terms of admission, it is not a member in good standing, so the UN has every right to declare General Assembly Resolution 273 null and void. Since Israel’s membership depends on adherence to that resolution, its expulsion is automatic.

Essentially, the unavoidable, lamentable truth of the last six decades is that the UN has been a moral and political failure because it has refused to enforce its own rules and defend the Charter. Nothing the UN does will have any value as long as
this illegitimate member occupies a place in the General Assembly. I want the UN to have value.

This struck me immediately as unlikely language for Ban Ki-Moon to use. It was straight out of the anti-Zionist playbook. It had “forgery” written all over it. And there was nothing I could find with those words at the official UN site.

(I especially like the inversion of the actual situation: The UN has been a moral and political failure because it failed to enforce its own rules and throw out members who refused to abide by the rulings of the UN (e.g., the Arab block that refused to recognize Israel), and as a result of the power of large, undemocratic blocks (Arab states, Muslim states) has been sucked into a grotesque moral cesspool that has betrayed the very principles of “human rights.”)

A search for the speech produced a very impressive PDF file that sure looked like a UN document. (Note, however, that none of the other links work… sloppy work.)

Is this cognitive warfare — the power of suggestion? Or is it just anti-Zionists fantazing their wet dream?

UPDATE: The new Jewish International Commission for Jewish Legal Affairs is on the case:

UN HOAX EXPOSED
Written by the Jewish Tribune staff
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
JERUSALEM – A document purporting to be an address by Ban Ki-Moon, secretary general of the UN, delivered to the UN General Assembly on May 11, 2009 “on the 60th Anniversary of Israel’s Admission,” and widely circulated on the Internet, is a deliberate forgery, said the newly created International Commission for Jewish Legal Affairs.

Brenden Varma from the UN Press Office confirmed to representatives of the commission that the perpetrators illegally copied the heading of the web site of the UN News Centre, so that the address would appear to be an official document of the United Nations.

Dr. Haim Katz, chair of the International Commission for Jewish Legal Affairs, newly established in cooperation with the B’nai B’rith World Center to help combat efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel, called upon the secretary general to immediately disassociate himself from this forged document, to condemn the dissemination of false and inflammatory information about Israel or any other member state, to commence an investigation to identify the perpetrators, and to pursue all available legal means to do so.

Dr. Katz indicated that the fake address to the General Assembly contained a complete distortion of the history of the UN resolution of 1947, which led to the creation of Israel and a pledge by the secretary general to call a special session of the General Assembly “at the earliest possible time to strip Israel of its membership.”

In his letter to the secretary general, Dr. Katz stated, “With the current climate of anti-Israel sentiment, undoubtedly hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people will accept this forgery at face value. If it is not denied promptly and publicly, this false document, which clearly has the potential for violence, can produce dire consequences in world opinion. The integrity of the United Nations will be damaged as well.”
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 26 May 2009 )

So what if, by 2020, Rotterdam is a majority Muslim? We already have an answer.

In October of 2004, David Pryce-Jones, whose book on Arab honor-shame culture, The Closed Circle was to be a major player in my new course, “Honor-Shame Cultures, Middle Ages, Middle East,” came to BU to speak. Commentary published a formal draft of the talk in December of that year, “The Islamicization of Europe.” In the question and answer period, Pryce-Jones told the story of turning the tables on a Dutch reporter who was interviewing him.

“You’re from Rotterdam,” he commented, “are you aware that, by 2020, Rotterdam will be a majority Muslim?

“So what?” the reporter shot back.

Well, it’s not even five years later, and we have a pretty good answer, and it’s not very pretty.

Of course, the reporter was just being “politically correct.” After all, Muslim immigrants, according to the prevailing paradigm, were just like any other immigrant, and to suggest otherwise, was to reveal one’s racist prejudices, one’s Islamophobia. Of course there were some of us, even back then, who felt that anyone who wasn’t afraid of Islam was a cretin.

You be the judge of the reporter’s remark:

Eurabia Has A Capital: Rotterdam
Here entire neighborhoods look like the Middle East, women walk around veiled, the mayor is a Muslim, sharia law is applied in the courts and the theaters. An extensive report from the most Islamized city in Europe

by Sandro Magister

rotterdam sharia styles

ROME, May 19, 2009 – One of the most indisputable results of Benedict XVI’s trip to the Holy Land was the improvement in relations with Islam. The three days he spent in Jordan, and then, in Jerusalem, the visit to the Dome of the Mosque, spread an image among the Muslim general public – to an extent never before seen – of a pope as a friend, surrounded by Islamic leaders happy to welcome him and work together with him for the good of the human family.

What planet are they on? What were the European media reporting from the Holy Land.

But just as indisputable is the distance between this image and the harsh reality of the facts. Not only in countries under Muslim regimes, but also where the followers of Mohammed are in the minority, for example in Europe.

In 2002, the scholar Bat Ye’or, a British citizen born in Egypt and a specialist in the history of the Christian and Jewish minorities in Muslim countries – called the “dhimmi” – coined the term “Eurabia” to describe the fate toward which Europe is moving. It is a fate of submission to Islam, of “dhimmitude.”

Oriana Fallaci used the word “Eurabia” in her writings, and gave it worldwide resonance. On August 1, 2005, Benedict XVI received Fallaci in a private audience at Castel Gandolfo. She rejected dialogue with Islam; he was in favor of it, and still is. But they agreed – as Fallaci later said – in identifying the “self-hatred” that Europe demonstrates, its spiritual vacuum, its loss of identity, precisely when the immigrants of Islamic faith are increasing within it.

