I only now have become aware (thanks to Twitter) of Hans Moll‘s book (2011) on Holland’s most presitigious paper (only in Dutch alas) and Bruce Bawer’s review of it for Frontpage in English. Here I reproduce Bawer’s with comments.
A Dutch journalist exposes the systematic left-wing slant of his country’s most respected newspaper
Bruce Bawer, Frontpage, December 1, 2011
NRC Handelsblad is arguably the most respected newspaper in the Netherlands. Hans Moll was for many an editor there. He is not an editor there any more. In his new book, Verzwijgen als of het gedrunkt staat, of Hoe de nuance verdween: NRC Handelsblad over Israël, de Islam en het integratiedebat (How the Nuance Vanished: NRC Handelsblad on Israel, Islam, and the Integration Debate), Moll provides a very valuable document of our time: an insider look at the kind of day-to-day reportorial and editorial decision-making, in matters big and small, that leads a newspaper to convey a less than objective view of the world.
Not just “less than objective” – PoMo-PoCo’s insist that’s that’s not possible anyway – but a self-defeating view of the world, utterly disorienting for those who are the target of Jihadi Caliphaters. The important point here is the link between the way the media portray “reality” – or, in their terms, bear witness to their time – in the conflict between Israel and her neighbors, and the way the portray Islam, both in the Middle East and at home. a
Moll’s accounts of his professional experiences do not necessarily apply only to his own former employer. Like many other “newspapers of record” across Europe and in the U.S., NRC Handelsblad leans to the left, and the stories Moll tells about his newspaper provide insight into the mentality of journalists and editors at elite dailies ranging from The New York Times to The Guardian to Le Monde.
In the wake of the media debacle of the 2016 elections, one former NYT editor, Michael Cieply, offered some thoughts on how “narrative driven” much of their coverage (not published by the NYT). In a sense the media has long been a vehicle for redemptive action, and in its role as critic, it plays a crucial role in making democracy work. But now, we have journalists as a pack, seized with a consensus that held: a) Israelis do terrible things which we cover in intense detail; and b) Muslims rarely do terrible things, which we dramatically undercover.
The unanticipated victory of Trump has left the MSNM in something of a quandary. Their scarcely concealed advocacy for Clinton, and contempt for Trump, for his supporters, even for pundits expressed the heretical speculation that he “might” win, have combined to produce the spectacular shift from 85% odds in favor of Clinton (NYT) to 95% in favor of Trump in little more than 2 hours, once real returns started coming in Tuesday night.
In addition to the immense consternation Trump’s victory has caused, it has also produced some interesting introspection and self-criticism on the part of at least some journalists. Below is a preliminary collection of the articles that engage in this auto-critique. I welcome other suggestions, and annotations/comments on the articles themselves. Eventually, I’d like to compare the media failure with reporting the US Elections to their failure with reporting the Middle East conflict: the same “liberal” advocacy, narrative-driven reporting that ignored realities on the ground.
It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.
Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”
The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that, with a few exceptions, we were all tacitly or explicitly #WithHer, which has led to a certain anguish in the face of Donald Trump’s victory. More than that and more importantly, we also missed the story, after having spent months mocking the people who had a better sense of what was going on.
This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there’d be a winking “we did it” feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic.
When Mark Halperin suggested that there was a pathway for Donald Trump as president of the United States, I won’t name names because so many of them are my friends and there’s no need to name names now because the time for recrimination is over. But reporters at some of the best newspapers in the world, anchors at some of the best networks in the world, mocked and ridiculed — Mark Halperin, I want you to think about this. They mocked and ridiculed him not for saying that Donald Trump is going to be elected president of the United States. They mocked and ridiculed him for saying there was a slight chance that Donald Trump could be elected president of the United States.
Had the paper actually been fair to both candidates, it wouldn’t need to rededicate itself to honest reporting. And it wouldn’t have been totally blindsided by Trump’s victory.
Instead, because it demonized Trump from start to finish, it failed to realize he was onto something. And because the paper decided that Trump’s supporters were a rabble of racist rednecks and homophobes, it didn’t have a clue about what was happening in the lives of the Americans who elected the new president…
That wasn’t one reporter talking — it was policy. The standards, developed over decades to force reporters and editors to be fair and to build public trust, were effectively eliminated as too restrictive for the Trump phenomenon.
The man responsible for that rash decision, top editor Dean Baquet, later said the Rutenberg piece “nailed” his thinking, and went on to insist that Trump “challenged our language” and that, “He will have changed journalism.”
Richard Landes, Medieval Historian, Critic of 21st Century News Media
In years to come, when historians begin to sort out the massive moral and cognitive disorientation of the progressive left in the first decade of the 21st century, they will want to read these pages carefully. The year 2000, best known for disappointing believers in the Y2K scare, also proved a dramatic turning point for global Jihad. In the Fall of the year 2000, the balances shifted dramatically in the war between global Jihad and the West. Quite suddenly, the vastly weaker side militarily, launched a cognitive war campaign on multiple fronts, aimed at paralyzing the West’s defenses and inciting true believers to take up Jihad. Jihadis gained the upper hand without most in the West even noticing. For some pessimists who did pay attention, while Europe slept, the unthinkable became the inevitable – a Muslim Europe.
In Europe more than any other democratic zone, a civil-society Maginot Line collapsed: widespread hostility to Jews, fueled among Muslims by paranoid apocalyptic preachers, and among everyone by lethal journalists reporting what amounted to blood libels against the Jews as “news”, led to increasingly violent public demonstrations, to schools overrun with anti-Semitic bullies, to unrestrained hatred of sovereign Jews. Jihadis participated energetically in all aspects of the attack, especially at the protests where, shouting “Death to Jews,” they fomented riots targeting initially Jews, but really, all infidels. The situation today, unimaginable two decades ago, has Europe, with an already restive and violently anti-Jewish/anti-infidel Muslim population, now further hit by waves of aggressive refugees from a radically dysfunctional Muslim world in the throes of merciless religious wars they blame on the West and bring with them to the West.
One of the key elements in the stunning reversal of fortunes in favor of Jihadis fighting the West was their ability to find allies in the Western pubic sphere, who shared their narrative of world redemption through the elimination of Israel, “our global misfortune.” FOR WORLD PEACE ISRAEL MUST BE DESTROYED!
Sharing this Zionist enemy brought progressives and Jihadis together in a catastrophic “anti-imperialist” alliance sanctioned by no less than the pacifist (!) Judith Butler, foremost proponent of post-modern critical theory, who in 2006, welcomed Hamas and Hizbullah as members of the “global progressive left” on the basis of their “anti-imperialism.”
Not only did this astonishing statement ignore the moral chasm that separates progressives from Jihadis on virtually every value Butler says she holds dear, but it is based on a fundamental error of reasoning. Espousing anti-American imperialism hardly makes one anti-imperialist. On the contrary, it can, and in the case of Jihadis, does arise from imperialist rivalry. Thus did Judith Butler, and more broadly, the PoMo-PoCo progressive “Left,” take the most regressive religious imperialism on the planet into the bosom of their global movement because of a shared hatred of US and Israel.
LONDON — In the closing sentence of Patrick Cockburn gives a chilling warning to his readers.
“The demons released by this age of chaos and war in the Middle East have become an unstoppable force.”
Amidst the larger analysis, Cockburn identifies suicide terror as a key factor in making Jihadi warfare unstoppable.
While the Middle East has been far from stable in the 100 years since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Cockburn argues that the territory has now entered into an unprecedented phase: civil wars across the region where Sunni fundamentalist jihadis play a leading role.
“What people often miss about [Sunni] jihadism is that if you have a suicide bomber it allows you to organize with great military precision a very powerful weapon,” says Cockburn. “That’s one of the reasons why IS (Islamic State) dominate the opposition in Syria and Iraq — because they are all lead by suicide bombers. They are fighting people who have air power and sophisticated equipment. But suicide bombing is the lethal precision that allows them to break through.
Cockburn, like many who now acknowledge the danger to the West of this apocalyptic weapon, lays much of the responsibility at the feet of the West, led by Bush, for the impact of their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, for our misunderstanding and wrong-headed meddling in situations we don’t understand, interventions that worsened matters in the Arab world so badly, that by the “Arab Spring,” the blow to the political system that should have brought on democracy, instead led to the collapse of many, if not all Arab political structures in the face of this ferocious Jihad.
