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.

    “However, none of these options exist for Saudi women – neither for those who live behind bars [i.e. who are actually in prison] nor for those who live outside the prison walls. None are ever released, except with the permission of their male guardian. A Saudi woman who committed a crime may not leave her cell when she has finished serving her sentence unless her guardian arrives to collect her. As a consequence, many Saudi women remain in prison just because their guardians refuse to come and get them. The state pardons them, but their guardians insist on prolonging their punishment.

    “At the same time, even ‘free’ women need the permission of their guardian to leave their home, their city or their country. So in either case, the woman’s freedom is [in the hands of] her guardian.”

    Prison Inmates Are Stripped Of All Authority Over Their Lives – And So Are Saudi Women

    “As is customary in prisons throughout the world, inmates are stripped of all authority and sponsorship over their own [lives]. All their movements are monitored and controlled by the jailor. The prison authorities decide their fate and see to their needs, until the day of their release. This is also the usual situation of the Saudi woman. She has no right to make decisions, and may not take a single step without the permission of her jailor, namely her guardian. But in her case the term [of imprisonment] is unlimited.

    “The Saudi Mahram Law turns the women into prisoners from the day they are born until the day they die. They cannot leave their cells, namely their homes, or the larger prison, namely the state, without signed permission… Although Saudi women are deprived of freedom and dignity more than any other women [in the world], they suffer all these forms of oppression and injustice in bitter silence, suppressed anger and death-like dejection. Saudi women are peaceful in the full sense of the word, but so far the Saudi state has not appreciated their [noble] souls, their patience, and their quiet resistance…”

    “The Clerics, Whom the State Has Authorized to Oppress the Women, Regard Their Silence And Patience As [a Sign of] Mental Backwardness”

    “The clerics, whom the state has authorized to oppress the women, regard their silence and patience as [a sign of] mental backwardness and emotional weakness… Thus they have [allowed themselves] to increase the ‘slumber’ of oppression over the decades… They suffocate [the women] in all areas of life by means of oppressive laws [enforced by] the religious police, who follow them everywhere as if they were fugitives from justice. The laws pertaining to women have turned them into objects on which sick men can release their violent and sexual [urges].

    “These Saudi clerics deny the Saudi women every opportunity to find a job, get an education, travel, receive medical treatment, or [realize] any [other] right, no matter how trivial, without the permission of their jailor, that is, their guardian – [all] based on oppressive fatwas sanctioned by the male [leaders] of the state.”

    Our “Mothers and Grandmothers…Enjoyed Much Greater Freedom… Saudi Arabia Has Turned Itself Into the World’s Largest Saudi Prison”

    “[It is interesting to note that] the mothers and grandmothers [of today's Saudi women] had all these rights, and enjoyed much greater freedom [than today's women] – as did all Muslim women in past eras, such as the wives of the Prophet. [None of these women] were subjected to this oppressive Mahram Law, which is not based on the tenets of Islam and in fact has nothing to do with Islam.

This comment underlines the role of recent developments in worsening the situation for women. Wahabbi Islam began as a weaponized and merciless movement to all it defined as enemies, and now, in the face of the pervasive threat of modernity, it has become even more virulently “fundamentalist.” Throughout the Muslim world, especially since the recent turn of the millennium, more Muslim women wear the veil as a sign of their “loyalty” to their community and their rejection of modern laxity.

    How blessed is Saudi Arabia, the humane kingdom, which has turned itself into the world’s largest women’s prison. [This is a land] which permits any man, without preconditions, to take the role of jailor, and which has turned its women into prisoners for life, when they have done nothing to deserve it.

The last point is particularly significant. As studies of the veil point out, Muslim men make Muslim women pay the price of their lack of self-control (i.e., their lack of development of the “Great Jihad“). Since the men are so animalistic that the mere sight of a woman’s hair, or face, or skin, might drive them to sexual activity, despite the objections of the woman, then the burden of preventing that from happening falls on the woman who must spend her life behind the prison walls of her “modest” covering.

This brings up a key lesson that we can derive from this article. It’s not the government alone here that makes women’s lives a nightmare of captivity, it’s the culture — the religious leaders, the “guardians” (who in principle are relatives and would, we might expect, want the well-being of their female relations). Thus the state releases a woman from prison, but her guardian (father, brother, son), leaves her there rather than come get her.

I don’t know the specific cases, but I’m willing to bet that in a significant number of them, the motivation of the “guardian” is that the woman has shamed the family by getting arrested (whether or not she’s guilty) and that bringing her home would increase the shame. Consider these cases as a form of honor-killing by neglect.

Which brings us back to Human Rights Watch. They are aware of the problem. They wrote a 53 page report on it: Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia. The very language of the report makes it clear that this goes far beyond “the government.” Anf yet, one gets a sense that HRW finds at least some government officials sympathetic (charming?). They quote Saudi foreign minister, Prince Sa’ud al-Faisal:

Any decision that does not break the social fabric we will take. We are very much sensitive to the social cohesion of the country. We are a new country where social cohesion is very important.

In other words, the prince takes the position that even if the government wanted to do something, they are prevented by the culture and its (typically prime divider) concerns for the social order. HRW comments:

The HRW report considered this a “balancing act” on the part of the “absolute rulers of the kingdom” (i.e., the monarchy) not to upset the conservative religious scholars in the country.

In other words, the HRW report “understands” the difficulty the government faces in implementing their recommendations. But to blame it entirely on “conservative religious scholars,” and not on the larger culture in which the “guardians” regularly act with tyrannical vindictiveness is to miss the larger point. Again, HRW seems aware of this:

While the government has taken some steps in recent years to limit the absolute power of guardians, there is little evidence that these measures are actually being implemented in practice. In most manifestations of these practices, there appear to be no written legal provisions or official decrees explicitly mandating male guardianship and sex segregation, yet both practices are essentially universal inside Saudi Arabia.

