Category Archives: Demopaths and Dupes

Studies in Proleptic Dhimmitude: Bush’s speech at the Islamic Center after 9-11

With 15 years of sad learning, reflections on President Bush’s speech should have at the Islamic Center in Washington DC

On September 17, 2001, surrounded by select Muslim leaders, President Bush said:

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.

In the annals of Cognitive Warfare, this may stand near the top for catastrophic mistakes. Indeed, it is hard to shake the sense that these are rarely, if at all, Bush’s own words. He is reading from a script. (NB: So did President Obama’s recently at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.)

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 Shame of Israel: Panic in a Crooked Mirror

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?”

To which the apparent response is, “No. And I’m not listening… Nobody’s hearing nothing.”

But why? Why do you turn a deaf ear on us, your family, trying to explain how hard it is to maintain good, liberal values in this neighborhood? Why will you cut us no slack? Why do you join groups that claim they’re “pro-Israel, pro-peace” when they relentlessly criticize us, and team up with groups that hate us? Why do you stay silent when the US and Iraqi troops devastate the city of Ramadi, when you shouted “War crime” from the rooftops when Israel did a fraction of that damage in Gaza? What is going on 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.

“O wad some power…” Fisking Michael Sfard

Israel’s Human Rights Activists Aren’t Traitors

By MICHAEL SFARD JAN. 5, 2016

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.

Precisely.

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.

NB: I’ll bet the store that you would never compare Palestinian political culture to “ultra-nationalists,” even though the parallels to the most violent type of that phenomenon are close. On the contrary, some of you revel in your contempt for evidence.

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!

In the tent pissing in: Fisking J-Street’s Alan Elsner’s Op-Ed on Jerusalem Violence

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.

Stabbings put Israel on dangerous precipice

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.

As for the random nature of this, that’s deeply misleading. The thing is orchestrated, not it its details, but in it incitement, from the top, including Mr. Moderate (according to J-Street), Abu Mazen. Stop the incitement, rally Palestinians who oppose abusing and sacrificing their children on the altar of genocidal violence, and voilà, you can stop this madness.

Sacrificing Millions of Syrians to Appease Iran: Obama’s Contribution to World Peace

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)

The Rubble of Obama’s Syria Policy

I kept asking why the administration wasn’t doing more to help my people. Then the Iran deal came through, and I knew.

The aftermath of a reported airstrike by Syrian-regime forces in the rebel-held area of Douma, near Damascus, Aug. 30. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

By KASSEM EID

Sept. 17, 2015 7:05 p.m. ET

334 COMMENTS

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:

Rabbi Yoffie and the Proxy Honor-Killing of Israel: An Un-Jewish Tragedy

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?

Radical Thoughts on Fighting BDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seminar Series:
Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective

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

Richard Landes
Department of History,
Boston University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Pessin’s Facebook Entry on Operation Protective Edge, August 11, 2014

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.)

Andrew Pessin, Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College, August 11, 2014, Facebook entry later taken down in the face of misinterpretation, transcribed by me.

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.

 

Fatal Attraction: The Shared Antichrist of the Global Progressive Left and Jihad

Fatal Attraction:

The shared antichrist of the Global Progressive Left and Jihad

Richard Landes, Boston University, History Department

From: The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, edited by Cary Nelson and Gabriel Noah Brahm (2014), chap. 20.

(available in Kindle; and in Polish, thanks to Malgorzata Koraszewska)

Abstract: In the aughts, the “global, progressive, left” (GPL), adopted a secular version of the Jihadi apocalyptic scapegoating narrative in which Israel and the US are the “great and little Satan” (or vice-versa). This overlap between two ostensibly completely different value systems has served as the basis for mobilizing a common struggle against the US and Israel over the last decade or so. In so doing, the Left has welcomed within its “anti-imperialist” mobilization, one of the most ferociously imperialist movements in the long and dark history of mankind, one which opposes not merely Israeli and American “imperialism,” but also targets the very culture of progressive values – human rights, peace, tolerance for diversity, human freedom – that GPL champions. BDS is a flagship (and symptom) of this self-destructive disorientation wherein progressives join forces with their worst enemies.