Holland is an extraordinary test case. It is the country in which individual license is the most extensive – to the point of permitting euthanasia on children – in which the Christian identity is most faded, in which the Moslem presence is growing most boldly.

Here, multiculturalism is the rule. But the exceptions are dramatic: from the killing of the anti-Islamist political leader Pim Fortuyn to the persecution of the Somali dissident Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the murder of the director Theo Van Gogh, condemned to death for his film “Submission,” a denunciation of the crimes of Muslim theocracy. Fortuyn’s successor, Geert Wilders, has lived under 24-hour police protection for six years.

There is one city in Holland where this new reality can be seen with the naked eye, more than anywhere else. Here, entire neighborhoods look as if they have been lifted from the Middle East, here stand the largest mosques in Europe, here parts of sharia law are applied in the courts and theaters, here many of the women go around veiled, here the mayor is a Muslim, the son of an imam.

This city is Rotterdam, Holland’s second largest city by population, and the largest port in Europe by cargo volume.

The following is a report on Rotterdam published in the Italian newspaper “il Foglio” on May 14, 2009, the second in a major seven-part survey on Holland.

The author, Giulio Meotti, also writes for the “Wall Street Journal.” Next September, his book-length survey on Israel will be published.

The photo above is entitled “Muslim women in Rotterdam.” It is from an exhibition in 2008 by the Dutch photographers Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek.

In the casbah of Rotterdam

by Giulio Meotti

In Feyenoord, veiled women can be seen everywhere, darting like a flash through the streets of the neighborhood. They avoid any sort of contact, even eye contact, especially with men. Feyenoord is the size of a city, and there are seventy nationalities coexisting there. It is an area that lives on subsidies and residential construction, and it is here that it is most obvious that Holland – with all of its rules against discrimination and all of its moral indignation – is a completely segregated society. Rotterdam is new, having been bombed twice by the Luftwaffe during the second world war. Like Amsterdam, it is below sea level, but unlike the capital it does not enjoy an image of reckless abandon. In Rotterdam, it is the Arab shops selling halal food that dominate the cityscape, not the neon lights of the prostitutes. Everywhere are casbah-cafes, travel agencies offering flights to Rabat and Casablanca, posters expressing solidarity with Hamas, or offering affordable Dutch language lessons.

It is not a country, it is a weapon: Thoughts on creating a Palestinian State

Everywhere the mantra is “two-state solution.” The very term implies something not at all self-evident, that is, that creating a two-state situation — by the creation of a Palestinian state, will “solve” anything that those who use the formula might consider the problem. For those who think it will bring peace, that it will “solve” the Arab-Israeli conflict, there’s not much evidence to suggest that it will. To the contrary, most evidence suggests that it will only strengthen the hardliners among the Palestinians.

And yet, anyone who opposes Palestinian statehood is considered a racist and a bigot. It’s the kind of moral equivalence one find in a Roger Cohen who can’t understand why, if Israel has a bomb, the Iranians shouldn’t. Jews have a nation… why not Palestinians? Same, same, no?

No. On many counts.

Below the reflections of Sultanknish. See also:

Jeff Jacoby, Statehood for Palestine? Take a Good Look

Emmanuel Navon, How to Deserve a State

Caroline Glick, Welcome to Palestine

Hillel Fendel, PA Rep Says 2-State Solution Will Kill Israel

Elya Katz, “Palestine 2.0 is a monster with only one purpose, to create Holocaust 2.0.”

Some excerpts from Sultanknish below:

Who Needs a Palestinian State?

…Currently ruled by mutually hostile armed gangs loyal to either the Fatah or Hamas terrorist groups, Palestine 2.0 has already been a failed state for over a decade. Every attempt at foreign investment has failed. The ruins of industrial zones, greenhouses and even a casino, dot the landscape. Palestinian Arab Christians from overseas who returned to build up the economy fled quickly in the face of relentless shakedowns, kidnappings and militia gangs masquerading as law enforcement.

The vast majority of Palestinian Arabs work for two employers. The UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority… which in turn is funded by foreign donors. Work for the Palestinian Authority usually means belonging to a militia gang which is loyal to a particular figure in the PA leadership, who in turn passes that loyalty on to the current “government”. With little to do, the gangs spend their free time dealing drugs, carrying out terrorist attacks and collecting protection money from their town’s remaining stores.

For 17 years, Israel, America and just about every interested party has tried to build a Palestinian state. They provided weapons and training to build a modern Palestinian police force. They sent advisers and fortunes in economic aid, thousands per Palestinian Arab. They created industrial zones and transferred greenhouses. Billions in funds from the EU, America and various do-gooders were swallowed up to fund the lavish lifestyles of Arafat and his henchmen.

To those who argue that a Palestinian State will build regional stability, the rational person must ask, how in the world has any of this contributed to regional stability?

The Pregnant War Correspondent and Her Buddies: “Only in Israel…”

Yogi Berra was famous for his revealing bloopers. Someone once said to him, “Yogi, did you know that the Lord Mayor of Dublin is Jewish?” “Only in America…” he responded without missing a beat.

And where, asks Stephanie Gutman in her critical study, The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Battle for Media Supremacy, can one be a pregnant war correspondent. Only in Israel.

Now, with a variant on the theme, Stephen King (not the famous author, I think), has a piece in the Irish Times (i.e., from the land whose capital is the Dublin of Yogi Berra fame) that explores why, with seventy conflicts worldwide, almost all of which have higher casualty counts, is the Arab-Israeli conflict the obsession of the Western MSM.

