Category Archives: BDS

Susan Handelman to Executive Director on MLA Boycotting Israel

A friend and colleague, and member of the MLA (Modern Language Association) for decades, just received an email  letter sent to all  25,000 members of the Association  from the Executive Director of the MLA informing them about the three proposed resolutions  that will be discussed and voted on at the annual MLA conference meeting in January, all of which concern the Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians.”

Dear Colleague,

If you are attending the 2017 MLA Annual Convention

 in Philadelphia, I write to remind you that the Delegate Assembly meeting will be held on Saturday, 7 January 2017, starting at 11:00 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom Salon GH at the Philadelphia Marriott. The meeting is open to all current MLA members.

The Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee (DAOC) establishes the agenda for the assembly meeting each year. The DAOC has placed three regular resolutions, proposed by members, on the agenda for consideration at the 2017 assembly meeting.

  • One resolution calls on the MLA to refrain from endorsing a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
  • One resolution calls on the MLA to endorse Palestinian civil society’s call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. 
  • One resolution calls on the MLA to condemn attacks on academic freedom in Palestinian universities.

These three resolutions are now posted online with supporting materials from the proposers. Because the first two resolutions appear to conflict with each other, they will be discussed by the assembly in an order to be determined by lot.

We also expect one or more emergency resolutions to be proposed by members. An emergency resolution that has been circulated for signatures calls on the MLA to endorse the statement from the American Association of University Professors on “higher education after the 2016 election.”

The DAOC and the Executive Council have provided three key opportunities at the convention for members to discuss the issues surrounding the resolutions or the resolutions themselves:

1. On Thursday, 5 January, from 5:15 to 7:00 p.m., there will be a Town Hall Meeting on the question, Should the MLA endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions?  Members not attending the convention will have the opportunity to participate online and to listen to a live stream of the discussion.

2. On Friday, 6 January, from 10:15 to 11:30 a.m., there is an Open Hearing on Resolutions, where members and delegates may discuss the resolutions on the Delegate Assembly’s agenda and any emergency resolutions that are submitted. No votes will be taken at this session. 

3. On Saturday, 7 January, at 11:00 a.m., the Delegate Assembly meeting begins; votes will be taken on the resolutions that are on the assembly’s agenda.

Any resolution approved by the Delegate Assembly would need to be reviewed by the Executive Council and forwarded to the full membership for commenting and a vote. 

The council and DAOC are committed to providing opportunities for thoughtful and respectful discussion at the convention, and I hope that you will be able to participate. I look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia.

Rosemary G. Feal
Executive Director

Professor Handelman responded as follows:

Dear Ms Feal,
Thank you for all your hard work on behalf of the Modern Language Association.

I have been a member of MLA since 1977 and have, and have been a literature professor since 1979.

I received this message from you below about Delegate Assembly resolutions regarding the Israel- Palestinian conflict.

Aside from the complexities of that situation , I don’t need to tell you about what’s happening in Aleppo, or the million people in Mosul who are trapped in the fighting between ISIS and Iraqi forces. I read your message and I asked myself: “THIS is what the MLA is discussing and making resolutions about?”

I am sorry to say that I am ashamed and embarrassed as an MLA member.

Below is a three minute youtube video of an Israeli-Arab newscaster making a plea in English about the genocide in Syria .

Would that the MLA could be as eloquent and an honest and deeply moral as she is here, and fulfill its aspirations to be a serious ethical and cultural voice, instead of diminishing and reducing itself to discussions of boycotting other academics, and further lose credibility.

Please take two minutes to watch it.
Perhaps you can induce the MLA to make some kind of public stand about this, instead of wasting its time on inappropriate ideological combat.

See this article about Lucy Aharish and the few minutes she took to say these words in English on her news broadcast.

With best wishes for a successful convention,

Yours truly,
Prof. Susan Handelman

I was recently reminded of #IDD (Israel Derangement Disorder), when the NYT posted a wave of articles about Trump’s ambassadorial choice for Israel, even as civilians were slaughtered in Aleppo.

In this case, we find the MLA, in its BDS-induced obsession with Israel’s unacceptable violations of Palestinian “civil and academic rights”, while all around her exists a political environment where the power players – including the Palestinians – grant no rights or freedoms to their own people, much less to their minorities, and who readily treat their own people’s lives with contempt. And even as that happens a staggering scale before our eyes, in Aleppo, in Mosul, in Yemen, in Nigeria, in Sudan, progressives like the PoMoPoCos at the MLA keep their eye on that oh-so gratifying world of narratives about sovereign Jews behaving badly. Indeed, so strong is their obsession, that they endanger their 501C3 status just to pursue completely tangential issues.

Those whom the gods would destroy they first drive mad. And so it goes with the social justice warriors of the 21st century.

They Savor Wine but Keep an Open Bar for the Hard Stuff

Richard Landes

The following is the text of talk I delivered at the Council for European Studies in Philadelphia entitled, “European Resilience?” The panel was entitled: 

A Measure of European Resilience: Anti-semitism(s) Old and New

Chair: Jeff Weintraub

Participants:

“A New ‘Exodus’? The Political Economy of Jewish Migration.” Scott Siegel, San Francisco State University

“European Muslim Antisemitism: Its Sources, Its Allies.” Gunther Jikeli, Indiana University

“They had it Coming: Retributive Justice Attacks on European Jewry.” Steven Baum, Journal for the Study of Antisemitism; Florette Cohen-Abady, College of Staten Island – CUNY

“Secular Supersessionism and Post-Christian Europe’s Tolerance for Anti-Semitism.” Richard Landes, Bar Ilan University

Discussant: Jeff Weintraub, Harvard University.

