Tom Friedman and the Deep Superficiality of Western thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict

Tom Friedman’s latest effort to offer advice on the “peace negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority offers some in-depth insight into how superficial much of current Western thinking is on the matter. In it, he expresses some exasperation with Israel’s behavior – like a spoiled child – in refusing Obama’s request for an extension of the settlement freeze. In the process of laying out his case, Friedman reveals a curious tunnel vision which, I think, is symptomatic of many Westerners.

It’s not that Friedman’s approach, what I call the PCP1 (Politically Correct Paradigm) is necessarily wrong (which I think it is, at least right now). It’s that Friedman clearly doesn’t even consider that the other approach, the JHSP (Jihad Honor-Shame Paradigm) might be more accurate for analyzing the situation and devising successful strategies to deal with it (which I think it is, at least right now). And it’s not that these paradigms are “scientific” in the sense that one’s right and the other’s wrong. They’re about people and cultures, and therefore much less pre-determined.

But since, if the JHSP is the appropriate one for this case at this time, and you apply strategies based on the PCP, the consequences are far more than simple failure. When post-modern masochism (it’s our fault) comes together with pre-modern sadism (it’s your fault), the marriage is not a very pretty sight.

As a prelude to fisking Friedman, let’s just for a moment, review how differently PCP and JHSP analyze the key issue he treats in this op-ed piece – Israeli settlements on the West Bank. For the Politically-Correct Paradigm (PCP) – which Friedman and the overwhelming majority of the Mainstream News Media (MSNM) channel, as illustrated by Jim Clancy of CNN – they are the obstacle to peace. Settlements beyond the “Green Line” (’67 border) compromise the “land for peace” formula; they eat away at the land that Palestinians want to create their state side by side with Israel.

They are, from the PCP, illegal (or should be if they’re not); they create enormous friction with the local population; they’re troubling evidence of Israel’s expansive tendencies; they ruined the Oslo Peace Process; and it’s entirely understandable that Palestinians are deeply angered by them and demand their cessation. In order for the Peace negotiations to advance, it’s a minimal demand. Settlements have the power to drive “peace” advocates to call for  murdering “every last man, woman and child“, to drive Wikipedia to its least impartial entry. Obama reflected this thinking when he announced his intention to “solve this problem in a year or two” at the beginning of his presidency by pressuring Israel to call a freeze.

Of course, the evidence systematically contradicts the PCP belief that the solution is through settlement dismantling and “land for peace.” Since Israel has already twice agreed to dismantle settlements in the territory it cedes to the Palestinians (Barak 2000, Olmert 2007), construction in 95-97% of the West Bank (i.e., beyond the Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel blocks adjacent to the Green line), far from being an obstacle to peace, just means that the Palestinians will get to enjoy the fruit of Israeli labor. As for work in areas that even the PA has (in principle) agreed will stay in Israel, they’re not an issue. So why do the Palestinians make such a fuss over them?

For the Jihad Honor-Shame Paradigm (JHSP), most (if not all) Palestinians view all of Israel as a settlement; they do not want (the West Bank) land for peace; their definition of peace is “from the river to the sea.” Some – like Abbas – say what we want to hear about compromise in English, but all, in Arabic agree, and teach their children, to expect and demand it all, an effort which has born fruit in the current generation of irredentist Palestinians, 78% of whom feel that Palestine from the river to the sea is an essential goal.

From this perspective, Palestinian objections to building in the West Bank settlements (including East Jerusalem) is ploy to sandbag negotiations, and insistence on no building on any section beyond the Green line is a sign of how little they hold by their agreement to make border adjustments. In short, it’s a sign of bad faith.

Thus, settlements illustrate just how wrong-headed Obama’s approach has been in this regard. Taking Palestinian complaints that the settlements were intolerable to them, and the major obstacle to peace, Obama pressured Israel to put a freeze on building in them as a sign to the Palestinians that they were willing to make concessions for peace. Rather than bring on reciprocal moves from the PA, it made them more intransigent. It literally  created the current problem: for the first time in the history of the “peace process” since 1991, the PA refused to negotiate without a settlement freeze.

In other words, Obama’s strategy backfired. For those of us familiar with the dynamics of the JHSP, this was more than predictable. For those committed to the PCP – the vast majority of the policy makers and MSNM, this didn’t quite sink in. On the contrary, they continued to focus on the settlements as the problem, and demand a further extension of the freeze as a way to get the Palestinians to be more “reasonable.” No lesson learned.

But the problem goes much deeper, and its depth may explain the reluctance of the PCPers to register the failure of (civil) expectations. The very idea that the settlements need to be uprooted, every last one of them, clearly implies that the Palestinians plan a Judenrein state. This is hardly a good omen for Palestinian ability to establish a state that can recognize the human and civil rights of minorities, and presumably a violation of all those principles that progressive use to criticize Israel‘s lack of tolerance today. And yet the PCPers have no problem with this demand; indeed, it’s taken as axiomatic that Israel must accede. Apparently there’s not much appetite for facing the formidable obstacles to peace from the Palestinian side.

But this extremist demand that assumes no possibility of shared space under Palestinian sovereignty, and that excludes Jews from some of their most ancient holy places (among the oldest in human history), points towards a more serious problem: for many Palestinians, especially in their zero-sum political culture, it’s an occupation “from the river to the sea.” Indeed, Tel Aviv is occupied; all of it is to be “returned” or, better yet, seized violently. As the Arab proverb especially popular in the early Second Intifada holds: What was taken by force must be taken back by force!

So the settlement issue is indeed a central issue, but not the way PCP sees it. It’s not the cause of the hostility, but a symptom, and its importance to Palestinians reflects not their concern for getting a decent state, but rather their way to avoid negotiations that might lead to a decent state only on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is a perfect illustration of our cognitive egocentrism that the foundation of all our strategic thinking holds that the Palestinians will make peace if they get their own nation on the land Israel conquered in the ’67 war. And if, as so much evidence indicates, that’s the last thing they want?

As is so often the case with the Palestinians, moreover, what they don’t do is more important than what they do do. The real problem for the last two decades (since Oslo), has not been the plethora of Israeli settlements, but the dearth of Palestinian ones. Had Arafat and his fellows in the PA cared about their people, they would have been building settlements in Area A for Palestinian refugees who preferred living in dignity under Palestinian sovereignty rather than wait in a refugee camp till they can go back and be a minority in Israel.

Not every refugee would have chosen that path, but surely there were many who, given the option, would gladly have chosen to get out of the camps. I’m sure that Habitat for Humanity would have been delighted to help build those Palestinian settlements. Instead, the leadership assumed that the refugees should stay in the camps as a weapon against Israel, and the West looked the other way. Few things illustrate the Palestinian and Arab leadership’s irredentist mindset, and their contribution to the suffering of the Palestinian people, than how they treat their own refugees – what Gazan-born Nonie Darwish calls “an Arab-made misery.” If the Palestinian leadership really wanted peace, they’d be resettling refugees right and left in the land they control.

By reading the Israeli settlements the way they do, PCP not only overlooks all the evidence of Palestinian “bad faith” in negotiating a “secure peace,” it demands that Israel make both real and symbolic concessions to these bad faith demands. Consider such “peace gestures” from the point of view of the hard zero-sum players in the Palestinian camp (and others in the region), which views what Westerner’s consider acts of generosity – admissions of fault, concessions on the ground – as signs of weakness and opportunities for renewed aggression, and one begins to understand why there’s a good deal of hostility in Israel to the one-sided demands the US is putting on them. It’s a recipe not for peace, but for more violence. This strategy doesn’t just threaten Israel, it’s most likely outcome will be bad for anyone, like Friedman, who wants a “secure peace.”

