Monthly Archives: September 2012

Muhammad Cartoons Seven Years On: Demopaths on the Warpath against Hatred

Muslim Students at UNC: Demopaths on the Warpath against “Hatred”

February 22, 2006

Little Green Footballs posted this:

Daily Tar Heel Now Targeted for Cartoon Jihad

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel is now embroiled in a Krazy Kartoon Kontroversy of their own, after publishing an original cartoon showing a politically correct, balanced and non-violent Mohammed denouncing both Denmark and Islamic protesters: Cartoon for February 9 – Opinion.

Muhammad even handed

The Muslim Students Association is seething.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The Muslim Students Association at the University of North Carolina on Friday asked the campus’ student newspaper to apologize for publishing an original cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

“The intention of bigotry was clear,” the association wrote in a letter to The Daily Tar Heel. “One must question the DTH’s ethics in advancing a widely protested issue to cause a riot of their own. The MSA not only found this cartoon derogatory but is also shocked at the editor’s allowance of its publication — one that incites hate in the current political and social context.”

Note the aggressive tone of injury: “intention of bigotry clear,” “advancing a widely protested issue to cause a riot of its own… derogatory… incites hate in the current political and social context.”

So let me get this straight. Muslims throw a temper tantrum (“current political and social context”); accuse others of “inciting hate” when they themselves revel in it; and express shock that anyone be allowed to trample their sense of honor and dignity. This is a definitional example of demopathy, or the use of civic/liberal values to which you do not adhere to attack those who do adhere to them. Imagine if the newspaper were to produce a savage denunciation of the Israelis. Can one imagine the Muslim students shouting for its removal, or rather praising its courage?

And the cartoon is really quite gentle. (Indeed it reflects the same sense that most Westerners who believe that Islam is a religion of peace feel about Muhammad: that he can’t possibly have been as immature, hyper-sensitive, and insecure as the Muslims who rampage at the slightest slight.

cartoon #3

UPDATE at 2/22/06 12:45:40 pm:

Last year, the Muslim Students Association at UNC-CH succeeded in getting Daily Tar Heel columnist Jillian Bandes fired: lgf: Thoughtcrime at UNC-Chapel Hill.

In other words, demopathy works. Intimidate people with your moral outrage, and you can continue to badger them with impunity.

The sad thing is, these are battles that can be won without weapons, merely by pointing out — gently — the unacceptable hypocrisy of the outrage.

And He Loves Israel too!

One of the more startling illustrations of the moral narcissism that says, “do what makes us look good” (or in this case, look like amazing feces).

Madonna in concert:

Y’all better vote for fucking Obama, okay? For better or for worse, all right? We have a black Muslim in the White House. Now that’s some amazing shit.

I especially like the “for better or for worse.” Sort of like jumping off a cliff with eyes wide open.


Danish Cartoons, Seven Years on: Cartoons that Mock, Cartoons that Demonize

In keeping with Daniel Pipes’ suggestion, I’m both publishing Muhammad Cartoons and republishing the series of posts I put up at the time of the scandal, when I first started blogging. On the topic of reciprocity (see below), Raymond Ibrahim has a nice essay up on how, if the Muslims got their way and disrespecting other religions were banned, it would be the end of Islam, whose scriptures carry profoundly negative reflections on all other religions, including those from which Islam is descended.

Cartoons that Mock Cartoons that Demonize
January 31, 2006

Can someone explain to me why the leaders of the West don’t say to the Muslims: “You can ask us to show respect for you, but not if you don’t show respect for us. When Muslims stop producing grotesque and savage cartoons not just mocking but vilifying other religions, then we will show Islam the respect it craves.”

Okay, not “craves”… “desires.”

Why are we so careful about their desires and not careful to ask them to meet the standards they want us to meet in their regard?

See LGF on the same subject.

Tablet Article: A Cultural Redesign of the Peace Process

Redesigning the Peace Process

Ignoring cultural difference and overestimating politics has left us without a resolution. We can do better.

By Richard Landes|September 25, 2012 7:00 AM|0Leave a comment

(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photos Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons)

Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, there hasn’t been a moment when the punditocracy hasn’t insisted that Israel needs to make a deal with the Palestinians—and soon. Otherwise, they claim, Israeli democracy, saddled with millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control without citizenship, will have to choose between the twin catastrophes of democratic suicide and apartheid. And since the solution that everyone knows is the eventual one–land for peace–is so clear, let’s just get on with it.

It hasn’t panned out. We’re now approaching two decades of failure of the two-state solution. Every strategy for pulling it off—Oslo, Taba, Geneva, Road Map, Dayton, Obama/Clinton—has, despite sometimes enormous efforts, failed or died stillborn. And yet, with each failure, anew round of hope emerges, with commentators and politicians arguing that this time, if we just tinker with some of the details, we’ll get peace right. (Or, as an increasing number have now come to believe, it’s time we abandon the two-state solution entirely.)

The predominant explanation for this impasse in the West has focused on Israel’s role:settlements that provoke, checkpoints that humiliate, blockades that strangle, and walls that imprison. Palestinian “no’s” typically get a pass: Of course Arafat said “no” at Camp David; he only got Bantustans while Israelis kept building illegal settlements. Suicide bombers are excused as registering a legitimate protest at being denied the right to be a free people in their own land. In Condoleezza Rice’s words: “[The Palestinians] are perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace … the great majority of people, they just want a better life.” The corollary to such thinking, of course, holds that if only the Israelis didn’t constantly keep the Palestinians down the world would be a better place. So, the sooner we end the occupation, the better, even if it means urging the United States to pressure Israel into the necessary concessions. It’s for Israel’s own good.

Danish Cartoons, Seven Years on: On Hyper-Assabiya and Islamic Insecurities

In keeping with Daniel Pipes’ suggestion of a Muhammad Cartoon a day, I’m reposting the entries I wrote about the controversy when it broke. This is the first item I wrote about it.