The following is a set of definitions I will be using in a talk I’m giving on Sunday. They are, I think, critical terms in understanding what has happened in the 21st century, and why we’re losing a war of the minds with triumphalist imperialist zealots. I will post the talk after I deliver it.
Definitions for Talk (* = my terms)
Lethal Narrative (Nidra Poller): a story designed to create hatred and a desire for revenge, like accusing someone of deliberately harming innocents. Most lethal narratives are false.
War Propaganda: False lethal narratives stand at the center of war propaganda produced by a belligerent force about their targeted enemy. A form of hate speech.
Lethal Journalism(Yossi Kuperwasser): The war correspondent’s first task is to filter out malevolent war propaganda, even on his own side. Lethal journalists, however, pass on lethal narratives of one side as news; they act as propagandists in someone else’s war.
Patriotic (tribal) war journalism: reporting “our” side’s propaganda as news. Widespread practice in early national journalism, today a major ethical challenge.
Own-goal War Journalism*: reporting your own side’s enemy’s war propaganda as news. Sinon, Laocoön and the Trojan Horse; Abu Rahmah, Enderlin and al Durah.
Triumphalism: dominion proves truth of one’s religion; to be right, “our” religion must rule. “I’m right cause I’m on top.” One God (ours), one king. Hierarchical.
Supersessionism: passive aggressive monotheist triumphalism; the conviction that one’s own value system completely replaces – erases and replaces – previous ones. Christianity supersedes Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, secular progressive left, all monotheisms… but especially Judaism.
Demotic religiosity*: dignity of manual labor, egalitarian relations of autonomous moral agents; positive-sum chosenness. No king but God.
The Economist ran the following political cartoon to illustrate an article about how Palestinians feel about losing the world’s attention.
Tom Gross caught it, Nidra Poller confirmed it emphatically: the two foreground figures are Muhammad al Durah and his father, Jamal. The wall behind them is the famous wall behind the two, “riddled” with bullets, allegedly shot “like rain” and “in cold blood” by the IDF.
The piece is supposed to accompany the article, which combines a sympathetic story of Palestinian distress at Realpolitik alliances such as Sissi and Bibi,
The shift has left the Palestinians, whose fate once topped the Arab agenda, feeling abandoned.
with an implied threat that, if we don’t pay attention to the plight of the Palestinians, they just might get violent.
What really stirs Arab emotions are scenes of Israelis killing Palestinians. Violence over the past year has left dozens of Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead. Most Palestinians, according to polls, back a return to an armed intifada (uprising). With the Arab world focused elsewhere, America in the throes of a presidential race and progress towards a two-state solution halted, they may see no other way to capture the world’s attention.
The article has no author, but appears not to be an editorial (although it would certainly fit nicely in the opinion section, written jointly by the Jerusalem and Cairo correspondents). Presumably, this kind of writing seems both professional and informative to the editorial team who published it. But when we read the cartoon against the grain, we get a remarkable comment on the inveterate lethal journalism that dominates European reporting on the Middle East.
Palestinian rocketing of Israel is an act of resistance to occupation and blockade.
Palestinians do not fire rockets from hospitals, schools, or hotels.
Palestinian rockets are harmless, don’t have explosives.
Palestinians target military, not civilians
Occupation is the cause of all the hostilities.
Palestinians do not intimidate journalists.
Gaza is an open-air prison.
Israel targets civilians and children, massacres.
Gaza is the world’s most densely populated area.
Civilians are helpless, have nowhere to go.
IDF shelling is indiscriminate.
Schools are safe havens that Israel targets.
Sites hit by IDF have no combatants, just civilians
Israel rejects ceasefires
Israel breaks ceasefires (Eid al Fitr, 28 July 2014)
Palestinians have no hope, must resort to attacking Israel any way possible
Israel commits war crimes, violates Geneva conventions
Knock-on-roof measures are dangerous
Palestinian Media Protocols Compliance Index
So, for example, take the claim that “all casualties are civilians.” No journalist with any pretension to being taken seriously would assert such a claim, so complete compliance is out of the question. But the journalist can comply to a significant extent by:
speaking of how “the vast majority of casualties are civilian”(when they’re not, even by Hamas statistics)
show mostly shots of civilians injured, not jihadis
In such a case, a journalist would score high in compliance with Hamas media demands, intensified by the statistical evidence that the Hamas claim is not just exaggerated, but verifiably false.
I am finally composing my long promised book, They’re So Smart cause We’re so Stupid: A Medievalist Guide to the Jihadi Cogwar of the 21st Century. It begins with a list of the “Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century” (#ASSO21C). I’ll be posting material from the book as I compose it. Part I introduces the key Players: Triumphalist Muslims, the Global Progressive Left (GPL), and the lethal own-goal, journalists. The following is the opening to the third chapter:
Lethal, Own-Goal, Dhimmi, Journalists:
The Bane of the West in the 21st century
The Failures of Journalism in the 21st Century
Towards the end of 2000, a professional failure of epic proportions took place among Western journalists. This failure began among Middle East correspondents reporting on the conflict, which broke out anew in late September 2000, between Israel and her Arab (triumphalist) neighbors. In this phase of “lethal journalism” Western reporters, almost as a pack, systematically reported Palestinian accusations against Israel – lethal narratives – as if they were eminently credible, indeed as if they actually happened, in other words as news. These reports had their desired effect in the conflict, supporting the “underdog” and “leveling the playing field,” prolonging the war, protecting the Palestinians from Israeli efforts to prevent their terror attacks, and severely damaging Israel’s global image.
The impact, however, went far beyond what these reporters imagined. They had an electric effect on Muslims the world over, including the West. Given overwhelming proof – the Western media reported it – of the victimization of Muslims in Palestine, many a triumphalist Muslim awoke to the siren call of Jihad. Demonstrations in the West made ample room for a newly aggressive Muslim Street, and recruiting for Jihad made great headway in the heart of the enemy. In particular, Europe’s largely unassimilated Muslim population radicalized significantly.
Indeed, lethal journalists, in their cognitive disorientation, didn’t realize that, in purveying Palestinian propaganda as news, they greatly amplified not Palestinian “nationalist” efforts to get their “self-determination,” but instead they mainstreamed Jihadi war propaganda that targeted their own societies as much as Israeli – all kufar to be either converted, dhimmified, or eliminated. In so acting, they engaged in an unprecedented form of war journalism, not the traditional patriotic version of lying for your own side, but own-goal war journalism, where the journalists lied for their side’s enemies.
Why did they do this? A close look at the lethal journalism at work against Israel reveals a striking underlying pattern: not only did it report often false accusations against Israel that incited outrage and hatred, but it did not report (or played down) often true stories about the Palestinians – their terrorism, their mistreatment of their own people, and their genocidal incitement to hatred of the Jews.
Here was pattern of compliance with Palestinian “Media Protocols” that essentially demanded that journalists report the conflict as a black and white morality tale: Israelis were always the aggressors and Palestinians always the victims, resisting the occupation. This obedience to the demands of Palestinian Jihadis in fact replicated itself in the broader journalistic coverage of global Jihadi efforts. In this sense, both the lethal, own-goal war journalism of the journalists reporting from the Middle East, and the disastrous misreporting on triumphalist Islam in the West, constitute what can best be described as Dhimmi journalism, that is, journalism that follows the rules of the dhimma: do not offend Muslims and attack those who do offend Muslims.
Of all the things that help us understand why the West has fared so badly in countering Jihadi cogwar in the 21st century, this across the boards failure of the Western MSNM, stands at the head of the list.
The following is the text of talk I delivered at the Council for European Studies in Philadelphia entitled, “European Resilience?” The panel was entitled:
A Measure of European Resilience: Anti-semitism(s) Old and New
Chair: Jeff Weintraub
“A New ‘Exodus’? The Political Economy of Jewish Migration.” Scott Siegel, San Francisco State University
“European Muslim Antisemitism: Its Sources, Its Allies.” Gunther Jikeli, Indiana University
“They had it Coming: Retributive Justice Attacks on European Jewry.” Steven Baum, Journal for the Study of Antisemitism; Florette Cohen-Abady, College of Staten Island – CUNY
“Secular Supersessionism and Post-Christian Europe’s Tolerance for Anti-Semitism.” Richard Landes, Bar Ilan University
Discussant: Jeff Weintraub, Harvard University.
