Category Archives: shame murders

Letter of Protest to Tom Paradise re: Phyllis Chesler

Barbara Joans, anthropologist, wrote the following letter to Thomas Paradise, the head of the “King Fahd Center for Middle Eastern Studies.” I post it here with her permission.

April 20, 2017

Thomas R. Paradise PhD, Director, University Professor
King Fahd Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Geosciences
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Dear Professor Paradise

It is with sadness that I write you about disinviting of Dr. Chesler to your conference on the subject of honor-killings. Since Dr. Chesler has long been one of the few scholars on this topic, it came as a surprise. Much is written about honor-killings but few writers take the time to read, study, research and analyze this cultural behavior. Dr. Chesler is one of the few scholars who actually reviews the material and she has been doing so for decades.

As we all know, describing an event, a cultural event from a culture, not our own, is not the same as evaluating nor critiquing the event. It is only when the cultural event is seen as horrendous within our own society, that just the description of it, can be seen as a put down, a criticism of the culture performing the behavior. This happens all too frequently. Dr. Chesler writes about those groups within Islamic Society who practice ritual murder, called honor-killings.

Dr. Chesler studies those societies who accept and participate in honor-killings as part of their culture. These ritual murders occur. She documents the behavior. The behaviors are not seen as innate nor inborn. There is nothing in the religion nor in the past sacred writings that prescribe such behavior. Other factors must be looked for. Cultural events arise for any number of reasons and Dr. Chesler looks for the factors that may have brought about the well documented occurrences.

What I do not understand is why you did not permit Skype to become a tool in your conference. With Skype, Dr. Chesler could have spoken as she wished and been free from the danger of students who did not understand that academia is suppose to take on and debate the hard questions. Another speaker, one who would take a different approach, perhaps an opposite one, could have Skyped into the conference and debated Dr. Chesler, without physical disruption nor confrontation. A fair exchange of views, researched and carefully considered, is what academic debate is all about. Why did you not permit this to happen? The outcome would have been seriously interesting and intellectually important.

As a legal anthropologist of fifty years, who both teaches and appears in court as an expert witness, I have a stake in such conferences. Though my academic and field work specialties are different, American Indians and urban US Sub-Cultures, a similar situation could easily arise. I remain perplexed about the dreadful way your conference played out. It was dishonorable.

Sincerely,
Barbara Joans PhD, Director of the Merritt Museum of Anthropology
Past Chair of the Anthropology Department at Merritt College
Author and Invited Speaker.

Note that in the rich Arab countries like Saudi and Kuwait, rather than the more conventional methods of killing daughters, “modern” families drown them in their swimming pools. Not King Fahd, of course, he gives money to American universities to teach about the Middle East.

Holocaust Guilt and Holocaust Shame: Parsing Remorse for the Shoa.

 

[My thanks to Rabbi Mark Kujawsky who first helped me understand the difference.]

When I first heard about Catherine Nay – a prominent, mainstream, French journalist – stating on her Europe 1 news program that “with its symbolic charge of this picture, this death annuls, erases the picture of the little Jewish boy, hands up in front of the SS, in the Warsaw Ghetto,” I realized to what an extent Europeans had taken the story of the IDF killing 12-year old Muhammad al Durah in the arms of his father, as a “get-out-of-holocaust-guilt-free card“.

Picture from International ANSWER, Quote from Catherine Nay

At the time I marveled – and continue to marvel – at the astounding folly of the statement. How can a brief, blurry, chopped up video of a boy who, at best was caught in a cross fire started by his own people firing behind him, at worst an outright lethal fake, could eliminate – really replace – a picture that symbolizes the systematic murder of over a million children and their families? How morally disoriented can one get? Apparently escaping guilt made some people – too many people – do strange things… like adopt a supersessionist narrative: Israelis, the new Nazis, Palestinians, the new Jews.

But the profound distinction between guilt and shame suggests that the right formula is “get-out-of-holocaust-shame-free card.” (Doesn’t sound as good.) The difference: guilt is an internally generated sense of moral obligation not to repeat past transgressions, especially egregious ones like the unchecked attempt to exterminate of a helpless minority within one’s own society. Shame, on the other hand, is externally generated, driven by the “shaming look” of others (the “honor-group“). When Germans got caught carrying out a genocide, their nation was not only guilty of the deed, but shamed before the world… for doing it? …or getting caught?

