Category Archives: Cognitive Warfare (SG’s Thesis)

Losing the Cognitive War in the 21st Century: The 9-11 US Embassy Episode

This item appeared in my Daily Telegraph Blog, where there are now over 350 comments, some of them worth reading.

Losing the Cognitive War in the 21st Century: The 9-11 US Embassy Episode

The West continues well into the teens of the 21st century to lose the cognitive war with the Islamist camp. The latest catastrophe of international proportions has been the attacks on 9-11 against US embassies in Libya and Egypt (two places that went through major changes during the “Arab Spring”). A combination of well-planned rocket attacks used the cover of outrage at an inflammatory movie about Islam, to kill an American ambassador and three other embassy officials. The Muslim street in the Arab world has turned violently hostile to the US, and their own leaders, when not helpless to resist, are in cahoots, even with nuclear Iran. Angry Muslim demonstrations riots spread all over the globe, and American (and Western) policy in the region is “in tatters.”

The results have made clear how poorly we Westerners conduct ourselves on the global stage, and how the news media self-inflicts some of those wounds. At the heart of the drama stands a President of the US, who plays win-win checkers against enemies who play I-win-you-lose three-dimensional chess; and at the same time a Western news media which rushes to publish as news, the poisoned meat of lethal narratives.

Let’s look at what happened from the perspective of a-symmetrical cognitive war, in which weak aggressors use non-violent methods to at once put a much more powerful enemy in a position where he cannot use his own force, and then maximize the use of their own force, largely (at the early stages) for symbolic effect. Here al Qaeda affiliates make a daring assault on US sovereign territory, killing an ambassador. Their cover, a movie made that outrageously insults the prophet, and predictably arouses the angry violence of the crowd. The US loudly denounces the film and protests the riots, but does not make any moves to even demand the punishment of the perpetrators. Crowds who have no fear, knowing that neither the US nor government troops will not shoot back, gather outside other US Embassies in the Arab world. The riots spread to other countries.

This massive symbolic attack, on 9-11 – if you will, this global insult to the Peace of Westphalia and the basic principles of the UN – comes off almost as brilliantly as 9-11. You couldn’t script a movie better. The POTUS loses face on a massive scale, especially in the Muslim and non-aligned world, where matters of face have enormous cultural capital. He looks like a dismaying fool to the Europeans, who are struggling with both crises in their ambitiously high-minded (win-win) projects, and their increasingly restive and aggressive Muslim immigrant populations who have failed/refused to assimilate (i.e., they, like their co-religionists back home, will riot at perceived insult).

Matthias Küntzel Speaks at Anti-Butler Rally in Frankfurt

On September 11, there may have been a first in the cognitive war of the 21st century. At a rally against the awarding of the Adorno Prize to Judith Butler, a number of people spoke publicly. This may be – I’m accepting correction here – the first time in Europe that people have spoken out not just in support of Israel, but of intellectual sanity. Below is the speech by Matthias Küntzel, a member of the German branch of SPME.

Matthias Küntzel

Redebeitrag anlässlich der Kundgebung gegen die Verleihung des Adorno-Preises an Judith Butler vor der Paulskirche in Frankfurt/M. am 11. September 2012

Frankfurt/Main, 11 September 2012

Judith Butler and the new anti-Jewish discourse

Speech at the rally against the award of the Adorno Prize to Judith Butler in front of St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt/M. (Germany) on 11 September 2012 ·By Matthias Küntzel

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends,

St. Paul’s Church is a historic site. Here, not only Martin Buber and Ernst Bloch, but also Alexander Mitscherlich and Thomas Mann, Amos Oz and Boualem Sansal were honored with prizes – each a worthy recipient. And today: Professor Judith Butler.

But what happens? Frankfurt’s mayor takes to his heels and not only the Jewish community in Frankfurt, but also the Central Council of Jews in Germany boycott the ceremony. And even those who have supported Professor Butler with a petition, have thereby simultaneously signed a text which takes its distance from her. And with good reason!

Kershner at NYT does her job as a rogue peace journalist: Levy Commission with outrage everyone (who matters)

Isabel Kershner has drunk the journalist/UN/NGO kool-aid for a long time now. This particular article illustrates nicelythe way that journalists have taken sides in the conflict between Israel and her neighbors.

Validate Settlements, Israeli Panel Suggests

Ariel Schalit/Associated Press

At the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Nofei Nehemya, the children of Jewish settlers found relief from the heat and the sun.

By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: July 9, 2012
JERUSALEM — Flouting international opinion, an Israeli government-appointed commission of jurists said Monday that Israel ’s presence in the West Bank was not occupation and recommended that the state grant approval for scores of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts there.
Note the opening phrase. Objection, your honor, journalist is leading the reader. Before the reader even knows what’s going on, he’s been told what to think about the subject. Such a move suggests insecurity, a sense that the reader can’t or shouldn’t think for him or herself, a desire to impose a reading lest….
A government-appointed commission calls for the validation of scores of unauthorized Jewish outposts on the West Bank.
Actually, the commission has many interesting things to say. By selecting the implications for settlements – which is surely part of the commission’s finding – Kershner has the tail wagging the dog. In her world, to her [intended] audience, to the LCEs who adhere, knowingly or unwittingly to the PC Paradigm, the settlements are THE problem. Without them there would be peace. That simple.

The committee’s legal arguments, while nonbinding, could provide backup for the government should it decide to grant the outposts retroactive official status. But such a move would inevitably stir international outrage and deal a significant blow to prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. And here’s the payoff. Such a move to legalize the settlements, regardless of the legal principles upon which that move was based, should not happen. The international community will be outraged (no need even to explain why, everyone knows); and it will deal a significant blow to prospects for a peace-settlement.

For those of us who do not live in the twilight world of post-Oslo denial, there is nothing remotely resembling a viable peace-negotiations at the moment. Palestinian – and more broadly Arab – political culture is light years from being able to make the necessary concessions for peace. Incitement to hatred against Israel (and the Jews) pervades the public sphere, with glorified “martyrs” who kill Israeli civilians, glorified, lethal narratives in profusion. “Moderates” (like the PA) assuage radicals (like Hamas) with promises that to use any concession for more aggression (as their way of assuaging the radicals, as in Arafat’s speech in South Africa, months after signing the Oslo Accords). And yet the logic behind the conclusion here presented as a fact, is that the Palestinians are innocent victims who just want a country of their own, eager to negotiate but frustrated by Israeli intransigence. One would assume that any undergraduate, looking at the evidence, would conclude that this paradigm has extensive anomalies. Thus this notion that international outrage would break out at the Israelis damaging the non-existent prospects for a peace settlement embodies the lunacy of the age. Note the use of the word “opinion” rather than “international law.” It bypasses the facts of the case, which are so anomalous and pose so many complex issues to the fairly young field of international law, that they do not allow for anything like the widespread belief that they are “illegal by international law.” In some sense we’re witnessing here a radical application of “constructivist” journalism: fabricated international opinion, never very far from outrage, creates a “reality” which then can be applied to leverage a (far less tractable) reality. Is it any wonder none of these fine folks from the international community can’t solve the problem?

Poison in the Middle East Conflict

The New York Times ran the following cartoon, allegedly about the poisoning of Yassir Arafat by Patrick Chappatte (HT/BR).

Some think this is an outrageous cartoon that supports the libel that the Israelis poisoned Arafat. And it may be just that. After all, either Chappatte is an advocate of the destruction of Israel, or he’s in total ignorance of what’s at stake, as in this cartoon (HT/DG)

As if the reunion of Hamas and Fatah would be good for peace…

But, unintentionally or not, it actually makes a very different and critical point. From the outset, the relationship between Israel and her neighbors has been poisoned by what Nidra Poller has called “lethal narratives,” stories accusing (in this case) Israel of intentionally murdering innocent civilians, preferably children. Lethal narratives are key elements in cognitive warfare designed at once to create hatred and a desire for vengeance among “us” (whose children are being murdered), guilt and self-loathing among “them” (whose soldiers are doing the killing), and hostility among bystanders (the Westerners whose judgments play a critical role in determining policy).

The most powerful lethal narrative, the Muhammad al Durah story, was a nuclear bomb of cognitive warfare. It aroused Muslims throughout the world; it filled Israelis with horror and sapped their ability to defend themselves against accusations; and it thrilled various groups, primarily Europeans and Leftists, who saw it as a “get-out-of-holocaust-guilt-free” card, which freed them from any commitment to be fair to Israel.

