Monthly Archives: April 2013

French Judiciary Politicized? Banish the thought!

In discussions of the al Durah trial in Paris, the subject of the politicization of the judiciary in France has come up often. It’s kind of hard for an American to imagine a judiciary that would decide a case purely on political lines, in disregard of the evidence. But then it’s probably difficult to imagine a Syndicate of Judges who would have a “Wall of Imbeciles” in which they posted the faces of prominent “right-wing” political, intellectual, and media figures whom they liberally smeared with accusations of being (in the same camp with) Nazi collaborators and  fascists.

The amusing thing is that the journalist who revealed the existence of this “wall” – itself a classic example of a “public secret” – was immediately accused of doing it towards “political ends.” When I was in France working on al Durah in the mid-aughts, I came up with an idea for a conference called, “Plutôt mort que con” [Sooner dead that be considered an idiot, or, in an English idion: Embarrassed to death.] Couldn’t ask for a better illustration of the mentality: the suicidal peacock rhinos try to shame their opposition as cons.

France, apparently, holds valuable real estate on rekaB Street.

Updated by William Goldnadel, who brings in the Al Durah case as well.

Une justice impartiale ? Manifestement, pas pour un certain nombre de juges du Syndicat de la magistrature qui ont leur mur des cons…

Atlantico a obtenu une vidéo tournée en cachette du “Mur des cons” du Syndicat de la magistrature. Il expose dans son local syndical la tête des adversaires – et des justiciables ? – à abattre. Parmi eux, de nombreux hommes politiques de droite, des intellectuels… et des journalistes. Une curieuse conception de la justice…

INFO ATLANTICO

Publié le 24 avril 2013
INFO ATLANTICO
Atlantico a obtenu une vidéo tournée en cachette du "Mur des Cons" du Syndicat de la Magistrature.Atlantico a obtenu une vidéo tournée en cachette du “Mur des Cons” du Syndicat de la Magistrature. Crédit DR

C’est un magistrat qui a fait cette découverte. Accompagnant un collègue au siège du Syndicat de la magistrature à Paris, ce juge apolitique et non syndiqué a eu la surprise de constater la présence d’un gigantesque panneau dans la salle principal du local syndical, surplombé d’une affichette sur laquelle était écrit “Mur des cons”.

(voir vidéo ci-dessous)

Créé en 1968, le Syndicat de la magistrature représente 1/3 des magistrats de l’ordre judiciaire. Proche de la gauche, il a appelé en 2012 à voter contre Nicolas Sarkozy. C’est la garde des Sceaux, Christiane Taubira, qui a ouvert son 46e Congrès en novembre dernier.

Sur ce mur, des dizaines de photos de personnalités pour la quasi-totalité classées à droite de l’échiquier politique. Nicolas Sarkozy, au premier chef, mais aussi, Eric Woerth, Edouard Balladur, Nadine Morano, François Baroin, Luc Chatel, Michèle Alliot-Marie, Luc Ferry, Eric Besson, Christian Jacob, ou encore Patrick Balkany y figurent en bonne place. Certains sont marqués d’un signe supplémentaire “d’infamie” : un autocollant du Front National. Le portrait de l’ancien ministre de l’Intérieur Brice Hortefeux est souligné d’une mention particulièrement injurieuse : “L’homme de Vichy”.
 
Mais il n’y a pas que des politiques. Certains intellectuels comme Jacques Attali, Alain Minc, Guy Sorman, ou encore Alexandre Adler sont mis au pilori syndical. Les journalistes ne sont pas en reste. Eric Zemmour est placardé, bien sûr, mais il y aussi deux patrons de presse, l’ancien directeur du Figaro Etienne Mougeotte, et l’ancien patron de TF1, Patrick Le Lay ; l’éditorialiste du Figaro Yves Thréard, la journaliste Béatrice Schoenberg (épouse à la ville de Jean-Louis Borloo) ou encore le présentateur David Pujadas.

La liste n’est pas close. Le Mur des cons est d’ailleurs évolutif. Chaque magistrat syndiqué est invité à y placarder une prochaine victime. “Avant d’ajouter un con, vérifiez qu’il n’y est pas déjà“, averti une seconde affichette placée au milieux des photos.

Effaré, notre visiteur a eu le réflexe de filmer ce Mur des cons à l’aide de son iPhone.

S’agit-il d’une plaisanterie, comme on pourrait en voir dans un local lycéen ? (Essayez donc de plaisanter avec un magistrat en le traitant de “con”, vous verrez ce qu’il vous en coûtera). Ou d’un innocent folklore syndical que l’on pourrait comprendre s’il s’agissait de camionneurs ou de sidérurgistes ? Mais le problème est que cette liste noire a été dressée par des magistrats qui se montrent eux-même très sourcilleux lorsqu’il s’agit de poser pour autrui les limites de la liberté d’expression en matière d’injure et de diffamation.

Certaines personnalités qui figurent sur le Mur des cons en ont d’ailleurs fait l’amère expérience. On se souvient de l’affaire Zemmour. Brice Hortefeux a lui aussi été condamné  pour une simple plaisanterie jugée “xénophobe” par la 17e chambre correctionnelle. Le raisonnement juridique des magistrats était d’ailleurs un peu spécieux puisque Brice Hortefeux a été relaxé en appel par des juges qui ont souligné l’erreur d’analyse du premier jugement.

Mais l’essentiel n’est pas là. Le Mur des cons du Syndicat de la magistrature semble constituer bien moins un “tableau de chasse” réunissant ceux qui ont déjà eu à connaître des foudres de la justice, qu’une future charrette de justiciables qui auront peut-être du souci à se faire le jour où d’aventure ils se retrouveraient devant les tribunaux. Qu’ont donc en effet les syndicalistes-magistrats à reprocher à Etienne Mougeotte, Yves Thréard, Patrick Le Lay, David Pujadas, Alexandre Adler, François Baroin, Luc Chatel… qui n’ont jamais été condamnés, si ce n’est de ne pas être suffisamment porteurs des valeurs de gauche et d’extrême gauche dont le Syndicat de la Magistrature se fait le porte-étendard ? Voilà pourquoi ce petit “pilori privé“, installé dans un local syndical  – au sein d’un bâtiment du ministère de la justice ! – est une forfaiture qui déconsidère ceux qui en sont à l’origine.  Ce mur de la honte constitue une faute grave qui autorise à s’interroger sur les messages – voire les consignes – que le Syndicat de la Magistrature est susceptible de faire passer à ses adhérents.

En savoir plus sur http://www.atlantico.fr/decryptage/justice-impartiale-manifestement-pas-pour-certain-nombre-juges-syndicat-magistrature-qui-ont-mur-cons-706344.html#A68wGh1Lms9Be3GL.99

read the rest

UPDATE: Guillaume Goldnadel pursuit l’affaire.

 

War, the Sport of Kings, the bane of Democracies and Obama’s Dilemma in Syria

The New Yorker has a great cartoon that is at once funny, sad, true (especially to people like medievalists who study pre-modern cultures), and paralyzingly foolish. (HT: The Fosters)


we right they wrong

It is, alas, true that most wars are fought on something approximating this principle. A pre-Islamic poem expresses the fearful symmetry of the phenomenon poignantly:

Then we, no doubt, are meat for the sword
And, doubtless, sometimes
we feed it meat.
By foe bent on vengeance, we are attacked,
Our fall his cure; or we, vengeance-bent,
Attack the foe.
Thus have we divided time in two,
Between us and our foe,
Till not a day goes by but we’re
In one half or the other.

Al-Marzuqi, Hamasah 2: 825-27, cited in Steykevych, Mute Stones Speak, p. 63.

Al Durah “lives” in the Palestinian justification for terror

Here’s a fascinating exchange between a Jawwad Muhammad Amawwi, chief legal counsel of the Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Ministry and Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on Arabic TV. (HT: Hadar Selah)

In particular, watch from 8:30, how the Palestinian spokesman uses Al Durah to accuse Israel for doing what the Palestinians do, namely, targeting children.

Study on the link between financial woes and sensationalist anti-Israel coverage at Ha-aretz

There are some papers which, as much by their literary standards, as by their journalistic standards, stand out as the paper favored by the intellectual elite: The Guardian in England, Le Monde in France, The New York Times in the USA, and Ha-aretz in Israel. If only for their cultural material they are much prized. And, perhaps not surprisingly (but, I think, we should be “surprised” by everything these days), they have a “leftist,” progressive slant. Much has been written about the decline of the NYT’s coverage of the Middle East, not to mention its tendency to reject or heavily edit editorials from the “right,” and run without any editing, editorials from the flakey leftThe Guardian is so bad, it has a website dedicated exclusively to exposing its delirious tendencies towards anti-Semitism. In 2003, a devastating study came out chronicling the collapse of journalistic ethics (in French déontologie) of Le Monde. And now, a new study, traces the decline of standards and the rise of politicized, radical “left” slant in Israel’s Ha-aretz.

Note that all of the critiques have emerged in the last decade, the period of time in which, we argue at The Al Durah Project, the mainstream news media (MSNM), were taken over, at least in their coverage of the Middle East, by a school of “lethal journalists” who systematically injected Palestinian lethal narratives into the information systems of the West as news. It’s hard to exaggerate the role of Ha-aretz in this process. Foreign correspondents read its English edition religulously as their source of information.

NB: this is not because it’s their only access to an English translation. I once asked a journalist if she had read Khaled abu Toameh.

“Who’s he?”

“He writes for the Jerusalem Post.”

“Oh, I don’t read that right wing rag.”

Instead the international press corps prefer a “left”-wing rag. When I presented the al Durah material to my students, one of them, commenting on Ha-aretz’s relentless denunciation and mockery of any effort to exculpate Israel, asked,

“Isn’t Ha-aretz an Israeli paper?”

“Yes,” I replied, “why do you ask?”

“Because it sounds like a Palestinian one.”

As one critic wrote to Ha-aretz in response to a subscription request, “If I want to read a Palestinian paper, I prefer to read it in Arabic.”

Now, after a series of grotesque cases of anti-Israel coverage that violated all the principles of accurate journalism, a study has come out detailing the indictment of the paper’s radical direction.

Headquarters of Haaretz, Israel's once-venerable newpaper. Photo: The Tower/Aviram Valdman

Downfall of a Great Newspaper

Erez Tadmor

Political editor at Mida Magazine.

Slashed budgets, plummeting standards, and political radicalization have turned Israel’s most respected newspaper into a case study in the collapse of modern journalism.