They Savor Wine but Keep an Open Bar for the Hard Stuff
Secular Supersessionism and Post-Christian Europe’s Tolerance for Anti-Semitism
The following represents excerpts from a chapter of a history book, written in 2050, on the asymmetric war of invasion that Jihadis had been waging against the West since 1979/1400. The historian identified this as an apocalyptic war for Muslim world conquest, a drive to turn all of Dar al Harb into Dar al Islam. The excerpts focus on Jihad in Europe during the first decade and a half of the 21st century, a period this historian considered the turning point in the Jihadi campaign, and a set-up for the subsequent decades-long civil wars that plagued the continent from 2020s onwards. The first segment describes the process of reversal of forces in 2000, the second attempts to explain why the Jihadis had such widespread and unexpected success. As a preliminary note, this author has the habit of writing his chronology not only AD/CE, but also AH, the Islamic count; and refers to the first two decades of the third millennium as the “aughts” and the “teens.”
The turn of the millennium, 2000/1420, marked a dramatic change in the fate of Europe. From this point onward, the rapports de forces between Europe and the movement of global Jihad that targeted the democratic continent, shifted dramatically in favor of the “weak side” of this asymmetrical invasion. This occurred just as the EU was reaching its highest point of both extension and integration, a development that seemed to make the EU a global colossus on a par with the USA. At the time, few even noticed the shift, much less attributed any real significance to it.
Up until the “fin-de-siècle/millennium” of 2000/1420, global Jihad’s goal of Muslim world conquest struck virtually everyone as ridiculous, especially in the West, now, with the internet, the globally dominant hegemon. Granted the Jihadis had scored major victories in the previous decades: Khoumeini in Iran (1979/1400), Bin Laden in Afghanistan (1989/1410), and the same year, Khoumeini’s dramatic extension of Sharia law to Dar al Harb with his death fatwa against the blasphemer Salmon Rushdie. But the idea that Muslims could actually take over Europe, the West? Inconceivable! Even Muslims who found the dream tantalizing, still considered it a pipe dream.
In late 2000, however, global Jihad took an immense leap from the margins to the center of the global community, and surprisingly enough, often with the enthusiastic approval of the very European elites whom they targeted. The dynamic so rapidly took hold, that what in the 1990s/1410s was virtually unthinkable – namely the Islamic take-over of the European continent – by the mid aughts/1420s, started to look to some observers as inevitable: a string of books made the dire prophecy of European demise: Eurabia (2005), Londonistan (2006), While Europe Slept (2006), America Alone (2006). These books were treated by the gatekeepers of the public sphere as either dangerous or ridiculous, alarmist, conspiracist, creating the very hatreds they warned against.
On the contrary, many Europeans thought they were in their glory days. In the very same years as the dire books appeared, another set proposed a profoundly optimistic, even triumphalist scenario of European dominance in the 21st century: The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy (2005), The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (2005), Why Europe will Run the 21st century (2006). And all of this, just moments before the Muhammad Cartoon affair extended Muslim blasphemy laws world-wide.
It began with the second Intifada, in late September and the rapid rise to dominance of a school of lethal journalists who systematically reported as news Jihadi war propaganda. This war propaganda electrified the global Umma, including in Muslims in Europe. The actual Palestinian military uprising was a failure: it failed to chase the Jews from Israel. But it did sanctify the supreme Jihadi weapon of the new century, suicide terror, soon turned on other infidels – the next year 9-11 – and then on Muslims. The suicide terrorist became the trademark of a global jihad that fed on the destructive chaos it created.
But what the Palestinian Jihadis failed to achieve on the kinetic battlefield, they more than compensated for in the cognitive theater of asymmetrical global war. News images of Palestinian suffering and Israeli cruelty awakened Muslims the world over, and the nascent internet multiplied the effect manifold. These images of Jewish terror and Palestinian victimization aroused immense anger among Muslims, and confirmed the message that apocalyptic Jihadis had been pushing for decades: Islam was under existential threat: This is a war on Islam itself. Al Jazeera rose to unprecedented heights distributing these icons of hatred in the Arab and Muslim world. Bin Laden turned the footage of the IDF shooting a twelve year old boy to death in the arms of his pleading father, into a video summons to the global Jihad of planetary conquest.
Among Europeans, the victory of Jihadi war propaganda was at least as spectacular: not only did the icons of victimization and hatred awaken European Muslims, but the message was given immense prestige and reach when Western journalists presented it as news. In turn, the same media that emphasized Israeli aggression, systematically underreported the Muslim aggression those broadcasts provoked against European Jews. This pattern was most pronounced during periods of military clash between Israel and their neighbors, during which pack journalists unwittingly, but enthusiastically, promoted Jihadi propaganda and played down Jihadi aggression.
And even as they incited Jihadi hatred against Israel and cheered on the “resistance” by demonstrating in suicide bomber belts, they became paralyzed. “The Arabs act as if they have a knife to our throat and we act as if they did,” noted one scholar in hushed tones. And indeed they did: the knife was the threat of suicide terror. So when during Ramadan of 2005/1426 rioters shouting “Allahu Akhbar” rioted all over France in response to a lethal narrative about French cops killing two Arab boys, the police tried to contain; and French journalists and academics denied it had anything to do with Islam.
Indeed, the early aughts brought to prominence a kind of “global progressive left” street presence whose spokespeople, by 2003, claimed – in the pages of the NYT – to constitute one of two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion, which was against war. These demonstrations, which reached into the tens of millions worldwide in 2003, gave prominence to and welcomed the energy of Jihadis, who proudly sported giant portraits of Saddam and Arafat and in various places like Paris, beat up Jewish participants in the rallies. In the replacement theology of the global left, Israel became the secular anti-Christ, the new Nazis, committing genocide against the Palestinians, the new Jews.
This “Street” of public opinion, initially sponsored by the global progressive “anti-war” left, spawned its own, aggressive, and independent “Muslim Street” in Europe: starting with the Ramadan riots in France in 2005/1425. It continued with protests against the blasphemous Danish Cartoons (Salmon Rushdie redux, 2006/1426) and protesting the Pope calling Islam a violent religion (2007/1427). Infidel progressives tended not to join these demos, although they did not laugh at the absurdity of Muslims violently protesting someone calling them violent.
But the one constant, the one phenomenon that brought out all the protesters in their most enthusiastic and angry moods, was the periodic episodes of lethal journalism about Israel. Even American war crimes – in some cases far worse – did not bring out the angry crowds. Thus, each episode of fevered own-goal journalism – Al Aqsa Intifada, Jenin Massacre, Lebanon, Gaza I, Mavi Marmara, Gaza II, Gaza III – produced major gains for European Jihad. Indeed, by the end of the aughts, Hamas had developed the pattern into a formal strategy: provoke an Israeli attack, get as many Muslim civilians killed as possible, and count on the Western news media to so outrage the world community, that diplomatic pressure forced Israel to stop.
In communicating the lethal narrative of Palestinian anguish and Israeli cruelty, the news media fueled the widely held belief in Europe, even among infidel intelligentsia: “The IDF kills Palestinian children every day”… the first global blood libel of the early 21st century and global Jihad’s best recruiting device.
In 2000, for the first time since Hitler, the cry of “Death to the Jews!” was heard on the streets of a European capital, in the Place de la Republique in Paris. After a decade and a half of own-goal war journalism, this genocidal cry was heard all over Europe, chanted publicly for hours. Jihadi hatreds shattered the streets of European capitals; and European leaders suddenly realized they were losing their Jews to those hatreds. “La France sans ses juifs n’est pas la France,” noted the Foreign Minister Manuel Valls, in a multi-cultural variant on De Gaulle’s more imperious version. In response, Jihadis stepped up attacks on any European infidel. In those days, anti-Zionist post-modern gentiles turned to their former Jewish friends leaving for Israel and lamented, “at least you have some place to go.”
The journalists who so acted, did this not because they were consciously supporting the goals of Jihad, but because their obsession with Israel blinded them to the longer-term consequences of their actions. They thought they were siding with the “underdog,” the Palestinians whom they, as a pack, viewed as victims and freedom fighters, the “David,” resisting the Israeli “Goliath.”