Prologue

This essay is not written to persuade the reader that BDS is a movement unworthy of support by anyone committed to progressive principles. Anyone who compares Israel’s human right’s record – even the Palestinian version! – with the behavioral norms of Arab political culture, could not possibly take as sincere, the Arab insistence that Israel be put on the global docket for human rights violations. This is all the more true, when one scrutinizes the list of accusations made against Israel, and realizes how many accusations are not only false, but in some cases, indicate the exact opposite of their claims.[i] This essay is written rather to explain to those who want to understand how such an absurd inversion of moral and empirical reality could have made so much headway in the Western public sphere.

I write this essay as a scholar of millennialism who has been studying the emergence in the last fifteen years, of an active, cataclysmic, apocalyptic movement (the most dangerous kind). I also write it as a Jew who began his academic career believing in a self-sustaining, self-critical democratic public sphere and assuming the fundamental maturity and commitment of its participants. I write in defense of that sphere: for the maturity (and now, courage) of the academic community and, not coincidentally, in defense of my people who are being (successfully) slandered by hypocrites and war mongers. To those who believe they should listen to the “other,” I formally request an audience. My tale is not pretty.

Imagine all the people…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one… (John Lennon, 1971)

And now,

Imagine there are no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Something to kill and die for
And one religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life under our peace… (Jihadi Joe, 2015)

Welcome, Woodstockers, to the 21st century.

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

Citing the Quran to Infidels: The Dangers of Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

[A Polish translation of this essay, “Liberalny egocentryzm poznawczy” is available at Listy z nas zego sadu].

The highly controversial White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism ventured into still more risky territory with a prayer (apparently the only one) offered at the proceedings. It was from an Imam and, at least the way it was interpreted by yet another, supported the principle contention of the Summit and more broadly the Obama administration, that Islam is a religion of peace.

Imam Sheikh Sa’ad Musse Roble, president of the World Peace Organization in Minneapolis, Minn., recited a “verse from the Quran” [Surah 5:32] following remarks by Obama administration officials and Democratic members of Congress.

Imam Abdisalam Adam, of the Islamic Civil Society of America, explained the verse.

In translation those verses of the Quran mean “Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption in the land, it’s as if he has slain mankind entirely, and whoever saves one life, it’s as if he has saved mankind entirely.”

Note that President Obama used this passage in his Cairo Speech with precisely this meaning of peacefulness and prohibition on killing, as do many apologists for Islam. And we Westerners, born and bred in a civil society where such pacific sentiments are honored, are only too eager to believe what we are told. Indeed, here is a Muslim student, Sarah Aly, using this passage to attack quite forcefully people who quote the Quran out of context to promote hate.

sarah aly quran quote

Despite Sarah’s demand that we not take the Quran out of context, she not only misquotes the passage (“self-defense” is not in the passage), but precisely takes it out of context. Of course it’s in the service, allegedly, of stopping the spread of hatred, even as the context she eliminates gives sanction to both hatred and violence.

This passage is actually deeply troubling on multiple levels.

Fisking Peter Beinart’s Compulsive “Blame Israel” Approach

Guest post fisking Beinart from Saadia Eisenberg. Beinart’s original article is actually deeply disturbing, evidence of a systematic need to indict Israel, based on a gratuitous hypothesis of Israeli ill will and desire to dominate the poor Palestinians. Full of the, “of course Israel has a right to defend herself against this inexcusable behavior, but… she really needs to make major concessions to the Palestinian good cops.

Among his many moves, Beinart argues a counterfactual designed to establish a fair marker.

If Abbas had declared that because of the Gaza War he no longer supports two states, American Jewish groups would have screamed with fury.

Instead, it further skews the sample, not only because it’s a faulty analogy (see below), but because it distracts from the real imbalance, Beinart’s own systematic use of a hermeneutic of suspicion against Israel (Netanyahu), never even remotely applied to Palestinian leaders and their negotiating strategies.

If Beinart were to apply to his analysis of Abbas (or any other Palestinian leader) the same principles of suspicion of bad faith, which he systematically applies to Netanyahu, this analysis would short-circuit in a flash. 

Where’s the bad faith here, Peter?

By Peter Beinart               |   Jul. 16, 2014 | 4:34 PM

What is Israel fighting for?

Most Jews think the answer is clear: Israel is fighting to keep its people safe from rockets. Most Palestinians think the answer is clear too: Israel is fighting to maintain its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (According to the United States government, Israel still occupies Gaza despite withdrawing its settlers because it controls access to Gaza from air, sea, and—along with Egypt—land. If the United States controlled whether boats could dock, and planes could land, in Canada, we’d be occupying it even if no Americans lived there.)

