Monthly Archives: May 2009

On the meaning of “secular” in Arab discourse: Benny Morris and Palestinian identity

One of the most dangerous mistakes that Europeans — and more broadly, the gatekeepers of the public sphere in the West — made in late 2000 was to view the Intifada as a nationalist uprising against Israeli oppression, a cry of despair at the oppression of occupation. In so doing, they operated from certain basic axiomatic principles that had no real support in reality (independent evidence) and only appeared within the rhetorical world of Palestinian discourse tailored for Western audiences. Among the most dangerous of these axioms was the idea that Palestinians wanted their own independent state, to be, as the Israeli national anthem puts it, “free people in our own land.”

And the key corollary to this nationalist assumption was that such a nation would be a secular one, that it would separate “mosque and state” and grant everyone freedom of religion.

Nothing better illustrates liberal cognitive egocentrism, and the easy assumption that others share such liberal perspectives than this willingness to believe that Arab culture shares our commitment to separating “church and state.”

Benny Morris wrote a book on the War of Independence, 1948, during the research for which, much to his surprise, he found that it was not a “nationalist” war between Israel and Palestine, but, in the Arabs’ eyes, a Jihad, a religious war. Not only was the “secular discourse” a late phenomenon (under the influence of Soviet propaganda techniques), but never seriously held among Arab Muslims.

This came as something of an unwelcome surprise to his publishers who did not like the idea of spreading such awful and anomalous evidence to the public. They refused the book and it was only after that that Morris found the Yale University Press willing to publish it. If the gatekeepers had their way, we wouldn’t know about Jihad.

So when the Intifada broke out in 2000, the Europeans in particular were eager to believe that this was a) a local conflict between two nationalist movements, and b) by siding with the Palestinians, they would curry favor with their Muslim populations. Instead, it was the beginning of a new stage of global Jihad which targeted the Europeans as much (if slightly later) than the Israelis, and by siding with the Palestinians (actually the Jihadis) the Europeans showed just how cowardly and feckless they were — attacking their friends/allies and siding with their enemies. As a result they speeded up the process of weaponizing their own immigrant Muslim populations against them.

Benny Morris: The myth of a secular Palestine
Posted: May 13, 2009, 7:02 AM by NP Editor

Excerpted from One State, Two States by Benny Morris. Published by Yale University Press. © 2009 by Benny Morris. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press.

The Palestinian national movement started life with a vision and goal of a Palestinian Muslim Arab-majority state in all of Palestine — a one-state “solution” — and continues to espouse and aim to establish such a state down to the present day. Moreover, and as a corollary, al-Husseini, the Palestinian national leader during the 1930s and 1940s; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which led the national movement from the 1960s to Yasser Arafat’s death in November, 2004; and Hamas today — all sought and seek to vastly reduce the number of Jewish inhabitants in the country, in other words, to ethnically cleanse Palestine.

Al-Husseini and the PLO explicitly declared the aim of limiting Palestinian citizenship to those Jews who had lived in Palestine permanently before 1917 (or, in another version, to limit it to those 50,000-odd Jews and their descendants). This goal was spelled out clearly in the Palestinian National Charter and in other documents. Hamas has been publicly more reserved on this issue, but its intentions are clear.

The Palestinian vision was never — as described by various Palestinian spokesmen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to Western journalists — of a “secular, democratic Palestine” (though it certainly sounded more palatable than, say, the “destruction of Israel,” which was the goal it was meant to paper over or camouflage). Indeed, “a secular democratic Palestine” had never been the goal of Fatah or the so-called moderate groups that dominated the PLO between the 1960s and the 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power.

Middle East historian Rashid Khalidi has written that “in 1969 [the PLO] amended [its previous goal and henceforward advocated] the establishment of a secular democratic state in Palestine for Muslims, Christians and Jews, replacing Israel.” And Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah has written, in his recent book, One Country: “The PLO did ultimately adopt [in the late 1960s or 1970s] the goal of a secular, democratic state in all Palestine as its official stance.”

This is hogwash. The Palestine National Council (PNC) never amended the Palestine National Charter to the effect that the goal of the PLO was “a secular democratic state in Palestine.” The words and notion never figured in the charter or in any PNC or PLO Central Committee or Fatah Executive Committee resolutions, at any time. It is a spin invented for gullible Westerners and was never part of Palestinian mainstream ideology. The Palestinian leadership has never, at any time, endorsed a “secular, democratic Palestine.”