From the website of International ANSWER.

The move was a masterstroke of cognitive war. Jihadis got the Europeans to play their lethal narrative repeatedly on their TVs during the early intifada, waving the flag of Jihad in front of their immigrant Muslim population. And as a result, Europe, in the 21st century, got a “Muslim Street.”

The mainstream news media’s laundering lethal narratives and presenting them to the public as “news” plays a critical role in Palestinian (and beyond that, Islamist) cognitive warfare. Once they had gone wild over the al Durah poison, the mainstream news media believed any claims that Palestinians made that Israelis had killed children until proven wrong, and doubted any Israeli claims to innocence until proven right. And if that happened (long after the initial lethal narrative had been spread), the press mumbled corrections and moved on to the next lethal narrative.

I personally had a direct experience of this dynamic when I gave a talk at a conference in Budapest in 2007 on millenarianism. I presented al Durah as a key element in the “going viral” of Muslim apocalyptic memes, and referred to the story as a “blood libel.” The organizer of the conference noted:

“I’ve warned against sloppy use of terminology at this conference [I had previously suggested that Marx was a millennialist], and your use of blood libel is a prime example: it’s just simple murder of children, which we know for a fact Israelis are doing every day. (Italics mine)

In her very “statement of fact” the speaker proved the efficacy of the blood libel she denied.

One of the key functions of the mainstream news media is to serve as a dialysis machine, filtering out the poisons that can weaken the civil polities in which they operate. At least in the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have, alas, played the role of injecting the poisons of lethal narratives into the information stream of the West.

We are all the weaker for it. Indeed, we find traces of poison in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, and the ludicrous story of Israel poisoning Arafat is only the most recent example, and the above cartoon, a pathetic illustration.

Semiotically Aroused Salafis: Blasphemy in the Kitchen

In my book on millennialism, I talk about how apocalyptic believers are “semiotically aroused”:

For people who have entered apocalyptic time, everything quickens, enlivens, coheres. They become semiotically aroused—everything has meaning, patterns. The smallest incident can have immense importance and open the way to an entirely new vision of the world, one in which forces unseen by other mortals operate. If the warrior lives with death at his shoulder, then apocalyptic warriors live with cosmic salvation before them, just beyond their grasp.

Now we have, again, a sign of just how tragicomic such semiotic arousal can be. Egyptian Salafis warn: don’t cut your tomatoes wrong.

‘Tomatoes are Christian,’ Egyptian Salafi group warns

The group’s message on Facebook.

A Salafi group called the “Popular Egyptian Islamic Association” has warned Muslims against eating tomatoes on the grounds that the fruit is a “Christian food,” NowLebanon.com has reported.

The group based its claim on the fact that a shape resembling a cross is revealed when one cuts a tomato in half. 

The association published the warning on its Facebook page with a photo of a tomato cut in half, revealing a cross-shaped interior.

A message posted on the page read, “Eating tomatoes is forbidden because they are Christian. [The tomato] praises the cross instead of Allah and says that Allah is three [in reference to the Holy Trinity].”

The message went on to say, “I implore you to spread this photo because there is a sister from Palestine who saw the Prophet of Allah in a vision and he was crying, warning his nation against eating [tomatoes]. If you don’t spread this [message], know that it is the devil who stopped you.”

If there’s a (legitimate) question about whether this semiotic arousal is apocalyptic or not, this suggests for former.

The message caused outrage among Facebook users, which prompted the group to clarify their warning, saying they did not tell people not to eat tomatoes. “We said don’t cut it in [such a way that it reveals] the cross shape.”

Of course, such semiotic arousal also plays a role in cognitive warfare.

In any case, warning to all you Muslim sous-chefs out there cutting tomatoes: watch how you wield your knife. It could consign you to the fires of hell, where you will be condemned to eat tomato sauce for eternity.

Cognitive War and the Failure of the Progressive West in the Aughts

The Problem: Democratic Vulnerabilities in the 21st century

Over the last decade, the primary spokespeople for the progressive causes of human freedom, equality, rights and dignity have lost battle after battle in a cognitive war launched by an astonishingly regressive foe. Global Islamism and Jihad openly champion intolerance of the “Other,” sacred violence, misogyny, homophobia, theocracy, scapegoating and hatred of other religions – the Manichean view of “us” and “them” that has, historically, led repeatedly to mega-death cults. One would have imagined that progressives, dedicated to dissolving that hard zero-sum dichotomy, would have won the battle of ideas rather easily. And yet, the opposite has occurred.

Islamist Jihadi apocalyptic discourse has, in this last decade, played an astonishingly prominent role in defining 21st century narratives, and has established major centers promoting their discourse in both the Muslim and even the Western public sphere. This has permitted a succession of stunningly stupid moves by the West which have not only weakened democratic culture, but strengthened radicalization is the Islamic world. In small and large hostile clashes, Westerners have backed down before Islamist aggression, allowing them to demand a wide range of deeply disadvantageous submissive responses. This has led to a new phenomenon of global Muslim street demonstrating/rioting (French riots of 2005, Cartoon scandal, 2005/6) in response to perceived insult. This reached comic proportions when Muslims the world over rioted and killed in response to the Pope calling Islam a violent religion.

But no one laughed. Instead, Western opinion pressured the Pope to apologize for provoking the violence. The pattern emerged that when faced with angry Muslims demanding “respect,” Western moderates backed down and Western radicals sided with the Islamists. In the end, not only did we look like fools (or dhimmis) to them, but the crowds that rioted were now mobilized within majority Muslim countries, for example, those rioting in Pakistan and Afghanistan at the very suggestion that someone might leave Islam and live. In the West, our passivity in the face of Islamist maximalist claims has hardened over time into a strategic consensus: the best way to deal with Muslim violence is to make friends with (appease) it; sooner attack the critic of Islam for provoking the violence.

At the same time as a broad range of our cognitive elite has adopted these paralyzing measures of appeasement, making it difficult to even perceive the existence of a cognitive war, a more militant branch has actively mobilized on the side of the Jihadi enemy. In particular, “left-wing” radicals have adopted the Palestinian narrative of suffering, in which the Israelis are the Nazis and the Palestinians are the Jews, in which the existence of Israel represents the single greatest obstacle to world peace and justice. This is an only slightly less virulent secular version of the Islamic apocalyptic narrative about the Jews and Israel as the Dajjal (Antichrist). The repeated anti-War and anti-Israel rallies that spread the world over in the aughts (‘00s), beginning with the Durban Conference of 2001, testify to this deeply disturbing alliance, and its effectiveness in increasing belligerence and hatred around the world.

Among the demands that the Islamists make on those who would befriend them, is the acceptance of this particular scapegoating, “lethal narrative,” aimed not only at justifying and inciting the extermination of the Jews, but also the subjection of the kuffar (infidels) the world over. Sadly, this (characteristically) self-destructive anti-Zionism has become almost a shibboleth of identity for the mobilized, progressive left in the 21st century.

Such a scape-goating narrative – Israel is the cause of the evil, and hence must be sacrificed for the well-being of humanity – had not only an international dimension, but a regional one as well. Starting in October of 2000, radical Muslim preachers, using a violent anti-Zionist discourse that got approval from radical “leftists,” activated disenfranchised Muslim youth and young adults all over the West, in a series of increasingly violent attacks, first on Jews (and Muslims), eventually on (post-)Christian Europeans in general (especially women), climaxing in the 2005 Ramadan riots that spread to the whole of France. A new paradigm now animated the European “street,” Israel was the arch-villain, and peace lay just the other side of its destruction.

At the same time, with particular strength in France, radical Muslims and the gangs they nourished, drove Jews from the neighborhoods Muslims and Jews had once shared as North African immigrants with much in common – the first of the territoires perdus de la République. Increasingly, such “zones urbaines sensibles” have becoming no-go zones, and, in places like England, Sweden, and Holland, Sharia zones. To paraphrase a historian of the fall of Rome, “the new, and more powerful, Islamist groups were able to carve out autonomous zones for themselves from the European Union’s living body politic.”

Thus, the very young 21st century stands witness to a new and unprecedented form of aggressive cognitive war in which Islamists seek not to chase the West out of Dar al Islam, but to take over Western democracies to expand Dar al Islam into Dar al Harb. Unlike defensive asymmetrical warfare, this cognitive campaign involves getting Westerners to renounce their fight to defend their own territory, their own states, their own cultures, their own values and the painfully-won democracies built on them.

