Monthly Archives: July 2009

Dry Bones on Obama on Israeli Partisanship

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dry bones pro israel

Freedom of the Press in Israel: The NGO Inversion

Discussion of Adi Schwartz: “How did Israel Stop being a Free Country?
Carlo Strenger, “The Self-Righteous Left’s Simplistic World

There is a direct link between over-coming the imperatives of honor-shame cultures and freedom of the press. In a culture where it is not only expected, legitimate, even required to shed someone’s blood for the sake of one’s honor, it is incumbent on people in power to shed the blood of any commoner who has the nerve to publicly criticize him (or her). In such cultures, public criticism constitutes an assault on the authority, indeed, the very person, of the one criticized. Not to respond will clearly signal weakness, impotence, or lack of will to power, and hence bring on the jackals.

As James Scott points out repeatedly in Domination and the Arts of Resistance, the vast majority of the time, protests are either private or, if public, anonymous, lest there be necessary retaliation. Scott calls them “private transcripts” which are often diametrically opposed to the deferential public transcripts these same powerful figures demand. “When the great lord passes, the wise peasant bows low and silently farts.” Silently. Not on the pages of Ha-aretz, translated into English and pumped around the world via internet.

Of course, everyone feels the desire for honor and the fear of shame (even Gates and Crowley and Obama). Even Western countries have private transcripts, and no press is free; no one can say whatever they want without repercussion. Access journalism will always play a role in pressuring journalists to report what the informant wants. The key, however, is the tripswitch to violence: how rapidly do those whose face has been blackened by public criticism take out hits on imprudent journalists? After all, no one would be stupid enough to think that he can say whatever he wants — even if it’s all true — and not have people retaliate, at least by shunning them. What kind of reporting would we have if it did not take courage to criticize people?

Well, we’d get something resembling the coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, not only in its grotesque daily disinformation, it’s stunning expressions of entitlement to a free ride by critics, and its stunning data manipulation that ranks the free-est press in the world as “potentially free.”

I have written extensively about the remarkable, and now more than occasionally pathological, tendency of Jews and Israelis to be self-critical. I will repeat my claim: no national culture is as self-critical as Israel; no country’s own citizens are as pervasively critical in the Mainstream News Media as the Israeli press; and no country tolerates criticism from abroad more than Israel. Ha-aretz may be the New York Times of Israel in terms of its status and its (often justified) intellectual pretensions, but when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict it has writers that would only find publication in the USA on the pages of the Nation, or Counterpunch, or the Guardian. And all this occurs under wartime conditions, when even the nations most dedicated to a free press, curtail those freedoms sharply.

And yet, an NGO that ranks press freedom around the world has recently ranked Israel below the cut-off point as a “free press” and, therefore, a nation with a “partially free press.” The contrast between my “seat of the pants,” honor-shame analysis and this NGO’s carefully callibrated and allegedly rigorous methodology suggests a problem.

Adi Schwartz, now freelance journalist, formerly a senior editor at Ha-aretz, the most virulently self-critical of Israeli newspapers, noticed the bizarrity of it all.

That was odd: if anything, the Israeli press might be blamed for over-aggressiveness, lack of respect for privacy matters and tendency towards sensationalism. Maybe much more so than many other Western media, the Israeli press is robust and boisterous, and far from not being free.

So he inquired how such the Freedom House arrived at such a remarkable conclusion. What he found was an appropriately bizarre, unthinking application of the “methodology” to the anomalous Israeli case. The result, a perfect black heart, a stunning mistake that undermines the whole paradigm that could not only produce this ranking, but not sound anyone’s alarms. As Schwartz puts it as a byline:

Here’s a story about how un-professional a pro-democracy organization becomes when dealing with the State of Israel.”

Interview on BreitbartTV: Gates, Honor-Shame, Obama’s Foreign Policy

I was recently interviewed on the Skip Gates affair by The B-Cast hosts Scott Baker and Liz Stephens on BreitbartTV. Although we started with Gates, they were kind enough to ask me about my websites and current book project, so I got to discuss the problems with Obama’s LCE foreign policy. Given their remarks after I hung up, they apparently found it unsually clear (for a professor).

No Good Turn…: Linkage, Cognitive Egocentrism and Eisenhower’s Blunder in Suez

I’m reading Makovsky and Ross, Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East on the folly of linkage in the Middle East (i.e., solve [sic] the Arab-Israeli conflict and all the other pieces will fall in place). There’s a particularly illuminating passage on Eisenhower’s insistance that Israel, Britain and France withdraw from the Suez Canal after taking it in response to Nasser’s nationalization of it in 1956.

Eisenhower apparently thought that in so doing he would bring Nasser over to the American’s side, “make friends” as it were with the young, dynamic leader, apparently the leader of a new, modernizing force in the Arab world. America, the anti-imperialist, ready to shake the Zionists out of their conquests — surely Arab nationalists would appreciate that.

