Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Coke-Lite of International Law: Goldstone Speaks at Yale

Judge Richard Goldstone spoke yesterday at Yale in the framework of the George Herbert Walker Bush Jr. Lecture in International Relations. Obviously a most prestigious platform for someone of stature, but inappropriate for a figure who is not only highly controversial, but has done much to marginalize himself, as Noah Pollak and Adam Yoffie pointed out the previous day in the Yale Daily.

The talk did not directly address the “Gaza Fact-finding Mission Report” as Goldstone referred to it, but it did tackle the subject of “Accountability for War Crimes,” and Goldstone brought in Israel on occasion as an example of the issues he raised.

Perhaps the single most striking feature of the talk was its staggering superficiality. Goldstone might have a reputation (at least among those familiar with his report) for being biased, but not for being a lightweight. And yet in the less than forty minutes of his formal lecture, at no point did one get the impression that one was listening to a trained legal mind, much less a brilliant one. Most of the lecture could have been written by an undergraduate who combined entries at Wikipedia on International Law, Nuremberg Trials, Geneva Convention, and Rome Treaty, with a warmed over version of “war is not the answer,” and “why can’t we all just get along and follow the law?”

In the world of academia, where presumably we have high standards, such a mediocre performance – especially when widely praised – attests to a distinct deterioration in academic discourse. That people, like Phillip Weiss (below), can find Goldstone’s presentation “brilliant” and “wise” suggests that we are (once again) in an age of misapplied superlatives, grade inflation, and partisan judgments.

Goldstone’s initial discussion sounded quite reasonable: in order for “universal jurisdiction” to work in a court like the ICC, they have to deal specifically with “grave breaches.” The court has to have credibility, it must be trusted for its fairness, in order for it to work. And in order to gain that kind of credibility, it needs to focus on deeds that are “so shocking to the minds of people that they constitute crimes against humanity.” Proportionality is a matter of judgment, and in such cases, great leeway is given to commanders in the “fog of war” in making such judgments.

So far so good, although I confess I couldn’t figure out from these remarks why he ever took on the Gaza Mission. Could that letter to the Times from Amnesty International signed by three of the four future members of the Gaza Mission, including Goldstone, be a clue? After all, the signatories had expressed how the recent events (not the previous eight years of suicide bombings and rockets aimed at civilians), “have shocked us to the core.” Nothing similar appeared from these signatories at the death of some 20,000 civilians in Sri Lanka only months later, nothing about the millions in Congo. But the Israeli attacks on Gaza, in which, even by the most hostile Palestinian counts, fewer than a thousand civilians were killed, that “shocks to the core.”

I kept thinking to myself, “how could he, with these principles and concerns in mind, have accused Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity”?

That impression was further confirmed when he began his most “interesting” discussion, of the principle of “equality.” Initially, the discussion seemed to reinforce my puzzlement. Equality relates intimately to human dignity: [below is a paraphrase taken from notes, the lecture will be available online in about a week]

…if some are given greater rights, the greater the inequality the greater the indignity… Most if all human rights violations are the product of such indignities… Without dehumanization people don’t commit crimes against humanity; the people who engage in genocide have already dehumanized their targets.

Isn’t this precisely what Elihu Richter and Maurice Ostroff had warned Goldstone about in their memos about the way Hamas operates. How could the man who says this have gone to Gaza and come out without a word about the industry of hatred and dehumanization that rules the public sphere there? Worse yet, how could this man say these things when his own report had allowed and highlighted a Palestinian “witness” accusing Israel of this execrable practice.

“Much worse than most of its detractors (and supporters) believe”: Dershowitz on Goldstone

Alan Dershowitz has written a 45-page article dissecting the Goldstone report’s “evidentiary bias,” which he is submitting it as evidence to the Secretary General of the UN. It’s now up at Understanding the Goldstone Report:




The Goldstone Report, when read in full and in context, is much worse than most of its detractors (and supporters) believe. It is far more accusatory of Israel, far less balanced in its criticism of Hamas, far less honest in its evaluation of the evidence, far less responsible in drawing its conclusion, far more biased against Israeli than Palestinian witnesses, and far more willing to draw adverse inferences of intentionality from Israeli conduct and statements than from comparable Palestinian conduct and statements. It is worse than any report previously prepared by any other United Nations agency or human rights group. As Major General Avichai Mandelblit, the advocate general of the Israeli Defense Forces, aptly put it:

    “I have read every report, from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Arab League. We ourselves set up investigations into 140 complaints. It is when you read these other reports and complaints that you realize how truly vicious the Goldstone report is. He made it look like we set out to go after the economic infrastructure and civilians, that it was intentional: It’s a vicious lie.”

The Goldstone report is, to any fair reader, a shoddy piece of work, unworthy of serious consideration by people of good will, committed to the truth.

Most of the criticism and praise of the report has been based on its highly publicized and controversial conclusions, rather than on its methodology, analysis and substantive findings. The one statement Richard Goldstone has made, with which I agree, is that many of the report’s most strident critics have probably not read the entire report. But it is also true, though I have not heard the report’s biased author say this, that many of the report’s most vocal defenders and advocates have also not read it.