In early April of this year, the controversial Haaretz reporter Amira Hass, whose coverage of Palestinian violence over the last decade has often prompted accusations of bias, caused a major stir when she published a column called “The Internal Syntax of the Occupation.” Most provocative was her claim that “throwing stones is the hereditary right and duty of someone under a foreign power”—words that appeared only a few days after Adele Biton, a 3-year old Israeli girl, was critically injured when a Palestinian threw a rock at the car her mother was driving, causing it to slam into a commercial truck.

In a Sunday interview with journalist Kalman Libskind of the radio station Galei Yisrael, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken set out to defend Hass’s article. Growing flustered, however, Schocken ended up saying that moving to a settlement was a form of deliberately endangering the welfare of one’s children, something that in another context would trigger the intervention of social services. As for Hass’s sympathy for rock-throwers, Schocken refused to distance himself. “Sometimes,” he concluded, “you have to fight violence with violence.”

The method Amos Schocken chose to defend Hass’s article, and his defense of editor-in-chief Aluf Benn’s decision to publish the piece in full, sheds some light on the recent changes at the once-venerable Israeli daily. In a series of interviews conducted with current and former Haaretz employees, some of whom held high-level positions at the paper and most of whom still hold it close to their hearts, a consensus emerged to the effect that the paper is undergoing a process of major change that has led to a dramatic reduction in staff, a precipitous decline in journalistic standards, and a willful radicalization of its politics in pursuit of Internet traffic.

Veteran Haaretz reporter Amira Hass. Photo: Yossi Zamir/Flash90

Radicalizing. Veteran Haaretz reporter Amira Hass. Photo: Yossi Zamir/Flash90

As Israel’s longstanding newspaper of record, these developments have raised important questions about the future of print journalism, especially in a country where a free and dynamic press has always been at the center of Israel’s democratic discourse.

Atlantic on rekaB Street

Preparing an article on the Boston Bombers and the Western response, I thought I’d fisk this piece from the Atlantic (HT: Chana-Rivka Poupko). But it turned out so light-weight that I think I’ll just introduce it with an anecdote: In 2004, David Pryce-Jones spoke at BU. He recalled an interview he had with a Dutch reporter from Rotterdam. “Rotterdam,” Pryce-Jones commented, “by 2020 that city may be a majority Muslim.” To which the reporter replied, “So what?”

The Boston Bombers Were Muslim: So?

And they planted bombs to kill people thronging at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

So?

Are we waking up? Maher calls it “liberal bullshit”

Bill Maher hosted Brian Levin, professor at CSU-San Bernardino, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. The exchange is most illuminating, primarily for what it shows about the kind of “therapeutic” scholarship that dominates the academy. HT: Jeff Poor at Daily Caller). Comments interspersed in the transcipt below.

BM: I’m always interested to know how people like the people we caught today up in Boston can have two minds going at the same time. I mean if you read what the older brother wrote on the internet, he said his world view “Islam” personal priorities, “Career and Money.” And we see this a lot. I mean the 9-111 hijackers went to strip clubs the night they got on the plane.”

BL: Could I just interject. Look, it’s not like people who are Muslim who do wacky things have a monopoly on it. We have hypocrites across faiths… Jewish, Christian who say they’re out for God and they end up…

Levin immediately takes Maher to refer to the hypocrisy of it all, when (particularly as a scholar) he might have addressed the issue of cognitive dissonance, and the kind of “doubling” that Robert Jay Lifton analyzes in Nazi DoctorsBut instead he immediately reaches for the “we too…” meme of moral equivalence.

BM: You know what, yeah, yeah, You know what — that’s liberal bullshit right there … I mean yes there … all faiths…

BL: There are no Christian hypocrites? You made a career on that!

Levin is very confident here, thinking that with Maher, producer of Religulous, he has a like-minded interlocutor. 

Suicidal Auto-stupefaction from a Belgian Deputy

People’s Party” Belgian deputé, Laurent Louis, espouses conspiracy theory (HT: Jean-Philippe Desmet):
Les attentats de Boston ou comment en quelques instants stigmatiser la Russie et les Musulmans… Encore un beau coup médiatique des sionistes ! Quelles seront les conséquences de ce pseudo attentat ? Une nouvelle limitation des libertés fondamentales ? Une nouvelle attaque contre les pays musulmans ? L’invasion de la Syrie ou pourquoi pas la déstabilisation de la Russie ? Il ne s’agit peut-être aussi que d’un coup de poker politique d’Obama pour justifier une reprise de la mobilisation militaire américaine dans le monde… Un prix Nobel de la Paix, ça ne peut pas partir en guerre pour une broutille… Les frères Tsarnaev, ça me fait penser au cas de Mohamed Merah, ce jeune pion utilisé par Sarkozy pour créer un vent de panique en France et espérer assurer sa ré-élection… Ah, que de manipulations !!!”The Boston attacks, or how in a few moments one can stigmatize Russia and the Muslims… Another great media coup of the Zionists. What will be the consequences of this pseudo-attack? A new limitation of fundamental liberties [e.g., the right to stay unbelievably stupid things – rl]? A new attack against Muslimc ountries? The invasion of Syria or why not the destablilization of Russia? It may just be a political poker move of Obama to justify un renewal of the american military mobilization in the world… A Nobel Peace Prize winner, can’t just go to war for nothing… The Tsarnaev brothers makes me think of Mohamed Merah, that young pawn used by Sarkozy to creat a wind of panic in France in the hopes of reassuring his re-election… Ah, what manipulations!!!
Nothing can penetrate the conspiratorial mind bent on self-destruction.

Le nouveau livre d’Enderlin: Syndrome d’omnipotence masochiste

Dans un de ses commentaires sur l’affaire al Durah, Enderlin insiste que les gens qui lui critiquent au sujet de son emission du 30 septembre, 2000, le font parce qu’ils s’opposent à sa politique.


“C’est un procès de diffamation contre moi [sic – c’est lui qui fait le procès de diffamation contre Karsenty]… c’est une campagne de calomnie par des gens qui rejettent mes diffusions, mes documentaires et mes livres.”

Avec son dernier livre, on commence à comprendre: il manipule la vérité à tout occasion. L’affaire al Durah n’est pas une bavure isolé, mais plutôt une méthode de travail. J’avais déjà l’occasion de voir cette méthode a Harvard. C’est ce que j’appelle “Masochistic omnipotence syndrome” – c’est tout de notre faute, et si on était meilleur, on pourrait tout résoudre.

Voici un compte rendu de son nouveau livre par un bloggeur français remarquable, Victor Perez.

DIMANCHE 21 AVRIL 2013

Le dernier livre de Charles Enderlin

Si l’on avait le moindre doute quant au refus israélien d’une ‘’juste solution’’ pour le conflit proche-oriental, grâce aux bons soins du ‘’professionnel’’ (avec guillemets) Charles Enderlin, le public en est informé. Il suffit de lire le tout début des articles publicisant son dernier livre, voire seulement leurs titres, pour connaître le nom du coupable, du fauteur de paix. Des papiers, favorables au livre, repris, évidemment, par les alliés idéologiques de celui-ci tel Palestine Solidarité qui se targue d’être un « Site d’information sur la Palestine, le Moyen-Orient… » (Sic).
Ne dit-on pas qui se ressemble s’assemble?
Un livre dans lequel, assure le JDD, « Défilent (…) des portraits de rabbins enflammés, de colons armés, de dirigeants politiques pris au piège et, en creux, les contours d’unepopulation israélienne otage de ses extrémismes ».
Un livre qui garantit que depuis la guerre des six jours de 1967 « la mouvance des colons est devenue une force dominante dans la société israélienne, avec un discours théologique eschatologique » dixit le ‘’journaliste’’ (avec guillemets) de France 2.
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Dominante ? Sur quoi s’appuie l’auteur pour affirmer cette ‘’vérité’’ sinon sur sa seule doctrine voyant en l’Israélien le fauteur de paix ? Doctrine que l’on aperçoit déjà sur la quatrième de couverture de son livre intitulé « Au nom du Temple » et qui installe l’israélien comme « colon » du lieu le plus saint du Judaïsme.
La présentation de l’éditeur, faite bien sûr avec l’accord de l’auteur, assure que « Plongeant ses sources dans la haute antiquité biblique, le fondamentalisme messianique juif a pris son essor en juin 1967, après la conquête de la Cisjordanie et, surtout, du Haram Al-Sharif, le troisième lieu saint de l’Islam – là où se trouvent aussi les ruines du Temple d’Hérode, là où le patriarche Abraham avait prétendu sacrifier son fils Isaac ».

An ABI Response to President Obama’s Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

I wrote years ago about Condoleeza Rice’s liberal cognitive egocentrism vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and I had planned to fisk the President’s speech to the Israeli students/people during his last visit and Fareed Zakaria’s typically adoring account of that misreading, in precisely these terms. Lacking the time, American-born Israeli Shoshanna Jaskoll’s excellent response will have to do.

Here’s the President telling us we need to take a positive-sum attitude towards the Palestinians, when it’s the miserably zero-sum Palestinian attitude he should be addressing. But then, that’s so far from finding a receptive audience that, apparently, it struck him as more “meaningful” to lecture Jewish Israelis on an attitude they already have deeply embedded in their culture and, alas, from which they have suffered much during the “Oslo Process”, than to begin a conversation with Palestinians about something so far from their cultural priorities that it would be like speaking a foreign language to them.

Mr. President, next time stick to the script.

MARCH 22, 2013, 1:10 PM
Shoshanna Jaskoll
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is an American Israeli, mom, dreamer, nonprofit consultant, lover of chocolate and seeker of truth… [More]

In his address to Israelis yesterday, President Obama spoke of Israel’s achievements, its history and its right to security. All the things an expat wants to hear from the President of her native land about her chosen one.

So, when Obama said that he was going ‘off script’ I expected some spontaneous and sincere observation or thought he’d had while traveling the country that he just had to share. But what I heard left me literally slackjawed and yelling at the computer in front of my children.

The President spoke of meeting young Palestinians and said, “I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with these kids, they’d say, ‘I want these kids to succeed, I want them to prosper, I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do.”

Mr. President, Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That is your message to and about millions of Israelis who live this daily?  You came here to give us the epiphany that we should “put ourselves in their shoes” and tell us that you truly believe that if only we could listen to them, we would want Palestinian kids to prosper and have the same opportunities as ours?  Aside from wondering exactly which opportunities you are referring to – surely not air raid sirens, rockets and PTSD, army at 18, fear of being blown up by a terrorist – the implication that we do not already think of their children is horrifically offensive because frankly, nothing could be further from the truth.

