Category Archives: Fisking

The Consequences of Media Failure: Demopaths Setting the Global Agenda

[I have a video-embedded article up at Pajamas Media. Here’s the opening segment:]

The Consequences of Media Failure: Demopaths Setting the Global Agenda

An examination of just how badly CNN failed to accurately cover the flotilla incident — repeating nonsense when better information was available — and the ramifications.
June 8, 2010
– by Richard Landes

The latest explosion of anti-Israel rage, driven by the Muslim world and echoed by both the MSM and the international diplomatic community, raises important questions. How is it that in a world where North Korea and South Korea may go to war, Iran may get nuclear weapons, and jihadis are killing fellow (non-) Muslims by the dozens in mosques and hospitals, Israel’s killing of nine streetfighting jihadis sets the international agenda?

Amidst the many elements contributing to the sight of a world gone mad, I’d like to focus here on the role of the media.

For some time now, critical observers have warned about the “halo effect” that “human rights” NGOs have benefited from even as they were taken over by radical political activists who had strong links to jihadi organizations and individuals. This halo effect works in two directions: it extends to the “allies” of these hijacked NGOs (“peace activists”) and also to the MSM which tends to convey the “testimony” of the NGOs as reliable news. All of this comes to a grotesque climax in the flotilla affair.

Let’s begin with an interview CNN’s Rosemary Church conducted with a “peace activist,” Osama Qashoo.

As a flotilla of boats heads towards Gaza to break the blockade, CNN has anchor Rosemary Church perform an interview with a participant from one of the boats, “Free Gaza” activist Osama Qashoo. The report has so many flaws, it’s hard to list and analyze them all. (For the entire interview, click here.)

Let’s focus on the main flaws.

The Nature of the Flotilla

Read the rest at PJMedia

Ben Wedeman trying to undermine Israel on its Aid to Gaza: But even he has to admit…

Here’s Ben Wedeman in the second week of the war commenting on Israel’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, by supplying Gazans with aid.

This is a particular gem of MSNM moral and intellectual confusion since his overall thrust is that Israel’s aid is a) just PR for show, b) pretty pathetic given that “ironically, their actually bombing the place,” and c) that no one’s impressed in Gaza since Israel’s to blame for the blockade in the first place. In the process of dismissing Israel’s effort, he makes an error which forces him to correct himself in mid-stream, which then leads him in another direction. The result: a revealing piece of euphemistic nonsense well worth savoring.

Well Israel has allowed a steady number of trucks coming with humanitarian goods uh into Gaza. This rather ironically as they’re actually bombing the place they’re sending food in as well. My understanding is 66 trucks went in today, so they do want to be at least seen as, as uh caring or providing or allowing others to provide humanitarian relief to the civilian population. Uh, but that sort of thing doesn’t necessarily go down very well, because it’s only Israel that controls the crossings, uh, into Gaza, with the exception of the one in Egypt and uh so, therefore if Israel were to cut off the supply altogether, uh, they would depend on Egypt and that’s not a good, uh, place to depend on.

Let’s take this piece apart:

How not to analyze the Fort Hood Massacre: Robert Wright gets it wrong

Robert Wright is an interesting case study the mixture of LCE (liberal cognitive egocentrism) combined with MOS (masochistic omnipotence syndrome). After the collapse of Camp David, when the progressive left should have been begging the pardon of the Israelis for having urged them to take enormous risks with Arafat for the sake of a peace they were sure would come, Wright came out with a ringing defense of Arafat (elaborating on the work of Malley and Falk[!]), that embodies for me the moral failure of the left in the period after 2000.

Now this is perhaps related to his error-ridden work on the important issues of game theory and morality — The Logic of Non-Zero — in which he reads the record backwards and comes up with a model of inevitablility for the victory of positive-sum relations. It’s as if LCE were a part of our genetic make-up, and therefore, we begin assuming everyone’s on that page.

Let’s look at how he handles the case of Major Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre.

November 22, 2009
Who Created Major Hasan?By ROBERT WRIGHT
Princeton, N.J.

IN the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre, the verdict has come in. The liberal news media have been found guilty — by the conservative news media — of coddling Major Hasan’s religion, Islam.

Liberals, according to the columnist Charles Krauthammer, wanted to medicalize Major Hasan’s crime — call it an act of insanity rather than of terrorism. They worked overtime, Mr. Krauthammer said on Fox News, to “avoid any implication that there was any connection between his Islamist beliefs … and his actions.” The columnist Jonah Goldberg agrees. Admit it, he wrote in The Los Angeles Times, Major Hasan is “a Muslim fanatic, motivated by other Muslim fanatics.”

The good news for Mr. Krauthammer and Mr. Goldberg is that there is truth in their indictment. The bad news is that their case against the left-wing news media is the case against right-wing foreign policy. Seeing the Fort Hood shooting as an act of Islamist terrorism is the first step toward seeing how misguided a hawkish approach to fighting terrorism has been.

The American right and left reacted to 9/11 differently. Their respective responses were, to oversimplify a bit: “kill the terrorists” and “kill the terrorism meme.”

I would have put it very differently. Some people (I won’t call them the “right”) said, “What’s wrong with these people that they hate us so?” The others (I won’t call them “left”) said, “What’s wrong with us that they hate us so?”

Conservatives backed war in Iraq, and they’re now backing an escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Liberals (at least, dovish liberals) have warned in both cases that killing terrorists is counterproductive if in the process you create even more terrorists; the object of the game isn’t to wipe out every last Islamist radical but rather to contain the virus of Islamist radicalism.

Interesting. Would be nice to have some references to how this is an active campaign to strike at the terrorist meme (the closest I could find was this from 2004), rather than mere appeasement, which is what the argument that you can’t fight back lest you anger them produces most often.

Anatomy of “Progressive” Double Speak: Fisking Frank Rich on Fort Hood

I have yet to fisk Frank Rich, partly because he rarely deals with an issue in which I have some expertise, partly because, like Daniel Pipes, he so thoroughly links his comments to other literature, that I have not had the time or the energy to look them all up. But Rich is a former classmate (Harvard ’71), and I’m on a class listserv where I posted David Brooks’ criticism of the psychological school’s approach to Major Hasan’s killing spree, and several classmates answered. So when Rich weighed in on the subject, I decided to call up all his links, read the material, and respond.

The result is long and sometimes circuitous. At times, following his logic is like trying to deal with a bucking bronco: easier to watch than to ride. But in the end, I think what a close look at how Rich dealt with problem reveals, is how bereft of serious thinking even the most intelligent and apparently well-read among the self-styled “liberal left” are on the subject of Islam and its extremist manifestations, and to what lengths they will go to belittle people who try to think clearly on the matter.

Nietzsche once likened serious thinking to diving into an icy river and grasping a stone lying at the bottom. Rich won’t get his feet wet, but he mocks those of us who are soaking from head to toe.

The Missing Link From Killeen to Kabul
Published: November 14, 2009

THE dead at Fort Hood had not even been laid to rest when their massacre became yet another political battle cry for the self-proclaimed patriots of the American right.

It also became a non-battle cry for the self-proclaimed progressives of the left, who far preferred the psychologization of the event — “pre-proxy-post-traumatic stress syndrome” — to any discussion of the problem with Islam. Will Rich have the courage to address the problem? Or will he just bash the “right”?

Their verdict was unambiguous: Maj. Nidal Malikan, an American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian parentage who sent e-mail to a radical imam, was a terrorist. And he did not act alone.