 

They Savor Wine but Keep an Open Bar for the Hard Stuff

Secular Supersessionism and Post-Christian Europe’s Tolerance for Anti-Semitism

The following represents excerpts from a chapter of a history book, written in 2050, on the asymmetric war of invasion that Jihadis had been waging against the West since 1979/1400. The historian identified this as an apocalyptic war for Muslim world conquest, a drive to turn all of Dar al Harb into Dar al Islam. The excerpts focus on Jihad in Europe during the first decade and a half of the 21st century, a period this historian considered the turning point in the Jihadi campaign, and a set-up for the subsequent decades-long civil wars that plagued the continent from 2020s onwards. The first segment describes the process of reversal of forces in 2000, the second attempts to explain why the Jihadis had such widespread and unexpected success. As a preliminary note, this author has the habit of writing his chronology not only AD/CE, but also AH, the Islamic count; and refers to the first two decades of the third millennium as the “aughts” and the “teens.”

The turn of the millennium, 2000/1420, marked a dramatic change in the fate of Europe. From this point onward, the rapports de forces between Europe and the movement of global Jihad that targeted the democratic continent, shifted dramatically in favor of the “weak side” of this asymmetrical invasion. This occurred just as the EU was reaching its highest point of both extension and integration, a development that seemed to make the EU a global colossus on a par with the USA. At the time, few even noticed the shift, much less attributed any real significance to it.

Up until the “fin-de-siècle/millennium” of 2000/1420, global Jihad’s goal of Muslim world conquest struck virtually everyone as ridiculous, especially in the West, now, with the internet, the globally dominant hegemon. Granted the Jihadis had scored major victories in the previous decades: Khoumeini in Iran (1979/1400), Bin Laden in Afghanistan (1989/1410), and the same year, Khoumeini’s dramatic extension of Sharia law to Dar al Harb with his death fatwa against the blasphemer Salmon Rushdie. But the idea that Muslims could actually take over Europe, the West? Inconceivable! Even Muslims who found the dream tantalizing, still considered it a pipe dream.

In late 2000, however, global Jihad took an immense leap from the margins to the center of the global community, and surprisingly enough, often with the enthusiastic approval of the very European elites whom they targeted. The dynamic so rapidly took hold, that what in the 1990s/1410s was virtually unthinkable – namely the Islamic take-over of the European continent – by the mid aughts/1420s, started to look to some observers as inevitable: a string of books made the dire prophecy of European demise: Eurabia (2005), Londonistan (2006), While Europe Slept (2006), America Alone (2006). These books were treated by the gatekeepers of the public sphere as either dangerous or ridiculous, alarmist, conspiracist, creating the very hatreds they warned against.

On the contrary, many Europeans thought they were in their glory days. In the very same years as the dire books appeared, another set proposed a profoundly optimistic, even triumphalist scenario of European dominance in the 21st century: The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy (2005), The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (2005), Why Europe will Run the 21st century (2006). And all of this, just moments before the Muhammad Cartoon affair extended Muslim blasphemy laws world-wide.

It began with the second Intifada, in late September and the rapid rise to dominance of a school of lethal journalists who systematically reported as news Jihadi war propaganda. This war propaganda electrified the global Umma, including in Muslims in Europe. The actual Palestinian military uprising was a failure: it failed to chase the Jews from Israel. But it did sanctify the supreme Jihadi weapon of the new century, suicide terror, soon turned on other infidels – the next year 9-11 – and then on Muslims. The suicide terrorist became the trademark of a global jihad that fed on the destructive chaos it created.

But what the Palestinian Jihadis failed to achieve on the kinetic battlefield, they more than compensated for in the cognitive theater of asymmetrical global war. News images of Palestinian suffering and Israeli cruelty awakened Muslims the world over, and the nascent internet multiplied the effect manifold. These images of Jewish terror and Palestinian victimization aroused immense anger among Muslims, and confirmed the message that apocalyptic Jihadis had been pushing for decades: Islam was under existential threat: This is a war on Islam itself. Al Jazeera rose to unprecedented heights distributing these icons of hatred in the Arab and Muslim world. Bin Laden turned the footage of the IDF shooting a twelve year old boy to death in the arms of his pleading father, into a video summons to the global Jihad of planetary conquest.

Among Europeans, the victory of Jihadi war propaganda was at least as spectacular: not only did the icons of victimization and hatred awaken European Muslims, but the message was given immense prestige and reach when Western journalists presented it as news. In turn, the same media that emphasized Israeli aggression, systematically underreported the Muslim aggression those broadcasts provoked against European Jews. This pattern was most pronounced during periods of military clash between Israel and their neighbors, during which pack journalists unwittingly, but enthusiastically, promoted Jihadi propaganda and played down Jihadi aggression.

And even as they incited Jihadi hatred against Israel and cheered on the “resistance” by demonstrating in suicide bomber belts, they became paralyzed. “The Arabs act as if they have a knife to our throat and we act as if they did,” noted one scholar in hushed tones. And indeed they did: the knife was the threat of suicide terror. So when during Ramadan of 2005/1426 rioters shouting “Allahu Akhbar” rioted all over France in response to a lethal narrative about French cops killing two Arab boys, the police tried to contain; and French journalists and academics denied it had anything to do with Islam.

Indeed, the early aughts brought to prominence a kind of “global progressive left” street presence whose spokespeople, by 2003, claimed – in the pages of the NYT – to constitute one of two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion, which was against war. These demonstrations, which reached into the tens of millions worldwide in 2003, gave prominence to and welcomed the energy of Jihadis, who proudly sported giant portraits of Saddam and Arafat and in various places like Paris, beat up Jewish participants in the rallies. In the replacement theology of the global left, Israel became the secular anti-Christ, the new Nazis, committing genocide against the Palestinians, the new Jews.

This “Street” of public opinion, initially sponsored by the global progressive “anti-war” left, spawned its own, aggressive, and independent “Muslim Street” in Europe: starting with the Ramadan riots in France in 2005/1425. It continued with protests against the blasphemous Danish Cartoons (Salmon Rushdie redux, 2006/1426) and protesting the Pope calling Islam a violent religion (2007/1427). Infidel progressives tended not to join these demos, although they did not laugh at the absurdity of Muslims violently protesting someone calling them violent.