The PNC did amend the charter, in 1968 (not 1969). But the thrust of the emendation was to limit non-Arab citizenship in a future Arab-liberated Palestine to “Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion” — that is, 1917.

True, the amended charter also guaranteed, in the future State of Palestine, “freedom of worship and of visit” to holy sites to all, “without discrimination of race, colour, language or religion.” And, no doubt, this was music to liberal Western ears. But it had no connection to the reality or history of contemporary Muslim Arab societies. What Muslim Arab society in the modern age has treated Christians, Jews, pagans, Buddhists and Hindus with tolerance and as equals? Why should anyone believe that Palestinian Muslim Arabs would behave any differently?

Morris makes a critical distinction here between what people say and what they do. The track record of Arabs in democratic experiments is abysmal, and believing that they will do what they say when it’s about democratic promises of, say, religious tolerance, offers us a virtual definition of what it means to be a dupe of demopaths.

Arabs Advise Obama on the Workings of Honor-Shame Culture: Rubin parses MEMRI collection

I was planning to do a post on this collection of comments posted by MEMRI, but Barry Rubin beat me to it, and since he knows the players well, I’ll just repost his with my additional comments.

Don’t Just Take My Word for It: Arab Moderates Warn About Mistaken Western Policies

What do moderate Arabs think about what Westerners think about the Middle East? Usually, such matters are raised only in private conversation with those of long acquaintance in whom the speaker has personal trust. But now we have several statements by respected Arabs who are relatively liberal but also part of the intellectual establishment.

This is an important point. As James C. Scott pointed out in his classic, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, there are public transcripts and private ones. It’s rare to get a view of the private transcript, the one that undermines the public, official line.

Thanks to MEMRI for gathering and translating these remarks. They could be just about the most important things you read about the Middle East this year.

As you go along, imagine the reaction of the conventional wisdom types if another American or European had said these things.

First up is Tareq al-Homayed, chief editor of al-Sharq al-Awsat, which might just be the best Arab newspaper in the world today. It combines the unusual characteristics of being both Saudi-owned yet relatively liberal.

Homayed explained that if the West is too lenient to extremists this is a grave mistake. Once you start talking to Hizballah you might as well negotiate with al-Qaida. “Openness for the sake of openness,” he concluded, “makes the situation more complicated and sends the wrong message.

Casualties of Truth: Elder of Ziyon’s unpublished editorial on Gazan casualties

For reasons unknown (as of yet), this critical piece did not make the newspaper for which it was written. Please make sure that as many blogs as possible mention it. It not only lays out the case for questioning the statistics offered by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, but it emphasizes the bald-faced abandon with which Palestinian sources openly lie to the West.

Casualties of Truth

(This is the article that I wrote as an op-ed, that was inexplicably not published as planned. Much of it was beautifully rewritten by a prominent writer and author.)

For three weeks in December 2008-January 2009, Israel and Hamas fought a war in the Gaza Strip after Hamas announced it was abandoning the ceasefire and began escalated rocket and mortar attacks on Israel.

There is one fact about that war which people around the world think they know: there were about 1400 Palestinians killed in the war and most or almost all of them were civilians, mainly women and children.

This claim, however, is false and demonstrably so on the basis of careful research using publicly available and reliable materials. Indeed, a group of bloggers, including the author, have shown already that more than 30 percent of the claimed “civilian” casualties were in fact, to use the polite word, armed militants or members of Hamas-led security forces. And the number of such combatants we are discovering is rising every day.

While Hamas and other Palestinian political groups were using alleged civilian casualties to bolster their case with international public opinion, they demonstrably knew otherwise. In fact, they publicly bragged about the military activities of those they labeled innocent civilian bystanders.

Studies in Demopathy II: The Pope and Tamimi

In my second of a series on demopathy, illuminated by Nonie Darwish’s book, Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law I want to look at the remarks made by Shiekh Tayseer Tamimi, the chief Islamic judge of the Palestinian Authority at what was billed as a “dialogue” and at which Tamimi, probably because of his earlier performance before Pope John Paul II in 2000, was not invited to speak.