Not. Nasser’s response was to become increasingly interested in, and within a couple of years, outright allies of the Soviets — just the nightmare that Eisenhower was hoping to avoid with his strong-handed intervention. The authors conclude:

Eisenhower ultimately regretted the policy he pursued in the Suez Crisis. A decade later, in a meeting with Richard Nixon in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania [where Eisenhower retired], he said his action had prevented Britain and France from playing a constructive role in the Middle East. Nixon recalled, “[Eisenhower] gritted his teeth as he remarked ‘why couldn’t the British and the French have done it more quickly.’ ” Eisenhower went on to observe that U.S. actions to reverse the crisis for Nasser’s benefit “didn’t help as far as the Middle East was concerned. Nasser became even more anti-West and anti-U.S. We agreed that the worst fallout from Suez was that it weakened the will of our best allies, Britain and France, [from playing] a major role in the Middle East or in other areas outside of Europe.”38

Ironically, the same Nixon who at the time was thrilled that the United States had thus distanced itself from the Europeans and Israel would later describe American policy during the Suez Crisis as “the greatest foreign policy blunder the United States has made since the end of World War II.”39 And at the center of it lay the misleading notion of linkage.

While linkage may indeed have been at the center of the policy thinking involved, I’d like to suggest some honor-shame psychology that lay behind Nasser’s behavior that explain why such thinking backfired, something that our current president should certainly take into account.

In the zero-sum world of honor, being indebted to another is a humiliation. This is so widespread a phenomenon, that we have a saying: “No good turn goes unpunished.” A French friend of mine was once asked to explain French anti-Americanism on a TV interview. “The French will never forgive America for saving her twice,” she replied. Nail on head.

For Eisenhower to expect that Nasser would be grateful to the USA for helping save him and his prestige in the Arab world by forcing Israel, Britain and France to back down, misread the dynamics of both Nasser and Arab nationalism.

HRW and Saudi Arabian “citizens”: How badly can one misunderstand the problem?

Recently Human Rights Watch got criticism for raising money in Saudi Arabia for, of all things (it shouldn’t be a surprise actually, but anyway) human rights. In their defense to their board, Ken Roth, speaking for the organization in the royal “we”, made the following point. We were talking not to the Saudi government (although they did admit there was at least one government official present at one of their meetings), but to individuals, in particular, “people who were interested in Human Rights Watch.” (Note, not interested in human rights, but in “us”.) After insisting on how scrupulous they were about not accepting money from any government, they then made the following remark:

We reject the idea that an individual’s nationality, ethnicity or religion can be taken as a proxy for their political or ideological beliefs or that the backgrounds of our supporters influence our coverage. By the same token, no assumption should ever be made that a Saudi citizen’s support for human rights reflects or is captive of Saudi government policy. Human Rights Watch is eager and delighted to find supporters of the human rights ideal – financial or otherwise – in any and all countries of the world. To draw such communities into an active, international network is an important part of our mission and does not impair our political neutrality. It threatens no-one but the human rights violators we seek to expose.

Now here’s where we get to the hub of the problem, one which, I think, sheds much light on the operating assumptions of Western human rights organizations, and that produces at least some of the unconscious patterns that result in the formuation of Charles Jacobs’ Human Rights Complex.

Before fisking this remarkable paragraph in detail, let’s take a short detour via an article by a real Saudi reformer, a woman who, I suspect was not a participant in the fundraising tour of HRW. (She does not appear, either in a search of the HRW website, or a search of the HRW report on this very issue — women’s legal tutelage to men — Perpetual Minors (about which, more, anon).

Saudi Arabia – The World’s Largest Women’s Prison

In an article on the liberal website Minbar Al-Hiwar Wal-‘Ibra, reformist Saudi journalist and human rights activist Wajeha Al-Huweidar described Saudi Arabia as “the world’s largest women’s prison.” She added that unlike real prisoners, Saudi women have no prospect of ever being released, since throughout their life, they are under the control of a male guardian – their husband, father, grandfather, brother or son.

Huweidar and other women activists recently launched a campaign against the Saudi Mahram Law, which forbids women to leave their home without a male guardian. She told the Kuwaiti daily Awan that the campaign, whose slogan is “treat us like adult citizens or we leave the country,” was officially launched at the King Fahd Bridge, connecting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where the women demanded to cross the border without a guardian. [1]

The following are excerpts from Al-Huweidar’s article

    Prisoners Can Be Released From Prison – But Saudi Women Can’t

    “The laws of imprisonment are known all over the world. People who commit a crime or an offense are placed in a prison cell… where they serve their sentence. [When they complete it], or get time off for good behavior, they are released…. In Saudi Arabia, there are two additional ways to get out of prison early: by learning the Koran or parts of it by heart… or by getting a pardon from the king on the occasion of a holiday or a coronation – after which the prisoner finds himself free and can enjoy life among his family and loved ones.

Walter Cronkite: Avuncular Advocacy Journalist and the Origins of the MSNM’s Augean Stables

There’s been much to-do about Walter Cronkite’s recent decease, and I’m getting emails with articles from a wide range of perspectives, from the adulatory “mainstream” and the disgruntled “right”, people who think he was a wonderful model of what journalism should be like — trusted and trustworthy — and people who think that, behind his verneer of “objectivity,” lay a committed World Federalist eager to put an end to “The American Century” and move on to a UN-run one-world government.

The kudos come from journalists who considered him their model (Mike Wallace, Bob Schieffer, Dan Rather), and from people like President Obama:

He invited us to believe in him, and he never let us down… This country has lost an icon and a dear friend, and he will be truly miss.