“Terrorist,” I think it’s hard to argue against. Did not act alone? That’s another matter. As for “unambiguous,” does Rich mean “unanimous”? I don’t know too many people who thought he acted in concert with anyone.

Indeed, the near-unanimous verdict was that he was a loner. If there’s any support group here, it’s some of the more radical members of his mosque, like Duane. So what does Rich mean here, other than suggesting that the “self-proclaimed patriots of the right” are conspiracy theorists? (Unlike the truthers who have come up with the scenario whereby Hasan’s been framed.)

His co-conspirators included our military brass, the Defense Department, the F.B.I., the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and, of course, the liberal media and the Obama administration. All these institutions had failed to heed the warning signs raised by Hasan’s behavior and activities because they are blinded by political correctness toward Muslims, too eager to portray criminals as sympathetic victims of social injustice, and too cowardly to call out evil when it strikes 42 innocents in cold blood.

Oh, now I get it. Rich means that the vast range of responsible figures, hands tied by a political correctness that he, among others, plays a major role in enforcing, are, in the minds of the “right,” collaborators. Is this what, “didn’t act alone,” means? I thought it meant, “had co-conspirators.” Rich takes it to mean “enablers.” Intellectual integrity is not the first word that comes to mind here.

Is this clearly sarcastic summary of the “self-proclaimed patriots of the American right” suggesting that there’s no problem here with political correctness? Does it not matter that our intelligence services can’t talk about “honor-shame” culture because some people — Rich? — think it’s racist as Edward Said so urgently insisted? Does it matter that Hasan’s multiple flags never quite tripped a switch somewhere? Does it matter that all those doctors who heard his alarming presentation were too embarrassed to say, “something’s wrong?”

“Hullo, Can you see Florida from here?”: Helena Cobban opens a window onto the “global hamoulah” of progressives

Helena Cobban, who to her pacifist credit, expressed deep disapproval of Marc Garlasco’s unsavory hobby, despite the fact that she is on the board of HRW, and shares their attitude towards Israel, here gives us a fine example of how the “human rights” community think. It’s a stunning ride through the wild side of liberal cognitive egocentrism, the epistemological priority of the other, and masochistic omnipotence syndrome weaponized against those who dare defend themselves against sub-altern aggression. An excellent guide to what ails our chattering classes, including their chattering tone of self-confidence.

The value of the human rights frame
Posted by Helena Cobban October 22, 2009 11:15 PM EST

Michael Goldfarb, who was the deputy communications director for John McCain’s campaign, worked for a while in that temple of neoconservative organizing, the Project for a New American Century, and is a kind of scuzzy attack-dog for the pro-settler hard right, has now decided to come after–poor little moi.

Ad hominem? Moi?

(Yay! I made the big leagues of this guy’s ‘enemies’ list’! Oops, suppress that childish thought, Helena.)
HT to Richard Silverstein, co-rabbi of our “off-broadway” bloggers’ panel at J Street, next Monday noon-time, for having read Michael Goldfarb’s blog so the rest of us don’t have to…

For those who don’t know, “the rest of us” means, it’s, in Amira Hass’ proud phrasing, the global hamoulah [clan]” of leftists/progressives who know they’re at the cutting edge of global morality, leaders of the fight for a truly just and peaceful world, by identifying with the oppressed. And they’ve gathered, somewhat comically, at the JStreet conference in force.

Anatomy of (Self-)Contempt: Gideon Levy on Netanyahu’s UN Speech

Gideon Levy wrote a piece filled with contempt for Netanyahu’s UN Speech, which I posted last week. Now, having heard and read the speech, I’m amazed at what Levy says, since it barely even accords with the speech. In a sense what Levy has done is illustrate the famous Gary Larson cartoon.

what dogs hear
I tried to find the one with the wife yelling at her husband: “You are impossible. If you don’t make the bed right now, I’ll go crazy.” And he hears: “You…me…bed…now…crazy.”

What Bibi said; what Levy heard:

Netanyahu’s speech / Cheapening the Holocaust

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cheapened the memory of the Holocaust in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. He did so twice. Once, when he brandished proof of the very existence of the Holocaust, as if it needed any, and again when he compared Hamas to the Nazis.

If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, Netanyahu cheapens it. Is there a need of proof, 60 years later? Or, the world might think, is the denier right?

Apparently Levy lives in a universe where Holocaust denial is a mere pecadillo of the extreme loony right. He seems unaware of the growing encroachment of denial — especially among his people’s enemies — or the increasing mainstream credibilty it now receives in places like Spain. Cheapen? Many of the people in that room (a lone Palestinian delegate was still there) think it’s a serious debate, and all who left think the Jews made most of this up.

This purist claim that trying to refute Holocaust denial should be considered cheapening the Holocaust is doubly revolting coming from someone who surely would have no truck with those who make the Holocaust a sacred issue, and on the contrary, whose work is especially appreciated by people who belittle the Holocaust. Indeed, Norman Finkelstein, who regularly dismsses Holocaust-mongering, and compares Israel to the Nazis — something Levy would never do — loves Levy’s column. (One might argue that Finkelstein is to Levy, what Levy is to Netanyahu in the Gary Larson cartoon.)

Leveling the Playing Field and the Retreat into Stupidity: george on Peretz on Goldstone

Marty Peretz has a short post at The Spine on how dangerous the Goldstone Commission’s Report is for the ability of democracies to defend themselves against enemies who attack from the midst of civilian populations. It elicited a hostile comment from a reader who signs as george walton, which, I think, offers a fine insight into the workings of a peculiar kind of mindset that I’d like to label according to the meme “their side right or wrong.”

george starts by quoting Peretz:

MP:The fact is that the Taliban do not fight by the rules of modern warfare which try to limit the exposure of non-combatants.

Here’s what the Taliban should do. They should strike a deal with the coalition forces. If the coalition forces will agree to scale back on military hardware that is at least a thousand times more sophisticated and lethal than the terrorist’s arsenal, the Taliban will agree to back off from the civilians.

At first read, it’s hard to know if this is an Onion imitation, or serious sarcasm. The reader will forgive me for interpreting it as the latter (evidence below). Essentially, if I understand the sarcasm here, the Taliban has the right to hide among civilians because it’s the only way to fight against an oppressive external invader (who happens to be the allied forces).

Now I don’t know if george has any criteria for what constitutes legitimate resistance that is then allowed to sacrifice its own civilians for the cause, and what the chances that resistance movements that adapt such tactics might turn into “occupiers” of their own “liberated” populations, were they to succeed. Certainly the Taliban before the alliied invasion, with their policies towards women — acid in the face for not wearing the veil in public, a practice they continue even as “insurgents” — could hardly be called a liberating force. But that “sin,” however oppressive seems to be washed away as a result of the Taliban’s war against the US: their side right or wrong.

george continues:

David Landau’s Criticism of Goldstone: Even the Self-Absorbed See a Problem

Even hyper-self-critic David Landau, whose astonishingly self-destructiive advice to Condaleeza Rice, I’ve discussed before, finds Goldstone unpalatable. And yet, he remains firmly inside his moral narcissism, obsessing over the four-dimensional Israeli soul, implicitly treating Gentiles as three-dimensional bit players, and the Palestinians as two dimensional cardboard figures whose moral angency does not even exist.

Even for Goldstone, getting criticized by someone like Landau has to hurt. From fashlah to fadihah.

