Category Archives: Human Rights Complex

The Double Bind of the Useful Infidels: Feminist Meredith Tax on the Red-Green Alliance

One of the few – alas! – feminists to defend feminist principles against Islamism rather than fold before the (incomprehensible) PC claims of Islamism (see also Phyllis Chesler and Gita Sahgal). H/T: Steve Antler

Just to give you an idea of how insane this has become, our Secretary of State and First Lady were about to give an award for courage to a Muslim woman whose anti-American and anti-Semitic credentials are impeccable.

In the meantime, rather than dwell on the murky depths, let’s ascend to the heights of courage (alas that denouncing Islamist misogyny should be the heights of courage in our age), namely Tax’s work.

Double Bind: tied up in knots on the left

MEREDITH TAX5 February 2013

I have spent the last twenty years working on issues of women and religious censorship.  As a feminist activist in International PEN and then in Women’s WORLD, I couldn’t help noticing that increasing numbers of women writers were being targeted by fundamentalists. Not all these fundamentalists were Islamists; some were Christians, Jews, or Hindus.  In fact, one of my own books was targeted by the Christian Coalition in the US.

Nobody on the left ever objected when I criticized Christian or Jewish fundamentalism.  But when I did defence work for censored Muslim feminists, people would look at me sideways, as if to say, who are you to talk about this?  This tendency has become much more marked since 9/11 and the “war on terror.”

Telling detail here. Jihadis attack us and the “Left” jumps to the defense of the very ideology that inspires them (i.e., the goal of a global Caliphate). Who’d have expected so many useful infidels after 9-11?

The Dead Baby War: Fisking Max Fisher

The Dead Baby War:

Reflections on Palestinian Thanatography and Western Stupefication

Max Fisher, formerly of the Atlantic Monthly, now the WaPo’s “foreign policy advisor,”  just posted a reflection on the war of images in the current Gaza operation. In it he makes every effort to be “even-handed.” And in the end, comes up empty-handed. A remarkable example of how intelligent people can look carefully at evidence and learn nothing. If I didn’t know better (which I don’t), I might think he was doing some “damage control,” if not for Hamas (in which case, presumably it would be unconscious), then for the paradigm that permits him not to acknowledge Hamas’ character.

The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo

Posted by Max Fisher on November 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Left, a journalist for BBC Arabic holds his son’s body. Center, an emergency worker carries an Israeli infant from the site of a rocket strike. Right, Egypt’s prime minister and a Hamas official bend over a young boy’s body. (AP, Reuters, Reuters)

Wars are often defined by their images, and the renewed fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas has already produced three such photographs in as many days. In the first, displayed on the front page of Thursday’s Washington Post, BBC journalist Jihad Misharawi carries the body of his 11-month-old son, killed when a munition landed on his Gaza home. An almost parallel image shows an emergency worker carrying an Israeli infant, bloody but alive, from the scene of a rocket attack that had killed three adults. The third, from Friday, captures Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, in his visit to a Gazan hospital, resting his hand on the head of a boy killed in an airstrike.

Each tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on. It’s a narrative that speaks to the pain of a grieving people, to the anger at those responsible, and to a determination for the world to bear witness. But the conversations around these photos, and around the stories that they tell, are themselves a microcosm of the distrust and feelings of victimhood that have long plagued the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Studiously even-handed. One of my favorite memes: “both sides…”

The old arguments of the Middle East are so entrenched that the photos, for all their emotional power, were almost immediately pressed into the service of one side or another.

Actually, there’s a huge difference between the sides. Israel has, over the years, shown enormous reluctance to use the photos of their dead and wounded to appeal for public sympathy; whereas Palestinians have actually created victims in order to parade their suffering in front of the public. Indeed, Palestinian TV revels in pictures of the dead (so much so, that when my daughter wanted to help me with some logging of PLO TV footage, I had to decline lest she be brutalized by the material). They systematically use the media to both arouse sympathy from an “empathic” West, and to arouse hatred and a desire for revenge among Arabs and Muslims. Nothing uglier.

Israel, on the other hand, studiously avoids pictures of the dead, and only a shocking incident like Ramallah can break those taboos. They were so reluctant to exploit these images that, even at the height of the suicide campaign (2002-3) they refused to release pictures of the dead victims. The two cultures could not be more different on this score, and yet, Fisher has no problem finding his symmetry.

To obfuscate this fundamental difference with a pleasing even-handedness symbolizes the literal stupefication of our culture that necessarily accompanies the politically correct paradigm (PCP1), founded on a dogmatic cognitive egocentrism. It forces one not to see critical information. It’s as if we were under orders to not notice everything that a good detective should pick up on, as if we were required to assist the clean-up crews that want to frame the story to their advantage. In such a world, the protagonists of the Mentalist, Lie to Me, Elementary, CSI, House, are not merely unwelcome, they are banished.

Laor (anti-Zionist) defends Butler (anti-Zionist) in the pages of Ha’aretz (anti-Zionist?)