But the one constant, the one phenomenon that brought out all the protesters in their most enthusiastic and angry moods, was the periodic episodes of lethal journalism about Israel. Even American war crimes – in some cases far worse – did not bring out the angry crowds. Thus, each episode of fevered own-goal journalism – Al Aqsa Intifada, Jenin Massacre, Lebanon, Gaza I, Mavi Marmara, Gaza II, Gaza III – produced major gains for European Jihad. Indeed, by the end of the aughts, Hamas had developed the pattern into a formal strategy: provoke an Israeli attack, get as many Muslim civilians killed as possible, and count on the Western news media to so outrage the world community, that diplomatic pressure forced Israel to stop.

In communicating the lethal narrative of Palestinian anguish and Israeli cruelty, the news media fueled the widely held belief in Europe, even among infidel intelligentsia: “The IDF kills Palestinian children every day”… the first global blood libel of the early 21st century and global Jihad’s best recruiting device.

In 2000, for the first time since Hitler, the cry of “Death to the Jews!” was heard on the streets of a European capital, in the Place de la Republique in Paris. After a decade and a half of own-goal war journalism, this genocidal cry was heard all over Europe, chanted publicly for hours. Jihadi hatreds shattered the streets of European capitals; and European leaders suddenly realized they were losing their Jews to those hatreds. “La France sans ses juifs n’est pas la France,” noted the Foreign Minister Manuel Valls, in a multi-cultural variant on De Gaulle’s more imperious version. In response, Jihadis stepped up attacks on any European infidel. In those days, anti-Zionist post-modern gentiles turned to their former Jewish friends leaving for Israel and lamented, “at least you have some place to go.”

The journalists who so acted, did this not because they were consciously supporting the goals of Jihad, but because their obsession with Israel blinded them to the longer-term consequences of their actions. They thought they were siding with the “underdog,” the Palestinians whom they, as a pack, viewed as victims and freedom fighters, the “David,” resisting the Israeli “Goliath.”

Apocalyptic and Gratuitous Hatreds: The Revival of Jew Hatred in the 21st Century

The following is an only slightly edited version of my farewell lecture at Boston University, April 27, 2015.

The essay is only partially linked. As I reread it, I see numerous jumps in reasoning which make it a difficult read. It in some ways runs the gamut of my research, putting together apocalyptic types, honor-shame, zero- vs. positive-sum, and the huge dilemma we’re in today, where we can’t talk about the most serious threat to global peace (not kidding), and instead, we talk endlessly about the flaws of the Jews, individually and collectively.

Apocalyptic and Gratuitous Hatreds:

The Revival of Jew Hatred in the 21st Century

The rabbis attribute the destruction of the Second Temple to sinat chinam, causeless, or gratuitous hatred between Jews. The most elaborate example used to illustrate the point, tells the story of the confusion of a certain a-Kamtza, an invited guest to a wedding, and Bar Kamza, the mistakenly invited man whom the host dislikes intensely. The host, discovering Bar Kamtza at his feast, demands he leave, and refuses to relent even when Bar Kamtza offers to pay for the full feast. Angry and resentful, Bar Kamtza plots to use the Romans to take vengeance, not only against the host, but the rabbis who stood about and did not intervene while he was being unbearably humiliated. Deeply knowledgeable about both the halacha and the proclivities of its interpreters, and determined to take vengeance, Bar Kamtza sets off a chain of events that ultimately led Rome to destroy the Temple.

Josephus, the historian, tells a different tale. Although it failed, that failure was hardly fore-ordained, and had it succeeded, it would rank as the first successful blow against the juggernaut of Roman hegemony that dominated the previous centuries of Mediterranean history. In Josephus’ account, there were plenty of hatreds, and some – like the Zealots who burned the besieged city’s supplies – clearly contributed to the failure of the Jewish revolt. In historical terms, Josephus is both more embedded in events, and confirmed by outside sources which show a vast range of prophetic/messianic behavior among individuals acting before receptive crowds. Far from gratuitous, the passions that drove the Jewish Revolt might best be considered apocalyptic: in other words, for the participants, the things at stake in these hatreds, were cosmic; this was the final battle.

These believers, whom I call roosters, who live in apocalyptic time, in the certainty that the culmination of history is underway, can behave at once enthusiastically and self-destructively, like the Xhosa in what became South Africa in the mid-19th century. Told by an adolescent girl to slaughter their cattle in preparation for redemption, many Xhosa, including their greatest chief slaughtered their precious herds in anticipation, and each time that anticipation disappointed, they killed even more systematically. They followed this pattern of doubling down so determinedly that they went from voluntary sacrifice (believers killing their own cattle) into coercive purity (killing the cattle of non-believers). In the end, they slaughtered hundreds of thousands of cattle, and tens of thousands of Xhosa starved.[i]

Radical Thoughts on Fighting BDS

I was just on a panel at the IDC Herzliya Conference about BDS and Europe. [My remarks made to the panel treated BDS as a cogwar campaign to destroy Israel, one of the most coveted desires of the apocalyptic millennial set (and many other Arabs and Muslims, alas).]

This is the second such discussion I’ve been in (the previous one, on Wednesday past is here in French), and below are some of the thoughts they both have inspired.

If Others Think It’s Our Fault, It Is.

People who identify themselves as “left” consistently pooh-pooh the problem on the one hand, and then turn around to say, “and if we [Israel] weren’t so bad, if our behavior didn’t seem so close to South African apartheid, then we wouldn’t be having these problems.” So on the one hand, “it’s not a big deal,” and on the other hand, “it’s our fault.”