In other words, this kind of behavior has a life of its own, independent of the monarchy which is helpless to change things by fiat. This is classic patriarchal behavior: the authoritarianism at the top (absolute monarchy and religious leaders) runs all the way through the society of male domination. As the Persian emperor Achashverosh (Ataxerxes) noted when he punished his wife for refusing his (shameless) request:

    16 “When Queen Vashti was disobedient, she hurt not only the king but also all the ministers of all the nations in all of the provinces of King Achashvairosh’s empire.

    17 “When word of the Queen’s behavior gets out to all the women, they will treat their husbands with less respect, pointing out that even King Achashvairosh ordered Queen Vashti to come to him and she did not come.

    18 “This very day, the wives of the ministers of Persia and Media who have heard what Queen Vashti did, will bring up this incident to the ministers of the king, and that will cause a great deal of scandal and quarreling.

    19 “If it pleases the king, let him issue a royal edict that a new immutable law be written into the laws of Persia and Media to the effect that Queen Vashti may never again come to King Achashvairosh, and that her royal position will be given to someone else more suitable.

Patriarchal thinking and it permeates the society. Again, the HRW report notes this, but seems to consider it an governmental excuse for inaction:

Senior government officials consistently told Human Rights Watch that the kingdom needed to wait for society to accept the notion of women’s rights before the government could reform laws and policies in this area. Yet the Saudi government’s policies toward women, including its complicity in allowing guardianship and sex segregation to persist and to permeate every aspect of women’s lives, call into question its commitment to the advancement of women’s rights. It is clear that Saudi Arabia’s segregation and guardianship policies and practices are fundamentally affecting the ability of half its population to enjoy even their most basic rights, and are severely restricting their ability to participate meaningfully in society.

HRW, on the other hand, thinks that “the way to go” is top-down, as if you could legislate human rights — whether a free press or free women — in a culture where shedding someone else’s blood is a legitimate, even required way to maintain honor.

King Abdullah bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa’ud should promulgate by royal decree the dismantling of the legal guardianship system for adult women. The King should establish an oversight mechanism to ensure that government agencies no longer request permission from a guardian to allow adult women to work, travel, study, marry, receive health care, or access any public service. The Ministries of Health, Higher Education, Interior, and Labor should issue clear and explicit directives to their staff prohibiting them from requesting a guardian’s presence or permission to allow a woman access to any service, and they should ensure that women’s full realization of their rights is not compromised or jeopardized by segregation policies and practices.

In other words, HRW approach is a product of a paradigm in which human rights violations are government generated, and to be fixed by government action. “Individual” Saudis are innocent of any participation in these human rights violations until proven guilty. The whole issue of an honor-shame society and the enormous pressures of community conformity simply do not register on their screens.

Thus we come back to HRW’s “fundraising trip” and their defense:

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.

Pure liberal cognitive egocentrism. An individual’s ethnicity or religion is no indicator of their political or ideological beliefs. Nice in principle for a civil society. But this is a prime divider society, and one of the more toxic, filled with pressures from alpha males at every turn. Even those who don’t like it, don’t abuse their power of guardianship to victimize their women, still have to tread very carefully in showing any opposition. Any honest Western feminist, dealing with a male individual who was so cowardly as to remain silent while others bullied women, would not hesitate to let him know. But Saudis, as long as they are “interested in Human Rights Watch,” will be considered as good as the next human rights activist.

By the same token, no assumption should ever be made that a Saudi citizen’s [sic!] support for human rights reflects or is captive of Saudi government policy.

Precisely. HRW’s own report makes it clear that the Saudi government is captive to the collective consensus of Saudi men, asserting their honor in tyrannical ways no matter what the government does. The very fact that Roth can refer to Saudi citizens illustrates how little he understands the difference between civil polities and prime divider ones.

But I’ll bet there’s another dimension here. HRW personnel may be committed on some level to treating all individuals equally, and ignoring issues like “honor-shame cultures,” but on a practical level they almost surely show high sensitivity to such concerns. The presence of “the deputy head of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia and a member of the Shura Council, a government-appointed consultative body” surely had a “chilling effect” on the people they spoke with, as well as on them. In such situations, you risk serious harm if you act in ways that your hosts view as hostile to their religion.

In this case, the emphasis on Israeli human rights violations in their presentation is overdetermined. Shaming the Saudis with a harsh look at their own civil rights violations is counter-indicated, and shaming the Israelis is a guaranteed way to get widespread support. So, even as they ignore the issue of honor-shame in principle, they appease the demands of honor in practice. And if anyone doubts the massive over-emphasis on Israeli “violations of human rights” and the virtual after-thought mentioning Palestinian violations, here’s Whitsen speaking to what pretends to be a “balanced” forum. I’d say the likelihood that the Saudi presentation was even more unbalanced against Israel is pretty high. As Steinberg says, “prove us wrong, show us the power-point.”

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.

And what if, in your eagerness to raise money, you actually empowered demopaths. You appealed to members of a society in which honor-killings still occur regularly, and for whom the destruction of a nation with an extraordinary commitment to human rights, to women’s rights, is actually also an imperative of honor, a national “honor-killing” if you will?

Is there room in your dogmatic and self-righteous universe for just enough modesty to allow that you may have miscalculated? That you owe an apology to everyone who has donated money to you in the belief you’re fighting for human rights? Or would that cost you too much?

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

  1. Ray in Seattle says:

    RL: “The very fact that Roth can refer to Saudi citizens illustrates how little he understands the difference between civil polities and prime divider ones.”

    And how little he understands the difference between Islamic ruled states and most of the rest of the world. In Islam there exists no concept of a citizen. You’d think this would be basic stuff for an organization ostensibly dedicated to human rights doing a dog and pony show in a monarchy where everyone but the royal retinue lives under the boot-heel of sharia.