As parents of children who are all drafted at age 18, no one wants peace and prosperity for all children of the region more than Israelis. No one wants all kids to have the advantages, options, and fun of youth without thinking of war more than us. The idea that it is our lack of identifying with these kids, our not feeling that they should have the same opportunities as our children, our not wanting them to prosper, that is holding up peace is not only ridiculous, but it is practically libelous.

It is also dangerous. It is dangerous because it places the blame and responsibility for lack of peace on our supposed lack of empathy. It is dangerous because it does not put the blame on those whose job it is  to secure these kids’ future.  It is dangerous because it is overly simplistic and pie in the sky – and that does not bring peace.

You, yourself spoke of all that Israel has done to secure peace, from actual deals with Sadat and Hussein to deals offered to – and rejected by – the Palestinians.

The answer to peace does not lie in Israeli parents wanting good things for Palestinian children. It lies with Palestinian leaders wanting them.

As Golda Meir put it so pithily, so many years ago:

When the Palestinians love their children more than they hate ours, we’ll have peace.

Still so true. And what have you – liberals, progressives, and all the people who pretend to love positive-sum outcomes done to bring the Palestinians around from their revolting priorities? Not Fareed Zakaria, whose comment on the President’s speech takes the offensive quality to new heights:

Oratory aside, Obama has recognized and employed the strongest — and perhaps only — path toward peace and a Palestinian state: an appeal to Israel’s conscience.

And Palestinian conscience? That’s not even a player in this process? Racism anyone?

Principled Dupedom: On the Moral Imperative to be Stupid

One of the major weaknesses of Westerners in the current cognitive war with Islamic imperialism is a seemingly boundless commitment to being fooled. It’s almost as if, on principle, we need to accept lies from the other side as true, lest we be accused of being racist. There are two aspects to this, one, an honor-shame reflex that worries primarily about what others think of us (i.e., we’re not racist, but we’re worried others will think us so), and another, that spending our time suspecting others of deception strikes many of us (justifiably) as a huge waste of time. First let me go over some key examples here, and then come back to these two points.

Exhibit A: Andrea Koppel and the “Jenin Massacre.” During the period that the Israeli army conducted Operation Defensive Shield, reports came from Palestinian sources, especially from Saeb Erakat, accusing Israel of massacring over 500 innocent civilians in “execution-style” murders and burying them in mass graves. It turns out that, not only were they exaggerated, they were invented out of whole cloth. In fact, Israel sacrificed 21 soldiers in an operation that went from door to door in order to avoid civilian casualties and, in the end, of the 56 Palestinian casualties, the great majority were combatants. In other words, the situation was precisely the opposite of what the Palestinians claimed and the press reported an inversion of reality. In the middle of these events and reports, David Bloomberg reported witnessing the following exchange in Tel Aviv between Andrea Koppel, daughter of Ted, and reporter for CNN, and Adam Ruskin, an American-born Israeli:

While we [Bloomberg and Koppel] were chatting, an American-born Israeli joined us to tell Andrea about his perception of media distortion in that the press that stresses moral equivalence between Israeli civilian deaths caused by Palestinian terror and Palestinian civilian deaths caused by Israeli military actions. He argued that Israel has tried to engage in a peace process since Camp David and has been double-crossed over and over by the Palestinian Authority. Further, he argued the civilian deaths caused by Palestinians are intentional, whereas the deaths caused by Israel are mostly the tragic, unintentional results caused by Israel trying to defend itself.

Andrea replied, “So when Israeli soldiers slaughter civilians in Jenin, that is not equivalent?”

Israeli: “What are your sources? Were you in Jenin? How exactly do you know there was a slaughter?”

Andrea: “I just spoke with my colleagues who were there, and they told me of the slaughter.”

Israeli: “Did they actually see the shooting, the bodies?”

Andrea: “Palestinians told us about the slaughter.”

Israeli: “And you believe them without evidence. Could they possibly be lying and distorting facts.”

Andrea: “Oh, so now they are all just lying??” [sic]

The Israeli became emotional in describing that his children are afraid, his friends have been murdered, and if this goes on, “We could lose our lives or we could lose our country.”

Andrea, “Yes, you will lose your country.”

At this point, I interrupted the two of them and asked Andrea Koppel, “Did I just hear you correctly– that you believe the current crisis will lead to the destruction of the State of Israel?”

Andrea: “Yes, I believe we are now seeing the beginning of the end of Israel.”

Koppel later denied this report, which led to reponses by both Bloomberg and Ruskin. I think the latter two are telling the accurate story for a number of reasons, including the nature of their recollections. I think, however, that it illustrates the huge gap between the kind of DurahJournalism that was already dominant among the media stationed in Israel, and the residual ethical commitments of the mainstream news media to proper journalistic procedure.

In an unguarded moment, Koppel spoke like so many of her colleagues on the scene, not merely adopting Palestinian lethal narratives uncritically, but adopting the Palestinian “moral” narrative aimed at the destruction of the state of Israel. Once reported to her superiors in the USA, not yet overcome by DurahJournalism, she quickly backtracked, trying to deny what she had said, forcing Bloomberg to reveal the name of his other protagonist for corroboration.

What interests me most in this exchange is the remark with which Koppel replied to the possibility Ruskin raised about whether her Palestinian sources might be lying: “Oh, so now they are all just lying??” This reply exemplifies the politically-correct attitude that rejects accusations that Palestinians lie, with the implied (“they… all”) that somehow it’s prejudiced, even racist to accuse Palestinians of lying.

This is pure liberal cognitive egocentrism, in which we are not allowed to pay attention to cultural differences. There are cultures in which lying (especially to outsiders) is openly embraced as a virtue. Motivations range from the purely self-interested (giving directions when you don’t know just to save face and not admit ignorance), to malice (deliberately misleading an outsider because you don’t like outsiders) to waging war.

Taqiyya goes well beyond Shias protecting themselves from Sunni oppressors, and involves extensive disinformation to infidels, especially in cases of covert Jihad. Those among the shabab who play Pallywood would laugh at some Westerner’s rebuke that it’s “not right” to do such things.

So why do we, as a matter of principle, refuse to consider the possibility (high likelihood) that we’re being lied to by our “Palestinian sources”? Because it makes us feel like good, decent, honorable human beings who believe that everyone is like us? Or, more darkly, because it gives us narratives that make us feel emotions we welcome, moral superiority to and even revulsion at Israeli behavior? After all, the same journalists who are principled dupes to Palestinian lies have no problem accusing the Israelis are lying and propaganda.

Exhibit B: Muhammad al Durah One of the more fascinating aspects of the al Durah Affair concerns the attitude towards Talal’s testimony. It lies at the heart of the matter, since he’s the one to claim a) that the Israelis fired continuously for over 40 minutes, targeting the boy, and b) that the boy died before his camera.

Enderlin based his report on this testimony, and all subsequent accounts follow his narrative, if not in its extreme form – cold blooded murder – at the very minimum, in his claim that the boy died on camera. Indeed, the power of this footage, its riveting quality, and the inability of people to view it as anything but the scene of a boy dying under a hail of bullets, all traces back to Talal’s first claim.

The widespread reluctance of people who have seen the full evidence to go any farther than stating that the Israelis most likely did not kill him, stems from a double resistance to a) seeing Talal (and the Palestinian street) as deliberate liars, and b) seeing Charles Enderlin (and the journalist’s street) as dupes to so obvious a fake. I personally think the “conspiracy theory” is actually (in a addition to being Charles Enderlin’s only effective defense), an unconscious admission on the part of those who accept Enderlin’s version that only some massive conspiracy involving the staffs of both Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and the King Hussein Hospital in Jordan as well as even the king himself (who allegedly – in these matters one never knows – gave blood to Jamal), and all the journalists who stepped in line… ridiculous. Therefore it couldn’t be a fake. QED.

The alternative is to imagine the possibility that a) cooperation with the fake was widely received, even by people who hadn’t been brought in to start (e.g., the Jordanians), and b) the number of willing dupes was numberless, including so many of the journalists who didn’t bother to ask any hard questions.

Exhibit A: Susan Goldenberg, writing for the Guardian, comes to the site, observes a dozen bullet holes behind the barrel, some so close to the barrel they could not have come from the Israeli position, all with direct entry trajectories rather than the 30 degree angle they would have had coming from the Israelis, and not nearly enough to corroborate Talal’s claim that the Israelis were firing “bullets like rain” for over 40 minutes, and concludes:

[T]he 12-year-old boy and his father were deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers.

Exhibit B: Robert Fisk, who didn’t even need to show up to conclude:

When I read the word “crossfire”, I reach for my pen. In the Middle East, it almost always means that the Israelis have killed an innocent person.

While I don’t think that the entire field of Middle-East journalism was committed to the kind of lethal journalism here illustrated, I think that after the al Durah story broke, the rest of the field either got in line, or, perhaps more depressingly, did not dare to say a word.

Rumors have it that Talal sent his footage to Mike Hannah at CNN (not sure of the timing here, since he was allegedly – I trust Enderlin on nothing in this story – on the phone to Enderlin during the day), and Hannah told him he wouldn’t run it. This story makes a great deal of sense: Hannah wouldn’t turn down a story as explosive as this unless he had strong suspicions it was faked (as was most footage of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at that time: it’s one thing to run fake footage of minor injuries, another to run the on-camera death of a child). He, like I think anyone not under the spell of the desire to see a dead child would, looked at the footage and thought: “There’s no way I can run this footage. Way too many holes in this story, critics will tear it to pieces.”

Enderlin’s “genius” was to realize that if he packaged this right, gave everyone in the JCS building a copy of the footage, and warned everyone they were about to see something terrible, he could create a stampede in which, eventually, even CNN would run the story. And he was right. Shades of Charlie Sheen creating a run on Wall Street.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but I think the widespread belief that Muhammad al Durah died on camera is obviously false, and the fact that the Enderlin cut it from his news report, is virtually an open and shut case against the “boy died on camera” claim.

“Take 6” in which the boy, rather than clutch his stomach wound, holds his hand over his eye, slowly lifts up his elbow, looks out and slowly lowers his elbow, lifting up his feet in counter-weight. Enderlin explained that he cut the footage because, as the boy’s death throes, it was too painful for the audience to see. The “audience” can judge whether this looks like the spasmodic death throes of a child, or deliberate and controlled actions.

When asked by Esther Schapira why he called the boy dead while showing earlier footage when he’s clearly not dead, Enderlin responded:

“I’m very sorry but the fact is the boy died. Maybe not at the precise moment I showed. But this is how I do a story. ‘The boy is dead’ is a statement. What’s your problem with that?”