Of course what they mean by “our fault,” is not their fault, but the “right’s” fault – Bibi, Hotovely, Bennett, the settlements, the occupation, and any other Israeli action that provokes anger among outsiders, whether they be Arab or Western. “As long as the ‘right’ keeps talking and acting the way it does, it’s impossible to win the fight against BDS. If we uprooted the settlements, then the BDS advocates wouldn’t find so sympathetic an audience.” To paraphrase Roland Freudenstein, a foreign panelist, most sympathetic to Israel, “explain and defend everything you do, including the wall, including the occupation. But building settlements?!? Seriously, Settlements?!”

As for disagreements with figures like Obama and Kerry, their perception, even if false, trumps our sense of reality. One Israeli panelist at the IDC actually dismissed the Levy Commission’s ruling on the legality of the settlements, by invoking Ban Ki Moon, “certainly no anti-Semite” (and also, no lawyer). The invocation of Moon was not about legal reasoning, but about international perception. If that’s the way the world thinks, don’t fight it. If the world sees the settlements as an illegal move that prevents peace, then it’s up to Israel to bend. As one of my (former) colleagues once said to me during the early years of the intifada, “I support Israel, but Sharon! ShaRON!.”

The situation, as I see it, is the opposite. It’s not the right that’s responsible for the loss to BDS, but the progressive left, which should have won this particular battle against the demonization of Israel handily. Indeed, the attitude of submission that it argues we Israelis should take – if the “vast majority” (apparently a favorite meme in more than one place) believes we shouldn’t have settlements, then so be it – is the reason why progressives have folded in the face of aggressive Islamist demands. 

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

Remarks at Herzliya Conference 2015: BDS, Europe, and Jihadi Cogwar

BDS as a Cognitive War Campaign of Global Jihad

I wish to focus today on BDS as a Cognitive War campaign of Global Jihad, more specifically, since it’s the topic of our panel, a campaign for the conquest of Europe for Islam. My remarks, therefore, do not refer to all Muslims or to Islam as a whole, but on a particular salvific (i.e. millennial) movement within Islam for world conquest, one best called Global Jihad. In the Jihadi strategy for Islamizing the world, Israel plays a key role, both strategically and practically. To grasp its significance, however, one must view this from the perspective of their cognitive war against infidels. The goal of cogwar is for a weaker combatant to defeat a much stronger enemy by getting him not to use his superior strength. Historically, from the Maccabees to the Vietcong, most cogwar has been defensive, striving to kick out invaders. Today, Global Jihad conducts an imperialist cogwar designed to get the West not to resist an invasion of its own culture. The following is a brief analysis of Global Jihad’s cogwar strategy with particular attention to the role of BDS in its European theater of war.

Strategically speaking, the elimination of Israel constitutes the primary initial military goal for global jihad. Israel represents the most painful slap in the face of Arab and Muslim honor, a global humiliation, a Naqba, the symbol of Arab and Muslim impotence in the modern age. Destroying Israel would whiten the Arab world’s blackened face and restore its honor, its manhood. And with Jerusalem finally, again, in Muslim hands, the apocalyptic process of world redemption will advance. No single event would more powerfully drive Muslim faithful to join the apocalyptic Jihad for world conquest, than the fall of Israel. By the same logic, nothing would be more counter-indicated for the West than to support the Jihadi campaign to destroy Israel.

And yet that is precisely what has happened over the first 15 years of the 21st century in two major theatres of war: Israel, and Western democracies (primarily Europe). On the Israeli front, Palestinian Jihadis deliberately provoke IDF reactions that inevitably hurt Palestinian civilians, and then count on the MSNM to blame Israel for the Palestinian suffering whose images they run 24/7. Fired by the lethal narratives fed them as news by journalists and NGOs, including self-accusing Jewish and Israeli ones, world outrage forces Israel to withdraw, sparing the Jihadis who then rearm.

Jewish anti-Zionism: The proxy honor-killing

Available in Polish, translated by Malgorzata Koraszewska here.

The recent stunning performance of Marcia Freedman at the J-Street conference, calling for a one-state solution (almost surely not called Israel), in which an Arab majority would fiercely defend the rights of a protected Jewish minority, heartily applauded by an audience of alleged “pro-Israel, pro-Peace” attendees, has once again raised the question sent to me by someone who saw The J-Street Challenge:

WHY do J Street activists take these positions that they know are destructive to Israel’s chances for survival? 

Obviously, the easy way to answer is to claim they don’t realize the destructive nature of their “plan for peace.” Certainly this would hold for Ms. Freedman, who apparently believes that once Israel becomes a “true democracy [applause]” (whatever that means), that Jews won’t need to maintain control of the levers of power, since that now truly democratic “state” would secure the rights of the Jews no matter who was in power (e.g., an Arab majority).

Only someone struck with terminal cecity could not notice that beyond Israel’s borders, Arab majorities rarely protect the rights of minorities, especially those they feel threaten them. The notion that 2000 years of determined victimization of Jews without sovereignty means nothing, and that somehow an Arab majority would “fiercely defend the rights of the Jewish minority,” such ideas defy the reality-based social and political imagination. Freedman’s speech, so totally divorced from the all-too-human reality of this part of the world, gives us a sterling example of the vapid moral angélisme that animates so many anti-Zionist Jews.

[For those not convinced that J-Street pursues suicidal policies for the polity it professes to “love” – withdraw to ’67 borders as an unreciprocated concession – I’ve written about this elsewhere.]

Here I’d like to address my correspondent’s well-posed question by slightly rephrasing it:

Why do Jews identify with and promote Palestinian lethal narratives about Israel, and ally with, encourage, and promote groups who openly desire the destruction of Israel, even as they assure us (M.F. style) that we have nothing to fear from them?

In a word, I think they’re engaged in a long-term, proxy, honor-killing.

Does Burston really think it’s legitimate to view BDS as Tikkun Olam?

[I re-post this item from 2010 after having attended a meeting at Temple Israel, a Reform Synagogue in Boston last night where J-Street and NIF talked us blue from their tikkun bubble chamber.]