The Study of Cognitive Warfare: An Infant Field

Part of the problem derives from our lack of awareness, and in some cases aggressive denial, that there even is a cognitive war. While all modern militaries have psy-ops divisions, and study some areas of the cognitive war, few Westerners imagined that their public sphere, the very site out of which democracies have emerged, would become a theater of war, colonized extensively by religious zealots dedicated to destroying it. As a result, not only have few people thought about these problems on the scale they occur, but those who have find themselves stigmatized at the very site where such thinking should take place – academia.

So while for modern armies, psy-ops is an adjunct to military battlefield operations, for the weak side in an asymmetrical war, battlefield operations (terror attacks) are an adjunct to the cognitive war, the principal theater of war. In the 2007 edition of Military Strategy, Thomas Hammes noted that “Strategically, insurgent campaigns have shifted from military campaigns supported by information operations to strategic communications campaigns supported by guerilla and terrorist operations.” Terror aims at polarizing forces both within one’s own society, where it weakens moderates and recruits radicals, and within the target society, where it intimidates those who might fight back, and strengthens those who advocate appeasement.

Viewed from the perspective of the military battlefield, 9-11 was nothing but a painful scratch, a wake up call. But call to what? War in Afghanistan and Iraq? War on Terror? International police action against terrorists? Over a decade later and we don’t really know whom we’re fighting, partly because we’ve been forbidden certain discussions. But from the point of view of cognitive war, 9-11 has been an enormous, almost incalculable and as-yet uncalculated victory for Global Jihadis and their assertion of Sharia, both in Dar al Islam and in Dar al Harb. While they play on a three-dimensional global chessboard, we still play two-dimensional checkers.

Modern democracies are inherently susceptible to cognitive attacks for a variety of good reasons:

  • Publicly elected civilian commanders-in-chiefs subject to public opinion makes targeting decision-making rather than armies an effective strategy.
  • Public sphere in which images from the warfront can have enormous psychological impact on the public (TV, Internet) – targeting empathy.
  • Antipathy to violence and concurrent susceptibility to intimidation.
  • Ideologies prone to peace rhetoric and cooperative foreign relations, rationalizing appeasement as generosity and openness.

All of these are built-in, necessary, even healthy vulnerabilities in any successful civic polity: empathy and openness make it possible to learn and share; and free people choose their leaders. But in the 21st century, both our vulnerabilities and the nature of the attack have mutated into far more aggressive varieties, even as we push further into denial that cognitive wars even exist. Indeed, it seems racist to us to even acknowledge what Islamist Jihadis say and do; as one scholar of apocalyptic Jihad discovered, to describe someone else’s hate speech, is itself hate speech. Thus, whether out of fear or ignorance, most Westerners consider someone who takes these propositions seriously, to be a paranoid alarmist, an Islamophobe, a racist. Even thinking about the problem is forbidden.

21st-century cognitive war studies is thus in its infancy, at a time when it should be rathera sustained and sophisticated research endeavor. Academia, the very place that should have identified the problem early on, and developed effective responses, has not only failed, it has become largely hostile to any kind of thinking on the matter that deviates from the pacific formula: “War is not the answer.” Thus, while some people have, in one way or another, awakened to find themselves in the trenches of that ubiquitous war, and (fewer) have fought back, still fewer have stepped back to assess the larger context, to analyze the public sphere (journalism, academia, NGOs) as the central and highly successful theater of the Islamist cognitive warfare. We have many warriors, some officers, but no generals and no academies.

My article in Tablet and Victor’s challenge

I recently published a piece on millennial Jihad, cognitive warfare, and the al Durah affair at the Tablet Magazine. Among the comments, was a particularly interesting set of challenges from Victor. Given the limitations there (2000 characters per comment), I’m responding here.

The problem with all such essays (I’ve spent two days following all the links on this piece, including the Stuart Green paper on Cognitive Warfare, which touches on Soviet propaganda efforts – very interesting), is that they’re long on delivery and short on remedy. The final paragraph he cites seems to be saying that we should adopt jihadi tactics against them (honor-shame sensitivities), but against whom? Who are the jihadis? Can we really say that all Arabs/Muslims are jihadists, or even a majority of them? Can’t a case be made that by engaging the jihadis, and not other elements of Arab societies, we’re reinforcing the jihadist position relative to other factions?

i’m using jihadi here to designate anyone who shares the activist apocalyptic dream of spreading sharia to the entire world. large numbers of muslims (my guess is a majority) are millennial – i.e. they want to see the world submitted to sharia, but not necessarily now or violently. apocalyptic means a sense of urgency, *now* is the time. the most violent version (what most call jihadis) are “active cataclysmic apocalyptic”, who think that only great violence will bring about the millennial world and they are its agents.

there are two further issues. 1) those who are less violent, but share the millennial dream and its apocalyptic hopes (e.g., some Salafis). we in the west like to think they’re separate, but they’re only different in the degree to which their sense of urgency leads them to violence. some European Muslims who want to impose sharia there are against violence not on principle but because a) it’s too soon, they’re still a minority; and b) the fruit will be easier to pick in a generation when the demographics will have shifted. they are demopaths.

2) a much larger circle of muslims who will (sincerely) denounce al qaeda, nonetheless find in something like 9-11 a great swell of pride and a sense of honor restored. this reaction can occur even in secular muslims and even, non-muslims, eg, christian lebanese, anti-american europeans. even tho a victory of millennial islam would be disastrous for these folks, they can’t help but be excited. Lee Smith’s Strong Horse nails the dynamic. if we don’t resist both the violent jihadis and their demopathic allies, the false “moderates,” we feed their strong horse… every day.

so the short answer is, yes, we can’t just engage the jihadis, but we have to engage the larger circle of people – muslims and non-muslims – who might be attracted to their range of messages.

But all this is moot anyway, because Western civilization is not going to regress to honor-shame dynamics just to fight militant Islam.

There are many would would argue that we’re regressing in that direction – patriotism, Iraq War, Islamophobia/xenophobia, fascist tendencies. And that does represent a problem. In fact, rallying around the flag is one of the classic responses to threat; and refusing to do so in order not to regress is one of our greatest vulnerabilities. What I’m trying to do is find a way to respond to the threat without regressing.

We have our own cultural propaganda efforts – Hollywood, for one – the only problem is that these are not focused; they reflect our lives and values, but are not aimed specifically at undermining jihadism. Stuart Green focuses on Soviet disinformation actions in the West, how 85% of the intelligence budget actually went to such activities. First, before we model ourselves according to the Soviet Union, whose own citizens did not believe it’s propaganda, perhaps we should first see some research demonstrating effectiveness of Soviet disinformation efforts.

Among the many things worth reading, try Robert Conquest, “The Great Error: Soviet Myths and Western Minds,” chapter 7 of Reflections on a Ravaged Century, a book I regret not having read while writing my own. One choice quote with great import for the current state of academia: “One might suggest that a course on the credulity of supposed intellectual elites should be one of those given, indeed made  compulsory at universities – even, come to that, at theological colleges” (p. 149).

Second, assuming these efforts were successful, why is it that we can’t replicate such efforts? Has the knowledge been lost to do this? Is there a lack of generation commitment on the part of leadership? Why aren’t we practicing information operations in peacetime?

As Green says, you can’t win (much less fight) the battle of the Midway if you don’t know you’re in it. We view news media as something quasi-sacred (and so we should), not something to be turned into cognitive warfare. We can’t fight the way they do because, despite its failings, Western democracies and academics are based on certain commitments to honesty and truth, commitments we honor far too often in the breach, but almost always by deceiving ourselves rather than openly and cynically manipulating information. (When Orme drops the genocidal part of Halabiya’s sermon, he doesn’t think he’s a propagandist.)

Moreover, their side is not susceptible to the kind of demopathic appeal they succeed in making to us. We can’t make headway appealing to their commitment to human rights and egalitarian values. (Or maybe we can, but not with the ease they can do so to our public.) All these things need to be thought out carefully.

Landes seems to think that the only way to defeat jihadist infiltration is for a critical mass of people to “awaken” and stand guard. But how many people do you know that want to engage in conflict on a daily basis? It’s just not feasible, in my opinion. We would be much better off directly implementing disinformation efforts within Arab societies.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, blah blah blah. It is. We need to wake up. Think of all those lost souls looking for meaning in their lives. Here it is. I agree that many – too many – of us would rather just get on with our lives and ignore these pesky jihadis, soft and hard. But I think the world is a much more interesting place, and democracy a much more vivifying challenge, when we try to grapple with the threat in creative and humane ways. Read Lee Harris, The Suicide of Reason.