And the fact that every news station that got the footage from Endlerlin did not find this final scene suspicious and use it to question Enderlin’s account, means that, far from a serious independent work, the Middle Eastern desks lined up behind their colleague, even though the damage caused by this footage was immediately evident. As Pierre Taguieff noted about the kind of anti-Zionism that emerged in the wake of al Durah and the Intifada he inspired: “When all the fishes swim in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead.”

All of this brings us back to the discussion of the process of auto-stupefaction I’ve referred to as rekaB Street. Rather than note the clues and the anomalies and pursue them fearlessly, most prefer not even to view the evidence, to dismiss it as a conspiracy theory, or, in some cases, to take a couple of fearless steps and then demur from reaching any further conclusions. Heaven forbid we call Talal a liar and Enderlin a(n apparently willing) dupe! Better we remain stupid.

On the contrary, I think that anyone who approaches the evidence not from the point of view in which “‘the boy is dead,’ and only 110% proof to the contrary will get me to change my mind,” but rather, “what’s going on in this tape? what are the odds it’s about a boy being killed by fire coming from the Israeli position, and what are the odds that it’s been staged?” will find the odds overwhelmingly favor staged (conservative estimate: 95-5?). If we thought about crimes the way most now think about this footage, we could close down our detective agencies and police departments.

Moronic or Sadistic? On Joseph Levine’s (and the NYT’s) Moral Cruelty

A month ago, the NYT published a piece by another “as-a-Jew” singling out Israel for special (negative) treatment. It’s been addressed by at least four other commentators: Avi Bell at The Times of Israel, Elder of Ziyon at his blog, Jonathan Tobin at Commentary, and Vic Rosenthal at FresnoZionism. The outsider will consider this list a roundup of “right-wing” Israel-firsters, which is too bad because they’re responding to an Israel-laster, eager to curry favor with genuinely right-wing regressives, masquerading as a good progressive willing to be self-critical and to sacrifice his “own” interests (a “Jewish” state) for the sake of world peace.

On Questioning the Jewish State Joseph Levine, NYT Opinionator Blog, March 9. 2013 I was raised in a religious Jewish environment, and though we were not strongly Zionist, I always took it to be self-evident that “Israel has a right to exist.”

Levine presents himself in moderate terms, but he has a long paper trail of virulently anti-Zionist and pro-BDS writings: Here he is co-signing a letter calling for the boycott of “Apartheid Israel,”  one telling store owners, and another specifically telling Trader Joe’s not to stock Israeli goods, “History Matters,” in which he unthinkingly and unhistorically adopts the Palestinian narrative, cosigning a letter from the “Free Palestine Subcommittee” in support of an confessed spy for Hizbullah, Ameer Makhoul (a case that bears many of the tell-tale signs of demopaths and their dupes), and a piece arguing Israel’s rogue status on the basis of the Mavi Marmara incident. Each and all of these items illustrate a man who is radically opposed to the existence of the state of Israel, who supports and associates with people who are at most at one remove from openly genocidal hatreds of his own people. And the NYT thinks this kind of a “thinker” is an appropriate one to whom to give its platform.

Now anyone who has debated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have encountered this phrase often. Defenders of Israeli policies routinely accuse Israel’s critics of denying her right to exist, while the critics (outside of a small group on the left, where I now find myself) bend over backward to insist that, despite their criticisms, of course they affirm it.

Note the rhetorical sleight of hand – “defenders of Israel’s policies” – which puts anyone who objects to attacks on Israel that question her right to exist as supporters of the government’s policies, rather than her right to exist. It confounds two distinct (but related) issues, one existential, one policy-oriented. Since Levine is about to argue that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist, the effort to isolate those who do as supporters of “right-wing” Israeli politicians like Netanyahu makes sense tactically. Readers who want to understand the issues, however, should beware.

 The general mainstream consensus seems to be that to deny Israel’s right to exist is a clear indication of anti-Semitism (a charge Jews like myself are not immune to), and therefore not an option for people of conscience.

Well, there is an argument here for this case: given that both Christianity and Islam, from the very earliest years of their creation (almost 2000 years for Christians, over 1400 for Islam), have harbored, fostered, and occasionally incited violent hatred of Jews, have, indeed, asserted their identity on the invidious principle that the humiliation of the Jews was proof of their superiority, that with the advent of modernity, the anti-Jewish animus mutatated into even more monstrous genocidal forms, and that the last time those genocidal hatreds exploded on the European continent as an ecumenical movement that involved far more than Nazis, and that the liberal democracies that should have protected them and offered Jews fleeing the murderous wave of hatred did not, only the most sadistic observer would argue that the Jews did not deserve a state of their own where they did not have to depend on the good will of others to protect themselves. Hence, in the sobering wake of the Holocaust, the argument that denying the Jews a state of their own reveals a deep-seated animus against them held a great deal of weight.

There is now an argument (which Levine will tacitly appeal to) that things are different, and Jews (like him) can count on the benevolence of 21st century democracies (like the US and Europe), and that only a paranoid vision born of the Holocaust keeps Jews fearful of their gentile neighbors. I’d argue that, given that European nations are openly or tacitly telling Jews to leave because they cannot or will not protect them from the violent hatred of the Muslims in their midst, that Israel has become once again, in the 21st century [!], a refuge for Jews fleeing anti-Semitism, such an argument constitutes either a ludicrously naïve notion of the strength of liberal/progressive commitments, or another round of moral sadism.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict for Dummies: Barry Rubin explains why Kerry’s “peace” push is bad for peace

For many of us who understand how political cultures driven by honor-shame imperatives operate, the Sisyphean tendency of well-intentioned “peace makers” to “restart” the Oslo Process after its explosion into the Oslo Intifada in 2000, serves as a apt illustration of the (mis-)attributed quote of “Einstein’s” – the definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting a different result. (So un-Einsteinian: you can never try “the same thing.”)

So when someone like John Kerry takes over at State and goes on a tour of the area looking for how he can jump-start the peace process based on the principles of the Politically-correct paradigm in which we are all positive-sum players and if only we sweeten the pot for the Palestinians, they’ll join in, many of us roll our eyes and know he’s doomed to failure.

What few people consider is what Rubin analyzes here: not only is Kerry’s approach not going to work, if it did, it would make things worse. Not just, one step forward, two backward, but, as in 2000, blowback in our face. Consider Rubin’s analysis.

Why “Progress” Toward Israel-Palestinian “Peace” Is More Likely to Bring Regional Instability

April 10th, 2013 – 7:13 am 

Secretary of State John Kerry has what-should-be-discredited cliché about the Middle East firmly ensconced in his head. Of course, he is not alone. I just briefed a European diplomat who came up with the exact formulation I’m going to deal with in a moment. What is disconcerting—though long familiar—is that Western policymakers hold so many ideas that are totally out of touch with reality.

They do not allow these assumptions to be questioned. On the contrary, it is astonishing to find how often individuals in elite positions have never heard counter-arguments to these beliefs. It is easy to prove that many of these ideas simply don’t make sense, but it is nearly impossible to get elite intellectuals, officials, and politicians to open their minds to these explanations.

This is a fascinating point. The PCP has literally eclipsed all other approaches in the minds of the Western elites. It becomes unthinkable to view the situation otherwise.

Yet we can’t just believe what we want to believe, what we’d like to see happen, what we hope for. Reality must be faced or things will be worse. Having uunexamined utopian ideas dominate this topic does not serve anyone’s interests.

Well, it does serve the interests of the demopaths, who keep pushing all our liberal buttons as a way to have things go worse. But we fine Westerners don’t even want to admit that there are enemies, much less ones that use our values to destroy us.

Let me give a single example. Here are Kerry’s observations after touring the Middle East:

“I am intensely focused on this issue and the region because it is vital really to American interests and regional interests to try and advance the peace process and because this festering absence of peace is used by groups everywhere to recruit and encourage extremism.”

Supposedly, then, the reason that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so important and urgent to solve is that otherwise it is a powerful force in encouraging extremism. Of course, steps toward easing Israel-Palestinian tensions and stabilizing the situation are good but have no positive effect on the region.

Let’s stipulate that it would be a very good thing if this conflict would be resolved in a stable and compromise way. Let’s further stipulate that this isn’t going to happen.

But there is another point which sounds counter-intuitive and yet makes perfect sense:

Resolving the conflict in some way will encourage even more extremism and regional instability. How can I say that? Very simple.

Islamist groups and governments, along with radical Arab nationalists, Iran, and others, are determined to prevent any resolution of the issue. Anything other than Israel’s extinction they hold to be treason. If—and this isn’t going to happen—Israel and the Palestinian Authority made a comprehensive peace treaty those forces would double and triple their efforts to subvert it.

The folly of “linkage” is precisely the misunderstanding of what drives the conflict. If, as Obama and his advisors wanted to do at the beginning of his first administration, we “solve” the Arab-Israeli conflict, then, with the Arabs happy, we go after Iran. The only problem is that even if some (how many?) Arab leaders might be “happy” with a resolution that still left an Israeli state present and autonomous in the heart of Dar al Islam, far more would find that utterly unacceptable. Not only is linkage a Rube Goldberg machine, but it’s one that strewn with landmines just waiting to explode.

The government of Palestine would face determined domestic opposition, including assassination attempts on the “traitors” who made peace. Palestinian factions would claim to be more militant than their rivals and would seek to use the new state as a basis for attacking Israel in order to prove their credentials and advance their political fortunes.

What would the government of Palestine do once cross-border attacks inevitably began against Israel? It is highly likely it would disclaim responsibility and say they cannot find those responsible or even proclaim that these people are heroes.

Of course, the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip would not accept the deal, thus ensuring that it could not be implemented. That last factor, which is a huge and impassable barrier is simply ignored by the “peacemakers.” Israel would have to make major territorial concessions and take heightened risks in advance that would bring zero benefits from a Hamas government that would increase its attacks on Israel. Hamas forces on the West Bank, perhaps in partnership with Fatah radicals, would seek to overthrow Palestine’s government.

There would be attempts to carry out atrocities against Israeli civilians to break the deal, just as happened by Hamas alone during the 1993-2000 “Oslo peace process” period. Hizballah from Lebanon would also increase attacks on Israel to prove that the treasonous peace could not hold.

The ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria would do everything possible to help Hamas. There would be outrage in large sectors of public opinion and especially among the armed Islamist militias who would try to lever their countries into war, stage cross-border attacks against Israel, and back Palestinian insurgents.