Friedman’s PCP simple-mindedness fisked below.

NB: I’m not defending Netanyahu’s refusal to extend the settlement freeze; I’m criticizing the logic upon which the request – with its centrality and urgency – is based.

Just Knock It Off
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMANPublished: October 19, 2010
* COMMENTS (256)

Some of Israel’s worst critics are fond of saying that Israel behaves like America’s spoiled child. I’ve always found that analogy excessive. Say what you want about Israel’s obstinacy at times, it remains the only country in the United Nations that another U.N. member, Iran, has openly expressed the hope that it be wiped off the map. And that same country, Iran, is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Israel is the only country I know of in the Middle East that has unilaterally withdrawn from territory conquered in war — in Lebanon and Gaza — only to be greeted with unprovoked rocket attacks in return. Indeed, if you want to talk about spoiled children, there is no group more spoiled by Iran and Syria than Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia. Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese — and Hezbollah’s punishment was to be rewarded with thousands more missiles and millions more dollars to do it again. These are stubborn facts.

Of course, one might argue that Hizbullah and Hamas are spoiled by the West, by UNIFIL troops and by the EU, which seems determined to pour money into Gaza and the West Bank no matter what’s being done with it. As Romirowsky puts it, “Being Palestinian means never having to say you’re sorry.” As for Iran and Syria, Obama has spoiled them both by not punishing them for their direct participation in the war against NATO troops in Iraq. (A policy that Mearsheimer was only too happy to support with his assurances that “Iran [was] not at war with us… thankfully.”)

But the key statement in this paragraph is that Israel gave up land – as it did in the Oslo Process and the Lebanon withdrawal, and in every case, found that their concessions brought on not reciprocal concessions, but still more violence. This dynamic, understood, changes the way we should interpret the meaning of paths to peace, none of which will appear in the rest of this article.

And here’s another stubborn fact: Israel today really is behaving like a spoiled child.

Fact? This isn’t even a pre-post-modern use of the term. This is a judgment, and a harsh one at that. Does Friedman really think this is a “fact.” Does he consider his judgments so “objective” (another pre-post-modern term) that they have the status of “fact”? We’ll discuss where the spoiled childishness lies below. For the moment, just note the rhetoric.

Please spare me the nonsense that President Obama is anti-Israel. At a time when the president has made it one of his top priorities to build a global coalition to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon, he took the very logical view that if he could advance the peace process in the Middle East it would give him much greater leverage to get the Europeans and U.N. behind tougher sanctions on Iran. At the same time, Obama believed — what a majority of Israelis believe — that Israel can’t remain a Jewish democracy in the long run if it continues to control 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank.

This is a good example of the way Friedman depends on conventional “wisdom” without question, assuming that the general consensus of the folks he spends his time with must be accurate. Not much room to dissent here: presumably anyone who disagrees is spouting “nonsense.”

But allow me to politely disagree with several of the arguments he adduces to make his point that Obama is not anti-Israel. First, the idea of linkage, that “solving the Arab-Israeli problem” would somehow influence the Europeans and the UN to fight Iranian nuclear ambitions strikes me as a) a pretty wild Rube-Goldberg machine; and b) an unbelievably risky gamble. No one’s been able to resolve this matter, not even Clinton with a two-term presidency and a great deal of good will all around. So to think that you can quickly resolve a century-old conflict as a prelude to dealing with an immediate problem with a very short fuse (Iran’s getting the bomb), strikes me as not “very logical” but “very silly.”

Rather, consider what happened to Clinton’s seven-year effort: it blew up in his (and everyone’s) face, and clearly made things worse all around. To think that Obama could actually rush through a “patch-up” job in this conflict and that would somehow convince the Europeans and the UN nations – whose self-interest has not yet gotten them to unite against an Iranian program which will destabilize the entire region, strikes me as folly. And yet, for Friedman, this piece of strategy strikes him as “very logical.” Whose logic? Our Western, positive-sum logic (which doesn’t even work that well with Europeans)? Or their zero-sum, remorseless logic whereby they cannot win if we (Israel, the US, the West) win?

And yet it is precisely this bizarre “logic” that permits Obama to feel that pressuring Israel into initiating and unilateral concessions will bring “peace.” And it’s precisely the failure to understand the players and their motivations, to understand the Palestinian “logic,” that produces the now-predictable response of Palestinian “negotiators” to Israeli concessions – more demands, if not violence. In this Obama pursues a foreign policy within a paradigm much closer to the view of Walt-Mearsheimer than any of his predecessors.

So whether or not Obama doesn’t like Israel – no one there feels the “love” – his foreign policy dealings with her have shown a degree of hostility that no American President since Eisenhower has ever expressed, including a policy of duplicity at the UN. Israel’s ambassador to the UN reported off the record that as soon as Obama became president, even friends moved away: It was open season. Indeed, when it comes to the key dimension of “honor” and “shame,” until he ran into the reality of broad-based American support for Israel, he systematically shamed Israeli and “respected” the Palestinian sensibilities. Which is why, when the Israelis began their settlement freeze on Obama’s demand, the Palestinians not only increased their demands – total settlement freeze along the ’67 borders, or no negotiations – but Obama let them get away with it.

“Nonsense” is a strange word to use in describing the substantive issues involved in assessing the proposition: “Is Obama anti-Israel?” Is he personally anti-Israel or just “objectively” so (as Marx might put it)? There’s obviously plenty of room to discuss here on both points, a case to be made on both sides. So why the summary dismissal? Friedman elaborates his argument:

On top of it all, while pressing Israel to stop expanding settlements for as little as 60 days, Obama ordered his vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright of the Marines, to lead a U.S. team to work with Israel’s military on an unprecedented package of security assistance to enable Israel to maintain its “qualitative edge” over its neighbors. And, for all this, Obama is decried as anti-Israel. What utter nonsense.

One could just as easily explain Obama’s stepped-up technological cooperation between Israel and the US as an offer aimed at getting Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, so hardly clinching proof of his not being anti-Israel. And yet Friedman now feels he’s made a case to call the opposing position “utter nonsense.” Apparently we’re not dealing with reasoned argumentation here; more likely with rhetorical assertion designed to support a statement of faith, a dogma in which one’s opposition is [must be seen to be] at best, silly.

None of this, alas, deals with the real problems, the problems of attitude which have made this conflict so difficult. None of Friedman’s proof’s even begins to address the real question: Is Obama’s embrace of a “let’s all get together and make peace” approach appropriate in 2010? Or is it recklessly foolish, a disaster not only for Israel, but for Europe, for the USA, for the West. For those with an alternative paradigmatic view of this conflict, one with a great deal of empirical support, Obama’s approach to dealing with the Middle East is counter-indicated. It’s a prolongation of a gambit that suits our Western temperaments: “We’ll be nice (show respect, stand down, self-criticize, make concessions); and you’ll reciprocate.”