The final paragraph he cites seems to be saying that we should adopt jihadi tactics against them (honor-shame sensitivities), but against whom?

The entire culture is subject to honor-shame dynamics in ways that we are not – indeed, I argue democracy is only possible when we gain some control over the honor-shame instincts (some call it anger-management). Any culture in which it is legitimate to kill a daughter because she has “shamed” the family, is also a culture in which it is legitimate to exterminate an enemy that has “shamed” the culture/religion. The two are linked, and they both express a remarkable psychological fragility and vulnerability. We tend to back away from this, to avoid “provoking” violent (and deeply immature) behavior on their part. We don’t need to gratuitously humiliate them, but we need to pick our fights and win them, and make it clear that certain forms of behavior will bring on humiliation.

Ignoring Taguieff: Al Durah, Judeophobia, and the Success of Islamism in Europe

Pierre-André Taguieff sent me two links to articles that deal with the omerta of the French media about Taguieff’s book, « La nouvelle propagande anti juive ». I have already posted on this issue when Robert Redeker lost his position as book reviewer for a small Luxembourgeois paper for daring to review it favorably. Now two articles, including one in the Nouvel Observateur have taken up the cudgels for Taguieff.

Both point to Taguieff’s work on the Al Durah case as one of the main causes of the silence of the MSNM on his work. I reproduce the two passages on Al Durah below.

Note also an interesting incident in the French Senate during hearings for the new head of France2, in which a Senator put the appointee on the spot about the Al Durah story. This story is covered in still greater detail by the indefatigable Veronique Chemla in which she points out that a) the Senator in question (Plancade) gave the new head of France2 (Pflimlin) Taguieff’s book; and b) that none of the MSNM mentioned Plancade’s intervention. (HT/Eliyahu)

Vladimir Vladimirovitch A Lire

Par ailleurs il décrit et démontre la complicité des médias dans le processus précédent. En s’appuyant noatamment sur l’affaire Al Dourah qui lui permet de décrire par quels processus la classe médiatique, au mépris de toute déontologie, a manifesté sa solidarité avec Charles Enderlin, auteur du reportage contesté dans sa véracité (bien qu’il n’ait pas été présent au moment des faits). Israël ne pouvant être que coupable et les Palestiniens des victimes, il n’était en effet pas possible de revenir sur cette version des faits présentant les soldats israéliens comme des tueurs d’enfants palestiniens sans défense. Pourtant bien des éléments méritent qu’une enquête soit menée sur la validité de ce reportage. Ce qu’ont fait d’ailleurs des journalistes allemands demontant point par point la thèse d’Enderlin.

[Among other things he describes and demonstrates the complicity of the media in the preceding process (i.e., the alliance between the left and the islamists - rl). He emphasizes the al Durah affair to describe the way the "media class" (information professionals - rl), acting in violation of all professional ethics, showed its solidarity with Charles Enderlin, author of the contested report (even though he wasn't present at the time of the events). Since Israel can only be guilty and the Palestinians only victims, it was impossible to revise this version of events in which the Israeli soldiers were killers of defenseless Palestinian children. And yet many aspects of the case indicate that an investigation be carried out on the validity of the report... which German journalists did, dismantling point by point Enderlin's contentions.]

Les médias ne présenteront donc pas ce livre. Parce qu’il les met en cause et parce qu’il navigue à contre courant en démontrant que cette nouvelle propagande antijuive dont ils sont les porteurs constitue une arme de l’islamisme non pas contre Israël simplement, mais contre les démocraties. Ouvrage donc iconoclaste.

[The media will therefore not present this book. Because it questions them, and because it sails against the prevailing winds, dhowing that this new anti-Jewish propaganda of which they are the carriers constitutes an arm of Islamism not only aimed at Israel, but against democracies. Therefore, an iconoclastic work.]

Tarnero’s article is longer, published in a relatively new and iconoclastic publication, Causeur, which has taken on the Al Durah case already. Again, I only cite the segment directly concerned with Al Durah.

Demopaths, Cognitive Warfare and the UN: On banning Islamophobia

One of the key dimensions of global Jihad’s cognitive war against the West is the need to disguise the nature of the “weak” aggressor in this asymmetrical war. If the West knew what radical Islam wanted, they’d oppose it firmly, and they’d have no chance to position themselves favorably over time. Thus, while some of them play tough cop (violent Jihadis like Osama and other Salafi Jihadis), others play nice cop, and argue they would be “moderate” if only we treated them fairly.

Since this desire on the part of violent, fascist, even genocidal Islamic triumphalists who want to create a global Dar al Islam, is so ferocious and painful to contemplate, most liberals prefer to believe their demopathic pretences to moderation. As Barry Rubin points out, in some ways, the media tells us things that will pacify us, and keeps the bad news – news that might swell the voting ranks of (gasp!) conservatives and hawks — out of sight.

This approach has, by and large, dominated the approach of the MSNM for the last decade. The results: a president who thinks he can charm the Muslim world, even the radicals, and whose advisors think that it’s best not to even speak of “radical Islam” lest we offend “true Muslims” who know that any violence is against the “true teachings” of Islam – a useful infidel’s fatwa against Osama and his ilk, if you will. Shades of Grima Wormtongue literally sickening King Theoden of Rohan in The Two Towers.

(Note that I took this from a site which posted in 2008, suggesting that McCain was Theoden, and his advisors Wormtongue. I think that gets it exactly wrong. Tolkien, who had the Nazis in mind, had Wormtongue as a councilor of appeasement, in league with the warmonger Saruman, arguing that Rohen should not go to war.)

Of course, it’s hard not to notice the raging bull behind the curtain. And Muslims are becoming increasingly aware that their “Islam is a religion of peace” mantra is wearing thin. So what do they do? Go to the UN and ask it to ban Islamophobia in the name of “human rights.”

HT for much of this post to Elder of Ziyon.

Muslim states seek UN action on West’s “islamophobia”
16 Jun 2010 17:37:06 GMT
Source: Reuters
* Want investigation into West’s media on religion
* Say racism, xenophobia rife in Europe
* Part of majority group on U.N. rights council
By Robert Evans

GENEVA, June 16 (Reuters) – Muslim states said on Wednesday that what they call “islamophobia” is sweeping the West and its media and demanded that the United Nations take tougher action against it.

Delegates from Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Egypt, told the United Nations Human Rights Council that treatment of Muslims in Western countries amounted to racism and discrimination and must be fought.

“People of Arab origin face new forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and experience discrimination and marginalisation,” an Egyptian delegate said, according to a U.N. summary.

And Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the council’s special investigator into religious freedom should look into such racism “especially in Western societies”.

Acting for the OIC, Pakistan has tabled a resolution at the council instructing its special investigator on religious freedom “to work closely with mass media organisations to ensure that they create and promote an atmosphere of respect and tolerance for religious and cultural diversity”.

The OIC — and its allies in the 47-nation council including Russia, China and Cuba — dub criticism of Muslim practices and linking of terrorism waged under the proclaimed banner of Islamism as “islamophobia” that pillories all Muslims.

BOUND TO PASS

On the nature of Islamophobia: Jacobs vs. the “liberal” Rabbis on the Boston Megamosque

In the following post, I’ll discuss two documents, both published in the Boston newspaper, the Jewish Advocate. One, by Charles Jacobs, criticizes the Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick for his interaction with the Muslim American Society in Boston which ends with a short paragraph that mentions a Rabbi, whom Jacobs essentially accuses, along with Patrick of being (in my terminology), “dupes of demopaths.”

The Second is a response by a fairly long list of Rabbis and rabbinical students who find Jacobs criticism as unacceptable. This second piece offers a fascinating insight into the mind of earnest non-Muslims still deeply committed to believing that Islam (which sees them as infidels) is as capable of modern, tolerant reciprocity, just like most Christians and Jews in the USA.

And lest anyone consider me an essentialist for talking about Islam, let me anticipate myself by pointing out that these rabbis, not me and not Charles Jacobs, are the ones incapable of distinguishing various kinds of Islam, of essentializing Islam.

What’s up with Patrick?

By Charles Jacobs
June 5, 2010

Just days before the Gaza flotilla, Jews were attending to a smaller but more proximate fight: State Treasurer Tim Cahill, who is campaigning as an independent for governor, charged that Deval Patrick’s May 22 visit to the Muslim American Society’s (MAS) Saudi-funded Roxbury mega-mosque was a case of “pandering” – and of not taking the threat of terrorism seriously.

