Monthly Archives: July 2016

Nidra Poller’s Comment on Economist al-Durah Cartoon

economist's al durah
Nidra Poller’s comments:
Presuming that Israel is blamed for the failure to conclude a peace treaty based on the everyone-knows-two-state-solution, the illustration suggests that no solution can erase the sin of “killing” Mohamed al Dura.
The father is trying to explain to his son that an Arab leader makes peace with Israel over the boy’s dead body.
 The images of the father and son are, curiously, Westernized. It took me a while to realize they were meant to be Jamal and Mohamed Al Dura. Then I recognized the wall. The halo of bullet holes.
But this “reconstructed” wall has something like three times more bullet holes than the original video. As if the blood libel has increased in fury over the past 16 years.
Conclusion: The Economist, a Western publication, defends a primitive, tribal notion of relations between groups and nations: unforgiving, unforgivable revenge.
But the illustrator did not think to reproduce the declaration scrawled in red over the heads of the al Duras in the original version: “What is taken by violence can only be taken back by violence.”
[RL: That is also the slogan behind of Arafat’s “No” to a negotiated settlement at Camp David 2000, and his launching of the Oslo Jihad in late 2000.]

Economist Al Durah Cartoon Self-Destructs

The Economist ran the following political cartoon to illustrate an article about how Palestinians feel about losing the world’s attention.

economist's al durah

Tom Gross caught it, Nidra Poller confirmed it emphatically: the two foreground figures are Muhammad al Durah and his father, Jamal. The wall behind them is the famous wall behind the two, “riddled” with bullets, allegedly shot “like rain” and “in cold blood” by the IDF.

The piece is supposed to accompany the article, which combines a sympathetic story of Palestinian distress at Realpolitik alliances such as Sissi and Bibi,

The shift has left the Palestinians, whose fate once topped the Arab agenda, feeling abandoned.

with an implied threat that, if we don’t pay attention to the plight of the Palestinians, they just might get violent.

What really stirs Arab emotions are scenes of Israelis killing Palestinians. Violence over the past year has left dozens of Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead. Most Palestinians, according to polls, back a return to an armed intifada (uprising). With the Arab world focused elsewhere, America in the throes of a presidential race and progress towards a two-state solution halted, they may see no other way to capture the world’s attention.

The article has no author, but appears not to be an editorial (although it would certainly fit nicely in the opinion section, written jointly by the Jerusalem and Cairo correspondents). Presumably, this kind of writing seems both professional and informative to the editorial team who published it. But when we read the cartoon against the grain, we get a remarkable comment on the inveterate lethal journalism that dominates European reporting on the Middle East.

On Abuse, Donkeys, Mass Murder, and Terrorism

In a recent article (HT: CRP), Rebecca Traister argued that rather than focus on Islam or Jihad

are truly looking to stem terrorism and mass violence of the sort that happened in Nice, they might do better to look to a different kind of litmus test: domestic violence and grievances against women.

The basic argument runs: all these mass murderers, Muslims and not, share a common pattern of abusing women, and in that matrix one will find the motivations for their deeds, and possibly the solutions for stopping them. The take-home message:

But that doesn’t make any religion — whether it’s Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s Islam or Robert Lewis Dear’s evangelical Christianity — the defining factor in mass shootings. Perhaps these disturbed men — and 98 percent of mass killers are men — are drawn to the patriarchal traditions upheld by some religions to make sense of or justify their anger and resentment toward women. But we might do better to examine the patterns of violence toward women themselves.

On one level, this argument is a transparent (indeed signaled at the beginning as an) attempt to take the attention away from Islam and hence foil Islamophobic rantings of right-wingers like Gingrich. On another, it’s a retooling of a familiar politically correct “feminist” argument that insists that honor-killings are merely part of a continuum with other domestic violence in which we Westerners, “we too,” are ‘just as” guilty as the cultures (largely Muslim) that practice honor-killings. Not surprisingly, some scholars think this is apologetics, and see a particular, indeed unique pattern of cultural depravity at work. How appallingly judgmental of them.