Islamic Insecurities: On the Nature of Hyper-Asabiyya

Augean Stables, January 29, 2006

Solomonia has an interesting post on the Danish cartoon scandal with some pertinent comments about the insecurity it reveals about “a shockingly weak and fragile religion of over a billion people.”

This is a broad generalization, but bear with me. A lot of us here in the US, and I think it’s something sort of particular to the northeast, have this way of dealing with…testing…newcomers. We needle them. We apply a lit put-down humor. Just to see how they react. If they can take it, if they can even be a little self-effacing in return, or maybe give it back in good humor, then they’re in. If not, if they flip out and show their delicate ego and that hanging with them is going to be like walking on egg shells, then that’s it, it’s gonna take a lot to get them “in.”

Well if you didn’t already know it, the Muslim world is showing they just can’t take it, and in fact they can’t take even the smallest things…even a few lame cartoons in a paper no one in the world reads published in a country no one ever heard of before this happened (slight exageration — no offense).

And not only are they offended, and obviously annoyed, but they’re flipping out. How weak must these peoples’ psyches be to melt down this completely?

There’s a lot to this speculation, and it relates to the question of honor-shame cultures and their response to humiliation. Part of the problem is not merely seeing oneself in an unpleasant light, but also relates to one’s own self image. The more exceptional one feels one should be, the more painful the failure to live up to such expectations. In a chapter on Arab Self Image in his important survey of Arab Attitudes towards Israel Yehoshefat Harkabi notes that the Arabs have an exceptionally high sense of themselves which makes their defeats at the hands of the Jews so much the more painful. As a parallel, he quotes a line from Charles De Gaulle about the French (page 355):

France is not herself except when she is in the front rank… France cannot be France without her grandeur…” War Memoirs, French edition, part I, p.1.

Similarly, we find just these sentiments from a spokesman for al Qaeda:

How can [the Muslim] possibly accept humiliation and inferiority when he knows that his nation was created to stand at the center of leadership, at the center of hegemony and rule, at the center of ability and sacrifice? How can [he] possibly [acccep;t humiliation and inferiority] when he knows that the [divine] rule is that the entire earth must be subject to the religion of Allah — not to the East, not to the West — to no ideology and to no path except for the path of Allah? As long as the Muslim knows and believes in these facts, he will not– even for a single moment — stop striving to chieve it, even if it costs him his soul…”
Sulaiman abu Ghaith, “Why We Fight America” in The al Qaeda Connection, p. 16f.

In his book Islam under Siege, Akbar Ahmed writes about hyper-asabiyya, or the abreaction of masculine honor under conditions of uncontrollable loss of collective honor, the excessive group loyalty that people who feel under collective siege are driven to express. The Muslim world does indeed feel like it’s under siege by modernity, and its reaction is not only to want to destroy what it feels besieges it, but take the place of the West as the driving and dominating force in globalization. The question that faces us is, how do we deal with this?

PS. I do think the quote about the French explains why they sympathize so with the Arabs: Both people were once the leading civilization, both have had to live with history gone wrong, both deeply resent those who surpass them by the new rules of modernity.

Galactic Consciousness on the Eve of Yom Kippur

First light: image of a spiral galaxy, known as NGC 891, approximately 3.3 million light years from Earth, obtained with the newly commissioned Discovery Channel Telescope. BU is among the partners responsible for construction of the $53 million state-of-the-art telescope at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. Photo courtesy of Phil Massey, Ted Dunham, and Mike Sweaton, Lowell Observatory

Just as the universe expands outside of us, so, within, are infinite expanses of consciousness. Yom Kippur is just such a day to explore the more painful parts of that inner world. Indeed, self-criticism opens up worlds of relationships with others… as long as those “others” share that path. May everyone of good will and integrity have a sweet, good and fruitful new year, and may those who are not yet on that path, find it this year.

“The Other’s Antichrist, is my Antichrist”: The Millennial Encounter Between Post-Modernism and Global Jihad

I was recently asked to write a preface to a volume of essays on Millennialism. After discussing the enormous resistance of “conventional” historians to allowing millennial topics any more than marginal status within the larger narrative of Western history, and arguing on the contrary that we need to define millennialism in a way that includes stealth secular forms (e.g., communism), I concluded with a discussion of the stakes involved, in part inspired by my encounter with Judith Butler’s work over the past weeks

Here is the concluding section.

Real-World Stakes in Millennial Scholarship: Post-Modern “Others” vs. Islamic Apocalyptic “Others”

The stakes involved here are not insignificant, nor merely “academic,” although they are most specifically academic. Right now, and since the 60s, much of the academic world involved with human subjects (Arts, Humanities, Social “Sciences”) has become absorbed by an interlocking series of theoretical paradigms and exegetical techniques (deconstruction, critical, gender, queer, theory, post-modernism, post-colonialism) that have millennial premises embedded in the core of their theory.[1] And as every effective millennial discourse must provide, Post-modern theory has identified the “source of our suffering,” namely boundaries. And since those “us-them” boundaries – between self and “Other,” “male and female,” one culture/religion/ethnicity/nationality and another – have been constructed, we can ‘free’ ourselves (or at least, resist), by deconstructing.

