Monthly Archives: January 2016

On the Honor-Shame-Jihad Paradigm: Response to a reader

I recently posted my responses to policy question posed to me by a classmate. In it I referred repeatedly to the Honor-Shame-Jihad paradigm (HSJP) that I think handles the reality here far better than either the Politically-Correct Paradigm (PCP1) or the Post-Colonial one (PCP2). One reader found serious defects in the HSJP. Another reader answered him. Below, my response.

Looking at Muslims as being driven by an Honor-Shame-Jihad dynamic is full of problems:

1. It’s hard to confirm or refute the analysis. I’d need to psychoanalyze a bunch of Muslims or be a mind-reader. It’s a picture of the internal mental state of people from another culture.

I hope you’re not as reluctant to interpret what people say in your real life as you are in this case. The evidence for this mindset is overwhelming. Just spend some time listening in at either MEMRI or PalWatch, and listen to what they say in Arabic, or at least read the works of those who do pay attention to what they say.

2. HSJ reeks of our self-flattery. They have this mental problem, we don’t. It could be an intellectual way of saying “Ah, you’re nuts!”. I should beware of any analysis that flatters me.

Agreed on the suspicion of self-flattering analysis. As the fox says to the crow he duped into losing his cheese: “All flattery lives at the expense of those who listen to it.” But there’s an equally dangerous tendency, which is to ignore a good analysis because it puts one (or in this case, one’s culture) in a good light. The moral chasm between Western democratic values and those of global Jihad are so massive that only a kind of insane self-abnegation (of the kind Martin Amis ran into in London) could miss it. This hardly means we in the West don’t have serious problems – every society does. But it does mean that they are of a radically different order from groups that believe that slavery and the slaughter of civilians are legitimate forms of “defense.”

3. HSJ could be true anyway, but it doesn’t lead to a clear plan for a solution.

Actually, I think it does. Above all, it makes it possible to identify the motivations and goals of the enemy. This helps eliminate the non-possibilities like the “win-win” Oslo “peace process,” which only empowered global Jihad. It makes it possible to identify problems like triumphalist Islam, and figure out ways to resist.

4. HSJ skips over more mundane but probably more powerful factors, especially the impact of “Oil money”.

Quite the contrary it helps understand how the Oil money impacts certain groups like Salafis and Wahabbis.

a) By the year 2000, Islam and Jihad were problems for the West. In 1900, Islam was not a problem.

Tell that to the British in Khartoum dealing with the Mahdi (1882 CE = 1300 AH).

But back in 1800, Islam was a problem, mainly in the form of the Barbary Pirates, who kidnapped people and sold them as slaves.

b) If the Western industrialized countries had dumped trillions of dollars on the Eskimos, the Laplanders, the Zulus, or the Russian peasantry, they’d also have decided that God loves them specially, and they should use their wealth to conquer the world. Why not the Muslims?

That may be so, although far less likely. None of those groups has a religious tradition with strong tendencies towards world conquest, nor adherents numbering over a billion all around the world. I think you need to do some more reading before you make comparisons that really don’t reflect the real world.

In any case, the 21st century is a completely different kettle of fish. Globalization has transformed culture-contact. For the implications, see Amy Chua, World on Fire. As for Jihadis, they see Western, technology-driven globalization as the vehicle for their success: Praeparatio Califatae.

c) If the Muslim world were pushed back to the state of misery, poverty, and ignorance they had before the discovery of oil, their HSJ dynamic wouldn’t matter to us at all. The prescription is to pump out the oil without paying for it.

There’s no question that oil money feeds Jihad, which is one reason why it’s so bizarre that people worried about global warming don’t seem to care much about Jihad, even though the two are closely bound. As for the state of misery, poverty and ignorance, all the petrodollars in the world have had very little effect on the Muslim masses, whose elites have (typically) gorged on the surplus and kept them in the dark.

In any case, poverty, misery and ignorance are not the main sources of Jihad. Triumphalism is. Jihad is not an act of desperation, it’s an act of aspiration.

“O wad some power…” Fisking Michael Sfard

Israel’s Human Rights Activists Aren’t Traitors

By MICHAEL SFARD JAN. 5, 2016

In March 1968, my father was a member of the Warsaw University students’ committee that helped lead the enormous protests demanding reform from the Communist Polish government. The government responded with a smear campaign to try to delegitimize the protests’ leaders, claiming they were acting in the interest of Western powers, or — exploiting widespread anti-Semitic sentiments — of a Jewish-Zionist plot against the Polish People’s Republic.

In other words, the government labeled my father and his friends foreign agents. Traitors.

My father was detained for three months and expelled from the university. After his release, he left with his family for Israel, where I was born. Unlike my father, I grew up in an environment that welcomed free political discussion and allowed people like me to become human rights activists and criticize our government. When I claimed a few years ago, after yet another right-wing attack on Israeli human rights organizations, that we had reached “the bottom of the pit,” my father gave me a knowing smile. “The pit is much deeper than you think,” he said.

Precisely.

My father was right. Over the past month, I have begun to see its true depth.

No you haven’t. You do not have a clue. Nothing in Israel comes near what was going on in your father’s Poland, nothing near what the most mundane authoritarian regimes do to their own citizens, not even close to what Israel does to their enemies. It is precisely this rhetorical exaggeration that has people like you calling the IDF “war criminals” and Israel a “racist, apartheid, fascist, state.” You have no historical depth-perception, so you’re easy dupes for moral equivalence.

And the problem is, outsiders will mistake your “prophetic” rhetoric as an insight into the actual situation here in the Middle East, rather than into the fevered brains of those Jews stricken with MOS. Outsiders understandably have difficulty figuring out how to “read” these hyper-critics: are they sober and honest assessments of reality? or prophetic rhetoric uttered where no ancient prophet would have delivered his rebuke of his people, in the lingua franca of the larger world, and in the courtyards of their powerful ones?

