Monthly Archives: March 2015

Professor Pessin’s Facebook Entry on Operation Protective Edge, August 11, 2014

A complicated but telling development in the cognitive wars, from Connecticut College. For the details, see at Slate and NPR. The controversy has focused on the following facebook entry from August 11, 2014, at the height of last summer’s war in Gaza.

I’m sure someone could make a cartoon of this, but one image which essentializes the current situation in Gaza might be this. You’ve got a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape. The owner, naturally keeps the thing in the cage, but being kind-hearted or something, regularly feeds it, waters it, takes care of its health needs, etc. But liberal hearted world is outraged at the cruelty of keeping in in the cage, keeps pressuring the owner to let it out. Every so often the man relents under pressure, opens the cage a crack, and the pit bull comes roaring bounding out, snarling, going for the throat. A short battle ensues, the pit bull gets put back in… and almost immediately liberal world pressure starts complaining about the cruelty to animals and insisting he open the cage.

Gaza is the cage because of its repeated efforts to destroy Israel and the Jews. (1990s suicide buses anyone? how quickly we forget.) The blockade is not the cause of the current conflict. It is the RESULT of the conflict and cannot retroactively become its cause. The same is true of Judea and Samaria, the result of the Arab enmity toward Israel and not its cause. Anyone who fails to recognize that clear and obvious fact is demanding the release of a rabid pit bull. You may call for this release because you are yourself a rabid pit bull protesting your co-specimen’s detention, or because you are a well-meaning liberal hearted animal rights person. But you are demanding the same thing. (And I wonder how heartily you’d demand this if the rabid pit bull was to be released in YOUR neighborhood.)

Andrew Pessin, Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College, August 11, 2014, Facebook entry later taken down in the face of misinterpretation, transcribed by me.

The reading of this promoted by Pessin’s vocal critics, in which he meant that the Palestinians are the pit bull which by the logic of his image, Pessin agreed in a later exchange, needed to be “put down,” making this an odious example of “racist hate speech,” is contentious to put it mildly.

As Pessin noted in his defense, read the discussion in which he was participating and it’s clear he’s talking about Hamas. Certainly, the pit bull who “comes roaring bounding out, snarling, going for the throat,” every time the man let’s it out of its cage, is a reference to Hamas, as is his explicatory reference to the suicide bombings of the aughts (’00s).

This particular entry is clearly within a long and distinguished tradition of both political cartooning and animal parables, including George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Read in that manner, it is an incisive depiction of Hamas, whose numerous war crimes this summer, according to an Amnesty International Report (!), included killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians in an indiscriminate manner. The deep irony embodied in Pessin’s image of Gaza as the cage, is that it’s not really the Israelis who built the cage, so much as the rabid dog who has taken Gazans hostage, hides behind them, uses them as human shields to fend off the Israeli effort to “put down” the rabid dog of “genocidal hatred.”

The “liberal” reader who, squeamish at a depiction of genocidal hatred denounced in no uncertain terms (pit bull), ends up behaving like the faculty at Connecticut College: they placate groups who scream injury when criticized, in order to shelter their own discourse of violence and hatred from the scrutiny it so richly deserves.

 

Lethal Journalism, Middle East Style

The practice of lethal journalism participates in the larger category of passing off war propaganda as news. It has a long history, and a long future. Lethal journalists take the stories that belligerents create to demonize the enemy – especially the accusation of deliberately killing innocent civilians even children – and presenting them as news.

In the annals of the long history of running war propaganda as news, rarely if ever, have journalists consistently over an extended period of time, passed off enemy war propaganda as news. And yet that behavior, a kind of “own-goal journalism” marks the dominant school of journalism during the period of the opening years of the 21st century. And although it eventually spread far beyond the Middle East, that lethal reporting began and took shape in covering the conflict between Israel and her neighbors.

This peculiar combination of base war propaganda persistently repeated as news by a target of that propaganda – I’d like to call DuraJournalismBut throughout this essay, when I use the more generic “lethal journalism” I make reference to this eccentric Levantine phenomenon.