It is not surprising that so few of the report’s critics and supporters have actually made their way through its dense and repetitive texts. The version I originally read was 553 pages long plus appendices. There are 1223 footnotes, though many of its most critical statements are not well sourced. It is poorly written, obviously drafted by several different hands and without the benefit of a good overall editor. It is laden with internal inconsistencies, shoddy citations of authority, and overall poor craftsmanship. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, this report lacks even the grace of a dromedary. Most of the commentary on the report, both pro and con, seems to be based on its somewhat sanitized summary and conclusion. Some of the worst mistakes are buried very deep in the report, many of the most serious ones toward the end.

Efforts are currently underway by supporters of the report to have governments, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations, religious groups and distinguished individuals sign on to the report, so as to give it the credibility it now lacks. No one should do so without reading the report in full—and without reading responsible criticisms (and defenses) of the report. I have read every word of the report and compared different sections. I have offered to debate Goldstone about its contents. He has refused, as he has generally refused to respond substantively to credible critics of the report. My offer to debate still stands. If he refuses, as I expect he will, let him at least respond to the serious legal, factual and moral criticisms contained in this study and others. As the head of the mission and the report’s most visible public defender, Goldstone has a public obligation to respond to responsible criticism, which to date, he has not done.

In the coming week, the Secretary-General of the United Nations will present a compilation of responses to the Goldstone Report. I am submitting this analysis for inclusion.

From the report:

palestinian casualties in ocl

Read the rest.

The Darwins are out. Why do some remind me of the MSNM

This one, for example (read MSNM for staff):

4. After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies.. The deception wasn’t discovered for 3 days.

At least the staff figured it out three days later…

UPDATE: as Robert noted, this may be an urban legend. I couldn’t find it in the Darwin Awards, but received it from someone who sent a list of them. Take it as an urban legend; it describes the MSNM rather well, especially the three stooges – MSNM, “Human Rights” NGOs, Goldstone.

Death Wish: Why Are We So In Love with the Apocalypse? Kalder’s Interview with me

I recently posted the article that Daniel Kalder wrote about apocalyptic in the Spectator. Now he’s published the interview he had with me at Breitbart’s Big Journalism.

Death Wish: Why Are We So In Love with the Apocalypse?
Posted by Daniel Kalder
Jan 24th 2010 at 3:38 pm
Christianity, End Times, History, Iran, Islam | Comments (45)

It’s impossible to avoid the apocalypse these days. Whether we encounter the End in the form of news reports on Global Warming, or fears of Iran getting bomb, or plague panics such as H1N1, we seem to be living in a high point of apocalyptic anxiety, with horrible Doomsdays lurking round every corner.

And yet, the End has never been so much fun. Roland Emmerich released his latest apocalyptic blockbuster 2012 in November, and since then we have enjoyed Zombieland, The Road, The Book of Eli, Legion and even Al Gore’s dreadful poem read aloud on morning TV in the presence of a fawning sycophant. Much more is to come, and this is to say nothing of video games, books, comics, or half the output of the History Channel.

What lies behind this fascination with the End? Dr. Richard Landes, professor of mediaeval history at Boston University, is a renowned scholar of apocalyptic movements who has been thinking about Doomsday for forty years. He is the editor of the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and author of the upcoming Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of Millennial Experience. Landes is an exceptionally interesting thinker who applies his knowledge of past apocalypses to our present fears, an analysis which frequently informs the articles he publishes at his website The Augean Stables.

Recently I phoned him from my base in Texas, to chat about mankind’s enduring love affair with the apocalypse. I caught him in Tel Aviv airport at 2 a.m, and it was then, against a backdrop of deepest night, that we spent two hours discussing the end of the world:

With all these apocalyptic films coming out, and fears of Global Warming, plague and nuclear proliferation running rampant, do you think that we are living through an era of heightened apocalyptic anxiety?

You know, that’s almost a precise paraphrase of what journalists were asking me in the 90s, while looking ahead to the year 2000. That was when we had all those movies about planet-destroying comets, and fears of the Y2K bug… There’s always an apocalyptic undercurrent in our culture, but sometimes it comes to the fore.

Why is the pull of apocalyptic belief so strong?

Our love for the apocalypse is connected with our sense of our own importance. To live in apocalyptic expectation means that you are the chosen generation; that in your time the puzzle of existence will be solved. It appeals to our- by which I mean humanity’s- megalomania: we all want to believe we’re special, that God has given us a front row seat for the most important events in history.

But where does it come from?