There are 70 conflicts worldwide, so why do we focus on just one?

By Stephen King
Irish Examiner Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yes, there is public feeling about the Palestinians and their rotten deal. I’ve never heard Chechnya being discussed on the DART, whereas I have heard Israel being trashed on buses as well as at smart dinner parties. Besides, who’s ever heard of a “Sri Lanka out of Tamil Eelam” march through Cork or calls for a boycott of Russia?

I OWE Micheál Martin an apology of sorts. I admit that when I read media reports of his discussions with Ban Ki-moon in New York at the weekend my eyes rolled up to the heavens.

The country’s most senior representative to the rest of the world has a rare opportunity to raise Ireland’s issues with the UN secretary-general and what’s his top priority? Yes, you guessed it – Gaza.

It’s not that Gaza isn’t an important issue facing the world. It is. What Gaza is not, though, is an issue where Europe, let alone Ireland, can wield much positive influence. Gaza will only be sorted when the Arab states, the US and Israel – probably in that order – decide it should be sorted.

Probably not in that order. It’ll get sorted out when the rest of the world tells the Palestinians that they need to get their act together, shed the maniacs of Hamas, stop poisoning their youth with blood libels, and get on with their lives. This one is not for the outside to decide.

But I was wrong. I had swallowed the media line. Yes, Micheál Martin and Ban Ki-moon did talk about Gaza, but it was just one subject among others.

In fact, when you look at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) press release, the first item of discussion listed was one where Ireland has a very direct interest, namely Chad.

So what caused my blood pressure to rise? Was Gaza the topic the DFA’s spindoctors were pushing? Possibly. Was the position on Gaza the most objectively newsworthy? Again, possibly: the Pope is in the region and Ireland tends to be at one end of the European spectrum of opinion on anything to do with Israel.

The third possibility, and the one that seems to me most likely, is that the media has a fixation on Israel (and its supposed crimes) which is, for want of a better word, disproportionate. That’s why the line about Gaza led several media reports of Minister Martin’s meeting.

“For want of a better word”?! It’s magnificently apt. Just as the media criticizes Israel for disproportionate use of force, the media stands guilty of disproportionate use of both coverage and criticism. If the media used the same standards of sensitivity that they apply to Israel on any of the 70 other conflicts, their (moral) equipment would blow its fuses.

If I were Jewish, I would be told I’m paranoid for thinking the world and its media are out to get me. After all, the fact that Israel is the world’s one and only Jewish state – amidst a vast ocean of Muslim states – inevitably makes many Jewish people think it’s them, and not Israel as such, which is in the media’s sights. But I’m not Jewish. Besides, just because people are paranoid doesn’t mean others aren’t out to get them.

It’s one of the nastiest pieces of criticism when people get this condescending, “why are you so paranoid” attitude, which, alas, many hyper-self-critical Jews embrace (and therefore get interviewed on NPR).

Positive-Sum Arabs on Israel

I have occasionally expressed the feeling that if the Arabs could muster some positive-sum, reciprocal sentiments, they might look at Israel as an asset in the Middle East, and grant that Jewish claims to Jerusalem far outweigh those of Islam (in which, in the most inflated version, Jerusalem is the “third most holy city”). Now I have discovered a new website maintained by Arabs — and, I think, organized by Nonie Darwish — that reflects precisely those points of view. (HT/Laura Chizzali from Facebook)

Arabs For Israel
Arabs and Muslims who Support the State of Israel and the Cause of Peace in the Middle East
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2009

Who Are We?

We are Arabs and Moslems who believe:

We can support Israel and still support the Palestinian people. Supporting one does not cancel support for the other.

We can support the State of Israel and the Jewish religion and still treasure our Arab and Islamic culture.

There are many Jews and Israelis who freely express compassion and support for the Palestinians. We Arabs also express reciprocal compassion and support.

The existence of the State of Israel is a fact that we accept.

Israel is a legitimate state that is not a threat but an asset in the Middle East.

Every major World religion has a center of gravity. Islam has Mecca, and Judaism certainly deserves its presence in Israel and Jerusalem.

Diversity is a virtue not only in the USA, but would be beneficial around the world. We support a diverse Middle East with protection for human rights, respect and equality under the law to all minorities, including Jews and Christians.

Palestinians have several options but are deprived from exercising them because of their leadership, the Arab League and surrounding Arab and Moslem countries who have other goals besides seeing Palestinians live in harmony with Israel.

If Palestinians want democracy they can start practicing it now.

It will benefit Arabs to end the boycott of Israel.

We can resolve our conflicts using non-violent means. Sending our young people on suicide/homicide missions as a form of Jihad is a distortion of Islam. We can do better.

We are appalled by the horrific act of terror against the USA on 9/11/2001.

It will be better for Arabs when the Arab media ends the incitement and misinformation that result in Arab street rage and violence. We support the Arab media providing coverage of ways that people of all religions are and can live together in harmony.

We are eager to see major reformation in how Islam is taught and channeled to bring out the best in Moslems and contribute to the uplifting of the human spirit and advancement of civilization.

We believe in freedom to choose or change one’s Religion.

We cherish and acknowledge the beauty and contributions of the Middle East culture, but recognize that the Arab/Moslem world is in desperate need of constructive self-criticism and reform.

We seek dialogue with Israel. We invite you to join us on a path of love.

We are NOT:

Anti-Islam, Anti-Arab, confrontational or hateful.