As a preliminary, let me quote some of Darwish’s book on the issue of Muslim views of the “other” (courtesy of my Kindle):

In Islam, my religion at that time, we looked at ourselves and others very differently. “They are sinners…. Non-Muslims are sinners…. We are Muslims.” They are guilty, but we are innocent. Muslims and non-Muslims were never considered as equals in anything, not even in our imperfections as human beings. The Qur’an and the Hadith were consumed with the idea of kaffir (non-Muslim) representing “evil” and Muslim representing “good,” which caused a split in how human beings were perceived-as good and bad, superior and inferior, human and sub-human. Our Islamic education stressed the inequality between Muslims and kaffir. Kaffir is the dreaded word used against others and also against Muslims who deviate or do not follow Allah’s commands to the letter. Kaffir means “infidel,” or a person who goes astray.

She then goes on to quote both the interview with Choudary that I featured in the previous post and another with Imam Abdul Makin in an East London mosque, who, asked why Allah would tell Muslims to kill and rape innocent non-Muslims, replied, “Because non-Muslims are never innocent. They are guilty of denying Allah and his prophet.”

Darwish continues:

As to Muslims who disagree with the above views, they are also considered kuffar. On March 15, 2008, two Saudi writers, Abdullah bin Bejad al-Otaibi and Yousef Aba al-Khail, each called for a reconsideration of the Wahabi notion that all non-Muslims are kuffar, prompting a top religious figure, Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, to call for their deaths in a fatwa published on his Web site.

That is the great divide – the notion of innocence and guilt, sinners and non-sinners, Muslim and non-Muslim-that every Muslim is commanded to believe and act upon. It is how we were trained to perceive others and explains why the majority of Muslims today are silent about Islamic terrorism. The Muslim outlook regarding the rest of humanity shapes how Muslim society thinks and acts politically and culturally at all levels. That is why the two Egyptian Christian boys Mario and Andrew together with the Christian minority in Egypt have suffered for fourteen hundred years. And that is also why almost all Egyptian Muslims have been stripped of their empathy for and support of Christian Egyptians and therefore fail to stand up for their basic kaffir human rights.

With this profoundly illiberal mindset in mind, let’s look at Tamimi’s behavior and remarks.

Muslim cleric slams Israel to pope, raising anger
11 May 2009 18:27:07 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Alastair Macdonald

JERUSALEM, May 11 (Reuters) – A senior Palestinian Muslim cleric fiercely denounced Israeli policy in Jerusalem in the presence of Pope Benedict on Monday and appealed to the pope to help end what he called the “crimes” of the Jewish state.

The speech, at the end of a meeting between the pope and Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy engaged in contacts among the three main religions in Jerusalem, angered both the Vatican and Israel’s chief rabbinate, which said it would boycott the dialogue forum until the Palestinians barred the cleric.

Referring to Palestinian Muslims and Christians, Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi said: “We struggle together and suffer together from the oppression of the Israeli occupation.

“We look forward together to liberation and independence and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

The incident further marred the start of the German-born pope’s five-day tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories, after criticism by some Jews that a speech at a Holocaust memorial did not go far enough to mend Catholic-Jewish rifts.

Studies in demopathy: Muslims respond to Pope’s visit #1

I’m reading Nonie Darwish’s new book, Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law. In it she lays out some of the problem we in the West have in understanding Islam. For us, the basic principle of dealing with the “other” is mutuality, or, as the saying goes, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” (A nice proverb that dates back to the 17th century, with variants that go back to Rome, and serves as a point of meditation at Wikipedia for the rule of fairness.)

But among many (most?) Muslims, where Islam’s incalculable superiority to all other religions justifies the dominion of Muslims over all other people, such reciprocity not only does not exist, it actually borders on heresy (see her chapter, “Life behind the Muslim curtain”). Indeed, by some Islamic (or only Islamist?) definitions, Muslims are by definition innocent and non-Muslims are by definition guilty — they have rejected the perfect teachings of the prophet PBUH — and therefore deserving of punishment. This is the ideology behind Jihad.

For a good example of the shock of a European faced with this implacable double standard which turns the condemnation by Muslim “moderates” of “killing innocent (i.e., Muslims)” in terror attacks on its head, watch this interview on the BBC (HT/Islam in Action):

One could hardly have a better example of the Moebius strip of cognitive egocentrism. With this in mind, here’s an article about Jordanian Muslims demanding an apology from the pope for insulting their religion.

Pope’s address disappoints Muslim leaders

AMMAN (AFP) — Jordanian clerics expressed disappointment that Pope Benedict XVI in an address to Muslim leaders on Saturday failed to offer a new apology for remarks seen as targeting Islam.

“We wanted him to clearly apologise,” Sheikh Yusef Abu Hussein, mufti of the southern city of Karak, told AFP after the pope’s address in Amman’s huge Al-Hussein Mosque.