The Jewish World has just published a version of the article below in the Adar I 5776/March 2016 issue, dedicated to The State of World Jewry, with other essays by Jack Engelhard, Lisa Klug, Manfred Gerstenfeld, Dov Fischer, Ari Soffer, Alex Maistrovoy, Steven Apfel, and Michael Freund. Below is a longer version of the article with more links.
On the American-Israeli Jewish Divide
Jewish anti-Zionism and Proxy Honor-Murder
Peter Beinart has written many a piece about the growing split between American Jewish youth and Israel, which he sees as the inevitable cost of Israel’s failure to make peace with the Palestinians, on the one hand, and the long-term effects on liberal sentiments of seeing an Israeli Goliath bullying the Palestinian underdog, on the other. This “youth,” according to Beinart has “imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights.” Studies show Jewish youth “resist anything they see as ‘group think’… want an ‘open and frank’ discussion of Israel and its flaws… and desperately want peace.”
To these folks, raised on bedrock values, every effort of Jews to defend Israel by criticizing the Palestinians offends their sense of fairness: blaming the victim is not a winning strategy. Beinart asserts:
For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead. Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral.”
Given a choice between Zionism and liberalism, American Jewish youth choose the latter.
For Beinart, at least, the case is pretty open and shut. Israeli political choices are illiberal, bad, and her politicians act in bad faith. The split between American Jews and Zionists, therefore, is inevitable. Beinart has little sympathy to the plaints from Israel that the neighborhood here does not permit such simplistic naïveté. Not much room in this worldview for Palestinian, Arab, contributions for the endlessness of the conflict, for their poisonous hatreds, for their insane religious violence. Don’t blame the [perceived] victim. Look at your own extremists which, you too have. Israel, says Beinart and a generation of Jewish critics of Israel, should act like a liberal, or lose our affections.
To which the obvious response from here is, “Are you kidding me? Do you know what we’re dealing with here?”
In a reported exchange, a J-Street organizer explained their self-perception vis-à-vis Israel:
Well, I’m the head of the J Street club on my campus and what you don’t understand is that we see Israel as our younger sister. We want our younger sister to be better — we love her and care about her.
Maybe that’s what you do in your neighborhoods (not!), but around here, you don’t show love and loyalty to your sister by trash talking her so you can hang out with the people who like to slander your sister. On the contrary, that kind of talk will get her killed much faster, because of the peculiar power here of shame and the overwhelming desire to annihilate such feelings, no matter what the actual circumstances.
The Shame of it all: Panic in a Crooked Mirror
A significant amount of this “split” in the American Jewish community between liberals and Israel can be understood not as a response to real problems in Israel – of which, like any country, especially one at war with her neighbors, there are many – but as responses to feeling ashamed of her. The feelings stem not because of what Israel has (often enough not) done, and certainly not in comparison with the behavior of our neighbors, but because of “how it looks” to outsiders. Shame comes from looking bad – awful – in the eyes of people whose opinion matters. When it comes to the emotion,it matters little what actually happened. In the most toxic of honor-shame communities, men kill their daughters and sisters not because they did something shameful, but because others think it, true or not.
In March 1968, my father was a member of the Warsaw University students’ committee that helped lead the enormous protests demanding reform from the Communist Polish government. The government responded with a smear campaign to try to delegitimize the protests’ leaders, claiming they were acting in the interest of Western powers, or — exploiting widespread anti-Semitic sentiments — of a Jewish-Zionist plot against the Polish People’s Republic.
In other words, the government labeled my father and his friends foreign agents. Traitors.
My father was detained for three months and expelled from the university. After his release, he left with his family for Israel, where I was born. Unlike my father, I grew up in an environment that welcomed free political discussion and allowed people like me to become human rights activists and criticize our government. When I claimed a few years ago, after yet another right-wing attack on Israeli human rights organizations, that we had reached “the bottom of the pit,” my father gave me a knowing smile. “The pit is much deeper than you think,” he said.
My father was right. Over the past month, I have begun to see its true depth.
No you haven’t. You do not have a clue. Nothing in Israel comes near what was going on in your father’s Poland, nothing near what the most mundane authoritarian regimes do to their own citizens, not even close to what Israel does to their enemies. It is precisely this rhetorical exaggeration that has people like you calling the IDF “war criminals” and Israel a “racist, apartheid, fascist, state.” You have no historical depth-perception, so you’re easy dupes for moral equivalence.
And the problem is, outsiders will mistake your “prophetic” rhetoric as an insight into the actual situation here in the Middle East, rather than into the fevered brains of those Jews stricken with MOS. Outsiders understandably have difficulty figuring out how to “read” these hyper-critics: are they sober and honest assessments of reality? or prophetic rhetoric uttered where no ancient prophet would have delivered his rebuke of his people, in the lingua franca of the larger world, and in the courtyards of their powerful ones?
On Dec. 15, an Israeli ultranationalist group
Ultranationalist is a term largely reserved for brown-shirt-type organizations, fascist in their principled resort to violence in their targeting of enemies: “defending one’s country even when it is committing horrific acts to its own citizens.”
Im Tirzu shares nothing in these matters with real “ultra-nationalist” groups, and the use of the term to lump the group with the worst of the far right is characteristic of this publicly self-accusing pseudo-prophetic rhetoric: our (Israel’s) smallest crimes (i.e., deviation from the strictest “progressive” values) are of such magnitude that they compare with what’s nastiest out there (ultra-nationalists, racists, fascists, Nazis). By your standards of inciteful rhetoric, this is a robust example of smearing.
released a video portraying four Israeli human rights defenders as moles planted by foreign states to assist terrorists. The 68-second video, which rapidly made its way across Israeli social media, shows four mug shots and claims that “While we fight terror, they fight us.”
Here’s the video:
As for the accusations, knowing some of the background, and while not quite the way I would have chosen to put it, the video does nonetheless expresses a legitimate opinion. You may not agree, because it questions you and your fellow activists’ behavior, but I don’t see where calling groups that take money from hostile foreign governments to defend and protect avowed enemies of the state, a “plant” or even a “traitor,” is in any way worse than the ones they are so accusing, that is no worse than you and your colleagues calling Israel and its soldiers “war criminals,” “facists,” “nazis,” and “racists.”
You may think that the PLO is an institution that deserves your active support in avoiding responsibility for committing acts of terror against Israeli citizens. But surely you can understand that others, convinced by the same evidence that you are presumably aware of, see the PLO/PA as a devoted enemy of Israel’s very existence, think they should not receive the help of Israelis to carry out their plans for our destruction, and that anyone who does is dangerous.
The video is outright slander and an outrageous incitement.
Amazing. As the great poet Robert Burns once put it:
O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
My comments don’t address the article much, but more broadly the role of the controversy in the larger framework of the media’s unhealthy obsession with Israeli misdeeds.
This is a classic:
Haaretz features a “journalist” who misrepresents the situation to make Israel look as bad as possible,
that hatchet job is then avidly taken up by the Western press, written by and for people who apparently can’t get enough of stories about Israel behaving badly.
“Good,” “liberal,” “anti-racist” Jews feel they have to distance themselves from this disgusting Israeli behavior.
The Haaretz headline about “purity of blood” is grotesque, and not just picked up by neo-Nazis (Stormfront), but other papers who mistranslated “fear of assimilation” with “fear of miscegenation.” The author, Alon Idan, has the characteristic contemptuous tone for those Israelis he dislikes so brilliantly discussed by Edward Alexander in Jews Against Themselves. Idan takes a delicate, difficult, deeply personal subject and reduces it repeatedly to race, as if what has parents hoping their children marry one of “their own” – with its enormous cultural, religious, and social dimensions – is essentially an expression of dark hatreds that echo the Nazis.
Israel did not ban the book, a message Haaretz so diligently tried to convey, and which so many in the British MSNM immediately and tendentiously trumpeted, starring, among others, the BBC’s Lyse Doucet. In fact, as the article entitled so negatively above, explains the situation is as follows: Several teachers had asked to include the book in the national curriculum for advanced literature. Their request went to the academic advisory committee which voted to recommend including the book. The recommendation went to the Ministry officials who actually have the legal authority set the curriculum. They decided not to accept the recommendation. The academic committee appealed to the Ministry officials to reconsider their decision (there is a formal appeals process for this). After reconsideration, the Ministry officials stood by their initial decision.