The Gaza Report’s Wasted Opportunity
Published: September 19, 2009

ISRAEL intentionally went after civilians in Gaza — and wrapped its intention in lies.
That chilling — and misguided — accusation is the key conclusion of the United Nations investigation, led by Richard Goldstone, into the three-week war last winter. “While the Israeli government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercises of its right to self-defense,” the report said, “the mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole.”

The report has produced a storm of outraged rejection in Israel. Politicians fulminate about double standards and anti-Semitism. Judge Goldstone, an eminent South African jurist and a Jew, is widely excoriated as an enemy of his people.

The report stunned even seasoned Israeli diplomats who expected no quarter from an inquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which they believe to be deeply biased against Israel. They expected the military operation to be condemned as grossly disproportionate. They expected Israel to be lambasted for not taking sufficient care to avoid civilian casualties. But they never imagined that the report would accuse the Jewish state of intentionally aiming at civilians.

Israelis believe that their army did not deliberately kill the hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including children, who died during “Operation Cast Lead.” They believe, therefore, that Israel is not culpable, morally or criminally, for these civilian deaths, which were collateral to the true aim of the operation — killing Hamas gunmen.

It is, some would argue, a form of self-deception.

When does negligence become recklessness, and when does recklessness slip into wanton callousness, and then into deliberate disregard for innocent human life?

Note that we have yet to even reach the Palestinian starting point — target civilians deliberately… or, in short, terrorism. This simple observation, not on Landau’s radar screen because he doesn’t really think about Palestinians as human beings (i.e., moral agents), but only as victims (i.e., as innocent creatures), will become especially important in noting how the Goldstone Commission used the “T” word only to refer to Israel and never to refer to Hamas.

Fisking Goldstone: What’s happened to this man?

Richard Goldstone has an op-ed in the NYT today. It is most striking because it is so transparently misleading. Indeed, it’s just the kind of misinformation that fisking was invented to counter. So I couldn’t help doing so.

Goldstone clearly counts on addressing a sympathetic audience ignorant of the facts — a choir. I address those readers of the news who still want to be part of a “reality-based” community, for whom evidence must be addressed, analyzed, and assessed. You make up your mind if Judge Goldstone is an honest, fair-minded man, or someone who, for whatever mysterious reason, is in thrall to a narrative he must serve, regardless of the evidence.

Justice in Gaza

I ACCEPTED with hesitation my United Nations mandate to investigate alleged violations of the laws of war and international human rights during Israel’s three-week war in Gaza last winter. The issue is deeply charged and politically loaded. I accepted because the mandate of the mission was to look at all parties: Israel; Hamas, which controls Gaza; and other armed Palestinian groups.

This is astonishing. Mary Robinson — the presiding genius of Durban Irejected it because the mandate was only to investigate Israel, tainted from the beginning. Goldstone requested, in vain, that the mandate be widened. For him to pretend that the mandate was to investigate all groups when it never was, whether he threw in some comments on Hamas or not, assumes a pervasive illiteracy among his audience — the readers of the NYT.

I accepted because my fellow commissioners are professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation.

The case against the composition of his committee — not one person sympathetic to Israel, at least one, Christine Chinkin, openly hostile — has led two groups of lawyers, in England and in Canada, to demand Chinkin’s disqualification since she had already pronounced herself — long before she saw any real evidence — on Israel’s guilt. Goldstone, even as he tossed out the petition on a subtle technicality, admitted that Chinkin’s case was borderline and the report reconfirms her prejudice. So whence comes this bland denial?

But above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war, and the principle that in armed conflict civilians should to the greatest extent possible be protected from harm.

Whitson, Kampeas shootin’ the Horse Manure

Every once in a while one reads an interview that reeks of brown-nosing. Here’s one by Ron Kampeas, who had been sharply critical of HRW for their visit to Saudi Arabia, of the key player here, Sarah Leah Whitson. Fisking and further analysis added throughout.

Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW answers my questions
By Ron Kampeas · August 3, 2009

Sarah Leah Whitson, the senior Human Rights Watch official at the center of the controversy over meetings with potential givers in Saudi Arabia, kindly and conscientiously reached out to me to answer my questions.

She also chided me for not reaching out to her before posting my questions. I had some lame reply about blogging and its immediacy, but she had a point.

In any case, while I still have broader critiques about HRW’s notion of balance — Israel on the one side, the rest of the Middle East on the other — Whitson’s replies directly addressed my questions, and were not in any way evasive.

Here are my questions and her replies (I summarize, but also include direct quotes from our conversation):

* Does/ would HRW solicit funds in Israel?

Whitson first of all made clear these were not fund-raisers in Riyadh (“I wish” was how she put it), but not exactly not fund-raisers: They were friends of HRW making their friends, colleagues and acquaintances aware of its work and mission.

“They are informal dinners hosted by friends and supporters, where they come to ask us questions.”

And yes, there were two similar private events in Tel Aviv recently.

How on earth is this a non-evasive answer? What on earth is “friends of HRW making their friends, colleagues and acquaintances aware of its work and mission” mean? They flew out there – how many? – to shoot the breeze?

How charming of her to jokingly say, “I wish…” What a lovely opening: “And if they had/did offered money, would/did you you accept it?”

* Does/Would it do so through presentations that expose human rights abuses by Palestinian authorities and by Arab governments?

Enderlin answers Bourret: Fisking Enderlin’s Blog’s Response (later removed)

In his on-going saga of hitting the bottom and digging, Charles Enderlin has dealt with a challenge on his blog from a major French news anchor, Jean-Claude Bourret on the issue of blood. The answer exemplifies not only the fundamentally flawed nature of Enderlin’s “argumentation,” but illustrates his sheer contempt for any demand that he engage in serious discussion. This answer matches quite closely the aggressive, know-nothing tone he takes with Esther Schapira when she asks him about the blood.

[NB: While I was working on this exchange, Charles Enderlin took it down from his site, saying

“Ayant eu un long dialogue avec JC Boutet [sic], j’ai mis hors ligne les éléments de cette discussion.” [Having had a long dialogue with JC Boutet [sic] I took the elements of this discussion offline.]

I won’t guess what motivated such a strange move, but maybe it has to do with how revealing it was of the poverty of his thought, as analyzed below.]

The issue in question concerns the following photograph, taken the following day, October 1, 2000.

Now there a multiple problems with this photo.

  • 1) The blood is red, despite having been exposed to air and sun for hours. This detail suggests that the blood was added later. Several things corroborate such a suspicion.
  • 2) The blood is where the father was sitting, but the place where the son bled for “twenty minutes” from a gaping stomach wound has not a trace of blood. Again this suggests that the blood was added later without thinking seriously about what it should look like.
  • 3) There is no sign of blood behind the barrel either immediately after the father and son are gone, or the next morning when Talal comes back to film the place.
  • 4) There is no blood on the wall, despite the claim that the father and son were hit by 15 bullets, none of which were recovered in the hospital because, claimed the doctors, they went through the bodies. Hence, one would expect the wall to be splattered with bullet holes and blood.

Esther Schapira asks Enderlin about this in her second movie:

Esther Schapira: It [the incident] happened the day before. The sun shone. Shouldn’t it be dark blood?

Endlerlin: Not when… I’m no specialist, but the next day there was blood there. It was dark, it was… I don’t know how the photo was taken.

Like many of his responses to Esther Schapira the second time around, he’s belligerently contemptuous of the evidence and the argument.

In writing we find the same style. Jean-Claude Bourret left the following question at Enderlin’s blog:

Bonjour Charles!