There-in lies a key difference: for guilt, it’s the awareness of the deed and its meaning, for shame, it’s whether others know. In some countries in the world, it’s not a question of whether you’re corrupt or not (everyone is, everyone knows), but just if you get caught. How many teenagers apologize for getting caught? Some adulterers have no sense of wrongdoing, as long as no one else knows. On some level everyone is subject to these concerns.

While honor-shame cultures have moral codes, however, their vulnerability to the fear of shame can readily lead to a jettisoning of any moral concerns. After all, the limbic dread of shame – its disastrous psychological and practical impact on them – kicks in in times of humiliation and fear. Those afflicted with oneidophobia (overriding [limbic] fear of public blame/ humiliation), is that others not see, not know about, not talk about, what they have done, that one not bear the shame publicly, that one need not pay the steep price in social capital for one’s (mis)deeds. After two generations one can easily imagine German youth being fed up with this sense of moral indebtedness of having to bear this blame/shame publicly.

Guilt-integrity has moral codes that operate from within-out, rather than from without-in. Here the awareness of the transgression and the determination to not do it again operate inside the individual, as, for example, in the case of Judah, who refused to repeat his betrayal of his father (in the case of Joseph) with the betrayal of Tamar, the mother of his child (Genesis, 38). That process takes both genuine remorse (for which Joseph later tested), and an understanding of how it could have happened, so as to prevent it from happening again. It involves criticism and self-criticism. It involves a willingness, when absolutely necessary, (beware the public flagellant!), to make the painful sacrifice of public honor in order to maintain private integrity. In the case of Judah, this led to the first renunciation of an honor-killing/shame-murder in recorded history.

How Academics think about Freedom of Speech: Fisking the Email that Killed Phyllis Chesler’s Talk on Shame-Murders

In preparing an article on how Phyllis Chesler, one of the few scholars and feminists to tackle the problem of honor-killings/shame murders in the Muslim world (and elsewhere, eg, Hindus in India, Sikhs to a much lesser extent everywhere), got disinvited from a conference on the subject of honor-killings, I managed to get a hold of the email that nixed her invitation. Written by three professors from the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies at University of Arkansas: Joel Gordon (History, author of email), Ted Swedenburg (Anthropology), and Mohja Kahf (Comparative Literature), it addressed Thomas Paradise, the Head of the King Fahd Center.

The letter is deeply embarrassing to its signers in its stupefying polemic, its craven reasoning, and its complete disregard for academic integrity. My guess (hope) is that its authors will object to its being made public in much the same way that “professors” of Middle Eastern Studies object to having their talks and class lectures made public.

UPDATE: Tom Paradise has been suspended as a result of his canceling Chesler’s participation, and the brave people who scuttled her are busy scrambling to get out of the hot seat. Ted Swedenburg told a journalist:

We did not call for her to be disinvited and how that happened, I don’t really know, because none of the three of us were a party to that discussion.

You be the judge of whether the letter quoted below reflects this disavowal.

NB: issue of terminology. “Honor-killing” is a supposedly neutral term that does not judge. Instead, I think, it enables, using “to kill” where, by any standards of modern democracy, these are murders. My use of “shame-murders” not only identifies the act as murder, but makes it clear that this is not restoring family honor – what family is honored by killing its daughter? – but rather it is a grotesque and criminal way of trying to wipe out shame.

Below, a fisking of this McCarthyite letter attempting to ban a major researcher on the basis of a dogmatic and anti-intellectual ideology.

Dear Tom:

It has come to our attention that MEST is co-sponsoring Phyllis Chesler to lecture via Skype at the University of Arkansas Law School’s symposium about honor killings on 14 April 2017. 

Chesler’s writings frequently feature on the ultra-right Breitbart forum as well as many other right-wing platforms.

“Right-wing” is thus, by definition, not acceptable. Merely the use of the term in describing someone renders that person unpresentable, outside of the realm of acceptable speech.

