A tireless warrior in the cogwar, Menachem Macina, frequent commenter here, left a long comment with an update on the George Bensassoun blasphemy trial in Chambre 17 in Paris. I post it here to give it the attention it deserves.
This is indeed a fascinating case that shows how crazy things have gotten in France. (I put some things together on my facebook page.)
Georges Bensoussan, a French Jewish historian and activist against islamism (with quite some credentials in this field), in a debate on the radio (high-brow France-Culture almost nobody listens to) explains how widespread antisemitism in the French Muslim community makes it vulnerable to the islamists’ attempts to set it up against French society.
He then is accused of incitement to hatred against the Muslim community by professional anti-racism organisations, with the lead being taken by the CCIF (against islamophobia). Other anti-racist organisations join in, among which the venerable old LICRA (against racism and anti-semitism) with its star witness Mohamed Sifaoui, an Algerian journalist in France who is a very outspoken critic of islamism and at the same time very much maligned by the CCIF for being former PM Manuel Valls’s sidekick and by the CCIF’s followers for being a ‘zionist agent’, who explains his testimony against Bensoussan with the wish not to leave the defense of the French Muslims entirely to the CCIF.
Apart maybe from the CCIF, nobody seems to be thinking about the sketch Dieudonné is going to make on Bensoussan, who is also associated with the French Shoah memorial, if he is ever found guilty by the court of incitement to hatred against Muslims, as the public prosecutor demands (with a fine of €1.500), after debates at the trial that lasted for 12 hours (till 1h30 in the morning). The verdict will be pronounced on the 7th of March.
The judge, who is Mme Siredey-Garnier, in the meantime has published a sort of opinion piece in the ‘Gazette du Palais’ in which she contrasts the 12-hour long Bensoussan trial with other hearings where she has to decide on the fate of some 23 illegal immigrants in about the same amount of time. The idea she tries to put forward seems to be that the Bensoussan trial is merely about a symbolic matter whereas the other cases are about real lives. But she reminds herself of the trials of Flaubert, Zola, Baudelaire and Charlie, which were also held before the same tribunal (17me chambre), and promises to do her duty by giving every case the attention it deserves.
Her piece inspired me to write a last message in support of Georges Bensoussan that I secretly hope will come to her attention (in French) and that on my part is meant as a simple plea for sanity: “Pour ma part, j’espère seulement que le juge jouera pleinement son rôle de juge, et admettra d’autres considérations que celles introduites par les parties avant d’arriver à une conclusion. Comme par exemple le fait qu’il s’agissait d’un débat contradictoire à la radio, et que dans ce cas on ne peut attendre de personne qu’il pèse vraiment tous ses mots. Que Georges Bensoussan est certes responsable de sa parole, mais qu’il ne peut être tenu responsable de toutes les interprétations malveillantes que d’autres veulent en faire. En d’autres mots, que le juge se rend compte que devant un tribunal révolutionnaire Georges Bensoussan serait facilement condamné pour incitation à la haine raciale. Mais qu’il décide ensuite que devant le tribunal d’un état de droit comme la RF il ne le mérite aucunement. Et qu’il condamne chacune des parties civiles à €10.000 de dommages pour procédure abusive, harcèlement et atteinte à la réputation de Georges Bensoussan.”
I’m not here to tell you that the settlements are the reason for the conflict. No, they’re not.
Unless, as the Palestinian leadership does, you define any Israeli presence a settlement, like Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Ashkelon. So Kerry agrees that the settlements – by which he means Israelis living on the “West Bank” (including East Jerusalem?), are not the cause of the conflict – obviously, since the conflict precedes the “occupation.”
…and you knew this was coming…
I also cannot accept the notion that they don’t affect the peace process, that they aren’t a barrier to the capacity to have peace.
And I’ll tell you why I know that: Because the left in Israel is telling everybody they are a barrier to peace, and the right that supports it [them?] openly supports it because they don’t want peace.
Now this is truly a piece of work, and all the more remarkable because he actually explicitly invokes this contrast as his proof of why they settlements are a barrier. Let’s take the two one at a time:
I think this raises some important questions. First, what does it mean to bring in love in these matters? Normally the formula is “we can disagree and I can still listen to you, tolerate you, interact with you civilly.”
Second, what kind of conditional is that? Who decides when disagreement “is rooted in her oppression, in denial of her humanity? She does? What if her definition of what “oppresses,” “denies her humanity,” threatens her “right to exist” is extremely sensitive? What if she takes offense at the disagreement by claiming it threatens her very being?
And what happens then? Does she hate those she disagrees with?