Icon indeed, and well worth a bit of criticism, particularly since we now live with the toxic waste of his interventionist, advocacy reporting. I highly recommend the carefully researched posts of Neo-Con on this subject, posts she had put up a couple of years ago, and has now updated to reflect Cronkite’s passing. Below some choice passages:

Cronkite earned his trust the hard way: by reporting the unvarnished news. In this 2002 radio interview (well worth listening to for insight into his thought process at the time) Cronkite describes his orientation towards his job prior to that watershed moment of the Tet offensive broadcast.

Previously the top brass at CBS, as well as the reporters there, had understood their function to be reporting “the facts, just the facts.” Editorializing was kept strictly separate; at CBS, it was a function of Eric Sevareid, and clearly labeled as such.

The president of CBS news, Dick Salant, was a man of almost fanatical devotion to the principles of non-editorializing journalism, according to Cronkite’s interview. Cronkite said that, till Tet, he “almost wouldn’t let us put an adjective in a sentence” when reporting, he’d been such a stickler for “just the facts.”

But, according to Cronkite, as the Vietnamese War had worn on, and because of the confusion of the American people about the war, reflected in letters to the station, Salant sent Cronkite on a trip to Vietnam with the idea of doing a piece of opinion journalism when he came back, in order to help the American people “understand” what was going on by explicitly editorializing and advising them.

One can speculate long and hard about why Salant decided it was time to make such a drastic change. From Cronkite’s interview, it appears that the brass at CBS was part of the turmoil of the 60s with its “question authority” ethos. If you listen to Cronkite (and he expresses not a moment’s ambivalence about his actions), you may hear, as I did, an anger at a military that seemed heedless of the difficulties of the Vietnam endeavor, and too sanguine–similar to the “cakewalk” accusation towards the present Iraq War.

Speaking of Paranoia and Forgeries, try out this one from the PA

Speaking of paranoia

Most people have heard that the PA shut down the al Jazeera office in the West Bank. Indeed, it led the inveterately sarcastic Steven Plaut, after suggesting that Zionists should help the Palestinian boycott movement target anti-Zionist Jews like Daniel Barenboim, to comment:

Since the PLO is now also boycotting al-Jazeera, the prospects for our collaborating with it seem endless!

He has no idea. Now we find the real reason that the PA shut down Al Jazeera. The station was blowing the whistle on the secret plot between Sharon, Dahlan and Abbas to assassinate Arafat. Not only that, they have the secret transcripts of the meeting in which it was planned. Here’s a post from the website of the PFLP (Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine).

Comrade Mallouh calls for full and independent investigation into the death of Arafat

Comrade Abdel-Rahim Mallouh, Deputy General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called for a full and independent investigation into the death of former President Yasser Arafat in order to fully determine who is responsible for his death.

Note that it can’t just be that he died from, say, AIDS. It has to be someone’s plot, someone’s fault, and if there’s no investigation that’s proof of a cover-up (not of the embarrassing details of Arafat’s sexual proclivities, but of murder most foul).

Comrade Mallouh called for this commission of inquiry on July 15, 2009 when asked about recent allegations and documents raised by Farouk al-Qaddumi, Fateh general secretary, accusing Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan of conspiring with Israel to eliminate Arafat and other key Palestinian political leaders. He noted that the PFLP has always called for such an investigation and that it is very much needed.

He stated further that no statement had been issued by the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, as the committee has not met for over 2 weeks, dismissing recent statements attributed to the Executive Committee denouncing Qaddumi. Comrade Mallouh called for an end to the misuse of the name of the Executive Committee of the PLO in making such statements.

For reference purposes, and because it has not been widely distributed in English, we present the alleged transcript released by Qaddumi below. This is alleged by Qaddumi to be a transcript of a meeting between former Israeli prime minister and war criminal Ariel Sharon, Mahmoud Abbas, Muhammad Dahlan, and a U.S. delegation, that took place in 2003 before the Aqaba summit. Discussion of these allegations is the excuse that was provided in order to shut down Al-Jazeera offices in the West Bank by the PA in Ramallah under Salam Fayyad. In the interests of presenting information to the people, the document is below:

Meeting Transcript

Sharon: I insisted on this meeting before the summit so we can finalize all security matters and put these final touches so as not to encounter any confusion or discrepancies in the future.

Dahlan: If you didn’t ask for this meeting, I would have.

Sharon: To begin with, work must begin on eliminating all the military and political leaders of Hamas, Jihad, Al-Aqsa Brigades and the Popular Front so as to create a state of chaos in their ranks that will allow you to pounce on them easily.

Abu Mazen: In this way, we will inevitably fail. We won’t be able to get rid of them or confront them.

MSNM, NGOs and Paranoia: Nelson’s Reflections

I’ve posted several pieces on the latest dust-up between HRW and NGO Monitor recently, that raise fundamental questions about both the credibility of the “human rights” NGOs, but also their disturbing relationship to the MSNM, especially in their way of viewing the world (what the Germans call Weltanschauung). Now Nelson (Europundit) has offered an essay that gets at the core of the problem in a way I’ve only hinted at. Below, his essay. My notes — and others who comment here — to follow.