  2. RL, this is a brilliant start but I am becoming convinced that it is not enough to point out the inconsistencies and untruths. We must to the do the deeper work of smashing the bunkers that they retreat to when they are faced with real arguments like this.

    In my post of yesterday, A Most Savage Compassion http://www.breathofthebeast.blog…9/07/most-savage-compassion.html I talk about this in some detail. Progressives will still get by with the tired old BS when you try to talk sense to them because they retreat behind their “good intentions” and immunize themselves from evidence with waves of emotion.

    Here are the last few lines of the post:
    “I look at my fellow classical liberals and say, “you poor bastards”. It is time to break the strangle hold of compassion by showing how savage and deadly it has become in service of a theory of humanity as opposed to a real understanding of and empathy for human beings.”

    Unless we can reveal “Compassion for Humanity” as the antithesis of “Liberty and Opportunity for the Individual” and convince the old Classical Liberal base to come home from the Progressive camp, all the accuracy and fairness in the world will be falling on deaf ears.

    thanks for the comment. i’ve read your piece which is excellent. you’re absolutely right. in israel, for example, anyone who talks about the irredentism of the palestinians (leadership and street) is considered a “right winger.” why? because noticing reality makes it impossible to pursue liberal solutions. as the rabbis said, “he who is merciful to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful.” -rl

  3. Ray in Seattle says:

    I just this moment finished reading your “A Most Savage Compassion” at B-of-B. I generally liked your essay and am delighted that you are commenting here. (I also remember my ski lessons when I was taught to push myself forward into space and let gravity become my ally.)

    I also share some of your views toward affirmative action but I differ in that I don’t see it as such a fundamental moral question. I know it seems that way to those who have suffered from it adversely but the same can be said of other artifacts of the give and take of representative democracy. I remember a popular libertarian blogger carrying on for many days about the fundamental violation of basic American human rights caused by automated cameras set up at intersections to catch red-light runners.

    I’m not saying your concerns with AA are equally vacuous but it seems to me that where there is a limited resource, such as 3 openings in the program, some set of criteria must be used to select the winners. In that sense, is not your argument against AA really just a disagreement over the criteria? And, while I sympathize about the unfairness to you, was not the decision made within a framework of representative government, which in this case, was leaning toward rectifying past injustices through their selection policy – and which in the future may lean back the other way.

    And so, finally, how do you draw the line between a representative government doing its best to allocate scarce resources and necessary intrusions and inconveniences (like traffic signal cameras) fairly – and a fundamental threat to personal freedom that must be opposed on ideological grounds?

  4. Ray in Seattle says:

    Yaacov, One other thing. I’m not so sure about these definitions myself and would defer to you, but I consider myself a classical liberal who absolutely does not identify with the “progressive camp”.

  5. Eliyahu says:

    RL writes “The very fact that Roth can refer to Saudi citizens illustrates how little he understands the difference between civil polities and prime divider ones.”

    So Roth either denies the fact that Saudi Arabia inter alia haa subjects rather than citizens, or he is ignorant of the problem. In the first case he would simply be lying, which he often does, as this whole affair has proven. However, re the issue of citizens vs. subjects, he is probably really ignorant of the distinction between subjects and citizens, between a republic and a monarchy or tyranny [like Saudi Arabia]. Hence, I would say that his understanding and knowledge of political science and political philosophy as well as the development of political concepts and institutions through history are defective, to say the least. In other words, he is both an ignoramus and a crook, although he is not stupid. Note how he and whitson always have some excuse for doing what they should not –and dimly realize that they should not, or at least they realize that they have embarassed themselves.

    They also fail to understand the point that RL is making that the Islamic political/religious culture is not easily subject to change by govt edict. Rather, it is broadly supported by the mass of Muslims [at least the men; actually by the women too on certain issues such as hatred for Israel].

    Such ignoramuses are not suitable for leading a struggle for real change in favor of human rights, equality, democracy, etc.

  6. Ray in Seattle says:

    In #1 I criticized Roth’s inability to understand the difference, as did RL in the article and Eliyahu in #5. After re-reading I think I was guilty of what I often advocate against here – questioning someone’s intellect when emotional forces are available to explain their behavior.

    I now suspect that he non-consciously selected the term that would mesh best with the extreme cognitive-egocentrism of his donor base – which is very much the target audience for his remarks. For that target audience his use of the term “subjects” would have got him demoted if not fired. I agree that he is “not suitable for leading a struggle for real change in favor of human rights, equality, democracy”.

    But he’s very suitable being the spokesman for an organization that feeds off the strong emotions of cognitive egocentrism in Westerners to attract donations. No-one but (someone like) him could even get hired for the position.

    i agree with your analysis, altho i don’t think it’s at odds with questioning his intellect. i don’t think he chose that term deliberately, i think his emotional disposition has so effected his intellect that he “thinks” this way. i doubt he had any hesitation any intellectual scruples at writing Saudi citizens.

    as for whether a more honest person cd be the head of a human rights organization… i’d hope it was possible. if not, the billions of people who live in societies so brutal that they wd happily give up the native land to live in a place as bad as the USA or Israel, are in real trouble.

  7. Ray,
    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I read here often as I am a great admirer of RL and think the level of comment and discussion is at a very high level.

    I think you may have missed a very important connection between AA and the Savage nature of Compassion.