It’s a fine gambit, and works more often than not. But every once in a while, it runs up against a different logic: that of Arab/Muslim political culture. It’s the one Israel has run up against now three major times, during the Oslo Peace Process 1993-2000, leaving Lebanon in 2000, and leaving Gaza in 2005. At least in this conflict, concessions actually provoke violence. Israeli concessions, at this point, are guaranteed to produce the opposite result. Every time the US forces Israel into a concession, it’s a message to their enemies that Israel is getting weaker, and they have no incentive to make peace. The only way out of the impasse is acknowledge the failure of this approach, at least under current circumstances.

Of course, realizing the problem only creates a more painful one: there is no “peace now” via Israeli concessions. The bigger they are – back to ’67 borders (i.e., a divided Jerusalem including giving up the Jewish quarter in the Old City) – the more aggression they will invite. The notion that anyone from the outside can step in and discourage that dynamic with “boots on the ground” is seriously taxing the reality principle.

What Obama won’t do, the only move that serious thinking and the experience of the 10-month settlement freeze that brought on a ten-month negotiating freeze from the Palestinians, would recommend, is put the pressure on the Palestinians. After all, why should they demand the settlement freeze? They had it and blew it (by Friedman’s/Obama’s/J-Street’s very own logic). Why should Obama put up with such nonsense? They say, “we have to say no sometime.” Obama can say, “Now’s not the time to say no.”

But Friedman seems oblivious to these issues (despite his mention of the phenomenon in his opening paragraph). For him, Israel’s resistance is literally incomprehensible.

Given what Obama has done, and is trying to do, it is hardly an act of hostility for him to ask Israel to continue its now-expired 10-month partial moratorium on settlement-building in the West Bank in order to take away any excuse from the Palestinians to avoid peace talks.

That’s the logic? Israel continues the settlement freeze to take away the excuses of the Palestinians to avoid peace talks? Why do the Palestinians want to avoid peace talks? Didn’t Obama claim – to widespread approval in the Arab and Muslim world – that their suffering was “intolerable“? Aren’t they looking for peace? And if they’re not, then what’s the meaning for them of this continued Israeli concession? Tell me there’s more to this than a way to “take away” an “excuse”.

First — I know this is a crazy, radical idea — when America asks Israel to do something that in no way touches on its vital security but would actually enhance it, there is only one right answer: “Yes.”

It’s not a crazy radical idea (even if it is an assumption of client-patron state that may be inappropriate for an ally like Israel), but it is, from other perspectives, a silly and even dangerous idea.

Let’s rephrase it from a slightly less giddy and egocentric perspective: When America asks Israel to do something that may well touch on its vital security, and threatens to undermine it further, Israel has a right to say, “Is there anything in this but promises that your logic will work on the Palestinians? Why aren’t you calling the Palestinians on their phony excuses, which are many and thoroughly inconsistent? Why are the Palestinians asked to pay no price for having spent the first ten months of freeze refusing to negotiate? What concession have you asked from them (besides negotiating face to face)? And why should we believe that if we make this concession, and they don’t reciprocate, you will make them pay in any way for their recalcitrance?”

It is a measure of how spoiled Israel has become that after billions and billions of dollars in U.S. aid and 300,000 settlers already ensconced in the West Bank, Israel feels no compunction about spurning an American request for a longer settlement freeze — the only purpose of which is to help the United States help Israel reach a secure peace with the Palestinians.

Now we get breathtakingly superficial. I won’t descend to Friedman’s rhetorical lows in characterizing this statement, but it is something of a jaw-dropper. Anyone who follows Palestinian culture, it’s state-encouraged death cults, its drumbeat of genocidal hatreds, it’s remorseless zero-sum logic in which the enemy, especially one so hated as the Israelis, must lose in order for them to win, understands that “a secure peace” with the Palestinians is not at all “just around the corner, if only the Israelis would cooperate.”

Indeed, if anything, this statement makes Friedman sound like the spoiled child here: “I want peace now! I know how to get it, really I do. So why won’t you just listen to me. I have the big toys and the charge cards, so step in line buddy. I’m in a hurry, can’t you see?”

Just one time you would like Israel to say, “You know, Mr. President, we’re dubious that a continued settlement freeze will have an impact. But you think it will, so, let’s test it. This one’s for you.”

How about, “You know, Mr. President, we’re dubious that a continued settlement freeze will help things; on the contrary, we think they’ll make things worse. But if you think it will, so let’s test it. And if the Palestinians behave as we suspect – more temporizing, continued demonizing, behind the scenes maneuvering to get everything and give nothing – then can we count on you to blow the whistle on them? On those grounds, this one’s for you.”

Israel’s fundamental problem in all these matters is they can only lose these kinds of exchanges because of the West’s overwhelming reluctance to confront the Palestinians. On the contrary, as with Arafat’s turn to violence in late September 2000, they’d sooner blame Israel – Sharon provoked them by visiting the Temple Mount – than hold the Palestinians to minimal standards.

Yes, I know, Netanyahu says that if he did that then the far right-wingers in his cabinet would walk out. He knows he can’t make peace with some of the lunatics in his cabinet, but he tells the U.S. that he only wants to blow up his cabinet once — for a deal. But we will never get to that stage if he doesn’t blow it up now and construct a centrist coalition that can negotiate a deal.

More breathtaking. Friedman’s supposed to know something about the Middle East and its dynamics: he coined the term “Hama Rules” to describe how ruthless dictators will kill tens of thousands of their own people to assure their control. Granted he’s been forgetting more lately than he ever knew, and under the influence of the very (dangerously outdated) intellectual fashions that he shares with Obama. But the idea that for this minor issue – extending the settlement freeze for two months – it’s worth blowing up the Israeli cabinet is nothing short of reckless, not only because it would create a crisis whose resolution is unpredictable (if anything likely to lead to a less cooperative cabinet, rather than Friedman’s “centrist coalition”), but it would immensely encourage the hardliners among the Palestinians who would view this crisis as proof that Israel has to pay for their arbitrary demands. How sloppy can you get in pursuit of “peace now“?

But there’s something deeply troubling in the superficiality of Friedman’s scenario here. I actually believe that he – and many people who find themselves sympathizing with J-Street – actually think that their sole and sincere purpose is to “reach a secure peace with the Palestinians.” It’s why they can, in all good conscience, make these demands, and why Israeli resistance doesn’t set of alarm bells about the wisdom of their policies, but rather elicits their exasperation. “Damn it man, can’t you see this is for your own good!”

And yet, let’s rewrite the proposition from the perspective of the JHSP, of a zero-sum Palestinian playbook: “But we will never get to that stage [real negotiations] if Netanyahu does blow up his cabinet now over something as minor as a settlement freeze, and signals to the Palestinians that they can bring down Israeli cabinets (through the American presidency) with their petulant demands.

Second, I have no idea whether the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has the will and the guts to make peace with Israel. In fact, when you go back and look at what Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu’s predecessor, offered Abbas — a real two-state compromise, including a deal on Jerusalem — and you think that Abbas spurned that offer, and you think that Netanyahu already gave Abbas a 10-month settlement freeze and Abbas only entered serious talks in the ninth month, you have to wonder how committed he is.

A breath of sanity. Precisely.

Now rather than offer this analysis as a toss-off at the end of the piece, another clearing of the throat before landing on the other side, Friedman would have done a great deal more for his readers if he had bothered to unpack why Abbas spurned Olmert’s offer.