Nobody trusts the government. The politicians are corrupt. The government is always lying to the people. It works against the people’s true interests and only promotes the selfish interests of its own members and their friends. Those in power invent scary threats to distract the public’s attention from their own wrongdoings.

No, I’m not talking about the US. Well, not exclusively at least. Everything I’ve just said has been repeated day in day out, for years and decades, by the papers and the electronic media wherever there’s anything resembling a free press. That’s the MSM’s real message in all democratic nations. Whatever else they talk about is secondary.

Is it true? Often it is. Is it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Each one of us can judge by him or herself. And, as we have been doing so collectively for some time, the MSM has been losing most reliability it might once have had, to the point that, in countries like the US, it is not only as little trusted as the government and the politicians themselves, but it’s clearly seen as just another partisan political player.

That’s, however, quite a small consolation, because the damage they, the MSM, could do has already been done and, even without being trusted, they can go on doing it. What’s exactly this damage? The corrosion and eventual destruction of public trust. No open society can work without it and, though the government and all state institutions must always be closely watched, it works at its very best when the people’s default attitude towards these is one of conditional trust, not one of perpetual mistrust.

HRW defends itself to its board: Substance or Rhetoric?

Apparently Ken Roth is sweating. Here he is, defending himself to his board about the Saudi scandal. Here’s where the rubber meets the road: Does he lie to and dissemble from his own people? Then you know he’s really afraid (and without substance). Actually, when you think of it, what’s worse: denying you’re unbalanced, or defending the imbalance as deliberate? Sort of Enderlin’s bad choices — is he a fool or a knave?

You be the judge: is this written by a man of integrity, or a kid caught with his hand in the Saudi cookie jar?

A number of recent media reports have suggested that Human Rights Watch has compromised its neutrality by meeting with potential donors at receptions in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. These reports are based on misleading assumptions and wrong facts. Human Rights Watch does not accept donations from any government. All of our US$44 million annual budget is raised from private individuals and foundations. Of that sum, almost 75% comes from North America and about 25% from Western Europe, with less than 1% from all other regions of the world combined. As an organization with a global mandate, we are naturally endeavoring to diversify our financial base and have begun to actively explore funding in regions as diverse as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

HRW and Self-Criticism: Fallout from the Saudi Arabian Fundraising Junket

NGO Monitor has just posted a further discussion of the HRW Saudi-Arabia fund-raising junket scandal. Part of what the dispute reveals is the very tenuous hold that HRW has on empirical reality, and the nasty ad hominem-style arguments they resort to in their defense. Self-criticism, which is what they call on others to do all the time, is apparently not their long suit.

In his defense of HRW against criticisms from outside, Roth had commented:

“The fact that we publish far more extensively on other Middle Eastern governments (as well as the PA, Hamas, etc) is irrelevant, apparently.”

Similarly, in responding to David Bernstein’s WSJ oped, Whitson declared

Human Rights Watch in recent years has published more reports and news releases on rights problems in Saudi Arabia than any other human rights organization in the world.

Now Roth’s comment is outright dishonest. As an email exchange with someone who is not necessarily familiar with the details, this is a bit like Enderlin drawing me a false map of Netsarim junction — a way to dismiss a subject without addressing it. Whitson’s comment is more careful. She just doesn’t mention that their work on Saudi Arabia is a) very recent, and b) more than anyone else in the way that 2 is more than 1. (Human Rights Complex means minimal attention to what “primitive” people do to each other.)

NGO Monitor comments that they criticize HRW because their reports are “so bad”:

HRW’s frequent “research reports” on Israel are a mix of “eyewitness” testimony (”there were no Hamas/Hezbollah forces anywhere”), pseudo-technical analysis, and speculation… As for the claims on the agenda, the data shows until 2006, Saudi Arabian human rights behavior was hardly on HRW’s agenda. Using a systematic methodology to compare the activities, NGO Monitor data show that between 2004 and 2006, HRW criticism of Israel was 300% greater than the almost non-existent focus on Saudi Arabia. In other words, in HRW’s world, Israel was by far the greater source of human rights violations.

The change – as much as it was — took place in 2008, after the NGO Monitor reports on HRW’s obsessive anti-Israel agenda were published. Some donors then earmarked money for a wider agenda, dragging Roth and Whitson along. But Israel continues to be the main target, with more press conferences, major reports, and United Nations lobbying. HRW is not campaigning for an “independent UN inquiry” on Saudi treatment of women, minorities, or members of other religions.

Don’t forget calling for an independent UN inquiry into war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Dissing Barenboim: Taking the Measure of Palestinian “moderation”

Few prominent Jews have been more pro-Palestinian than Argentine-born, German-resident, PA honorary citizen, Daniel Barenboim. Some might call him an alter-juif. But apparently that’s not enough for Palestinian “activists” who want to boycott his appearance in Ramallah.

Pro-PA Conductor Barenboim: Persona Non-Grata in Ramallah

by Hillel Fendel

( A wall-to-wall Palestinian Authority coalition announced its opposition and boycott of the Israeli orchestra conductor, despite his strong pro-Palestinian positions.

The acceptance of Palestinian Authority citizenship, strong support for the PA side in its dispute with Israel, continuing biting criticism of Israel, and Israeli nationalist opposition to him – all this is not enough to enable world-renowned musician Daniel Barenboim to perform in Ramallah without incident.