“What the pope said (in 2006) about the Prophet Mohammed is untrue. Islam did not spread through the power of sword. It’s a religion of tolerance and faith,” Hussein said.

Now I find this fascinating. The Muslims want an apology from the pope for saying that Islam spread by the sword, when it did in virtually every place for its first three generations, and many (most?) Muslims glory in the fact. On the contrary, Sheikh Yusef abu Hussein wants the pope to acknowledge that Islam is a religion of tolerance and faith (whatever the latter term means)” when it has little history of tolerance – certainly by modern standards, the best it can do is religious apartheid with its dhimmi system.

What can such an “apology” mean? It can’t possibly be sincere, since, from the perspective of a non-Muslim, it’s clearly not true. (I except from this issue of sincerity the PCP dupes who really do think Islam is a tolerant religion, and could make such an apology sincerely.) But from the Muslim point of view, anyone familiar with the glorious place of Jihad in the history of Islam, can’t possibly take this seriously. Indeed, were the pope to repeat the words they want to put in his mouth, they’d be laughing themselves silly.

Combatant/Civilian Casualties and the Moral Hysteria/Hypocrisy of the West

Noah Pollak nails a particularly egregious element of the West’s inconsistencies in denouncing the inhumanity of war. Here we deal with the astounding difference in civilian to combatant casualty ratios between US forces and Israeli in targeted killings: 50:1 (50 civilians killed for every targeted combatant vs. somewhere between 3:1 (at worst), and less than 1:1 (more combatants than civilians killed) in the latest operation in Gaza. Comments at the end.

Re: Call Off the Drones?
NOAH POLLAK – 05.05.2009 – 4:36 PM
There is a statistic in the David Kilcullen quote that Max excerpts below that I find absolutely arresting:

Since 2006, we’ve killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we’ve killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area.

I’m used to parsing the civilian-to-terrorist kill ratio as it is obsessively applied to Israel and its enemies, but even by those standards, we are dealing in Pakistan with a military campaign that far surpasses anything the IDF has done in its destructiveness to civilians. We’re talking about a 50:1 ratio of civilian to terrorist deaths. In the famed “Jenin massacre,” fully half the Palestinians killed were terrorists, for a 1:1 ratio. In 2004, Sheikh Yassin, the “spiritual leader” of Hamas, was killed along with two bodyguards and nine bystanders — a 3:1 ratio. At the time, the British foreign secretary denounced the operation, saying that Israel “is not entitled to go in for this kind of unlawful killing and we condemn it. It is unacceptable, it is unjustified and it is very unlikely to achieve its objectives.”

During the 2006 war with Hezbollah, Israel killed — exact numbers are unknown — around 1,100 civilians and 600 Hezbollah, for less than a 2:1 ratio. And during the recent Gaza war, out of around 1,200 Palestinian casualties, over 700 were terrorists — better than a 1:1 ratio, which is astonishingly good, given the way Hamas fought. The example of Israel and Hezbollah is, in this context, analogous to the United States and Al Qaeda: both face virulent terrorist organizations that thrive in territories uncontrolled by the weak governments of Pakistan and Lebanon. Now imagine that Israel had been conducting a Predator drone war over the past few years that had killed 14 Hezbollah leaders and 700 Lebanese civilians. Is there any chance that this would not be a constant source of global hysteria?

And so, as far as the U.S.’s drone war is concerned, I have a few questions: Where are the shrill denunciations of disproportionate force and extrajudicial killings? Where are the UN investigations? Where are the condemnations from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the UN Human Rights Council? Where are the front-page New York Times exposes of American war crimes? Where are the indictments of U.S. officials by European judges? Why hasn’t Pat Buchanan compared the United States to the Nazis? Why hasn’t the Guardian compared Waziristan to a concentration camp? Where are the bloody front-page pictures of dead Pakistani children? Where are the sympathetic stories of lives ruined and communities destroyed because of the United States’ indiscriminate use of force? Why hasn’t Andrew Sullivan commenced a discourse on America’s violations of international law? Where is the hand-wringing from liberals about how our attacks are only perpetuating the cycle of violence and recruiting more terrorists? Why aren’t Zbigniew Brzezinski and Steve Clemons lecturing us that diplomacy is the only solution? Why isn’t anybody detailing the outrageously disproportionate force the Army is employing against a group of rural tribesmen armed only with RPG’s and rifles?

I think there might be a double standard at work here.