Yitzhak Laor has come to the spirited defense of Judith Butler in – surprise! – the pages of Ha-aretz. If one thinks of this whole affair as an Emperor’s New Clothes, then think of Laor as a courtier who intervenes after the crowd starts grumbling about Butler’s naked performativity, who rushes in to hold the invisible mantle high.

Before tackling his argument, allow me to give some background on Laor’s attitude towards Israel and Zionism. It will help explain his position in the Butler case.

In 2011, Laor wrote the following:

Get rid of Zionism:

“The “Land of Israel” is a phantasm. Withdrawing from “parts of it” is presented as a “concession” even by supporters of the move. But the only concession we needed to make, even back in 1967, was giving up the messianic claim that this is our land, from the Bible, and therefore we have a right to it. In comparison with this claim, the Serbs, with their preoccupation over the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, are rational, secular people.

Now that he’s made the invidious comparison at his own expense (no “my side even when it’s right” for this fellow), where can he put Hamas and Hizbullah on this scale of secular-rational and religious zealot? But of course, for the self-destructivist left, the madness of the Islamists cannot even be spoken.

Life is in no need of “ancestral rights.” Most of us were born here. That has no connection with the Bible, which for the most part is a very nice book. It has no connection with the prayers of the religious. We don’t need religion, either as a menu in a restaurant or as a strategic analysis.

The only  way that Yitzhak was born here (the year of the war of Independence), was because of the biblical attachment of his ancestors to the land. The lack of acknowledgment of the role biblical beliefs play in history is not only massively uninformed, it shows a complete misunderstanding of the role of religion in history (including why this area has so many Arab Muslims). Like so many “secular, rational” folks, Laor doesn’t have a clue. And he’s a poet, to boot.

Had masses of Israelis had the sense to say that on the morning after the occupation, instead of choosing that of all moments – with the help of professors, poets and writers – to “discover our undivided country,” we would be in a different situation today.

This is an especially nice example of how the other side has no moral responsibility. In fact the Israelis after the Six-day war had precisely the attitude he calls for, and got the “Three no’s.” What can one make of someone who can only find fault among his own people, and doesn’t (dare?) express disapproval of his own people’s sworn enemies?

Liberation from Zionism is not a dirty word. In any case, what lies behind Zionism nowadays are interests related to water, real estate, strategic relations with the U.S. and a huge army hungering to justify its existence.

If our fathers erred in their use of myth, we should part from it, for the sake of our sons and daughters. We don’t have to leave this place or give up our lives. But for their sake, we have to get rid of Zionism.

In other words, we enlightened Israelis, should cast aside the faulty “myths” of our ancestors and live peaceably in the land, where (I, Yitzhak Laor know) the other inhabitants will leave with us. Again, note the lack of any mention of the myths circulating among the other inhabitants of the land. Laor, like “Noa”, is a classic lost, solipsistic soul, wandering the landscape, performing nobly, leading himself and his children into catastrophe.

Here’s his take on Judith Butler.

In the spirit of Hannah Arendt

The witch hunt against U.S. Jewish academic Judith Butler, who is being awarded the prestigious Adorno prize, originates in a dangerous strand of American Jewry that has been assaulting freedom of expression even in U.S. universities.

These are classic tropes of the destructivist left: “We are the innocent victims, hounded by mean people who – gasp! – criticize us.” It’s fascinating to see how they can turn a disagreement into an assault on freedom of expression. Enderlin and his buddies at the Nouvel Obs did the same thing: what? we can be criticized for not doing our job by outsiders? What happened to freedom of the press?

By Yitzhak Laor | 03:22 11.09.12 |  0

Today, the birthday of the sociologist Theodor Adorno, philosopher Judith Butler will be in Frankfurt to receive a prize named after him. The prize has been given every three years since 1977 to an outstanding intellectual or artist. Its winners include sociologists Norbert Elias and Zygmunt Bauman, philosophers Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida, composers Gyorgy Ligeti and Pierre Boulez, and film directors Alexander Kluge and Jean-Luc Godard.

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

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

Validate Settlements, Israeli Panel Suggests

Ariel Schalit/Associated Press

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

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

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

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

How not to save Israel: Response to Gershom Gorenberg

A friend asked me what I thought of the following piece by Gershom Gorenberg published by Slate. Disclosure: Gorenberg and I were once close friends. He was a regular at the Center for Millennial Studies, when wrote his book End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. He even asked me once to substitute for him at an NIF [!] function in New York – before I knew what I was dealing with (more on that below).

For a formal review of the book by Lazar Berman, who used to post at the Augean Stables, see “The Unmaking of Gershom Gorenberg.”

Fisked below.

How to Save Israel
The three steps that could rescue it from endless conflict and international ostracism.
By |Posted Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, at 6:59 AM ET

For Israel to establish itself again as a liberal democracy, it must make three changes.

It’s pretty revealing that Gorenberg thinks Israel needs to establish itself again as a “liberal democracy.” He apparently thinks that the first round ended in 1967. That means that the key moment in a democracy – when an opposition group can be voted into power – which occurred for the first time in 1977, doesn’t even count, along with the in some cases excessive commitment to radical democratic principles of Aharon Barak’s Supreme Court (1978-2006). As will become apparent later on, this schema has a great deal to do with his moral perfectionism and, tangentially I think, his concern for what others think, an aspect of his thought revealed in his concern about “international ostracism.”