Barenboim appeared in Ramallah on Wednesday night in a Ramallah hall, conducting the Jewish-Arab orchestra – but a large coalition of PA elements loudly objected and called for a boycott of the event. Among those opposing Barenboim were the PA’s Union of Authors and Poets, the Union of Artists, and those involved in the official PA-wide campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel.

Barenboim, a Jew who once lived in Israel, received Palestinian Authority citizenship in January 2008 in a ceremony in Ramallah, explaining, “I believe that the fate of the Palestinian people is interwoven with that of the Jewish people… We are either blessed or cursed to live with each other, and I prefer the first option.”

Nice example of positive-sum thinking that goes back to God’s promise to Abraham: “those who bless you I will bless; those who curse you, I will curse.”

The noted pianist and conductor caused outrage in Israel even prior to that, refusing to be interviewed by an Army Radio soldier in uniform and insisting on performing compositions of the notorious Nazi icon Richard Wagner despite widespread protests.

Barenboim has also accused the Israeli government of “moral abomination” in its current ongoing defensive war.

Has he called suicide bombing “moral abomination”? Days after a vicious suicide bombing that killed twenty Israeli civilians, he remarked

    Israel has to reinvent itself, the Palestinian people has to reinvent itself, each in its own way.”

Granted, his comment was without any direct reference to the bombing, but maybe that’s even worse.

Arab Muslims who want Peace: A case study

In a previous post, there was much discussion of the elusive (some would say imaginary) phenomenon of Palestinian Muslims who want to live in peace alongside an independent Jewish state. I post here a blogpost by Ralph Dobrin, an Israeli, on a conversation he had with an Arab construction worker at his home.

Jihad is really a way of life

July 12, 2009

Jews can learn from it

By Ralph Dobrin

My wife and I recently renovated our bathroom. It’s amazing how much work such a small project involves. It took a lot of hard physical labor, resoluteness and intelligence on the part of the workmen who made it all possible. Three men did most of the work: a pumber called Danny, who brought two other men, both of them Arabs from suburbs in the eastern part of Jerusalem. There was Yusuf, who helped Danny strip away the walls and floor tiles and dismantle the pipes, which were old and corroded; and Hassan laid the floor and wall tiles.

And what a huge effort it was on their part! True, they were paid for their efforts, but nevertheless, I had to appreciate that for a few days of their lives they dedicated their strength, intelligence and and experience to me personally. For a while these three men became a central part in our life. So we cared for them. We cared that they were drinking and eating enough; that they were sufficiently rested from their grueling work from time to time. We weren’t just being nice. After all, if you expect people to do a good job for you, you’ve got to care about their physical well-being.

From time to time we would chat with them. Sometimes we praised their work and occasionally we would ask them to pull out a tile that hadn’t been placed absolutely straight. Each time they obliged very willingly. Yusuf spoke Hebrew fairly well, while Hassan had a little difficulty. My wife and I once had a fairly basic command of Arabic. So we practised our rusty Arabic with them. They seemed very happy that we could converse, albeit very haltingly, in Arabic.

Every day I prepared lunch which we ate together, while chatting about work, family, health and the Israel-Arab conflict. About this latter issue, they said a few things that I didn’t agree with, and I countered calmly, to which they responded calmly.

Truth, Narrative, and Journalism in the ME: Barry Rubin nails it

I’ve dealt with pomo before here, and will again. Meantime, one of the saner observers of the madness that pomo can induce in journalists (and diplomats), Barry Rubin, has an interesting column on the subject.

When journalists say there is no such thing as truth than the world is in big trouble.

He begins with a couple of anecdotes:

A reporter just wrote me a letter that contains a single sentence which I think reflects on why the Western world is in such trouble today. After understandably discussing such real problems of reporting as short deadlines, complex issues, and the duty of the reporter to report what people say, the letter concludes with this sentence:

“And when it comes to the Middle East, one man’s [obscenity deleted] is another man’s truth.”

Woe to us that a journalist thinks this way. Of course, this is very similar to the older version that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Recently, I heard that latter one from the Danish ambassador to the Council of Europe who said that Hamas and Hizballah were like the Danish resistance in World War Two. I replied, among other things, that I don’t remember the Danish or other World War Two European resistance movements bombing German kindergartens and glorying in getting Danish civilians killed as human shields.

I also don’t think that the Danes and other European resistance movements were attempting to commit genocide on the Germans. I do believe it was the other way around.

(PS: More Danes fought in the German army than in the Resistance, and that was true of other countries as well. Forgive me for remembering who was the main victim of terrorism and “freedom fighter” terrorists then and today. But I digress)

That a European country—and one of the more astute ones, to make matters worse–is represented by someone like that says something pretty sad about the state of the world today.

and finishes with a hilarious (to me at least) thought experiment:

He said, she said: Israel vs. HRW on Saudi Arabia and Gaza

One of the more frustrating aspects of reading news articles (and even more, in watching news broadcasts) is how little follow-up there is. This article is quite meaty for the back and forth it gives.

Gov’t strikes back against ‘biased’ human rights NGOs

Jul. 15, 2009

In the opening shot of a battle Jerusalem has decided to wage with NGOs it deems biased against Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday slammed a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) fundraising delegation to Saudi Arabia as evidence the organization has lost its “moral compass.”