In response, the MAS – which is called by federal prosecutors “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America” – gathered a few hundred people at the mosque and did what it does best when critics raise concerns about who are the trustees and what do mosque leaders teach Boston Muslims about Jews, gays, women, Christians and America. The mosque leaders ducked the questions and charged their critics with bigotry. The MAS lambasted Cahill.

As if on cue, media stenographers dutifully took down and reported the bigotry charge against Cahill as though it was obviously true. And, again as if on cue, prominently noted and photographed was kippah-wearing Rabbi Eric Gurvis, hugging Bilal Kaleem, who heads MAS.

The real story is what actually happened during the governor’s visit?

From Useful Idiot to Useful Infidel: Meditations on the Folly of 21st Century “Intellectuals”

[The following is a transcript of a talk I gave at a conference on Intellectuals and Terror, a month ago. I held back publishing it because I wanted to give some good examples. The Flotilla offers precisely that "in spades." I will add links later on.]

The article with footnotes has now been published by

Terrorism and Political Violence Volume 25Issue 4, 2013

Special Issue: The Intellectuals and Terror: A Fatal Attraction

Lenin allegedly referred to Western intellectuals who so supported the communist experiment that they disguised its horrors from the West as “useful idiots,” because their idiotic romantic attachment to communist dreams made them highly useful allies in deceiving the West and preventing it from opposing the Soviet Union when it was still vulnerable.

Today observers use the term to describe liberal intellectuals who enjoy freedom and prosperity, yet undermine both by giving moral and material support to revolutionary movements hostile to such bourgeois values. But that’s actually a mild accusation against useful idiocy. By covering up the engineered famines in Ukraine and in China, by dismissing evidence of the Gulag Archipelago or the Cambodian killing fields, all of which killed tens, even hundreds of millions of people, useful idiots have been responsible for aiding and abetting the terrifying death machines.

Given that history itself revealed that they had been dupes of the most staggering sort, even such brilliant ones as George Bernard Shaw and Jean-Paul Sartre lost their credibility. One would think, therefore, that with the lessons of the last century still fresh in our minds, these memories would immunize us to the appeal of useful idiocy in the late 20th, early 21st century.

A fortiori, one would expect the wisdom so painfully gained in the course of the 20th to insulate the West from serving as useful idiots to a revolutionary movement with none of the idealistic appeal of communism, but rather with a record of regressive, gynophobic, authoritarian, and nihilistic traits that virtually guarantee that any success such a movement might have would be a catastrophe for those so unfortunate to have these revolutionaries “liberate” them.

So why would a late 20th century progressive sympathize with, support, run interference, even lie and deceive, for a movement that manifested all the worst traits of totalitarian megadeath from the 20th century – the cult of death, the embrace of nihilism, paranoia, and genocidal hate-mongering? At least the fellow travelers of the early and mid-20th century had a noble ideal for which they carried out their campaigns of misinformation. But now, we have intellectuals from a wide range of fields running interference for Islam, even in its most regressive forms.

And of course, at this asymmetrical stage in the war that Global Jihad wages against the West, nothing is more critical to the capacity of Jihad to mobilize – to recruit, indoctrinate, train, and deploy – its forces than a cognitive victory in which its targets in the West are kept in the dark about its real intentions. And given the yeoman job that apologists like John Esposito, Noah Feldman and Juan Cole perform in this sense, I think it worthwhile to use the expression “useful infidel” for this new breed of fellow travelers. Nothing is more useful to Jihadi ambitions to subject the entire world to Sharia than non-Muslim intellectuals who insist that Islam is a religion of peace that is perfectly consonant with democracy, and that the terrorists represent a tiny, marginal, deviation from true Islam.

I want to argue that this astonishing paradox – Islamic Jihad is the last thing one would expect reasonable, progressive intellectuals to support – strips away the pretence of naïve good intentions that the older “useful idiot” used to plead. Once we confront the “irrationality” of useful infidelity, and realize the urgency of trying to understand a phenomenon that pushes us in the direction of cultural, even civilizational suicide, we must confront the underlying (self-destructive) emotions.

Demopaths and their Dupes

It seems to me that the phenomenon of useful idiocy revolves around a particularly dysfunctional relationship, that between demopath and dupe. Demopaths arise in response to democratic cultures, which they target in a cognitive war suited only to assaults on such societies, that is, ones that embrace principles of a human right to freedom. They themselves embrace authoritarian principles of dominion by force, what Lee Smith has chronicled so chillingly in his latest book, The Strong Horse. Their line of attack: “you (democratic target) do not live up to your commitments; and in particular, you violate our (demopathic belligerent) rights in preventing us from participating in your democracy.”

Gili Explains it all.

From someone with long experience planning “operations.”

  • The preparation could not have been worse. Rather than thinking through the matter from the perspective of the opponent, they expected far less resistance than they got, and they played into the hands of the boat militants.
  • They should have approached with a boarding party from the sea (which they also did), but also gunmen with rubber bullets on higher boats who could keep the gangs on board at a distance. Instead those boarding from the sea couldn’t board.
    They went so far out into international waters because they didn’t want the boarding to happen in daytime when there would be cameras. In fact, the lack of footage of the violence against the IDF is hurting Israel.
  • They had paint guns because they were expecting possible light resistance; and pistols which they weren’t authorized to use unless “necessary” – which took at least 10, by some accounts 40 minutes.
  • This was not an operation for soldiers, but rather units from the SWAT Police, who have more experience with this kind of resistance, than Navy Commandos. But because it was beyond territorial bounds, the Police had no jurisdiction.
  • They could have just disabled the boat by jamming to the propeller and rudder.

Now some of this may be Monday morning quarterbacking. But what is crystal clear now to those not blinded by the “human rights” halo that these groups claimed, and the MSNM adopted, is that this was an ambush. On one level, if Israel had anticipated it, they would have been accused (as they are now, but with no real substance) of provoking the confrontation – of coming in with guns blazing. On another, the lack of preparation for really violent aggression – street fighting if you will – has to surprise anyone paying attention to the chants and swagger of those on the Mavi Marmara.

I personally think that the planners, even as they denounced these folks as terrorists, actually bought into the MSNM narrative about “human rights” activists who would use only “passive resistance.” It’s ironic, but because Israeli military saw the enemy through the medias (deeply distorted) lens, they actually behaved exactly as their enemies wanted. It’s as if the IHH had sat at the table and developed the plan with the Israeli army.

As a result, as one Israeli commented: “We’re shit in the midst of deep shit.”

The operation was, as the Arabs would say, a major fadiha (a nice synonym for f***-up), or as the French put it so delicately, “une bavure” (a drool).

Joel Fishman: The Morning After Hangover

Joel Fishman, a research fellow at the JCPA writes the following morning-after analysis. (Posted with his permission)

Israel’s Interception of the Turkish Flotilla: The morning-after Hangover

Early in the morning of 31 May, the Israeli navy intercepted a Flotilla, sailing from Turkey to Gaza, with the professed aim of bringing humanitarian aid and moral support to the Gazans. Since its inception, the Hamas regime has waged war against Israel, firing thousands of rockets on population centers in the south of the country. Responding to this aggression, Israel placed Gaza under siege and carried out Operation Cast Lead. Given the fact that there is a state of war, Israel is legally maintaining a blockade of Gaza for the purpose of preventing it from building a military infrastructure, importing advanced missiles, and, not the least, preventing outsiders from bringing in new forces and dangerous know-how, such as bomb-making and the preparation of explosives. Such necessities as food and medicines reach Gaza on a regular basis and are not lacking. Their delivery is currently supervised.

For its part, Hamas wants to break the blockade so that it can have a channel to import weapons and materiel on an unsupervised basis. In order to wage war against Israel, they need to have a sanctuary where they can operate freely, import weapons, and stage new offensive attacks. During the Vietnam War, Cambodia and the Ho Chi Minh Trail served this purpose. In short, Hamas, badly wants to break out. Although the Israeli navy was not totally prepared for the confrontation, it maintained the blockade and defended its sovereignty.