Of course, the fact that they understand all of the points made above is one of the main reasons why the Palestinian Authority’s leadership isn’t interested in making a peace deal with Israel, and not even negotiating seriously toward that end.

Ironically, then, the recruiting and encouragement of extremism would be at far higher levels than it is now.

Which is why, ironically, like Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, we need to continue weaving a peace process that must not come to fruition.

But that’s not all. Who would be identified as the architects of this terrible setback for Islam and Arab nationalism? The United States and the West, of course. Imagine the increase of anti-American terrorism for having permanently “stolen” Palestine, perpetuated “injustice,” and so powerfully entrenching the “Zionist entity.”

Kerry, no doubt, thinks that the Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, and Iranians would applaud the wonderful U.S. achievement. This is sheerest nonsense, especially at a time when Islamists feel they are riding the crest of a tidal wave of victory.

Is Kerry that foolish? I’d like to think not, but I’m forever astonished at how foolish smart people can be in our day and age.

While the parallels are inexact, some aspects of such a situation remind me of what happened at the end of World War One. Many people in Germany were convinced that their country was not defeated but merely suffered a “stab in the back” by its foreign enemies and the Jews at home. Out of this soil arose the Nazi movement, to avenge this betrayal and defeat. You can make of that parallel what you will.

Remember, too, that the 1990s “peace process” effort came at a time when Arab regimes were weak, repeatedly defeated by Israel, having lost their Soviet superpower ally, been riven by the Iran-Iraq and Kuwait wars, and with a bankrupt PLO. Now we are in a new era when, for example, the most important single Arab pillar for peace—the Husni Mubarak regime in Egypt—has been driven out to the cheers of those Westerners who also claim to recognize the value of an Arab-Israel peace.

Whether or not I’ve convinced you, I assume that you must understand that a serious case can be made for the argument stated above. Yet none of these points will appear in the mass media or the high-level debate. The assumption is, as Kerry stated, that Israel-Palestinian peace will make things better and no idea will be considered that contradicts this notion.

Let me again emphasize that I am not making an “anti-peace” argument here. If it was possible to secure a lasting, stable compromise peace between Israel and the Palestinians, that would be a great achievement. That might be possible some day but, dangerous wishful thinking aside, that isn’t true now.

And wishing it so makes it worse. Until we look at the cultural issues involved in making peace, and begin to prepare the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims a generation or two down the pike to shift gears, none of our liberal fantasies will do any good.

Read the rest.

 

The Disturbing Arab Decade: Fisking Tom Friedman’s Retraction

The Arab Quarter Century

By 
Published: April 9, 2013 210 Comments

I guess it’s official now: The term “Arab Spring” has to be retired.

Now? About two years late.

There is nothing springlike going on. The broader, but still vaguely hopeful, “Arab Awakening” also no longer seems valid, given all that has been awakened.

The operative word here is “Arab” awakening. The riots of 1936-39, in which “awakening” Arabs killed almost as many of their own people as their formal enemies, the British and the Jews, was also billed as an Arab Awakening.

And so the strategist Anthony Cordesman is probably right when he argues: It’s best we now speak of the “Arab Decade” or the “Arab Quarter Century” — a long period of intrastate and intraregional instability, in which a struggle for both the future of Islam and the future of the individual Arab nations blend together into a “clash within a civilization.”

When the Arab Spring first emerged, the easy analogy was the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Easy for a liberal cognitive egocentrist. The other “easy” analogy was the revolutions of 1848 (which were short-term failures and long-term successes).

It appears that the right analogy is a different central European event — the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century — an awful of mix of religious and political conflict, which eventually produced a new state order.

The first part is good. Warfare in pre-modern Europe. The end of it, the Westphalian State System, inaugurates the modern world of national sovereignties and the beginning of secular politics. The Thirty Years War was the last overtly “religious” conflict in European history. But again, Friedman may be jumping the gun and imagining the secular outcome because he takes that “rational” secular shift as an obvious, even inevitable direction (his own Weberian sociology). It could be the Hundred Years War, which went on between England and France for more than a century.

Some will say: “I told you so. You never should have hoped for this Arab Spring.”

That would be me and many others.

Nonsense. The corrupt autocracies that gave us the previous 50 years of “stability” were just slow-motion disasters.

And the 500 years before that? The idea that the last fifty years are somehow special in the life of Arab political culture is a product of the modern Western developments. What we find intolerable is actually the norm for most pre-modern cultures.

Read the U.N.’s 2002 Arab Human Development Report about what deficits of freedom, women’s empowerment and knowledge did to Arab peoples over the last 50 years. Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria are not falling apart today because their leaders were toppled. Their leaders were toppled because for too many years they failed too many of their people. Half the women in Egypt still can’t read. That’s what the stability of the last 50 years bought.

This is amazing stuff. As if in 1950 or 1960 women’s literacy were the higher and the “failure” of the leadership somehow pushed them backwards. If there’s anything here that fits within the pattern of Western history, it’s that the Arab world, after kicking out their Jews were like the 16th century Spaniards – all that money pouring through their system like a flash flood in a desert.

Also, “we” did not unleash the Arab Spring, and “we” could not have stopped it. These uprisings began with fearless, authentic quests for dignity by Arab youths, seeking the tools and freedom to realize their full potential in a world where they could see how everyone else was living.

But no sooner did they blow the lids off their societies, seeking governments grounded in real citizenship, than they found themselves competing with other aspirations set loose — aspirations to be more Islamist, more sectarian or to restore the status quo ante.

And you really had no idea of the strength of these “other” aspirations?

Still, two things surprise me. The first is how incompetent the Muslim Brotherhood has been. In Egypt, the Brotherhood has presided over an economic death spiral and a judiciary caught up in idiocies like investigating the comedian Bassem Youssef, Egypt’s Jon Stewart, for allegedly insulting President Mohamed Morsi. (See Stewart’s perfect takedown of Morsi.)

My take on the role of honor-shame in this incident here.

Every time the Brotherhood had a choice of acting in an inclusive way or seizing more power, it seized more power, depriving it now of the broad base needed to make necessary but painful economic reforms.

This is normal pre-modern political behavior: rule or be ruled. What’s surprising that the Muslim Brotherhood, a fascist organization from its inception, would choose this political path. Did you believe the line about their “moderation”? Why do you think modern, Western, positive-sum behavior is some kind of default norm?

The second surprise? How weak the democratic opposition has been. The tragedy of the Arab center-left is a complicated story, notes Marc Lynch, a Middle East expert at George Washington University and the author of “The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East.” Many of the more secular, more pro-Western Egyptian political elites who could lead new center-left parties, he said, had been “co-opted by the old regime” for its own semiofficial parties and therefore “were widely discredited in the eyes of the public.” That left youngsters who had never organized a party, or a grab bag of expatriates, former regime officials, Nasserites and liberal Islamists, whose only shared idea was that the old regime must go.

It could also be because what we consider “secular, pro-Western, liberals” young and old, are only honor-shame facsimiles, who look like and mimic well our Western style, but they’re still prisoners of the world they inhabit, without the “purchase” in individuality to take the road less taken – giving up, for example, the inveterate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism of their culture.

Since taking power in Egypt, “the Brotherhood has presided over economic failure and political collapse,” said Lynch.

Try reading David Goldman’s analyses to understand that the economic failure was there from the outset. The most sophisticated economic managers would have had an uphill battle.

“They have lost the center, they are feuding with the Salafists, and they are now down to their core 25 percent of support. There is no way they should win a fair election, which is why the opposition should be running in — not boycotting — the next parliamentary elections.” The old line that you have to wait on elections until a moderate civil society can be built is a proven failure. “You can’t teach someone to be a great basketball player by showing them videos,” he said. “They have to play — and the opposition will not become effective until they compete and lose and win again.”

Building democracy by starting with elections is like building a house starting with the roof.

The old sources of stability that held this region together are gone. No iron-fisted outside powers want to occupy these countries anymore, because all you win today is a bill. No iron-fisted dictators can control these countries anymore, because their people have lost their fear.

Nonsense. They lost their fear momentarily. These are societies built on fear.

The first elected governments — led by the Muslim Brotherhood — have the wrong ideas. More Islam is not the answer. More of the Arab Human Development Report is the answer. But the democratic opposition youths don’t yet have leaders to galvanize their people around that vision.

This is more of the “I prefer politics because it moves faster” kind of thinking that I discussed at the time of Romney’s comments on culture. Politics over culture because politics is faster. Start with the roof because… it’s easier?

Given all this, America’s least bad option is to use its economic clout to insist on democratic constitutional rules, regular elections and political openness, and to do all it can to encourage moderate opposition leaders to run for office.

Yeah. Build your democratic towers on sand.

We should support anyone who wants to implement the Arab Human Development Report and oppose anyone who doesn’t. That is the only way these societies can give birth to their only hope: a new generation of decent leaders who can ensure that this “Arab Quarter Century” ends better than it began.

That’s your only hope, not theirs.

Response to James Fallows on Al Durah

Response to James Fallows on Al Durah

I have an ongoing debate with James Fallows about the Al Durah Affair (here, here, and here). Indeed, he and Gabriel Weimann (mentioned below) are the first people to whom I showed Pallywood. His unwillingness to pursue the Al Durah affair are obviously a great disappointment to me. He just posted a “Ten-years-after” thought on the matter in which he refuses to get dragged back in. I respond below.

Ten Years Ago: The al-Dura Case

What happened to a 12-year-old Palestinian boy? The controversy continues to rage.

JAMES FALLOWS APR 7 2013, 7:45 PM ET

I’ve been running a series of “Ten Years After” items on the political, financial, strategic, and moral ramifications of the American invasion of Iraq, which was in its early stages in April, 2003.

As for me ten years ago, when the war began I was in Israel rather than Iraq. I was there to do interviews for a story that ran in our June, 2003, issue about the controversial and inflammatory Mohammed al-Dura case. He was the 12-year-old Palestinian boy who, according to widespread international news coverage, had been shot to death in 2000 by Israeli Defense Force soldiers, even as he huddled in terror behind the father who was trying to protect him. The picture of the doomed boy and his frantic father became a notorious symbol of Israeli cruelty; the image above is from a Tunisian postage stamp issued in commemoration of the killing.

My story ten years ago said that exactly what happened to Mohammed al-Dura might never be known — but that the prevailing story, that IDF soldiers had shot him to death, was very likely not true, since it was so hard to square with known forensic and physical evidence. The details are too elaborate to go through now, but you can follow them in the original article.

The controversy over the case has continued to rage, but I’ll let you explore it on your own. If you search for the names Charles Enderlin, Philippe Karsenty, or Richard Landes, you’ll be on your way; I’m not getting back into this.