I don’t know what Peter’s source for the Palestinian viewpoint is, but Israel didn’t start fighting before Hamas shot their rockets. In fact, Israel accepted numerous ceasefires which Hamas rejected throughout this conflict.

Moreover, how does this escalation support Israel’s ‘occupation’ of the West Bank?

A tremendous amount rides on how one views Israeli intentions. If Israel is only seeking to protect its people, then Hamas’ rocket fire really is – as Israeli spokespeople insist – the equivalent of Canada shelling the United States. Even if you acknowledge that the Canada-U.S. analogy is flawed because Israel occupies the West Bank and Gaza while America doesn’t occupy Quebec, it’s still possible to justify Israel’s behavior if you believe Israel wants that occupation to end.

First of all, let’s leave the West Bank out of this. There are no rockets being fired out of it. Or into it. For the time being.

Moreover, Israel was not actually occupying — if you want to call it it that — the Gaza Strip from the disengagement until Hamas rose to power there. Granted, it was a short time, but even if Israel wants the occupation to end theoretically, how can they completely relinquish the terrain to a terror state?

If, on the other hand, you believe that Israel desires permanent dominion over territories whose non-Jewish residents lack basic rights, then Israel’s behavior doesn’t look all that defensive. That doesn’t justify launching rockets into Israel. Hamas’ attempted murder of civilians is wrong, period, irrespective of Israel’s intentions. It is even more egregious because Hamas rejected a cease-fire, which Israel embraced. But as appalling as Hamas’ behavior has been, it’s hard to endorse Israel’s response if it is aimed not just at safeguarding its own people but at controlling another people as well.

Again, if we’re talking about Gaza, the non-Jewish residents — who constitute the only residents, by the way; Gaza is Judenrein — lack basic rights because of their elected leadership, and on many levels. Their right to freedom of speech and petition is directly taken by their government, and the normal lives they deserve are taken indirectly, as their government forces Israel into occupying and blockading Gaza. And no, almost nobody in Israel views this as ideal.

Which is why Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments last Friday were so important. “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement,” he declared, “in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.” With those words, explained Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, a Netanyahu sympathizer, the Prime Minister was “insisting upon ongoing Israeli security oversight inside and at the borders of the West Bank. That sentence, quite simply, spells the end to the notion of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Publicly, at least, this is an earthquake. Until last Friday, Netanyahu was on record as supporting a Palestinian state. For five years, in fact, American Jewish leaders have insisted that he sincerely desires one. So what has changed on the ground to make Netanyahu change his mind? Nothing.

No, Peter. Everything.

Back in mid-July, before Peter (or any other analyst, for that matter) knew this, Israel had been in the midst of a quiet operation against Hamas in the West Bank.

Hamas had planned a military takeover of the West Bank, reminiscent of the takeover in Gaza after Israel gave it up. The PA was not stopping this; Israel was.

Now, had the Palestinians been more independent, and had Israel not got involved, they would have another ‘Hamastan’ terror state overlooking the coast.

This is very possibly what Netanyahu had in mind when he said in mid July that in no agreement could Israel relinquish more land.

Peter was unaware of these developments, but Netanyahu was.

Netanyahu now says he cannot relinquish control of the West Bank because Hamas could use it as a base from which to shell Israel, as it is now doing from Gaza. But that danger didn’t arise last week.

But we saw how tangible and imminent it was last week.

Hamas has been shelling Israel, and refusing to recognize its right to exist, for a long time. The argument for the two state solution—which most top former Israeli security officials endorse – has always been that once Palestinians gained the rights and dignity that came with a state, their government would have a strong incentive to keep Hamas and other militants from imperiling that state by using it as a launching pad for attacks on Israel, as the governments of Egypt and Jordan have done in the decades since they signed peace deals.

But thanks to Hamas’s popularity and power, this ‘government’ may be run by Hamas itself, who would have no reason to stop themselves from attacking Israel. As is proven time and time again, Hamas does not care as much for the Palestinians and they would like to claim.

One can dispute this logic. But it is no less persuasive this week than it was last week. And last week, Netanyahu publicly supported a Palestinian state.