The Goldstone Report Part I and II: A Failure of Intelligence, A Miscarriage of Human Rights

I have just published an article in MERIA (Middle East Review of International Affairs) on Goldstone’s Gaza Report in two parts:

The Goldstone Report Part I: A Failure of Intelligence


The Goldstone Report Part II: A Miscarriage of Human Rights

From the conclusion:

Intimidation and Advocacy: The Narcissistic Payoff

There is something more sinister here even than various forms of animosity toward Jews, conscious and unconscious, or radical ideologies that have somehow lost their way. If it were only that problem, then reasoned discourse, hard evidence, and some serious self-criticism on the part of the parties involved might help, at least in some cases. One wouldn’t find so much unanimity. There is, however, something more fundamental that underlies the positions taken in the Arab-Israeli conflict, something that explains why, despite so many powerful anomalies (like Hamas using human shields and shutting out aid at the Egyptian border), “progressives” continue to cling to their self-destructive paradigms and adopt positions that so violate the very principles they claim to espouse. That more powerful factor is: “We are afraid and we cannot admit it.”

Journalists in particular, subject to pervasive threats and occasional violence in the Palestinian territories (and elsewhere in the Middle East), cannot possibly admit this to their readers and viewers for fear of losing credibility. Moreover, not inclined toward living in the constant recognition that they have succumbed to the double indignity of bending their knee to jihadi demands, and to hiding that fact from their audiences, they prefer to believe that they say what they do out of advocacy. They can thus feel noble by embracing the cause of the oppressed (who happen to be the same people who threaten them). How much braver it feels to accuse the Israelis of whining about unfair coverage than to admit one cannot report honestly on Hamas’ behavior. With the alchemy of advocacy for the “oppressed” and “wretched of the earth,” they transform this double cowardice into bravery, “speaking truth to Israeli power.”

That intimidation, however, extends beyond the journalistic front lines to the home front as well. Since the Salmon Rushdie affair in 1989, Muslims have realized that they can extend Shari’a through intimidation, that when they call for targeted killings of blasphemers of Islam, the West will back down. The twenty-first century has been a privileged terrain for such spectacles of intimidation and appeasement, among the most spectacular (and enduring) concerned the “Muhammad Cartoons.” Note that the same radical forces in Islam that responded so violently–and so openly about their agenda–to Western indiscretions, also, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, produced a stunningly long list of suicide attacks on civilians of all faiths around the world, beginning with Israel, but then becoming frequent in both the West and Muslim-majority societies.

Much of this intimidation has been internalized in the form of a politically correct narrative whose hegemony depends on the silences it imposes. It denounces any criticism that offends Muslims as gratuitous insult and provocation. The key issue, of course, is where should one draw the line between gratuitous insult and important criticism? If politeness is not saying certain things lest there be violence, civility is being able to say certain things and there won’t be violence. Is contemporary Western discourse too obsessed with being polite with Muslims? Are they too thin-skinned (especially given how violently they can dish out the criticism)? It certainly seems strange then that supporters of human rights and defenders of free speech expend far more effort silencing those who “seem” to insult Islam, than offensive Muslims who call for the death of blasphemers, who carry signs in the streets of European capitals that read: “Slay all those who insult Islam.”

Those who follow this politically-correct line so dominate the public discourse that any dissent takes one on a perilous path to marginalization–those who make even mildly critical remarks about Muslims, Arabs, or Palestinians are rapidly dismissed as proto-fascists. If they persist, they may be accused of incitement, Islamophobia, and even holocaust denial (of the genocide against the Palestinians). What is portrayed as politically correct–whether Hina Jilani’s it would be “cruel not to believe” or Erik Alterman’s it is an “inarguably racist rant” to say that “Arabs are feigning outrage”–trumps trying to determine what actually happened based on the evidence. They think they are being virtuously generous and open-minded; but in the world of cognitive warfare, the outcome is systematic renunciation all the West’s main defenses.

As a result, Americans don’t know how to protect themselves from real enemies like Major Malik Hassan, FBI Arabic translators whose loyalties lie elsewhere, or government advisors who “help” law enforcement and security deal with the Muslim community. Ironically, stigmatizing as a “right-winger” and an “Islamophobe” anyone who points out the “us-them” ideology–wala wa bara (loyalty to fellow Muslims and enmity to infidels), a mentality so prevalent among Muslims and so effectively incited by radicals–will make it harder to counteract that problem. The losers here are moderates on all sides, especially among the Muslims whom jihadists like Hamas and Jama’at-e-Islami are permitted to stigmatize as collaborators with the enemy.

Alas, Goldstone may have won his peaceful sleep at the cost of the Gazans’–and everyone else’s–nightmares, for not only does his report target Israel, it will eventually serve to target every civil polity with a powerful army attacked by this asymmetrical war waged by jihadi forces. Ironically, once these other armies become aware of the heightened standards, they go straight to Israel for advice on how to lower the civilian tolls in their military maneuvers.