And thereby perpetuate the problem. I remember the first time I showed this to a class, one of the students said, “You’ve convinced me that this is a fake. But I’m reluctant to agree because I don’t want to be seen as ‘taking sides.'” Is that why you take this position?

I obviously find it regrettable you choose not to pronounce on one of the greatest journalistic hoaxes in history, and I think, retrospectively you’ll also regret this decision (on the wrong side of history and all that…). In the meantime, I think you owe yourself (and your readership) a moment of journalistic self-criticism, and ask yourself to what degree your reluctance to even identify malfeasance here is that your colleagues – not just Enderlin – are responsible for many of the problems here.

My 2003 article has come to occupy an awkward “false equivalence” middle ground in the dispute. Many people who believe the original story say that I’ve been duped by Israeli propaganda to exonerate the IDF. Many people who challenge the original story scoff at me for resisting their claim that the entire episode was faked for “Pallywood” propaganda purposes and that the boy was never shot.

That would be me at the end there.

The reader might be excused for reading about the “many people who believe the original story and say I’ve been duped by Israeli propaganda” and thinking “militant Palestinian advocates, BDS types, Islamists…”, but – correct me if I’m wrong here James – many of those “many” are your fellow journalists.

Often, as I’ve argued in the false-equivalence chronicles, taking the middle ground is a way to evade the hard work of finding the real truth. In this case, my agnosticism comes from the murkiness of the evidence and the asymmetrical burdens of proof and disproof. It is much easier to establish that one hypothesis is false — for instance, that IDF soldiers were in the wrong place to do the reported shooting — than to prove that some other one is true. Similarly: I find it hard to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted entirely on his own in killing John F. Kennedy, but I have no idea what the “real” story is.

These are all good points, but would benefit from analysis. Let’s take them point by point.

Often, as I’ve argued in the false-equivalence chronicles, taking the middle ground is a way to evade the hard work of finding the real truth.

Glad that’s a principle. I do think that short of calling the whole thing staged, there are fairly powerful and meaningful things you can say, and I urge you to do so.

In this case, my agnosticism comes from the murkiness of the evidence and the asymmetrical burdens of proof and disproof.

I think the only thing murky about the evidence comes from Talal’s awfully unfocused and remarkably short footage. (And to think he won awards for this work.) You can claim murkiness; I think the fact itself – lack of focus, six ten-second takes of an hour-long ordeal – is evidence.

As for asymmetrical burdens of proof, as I read that problem, the asymmetries operate strongly against the Israelis. Once viewers have been told that they are seeing a boy die before their very eyes, it becomes almost impossible for them to consider criticism. As Itamar Marcus said to me when I first spoke with him about this: “We need 110% proof before we can say anything.”

It is much easier to establish that one hypothesis is false — for instance, that IDF soldiers were in the wrong place to do the reported shooting — than to prove that some other one is true.

As you yourself know, the evidence is overwhelmingly against Talal’s and Charles’ narrative, that the Israeli soldiers shot him, much less that they did it, as Talal claimed under oath (and then silently retracted in a fax) “in cold blood.”

Where you refuse to go, is to pronounce on staging. Here too, anyone examining the evidence dispassionately, free of the riveting “boy is killed” narrative, should at least acknowledge that, if Muhammad were actually killed the way that the still “official version” holds – the boy is shot in the stomach, the boy is dead, the boy was evacuated forty minutes later – we would not expect what the video evidence in fact shows: no blood on the ground or wall, the boy moves slowly and deliberately in a final scene (after Enderlin has declared him dead), there is no footage from any of the numerous cameras present of either the scene or the evacuation, the boy in hospital with the gaping stomach wound is not Muhammad al Durah, etc., etc.).

Whether you want to come to the conclusion that this is staged or not, is your call, but mentioning that no other hypothesis has anywhere near the evidentiary support seems like an honest and decent thing to do.

Similarly: I find it hard to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted entirely on his own in killing John F. Kennedy, but I have no idea what the “real” story is.

This, of course, brings up the “conspiracy theory” trope which is used constantly to discredit those who say the footage was faked. The differences, however, are considerable. We have a dead body, a dead president in the former, we have dubious claims to a dead body, a martyr calling for suicide terror on the other. To say, I believe it was more than Oswald, but not sure who it was, is one thing. In this case, however, the minute you admit that the evidence suggests staging, then a) it’s a no brainer on who’s doing the staging – Talal and his colleagues, and b) who are the dupes – Enderlin and his colleagues… your colleagues. So I’m not sure it’s the evidence that has you so reluctant, and more likely the unwillingness to come out against your colleagues. I understand. The pressures to conform are powerful.

I mention all this because there is an interesting new update in the Times of Israel on one of the people I spent time with ten years ago in Tel Aviv. He is Nahum Shahaf, and you will learn about him from the story. For the record, this new account refers to my own article in positive rather than the now-familiar derogatory terms, but I’m mentioning the story because Shahaf was one of the genuinely engrossing figures I have met along the way. (Another, whom I should regularly thank, was professor Gabriel Weimann of the University of Haifa, who helped me in many ways with this story — but bears no responsibility for what I concluded or didn’t.) \

The reader should note how fastidious Fallows is here not to drag Weimann into the affair. He too would rather not pronounce. Reportedly, Steven Erlanger recently saw Karsenty’s presentation in Paris and when asked what he thought, remarked, “I’m still not convinced.”

I contend that it’s not about the evidence, it’s about the peer pressure, pressure that despite denials, Erlanger still apparently feels still makes Palestinian provocation and incitement off-limits.

See what you think.

At least, James, you could link to the site where all the evidence is available, and readers are invited precisely to make up their own mind on journalism’s “first draft” of History.

Stewart, Youssef, Mursi: A Study in Honor-Shame dynamics

[For those who come here from a link at Fallows’ Atlantic Monthly blog, please click here to get to my response to him.]

There’s been a serious brouhahahaha about John Stewart’s takedown of Egypt’s “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood President Mursi’s for imprisoning Egyptian fellow political satirist, Bassem Youssef for making fun of the president. The take down is pretty devastating – from a Western point of view, and even received an endorsing tweet from the US Embassy in Cairo (oops).  The Tablet has a nice summary of some of the issues (HT: Elsie).

I’d like to discuss two honor-shame aspects to this affair, one obvious, the other less so, but both, I think, closely linked.

The first, obvious one, is the reaction of an honor-shame driven leader to having the mickey taken out of him publicly. Associating his own face with both his office and his religion, Mursi took the mockery as a direct assault on the legitimacy of the state. (Psychologists call this ego inflation.) This is classic behavior and explains, among other things, why fascists, who strive to regain the virility that modern values (like free speech) deny them, use the power of the state to suppress dissent.

Note the difference between Bush (Stewart’s target) and Mursi. Although even otherwise highly intelligent people could not stop accusing Bush of (incipient) fascism, somehow we can’t use the appropriate term “Islamofascism” because… it might hurt Mursi’s feelings.

The second aspect concerns one of Stewart’s “gotcha” moments. At one point he shows an earnest Mursi assuring an eagerly attentive Wolf Blitzer that when he’s president, he’ll embrace the whole Egyptian family, and wouldn’t dream of suppressing criticism. Stewart’s implication and our “reading”: what a ludicrous hypocrite.

Here I’d like to introduce an alternative reading. Mursi would not recognize himself as a hypocrite here. When he spoke with Blitzer he was perfectly sincere, and doing what he should do – please the audience by telling them what they want to hear. He was, to coin a term, “polishing his face” in the eyes of the West. In the West we would call this “lying to save face.” Had he told the truth, he would have lost face with his Western audience. But, as my father (definitely of the intergity-guilt school) often put it, “sincerity is the cheapest of virtues.”

However, when confronted with the painful experience of having his personal vanities mocked – the hat! – a different audience and different set of concerns, that cheap virtue proved unbearably light in the face of public mockery. My bet is that if you showed Mursi the interview with Blitzer and asked about Youssef, he wouldn’t see the connection. That’s not what he meant when he made his assurances to CNN and his American audience.

This kind of emotionally-driven dissonance between two different performances is a ubiquitous element of much Arab-West contact. (All of this, of course, analysis forbidden to post-Orientalists.) When Sari Nusseibeh indignantly denounces suicide terror before a Western audience and then praises the mother of a martyr for her son’s sacrifice, he’s sincere both ways. When Islamists deny the Holocaust ever happened and then accuse Israel of being the new Nazis bringing a Holocaust on the Palestinians, they do not see the contradiction. Both statements blacken Israel’s face and strengthen theirs; both offer immense emotional satisfaction and (alas for civil society), a strong resonance with Western infidels who apparently also find such debasing formulas about Jews almost irresistibly attractive.

Such a lack of concern for what would strike Westerners as hypocrisy is not because Mursi doesn’t know about hypocrisy. On the contrary, he and his defenders will readily use the term to accuse foes, including, I’m sure by now, John Stewart and Wolf Blitzer (those Jews who control the Western media). Public hypocrites are quick to throw stones.

But in some cultures where “face” is paramount, the term has a different meaning. I’m told in China, the term is the equivalent of “politeness.” And while Mursi was being polite with Wolff – it was a smashing interview – he expected the same politeness from his public and from his “friends” at the US Embassy. So when they tweeted the take-down, they extended the rude humiliation. (And to think that the field of international diplomacy has a very limited discussion of issues of honor and shame.)

From the perspective of an honor-shame culture (i.e., one in which it is permissible, expected, even required, that a “man” can lie, and even shed blood for the sake of his honor), the hypocrisy is all on Blitzer and Stewart (two of those “Jews who control the media”): from his perspective Blitzer was polite when it suited him, then Stewart stabbed Mursi in the back with Blitzer’s tape. At some level, there is a recognition that this criticism is true. Otherwise it wouldn’t hurt.

But the hurt, the embarrassment, are more powerful than any impartial commitment to equal standards, to conscience.

Which leads me to my final reflection. Why are people who are so easily hurt, so bent of hurting, and why, oh why, do so many Westerners, especially among the elites, cheering them on?

The Mursi-Stewart Controversy: An “Honor-Shame” Guide

There’s been a serious brouhahahaha about John Stewart’s takedown of Egypt’s “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood President Mursi’s for imprisoning Egyptian fellow political satirist, Bassem Youssef for making fun of the president. The take down is pretty devastating – from a Western point of view, and even received an endorsing tweet from the US Embassy in Cairo (oops).  The Tablet has a nice summary of some of the issues (HT: Elsie).