    It should, I think be the province of government to insure that there are no obstacles to equal opportunity not the theorize what may be an arbitrary remedy for a problem that may not exist. No one, I think, determined that blacks and women had been excluded from that PhD program up to that point. My experience of Psych departments at the time was that they had rather a majority of women in the ranks of candidates even before 1973. When government (UC Davis is a public institution) sets arbitrary criteria to correct theoretical problems there is a high probability that there will be counter productive and unfair results. There is also a considerable probability that the process will be used to create illegal and immoral enterprises. I made this point about Sotomayor and Obama- I would argue that having benefitted from AA, they are committed dupes and agents of the progressive left who, although they have become symbols of success, are actually acting to the long term detriment of their interest groups. This is the very definition of Savage Compassion.

    I think the best answer I could give to the question you have about Affirmative Action is contained within your own remarks. You wrote:
    “…a representative government doing its best to allocate scarce resources and necessary intrusions and inconveniences (like traffic signal cameras) fairly…”
    There are, as I see it, two problems with this statement.

    The first is that in a non-socialist nation, it is not be the government that decides the distribution of resources.

    The second is that equating the orderly flow of traffic on the roads with admission to programs of higher learning seems strained at best. Keeping order in the streets is a legitimate governmental responsibility, deciding who learns and where they learn it is not.

  8. Diane says:

    Please excuse me for playing devil’s advocate, but isn’t this a classic case of spin? The noisome business of fund-raising demands, in the immortal words of Johnny Mercer, the one “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mister In-Between.” It’s what every fund-raiser does to make quota, whether he’s raising mullah for a human rights organization or a university. Few non-profits are rich enough to snub donors whose values displease. They hold their noses and take the check, until someone put a spotlight on their hypocrisy. Then they send back the check with heartfelt mea culpas and vows to never take tainted money again.

    It’s a shame that they must conduct themselves in this way, but we live a the real world, not a world of angels. Are we really surprised/appalled, or just posturing/gloating because HRW got caught with its pants down?

  9. This is my second attempt to offer an answer to Ray @ #3 the first does not seem to have gotten posted…

    Ray,

    Thanks for your kind words. I think you have identified a very important connection that needs to be made. You make reference to “the give and take of representative democracy” and compare Affirmative Action with surveillance cameras. I think this touches on the very point I was trying to make by dredging up my past experience with Affirmative Action. The founders of our nation called on us to elect a government to keep order and provide security and provide for our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

    The surveillance cameras may be thought of by some as a violation of some of the lesser aspects of the constitution (right of privacy, perhaps) whereas it is a far stretch, in my mind, to see meddling in the selection of doctoral candidates as vital to any of those.

    The argument is not a technical one. Seeking to redress theoretical historical damages (as I recall, at that time women PhD candidates in psych departments were actually in the majority) by imposing arbitrary quotas really just produces an intentional and thoroughgoing discrimination where an unintentional (or partial or even a nonexistent) one is supposed to be.

    This was, let us remind ourselves, done because of a statistical imbalance in the number of black people in academia. This is as absurd as if I were to demand to play center for the Boston Celtics because there are way too few white guys in the NBA. It is only thought to be “good” because we are supposed to see black people as victims in all cases.

    I would argue that this is a perfect illustration of what I am calling A Most Savage Compassion. Depriving academic advancement to the most qualified individuals for the redress of harms that only exist in theory under the banner of compassion and for “the good of humanity.” This is just as bad for “black people” as it was for me. And it is bad for the republic too,

  10. oao says:

    The HRW report considered this a “balancing act” on the part of the “absolute rulers of the kingdom” (i.e., the monarchy) not to upset the conservative religious scholars in the country.

    why is it that they are so considerate of saudi difficulties in addressing the rights of women, yet have no such understanding of israel trying to defend itself from terror?

    yaakov is right: debunking their crap is useless. they must be fought and dismantled, anything else has little value.

  11. Ray in Seattle says:

    oao said, “why is it that they are so considerate of saudi difficulties in addressing the rights of women, yet have no such understanding of israel trying to defend itself from terror?”

    Damned good question to ask a “human rights” organization!

  12. sshender says:

    Good point oao. I also enjoy reading Ray’s eloquent and succinct remarks on most of the threads here. Just to let you know. The comments sometimes make for a better reading than the original post (but not in this case – Richard’s taking apart of HRW’s ignorance and hypocracy is priceless).

  13. sshender says:

    Oh, and one more thing; just finished reading David Pryce-Jones’ “The Closed Circle – An Interpretation of the Arabs” and it is a must read for anyone interested in the Arab culture and mentality. I’m somewhat embarrassed to confess that I haven’t read Patai’s “the Arab Mind”, but if it’s anywhere as good as the former, I’ll try to get my hands on it asap.

    The second book which I’ve almost finished is Anita Shapira’s “Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948″ – probably the most objetive and scholarly book about Zionism I have ever read! This is what true scholarship should look like. I admit that it gets tedious and somewhat repetitive at times, but overall the reader emerges with a clear understanding of the Jewish and Zionist ambivalent relationship with physical force.

  14. Ray in Seattle says:

    Yaacov, thanks for your thoughtful answer. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here because I mostly agree with you – such as when you say:

    Depriving academic advancement to the most qualified individuals for the redress of harms that only exist in theory under the banner of compassion and for “the good of humanity.” This is just as bad for “black people” as it was for me. And it is bad for the republic too,.

    I think I’d add that democracy does not guarantee that some people will not be damaged by government errors or bad policy. It only guarantees avenues to reduce or eliminate inequities for the future. When unfair treatment occurs and it is reasonable to compensate someone for it – such as a wrongful conviction for a crime, then society can choose to compensate for damages and this often happens.

    But IMO, it is as wrong to directly damage another innocent person to compensate the first as it was to damage the first person – and two wrongs don’t make a right. (I have less problem with paying more taxes to redress past inequities in some cases.)

    That said, my view is that someone damaged by AA has the right to work for and to vote for and persuade voters and legislators to change the laws, to file suit against laws they think are illegal, etc. That’s more than what many non-whites had in the past to fight discrimination in admissions. That took a long time and it still isn’t perfect but it is better now.