11:15-13:15 Session 3 Sartre, Fanon, and the Subject of Decolonization
Chair: Martina Weisz, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Louise Bethlehem, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Sartre, Fanon and the Subject of Decolonialization: Preliminary Remarks
Vinzia Fiorino, University of Pisa Jean Paul Sartre, “Frantz Fanon and Carla Lonzi: a Bizarre Genealogy”
Nina Fischer, University of Edinburgh “Minor (Transnational) Intersections: Jews and Aboriginal Australians between Anti-Semitism and Racism”
Sarika Talve-Goodman, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem “Blackness and the Body in a Transnational Frame: From ‘Anti-Semite and Jew’ to Black Lives Matter”
Revital Madar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem “A Moment of Inconsistency: Letting the Black Body into the Sphere of Western Humanity”
About half way through the introductory remarks by Bethlehem I realized I was actually witnessing the kind of parody that I had only imagined in reading Judith Butler: a presentation thick with feminist, queer theory, jargon, promoting a radical (even messianic) political agenda of liberation and authenticity, that, among others, considered axiomatic the identity of Black and Palestinian suffering; and the corresponding racism of Israelis and American whites.
Sarika Talve-Goodman traced an arc of “racially marked bodies unfit for personhood,” and the “heterosexism” that drove this inhumane way of treating the “other,” from European racist imperialism (Fanon) through Israeli treatment of Palestinians and police treatment of Blacks in the US. In her “intersectional and herstorical perspective,” all this is part of a liberationist agenda aimed at challenging “violent imperial masculinity” with “a theory of sexuality” that promotes a “non-homophobic, non-racist politics.”
All of this discourse might just have been an academic matter, amusing to some, obviously very grave from the perspective of its performers. But these revolutionaries take their vocation seriously. These were not theoretical speculations divorced from the real world, but attempting at least, to engage the world, and presumably, to influence the world, profoundly. And part of the movement involves making common cause with other victims of hierarchical (state, hetero-patriarchy) interventions.
(Talve-Goodman advertised her approach as offering to “open our collective eyes to new dimensions of state interventions into our lives.”)
Ferguson, she asserted, became “ground zero” in the global struggle against racism. “For a moment, Ferguson became the world.” And in that moment, that the Palestinian and Black movements came together in intersectional solidarity. The brave new alliance of the coming years of world struggle against racism.
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.”
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
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,
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.
MEQ just published my article on Edward Saïd. They entitled it “‘Celebrating’ Orientalism,” which I presume is meant to be ironic. My more direct title was “Disoriented by Saïd: The Contribution of Post-Colonialism to 21st century Jihadi Cognitive War.”
While a number of people have noted how long the piece was, including Elder of Ziyon, it was much longer when I first submitted it. I post below the longer original version for the three people who might be interested in further details, deconstructing Saïd’s covert tribalist and Orientalist attitudes.
The section on Oslo, also highlighted by Elder, has been translated into Polish, by Malgorzata Koraszewska at her blog, Listy z naszego sadu.
Disoriented by Saïd:
The Contribution of Post-Colonialism to 21st century Jihadi Cognitive War
Although Edward Saïd’s impact on the field of Middle Eastern Studies, and beyond, across the social sciences and the humanities, has been viewed from many perspectives, as a brilliant triumph, or as tragedy, few question the astonishing scope and penetration of Orientalism on the academic world. Here I wish to investigate the (unintended) role played by Saïd, and the post-colonial school of thought his works fostered, in the way that the West has so far handled the cognitive-war that triumphalist Muslims wage in their stated goal of imposing Dar al Islam on democratic polities.
Orientalism played a central role in a transformation of academic discourse in the last two decades of the second millennium, assuring the ascendency of critical theory and post-colonialism. The book, despite its enthusiastic reception among many, also received extensive criticism on both the micro and macro level – the multiple (uncorrected) errors that, in many cases reveal a profound ignorance about the history of the Middle East, the selective focus (nothing on major school of German [non-imperialist] scholarship), the tendency to the same essentialism when dealing with Western scholars that it condemned when dealing with inhabitants of the constructed fantasy, the “Orient,” and of course, the reductive thesis (knowledge essentially a form of wielding power, a tool imperialism). Here I wish to look at what may be an unintended consequence of this book’s success – its contribution to the success of the subsequent cogwar waged by global Jihadis against a West they wanted to invade.
In the last five years alone, Saïd’s epigones in academia, journalism, punditry, and policy, have been spectacularly poor in their depictions and analyses of, and prescriptions for acting in, the Middle East. One might even venture to say that they misread every major development, from the democratic “Arab Spring” (2010) to today’s regional melt-down of state apparatus. And the lamentable state of President Obama’s understanding testifies to their signal failure.