Bottom line: The book was never included in the curriculum at any time. Its proposed inclusion in the curriculum was never cancelled, because the only people with authority to set the curriculum never included it. It was not removed from the curriculum, because it was never in it. No decision was ever made by anyone in the Israeli government to forbid the teaching of the text. No order forbidding teaching the text was ever issued. I believe this is what one might call a tempest in a teapot.
But let us, for a moment, consider why the book, at whatever level of opposition, might have been negatively evaluated by the education ministers. In addition to being, in the queer theory meaning of the word, deeply transgressive in for its depiction of the love affair (which plenty of Israeli parents, Jewish, Christian and Muslim don’t want their children to be exposed to at so early an age), but it also depicts the IDF as sadistic war criminals.
In a country where the IDF makes constant and valiant efforts, not only to avoid the sadism so prominent among our neighbors, but to raise the level of concern for enemy civilians to unheard of heights in the annals of warfare, such depictions, however artistically compelling, demean a genuinely noble national spirit, in particular by accusing us of things our neighbors do all the time, and as a matter of (their) principle. As for the racism charge, Israel is, given the circumstances, one of the least racist countries in the world (come to our hospitals, our universities). To stretch and distort the story in order to level charges against us, while ignoring the far more terrifying stuff our neighbors do, is pretty mean spirited, to say the least.
Whatever its literary and conceptual merits, there is no reason on earth why a national school curriculum would want to require, or even encourage its youth to read the book. Indeed, the real question any sound journalist should be asking is: “Who on the academic advisory committee in Israel thought this book was appropriate for high schoolers in the first place?”
I recently received a challenge from one of my less avid fans on a list-serv that I participate in. He challenged me to answer a series of policy questions from the perspective I irritatingly espouse – namely current Western policy concerning the Middle East and Islamic nations is useless at best, self-defeating, even suicidal, at worst because it ignores what I call the HSJ paradigm that focuses on honor-shame dynamics and their current vehicle, apocalyptic Jihad.
I post here my answers.
Dealing with Islam:
Right now in the West, the reigning prime directive reads: “Don’t piss them off.” We think it’s the “vast majority of Muslims” that we thus soothe, but we also encourage the triumphalists, especially with the extent of our placation, our appeasement.
Instead of thus empowering triumphalist aggression, we should pick our fights and target triumphalism. There are so many places the cultural Maginot Line of a robust civil society have crumbled, so many places to start getting serious about what Muslims ask of us and we ask of Muslims. (For a good view of one of the early collapse see, alas, France after 2ooo in The Lost Territories of the Republic.) We need to arm progressive Muslims in their fight with the forces of triumphalism, not concede repeatedly (often with a post-colonial objective) to triumphalist aggression.
Without reciprocal relations, free societies cannot exist, much less aspire to the near utopian hopes of global progressives.
Educate about Islam, not just the masses but the policy folks. I’ve spoken to an audience of 400 people in homeland security and only 1/10 of them claimed they knew what dar al Islam and dar al Harb is. If you don’t know that, you’re historically and religiously illiterate about a crucial element of our current predicament. And 15 years after 9-11, and 26 years after Khoumeini’s fatwah against Rushdie extended Shari’a to the West?! We can’t afford that ignorance.
Right now, we are babes in the woods. As much as I want to believe what you [another list member] say about this administration [being fully aware of the problem], everything I see and hear indicates the opposite: it is overprotective of the “99.9%” of Muslims who, they tell us on their behalf, “reject the extremists.” Where does Obama come up with this stuff? How on earth can serious people take this seriously? Unless of course, they’re in such denial about the problem we face that they’ll take the pablum.
But part of our predicament has been we believed that these indulgences in moral posturing (PC) – Moral and Tolerant Europe Triumphant, The Passionate “cause” of the Palestinian Underdog – were somehow cost free. (If “tout flatteur vit aux dépens de celui qui l’ecoute,” then how damaging is self-flattery, which can be endless?)
On the contrary, these moral postures have allowed the Jihadis to maneuver the progressives into suicidal positions, into a proleptic dhimmitude where the GPL sees itself salvific warriors bringing world peace through self-abnegation, even as it submits to Muslim triumphalist demands that they not only dare not criticize (triumphalist) Muslims, but, rather, they must adopt the Muslim enemy (Israel).
(Let’s just hope it’s better than criticizing the Obama Administration for not giving enough aid to the Free-Syrian Army). American troops? How about Israeli troops (no, that wouldn’t work); Turks? (strike that); Iran (Never, never).
Syria is a symptom of a breakdown of a political culture. The Arab “Spring” was actually a quake that hit a very weak political culture – Lee Smith’s Strong Horse. Those political dynamics reflect a broader, heavily authoritarian (patriarchal honor-murders) culture, and these social dynamics make it virtually impossible to launch and sustain a democratic political culture.
Instead it was springtime for Jihad and tribal warfare.
As for policy, our our journalists and academics and talking heads, systematically misinformed us about the situation beforehand, as well as during. With foolish expectations borne of the “post-colonial” paradigm, we thought – and were encouraged to foresee – a wave, from Tunisia to Syria of more democratic, vibrant, civil societies. Muslim Brotherhood? “Moderate,” and “almost secular.” So whether we intervene (Libya) or don’t (Syria), it works to the advantage of the Jihadis because they are the most brutal in a brutal culture, and we are clueless. And when they fail, as all such brutal efforts do, they – at least under current conditions – just prepare more wretched chaos to fuel the next round of violence.
To think differently about this means having an appreciation of the impact our behavior has on others (allegedly a Western specialty).
In 2003, when the GPL and European countries (led by Chirac) had such a grand time turning Bush into the Antichrist, I got an email from a medievalist who was in Tunisia. “The Arabs think the French are weak. They side with their enemies and humiliate their friends.” By that logic, I can assure you that triumphalist Muslims think the Left is weak.
I’m not saying, “don’t oppose the Iraq War just because you don’t want to look like a wuss,” but rather “be cognizant of the impact of what you’re doing in terms of how your enemy (triumphalist Islam) perceives you.” The public mutual contempt the Left and Right have expressed for each other has done terrible damage.
In the 11th century, it was emperor and pope attacking each other publicly for fifty years that loosened revolutionary forces; and among the beneficiaries of that open hostility, were the free towns, the urban communes of the later 11th and 12th centuries. In the 21st cn, however, by far the greatest benefactor of public hostilities between twin poles of public discourse (in this case right-left, rather than royal-papal) has been the Jihadis… by comparison with a progressive 11th cn, the 21st cn looks alarmingly regressive.
We can’t even begin to think strategy much less tactics as long as we can’t talk about this larger massive politico-cultural failure/dysfunction in the Arab and Muslim world. And yet, thru some alchemical process operated by a particularly irresponsible branch of post-modernism, it has become “racist” to address cultural and religious problems.
Iran –Let’s hear the deal/threats or bombing policy that you recommend and why?
I’d go very strong on rallying collective hostility to Iranian claims, use every kind of pressure to get them to stand down. i wd have been blown away if you had told me in the 1980s that the nuclear disarmament crowd would not say a word in the 21st century about re-starting a nuclear arms race, this time in the highly volatile Muslim world, i’d have said, “don’t be absurd.”
Of course, if you told a signer of the Hamas Charter, with its genocidal paranoid participation in a movement for global Islamic dominion, that within twenty years, infidels would be marching in the streets with their banners, shouting “we are Hamas!” he would have responded, “Only Allah can make infidels that stupid.”
Iraq (Can’t be working with Iranian, Shi’a militias, right?)
Lethal journalism undoubtedly threatens to disarm society in the face of lethal threats. But I fear that the explanation of lethal journalism provided in your text (and your speech at the recent meeting in London on the BBC) regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is misleading.
For sure, the dangerous anti-Israel bias and outrageous misreporting of the BBC and much of the international media presents the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a Palestinian-David-victim vs Israeli-Goliath-oppressor battle. And as a result, the ‘news’ they broadcast systematically promotes material that is bad about Israel and little that is good – and the reverse about the Palestinians – along with Palestinian propaganda presented as news, scandalous omissions, etc.
And let’s not leave out the self-destructive nature of the actions – the BBC, by taking on the Palestinian “narrative” as news, pumps Jihadi propaganda into its own public sphere, encouraging Jihadi hatreds both directly (BBC lethal journalism used as recruiting device for Jihad), and indirectly (promoting among Westerners hatred of a civilizational ally and friend whom the Jihadis hate).