Identifying and redressing this problem seems like a high value goal, especially in the cause of strengthening a free (hence accurate) news media at a critical moment in the history of those modern nations, “so conceived and so dedicated.”

The key to this journalism is the delivery as news of an implicit (preferably explicit) accusation of deliberate killing – murdering children,targeting  civilians, or, in the words of the Goldstone Report, deliberately “punishing” civilians with “disproportionate” response, possibly constituting “crimes against humanity.” Lethal narratives constitute the basest form of war propaganda, especially when the stories are largely invented. It seeks to arouse hatred and a desire for revenge by convincing the target audience (recruits, observers), that the designated enemy deserves the violence you wish to visit on him.

The term “lethal journalism” designates the practice of those journalists who take a systematically credulous stance towards Arab lethal narratives about Israel, which they then pass on to us, their readers and listeners, as “news,” or at least, as perfectly believable claims about what has happened. Maintaining such a discourse necessitates playing fast and loose with evidence, ignoring and dismissing anomalous details, playing up dubious ones. It leaves a distinct Augean trail where it passes.

Since all wars have their lethal narratives, and all war-makers want to enlist journalists in spreading theirs, examples of lethal journalism can be found throughout the history of the press in war. Indeed, it’s an obvious need for democracies founded on peaceful relations, to have a press that can accurately identify false evidence, especially in the service of lethal narratives, and report on that war propaganda, rather than become an instrument of that propaganda. The fact that Western media have done so badly for over fifteen years, suggests the extent of the media’s “credibility crisis.” The most trusted news source – Fox! – 29%. Democracies cannot survive such dysfunctional relations between the news media and their public.

Iranian Porridge

obama feeding baby congress iran porridge by fatimafeeding baby GOP lrg POS

Lessons in Honor-Shame Politics: Kedar on the Zionist Camp

Mordechai Kedar, one of the most adept analysts of honor-shame culture, has a fascinating rant on the implications for war in the case the Israeli electorate chooses the “peace” candidates Yithak Herzog and Tzippy Livni. While I agree with almost everything he says, readers should not take this as an endorsement of Naftali Bennet and his Jewish Home (Kedar’s choice) or any other party. This is a major lesson in the dangers of the kind of liberal cognitive egocentrism that lead people to accept the PC Paradigms and reject the HSJParadigm.

The Arab world dreams of the day Herzog and Livni might

be at the helm of the Jewish state.

Published: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 11:20 AM

Written in Hebrew for Arutz Sheva, translated by Rochel Sylvetsky.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar Ilan University

Honest disclosure I: I have been acquainted with the Herzog family for decades, ever since I was a child, and at various points in my life I crossed paths with all three Herzog brothers, Joel,  Brigadier General (Res.) Michael and MK Yitzchak.  I have always held this aristocratic family in great esteem for their generosity, deportment, intelligence and erudition, as sons of Israel’s late sixth president Chaim Herzog and grandchildren of the late Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi  Herzog.  Ambassador Abba Eban, a significant political and cultural figure on his own, was their uncle. An aristocratic family in the deepest sense of the word.

Honest disclosure II: During the second half of the nineties, once I had finished my army service, I was active in the “Paths to Peace” organization, the younger and religious brother of “Peace Now”. I gave peace a chance the European way, but our Arab neighbors disappointed us.

Honest disclosure III:  At various times, I have suggested a Middle East peace plan for us and our neighbors, “The Eight Palestinian Emirates Plan”. I am openly against the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, one that will without doubt turn into another Hamastan and lead inevitably to the next war.

Honest disclosure IV: I openly support the Jewish Home party’s list.

Let us start with the head of the Labor party, Yitzchak Herzog:

Years of research spent studying Arab discourse, media and culture – in the original Arabic – have led me to the incontrovertible conclusion that most of the Arab population hopes the day will come when Herzog is prime minister of Israel, for that day – at least according to the viewpoint of most Arabs   is the beginning of the end of the state of Israel .The reason is simple: Herzog is seen as a person of weak character, unimpressive and spineless. He did not serve as a combat officer and was, instead, an officer in my unit, 8200, which is made up of brilliant nerds with the obligatory round-framed eyeglasses.