The consequences of such self-delusion are massive. The Goldstone Report embodies an astonishing failure of Western culture to collect reliable intelligence, to “see” clearly enough to make sober judgments and take effective decisions. A systematic inversion sets in: al-Dura 2000, symbol of Palestinian blood libels, becomes “Israel’s images of hate”; Jenin 2002, the most exceptional example of military self-sacrifice for the sake of sparing enemy civilians in the history of human warfare, becomes “the Jenin Massacre”; Lebanon and Gaza 2006-2009, the revolting spectacle of religious fanatics victimizing their own people in a war of extermination, become symbols of freedom fighters resisting Israeli apartheid imperialism. The result, as Irwin Cotler points out, is the grotesque double moral inversion of making Israel the only country accused of genocide, even as it is the only contemporary country subject to incitement as the object of genocide.

It may make many in the West feel good to “believe” the Arab Muslim narrative of suffering at the hands of the Israeli oppressor. After all, it allows them to be generously empathic, and to wag the finger at Israel. Yet it also empowers the very forces of intolerance, violence, and reactionary goals they imagine they are opposing. It is neither honorable nor courageous; it is a capitulation that endangers the most hard-earned freedoms. Even as they congratulate themselves on bravely balancing advocacy and “objective” journalism, reporters daily betray the very charge given to them by the citizens they serve–to report accurately.

If someone had told the founders of Hamas, as they penned their genocidal “charter” of Islamic supremacy in 1988, that in 20 years time, infidels in Europe would be carrying their flags and chanting “We are Hamas,” they would have laughed in disbelief. It is not that the jihadists–violent and “non-violent”– are so smart or talented at deception; it is that their Western counterparts are so stupid. Great civilizations do not necessarily die or fall to superior powers; they can self-destruct.

Goldstone’s inexcusably unprofessional report represents a major step on the way to either the suicide of a human rights culture unique in history and a millennium in the making, or a global war that will beggar World War II for casualties. The tragedy is that this fight might be won largely non-violently by showing some courage, honesty, and judgment. Given the cost in lives that would ensue in a war with the vicious forces now empowered daily, is that too much to ask for?

The Progressive Case for Israel, the Arabs and the Global Community

Several years ago I was asked to write an essay on the progressive case for Israel. The editor did not like the essay — thought it too convoluted, I think. I just ran across it, and thought I’d put it here. Comments welcome.

The Progressive Case for Israel, the Arabs, and the Global Community.

The following essay constitutes the groundwork for a discussion about globalization and fairness, with the Arab-Israeli conflict as the focus of a particular case study. It represents a progressive case that aims to benefit both Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and, in the longer run, hopefully, peoples all over the globe. It begins by making explicit progressive values and goals, and then considers how best to empower such values. Then the essay looks first at the ways in which these values play out in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and which forces on both sides of the ethnic conflict show commitment to those values. It then compares this analysis with the current Leftist consensus on the causes and possible solutions to the Middle East conflict, a contrast that suggests that current consensus actually undermines the progressive values it claims to promote. It concludes with the outline of a course of discursive actions which will hopefully lead to a progressive outcome for everyone in the Middle East and in this increasingly globalized world in which we live.

I. Progressive Values

The fundamental progressive commitment concerns the relationships between those with a hand on the technologies of power (elites) and those who labor (commoners). Put briefly, we might sum it up as the belief that elites should make the bounties of nature and culture available to all, commoners as well as elites, and hence dedicate themselves to programs that educate, empower and elevate commoners both to exercise freedom and participate in the deliberations of power. Correspondingly, all that seeks to prune back the excesses of power – opacity, arbitrariness, privilege, arrogance, violence, hierarchy and authoritarianism – find favor among progressives.

Haiti and Israel

I have not had the time to post on the Haiti Earthquake and the Israeli response. It’s not really the subject of this blog, and I’ve just started teaching so I have no time. For those who want more coverage on this, go to the IDF blog, and this post by Woman Honor Thyself; and this entry at the LA Times blog.

But these pictures struck me as relevant to what I try to communicate here.

israeli soldier in haiti

surviving haitian orphan

The media, taking their lead from Palestinian spokesmen and women whose major purpose in life is to wholesale lethal narratives about Israelis, have left the world with an image of Israeli soldiers as happy murderers of little kids. I think the smiles on these men’s faces tells us a great deal about the IDF: they’re much happier saving lives than taking them.

Golda Meir famously said

When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons. (Statement at a Press Conference in London, 1969)

Many people, especially those from cultures in which you are not a “man” until you’ve killed another man, have trouble understanding this. But this man’s face illustrates precisely that point.

Golda also said,

Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us. (Statement to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., 1957)

The 21st century version of that is, “There will be clarity when the “Left” and the news media care about their values and the rest of the people around the world, more than they want to dump on Israel.”

Variant: “They care as much about the rest of the people around the world as much as do Israelis.”

It’s not that the media exaggerate, or distort. They invert.

Of course, they get help from Jews/Israelis who just can’t beat their breasts enough: Steven Plocker, “What about Gaza?” Gee, maybe if the Gazan didn’t vote for genocidal maniacs, and abuse Israeli medical generosity to try and blow up hospitals, there might be an outpouring of help. But, no. For folks like Plocker (and the entirely predictable Akiva Eldar), Israelis have to be perfect, and pour out their generosity on people who do everything they can to destroy them.