First of all, it is far less persuasive than it was last week.

Second of all, a Palestinian state could be in the PA-controlled territories. Why must Israel give over land for a Palestinian state? There are ways of working out the contiguity problem, such as tunnels and bridges.

In reality, what has changed are not Netanyahu’s views but his willingness to publicly acknowledge them. Bibi is a man, after all, who in A Durable Peace, his major book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reissued in 2000, repeatedly compares a Palestinian state to the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland.

Some background: the year 2000, Second Intifada. The PA is headed by Yasser Arafat, who funds and supports terrorists. If even the legitimate, ‘moderate’ head is supporting terror, which wants to eventually take over all of Israel, who is to say this isn’t true?

When elected prime minister in early 2009, he still publicly opposed a Palestinian state. And even when he supposedly embraced Palestinian statehood that June in a speech at Bar Ilan University, his own father told Israel television it was a ruse: “He doesn’t support [a Palestinian state]. He would support it under terms they [the Palestinians] would never accept.”

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t support it. It means that the Palestinains won’t accept his terms. Again, Peter, this must be Israel’s fault, even if we’re not sure how.

Netanyahu has made no effort to get his Likud Party to endorse Palestinian statehood nor did he try to prevent it from running a parliamentary slate in 2013 dominated by avowed two state opponents.

The Likud slate was chosen by the Likud members, not by Netanyahu himself. Netanyahu tried to promote his own political allies, with partial success.

He’s doubled funding for settlements.  And according to the best reporting on John Kerry’s now-aborted peace effort, Netanyahu adamantly refused to discuss the boundaries of a Palestinian state while insisting, according to U.S. negotiators, that Israel’s “control of the West Bank would continue forever.”

What constitutes the ‘best reports’, Peter? The one that makes Israel look the worst?

Even Abbas recognizes that Israel will always control some of the West Bank (in mutually agreed upon swaps). Netanyahu himself said — to Israel’s public — that Israel would have to relinquish some territories, so these American officials could not have meant all of the West Bank either. So what is so bad about that?

All of which is to say that Netanyahu’s statement last Friday, as Horovitz correctly observes, did not represent “a new, dramatic change of stance by the prime minister. It was a new, dramatic exposition of his long-held stance.”

No, it is different from what he told the israelis during the negotiations. There were new circumstances, and his position shifted accordingly.

Why is Netanyahu coming clean now?

Because he saw the imminent Hamas plan to take over the West Bank, which Israel was forced to stop by itself, given the proven impotence of the PA to resist Hamas violence.

 Because he can do so without risking a confrontation with the Obama administration, which has given up trying to broker a two state deal. For all those on the American Jewish right who claimed that Netanyahu would grow more willing to compromise once America ceased its diplomatic meddling and simply offered its unconditional support, the results are now in. Without American meddling, Netanyahu feels free to broadcast his rejection of the two-state solution to the world.

Again, he still isn’t rejecting the two-state solution. He’s saying, justly, that Israel cannot give up land. Again, Israel cannot afford a larger, stronger, and more strategically placed ‘Hamastan’.

He’s also free to do so because he knows that the American Jewish establishment will not publicly challenge him. It’s extraordinary, when you think about it. Had Mahmoud Abbas declared that because of this week’s Gaza War he no longer supports the two state solution, American Jewish groups would have screamed with fury. But when Netanyahu does the same thing, they say nothing. As of Monday afternoon, in fact, not a single major American Jewish group had even commented on Netanyahu’s about-face.

Because unlike you, Peter, they recognize that they know less than Netanyahu does.

Moreover, one cannot compare Netanyahu’s statement to Abbas’s theoretical statement. Netanyahu continues to support a smaller Palestinian state but recognizes that he cannot give them too much land. Had Abbas not recognized Israel at all, this would be much more serious.

Netanyahu’s statement could be compared to Abbas saying he would not relinquish any land from the West Bank, not to Abbas rejecting the two-state solution. Indeed, by reading the matter as you do, Peter, you essentially take PA intransigence as a given, and identify Israeli concerns for their condition after an alleged

What this silence proves is that for major American Jewish organizations, publicly supporting the two-state solution has little to do with actually achieving it. For the American Jewish mainstream, the real purpose of claiming to support Palestinian statehood is two-fold. First, it maintains the fiction that Israel’s almost half-century long control of the West Bank and Gaza is temporary, which allows American Jewish leaders to praise Israeli democracy without grappling with the fact that Israel controls millions of people who cannot vote for the state that dominates their lives.

