Category Archives: apocalyptic

Richard Landes, “Antisemitism’s Fatal Attraction: The Global Progressive Left, the Jihadi Right And Israel” March 30, 2015

Richard Landes,“Antisemitism’s Fatal Attraction: The Global Progressive Left, the Jihadi Right And Israel…” from ISGAP on Vimeo.

Seminar Series:
Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective

“Antisemitism’s Fatal Attraction: The Global Progressive Left, the Jihadi Right And Israel as the 21st Century Antichrist”

Richard Landes
Department of History,
Boston University

Monday, March 30, 2015, 5:30PM
ISGAP Center, 3rd Floor

#GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

#GenerationCaliphate: 

Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

May 3-4, 2015, Boston University

Sponsored by the Center for Millennial Studies, Boston University History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Most Westerners associate the terms apocalyptic and millennial (millenarian) with Christian beliefs about the endtime. Few even know that Muhammad began his career as an apocalyptic prophet predicting the imminent Last Judgment. And yet, for the last thirty years, a wide-ranging group of militants, both Sunni and Shi’i, both in coordination and independently, have, under the apocalyptic belief that now is the time, pursued the millennial goal of spreading Dar al Islam to the entire world. In a manner entirely in keeping with apocalyptic beliefs, but utterly counter-intuitive to outsiders, these Jihadis see the Western-driven transformation of the world as a vehicle for their millennial beliefs, or, to paraphrase Eusebius on the relationship between the Roman Empire and Christianity: Praeparatio Califatae.

The apocalyptic scenario whereby this global conquest takes place differs from active transformative (the West shall be conquered by Da’wa [summons]) to active cataclysmic (bloody conquest). Western experts have until quite recently, for a wide range of reasons, ignored this dimension of the problem. And yet, understanding the nature of global Jihad in terms of the dynamics of apocalyptic millennial groups may provide an important understanding, both to their motivations, methods, as well as their responses to the inevitable disappointments that await all such believers. The now defunct Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University (1996-2003) brings to the public one final conference on apocalyptic beliefs, co-sponsored by the BU History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).

This event is free and open to the public.

Schedule

Sunday, May 3

10:00-12:00 Introduction:

  • Richard Landes, “Globalization as a Millennial Praeparatio Califatae: A Problematic Discussion”
  • William McCants, Brookings Institute: “ISIS and the Absent Mahdi: Studies in Cognitive Dissonance and Apocalyptic Jazz”
  • Graeme Wood, Yale University, Atlantic Monthly: “On the Resistance to seeing Global Jihad as Apocalyptic Movement”

 12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch

 1:30-3:30 Panel II: The Millennial Goal: Global Caliphate

  • Timothy Furnish, “”Rejecting Millennial Time: The Ottoman Empire’s 700-year War against Mahdism in its Realm.”
  • Cole Bunzel, Princeton: “From Apocalypse Now to Caliphate Now: Revisiting Juhayman al-‘Utaybi’s Siege of Mecca in 1979″
  • Jeffrey M. Bale, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, “Refusing to Take Islamist Ideology Seriously: The Persistence of Western ‘Mirror Imaging’ and Ideological Double Standards”
  • Comments: Charles Cameron

4:00-5:30 Panel III: Case Studies in Apocalyptic Jihad

  • David Cook, Rice University: “ISIS and Boko Haram: Profiles in Apocalyptic Jihad”
  • JM Berger, Brookings Institute, “The role of communications Technology in mediating apocalyptic communities”
  • Mehdi Khalaji, Washington Institute of Near East Policy: “Apocalyptic Revolutionary Politics in Iran”

Monday, May 4

10:0-12:00 Panel IV: Conspiracy Theory and Apocalyptic Genocide

  • Itamar Marcus, Palestinian Media Watch, “Anti-Semitism, Conspiracy Theory and Apocalyptic Global Jihad
  • Charles Small, “Ideology and Antisemitism:  Random Acts or a Core Element of the Reactionary Islamist Global Jihad?”
  • Richard Landes, BU, “Active Cataclysmic Apocalyptic Scenarios, Demonizing and Megadeath: Taiping, Communists, Nazis, and Jihadis.”
  • Comments: David Redles

  12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch 

 1:30-4:00 Final Panel Discussion

Paul Berman, Independent Scholar

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Independent Scholar

Husain Haqqani, Hudson Institute

Charles Strozier, John Jay College

Brenda Brasher, Tulane University

*All events will take place in the Stone Science Building (645 Commonwealth Ave), room B50

Fatal Attraction: The shared antichrist of the Global Progressive Left and Jihad

The following is the text of a talk I gave at ISGAP last week.

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’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Something to kill and die for

And one religion too

Imagine all the people

Living under our peace…

You may say we’re dreamers

But we’re not the only ones… (Jihadi Joe, 2000)

Welcome to the 21st century.

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

Despite the spectacular attacks on the West, most Westerners have little familiarity[1] with the Jihadi narrative, a narrative first revealed in Khoumeini’s Iran.[2] It varies significantly in some ways from traditional Muslim apocalyptic thought, which focused on a Last Judgment at the end of the world. Instead, this apocalyptic scenario focuses on a this-wordly messianic era, envisioned as the global victory of Islam: when all of Dar al Harb becomes Dar al Islam.[3] Those who join this movement fight in an apocalyptic battle in which the Jews will be slaughtered, and the rest of the harbi, would convert, accept the dhimma contract of submission (religions of the book), or become slaves (pagans), or being put to death[4]: a “Second Global Islamic Kingdom,”[5] only this time, really encompassing the whole world. In the battle, no mercy should be shown to those who resist Islam’s dominion. Everything to kill and die for: suicide martyrs goes straight to heaven; their victims, straight to hell.

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

Four Dimensional Jews, Two Dimensional Muslims: Fisking Rabbi Daniel Landes

I do the following fisking with some reluctance. Daniel Landes is a cousin and friend, whom I love and deeply admire. But this piece illustrates too many of the fundamental errors of a “liberal” Judaism attempting to solve problems that are clearly beyond its ken. So, alas, the following.

End the conflict – a Jewish imperative

We must not allow the messianisms of the religious right to cloud the call from our greatest religious authorities to return the territories, for the sake of saving life.