Just like everyone else, no?

Actually, thinking about the evolutionary process, I’d say that no culture that allowed a ruthlessly hostile enemy’s narrative to colonize its brain — if it ever happened — lasted very long. Christian Rome?

The New Siege: The Goldstone Report and the Campaign to Delegitimize Israel

I’ll be speaking tomorrow night in Los Angeles on a panel with two of my favorite writers, blogger Omri Ceren and columnist Martin Sherman, on the Goldstone Report, sponsored by Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Anyone in the LA area, please feel free to come.

The New Siege: The Goldstone Report and the Campaign to Delegitimize Israel

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 – 7:00 p.m.
Luxe Hotel Sunset
11461 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049

A moderated panel on how human rights groups are collaborating with multilateral organizations and media outlets to undermine Israel’s ability to exist. The panelists include Dr. Richard Landes, Professor of History at Boston University, who will be joined by Dr. Martin Sherman, Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University, who will speak on the failures of Israeli public diplomacy, Omri Ceren, PhD Candidate in Communication and Media at USC, who will speak on media complicity in delegitimization and Deputy Consul General Gil Artzyeli of Israel in Los Angeles will outline the Israeli response to the Goldstone Report in general and to the broader campaign against Israel.

On the eve of the 62nd anniversary of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, establishing the partition of Mandate-era Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon commented that “if there was a vote to admit Israel to the United Nations today… we would not get in.”

The Jewish State in 2009 is under attack from the broadest and most sustained delegitimization campaign since before the founding of the modern Jewish State, bringing together journalists, academics, jihadists, diplomats, totalitarian thugs, and human rights activists in a coordinated effort to erode Israel’s freedom to defend itself. The widely criticized Goldstone Report, accused Israel of war crimes during its defensive Cast Lead operation while ignoring Hamas’ deliberate use of its own population as human shields, and downplaying the role of almost a decade of documented rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from Gaza, is at the center of this global anti-Israel campaign.

The panel will explore the flaws in the Report, the potential consequences of its implementation, and the responses of its critics.

Join us for this timely and critical panel discussion followed by Q&A

Ben Wedeman trying to undermine Israel on its Aid to Gaza: But even he has to admit…

Here’s Ben Wedeman in the second week of the war commenting on Israel’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, by supplying Gazans with aid.

This is a particular gem of MSNM moral and intellectual confusion since his overall thrust is that Israel’s aid is a) just PR for show, b) pretty pathetic given that “ironically, their actually bombing the place,” and c) that no one’s impressed in Gaza since Israel’s to blame for the blockade in the first place. In the process of dismissing Israel’s effort, he makes an error which forces him to correct himself in mid-stream, which then leads him in another direction. The result: a revealing piece of euphemistic nonsense well worth savoring.

Well Israel has allowed a steady number of trucks coming with humanitarian goods uh into Gaza. This rather ironically as they’re actually bombing the place they’re sending food in as well. My understanding is 66 trucks went in today, so they do want to be at least seen as, as uh caring or providing or allowing others to provide humanitarian relief to the civilian population. Uh, but that sort of thing doesn’t necessarily go down very well, because it’s only Israel that controls the crossings, uh, into Gaza, with the exception of the one in Egypt and uh so, therefore if Israel were to cut off the supply altogether, uh, they would depend on Egypt and that’s not a good, uh, place to depend on.

Let’s take this piece apart:

Quotes to Ponder

Revolutionary Islamism is the main strategic problem in the world today. Terrorism is the main tactical problem.
Barry Rubin, Radical Islamism: An Introductory Primer

“…the structure of the bargain required to be struck between [Israel] and the Arabs seems inherently irresolvable. For whatever appears to be even minimally adequate…for Israel, seems to be totally inadequate… for the Arabs“.
Martin Sherman, The Politics of Water in the Middle East (Macmillan,1999), p. 94

” …the maximum that any government of Israel will be ready to offer the Palestinians and still survive… is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian leader can accept.”
Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National
Security Council, The Future of the Two-State Solution 2009

“I think that this is the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.” Abba Eban, to the UN on 1967 Six-Day War. (HT: NL)

“If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” Abba Eban (HT: NL)

Accepting other suggestions.

The demonisation of Israel is largely based on lies – much as the demonisation of the Jews during the past 2,000 years has been based on lies. And there is a connection between the two.”

Benny Morris – letter to the Irish Times (H/T: MN)

“Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction — out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East — is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.”

Thomas Friedman, Campus Hypocrisy (H/T: MN)

Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Abba Eban (H/T: SG)

Nota Bene: I have a longstanding nitpick with this quote, and I just heard an interesting variant on it yesterday. First, the nitpick. Ebban is being a liberal cognitive egocentrist: these seem like opportunities for him because they’re positive-sum deals that allow everyone to move on. How bourgeois.

For the Palestinians, these are not opportunities, they’re traps into which, were they to fall, they would never recover from the humiliation. In their zero-sum minds where if Israel wins anything, they lose, they’re not “missing an opportunity,” they’re avoiding defeat.