Should the USA have let Iraqis vote in American elections when they occupied Iraq?

They can vote in Palestinian elections. And had they not supported Hamas, the temporarily of the occupation would be much less of a fiction.

Second, it serves as a cudgel to wield against Palestinians. After all, were American Jewish groups to admit that neither they, nor Netanyahu, really support the two state solution, they would find it harder to brand Palestinian activists as anti-Semitic because they oppose the two-state solution too.

American Jewish groups do support the two state solution, as does Netanyahu, (as Netanyahu was also recorded saying secretly). They just feel it is impossible given the current conditions. (RL: Peter, your formula is actually pernicious: the very incitement to genocidal hatred that makes giving back the land no matter how much we might want to becomes the whiny complaint of people who don’t want to give the Palestinians their freedom, i.e., to destroy us.)

I’m not a pacifist. Although the images of Gaza’s dead sicken me, I could support this war if I believed it was aimed merely at safeguarding the right of Israelis to live free of terror. That’s why I found it easier to justify Ehud Olmert’s Gaza War in 2008. Because back then Israel had a prime minister who genuinely wanted to end its unjust, undemocratic dominion over millions of Palestinians.

Leaving aside Peter’s neglect of the fact that Abbas rejected Olmert’s offer of virtually 100% of the lands Abbas demanded, we must make note of the fact that he has called the occupation ‘unjust’. He is forgetting that Israel conquered the West Bank in a defensive war from Jordan, and has tried to give up the land multiple times.

So by ‘dominion’, does Peter mean the security fence? Because that has saved tens of thousands of lives.

The electricity and water? Oh, right, Israel gives that to the Palestinians, who don’t pay their bills, or produce their own, for that matter.

Today, by contrast, Israel’s prime minister wants to make that control permanent. And that means Israel’s missiles are instruments not only of self-defense, but also of conquest.

In that case, why is the escalation only happening now? And why is Israel accepting so many ceasefires? And why, oh why, are virtually no Israeli officials supporting retaking Gaza and staying there?

How on earth is fighting hamas in gaza bolstering the occupation of the West Bank? Because it attacks Hamas?

And what does Israel have to gain from its ‘occupation’ or blockade of Gaza that aren’t security needs? There are no settlers in Gaza!

Netanyahu has now said as much himself. Even if our leaders won’t, American Jews must be prepared to listen.

Prelude to a fisking: Biblio of Responses to Maher-Affleck dustup

I am preparing a post (response to Fareed Zakaria) on the Maher-Harris-Affleck-Kristof dust-up on Maher’s show.

I think the issues raised there and in subsequent discussion, deserve close scrutiny, because, better understanding and weighing the evidence and arguments, could represent the point at which the conversation changes, and people start talking about real problems, realistically. We cannot afford to operate in this denial based community that continues to lose a cognitive war with global Jihad that we should be winning handily, a war whose loss would be catastrophic for civil society and progressive principles the world over.

Below is a preliminary bibliography of subsequent discussions of the exchange, crudely divided into pro and con. I welcome other suggestions of material and categories, as well as comments on the various pieces. Interested in pieces that analyze Affleck’s electric response (and performance). He is, I think, a good example of that form of Islamophobia that is afraid to criticize Islam. Indeed, he’s an enforcer.

In favor of Affleck:

H.A. Goodman, “Why Ben Affleck Is Right, Bill Maher Is Wrong, And Sam Harris Is Jaded About Islam,” Huffington Post, October 6, 2014.

Nicholas Kristoff, “The Diversity of Islam,” NYT, October 8, 2014

Peter Beinart, “Bill Maher’s Dangerous Critique of Islam,” Atlantic, October 9, 2014

Ben Child, “Ben Affleck: Sam Harris and Bill Maher ‘racist’ and ‘gross’ in views of Islam,” Guardian, October 7. 2014.

Reza Aslan, “Bill Maher Isn’t the Only One Who Misunderstands Religion,” NYT, October 8, 2014

 

In favor of Maher/Harris

 

Jerry Coyne, “Maher, Harris, Kristof, Steele, and Affleck squabble about Islam,” Why Evolution is True, October 4, 2014

Mark Tapson, “Maher and Harris Educate Affleck about Islam,” FrontPage, October 6, 2014.