Thus this collapse comes under the blows of the most savage kind of tribal and religious warfare, whose very presence, much less remarkable appeal to Muslims in the West, the post-colonial academy studiously avoided discussing. Now we witness the displacement of tens of millions of refugees fleeing these political catastrophes, now pressing, not as conquerors but as victims, at the gates of Europe. In all this, Western information professionals have catastrophically failed in their task of informing knowledgeable, intelligent and effective decision making.
If we have any hope of figuring out what to do for the rest of the 21st century in dealing with this generational war that Western democratic societies have to fight with the forces of global Jihad, we need to rethink our reliance on Edward Saïd’s cognitive and moral compass. The remainder of this essay is dedicated to furthering that agenda by examining one critical area of scholarship that Saïd’s influence has blighted – the topic of honor-shame cultures – and applying it to one of the more catastrophic and persistent diplomatic blunders of the late 20th century produced by that cognitive damage – the Oslo Accord and the ensuing “cult of the occupation.”
I only now have become aware (thanks to Twitter) of Hans Moll‘s book (2011) on Holland’s most presitigious paper (only in Dutch alas) and Bruce Bawer’s review of it for Frontpage in English. Here I reproduce Bawer’s with comments.
A Dutch journalist exposes the systematic left-wing slant of his country’s most respected newspaper
Bruce Bawer, Frontpage, December 1, 2011
NRC Handelsblad is arguably the most respected newspaper in the Netherlands. Hans Moll was for many an editor there. He is not an editor there any more. In his new book, Verzwijgen als of het gedrunkt staat, of Hoe de nuance verdween: NRC Handelsblad over Israël, de Islam en het integratiedebat (How the Nuance Vanished: NRC Handelsblad on Israel, Islam, and the Integration Debate), Moll provides a very valuable document of our time: an insider look at the kind of day-to-day reportorial and editorial decision-making, in matters big and small, that leads a newspaper to convey a less than objective view of the world.
Not just “less than objective” – PoMo-PoCo’s insist that’s that’s not possible anyway – but a self-defeating view of the world, utterly disorienting for those who are the target of Jihadi Caliphaters. The important point here is the link between the way the media portray “reality” – or, in their terms, bear witness to their time – in the conflict between Israel and her neighbors, and the way the portray Islam, both in the Middle East and at home. a
Moll’s accounts of his professional experiences do not necessarily apply only to his own former employer. Like many other “newspapers of record” across Europe and in the U.S., NRC Handelsblad leans to the left, and the stories Moll tells about his newspaper provide insight into the mentality of journalists and editors at elite dailies ranging from The New York Times to The Guardian to Le Monde.
In the wake of the media debacle of the 2016 elections, one former NYT editor, Michael Cieply, offered some thoughts on how “narrative driven” much of their coverage (not published by the NYT). In a sense the media has long been a vehicle for redemptive action, and in its role as critic, it plays a crucial role in making democracy work. But now, we have journalists as a pack, seized with a consensus that held: a) Israelis do terrible things which we cover in intense detail; and b) Muslims rarely do terrible things, which we dramatically undercover.
[[In the spring of 2015, Connecticut College erupted into a bizarre frenzy of condemnation over philosophy professor Andrew Pessin’s Facebook post from and about the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, falsely (but vehemently) accusing him of racism, hate speech, dehumanization, and celebrating and inciting violence. For those unfamiliar with the Pessin Affair, see here, here, and here.]
In his now notorious Facebook post on Gaza’s rabid pit bull – the very one that caused the scandal – Andrew Pessin described the situation as one in which a rabid pit bull goes for the jugular every chance it gets, meaning that Hamas, obsessed at is it with killing Israelis, will take advantage of any occasion to do so, even if it means stepping on their own people to get at “al Yahood” (the Jews).
Cartoon by Ellen Horowitz
In the current context it means that, now that the barrier (aka: “Apartheid Wall”) makes suicide terror too difficult, Hamas fires rockets continuously and episodically at Israeli civilians. And proud of it.
Most people, having been given the “racist alert” were so shocked at the possible description of the Palestinian people as rabid pit bulls, didn’t read any more than this. But Pessin’s subsequent comments constitute the most interesting part of the post. It describes the people who call on Israel to let the rabid pit bull out of its cage (e.g., end the blockade).
He then describes two kinds of people who support that “humanitarian” discourse.
You may call for this release because you are yourself a rabid pit bull protesting your co-specimen’s detention, or because you are a well-meaning liberal hearted animal rights person. But you are demanding the same thing.