On the other hand, they never miss an opportunity to dump on Israel, no matter how self-destructive or irrational.

Abbas calls Goldstone “My brother, Richard Muhammad Goldstone,” even though the report strengthens his deadly enemies in Hamas (far more deadly than Israel).

Fayyad develops a plan for statehood “alongside Israel” that welcomes the destruction of Israel in the back door, and ramps up a cognitive war campaign to delegitimize Israel in Europe.

Like Europeans with their moral Schadenfreude truffles of Anti-Zionism, the Palestinians are addicted to their hatreds and vendettas. Except where Europe is like a fat man with a 300 Cholesterol count, still popping the truffles at every turn, the Palestinians and other Jihadis are mean and hungry.

“A psychotic sense of vanity and barbarous presumption” – David Thompson on Identity and Grievance

David Thompson is one of my favorite bloggers. Always right on. He tackles a particularly interesting issue that takes him from the flakey Duke U. faculty and their feminist proclivities to the indulgent (and BBC-indulged) rage of Jihadis over the Danish cartoons.

Elsewhere (15)

Stuart Taylor takes another look at Duke University, where its infamous far left faculty has dug in even deeper.

    Duke’s rules define sexual misconduct so broadly and vaguely as to include any sexual activity without explicit “verbal or nonverbal” consent, which must be so “clear” as to dispel “real or perceived power differentials between individuals [that] may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.” The disciplinary rules deny the accused any right to have an attorney at the hearing panel or to confront his accuser. The rules also give her – but not him – the right to be treated with “sensitivity”; to make opening and closing statements; and to receive copies of investigative documents.

Jeff Goldstein notes why Duke’s infestation will persist.

    The fact is, the people who make up these activist identity groups need their “isms.” And because fighting a particular “ism” is what gives them their identity to begin with, they cannot allow the “ism” ever to be stamped out without, in effect, obviating their own identities.

As Jeff, myself and others have pointed out, the relevance and power of identity politics advocates requires a cultivation of grievance among those ostensibly being championed. The grievance narrative must never be allowed to go away, whatever the actual situation, since grievance (or professed grievance) is the principal source of leverage, influence and funding. Even if this entails exaggerating minor slights or distorting statistics, or framing the issue so tendentiously that almost any kind of dissent can be deemed oppressive and malign. See, for instance, the ludicrous campus rape claims of Barbara Barnett, formerly of Duke, or the reactions of many feminists to factual correction by Christina Hoff Sommers, or the outrageous treatment of Keith John Sampson and Thomas Thilbeault.

And Ophelia Benson notes some routine moral flummery at the BBC.

    It had to report on this al-Shabab guy trying to kill Kurt Westergaard so therefore it had to make sure you didn’t get the wrong idea and think it, the BBC, didn’t think Kurt Westergaard deserved it, at least a little bit.

Indeed. Yesterday morning, the BBC’s Today programme performed much the same manoeuvre, suggesting the attempt to murder the 75-year-old cartoonist with an axe showed the strength of “feeling” on the issue and the “anger that still exists over what he did.” A more realistic response might stress instead a psychotic sense of vanity and barbarous presumption – one that validates the point of Westergaard’s cartoon.

Feel free to share your own items of interest.

Post further examples here and at his blog.

NOTE: I have not had time to check the links, but I trust Thompson’s judgment. Please let me know if you find problems.

Taqiyya, Territorial Expansion, and the Western European Future

On my class list-serv (class of ’71), we’ve had a discussion of the relationship of Muslim demographics to aggressive behavior. I posted these remarks based on two remarkable pieces, one by Raymond Ibrahim on Taqiyya and Islam, and one a video made by a exceptionally courageous Parisian of the take-over of some public streets in Paris every Friday for 2 and a half hours.

As everyone who’s spent some time with the Quran knows, it’s full of contradictions, especially on the subject of the use of violence. “No coercion in matters of religion” (sura 2) vs “Fight against the infidel till they either convert or submit” (suras 8, 9). The Muslim commentators came up with the principle of abrogation, in which the later passages (the suras are not listed chronologically, but the later Medina suras are the more coercive) abrogated the earlier ones.

In a very important article Raymond Ibrahim lays out the implications of this for Islam:

However interpreted, the standard view [among Muslim scholars] on Qur’anic abrogation concerning war and peace verses is that when Muslims are weak and in a minority position, they should preach and behave according to the ethos of the Meccan verses (peace and tolerance); when strong, however, they should go on the offensive on the basis of what is commanded in the Medinan verses (war and conquest). The vicissitudes of Islamic history are a testimony to this dichotomy, best captured by the popular Muslim notion, based on a hadith, that, if possible, jihad should be performed by the hand (force), if not, then by the tongue (through preaching); and, if that is not possible, then with the heart or one’s intentions.[23]

In a study of tolerance in the Protestant Reformation, Andrew Pettegree came to the conclusion that “tolerance was a loser’s creed” (p. 198), that when they began, Protestant movements were in favor of free speech and dissent (protest), but as soon as they were in a position to take power, then they argue that God gave them their strength because they are right, and imposing their belief is what God wants. Thus, the US constitution is the first time in the history of Christianity that tolerance is a winner’s creed.