Rather than dismiss these remarks, however, I’d like to turn them from the piecemeal of individuals and statistics, and look at cultural issues. Let’s grant, for the moment, Traister’s argument that men who abuse women are more likely to a) be steeped in a testosteronic, alpha male mindset, b) find ISIS an attractive option because of its savage patriarchal attitudes, and c) in some (hopefully rare cases) engage in more rampant violence like mass murder.

Let’s then add to the mix, two further issues:

  • the fact that while women are a special object of abuse and violence, both for reasons of sexuality and jealousy, women are the object of male abuse for the same reason that many others are: they’re physically weaker. Thus, in this discussion, let’s widen the range of abused from women to weaker people, including children and animals.
  • the high correlation between people who abuse and people who have been abused, if you will, the intergenerational cycle of domestic violence. If this is true, then despite the fact that all cultures have people caught in this cycle, the nature of the culture – whether it approves or discourages this behavior – plays a significant role in both the frequency of the phenomenon, and its overall influence on life within that given culture.

It was with these thoughts about Traister’s article that I saw the following video of two Israeli policemen confiscating the terribly abused, pregnant donkey of an 11-year old Palestinian boy.

Honor Killings vs. Shame Murders: a cultural meditation

In my understanding of honor-shame culture, especially of the zero-sum kind, it matters far less what you did wrong, than what people think you did wrong. Hence, if you’re innocent and others (your honor group) think you guilty, you feel you are bad. If you’re guilty and others think you’re innocent, you’re fine.

Integrity works the opposite way: if you’re guilty and no one knows it, you may feel relieved, but you feel bad about yourself. If you’re innocent and others think you’re guilty, you may feel bad, but not that you’re bad.

Hamas Talking Points, Summer 2014

I am preparing a study of the degree to which the news media complies with Palestinian or Israeli desires in reporting on events in the land from the Jordan river to the sea.

The first step is to establish the talking points, the descriptions of events, the positions each side want the media to report. What follows here are:

Hamas talking points during “Operation Protective Edge, 2014”

Sources:

Palestinian spokespeople’s claims to journalists during the conflict.

Captured document: Hamas Minister of the Interior’s Directions to Gazan “social media” activists.

  • All Gazan casualties are civilians.
  • All Gazan casualties were caused by Israel.
  • This is a humanitarian crisis.
  • Israel started the hostilities.
  • Palestinian rocketing of Israel is an act of resistance to occupation and blockade.
  • Palestinians do not fire rockets from hospitals, schools, or hotels.
  • Palestinian rockets are harmless, don’t have explosives.
  • Palestinians target military, not civilians
  • Occupation is the cause of all the hostilities.
  • Palestinians do not intimidate journalists.
  • Gaza is an open-air prison.
  • Israel targets civilians and children, massacres.
  • Gaza is the world’s most densely populated area.
  • Civilians are helpless, have nowhere to go.
  • IDF shelling is indiscriminate.
  • Schools are safe havens that Israel targets.
  • Sites hit by IDF have no combatants, just civilians
  • Israel rejects ceasefires
  • Israel breaks ceasefires (Eid al Fitr, 28 July 2014)
  • Palestinians have no hope, must resort to attacking Israel any way possible
  • Israel commits war crimes, violates Geneva conventions
  • Knock-on-roof measures are dangerous

Palestinian Media Protocols Compliance Index

So, for example, take the claim that “all casualties are civilians.” No journalist with any pretension to being taken seriously would assert such a claim, so complete compliance is out of the question. But the journalist can comply to a significant extent by:

  • speaking of how “the vast majority of casualties are civilian”(when they’re not, even by Hamas statistics)
  • show mostly shots of civilians injured, not jihadis

In such a case, a journalist would score high in compliance with Hamas media demands, intensified by the statistical evidence that the Hamas claim is not just exaggerated, but verifiably false.

I welcome additions, examples, suggestions.