A good friend sent me the following piece by Bradley Burston with the comment: “It expresses how I feel.” I find it so pervasively flawed that I have difficulty taking it seriously. But if my friend can (and he’s one of the smartest people I know), then I have to, and it does raise, however poorly, a whole range of key issues. So, with great reluctance (because there are more interesting texts to sink one’s teeth into), I fisk below.

First, a brief introductory note: One of the key contentions of Burston and the people he likes (J-Street, Jewish Voices for Peace, Young Jews for Peace, etc.) is that a) they love Israel and b) they know the best way to peace which, since Israel won’t take that path, they must force upon her. Now all these groups locate along the “left” political spectrum differently. NIF disapproves of BDS but funds groups who do; J-Street disapproves of  BDS even if they associate with people who do; Jewish Voices for Peace and Emily Schaeffer (below) support BDS in many forms.

Whatever the details, each of these groups believes that they must pressure Israel to leave the occupied territories out of a combination of moral passion – the Israel they love should set a moral example to the world – and peaceful intentions – they know their formula for peace will work.

Now some people, myself included, see the situation very differently. On moral matters, howevermuch we may share concerns about the occupation and dominion over another people harms both Palestinians and Israelis, we have difficulty with a moral equivalence, that ends up as a moral inversion, with the profound condescension and bigotry it involves in its abysmally low standards for the Palestinians, and the inversely exacting standards to which it holds Israel. The result – people, Jews! – for whom Israel is the new Nazi. And even as such people are morally reckless in their accusations of Israel, they echo and reinforce genocidal hatreds among the most base of the enemies of the Jews.

On the practical level, many of us feel that while making concessions and apologizing is a splendid way to begin a process of reconciliation, that only works in cases where the other side also seeks resolution, and responds in kind. In some cases, conflicts are not only unresponsive to such an approach, but literally allergic: rather than a peace process it produces a war process. Indeed, given how often and consistently Palestinian (and more broadly Arab) leaders have seized upon Israeli concessions to press for more and on Israeli confessions to reaffirm a demonizing narrative, it’s dubious that under the best of circumstances, Palestinian political players would respond to an Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 borders with a shift to peace.

On the contrary, any such move most likely will strengthen those in the Palestinian camp who argue that any withdrawal should be part of a “Phased plan” to destroy Israel and use any and every pretext to keep the war alive. Any observer who dismisses even this possibility – the favorite line is either, “you’re paranoid,” or “oh, you think they only understand violence.” – is either in ignorance or denial of the discourse that prevails in Palestinian political culture today.

And so, if under the best of conditions withdrawing to the ’67 lines could backfire, how much the more likely that the voices of attack will grow louder if Israel finds itself compelled as a result of becoming the object of universal execration (BDS) and pressure from its only powerful ally, the United States, to withdraw. The naïveté of such a formula is only matched by the aggressiveness with which it gets implemented. A formula for war: si vis bellum para pacem.

The fact that groups can argue that the US should force Israel to make these concessions without any serious discussion of the necessary massive reciprocity from Palestinians (especially when it comes to incitement to hatred and violence), raises serious doubts among many about their realism, and given their recklessness in insisting that virtually any means to get there are legitimate, it raises for us serious doubts about their responsibility.

As far as I can make out, Burston has no idea what I’m talking about. He’s like the New Yorker cartoon of a Manhattanite’s view of the USA. When he looks at the landscape of this debate, all he sees are him and his like-minded friends “doing the right thing,” while the opposition is at the other end of the spectrum – messianic rabbis and their neo-con partners who will not part with an inch of the land, even if God himself told them to do so. And nothing in between.

He encases his simplistic dualism in the antimony “Jews of the Gate” vs. “Jews of the Wall.” This fisking comes from someone who thinks that both of his categories are poorly conceived; and that the real issues are entirely different from the ones upon which he focuses.

Thanksgiving, Tikkun Olam, and U.S. Jews breaking the Israel barrier By Bradley Burston

[Part 2 of a series on U.S. Jews emotionally divesting from Israel. In part, a journal of a recent West Coast speaking tour hosted by J Street]

Norah: It reminds me of this part of Judaism that I really like. It’s called Tikkun Olam. It says that the world is broken into pieces, and that it’s everybody’s job to find them and put them back together again.

Nick: Well, maybe we’re the pieces. And maybe we’re not supposed to find the pieces. Maybe we are the pieces. “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” (Columbia Pictures, 2008)

It’s hard not to read this as a spoof of the trivial use to which a mystical concept like tikkun olam has been put in new “new-age” spirituality. Not having seen the movie, I don’t know if this is an homage to “Deep Thoughts,” but Burston seems to offer them up as his credo. Indeed, Nick’s version – people! – stands behind the full line-up of comments he makes throughout this piece. So it’s probably worth a short comment on this deep and now deeply problematic notion that has set our moral compasses awry in the 21st century.

The Soft Underbelly of the West: A Brief Introduction to Jihadi Cognitive Warfare in the 21st Century

I recently attended a meeting where I was asked to speak briefly about cognitive warfare. Here are the remarks I prepared.

Cognitive War’s goal is to convince a more powerful enemy not to use its superior force, but rather to surrender without a fight. Most often this is a defensive war: like the Maccabees, get the enemy to leave. Advanced modern democracies, however, both immensely powerful on the battlefield and immensely vulnerable in their public sphere, have created conditions favorable to a new phenomenon: invasions by weaker military powers who seek to convince the enemy to surrender on its own turf.

None of these invasive insurgencies has had a greater and more unanticipated success than global Jihad, whose goal is to submit the entire world to Dar al Islam. The audacity of this idea, that Islam could conquer the West, that the Queen of England would wear a burkah and the green flag of Islam would fly from the White House, that Jihadis could bully and manipulate the West into surrendering to their demands for Muslim dominion, struck most Westerners as ludicrous, a bad joke at best.