On Dec. 15, an Israeli ultranationalist group

Ultranationalist is a term largely reserved for brown-shirt-type organizations, fascist in their principled resort to violence in their targeting of enemies: “defending one’s country even when it is committing horrific acts to its own citizens.”

Im Tirzu shares nothing in these matters with real “ultra-nationalist” groups, and the use of the term to lump the group with the worst of the far right is characteristic of this publicly self-accusing pseudo-prophetic rhetoric: our (Israel’s) smallest crimes (i.e., deviation from the strictest “progressive” values) are of such magnitude that they compare with what’s nastiest out there (ultra-nationalists, racists, fascists, Nazis). By your standards of inciteful rhetoric, this is a robust example of smearing.

NB: I’ll bet the store that you would never compare Palestinian political culture to “ultra-nationalists,” even though the parallels to the most violent type of that phenomenon are close. On the contrary, some of you revel in your contempt for evidence.

released a video portraying four Israeli human rights defenders as moles planted by foreign states to assist terrorists. The 68-second video, which rapidly made its way across Israeli social media, shows four mug shots and claims that “While we fight terror, they fight us.”

Here’s the video:

As for the accusations, knowing some of the background, and while not quite the way I would have chosen to put it, the video does nonetheless expresses a legitimate opinion. You may not agree, because it questions you and your fellow activists’ behavior, but I don’t see where calling groups that take money from hostile foreign governments to defend and protect avowed enemies of the state, a “plant” or even a “traitor,” is in any way worse than the ones they are so accusing, that is no worse than you and your colleagues calling Israel and its soldiers “war criminals,” “facists,” “nazis,” and “racists.”

You may think that the PLO is an institution that deserves your active support in avoiding responsibility for committing acts of terror against Israeli citizens. But surely you can understand that others, convinced by the same evidence that you are presumably aware of, see the PLO/PA as a devoted enemy of Israel’s very existence, think they should not receive the help of Israelis to carry out their plans for our destruction, and that anyone who does is dangerous.

The video is outright slander and an outrageous incitement.

Amazing. As the great poet Robert Burns once put it:

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!

Borderlife: Who in the Education Ministry ever put this book on the list in the first place?

I’m on a listserv that recently circulated an article from Ha-aretz entitled:

This is available in Polish, translated by Malgorzata Koraszewska.

By Banning Book, Israel Maintains Purity of Blood

My comments don’t address the article much, but more broadly the role of the controversy in the larger framework of the media’s unhealthy obsession with Israeli misdeeds.

This is a classic:

  • Haaretz features a “journalist” who misrepresents the situation to make Israel look as bad as possible,
  • that hatchet job is then avidly taken up by the Western press, written by and for people who apparently can’t get enough of stories about Israel behaving badly.
  • “Good,” “liberal,” “anti-racist” Jews feel they have to distance themselves from this disgusting Israeli behavior.

The Haaretz headline about “purity of blood” is grotesque, and not just picked up by neo-Nazis (Stormfront), but other papers who mistranslated “fear of assimilation” with “fear of miscegenation.” The author, Alon Idan, has the characteristic contemptuous tone for those Israelis he dislikes so brilliantly discussed by Edward Alexander in Jews Against Themselves. Idan takes a delicate, difficult, deeply personal subject and reduces it repeatedly to race, as if what has parents hoping their children marry one of “their own” – with its enormous cultural, religious, and social dimensions – is essentially an expression of dark hatreds that echo the Nazis. 

Israel did not ban the book, a message Haaretz so diligently tried to convey, and which so many in the British MSNM immediately and tendentiously trumpeted, starring, among others, the BBC’s Lyse Doucet. In fact, as the article entitled so negatively above, explains the situation is as follows: Several teachers had asked to include the book in the national curriculum for advanced literature. Their request went to the academic advisory committee which voted to recommend including the book. The recommendation went to the Ministry officials who actually have the legal authority set the curriculum. They decided not to accept the recommendation. The academic committee appealed to the Ministry officials to reconsider their decision (there is a formal appeals process for this). After reconsideration, the Ministry officials stood by their initial decision.

Bottom line: The book was never included in the curriculum at any time. Its proposed inclusion in the curriculum was never cancelled, because the only people with authority to set the curriculum never included it. It was not removed from the curriculum, because it was never in it. No decision was ever made by anyone in the Israeli government to forbid the teaching of the text. No order forbidding teaching the text was ever issued. I believe this is what one might call a tempest in a teapot.

But let us, for a moment, consider why the book, at whatever level of opposition, might have been negatively evaluated by the education ministers. In addition to being, in the queer theory meaning of the word, deeply transgressive in for its depiction of the love affair (which plenty of Israeli parents, Jewish, Christian and Muslim don’t want their children to be exposed to at so early an age), but it also depicts the IDF as sadistic war criminals. 

In a country where the IDF makes constant and valiant efforts, not only to avoid the sadism so prominent among our neighbors, but to raise the level of concern for enemy civilians to unheard of heights in the annals of warfare, such depictions, however artistically compelling, demean a genuinely noble national spirit, in particular by accusing us of things our neighbors do all the time, and as a matter of (their) principle. As for the racism charge, Israel is, given the circumstances, one of the least racist countries in the world (come to our hospitals, our universities). To stretch and distort the story in order to level charges against us, while ignoring the far more terrifying stuff our neighbors do, is pretty mean spirited, to say the least.

Whatever its literary and conceptual merits, there is no reason on earth why a national school curriculum would want to require, or even encourage its youth to read the book. Indeed, the real question any sound journalist should be asking is: “Who on the academic advisory committee in Israel thought this book was appropriate for high schoolers in the first place?”