“A human rights organization raising money in Saudi Arabia is like a women’s rights group asking the Taliban for a donation,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said Monday.

“If you can fundraise in Saudi Arabia, why not move on to Somalia, Libya and North Korea?” he said. “For an organization that claims to offer moral direction, it appears that Human Rights Watch has seriously lost its moral compass.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, responded by telling The Jerusalem Post that there was a need to distinguish between a government and its people, and to conflate the two was “misguided at best.”

“Certainly not everyone is tainted by the misconduct of their government,” she said, stressing that her organization did not take money from any governments around the world, but did solicit funds from individuals and foundations worldwide.

“There are private individuals in Saudi Arabia who are not part of the ruling government,” she said.

This is exceptionally naive, and raises the question who’s being taken for the fool here? Whitson? Or the people she’s addressing? The idea that Saudi mistreatment of their women, or foreign workers, or their own commoners, or imported slaves, is just a matter of government, beggars the imagination. This is a cultural matter that goes so deep — especially among the wealthy elite — that I defy Whitson to come up with one wealthy Saudi who is not riddled with the kinds of prejudices that HRW allegedly battles all over the world.

Photoshop or Real?

Now why can Obama only do this to the Israelis, and not the people who really deserve it?

Eurabian loss of depth perception: Only in Belgium?

Belgian correspondent Rudi Roth writes:

Only in Belgium

Belgian NGO urges Muslims to boycott Israeli “bleeding” dates during Ramadan

    Muslims in Brussels are being urged by a Belgian NGO, INTAL, to boycott Israel and Israeli dates during Ramadan. It seems that it is the first time ever that in Belgium – a country of Christian culture – (and in Europe) Muslims are being specifically targeted by non-Muslims with a view to boycotting the Jewish State. Muslims account for 30% of the population in Brussels, which is also the “capital of Europe”. Israeli dates are very popular in Europe.

Belgique: appel à boycotter les dattes israéliennes à l’occasion du ramadan

and also on:

Primo Europe

It is a real religious importation of the conflict… and maybe an acceptance that it is a religious problem and not a territorial one?

The Belgian NGO, Intal, received government money from cooperation development for making a brochure for use in school.

In the brochure stereotyping of Jews and Arabs is exerciced for the young students.

The same organization already cooperated with the federation of Morocco, and associations of Antwerp to organise other boycott actions against Israel.

I see this less as a religious phenomenon, than as an excellent example of the scapegoating of Jews and Israel that the European “left,” fearful of Islamism and eager to curry favor with Muslims, engages in. In this sense, such a move represents a perfect illustration of the dynamics of Eurabia – fear of the aggressor prompts Europeans to identify with them (and thereby act like Dhimmi), and uses an “progressive discourse” that has lost its moorings and foundered in blood libels, to justify, indeed intensify the forces hostile to the very existence of progressive values.

How can one expect Muslim students in Europe to develop civic courage when their alleged “elders” in a civil polity cater to their basest emotions so blatantly.

As the joke runs, “what’s the difference between a brownnoser and a sh*thead? Depth perception.

Palestinian Statehood: The Cognitive Egocentrist’s Dream Solution

Working on my book, I have not had time to post at the blog (or to respond to some of the more interesting threads). So I post this piece, partly because it’s so important, partly because I don’t have the time to fisk the deeply dishonest piece it refers to, by Malley and Agha, which reeks of condescension both for the readers of the NYRB and for the Palestinians whose childish reasoning they present without a hint of criticism… all of which disguises their demopathic agenda.

They don’t want a state
Sever Plocker
Published: 07.08.09, 17:54 / Israel Opinion

Researchers increasingly argue that Palestinians uninterested in statehood

Do the Palestinians want a state? This question sounds like a provocative one. Isn’t it patently clear that the Palestinian national movement aspires to realize its goals by establishing a Palestinian state? Isn’t it patently clear that the ethos of political sovereignty has guided the dreams and struggles of the Palestinian people for ages?

Well, no. It’s not patently clear.

More and more Mideast affairs researchers are today willing to respond to the question about whether the Palestinians want a state with a “no.” Some of them offer a hesitant “no,” while others offer a resounding “no.”

In a June 11 New York Review of Books article, written by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, they two prominent experts argue the following: “Unlike Zionism, for whom statehood was the central objective, the Palestinian fight was primarily about other matters…Today, the idea of Palestinian statehood is alive, but mainly outside of Palestine…A small fraction of Palestinians, mainly members of the Palestinian Authority’s elite, saw the point of building state institutions, had an interest in doing so, and went to work. For the majority, this kind of project could not have strayed further from their original political concerns…”

This inverts my understanding. (Please, readers, correct me if I’m wrong.) Many inhabitants of both the WB and the GS wanted statehood and peace; the leadership never did. When Arafat said “no” at Camp David, the younger members of his delegation wept (Dennis Ross anecdote). Arafat never used his militant credentials to sell the idea of a two-state solution to his people (really to his honor-group of Palestinian and Arab alpha males), but to reassure them that this was the two-phased solution to wiping out Israel.