The following is adapted from Gershom Gorenberg’s new book The Unmaking of Israel. Read the earlier excerpts about why, exactly, Israel ended up losing most of its Arab population in 1948 and about why a new kind of old-time Judaism has taken hold in Israel.

I write from an Israel with a divided soul. It is not only defined by its contradictions; it is at risk of being torn apart by them. It is a country with uncertain borders and a government that ignores its own laws. Its democratic ideals, much as they have helped shape its history, or on the verge of being remembered among the false political promises of 20th-century ideologies.

The risks Gorenberg identifies (see below) are only some of the risks Israel runs, but which he tends to ignore, not the least, the risks embedded in the suggestions he has to make for resolving the contradictions. “On the verge of being remembered among the false political promises of 20th century ideologies”?! Is this a reference to Nazism and Communism? Historically this is ludicrous – unless Gorenberg sees Israel becoming a totalitarian state sometime soon. Only in terms of the kind of post-colonial anti-Zionism of say, Tony Judt or Phillip Weiss, it does make sense.

What will Israel be in five years, or 20? Will it be the Second Israeli Republic, a thriving democracy within smaller borders? Or a pariah state where one ethnic group rules over another? Or a territory marked on the map, between the river and the sea, where the state has been replaced by two warring communities? Will it be the hub of the Jewish world, or a place that most Jews abroad prefer not to think about? The answers depend on what Israel does now.

I have an Israeli friend, a good liberal who supported Oslo despite the information he was getting about the malevolent intentions of the PA, who admitted to me that after the outbreak of the Second Intifada (in other words, after the Palestinians got out of their Trojan horse and showed their real hand), that the hardest thing for him to realize is that “it’s not in our hands.”

Gorenberg has yet to realize that. For him, everything is in Israel’s hands, and if only they’d do what he told them, then they’d have peace, a liberal democracy, the moral high ground, and the world would once again like and admire them (or at least not stigmatize them as pariahs). As a result, he is a prime candidate for “masochistic omnipotence complex” (MOS) ie, it’s all our fault and if only we could be better [a liberal democracy] then we could fix everything.

As a result, Gorenberg is susceptible to framing the conflict in terms of the “four dimensional Israeli, two- (or one-) dimensional Palestinian“. Since I rarely agree with Phillip Weiss, let me note that he points out the same lack of any real interest in Palestinians on Gorenberg’s part. This was, by the way, my critique of the play NIF staged in NYC which I commented on in Gorenberg’s place: four dimensional Jews ruminating and churning their guilt in a void filled with fantasies of Palestinian peace-makers whom extremist Jews try to assassinate.

For Israel to establish itself again as a liberal democracy, it must make three changes. First, it must end the settlement enterprise, end the occupation, and find a peaceful way to partition the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

What on earth leads Gorenberg to think that this “peaceful way to partition” is possible? When he says “stop the occupation” he presumably means retreat to the Green line (the ’49 armistice lines). When the Palestinian leadership – “secular” and religious – says occupation, they mean the shore line. Does Gorenberg think that ending the settlement enterprise and the occupation will lead to a peaceful partition, rather than to a resumption of war with Israel in a weaker position? Has he considered that possibility?

What if the Israelis had taken Bin Laden out?

It’s always a good mental exercise to imagine what the international reaction would be to any belligerent action by another country (democracy or not). Daniel Friedmann, former Minister of Justice under Ehud Olmert, has a piece in Yediot Aharonot that does just that in the case of OBL. When Friedmann wrote this, he apparently did not know that at the time of his untimely demise, OBL was unarmed. That would make him, by the definition of B’tselem and other “Human Rights” NGOs, an innocent civilian.

The following is provided and translated by Steven Plaut.

Suppose, just Suppose that it had been Israel that Carried Out the Assassination (or, American Chutzpah)

By Daniel Friedmann

We are lucky that bin Laden was taken out by the American military.  I tremble at the thought of what would have happened had he been killed by Israeli forces.   Would there not have arisen a deafening outcry against cold-blooded murder without a trial?  Would there not have been calls to investigate whether bin Laden could have been captured unharmed, to be put on fair trial, where he could defend himself judicially?

Would not the soldier who had shot him be indicted, because perhaps he could have merely wounded bin Laden by shooting at his legs, thus avoiding an unnecessary loss of human life?   And what about those other “collateral” deaths in the compound? Was it really necessary to kill THOSE people without even putting them on trial?

Let us bear in mind that the operation was carried out in the territory of a friendly foreign country allied to the US – Pakistan. Since when can a country just go in and kill suspects in another country that has its own police and courts?

One must keep in mind that at this stage bin Laden was merely a suspect – since he was never convicted of any crime by any court, including for the destruction of the WTC towers in the US.  Under the circumstances, should not the US forces have warned him and demanded his surrender before opening fire, and – if such a warning was given to bin Laden – was it a sufficient warning?