Honor-Shame Pathologies and 4th Generation Warfare

One of my colleagues with whom I discuss honor-shame issues is Doyle Quiggle, who in addition to his ability to think about what Daniel Lord Smail calls deep history (governed by honor-shame dynamics), also happens to work on military issues: COIN, Fourth Generation Warfare. He recently sent me the following query, which prompted me a formulation that brings together a number of threads of thought:

What aspects of your research and scholarship would you apply to help us reveal the honor dynamics of Somalia? 

The stubborn and irreducible pathology of conflict in Somalia must be accepted as an existential given. Failure to perceive this pathology and its generative sources condemns the analyst and operator to alienation from the primary psychological, social, economic, and security realities of this region.  That blindness will lead to fatal operational consequences, sooner or later. To operate effectively, let alone establish lasting communal stability in any part of this region, we must first see the pathology of conflict in this region for what it is, accept it, no matter how ugly it might be, and then attack its sources. Once exposed, this pathology is immediately seen to require an integrative “oncological” approach to killing both its tumors and its feeder cells.  However, the decisive operational question today is this: Do we continue to pursue a chemotherapeutic tactic (“paint & kill” drone strikes)? Or do we attempt to administer homeopathic remedies? Is the long-term strategy containment or stability?

A strategy of stability requires an organic, homeopathic approach. Paramount to this approach is co-opting local moral authority.  Local moral authority is used as a kind of homeopathy to kill the cancerous stem cells of Islamic extremism and jihad by use of their own pathogens.

[For further elaboration framing the problem, see below.]

My response:

I’d study the pathologies of honor-shame, i.e. the cases when warrior/stratified, zero-sum, cultures find themselves faced with a more powerful positive-sum culture and after losing repeated zero-sum encounters, instead of adapting, going negative-sum: I’d rather lose more and drag you down in the shit than let you win; I’ll even sacrifice myself/honor/family just to make you miserable.

The classic case of this is the Arab-Israeli conflict where, in response to losing a hard-zero-sum war with Israel, the Arabs were in such denial — recognize Israel? admit defeat? impossible! — that they turned the Arab refugees from their lost war into weapons in a longer war against the Zionist entity. (The original meaning of Nakba/catastrophe was coined by the refugees about what Arab leaders had inflicted on them.)

Traduction française de mon article sur Edward Said et la Culture d’honneur et de honte

French translation of my article, “‘Celebrating’ Orientalism,” by Magali Marc and published at Dreuz.
Traduit par MAGALI MARC le 29 JANVIER 2017

 

 

Pour les lecteurs de Dreuz, j’ai traduit ce fort long texte, un exposé magistral d’un grand ami de Dreuz, Richard Landes*, qui est à lire absolument et à faire lire à nos amis bien-intentionnés mais mal informés, gauchistes, pacifistes, pro-palestiniens, anti-islamophobes, pasdamalgamistes, si tant est qu’ils soient encore nos amis…

La victoire de l’Orientalisme
Par Richard Landes
(publié dans le Middle-East Quarterly du site Middle East Forum)
Hiver 2017

Que l’on considère l’impact d’Edward Saïd (1935-2003) sur le monde universitaire comme un grand triomphe ou comme une tragique catastrophe, peu de gens peuvent remettre en question l’étonnante portée et la pénétration de son magnum opus, L’Orientalisme.

En une génération, une transformation radicale a dominé les études du Moyen-Orient : une nouvelle catégorie d’universitaires «post-coloniaux», ayant une perspective libératrice et anti-impérialiste, a remplacé une génération d’érudits que Saïd a dénigrés en les traitant d’«Orientalistes».

Cette transformation ne se limitait pas aux études du Moyen-Orient : Saïd et son paradigme post-colonial réunissaient un large éventail d’acolytes dans de nombreux domaines des sciences sociales et humaines.

Pourtant, quand on examine les événements des deux dernières décennies, on peut dire que les héritiers académiques de Saïd se sont plantés de façon spectaculaire dans leurs analyses et prescriptions concernant la façon dont il fallait s’y prendre pour régler les problèmes du Moyen-Orient.