We remember with deep sadness and respect the brave Arabs, known and unknown, who were killed or severely punished for promoting peace with Israel; a special thanks to President Anwar Sadat of Egypt who was killed at the hands of Militant and Radical Islamists after he signed the peace treaty with Israel.

We salute and commend Arab and Moslem writers, scholars and speakers, who found the strength, commitment and honesty in their hearts to speak out in support of Israel. We thank you for being the pioneers that you are and for holding such sophisticated and advanced views in the realm of Arab and Moslem thinking. You are inspiring us all.

Now there’s something that real liberals and progressives should be able to get enthusiastic about. Come to think of it, what do you think, Michael Lerner?

What’s a Straw Man of a Straw Man? Fish features Eagelton’s rediscovery of religion

Stanley Fish’s blog at the NYT has often tempted me to write a commentary/fisk, but I never got around to it. But in honor of my last post on pomo, I couldn’t resist commenting on Fish’s current posting about Terry Eagelton, the Marxist post-modernist literary critic’s turn to religion. I may be reading this wrong — I haven’t read Eagelton’s new book yet, and am relying on Fish’s summary — but it strikes me as a puerile and unself-reflecting turn with very dangerous implications. We modernists (among whom I include the post-modernists), if we want to play with the fire of religious belief, need to have a steep learning curve lest it just become a form of regression. I see no sign of the self-criticism that would produce that learning curve in either Eagelton or Fish’s discussion of him.

God Talk
Stanley Fish blog, NYT
May 3, 2009, 10:00 PM

In the opening sentence of the last chapter of his new book, “Reason, Faith and Revolution,” the British critic Terry Eagleton asks, “Why are the most unlikely people, including myself, suddenly talking about God?” His answer, elaborated in prose that is alternately witty, scabrous and angry, is that the other candidates for guidance — science, reason, liberalism, capitalism — just don’t deliver what is ultimately needed. “What other symbolic form,” he queries, “has managed to forge such direct links between the most universal and absolute of truths and the everyday practices of countless millions of men and women?”

So wait a minute. After decades of post-modern “there are no absolutes,” it’s now, “given that reason and science don’t work, let’s go back to religion?” Is there any self-interrogation here? What happened to post-modernism? Just a little adolescent spiritedness?

Eagleton acknowledges that the links forged are not always benign — many terrible things have been done in religion’s name — but at least religion is trying for something more than local satisfactions, for its “subject is nothing less than the nature and destiny of humanity itself, in relation to what it takes to be its transcendent source of life.” And it is only that great subject, and the aspirations it generates, that can lead, Eagleton insists, to “a radical transformation of what we say and do.”

I don’t want to seem dismissive, but this move is a little like Jimmy Carter saying, “I condemn terrorism, but, Hamas is an important and legitimate organization.” Terry, if you don’t have a good understanding of how and why religion has led to terrible things, then you have no business playing with that fire. And first on your list of meditations, is what every scholar of millennialism knows all too well: when religious (or secular) zealots are seized with the ambition to bring about a collective “radical transformation of what we say and do,” they are prime candidates to do “terrible things in religion’s (or communism’s) name.”

PoMo Unpeeled: David Thompson talks with Stephen Hicks

The issue of post-modernism has arisen a number of times at the blog (most recently here), and since I’ve been meaning to put up David Thompson’s conversation with PoMo critic Stephen Hicks for some time, I decided now might be propitious. For the sake of introduction (and since I find some valuable items in the post-modern paradigm), let me lay out the major claims — and strengths — of post-modernism. My criticism will accompany the rather ample discussion of Thompson and Hicks.

Post-modernism, as I understand it, represents at once a disillusionment with the failure of the “modern” project — science, technology, the superiority of the modern West — especially in the wake of World War II. No more optimism that the scientific method will produce the solutions to all our problems. At the same time, pomo was a declaration of independence from the demands of the modern, scientific epistemologies, from the demands normally made on exegetical specialists whose job, in every culture, is to interpret the world all about. This meant, above all, probing and, if necessary, stabbing texts in order to “deconstruct” them, to identify their silences and bring out what discourses the text deliberately concealed.

Derrida’s notion of différance, which is a double-pun (differ and defer) and a play on the discontinuity of oral and written media (you can’t hear the difference with “difference”) has much to offer here, especially the notion that a text’s meaning is constantly deferred into an unending future, that the passage of time inevitably reveals new facets of the text’s import. Given that Western culture is profoundly marked by apocalyptic hopes, prophecies, and “readings”, and that time consistently strikes them down and raises them up, the discovery of such a notion in Western culture may not be so surprising. But it is valuable in injecting a little modesty in the otherwise all-too frequent tendency of exegetes to insist they have the meaning.

The rejection of the “objective” is a reasonable linguistic move: language cannot possibly be transparent on reality, especially the reality of human experiences. Even if something “really did happen,” there’s no way to reduce it to verbal formulae, no way for verbal formulae to somehow lock on to the objective reality at which it points. Epistemologically, it’s possible to push it all the way to radical doubt — we can’t know what we can’t know.

One of the more interesting directions pomo thought takes this axiomatic relativism, is the rejection of the “Grand” or “Meta-Narrative,” the all-encompassing, totalistic narrative that includes, gives order and priority in meaning to the multiplicity of “little narratives” that emerge from any event. Pomos have declared the “death” of the Meta-narrative, apparently feeling that having slain the reigning Meta-Narrative (modern, scientific objectivity), they would not allow a new one to gain hegemony.