Thus, the Post-modern theories in their various avatars systematically transgress conventional boundaries, subvert “hegemonic” discourses (including meta-narratives), that must always-already inscribe an invidious dichotomy between “us-them”.[2] Instead, liberation comes from the embrace of the “Other,” in post-colonialism, the subaltern “Others,” to whose narratives we are obliged to grant epistemological equality if not priority.[3] Redemptive performativity is, among other things, a way to speak of messianic behavior, of tikkun olam, of “realized eschatology.”[4] And it all takes place in the (relatively) non-apocalyptic framework of a progressive effort to fundamentally transform a cultural sensibility.[5]

Like many of their predecessors, including Marx, these latest secular millennialists tend to deny their chiliastic genealogy.[6] Indeed, the whole post-modern principle of “incredulity towards Grand or Meta-Narratives,” is a repudiation among other things, of the greatest of them all – apocalyptic narratives about eschatological End of History.[7] So in principle, post-modernists and their offspring (the various “theorists”), have liberated themselves from apocalyptic and millennial narratives. Of course post-modernists are far to sophisticated to fall into complete denial.[8]

A Judith Butler, for example, openly embraces her utopian longings – e.g., for Buber and Magnes’ “binational state”- despite their impossibility – as driving forces of her performativity.[9] But, she would on the one hand, deny any relationship to earlier apocalyptic movements that veered rapidly from transformative to cataclysmic, from demotic to hierarchical, and even when confronted with the disastrous implications of her millennial reasoning, declares herself proud of her courage to think so daringly.[10] Indeed, her work deserves a thoroughly millennial analysis, not the least because she has chosen to perform her theories in the “real world,” of other people, and when she does so, it has results that should alarm anyone familiar with apocalyptic dynamics.[11]

More broadly, I think only a millennial analysis of the post-60s (post apocalyptic) Zeitgeist of the academy, especially where studies of humankind are concerned, can explain the current direction of consensus politics when dealing with Islamism. Take for example, the following conundrum: In the entire history of Christianity, no nation that called itself Christian adopted a foreign policy based on the Sermon on the Mount; on the contrary. Now, however, post-Christians, people who by and large have contempt for religion, even view it as a virus,[12] urge a “turn the other cheek” policy of self-criticism and self-abasement vis-à-vis a profoundly hostile “Other.”[13] As a colleague commented at a conference on apocalypticism, “If the USA were attacked by nuclear weapons, I hope we’d have the maturity not to strike back.”[14]

Colors to the Mast, Seven Years Later

The posting below was one of the first I made at the Augean Stables, when the Danish Cartoon Scandal broke and newspapers, especially in the USA, caved to intimidation. Current events indicate that, far from leading to a maturing among Muslims over the past seven years, the “respect” Westerners have shown them has only emboldened their infantile rage. Daniel Pipes has suggested a Muhammad Cartoon a Day in response.

Rather than just repost the same cartoon every day, I’ll run the series of posts I wrote at the time of the affair, which I think was a key moment in the massive losses in the Cognitive War that the West has suffered over the last twelve years. I begin with my posting of the cartoons.

I should note that according to MEMRI there has been some serious self-criticism in the Arab and Muslim world! 

September 24, 2012
Special Dispatch No.4971

The attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and embassy in Cairo on the night of September 11, 2012, and the spread of violent protests to many countries in the Middle East have sparked unprecedented criticism in the Arab press of Arab and Islamic society and its way of dealing with the current crisis. Many articles claimed that violent protests harm the Prophet Muhammad and his way and are contrary to Islam’s moral standards, and that it would have been better to show the moderate and tolerant face of Islam by responding through artistic and cultural expression.

Danish Cartoons: Colors to the Mast

Earlier this week PBS Watcher left a comment here that he had posted the Danish cartoons and urged others to do the same. I have taken them from the blog L’ombre de l’Olivier, where he introduces them with the comment: to show support and nail my colours to the mast. Well said.

Here they are. The source of the brouhaha. To be honest, there are none that are particularly witty, many that are mediocre or incomprehensible, and some that try to be as respectful as they can (poor dears, don’t understand that any depiction is unacceptable). It’s actually pretty pitiful, both for the Danish cartoonists who scarcely made any use of the satire their medium favors, and the Muslims who consider this an assault on their religion. How the mighty have been brought low by cowardice and insecurity.

Ultimately this is not about respect or lack of it, it’s about bullying the Europeans into behaving like dhimmi, it’s about a classic type of kind of zero-sum honor — my honor is gained by your disgrace — and this from people who do not hesitate to show the most hateful contempt for others. If the Muslims succeed in getting the Europeans to back down on this one, they’ve won a huge victory over a cowardly foe.

We lose face, they get more aggressive. As Daniel notes, they are playing this not as the hurt objects of an unfortunate cultural misunderstanding, but as the offended and provoked objects of legitimate provocation. Maybe Europeans might begin to reconsider their cheap sympathy for suicide bombing based on the impression that if they reacted so violently, then the Israelis must have done something to them.

Let’s hope they’ve finally gone too far. Go Europe. Please?

Muhammad and turban: the source of the problem
#1: Muhammad and turban: the source of the problem — a realistic depiction with an explosive message.

No more virgins in heaven
#2: Clever but tame.

Let's not overreact boys
#3: Muhammad as Salahadin, showing the ego-strength not to go ballistic with every challenge to his honor.

Oxymoronic Islamic Logic: Call me Violent and I’ll cut out your tongue

One of the things anyone with a reasonably logical mind may find darkly amusing is the way that Muslims these days (I’m guessing in earlier ages they were less transparently silly) make statements that directly contradict each other without seeming to be aware of what they’re up to.

Take, for example, the following: 1) Israelis are like Nazis, and 2) The Holocaust didn’t happen. So the Nazis aren’t bad, but the Israelis are like them.

The resolution to the logical contradiction has to do with the emotional pleasure making the statements provides:

  • Saying the Israelis are like Nazis is a form of moral sadism that not only attacks Jews, but demeans them in the eyes of anyone who believes the Nazis did commit genocide.
  • Saying the Holocaust didn’t happen is another form of sadism which any Palestinian who wanted to extend the most elementary empathy to Jews might appreciate since they are immensely indignant at any effort to question just how bad they have suffered, or the role of Israel in that suffering.