The two experts sum up by arguing that the notion of a Palestinian state is perceived as a foreign import, and as a convenient outlet for foreign elements who interfere with the Palestinian people’s independent wishes. They point to the “transformation of the concept of Palestinian statehood from among the more revolutionary to the more conservative.” Moreover, Agha and Malley argue that in the past, when Yasser Arafat seemingly endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state and even threatened to declare its establishment, he did not adopt an unequivocal stance and did not make his intentions clear. Since Arafat’s death, the notion of statehood lost the remaining popular support it enjoyed.

So it’s the West’s fault for wishing the Palestinians well that the two-state solution has failed. Agha and Malley are channeling the Dominating Cognitive Egocentrist‘s projections: “I assume “they” are plotting to destroy and enslave me, because that’s what I’m doing to them.”

Roger Cohen poses in NYT over Iran and his broken heart

I grew tired of fisking Roger Cohen, whose idiocy so served the forces he now acknowledges had misled him. Now he presents himself as a heart-broken journalist trying to do a job as good as any scholar, hanging in to bear witness in Teheran even after his press card was revoked.

What we really could afford to hear is how Roger Cohen rereads the drivel he aggressively produced before the shingles fell from his eyes.

Times Topics: Iran

“Not everyone realizes,” Weber told students, “that to write a really good piece of journalism is at least as demanding intellectually as the achievement of any scholar. This is particularly true when we recollect that it has to be written on the spot, to order, and that it must create an immediate effect, even though it is produced under completely different conditions from that of scholarly research. It is generally overlooked that a journalist’s actual responsibility is far greater than the scholar’s.”

Oh would journalists take themselves that seriously.

Actually there’s an interesting contrast here. Weber was intensely self-critical (to the point of writer’s block), but what he did produce is still being read with profit. Journalist’s, granted, have to write faster, but that doesn’t mean they have to be less critical… just that, along with the glory of shooting your mouth off to millions of people, we deserve a look when you shoot yourself in the foot.

Yes, journalism is a matter of gravity. It’s more fashionable to denigrate than praise the media these days. In the 24/7 howl of partisan pontification, and the scarcely less-constant death knell din surrounding the press, a basic truth gets lost: that to be a journalist is to bear witness.

The rest is no more than ornamentation.

To bear witness means being there — and that’s not free. No search engine gives you the smell of a crime, the tremor in the air, the eyes that smolder, or the cadence of a scream.

No news aggregator tells of the ravaged city exhaling in the dusk, nor summons the defiant cries that rise into the night. No miracle of technology renders the lip-drying taste of fear. No algorithm captures the hush of dignity, nor evokes the adrenalin rush of courage coalescing, nor traces the fresh raw line of a welt.

I confess that, out of Iran, I am bereft. I have been thinking about the responsibility of bearing witness. It can be singular, still. Interconnection is not presence.

A chunk of me is back in Tehran, between Enquelab (Revolution) and Azadi (Freedom), where I saw the Iranian people rise in the millions to reclaim their votes and protest the violation of their Constitution.

We journalists are supposed to move on. Most of the time, like insatiable voyeurs, we do. But once a decade or so, we get undone, as if in love, and our subject has its revenge, turning the tables and refusing to let us be.

The Iranian Constitution says that the president is to be elected “by the direct vote of the people,” not selected through the bogus invocation of God’s will. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Revolution, said in 1978 that: “Our future society will be a free society and all the elements of oppression, cruelty and force will be destroyed.”

The regime has been weakened by the flagrance of its lie, now only sustainable through force. No show trials can make truth of falseness. You cannot carve in rotten wood.

I was one of the last Western journalists to leave the city. Ignoring the revocation of my press pass, I went on as long as I could. Everything in my being rebelled against acquiescence to the coterie around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose power grab has shattered the balances of the revolution’s institutions and whose goal is plain: no eyewitnesses to the crime.

Of course, Iranians have borne witness — with cellphone video images, with photographs, through Twitter and other forms of social networking — and have thereby amassed an ineffaceable global indictment of the usurpers of June 12.

Never again will Ahmadinejad speak of justice without being undone by the Neda Effect — the image of eyes blanking, life abating and blood blotching across the face of Neda Agha-Soltan.

Iran crushes people with its tragedy. It was unbearable to go. It remains so. Images multiply across the Web but the mainstream media, disciplined to distil, is missed.

Still, the world is watching. As we Americans celebrate the Declaration of Independence, let’s stand with Iran by recalling the first democratic revolution in Asia. It began in 1905 in Iran, driven by the quest to secure parliamentary government and a Constitution from the Qajar dynasty.

Now, 104 years on, Iranians demand that the Constitution they have be respected through Islamic democracy and a government accountable to the people. They will not be silenced. The regime’s base has narrowed dramatically. Its internal splits are growing with the defection of much of the clerical establishment.

One distinguished Iran scholar, Farideh Farhi, wrote this to me: “So I cry and ask why we have to do this to ourselves over and over again. Yet I do have hope, perhaps for purely selfish reasons — because I don’t want to cry all the time, but also because of the energy you keep describing. We have a saying in Persian, I assume out of historical experience, to the effect that Iran ultimately tames the invaders.”

Alas how many Iranians, along with the mullahs, read this statement as the victory of those very forces whose loss you mourn. Freedom is a rare and hard-won accomplishment, not a gift. Neither you, nor the Western liberals like Roger Cohen and the President he feigned to advise, wanted it enough.