Adam Corolla, “Carolla Defends Maher In Brawl Over Islam: Affleck Not Used To Sitting There And Eating It,” RealClearPolitics, October 7, 2014

Sam Harris, “Can Liberalism be Saved from Itself?,” Sam Harris Blog, October 7, 2014

Andrew Bostom, “From Obscenity to Clarity: A Factual Understanding of the Maher-Affleck Islam ‘Debate’,” Dr. Andrew Bostom, October 10, 2014

Robert Spence, “Five Ways Bill Maher Is Right and Reza Aslan Wrong About Islam,” PJ Media, October 17, 2014.is;

People have rights. Ideas do not have Rights.

HT: Jeffrey Bale who notes:

It should go without saying that in a truly free society, no ideas, beliefs, and ideologies have a “right” not to be criticized, just as no individual has a “right” not to be offended by criticism of his or her ideas. It’s sad that one nowadays feels compelled to state this obvious point, over and over again, in a world in which so many people apparently feel that their beliefs should be immune from criticism or that no one else has a right to offend them.

 

This problem is about to reach epic proportions if the European Parliament enacts a well-intentioned but misconceived legislation against “intolerance” (which protects an undefined “Islamophobia“). All of this effort to legislate tolerance and mutual respect stems from the appalling inability of the progressive intellectual elite to speak out against the grotesque abuse of free speech by Muslims who revile Israel with Nazi-like hate speech.

If they did (rather than defend it as “free speech” – as if free speech should not be criticized), we wouldn’t need legislation that is just waiting to be exploited by demopaths. The response to intolerance is courageous criticism, not legislation.

 

 

 

 

Pallywood in Egypt: What does this tell us about what “they” think of “us”?

First consider the following photograph:

behind the factory 1

This was taken at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000. The day that Al Durah was shot on film by Talal Abu Rahma. The picture was made public by AP. I use it in lectures to introduce Pallywood.

The closer you look, the less the picture makes sense. Who are these people and what are they doing? Running from what? Ducking from what? Fire? From where? What kind? And why aren’t the people behind them ducking or running?

And what happens when you realize that the building in the upper left shields this entire area from Israeli fire which could only come from their position behind that building, and which they never left that day?

001-netzarim up diagonal include twin

 

The scene we’re looking at takes place along the road to the bottom left. The building we see in the background is labeled in Hebrew in red (“the factory”), and the Israeli position is behind it, labeled in blue (Magan 3).

In other words, the entire scene is staged, and all these figures are playing for the camera. Indeed, one might phrase it that they are reacting to camera fire.

Now none of that really makes sense to us in the West. When I show this to audiences, people try hard to read the picture as real, not staged. It can’t be that an entire street full of people are involved in such stuff. (James Fallows fall back on al Durah being staged is that it couldn’t happen without someone leaking the story, as if Palestinian culture were identical to ours in these matters of dissent.)

It’s precisely our desire not to believe that Palestinians or Arabs would be so blatantly deceptive that makes us so gullible to a major element of their cogwar against us, namely the manipulation of the (inexcusably) credulous Western news media to create sympathy among the (excusably, if stupidly) empathic Western public, eager to side with the (perceived) underdog.

So now we have serious, comic evidence of Pallywood at work in the Morsi camp in Egypt.

And here’s more of the same, although (a tiny bit) less obvious, from Syria.

What does this tell us about what they think of us, that such patent fakes could conceivably move Western public opinion (note the English signs), and, say, help convince the US government that it should cut off aid to Egypt in reprisal for the behavior of the current ruling group?

That we’re stupid? Unquestionably. The sad thing is, they may well be right. After all, our policy-makers seem to have their major offices on rekaB Street.

American Vanity and Ambition Plays the Fool in Middle East Political Culture

I’ve posted some items on the upcoming “negotiations.” Here I just want to draw your attention to three recent analyses on key American players in this charade of negotiations: Kerry and Indyk, both of whom consider messing with the only relatively stable situation in the Middle East an extremely short-sighted career “win.” Talk about making others pay for your fifteen minutes of fame.