And certainly, if one looked at the situation in later 20th century, such a dream seemed impossible to all but the most committed millenarian fanatic. Indeed, if we imagine the mindset of someone with such outrageous hope – that the entire world will either convert or bend the knee to Islam – he might have prayed as follows at the approach of 2000 (a Muslim apocalyptic date):

Oh Allah, the all-merciful, give us enemies who…

  • …help us to disguise our ambitions and acts of war, blinding themselves to our deployment targeting them.
  • …accept those of us who fight with da’wah (cogwar) as “moderates” who have nothing to do with the violent “extremists.”
  • …chose these false “moderates” as advisors and consultants in intelligence and police services, and as community liaison.
  • …attack anyone, including Muslims and ex-Muslims, who criticize Islam.
  • …believe that Islam is a “Religion of Peace,”
  • …teach themselves a version of Islam where they don’t even know about Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb.
  • … treat anyone who warns about our intentions for world conquest as a paranoid, conspiracy-minded, war-mongerer.
  • …adopt our apocalyptic enemy (Dajjal), so that they turn against their most important ally.
  • …legitimate our terrorism as “resistance” and denounce any recourse to violence in their own defense, as “terrorism.”
  • …respect the dignity of our beliefs even as we heap disdain on theirs.
  • …introduce our intimidating “Street” in the heart of their capital cities..

And may those who so act, play prominent roles in their public sphere. Only then can we, your loyal servants and agents, accomplish your will, that the entire world become Dar al Islam.

Alas, those prayers have been answered singly and collectively, again and again, since 2000, so consistently, that were I Muslim, I’d be convinced Allah indeed wanted us to conquer the world. So we infidels now find ourselves – and by “we” I mean the modern democratic West – on the defensive, even though our advantages, both military and cognitive, still far outstrip those of our foes. Secular democratic Europe only commits suicide over the next thirty years if it continues to speak and act as it does now, not because it lacks the cultural resources with which to resist. On the contrary, like our military advantage, the West’s cultural repertoire is immensely greater, more flexible and resilient than that of Muslim theocracy.

In significant part Jihad’s astonishing success comes from finding the West’s soft underbelly – anti-Zionism. Starting with the Al Durah hoax in October 2000, Jihadis have gotten the most outspoken of the Western “progressive” left to adopt their Antichrist – the state of Israel.

The destruction of Israel has immense significance, both military and symbolic, for Jihadis. And getting the West to abandon Israel, whether as part of a moral crusade (BDS), or “for the cause of peace” (Oslo Logic), would represent an immense victory for Jihad, possibly a decisive one that would shift the battle from its cognitive theater to open warfare in many places. It would deal a devastating blow to the West’s ability to resist the increased aggression this Western folly would inspire in Jihadis. From this perspective, the demonization of Israel is not merely a dagger pointed at the Zionist heart, but at the hearts of all Western democracies.

If you had told the drafters of the Hamas charter in 1988 that within two decades, infidels would be shouting “We are Hamas” in the streets of Western capitals, they would have responded “only Allah could make someone that stupid.” Perhaps the single greatest vulnerability of the West is its mainstream news media, which has, especially since 2000, been dominated by lethal journalism, which, pumps Jihadi war propaganda against Israel into the Western public sphere as news (from al Durah and Jenin to Goldstone and Mavi Marmara).

This lethal journalism, provides the jet fuel for comparisons of Israel with the Nazis (the adoption of the Jihadi Dajjal), for massive “anti-war” demonstrations against Israel that empower an aggressive “Muslim Street” in the West, for “Apartheid Weeks” that justify BDS.

And BDS is the prime Jihadi cogwar strategy to get the West to do the job of eliminating Israel (which the Muslims can’t), by getting them to believe the incredible, facetious claim that this is a moral act that will ameliorate the situation. Of all the serious vulnerabilities of the Western public sphere to Jihadi cogwar assault – and there are many – none is more urgently serious than lethal journalism, which effects everyone on a daily basis.

We really don’t have to be this stupid.

Red Hot Chili Peppers Elicit Evidence of the Massive Gap Between Pro-Palestinian Israelis and Anti-Zionist Arabs

Elder of Zion has an amazing transcript of a facebook exchange between a radical, pro-Palestinian Israeli activist, Noa, and various Arab exponents of BDS (in this case, refusing to allow Red Hot Chili Peppers to come to Beirut because they plan to play in Israel).

“We’re not against Jews. We’re against non-Arab Israeli citizens”

972mag’s Noam Sheizaf brings us a fantastic example of how Arabs will never accept the existence of Jews as equals in the Middle East.A Jordanian “anti-normalization” group put out a notice to ban all “Zionists” from traveling to Jordan to attend an after-party with a popular Lebanese band called Mashrou Leila (that recently canceled a gig opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Beirut because the RHCP are playing in Israel.) Apparently, many anti-Zionist Israelis are big fans of the band.Well, that’s not quite true. The “anti-normalization” letter says it intends to ban all Zionists, but its definition of Zionist is interesting:

Finally, we would like to inform you clearly that despite your confirmation and that of your associates here in Amman, that the event you’re organizing will not host any Zionists (to be clear we take this stand against all Israeli nationality holders that are non Arab) we are still taking certain measures to ensure that you will abide by your word on this matter, fully realizing and taking into consideration the continuous arguments and justifications in favor of accompanying Zionists to the event here in Amman. We simply reject all Zionists’ irrelevant of their race, political or religious orientations or beliefs.

We are very vigilant to all cultural events in Amman and we will have narrow to the ground during Mashrou Leila, so we urge you to keep your word and promise to keep our events and country zionist-free.

Now, a number of vehemently anti-Israel Jewish citizens of Israel – people who completely share the Arab desire to destroy Israel and create a single “Palestine” from the river to the sea – were offended by this letter. Here is a dialogue between “Noa” and Jordanians who make it quite clear that if she is a true anti-Zionist, she should leave the country she was born in because she is Jewish:
Noa: (Israeli) Can I ask a question?

The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler

Benjamin Weinthal and I have an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal. Here are the links (as well as some of the material that got cut from the original submission (1250 words). Some of the wording may not correspond exactly to that in the published piece, and bold text does not appear in the article.