This describes perfectly and prophetically, the combination of forces that, seven months later, attacked this post and drove its composer from the “excellently inclusive” campus that ConnColl told everyone they had created and were defending by excluding Pessin. It can be understood in terms of the Emperor’s New Clothes, with the small but significant difference deriving from the fact that it’s not a joke about vanity, but an imperial procession of hatred that promotes the very poison its dupes believe they denounce.
Somewhat predictably, Ha-aretz has published a piece by two American Jewish scholars on why they have “left Zionism behind.” Although they claim to be historians (and in their chosen fields they may be), their argument is much more based on myths – Palestinian myths – which they have allowed to colonize their minds, and which they regurgitate without any critical thinking at all.
Apparently being critical of one’s own people is enough to quality as “critical”, even when the assertions they make have virtually no grounding in any historical reality. On the contrary, what we seem to have is a blanket, counter-empirical application of a Post-Colonial paradigm and the “virtue signalling” that lets everyone know what good, “Righteous Jews,” they are, Jews who show their virtue by taking sides against their own people.
Part of what’s so shocking about their piece, which has already solicited five indignant responses, here, here, here, here, and here, is their open revulsion at Zionism and any Jew who supports Israel. Here we find a strong echo of what Edward Alexander calls “anorexic Jews” – Jews so ashamed of their body (politic), namely Israel, that they turn against their own corporeal self.
Our connections to Israel flourished, faltered and finally ended even though we grew up, live and work in the heart of the American Jewish community.
Hasia Diner and Marjorie N. Feld Aug 01, 2016 11:46 AM
Hasia Diner: The Israel I once loved was a naïve delusion
When I was asked to run as a delegate on the progressive Hatikva platform to the 2010 World Zionist Congress, I encountered my personal rubicon, the line I could not cross. I was required to sign the “Jerusalem Program.” This statement of principles asked me to affirm that I believed in “the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem as capital” for the Jewish people. It encouraged “Aliyah to Israel,” that is, the classic negation of the diaspora and as such the ending of Jewish life outside a homeland in Israel.
That’s impressive, and impressively insecure. It’s not like it demanded Aliyah, just encouraged it. But somehow even that is too much (how dramatic is “my own personal rubicon [sic]”?). The idea that Israel and moving there, represents somehow a negation of the diaspora is an astonishing leap of logic. It sounds a lot like more like Diner’s notion of Diaspora (see below) is a negation of Israel. This is Judith Butler talk, nicely characterized by Edward Alexander as illustrative of
…Orwell’s view that some ideas—like the virtue of Jewish powerlessness—are so stupid that only intellectuals can believe them.
Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday’s attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world. Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens. These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: ‘In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.’ The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.
If we seek an author for the script, I think strong odds are that it was in large part either written or dictated by triumphalist Muslims. The discourse he adopts is precisely what a such a Muslim would want the President of the United States to proclaim. In framing matters the way he does, with his inverting equivalences, Bush turns dhimmi discourse – Muslims have a right to the “comfort of their faith” (which includes dominion over dhimmi) – into universal human rights discourse (everyone wants to be comfortable). Intimidation of Muslims by infidels is un-American; even as not a word addresses the intimidation of both Muslims and infidels by triumphalist Muslims on the warpath.
Above all, the passage Bush read meant exactly the opposite of what he (and his audience of American infidels) thought it did. The triumphalist reading is as follows:
In the long run [i.e., soon], evil in the extreme [our punishing violence] will be the end of those who do evil [e.g., America]. For that they [Americans/infidels] rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.
How much more eloquent in the original Arabic! From the perspective of triumphalist Muslims, a dhimmi President had just waved the flag of Jihad from the nation’s capital. Those who read events in this manner, were probably not surprised that, within the decade, infidels would be shouting “We are Hamas!” from European capitals and claiming “anti-imperialist” solidarity with the sadistic Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi’s army.
Only Allah could make infidels so stupid.
What the President should have said, and should still now say:
My fellow Americans:
I address both the citizens of our nation in general, and our Muslims citizens in particular, at this very dark hour.
What for many of us was unthinkable, has happened. Jihadis from half-way around the world have struck at America in the most savage manner. They did so without mercy for civilians – on the contrary, they targeted civilians. They did so without any visible provocation. They did so with supreme malice.
And they did so as fervent, believing Muslims.
Today, we turn to our Muslim community and say:
What is this?
What kind of Islam does it represent?
What relationship does it have to what you teach in your communities?
Condemnation of the deed is not enough for us, your fellow citizens. We want to know:
What do you have to say – religiously – to these fellow Muslims who cite your scripture, traditions, and laws to justify those deeds?
How do you read these scriptures cited to justify such terrible deeds?
What do you have to say to your fellow Muslims around the world, and here “at home” who rejoiced at this great Jihadi deed?