Indyk: Noah Pollak, “What does Martin Indyk Believe

Between 2006 and 2009, no relevant facts on the ground in the Middle East had changed: Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons, Bashar al-Assad was still the dictator of Syria, and Hezbollah was still entrenched in Lebanon. Only one fact had changed, and it was a Washington fact: Barack Obama had become the president, and he had made “engagement” with Syria a pillar of his Middle East policy. Indyk dutifully discarded his previous objections to the idea.

Give him his due: His shameless positioning and audacious reversals have been successful where they were intended to count – not in making “the cause of peace his life mission,” as Kerry said about him yesterday, but in advancing his career. Step one was showing his loyalty to Obama after betting on the wrong candidate in 2008; step two was burnishing his image as a tough-minded veteran of the Middle East who understands why things went wrong in Obama’s first term and can be counted on to get it right in his second term. On the substance, it’s been an awful, tawdry display. But as a matter of Washington careerism, Indyk’s press conference yesterday, where he was introduced and praised by the secretary of state, is inarguable proof of success.

Kerry: Lee Smith, “Requiem for the Peace Process

The peace process has entered its mannerist phase—it is nothing but a series of empty elegant formalisms. Does Martin Indyk, Kerry’s newly named Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, really need to add a sequel to his memoirs of the peace process, Innocent Abroad—Again?

The Media’s “Take” on Negotiations: How Palestinian Cogwar has Checkmated Israel in Western Public Opinion

My friend Avi Bell sent me the following. While exaggerated for effect, it’s a recognizable Catch 22 for Israel and a “get-out-of-responsibility-free card” for the Palestinians. Heads we lose, tails, they win.

It’s a good example of a complete cogwar victory for the Palestinians. It shows that and how (but not why) our current herd of independent journalists so extensively plays voluntary dhimmi to the Palestinian cause. When Riccardo Cristiano told Yasser Arafat that his network always reported according to “the procedures for reporting from the Palestinian territories,” he meant, among many other things, this:

If Israel refuses to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it refuses to negotiate.

If the Palestinians refuse to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see negotiations with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it is trying to avoid negotiations.

If the Palestinians make preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians have to force Israel to be serious in the negotiations.

If Israel makes no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace.

If the Palestinians make no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see that making offers of peace with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes an offer of peace and the Palestinians reject it, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because Israel is not willing to make the kind of offer the Palestinians would accept.

There are variations on this, e.g.,:

If Arabs make war, but offer to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because the Arabs offered peace. (Thomas Friedman/Arab “peace” initative)

If Israel makes war, but offers to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel made war. (Defensive Pillar, Lebanon II, etc.)

If Arabs attack, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel provoked the Arabs to attack.

If Israel attacks, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel attacked.

If Palestinians carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians feel they have no choice but to carry out acts of terrorism.

If Palestinians try to carry out acts of terrorism, but Israel foils them, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because Israel is carrying out anti-terror actions against the Palestinians even while there is no terrorism.

If Palestinians don’t try to carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians are good and innocent and Israel uses terrorism as an excuse to mistreat Palestinians.

Now why the intelligentsia would want to double handicap the Israelis and double empower the Palestinians may strike a sound and sober reader as not only unfair, but pretty stupid, given the kinds of voices that dominate the Palestinian public sphere. But to people inebriated by their power to “level the playing field” by giving the weak “underdog” a break, it’s something virtually no one in the news media would question.

Suicidal intelligentsia’s anyone?

War, the Sport of Kings, the bane of Democracies and Obama’s Dilemma in Syria

The New Yorker has a great cartoon that is at once funny, sad, true (especially to people like medievalists who study pre-modern cultures), and paralyzingly foolish. (HT: The Fosters)


we right they wrong

It is, alas, true that most wars are fought on something approximating this principle. A pre-Islamic poem expresses the fearful symmetry of the phenomenon poignantly:

Then we, no doubt, are meat for the sword
And, doubtless, sometimes
we feed it meat.
By foe bent on vengeance, we are attacked,
Our fall his cure; or we, vengeance-bent,
Attack the foe.
Thus have we divided time in two,
Between us and our foe,
Till not a day goes by but we’re
In one half or the other.

Al-Marzuqi, Hamasah 2: 825-27, cited in Steykevych, Mute Stones Speak, p. 63.