To all these “questions” others would then be added. Under such sensitive circumstances, is it really appropriate for the US military itself to examine its own behavior and performance?  Would it not be better to have some outside commission of investigation, one that will enjoy public trust?

Indeed, a local commission of investigation would be insufficient and surely many would demand an international investigation, one in which the international community could place its faith!  Like one by the UN or its commission on human rights.

There are other issues.  How did the Americans decide to toss bin Laden’s carcass into the sea without first consulting bin Laden’s own family members and violating his human right to a dignified burial.

And why did the American government do all this without even soliciting a single learned scholarly legal opinion from an international expert on human rights?

And I almost forgot.  In such an important matter it is unthinkable that action should have been carried out without first petitioning the Supreme Court, which in Israel at least routinely interferes whenever the military wants to assassinate terrorist leaders.  Hence the Supreme Court should contemplate who should now be indicted for the abuses in the operation, after the commission of investigation completes its work.

And even that is not the end of the story.  The names of the soldiers and officers involved in the operation must be made public at court order, because of their involvement in the killings.  The individuals involved might someday seek public office.  Even more important is the fact that one day it may be desirable to conduct a thorough legal evaluation of these people, given the fact that their behavior produced human deaths.

It’s always useful to consider the differential between the way Israel gets treated by the “Human Rights” community and the MSNM and the way other countries are. Note that the latest news, which the author of this article did not know at the time of composition, is that Bin Laden was unarmed at the time he was gunned down. By the definitions used by B’tselem and Palestinian “Human Rights” organizations, that makes him an innocent civilian.

Now take this exercise one step further: Imagine the outrage of Americans if any major American institution (e.g., the Supreme Court, or some group in Congress) called for these kinds of investigations, or some newspaper that took this position. Imagine the cry of outrage at such crazy self-inflicted inhibitions. The Nation is not a fringe journal by accident. In Israel, this is all mainstream discourse directed against the country itself.

Nothing illustrates better the principle that, when it comes to the Human Rights Complex, Israel is the whitest of the whites.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

UPDATE: German TV has a member of the Green Party and a theologian expressing precisely the “human rights” sentiments mentioned above. It’s not Christian and it’s not civilized…

Response to a neo-prog: Let’s talk about the (herd of) elephants in the room

In response to a request from a reader, I wrote some thoughts on the matter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Noam, the author of a blog called “Promised Land” responded in feigned disbelief. He makes many presumptions and jumps all over what he thinks he’s caught be saying, and never once tried to clarify (by asking at my own blogpost, for example) what I meant. To clarify, let me respond directly addressing Noam.

Dear Noam, I read your blogpost and felt that your reading of me was remarkably, even determinedly superficial, and that as a result, you misunderstood what I wrote. So before I respond, let me ask you, on the contrary, if I misunderstand what you wrote. On the simplest level, let me ask you if you would or would not agree with yourself as a “neo-prog,” according to the following description. (Hint: I certainly don’t think of myself as a neo-con; and you’re welcome to disagree with my attribution of neo-prog to you.)

A neo-prog is the product of the profound shock that struck us all with 9-11. In the confrontation with an almost unimaginably savage hatred, Americans responded along a sharp fault-line. Some said, “What’s wrong with them that they hate us so?” and others said, “What did we do to them, that they hate us so?” Obviously both questions deserve consideration. But somehow, those who asked the first question at all got labeled neo-cons (Islamophobes, racists) by people who primarily or only asked the second question. These people I think it would help to identify as neo-progs, neo-progressives.

At the same time as neo-progs insist that there is no “us” and “them,” they have a much higher level of sensitivity to and intolerance for failings they find in “our” camp, and an astonishingly broad tolerance for morally reprehensible behavior on the other side. Neo-progs have the Human Rights Complex: if Westerners can be blamed for some infraction of human rights (a fortiori the Jews, now the whitest of the whites), neo-progs wax indignant; if subaltern “others” (“people of color”) are to blame, they look the other way.

Trying to maintain their commitment to “moral relativity,” their moral compass has been so bent out of shape that they cannot apply even remotely similar scales to the right and the left. Thus fellow progressives who disagree with them, who argue for caution and defensiveness over passion and generosity, are immediately put in another camp, neo-cons for intellectuals, tea-party fundamentalists for hoi poloi.

On the other hand, when dealing with people from other cultures (including American Muslims), they work with a completely different set of norms and expectations, in which the slightest nod to “progressive” values becomes a cause of celebration as a victory for the good guys. Thus Abu Mazen is a “moderate” and the Muslim Brotherhood is not only moderate but largely secular; and those demonstrating against Mubarak are “pro-democracy” even as they use the crudest anti-semitic slogans to express their discontent. Neo-progs respond to criticism of the “other” as an offense to progressive values; in response they say, “don’t try and change the subject by pointing the finger”; they call the critic a racist, a xenophobe, an Islamophobe. Even as they criticize “us” ferociously and “them” not at all, they claim there is no “us” and “them.”