The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler

On Sept. 11, a German organization will reward the American scholar and anti-Israel activist.

By RICHARD LANDES AND BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
In 1938, shortly after philosopher Martin Buber, formerly of the University of Frankfurt, came to Israel to teach at Hebrew University, a reporter asked how his Hebrew was. He replied: “Good, but not good enough to be obscure in.”

The joke, apparently, is on the city of Frankfurt, which tomorrow—Sept. 11, incidentally—will hand its prestigious Adorno Prize for excellence in philosophy, music, theater and film to Judith Butler. Ms. Butler, an American philosopher and anti-Israel activist, is a great admirer of Buber and the 1998 recipient of the “Bad Writing Prize” for her impenetrable prose.

Professor Butler’s first-prize sentence appears in “Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time,” an article in the scholarly journal Diacritics (1997):

  • The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

Dutton remarked that “it’s possibly the anxiety-inducing obscurity of such writing that has led Professor Warren Hedges of Southern Oregon University to praise Judith Butler as ‘probably one of the ten smartest people on the planet’.”

objections to award: SPME Germany statement; summary article in JPost; extensive criticism and responses to Butler’s defense at SPME Faculty Forum.

Gitlin comes to the Defense of Butler’s Diasporic Non-Violence: Red Meat for the Vegan Crowd

The Butler controversy continues. For some reason Todd Gitlin, whom even people who disagree with him consider “nuanced,” comes out with a defense of his colleague at Columbia, Judith Butler. Despite the obvious daylight between him and Judith, he frames this as part of a schoolyard fight where he’s defending his friend, and is just one stage before, “I’m rubber and your glue…”

Not what I’d call a serious contribution to the issues at hand.

The Trouble With Judith Butler—and Her Critics

September 4, 2012, 2:24 pm

By Todd Gitlin

Whatever one wants to say about the philosopher Judith Butler’s contribution to contemporary thought, I suspect that not even her most devoted disciple would call her a lucid writer. In her introduction to an early book, Gender Trouble, she writes:

  • There is a new venue for theory, necessarily impure, where it emerges in and as the very event of cultural translation. This is not the displacement of theory by historicism, nor a simple historicization of theory that exposes the contingent limits of its more generalizable claims. It is, rather, the emergence of theory at the site where cultural horizons meet, where the demand for translation is acute and its promise of success, uncertain.

What we have here, and throughout Butler’s writings, are not so much [sic?] sentences that carry propositions as a whiff of the burning of incense before an idol called “theory.” There are some in the academy who find this practice “emancipating.” I do not.

I agree (nice image), although this is hardly the most impenetrable of her smoke columns. It actually brushes close to comprehensibility.

Be that as it may, the author of those unilluminating sentences is soon to receive the City of Frankfurt’s triennial Theodor W. Adorno Prize, named for the brilliant, prolific, vastly complex, often tangled, so-called Frankfurt School German-Jewish thinker genius who was himself given to wild overstatement of the sort that Butler, in fact, quotes in the epigraph to another one of her books: “The value of thought is measured by its distance from the continuity of the familiar.” A moment’s reflection shows this to be nonsense. Adorno had bad days, too.

Actually it’s one of the unspoken goals of most academics who want to make an original contribution: the counter-intuitive truth. Who wants to spend a lifetime regurgitating Vérités de la Palice?

The politics of “theory” and prize committees would be interesting subjects on their own, but the focus of vehement attack by The Jerusalem Post and organizations devoted to My-Israel-Right-or-Wrong politics is a more specific claim.

This is an interesting trope that one runs across often: “my Israel right or wrong” or the “Israel firsters.” It’s an effort to dismiss as some kind of primitive incarnation of an “us-them” mentality, people who defend Israel against calumnies. Most people identified as Israel-firsters are not. They are capable of both recognizing legitimate criticism and even articulating it.

But we draw lines between constructive criticism and destructive, between criticizing policies soberly and demonizing, between concerned tochachah and existential hatred. Most people who dismiss defenders of Israel as Israel-firsters, on the other hand, are “Israel is wrong firsters,” who, like Judith Butler, have no trouble finding their full-throated voices when criticizing Israel in no uncertain terms and based on highly uncertain sources, but somehow mumble and fumble when it comes to denouncing her ferocious enemies.

In the context of a battle with an enemy that has one of the most regressive “my side right or wrong” attitudes – “love my side and hate everyone else” – which is constantly being reinforced by the opposite “progressive” meme of “your side right or wrong” that must accept the epistemological priority of the subaltern “Other” (as does Helena Cobban), it’s a pretty ugly accusation. It goes hand in hand with the common trope, “any criticism of Israel is considered anti-Semitic,” which Butler and her convulsively anti-Israel colleagues uses constantly as a smokescreen for vicious criticism.

In the words of the Post’s Benjamin Weinthal, Butler “advocates a sweeping boycott of ties with Israel’s cultural and academic establishment and has defended Hezbollah and Hamas as progressive organizations.”

This slovenly slash-and-burn propaganda, masquerading as journalism, has occasioned a crisp reply by Butler:

Wow. This is pretty amazing. Weinthal’s piece is slash and burn propaganda, while her long, rambling, and insubstantial reply is “crisp”? Surely a scholar of nuance, like Todd Gitlin can do better. This is red-meat language for the carnivore “progressive” choir.

Judith Butler, the Adorno Prize, and the Moral State of the “Global Left”

The following is a long version of a response to Judith Butler that will appear in various forms at other sites, including SPME. This version is here either for those who enjoy my overwrought prose, of those who find that the logic of edited versions elsewhere is interrupted by the cuts.

Judith Butler’s feelings are hurt because some professors who claim they’re for “peace in the Middle East,” have criticized her and openly called on the Adorno Committee to withdraw the Prize that they have announced would be offered to her this year, on Adorno’s birthday, 9-11. Stung by the criticism, Butler responded at the site of the notoriously anti-Israel Jewish blog, Mondoweiss. in her defense. The defense illustrates every aspect of the problem with Butler’s approach to the criticism of her work, including the folly of German intellectuals to raise her up as a heroic example.