There is another dimension which must be appreciated. Turkey has developed a new strategic vision of its place in the world and is seeking to expand its influence. Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, is the engineer of this new approach. His idea has been to establish a Pax Ottomana in this region. He does not seek to rebuild the Ottoman Empire but to expand the influence of the Islamic Turkish state as peacemaker and arbiter. In our times, the expansion of influence may bring considerable benefits. This explains Turkey’s intense desire to push its way in as the peacemaker between Syria and Israel. Within a larger perspective, it is possible to say that after the European Union closed the door on Turkey, it decided to construct a similar enterprise with Islamic Turkey as the central player, combined with improved relations with Iran, Syria, and the Hamas. Turkey has invested money in the improvement of Gaza port, and if Turkey were able to send shipments of men and materiel to Gaza, it would automatically develop a presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. As Bernard Lewis succinctly put it, “Turkey flipped.”

It is necessary to take a careful look at the sponsors of the aid flotilla. Col. (Ret.) Jonathan Fighel of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (IDC) wrote a fine article which examined the Turkish IHH Insani Yardim Vakfi, Humanitarian relief fund” This radical Islamic organization which was established in 1992 was prominent among the coalition of organizations participating in the aid flotilla. Col. Fighel described some of its activities: “IHH has a broad program of important activities in distressed areas. They include sending food and support to orphans, establishing educational institutions, hospitals and clinics, programs for vocational education, supplying medicines, building mosques and preventing the violation of human rights in various Islamic locations throughout the world. In recent years it has begun widening its activities to European countries, in part by establishing branches which bear its name.” Fighel also pointed out that “in the past IHH provided logistical support and funding to global jihad networks.” In addition, he reported that there was evidence which linked this group with terrorism, anti-western incitement, and the transport of weapons.

This brings us to the main point. The Israeli navy did not know the enemy, although it should have. Anyone who knew the activities of Turkish IHH could have foreseen the distinct possibility that some of the passengers were seasoned fighters, some of whom may have seen action in the Balkans. It is shocking that since the identity and activities of the sponsoring organization were known, the navy sent its commandos into battle with paintballs. To assume that these people were genuine “peace activists” represents a serious intelligence failure.

In this context, we cite the writing of the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu who, in his classic, The Art of War, wrote the following in c. 500 BCE:

    Know the enemy and know yourself;
    In a hundred battles you will never be in peril.

    When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself,
    Your chances of winning or losing are equal.

    If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself,
    You are certain in every battle to be in peril.

It is the responsibility of those who send soldiers into battle to know the enemy. Their failure to fulfill this responsibility – in light of abundant information in the public domain – explains what really went wrong.

When an army that is vastly superior, but neither wants to be killed nor kill, meets an vastly inferior enemy who wants to kill and be killed, it behooves both participants and observers to understand why things go awry.

Barry Rubin explains it all: Sympathy for the Devil

Barry Rubin’s (as usual) brilliant take. I’ll add my comments later, but well worth the read.

Sympathy for the Devil and the Gaza Sea Confrontation: How Can Helping a Repressive Fascist, Genocide-Intending Hamas Regime be Noble?
Please be subscriber 16,358. Put your email address in the box, upper right-hand of the page.
By Barry Rubin

“Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game.”

–The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil”

Is it so hard to guess the name? Is it so difficult to understand the nature of the game? Apparently so.

“Israeli assault complicates efforts to improve relationship with U.S.,” says the Washington Post. “Israeli Raid Exacerbates Regional Tensions and Threatens Peace Process,” claims a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

And so the blame is placed. Yet why should either claim be true? After all, neither the U.S. government nor the Palestinian Authority is friends of Hamas and its reign in the Gaza Strip. Both have had their people murdered by Hamas and that group, an ally of Iran, wants to drive the former out of the region and overthrow the latter.

Hamas has oppressed the people of the Gaza Strip, murdered Palestinian Authority supporters in hospitals and thrown them off roofs, driven the Christians out, taken relief supplies for its own soldiers, launched a war on Israel in December 2008 that caused avoidable death and destruction, used civilians as human shields and mosques for ammunition dumps, indoctrinated children to be suicide bombers, and repeatedly announced its antisemitic views and an intention to wipe out Israel and massacre its people.

For some, none of this makes any difference though–to be fair–the media they get information from may not have presented these facts. For those on the left, Hamas should be considered as a fascist organization which they passionately oppose. For those sympathetic to human rights or women’s rights, or many other good causes, Hamas should be anathema.

What should be paramount, then, is an international determination to overthrow the Hamas regime. After all, while it had earlier come in first in elections, it staged a coup and overthrew what was perceived as the rightful government of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority. To do such a thing would—to paraphrase the Carnegie report—reduce regional tensions and aid the peace process lead to an independent Palestinian state. Yet this rather obvious idea simply does not seem to have occurred to any Western government or elite.

So instead there is a policy, albeit an eroding one, of isolating Hamas and denying it at least some supplies and money, demanding that it accept the idea of real peace with Israel and cease the use of terrorism. Even this seems too much for many people and, increasingly, for some governments.

In the face of this very profound and essential wrongness, precisely what measures Israel takes toward a half-dozen vessels seeking to break the blockade that much of the world supports seems a rather secondary issue.

Then there is the confrontation itself.

It is unlikely that the clash between Israeli forces and revolutionary Islamists on a Turkish vessel carrying Hamas supporters and supplies to Gaza is going to change anything at all in terms of the politics and issues of the regions. Yet these events tell us a lot about international thinking nowadays and the tactics used by the revolutionaries who want to transform the Middle East and turn it into Islamist totalitarian states.

Everything I’ve written above would, in many circles, be considered shocking. Yet it is all obviously demonstrably true and profoundly valid for the conduct of international affairs. If any North American or European country had done the same thing as Israel, it would be excused. If any other Third World country did so, it would be ignored.

Why does the Israel-Palestinian conflict continue? The Palestinians. If the Palestinians stopped fighting there would be peace; if Israel stopped fighting there would be even more war.

Why were people killed in the sea off of Gaza? The Islamist-led forces there. Because–as was shown with five of the six ships–if they didn’t fight nobody would be hurt but if they assaulted Israeli soldiers, the latter would defend themselves.

This isn’t the first time a revolutionary movement has deliberately sacrificed people for a perceived benefit to the cause. Indeed, Hamas does that all the time. But it might perhaps be the first time it has fooled so many people. Or, perhaps I should see the second, given international reactions to the 2008-2009 war in the Gaza Strip. And the more successfully Hamas (and Hizballah) uses such tactics, the more people they will get killed in their pursuit of international sympathy and support.

Recognition of these facts is necessary for democratic societies that intend to survive. And yet that is not at all what is happening.

Now events have gone one step further. In order to pursue their goals, Hamas wants to escape from its isolation and win international support for both its regime over Gaza and in its struggle against Israel. And what are these goals? Ruling the Gaza Strip forever, seizing the West Bank and putting the Palestinian Authority leadership in front of a firing squad, obliterating Israel and committing genocide on its Jewish population, creating a totalitarian Palestinian state, destroying Western influence in the region, and helping to overthrow all the existing Arab governments as a junior partner of Iran.

This might be expected to bother a lot of people, especially in the West, especially on the left, especially among intellectuals who benefit from living in free societies. And yet that’s not necessarily true either.

As part of its effort, Hamas supporters organized a six-ship convoy to bring supplies to the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip has always been a poor area, even compared to the West Bank. Despite ruling over the area for more than a decade while receiving a huge amount of foreign aid in comparison to the size of the population, the Palestinian Authority did little for the people. It led them into an unnecessary five-year-long destructive war in 1999 that only made things worse for them.

Hamas has now ruled the Gaza Strip for about five years. Yet it has preferred continued war with Israel, a full-scale military mobilization, and hardline policies rather than working for the development of the area and jobs for the people.

Yet who is blamed for the status of that area today?

The blockade has definitely had a downward effect on living standards in the Gaza Strip. And of course there are two blockades since Egypt’s government, which doesn’t want Hamas’s close associates, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to seize power and execute is leaders, also maintains an embargo.

But there is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. That can be easily proven. Israel allows a great deal of supplies to cross over. That can be proven. Hamas destroyed the border economic zone’s facilities thus denying Gazans jobs. That can be proven. And there is a lot of smuggling across the Egypt-Gaza border which makes up for a good part of the deficit. There is even a humorous angle to all of this, like the way Israel supplied electricity to the Gaza Strip for years even when the bills weren’t paid and Hamas was firing rockets at it.

And of course if Hamas were to change its policy in real terms there would be no blockade at all.

The purpose of this flotilla was not, of course, to help the Gazans but to get publicity for ending the blockade altogether, strengthening Hamas, and hitting at Israel. The organizers were offered the chance to land in Israel and, after inspections, see the supplies go across the border. That would have been at least a partial victory for them but they weren’t interested. Or they could have landed in Israel and the Egyptian government would have immediately sent all the supplies into Gaza. But they weren’t interested in that either.