The forces militating against a “secure peace with Israel” in Palestinian culture are overwhelming, and scarcely mentioned in the Western press, where settlements dominate the airwaves, while such minor matters as genocidal incitement to hatred, hard zero-sum politics, and irredentist public opinion go unmentioned.

Indeed, a NYT reporter can, with complete immunity, quote a Sheikh calling for genocide against the Jews (from the pulpit, on TV), and leave out the genocidal part… in an article on incitement. And this unconscionable piece of journalism right at the beginning of the Oslo War (October 2000), set the pattern until this day. Most Westerners, especially those with emotional commitments to PCP have no idea how vicious the public discourse in the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim public sphere is about Israel and the Jews. And if informed, like Jennie Tonge, Cherie Blair, and her sister Lauren Booth, they assume it must be Israel’s fault.

Of course, all these observations about the dominance of the war camp in Palestinian circles, amply demonstrated by the consistent, decades-long behavior of the Palestinians, whether “secular” (Fatah, PA) or “religious” (Hamas, Islamic Jihad), are profoundly upsetting to the good-willed Westerner. We don’t want to believe that this problem has no immediate solution, that being nice and making concessions and negotiating won’t lead to peace. Thus these anomalous “facts on the ground” disturb not only our cognitive “positive-sum” world, they bring with them emotionally taxing realizations as well. Not only might there be no “peace now,” but that single-minded pursuit of that “peace now” may actually (predictably) backfire.

But the fact is that the team of Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have built a government that is the best the Palestinians have ever had, and, more importantly, a Palestinian security apparatus that the Israeli military respects and is acting as a real partner.

This is truly remarkable writing. Again with “the fact” when it’s an opinion. From the Western point of view, Abbas and Fayyad have done good things. Of course, given the extremely low level of performance in this sense on the part of all previous Palestinian governments (from the “states-within-a-state in Jordan and Lebanon, to the PA in Area A), Fayyad and Abbas don’t have much competition in the “best Palestinian government ever” category.

But the real problem is how little that accomplishment seems to count with his own people and his ability to make peace. Palestinians – at least the ones who carry weight in the public sphere – judge Abbas not by our standards – namely he’s made the economic situation so much better for them that they’d support his efforts to secure such advantages through making peace – but by the standards of the “street,” where every concession he makes means that he’s weak, giving in to humiliating demands from the West, that he’s a puppet. Certainly not a man. It is precisely this “street” that Abbas had in mind when he turned Obama’s demand that Israel freeze settlements into a refusal to negotiate. That may have messed up Obama, but it made him (briefly) look like a man to his people.

As for the security apparatus that Friedman celebrates, it’s performed well from the Israeli point of view, even if it is brutal beyond any progressive’s wildest dreams. But it’s hardly a “sure thing.” Israel already had the experience of Palestinian colleagues in security turning on them. No honest person can guarantee that this security force will stand by its commitments and not, at the sight, for example of another Pallywood production like  Muhammad al Durah, go ballistic and turn on the Israelis. This is a rather tenuous branch on which to put so much weight.

Given this, Israel has an overwhelming interest to really test — that is all we can ask — whether this Palestinian leadership is ready for a fair and mutually secure two-state solution.

Okay, Friedman agrees that the Palestinian leadership should be tested in their commitment to a fair and mutually secure two-state solution. For those of us familiar with the workings of JHSP dynamics, this is clearly not the case. But let’s say it’s important to test. Surely there are many tests we could devise that wouldn’t involve further risk-taking and further signals of weakness if indeed Palestinians are not ready.

How about asking them to acknowledge the simple, and obvious, but according to the expectations of the JHSP unacceptable, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state? That would seem, by the standards of progressive values that the Palestinians themselves invoke – the right to national self-determination – a fairly straightforward recognition. After all, the Palestinians plan to be not only a Muslim state, but a Judenrein one at that. And of course, their reaction is so violently opposed to such a minor concession, that people have already started backing off the demand. No one draws the obvious conclusion: the Palestinians will never recognize an autonomous state run by dhimmi in Dar al Islam. That would mean dealing with the emotional anxieties that come with understanding the JHSP.

But let’s humor the Americans, with their Walts and Mearsheimers and Friedmans and Kristofs and J-Streets and Rabbis for Human Rights, and set up the test the way they want it set up. After all, it’s not the greatest risk the Israelis have been asked to make. What the hell. But…What happens if the Palestinians fail? What price do they pay?

Or do we, as we have for the past decade (!), continue to look the other way because we want to “keep the peace process alive”? In which case, I think it’s fair to say, the Israelis have a right to show reluctance.

That test is something the U.S. should not have to beg or bribe Israel to generate. This moment is not about Obama. He’s doing his job. It is about whether the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are up to theirs. Abbas is weak and acts weaker. Netanyahu is strong and acts weak. It is time for both to step it up. And it is time for all the outsiders who spoil them to find another hobby.

What an interesting wrap up. One that, despite the overwhelming thrust of the article chiding the childish Israelis, reveals the pervasive flaws in the “very logical” argument. Abbas is weak because he’s caught between the world of Palestinian irredentist logic and that of Western positive-sum logic. If he actually behaves responsibly he’s the Palestinian equivalent of an “Oreo,” he can strengthen his Palestinian bona fides only by moves that will undermine the peace process.

The idea that the solution is to have Bibi use his alleged “strength” to make concessions to the weak Abbas (to “shore him up”), is dubious to say the least. For some of us, this is a really silly suggestion. But Friedman’s tone and history suggest that he’s not silly, and not ignorant, even if he misuses the very terms he’s coined to bridge the moral gap between Arab and Israeli politics. No, it looks like its a kind of un-self-critical arrogance that leads Friedman to his conclusions, his tone, and, alas, his deep, dangerous, superficiality.

Maybe spoiler outsiders who need to find another hobby might include Mr. Friedman.

Obama would be better served by someone who has something new to say, rather than yet another “yes man.”

Tom, maybe you can help Obama show more assertiveness with the spoiled children on the Palestinian side. How about a series of columns entitled, “Just Knock it off!” addressed to them. As an exercise, think in terms of the kinds of childish attitudes they have, attitudes that do much to spread violence and hatred in this flat, overcrowded, hot planet. What a refreshing use of your exceptional soapbox to promote a sane world in the 21st century.

34 Responses to Tom Friedman and the Deep Superficiality of Western thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict

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  2. GES says:

    Professor Landes:

    An excellent post, as usual.

    One observation: Friedman does not appear to address what is the most obvious evidence of the lack of seriousness of the US request for a two month freeze. Why two months? What will cause a breakthrough on the Palestinian side during that period. Two months is only relevant to the US elections. It was an attempt to give the Obama administration a small win going into the November elections. Why should the Israelis or the Palestinians take such a request seriously, merely to serve partisan US ends? The whole thing was a pathetic ruse, which Friedman ignores.

  3. Off-topic, in a specific sense, but on-topic in a general sense,

    There are many people in Europe who are not ideologically bigoted against Jewish people nor against Israel. The anti-Jewish anti-Israel is from the elites in Europe and in other Western countries. Everybody who values freedom needs to join together.

    Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff is being prosecuted in Austria for merely quoting from the Quran.

    Elisabeth’s Voice: Fighting for Free Speech in Austria

    Support for Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff

    See my comments and the comments of others on the following video by English YouTube user Martin J Willett.

