Category Archives: journalism

Nidra Poller on the Sarah Halimi Case

Nidra Poller was among the first to report in English on the Sarah Halimi atrocity. The following excerpts are from Parts 2, 3 and 6 of her extensive French presidential election coverage.

Part 2, Update:  5 April

French Presidential Campaign Part 2 UPDATE

5 April 2017

I drop in to the Shir Hadash Bookstore on rue des Rosiers at the end of the day. Madame Magnichever comes in, pale and troubled, and whispers to me: “A dear friend… we’ve known her for 40 years…she was assassinated… an Islamist pushed her out the window.”

Reports of the incident came out first in Jewish media, then it was picked up by a few two generalist sites: A Jewish woman in her mid-sixties was pushed out of a third (in U.S. 4th)-floor window by a 27 year-old Muslim neighbor who, according to some accounts, had recently become radicalized. He had frequent run-ins with the police for violence and “petty” crime. According to testimony of a  neighbor who witnessed the crime, the assailant who shouted allahu akhbar as he pushed the victim out the window. He is in police custody, undergoing psychiatric examination. Police sources say he made “incoherent statements” (we’ve heard that before).

Detail will follow in Part 3 of the ongoing series.   

(Not) Celebrating Jerusalem Day: Fisking a friend

A good friend and colleague wrote the following piece in 2013. At the time, I said nothing despite my profound disagreement. Recently he recirculated the piece on Academia.com, and, with the approach of the 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, I find myself, as one historian to another, compelled to fisk.

THE JERUSALEM REPORT

MAY 20, 2013

Since I fear the long-term outcome of the Six Day War victory, and the poison pill of occupation, I do not celebrate Jerusalem Day.
A historian’s nightmare

FOR A number of years I have refused to celebrate Jerusalem Day, which falls on Iyar 28, or May 8 this year [this year, May 24]. Yes, although I lived in New York at the time, I am old enough to remember the fears that gripped us in the weeks preceding the Six Day War, the thrill of the news that enemy air forces had been destroyed on the ground, the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem, and the declaration that the Temple Mount was in “our” hands. Nevertheless, as the consequences of the 1967 war became clearer, I began to view Jerusalem Day as the opening act of a national tragedy. For many years, I was reluctant to publish the piece below; it seemed far too extreme.

Indeed it was, and still is.

The composition of the new coalition government, whose representatives in key places are committed to generous funding of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, has changed my mind. I fear what will come to pass sometime in the future: Israel – a pariah state – about which no one really cares what happens to its Jewish citizens, since they have lost all moral claim to life;

This is a classic case of inverse moral relativism, or maybe moral perfectionism (exceptionally high moral expectations of self) combined with humanitarian racism (no moral expectations of others) that systematically bows to the grotesque attitude of mean-spirited outsiders as some kind of “reality.” We have not by any means lost a moral claim to life. Israel is an (the?) outstanding case of a democracy that, under conditions that have produced totalitarianism in democratic experiments (starting with the French “revolutionary” terror), has remained robust (even if most of its citizens don’t agree with you). To accept the revolting claims of moral idiots like Terje Roed-Larsen, looking at the ruins of five square blocks of Jenin refugee camp in 2002 through the eyes of the news reports of a “Jenin Massacre” declared that “Israel has lost all moral ground in this conflict,” is to in fact abdicate moral responsibility.

Actually, I’d argue the exact opposite. It’s because Israel, in comparison with other nations – and certainly with our neighbors – has such an exceptional moral record (I know, not good enough for you, but, remember, this is a comparative statement), that the reason we are reviled by the “global ‘progressive’ left” is that we are their superior rivals, whom they need desperately to dethrone in order to strut, suicidally, on the global stage as the cutting edge of civilizational values.

Case Study of Lethal Journalism: NYT and Marwan Barghouti

Possibly the single most disorienting aspect of news coverage in the 21st century, was the way the mainstream news media – the main papers and news agencies and TV news studios – presented the “Second Intifada.” For them, the dominant, indeed, the hegemonic, narrative was the Israeli Goliath trying to crush the Palestinian David. Aside from the deep misunderstanding of all the cultural issues in this region that make Arab and Muslim “secular nationalism” and “freedom fighting” inappropriate terms (as was later so spectacularly illustrated by the “Arab Spring”), it completely missed the other narrative, that of global Jihad.