That transported me to Ferdowsi Square, on June 18, and a woman who, with palpable passion, told me: “This land is my land.”

She called Ahmadinejad “the halo without light” — a line from the anthem of the Iran demanding its country back, the Iran still saying “No” by lifting its unbending chorus into the night.

From far away, I hear it, and this distance feels like betrayal — of those brave rooftop voices and of a journalist’s “actual responsibility.”

Excuse me while I visit the vomitorium. All that time you spent practising your purple prose while dragging your feet before leaving, could have been spent on asking yourself publicly, about how you could have been so badly fooled.

A little self-criticism? Or is the difference between a reporter and an editorialist while the former is insatiably voyeuristic, the latter is insatiably exhibitionist?

The Lessons of Sri Lanka: Human Rights Complex Strikes Again

As I have often mentioned here, Charles Jacobs HRC predicts that if the perps in human rights violations are “people of color,” then the human rights community has nothing to say. Sri Lanka is a QED for the theory.

Michael Totten reports a conversation with Robert Kaplan about, inter alia, Sri Lanka (HT Fat Man):

MJT: So you just got back from Sri Lanka. What did you see there? What did you learn?

Kaplan: … Sri Lanka defeated, more or less completely, a 26 year-long insurgency. They killed the leader and the leader’s son. But there are no takeaway lessons for the West here. The Sri Lankan government did it by silencing the media, which meant capturing the most prominent media critic of the government and killing him painfully. And they made sure all the other journalists knew about it.

MJT: Wow.

Kaplan: There are a thousand disappearances a year in Sri Lanka separate from the war. Journalists are terrified there. The only journalism you read is pro-government. So that’s one thing they did.

The Tamil Tigers had human shields by the tens of thousands, not just by the dozens and hundreds like Al Qaeda. They put people between themselves and the government and say “you have to kill all the people to get to us.” So the government obliged them. The government killed thousands of civilians.

MJT: Tamil civilians?

Kaplan: Yes. They killed thousands of civilians in the course of winning this war. It acted in a way so brutal that there are no lessons for the West.

MJT: Would you say it was as brutal as Russia’s counterinsurgency in Chechnya?

Kaplan: Yes. It was. The U.N. is investigating whether as many as 20,000 civilians have been killed during the last few months.

* * *

MJT: Sri Lanka has been fighting this counterinsurgency for decades. Have they slowly made progress all this time and have now finally finished it off, or was there a tipping point recently where a seemingly endless conflict just ended almost suddenly?

Kaplan: The Sri Lankan government was elected in 2005 to win the war. And it has done that. Extremely brutally. It’s a government that’s very nationalist Sinhalese Buddhist. These are not the Richard Gere’s “peace and love” Buddhists. These are the real blood and soil Buddhists, where Buddhism is like any other religion when it’s threatened and it’s defending a piece of territory. It can be very brutal.

It was elected to win the war, which it interpreted from the voters as a right to silence the media and to fight without any restrictions.

MJT: It does work, though, doesn’t it?

Kaplan: It does work, yeah.

MJT: Not that we should do it, of course.

* * *

MJT: So there are no lessons at all? Nothing for the U.S., Israel, or Pakistan?

Kaplan: No.

MJT: Only moral lessons, perhaps. Yes, this works, but it would take an awful lot to get us to fight that way again.

I think there are many lessons to be learned. Kaplan’s simplistic answer is just intended to say, “we can’t do what they did.” Granted. But we still have to fight vicious enemies who turn their own civilians into human shields, and we have to find solutions.

In the meantime, we can certainly learn about the hypocrisy and viciousness of the alleged “human rights community,” especially the UN. While Israel reels from lawfare because of an operation in which hundreds of civilians were killed going after an equally vicious enemy, Sri Lankan’s celebrate in the street and the MSNM gives them something of a pass.

As for the UNHRC, they fulfill Jacobs’ expectations spectacularly.

The response of the UN?

China, Cuba, Egypt and 26 others on the 47-member council voted in favor of a resolution that described the conflict as a “domestic” matter that did not warrant outside interference. The council also supported the Sri Lankan government’s decision to provide aid groups only with “access as may be appropriate” to refugee camps.

Twelve mostly European countries opposed the resolution after failing to get support for a resolution that criticized both sides.

And with all this lack of interest, it looks like the 200,000 refugees may never go home.

Surely there’s much to be learned from all this, no?

Colonel Richard Kemp on IDF’s Moral Performance

One of the real puzzles I hope to pose in order to motivate my readers to slog through my new book is the bizarre phenomenon of the difference between the IDF’s ethical performance and the way it registers in the MSNM (my new acronym, Mainstream News Media). I first became really aware of this in Jenin, when the Israelis had sacrificed the aerial option in order to avoid civilian casualties, lost over a dozen men in hand-to-hand combat, and finally ended up killing 52 people, 47 of which were combattants, but got accused of massacres and war crimes that drove the international media into a frenzy.

Here, at a JCPA conference on Operation Cast Lead and International Law, British Colonel Richard Kemp describes the extraordinary measures the Israelis went to in order to spare civilian casualties in Gaza (cf. Sri Lanka).