    “Fundies and Muslims”, by Martin J Willett

  4. The leaders of the English Defense League – the EDL – a British, grass roots, non-racist, pro-freedom, anti-Sharia group, pro-British, pro-Israeli, pro-American organization – are aware of the situation – the situation that Israel is in, and the situation in England – and the leaders of the EDL are completely supporting Israel. The EDL is of the people, and by the people, and is slandered and vilified by the members of the English media, and may seem rough to people of gentle temperament, but the leaders of the EDL, and the majority of the members of the EDL, are decent and good and they are on the side of good. One can either chose timidity and enslavement and death, or one can choose wise, right, self-confident action and freedom and life. I choose wise, right, self-confident action and freedom and life. Support and enlighten those in England and in all of Europe who are decent and who can be informed of the truth and who will stand with the Jewish people against tyranny. It was a large crowd of workers who were members of the working class in England who fought back and defeated a Fascist mob in England in the era that was soon before World War II. Know who our real friends are. Join with real friends and decent people everywhere. Be discerning and do not join with, and do not promote, and do not contribute to, mob mentality nor to violence. But, do not be timid. Join with those who are decent and who understand and who know the truth – the reality of the situation – or who can be informed of the truth – the reality of the situation. Cultivate good. Cultivate understanding. Join with those who are good. Join with all people who shun and oppose what is evil and who champion, and stand with, what is good. Here in the U.S., I will seek out the candidates who are supported by the tea party movement and I will vote for them.

    Chris Lough Patriot

    Surfing rabbi – Nachum Shifren at EDL Demo in London

    Surfing RAbbi Part 2 EDL London Rally 24th Oct 2010

  5. The following is what is happening in Europe.

    Islamic riots and ” peace” activity in Europe ( mirrored from Universefreedom)

  6. Jewish member of the EDL, Roberta Moore, who is from Brazil and who is a citizen of Britain.

    Roberta Moore EDL

  7. It may not be good and right to support the EDL, or it may be good and right to support the EDL, but in any case, I think that it is good to know that there are people in various social classes in England and in the rest of Europe who are not blindly indoctrinated by lies that vilify Israel and that they are aware, to varying degrees, of the situation the they themselves are in, and that they are aware of, to varying degrees, of the situation that Israel is in and that they can be informed of the situation that Israel is in.

  8. The following is a comment that Martin J Willett made about the EDL that I think is true.

    “Of all the tactics to copy why the [f—] are the Dutch copying these violent losers? On paper the EDL are a fine organization of patriots and believers in freedom, but what they demonstrate when they take to the streets is something very different. Nothing positive is achieved by having these demonstrations, it just strengthens the alliance between Muslims and the brain-dead demo-happy left.
    You can’t win on the streets unless you mobilize millions, now you never will get those millions.”

    The following is the video on which Martin J Willett made that comment.

    Dutch TV interviews teh EDL and AFA and mayor of Amsterdam.

  9. I initially felt and thought that that was the case, about the EDL, but I was desperate, and, therefore, unwise, and I unwisely advocated joining with the EDL anyway.

  10. Joern says:

    Danish /European response to:

    “There are many people in Europe who are not ideologically bigoted against Jewish people nor against Israel”

    Count ME as one #;-)

    I am not part of any Elite, but not part of any ultra right-wing group, (like the EDL), either. It IS possible to distance oneself from narrow-minded – (superficial) -people of both extremes, and I consider this meme of the “Elite-versus-people” and vice versa to be narrow-minded in itself, – and potentially dangerous too..

    According to a poll – 10/21 – in “israel today Magazine”, “Israelis want peace, Palestinians want war”..

    Again: A narrow-minded conclusion, since it applies ONLY to the current stale-mate, and this is leading me to the point I wish to make:
    If a fair solution was offered to the 3-5 million refugees, – (depending on how they are counted), – and Palestinians then asked again about their readiness for peace /insistance on war, – I honestly believe the result would be far more positve. The thing is, that a fair solution for the refugees has never been on the table. Vague suggestions about “compensation” were on the table in 2000, but to my knowledge, nothing really substantial has EVER been offered.
    Rather than just pointing out, how miserable the refugees are treated in neighbouring Arab countries, as Mr. Landes rightly does, we should concentrate on finding solutions that will work. Instead, everybody is preoccupied with what they consider “Right /Wrong”, i. e. “the refugees are not OUR problem”.
    When I say “substantial offer”, then, I am talking about Money, – LOTS of money.

    I have written a complete Peace Plan proposal at

  11. Joern,

    Israel has offered lots of money for compensation, and has officially offered statehood.

    The Israeli people and the members of the government of Israel want to make the lives of the Arab refugees from, and the descendants of the Arab refugees from, the 1948 Muslim attack on Israel, who are now called ‘the Palestinians’, better and want to help them.

    The leadership of ‘the Palestinian movement’, the organziations Fatah-PLO-PalestinianAuthority and Hamas, are racist, Arab-supremacist, Islamic-supremacist, genocidally anti-Jewish, political organziations both of whose official goals, stated, in Arabic, in the PLO Charter of 1964 and in the revised, currently official, PLO CHarter of 1968, and in the Hamas Charter, is the destruction of the country of the Jewish people, Israel, by any means nessecary.

    The founder of ‘the Palestinian movement’, Amin al-Husseini, was an early leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and, from 1941 to 1945, resided in Germany and was an adjoined official of the Nazi regime of Germany, and, with his colleague, Adolf Eichmann, was the co-architect of the genocide of the Jewish people by the Nazi regime of Germany, and was the mentor of, and an uncle of, Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat, who, in 1954, under the guidance of Amin al-Husseini, founded Fatah.

    Hamas was created in 1988 and was created as, and is, an official arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The members of Fatah-PLO-PalestinianAuthority and Hamas use mass-murderous violence (between 2000 and 2006, they targeted for murder, and murdered, over 1000 Israeli Jewish people – men, women, and children – in Israel) as a strategic tactic as part of, and consciously use deceit as a strategic tactic as part of, their effort to destroy Israel.

    In order for the situation to be made better, members of the governments and news media of European countries (European states) need to completely stop supporting Fatah-PLO-PalestinianAuthority and Hamas and need to completely stop diplomatically and propagandically attacking Israel, and need to completely, and fully, support Israel and need to join with Israel in friendship, and in mutual support.

  12. Most importantly, in order for the situation to be made better, the members of the government of Israel need to non-appeasingly, honestly, accurately, clearly, communicate the factual currently 90-year history and current reality of the situation to the members of the governments of Western countries and to the whole world.

  13. The following is a brief summary of the factual currently 90-year history of the situation.

    In 1919, in Paris, at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Emir Faisal ibn Husseini and Haim Weizmann signed the Faisal-Weizmann agreement to establish one Arab state in, and one Jewish state in, the area of land that British officials subsequently, in 1920, named the British Mandate of Palestine, and which was an area of land that was constituted by what is now Jordan, and by what is now Israel, and by what is now called The West Bank, and by what is now called The Gaza Strip.

    In 1922, British officials began to create, and, in 1924, British officials created, the Arab state Transjordan in the British Mandate of Palestine, in contravention to the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement, and officially excluded Transjordan from the terms of the Faisal-Weizmann agreement, in contravention to the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement.

    1946, the British government granted autonomy to Transjordan and Transjordan was renamed Jordan.