Now how that happened, and how it can happen in Islam is not something we will figure out by making arguments about moral equivalence (we were just as bad) or moral inversion (we’re worse).

I strongly recommend the Ibrahim article for many reasons, not the least being the problem it sets before us on this issue: while in Christianity there is no hint of the principle that drove so many Christians to seek power to impose their beliefs on others — on the contrary, everything “argues” against it — the Quran has actually embedded in its collection of suras that very argument, formalized by later commentators across the board (all four schools of jurisprudence). If libido dominandi (the lust to dominate) can have that affect on Christians whose texts are against these principles, a fortiori, will it be difficult for Muslims to confront them… especially if we don’t confront them about these matters.

Before 2000, virtually every book on Islam argued that it was overwhelming a fatalistic religion (inshallah — if God wills it), an attitude that permits many today to argue that the “vast majority of Muslims are moderate.” In the 1960s and 70s sociologists, working on the “secularization model” were depicting its imminent demise.

1979 marks the beginning and 2000 marks a key turning point in Muslim attitudes globally (aided by both media and the second intifada/9-11), in which allahu akhbar as a war cry became more and more widespread. This “awakening” has changed many Muslim attitudes towards both themselves and their neighbors.

There is a territorial battle going on that we are losing because we don’t/won’t even recognize it.

I recommend watching the video full screen in order to read the English subtitles.

Goldstone vs. Talal abu Rahmah on Hamas’ human shields: Whom to believe

As any serious reader of this blog knows, I don’t have a lot of respect for Talal abu Rahmah, the seeing of whose rushes (see below) for September 30, 2000 inspired the term Pallywood. So what to think when he and another favorite unreliable rogue in my gallery disagree?

The Goldstone Report, at paragraph 481, takes up the subject of whether Hamas deliberately hid among civilians.

¶481. On the basis of the information it gathered, the Mission is unable to form an opinion on the exact nature or the intensity [emphasis added] of their [Hamas’] combat activities in urban residential areas that would have placed the civilian population and civilian objects at risk of attack. While reports reviewed by the Mission credibly indicate that members of Palestinian armed groups were not always dressed in a way that distinguished them from civilians, the Mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack [emphasis added].

Moshe Halbertal in “The Goldstone Illusion,” not an author known for his sarcasm, remarks on Goldstone’s cautious conclusion:

The reader of such a sentence might well wonder what its author means. Did Hamas militants not wear their uniforms because they were inconveniently at the laundry? What other reasons for wearing civilian clothes could they have had, if not for deliberately sheltering themselves among the civilians?

So imagine my surprise when I ran across the following gem from Talal abu Rahmah in a phone interview with a CNN reporter on January 2, 2009:

Hamas, they are under cover, all of them they are civilians now, you don’t see any militants around you, even the cars I don’t know if the car in front of me or in the back of me, if it’s a target or not.

Whom to believe?

Here I think Talal has told us the truth. Why? Partly because he’s showing off. “This is really difficult and scary. I have to do my job, what can I do. Now Hamas…” After presenting himself as a brave journalist who has to do what he must, he jumps on Hamas’ contrasting behavior.

But also, I think he tells us this in part because he thinks the journalist interviewing him is too stupid to notice what a revelation he’s handed her.

And he’s right. Her next question is not: “So Hamas is hiding among civilians and endangering the population? That’s a war crime. How do people feel about that?” Instead it’s the kind of nauseating experiential post-modern journalism that the Gaza war was full of, where the interviewer gives Talal a platform to vaunt his courage, his “in-his-blood” journalism, and the dangers he runs.

Tell us more about how it feels, Talal, send us more pictures, and stay safe. Why without you, we might have to think.

Appendix: Talal’s rushes as presented to the French court (17 of the 21 minutes).

Apocalypse Again? Daniel Kalder on current trends with an assist from RL

With 2012 (the movie) out, I’ve been getting lots of phone calls from journalists dusting off their rollodexes from the 1990s. Among them, Kalder asked the most interesting questions, and has written the most interesting piece (that I know of). It’s published in the Spectator, but not at their site. This is from his.


Daniel Kalder

Last weekend Roland Emmerich’s wrathful CGI God was at it again, killing billions in the name of the Holy Box Office in the film 2012. Having already caused carnage with aliens, an ice age and Godzilla, this time Emmerich took his cue from the Ancient Mayans, whose ‘long calendar’ purportedly stops in 2012. But not only is the End nigh, it’s hugely profitable- 2012 raked in $225 million globally in three days. With numbers like that it’s no surprise that a multitude of apocalypses are in the pipeline: whether humorous (Woody Harrelson battles the undead in Zombieland) or depressing (father and son trek across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in The Road) it’s boom time for doom time.