There was a similar moment, oft repeated, when the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor (who had good experiential evidence for the remark) saying that Islam was inherently violent. The Muslim response? Riot, kill, maim: “How dare you call me violent!”

Now, in Israel, where Member of Knesset Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List- Ta’al) and others have petitioned the court for a temporary injunction blocking an anti-Islam video ridiculing the prophet Muhammad on Google and YouTube, we have the following from a supporter (H/T: DC):

Islam is a religion of love, living together like brothers, and good livelihood. It’s lies what they said, and anyone who said anything bad about Muhammad needs to have their tongue cut out,” said Zatmi Ali, one of the supporters of the ban.

Again, content doesn’t matter. It’s all about what feels good: to praise Islam and to assail anyone who contradicts that praise.

Don’t you dare diss me. I’ll diss you right back.

No wonder that, although they are in principle dedicated to brotherly love (at least among Muslims) and good livelihood, in practice Muslims are so often at each other’s throats, and by a vast majority, are poor and wretched in their livelihood.

Some readers may feel that I’m being hostile to Muslims, even Islamophobic. But I challenge you to come up with a non-Muslim example of this kind of emotional “logic.” And while you can probably find some (especially in psychotherapeutic discussions), I’ll bet that the other people(s) who express this kind of utterly self-indulgent thinking don’t think that it’s a good idea to say such things too loudly.

For an honor-shame culture, Muslims these days sure are shameless. Maybe it has to do with the success of the intimidation of the rest of us. After all, instead of Muslims being the laughing stock of the global community, the Pope was assailed by good people for provoking the Muslim reaction.

Who would have thought that for lack of a sense of humor, the Western world might commit suicide?

Unpublished Essays: Suicidal Even-Handedness, April 2002

I have recently stumbled on some old essays I wrote in the formative first years of the aughts (’00s), before I had a blog (2005). Since they explore themes that have become central to my thinking, I post them here for readers and reference. The following one , written at the same time as my extensive essay on “Judeophobia: medieval, modern and post-modern,” came in response to the global response to the suicide terror campaign of 2001-2, and to the Israel effort to stop it (Mivtza Homat Magen) in the Spring of 2002 (especially the story of Jenin).

This essay was written in part as a response to a colleague who, even before Jenin, had responded to my concern about the acceleration of suicide bombings with the remark, “what choice do they have?” At the time, it felt like the same kick in the stomach I felt when another friend and colleague told me that Jews should stop whining about the Holocaust. After all, the logic of such an observation is: “If they raise their kids to want to kill themselves in order to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible, then Israel must have done some awful stuff to them.”

But I realized that this was not a malicious act, not an intentionally hostile act. On the contrary, it came from a really committed and open individual, not a hostile zealot. It forced me to imagine how he could arrive at a place where “what choice do they have” seemed like an adequate answer to a complaint about something as awful and morally depraved as suicide terror.

In that sense I think this essay also addresses what Larry Summers referred to later that fall as “anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intention.” As such, this essay predates, and belongs in, the larger discussion between him and Judith Butler.

[See also, Rebecca Siegel, “Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism: A Response to Judith Butler,” Bad Subjects, 70, 10/2004; Jack Furness (editor of BS), “Anti-Zionism is NOT Anti-Semitism: Reflections on Palestine and What I’ve Learned About Being an Editor, a Jew, and a Leftist,” Bad Subjects, 77, 10/2007 (response to Siegel).]

I have changed only matters of style and clarity. Perhaps now, more than a decade later, such reflections will find more attentive audiences.

Suicidal Evenhandedness

Richard Landes

April, 2002

We are witness to an extraordinary spectacle.  The Palestinians – apparently secular and religious alike – have brought suicide mass murder to the level of a military tactic, and many people, well-intentioned and honest, think that such actions, no matter how reprehensible, somehow represent a legitimate expression of despair.  As one friend put it to me, “what choice do they have?”  Reminded of the offer at Camp David, he granted the existence of an alternative, but the implications of Arafat’s rejection did not play any role in his subsequent expression of confidence that if the Palestinians just got (what he thought they wanted as) their land back, the conflict would be over.  Bring up issues of virulent anti-Jewish Arab press, an even-handed person will either raise the question of anti-Arab sentiment in Israel, or, confronted with the pervasiveness and creativity of the worst of anti-semitism, the blood libels and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, she will seek to quiet your paranoid fears. Told that in the Middle East violence is an important means of communication that does not necessarily correspond to that in modern civil political culture, he bemoans the cycle of violence and darkly prophecies that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.  People have given up on trying to understand the Middle East.

What frightens me about this attitude, which effortlessly goes from condemning suicide mass murder against Americans – 9/11 – and, I presume, by extension Europeans, maybe even everyone else in the world, to excepting Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, is not the inherent anti-Semitism that so many Jews feel it flagrantly reveals.  It certainly represents a staggering set of unexamined assumptions, one of which holds that if the Palestinians hate the Israelis so, the Israelis must have done terrible things to them to deserve that (rational) hate and desire for revenge. Why else would Palestinians have an 80% approval rate for suicide bombings!?  As a medieval historian who looks at what the French call the “longue durée,” I am not as surprised by the resurgence of traits that are longstanding among the Western Left, namely the “socialism of fools.” What I find more disturbing and surprising – if that were possible only two generations from the Holocaust – are two rather new elements of that inveterate pattern.

1)    The virtually suicidal nature of this distinction: We neophyte denizens of the 21st century stand on the edge of becoming a global community.  Such occasions have rarely come in the history of mankind; and in the past they have always led to violence and social stratification.  We are attempting this process under terribly promising and terribly worrying conditions.  We have ideologies of egalitarianism and cooperation that drive prominent dimensions of this globalization and technologies that promise human ease and happiness.  But these technologies also empower violence and the ideologies of hatred.  With a world under threat from so many sources, not the least, our own messiness, what madness to mass murder of civilians as a legitimate expression of frustrated desires.