Nulle part cela n’a été aussi évident que dans la lecture erronée du désastreux «processus de paix» israélo-palestinien d’Oslo et des fameux «printemps arabes» qui se sont rapidement détériorés en vagues de guerres tribales et sectaires, créant des millions de réfugiés, dont beaucoup ont littéralement détruit les malheureux rivages de l’Europe.

Une grande partie de cet échec peut être attribuée aux restrictions imposées par la pensée postcoloniale sur la capacité de discuter de la dynamique sociale et politique du Moyen-Orient. Si les experts et les journalistes ont été hypnotisés par les perspectives de paix arabo-israélienne et le mirage d’une vague de démocratisation arabe, c’est en partie parce qu’ils avaient systématiquement sous-estimé le rôle de la culture d’honneur et de honte dans les sociétés arabes et musulmanes et son impact sur la religiosité islamique.

La dynamique «honneur-honte» dans les dimensions politique et religieuse

Les termes honneur-honte désignent des cultures où l’acquisition, l’entretien et la restauration de l’honneur public triomphent de toutes les autres préoccupations.

Alors que tout le monde se soucie de ce que les autres pensent et veut sauver la face même si cela signifie mentir, dans les cultures d’honneur et de honte, ces préoccupations dominent le discours public : il n’y a pas de prix trop élevé à payer– y compris la vie– pour préserver l’honneur.

Dans de telles cultures politiques, l’opinion publique accepte, attend, exige même que le sang soit versé pour l’honneur.

Dans de telles sociétés, quand les gens critiquent publiquement ceux qui sont au pouvoir– ceux qui ont l’honneur– ils attaquent leur être même. Si ces derniers ne répondaient pas– de préférence par la violence– ils perdraient la face.

Les sociétés autoritaires permettent donc à leurs mâles dominants de supprimer violemment ceux dont les paroles les offensent.

Conséquemment, les cultures d’honneur et de honte ont une immense difficulté à tolérer la liberté d’expression, de religion, de la presse tout autant que de traiter avec les sociétés qui pratique cette tolérance.

Dans les cultures où les gens se font eux-mêmes justice, cette insistance sur l’honneur peut signifier tuer quelqu’un qui a tué un parent, et dans la culture japonaise, l’honneur peut signifier se suicider.

Cependant, dans certaines cultures d’honneur, cette préoccupation signifie tuer un membre de la famille pour sauver l’honneur de la famille. Le «jugement public», dont le verdict détermine le sort de la communauté demeure le vecteur qui motive le besoin de sauver la face, et définit les façons de faire. Le terme arabe pour «commérage» est kalam an-nas, (la parole du peuple), qui est souvent sévère dans son jugement des autres.

À ce sujet, le psychologue Talib Kafaji a écrit :

«La culture arabe est une culture de jugement, et tout ce qu’une personne fait est sujet au jugement… induisant de nombreuses peurs… avec de graves conséquences sur la vie individuelle. Éviter ce jugement peut être la préoccupation constante des gens, presque comme si toute la culture était paralysée par le kalam [an] –nas.»

Autrement dit, dans la société arabe, tous les individus sont les otages les unes des autres.

En dépit de sa résonnance «orientaliste», cette attention à un jugementalisme paralysant et omniprésent fournit des aperçus importants sur les dysfonctionnements du monde arabe d’aujourd’hui.

Les cultures d’honneur et de honte ont tendance à être à somme nulle : les hommes d’honneur gardent jalousement leur honneur et considèrent l’ascension des autres comme une menace pour eux-mêmes. Dans les cultures à somme nulle de «bien limité», l’honneur pour une personne signifie la honte pour les autres. Si l’autre gagne, vous perdez. Afin que vous ayez le dessus, l’autre doit perdre.

Ceux qui sont juste en dessous continuent de défier ceux qui sont juste au-dessus, et l’ascension n’est possible que par l’agression. Tu n’es pas un homme tant que tu n’as pas tué un autre homme. La prise des biens d’autrui –par le vol ou le pillage– est supérieure à la production. Domine ou soit dominé. Le visage noirci (de la honte) est lavé dans le sang (de l’honneur).