A state of war exists between Israel and Hamas. To give aid and comfort to the Hamas regime is to help an enemy sworn to Israel’s destruction. Why should Israel facilitate that? The answer might be, to help the people of Gaza who are suffering. But they will go on suffering until the day that Hamas no longer runs their lives. And there have been many people suffering because they are ruled by a government like that of Germany or Italy in the 1930s and 1940s. The British and Americans bombed them steadily and did everything else to kill, injure, and starve them in order to win World War Two. In comparison, Israel has been remarkably restrained.

And the longer Hamas rules there the more they will suffer. It is only a matter of time until Hamas engages in a new war. Indeed, the sympathy for Hamas and the buying of its lies about Israel by so many in the West increase its confidence in the value of going to war again in the virtue of remaining extremist.

After all, if its strategy is working why should Hamas change it? And if Hamas believes that it can win world opinion to be against Israel, and thus destroy Israel, all the more reason to be willing to force Gazans to fight for decades and generations.

And so there was no way that Israel would let the ships land in Gaza. And the activists, who put helping Gazans as a far lower priority than helping Hamas wanted a confrontation and the hardest line ones wanted casualties, martyrs to water the soil of revolution.

Shouldn’t Israel have denied them that opportunity? Were mistakes made? Certainly, though they may be less than many think. For example, take the argument that Israel could not act in international waters without breaking international law. That’s nonsense. Blockades all the way back to the British one against Napoleon—and more recently the British blockade during the Falklands crisis and the U.S. blockade of Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis—have worked that way.

Indeed, the most important thing about a blockade is that it must be effective to be accepted by others. Once Israel let in those ships, why should anyone else—including ships carrying military supplies—be deterred? And in Gaza, even pipes (used for making rockets) and cement (used for building block houses and other military positions) are war materiel.

Did the Israeli authorities underestimate the chance of violence? Well, they were 81.6 percent, that is, five-sixths, right. Five of the six ships surrendered peacefully and were taken into port. Only one resisted. Two soldiers had their guns grabbed as they were beaten and stabbed. Reportedly, those hard-core Islamists who seized the weapons opened fire. One day we will know how many of the casualties were armed and how many were shot by their “colleagues,” not Israeli soldiers. Will that detail be widely disseminated?

Some of those on the ships were no doubt well-intentioned humanitarians. But they weren’t the ones who were determined to attack. Those directing the shipping operation were revolutionaries intent on supporting their Hamas comrades. The atmosphere among the Islamists is demonstrated by the talk of martyrdom and jihad. Indeed, al-Jazira broadcast the chanting of slogans about a new “Khaibar” and the return of “Muhammad’s army,” reference to the massacre of the Jews in seventh-century Arabia and the selling of the women and children into slavery.

There are, then, two main ways to see these events. One is of a group of humanitarians who just wanted to help people and were mistreated by evil Israel. The other is the perspective offered here, of the attempted manipulation of international public opinion by a combination of those intent on evil and those who don’t recognize the nature of its game.

Which one better explains these events, and what went before them, and what will come after? Given the facts, there can’t be much doubt that allying with and assisting Hamas, the closest thing to a fascist ideology and behavior in today’s world, is not a great moral act. If you want to have sympathy for the devil, so to speak, at least know who you are helping

There is a statement attributed to the British political philosopher Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Burke supported America’s revolution but was horrified by France’s bloody upheaval that resulted in terror and murder. He understood that in order to be a humanitarian one had to have accurate judgment and to distinguish between actual good and evil dressed up as good.

Actually, what Burke wrote is even more apt for the present day, in which democracies are threatened by a tidal wave of lies, hate, and dictatorship: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

If it worked with the Danish Cartoons… why not let Facebook know what’s in store?

Danish Cartoon clash of civilizations continues. I’m reading Jytte Klausen, The Cartoons that Shook the World for the conclusion to my book (overdue). It is a work that strikes some as genuinely “even-handed,” but strikes me as (therefore) genuinely superficial and misleading about Islam and its many manifestations in the 21st century. Anyway, if mainstream media like Yale and Comedy Central caved, cybernautic Facebook has, so far, not. As a result, demonstrations in Pakistan that take us right back to London in 2006.


One illustration of the protests in Pakistan against Facebook’s “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day


Some of the signs displayed in demonstration in London, February 3, 2006 to protest publications of Danish Cartoons.

Note the Pakistani signs in English: This is part of a global cognitive war, in which Sharia is extended to dar al Harb in the matter of treatment of the Prophet. Infidels must, as Dhimmis in dar al Islam, respect the sensibilities of the Muslims, and the death they threaten to those who refuse to obey, is precisely what Dhimmis are “protected from” as long as they remain good subjects.

Apparently, according Waqar Hussain of AFP, the vitriolic response prompted, yet more apologies.

News Media, Arab Honor-Shame, and Operation Cast Lead: The Failures of Cognitive Egocentrism

A segment from a long essay on the Goldstone Report to appear in MERIA in January, with embedded video.

In some senses, it might be fair to argue that the news media believe that by emphasizing the humanitarian catastrophe, they contribute to peace. By putting pressure on the Israelis, they reason, they can help to stop the bombing. Christiane Amanpour quite un-self-consciously revealed the calculus in a question to Tony Blair:

Amanpour to Blair: “The civilian casualties in Gaza are obviously going to put a big pressure on Israel. How long can Israel withstand this pressure?”

Note that Amanpour asks the question with great confidence – this, she clearly feels, is a good, even shrewd question – unaware of what she reveals about her own thinking. Indeed, from her point of view, this isn’t even advocacy; it’s such a widespread attitude that it has the status of Realpolitik.

Now when such diplomatic dynamics are so obvious to the media, what’s to prevent them from thinking that the more they emphasize the humanitarian catastrophe, the sooner the violence will end?

Aside from the multiple, highly questionable, assumptions that underlie such apparently “self-evident” reasoning, the question also reveals a fundamental position of advocacy or bias – the “solution” will come from pressure on Israel, not on Hamas.

For a fascinating example of the cognitive dissonance that results from confronting Hamas, a journalist asking an Arab spokesman why Hamas doesn’t just stop the fighting, consider this exchange between “rational” BBC interviewer, Karen Ginoni, and the Arab League Ambassador to the UN, Yahya Mahmassani.

Reflections on the Global Conference for Anti-Semitism, Jerusalem, December 17-18, 2009

I attended most of the two days, but missed important events at the end of each day (including, alas, the final dinner). I missed the first day’s events at the Knesset so I could do the interview with IBA. So my remarks will be less “comprehensive.” Overall, it was well-planned, well-organized, but of limited scope. Repeatedly attendees complained about the problem of limited follow-through – there should be a dozen smaller meetings generated by the Global Forum during the year, rather than an annual meeting the inevitably has to play off “political speeches,” with informative material from researchers.

From my perspective there were two serious lacunae. First, I am now fully convinced that Israel’s (and therefore the West’s) problem is not a matter of hasbarah (explanation, clarification, PR, Public Diplomacy), but a cognitive war in which the physical battlefield (where Hamas/Hizbullah/Fatah will always lose), is an adjunct to the cognitive field (where, as every speaker attested in one way or another, the drive to delegitimate Israel is succeeding). This cognitive war must be recognized. As my guru on this subject, Stuart Green, puts it, “you can’t win the battle of the Midway if you don’t know you’re in a battle.” And it must be recognized for what it is, the systematic abuse of our hard-earned means of free communication, by people who have nothing but contempt for the principles they invoke – human rights, humanitarian concerns, “justice.”

As a result, there was a) too little on the role of the news media in this phenomenon; and b) a notable absence of Israeli military at the conference. This latter point is crucial because until the military realizes that its success on the battlefield has shifted the enemy’s strategy, and it adjusts its priorities – e.g., releasing very powerful information that could be used in the cognitive war, but which intelligence forces almost by default keep private – we will continue to lose the cognitive war. Indeed, every victory on the in the physical battlefield – Hamas’ rocket attacks have dropped steeply since Operation Cast Lead – produces a massive loss on the cognitive field. Maybe if key members of the IDF were present to hear about the disastrous situation world-wide, then they might begin to reorder their priorities. As of now, this is a MFA show, and most people think it’s their job and their job alone.