What kind of mad process can we possibly imagine we create with such a move! What blighted encounters between cultures can we possibly hope for under conditions which accept the validity of this kind of vicious behavior and its accompanying victim narratives.  The idea that, just as we begin to see the contours of a global civilization that has never before existed, we should affirm the legitimacy of blowing yourself up in order to kill as many of the men, women and children of the people you believe are your enemy as you can – as an act of “resistance”! – strikes me as a terrible precedent.  Why on earth do people who make this facile distinction think that they will somehow be spared from future groups who, convinced that they cannot get what they want – sometimes what we want is not possible – they have a right to resort to this unbelievably depraved action?

From the perspective of globalization, the current direction of Arab political culture is catastrophic.  And no one seems ready to hold these cultures to account, to tell them in no uncertain terms that such behavior cannot be tolerated.  On the contrary, in their sympathy for the Palestinians, their moral outrage at the suffering Israel inflicts on them, they serve as enablers, who feed the rage and sense of victimization of these people.  Look at how Jimmy Carter squeezes in a moral condemnation as an aside to his vigorous denunciation of Israeli settlements and “provocations.”  This is, given the stakes of our nuclear world, suicidal.

2)    The bizarre location of this attitude among liberals: Of all the groups to espouse such “exceptions,” liberals seem like the last group one would expect to hear it from.  Normally such a discourse comes from the far right (as it does, in the interesting combinations of Muslim and neo-Nazi racist hate groups now occurring).  It makes sense to legitimate behavior you yourself, your chosen moment arrived, wish to use as well.  Those who abhor violence, want an end to conflicts, who desire ardently to treat all people equally, who strive to make the world a better place… why would they legitimate such actions?  Why would they somehow exempt Israel from the umbrella of nations deserving of protection from such staggering violence?  Why would they give the Palestinians a stern look of disapproval and then turn to Israel, as had the UN representative and say, “nothing can justify such devastation.”

No doubt we can and should be indignant at the sight of human suffering.  But are we that innocent of history that we operate on such an inverted scale? Do we not know the history of our own continents?  Do we not know the history of the Arab people? One can understand a cynic choosing to ignore how Palestinian violence renders both its own people and the Israelis wretched, but someone who abhors violence so completely?  Why would someone whose culture is also vulnerable to the resentful hatreds of the Muslim world, nourish such mad hatreds as long as they are directed at Israel. What is going on?

Explanation 1: Antisemitism

Losing the Cognitive War in the 21st Century: The 9-11 US Embassy Episode

This item appeared in my Daily Telegraph Blog, where there are now over 350 comments, some of them worth reading.

Losing the Cognitive War in the 21st Century: The 9-11 US Embassy Episode

The West continues well into the teens of the 21st century to lose the cognitive war with the Islamist camp. The latest catastrophe of international proportions has been the attacks on 9-11 against US embassies in Libya and Egypt (two places that went through major changes during the “Arab Spring”). A combination of well-planned rocket attacks used the cover of outrage at an inflammatory movie about Islam, to kill an American ambassador and three other embassy officials. The Muslim street in the Arab world has turned violently hostile to the US, and their own leaders, when not helpless to resist, are in cahoots, even with nuclear Iran. Angry Muslim demonstrations riots spread all over the globe, and American (and Western) policy in the region is “in tatters.”

The results have made clear how poorly we Westerners conduct ourselves on the global stage, and how the news media self-inflicts some of those wounds. At the heart of the drama stands a President of the US, who plays win-win checkers against enemies who play I-win-you-lose three-dimensional chess; and at the same time a Western news media which rushes to publish as news, the poisoned meat of lethal narratives.

Let’s look at what happened from the perspective of a-symmetrical cognitive war, in which weak aggressors use non-violent methods to at once put a much more powerful enemy in a position where he cannot use his own force, and then maximize the use of their own force, largely (at the early stages) for symbolic effect. Here al Qaeda affiliates make a daring assault on US sovereign territory, killing an ambassador. Their cover, a movie made that outrageously insults the prophet, and predictably arouses the angry violence of the crowd. The US loudly denounces the film and protests the riots, but does not make any moves to even demand the punishment of the perpetrators. Crowds who have no fear, knowing that neither the US nor government troops will not shoot back, gather outside other US Embassies in the Arab world. The riots spread to other countries.

This massive symbolic attack, on 9-11 – if you will, this global insult to the Peace of Westphalia and the basic principles of the UN – comes off almost as brilliantly as 9-11. You couldn’t script a movie better. The POTUS loses face on a massive scale, especially in the Muslim and non-aligned world, where matters of face have enormous cultural capital. He looks like a dismaying fool to the Europeans, who are struggling with both crises in their ambitiously high-minded (win-win) projects, and their increasingly restive and aggressive Muslim immigrant populations who have failed/refused to assimilate (i.e., they, like their co-religionists back home, will riot at perceived insult).

Matthias Küntzel Speaks at Anti-Butler Rally in Frankfurt

On September 11, there may have been a first in the cognitive war of the 21st century. At a rally against the awarding of the Adorno Prize to Judith Butler, a number of people spoke publicly. This may be – I’m accepting correction here – the first time in Europe that people have spoken out not just in support of Israel, but of intellectual sanity. Below is the speech by Matthias Küntzel, a member of the German branch of SPME.