Je sais que cette “campagne” comme tu la nomme n’est pas agréable pour toi. mais j’ai assité à l’enquête de Philippe Karsenty et je la trouve très convaincante. J’étais également présent à une soirée, ou après la projection, un débat a opposé M. Karsenty à l’un de tes défenseurs. Ce dernier a été pathétique, ne faisant que renforcer la démonstration de M. Karsenty.Parmi les dizaines d’arguments, il y en a un, un seul, auquel je ne trouve pas de réponse : comment se fait il que les deux corps, transpercés par une douzaine de munitions de guerre, et restés 40 minutes contre le mur, comment se fait il qu’il n’y ait pas une goutte de sang, ni sur les vêtements, ni sur le trottoir?

[Hello Charles, I know that this “campaign” as you call it isn’t much fun for you, but I attended Philippe Karsenty’s inquest and I found it quite convincing. I was also at an evening where, after the presentation, a debate opposed Mr. Karsenty to one of your defenders. The latter was pathetic, only reinforcing Mr. Karsenty’s presentation. Among the dozens of arguments, there is one, one only, to which I have not found a response: How is it that there’s not a drop of blood, neither on his clothes, nor on the sidewalk? – rl translation]

To which, one might add, “nor on the wall.” Enderlin replies:

On m’a signalé que tu donnais également des conférences dans le cadre de cette campagne de diffamation. Néanmoins je vais te répondre:

Comment peux-tu, toi un journaliste de télévision analyser des rushes d’un reportage filmé sous le feu comme si c’était une vidéo de supermarché… Talal, le cameraman, a filmé ce qu’il pouvait. Il y a des coupes caméra avec un time code qui courre d’un bout à l’autre.

Quand au sang, il y a bien sur ce que vous qualifiez de chiffon rouge…. Quand à la tache de sang sur le sol… Elle existait bien. Le général palestinien qui s’est rendu le lendemain sur place pour ramasser les balles l’a fait couvrir de sable (devant la vingtaine de soldats israéliens qui étaient dans la position et ont donc tout vu). Nous avons l’image du général… Si toi et les autres experts qui n’ont jamais mis les pieds à gaza ou assisté à un clash entre israéliens et palestiniens aviez posé la question à un chirurgien opérant des blessures de guerres, il vous aurait dit que souvent, elles saignent peu.

Enfin, visiblement, vous croyez être mieux informés que les renseignements militaires israéliens et le Shin Beth qui n’ont jamais trouvé trace d’une conspiration à laquelle auraient participé des dizaines de palestiniens devant une position militaire israélienne, des dizaines de médecins, d’infirmiers de d’infirmières de l’hôpital Shiffa à gaza. Les médecins-généraux jordaniens qui ont opéré le père à Amman etc.

Pour la sécurité israélienne le caméraman, Talal, est blanc comme neige. Mais, bien sur les experts parisiens dont tu fais partie sont mieux renseignés. C’est une campagne absolument ignoble. je continue d’ailleurs à recevoir des menaces de tes amis.

[I’ve been told you were also giving talks in the framework of this campaign of diffamation. Nevertheless, I’ll respond.

How can you, a television journalist, analyze rushes from a report filmed under fire as if it were a supermarket video… Talal, the cameraman, filmed what he could. There are cuts in the filming with a time-code that ran from the beginning to the end.

As for blood, there is, of course, what you qualify as the red rag… As for the blood stain on the ground… it really did exiswt. The Palestinian general who was there the next day to pick up the bullets, had it covered with sand (in front of some 20 Israelis soldiers who were in their bunker and therefore saw everything). We have the picture of the general… If you and the other experts who have never set foot in Gaza or been involved in a clash between Israelis and Palestinians had asked a surgeon operating on war injuries, they would tell you that often, they bleed very little.

Finally, obviously, you think you’re better informed that the Israeli military intelligence and the Shin Bet qui have never found any trace of a conspiracy in which dozens of Palestinians would have had to participate in front of an Israeli military position, dozens of doctors and nurses at Shiffa hospital in Gaza, and the Jordanian doctors who operated on the father in Amman, etc.

As far as Israeli security is concerned, Talal is as white as snow. But, of course, Parisian experts, of whom you are one, are better informed. Its an absolutely ignoble campagne. I continue, by the way, to receive threats from your friends.] – rl translation

Let’s unpack Enderlin’s response.

Fareed Zakaria: Poster Boy for Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

I haven’t posted a lot on Iran because it’s not really an area I know a great deal about. But what I can recognize is the predictable tropes of cognitive egocentrism, and that’s what this latest by Fareed Zakaria is full of. I’ve been following his program on CNN segments of which we’ll be posting soon at the new Second Draft site for comment and criticism. There, it’s hard to know what he thinks aside from how he chooses his guests — Gerges is less of an analyst than an advocate, but Zakaria doesn’t seem to notice — but in this piece he’s wearing his colors loud and clear.

Lorenz Gude, one of our regular commenters here notes:

    I found myself pretty surprised by Fareed Zakaria’s piece on Iran in Newsweek entitled “They May Not Want the Bomb.” It is an example of apologetic propaganda that reminds me of hagiographies of Stalin.

Emerging Iran

Inside a land poised between tradition and modernity

How’s that for a start. It may be somewhere between the two conceptually, but to call it poised between them is to suggest those are its two possible (and imminent) directions. On the contrary, Khoumeini’s “Islamic Republic of Iran” is a terrifying experiment in anti-modern apocalyptic Islam. To leave that out of the picture already marks Zakaria’s (or is it the Newsweek editor’s) conceptual framework as critically deficient.

How about: Inside a land hijacked by anti-modern Islamists on the painful path from tradition to modernity

By Fareed Zakaria | NEWSWEEK
Published May 23, 2009
Religion Versus Reality
Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What’s the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons.

And they wouldn’t lie to us, would they? Zakaria seems to think that having nuclear weapons is like having dessert — something you can take or leave. Does he really mean this? Is this deliberate misinformation or just breathtaking naivete? As the kept woman said to the court when told that her senator lover denied having any knowledge of her, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime’s founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were “un-Islamic.” The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that “developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam.” Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini’s statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.

Of course they could be lying. And they could be doing that for the sake of Islam. After all, the Shiites are the original practitioners of Takkiya. As the Supreme Leader Khoumeini put it:

    Should we remain truthful at the cost of defeat and danger to the Faith? People say, “don’t kill!” But the Almighty himself taught us how to kill… Shall we not kill when it is necessary for the triumph of the Faith? We say that killing is tantamount to saying a prayer when those who are harmful [to the Faith] need to be put out of the way. Deceit, trickery, conspiracy, cheating, stealing and killing are nothing but means… (Murawiec, The Mind of Jihad, p.43).

Are these statements made in English and broadcast to us, or in Pharsee and broadcast to the Iranian public. Could it just be fodder for dupes?

And then, what about this:

    Iran’s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.

    In yet another sign of Teheran’s stiffening resolve on the nuclear issue, influential Muslim clerics have for the first time questioned the theocracy’s traditional stance that Sharia law forbade the use of nuclear weapons.

    One senior mullah has now said it is “only natural” to have nuclear bombs as a “countermeasure” against other nuclear powers, thought to be a reference to America and Israel.

    The pronouncement is particularly worrying because it has come from Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of the ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is widely regarded as the cleric closest to Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Nicknamed “Professor Crocodile” because of his harsh conservatism, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi’s group opposes virtually any kind of rapprochement with the West and is believed to have influenced President Ahmadinejad’s refusal to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear programme.