I’d like to discuss two honor-shame aspects to this affair, one obvious, the other less so, but both, I think, closely linked.

The first, obvious one, is the reaction of an honor-shame driven leader to having the mickey taken out of him publicly. Associating his own face with both his office and his religion, Mursi took the mockery as a direct assault on the legitimacy of the state. (Psychologists call this ego inflation.) This is classic behavior and explains, among other things, why fascists, who strive to regain the virility that modern values (like free speech) deny them, use the power of the state to suppress dissent.

Note the difference between Bush (Stewart’s target) and Mursi. Although even otherwise highly intelligent people could not stop accusing Bush of (incipient) fascism, somehow we can’t use the appropriate term “Islamofascism” because… it might hurt Mursi’s feelings.

The second aspect concerns one of Stewart’s “gotcha” moments. At one point he shows an earnest Mursi assuring an eagerly attentive Wolf Blitzer that when he’s president, he’ll embrace the whole Egyptian family, and wouldn’t dream of suppressing criticism. Stewart’s implication and our “reading”: what a ludicrous hypocrite.

Here I’d like to introduce an alternative reading. Mursi would not recognize himself as a hypocrite here. When he spoke with Blitzer he was perfectly sincere, and doing what he should do – please the audience by telling them what they want to hear. He was, to coin a term, “polishing his face” in the eyes of the West. In the West we would call this “lying to save face.” Had he told the truth, he would have lost face with his Western audience. But, as my father (definitely of the intergity-guilt school) often put it, “sincerity is the cheapest of virtues.”

However, when confronted with the painful experience of having his personal vanities mocked – the hat! – a different audience and different set of concerns, that cheap virtue proved unbearably light in the face of public mockery. My bet is that if you showed Mursi the interview with Blitzer and asked about Youssef, he wouldn’t see the connection. That’s not what he meant when he made his assurances to CNN and his American audience.

This kind of emotionally-driven dissonance between two different performances is a ubiquitous element of much Arab-West contact. (All of this, of course, analysis forbidden to post-Orientalists.) When Sari Nusseibeh indignantly denounces suicide terror before a Western audience and then praises the mother of a martyr for her son’s sacrifice, he’s sincere both ways. Both positions enhance his stature or save face.

When Islamists deny the Holocaust ever happened and then accuse Israel of being the new Nazis bringing a Holocaust on the Palestinians, they see no contradiction. Both statements blacken Israel’s face and strengthen theirs; both offer immense emotional satisfaction and (alas for civil society), a strong resonance with Western infidels who apparently also find such debasing formulas about Jews almost irresistibly attractive.

Such a lack of concern for what would strike Westerners as  is this because Mursi doesn’t know about hypocrisy. On the contrary, he and his defenders will readily use the term to accuse foes, including, I’m sure by now, John Stewart and Wolf Blitzer (those Jews who control the Western media). Public hypocrites are quick to throw stones.

But in some cultures where “face” is paramount, the term has a different meaning. I’m told in China, the term is the equivalent of “politeness.” And while Mursi was being polite with Wolff – it was a smashing interview – he expected the same politeness from his public and from his “friends” at the US Embassy. So when they tweeted the take-down, they extended the rude humiliation. (And to think that the field of international diplomacy has a very limited discussion of issues of honor and shame.)

From the perspective of an honor-shame culture (i.e., one in which it is permissible, expected, even required, that a “man” can lie, and even shed blood for the sake of his honor, Mursi’s just done what anyone would do. We’re the ones with the high expectations, which is good, and the inability to understand those who don’t have them, which

Islamism is winning the cognitive war – thanks to manipulative and gullible journalists

I have a piece up at my blog at the Daily Telegraph:

Islamism is winning the cognitive war – thanks to manipulative and gullible journalists

Anyone who remembers the halcyon dreams of the 1990s, of civil society spreading the world over, heralding a new peaceful, global millennium, must marvel at the path the young 21st century has taken. Even those who paid attention to global Jihad before the millennium could not imagine how vulnerable the West would prove in the coming, wildly asymmetrical war. Those who, over the course of the last 13 years, have awakened to the ever-growing danger of Islamism and to the astonishing inability of decent people – Muslims and non-Muslims – to effectively oppose its aggressions, owe themselves a brief lesson in cognitive warfare, and a second look at the nuclear bomb of that warfare, the Muhammad al Durah affair.

All asymmetrical wars take place primarily in the cognitive arena, with the major theater of war the enemy’s public sphere. The goal is to convince your far more powerful enemy not to fight. In defensive cases, from the Maccabees to the Vietnamese, this has meant getting imperial powers to “go home.” But Islamists who want to spread Dar al Islamconduct an offensive campaign: how to get your targets to surrender on their own home ground? In this seemingly absurd venture, they have had remarkable success.

The mainstream news media – their journalists, editors, producers – constitute a central front of this cognitive war: the “weak” but aggressive side cannot have success without the witting or unwitting cooperation of the enemy’s journalists. The success of global Jihad in eliciting our media’s cooperation with their goals

Palestinians, like most belligerent armies, propagate stories about how vicious and hateful the enemy. The primary audience for this propaganda is the home front, which it incites to vengeance of the most ruthless kind, even justifying killing children in cold blood.

But since 2000, and for reasons that beg for serious investigation, the Western media has almost systematically presented these “lethal narratives” as news even though some/many of them are patently false. The dominance of such “lethal journalism,”  undermines the very fabric of the civil society upon which, ironically, Western journalists depend for their freedom.

The nuclear bomb of current Jihadi cognitive warfare, is the Al Durah Affair. The story first hit the airwaves on September 30, 2000, and marks the takeover of “lethal journalism” among Western Middle-East correspondents. According to France2’s correspondent from Jerusalem, Charles Enderlein, Israeli troops targeted and killed a defenceless 12-year-old boy and badly wounded his father. The story spread like wildfire, an icon of hatred. Not only did global Jihadis use it to recruit for Jihad, but Europeans seized upon it for a substitution theology that freed them of Holocaust guilt: the Israelis were the new Nazis and the Palestinians the new Jews

Read the rest

French Court delays France2-Karsenty Decision till May 22!

In what seems to be an interesting act of hesitation, the French court has delayed its decision on the Enderlin-Karsenty trial until May 22. For those arguing a politicized court which would naturally side with state-owned and politically-correct France2, this needs explanation. A kangaroo court does not hesitate. If it hesitates, it’s because the evidence is so “badly” in Karsenty’s favor that the judges hesitate to defy it. Whether for fear of contradiction, or some (significant but not decisive) remaining elements of intellectual integrity, this is good news.

The fact that they remain uncommitted, rather than deciding for Karsenty’s obvious right to criticize a journalist, however, means the weight of public honor (Charles’, France2’s, the Palestinians’) remains crucial to their calculations.

More to follow.

UPDATE: French article in Novel Observateur on the Court delay.

Affaire Enderlin: Philippe Karsenty sera fixé fin mai

Note the endless reprinting of the most convincing photo of the father and son, terrified under fire. The picture they should show is this:

Take6
Final scene, cut by Enderlin, in which the boy, holding his hand inexplicably over his eyes rather than clutching his stomach, lifts up his elbow and looks out.
A l’origine de cette affaire un reportage saisissant tourné le 30 septembre 2000 dans la bande de Gaza.
Repeating that the report was “saissisant” (riveting) reaffirms the initial narrative.
Philippe Karsenty, poursuivi en diffamation par le journaliste de France 2 Charles Enderlin pour avoir affirmé qu’un reportage sur la mort d’un enfant palestinien en 2000 à Gaza avait été truqué, sera fixé sur son sort le 22 mai. La cour d’appel de Paris devait initialement rendre sa décision mercredi, mais l’a finalement prorogée.
En 2004, Philippe Karsenty, directeur de Media Ratings, qui se présente comme une agence de notation des médias, avait qualifié de “supercherie” et de “série de scènes jouées” un reportage du correspondant permanent de France 2 en Israël, tourné dans la bande de Gaza le 30 septembre 2000 par son caméraman. Un Palestinien de 12 ans, Mohammed, protégé par son père, Jamal al-Doura, y était tué lors d’un échange de tirs entre l’armée israélienne et des activistes palestiniens.
No use of “alleged.” Thus the Nouvel Obs continues to side with Enderlin in reporting that the boy was killed.
Les images de l’enfant avaient été largement diffusées dans le monde et avaient donné lieu à une controverse sur l’origine des tirs ayant provoqué sa mort.
No mention of the round of hatred and calls to violence the image provoked around the world.

Condamné en première instance, Philippe Karsenty avait bénéficié d’une relaxe en appel. La décision avait été annulée par la Cour de cassation.

No mention of the harsh criticism of the court of the way Enderlin did his reporting. “Avait beneficié d’une relaxe” (benefited from an acquittal) suggests not that either got lucky or got a favor.

Lors du nouveau procès le 16 janvier devant la cour d’appel, Charles Enderlin avait affirmé que l’authenticité des images de faisait “absolument aucun doute”, tandis que M. Karsenty avait soutenu qu’il s’agissait d’une “mise en scène”.

No assessment of the arguments, or even a link to where to observe the evidence. Any “normal” reader, convinced that Enderlin and France2 would never be so incompetent as to have been fooled and so perverse as to not admit it, would find this account perfectly in consonance with their beliefs. This was written for a readership not interested in the actual evidence.

TéléObs avec Afp

AFP (Agence France Presse) is a major player in the scandal.

 

Al Durah Verdict coming up: Arnold Roth’s take

The Al Durah verdict is tomorrow. In the run-up several articles have been written discussing the issues and the stakes. Here’s Arnold Roth’s take:

Al-Durah: A lethal narrative and the innocent lives it continues to destroy…writes Arnold Roth

April 3, 2013

A court of appeal in Paris will hand down an important judgment today that serves as a kind of microcosm of how the media establishment can act in a co-ordinated way to protect its members’ perceived interests.  It also, by the way, throws a sharp light on the way Israel’s interests are under attack far from the physical battlefield – while the casualties are all too real.

The decision will be the latest episode in a legal saga pitting the state-controlled France2 television juggernaut along with one of its senior news producers, Charles Enderlin, on one side against a lone-wolf French media critic, Philippe Karsenty. Enderlin and France2 are seeking to have Karsenty convicted of criminal defamation.

The matter has gone through four separate rounds of legal hearings since the well-funded plaintiffs launched their attack in September 2006 – testament to the determination of both sides, and perhaps to the larger issues at stake. (See the timeline on the Aldurah.com website.)