By Rabbi Daniel Landes | 17:52 07.04.14 |  1

For the religious Zionist Jew who wishes to grasp Israel’s present situation in a rational way, the hardest act is to shake off the messianisms that envelop his society – ranging from overt and imminent “end-time” scenarios, to the hazy metaphor of the “beginning of the dawn of our salvation.”

Of course, it also behooves anyone trying to grasp Israel’s present situation in a rational [sic] way, to become aware of the messianisms that envelop Israel’s enemies. Anyone who has not read at least one of the following, has no business discussing the conflict between Israel and its “neighbors” in terms of messianic tendencies.

Timothy Furnish, Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden (New York: Praeger, 2005)

Laurent Murawiec, The Mind of Jihad (New York: Oxford, 2006);

David Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2008);

Landes, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience (NY: Oxford University Press), chap. 14;

Jean Pierre Filiu, Apocalypse in Islam (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011).

This of course doesn’t even begin to get at the literature on groups like Hamas, who are “near” enemies, and whose apocalyptic delirium places them at the heart of the most dangerous form of apocalyptic belief: active cataclysmic (i.e., we are the agents of the catastrophic destruction that must cleanse the world of evil). That form of apocalyptic belief has, in the past, caused mega-deaths on the scale of tens of millions (Heaven on Earth, chaps 7 (Taiping, ca. 35 million), chap. 11 (Bolshevik, ca. 50 million), chap. 12 (Nazism, ca. 40 million), not to mention Maoism (ca. 70 million).

I think that any comparison of Jewish and Islamic messianism (I prefer the term millennialism), makes it clear that Jews have a far more extensive fire-wall against apocalyptic outbreaks, especially violent ones, than do the current generation of Muslims. It’s almost grotesque to blame our current impasse on Jewish messianists. Like so many people motivated by a belief that the solution to this conflict is somehow “in our hands,” Rabbi Landes is willing to make extraordinary sacrifices for peace (or even just to save lives). The tragedy here is that the only thing standing between the awful situation of “occupation” and the vastly more horrible situation of Jihadi civil war (à la Syria), is Israel’s continued control of the the West Bank. Painful sacrifices for peace is one thing, painful sacrifices that empower the worst kind of war, is quite another.

What they share and engender is an optimistic feeling of ultimate victory and security. We are assured that the Jews’ political failure and physical catastrophe is as finished as the Galut (Exile). But in the actual psyche of the religious Zionist, the persistently suppressed horror of that past repeating itself propels us further – into a delusional messianism that needs to be coupled to a secular rightwing ideology promising salvation by standing ‘strong’ and ‘proud’, that is confirmed by our increasing isolation.

Of course, we have left-wing variants of this misplaced messianic hope and confidence, expressed, for example, in J-Street and everything to its left (Olive Tree Initiative, Jewish Voice for Peace, etc.), who think that the genocidal threat against Jews is over, and all we have to do to appease the Arab/Muslim hatred of Jews is to give back the “territories” and then we’ll have Peace. This vision of a post-modern world in which we’ve all left behind the madness and superstition of the pre-modern world propels us further – into a delusional messianism that needs to be coupled with a secular left-wing ideology promising salvation by being ‘generous’ and ‘peace-loving’ and ‘accommodating’. You know, “tikkun olam” in support of BDS.

9-11 and the dysfunctional “aughts”

This is the longer version of a blogpost at the Telegraph.

9-11 and the dysfunctional “aughts”

In the years before 2000, as the director of the ephemeral Center for Millennial Studies, I scanned the global horizon for signs of apocalyptic activity, that is, for movements of people who believed that now was the time of a total global transformation. As I did so, I became aware of such currents of belief among Muslims, some specifically linked to the year 2000, all predominantly expressing the most dangerous of all apocalyptic beliefs – active cataclysmic that is the belief that this transition from evil to good demands massive destruction, and that we true believers are the agents of that destruction, warriors of God, Mujahidin. Death cults, cults of martyrdom and mass murder… destroying the world to save it.

Nor were these beliefs magical, like the far better known Christian, but largely passive-cataclysmic, Rapture scenarios where one must await God’s intervention. They had practical means and goals. In the same year 1989, that Bin Laden drove the Russians from Afghanistan, Khoumeini issued a global fatwah against Rushdie, and the West trembled. Iran and Afghanistan, however, like so many utopias born of such death cults, proved terrifyingly dystopic – acid in the faces of unveiled women. But these bitter new heavens on earth also showed remarkable staying power… and spreading power. So when Bin Laden struck with such spectacular force on 9-11, he took his Jihad, already declared in 1998 against America (the “Second ‘Ad”), to the next level. He put deeds to words.

We, in the West, were taken totally by surprise. Who are these people? Why haven’t we heard about them before? (NB: the blogosphere, which first “took off” in the early “aughts” is largely the product of a vast number of people turning to cyberspace for information that their mainstream news media had conspicuously failed to deliver.)

What was the logic of such a monstrously cruel attack that targeted civilians? A warning shot to pay attention and address grievances? Or the opening shot in a battle for world domination? Was this primarily an act of retribution for wrongs suffered, i.e., somewhat rational? Or global revenge at global humiliation, i.e., a bottomless pit of grievance?

Some of us said, “What can they possibly believe to make them hate so?” Others, “What did we do to make them hate us so?” And while both are legitimate questions, over the last decade, the “aughts” (‘00s), we have split into two camps, each of which will not allow the other question’s consideration.

On the Tenth Anniversary of 9-11: Roland, Suicide Martyr

[NB: I wrote this shortly after 9-11. Here it is again, lightly revised, primarily for clarity.]

I reread the Song of Roland with my medieval history class last week, for maybe the tenth time.  After 9-11, it had a new resonance.  From my first reading in graduate school I had noted the simplistic religiosity it expressed, but had not realized how much a close reading can help us understand the world of religious terrorists.

The Song, one of the earliest poems composed in (Old) French sometime around 1100, recounts the tale [non-fictions in italic] of Roland, Charlemagne’s nephew whom 400,000 Muslims (a band of Basques) attacked through the treacherous machinations of his step-father, Ganelon, in the passes of the Pyrenees while he commanded the rear guard (baggage train) of Charlemagne’s withdrawing army.  Instead of blowing his horn to warn Charlemagne and the main body of the army to come help him, he preferred to take on the enemy with his band of 20,000 men, among whom were the “twelve peers”, the greatest fighting men in the kingdom.  Although he succeeded in routing the enemy, his entire band of lusty Frankish warriors, including the noble archbishop Turpio, all died in the process.