    So, I agree with you that AA is bad policy when it directly damages or punishes innocent people who did nothing to deserve punishment. But it is how the system currently works and is the result of voters expressing their will.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the difference in our views is that you see AA as a serious violation of the protections of the constitution while I see it as ill-advised and a damaging policy that should be changed – but within the give-and-take of representative government.

    I can see strong moral reasons to oppose it and get it changed – but I don’t see those who support it as being immoral or bad people. They have a point too – but I think the stronger argument is against it, for many of the reasons you mentioned – and I’m willing to act as a good citizen to correct things using my vote and my voice. Thanks for the good discussion.

    BTW in 1971 I was denied a job that I was better qualified for because a vet returning from Viet Nam wanted it and he got priority. It wasn’t a PhD admission but like you, I remember feeling both offended and guilty at the same time.

  15. Ray in Seattle says:

    sshender – Thanks for the kind words. Made my day!

  16. oao says:

    I also enjoy reading Ray’s eloquent and succinct remarks on most of the threads here. Just to let you know.

    that’s your business. why do i need to know?

  17. Eliyahu says:

    As I said above, Roth and Whitson,
    also fail to understand the point that RL is making that the Islamic political/religious culture is not easily subject to change by govt edict. Rather, it is broadly supported by the mass of Muslims. . .

    This reminds me that in the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire legislated a more equal status for the non-Muslim subject peoples in the empire [called the Tanzimat reforms], at the behest of the major Christian European powers. However, the mass of Muslims resented this change in law very much. They continued to believe that they as Muslims should be superior to the non-Muslims, the dhimmis. It was about 50 years after the Tanzimat reforms that the Armenian genocide took place, although massacres of Armenians on a smaller scale took place in the last decades of the 19th century.

    We may assume that today, UN, EU, US and Russian officials are aware of the constant hate propaganda against Jews and Israel not only in the Arab states but in the areas ruled by both the PLO/Fatah/palestinian authority and the Hamas [Gaza]. This hate agitprop is conveyed by the official TV, radio, schools of these zones as well as by the mosques and newspapers, etc. The Quartet formed of the abovementioned entities was aware that such hate agitprop could not lead to peace but rather would lead to its opposite. Hence, they stipulated in their now overlooked Road Map, as one of the first requirements imposed on the PLO/PA side, that such hate agitprop stop.

    However, the Quartet, including its on-the-ground delegate, Tony Phoney Blair, have never made any attempt to make the Arab side comply with their own stipulation. They only complain about Israeli non-compliance [as in the matter of settlements]. So the Road Map is a dead document which the Quartet itself has helped to kill. Yet they know that this kind of hate agitprop can lead to genocide and that, with a Muslim population, as in the Armenian case, the festering resentments of Muslims forced to live in equality –or peace– with kufar, with non-Muslims, can easily lead to massacres if not genocide. In order to counter the legacy of past hate agitprop, the teaching of peace and of the rightness of equality must prevail, must be substituted for the earlier hate agitprop, in the Arab-Israeli context, Arabs also referring to PLO/Fatah and Hamas. The fact that the Quartet now overlooks the ongoing hate agitprop and has done naught to end it in the years since the Road Map was announced means that the Quartet approves of Arab anti-Israel hate agitprop. That is, the Quartet approves of genocide against Jews, as they basically did from 1939 to 1945, and as they have been doing by overlooking the gravity of the Iranian threats of genocide. So the Quartet and its constituent political entities approve of the genocide of Jews and are thereby morally disqualified from any diplomatic role in the Middle East.

    This ugly role of the Quartet powers is compounded by a recent “promise” by Mrs Clinton, US Sec’y of State, that the US would provide a “nuclear umbrella” for its allies in the Middle East. That means approving of Iran getting The Bomb; that means creating a situation of nuclear terror at best. What ought to be done is prevent Iran from getting The Bomb. The Euros [also representing Bush] held talks on this matter with Iran for years, just allowing the Iranian fanatics to buy time. Now obama says that he wants to chat with A-jad some more. In short, the Obama administration is endangering peace and stability and creating a vast region that will be subject to the terror of the Iranian bomb.

  18. Cynic says:

    The HRW report considered this a “balancing act” on the part of the “absolute rulers of the kingdom” (i.e., the monarchy) not to upset the conservative religious scholars in the country.

    This seems to be upside down or back to front. The absolute rulers are the conservative religious scholars.
    The King and his princes take their marching orders from the purveyors of the dogma.
    Anything he does that seems out of the “ordinary” is purely a marketing ploy and pure taquiya applied for those zealots of mythical human rights.

  19. Rich Rostrom says:

    When your tool is a hammer, you look for nails to drive. HRW is set up to address human rights violations by states – which are the primary violators (and protectors) of human rights.

    They work to discourage states from violations and encourage states in protections. I can’t see what approach they could take with Saudi Arabia other than recommending that the crown promulgate legal changes.

    Also, I think you make too much of the use of “citizen”. “Xish citizen” means little other than “person of Xish nationality”.

    However, it occurs to me that HRW has no business whatever monitoring or judging military operations
    except as they involve abuses of authority over civilians. A war crime is not a human rights issue. Which is to say that their indignation over CAST LEAD is misplaced.

  20. Ray in Seattle says:

    “A war crime is not a human rights issue”?

    That’s a pretty emphatic statement. So, you are saying that if the Sri Lanka military kills 10,000 civilians while going after the Tamil rebels when they could have done so with far fewer civilian casualties – then human rights NGO’s should stay out of it? Care to explain your reasoning on that?

  21. Ray in Seattle says:

    BTW, HRW’s indignation over Op. Cast Lead is not misplaced IMO. It is some combination of unfounded (lacking in factual basis) or deceptive (an attempt to defame Israel based on that false evidence).