And what do you have to say to your fellow Americans – indeed to the whole free world – upon whom your fellow Muslims have declared a barbaric Jihad?
I hope you understand. I am not trying to tell you what Islam means to you. I – we, rather – want to know what your beliefs mean to all other non-Muslims around the world. After all, the Muslim Jihadis who attacked us, call us kufar (infidels), harbis (destined for the sword), and dhimmi (subjected). They show us limitless, contemptuous hatred.
What do you call us?
What are your principles about your relations with people who do not share your faith? What do you think we, should be the lot of those who do not share, persist in not sharing, your faith?
Show us where you stand. We need to know whether you are prepared, appropriately, to man the frontline in fighting this medieval, theocratic, inquisitorial, holy war! This spiritual work, makes a free, cooperative, tolerant, and peaceful world possible. Without it, democracy is impossible.
Show us that Islam, at least in democratic societies like ours, is prepared to leave behind its medieval triumphalism, and join the community of nations and religions that live together in peace and mutual tolerance on this sacred globe.
If the President had said that, then maybe today the American Muslim community would be the leading voice of reform in global Islam, contributing to peaceful relations between Muslims and their neighbors worldwide.
Instead, the current situation in America, and more broadly in the democratic world, looks like one in which potential Muslim reformers have been intimidated into near silence by triumphalist Muslims. This small but domineering group, for whom the world is divided into (true) believers and infidels (to be subjected), have not only bullied Muslim reformers, but they use cry-bully techniques to push Western progressives into creating a safe space for their triumphalist Islam.
And it is precisely for this kind of situation that President Bush’s speech, written by triumphalist Muslims for a dhimmi leader, paved the way.
The Jewish World has just published a version of the article below in the Adar I 5776/March 2016 issue, dedicated to The State of World Jewry, with other essays by Jack Engelhard, Lisa Klug, Manfred Gerstenfeld, Dov Fischer, Ari Soffer, Alex Maistrovoy, Steven Apfel, and Michael Freund. Below is a longer version of the article with more links.
On the American-Israeli Jewish Divide
Jewish anti-Zionism and Proxy Honor-Murder
Peter Beinart has written many a piece about the growing split between American Jewish youth and Israel, which he sees as the inevitable cost of Israel’s failure to make peace with the Palestinians, on the one hand, and the long-term effects on liberal sentiments of seeing an Israeli Goliath bullying the Palestinian underdog, on the other. This “youth,” according to Beinart has “imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights.” Studies show Jewish youth “resist anything they see as ‘group think’… want an ‘open and frank’ discussion of Israel and its flaws… and desperately want peace.”
To these folks, raised on bedrock values, every effort of Jews to defend Israel by criticizing the Palestinians offends their sense of fairness: blaming the victim is not a winning strategy. Beinart asserts:
For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead. Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral.”
Given a choice between Zionism and liberalism, American Jewish youth choose the latter.
For Beinart, at least, the case is pretty open and shut. Israeli political choices are illiberal, bad, and her politicians act in bad faith. The split between American Jews and Zionists, therefore, is inevitable. Beinart has little sympathy to the plaints from Israel that the neighborhood here does not permit such simplistic naïveté. Not much room in this worldview for Palestinian, Arab, contributions for the endlessness of the conflict, for their poisonous hatreds, for their insane religious violence. Don’t blame the [perceived] victim. Look at your own extremists which, you too have. Israel, says Beinart and a generation of Jewish critics of Israel, should act like a liberal, or lose our affections.
To which the obvious response from here is, “Are you kidding me? Do you know what we’re dealing with here?”
In a reported exchange, a J-Street organizer explained their self-perception vis-à-vis Israel:
Well, I’m the head of the J Street club on my campus and what you don’t understand is that we see Israel as our younger sister. We want our younger sister to be better — we love her and care about her.
Maybe that’s what you do in your neighborhoods (not!), but around here, you don’t show love and loyalty to your sister by trash talking her so you can hang out with the people who like to slander your sister. On the contrary, that kind of talk will get her killed much faster, because of the peculiar power here of shame and the overwhelming desire to annihilate such feelings, no matter what the actual circumstances.
The Shame of it all: Panic in a Crooked Mirror
A significant amount of this “split” in the American Jewish community between liberals and Israel can be understood not as a response to real problems in Israel – of which, like any country, especially one at war with her neighbors, there are many – but as responses to feeling ashamed of her. The feelings stem not because of what Israel has (often enough not) done, and certainly not in comparison with the behavior of our neighbors, but because of “how it looks” to outsiders. Shame comes from looking bad – awful – in the eyes of people whose opinion matters. When it comes to the emotion,it matters little what actually happened. In the most toxic of honor-shame communities, men kill their daughters and sisters not because they did something shameful, but because others think it, true or not.