Several reasons have been suggested to account for this, such as antisemitism or feelings of post-colonial guilt. But your article/speech suggests that these are inadequate to explain the pack mentality shown by the preponderance of pro-Palestinian views in the mass media. Instead, the main weight of the suggested explanation is placed elsewhere: on ‘the pervasive culture of intimidation’. Firstly, there is intimidation by the Palestinians, such as against the press-corps by Hamas in the war in Gaza last year. Secondly, there is peer pressure among reporters (and, presumably, corporate pressure from news organizations?) to ensure conformity to a pro-Palestinian narrative.
Nicely put. Can’t complain with your summary.
Such intimidation undoubtedly exists. But the issue is whether or not its presence is sufficient to explain the pro-Palestinian stance of so much of the international media. Unfortunately, the example used in the article/speech, BBC reports of a supposed IDF attack on Shiffa hospital,
Actually, Shati refugee camp, but they were both part of the same set of Hamas rockets gone astray.
did not demonstrate coercion at all. Instead, it was another demonstration of BBC misreporting that needs to be explained.
Not clear here. My explanation is that their “misreporting” was actually fully compliant with Palestinian demands. (Preparing something on this right now.) That compliance reflects a pervasive surrender to Palestinian demands, which in turn reflects an unstated fear of retaliation.
I recently got an announcement about a talk that Jodi Rudoren is giving in Boston entitled, “Journalism in a land of few facts.” I’d love to go to hear how she develops the theme of dueling narratives. (NB. I have not had a chance to imbed all the remarks below as they deserve. Hope to do so later.)
In a closer look at two cases, Sternthal shows how when the “facts” get in the way of “he-said, she-said,” they get dropped from the narrative. The pattern is a classic of compliance with the Palestinian prime directive: Palestinians must be presented as victims, never aggressors; Israelis never victims, always aggressors.
Indeed, how does one comply with this Palestinian imposition when the evidence, the facts, don’t support the Palestinian narrative? How does one report the story, when part of the story is that the Palestinians were caught lying about their innocence?
By and large, compliant journalists avoid dealing with these stories as much as possible, and when circumstances force them to report it, they go “he said, she said,” equally plausible narratives.
What of the evidence, the “facts” that contradict? Drop them from the report, and when challenged, declare them unworthy of space. So dismissive attitude towards facts that a good journalist would consider the most relevant in sorting out what happened, prepares us to understand the title of her speaking tour talk:
Reporting from the Land of Few Facts.
Not the basically honest:
Reporting from a Land where I cannot talk about relevant facts
Certainly not the self-critical:
Reporting from the Augean Stables of a Palestinian Compliant Media
Rudoren on Intimidation: The Fully Compliant Tweet
It’s worth, in this context, recalling Rudoren’s response to the FPA protest of Palestinian media.
@joshmitnick Every reporter I’ve met who was in Gaza during war says this Israeli/now FPA narrative of Hamas harassment is nonsense
This is the text of a talk I gave on Tuesday, November 10, in a London synagogue for UK Media Watch to discuss the BBC’s record of reporting from the Middle East in anticipation of Parliament’s Renewal of the BBC’s Charter.
How the BBC Has Poisoned the Global Public Sphere with its Own-Goal War Journalism
It’s always hard to know what to say when talking about the current situation without sounding alarmist, or, as Ben White claimed, sounding like a paranoid Eurabia conspiracy theorist. European elites have been in denial for so long and at such a cost… and trying to wake them up, such a thankless task. I take this large crowd, however, as a sign of an awakening, and address those of you who have come to the conclusion that our leaders – our politicians, our journalists, our pundits, our policy makers, our community leaders, don’t really know what they’re doing, especially when it comes to dealing with the waxing population of triumphalist Muslims in Europe. And in this widespread disorientation, these leaders have put the Jewish communities of Europe – England’s among them – in real peril.
Now no one in 2000, would have anticipated that in 15 years, the Prime Ministers of both France and England would openly express their fears that they might lose their Jews. Who, in those heady days of global civil society, would have imagined such a turn? When I spoke with Rabbi Sacks in 1997 about my fears of a returning anti-Semitism at the turn of the millennium, he, like almost everyone I spoke to back then, found it absurd. But even I didn’t imagine that it would take the form of European sovereign nations allowing – or not being able to stop – triumphalist Muslims from chasing out the Jews from their midst.
My remaining remarks will be addressed to two points:
How it happened
Why it happened
I will leave it to my fellow panelists to document the sad tale of journalistic malfeasance, and suggest where to go from here. My goal is to place this tale in a larger framework and understand how self-destructive it is for journalists to so behave.
Recently, in an interview with Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mark Regev, a BBC journalist asked the following question:
“What we’re seeing is people who are born in this century, people born post Oslo accord now taking the view that Israelis should be killed. One wonders how they got those views, I don’t know how they got those views other than from watching Israeli behavior if you like being provoked by that or feeling they’ve been provoked by that what they observed from the community they oppose.”
The amount of ignorance that underlies such a question (malevolence aside) is truly staggering. Obviously the BBC, like so many other news outlets, keeps its viewers and readers ignorant to the massive campaign of hatred and incitement to genocidal violence that occurs in the Palestinian public sphere on a constant basis. As one response, below, I’ve posted and commented on an excellent article by Bret Stephens.
If you’ve been following the news from Israel, you might have the impression that “violence” is killing a lot of people. As in this headline: “Palestinian Killed As Violence Continues.” Or this first paragraph: “Violence and bloodshed radiating outward from flash points in Jerusalem and the West Bank appear to be shifting gears and expanding, with Gaza increasingly drawn in.”
Or the NYT headline, Jewish Man Dies as Rocks Pelt his Car in West Bank, which they later amended to leave out the mistake of “West Bank” but clung fervently to their reification of stones, which, in their language “pelted the road the man was driving on.” Thet basic principle from the Palestinian Media Protocols with which they are fully compliant insists that Palestinians are innocent victims. Saying that Palestinians pelted his car with stones would violate those Protocols.
Read further, and you might also get a sense of who, according to Western media, is perpetrating “violence.” As in: “Two Palestinian Teenagers Shot by Israeli Police,” according to one headline. Or: “Israeli Retaliatory Strike in Gaza Kills Woman and Child, Palestinians Say,” according to another.
Such was the media’s way of describing two weeks of Palestinian assaults that began when Hamas killed a Jewish couple as they were driving with their four children in the northern West Bank. Two days later, a Palestinian teenager stabbed two Israelis to death in Jerusalem’s Old City, and also slashed a woman and a 2-year-old boy. Hours later, another knife-wielding Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli police after he slashed a 15-year-old Israeli boy in the chest and back.
Or, when two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in Har Nof and butchered four men at their morning prayers, CNN ran the headline:
For Malgorzata Koraszewska’s Polish translation, see here.
I have often lamented the lack of Arab self-criticism (and the surfeit of Jewish self-criticism). About a year ago, Lebanese journalist Hisham Melhem wrote a devastating piece about the current state (meltdown) of Arab culture across the boards. He repeatedly insists that this cannot be explained by any one factor. Below, I go through his article and attempt to show how honor-shame dynamics, in the peculiarly pathological form they have taken in the Arab world since the victories of Israel against the Arab onslaught have led to this nadir.
NB: I do not, by this post, mean to insult Arabs – although I realize that much of what both Melhem and I have to say will strike some Arabs as insulting. But in the spirit of self-criticism, I offer these reflections as sober appraisals of an undoubtedly painful reality that we all – Arabs above all – need to think about. The learning curve begins when one dives into self-criticism, rather than violently flees it.
In recent weeks and months I tried in this space to critique an Arab political culture that continues to reproduce the values of patriarchy, mythmaking, conspiracy theories, sectarianism, autocracy and apolitical/cultural discourse that denies human agency and tolerates the persistence of the old order.
Note the importance in this description of the Arab world, of denying human agency, which is something that Western liberals comply with on a regular basis, treating Arabs and the Muslims as forces of nature that have no moral agency: Sharon visits the Temple Mount, of course they start an Intifada; say Islam inherently violent, of course they riot in protest. It’s our fault for provoking them, not theirs for having no self-control. Have a thousands of Muslim citizens of Western democracies take off to join savage jihadi armies? It’s the fault of Western racism and Islamophobia.