  22. oao says:

    It is some combination of unfounded (lacking in factual basis) or deceptive (an attempt to defame Israel based on that false evidence).

    gee, and i thought it’s emotionally strong beliefs.

  23. oao says:

    The King and his princes take their marching orders from the purveyors of the dogma.

    which he admits if inherent in the culture and is hard to go against.

    it goes something like this: arab regimes exploit the dogma to impose their rule. then they turn around to the west and say it’s hard to go against it.

    it’s precisely what the pals do with hatred of israel.

  24. Actually, I think we are in substantial agreement on almost everything here. The biggest divergence between us is not so much that I think that AA is a serious violation of constitutional protections – I think it is a violation but not a terribly serious one. There are several things that disturb me much more:

    It has benefited only a few individuals. While BHO, his wife, Judge Sotomayor and other black and Latin people who were lucky enough to get themselves positioned within the system have prospered, black unemployment, family disintegration, imprisonment and poverty is still staggering.

    It drains resources away from others. When I earned my masters degree there were two young black men enrolled who could never have passed the same requirements I did. They slowed our classes down, took professors out of their planned lessons and reduced the quality of my education because of the efforts the school had to make to keep them from failing so that the racial ratio would “look more like America”.

    It damages many more than it benefits. In addition to the displaced and disenfranchised whites like me who have lost irreplaceable opportunities, there are many others who have been harmed.
    There are the black and Latin students who, unlike BHO et al, were not well enough prepared to succeed in the positions for which, they were given preference actually cheapens the prize. It also leads to profound demoralization when, even then, they cannot fulfill the requirements.

    It has created a cadre of Affirmative Action elitist blacks and Latins three of whom we have already mentioned three, who because it is a very nce way testify to its efficacy but will always reaffirm that it is necessary to perpetuate it.

    It benefits many who use the system cynically while it damages the work ethic of those who it purports to benefit. BHO was actually raised in a more privileged environment than I was and was still able to reap the benefits of AA. He was nursed along in a way similar to the guys that were in my master’s degree program through his time at Columbia (the records of which are conveniently no longer available) and he is daily revealing himself to be a slick and intelligent but empty and ill-prepared executive.

    I could go on and I will in a new post that I am working on for Breath of the Beast. The bottom line is that AA is not just a clear but minor violation of the constitution. It is a canker on American culture that validates and perpetuates the identity politics of the progressive movement and (in several vital ways) attacks the very social contract on which our republic is based.

    Panics, including the current one, have demonstrated that in financial markets sound fundamentals do not make for prosperity by themselves, the public must buy into the game with confidence and trust to make a healthy economy. In a culture such as ours, once the public has no trust in the fairness and transparency of the contract, there is nothing left but legal battles and the savagery of what I will from now on call “compfascism”- This being the emotional blackmail and social bathos by which the Progressives hold the voting public hostage to their illiberal and fascistic collectivism.

  25. I neglected to address comment 24 to Ray…

  26. Ray in Seattle says:

    Thanks Yaacov, I’ve been mulling over your comment wondering if I could add anything to the discussion. From your words I perceive that some strong beliefs drive them. While you list some sound conservative principles I’d suggest that most problems in a democracy are best solved with a judicious application of both conservative and liberal thinking. When one of those becomes dominant things can get out of whack pretty quickly.

    I would also take exception to your last sentence that connects “progressives” with “illiberal and fascistic collectivism”. (You said “the” progressives, not “some”.) I suspect that those words especially were driven by the strength of your feelings. I assure you that there are many progressives who are not illiberal and fascistic collectivists – at least by accepted standards. (There are some on the right who think that any taxation is fascistic collectivism.)

    I think of myself as a liberal but some could fairly say that my views on health care are “progressive”. I believe that a single payer health-care system makes the most sense. I hope you don’t think I’m a fascistic collectivist. I just have an opinion that’s different from many conservatives on how we can get the highest quality care for all at the lowest cost. I don’t think those who disagree with me are immoral or have bad motives. I even admit that they have some good points. It’s just that right now, I think single-payer has more merit.

    I’m willing to listen to any reasonable argument to change my mind. If it’s important to you to change minds about AA (about which we largely agree) I’d suggest that allowing too much passion into your views, such as believing that those who don’t agree with you on AA are “fascistic collectivists”, will be counterproductive (to the extent you believe that’s true).

  27. Ray in Seattle says:

    Along the lines of honor / shame in international relations – which is embedded in the Saudi / HRW situation, I note that Hillary Clinton has started handling N Korea in a new way. Today she characterized them as recalcitrant children and unruly teenagers who now have no friends in the world.

    Story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/23/AR2009072300299.html

    ” (snip) Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, told reporters that, despite the angry back-and-forth, he did not think the six-party talks were over and that North Korea eventually would return to the bargaining table.

    The Obama administration, however, insists it will not drop the sanctions, as Bush did, to win Pyongyang’s cooperation.

    “We are open to talks with North Korea. But we are not interested in half-measures,” Clinton said. “We do not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table.” ”

    This is refreshing. I guess Obama has realized, in this case at least, the futility of “being nice” to honor / shame driven criminal states – and has allowed Clinton to shame them decidedly. I also suspect this is more like what Clinton would like to do in the ME as well – and that difference between her and O will either result in her resignation or O coming around as he seems to have on N Korea. We’ll see.

  28. Ray,
    I am afraid that you are being disingenuous with me now. I have written you two long, detailed responses with specific examples and developed concepts and you feign surprise (or at least bemusement) to “perceive that some strong beliefs drive them”. Yes, well, why else would I write all those words?