Herzog’s gentle way of speaking and the unconfrontational terminology he uses, those that make him attractive to Israelis who want to think like Europeans and Americans, have convinced the Arab world that Herzog is the only way to soften Israel enough to step all over it and turn it into a dishrag that can be wrung into oblivion.

The Middle East’s agenda is set by stereotypes and images, and the image Herzog projects is so weak that any threats Israel might pronounce would be met with derision. The distance from that derision to all-out war is a short one.

In the Middle East, anyone who proclaims non-stop that he wants peace, projects the image of someone who is afraid of war because he is weak, thereby awakening the militaristic adrenaline glands of his neighbors, who then resemble nothing so much as eagles and vultures hovering over a dying cow.

And the opposite is just as true: anyone who radiates power, strength, threat and danger enjoys comparative tranquillity because the bullies leave him alone. This is the reason the Arabs hated and respected Ariel Sharon and Moshe Dayan – they were afraid of them. Sadat made peace with Israel because he could not defeat the Jewish state despite the surprise factor he had in opening the Yom Kippur War and his early success in crossing the Suez Canal.  Hussein also made peace with Israel, hoping it would use its power to help him face the Baath party of Syria and Iraq. Arafat agreed to a hudabiyya peace – that is, a temporary “peace” for as long as the enemy is too strong to defeat – after the failure of the first intifada.

Yitzchak Herzog at the helm of the government is the sweetest dream the Arab world can imagine, because it is proof that Israeli society is tired, exhausted, lacking the motivation to protect the country and ready to pay any price for a paper  that has the word “peace” written on it.  Herzog at the helm of the government will be subject to pressures from the Arab world – and from Obama’s White House – because he creates the impression that “this time it will work”, or shall I say, “Yes, we can”.

The pressures he will undergo will be much greater than those exerted on Netanyahu, because the White House and the Arab world will sense that his days as Prime Minister are numbered and therefore, they must make every effort to squeeze as much out of him as they can for the short period that Israelis will let him function before waking up to realize the imminent catastrophe and removing him from his seat as they did to Ehud Barak when he gave in to Arafat.

Yitzchak Herzog may bring about harmonious relations with the White House and perhaps even with the angst-consumed leaders of Europe, but he will bring a war of blood, fire and tears to the area called the Middle East where only those who are truly powerful, threatening and determined to deter their enemies survive.

Let us continue with MK Tzipi Livni, Herzog’s rotation partner in what the two self-titled “The Zionist Camp”:

Tzipi is the other aspect of the sweet dreams of the Arab world, a woman born and raised in a courageous Revisionist family, a home filled with healthy and strong Zionist principles. She began her political career in the Likud, but became more and more spineless, deteriorating from party to party, until she joined up with the other leading invertebrate, Yitzchak Herzog.

To the Arab world, Livni symbolizes and represents the dispirited and weary Israeli, those who have had enough of the struggle for survival and are willing to offer their necks to the slaughterer hoping that he will butcher them gently if they speak politely.

The internet tells us that in the eighties, Livni was actually a Mossad agent in Europe, and several Arab websites tell of the “special services” she did for the state of Israel.These services are understood in the West as undercover and secret, but in the Middle East the expression is interpreted in a totally different fashion. We can imagine how they will react on the web in the Arab world and what our image will be if she becomes prime minister.

However, the problem with Tzipi Livni is not just about her image, because in her case, our neighbors have proof that Livni hasn’t the foggiest idea of how to navigate the complex, thorny paths of the Middle East: she was Foreign Minister during the Second Lebanon War, and was the Israeli architect of Security Council Resolution 1701 that allowed the Hezbollah – already clear in the phrasing she espoused – to renew and enlarge its rocket arsenal. I would expect someone with a law degree to comprehend the built-in failure in the way the resolution was phrased, but Tzipi Livni did not even reach this minimal legal test. Is there anyone in his right mind who would hire her to prepare a contract for renting out his apartment?

What is strange is that instead of being ashamed and keeping her mouth shut, Livni even defended Resolution 1701 in public, strangely calling it a resolution that “created change in southern Lebanon”.