    In 1947, the then-newly-founded United Nations proposed the creation of one Arab state, consisting of a majority of the fertile land, in, and one Jewish state, consisting of a minority of the fertile land, in, the part of the British Mandate of Palestine that had not become Jordan. The Jewish leaders of the Jewish community in the British Mandate of Palestine accepted that proposal. The members of the Arab League, and the members of the Arab Higher Commitee, which, at that time, was headed by Amin al-Husseini, refused that proposal.

    In 1948, the country of the Jewish people, Israel, was voted a country in the United Nations by a majority vote. Britain abstained from that vote.

    In 1948, immediately after Israel was voted a country in the United Nations by a majority vote, the Arab League declared war on Israel and publicly explicitly announced that they were going to commit genocide against the Jewish people in Israel.

    In 1948, several days after Israel was voted a country in the United Nations by a majority vote, the armies of five Arab countries, and the army of Britain, attacked Israel. The attack by those armies of those five Arab states was co-ordinated by Amin al-Husseini, as the head of the Arab Higher Committee.

    In 1949, the army of Israel defeated those attacking armies of those five Arab states, and defeated the attacking army of Britain.

    From 1949 until 1967, Jordan occupied what is now called The West Bank, and Egypt occupied what is now called The Gaza Strip.

    In 1967, the armies of four Arab states, including the army of Egypt and the army of Jordan, assembled along the borders of Israel in preparation to attack Israel, and immediately afterward, the army of Israel attacked and defeated those armies of those five Arab states that were assembled along the borders of Israel in preparation to attack Israel, and the army of Israel took what is now called The West Bank from Jordan, and took what is now called The Gaza Strip from Egypt.

    I think that, in 1967, after the army of Israel took what is now called The West Bank from Jordan and took what is now called The Gaza Strip from Egypt after the army of Israel attacked and defeated the armies of the four Arab states that were gathered along the borders of Israel in preparation to attack Israel, Israel offered to give what is now called The West Bank to Jordan and offered to give what is called The Gaza Strip to Egypt in exchange for a permanent peace treaty with all of the Arab states in the Middle East, and that all of the Arab states in the Middle East refused that offer, and issued the famous “three no’s” – no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.

  14. The Jewish people need to non-violently, calmly, assertively, stand up for themselves.

    As a commenter here, I think cynic, expressed, the Jewish people, especially the leaders of Israel, can learn a lot from Caesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer.

    And, as I have expressed, the Jewish people, especially the leaders of Israel, can learn a lot from the Buddha.

    From Caesar Milan: Calm, assertive energy. Calm assertiveness.

    From the Buddha: Speak the truth. Conquer a liar with truth.

    “Conquer anger with lack of anger; bad, with good; stinginess, with a gift; a liar, with truth. ”

    “The non-doing of any evil, the performance of what’s skillful, the cleansing of one’s own mind: this is the teaching of the Awakened. ”

    — The Buddha

  15. An Excellent Talk

    The following is a talk which is necessary to listen to, and which is especially necessary for leaders of Israel – members of the government of Israel – to listen to.

    “How Do We Put an End to Antisemitism: No, Really. How Do We?”, Talk by Ruth Wisse (Video); the talk was given as part of the YIISA/IASA “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity” Conference; the talk was given at Yale University, on August 23, 2010

  16. The case of the EDL is far more complex than knee-jerk “far-right” response would lead you to believe. I’m a supporter of EDL, and I’m gay and a socialist.

    The media in the UK has adopted a vilification approach. All the journalists in the UK are members of the National Union of Journalists, which has a stated policy such that no member is allowed to report fairly on the EDL. The NUJ has decreed by fiat that EDL is racist and far-right. However, there are black people, jewish people, gay people, socialists, trade-unionists, and even greens in EDL. For example, at every single EDL demo in 2010 there have been prominent signs about gay rights, rainbow flags, pink triangles. Even when a pack of journalists have photographed such signs for 30 mins (as happened during the October demo outside the Israeli embassy), the media did not produce one photo of the signage to indicate that there were gay men and lesbians who were part of the EDL. The only balanced reporting of the EDL has come from US and European news outlets. It is yet another sign of how terrible the situation in Britain truly is.

    Ever since the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and the assassinations of Pim Fortuyn and Theo Van Gogh, the British middle class are terrified of the threat to their comfortable bourgeois lives if they should dare express any criticism of islam. It has fallen to those who are normally totally excluded from political action in Britain – either by choice or by the vicious class bias in our country – to take up the case against islam.

    Racism has no place in British society. That much is clear from the abject political failure of an overtly racist party like the NF or BNP over the past 50 years. The only life that has been breathed back into the BNP in the last 10 years has been admitted by their leadership to come from the rising resistance to islamization amongst the people in Britain.

    The BNP (and other anti-semitic organisations) have accused the EDL of being a “zionist” organisation from the get-go. EDL did not start out as a zionist organisation, but as the months have gone on, and debate has taken place within the organisation, it is increasingly becoming a zionist organisation. There are those who are hostile to Israel within the organisation, but they are going to have to choose to leave or shut up

    The class bias in Britain is so powerful, that if the EDL was run by the middle class, it would have spokesmen on the news on a daily basis, and their opinions would be listened to respectfully. But the elite who control Britain fear and despise the working class. The working class political movements in Britain in the last 50 years have all been taken over by the middle class so that they could control them.

    The EDL has no economic or political policies other than halting islamisation. They do not seek to ban islam, they do not ban muslims from joining the movement (there are a few muslims in the movement, at risk of their lives from their own community). The political opinion within the movement ranges from anarchist, through green, through socialist, through liberal, through conservative, through BNP.

    Undoubtedly a large number of people in EDL would vote for Conservative, UKIP, or BNP. But undoubtedly an equally large number of people in EDL are anti-racist, pro-gay rights, pro-Israel (and even zionist).

    The disgraceful bias against the EDL by the politicians and media and criminal justice system is shown in the case of the Dudley2. Two men from EDL who climbed atop a disused warehouse and played the “call to prayer” for two nights. The local muslims and communists threatened the police with a riot if these men were not brought down. Armed riot police stormed the building, breaking the limbs of the EDL protestors in the process. The non-violent protesters were held on remand for almost a month (i.e. imprisoned without trial), and months after their release all charges were dropped. Meanwhile, a serial child rapist (named Mohammed) from one of the muslim-dominated cities was allowed to flee the country half way through his trial because he was NOT held on remand. He was convicted in his absence (for repeatedly raping a 11 y.o. girl and a 12 y.o. girl).

    I would like you to bear in mind such massive bias in media and police response whenever you hear any negative criticism of EDL. Muslim serial child-rapists are given far more rights in the British justice system than non-violent rooftop protesters.

  17. Joern says:

    @Daniel Bielak

    You claim that “Israel has offered lots of money for compensation”, but provide no evidence /links ??

    As a part of my peace-plan, I have suggested an International fund. The money is definitely NOT a problem, – just consider these figures:

    – 3 billion $ of US aid to Israel yearly
    – 3/4 billion $ of Arabic aid to Palestinian Authority yearly
    – 0.12 billion $ of EU aid ——– ” ————————
    – 1 billion $ yearly cost of running the UNRWA

    You may add also, to those figures,
    – 300 million $ in training and infrastructure for the Palestinian Security Force, better known as Dayton’s Army,
    – the $400 million for the Lebanese Armed Forces for training and equipment that is shared with Hezbollah (!)