Enderlin is a prominent French foreign correspondent based, and living, in Israel. A well-regarded veteran professional, he is the current head of the Foreign Press Association here and no innocent bystander when it comes to the powerful controversies that continually sweep over the media’s coverage of events in the Arab/Israel conflict.

The Enderlin/France2 legal action starts with an event that still reverberates mightily today. On September 30, 2000, at the start of the second ‘Intifada’, France2 broadcast footage of an episode that happened at Netzarim Junction in Gaza that day. It was captured on film by a Palestinian ‘stringer’ called Talal Abu Rahma who – perhaps oddly – was the only one out of the numerous cameramen filming at Netzarim that day to record the incident, which he claims occurred over the course of nearly an hour. Enderlin, France 2′s local correspondent, was not present and in fact was in another part of the country at the time.

France2 put the Abu Rahma footage to air the same days, accompanied by dramatic commentary supplied by Enderlin, and handed the clip to numerous other news agencies. It purported to show a scene both pathetic and horrifying: a father and his pre-teenage young son cowering behind a barrel as bullets are fired at them by (as the Enderlin commentary makes clear) IDF soldiers in a nearby emplacement. Eventually, the narrative became more concrete and accusatory: the Israeli soldiers had murdered the boy, Mohammed “in cold blood,” firing “hundreds of bullets”. Mohammed bled to death of a stomach wound.

Twelve and a half years have passed since the events depicted in the Al Durah video. That’s certainly a long time in terms of a news cycle. But along the way it morphed into something iconic and enduring, with devastating effect in terms of lives lost and ruined. It is at least as alive and potent today as it was in 2000.

People who view the video are usually convinced they are witnessing the horrible and cold-blooded killing of a child. That is what the voice-over tells them. Since it first appeared as a news report, the image of a dead boy beside his father has escalated into a plethora of posters, murals, online music videos and even postage stamps.

The problem, as Karsenty and others have repeatedly and publicly pointed out, is that the child is visibly alive at the end of the full clip, long after the audio track pronounces him shot dead. The frames capturing that startling final scene were ignored in some broadcasts, edited out of others, and are at the heart of the dispute. They can be seen here.)

Whatever actually happened that day, the Al Durah footage continues to be invoked over and again as justification for violent deeds and acts of terrorism.

  • The organizers of the notorious 2000 anti-racism conference in Durban exploited the Al Durah footage to market Israel as the villain of the new, global century.
  • The grotesque 2002 video released by Pakistani jihadists that shows American journalist Daniel Pearl being beheaded depicts the face of Mohammad Al Durah in a corner of the screen.
  • The Al Durah narrative played a key role in Osama Bin Laden’s video sermons. It became an icon of hatred that fanned the winds of global religious and cultural hatred and warfare.
  • Jihadi groups have used the imagery to reach students at Western universities.
  • The French jihadist Mohamed Merah ascribed his killing spree in Montauban and Toulouse in March 2012 to a will to avenge the Palestinian boy’s death.

The 2012 Toulouse tragedy highlighted, perhaps more graphically than the other instances, how a society exposed to hate-mongering narratives of children deliberately killed by a hated ‘other’ (and perhaps it’s just coincidence that this happened in France again), will produce men like Merah who kill Jewish school-children to avenge these journalistic accounts. Beyond this, it will nourish deep resentments that engender support and admiration for the “avenger”, lionizing him as a martyr for the act of child-killing and for the blows he strikes against authority.

The matter of the Al Durah event – and in this sense it matters less whether it was accurately reported or wasa ‘Pallywood’ hoax – is at the heart of a serious debate about news reporting. Consider three points, from among numerous others:

  1. Among the most disturbing of the many failures highlighted by the Al Durah affair has been the remarkable lack of evident desire among investigative journalists to critically examine the Charles Enderlin/France 2 version of the evidence. And in a striking inversion of the role journalists should be taking, France’s union of media professionals, the Syndicat national des journalistes, stands explicitly behind Enderlin, the video clip’s producer. It has actively supported France 2’s sustained attack on Karsenty and his pesky questions for eight years.
  2. In some quarters, France 2′s defamation suit is perceived as a means to legally strait-jacket those who allege the video and the narrative it represents are a fraud.
  3. Journalism that promotes toxic narratives by presenting them as news, feeds hatred and incites to violence has arguably become central to the harshening of European public culture in the 21st century. Jews are only the first victims of a metastasizing process that is coming to be recognized as cognitive warfare.

Notwithstanding the small degree of attention paid outside France to this criminal defamation case, there are serious and large issues here. Beyond the immediate facts of the events at Netzarim and in Paris, they concern the immensely important role played by those who report and analyze the news, and the mutual responsibility existing between them and the societies they serve. What is the appropriate response if it turns out that deadly consequences result from malfeasance on the part of those who package and market the news?

Perhaps the decision of the Paris court on Wednesday may help to bring the questions into a sharper focus. They are likely to accompany us for some time.

Arnold Roth made Aliya from Melbourne in 1988. In 2001, his 15-yr-old daughter died as a result of the suicide bombing of Jerusalem’s Sbarro Restaurant.

Al Durah Decision coming up: Elihu Stone’s take

The Al Durah verdict is tomorrow. In the run-up several articles have been written discussing the issues and the stakes. Here’s Elihu Stone’s take:

Al-Dura: a lethal narrative that just won’t die

MARCH 30, 2013, 8:40 PM 3

Elihu D. Stone
Elihu D Stone practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts and is currently a member of the Israeli Bar; He is involved in the Al Durah Project, an initiative dedicated to understanding and countering the dilemmas and vulnerabilities that face democratic cultures in this age of aggressive asymmetric and cognitive warfare… [More]

This Wednesday, April 3rd, The French Supreme Court will render its decision in a case pitting the state-owned France 2 News Agency and one of its senior news producers, Charles Enderlin against media critic Philippe Karsenty, a citizen media critic, whom they seek to convict of criminal defamation. The legal action, winding its way through the French legal system for eight years, involves an event that occurred 12 years ago but still reverberates mightily today.

On September 30, 2000, at the start of the second Intifada, France 2 broadcast approximately one minute’s edited footage of an episode filmed by its Palestinian stringer Talal Abu Rahma at Netzarim Junction in Gaza. Abu Rahma was the only one of the scores of cameramen filming at Netzarim that day to record the incident, which he claims occurred over the space of a full hour. Charles Enderlin, France 2′s Jerusalem correspondent – who did not witness the scene – broadcast the footage informing his viewers that 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura and his father, Jamal were “the target of fire from the Israeli position” as they took cover behind a barrel near a wall at the Junction. In later interviews, Abu Rahma accused the Israeli soldiers of murdering Mohammed “in cold blood,” firing “hundreds of bullets” while the boy bled to death of a stomach wound.

The “lethal narrative” that Israeli troops wantonly killed Mohammed became a clarion call for Jihadists and other foes attacking Israel, Jews and Western democracies. Bin Laden featured images of al-Dura prominently in his recruiting videos; Pakistani jihadis beheaded Daniel Pearl on camera invoking the image of Mohammed al-Dura.

From the moment of broadcast, the scene raised troubling questions for Enderlin’s account, and many more surfaced during the years that followed: Why, although Abu Rahma and Enderlin alleged the Israelis hit Mohammed and his father a dozen times with bullets that tore through their bodies, does no blood whatsoever appear on the wall, the barrel, or the ground near the alleged victims? Why do the people around Abu Rahma shout the “the child is dead! The child is dead!” before he even shows signs of being hit. Why, two “takes” after Enderlin has declared him dead does the boy peek out from under his arm at the camera, showing no sign of a stomach injury? And why did Enderlin cut that final scene from his broadcast? Why did news photographers find red ‘blood’ the day after the incident on the ground near the barrel, under the father’s position, but not where the son allegedly bled to death of a stomach wound? Why did 45 minutes of continuous, targeted fire leave no more than 11 bullet holes in the wall by the al-Duras? Why – despite Abu Rahma’s varying claims to have collected or filmed bullets at the scene and Jamal’s alleged surgeries in Gaza and Jordan to have bullets removed – has not a single bullet or fragment ever been produced, in response to Israel’s repeated requests for such evidence?

The Al-Dura incident and the questions surrounding it raise matters extending far beyond the events of that day and the geographic boundaries of the Middle East. At issue are the bedrock rights and responsibilities of the media as it reports on events, especially in cases where it assigns motive and blame.

Too often, in the court of public opinion, the press simultaneously holds itself as judge and jury and advocate. The rules of evidence prevailing in the court of public opinion are far less defined than those in a court of law. Precisely for that reason, the press has a heightened responsibility to police itself, when determining what images and messages it injects into the public sphere it is meant to accurately inform.

It has been said that truth matters less than perception and belief in shaping world events. But that merely increases the journalists’ responsibility – if they can shape perceptions so powerfully, they must proceed scrupulously. Democracies give their press freedom to speak truth to power. Abusing this freedom to recycle false accusations designed to stoke war betrays the very profession itself.

Yet, on more than one occasion, members of the media have defended their choice of images purveyed, chosen precisely due to their emotional, rather than their probative, content. Patrick B. Pexton, Ombudsman of the Washington Post, in an opinion piece published November 23, 2012 entitled “Photo of dead baby in Gaza holds part of the ‘truth’ ” recalled MaryAnne Golon, the Post’s director of photography, explaining to him that the purpose of any front-page photo, regardless of subject, is to move the reader, whether through its beauty, sentiment or drama.” Apparently, the fact that the journalist mistakenly blamed Israel for the child’s death did not impede the search for emotional impact.

In the case of al Dura, France 2 failed to investigate basic questions of fact and causation before, during and after its passing on of poisonous images and allegations to the public relying on France 2 – and still remains in exclusive possession of materials crucial to properly answer those questions. Perhaps France 2 rushed because it did not want to be scooped by others filming the scene, but that hardly excuses its subsequent failure to investigate properly.

The utter refusal by France 2′s journalists and editors to examine evidence that contradicted their basic assumptions remains deeply disturbing. Enderlin not only conflated absence of proof with proof of absence, but justified willful blindness to certain facts as grounds to dismiss their very possibility. Even more disturbing, France 2 doubled down when confronted with its error, trying to legally straitjacket Karsenty for having the temerity to call out the al-Dura hoax for what it is. If the French court, for either political or technical reasons, sides with state-owned France 2 against a bold and correct critic, they strike a blow not only against press responsibility, but the very fabric of the civil society they ought to play such a key role in preserving. Such an abject failure on the part of both the media and the courts to correct this penchant for mainstreaming the enemy’s lethal narratives makes the world a much more dangerous place.