    The comments, which are the first public statement by the Yazdi clerical cabal on the nuclear issue, will be seen as an attempt by the country’s religious hardliners to begin preparing a theological justification for the ownership – and if necessary the use – of atomic bombs.

Does Zakaria know about this and doesn’t think it’s relevant? Is the Daily Telegraph misreporting?

The Liberal Dilemma: A Dupe of Demopaths Explains how to make inter-religious dialogue work

In my honor-shame class today we read about honor-killings, and their role in restoring men’s sense of well-being by killing disobedient women. The discussion was very lively as we tried to figure out how to deal with the mutual contradictions between liberal beliefs about human nature, and the evidence from the dossiers on honor-killings that depict a profoundly cruel and tyrannical mindset on the part of the men defending their family honor, and — perhaps more distressing — the larger community supporting, if not demanding, their behavior.

As part of the exercise in dealing with the moral problems, I assigned the article below by Chris Seiple on how to dialogue with Muslims. At one point, a student made the classic liberal case that honor-killings are morally repugnant and wondered aloud how, given the peer-pressure involved, we can get Muslims to oppose them. I put to him the classic progressive challenge: isn’t that cultural imperialism? Who are you — we — to tell them what to do? In struggling with the problem, he ended up crying out “auuuugghhhh” in frustration.

Students laughed; some clapped. Exactly. What do we do?

I don’t have a clear answer to that now, but what I do think I have to offer is some thoughts about what we shouldn’t do. And I want to use the deeply well-intentioned Seiple’s meditations as guide to all the errors involved in the current fashionable approach (this one by a Nobel Prize winner) to dealing with Muslim honor: respect their sense of honor; do not engage in gratuitous provocation; avoid insult. Seiple’s essay highlights brilliantly how liberal thinking literally twists itself into its opposite and creates the Moebius Strip of Cognitive Egocentrism. Prepare to have your head hurt.

HT: Dan Pipes. See also Doc’s Talk

10 terms not to use with Muslims
There’s a big difference between what we say and what they hear.

By Chris Seiple
Christine Science Monitor
March 28, 2009 edition

ARLINGTON, VA. – In the course of my travels – from the Middle East to Central Asia to Southeast Asia – it has been my great privilege to meet and become friends with many devout Muslims. These friendships are defined by frank respect as we listen to each other; understand and agree on the what, why, and how of our disagreements, political and theological; and, most of all, deepen our points of commonality as a result.

I’d very much like to hear about those points of commonality, deepened by these discussions. I have difficulty understanding what “frank respect” means. We’re frank because we respect each other? Or we frankly (overtly, obviously) show respect for each other. I have difficulty, given the subsequent discussion, imagining Mr. Seiple being frank about anything.

I have learned much from my Muslim friends, foremost this: Political disagreements come and go, but genuine respect for each other, rooted in our respective faith traditions, does not.

Again, I don’t understand. Right now, I think there are some very long-term political disagreements. And one of them concerns just the topic he wants to oppose to what he considers transient political issues — the alleged tolerance and respect that Muslims [don’t] have for infidels. How many of the Muslims that Mr. Seiple has met in his world travels, who expressed their respect for his faith, really meant it?

(I’m certainly not saying “none,” but I do think that any fervent Muslim will have difficulty feeling genuine respect for non-Muslims. As far as I know, there is no category in Islam as in Judaism of the “righteous gentile.”)

And while I am willing to believe that some of his interlocutors genuinely respect Seiple’s religion and outreach, I’m also fairly confident that a number of them told him what he wanted to hear and felt contempt for his lack of conviction in his own faith. Indeed, one of the things one must ask oneself is not, “what do these interlocutors say to may face?” but “what do these interlocutors say to their fellow Muslims behind my back.

(Again, I’m not even saying that in cases where they make fun of us to their fellow Muslims they do so because they feel it; it could be just yielding to [heavy] peer pressure.)

If there is no respect, there is no relationship, merely a transactional encounter that serves no one in the long term.

This is pure “positive-sum” thinking. If one rethinks this from a zero-sum perspective (i.e., pre-modern Islam [or Christianity]), the “merely transactional encounter” becomes a vehicle for manipulating the “other” into taking a submissive posture which a) forbids him to uphold his values or crticize mine, b) compels him to let me press mine without opposition, and c) creates a long-term advantage for my side, then it unquestionably serves me “in the long run.” Seiple assumes that his interlocutors share his deep mutuality (frank respect), and that they understand that only through that will the long run win-win occur.

But what if they’re not thinking that way? What if they’re in the “I win only if you lose” game? Whatever any individual Muslim may be thinking, I suspect that if you present Seiple’s message — only through deep mutual respect for our differences and commonalities, and an acceptance of each other’s “otherness” will peace come to our sorely troubled planet — and get a candid response from the majority of Muslim leaders around the world today, you’ll get either outright laughter or profound hostility.

As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them. Obviously, we are not going to throw out all of these terms, nor should we. But we do need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.

If I understand correctly, Seiple’s now offering us a list of terms that he feels are likely to hurt efforts at “building relationships” with Muslims, and that he learned this from his “dear Muslim friends” — i.e., those he believes have a deep and frank respect for him and his own religious convictions.

1. “The Clash of Civilizations.” Invariably, this kind of discussion ends up with us as the good guy and them as the bad guy. There is no clash of civilizations, only a clash between those who are for civilization, and those who are against it. Civilization has many characteristics but two are foundational: 1) It has no place for those who encourage, invite, and/or commit the murder of innocent civilians; and 2) It is defined by institutions that protect and promote both the minority and the transparent rule of law.

This is an amazing passage… conceptually breathtaking in its disinformation. Let’s begin with the confident assertion: Invariably, this kind of discussion ends up with us as the good guy and them as the bad guy. On the contrary, for those Muslims who view this as a “clash of civilizations,” it’s a no-brainer: they’re the good guys and we’re the bad guys. They care about honor and morality, and we’re a bunch of corrupt, self-indulgent sinners.

This statement betrays how little Seiple actually empathizes with (he overflows with sympathy for) his Muslim interlocutors, and only sees things from his own perspective… which, great-souled man that he is, he will gladly renounce (i.e., the sense that his civilization is better), for the sake of mutual respect (a characteristic Western idea).

But it gets better. Seiple then sets up the opposition between those in favor of civilization and those against it, and defines civilization quite explicitly. 1) It has no place for those who encourage, invite, and/or commit the murder of innocent civilians; and 2) It is defined by institutions that protect and promote both the minority and the transparent rule of law.

Mr. Seiple apparently has no knowledge of civilizations — including European — before the latter half of the 20th century. His first condition is clearly aimed at denouncing terrorism. Of course, unless you insist that civilians are only “innocent” under certain specific situations, we have a Muslim world which is almost unanimous in its approval of killing “non” innocent Israeli civilians, and many more who approve of killing civilians — infidels and Muslims — for political ends. In addition to the “tiny minority” who actually attack civilians, there are widening gyres of Muslims who encourage and invite it.

But the second definition is even more striking and contradictory. This is a purely self-referential Western (or democratic) definition of civilization. Transparency is a modern notion, reinforced by a free press which can report without fear the transgressions of those in power (including judges). As for protecting and — especially — promoting minorities, that is a peculiarly post-WWII phenomenon, fruit of a world aghast at the Holocaust, legislating Geneva Conventions for the world, instituting the United Nations, promoting human rights around the world. No earlier civilization promoted minorities. On the contrary, they saw their authority as a license to put minorities in their place.