Cette même mentalité dite «à somme nulle», «gouverne-ou-soit-gouverné», qui domine la plupart des interactions dans la politique des cultures d’honneur et de honte, a son analogie dans la religiosité du triomphalisme, la croyance que la domination de sa religion sur les autres constitue la preuve de la vérité de cette religion.

De la même manière que les chrétiens ont pris la conversion de l’Empire romain au Christianisme comme un signe que leurs revendications sur les Juifs avaient triomphé ; les musulmans triomphalistes, dans une expression suprême de la religiosité inspirée par l’honneur, croient que l’islam est une religion de domination destinée à gouverner le monde.

Cette dynamique d’honneur et de honte explique en grande partie l’hostilité arabe et musulmane envers Israël, ainsi qu’envers l’Occident.

Israël, un État de Juifs libres (c’est-à-dire, des infidèles non-dhimmis), vivant à l’intérieur du Dar al-Islam historique (royaume de la soumission), constitue un blasphème vivant. La capacité d’Israël à survivre aux efforts répétés des Arabes pour le détruire constitue un état permanent de honte arabe devant toute la communauté mondiale. Cela fait de l’hostilité musulmane triomphaliste envers Israël un cas particulièrement grave d’une hostilité généralisée envers les infidèles et les musulmans «modérés».

Tout effort pour comprendre ce qui se passe dans le monde arabe aujourd’hui doit tenir compte de cette dynamique religio-culturelle.

Pourtant, dans l’ensemble, cette dynamique n’est pas seulement ignorée, mais ceux qui en parlent sont réprimandés pour (prétendument) contribuer à aggraver le conflit plutôt que de le comprendre.

Une grande partie de cette ignorance (à la fois active et intransitive) remonte à Saïd, qui a fait de l’analyse «honneur-honte» un péché «orientaliste» particulièrement impardonnable.

Avant même que n’arrive la contribution de Saïd, l’anthropologie s’était éloignée de cette analyse. Lui en a fait un dogme. A tel point que, dans le dernier tiers du XXe siècle, il est devenu paradoxalement honteux– voire raciste– qu’un anthropologue discute de l’«honneur et de la honte» arabe ou musulmane.

La honte de Saïd et la désorientation de l’Occident

L’Orientalisme de Saïd a exploité une tendance occidentale à l’autocritique morale concernant l’analyse des autres cultures, dans le but de protéger son peuple de la honte. Pour lui, la critique des Arabes ou des musulmans reflète les préjugés ethnocentriques de l’Occident et de son projet culturel discriminatoire de domination impérialiste.

Ce n’était pas ce que les orientalistes croyaient faire, eux pensaient qu’ils offraient des observations précises concernant les caractéristiques et les conditions d’une autre culture et de son histoire.

Pour Saïd, au contraire, tout contraste entre les cultures de l’Occident démocratique et celles des Arabes et des musulmans– certainement ceux qui montraient ces derniers sous une lumière peu flatteuse– étaient des exemples lamentables de xénophobie hostile dirigée contre des «inférieurs», et ne pouvaient pas constituer une réflexion sur une réalité sociale.

À propos du dix-neuvième siècle, Saïd a écrit : «Tout Européen qui parlait de l’Orient était raciste, impérialiste et presque totalement ethnocentrique».

Saïd a lancé un plaidoyer en faveur d’une alternative : il fallait à tout prix éviter d’orientaliser l’Orient, encore et encore.

Sans l’«Orient» il y aurait des érudits, des critiques, des intellectuels, des êtres humains pour lesquels les distinctions raciales, ethniques et nationales seraient moins importantes que l’entreprise commune dans la promotion de la communauté humaine.

Bien compris, cet appel demande aux chercheurs de ne pas parler de différences ethniques, raciales ou religieuses, alors que la plupart des moyen-orientaux vous diront que ce sont des questions culturelles très importantes pour eux.

Ainsi, dans la nouvelle édition d’«Orientalisme» publiée en 1994, SaÏd se plaignait-il de la focalisation croissante de l’Occident sur le danger que représente l’islam : «les médias électroniques et imprimés ont été inondés par des stéréotypes dégradants qui amalgament l’islam et le terrorisme, les Arabes et la violence, l’Orient et la tyrannie.»