As a result, Western observers were repeatedly exposed by their journalists to a “lethal journalism” that ran Palestinian Jihadi propaganda as news, and portrayed Israel as the murderous, rogue, colonialists running roughshod on Palestinian “civil society.” So when the IDF went after Palestinian mass-murderers, using global Jihad’s most potent new weapon, suicide mass murder of infidels, not only did the press jump all over false reports of an IDF massacre at Jenin, but European “progressives” actually cheered on the monstrous weapon, soon to be aimed at them. In the 21st century, it turns out, lethal journalism against Israel is actually own-goal lethal journalism: running your enemy’s propaganda as news.

If anyone thinks that the long list of scandalous and damaging errors our journalists have made over the last two decades, is in decline, consider the latest. The New York Times, famous for its scrupulous “back and forth” with authors in its op-ed pages, ran the propaganda of a convicted Palestinian terrorist on its op-ed pages, with no fact-checking, and disguising the nature of his crimes. As a result, readers of the Times were treated to a long anti-Israel diatribe by Marwan Barghouti, described by the editors as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” One could excuse Westerners so informed for thinking that a) the Palestinian Parliament is an operative democratic institution, and b) a Palestinian leader struggles for his people’s freedom, not their sacrifice in the goal of destroying another people’s freedom.

This time, however, the Times felt the blowback. Vigorous criticism got them a rebuke from the paper’s public editor, prompting a “correction.”

I asked Jim Dao, editor of the Op-Ed pages, about the decision not to include Barghouti’s crimes. Dao noted that the piece does say the author received multiple life sentences but he acknowledged that it doesn’t state the crimes for which he was convicted. “We are drafting an editors’ note that will provide that information,” he said.

Here’s the note, attached after our exchange:

This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.

[snip]

This isn’t a new issue for the Opinion section. I have written before on the need to more fully identify the biography and credentials of authors, especially details that help people make judgments about the opinions they’re reading. Do the authors of the pieces have any conflicts of interest that could challenge their credibility? Are they who they say they are, and can editors vouch for their fidelity?

I see no reason to skimp on this, while failing to do so risks the credibility of the author and the Op-Ed pages.

In this case, I’m pleased to see the editors responding to the complaints, and moving to correct the issue rather than resist it. Hopefully, it’s a sign that fuller disclosure will become regular practice.

I guess beggars can’t be choosy, but this is half-hearted at the most; and the brave Liz Spayd is too easily mollified.

five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization?

Alex Safian: NPR’s Terror Problem: When Is A Terrorist A Terrorist?

In reading an important article by Kenneth Lasson, “Betraying Truth: The Abuse of Journalistic Ethics in Middle East Reporting, I came across a reference to an important article by CAMERA’s Alex Safian on NPR’s use of the term terrorist in the early aughts (ie opening years of the 21st century). Since I only found it with imbedded commands, and it is neither up at his page at CAMERA, nor available at National Review Online, I publish it here for reference. 

NPR’s Terror Problem: When Is A Terrorist A Terrorist?

Alex Safian, National Review Online, June 10, 2003,

Suicide bombers strike civilian targets in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and National Public Radio quite reasonably labels the attacks “terror” and the attackers “terrorists,” but when — at almost the same time — Palestinian suicide bombers launch five attacks against Israelis, NPR reporters, and hosts, as they have in the past, virtually banish the word “terror” from their vocabulary.

Intellectual Corruption of Intersectional Academics: Ted Swedenburg’s Palestinian Anthropology

In the Phyllis Chesler case, one of the three authors of the letter (fisked here) that got her disinvited was Ted Swedenburg. The letter embodies everything about the current field of post-Oriental Middle Eastern Studies that leads me to conclude that most of its denizens are proleptic dhimmi – the fear of offending Islam, the use of terms like “Islamophobia” to silence dissenting infidels, their invocation of “safe spaces” and allusions to potential violence as a reason to drop a speaker. In turns out, Swedenburg has been at this for a long time.