In their own mind, neo-progs are passionately moral beings, upholding basic values while the rest of the West goes fascist around them. But the extremism to which neo-progs will go in ‘othering’ their “right wing” and into ‘us-ing’ “moderate” Muslims, suggests that there are other forces at work as well. Indeed, neo-progs are victims of a particularly insidious form of Islamophobia, a fear of criticizing Islam – a fear well illustrated in the urgency with which they try and silence “insulting” criticism (i.e., all criticism) of Islam. If on the one hand, such fears are physical – look at what happens to those who do criticize Islam – they are also psychological. Neo-progs are afraid of losing their claim to be progressives, of being shunned by the progressive community – a fear which explains why they hasten to call progressives who disagree “neo-cons.”

So tell me what you think, Noam. Are you a neo-prog? And if not, why not?

My interlinear responses:

A conservative defense for Apartheid & colonialism

Some stuff you have to read with your own eyes in order to believe it. Prof. Richard Landes, who writes a pro-Israeli conservative blog named Augene [sic] Stables, is making what seems like a comparative case for Israeli colonialism.

My Mistake, Jeffrey Goldberg’s too

I just posted a piece that was co-authored with Elisa Vandernoot, who offered to help me with my blog while I am distracted working on my book on millennialism. I did not proof-read carefully enough and published a comment that I would neither have written nor should I have allowed it to get published under my name. My apologies to anyone I offended.

Jeffrey Goldberg, whose name appears in a list of “self-hating Jews” has responded with vehemence. I respond below:

From Richard Landes, in reference to criticism of the Netanyahu government’s settlement policy from, among others, yours truly:

Alas, the majority of liberal Jewish journalists and writers like Thomas Friedman, David Remnick and Jeffrey Goldberg  don’t have the fortitude, conviction and integrity of their elders. Instead of having independent minds, they have shown themselves to be self-hating.

Actually, that’s not in the context of criticism of Netanyahu’s government settlement policy; it’s in the context of using the settlement policy to blame Israel for the breakdown of the talks. You can be as critical as you want of the settlement policy; I have no problem with that. Indeed much of the criticism makes sense.

But to take the step of blaming it for the failure of the peace process when there are so many far greater obstacles coming from the Palestinian side… that strikes me as both intellectually dishonest, and excessively self-critical, bordering on what I call masochistic omnipotence syndrome. Any serious student of the Arab-Israeli conflict who thinks that the settlements are the main block to a resolution, and that if Israel stopped settlements, indeed uprooted all the settlements including East Jerusalem, that would make the Palestinians eager partners in peace, rather than still more intransigent and eager for war strikes me as self-deluding.

This is sickening rhetoric. People like Landes — who conflate support for Israel with support for settlements — are creating conditions that will ultimately lead to Israel’s disappearance.

Remnick joins the ASHamed Jews

This post is a joint effort by RL and Elisa Vandernoot.

‘So how can they be ashamed? How can you be ashamed  of a country that’s not yours?’ Treslove  was truly puzzled.

‘It’s because they’re Jewish.’

‘But you said they’re not ashamed of being Jewish.’

‘Exactly. But they’re ashamed as Jews.’

‘Ashamed as Jews of a country of which they are not citizens…?’

Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question

Last week Ron Radosh wrote an excellent piece entitled: David Remnick Joins the Israeli Haters and the Leftist British Intellectuals . Radosh laments the great writers, the   ‘New York Intellectuals’ of the 1940s and 1950s; writers such as Irving Howe, Irving Kritsol, Mary McCarthy, Lionel Trilling and others. These men and women were giants in their day.

Today, what passes for ‘New York Intellectuals’ are writers paid very well associated with big name publications such as the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books.

Both publications pay their writers well, and their editors and writers on the staff get high salaries, many perks, and have great influence on the culture at large. Both of them, although the NYRB is more similar in its leftism to The Nation, while The New Yorker makes a pretense of being more independent and gives off a pretentious air of would-be objectivity and nuance, runs pieces by people like the discredited Seymour Hersh with regularity, and is outspoken as the single most pro-Obama magazine in existence.

He criticises current editor David Remnick who is both a journalist and writer and the latest, amongst ‘liberal’ thinking Jews to join the fashionable Israeli haters of British Intellectuals. Remnick recently gave an interview to the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot about his forthcoming book on Obama and decided to take a nasty swipe at Israeli policy in the process:

A new generation of Jews is growing up in the US. Their relationship with Israel is becoming less patient and more problematic…How long can you expect that they’ll love unconditionally the place called Israel [sic]? You’ve got a problem. You have the status of an occupier since 1967. It’s been happening for so long that even people like me, who understand  that not only one side is responsible for the conflict and that the Palestinians missed an historic opportunity for peace in 2000, can’t take it anymore.

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

(My apologies for taking so long to post this. I wanted feedback from friends on my treatment of Tikkun Olam which is not an area of any expertise for me. I wrote this during the Thanksgiving break, but only post it now. I do think, however, that the issue I treat here is not going away.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MSNM to Israel: We’re a force of nature, deal with it.