Roland, too great to fall even to a massive barrage of spears and arrows, died from bursting his veins in blowing the horn too loud when he finally realized all was lost.  Charlemagne, upon learning of this terrible loss, returned and, with the help of God who stops the sun to enable his pursuit, wiped out the enemy, taking their main city and converting the surviving population to Christianity.

Roland and his men, and the story tellers and their audiences show no interest in their enemies (except perhaps as valiant warriors whose greatness serves to enhance the glory of the Christian victory) and know virtually nothing about them.  Muslims worship Apollo and Mohammed and idols. (This, of course, stands in striking contrast with the reality that the Christians faced a culture that was considerably more monotheistic and aniconic than the dominant religiosity in Latin Christendom, with its trinitarian and dualist debates, and its relic-stuffed statues to which both masses and elites bowed down.)  The Muslims of Spain, in the composer’s view, had the same primitive political structures as the West, a rural monarchy whose army derived from a system of mini-kings (lords) and their vassals exercising direct control over commoner populations (peasantry).  These Franks, apparently had neither knowledge of, nor interest in Muslims: for them this cultural “other” was pure and crude projection, a shadow self – everything bad, degraded, abominable. As a child might put it, they are “stupid and bad.”

But such simple vision works well with a world in which those who fight evil are, by definition good. Roland’s Christianity in the song is prominent and simple. “The pagans are wrong, the Christians are right,” he shouts as they enter battle with Muslims (1015).  The archbishop, who kills as lustily as the rest, assures the warriors, “One thing I can act as guarantor: Holy paradise is open to you; you will take your seat amongst the Innocents (1521-3).”  When the enemy dies “His soul is carried off by Satan (1268).”  Roland and his band die “martyrs” surrounded by the hundreds of corpses of his slain enemies.  “Since the apostles had there was never such a prophet [as Roland] for maintaining the faith and winning men over (2255-6).”

How aware is the composer of the irony he presents?  Does he show any awareness of the incongruity of Jesus and his disciples, martyred without resistance because they turned the other cheek, alongside this zealot, dead from excess pride and love of glory, surrounded by a final body count that puts Sylvester Stallone to shame? Almost none.

We may see a glimmer of it in the victory scene, when Charlemagne gives the conquered population its choice between conversion or death, and many die and still more convert, “true Christians all.”  To this scene of crude power-politics, the composer adds that the major babe of the story, the wife of the conquered king, will be brought to Aachen so that she can convert “out of love.”  (Women so often do bring out the anomalies.) One might read this as a highly sarcastic discourse about Christianity, one that despises the crude barbarity of these thick-skulled warriors (they wear helmets) with their ludicrous idea that true Christianity spreads by such violence; that martyrs die drenched in the blood of their victims, dead because they are not “the last man standing.”

But whatever the ironic layers a literate composer might fold into this tale, the audience for this blockbuster action-flick overwhelming saw no problem here. The aristocracy of the 12th century relished this tale, the first full epic text in French. They resonated effortlessly with the world of plundering elites, who annually go to war for booty and dominion, a world where the unquestioned rule of interaction is the dominating imperative: “rule or be ruled.”  In their world, might makes right: “Strike barons, do not delay. Charles is in the right against these men… God has allowed us to administer His judgment” (3366-8).  Even Ganelon, the evil traitor, can escape if he can prevail in trial by combat.

Nor should we see this belief in God as “mere ornament.” God’s role, so prominent in both their angel-inspired and divinely-assisted battle, is to chose sides. The Christian invocations in the text are passionate. These men really believe that God is Christian and on our side – “Gott mit uns.”  Indeed, the epic makes most sense as the crusader tale told countless times on the way to Jerusalem between 1096-99, a paroxysm of sacred violence, murderous suicide martyrdoms, and religious massacres. Through the Crusade, whose cry was “God wants it!”, a religion of peace had sanctified violence, making crusading at once an act of salvific destruction and love – Destroying the world to save it.

No matter how powerful, if grossly crude, the religion of the text, something else moves these warriors and their audience far more pervasively than even this violent piety – honor.  For honor Roland will not blow his horn: “God forbid that any man alive should say that pagans made me blow the horn (1073-5)”  And this honor shows the same egotistical orientation as the religion.  Oliver speaks of the honor that feels obliged to others – it is not honorable but foolish to fail one’s lord – but he cannot sway Roland whose overwhelming concern is his name.

And behind such narcissistic honor lies an equally powerful fear of shame. Facing impossible odds with reckless abandon Roland cries “My desire becomes all the greater [to enter the fray without calling for help].  May it never please the Lord God and his angels that France should ever lose its fame because of me.  I prefer to die than to suffer such shame (1088-91).”  As we listen to the conversations these action-heroes have with each other, we listen in on a world where all is shame and honor, where passionate “loves” vie with equally powerful hatreds, where anger and ferocity serve the [divine] cause of vengeance. Wounded fatally, Oliver realizes that “never will he have his fill of vengeance now (1966).”  For these warriors, the greatest act – one that will bring you straight to heaven – is taking people down to the grave with you… the more, the better.

As for more “reasoned,” positive-sum sentiments, they carry no weight in the calculus of action. The possibility that Roland will bring calamity on his own men by his pride, carries no weight with him. Everyone and everything exists to bring him and his fellow warriors greater glory. Even in his final death scene, Roland thinks only of glory. He does not for a moment say even a word about his fiancée. She, in turn, dies at the news of his death, claiming “May it not please God or his saints or his angels that I live on after Roland’s death (3718-9).”

This utterly narcissistic obsession with honor, with its accompanying patriarchal beliefs in which women should die for the honor of their men, illuminates the accompanying religiosity.  These men live in a world of violent dominion, revenge, and overweening pride; they have hijacked Christianity, whose basic spirituality they cannot even begin to glimpse. As Clovis allegedly said, when hearing of the crucifixion of Jesus: “If me and my men had been there, we’d have avenged his death.”