In an article he wrote in 1989, Swedenburg lays out his methodology, which coincides quite remarkably with the hegemonic discourse across the “humanities” and “social ‘sciences'” of today. How much headway have they made in the last two decades! (HT: YM)

One of the first days after I had moved to Nablus, in November 1984, I had an experience that has now become a daily routine for Israeli settlers in the West Bank. I was driving downtown, when suddenly, bam! the car shook under the impact of a heavy blow to its side. A Palestinian youth, whom I never saw, had darted out of an alley, hurled a large stone, and rapidly vanished. He only man-aged, luckily, to put a large dent above my gas cap and did not break the wind-shield, the usual goal of hurled stones. I guess he singled out my car as a target from all the others on that busy street because its yellow license plates and my appearance led him to believe I was an Israeli settler. (As the holder of a tourist visa, I had to register my car in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, so its yellow plates stood out amidst the distinctive blue-plated vehicles driven by West Bank Palestinians.) I was so shaken that I was ready to give up fieldwork and go straight home.

Earlier anthropologists, who risked far more serious assaults in far less controlled environments – no recently annexed offices and registrations for Napoleon Chagnon, or any of those working a century ago. If an anthropologist wants to understand up close a culture in which violence is a quotidian presence, then he or she needs to be ready to experience some of it. No serious anthropologist feels entitled to safety (talk about white privilege).

My immediate thought was that I, of all people, should never have been stoned. After all, unlike those other Westerners one saw in the West Bank-the settlers, tourists, and embassy officials-I was a good foreigner, working in the best interests of the Palestinians. My response was typical of a mentality I shared with other Westerners who worked as teachers, journalists, or researchers in the occupied territories and sympathized with the Palestinians.

An Earlier Earthquake in the Jewish World: Response to Eva Illouz

Eva Illouz wrote a dramatic New Year’s piece for Ha-aretz, in which she accuses fellow Jews who support Trump of falling prey to messianic fantasies and “betraying Jews, Jewish history and humanity,” and claiming for the “liberal Jews” like herself, the sole mantle of “authentic opposition to anti-Semitism.” Invoking Freud’s definition of the uncanny (das Unheimliche), or the anguishing sense that behind the familiar lies something profoundly foreign and menacing, she claims that “the [Trump-riddled] world at the beginning of 2017 elicits the same feeling of the uncanny: It is the same old world we knew, yet we sense it has become inhabited by foreign ghosts, hybrid creatures never seen before.”

An earthquake in the Jewish world

A feeling of the uncanny accompanies the start of the new year, as Jews witness their religious and political leaders aligning themselves with anti-Semites and anti-democrats | Opinion

By Eva Illouz | Jan. 1, 2017/Rewritten by Richard Landes,  Jan 1, 2003

Over the last three years (2000-2003), like many others, I have followed the news with an undefinable mixture of dismay, fascination and terror. When reality evades our grasp, we may reach for familiar concepts to cope with its elusiveness.

In 1919 Sigmund Freud wrote a short essay, called “The Uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche,” in German), in which he attempted to understand a particular kind of anxiety and fear elicited by art or literature (for example, the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann) or events (such as recurring coincidences), the uncanny. Unheimlich is the opposite of Heimlich, the familiar, domestic and homey.

Freud’s stroke of genius consisted in understanding that psychically “unheimlich” is not the opposite of “heimlich,” but rather a sub-category of it: It is the strange that occurs within the home, as when a child looks at the face of his mother and suddenly senses that behind her face hides a ghost or a witch (countless horror movies tap into the feeling of the uncanny, turning grandparents, parents or children into possessed creatures). The uncanny is thus the very special form of terror we feel when we look at someone or something that is familiar, yet fail to recognize it. It is the anxiety that derives from actually seeing a foreign creature in the well-known body and face.