All of these ideas are interesting and potentially enormously fruitful. The danger I find most pervasive though, is in the lack of understanding and appreciation that post-modernists have for their exegetical freedom. Not realizing that in most societies in most parts of the world for most of history no one, not even the most privileged figures had anything remotely resembling their freedom to interpret and criticize and even reinvent the meaning of the culture’s major texts. As a result, they tend to abuse their freedom, decoupling the key pair of freedom and discipline for an extraordinarily self-indulgent display of solepsistic “creations.”

Indeed, in their eagerness to flaunt their freedom, the unconsciously replicate the ancestors they thought they had slain, those Meta-Narrative driven figures like Hegel and Vico, who saw in history the inexorable march of freedom. And yet, unlike earlier heroes in the heroic narrative — Washington’s refusal to become king comes to mind — they fail to appreciate either the gift they’ve inherited, or the audience to which they, as the culture’s interpreters, are responsible. Alas for us.

And now to Thompson and Hicks…

UPDATE: Shrinkwrapped has an interesting (and approving!) read of this post. The Modern Left: A Marriage of Post-Modernism and Narcissism, Part I and II

Postmodernism Unpeeled

A discussion with Stephen Hicks.
March 22, 2009

“In politicized forms, then, postmodernists will behave like the stereotypical unscrupulous lawyer trying to win the case: truth and justice aren’t the point; instead using any rhetorical tool or trick that works is the point. Sometimes contradictory lines of argument work. Sometimes your audience’s desire to belong to the in-group can be played upon. Sometimes appearing absolutely authoritative works to camouflage a weak case. Sometimes condescension works.”

Dr Stephen Hicks is Professor of Philosophy and Executive Director of the Centre for Ethics and Entrepreneurship at Rockford College, Illinois. He is co-editor with David Kelley of Readings for Logical Analysis (W. W. Norton, 1998), and has published in academic journals as well as The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, and Reader’s Digest. His book Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault was published in 2004 by Scholargy Publishing and is now in its eighth printing. He is the author and narrator of a DVD documentary entitled Nietzsche and the Nazis, which was published in 2006 by Ockham’s Razor Publishing.

DT: In an exchange with Ophelia Benson, I mentioned Explaining Postmodernism and suggested one of the book’s main themes is that postmodernism marks a crisis of faith and a retreat from reality among the academic left. Is that a fair, if crude, summary?

SH: It is striking that the major postmodernists – Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Richard Rorty – are of the far left politically. And it is striking that all four are Philosophy Ph.D.s who reached deeply skeptical conclusions about our ability to come to know reality. So one of my four theses about postmodernism is that it develops from a double crisis – a crisis within philosophy about knowledge and a crisis within left politics about socialism.

In millennial studies jargon that’s cogntive dissonance at recognizing (and denying) the failure of one’s outrageously hopeful expectations, at the horror of witnessing the God that failed.

Here, rather than acknowledge that the failure of expectations was due to a misreading of human nature, we have people throwing out the very effort to accurately read the world of humans.

Three reasons why it’s dangerous to talk to armed Islamists: Michael Young on Obama’s possible follies

Michael Young, the opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon, reflects on the dangers of an open-handed foreign policy that people like Roger Cohen would do well to ponder.

Three reasons why it’s dangerous to talk to armed Islamists

Michael Young

Last Updated: May 13. 2009 7:28PM UAE / May 13. 2009 3:28PM GMT

You know an idea is making headway when The New York Times finally picks up on it. Two weeks ago the newspaper profiled Alastair Crooke, a former British spy who co-founded Conflicts Forum, a non-governmental organisation that engages in dialogue with Islamists and encourages western governments to do likewise: In this time of “engagement” in the Middle East, dialogue evidently substitutes for policy.

The head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, was also afforded space in the paper recently. His interviewers must have been charmed, for they broke a cardinal editorial rule and wrote something amusing, namely that “apart from the time restriction and the refusal to accept Israel’s existence” Mr Meshaal’s terms for peace with Israel “approximate the Arab League peace plan”. The plan’s core is Arab recognition of Israel, so someone missed a beat. Mr Meshaal did not, however, when he said that Hamas would “help” if there was “international and regional will to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders”. Mr Meshaal’s message of accommodation was directed at the Obama administration, and not surprisingly came shortly after Bashar Assad, president of Syria and Mr Meshaal’s host in Damascus, said the US had to talk to Hamas.

Nevertheless, there are three reasons (other than Mr Assad’s backing) why engaging Islamists, particularly armed Islamists, should be viewed with caution, their words of reassurance and those of their western apologists notwithstanding.

Conflicts Forum offers a clue to the first reason: its website tells us that “encounters with political Islam – with both non-violent and armed resistance groups – lead us to conclude that Islamism is above all political”. Putting aside that the opposite of “non-violent” is “violent”, not “armed resistance groups”, we can derive considerable meaning from this statement of the obvious. Islamic doctrine little distinguishes between religion and politics, which complement each other. But for any dialogue to work, the aims of one side must somewhere be reconcilable with the aims of those on the other side of the table. How often is that the case?

The Pope’s ability to correct himself: Isi Liebler on acknowledging courage

I make much here of the importance and difficulty of accepting criticism and self-correcting, all the harder when it is done in public. I also make much of the importance of acknowledging the good and showing appreciation for the courageous deeds of others. So this particular piece by Isi Liebler, generally known as a tough-talking, no-nonsense, critic of people in high places, caught my eye: appreciating the Pope’s efforts. It’s a good example of what real dialogue might look like when carried out by people who, despite their disagreements, however profound, are of good faith.