The obvious parallels to Bin-Laden’s warriors are painful and suggestive:

  • The notion that in killing as many enemies as possible before dying one is guaranteed a place in heaven, while the enemies go straight to hell.
  • The incapacity to see the cultural “other” in any but the crudest projections of one’s own shadow.
  • The accompanying absence of self criticism.
  • The utter self-centeredness of the “hero” for whom the lives of his own, much less his enemies, mean little.
  • The idea that violence can best serve to spread one’s “true” religion, that an orgy of violence can be salvific.
  • The terrible importance of honor, the unbearable nature of shame.
  • The total subordination of women to the demands of men’s honor.

Kenneth Minogue’s Review of Heaven on Earth in WSJ

Apocalypse Now And Then
It’s easy to sneer at the mad crowing of wild prophets. But they can affect the course of world history—for good or ill.

By KENNETH MINOGUE

When the Rapture failed to happen on May 21, defying the prediction of a California-based radio evangelist, he and his followers no doubt felt a certain disappointment: Christ had not returned, after all, to deliver the Last Judgment. For others, though, the day’s uneventfulness was an occasion for the usual mockery and condescension. “What is quite remarkable,” wrote a blogger at the Huffington Post, “is that the ‘rapture mentality’ and the end-of-days industry should still be thriving in 2011.”

Richard Landes is not so quick to dismiss the “rapture mentality” and its kindred impulses. In “Heaven on Earth,” he argues that our civilization lacks a whole dimension of experience because it has failed to recognize the importance of apocalyptic predications and millennial aspirations. He does not deny, of course, that every prediction of grand, world-transforming woe or bliss has failed yet to arrive—as did the evangelist’s promised Rapture. But what fails, Mr. Landes insists, is by no means inconsequential.

On the contrary, the Christian religion “comes into existence at the height of apocalyptic expectation,” Mr. Landes writes, “from John the Baptist and Jesus’ millennial hopes for the imminent arrival of the ‘kingdom of heaven’ on earth.” The three monotheistic religions that we are most familiar with specialize in apocalyptic revelation.

Instead of recognizing the importance of apocalyptic thinking, Mr. Landes argues, we prefer to posit a common-sense world in which grand flights of imagination are construed as outbursts of misguided enthusiasm. Most historians, he says, make the same mistake. They view apocalyptic prophecy as a kind of falsified madness that leaves little of importance behind.

In fact, Mr. Landes says, the whole texture of our lives is deeply affected by our response to both past apocalyptic beliefs and current millennial aspirations. Nor is apocalyptic frenzy limited to the religious sphere. It also underlies the secular world of seemingly common-sense understanding.

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Heaven on Earth

By Richard Landes
(Oxford, 499 pages, $35)

We had a dose of apocalyptic anxiety not so long ago in the Y2K fear of Internet chaos. Today climate change and terrorist jihadism provoke end-of-the-world imaginings. We should not forget, of course, that during the bloodiest decades of the 20th century large areas of the world were governed by people deeply invested in Marxist or Nazi millennialism. The communist future has gone the way of most political utopias, as has the Thousand Year Reich, but social justice and sustainable living are (as one might say) alive and kicking.

Mr. Landes has written a large and impressive book that shows a vast learning. (One chapter begins: “Let us return to a series of questions posed about the aftermath of Thiota’s brief tenure as magistra of Mainz circa 848.”) And yet he also has an engagingly associative mind that lightens the burden of erudition. He does not neglect, for instance, to tell the story of Chicken Little, who thinks the sky was falling in. From this Mr. Landes generates an allegorical terminology in which “roosters” crow about new dawns, and their crowing is dismissed by “owls” who insist that reality is the dark in which we are still living. Later we are told about turkeys—Mr. Landes’s name for the millennial historians who “stand in the barnyard as roosters crow and observe their electrifying impact on the other animals.”

Since the apocalyptic roosters turn out to get things wrong, you might well expect the owls to get all the best tunes, but Mr. Landes is hesitant to condemn. The roosters play a valuable part in stimulating human endeavor, he believes, while he marks the owls down as lacking imagination. Indeed, it is the worldview of the owls that Mr. Landes aims to contest, since they are the custodians of our misleading belief in a normality only briefly interrupted by the mad crowing of the wild prophets.

According to Mr. Landes’s terminology, Jesus is a rooster, but so is Hitler with his Reich. Unusual and sometimes offensive juxtapositions cannot be avoided in such an overarching scheme. Mr. Landes says that our current belief that Nazism is the gold standard of evil is one of the reasons that we find it difficult to understand that the Nazi project was a typically apocalyptic one. One of his purposes in “Heaven on Earth” is to insist that other civilizations than our own are no less affected by the irruptions of the apocalyptic.

What Mr. Landes calls “tribal millennialism” is observable, he claims, in the case of the Xhosa in Africa, who in 1856 were persuaded by a young prophetic girl that their ancestors were returning to save them from the white man and to restore their cattle and crops to the great times of the past. To bring about this happy result, the Xhosa had merely to give up witchcraft, kill their present cattle and cease to plant crops. Successive failures of the prophecy were put down to the Xhosa’s failure to carry through the whole program.

What Mr. Landes classifies as “agrarian millennialism” is illustrated by the Taiping in China in the mid-19th century. The prophet Hong Xiuquan construed himself as the younger brother of Jesus. When the dust had settled on this millennial adventure and the imperial response to it, an estimated 20 million Chinese had been killed. Apocalyptic thinking does not always entail such a grim reckoning, Mr. Landes makes clear, but it does come freighted with history and meriting more serious consideration than many are willing to concede.

Mr. Minogue, a professor emeritus of political science at the London School of Economics, is the author, most recently, of “The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life” (Encounter).

Glenn Beck’s Rallies in Israel: Pro-Israel or Pro-Apocalypse?

Glenn Beck presents himself to Israel as a dedicated and whole-hearted friend. In the context of the last decade’s dramatic developments (2000-2010), that puts Beck in a special category. Because lately, very few people are as nice to Israel as he is.

When the second (phase of the) Intifada exploded with particular violence in October 2000, the “left” – progressives who want peace in the world – split into two opposing currents. On the one hand, some Israeli observers in particular, argued that the enemy they wanted to make peace with had no desire for peace, that the Palestinian leadership – Fatah or Hamas – viewed Israeli concessions as a sign of weakness, and responded with violence. On the other hand, other observers blamed Israel for the failure, and called for her to make still more concessions. In a highly vocal and most extreme form, this “peace-camp” assault on Israel involves disturbingly vindictive rhetoric (Israel is the new Nazi).