 

Definitions: Stupidity (Cipolla)… Astounding Stupidity (Landes)

I’m finally writing a book now, whose subtitle is set: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century.

The tentative title is: They’re So Smart Cause We’re So Stupid.

I have, at long last, started to write up this ten-year promise by compiling a list of what I call,

Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century 

#ASSO21

(tentative list to appear at this blog, with requests for other examples from readers).

Up until now, I limited the list to statements that fulfilled two criteria:

  • morally and/or empirically ludicrous
  • people nod in agreement when they hear it

Now, I’d like to add a formal definition to “stupid.” I just came across an essay by an economic historian, Carlo Cipolla on “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity.” In it, he gives a formal definition (based on game theory).

Definition of Stupid, Carlo Cipolla (Economic Historian):

A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.

In other words people who plays zero-sum games so badly, they unnecessarily create enemies and shoot themselves in the foot… losers.

Definition of Astoundingly Stupid People (ASP): RL:

Astoundingly Stupid People are individuals who play into the hard, zero-sum, strategy of a declared enemy… repeatedly, with no apparent inkling of what they’re doing.

In other words, ASP are people who play zero-sum games by own-goal strategies, so badly, they strengthen their worst enemies and shoot themselves in the head… suiciders.

Often ASP are convinced they are beyond all zero-sum games, and can bring everyone else along with them.

I welcome any examples readers would like to propose.

Arab Self Criticism: Key to Modern Peace and Prosperity

I often complain about the lack of Arab self-criticism which I associate closely with honor-shame cultures and the importance of “saving face,” and eagerly seek out evidence that I’m wrong.
Recently, a remarkable piece appeared at an Arab democratic site, Fikra, by Jordanian journalist Hiam Nawas entitled, Holding Arab Culture Accountable.” It’s certainly hits a whole range of issues on the head, but being only an opinion essay, it is necessarily short on both substance and implications. I reproduce it here below with comments.
I hope Hiam will respond.
Fikra Forum July 8, 2016 (Also available in العربي)
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, recently claimed that the United States “can’t fix” the Middle East region. Clapper is right on the money. The region’s fundamental problems are not political but rather cultural, therefore the United States and its military might is unable to fix them.
Culture matters because it is the foundation for the behavior and organization of any society.
One of David Landes‘ favorite expressions: “culture counts.”
DSL culture counts
DSL photo
Unfortunately for everyone but the PoMoPoCos and the Jihadis, that fell afoul of politically correct.
Overall, however, by his standard, what Nawas describes below, is not so much a cultural issue as an attitudinal one. Honor-shame analysis helps understand how such an attitude prevails right now over a culture, to understand how alpha males – the strong horses, exploit Arab and Muslim loyalties to trap the other members of their tribe into supporting their remarkably belligerent and dysfunctional attitude.
The current chaos in the Middle East has many roots, but some of the conflict’s deepest draw on an Arab culture and identity that lacks internal and external empathy, favors authoritarianism over autonomy, and opts for zero-sum solutions. Unless Arabs take a self-critical look at their values, violence in the Middle East will continue.
Note how much this looks like the kind of writing that Edward Said banished with contempt from the legitimate discussion: the honor-shame reading of Arab culture.

Bo Persson, Swedish Public TV and Proleptic Dhimmitude

This is the first of many posts I’ll be making about the current scandal in Sweden over Bo Perrson’s Watching the Moon at Midnight. The Algemeiner has a brief article about it today, and there is a petition up which I urge everyone to sign.

Here is my comment on the petition:

The aggressive cowardice of SVT in this matter, combined with its pathetic denials, illustrates in detail why the Jihadis are winning the cognitive war against West democracies.

Jihadis say don’t you dare talk smack about us, but instead talk smack about our enemies, and SVT says, “Jawohl mein Herr” and then bares its teeth to the enemies of Jihad.

#ProlepticDhimmitude

Not a good sign for Sweden’s freedom.

Bo Perrson is a courageous documentarists who risked a great deal to tell the truth. He deserves the attention and support of all those who love freedom and honesty.