The criticism of her receiving the Adorno prize involves the following three points: 1) Her criticism of Israel for violations of (her) moral standards is exceptionally harsh, even though she has very little to say about exceptionally harsh violations among Israel’s enemies. 2) She has taken this moral imbalance from mere rhetoric to determined action, supporting extensive and punishing academic boycotts of Israel (e.g., Kafka archive should not go to Hebrew University). And 3) she enables and encourages virulent anti-Semitism both in this participation in BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), and in identifying some of the worst offenders where that ancient hatred is concerned (Hamas and Hizbullah) as part of the “progressive, global, Left.”

Her response was a long, rambling, self-defense (2000 words) in which she systematically misrepresents the critique, and shields herself by claiming the status of a suffering victim of a vicious attack that deeply hurt her feelings.

Assadwashing: On the Distinction between Supporting Palestinian/Arab Rights and Denying Israeli Rights

I recently noted this hit piece on me. Normally I wouldn’t bother responding, but in this case a) it’s from a BU student, and b) it so embodies everything that’s wrong-headed about Palestinian “advocacy” that it’s actually an invitation to explore both the moral rhetoric and argument of the BDS movement. Fisking ahead.

Pointing to Syria to divert attention from Israel’s crimes

20 April 2012

Why aren’t pseudo-supporters of Syrian human rights actively lobbying Israel to stop the occupation of the Golan Heights?

(Yin Dongxun / Xinhua)

Answer: Maybe because the Druse of the Golan have far more human rights under Israeli rule than under the butcher of Damascus.

The very fact that one could seriously ask such a question shows the fundamentally “us-them” mentality involved in this formulation. No matter how viciously “we” Arabs treat our own people (e.g., Assad in Syria today), we want the human rights community to support putting Arabs (not even – Druze) under Arab sovereignty… is this a kind of “right of dictatorship”?

The Israeli government and its supporters have long utilized a wide range of propaganda tools to sugarcoat Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians.

I like the use of the term “atrocity.” Nothing in the widely inflated thesaurus of accusations against Israel so carefully collected by Electronic Intifada and their allies (e.g., al Awda) comes close to what the Arabs do to their own people (torture, civilian massacres, systematic throttling of free press). But it’s Israeli “atrocities” that drive these activists wild with indignation. Here again we encounter the honor-shame, us-them mentality: what Arabs do to Arabs is not nearly as problematic, no matter how bad, as what Israelis do to Arabs. In other words, no matter how slight the offense, Israeli inflicted Palestinian suffering is an unbearable humiliation. Indeed, in some versions of the story, it is even responsible for preventing Arabs from creating democracies.

In addition to pinkwashing (using Israel’s relative support of gay rights to sugarcoat the country’s apartheid nature) and greenwashing (perpetuating the perception that Israel has environmentally-friendly policies to do the same), Zionist advocates are now using a different method: Assadwashing.

The problems with the “pinkwashing accusations” was widely addressed at the time the NYT shamefully published the editorial. Assadwashing is a worthy successor in the category of inane moral arguments.

But I find (again) the author’s use of “relative support” to characterize Israel’s defense of gay rights, to be especially amusing. Tell it to the Palestinian homosexuals who, for decades, have been fleeing to Israel for that culture’s “relative” tolerance. Jamil makes a grudging concession, which he swiftly brushes aside; and yet, in this matter, Israel shows a double tolerance neither of which one detects in the Arab world: a) for homosexuals, and b) for the “other,” even the hostile “other.” Hard to find a better case of a not “us-them” mentality than Israel’s treatment of Palestinian gays.

Such observations have actually led some gay progressives to praise Israel. Understandably, this infuriates the zero-sum activists for Palestinian “rights,” like Jamil.

As the Syrian uprising moves into its second year and Bashar al-Assad’s regime continues its brutal crackdown, the pro-Israel camp has breathed a sigh of relief and put on an indignant grin. Zionists now feel justified in pointing to Israel’s northeastern neighbor and exploiting the Syrian people’s suffering and resistance in order to further their own political agenda, depicting Israel as a “vibrant democracy” in comparison to Syria.

Ummm, yes. Can you imagine the equivalent of an Ahmad Tibi or Hanin Zouabi in any Arab country… say, an Iraqi or Iranian Jew who loudly and publicly denounced the regime as anti-Semitic and oppressive and openly called for its overthrow? On the contrary, even Muslims who show any support for Israel are under penalty of death.

To follow Jamil’s logic here, pointing out the obvious (and important) is forbidden lest it benefit ‘the [evil] enemy.’  Truth means nothing in the face of solidarity, if the truth works against “us.” That makes sense from a purely “us-them” mentality, but hardly seems like it should fly in a moral conversation. As Pierre Bourdieu, the French sociologist who studied North African honor-shame cultures noted:

The ethos of honour is fundamentally opposed to a universal and formal morality which affirms the equality in dignity of all men and consequently the equality of their rights and duties. Not only do the rules imposed upon men differ from those imposed upon women, and the duties towards men differ from those towards women, but also the dictates of honour, directly applied to the individual case and varying according to the situation, are in no way capable of being made universal. 

So one should not, by this logic, apply the same standards to everyone, both to perpetrators (Israel vs. Syria) or to victims (Palestinians vs. Syrians). Eyes on the prize.

Perversely, to Zionist propagandists, Assad’s pernicious brutality comes not as a tragedy but as a savior.

Or, alternatively, and possibly still more perversely, to anti-Zionist propagandists, the global revelations of Assad’s pernicious brutality come not as a tragedy for the Arabs who are, and have been, the recipients of this brutality, but as an embarrassment/tragedy for Palestinian efforts to depict Israel as an apartheid-practicing tyranny.