In March 1968, my father was a member of the Warsaw University students’ committee that helped lead the enormous protests demanding reform from the Communist Polish government. The government responded with a smear campaign to try to delegitimize the protests’ leaders, claiming they were acting in the interest of Western powers, or — exploiting widespread anti-Semitic sentiments — of a Jewish-Zionist plot against the Polish People’s Republic.
In other words, the government labeled my father and his friends foreign agents. Traitors.
My father was detained for three months and expelled from the university. After his release, he left with his family for Israel, where I was born. Unlike my father, I grew up in an environment that welcomed free political discussion and allowed people like me to become human rights activists and criticize our government. When I claimed a few years ago, after yet another right-wing attack on Israeli human rights organizations, that we had reached “the bottom of the pit,” my father gave me a knowing smile. “The pit is much deeper than you think,” he said.
My father was right. Over the past month, I have begun to see its true depth.
No you haven’t. You do not have a clue. Nothing in Israel comes near what was going on in your father’s Poland, nothing near what the most mundane authoritarian regimes do to their own citizens, not even close to what Israel does to their enemies. It is precisely this rhetorical exaggeration that has people like you calling the IDF “war criminals” and Israel a “racist, apartheid, fascist, state.” You have no historical depth-perception, so you’re easy dupes for moral equivalence.
And the problem is, outsiders will mistake your “prophetic” rhetoric as an insight into the actual situation here in the Middle East, rather than into the fevered brains of those Jews stricken with MOS. Outsiders understandably have difficulty figuring out how to “read” these hyper-critics: are they sober and honest assessments of reality? or prophetic rhetoric uttered where no ancient prophet would have delivered his rebuke of his people, in the lingua franca of the larger world, and in the courtyards of their powerful ones?
On Dec. 15, an Israeli ultranationalist group
Ultranationalist is a term largely reserved for brown-shirt-type organizations, fascist in their principled resort to violence in their targeting of enemies: “defending one’s country even when it is committing horrific acts to its own citizens.”
Im Tirzu shares nothing in these matters with real “ultra-nationalist” groups, and the use of the term to lump the group with the worst of the far right is characteristic of this publicly self-accusing pseudo-prophetic rhetoric: our (Israel’s) smallest crimes (i.e., deviation from the strictest “progressive” values) are of such magnitude that they compare with what’s nastiest out there (ultra-nationalists, racists, fascists, Nazis). By your standards of inciteful rhetoric, this is a robust example of smearing.
released a video portraying four Israeli human rights defenders as moles planted by foreign states to assist terrorists. The 68-second video, which rapidly made its way across Israeli social media, shows four mug shots and claims that “While we fight terror, they fight us.”
Here’s the video:
As for the accusations, knowing some of the background, and while not quite the way I would have chosen to put it, the video does nonetheless expresses a legitimate opinion. You may not agree, because it questions you and your fellow activists’ behavior, but I don’t see where calling groups that take money from hostile foreign governments to defend and protect avowed enemies of the state, a “plant” or even a “traitor,” is in any way worse than the ones they are so accusing, that is no worse than you and your colleagues calling Israel and its soldiers “war criminals,” “facists,” “nazis,” and “racists.”
You may think that the PLO is an institution that deserves your active support in avoiding responsibility for committing acts of terror against Israeli citizens. But surely you can understand that others, convinced by the same evidence that you are presumably aware of, see the PLO/PA as a devoted enemy of Israel’s very existence, think they should not receive the help of Israelis to carry out their plans for our destruction, and that anyone who does is dangerous.
The video is outright slander and an outrageous incitement.
Amazing. As the great poet Robert Burns once put it:
O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
CNN published an op-ed by Alan Eisner. It’s logic is quintessential (cookie cutter) J-Street logic. Good insight into how Western audiences tragically misread the situation here. I first experienced Elsner at a conference on BDS at University of Baltimore Law School. Feeling a bit defensive, he at one point said, “Look, do you want us in the tent pissing out, or outside the tent, pissing in.” To which someone from the audience called out, “We’re afraid you’ll be in the tent pissing in.” And here we go.
Alan Elsner is vice president of communications for J Street, the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Well, except that CNN, in its disavowal, still manages to parrot J-Streets own self-designation as news, “pro-Israel, pro-Peace.” There are some who think that, like they used to say about the “moral majority”, it’s neither. And especially after their utterly gratuitous, enthusiastic involvement in the Iran Deal, where they partnered with real enemies of Israel, it’s worse than a “not,” it’s beginning to like anti-Israel and anti-peace.
Jerusalem (CNN) To be in Jerusalem these past few days is to feel a city giving way to an overwhelming feeling of panic and terror.