The latest developments from Silwan, and a brilliant spoof on the MSNM by Latma (below) prompt me to report a conversation I had last summer with a journalist who is the Middle East Correspondent for a major Western news outlet. I was speaking to him about my concern that the MSNM had behaved very badly over the previous decade, much to the detriment, not just of Israel but of the West and societies that try and guarantee the freedom of speech and the press. In particular I emphasized the skewed epistemology whereby they treated Palestinian claims as true until proven false, and Israeli claims as false until proven true, and when the evidence eventually favored the Israelis, they tended to fall silent.

His response was that Israeli complaints (whining) about the media being unfair is like a general who complains about rain on the field of battle. I didn’t bother pursuing the point that in no case does the rain only fall on one army alone. What interested me more was the implication of this (repeated) comment, namely that he (and apparently many others) saw the media as a force of nature, an unalterable force, immune to reason or rebuke. They would just do their thing, and let the Israelis deal with it.

I think that some of this comes from an attitude of sympathy towards the underdog. Bob Simon, in treating the Al Durah story, commented that “in the Middle East, one picture can be worth a thousand weapons.” Over time, a number of journalists (off the record) agreed with the formula: “The Israelis have all the weapons, so why not let the Palestinians have the PR victory? It’s a way of leveling the playing field.”

But what about fake stories? Like Muhammad al Durah? In subsequent years, I heard (especially European/French) journalists shrug and say, weapons of the weak, as if somehow that made it alright. In this sense, Enderlin’s response to my observation that most of the action sequences from Talal abu Rahmah were framed — “Oh, they do that all the time, it’s a cultural thing” — represents the journalist’s off-the-record Orientalist indulgence of a culture foreign to everything that Western journalism is supposed to be about.

Now, I can understand some journalists coming to this conclusion, deciding that somehow the underdog status of the Palestinians allowed them to invent what Nidra Poller has aptly called “lethal narratives” but not everyone.  And yet, my friend the journalist (who few would consider a particularly nasty anti-Israel writer) tells me that a majority of the journalists stationed in Israel would be far more harsh in their treatment of Israel were it not for their editors at home.

I think I understand why he presents the MSNM as a force of nature, impermeable to change: they’re going to handicap Israel by raining on their troop positions. It’s not only the “moral” thing to do (level the playing field, side with the underdog), but it’s also a show of power. They will be the Lilliputians that tie the giant Gulliver down.

Talking to him, listening to his reasoning, to his explanations for things (like explaining the precipitous drop in Hamas’ suicide bombings in recent years as a response to the disapproval of Muslims worldwide), to his disappointment that Israel is not more in line with his own liberal/progressive thinking (alas, they reacted to suicide attacks by becoming more right-wing), to his selective empathy, I begin to realize how tight the grip of what Charles Jacobs calls the Human Rights Complex is on our journalists, and their party-buddies, the UN workers and “Human Rights” NGOs who hang together in Jerusalem. It produces the “herd of independent minds” that characterizes today’s Middle East journalism.

And of course, if you adopt this point of view, you never have to deal with the problem of what happens if you report stuff that’s not acceptable to the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims. So they can, in all good conscience, look you straight in the eye and say, “There’s no intimidation here.” Try writing some stories on the culture of genocidal hatred that has pride of place in Palestinian pulpits and airways, and see if there isn’t some pushback.

But then, that would be supplying Israel with PR weapons, and we wouldn’t want that.

All of this is a long and rather elaborate introduction to a brilliant satire put out by Latma on precisely this subject. Enjoy. Imnsho, it’s right on.

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

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

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

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

What’s up with Patrick?

By Charles Jacobs
June 5, 2010

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

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

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

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

Bret Stephens and Israel’s Liberal “Friends”

Bret Stephens has an excellent piece up at the WSJ about the attitude of liberals towards Israel. A few comments sprinkled throughout… (HT/LK)

Israel and Its Liberal ‘Friends’
Why don’t they apply the same tough love to the Palestinians?
By BRET STEPHENS

Comments (230)

Questions for liberals: What does it mean to be a friend of Israel? What does it mean to be a friend of the Palestinians? And should the same standards of friendship apply to Israelis and Palestinians alike, or is there a double standard here as well?

It has become the predictable refrain among Israel’s liberal critics that their criticism is, in fact, the deepest form of friendship. Who but a real friend, after all, is willing to tell Israel the hard truths it will not tell itself? Who will remind Israel that it is now the strong party, and that it cannot continue to play the victim and evade the duties of moral judgment and prudential restraint? Above all, who will remind Israel that it cannot go on denying Palestinians their rights, their dignity, and a country they can call their own?

The answer, say people like Peter Beinart, formerly of the New Republic, is people like . . . Peter Beinart. And now that Israel has found itself in another public relations hole thanks to last week’s raid on the Gaza flotilla, Israelis will surely be hearing a lot more from him.

Of course, Beinart is just the current poster-boy. (I still haven’t fisked him, although is article cries out for it. One of the best responses was Noah Pollak’s. But the real flotilla of liberal “friends” is at J-Street.