Of course, this is merely the adoption by Westerners of the logic of the very Arab world Hashem is criticizing: if attractive women make testosteronic men horny, then cover the woman, don’t tell the men to learn self control. News headlines regularly adopt this principle of not attributing agency to Arabs, especially in describing the conflict of Israel with her neighbors: Stones pelt Israelis;Israelis shoot Palestinians.
The article in which I said that the ailing Arab body politic had created the ISIS cancer, and a subsequent article published in Politico Magazine generated a huge response and sparked debates on Twitter and the blogosphere.
The overwhelming response was positive, even though my analysis of Arab reality was bleak and my prognosis of the immediate future was negative. Yet, these articles were not a call for despair, far from it; they are acris de Coeur for Arabs, particularly intellectuals, activists and opinion makers, to first recognize that they are in the main responsible for their tragic conditions, that they have to own their problems before they rely on their human agency to make the painful decisions needed to transcend their predicament.
I’m preparing a post on an interview with Tuvia Tenenbom by I24 reporter Yael Lavie that took place October 8, 2014. Even though it’s old, it illustrates a key dimension of the cogwar against Israel and how even Israeli journalists participate. Below, for further reference, is a transcript of the interview with some brief notes (h/t Sarah Chin).
I welcome any further information or thoughts on what I think is a transcript immensely revealing of current Israeli journalism’s dysfunctions.
Reporter: Welcome back, it is still Wednesday October 8, 2014, this is still the morning edition on i24, where you should be and I am still Yael Lavie last I checked, thank you for staying with us and onto our next topic. Now our next story combines 2 of the core narratives of Israel and the Jewish people, the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As research for his new book, Catch a Jew, author and German journalist Tuvia Tenenbom interviewed Attaf abu a-Rub, field researcher for Israeli human rights NGO B’tselem. Abu a-Rub has denied the Holocaust. First let’s take this, let’s take a look at this controversial bit and then meet the author himself.
[Clip showing Arab interviewees denying holocaust]
Reporter: Tuvia Tenenbom is with us in studio, first of all thank you so much for joining us.
Tenenbom: thank you for having me, morning
Reporter: Good morning good morning to you, first of all I have a question to you. You actually walk around the West Bank you know and you speak to Palestinians, but yknow the man you spoke with, the B’tselem volunteer [sic] did not know what you were really doing there right?
the implication here is that the revelation is illegitimate because Nutch-al-Rub doesn’t know that it will be reported because Tenenbom is “on the other side.”
Tenenbom: all he knows is this, I was working on this book, that came out in Israel now,
Reporter: To Catch a Jew
Tenenbom: To Catch a Jew, tfoos haeyhudi which means to catch a Jew, and I asked B’tselem at the time if they can, I said I wanted to see as they do an operation from beginning all the way to the end, as they do research, as they collect data and all that stuff. And I spoke to Sarit Michaeli who is the spokesperson of…
Tenenbom: (continuing) of Btselem and Sarit said to me she’s gonna give me the best, her top researcher and his name is Attif,
Tenenbom: I went to meet Attif, we went to Jenin, and we drove to Jordan valley, and then we met people and then he says what he says, he says a lot of things, this is one of them, you know for example if we are to
interruption here at point where more of Attif’s problematic attitudes were about to come out.
Reporter: what did you say to Sarit Michaeli and B’tselem people when you said that you want to join them from the beginning, that you were doing this what for? Did you explain what…
Sorry TT interrupts here, but she was about to accuse him of illegitimately failing to inform B’tselem that he was not sympathetic to them. Implication of such an accusation: B’tselem has a right to keep secrets from the public. Enderlin took precisely the same approach with his tapes of Talal.
Tenenbom: I explained everything, I said I am writing for the German media, I am writing for a paper called Die Zeit, I am writing and the purpose of this one is I’m writing a book for the publishing company in Germany called Suhrkamp, it’s one of the best in Germany and I’m writing about the issues here and I would like to meet and I would like to see, everybody knows B’tselem, I would like to see how it happens
Reporter: but when you set out to start writing the book the premise was actually, that the Palestinian people are anti-Semitic, that was your premise to begin with
in other words you found what you were looking for?
Tenenbom: never ever, this is one of the lies that you have all over, never ever. Actually when I came here
here’s a clash of narratives. YL is here articulating the “word” from the “left” aimed at discrediting the contents of TT’s book. TT’s response – lies – is a sign of how widespread the campaign. whether it’s lies or just misinformation, conjecture presented as facts, is another matter.
Reporter: it’s not the lies, I mean I’m asking you straightforward
protect the conjecture.
Tenenbom: I did not come here because you know I’ve seen it somewhere, I did not come here with any agenda, political, I didn’t even know where I’m going. My commission was, the basic idea was go to Israel because I did already a book a year before that yknow..
Tenenbom: I slept in Hitler’s room, says name in Hebrew, I don’t have it here,
Reporter: but that was also…
Tenenbom: it was the same thing, you go to Germany, for 6 months, talk to people and then come up with what it is, what I found out was…
Reporter: the premise of that book was also about anti-Semitism..
Tenenbom: it came out that to be antisemitism, but this was not the idea before,
Reporter: mmm hhhmm
Tenenbom: when I started the subject you have to understand, first of all the two books, were not my ideas. It’s not like I had a guide, a reason, I was chasing something I tried to find something out, no, in both cases there were German companies, publishers, who asked me to do it because they read my articles in Zeit,
Reporter: there’s something you know, the German um uh the German you know editors ask you to write the book, there’s so many things I can say about that
as an interviewer shouldn’t it be “i could ask about that”? Instead, she’s out for bear and passing up moose.
but here’s my question to you, you know you though and I’m just wondering you claim actually your claim is that the Palestinian people are, what, are anti-Semitic?
has she read the book? I think not. Framing telling: are they or aren’t they anti-semitic? a frame only someone in denial might make. Real question based on extensive evidence: how far has the officially sanctioned anti-semitism permeated the society… an answer TT is far more empirically equipped to answer than YL.
Tenenbom: this is not what I claim, this is not this is not what the book is about, the book is about what happens here. One of the things that happens here what the book is exposing is
Tenenbom: is things I did not know when I started it, what the book is exposing is there are 1000s upon 1000s and millions upon millions of euros invested by Europeans. I thought when I came here there were two people here, the Arabs and the Jews, and this is the conflict between them, during my travels here, and you have to understand, 7 days a week 14 hours a day,
Reporter: no I understand but (unintelligible)
Tenenbom: everywhere I go I see especially in the Palestinian areas you know I see European NGOs, operating NGOs, and Israeli NGOs FINANCED by Europeans, and some Americans but mostly Europeans, some of it by European governments for the most part
Reporter: I get but the NGO thought Btselem that you interviewed, Btselem had a response, I’m gonna read it out to you:
this is an interesting moment, since the statement essentially acknowledges the seriousness of the allegation and promises to investigate. Strangely YL doesn’t read the part of the statement that includes B’tselem’s firing of Abu-a-Rub for both saying it, and lying about it.
Reporter: I mean what is your claim then about Btselem, that one guy, one of their researchers, yknow which by the way a Holocaust Denier, I feel again, I can say this, I come from a family of Holocaust victims, of you know most of, I’m a German Jew, most of my family perished in the holocaust, you know that guy, really doesn’t is not gonna take away anything of my existence, I have to say and I don’t think it projects on the organization itself….
Possibly the most astonishing statement in the interview. Would her ancestors who died in the H agree with her dismissal of the significance of TT’s identifying a denier of the Holocaust.
The man is a major conduit of information about the behavior of Israelis and the suffering of Palestinians on the West Bank, and his denial of the Holocaust (ie his inability to analyze evidence) doesn’t matter? and shouldn’t reflect on B’tselem? Even B’tselem disagreed.
Tenenbom: no no no this is where you are wrong, I don’t care what Attaf thinks, most Palestinians think there was no Holocaust, I don’t care what Attaf thinks, Attaf is entitled, entitled to his opinion, and I don’t care what Attaf thinks…
Reporter: and many Israelis don’t think there was ever a Palestine or there should be a Palestine…
?!!! comparing denying there ever was a [presumably Arab] Palestine – there never was – or there should be a Palestine – political position – to Holocaust denial. Every side has their “narrative”, same-same, he-said-she-said. YL’s comment reveals a massive disorder in the ability to handle empirical information.