In Israel where the confrontation with Jihad was deadly daily, the majority turned to the first school (electoral drop for “left”; widespread support for the separation barrier). In the diaspora, defenders of Israel found themselves increasingly beleaguered, silent, embarrassed in the public sphere, while radical prophets of “self-criticism” – most of them identifying “as a Jew” – relentlessly assailed Israel.

One can understand the solitary dilemmas of a liberal Jew in Israel when faced with this inexplicable assault. We know that Israel sets exceptionally high standards for itself, and in failing to meet them, still perform at the highest standards (C- to A- absolute; A+ on a curve). We understand, alas, that our enemy openly embraces those very desires we deny ourselves (massive revenge, genocidal hatreds, religious violence). So why on earth would the progressive left, the peace camp, turn against us, and not against the Palestinians?

Under these circumstances, it’s understandable that Zionists would listen gladly to a voice that said: “We’re with you, guy. We understand what a terrible enemy you have. We identify with you because you uphold the same values that we do: freedom, independence, the sacredness of human life. You are not alone. We recognize your efforts to adhere to civilized values, and admire you for your courage and your successes against all odds… “remain faithful to your ideals, and strong in your struggle.” This expresses a Philo-Judaic Christian Zionism that many fundamentalists enthusiastically voice.

It’s tempting then to respond favorably when someone like Glenn Beck, an emotional, charismatic, articulate man, who openly expresses his love for Israel, comes with his arms open in embrace. Apparently some Israelis open up their arms in response. MKs Danny Danon (Likud) and Nissim Ze’ev (Shas), recently hosted him in the Knesset. Beck is especially music to the ears of those who believe with him that “Jews have a right to live in all parts of the Land of Israel, and that while Arabs have a right to live here, the do not have a right to sovereignty.”

The problem, of course, is: what strain of Philo-Judaic Christian Zionism does Glenn Beck represent? At one end of the spectrum that goes from Dual Covenant to Supersessionism, we have simple-hearted love: “I admire you; I want your friendship; I extend my hand in an act of mutual respect.” Those who feel this way are, I suspect, many; and their feelings are both good and true. They embrace “those who bless you will be blessed” without envy. They engage Jews without wanting to convert them.

But there is another end of this spectrum of Philo-Judaism, one significantly less open and simple. On the contrary, this form of Christian Zionism views the Jews as their Messiah’s donkey, as the vehicle for bringing about a triumphalist Christian apocalypse in which all the evil – including those Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity – will be exterminated by the armies of the Lord. According to this apocalyptic scenario, the Battle of Armageddon and the return of Christ (the Parousia) would not happen until the Jews had reassembled in the land. Hence, their ardent Zionism has a significant ulterior motive linked to both conversion and war. For the latest block-buster rendering of this scenario, see Jerusalem Countdown coming to a theater near you this Fall.

Update: Heaven on Earth, the Beginning is Near

According to my publisher, the hardcopy of my book is off the press and on its way to me.

Please (if you are so inclined)

a) order the book here;

b) go to facebook and “like” the book here (so far I only have nine “friends” and I need twenty for it to achieve some kind of status);

c) spread the word.

Thank you.

Richard Landes

Save this date: May 21, 2011

Just interviewed by NECN about the Rapture date. Another interview this afternoon. Lots of hullabaloo about this. There isn’t enough real news?

I’m not complaining, mind you, with my book coming out shortly.

The Supernova of 1006: Chinese vs. Monotheist responses

I just gave a lecture here at the Internationale Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschungen (IKGF) in Erlangen. The scholars here are a wonderful combination of Sinologist (primarily Chinese religion) and Western medievalists.

In preparing my talk on the year 1000, I went back to an astronomical incident seen round the world, which had an enormous impact on Arab Islam and Christendom, and, with the help of my Sinologist colleagues here, found the contrast with how it affected China quite instructive — the Supernova of May 1006.

Put briefly, the spectacular celestial phenomenon triggered feverish apocalyptic expectation – what, in my book, I call an “apocalyptic moment” – both among Muslims and Christians, while in China, a wisely advised emperor managed to calm his people.

Let’s begin with the incident, starting with a definition of a supernova.

A supernova (plural supernovae) is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months. During this short interval a supernova can radiate as much energy as the Sun is expected to emit over its entire life span. The explosion expels much or all of a star’s material at a velocity of up to 30,000 km/s (10% of the speed of light), driving a shock wave into the surrounding interstellar medium. This shock wave sweeps up an expanding shell of gas and dust called a supernova remnant.

In May of 1006, the most spectacular Supernova ever to be visible from earth occurred 2,700 light years away from earth. It was the brightest apparent magnitude stellar event in recorded history, reaching an estimated -7.5 visual magnitude. A thousand years later, the Hubble Telescope photographed the still-expanding shock-wave created by this explosion.

This picture represents the shock-wave of gases emanating from the explosion in all directions, 1000 years after the explosion.

When Madness Strikes a Civilization: Norman Cohn on millennialism

There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and half-educated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people, who thereupon take leave of sanity and responsibility. And it occasionally happens that this underworld becomes a political power and changes the course of history.

Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: the Myth of the Jewish World-Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, p. 18

As applied to now, see the brilliant reflections of Edwin Bennatan, “World Gone Mad” (HT/TB)

Death Wish: Why Are We So In Love with the Apocalypse? Kalder’s Interview with me

I recently posted the article that Daniel Kalder wrote about apocalyptic in the Spectator. Now he’s published the interview he had with me at Breitbart’s Big Journalism.

Death Wish: Why Are We So In Love with the Apocalypse?
Posted by Daniel Kalder
Jan 24th 2010 at 3:38 pm
Christianity, End Times, History, Iran, Islam | Comments (45)

It’s impossible to avoid the apocalypse these days. Whether we encounter the End in the form of news reports on Global Warming, or fears of Iran getting bomb, or plague panics such as H1N1, we seem to be living in a high point of apocalyptic anxiety, with horrible Doomsdays lurking round every corner.