It is surely no coincidence that imaginary catastrophes are flooding our cinema screens at a time when the news itself seems exceptionally apocalyptic. Secular prophets armed with statistics and graphs warn us daily of a new Deluge, coming as punishment for our crimes against the planet. The President of Iran leaves a chair vacant at cabinet meetings for the Hidden Imam, chases the bomb and threatens to wipe nuclear-armed Israel off the map. And speaking of nukes, only a few months ago Taliban forces advanced very close to Pakistan’s own atomic arsenal. Then there’s the plague: H1N1 is spreading across the globe, making a lot of people a bit ill, and leaving a very small minority dead. But if H1N1 doesn’t get us, perhaps economic meltdown or- better yet- overpopulation will, as a scramble for resources sets off apocalyptic wars. And while governments seek solutions, some declare that our situation is hopeless. Interviewed in the Spectator this February, James Lovelock, doyen of the Green movement said: ‘If there were 100 million of us on the earth, we could do almost anything we liked without harm. At seven billion I doubt if anything is possible or will significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption; by significantly I mean enough to halt global warming.’

So: are we doomed? And if so- why are so many people so excited about it?

Flash dance in Antwerp Station

Even the Belgians smile.

Real life imitates spoof: a playground explosion on Israeli TV

Dan Margalit, TV interviewer, has a blistering exchange with Member of Knesset Dr. Jamal Zahalka. It’s awfully reminiscent of this.

Note, at the end, the reference to Sheikh Munis, the Arab name for the village they claim was displaced by northern Tel Aviv suburbs (including the university).

Also note that in the process of becoming excited, Zahalka goes from 400 dead children to 1400. Shades of the Goldstone Report.

The transcript of the exchange is here.

Freedom of Speech and the Thrash of Globalizing Cultures: Lessons from Ancient Athens for the 21st Century

I recently attended the History conference of the Athens Institute of Education and Research. Even the organizers admit it’s something of an occasion to visit Athens. I decided to praise the ancient Athenians for their notion of parrhesia (despite their brilliantly self-destructive flaws) and criticize our current pusillanimous academic scene’s dhimmi behavior vis-a-vis Arab and Islamic efforts to bully us into curtailing our freedom of speech so we can “respect” their thin skin. No one challenged me, and later, singly, a dozen people came to tell me how glad they were I had spoken up. I wonder how deep the politically-correct consensus goes, or is it as fragile as the crowd’s praise of the emperor’s new clothes? Below, my talk.

Freedom of Speech and the Thrash of Globalizing Cultures:
Lessons from Ancient Athens for the 21st Century

The so-called “Democratic West” today faces significant challenges both from other cultures, and from critics generated from within. Some of these challenges involve typical competition from rival societies, and helpful self-criticism from members of our own societies. But some represent lethal attacks, both from the outside and from within, and we seem to have exceptional difficulty telling the difference between beneficent and malevolent discourse. This talk is both about the Athenian principle of Parrhesia (“free speech”), and an illustration of it.

Let’s begin with why speech is almost universally not free. In most cultures it is allowed, expected, even required that alpha males shed blood for the sake of honor… if not another’s blood, then one’s own blood (as in seppuku). If you criticize those in power, they will make you pay; if they do not, they lose face and their power immediately begins to wane. People self-censor to avoid suffering the inevitable consequences. In such cultures, violence and intimidation pervade; indeed in tribal warrior cultures, one is not a “man” until one has killed another man. And you’re surely not a man if another demeans you publicly and you do not respond.

But the free tongue is silenced not only by political violence, but by group solidarities. Here we also find the working of a deep-rooted solidarity that insists on silence: “my side right or wrong.” Here we have community pressures in punishing violators: failure to side with “one’s own,” brings shame, and effectively excommunicates the offender. If I do not avenge my relative, I am not a man. Thus any breaking of ranks, even if done on principle, will bring accusations of cowardice not only from the opposing clan, but more devastatingly, from relatives.

And finally we silence ourselves: if one will shed blood to counter unwanted criticism, how much the more will one not reveal embarrassing things about oneself. As a principle, one might describe public self-criticism – admission of fault, sin, failure – as something people avoid whenever possible. As a French friend of mine said, “in France no one admits they were wrong; it’s a sign of weakness.” Public self-criticism is like chewing broken glass; virtually no one does it voluntarily.

The overall point I want to make here is that given these cultural and personal dimensions, the principle of “freedom of speech,” or differently put, the art of giving and receiving public criticism, is actually opposed by an extraordinary array of forces. Its accomplishment, therefore, takes far more than merely legislating free speech or a free press. If the cultural dimensions, both individual and group, are not addressed, no legislation will make a significant difference. Obviously and thankfully, we all self-censor, but the degree of self-censorship, especially in political issues, makes a key difference in the cultural “atmosphere.”

Which brings me now to one of the crucial accomplishments of Athenian society in the middle of the first millennium BCE: the extension of the right of parrhesia, to the public as a whole, or isegoria.