Tenenbom: but..let’s not mix the issues here, I don’t care what Attaf thinks, he’s entitled to his opinion, he’s a nice guy, what I care about, is a (Hebrew) he’s a researcher for Btselem, he’s the guy who’s supposed to come out
Reporter: a researcher for B’tselem is someone who walks around, who walks around with a camera (Tenenbom trying to speak)
Tenenbom: all what B’tselem is what is B’tselem, they have 11 researchers, what is the big issue with B’tselem, they have 11 researchers, all of them Palestinians, ok, all the names you have around it, its nothing to do
in other words, just as happened at Netzarim junction on Sept. 30, 2000, no westerners, israelis are around to cover what goes on in B’tselem’s “information” (really “narrative” acquisition.
Reporter: because that is at the core what btselem does,…
Tenenbom: what I think now if you have a researcher who thinks that there was no holocaust, this is what his own research came up with, you know, how can you rely on other research that he says, when the first time that the clip came out, on channel 2 of Israel, btselem claimed that channel 2 added to the video, they claim that I am lying, that Btselem is lying, when the first time
interruption regularly when TT starts hitting hard.
Reporter: again I have to read I have to read the response they claim (Tenenbom trying to talk) that the btselem employee did in fact make the statement of his own volition
he lied. got caught when more tape made available.
Tenenbom: just a second, let me get there, when the Lech, the Facebook, by a woman named Milach, put the whole, video that you see here, the first response of Btselem was this proves…
Reporter: but you know what we are doing right now, we are doing the same thing that yknow that maybe I think people that have an axe to grind (Tenenbom goes to speak, points finger in his face) let me finish, you know are doing, let’s say you know he’s a holocaust denier this this and that, what does it help, seriously, what does it help, you know, in the agenda of trying to progress a peace process because this is now a battle between you and an NGO, I don’t think he necessarily represents all of the Palestinian people
complete loss of any pretension to be a journalist. and here we see the real framework in which TT’s evidence is ground to dust: what (do i, and my friends) think leads to peace, and what (do i etc) thinks will impede peace. B’tselem, against settlements for peace. You battle B’tselem. Your evidence means nothing in the bigger picture, it doesn’t “represent all of the Palestinian people.”
Tenenbom: this is not a battle between me and an NGO, these are the facts, they know, they denied it, they denied and denied and denied, and after Haaretz said this is what he said, you know they came out, B’tselem finally said
Reporter: but what does it mean, what do you think it means?
Tenenbom: what it means is that they employ people who hate the Jews, who thinks of the Jews…
Reporter: you know there are Israelis who hate Arabs as well
another interruption just as he gets to the point YL has been trying to undermine.
Tenenbom: no of course but you know what, if they had an attack on Iran, and a researcher, a researcher who said that all the Arabs are bad people, or something like that there is no Palestine, never was, B’tselem would have fired that guy or that lady in a second
Reporter: no but the thing is…
Tenenbom: it shows you the mindset of Btselem, you have a mindset and this is what I find, not just B’tselem, I find Shalom Achshav, peace now, I find it in many other left-wing organizations,
Reporter: (trying to interrupt) but that’s because they oppose you opinions,
in other words, whatever you say about the left is just because they don’t share your opinion. hermeneutic seal.
Tenenbom: they are so much with self-haters
Reporter: but to call people whose opinions differ from you that they are self-hating Jews is somewhat doing the same thing as denying their opinion or denying any…
master of narrative relativism. anything but consider the problem TT’s pointing to, which is the zealous masochism of some Israelis leads them to poison the world they think they’re helping.
Tenenbom: they are, everybody is entitled to their opinions, I’m not saying they are not entitled to their opinion, they are entitled to their opinions
Reporter: but they are self-hating Jews
Tenenbom: they are self-hating Jews, if they have the facts, look if you employ these people, and you call them researcher you have a problem with this, and again I have no problem with Attaf, I have no problem with Tamar who goes around paid by the EU, paid by the EU, goes around to….
Reporter: I’m going to stop you right there only because we have a completely different segment coming up. And again I’m glad you joined me because I respect your opinion
Tenenbom: thank you very much and I respect yours
Reporter: even though I might be a self-hating Jew
In her final piece in The College Voice, Ayla Zuraw-Friedland vaguely allusions to the ethical problems surrounding her tenure, with no mention of her controversial issue of March 2, in which she published three letters attacking Pessin and neither warned him, nor offered him the opportunity to respond. She also mentions her faculty mentor, Jim Downs.
After 11 issues in print and one online of The College Voice as Editor in Chief and nearly 60 as a staff writer, section editor and senior editor over the past three years, it has all boiled down to an editorial that I am supposed to use to sum up everything that this one extra-curricular has done for me. It is an editorial that I have both dreamed and dreaded writing. I’m supposed to say something important, but I cannot quite grasp what that is.
I only had two goals when I started this year: 1) Do NOT go into debt. 2) Just keep things floating. No waves, just twelve passable issues. Finish your thesis. Pass it along. I never identified as much of a journalist, anyways.
Even looking back from this moment, I thank goodness that I only met one of those goals. I realize now how ridiculous that goal was and that it was reflective of my unwillingness to recognize what I now consider to be an undeniable fact about the newspaper; despite my best efforts, it has become a mirror of my own spirit.
It has become my way of asking: How can we leave this space better than when we found it?
Maybe that carries baggage that begs the question as to whether I have violated standards of journalistic integrity. But maybe it’s a question that I’m happy to ask and be asked anyways. Who am I to answer that on my own? The simplest answer is, that I never intended to. I believe that The College Voice is and should be a conversation space for everyone. If this year has taught our community anything, it is that words and language are powerful tools to wield.
I will never deny that this has been a year of mistakes and learning. I will never claim what I did was “correct,” but I will always stand by the fact that I was doing what I thought was right. But, despite all the media attention, positive and negative, this community was bombarded with from the outside, the world at large is not our audience. It is here. The College Voice is not called a “campus newspaper” for nothing.
I am lucky to have a team with me that have been equally consistent in asking similar questions. This staff rests on a long tradition of Strong Female Role Models (and also Dave Shanfield) that have shown me what it means to take risks, to take deep breaths through caffeine induced panic attacks and to take a second look at the “Final” edition of the paper, because it can always be better.
I thank Dana and Luca for being the most wonderful team. You’ve already picked up the baton and I can’t wait to see you run with it. Dana, you have been with me every step of the way, in every office meeting with the Deans that I thought would end in a fight, and involved in every late night food run I can remember. Thank you to our adviser, Jim Downs, for convincing me that gut feelings are the truest form of intelligence, and also that it is okay for some emails to go unanswered.
I thank my intrepid staff of editors, writers and designers for putting up with my disorganization and lack of direct eye contact or precise instructions. You’ve been through a hell of a ride. Thank you to the senior staff, Matthew Whiman, Ellie Storck, Dakota Peschel, Eleanor Hardy and Annie Rusk. You can all go into the world knowing that you have a beautiful, shiny title on your resume, and hopefully a few fond memories of broken computers and an abundance of chairs to go along with it.
I could write more. But what I want to close this with, in classic fashion, is a question. Where do we go from here?
At this point, support for the newspaper has come from within a network of dedicated students and faculty members. In a letter to campus last month, The College Voice was referred to as “our campus newspaper.” That was the first example I could remember of the campus at large or any administrator taking responsibility or ownership over this organization. As more and more media stories came out attacking specific members of the newspaper staff and the newspaper as a whole, it became clear that it would also be the last.
That means that, somewhere along the lines of “shared governance” and “accountability,” something got lost. How can the campus claim us as their own without offering support, whether that be by writing articles or in efforts to educate the staff as to what it means to have journalistic integrity? We want desperately to belong to you, to be a space you can trust, but that cannot be done without help. We need conferences and guidance and acknowledgment of the basic reality that we have been doing this on our own. We have a long way to go.
I am glad though, to have been along for at least the beginning of what I hope is a long run. I look forward to looking back. The shifting staffs and families are the most consistent home I have known at this school. Perhaps this editorial is so long because I know that the second that it ends, it is my last goodbye.