Double standard doesn’t begin to get at the problem. First of all, at one level this needs to be understood in the context of what Charles Jacobs calls, the Human Rights Complex, which argues that if you want to gauge the intensity of moral outrage at Human Rights violations, look not to the victim, nor how much that victim suffers, but to the perpetrators: if they’re white, the indignation will wax, if they’re of color, it will wane. Here we find an interesting variant: apparently the Jews are the super-whites. Given that a couple of generations ago, before WW II, they weren’t considered white, that’s quite a journey to traverse in the universe of Western moral thought.

Among other things, this “little” detail illustrates a number of points:

1) The Israeli army has the most stringent standards on collateral civilian casualties in the world. They have called off strikes where the civilian casualties are way below the US average.

2) Israeli leftists are by far the most self-critical on the planet. When even a small number of civilians are killed Israelis demonstrate, write scathing articles in the major newspapers, publish lengthy articles in scholarly journals denouncing the unacceptable damage done to innocent civilians.

3) The American left has much more energy to protest Israeli violations than those of its own country. The NYT’s, for example, ran a fine article on the problems of the US in Pakistan, which presented these drone attacks as the most effective policy we have so far… without even mentioning the civilian casualty toll.

4) This problem may have something to do with both a combination the weak will to self-criticize among US progressives, and the bully effect of being able to pick on Israel at no cost.

5) And, last but not least, this does confirm my argument about moral Schadenfreude as the current most popular form of left-wing Judeophobia around these days. Nothing, apparently, makes progressives so happy as getting hysterical about Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians. After all, won’t that bring peace?

Was WW II Necessary? Not if you don’t do history (Fishman on Buchanan and Baker)

I have a colleague in my department whose students recently agreed with the notion that we should have pursued the policy of appeasement with Germany even after their invasion of Poland. Sign of the times? Part of an astonishing failure of our historical understanding? They are not alone. Published authors are now arguing the same. Joel Fishman, whose expertise on appeasement I have already highlighted here, has a review of two recent books that try and make the case. Well worth reading.

Fishman raises a critical question: at what point does writing “history” get so bad/dishonest, that it’s no longer legitimate history. Let the reader judge.

“Bunkum as History: The Revisionist Quest for Lost Innocence”
Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World by Patrick J. Buchanan, New York: Crown, 2008, 518 pp.
Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008, 567 pp.
Reviewed by Joel Fishman
Jewish Political Studies Review, Spring 2009, pp. 153-161.

The two titles above may be non-fiction, but they are not legitimate history-writing. Both are based on facts, but facts that each of the authors has carefully selected with an eye to conveying his own personal message: that the Second World War was an unnecessary, wasteful, senseless, and barbaric endeavor which did not save Western civilization but instead dealt it a major setback. This literature, ostensibly relating to events of the past, is closely linked to the mood of the present, particularly the larger debate in the U.S. about its place in the world. In its broadest context, the question is whether the U.S. should continue to assume its exceptional role as a super-power, or should it conduct a foreign policy similar to that of Europe, or perhaps Canada, one based more on “soft power” ― persuasion and international consensus?

In the background, there seems to be a consensus of public opinion that the intervention in Iraq was mismanaged, even if this policy may have protected the country against terrorist attacks in the post-9/11 era. During the recent election campaign, it was repeatedly asserted that America’s intervention abroad and foreign aid program had misdirected its resources and attention. It would have been preferable, some asserted, for the U.S. to turn inward and cultivate its own garden. Each following his own distinct logic, Patrick Buchanan, an ultra-conservative (a genuine old-con) politician and author, and Nicholson Baker, a fashionable contemporary writer and pacifist, present arguments compatible with the sentiments described above.

Is this similar to the bizarre congruence of the “realists” Walt-Mearsheimer and the “moralist” Carter? It certainly comes out appeasement both ways.

On Handling the Double Standard: Navon speaks to the French media

Emmanuel Navon teaches Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He was recently interviewed by the major French radio station about Lieberman’s upcoming visit to France.

Thanks for Spoiling the Party

By Emmanuel Navon

I was interviewed today on RFI, France’s international radio. The topic was Avigdor Lieberman’s upcoming visit to Paris. It went, in substance, like this.

Question: How come Lieberman is not officially endorsing the two-state solution?