Matthias Küntzel

Redebeitrag anlässlich der Kundgebung gegen die Verleihung des Adorno-Preises an Judith Butler vor der Paulskirche in Frankfurt/M. am 11. September 2012

Frankfurt/Main, 11 September 2012

Judith Butler and the new anti-Jewish discourse

Speech at the rally against the award of the Adorno Prize to Judith Butler in front of St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt/M. (Germany) on 11 September 2012 ·By Matthias Küntzel

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends,

St. Paul’s Church is a historic site. Here, not only Martin Buber and Ernst Bloch, but also Alexander Mitscherlich and Thomas Mann, Amos Oz and Boualem Sansal were honored with prizes – each a worthy recipient. And today: Professor Judith Butler.

But what happens? Frankfurt’s mayor takes to his heels and not only the Jewish community in Frankfurt, but also the Central Council of Jews in Germany boycott the ceremony. And even those who have supported Professor Butler with a petition, have thereby simultaneously signed a text which takes its distance from her. And with good reason!

Selichot for the As-a-Jew Progressive

Steven Plaut has put out a (perhaps too-) long list of selichot for the “Oslo Left.”

I had prepared a meditation for progressive, as-a-Jews, who feel compelled to flagellate Israel’s breast in front of the world:

  • How often have I accepted uncritically a lethal narrative aimed at my own people, just in order to “look good,” to “save face” with my friends, who expect me to rise above being a tribal, Israel-firster.
  • How often have I admitted to crimes on behalf of my people without checking to see if they were accurate?
  • How often have I failed to speak out against the depravity of the Palestinian leadership, out of fear of being called a racist and an Islamophobe?
  • How often have I allowed people who wish to destroy my people to use me to Jew-wash their genocidal hatreds.
  • How often have I been tempted to become haughty and hate my people in my heart, and feed the flames of hatred against them, because their behavior shames me in front of my honor group, the “Hamoulah of the global Left”?
  • How often have I, like Hannah Arendt, spent far more energy empathizing and even sympathizing with the sworn enemies of my people than with my people.

Suggestions for further ones – I’m sure there are many – are welcome.


Judith Butler and the Adorno Prize: A Preliminary Annotated Bibliography

 A preliminary and sporadically annotated chronological bibliography of the Butler Adorno Prize affair. Suggestions for both other articles and annotations welcome. 

For relevant preliminary bibliography, see below.

Clemens Heni, The German city of Frankfurt awards the “Professor of Parody” and hatred of Israel: Judith Butler, Blogpost, June 8, 2012. (The earliest and one of the most thoroughly researched and documented pieces on the controversy.)

Ralf Schumann and Matthias Kuntzel, Nikoline Hansen, SPME Statement on awarding Judith Butler the “Adorno Prize”, SPME Germany, August 15, 2012

Rick Richman, PJ Media Bad Writing, Universities, and Zionism, PJ Media: 8/19/2012

Elder of Ziyon, The Butler did it: 8/27/2012

Benjamin Weinthal, “Israeli envoy slams ‘anti-Israel’ US academic award,” Jerusalem Post: 9/12/2012 (summary of opposition, citing SPME Statement and other people including Gerald Steinberg from NGO Monitor. No one accuses her of anti-Semitism here, but of associating with known anti-Semites.)

Benjamin Weinthal, “German Jewish leader: Rescind Israel hater’s prize,” The Jerusalem Post:  8/27/2012

Judith Butler, “Judith Butler responds to attack: ‘I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence’,” Mondoweiss: 8/27/2012 (Butler’s response to [alleged] accusations in Jerusalem Post article)

Bruce Bawer, “The Fraud of Identity Studies,” Front Page Magazine: 8/28/2012 (A sharp critique of the academic content of Butler’s work, part of a larger study by Bawer, The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind.)

Michael Totten, “The Anti-Imperialism of Fools,” World Affairs Journal, 8/28/2012 (a specific critique of Butler’s claim that Hamas and Hizbullah are part of the “global Left” because they are (or say they are) “anti-imperialist”.)

Laor (anti-Zionist) defends Butler (anti-Zionist) in the pages of Ha’aretz (anti-Zionist?)

Yitzhak Laor has come to the spirited defense of Judith Butler in – surprise! – the pages of Ha-aretz. If one thinks of this whole affair as an Emperor’s New Clothes, then think of Laor as a courtier who intervenes after the crowd starts grumbling about Butler’s naked performativity, who rushes in to hold the invisible mantle high.

Before tackling his argument, allow me to give some background on Laor’s attitude towards Israel and Zionism. It will help explain his position in the Butler case.

In 2011, Laor wrote the following:

Get rid of Zionism:

“The “Land of Israel” is a phantasm. Withdrawing from “parts of it” is presented as a “concession” even by supporters of the move. But the only concession we needed to make, even back in 1967, was giving up the messianic claim that this is our land, from the Bible, and therefore we have a right to it. In comparison with this claim, the Serbs, with their preoccupation over the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, are rational, secular people.

Now that he’s made the invidious comparison at his own expense (no “my side even when it’s right” for this fellow), where can he put Hamas and Hizbullah on this scale of secular-rational and religious zealot? But of course, for the self-destructivist left, the madness of the Islamists cannot even be spoken.

Life is in no need of “ancestral rights.” Most of us were born here. That has no connection with the Bible, which for the most part is a very nice book. It has no connection with the prayers of the religious. We don’t need religion, either as a menu in a restaurant or as a strategic analysis.

The only  way that Yitzhak was born here (the year of the war of Independence), was because of the biblical attachment of his ancestors to the land. The lack of acknowledgment of the role biblical beliefs play in history is not only massively uninformed, it shows a complete misunderstanding of the role of religion in history (including why this area has so many Arab Muslims). Like so many “secular, rational” folks, Laor doesn’t have a clue. And he’s a poet, to boot.

Had masses of Israelis had the sense to say that on the morning after the occupation, instead of choosing that of all moments – with the help of professors, poets and writers – to “discover our undivided country,” we would be in a different situation today.