    You also call my principals conservative. I suppose that many would view them as conservative but they really are just plain factual observations about the actual results of Affirmative Action as it is practiced. It is an ominous sign when merely speaking plainly about the facts on the ground is viewed as “conservative”.

    You see yourself as a liberal with some progressive tendencies but the way you wave off observations of fact with vague generalities, as when you say, “I’d suggest that most problems in a democracy are best solved with a judicious application of both conservative and liberal thinking. When one of those becomes dominant things can get out of whack pretty quickly.” Is straight out of the progressive playbook- Speak in platitudes that are sufficiently “good or caring or compassionate or open-minded” and general to be unassailable on their own account while using them to deflect and weaken the impact of real facts and strong ideas. Well I would submit that my points about AA were not really conservative at all but, to the extent that they reflected political philosophy upon the events, they were classically liberal.

    And I’ll stand by my last sentence. Progressivism is illiberal precisely because of its strong collectivist strain.

    Obviously, some progressives are more extreme in this than others but anyone who wishes to involve the government in places and ways in which it cannot help but do more damage than good (even if their intentions are good!) are collectivists.

    Jonah Goldberg expressed what I am getting at very well in his book Liberal Fascism. I would substitute the word progressive for both left-wing ( they are practically synonyms anyway but progressive is more exact) and liberal (as I made an extensive case in my essay, they are really not the same- the progressive movement has hijacked the name).

    Goldberg wrote: “The unique threat of today’s left-wing political religions is precisely that they claim to be free from dogma. Instead, they profess to be champions of liberty and pragmatism, which in their view are self-evident goods. They eschew “ideological” concerns. Therefore they make it impossible to argue with their most basic ideas and exceedingly difficult to expose the totalitarian temptations residing in their hearts. They have a dogma. But they put it out of bounds. Instead, they force us to argue with their intentions, their motives. Their feelings. Liberals are right because they “care,” we are told, making “compassion” the watchword of American politics. Liberals therefore control the argument without either explaining where they want to end up or having to account for where they’ve been.” (Pg.404-405)

    It is a gentle and caring fascism but it is collectivist coercion nevertheless and I stand by my (and Goldberg’s) characterization of it.

    It has nothing whatever to do with me becoming hyperemotional I assure you I wrote it as I write this, striving only for as accuracy and depth. I’ll not have you tut-tut me for believing something and stating it with vigor. If you disagree give me reasons do not tell me that I am hurting my case by not being relativistic enough and failing to feign disinterest.

    And you seem when you say “I don’t think those who disagree with me are immoral or have bad motives,” to be implying that I do. Let me assure you (and RL will vouch for this) that disagreement with me would never be sufficient to cause me to impute immorality or bad motives to anyone. Neither would agreement with me prevent me from pronouncing such a judgment. I do, however, believe that morality and motives are important and need to be addressed directly and with fairness.

    You wonder openly if your opinions about health care would cause me to think of you as a “fascistic collectivist” but you do not give me much reason not to. Yes, you refer to your belief in a single payer system but without and specifics. You refer in generalities- admitting that the other side of the opinion has some unspecified “good points” but there is no there, there. Your last word on the subject is classic progressivespeak: “It’s just that right now, I think single-payer has more merit.” No compelling reasons, not even a definite time frame just nebulous “merit” and “for now”. Why bring it up in the first place, other than to bait me into being a nasty old conservative?

    You say that you are “willing to listen to any reasonable argument” but you have proven unwilling to put many of your own forward. Your advice on how to change minds on AA is not just condescending, it is passive-aggressive.

    I do not see everyone that I disagree with as fascist collectivists but I know subtle coerciveness when I see it. As Goldberg might say (and I paraphrase), Ray, “you are claiming to be free from dogma, professing to be a champion of liberty and pragmatism… You eschew (or at least make relative) “ideological” concerns in order to make it impossible to argue with your basic ideas”.

  29. Ray in Seattle says:

    Yaacov, I think there are several areas where you misunderstand me. This is a difficult medium for irony, sarcasm and esp. complex ideas, so that’s understandable – and we don’t know each other very well yet. I might be misunderstanding you too. I don’t think so because you seem to express yourself pretty well, but then I wouldn’t know I misunderstood you unless you told me. Let me just state a few things:

    First, I do not write down other than what I believe to be true. I think you are being a little defensive. I had to think a while even to decide what to disagree with you about. I finally came up with something but I didn’t pose it as a challenge. More just to have something worth discussing.

    My eyes glaze over when people start talking about liberals and progressives and RWers and conservatives, etc. I’m more interested in your ideas than putting a label on you.

    I don’t eschew ideological concerns. My moral views are grounded in those. I do have a problem with ideologues because they make everything a matter of the best good vs the worst bad and it becomes personal. I think it’s interesting to observe ideologues but it’s awfully hard to have a discussion with them. One thing they do is classify every one as an enemy or an ally. I don’t want to do blog-combat with you. I just want to talk about some ideas if you’re into that.

    I didn’t justify my position on single-payer to you because I wasn’t trying to convince you I was right. I didn’t even know your position although I guessed right it seems. You seem disappointed that I’m not passionately committed to my views on it – as if that’s a tactic I use to weaken your assault on my beliefs. Well, I’m sorry but I don’t see how getting into a shouting or insulting contest will prove either of us right or wrong – so I try to avoid strong passions in my discussions. If that’s a prerequisite for you I won’t be much fun.

    I mean, I can do that for the entertainment value when someone just has to repeatedly insult me but I don’t consider that discussion. It’s just one small step above solitaire.

    If you read what I said more carefully, you’ll see that I said, ” . . if it’s important to you to convince others about AA . . “. I did not say that having strong opinions or stating them firmly makes you wrong. You assumed that. In fact I reiterated my agreement with you on that topic. I was only offering you some tactical advice.