See update below on Naomi Ragen’s criticism of the pope for betraying Christians.

Getting it wrong with the Pope
Posted by Isi Leibler on May 18th, 2009

Any discussion amongst Jews relating to the Catholic Church invariably triggers off emotional responses. But even taking this into account, the rage displayed by some Israelis against the conduct of Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Israel was unwarranted.

I have no particular axe to grind for Catholics. I have consistently deplored the inclination of Jews engaged in interreligious dialogue to grovel and compromise basic Jewish principles in order to advance their careers in interfaith activity. Nor do I minimize the centuries of bloody persecution of the Jews orchestrated by the Church which laid the foundations for the Holocaust.

Moreover, I have never hesitated criticizing Pope Benedict, in particular his support for the beatification of Pope Pius XII having regard to the latter’s cowardly silence and questionable role during the Shoah.

I am also highly critical of the numerous blunders and misjudgments by the pope for which incompetent or bad advisors do not absolve him. This applies particularly to the bizarre rehabilitation of the excommunicated bishops including unrepentant Holocaust denier Richard Williamson.

However, when the pontiff finally realized the extent of his blunder, he did not hide behind the mantle of papal infallibility, but penned an anguished letter conceding that he had erred and expressed powerful condemnation of Holocaust denial.

Despite the shortcomings of the current pope, we must not overlook the radical revolution the Catholic Church has undergone since the 1965 Nostra Aetate Declaration of the Second Vatican Council. That led to annulling the odious replacement theology, rescinding the accusation of Deicide against the Jewish people and even swallowing the theologically bitter pill of acknowledging the renewal of Jewish statehood.

These changes occurred at a time when we sought to forge new alliances. Whereas the Catholic commitment to Israel and the Jewish people is a far cry from the unequivocal passionate love extended towards us by Evangelical Christians, the Catholic Church today represents an important ally in the global struggle against anti-Semitism.

What can one say about Zionism’s crimes against the Arabs

Regular and valued commenter at this blog, Joanne, asks an agonizing question:

The simple story that the Jews were largely (though not completely) European newcomers to a land that was undeveloped but still with a people there, a land that had belonged to the Jews only in the distant past, and remained Jewish only in the imagination of the Jews…. Well, it’s not a syllogism I want to believe. But it’s one that’s hard to argue against when I’m talking to non-Jews, especially when one doesn’t have hard numbers at hand about population statistics.

To one friend who said that the Palestinians got a raw deal, I tried to explain that it was made gratuitously “raw” when the British lopped off 85% of Palestine, an area that, together with their part of the remainder, would have given the “Palestinians” the lion’s share. The argument simply did not register.

It’s frustrating: I sense that there were so many aspects of the reality back then that have since been lost. But I don’t know how decisive those aspects really are. In other words, I want the Jews to have been in the right, but I’m not totally sure we were.

There are many ways to respond to this, and I welcome further comments. But here’s my immediate response.

There are 10 million people now living rather well in a territory that once held less than a million who had no sovereignty and the vast majority of whom lived at the very margin of subsistence. There was, therefore, room for all, and sovereignty for those who wanted it.

The Jews came, not as the European colonialists in other parts of the world, after conquest, but without warfare, by offering their neighbors advantages that many appreciated. This included the large number of Arab immigrants to Palestine during the first half of the 20th century, and those who took the side of the Jews in the war of Independence.

Only in a remorselessly zero-sum universe are the Jews interlopers. As one Arab rioter in 1936 responded, when asked by the Peel Commission why the Arabs rioted against the Jews, when the Jews had so obviously improved the economic situation for everyone:

“You say we are better off: you say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not invite the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it, and I do not care how poor it is if I am only master of it” (Weathered by Miracles, p. 207).

Zionism stands as exceptional in the history of “colonization,” one that begins in peaceful, positive-sum relations. Of course supporters of the Palestinian Arabs insist this was all done as a planned invasion to subvert Palestinian rights. Aside from the fact that there were no “Palestinian rights” — no sovereignty, no constitutional right to organize, much oppression — this argument is a classic case of projection.

If you want an example of the kind of “demographic warfare” that the Arabs accuse the Zionists of conducting, try what’s going in in Eurabia today. And when Muslims establish sovereignty, don’t look for a document about equality before the law for all citizens, like the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

As for Jewish association with the land, it was far more than merely their imagination — which is a strange word to use for a religion whose very liturgy makes Jerusalem and the land of Israel a major focal point of identity and future hope (something that cannot be said about Islam, whose sacred Qur’an never mentions Jerusalem once). There was a continuous jewish presence in the land from ancient times, despite ethnic cleansing by both the Romans and the Arabs.

When people give you a hard time about the intrusiveness of the Jews in Israel/Palestine, try invoking the parable with which the prophet Natan rebuked King David about Bat-Sheva:

    There once was a king who had everything (say 300 million Arabs with 5 million square miles/14 million square kilometers, 22 Arab Muslim nations, and vast oil wealth) who had a poor neighbor (say 5 million Israeli Jews, with 8 square miles/20 square kilometers, one nation, and no precious few natural resources) who had a precious lamb that he loved above all else (Jerusalem).

    Note also, if you wish, that the king (Islam) owed his very origins to the beliefs of his tiny neighbor, whose stories the king had liberally adopted to his own glory. Indeed the neighbor’s land and precious lamb (Israel and Jerusalem) were only important to that king because of his neighbor’s beliefs.