Actually not at all. Jerusalemites responded with a great deal of what the French call sang froid, defended themselves remarkably well, and by and large did not let the madness of their neighbors drive them into the “overwhelming panic and terror,” which was precisely the intention of our mad neighbors. His description is precisely what the Palestinians want to hear.
The city, on high alert after a series of stabbings by Palestinians in recent weeks, is surrounded by roadblocks and checkpoints manned by nervous, heavily-armed soldiers. Helicopters whir overhead. Any Palestinian vehicle trying to enter is stopped and searched. The government has empowered the police to close off Palestinian neighborhoods and impose curfews.
And yet it is doubtful whether these measures can do anything to restore calm or prevent attacks. Israel is not facing an offensive mounted by organized terror cells but a series of seemingly spontaneous individual knife attacks mostly carried out by teenagers.
They say that predictions often express wishful thinking. Here we have a prediction that, again, coincides with Palestinian goals: “If only we can turn this into an intifada!” Why would Elsner want that? Maybe because it will force more Israeli concessions.
One of the insiders of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee just expressed regrets that the Committee had awarded Obama the prize shortly after becoming president and, as Christopher Hitchens pointed out in a hilarious interview, before he did anything but express good intentions. Apparently that was enough for the committee who gave him the award on the basis of “his vision for nuclear disarmament and increased international diplomacy.”
Turns out that not only did Obama use diplomacy to increase nuclear armament, but he did so at the expense of millions of Syrian civilians who needed his help, but who were on the wrong side of Syrian “president” Bashar Assad’s ally, Iran. (HT/YM)
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was meeting with high-level Obama administration officials in Washington, D.C., two months after escaping Syria in February 2014, and I had just described to them all the horrors I had seen: the torture of protesters, the rape of women, the bombardment of civilians, the barrel bombs, the massacres, the sieges, the starvation, and the gassing of hundreds of innocents with sarin in August 2013. I had recounted how I barely survived those sarin attacks and the siege of my hometown, Moadamiya, near Damascus; and how, by some miracle, I managed to trick the regime into letting me leave Syria.
Now, I was asking the officials to take simple steps, to do something, anything, that would protect the millions of civilians I had left behind from further starvation and slaughter. But as I pressed these officials for answers, their replies grew increasingly divorced from the Syrian conflict:
In a recent op-ed in Ha-aretz, “Rabbi” Eric Yoffie illustrated the joke that the real name of the paper is “Dibat Ha-aretz” (libel of the land, or, Ha-aretz’ libel), in a rant about recent violence in Israel. (I refuse to link to such a poisonous piece.)
(HT: Pedro Zuquette, Elder of Zion, Jeffrey Bale, Arnold Roth, Daled Amos, et al.)
The reason for Jewish terror is Torah. It is not territories and occupation that are to blame, although they are part of the picture. It is not racism or hatred of Arabs that are at fault, although they play a role. The heart of the problem is Torah, the sacred teachings of Judaism.
It’s hard to imagine a more lacerating piece of self-criticism than this, especially from someone trained in the study of the Torah. And it’s harder to imagine a statement that would warm the cockles of the souls of Jew-haters the world over. Hitler was right, as too many Arabs in this neighborhood tend to say.
He then proceeds to make two further related claims: 1) though not yet found, the killers of the Palestinian baby killed in an arson attack are surely religious Jews, inspired to their actions by their religious beliefs, and 2) they deliberately murdered that child. Although the first claim may be true, it seems a bit premature to indict an entire religious teaching on the basis of a series of unproven presumptions; and the second claim – to attribute the deliberate desire to murder an infant to that religious teaching when there is no evidence that the death of the child was premeditated rather than the unintended consequence of reckless violence – seems itself, the height of recklessness. Indeed, that most tenuous presumption of intention to murder an infant, plays a critical role in the intensity of Yoffie’s anger and indignation.
What would drive a rabbi to such hasty and vicious (self-)accusations (on behalf of his fellow Jews), and drive a newspaper to publishing them? Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome (MOS)? Self-abasement as a means of dealing with shame? Boundless hatred of those who shame him?
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.
[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.
[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.
A complicated but telling development in the cognitive wars, from Connecticut College. For the details, see at Slate and NPR. The controversy has focused on the following facebook entry from August 11, 2014, at the height of last summer’s war in Gaza.