And yet, the End has never been so much fun. Roland Emmerich released his latest apocalyptic blockbuster 2012 in November, and since then we have enjoyed Zombieland, The Road, The Book of Eli, Legion and even Al Gore’s dreadful poem read aloud on morning TV in the presence of a fawning sycophant. Much more is to come, and this is to say nothing of video games, books, comics, or half the output of the History Channel.

What lies behind this fascination with the End? Dr. Richard Landes, professor of mediaeval history at Boston University, is a renowned scholar of apocalyptic movements who has been thinking about Doomsday for forty years. He is the editor of the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and author of the upcoming Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of Millennial Experience. Landes is an exceptionally interesting thinker who applies his knowledge of past apocalypses to our present fears, an analysis which frequently informs the articles he publishes at his website The Augean Stables.

Recently I phoned him from my base in Texas, to chat about mankind’s enduring love affair with the apocalypse. I caught him in Tel Aviv airport at 2 a.m, and it was then, against a backdrop of deepest night, that we spent two hours discussing the end of the world:

With all these apocalyptic films coming out, and fears of Global Warming, plague and nuclear proliferation running rampant, do you think that we are living through an era of heightened apocalyptic anxiety?

You know, that’s almost a precise paraphrase of what journalists were asking me in the 90s, while looking ahead to the year 2000. That was when we had all those movies about planet-destroying comets, and fears of the Y2K bug… There’s always an apocalyptic undercurrent in our culture, but sometimes it comes to the fore.

Why is the pull of apocalyptic belief so strong?

Our love for the apocalypse is connected with our sense of our own importance. To live in apocalyptic expectation means that you are the chosen generation; that in your time the puzzle of existence will be solved. It appeals to our- by which I mean humanity’s- megalomania: we all want to believe we’re special, that God has given us a front row seat for the most important events in history.

But where does it come from?

Apocalypse Again? Daniel Kalder on current trends with an assist from RL

With 2012 (the movie) out, I’ve been getting lots of phone calls from journalists dusting off their rollodexes from the 1990s. Among them, Kalder asked the most interesting questions, and has written the most interesting piece (that I know of). It’s published in the Spectator, but not at their site. This is from his.

THE END OF THE WORLD IS HERE (AGAIN)

Daniel Kalder

Last weekend Roland Emmerich’s wrathful CGI God was at it again, killing billions in the name of the Holy Box Office in the film 2012. Having already caused carnage with aliens, an ice age and Godzilla, this time Emmerich took his cue from the Ancient Mayans, whose ‘long calendar’ purportedly stops in 2012. But not only is the End nigh, it’s hugely profitable- 2012 raked in $225 million globally in three days. With numbers like that it’s no surprise that a multitude of apocalypses are in the pipeline: whether humorous (Woody Harrelson battles the undead in Zombieland) or depressing (father and son trek across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in The Road) it’s boom time for doom time.

It is surely no coincidence that imaginary catastrophes are flooding our cinema screens at a time when the news itself seems exceptionally apocalyptic. Secular prophets armed with statistics and graphs warn us daily of a new Deluge, coming as punishment for our crimes against the planet. The President of Iran leaves a chair vacant at cabinet meetings for the Hidden Imam, chases the bomb and threatens to wipe nuclear-armed Israel off the map. And speaking of nukes, only a few months ago Taliban forces advanced very close to Pakistan’s own atomic arsenal. Then there’s the plague: H1N1 is spreading across the globe, making a lot of people a bit ill, and leaving a very small minority dead. But if H1N1 doesn’t get us, perhaps economic meltdown or- better yet- overpopulation will, as a scramble for resources sets off apocalyptic wars. And while governments seek solutions, some declare that our situation is hopeless. Interviewed in the Spectator this February, James Lovelock, doyen of the Green movement said: ‘If there were 100 million of us on the earth, we could do almost anything we liked without harm. At seven billion I doubt if anything is possible or will significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption; by significantly I mean enough to halt global warming.’

So: are we doomed? And if so- why are so many people so excited about it?

PoMo Unpeeled: David Thompson talks with Stephen Hicks

The issue of post-modernism has arisen a number of times at the blog (most recently here), and since I’ve been meaning to put up David Thompson’s conversation with PoMo critic Stephen Hicks for some time, I decided now might be propitious. For the sake of introduction (and since I find some valuable items in the post-modern paradigm), let me lay out the major claims — and strengths — of post-modernism. My criticism will accompany the rather ample discussion of Thompson and Hicks.

Post-modernism, as I understand it, represents at once a disillusionment with the failure of the “modern” project — science, technology, the superiority of the modern West — especially in the wake of World War II. No more optimism that the scientific method will produce the solutions to all our problems. At the same time, pomo was a declaration of independence from the demands of the modern, scientific epistemologies, from the demands normally made on exegetical specialists whose job, in every culture, is to interpret the world all about. This meant, above all, probing and, if necessary, stabbing texts in order to “deconstruct” them, to identify their silences and bring out what discourses the text deliberately concealed.

Derrida’s notion of différance, which is a double-pun (differ and defer) and a play on the discontinuity of oral and written media (you can’t hear the difference with “difference”) has much to offer here, especially the notion that a text’s meaning is constantly deferred into an unending future, that the passage of time inevitably reveals new facets of the text’s import. Given that Western culture is profoundly marked by apocalyptic hopes, prophecies, and “readings”, and that time consistently strikes them down and raises them up, the discovery of such a notion in Western culture may not be so surprising. But it is valuable in injecting a little modesty in the otherwise all-too frequent tendency of exegetes to insist they have the meaning.

The rejection of the “objective” is a reasonable linguistic move: language cannot possibly be transparent on reality, especially the reality of human experiences. Even if something “really did happen,” there’s no way to reduce it to verbal formulae, no way for verbal formulae to somehow lock on to the objective reality at which it points. Epistemologically, it’s possible to push it all the way to radical doubt — we can’t know what we can’t know.

One of the more interesting directions pomo thought takes this axiomatic relativism, is the rejection of the “Grand” or “Meta-Narrative,” the all-encompassing, totalistic narrative that includes, gives order and priority in meaning to the multiplicity of “little narratives” that emerge from any event. Pomos have declared the “death” of the Meta-narrative, apparently feeling that having slain the reigning Meta-Narrative (modern, scientific objectivity), they would not allow a new one to gain hegemony.