Islamic “civilization” (the scare-quotes are in application of Seiple’s definition) does not make the grade here. Dhimmi may mean “protected” (and Seiple may have that in mind), but anyone who knows anything about Islam knows that a) the protection was from the choice of conversion or death, b) there were other groups (pagans) who were not so “protected,” and c) that “protection” involved not promotion but systematic humiliation and subordination.

So what Seiple’s done here is a classic inversion of meaning. In defining “all” civilizations, he’s done just what he said we shouldn’t — made a Eurocentric (Occidento-centric) value judgment that “we are better” (i.e., our values are better than any other; indeed they are the very measure of civilization). But to avoid the “clash of civilizations” he’s granted “civilized” status to everyone else. “They” are civilized like “us.”

Breathtaking Folly — Surprise! — on the pages of the NYT: Roger Cohen’s Black Hole

I guess I’m like Charlie Brown with Lucy’s football. I am continuously amazed at how foolish our pundits are and how ready major newspapers are to give them full rein on their editorial pages.

lucy and the football

I’ve already fisked Roger Cohen before for his naïve PCP1, but this surpasses credulity (his and mine).

Middle East Reality Check

Published: March 8, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton grabbed headlines with an invitation to Iran to attend a conference on Afghanistan, but the significant Middle Eastern news last week came from Britain. It has “reconsidered” its position on Hezbollah and will open a direct channel to the militant group in Lebanon.

Like Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah has long been treated by the United States as a proscribed terrorist group. This narrow view has ignored the fact that both organizations are now entrenched political and social movements without whose involvement regional peace is impossible.

So were the Nazis an entrenched part of political and social movements in Germany and Austria. Including them in diplomacy didn’t make peace possible, it made it impossible. What on earth makes someone like Cohen think that by “including” a group that has a virulently anti-semitic platform and calls on its people to commit genocide, that somehow that will lead to peace?

Britain aligned itself with the U.S. position on Hezbollah, but has now seen its error. Bill Marston, a Foreign Office spokesman, told Al Jazeera: “Hezbollah is a political phenomenon and part and parcel of the national fabric in Lebanon. We have to admit this.”


This “Hallelujah,” more than anything else in the article, has me slackjawed. It’s one thing to clench your teeth and take your medicine like a man, it’s another thing to cheer as your being rearended by roadrage. The only reason I can come up with for such an extraordinary show of joy is double: 1) Cohen has no knowledge of what Hizbullah and Hamas are really about (how characteristically inappropriate for a pundit), and 2) he’s so convinced that being nice will work that, now that we’re being nice, it’s time to cheer because everything is about to work. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to agree with oao and cynic here, we’re in deep doodoo.

Precisely the same thing could be said of Hamas in Gaza. It is a political phenomenon, part of the national fabric there.

One difference is that Hezbollah is in the Lebanese national unity government, whereas Hamas won the free and fair January 2006 elections to the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority, only to discover Middle Eastern democracy is only democracy if it produces the right result.

And here I thought that that kind of nonsense was going to disappear quietly as Hamas showed its true colors. Apparently, not to the color-blind. What drives me crazy about these kinds of formulas is that they at once grant the status of “democracy” at the same time as they fail to hold the population responsible for their vote. “What, you have a problem with the Nazis? They were fairly elected.” The superficiality of such formulations, combined with the joy of ceding to the perverse choices of the Arab electorates in question, strike me as sure signs of a massive loss of common sense.

Insights into Why Europe Slept: Revisiting Tony Judt’s “Israel: The Alternative”

It’s more than five years old, but for many reasons, Tony Judt’s “Israel: The Alternative” is worth revisiting (and fisking) now as we reach the closing years of the aughts, and like the keffiya, the “One-state solution” is becoming increasingly fashionable on the left.

This essay was part of a wave of anti-Zionist writings from mainstream figures in the wake of the Second Intifada, and it stood out as the work of a highly respected historian of the 20th century, with a strong Zionist past. Using his authoritative knowledge of history, Judt argued that Israel was an a primitive anachronism of questionable legitimacy, and that peace would be far more likely were it dismantled and replaced with a single national entity uniting Jews, Muslims and Christians in a democratic, secular Palestine.

The essay received a number of sharp responses, some as eloquent as they were hard hitting. But the damage was done: another “alter-juif” — who even as he presented his bona fides as a Jew, deligitimated the Jewish state — had contributed to calling Israel’s very existence into question in the public sphere. And he made his case not with passion and invective, but with an argument that was primarily historical. I had not read the essay at the time it appeared, but had heard of it, especially from Rosenfeld’s piece on “Progressive” Jewish Thought and the New Antisemitism (p. 15f.)

A close read several years later proves a valuable exercise in writing a “Second Draft,” particularly since this piece is a kind of “historical journalism” in which Judt uses his wide familiarity with 20th century history to advise and orient those concerned with current events. What the passage of five years reveals, however, is hardly flattering to Judt. On the contrary, from his appraisal of key players like Sharon and Arafat, to his serene confidence in the European model (with which he critiques Israel’s shoddy moral record), to his sense of the strength of Israeli “fascism,” he seems to have gotten almost everything wrong. As bad as it seemed to some readers at the time, it seems the worse for five years’ wear.

Anyone who had read the first essay carefully should not be surprised at how badly Judt read the situation in 2003. Although written by an accomplished historian of precisely the period in question, the essay makes elementary errors of historical analysis and comparison that fail the standards of first-year graduate school. Indeed, Judt mangles his historical analysis so thoroughly that it raises questions about what could possibly have led him to restrict his data so tightly to Israel — in order to single her out for opprobrium — and then reach such outlandish conclusions/solutions — her dissolution. Whatever the deeper causes, it certainly illustrates how powerful a distorting influence the pull of anti-Zionism — and Anti-Americanism — was on the minds of some of the best and the brightest in the early 21st century.

As such, it’s a sad but valuable document.

[Judt in block-quote, bold; bold italics my emphasis.]

Volume 50, Number 16 · October 23, 2003

Israel: The Alternative

By Tony Judt

The Middle East peace process is finished. It did not die: it was killed. Mahmoud Abbas was undermined by the President of the Palestinian Authority and humiliated by the Prime Minister of Israel. His successor awaits a similar fate. Israel continues to mock its American patron, building illegal settlements in cynical disregard of the “road map.” The President of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: “It’s all Arafat’s fault.” Israelis themselves grimly await the next bomber. Palestinian Arabs, corralled into shrinking Bantustans, subsist on EU handouts. On the corpse-strewn landscape of the Fertile Crescent, Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat, and a handful of terrorists can all claim victory, and they do. Have we reached the end of the road? What is to be done?

Notice Judt’s pervasive adoption of Arab “honor-shame” language, not as a sophisticated analysis of how “honor-shame” calculus drives the most belligerent elements of Palestinian behavior, but as an advocate of preserving Palestinian honor. In other words, rather than confront the pervasiveness of a primitive zero-sum notion of “honor” in the Arab world, one of, if not the primary source of the belligerence, he not only accepts it, but makes himself its champion, excoriating the Israelis for not respecting that sense of honor. The overall effect of so foolish an a priori concession is to make us all prisoners of this pre-modern mentality which he is about to claim, no longer exists.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, in the twilight of the continental empires, Europe’s subject peoples dreamed of forming “nation-states,” territorial homelands where Poles, Czechs, Serbs, Armenians, and others might live free, masters of their own fate. When the Habsburg and Romanov empires collapsed after World War I, their leaders seized the opportunity. A flurry of new states emerged; and the first thing they did was set about privileging their national, “ethnic” majority — defined by language, or religion, or antiquity, or all three — at the expense of inconvenient local minorities, who were consigned to second-class status: permanently resident strangers in their own home.