Said’s Disorientations

MEQ just published my article on Edward Saïd. They entitled it “‘Celebrating’ Orientalism,” which I presume is meant to be ironic. My more direct title was “Disoriented by Saïd: The Contribution of Post-Colonialism to 21st century Jihadi Cognitive War.”

While a number of people have noted how long the piece was, including Elder of Ziyon, it was much longer when I first submitted it. I post below the longer original version for the three people who might be interested in further details, deconstructing Saïd’s covert tribalist and Orientalist attitudes.

The section on Oslo, also highlighted by Elder, has been translated into Polish, by Malgorzata Koraszewska at her blog, Listy z naszego sadu.

Disoriented by Saïd:

The Contribution of Post-Colonialism to 21st century Jihadi Cognitive War

Although Edward Saïd’s impact on the field of Middle Eastern Studies, and beyond, across the social sciences and the humanities, has been viewed from many perspectives, as a brilliant triumph, or as tragedy, few question the astonishing scope and penetration of Orientalism on the academic world. Here I wish to investigate the (unintended) role played by Saïd, and the post-colonial school of thought his works fostered, in the way that the West has so far handled the cognitive-war that triumphalist Muslims[1] wage in their stated goal of imposing Dar al Islam on democratic polities.

Orientalism played a central role in a transformation of academic discourse in the last two decades of the second millennium, assuring the ascendency of critical theory and post-colonialism.[2] The book, despite its enthusiastic reception among many, also received extensive criticism on both the micro and macro level – the multiple (uncorrected) errors that, in many cases reveal a profound ignorance about the history of the Middle East, the selective focus (nothing on major school of German [non-imperialist] scholarship), the tendency to the same essentialism when dealing with Western scholars that it condemned when dealing with inhabitants of the constructed fantasy, the “Orient,” and of course, the reductive thesis (knowledge essentially a form of wielding power, a tool imperialism).[3] Here I wish to look at what may be an unintended consequence of this book’s success – its contribution to the success of the subsequent cogwar waged by global Jihadis against a West they wanted to invade.

In the last five years alone, Saïd’s epigones in academia, journalism, punditry, and policy, have been spectacularly poor in their depictions and analyses of, and prescriptions for acting in, the Middle East. One might even venture to say that they misread every major development, from the democratic “Arab Spring” (2010) to today’s regional melt-down of state apparatus. And the lamentable state of President Obama’s understanding testifies to their signal failure.

Thus this collapse comes under the blows of the most savage kind of tribal and religious warfare, whose very presence, much less remarkable appeal to Muslims in the West, the post-colonial academy studiously avoided discussing.[4] Now we witness the displacement of tens of millions of refugees fleeing these political catastrophes, now pressing, not as conquerors but as victims, at the gates of Europe. In all this, Western information professionals have catastrophically failed in their task of informing knowledgeable, intelligent and effective decision making.

If we have any hope of figuring out what to do for the rest of the 21st century in dealing with this generational war that Western democratic societies have to fight with the forces of global Jihad, we need to rethink our reliance on Edward Saïd’s cognitive and moral compass. The remainder of this essay is dedicated to furthering that agenda by examining one critical area of scholarship that Saïd’s influence has blighted – the topic of honor-shame cultures – and applying it to one of the more catastrophic and persistent diplomatic blunders of the late 20th century produced by that cognitive damage – the Oslo Accord and the ensuing “cult of the occupation.”

On Abuse, Donkeys, Mass Murder, and Terrorism

In a recent article (HT: CRP), Rebecca Traister argued that rather than focus on Islam or Jihad

are truly looking to stem terrorism and mass violence of the sort that happened in Nice, they might do better to look to a different kind of litmus test: domestic violence and grievances against women.

The basic argument runs: all these mass murderers, Muslims and not, share a common pattern of abusing women, and in that matrix one will find the motivations for their deeds, and possibly the solutions for stopping them. The take-home message:

But that doesn’t make any religion — whether it’s Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s Islam or Robert Lewis Dear’s evangelical Christianity — the defining factor in mass shootings. Perhaps these disturbed men — and 98 percent of mass killers are men — are drawn to the patriarchal traditions upheld by some religions to make sense of or justify their anger and resentment toward women. But we might do better to examine the patterns of violence toward women themselves.