Second, there was virtually no attention to the problem of the Jewish contribution to the problem of anti-Semitism. If there is one major gaping hole in our defenses in this cognitive war, it’s the “useful infidels” like Goldstone who think they’re doing “good and right” and promoting “peace and the defense of civilians,” when they’re empowering the very forces that seek war and victimize civilians, friend and foe alike. Alvin Rosenfeld’s “Progressive Jews and the New Anti-Semitism,” remains the gold standard in this matter, taking to task Jews who, in their eagerness to perfect Israel, engage in indecent comparisons of Israel with apartheid and Nazism, that feed the forces of deligitimation the world over.

Unfortunately, the conversation has not advanced since his report was greeted by “progressives,” as an assault on “any criticism of Israel.” The inaccuracy (dare I say, dishonesty) of such a response (embraced by everyone from NYT reporter Patricia Cohen, to Lenny Pogrebin, to Michael Lerner, to Samuel Freedman, illustrates well how the ardent defense of “free speech,” no matter how indecent it might be, serves forces deeply hostile to any freedoms in this cognitive war. Anyone who can denounce Israeli apartheid, and not even mention Muslim apartheid especially against women and infidels, or talk about Israelis doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to them, without noting the extensive and enthusiastic ties between the Nazis and the Palestinians to this day, is, in my book, dishonest.

This dishonesty contributes seriously to a massive epistemological crisis for everyone who does not know the situation on the ground (and ultimately none of us can know it all, we have to get it from the media in one form or other). How can outsiders, especially non-Jews who do not come from a culture in which self-criticism is learned with one’s mother’s milk, understand what it means when the Palestinians say, “It’s all Israel’s fault,” and most of the representatives of the Israeli side that the MSNM cherry picks, says, “They’re right.”

Of course, how to distinguish between legitimate, decent criticism of Israel – whether by Jews or by non-Jews – is a very delicate subject, and although the Jewish community is light-years away from the kind of suffocating intimidation that prevents Arabs and Muslims from public self-criticism, we certainly don’t want to engage in a slippery slope of squashing dissent. But rather than ignore the subject, we need to address it, seriously, with a sense of appreciation for how vital self-criticism, the ability to give and take rebuke (tochacha) is to Jewish culture, and explore what are the limits of decency.

Maybe next year…

Look who’s a fan of the Goldstone Report: Jihadis spell out Cognitive Warfare 101

Elder of Ziyon posted a link to a link to the website of Islamic Jihad al Quds Brigade endorsing enthusiastically the Goldstone Report. Here’s a translation from an Arabic specialist rather than Google translator:

War Media [Office] – Gaza:
16 / 10 / 2009
Translation: Shammai Fishman

The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine values the great efforts undertaken by the legal institutions and human rights organizations in rallying support and backing for the “Goldstone” report.

Such touching appreciation for the work of the NGOs.

The movement stresses in a statement of which the website of the al-Quds Brigades – War Media [Office] – has obtained a copy of, that the adoption of this report should be considered a victory for the Palestinian people’s will, which rejects the Zio-American dictations, as well as a victory for the blood of the martyrs and the suffering of the wounded heroes and a victory for the forces and organizations that stood in the face of attempts to be withdrawn or disabled.

Unpacked, that means, we’re delighted that our strategy of maximizing death among our own people has been handled by the Western journalists, NGOs and Goldstone in such a way as to hold the Israelis responsible, thus making successful those sacrifices in the service of the cause of destroying Israel.

The movement viewed the success of the vote on the report as “proof of the correctness of its positions with regard to the crime of postponing the previous meeting,” emphasizing that no one had any real justification for that postponement.

In other words, the “excuses” of helping negotiations by not attacking the people we’re supposed to negotiate with, are illegitimate. Because we oppose any negotiations, we’re delighted that the weaponized report has now moved to the next stage.

The view of the Islamic Jihad movement is that the condemnation the Zionist entity and its criminalization is an opportunity that must be followed by the isolation of this criminal entity and the activation of the Arab and Islamic decisions of boycott regionally and internationally. The receiving of Zionist war criminals in the Arab and Islamic states and capitals should be stopped, meetings with them should not take place and the work to bring them to the courts should be continued.

Couldn’t ask them to spell it out better. Note the complete congruency between this strategy and that of Richard Falk.

The statement concluded by warning against continuing negotiations and the political and security meetings with the enemy, because they provide him with a lifeline.

AKA, we the forces of war delight in Goldstone’s work. What a fabulously useful infidel.

Meantime Goldstone took the opportunity of an interview with the BBC to backtrack on his objections to the weaponized UNHRC resolution, here so warmly endorsed.

UPDATE: Shammai Fishman, the translator of the above notes:

I wish to add that the official translation of al-I’lam al-Harbi is Military Media – that apparently is the division of the al-Quds Brigades of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad which runs their media website and press releases.

This document is an example of the English translation of the term:

http://www.saraya.ps/Byan.php?id=2087

This is the main website every link has the logo:

http://saraya.ps/index.php

Undermining the Enemy: A report from the ICT Panel with Stuart Green

Stephen Kramer, an American-born Israeli, attended the panel we organized at the Institute for Counter-terrorism at the IDC last month. He summarized the panel’s offerings for a Jewish paper in the USA.

Undermining the Enemy

Israel’s overwhelming strength and its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza deprived Israel of its favored “underdog” status.

Recently I attended the 9th World Summit on Counter- Terrorism at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT). The Institute is located on the IDC College campus in Herzliya. According to ICT, its international conference has become one of the most influential annual events in the field of counter-terrorism and has achieved international recognition for its exchange of views on best practices among global counter-terror experts, security professionals and leading academic scholars.

“Manipulation of Western Mainstream News Media in Asymmetrical Warfare,” a fancy description for terrorist groups’ propaganda efforts, was the subject of the workshop, one of many presented during the conference. Among the five speakers were a US naval officer, a college professor from Boston, researchers from two NGOs (non-profit organizations), and the chief editor of an Italian TV station.

Lt. Commander Stuart Green, who was quick to announce that he was speaking as a private citizen and not as a U.S. Navy representative, put the subject matter into historical context by describing how the Soviets took active measures to manipulate the conceptions of their target societies (the enemies) during the Cold War period. Their object was to set up a model which softened the enemy’s resistance to communism by persuading significant groups to consider communism as a viable alternative to democracy.

Green pointed out that in modern warfare, the terrorists take control of the intellectual “high ground,” increasing their propaganda as the conflict continues and obscuring the truth. By example, before 1967 Israel enjoyed the favorable status of underdog, but in the ensuing decades after 1967, particularly after the 1982 war, Israel’s overwhelming strength and its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza deprived Israel of its favored “underdog” status. Over time, and with the growing intensity of propaganda, the empirical truth that the Arabs absolutely opposed a Jewish state regardless of its size was replaced by an “acceptable discourse,” the Palestinian narrative. This Muslim-inspired “truth” has become so engrained that the actual cause of Israeli-Palestinian strife has been obscured and almost forgotten.

Green used another example from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whereby the cause of Palestinian terrorism is attributed to checkpoints and settlements, not the longstanding Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s existence. He described the media as a “force multiplier,” promoting the message of the underdog/terrorists and geometrically increasing its effect. The media is overwhelmingly democratic, meaning it is anti-army, prounderdog, and universalistic – assigning moral equivalence to democracies and dictatorships. Answering the question about what to do to combat the media manipulation, Green said it’s imperative that the public understand the fact that we’re at war with radical Islamists.

Investigate the investigators: A time to rebuke Goldstone

Rebuke Goldstone’s Report

[This has been published without links at the Jerusalem Post. Text in brackets was cut from the published version.]

Judge Goldstone has presented his Report on Gaza and, among other recommendations, suggested that Israel conduct its own inquiry. Israeli government officials, assuming he meant an investigation, like his, into Israel’s misdeeds, declined, noting that that they have and continue to investigate their army’s behavior on a constant basis.

But after reading most of the report, another possibility presents itself. It rapidly becomes clear to any reader not driven by a thirst for “dirt” on Israel, that Goldstone’s work represents a new low in the tragically deteriorating world of international justice. It fails on every count, from it’s handling of evidence, to its legal reasoning, to its unstated but pervasive assumptions of Israeli guilt and Palestinian innocence, to its astonishing conclusion (from someone who knows the gruesome details of Bosnia and Rwanda), that Israeli behavior was so bad it might well constitute “crimes against humanity.” As a result this report takes the army with the best record in the history of warfare for protecting enemy civilians (even by dubious Palestinian statistics), and accuses it of targeting them. Goldstone makes Kafka’s Trial seem fair.