    I enjoy testing my beliefs against intelligent articulate people who have different views than me. That’s all I’m after and I didn’t think I even got started with you yet. So I could hardly have been “eschewing ideological concerns to make it impossible for you to argue with my basic ideas”. I do it generally because effective reasoning is not easy to do and strong passions make it almost impossible.

    You seem to be more anxious than I am to get started with the testing. Fair enough. But let’s set some ground rules. I take considerable time and effort to make my comments as accurate and as honestly stated as I can before I hit SUBMIT. If they are not really my beliefs then I wouldn’t really be testing them would I? I have no desire to deceive anyone or trick them. That would be pointless and a waste of my time.

    So, if you want to continue this I’ll take you at your word and you do the same for me. If you think I’m being disingenuous again I’ll lose interest in this discussion very quickly.

  30. Ray in Seattle says:

    Yaacov, One more thing. As stated before I was not making a case for single payer. It was just an example I used to illustrate my larger point that ideological labels just create confusion and even anger in these discussions. But another reason I didn’t make a case for it is that there is only the remotest connection to the psychology of the ME conflict and so it would have been pretty far from the themes that the owner of this blog offers. If we’re going to start testing our beliefs let’s focus on something that might enlighten that discussion.

  31. oao says:

    yaakov,

    my guess that you’ll be as productive engaging ray as i was. there are serious limitations there.

  32. oao says:

    a nice example of american progressivity and a product of american education:

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/07/024126.php

  33. Ray in Seattle says:

    Come on you guys. Somewhere lurking out there has to be a conservative who has the ability to carry on a non-ideological discussion. I’ve had much better arguments with dedicated Marxists. I thought if there were any conservatives who had serious and well thought-out views on ME culture and conflict and enjoyed airing them – I’d find them here. Occasionally a promising head pops-up but either disappears or turns out to be on an anti-liberal jihad after all.

    I was even hoping the few conservative intellectuals on the national scene would be able to save us from the worst of this leftward madness that you all rail against so much – but they seem to be in hiding.

    Help! Are there no real conservative intellectuals in the blogosphere? ;-)

  34. oao says:

    I’ve had much better arguments with dedicated Marxists.

    i suggest you seek more of them out and enjoy the exchange with them.

    Occasionally a promising head pops-up but either disappears or turns out to be on an anti-liberal jihad after all.

    i suggest you look long and hard in the mirror. as alibama said “some serious self-reflection is advised”

    Help! Are there no real conservative intellectuals in the blogosphere? ;-)

    how would you tell if you encountered them?

  35. oao says:

    here’s how non-govt are the ngo’s:

    Where is all this heading?
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/5192031/where-is-all-this-heading.thtml

  36. oao says:

    another must read:

    Obama’s Love Letters in the Sand; Big Strategy: Ask Arab Leaders to Make Peace with Israel
    By Barry Rubinhttp://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2009/07/obamas-love-letters-in-sand-big.html

  37. krulayar says:

    ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY IS ALREADY ON EARTH !!!

    The sigh of His arrival: A face in the sky video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_OAauYfPwE

    For details:
    Please stop in http://manaalmahdi.wordpress.com
    Please refer to someone incharge fitted whatever doctrine you are.
    This is an exceptionally distinguished essence fitted all mankind.

    Thanks,

    krulayar

  38. Ray in Seattle says:

    Right. I got to 3:45 and saw Allah in the sky. There can be no doubt that he rules the universe. Where do I send my money?

  39. oao says:

    doesn’t look like you respect this guy much, ray.

  40. Ray in Seattle says:

    I wondered if you were going to pick up on that. That was one of those comments I wish I could have edited after submitting.

    But you’re right – my sarcasm was disrespecting his content which I found to be pretty bizarre – submitted to this forum especially. In my favor I didn’t directly disrespect him. I didn’t call him ignorant or an idiot. He could be one of those financial experts in Paris for all I know.

    I suspect he’s on some self-styled religious mission and did a Google on Israel Palestine whatever – and this place made his list. He probably sent the same comment to dozens of sites and will never come back to look for responses. I really doubt I’d ever respond like that to any statement made on a topic that is anywhere within the range of topics this forum covers.

    But your point is taken. Sometimes it’s a fine line and I may have crossed it. Maybe the difference between you and me is where we draw the line on respect. Maybe that’s one difference between liberals and conservatives generally.

  41. [...] we don’t. We also understand that if one is to make representations about abuses, one does so to offficials: [...]

  42. Eliyahu says:

    Ray, that same creep came and posted on my blog. I’m usually pretty tolerant, at least I think so, but I didn’t feel like letting some weirdo preach Islamic da`awa on my site.

  43. Eliyahu says:

    so I erased his silly comment.

  44. Ray in Seattle says:

    Eliyahu, Good for you. I guess I feel I should show tacit respect for whatever comments Richard allows here. Not agreement or support of course, just not insults. That’s the good thing about having your own blog. You get to make the rules and people can visit or not if they agree with the rules. It’s a good system. Now I’ll go visit yours for a while as I forgot you had one.

  45. oao says:

    so I erased his silly comment.

    attaboy, eliyahu.

  46. [...] for this twisted morality. Noah Pollak over at Contentions explains how both Sarah Leah Whitson of Saudi notoriety and the author of the report, Joe Stork, have long careers and anti-Israel advocates [...]

  47. [...] is an amazing statement, and shows how little HRW either understands what’s going on in a country like Saudi Arabia, or, more likely, shows how shallow their “defenses” are. This is not about the [...]

  48. [...] a woman.” Of course, that would be a ludicrous statement to make. And it illustrates just how far off track the “human rights community” have been taken with their moral equivalence. But [...]

  49. [...] a woman.” Of course, that would be a ludicrous statement to make. And it illustrates just how far off track the “human rights community” have been taken with their moral equivalence. But [...]

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