Only in Israel do the spineless have the nerve to ask the public for another chance to sit for the Middle East exam which they are sure to fail once again.
She is right about one thing. It surely did create change in southern Lebanon, but one that is bad for Israel. Instead of demilitarizing Hezbollah – which many countries agreed was necessary after the Second Lebanon War – this resolution allowed Hezbollah to rearm. Livni’s failure in phrasing the resolution and its implementation should have left her far away from any Israeli decision making positions, and certainly from those that have anything to do with our geopolitical reality.

In sum: Only in Israel do the spineless have the nerve to ask the public for another chance to sit for the Middle East exam which they are sure to fail once again. Only in Israel does the public’s collective memory go only as far back as the last television debate, the slogan heard yesterday and the latest spin a candidate spread this morning at the advice of his media consultants because it is popular and easy to recall.

Not one of the soul weary people – those who talk non-stop about “peace” – can deal in a suitable manner with the cruel and difficult  cultural environment in our neighborhood, one which, in the best case, will kick him in the rear as a warning before plunging a dagger into his neck.

The Herzog-Livni duo is the last thing I would recommend to lead the state of Israel, as long as we want to survive in the “New Middle East” – not the Shimon Peres fantasy world of that name, but the one where what is new is “Islamic State”. Perhaps, in the far-off future, when and if the surrounding cultural atmosphere turns into something like America or what it was once in Europe, we will be able to consider these two soul weary people as leaders of Israel.

However, while the Middle East looks the way it does and functions the way it does at present, there is no choice except to leave them nailed to their seats in the opposition consisting of other spineless “round eyeglasses” so they can raise shrill voices to criticize the nation’s leaders, while those leaders radiate power, strength and credible threats.

This is the bitter reality in which we attempt to survive. I am not the one who created it, and I bear no guilt for the situation we are in. I am just the messenger who is charged with explaining to my readers what not everyone understands about the culture in our neighborhood. It is a culture that only provides quiet and tranquility to the leader who succeeds in persuading his neighbors that he is invincible and that they had better leave him in peace for their own good.

Ths is an ongoing mission, especially since every once in a  while some “brilliant” figures appear, claiming to have just patented their invention of the wheel  and found the way to be accepted by our neighbors as a legitimate and welcome entity.

My advice? Learn Arabic.

Annals in Palestinian Media Protocols: Cristiano’s Letter to Arafat

A Polish translation of this post is available here.

While writing a talk for the EUSA, I had trouble finding the URL for Riccardo Cristiano’s letter to Yassir Arafat about the Ramallah Lynch. This critical document sheds a harsh light on the nature of journalistic work in the Middle East. So, for easier reference in the future, I post below the version available (with much effort) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, with additional comments of my own throughout.

The Government Press Office today (Wednesday), 18.10.2000, has decided to temporarily suspend the press card of Riccardo Cristiano, the representative of Italian state television (RAI), in the wake of his letter to the Palestinian Authority which was published in the Monday (16.10.2000) edition of Al Hayat al Jedida. Mr. Cristiano has also been summoned to the GPO where he will be requested to explain his letter.

In the aforementioned letter, Mr. Cristiano declared that he had acted according to the PA’s working rules for journalists. His letter implies that he will never again [would never -rl] film events which are liable to cast a negative light on the PA, such as the recent lynching of IDF reservists in Ramallah.

Mr. Cristiano also wrote that his competitors in the Italian media are responsible for broadcasting the pictures of the lynching and thereby accused other foreign journalists working in the territories.

The State of Israel, as a democratic society, welcomes the foreign journalists working here and invests considerable effort in both assuring freedom of the press and assisting journalists in their work. All that we ask from foreign journalists is that they abide by the rules of press ethics as is accepted in democratic societies.

Background

On October 12, 2000, two non-combatant Israeli reserve soldiers were lynched and brutally murdered by a Palestinian mob in Ramallah. Both were drivers, one aged 38 and the father of three, the other a 33 year-old newly-wed.

MIDEAST-ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN

Aziz Salha showing his bloody hands to the crowd outside.