Now consider what it means for liberals to be friends of the Palestinians.

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

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

The article with footnotes has now been published by

Terrorism and Political Violence Volume 25Issue 4, 2013

Special Issue: The Intellectuals and Terror: A Fatal Attraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demopaths and their Dupes

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

Peacock Rhinos: On the nature of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros in the early 21st century

In a recent comment on a Goldstone post, Eliyahu made the following comparison:

Eugene Ionesco’s play, The Rhinoceros, has a lot of insights relevant to the “peace camp” and to people starring in the field of “international human rights advocacy” and “peace” advocacy. I think the term rhinoceros or qarnaf [קרנף] in Hebrew fits richard richard goldstone rather well. He’s a rhino in Ionesco’s sense. He is morally insensitive. He is an opportunist. He is devoid of scruples in his field of endeavor. He serves as his master’s voice. He has masters as he indicated by saying that he really didn’t want to take on the assignment. But he is part of a movement and/or a gang and cannot refuse, no more than a mafioso can refuse an assignment. He is expected to comply. His field of endeavor, his assigned task, is to pose as a highly moral man while acting immorally. He puts on the pose of a man of conscience, of a serious man. But he is shallow. He has a weak conscience.

Ionesco’s play referred to what happened in Vichy France as normal, relatively decent people became corrupted by favors, by receiving positions giving them power over other people, by the opportunity to bully others, etc. These people became like the thick-skinned, supposedly insensitive rhino in Ionesco’s metaphor. Unfortunately, the rhino metaphor can describe what is happening throughout the world, including the civilized world.

I ran this by my friend and associate (who considers himself extreme left), and his response was interesting. Many of Ionesco’s rhinos knew they were unprincipled. They openly sided with power and, as Eliyahu points out, were devoid of scruples. Goldstone, he argued, is full of fine thoughts, a beautiful soul who thinks much of himself. He struts on the stage as a moral voice. He’s a peacock.

But, I objected, beneath this veneer lies the heart (and hide) of a rhino. He is thick skinned in the sense that nothing can penetrate to even give him pause. (it is interesting that self-criticism is just not part of his repertoire. He’s admitted no mistakes, even as he expect – no, demands – that Israel bear its breast in public.)

He has his ideas, some public – the importance of the ICC and the human rights movement – and some private – Israel should be held to a higher standard – and it really doesn’t matter to him whether they contradict each other, whether the way he proceeds will work, or destroy his work. As long as that chorus keeps singing his praises, he’s not going to give an inch. The peacock feathers are the cloak of high moral-mindedness that Goldstone and so many others – including journalists – adopt, even as they pursue a rhino’s goals.

The reports coming from the “human rights community” in which at both HRW and AI, dissent is systematically throttled, suggests that this is a breeding ground of peacock rhinos.

UPDATE: William Briggs summarizes Thomas Sowell’s latest book, Intellectuals and Society, which describes the Peacock-rhino (or, as E.G. would have it, the Rhino-cock), with a quote from T.S. Eliot:

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it; or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.

Read the rest: it will sound painfully familiar.

TNR publishes “Minority Report: Human Rights Watch fights a civil war over Israel”

The New Republic has just published a major piece on Human Rights Watch and their deeply disturbed relationship to Israel. Its a case study of demopaths and dupes, human rights complex, masochistic omnipotence syndrome, and the left-jihadi alliance. Below, a few choice passages.

Minority Report
Human Rights Watch fights a civil war over Israel.

Benjamin Birnbaum April 27, 2010 | 12:00 am

[snip]

With Palestinian suicide bombings reaching a crescendo in early 2002, precipitating a full-scale Israeli counterterrorist campaign across the West Bank, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division (MENA) issued two reports (and myriad press releases) on Israeli misconduct—including one on the Israel Defense Forces’ assault on terrorist safe havens in the Jenin refugee camp. That report—which, to HRW’s credit, debunked the widespread myth that Israel had carried out a massacre—nevertheless said there was “strong prima facie evidence” that Israel had “committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions,” irking the country’s supporters, who argued that the IDF had in fact gone to great lengths to spare Palestinian civilians. (The decision not to launch an aerial bombardment of the densely populated area, and to dispatch ground troops into labyrinthine warrens instead, cost 23 Israeli soldiers their lives—crucial context that HRW ignored.) It would take another five months for HRW to release a report on Palestinian suicide bombings—and another five years for it to publish a report addressing the firing of rockets and mortars from Gaza, despite the fact that, by 2003, hundreds had been launched from the territory into Israel. (HRW did issue earlier press releases on both subjects.)

In the years to come, critics would accuse HRW of giving disproportionate attention to Israeli misdeeds. According to HRW’s own count, since 2000, MENA has devoted more reports to abuses by Israel than to abuses by all but two other countries, Iraq and Egypt. That’s more reports than those on Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Algeria, and other regional dictatorships. (When HRW includes press releases in its count, Israel ranks fourth on the list.) And, if you count only full reports—as opposed to “briefing papers,” “backgrounders,” and other documents that tend to be shorter, less authoritative, and therefore less influential—the focus on the Jewish state only increases, with Israel either leading or close to leading the tally. There are roughly as many reports on Israel as on Iran, Syria, and Libya combined.