All of these ideas are interesting and potentially enormously fruitful. The danger I find most pervasive though, is in the lack of understanding and appreciation that post-modernists have for their exegetical freedom. Not realizing that in most societies in most parts of the world for most of history no one, not even the most privileged figures had anything remotely resembling their freedom to interpret and criticize and even reinvent the meaning of the culture’s major texts. As a result, they tend to abuse their freedom, decoupling the key pair of freedom and discipline for an extraordinarily self-indulgent display of solepsistic “creations.”

Indeed, in their eagerness to flaunt their freedom, the unconsciously replicate the ancestors they thought they had slain, those Meta-Narrative driven figures like Hegel and Vico, who saw in history the inexorable march of freedom. And yet, unlike earlier heroes in the heroic narrative — Washington’s refusal to become king comes to mind — they fail to appreciate either the gift they’ve inherited, or the audience to which they, as the culture’s interpreters, are responsible. Alas for us.

And now to Thompson and Hicks…

UPDATE: Shrinkwrapped has an interesting (and approving!) read of this post. The Modern Left: A Marriage of Post-Modernism and Narcissism, Part I and II

Postmodernism Unpeeled

A discussion with Stephen Hicks.
March 22, 2009

“In politicized forms, then, postmodernists will behave like the stereotypical unscrupulous lawyer trying to win the case: truth and justice aren’t the point; instead using any rhetorical tool or trick that works is the point. Sometimes contradictory lines of argument work. Sometimes your audience’s desire to belong to the in-group can be played upon. Sometimes appearing absolutely authoritative works to camouflage a weak case. Sometimes condescension works.”

Dr Stephen Hicks is Professor of Philosophy and Executive Director of the Centre for Ethics and Entrepreneurship at Rockford College, Illinois. He is co-editor with David Kelley of Readings for Logical Analysis (W. W. Norton, 1998), and has published in academic journals as well as The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, and Reader’s Digest. His book Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault was published in 2004 by Scholargy Publishing and is now in its eighth printing. He is the author and narrator of a DVD documentary entitled Nietzsche and the Nazis, which was published in 2006 by Ockham’s Razor Publishing.

DT: In an exchange with Ophelia Benson, I mentioned Explaining Postmodernism and suggested one of the book’s main themes is that postmodernism marks a crisis of faith and a retreat from reality among the academic left. Is that a fair, if crude, summary?

SH: It is striking that the major postmodernists – Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Richard Rorty – are of the far left politically. And it is striking that all four are Philosophy Ph.D.s who reached deeply skeptical conclusions about our ability to come to know reality. So one of my four theses about postmodernism is that it develops from a double crisis – a crisis within philosophy about knowledge and a crisis within left politics about socialism.

In millennial studies jargon that’s cogntive dissonance at recognizing (and denying) the failure of one’s outrageously hopeful expectations, at the horror of witnessing the God that failed.

Here, rather than acknowledge that the failure of expectations was due to a misreading of human nature, we have people throwing out the very effort to accurately read the world of humans.

Say it ain’t so, RL: Is the West doomed?

In a post on the hypocrisy of the “self-“critical left, Diane left a note on the ominous signs that the West was committing suicide. I didn’t answer it at the time, but I’d like to address it now.

I just started Ibn Warraq’s “Defending the West” last night. It promises to be a slow but highly rewarding read. And a couple of days ago I finished Shelby Steele’s “White Guilt.” Is it my imagination, or are there increasing numbers of books out there by serious and credible people challenging the “progressive” anti-Western, anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-Zionist orthodoxies?

Or am I allowing myself to be lulled into a false sense of security/hope by completely tuning out the MSM?

oao would have us think the end is near. Say it ain’t so, RL. You’re the milleniallism scholar. The end is never near, right?

You may think — as do I — that Ibn Warraq and Shelby Steele are “serious and credible people,” but, like Khaled abu Toameh, these folks tend to be dismissed by the progressive camp. On the other hand, unlike oao, with whose analysis in detail I often agree, but with whose overall conclusions about the utter collapse of Western educational systems and the doomed state of the West I disagree, I think the future remains undetermined, and in fact, we still have great power and resources if only we’d use them. (And that’s not military power, I’m talking about.)

On the contrary, this battle is far from over. And although every day and week that we delay in dealing with it (e.g., Iranian nuclear power) seriously, the eventual costs are all the higher. I don’t think that Europe, for example, will start fighting back until some significant area — a city like Malmo or Rotterdam — gets turned into a toxic Sharia-zone.

On the other hand, I think that events like the debacle of Durban II are hopeful signs, not only the defection of so many key Western nations, but the walk-out of Ahmadinejad’s rant, to the accompanying cheers of the peanut gallery. On the other hand, having a schizophrenic president, who takes away with one hand what he gives with the other, doesn’t help.

While it’s true that “the end” has yet to happen, immense catastrophes have — like the collapse of the Roman Empire, or the “apocalyptic” World War II (which made the unimaginable World War I look like small potatoes, and which the Germans would have won had the US not entered). So I take no comfort in the fact that the apocalypse hasn’t yet happen.

Indeed, unlike in the past, where only God could bring about the end, now — even as we no longer believe in God — we now have the power to destroy human life on earth. So especially for atheists, who think that the reason the End hasn’t come has nothing to do with God’s involvement, the present offers the first serious threat of annihilation.

On the other hand, I have a perhaps irrationally optimistic sense of the resilience of the West. In particular I don’t think that most “liberals” are intentionally suicidal (unlike the radicals), and I do think they can and will wake up.

The issue is still how long it will take and how high the eventual cost. But we can wake up too late. At least a new dark age will reduce our carbon footprint.

Scruton stumbles through explaining how the West should deal with Islam’s challenge.

A number of commenters have discussed Roger Scruton’s essay in Azure, “Islam and the West: Lines of Demarcation.” Some find it excellent even while others find the conclusion on “forgiveness” confusing if not troubling. I read it with increasing dismay and the results are the fisking below. It’s, alas, a good example of how (even mild) Christian supersessionism, makes it so hard for even sophisticated and (appropriately) politically incorrect thinkers to grapple with what confronts us from Islam.

Azure Winter 5769 / 2009, no. 35
Islam and the West: Lines of Demarcation
By Roger Scruton

What it is about our civilization that causes such resentment, and why we must defend it.