Since this lynching, the official Palestinian broadcasting stations have made every effort to hide the horrible pictures which were shown around the world.

Actually, even as they tried to hide these images from the world, they have exalted them among their own people.

bloody hands girl

Kindergarten graduation ceremony, PA school.

Moreover, the day after the lynching, PA-appointed Sheikh Halabaya gave a blood-curdling sermon calling for genocide against the Jews and their friends the world over, broadcast on PA TV (and therefore captured by Palestinian Media Watch).

According to reporters’ evidence on the scene, not only did the Palestinian police not protect the two men slaughtered while in their custody in the Ramallah police station, but they also tried to prevent foreign journalists in the area around the building from filming the incident.

Here’s a brief description of the violence against Mark Seager, a pro-Palestinian photographer, published in the Sunday Telegraph of October 15, 2000:

I thought he was a soldier because I could see the remains of khaki trousers and boots. My God, I thought, they’ve killed this guy. He was dead, he must have been dead, but they were still beating him, madly, kicking his head. They were like animals.

They were just a few feet in front of me and I could see everything. Instinctively, I reached for my camera. I was composing the picture when I was punched in the face by a Palestinian. Another Palestinian pointed right at me shouting “no picture, no picture!”, while another guy hit me in the face and said “give me your film!”.

I tried to get the film out but they were all grabbing me and one guy just pulled the camera off me and smashed it to the floor. I knew I had lost the chance to take the photograph that would have made me famous and I had lost my favourite lens that I’d used all over the world, but I didn’t care. I was scared for my life.

At the same time, the guy that looked like a soldier was being beaten and the crowd was getting angrier and angrier, shouting “Allah akbar” – God is great. They were dragging the dead man around the street like a cat toying with a mouse. It was the most horrible thing that I have ever seen and I have reported from Congo, Kosovo, many bad places. In Kosovo, I saw Serbs beating an Albanian but it wasn’t like this. There was such hatred, such unbelievable hatred and anger distorting their faces.

The worst thing was that I realised the anger that they were directing at me was the same as that which they’d had toward the soldier before dragging him from the police station and killing him. Somehow I escaped and ran and ran not knowing where I was going. I never saw the other guy they killed, the one they threw out of the window.

In a subsequent email correspondance with Seager, he told me that right after the publication of this piece, a friend called him to tell him he was no longer safe in the Palestinian territories. According to reports, this was pervasive. Every journalist and film crew there was expected to hand over any film they might have taken.

Despite the attempts to distance reports, an Italian television crew managed to film several scenes [and smuggle them out -rl].

The following is an ad published in the Al Hayat Al Jadidah newspaper, considered the main newspaper of the Palestinian Authority. The ad, probably paid for, is evidence of the double standard which has come to characterize much of the reporting of the recent violence in the territories.

Note that the brutal lynching is described merely as “the events”.

Special Clarification by the Italian Representative of RAI, the Official Italian Television Station

My dear friends in Palestine. We congratulate you and think that it is our duty to put you in the picture of what happened on October 12 in Ramallah. One of the private Italian television stations which competes with us filmed the events; that station filmed the events. Afterwards Israeli Television broadcast the pictures, as taken from one of the Italian stations, and thus the public impression was created as if we took these pictures.

We emphasize to all of you that the events did not happen this way, because we always respect the journalistic procedures with the Palestinian Authority for work in Palestine and we are credible in our precise work.

We thank you for your trust, and you can be sure that this is not our way of acting. We would not do such a thing.

Please accept our dear blessings.

Signed,
Ricardo Christiano
Representative of RAI in the Palestinian Authority

Let’s take that again with commentary. Basically this is a letter meant to avoid any retaliation by the Palestinians for having violated the “journalistic procedures for work in the Palestinian territory.” It’s not us, it’s the other Italians,” Cristiano tells Arafat.

Suicidal Mainstream News Media: Outsourcing Anti-Semitism to European Jihadis

The following is a (long version) of the paper I present at the European Union Studies Association, meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Boston, on Friday, March 5, 2015. An abbreviated version in Polish here by Malgorzata Koraszewska who posted it at her blog.