Note the emotional appeal of the last sentence. We all believe that “inconvenient local minorities” should not be consigned to second-class status, that they should not be made “permanently resident strangers in their own home.” Clearly any country that does so is “not good,” or in Judt’s moral-political universe, not like the “post-nationalist” Europeans. One would not know from this phrasing that accomplishing this feat of egalitarian treatment of native and stranger is almost unheard of in human history – the Greeks never came near; the Americans took over two centuries to get close, and the Europeans had to go through two centuries of revolution and insane millennial warfare just to begin to treat their own minorities and fellow Europeans fairly by Judt’s exacting standards.

By taking this unique accomplishment of advanced modernity — polities built on the idea of respect for others, and abandonment of the “us-them” mentality — as a global norm, Judt obscures its rarity historically (and, implicitly, cheapens the accomplishment). The overriding political axiom for most of human history, and certainly for the European and Arabian political cultures under discussion here has been “rule or be ruled.” The very issue of “minorities” only arises after the nation state has undermined the fundamental prime divider of pre-modern societies, between the ruling minority and the mass of commoners fleeced and living at subsistence. As the Mexican bandido in The Magnificent Seven, Calvera, says to Chris Adams (Yul Brenner) about the defenseless peasants he exacts tribute from, “If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”

Minority rights are already a higher level of egalitarian political organization than what still predominates throughout the Arab and Muslim world, where the ruling elites of all stripes shear their Arab Muslims commoners no matter how wealthy they are.

But Judt’s not interested in discussing the political culture of the Arab world into which Zionism as a European phenomenon was inserted, but in identifying what brand of European nationalism Zionism best compares with. Rather than the Western European model of liberal or “democratic” nationalism (France, England, USA), he prefers to compare Israel to the Eastern European countries that aspired to national autonomy around the same time as Zionism did.

Judt clearly considers these Eastern European nationalisms inferior: unlike the Western democracies, they consigned their “inconvenient” minorities to second-hand status. And, although Judt does not so note in his essay, one might even argue that this failure to grant equal rights to all – the core of a civil polity – contributed significantly to the weakness of these fledgling “constitutional states” and their vulnerability to fascism and totalitarianism, which swept through Eastern Europe within decades of their founding. “Nationalism gone wrong.”

But one nationalist movement, Zionism, was frustrated in its ambitions. The dream of an appropriately sited Jewish national home in the middle of the defunct Turkish Empire had to wait upon the retreat of imperial Britain: a process that took three more decades and a second world war.

Wait. Only “one nationalist movement” was “frustrated”? What about Arab nationalism? They weren’t frustrated? The Egyptians were furious at the treatment they got at Versailles, as were the Chinese, the Kurds, and many others. Indeed, the exceptional aspect of Zionism among the many cases of post-war frustrated nationalisms, is that, within a generation of this disappointment, the Zionists alone managed to establish a democratic civil polity).

Why, then, would Judt make such a strained, ahistorical claim? The next paragraph clarifies.

And thus it was only in 1948 that a Jewish nation-state was established in formerly Ottoman Palestine. But the founders of the Jewish state had been influenced by the same concepts and categories as their fin-de-siècle contemporaries back in Warsaw, or Odessa, or Bucharest; not surprisingly, Israel’s ethno-religious self-definition, and its discrimination against internal “foreigners,” has always had more in common with, say, the practices of post-Habsburg Romania than either party might care to acknowledge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

60 Minutes on the expiring “Two-State” Solution: Invitation to a fisking

I have begun doing some video fisking which we are calling “Dialogues with the Media.” For the first examples, see here. I’ll be putting up some shortly, one on Annie Lennox, another on a CNN interview with Diana Buttu, and a third on a BBC with Hamas official Mahmud al Zahar. In the meantime, one of the major cases I’m looking into is the CBS piece by Bob Simon entitled “Time Running out for a Two-State Solution?” In preparing it, I welcome comments from readers on what they suggest I say in response to this piece (as well as links to others who have already critiqued it). Remember, in video fisking, the comments have to be as succinct as possible.

Below is the transcript.

Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?
Jan. 25, 2009

(CBS) Getting a peace deal in the Middle East is such a priority to President Obama that his first foreign calls on his first day in office were to Arab and Israeli leaders. And on day two, the president made former Senator George Mitchell his special envoy for Middle East peace. Mr. Obama wants to shore up the ceasefire in Gaza, but a lasting peace really depends on the West Bank where Palestinians had hoped to create their state. The problem is, even before Israel invaded Gaza, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians had concluded that peace between them was no longer possible, that history had passed it by. For peace to have a chance, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank, which would then become the Palestinian state.

It’s known as the “two-state” solution. But, while negotiations have been going on for 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have moved in to occupy the West Bank. Palestinians say they can’t have a state with Israeli settlers all over it, which the settlers say is precisely the idea.

Arab disappointment with Obama: The Musings of an Unconscious Demopath

The New York Times offers its op-ed pages to Alaa al Aswany, an Egyptian writer, author of The Yacoubian Building and Chicago. He voices his profound disappointment at Obama’s silence on Gaza. What we get is the musings of a (possibly) unconscious demopath, whose lack of self-awareness transpires in almost every complaint to which he gives voice.

We hear the voice of a self-identified moderate, who would like Egypt and the Arab world to have democracies, and a good relationship with the US and Obama, but when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, continues to pursue the zero-sum politics that have given the Arab world its current unfortunate contours. As the Fable de la Fontaine goes, “celui-ci ne voyait pas plus loin que son nez” [he doesn’t see farther than his nose].

As a result, he vehiculates (to translate from the French) a message that says, “side with me on the Israeli-Arab issue, or you’ll never have any purchase in the Arab street.” It’s only a slightly milder version of what long-term hard-line advocates for the Palestinian cause are saying. The result — the classic invitation (à la Walt-Mearsheimer) to a Eurabian foreign policy.

Why the Muslim World Can’t Hear Obama

Published: February 7, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA is clearly trying to reach out to the Muslim world. I watched his Inaugural Address on television, and was most struck by the line: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.” He gave his first televised interview from the White House to Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language television channel.

But have these efforts reached the streets of Cairo?

One would have expected them to. Mr. Obama had substantial support among Egyptians — more than any other American presidential candidate that I can remember. I traveled to America several days before the election. The Egyptians I met in the United States told me — without exception — that they backed Mr. Obama. Many Egyptians I know went to his Web site and signed up as campaign supporters.

In Cairo, which is seven hours ahead of Washington, some people I know stayed up practically all night waiting for the election results. When Mr. Obama won, newspapers here described Nubians — southerners whose dark skin stands out in Cairo — dancing in victory.

The implication here is that this Egyptian support for Obama represented the awakening of democratic forces in the Arab world which Obama would be a fool to waste by not responding. But what if the hopes he aroused had nothing to do with democratic sentiments, but rather everything from “Nubian pride” [which one imagines must be charged emotions in a society as racist as Egypt] to Arab hopes that the Obama would help them with their Israel hang-up by siding with them and pressure Israel to weaken itself. Disappointing these hopes is hardly Obama’s responsibility, and the implication that he’s to blame suggests that for Mr. al Aswany, Egyptians don’t have to mature, Obama has to indulge their passions.