    Interestingly, the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit suggests that a peace agreement will cost the World community 40-50 billion $ :

    8-10 years of 5 billion $ a year, then, and the refugee-problem is solved.

    As everyone knows, WAR is immensely more costly than peace, and then I have not even mentioned the HUMAN SUFFERING on both sides, that can not and should not be counted in $, but never-the-less, – it costs BILLIONS !
    All in all, the money is there, it is MORE than there ! – Ask yourself, also, what a – say – 3 % -cut in US and Israeli military expenditure adds up to ? – Egyptian ? – Syrian ? – etc. etc. etc.

    However, compensation on this scale has never been on the table, and I have never heard of any exclusive Israeli compensation proposal.. – ANYONE ??

  18. JD says:

    “In it, he expresses some exasperation with Israel’s behavior – like a spoiled child – ”

    He is a Judtian. A follower of Tony Judt apparently. Tony Judt gave the still-suffering-from-the-Cold-War lefties the “child” analogy for Israel in one of his later life anti-semitic diatribes posing as “good liberal” thinking. He is one of those Marxists who got “cured,” even wrote a book called “The Captive Mind”, but could not give up the Soviet anti-zionist discourse, could not even have a moment of perspective on it. A lot of lefties are like that, a lot seem to be English, perhaps a social behavior requirement for acceptance in upper level English castes. Judt created the Israel as Child schtick, also had a late life rant as Jewish nationalism being something like the Austro-Hungarian imperialism. In his last missive to the world in the New York Review of Books he sounded calm, insightful about totalitarianism, but could not resist identity politics mini-rants against Israel and Bush. Anti-semite to the end.

    “It’s that Friedman clearly doesn’t even consider that the other approach, the JHSP”

    But he would never consider any approach that placed choice and consequence on the non-Western side. It is part of his imperial hubris.

  19. sshender says:

    Finally – Prof. Landes is back with a vengeance! A superb fisking of yet another clueless Western talking head. It’s as if Friedman is asking to be ridiculed.

    More of the same, please!

    Stumbled into Zomet Sfarim the other day, and in the bargains’ section was surprised to see the newly translated books by Dawkins’ (The greatest Show on Earth), Morris (1948), and an extremely fat tome titled “Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945” which I grabbed without thinking and tugged along with me all the way to the register. Just as the book’s bar-code was about to be scanned I jerked that book out of her hands and ran back to the shelf where it should have remained in the first place. The sales woman was taken aback by this sudden eruption, and asked if there was something wrong with the book – “yes”, I replied, “The Author”.

    And Daniel, please stop polluting the comments with incessant posts.

  20. Daniel

    I note your emphasis on the history of this struggle and I agree with your emphasis, because this history has been ruthlessly lied about by a combination including the present Fascist “Left”.

    I think, though, that these revisions of history, which are common across the board, have their roots elsewhere, especially in the reactionary thought processes known as positivism.

    I think that Jewish people will have to take up the struggle against Positivism, and will have to in general start dealing with Knowledge, the roots of Knowledge if you like, and certainly the Path of Knowledge

  21. “But he would never consider any approach that placed choice and consequence on the non-Western side. It is part of his imperial hubris.”

    Yes. The Palestinian Arabs do have a choice but this “choice” is parcelled inside the dominant ideologies which control their minds, one of which is of course Islam

    But then George Bush Jnr also had a choice when he stood in the cinders of 9-11 with an Iman at his side and called Islam a religion of Peace.

    But he too was tied up in his own ideology, the same ideology led him to remove the secular opposition to the Iranian Islamofascists, that is Saddam of course.

    Which still does not solve the question unless we now consider “What is ideology”?

  22. I have not read his book (Judt) mentioned above and at 900 pages I probably never will. I read a review on Amazon and I pluck out this:

    “…and he’s scathing about Western intellectuals’ accommodation to communism”

    (Starred Review on

    Judt probably confused Stalinism with Communism (as well as the reviewer on Amazon) and anybody who makes that “mistake” always ends up supporting Stalinism as inevitable, a product of Bolshevism, Lenin and Trotsky from 1917 to 1924 etc…

    Confirming my points about ideology.

  23. Joern,

    I will now say to you only the following.

    Your belief that, in this currently 90-year continuing continuous war intendedly of extermination against the Jewish people (this currently 90-year continuing continuous war of extermination against the country of the Jewish people), the Jewish people are Guilty and are to be blamed (the country of the Jewish people is Guilty and is to be blamed) and are obliged – even more obliged than they themselves have hugely and horrifically unjustly – wrongly – taken upon themselves as being – to appease the consortium of those (Muslim Arab and Western) who, since several decades before Israel was official founded, have been, out of bigoted malice, militarily, and terroristicly, and diplomatically, and propagandically, attacking them, is unjust and wrong. Very unjust. Very wrong.

    Please listen to the talk that I listed a link to in my previous message (

    The Jewish people are the founders of, and the embodiment of, liberalism. The country of the Jewish people, Israel, is an exceptionally, uniquely, unsurpassedly, truly liberal and unparalledly and unsurpassedly beseiged country.

    The members of the regimes of petroleum-producing petroleum-selling Muslim Arab states in the Arabian Penisula – who are, and for over 60 years, have been, engaged in an intendedly genocidal attack against the country of the Jewish people, are hugely – unfathomably – unsurpassedly – wealthy, and are so by having the luck of sitting atop huge deposits of, and being the sellers of, most of the world’s energy-producing commodity – the natural resource petroleum . The members of the regimes of those states, alone, could easily afford to give comfortable good homes to and to completely resettle every Arab refugee from, and every descendant of every Arab refugee from, the 1948 Muslim Arab self-proclaimedly intendedly genocidal attack on Israel, which those petroleum-producing petroleum-selling Muslim Arab states in the Arabian Peninsula participated. However the regimes of those states are not trying to, and have not been trying to, settle and help the Arab refugees from the 1948 Muslim Arab attack on Israel in which those states participated. They are using their petroleum revenue for goals that are completely different to, and opposite to, that. The fact that this means nothing to you is very unjust and very wrong.

    Please try to understand the following.

    Jewish people are, in fact, human beings, just like you. Jewish people are human beings who deserve to be treated with at least a modicum of human decency.


    If you view my posts as being merely incessant pollution then that is unfortunate.

  24. Joern,

    The Israeli Jewish people, including the members of the government of Israel, want, and have always wanted, friendship and peace with the Arab people.

    The members of the ‘Palestinian movement’ and the members of the Muslim Arab regimes want, and have always wanted, the prevention of the rebirth of the country of the Jewish people, and the annihilation of the country of the Jewish people, and, in some cases, the subjugation of the Jewish people, and in other cases, the annihilation of the Jewish people.

    Why do you not understand this? Why are you reluctant to acknowlege this? Why do you refuse to acknowledge this?

    You are pretending to yourself that you are defending weak and attacked people, and that you are censuring strong and transgressing people, when, in fact, you are defending strong maliciously attacking people, and blaming and censuring attacked besieged people.

    What you are doing is wrong.

  25. Joern,

    There are no concessions that Jewish people can make to people who, for irrational reasons (out of bigotry (bigoted deranged wrong views) and hatred), are trying to annihilate them and are attacking them to make them stop trying to annihilate them and to make them stop attacking them.