    And yet that king, rather than (at the very least), leaving his neighbor alone, or at best, showing him honor and appreciation, insists on having his neighbor’s lamb for himself and driving the small man from his home. And when that small neighbor resists, the rest of the world screams at him for daring to resist the just demands of the king.

    And this is justice?

    Let me know how they argue that this is a bad analogy.

UN Reporting Civilian Casualties: Sri Lanka vs. Gaza

I have posted before on the dramatic difference between media coverage of Israeli actions against Palestinians (and the attendant civilian casualties) and that of other conflicts, as, for example of the US in Afganistan. Now we have a case where a UN official protested a “civilian bloodbath” and the Sri Lankan government called his superior on the carpet for insulting the government in their legitimate pursuit of Tamil Tigers.

At the same time, the Sri Lankan government arrested and deported a British newsteam for having “consistently filed fabricated stories and had tarnished the country’s image.” For some countries, blackening their face with negative stories, however true, is more than enough cause to ban the press.

sri lankan press freedoms latuff

Sri Lankan minister blasts U.N. comments

(CNN) — Sri Lanka summoned a U.N. official to protest remarks by an agency spokesman about a civilian “bloodbath” in the government’s war against Tamil militants, Foreign Ministry sources told CNN Tuesday.

sri lankan casualty
A photo supplied by a humanitarian group on Sunday shows civilians allegedly injured in government shelling.

The Foreign Ministry expressed its displeasure to Amin Awad, acting resident representative of the United Nations in Sri Lanka, about comments by U.N. spokesman Gordon Weiss in Colombo.

Weiss told CNN on Monday that hundreds of civilians died during weekend fighting because the Sri Lankan army had surrounded rebel fighters in the country’s north, putting residents in the crossfire.

Note that “hundreds of civilians” dying over the weekend approximates the totals for the entire four weeks of Operation Cast Lead., yet another illustration of the disparity in casualties between the conflict involving Israel and other conflicts.

“The U.N. has been warning for weeks that this precise situation would result in a bloodbath and, indeed, that seemed to have come to pass,” Weiss said, adding that rebels had “refused to let 50,000 to 100,000 civilians go in order to force a government assault.”

How many UN officials in Gaza emphasized that Hamas used civilians as hostage-shields?

A Foreign Ministry source said Awad agreed to report the protest about Weiss’ remarks to his headquarters.

Studies in Demopathy and Pope’s Visit III: It goes so deep and we’re so clueless, they don’t even try

I’ve posted some items on the attitude of Muslims towards the Pope during his visit. The picture below was taken in Nazereth during his recent visit.

“And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and if the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.”
Qur’an, Aal ‘Imraan 3:85.

By the standards of modern tolerance this is problematic however one reads it, even if whoever refers only to Muslims. After all, isn’t secular, civil society about the marketplace of ideas, even religious ones, and isn’t the highest form of any religion voluntary, adherence from conviction and love, not from fear and coercion?

But if whoever refers to everyone, Muslim and not, it goes beyond “problematic” to “slap in your face” when the sign is hung out — with translation — to “welcome” the head of another religious tradition on a highly public occasion.

There were other passages from the Qur’an they might have cited, for example:

Surely, those who believe, those who are the Jews and the Sabians and the Christians – whosoever believed in Allaah and the Last Day, and worked righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
[al-Maa’idah 5:69]

But for many (all?) Muslims, the former passage supersedes this more tolerant one. The generosity of acknowledging that God will be merciful to those who worship him in their own fashion disappears once Islam is completely revealed, according to an internet site that presents itself as moderate. (Note that on the question of whether non-Muslims deserve to live the same religious authority uses of the very passage here dismissed as depassé.)

Newsworthy sign? Indicator of a mood? Something Westerners should know about?

Apparently not (except for Fox News). My search for images of the pope’s visit to Nazareth finds no such image published by the news agencies. It’s all holding hands with Muslims and Jews and singing odes to peace and tolerance.

pope and leaders in nazareth

Let’s call it the Sieple approach to dialogue, embodied here in the apologetic words of the AJC’s rabbi for interfaith dialogue, David Rosen. In response to criticism of the pope’s disembodied speech at Yad Vashem. (Note that the Pope’s visit to Yad Vahsem was itself overshadowed by the Pope’s refusal to visit the museum where a display criticized Pope Pius XII for his behavior during the Holocaust, the same pope that Benedict XVI would like to beatify.) Rosen both defended the pope and pointed to Nazareth as a counter-point of the real spirit of his visit.

Rosen said that he regarded the criticism of Benedict as “not really fair” and noted that before the pope departed Israel on Friday, he decried anti-Semitism in unequivocal terms and made many of the points critics said were missing from his speech at Yad Vashem. If there’s a pattern, Benedict’s admirers say, it’s that his public relations skills are not as strong as his theology — but that he tends to make up ground once he recognizes a problem.

Doubters, Rosen said, should look at the pope’s involvement in a broad interfaith meeting held in Nazareth. Representatives treated their different religious traditions “as a sort of blessing and enrichment, and not as a sort of tension and strife,” he said.

That’s certainly the message of hope that our media also convey with their pictures. As one reporter put it, “Pope slowly learns to dialogue with Muslims.”

But the bottom line is, like “peace” negotiations, it’s the West fantasizing a partner who isn’t there.