Study on the link between financial woes and sensationalist anti-Israel coverage at Ha-aretz

There are some papers which, as much by their literary standards, as by their journalistic standards, stand out as the paper favored by the intellectual elite: The Guardian in England, Le Monde in France, The New York Times in the USA, and Ha-aretz in Israel. If only for their cultural material they are much prized. And, perhaps not surprisingly (but, I think, we should be “surprised” by everything these days), they have a “leftist,” progressive slant. Much has been written about the decline of the NYT’s coverage of the Middle East, not to mention its tendency to reject or heavily edit editorials from the “right,” and run without any editing, editorials from the flakey leftThe Guardian is so bad, it has a website dedicated exclusively to exposing its delirious tendencies towards anti-Semitism. In 2003, a devastating study came out chronicling the collapse of journalistic ethics (in French déontologie) of Le Monde. And now, a new study, traces the decline of standards and the rise of politicized, radical “left” slant in Israel’s Ha-aretz.

Note that all of the critiques have emerged in the last decade, the period of time in which, we argue at The Al Durah Project, the mainstream news media (MSNM), were taken over, at least in their coverage of the Middle East, by a school of “lethal journalists” who systematically injected Palestinian lethal narratives into the information systems of the West as news. It’s hard to exaggerate the role of Ha-aretz in this process. Foreign correspondents read its English edition religulously as their source of information.

NB: this is not because it’s their only access to an English translation. I once asked a journalist if she had read Khaled abu Toameh.

“Who’s he?”

“He writes for the Jerusalem Post.”

“Oh, I don’t read that right wing rag.”

Instead the international press corps prefer a “left”-wing rag. When I presented the al Durah material to my students, one of them, commenting on Ha-aretz’s relentless denunciation and mockery of any effort to exculpate Israel, asked,

“Isn’t Ha-aretz an Israeli paper?”

“Yes,” I replied, “why do you ask?”

“Because it sounds like a Palestinian one.”

As one critic wrote to Ha-aretz in response to a subscription request, “If I want to read a Palestinian paper, I prefer to read it in Arabic.”

Now, after a series of grotesque cases of anti-Israel coverage that violated all the principles of accurate journalism, a study has come out detailing the indictment of the paper’s radical direction.

Headquarters of Haaretz, Israel's once-venerable newpaper. Photo: The Tower/Aviram Valdman

Downfall of a Great Newspaper

Erez Tadmor

Political editor at Mida Magazine.

Slashed budgets, plummeting standards, and political radicalization have turned Israel’s most respected newspaper into a case study in the collapse of modern journalism.

In early April of this year, the controversial Haaretz reporter Amira Hass, whose coverage of Palestinian violence over the last decade has often prompted accusations of bias, caused a major stir when she published a column called “The Internal Syntax of the Occupation.” Most provocative was her claim that “throwing stones is the hereditary right and duty of someone under a foreign power”—words that appeared only a few days after Adele Biton, a 3-year old Israeli girl, was critically injured when a Palestinian threw a rock at the car her mother was driving, causing it to slam into a commercial truck.

In a Sunday interview with journalist Kalman Libskind of the radio station Galei Yisrael, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken set out to defend Hass’s article. Growing flustered, however, Schocken ended up saying that moving to a settlement was a form of deliberately endangering the welfare of one’s children, something that in another context would trigger the intervention of social services. As for Hass’s sympathy for rock-throwers, Schocken refused to distance himself. “Sometimes,” he concluded, “you have to fight violence with violence.”

The method Amos Schocken chose to defend Hass’s article, and his defense of editor-in-chief Aluf Benn’s decision to publish the piece in full, sheds some light on the recent changes at the once-venerable Israeli daily. In a series of interviews conducted with current and former Haaretz employees, some of whom held high-level positions at the paper and most of whom still hold it close to their hearts, a consensus emerged to the effect that the paper is undergoing a process of major change that has led to a dramatic reduction in staff, a precipitous decline in journalistic standards, and a willful radicalization of its politics in pursuit of Internet traffic.

Veteran Haaretz reporter Amira Hass. Photo: Yossi Zamir/Flash90

Radicalizing. Veteran Haaretz reporter Amira Hass. Photo: Yossi Zamir/Flash90

As Israel’s longstanding newspaper of record, these developments have raised important questions about the future of print journalism, especially in a country where a free and dynamic press has always been at the center of Israel’s democratic discourse.