Suicidal Mainstream News Media:

Outsourcing Anti-Semitism to European Jihadis

An alarming development occurred this last summer, at least from the point of view of people who believe in the post-Holocaust consensus about human rights and free societies in a peaceful global community, for those who believe that Nie Wieder would the madness that generated World War II return to invade European culture. This summer, throughout Western Europe and Scandinavia, gangs of crudely armed rioters ran through the streets shouting “Hamas! Hamas! Jews to the Gas!…”; “Death to Jews! Slit Jews Throats!” This proliferation of sometimes deadly attacks on Jews has convinced some observers that at current rates of open hostility, Europe will have no more Jews in little more than a generation.

In 2000, when the European Union looked forward to a new period of global prominence – one book title read Why Europe will run the 21st centuryif you had told the leaders of the French, or any other Western European democracy, that in the opening decades of the 21st century, increasingly unrestrained Muslim Jew-hatred would drive Jews from Western Europe, they would have mocked your alarmism. Unthinkable! Impossible! Ridiculous. Islamophobic.

How did this happen? And what does it portend?

I can give you the five minute version and you can leave if you wish:

Fatal Attraction: The Shared Antichrist of the Global Progressive Left and Jihad

Fatal Attraction:

The shared antichrist of the Global Progressive Left and Jihad

Richard Landes, Boston University, History Department

From: The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, edited by Cary Nelson and Gabriel Noah Brahm (2014), chap. 20.

(available in Kindle; and in Polish, thanks to Malgorzata Koraszewska)

Abstract: In the aughts, the “global, progressive, left” (GPL), adopted a secular version of the Jihadi apocalyptic scapegoating narrative in which Israel and the US are the “great and little Satan” (or vice-versa). This overlap between two ostensibly completely different value systems has served as the basis for mobilizing a common struggle against the US and Israel over the last decade or so. In so doing, the Left has welcomed within its “anti-imperialist” mobilization, one of the most ferociously imperialist movements in the long and dark history of mankind, one which opposes not merely Israeli and American “imperialism,” but also targets the very culture of progressive values – human rights, peace, tolerance for diversity, human freedom – that GPL champions. BDS is a flagship (and symptom) of this self-destructive disorientation wherein progressives join forces with their worst enemies.

Prologue

This essay is not written to persuade the reader that BDS is a movement unworthy of support by anyone committed to progressive principles. Anyone who compares Israel’s human right’s record – even the Palestinian version! – with the behavioral norms of Arab political culture, could not possibly take as sincere, the Arab insistence that Israel be put on the global docket for human rights violations. This is all the more true, when one scrutinizes the list of accusations made against Israel, and realizes how many accusations are not only false, but in some cases, indicate the exact opposite of their claims.[i] This essay is written rather to explain to those who want to understand how such an absurd inversion of moral and empirical reality could have made so much headway in the Western public sphere.

I write this essay as a scholar of millennialism who has been studying the emergence in the last fifteen years, of an active, cataclysmic, apocalyptic movement (the most dangerous kind). I also write it as a Jew who began his academic career believing in a self-sustaining, self-critical democratic public sphere and assuming the fundamental maturity and commitment of its participants. I write in defense of that sphere: for the maturity (and now, courage) of the academic community and, not coincidentally, in defense of my people who are being (successfully) slandered by hypocrites and war mongers. To those who believe they should listen to the “other,” I formally request an audience. My tale is not pretty.

Imagine all the people…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one… (John Lennon, 1971)

And now,

Imagine there are no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Something to kill and die for
And one religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life under our peace… (Jihadi Joe, 2015)

Welcome, Woodstockers, to the 21st century.

The Jihadi Apocalyptic Narrative: World Conquest and the Great and Little Satan

Imagine

Imagine all the people…

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one… (John Lennon, 1971)

 

And now:

 

Imagine there are no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Something to kill and die for

And one religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life under our peace…

You may say, we’re dreamers

But we’re not the only ones… (Jihadi Joe, 2015)

 

Welcome to the 21st century.