Was 1948 a Jihad? Gelber reviews Morris

I recently posted a piece by Benny Morris on the false notion of “secular” when applied to Palestinian identity, intentions, or ideology, and a commenter, sshender, sent me to a review of Morris’ recent book, 1948, in Azure, by Yoav Gelber, the director of the Herzl Institute for the Research and Study of Zionism at the University of Haifa, who criticizes Morris’ claim that 1948 was a Jihad. Relevant excerpts below, with my comments throughout.

Autumn 5769 / 2008, no. 34

The Jihad That Wasn’t

Reviewed by Yoav Gelber

1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War by Benny Morris
Yale University Press, 2008, 523 pages.

The basic facts of the first Arab-Israeli war are well known but worth repeating.

[snip]

These are the basic facts regarding the 1947-1948 war, known to Israelis as the “War of Independence” and to Palestinians as the “Nakba”—the catastrophe. About these facts there is almost no dispute. About everything else to do with the war, however, from the smallest details to the grandest strategies, there is nothing but dispute. In this ongoing controversy over the events of 1948, which for both peoples residing in the Land of Israel touches the rawest of nerves, a unique place is reserved for Benny Morris.

A professor of history in the Middle East studies department of Ben-Gurion University, Benny Morris published his first book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, in 1987 and immediately caused a firestorm of controversy. The book’s impact shifted the public and academic spotlight from Israel’s victory in 1948 to the suffering of the Palestinians during the war and its aftermath. In the years since then, Morris has been attacked by Jewish and Arab historians alike, to say nothing of the vicious criticisms leveled against him by those who have not even read a single one of his works.

It is not difficult to understand why: The book profoundly undermined the Israeli narrative of the war, which held that the Arab leadership was responsible for the creation of the refugee problem by calling for the Palestinians to flee, assuring them that they would be able to return in the wake of the victorious Arab armies. This being said, Morris also repudiated the Arab narrative of 1948, which claimed that Israel intentionally expelled the Palestinians according to a prearranged plan. Regrettably, Morris’s Jewish critics ignored this aspect of his work. Arab readers, for their part, did the same, quoting only those select portions of Morris’s book that reinforced their version of events.

Although Morris was at first identified with Israel’s “new historians”—who take a critical and generally pro-Palestinian view of the Arab-Israeli conflict—he gradually integrated into the mainstream of Israeli historiography. Some post-Zionist historians, from whom he has since distanced himself, claim that Morris has changed his political spots in the wake of the second Intifada. These scholars, captive to the post-modern idea that there is no such thing as objective history, refuse to accept the possibility that a true historian relies on the facts to reach his conclusions and does not impose his own convictions or ideology on the evidence, as they themselves tend to do. Morris has not undergone a sudden conversion. Like any good historian, he has simply been influenced by the accumulated source material.

I’m not in a position to judge here, since I have little expertise, but I don’t think the two arguments are mutually exclusive. I suspect that in his work up to 2000, Morris was involved in what might be called “therapeutic history” — if we Israelis self-criticize for what we’ve done to you Palestinians, maybe we can get the ball rolling. This might explain why some of his work in this period is so shoddy (see Ephraim Karsh’s Fabricating History: The “New Historians”). Hence his shift after 2000, his empirical response to “the accumulated material” may well represent a response to a wake-up call.

I personally, being pomo in my own fashion, think historians inevitably have passions and commitments that drive their work — few are so bloodless as to do antiquarianism out of some pure commitment to “just the facts, ma’am.” The issue is not so much their driving passions, but their respect for the evidence, especially the refractory evidence. Hence, part of the accumulation of evidence that may have influenced Morris, appropriately, was the failure of the Oslo Process.

Halevi vs. Shaheen: Civilian Casualties in Gaza

TNR has run an article on the civilian casualty controversy from Operation Cast Lead. It not only ignores the lively discussion in the blogosphere which I’ve tried to keep updated here, but it also lacks a certain punch. The story is almost studiously presented as a “he said… she said,” with no assessment of the relative merit of the arguments.

Perhaps that’s just the difference between the MSM and the blogosphere, the “hands-off” impartiality of the former, and that may be to the good. But with the exception of seriously informed readers — and one can expect many of TNR’s readership to be that informed — many of the implications of what this dispute reveals would (and will) remain obscure. Notes below.

Numbers Game
by Simona Weinglass
How many civilians were killed in Gaza? Meet the people who do the counting.
Post Date Wednesday, May 06, 2009

On December 27, the first morning of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead offensive in the Gaza Strip, Khalil Shaheen was driving in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City when he spotted a friend and got out of his car to say hello. Suddenly, an Israeli F-16 appeared in the sky and dropped a bomb on a building 200 feet up the road–one of many such bombings part of the IDF’s 22-day effort to stop Hamas rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel.

The building, which Shaheen identified as a Hamas internal security headquarters, immediately collapsed, sending an observation tower flying 100 feet, hitting a woman. Pandemonium broke out on the street, where Shaheen says hundreds of schoolchildren and adults were shouting and running from the blast. Predicting the F-16′s next target, Shaheen tried to restrain a group of children from running to the street’s west side. A minute later, the plane dropped four missiles on “the ex-prisoners museum,” a community center and exhibition space for former inmates of Israeli jails. During that particular bombing, says Shaheen, no Hamas fighters were killed, just a woman in a nearby apartment building, a man in his shop, and two young girls leaving school.

Though Shaheen is not a Hamas soldier, he is on the front lines of a different battle: the P.R. war that has erupted since the end of hostilities.

I certainly hope that the author doesn’t think that this battle only erupted since the end of hostilities. It’s been going on for decades, and the misinformation from “Palestinian Sources” dominates the Western media.