The West today is involved in a protracted and violent struggle with the forces of radical Islam. This conflict is intensely difficult, both because of our enemy’s dedication to his cause, and also, perhaps most of all, because of the enormous cultural shift that has occurred in Europe and America since the end of the Vietnam War. Put simply, the citizens of Western states have lost their appetite for foreign wars; they have lost the hope of scoring any but temporary victories; and they have lost confidence in their way of life. Indeed, they are no longer sure what that way of life requires of them.

That’s an interesting formula, since it is quasi-religious, in the sense that religion does answer the question “what life requires” of the adherent. Having translated religious morality into a secular idiom (e.g., Kant), having dismissed religions as so much hocus-pocus, modern secular people who care about morality don’t know what to do but push the “most moral” elements to the extreme. As a result we get a “progressive left” that is at once scornful of religion (especially of the “white” variety, Judaism and Christianity) even as it pushes a “turn the other cheek, love your enemies as yourself” morality in international relations. “Wildly inappropriate” comes to mind.

Of course, the kind of wisdom expressed in a biblical text like, “nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute,” could not penetrate the mentality that, for example, supports the “poor Palestinians” no matter how badly they behave. Religiously deracinated “ethics” can be as dangerous a phenomenon as religious zealotry. (Or is that moral equivalence?)

At the same time, they have been confronted with a new opponent, one who believes that the Western way of life is profoundly flawed, and perhaps even an offense against God. In a “fit of absence of mind,” Western societies have allowed this opponent to gather in their midst; sometimes, as in France, Britain, and the Netherlands, in ghettos which bear only tenuous and largely antagonistic relations to the surrounding political order.

I like the expression “fit of absence of mind,” because it was a fit, a blood-libel induced fit that led “progressives” to adopt Jihadi hatreds, and walk out on anyone who dared to criticize Muslims (a fortiori Palestinians) because that made their third-world colleagues in the fight for justice and truth “uncomfortable.”

And in both America and Europe there has been a growing desire for appeasement: a habit of public contrition; an acceptance, though with heavy heart, of the censorious edicts of the mullahs; and a further escalation in the official repudiation of our cultural and religious inheritance. Twenty years ago, it would have been inconceivable that the archbishop of Canterbury would give a public lecture advocating the incorporation of Islamic religious law (shari’ah) into the English legal system. Today, however, many people consider this to be an arguable point, and perhaps the next step on the way to peaceful compromise.

It’s even worse. Twenty — even ten — years ago, it would have been inconceivable… now he says it’s inevitable.

Did Daniel Pearl die in vain? On the shape of the first decade of the third millennium

Daniel Pearl’s father, Judea, reflects on the world seven years after his son’s death. Not a pretty picture. In so doing he raises some critical issues about the vulnerability/stupidity of the Western world when faced with the remorseless hatreds that (among many other deeds) killed his son with such deliberate brutality. My comments attempt to bring out some of the issues he merely raises in order to stay within his word-limit for an op-ed.

OPINIONFEBRUARY 3, 2009
Daniel Pearl and the Normalization of Evil
When will our luminaries stop making excuses for terror?

By JUDEA PEARL

This week marks the seventh anniversary of the murder of our son, former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. My wife Ruth and I wonder: Would Danny have believed that today’s world emerged after his tragedy?

The answer does not come easily. Danny was an optimist, a true believer in the goodness of mankind. Yet he was also a realist, and would not let idealism bend the harshness of facts.

Neither he, nor the millions who were shocked by his murder, could have possibly predicted that seven years later his abductor, Omar Saeed Sheikh, according to several South Asian reports, would be planning terror acts from the safety of a Pakistani jail. Or that his murderer, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, now in Guantanamo, would proudly boast of his murder in a military tribunal in March 2007 to the cheers of sympathetic jihadi supporters.

I’ve found references to the trial, but not to the cheers of jihadi supporters. Anyone have a link?

Or that this ideology of barbarism would be celebrated in European and American universities, fueling rally after rally for Hamas, Hezbollah and other heroes of “the resistance.” Or that another kidnapped young man, Israeli Gilad Shalit, would spend his 950th day of captivity with no Red Cross visitation while world leaders seriously debate whether his kidnappers deserve international recognition.

No. Those around the world who mourned for Danny in 2002 genuinely hoped that Danny’s murder would be a turning point in the history of man’s inhumanity to man, and that the targeting of innocents to transmit political messages would quickly become, like slavery and human sacrifice, an embarrassing relic of a bygone era.

Although Pearl does not go into it, his son’s murder was the first “beheading video” to get put up on the internet. That grotesque snuff film has spawned a whole industry, and the posted films get millions of downloads in days. One of the less salubrious impacts of the new communications technology of cyberspace.

The larger issue, however, concerns the trends at work in 2002. Pearl may not have begun to catch on seriously until after the death of his son. Indeed he may have shared his son’s optimistic (if “realistic”) world view — that we can work out, talk out, negotiate out of any conlfict.

But for those of us who understood why the Oslo Process had blown up in our faces, who understood the Jihadi vision that lay behind the Intifada, who understood how massive an intellectual and moral failure had occurred, starting in late 2000, when, inspired by the wrenching image of poor little Muhammad al Durah, the European “street” and the activist “Left” turned against Israel and embraced the “Palestinian” cause, for those of us who had been watching in dismay at the spread of a new wave of anti-Semitism thinly disguised as delirious anti-Zionism spread unopposed by the liberal and progressive authorities… for us, Daniel’s death was just one more roadsign on the path to the present.

Hamas in their own words

One of the more appalling aspects of the news coverage of this conflict is the pervasive cover-up of Hamas’ true nature. In their interviews with Arab/Muslim specialists (like Reza Aslan) who misrepresent Hamas without challenge, in their questions to Israelis, in their own characterizations of the matter, Hamas comes off as perhaps an extremist and difficult group, but nonetheless a legitimate player, someone that Israel needs to negotiate with.

The climax of this attitude is Annie Lennox’s startling and impassioned response when asked about Hamas’ desire to destroy Israel: “people need to sit down and have a dialogue…” And Jimmy Carter’s “they were defensive tunnels…”

The difference in coverage that might ensue from a serious understanding of the nature of the apocalyptic enemy would, I think, be massive. Towards that end, MEMRI has put out a collection of some of the stuff Hamas says in Arabic (not in English to Yimmy).