Answer: Why should Israel support a “solution” that keeps working in theory and failing in practice, and that is systematically rejected by the Palestinians? They rejected partition in 1937 and in 1947, showed no interest in establishing a state between 1949 and 1967, and rejected both the Camp David proposals and the Clinton parameters. They are now partially ruled by Hamas, which denies Israel’s right to exist, and by Fatah, which denies Israel’s right to be Jewish. Creating a Palestinian state while Hamas has the upper hand and Iran is about to become nuclear would pave the way to Israel’s destruction, not to peace. The Palestinians have to choose between the “right of return” and the “two-state solution.” And they will not be inclined to choose realism and compromise while backed, incited and manipulated by a nuclear Iran.


Question: Hmm. Well, Lieberman’s refusal to unequivocally endorse Palestinian statehood is probably why he’s going to get a cold shoulder in Paris. Bernard Kouchner is not going to hold a join press conference with him. Isn’t that understandable?

Answer: I don’t remember your country giving a cold shoulder to a Turkish official for not accepting the creation of a Kurdish state or for not ending the occupation of Cyprus.

Silence # 2 (slightly longer this time).

Question: President Sarkozy will probably not receive Lieberman, obviously because of his views. How do you feel about this?

Answer: Sarkozy had no problem receiving Muammar Gaddafi at the Élysée Palace. How do you feel about that?

Silence # 3 (swiftly replaced by a “thank you very much,” meaning “I think we’ll stop here”).

Note how French diplomats have no trouble humiliating the Israelis in public, but, as Navon so delicately points out, have no trouble groveling before much uglier nations. Alas, if only France took seriously De Gaulle’s comment that “France is not France without its grandeur.”

Lieberman is “guilty” of failing to toe to the party line. The fact that Europe’s “recipe” for Middle East peace has consistently failed in the past fifteen years is irrelevant. And it doesn’t seem to cross Europeans’ minds that Israel might be interested in peace as well (who gets blown up in buses for goodness’s sake?)

But, mostly, Europe feels that Israel should get a taste of China’s medicine. After all, if European leaders can be scolded by China about Tibet and Taiwan, surely Israel can be scolded by Europe about the West Bank? China put Sarkozy in quarantine after he received the Dalai Lama during the French EU Presidency. President Hu Jintao agreed to meet with his French counterpart at the G20 summit in London only after the latter accepted to “recognize” that Tibet is part of China.

This may seem like a contradiction (or a joke — I wouldn’t put it past Navon), since it’s the opposite of what one might expect. The French clearly didn’t like their international humiliations, so why would the obvious thing to do, be turn on someone else. But that expectation reflects liberal cognitive egocentrism: do not do onto others as you don’t want them to do onto you.

The French response, which Navon takes almost as a “rational” policy illustrates nicely the basic principle of hierarchical, honor-shame cultures. Hierarchies at their worst position people in a vertical chain in which you suck up and shit down. The French are good at that: If I’ve been made to suck up, then for sure I’ll find someone I can get away with shitting on. And of course, both because they’re small and they don’t strike back violently, the Israel and the Jews are an ideal target: that “shittly little nation.”

Pressuring Europeans works, because business is business. Why do the Tibetans or the Kurds need a state of their own? Who needs self-determination when Europe’s interests are at stake? Indeed, this “rights of man” thing is really a European idea, and trying to impose it on other cultures is surely another expression of Western arrogance and imperialism (and don’t you dare having the nerve of reminding those wimps that the official ideology of China’s communist party was “made in Europe”). Hence are Kurdish, Irish, and Basque separatists labeled “terrorists” in European media while Hamas killers are mainly “militants.”

In other words, don’t expect moral consistency from European moral discourse. The bottom line is, “Moral Europe is at the ethical cutting edge of the global community, don’t confuse us with the details.” If I had to identify the first “big idea” that came to me after 2000, it’s that people feel very strongly about being seen as moral (a kind of honor-shame integrity thing), and in the case of the Europeans, seeming morally superior to Israel and the US was so powerful a desire that they actually were willing to commit suicide just to engage in the charade.

Europe is entitled to put its interest before its principles. But it should not expect Israel to put its security at risk. If the price for saying the truth is to be snubbed by nerdy hypocrites, may Lieberman have the privilege of being a party pooper in European chancelleries and of spoiling dinner parties in Brussels.

A number of my students in my honor-shame class did papers on the role of honor-shame in schools and gangs. The Europeans are hanging with the honor-shame people and picking on the integrity-guilt people. It may feel good, but unless you’re ready to play hardball — which the Europeans clearly are not — you’re going to lose out in that company.