This is an especially nice example of how the other side has no moral responsibility. In fact the Israelis after the Six-day war had precisely the attitude he calls for, and got the “Three no’s.” What can one make of someone who can only find fault among his own people, and doesn’t (dare?) express disapproval of his own people’s sworn enemies?

Liberation from Zionism is not a dirty word. In any case, what lies behind Zionism nowadays are interests related to water, real estate, strategic relations with the U.S. and a huge army hungering to justify its existence.

If our fathers erred in their use of myth, we should part from it, for the sake of our sons and daughters. We don’t have to leave this place or give up our lives. But for their sake, we have to get rid of Zionism.

In other words, we enlightened Israelis, should cast aside the faulty “myths” of our ancestors and live peaceably in the land, where (I, Yitzhak Laor know) the other inhabitants will leave with us. Again, note the lack of any mention of the myths circulating among the other inhabitants of the land. Laor, like “Noa”, is a classic lost, solipsistic soul, wandering the landscape, performing nobly, leading himself and his children into catastrophe.

Here’s his take on Judith Butler.

In the spirit of Hannah Arendt

The witch hunt against U.S. Jewish academic Judith Butler, who is being awarded the prestigious Adorno prize, originates in a dangerous strand of American Jewry that has been assaulting freedom of expression even in U.S. universities.

These are classic tropes of the destructivist left: “We are the innocent victims, hounded by mean people who – gasp! – criticize us.” It’s fascinating to see how they can turn a disagreement into an assault on freedom of expression. Enderlin and his buddies at the Nouvel Obs did the same thing: what? we can be criticized for not doing our job by outsiders? What happened to freedom of the press?

By Yitzhak Laor | 03:22 11.09.12 |  0

Today, the birthday of the sociologist Theodor Adorno, philosopher Judith Butler will be in Frankfurt to receive a prize named after him. The prize has been given every three years since 1977 to an outstanding intellectual or artist. Its winners include sociologists Norbert Elias and Zygmunt Bauman, philosophers Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida, composers Gyorgy Ligeti and Pierre Boulez, and film directors Alexander Kluge and Jean-Luc Godard.

Red Hot Chili Peppers Elicit Evidence of the Massive Gap Between Pro-Palestinian Israelis and Anti-Zionist Arabs

Elder of Zion has an amazing transcript of a facebook exchange between a radical, pro-Palestinian Israeli activist, Noa, and various Arab exponents of BDS (in this case, refusing to allow Red Hot Chili Peppers to come to Beirut because they plan to play in Israel).

“We’re not against Jews. We’re against non-Arab Israeli citizens”

972mag’s Noam Sheizaf brings us a fantastic example of how Arabs will never accept the existence of Jews as equals in the Middle East.A Jordanian “anti-normalization” group put out a notice to ban all “Zionists” from traveling to Jordan to attend an after-party with a popular Lebanese band called Mashrou Leila (that recently canceled a gig opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Beirut because the RHCP are playing in Israel.) Apparently, many anti-Zionist Israelis are big fans of the band.Well, that’s not quite true. The “anti-normalization” letter says it intends to ban all Zionists, but its definition of Zionist is interesting:

Finally, we would like to inform you clearly that despite your confirmation and that of your associates here in Amman, that the event you’re organizing will not host any Zionists (to be clear we take this stand against all Israeli nationality holders that are non Arab) we are still taking certain measures to ensure that you will abide by your word on this matter, fully realizing and taking into consideration the continuous arguments and justifications in favor of accompanying Zionists to the event here in Amman. We simply reject all Zionists’ irrelevant of their race, political or religious orientations or beliefs.

We are very vigilant to all cultural events in Amman and we will have narrow to the ground during Mashrou Leila, so we urge you to keep your word and promise to keep our events and country zionist-free.

Now, a number of vehemently anti-Israel Jewish citizens of Israel – people who completely share the Arab desire to destroy Israel and create a single “Palestine” from the river to the sea – were offended by this letter. Here is a dialogue between “Noa” and Jordanians who make it quite clear that if she is a true anti-Zionist, she should leave the country she was born in because she is Jewish:
Noa: (Israeli) Can I ask a question?

Response to Ron Radosh: The Demotic vs. the Self-Destructivist Left

Dear Ron Radosh,

In a column on Judith Butler and the anti-Semitic left, you put out a challenge to those of us who would still like to consider ourselves “on the left” but don’t have Israel Derangement Disorder.

The logic of the left is the same logic its ancestors used to defend Stalinism in its heyday — the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and the enemy of the left is Western democracy, as it exists in both the United States and Israel. Butler’s anti-Americanism and anti-Israel posturing defines the left.

Isn’t it time for good men like Landes and Geras to face reality, and to stop trying to get the left to change its tune? The fight to defend Israel must henceforth include the effort to fight the left, whose agenda, as always has been the case, leads to horrendous ends.

I’d like make a distinction between a “demotic” left and revolutionary left, and then address why the sharp differences between those two styles of “being left” have been lost in the last decade(s).

First, everything that you describe as “left” is actually “revolutionary left.” They are the ones who served as useful idiots for the Stalinists back then, and who, today, as Dan Pipes chronicles, serve as useful infidels for the Islamist Jihadis. They in fact pursue – like Marx – a profoundly apocalyptic millennial agenda that wants to radically transform/perfect society and the world now. So while they derive their ideology from demotic leftist principles – egalitarianism, anti-imperialism, dignity of manual labor, un-coerced cooperation and sharing – their impatience draws them into a whirlwind of emotions that end up compromising the very principles they began with. Marx made some very fine distinctions between crude (rohe) Communism, based on “universalizing envy” of others, and (presumably) the real thing (based on generosity?).