Our admiration for Mr. Obama is grounded in what he represents: fairness. He is the product of a just, democratic system that respects equal opportunity for education and work. This system allowed a black man, after centuries of racial discrimination, to become president.

This fairness is precisely what we are missing in Egypt.

That is why the image of President-elect Obama meeting with his predecessors in the White House was so touching. Here in Egypt, we don’t have previous or future presidents, only the present head of state who seized power through sham elections and keeps it by force, and who will probably remain in power until the end of his days. Accordingly, Egypt lacks a fair system that bases advancement on qualifications. Young people often get good jobs because they have connections. Ministers are not elected, but appointed by the president. Not surprisingly, this inequitable system often leads young people to frustration or religious extremism. Others flee the country at any cost, hoping to find justice elsewhere.

Now there’s a fair piece of self-criticism, but apparently what is sauce for the goose (Mubarak) is not sauce for the gander (Hamas). His sense of fairness, apparently so rudely violated by his own president, has profound limits when applied outside the tribe to either to Israel or to Obama for not condemning her. So behind the “fairness” talk, actually lies a demopathic demand for the opposite — side with the people whose attitude towards the Israeli “other” could not conceivably be more unfair.

I am Shocked: WaPo Gets the Israeli Strikes Exactly Wrong

Michael Abramowitz has come out with a hands-wringing “policy discussion” that personifies what’s wrong about Western thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Comments interspersed.

Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza Strip Imperil Obama’s Peace Chances

Hamas Likely to Respond to Attacks That Seem to Stun West
Discussion Policy
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 28, 2008; Page A20

Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza yesterday, in retaliation for a nonstop barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas fighters, raised the prospect of an escalation of violence that could scuttle any hopes the incoming Obama administration harbored of forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

We’ll see Abramowitz’s logic in a moment. But before that, let me note that this is actually a golden opportunity for Obama to peel some Arab “moderates” away from Hamas (and by implication Hizbullah and its patron Iran), but making it clear that Israel has every right to defend itself. In particular, this makes the possibility of a peace that stands a remote chance of actually succeeding possible, since anything that included Hamas was, pace Jimmy Carter, a catastrophe in the making.

“If the casualty reports are accurate, Hamas is going to respond. And this isn’t a two- or three-day deal in which the genie is put back in the bottle,” said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author of “The Much Too Promised Land.” “This takes the already slim chance of an early, active and successful Obama engagement on Israel-Palestinian peace and lowers it to about zero.”

The idea that a) the casualty reports are accurate, and b) that only if they’re accurate would Hamas respond are both absurd contingencies. You know you’re dealing with someone in the thrall of “liberal cognitive egocentrism” when you see remarks like that. If we pass from PCP1 to PCP2, we have an interesting conflation of the casualty figures with civilian casualty figures. For the Peter Beaumont of the Guardian (who agrees with Abramowitz’s analysis), this attack should be compared with Deir Yassin and Sabra and Shatilla.

That’s doubly wrong: the Israelis killed no one at Sabra and Shatilla; and both those examples are massacres of civilians. What’s especially striking about this operation is the extraordinarily high rate of military targets and accordingly low rate of civilian, possiby under 10%. As the NYT reported about the first strikes:

    The vast majority of those killed were Hamas police officers and security men, including two senior commanders, but the dead included several construction workers and at least two children in school uniforms.

    Overnight, the passage in bold was scrubbed clean.

    This kind of toilette of course, works nicely to reinforce people like Beaumont, for whom this operation is something to be ranked with Deir Yassin. With the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Something, at last, that Israel’s foes can say looks like an atrocity.

As for taking the “already slim chance of an early, active and successful Obama engagement… to about zero,” that’s probably wrong on two counts. 1) It gives Obama a new angle with which to engage various key players (as noted above), and 2) the chances of an early Obama engagement’s success were already below zero. If anything this situation, properly handled, could actually increase the odds significantly.

The NYT Ship of Fools: Rodenbeck (PCP2) Reviews Pollack (PCP1)

I recently posted on the way the NYT packages discussions of the Middle East. Now we get a close look at how it packages book reviews. Below is a review of a book by Ken Pollack offering a grand strategy for the US to contribute significantly to resolving the Middle East conflict. It seems like a flawed book in many ways, but hardly in the terms in which the chosen reviewer critiques it. The reviewer is Max Rodenbeck, the Middle East correspondent for The Economist. It’s a case of washing away PCP1 with a dose of PCP2, rather than balancing it with a more sober appraisal of the situation (HSJP)

For a more valuable critique, see Michael Rubin’s review in the New York Sun. Thank civil society for multiple sources of opinion. Thank the NYT for sheltering you from painful realities, and loading up its pages with writers from the ship of fools.

War and Peace

Published: August 22, 2008

Back in 2002, I ran into one of the Brookings Institution’s top Middle East hands at the inaugural session of the United States-Islamic World Forum, a now annual event that Brookings sponsors jointly with the government of Qatar. “How’s it going?” I asked, expecting to hear about clashing misperceptions across the cultural divide. “Good,” came the gruff reply. “They’re beginning to realize that they are the problem.”

A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East
By Kenneth M. Pollack
539 pp. Random House. $30
First Chapter: ‘A Path Out of the Desert’ (August 24, 2008)

Reading this big, ambitious book by Kenneth M. Pollack, who is the head of research at Brookings’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, it is hard not to wish that what he refers to as Washington’s “policy community” would more often realize that they are the problem.

That’s pretty amazing. If he had written, “they are part of the problem,” okay. But “they are the problem.” That’s pure MOS: Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome — as if there were no problem besides our bungled attempts to solve the problem. It’s a little like saying all health problems are iatrogenic. There are no diseases; it’s the doctors’ fault.

It would have been nice, for instance, had Pollack himself thought harder before arguing, in scholarly papers and his widely read 2002 book, “The Threatening Storm,” that America had “no choice” but to invade Iraq. That ostensibly sober appraisal, coming from a former C.I.A. analyst, Clinton official and self-described liberal, arguably added more gravitas to the shrill cries for war than any other voice.

Pollack has long since confessed to having been wrong about Iraq. “A Path Out of the Desert” includes other mea culpas. “There has been far too little asking the people of the region themselves what they thought and what they wanted,” he ruminates at one point, though the book offers slim evidence of his having pursued this advice. While the administration that Pollack served gets some light wrist-­slapping, it is the following eight years of Bush policy that he calls “breathtakingly arrogant, ignorant and reckless.”

Rudenbeck speaks as if it’s a) clear how to consult the people of the region, b) that they are clear on what they want, and c) they’ll give you a straight answer whether they are clear or not.

Many of Pollack’s other judgments are as sound as is this criticism of the Bush administration. Since most of the post-cold-war world has stabilized, democratized and prospered, it is probably correct to suggest, as he does, that America should commit itself to helping the messy Middle East come up to par.

Now there’s an breathtaking piece of ignorant and reckless arrogance. Who says they want democracy? And who is they? And even if they say they want it, who says they (and here I’m speaking of the key players, the alpha males) are willing to make the sacrifices necessary for democracy (like giving up honor-killings or self-help justice). What a mealy-mouthed homogenized view of post-war culture Rodenbeck offers up with this description of post-war culture and the [obvious] conclusions he thinks we should draw from it.