I’m sure someone could make a cartoon of this, but one image which essentializes the current situation in Gaza might be this. You’ve got a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape. The owner, naturally keeps the thing in the cage, but being kind-hearted or something, regularly feeds it, waters it, takes care of its health needs, etc. But liberal hearted world is outraged at the cruelty of keeping in in the cage, keeps pressuring the owner to let it out. Every so often the man relents under pressure, opens the cage a crack, and the pit bull comes roaring bounding out, snarling, going for the throat. A short battle ensues, the pit bull gets put back in… and almost immediately liberal world pressure starts complaining about the cruelty to animals and insisting he open the cage.
Gaza is the cage because of its repeated efforts to destroy Israel and the Jews. (1990s suicide buses anyone? how quickly we forget.) The blockade is not the cause of the current conflict. It is the RESULT of the conflict and cannot retroactively become its cause. The same is true of Judea and Samaria, the result of the Arab enmity toward Israel and not its cause. Anyone who fails to recognize that clear and obvious fact is demanding the release of a rabid pit bull. You may call for this release because you are yourself a rabid pit bull protesting your co-specimen’s detention, or because you are a well-meaning liberal hearted animal rights person. But you are demanding the same thing. (And I wonder how heartily you’d demand this if the rabid pit bull was to be released in YOUR neighborhood.)
The reading of this promoted by Pessin’s vocal critics, in which he meant that the Palestinians are the pit bull which by the logic of his image, Pessin agreed in a later exchange, needed to be “put down,” making this an odious example of “racist hate speech,” is contentious to put it mildly.
As Pessin noted in his defense, read the discussion in which he was participating and it’s clear he’s talking about Hamas. Certainly, the pit bull who “comes roaring bounding out, snarling, going for the throat,” every time the man let’s it out of its cage, is a reference to Hamas, as is his explicatory reference to the suicide bombings of the aughts (’00s).
This particular entry is clearly within a long and distinguished tradition of both political cartooning and animal parables, including George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Read in that manner, it is an incisive depiction of Hamas, whose numerous war crimes this summer, according to an Amnesty International Report (!), included killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians in an indiscriminate manner. The deep irony embodied in Pessin’s image of Gaza as the cage, is that it’s not really the Israelis who built the cage, so much as the rabid dog who has taken Gazans hostage, hides behind them, uses them as human shields to fend off the Israeli effort to “put down” the rabid dog of “genocidal hatred.”
The “liberal” reader who, squeamish at a depiction of genocidal hatred denounced in no uncertain terms (pit bull), ends up behaving like the faculty at Connecticut College: they placate groups who scream injury when criticized, in order to shelter their own discourse of violence and hatred from the scrutiny it so richly deserves.
Abstract: In the aughts, the “global, progressive, left” (GPL), adopted a secular version of the Jihadi apocalyptic scapegoating narrative in which Israel and the US are the “great and little Satan” (or vice-versa). This overlap between two ostensibly completely different value systems has served as the basis for mobilizing a common struggle against the US and Israel over the last decade or so. In so doing, the Left has welcomed within its “anti-imperialist” mobilization, one of the most ferociously imperialist movements in the long and dark history of mankind, one which opposes not merely Israeli and American “imperialism,” but also targets the very culture of progressive values – human rights, peace, tolerance for diversity, human freedom – that GPL champions. BDS is a flagship (and symptom) of this self-destructive disorientation wherein progressives join forces with their worst enemies.
This essay is not written to persuade the reader that BDS is a movement unworthy of support by anyone committed to progressive principles. Anyone who compares Israel’s human right’s record – even the Palestinian version! – with the behavioral norms of Arab political culture, could not possibly take as sincere, the Arab insistence that Israel be put on the global docket for human rights violations. This is all the more true, when one scrutinizes the list of accusations made against Israel, and realizes how many accusations are not only false, but in some cases, indicate the exact opposite of their claims.[i] This essay is written rather to explain to those who want to understand how such an absurd inversion of moral and empirical reality could have made so much headway in the Western public sphere.
I write this essay as a scholar of millennialism who has been studying the emergence in the last fifteen years, of an active, cataclysmic, apocalyptic movement (the most dangerous kind). I also write it as a Jew who began his academic career believing in a self-sustaining, self-critical democratic public sphere and assuming the fundamental maturity and commitment of its participants. I write in defense of that sphere: for the maturity (and now, courage) of the academic community and, not coincidentally, in defense of my people who are being (successfully) slandered by hypocrites and war mongers. To those who believe they should listen to the “other,” I formally request an audience. My tale is not pretty.
Imagine all the people…
Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people Living life in peace… You may say I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one… (John Lennon, 1971)
Imagine there are no countries It isn’t hard to do Something to kill and die for And one religion too Imagine all the people Living life under our peace… (Jihadi Joe, 2015)
Welcome, Woodstockers, to the 21st century.
The Jihadi Apocalyptic Narrative: World Conquest and the Great and Little Satan