I’d like to define demotic principles (which are also “liberal” principles) as the behavior of free people, entering with personal dignity into uncoerced relations with others (Die Würde freiwilliger menschlicher Interaktion). This means the renunciation of coerced, domineering relations at multiple levels in social and political interaction. These are the basic principles that underlie fundamental demotic values like the dignity of manual labor (rather than stigmatizing laborers), equality before the law (rather than legal privilege, apartheid), and the value of every human life (rather than the sacrifice of the well-being of the many for the pleasure of the few). These are the basic cultural building-blocks of successful democracies, that is societies of abundance in which commoners are empowered. Carl Schorske argued that there’s no Liberal Party in England is because the liberals won: both the Tories and Labor were liberal (in comparison with real authoritarians).

Not every day that I’m translated into German by Der Spiegel (Judith Butler, again)

From Der Spiegel (H/T Benjamin Weinthal)

Aus den Blogs, 07.09.2012

Richard Allen Landes rät Judith Butler in einem mit vielen Quellen verlinkten Blogposting auf der Times of Israel dringend dazu, ihre Annahme des Adornopreises zu überdenken: “Die Argumente Ihrer Kritiker sind stark. Obwohl Sie sich von Hamas und Hisbollah distanziert haben, haben Sie betont, wie extrem wichtig Sie es finden, sie als ‘als soziale Bewegungen zu begreifen, die fortschrittlich und links sind, die zur globalen Linken zählen’. Heißt das, dass Sie keine sonderlich ausgeprägten Einwände gegen deren tiefgreifende Frauenfeindlichkeit, deren offensichtliche Homophobie, deren Todeskult und ihren Genozid-Rhetorik haben? Sie sind die Antithese zu dem, für das wir auf Seiten der globalen Linken stehen: Die Würde freiwilliger menschlicher Interaktion. Sie zeigen die prominentesten und negativsten Spuren jener totalitären Impulse, die den Verstand beschränken und im letzten Jahrhundert Abermillionen ermordeten.” [Bold theirs, italics mine]


The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler

Benjamin Weinthal and I have an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal. Here are the links (as well as some of the material that got cut from the original submission (1250 words). Some of the wording may not correspond exactly to that in the published piece, and bold text does not appear in the article.

The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler

On Sept. 11, a German organization will reward the American scholar and anti-Israel activist.

In 1938, shortly after philosopher Martin Buber, formerly of the University of Frankfurt, came to Israel to teach at Hebrew University, a reporter asked how his Hebrew was. He replied: “Good, but not good enough to be obscure in.”

The joke, apparently, is on the city of Frankfurt, which tomorrow—Sept. 11, incidentally—will hand its prestigious Adorno Prize for excellence in philosophy, music, theater and film to Judith Butler. Ms. Butler, an American philosopher and anti-Israel activist, is a great admirer of Buber and the 1998 recipient of the “Bad Writing Prize” for her impenetrable prose.

Professor Butler’s first-prize sentence appears in “Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time,” an article in the scholarly journal Diacritics (1997):

  • The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

Dutton remarked that “it’s possibly the anxiety-inducing obscurity of such writing that has led Professor Warren Hedges of Southern Oregon University to praise Judith Butler as ‘probably one of the ten smartest people on the planet’.”

objections to award: SPME Germany statement; summary article in JPost; extensive criticism and responses to Butler’s defense at SPME Faculty Forum.

Judith Butler, Poster Girl for Moral Narcissism to be Honored by Germans with Adorno Prize

September 6, 2012

Below is a fisking of Judith Butler’s first response to criticism of her getting the Adorno Prize at Mondoweiss. I stopped after a while and went on to more expository forms of critiquing her work and her getting the prize. But there are important points here, that I think bear making in the controversy. The links to some of these comments are in the various pieces I’ve written so far.


August 27, 2012

Judith Butler has just been awarded the Adorno Prize. A number of organizations, many of them associated with defending Israel in the world arena, have objected, in particular on the basis of Butler’s role in the wave of exterminationist anti-Zionism and its accompanying anti-Semitism that has battered the global community with particular force since the dawn of the new century. Stung by the criticism, especially from a group to which I belong, the SPME, she responded on one of the most notorious Jewish anti-Zionist sites on the web, Mondoweiss.

Below,  a fisking.

Judith Butler responds to attack: ‘I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence’

The Jerusalem Post recently published an article reporting that some organizations are opposed to my receiving the Adorno Prize, an award given every three years to someone who works in the tradition of critical theory broadly construed. The accusations against me are that I support Hamas and Hezbollah (which is not true)

This is clintonesque. What do you mean by “support”? (See below.)

that I support BDS (partially true), and that I am anti-Semitic (patently false).

Again, what do you mean by “anti-semitic”? (See below.) Patently false is actually the words of a dogmatist, not a self-critical person.

Perhaps I should not be as surprised as I am that those who oppose my receiving the Adorno Prize would seek recourse to such scurrilous and unfounded charges to make their point.

Notice that once she’s made her dogmatic point, anyone who disagrees with her is scurrilously hurling unfounded charges at her.

I am a scholar who gained an introduction to philosophy through Jewish thought, and I understand myself as defending and continuing a Jewish ethical tradition that includes figures such as Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt.

Okay. It’s a rather derivative genealogy. Neither of these figures, especially not Arendt, were particularly well versed in Jewish thought. Rather they were Jews involved in thinking (deep thoughts). That she traces her roots back to these figures does not really alleviate the charges leveled against her, just as the fact that the Nazi-seduced Heidigger really liked Hannah Arendt, presumably for more than her body, doesn’t vouch for the validity of her thought.

I received a Jewish education in Cleveland, Ohio at The Temple under the tutelage of Rabbi Daniel Silver where I developed strong ethical views on the basis of Jewish philosophical thought. I learned, and came to accept, that we are called upon by others, and by ourselves, to respond to suffering and to call for its alleviation.