    It is up to the people who are trying to annihilate Jewish people and who are attacking Jewish people to stop trying to annihilate Jewish people and to stop attacking Jewish people.

  26. It is not ‘a matter of principle’. It is a fact.

  27. Joern,

    Israel embodies the values that you claim to value – liberalism, tolerance, freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of action – pluralism.

    Israel is being unjustly and maliciously attacked.

    Defend the principals that you claim to value.

    Defend those who are being attacked and censure those who are attacking.

  28. sshender says:

    On the contrary, Daniel, I view your INCESSANT messages as pollution, by virtue of their INCESSANTY rather then content. I would love to see your messages when they are on topic (at least most of the time) and do not spread over dozens of incessant blurbs.

    Why is it that everybody else are able to convey their thoughts within a single message at a time, and make for an easy read flow – only to be interrupted by your incessant messages?

    I am not in a position to order you around, just letting you know that this is simply irritating and no doubt makes people skip them, something they would not have otherwise done.

    For your consideration.

  29. Yonah says:


    Daniel (and I hope he won’t mind me mentioning it since he mentioned it before) suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder or some such. The repetition and (on other threads) constant self-corrections are symptomatic and are out of his control. However he often does provide useful information. Being obsessive-compulsive doesn’t mean that the person is mindless or can’t think straight, but that he’s over-preoccupied with getting his message through, and rethinking it, correcting it, adding to it, repeating it, then rethinking it and so on – these are the symptoms. So I suggest that we’ll ignore the symptoms that are out of his control and focus only on the content and the links he provides.

  30. […] his article – and to see it’s superficiality and errors exposed by Prof Richard Landes in Augean Stables.   Landes’ analysis is very useful on how to consider what is going on in the Middle East […]

  31. Yonah,

    Thank you for explaining my condition – my situation. I suffer from, and am disabled by severe OCD. Everything that I do is extremely painful and difficult. OCD makes me feel that I am metaphysically harming people with my mundane unrelated volitional actions (thoughts, words, and actions). I am very much controlled by OCD. It is difficult for me to explain because OCD is controlling me. As you said, I am conpletely aware of the situation. I am completely aware of my actions and thoughts. OCD is a neurological disorder. It is not an intellectual impairment, and it is not a derangement. I feel as though almost every action that I do is harming – it is not that I think that I am harming a particular person – whoever that my mind brings up at that time. It is that I psychologically feel that I am harming a particular person – anyone who comes up in my mind at that time – and because I have severe OCD, I think that I may be harming someone – anyone who pops up in my mind at that moment. It is really difficult. It is a brain disorder. I modify my behavior – I repeat actions – I don’t say something – or I say something – trying to undo harm that I feel as though I have done with my actions. I often feel like killing myself because I feel so guilty and distressed. Because with almost all of my actions I eventually have to feel as though I have cause harm to someone because I can no longer take trying to repeat the action to try to not hurt someone. I feel like the character in the book 1984 by George Orwell where he finally said “Do it to her.” after he was tortured.

    Thank you for your kind understanding and for your kind support for me.

    • But, I would never kill myself, because I am completely aware that killing myself would not cause my suffering to end, and, eventually, my suicidal distress passes, and I feel better later, usually after I have slept.

  32. Daniel Bielak says:

    Much of the guilt and regret and remorse that I often feel is caused by actual harmful actions that I have done because of OCD – harmful things that I have said and written because of OCD and harmful things that I have said and written because of the extreme stress that I am under because of OCD, and because of the extreme distress that I am in because of OCD, and because of the extreme frustration that I feel because of being so controlled and disabled by OCD. I often feel guilt and regret and remorse because I feel that I have caused serious harm – especially because I feel that I have caused serious harm to my family members and to the people in Israel – people who I care about very much.

    I sometimes feel frustration and hurt and anger because of thinking about harmful actions that I have done because of my OCD, and I feel that frustration and hurt and anger because of, as a result of having done those harmful actions, feeling misunderstood and disliked by people who I care about. But I am not misunderstood and disliked by my parents. I live with my parents. My parents understand my condition and the situation that I am in, but I feel very badly because I often hurt them and harm them with things that I do – my screaming at them in, and my saying things that I say to them in, screaming fits of frustration and rage that I have because of feeling frustration and rage about the situation that Israel is in, and because of frustration that I feel because of my inability to make the situation better, and which are screaming fits of frustration and rage that I have because of my frustration about being misunderstood and disliked by people who I am trying to communicate things to in order so that they will do what is necessary to do in order to make the situation better and protect Israel, and because of frustration and anger that I feel because I feel remorse and guilt about actions that I have done that have made the situation worse which are actions that I did because of the OCD that I suffer from and am disabled by. Also, one of the reasons why I have screaming fits of frustration and rage is because I feel frustration and anger because I am almost completely socially isolated and, because I, because of that, feel lonely, and because I feel even more socially isolated and lonely when I write things that make people misunderstand me and dislike me when I am trying to make the situation that Israel is in better. Also, I feel guilt and remorse because I, in the past, because of fear that I felt (fear of being disliked that I felt), and because of an egocentric wrong self-view that I held, and hold, and because of not being mindful, did immoral harmful actions that made the situation that Israel is in worse. The reason why I have been posting on this blog and posting on other blogs and other web sites on the internet is because I am very distressed about the situation that Israel is in – the situation that the people of Israel are in – and concerned for the well-being of Israel – concerned for the well-being of the people of Israel. If Israel was not in the situation that Israel is in, and if I was not concerned about the situation that Israel is in, I would not be posting comments on the internet.

    I understand how to make the situation better but I am not able to make the situation better because I am disabled by OCD, and because, I, therefore, cannot do things that I need to do in order to help make the situation better, and go places where I need to go in order to help make the situation better, and communicate in a way that I need to communicate in order to help make the situation better (protect Israel from harm – protect the people of Israel from harm).

    On December 5, 2010, in Tel Aviv, Geert Wilders gave an excellent speech about the situation and what needs to be done (in order to make the situation better (protect Israel from harm – protect the people of Israel from harm; and also make the situation for the ‘Palestinian’ Arab people better; and protect the whole world from harm)).

    Geert Wilders: “Jordan is Palestine”

    The following are articles that each contain the full content of the speech.

    “Geert Wilders in Tel Aviv: ‘Israel is an immense source of inspiration for me'”, Text of speech given by Geert Wilders in Tel-Aviv, Israel, on Dec. 5, 2010

    “Geert Wilders’ Speech in Tel Aviv”, Text of speech given by Geert Wilders in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Dec. 5, 2010

    The following is an article that has, embedded in it, videos of the speech, which are videos that are on YouTube, and which is an article that, thereby, has, in it, links to videos of the speech on YouTube. (The videos are 3 video parts which constitute a complete audio and video recording of the speech).

    “Wilders Speech and Videos in Tel Aviv: ‘Jordan is Palestine'”, by Hugh Fitzgerald (on his blog The Iconclast)

    My father, who is a University professor, is going to Israel on a trip for work in October. I would like to go to Israel, with him, at that time, or, by myself, sooner. I would like to somehow talk to influencial people in Israel – most preferrably members of the government of Israel – about how to make the situation better (how to protect Israel from harm). I am disabled by OCD, but if I had support – the support of having contacts (the support of having contact with people who I would be in contact with in Israel) – I could manage.

    What needs to be done is what Geert Wilders proposes.

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