On one level, this argument is a transparent (indeed signaled at the beginning as an) attempt to take the attention away from Islam and hence foil Islamophobic rantings of right-wingers like Gingrich. On another, it’s a retooling of a familiar politically correct “feminist” argument that insists that honor-killings are merely part of a continuum with other domestic violence in which we Westerners, “we too,” are ‘just as” guilty as the cultures (largely Muslim) that practice honor-killings. Not surprisingly, some scholars think this is apologetics, and see a particular, indeed unique pattern of cultural depravity at work. How appallingly judgmental of them.

Rather than dismiss these remarks, however, I’d like to turn them from the piecemeal of individuals and statistics, and look at cultural issues. Let’s grant, for the moment, Traister’s argument that men who abuse women are more likely to a) be steeped in a testosteronic, alpha male mindset, b) find ISIS an attractive option because of its savage patriarchal attitudes, and c) in some (hopefully rare cases) engage in more rampant violence like mass murder.

Let’s then add to the mix, two further issues:

  • the fact that while women are a special object of abuse and violence, both for reasons of sexuality and jealousy, women are the object of male abuse for the same reason that many others are: they’re physically weaker. Thus, in this discussion, let’s widen the range of abused from women to weaker people, including children and animals.
  • the high correlation between people who abuse and people who have been abused, if you will, the intergenerational cycle of domestic violence. If this is true, then despite the fact that all cultures have people caught in this cycle, the nature of the culture – whether it approves or discourages this behavior – plays a significant role in both the frequency of the phenomenon, and its overall influence on life within that given culture.

It was with these thoughts about Traister’s article that I saw the following video of two Israeli policemen confiscating the terribly abused, pregnant donkey of an 11-year old Palestinian boy.

Honor Killings vs. Shame Murders: a cultural meditation

In my understanding of honor-shame culture, especially of the zero-sum kind, it matters far less what you did wrong, than what people think you did wrong. Hence, if you’re innocent and others (your honor group) think you guilty, you feel you are bad. If you’re guilty and others think you’re innocent, you’re fine.

Integrity works the opposite way: if you’re guilty and no one knows it, you may feel relieved, but you feel bad about yourself. If you’re innocent and others think you’re guilty, you may feel bad, but not that you’re bad.

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.

Why I am a member of Peace When

Two State Solution, yes, just not now;

or,

Why I am a member of Peace When.

Almost everyone in the positive-sum world of “getting to win-win” agrees that the most equitable resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, is a two-state solution. Land for peace, reciprocal compromise, give a little, get a lot. This positive-sum thinking lies at the heart of what makes modern democracy possible, and has enabled the Europeans to replace millennia of wars between tribes and nations (in medieval times, an annual activity) with a cooperative and productive Union. To progressives, it’s so obvious that, as one BBC analyst put it: you could work it out with an email.

And yet, the conflict has proven amazingly enduring, and resistant to the best intentioned efforts of Western outsiders for the last twenty years. Indeed, not only did it ruin the final year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, but it made fools of both of Obama’s Secretaries of State, who confidently predicted that they would resolve this in less than a year(!). Like a Sisyphus with Alzheimers, doomed to repeat the same motions without registering the repetition, Western “conflict resolution” experts repeatedly attempt to implement the same “positive-sum” solutions, with predictably the same results: not just no success, but actual failure. The situation is worse after than before.

What escapes many who, like me, accept the idea of a two state solution, is the unmentioned now that accompanies all current efforts. This notion that this solution can and should be implemented right away, has good reasons behind it. In addition to its concern for a putting an end to the suffering caused by the conflict as soon as possible, the haste acknowledges the demographic problems in the next generation: can Israel be both Jewish and democratic?

Both are good reasons to want to move quickly, but not good reasons to ignore the obstacles in the way. The reality on the ground, the combination of “strong horse” political culture, and tribal, apocalyptic Jihadi religious culture, makes it impossible to close one’s eyes and hope that both sides are ready for it, and it’s just a matter of finding the right formula of compromise to hit the jackpot.

“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!