HRW officials acknowledge that a number of factors beyond the enormity of human rights abuses go into deciding how to divide up the organization’s attentions: access to a given country, possibility for redress, and general interest in the topic. “I think we tend to go where there’s action and where we’re going to get reaction,” rues one board member. “We seek the limelight—that’s part of what we do. And so, Israel’s sort of like low-hanging fruit.”

[snip]

The Coke-Lite of International Law: Goldstone Speaks at Yale

Judge Richard Goldstone spoke yesterday at Yale in the framework of the George Herbert Walker Bush Jr. Lecture in International Relations. Obviously a most prestigious platform for someone of stature, but inappropriate for a figure who is not only highly controversial, but has done much to marginalize himself, as Noah Pollak and Adam Yoffie pointed out the previous day in the Yale Daily.

The talk did not directly address the “Gaza Fact-finding Mission Report” as Goldstone referred to it, but it did tackle the subject of “Accountability for War Crimes,” and Goldstone brought in Israel on occasion as an example of the issues he raised.

Perhaps the single most striking feature of the talk was its staggering superficiality. Goldstone might have a reputation (at least among those familiar with his report) for being biased, but not for being a lightweight. And yet in the less than forty minutes of his formal lecture, at no point did one get the impression that one was listening to a trained legal mind, much less a brilliant one. Most of the lecture could have been written by an undergraduate who combined entries at Wikipedia on International Law, Nuremberg Trials, Geneva Convention, and Rome Treaty, with a warmed over version of “war is not the answer,” and “why can’t we all just get along and follow the law?”

In the world of academia, where presumably we have high standards, such a mediocre performance – especially when widely praised – attests to a distinct deterioration in academic discourse. That people, like Phillip Weiss (below), can find Goldstone’s presentation “brilliant” and “wise” suggests that we are (once again) in an age of misapplied superlatives, grade inflation, and partisan judgments.

Goldstone’s initial discussion sounded quite reasonable: in order for “universal jurisdiction” to work in a court like the ICC, they have to deal specifically with “grave breaches.” The court has to have credibility, it must be trusted for its fairness, in order for it to work. And in order to gain that kind of credibility, it needs to focus on deeds that are “so shocking to the minds of people that they constitute crimes against humanity.” Proportionality is a matter of judgment, and in such cases, great leeway is given to commanders in the “fog of war” in making such judgments.

So far so good, although I confess I couldn’t figure out from these remarks why he ever took on the Gaza Mission. Could that letter to the Times from Amnesty International signed by three of the four future members of the Gaza Mission, including Goldstone, be a clue? After all, the signatories had expressed how the recent events (not the previous eight years of suicide bombings and rockets aimed at civilians), “have shocked us to the core.” Nothing similar appeared from these signatories at the death of some 20,000 civilians in Sri Lanka only months later, nothing about the millions in Congo. But the Israeli attacks on Gaza, in which, even by the most hostile Palestinian counts, fewer than a thousand civilians were killed, that “shocks to the core.”

I kept thinking to myself, “how could he, with these principles and concerns in mind, have accused Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity”?

That impression was further confirmed when he began his most “interesting” discussion, of the principle of “equality.” Initially, the discussion seemed to reinforce my puzzlement. Equality relates intimately to human dignity: [below is a paraphrase taken from notes, the lecture will be available online in about a week]

…if some are given greater rights, the greater the inequality the greater the indignity… Most if all human rights violations are the product of such indignities… Without dehumanization people don’t commit crimes against humanity; the people who engage in genocide have already dehumanized their targets.

Isn’t this precisely what Elihu Richter and Maurice Ostroff had warned Goldstone about in their memos about the way Hamas operates. How could the man who says this have gone to Gaza and come out without a word about the industry of hatred and dehumanization that rules the public sphere there? Worse yet, how could this man say these things when his own report had allowed and highlighted a Palestinian “witness” accusing Israel of this execrable practice.

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
OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
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.

Goldstone’s doubly revealing nightmare from which we have not awoken

In his “debate” on Thursday November 5, at Brandeis, during question and answer, Goldstone got chummy with the audience and told them an anecdote about how he felt going into Gaza:

As far as conditions in Gaza are concerned, I must say that my visit to Gaza turned out very differently from what I had anticipated. Frankly, and I make no, no, no, and I’m not ashamed to say it, I was very nervous about being a Jew going into Gaza on probe by Hamas, especially when the first reaction to my appointment by Hamas was to reject a meeting with me because I was Jew.

And my wife sitting here will remember that three nights before I went, I woke up in the middle of the night after a terrible nightmare, with sweat on my brow, because I had a vivid dream that I’d been kidnapped by, by Hamas, and people in Israel were rejoicing. [laughter] That was the nightmare, based on real fears.

Now Goldstone clearly didn’t tell this anecdote in order to reveal the utter intellectual bankruptcy of both his Report’s methods and and conclusions. But that’s what he did.

“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.