The world at the beginning of 2003 elicits the same feeling of the uncanny: It is the same old world we knew, yet we sense it has become inhabited by foreign ghosts, hybrid creatures never seen before.

The “moral leaders of the democratic world, the global progressive left,” uphold undemocratic values reminiscent of the world that the United States crushed only 70 years ago (the name of Goebbels been frequently evoked in the context of Charles Enderlin, with regard to the vicious war propaganda he has disseminated, promoting global Jihad, not rebuked but emulated and admired by his colleagues). This man is far closer in war propaganda journalism, to the Palestinian journalists who concoct footage to spur their people to hatred, than to any “modern” journalist who takes his professional commitments seriously. The Western interference in Israeli affairs, executed with the active collaboration of academia and the Mainstream news media – the apple of the left’s progressive eye, of the presumed guardians of “truth” of “bearing honest witness,and bringing social justicerevealing to all forces that undermine Western civil polities from within its epicenter. Two specters now haunt the world, and seem to have taken possession of its soul: the past specter of the mad messianic wars of the Middle Ages and the future one, of an auto-induced newspeak.

But perhaps most unheimlich of all are the new alliances that have materialized in the Jewish world. The new century/millennium brought, an alliance of a kind never seen before, between Jewish progressive groups, a large percentage of secular Jews (in both the U.S. and Israel), and Jihadi associates and supporters, the same who, during and after the wild protests against Israel, cheered mischievously at Palestinian and Arab Hitler admirers, whose own genocidal meme, “drive the Jews into the sea!” we hear loud and clear on our campuses, with the “social justice” cry, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

Said’s Disorientations

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

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

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

Disoriented by Saïd:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Low Countries at their lowest: Dutch Lethal Own-goal Journalism

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.

The Low Countries at their lowest

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

In other words, disoriented about Israel’s conflict has a direct link to disorientated about Muslim (im)migrants in the democracies these journalist allegedly inform. Mistaking the players in one place, means mistaking them at home, where one can less afford being wrong about an enemy. For an excellent discussion of how the Netherlands went from a paragon of democracy to a besieged nation in the course of the aughts (’00s) read Abigail Esman Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (2010). Bruce Bawer has at least two books dealing with this issue: While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within (2006) and Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (2009).

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.

Bibliography of Articles on the MSNM’s Trumpfail

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.

Brian Beutly, “Shame on Us, the American Press,” The New Republic, November 8, 2016.

Michael Cieply, “Stunned By Trump, The New York Times Finds Time For Some Soul-Searching,” Deadline Hollywood, November 10, 2016. Cieply worked for the NYT and has interesting things about the culture at the Times:

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.”

Will Rahn, “Commentary: The unbearable smugness of the press,” CBS News, November 10, 2016.

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.

Tiffany Gabbay, “A Rebuke to the Media From Joe Scarborough,” Truth Revolt, November 11, 2016

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.

Michael Goodman, “New York Times: We Blew it on Trump,”  NY Daily News, November 11, 2016

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…

As media columnist Jim Rutenberg put it in August, most Times reporters saw Trump “as an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate” and thus couldn’t be even-handed.

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.”

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Dean Baquet, “To Our Readers, From the Publisher and Executive Editor,” NYT, November 13, 2016

Jim Rutenberg, “News Outlets Wonder Where the Predictions Went Wrong,” November 13, 2016

How the Mainstream Media Missed Trump’s Momentum, PBS, November 13, 2016

Some earlier reflections when Trump won the nomination:

Nate Cohen, “What I got wrong about Donald Trump,” New York Times, May 4, 2016

Sean Trende, “The Value of Data Journalism,” May 12, 2016

Nate Silver, “How I Acted Like A Pundit And Screwed Up On Donald Trump,” Fivethirtyeight, May 18, 2016.

 

Introduction to Dexter Van Zile’s Submitted Under Protest

Dexter Van Zile’s book, Submitted Under Protest: Essays Written in Defense of Western Freedom has just been published. Reviewed by Ardie Geldman at The New English Review.

I wrote an Preface, which I post here:

Preface

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!

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.

Suicide Bombing, Western Disorientations and (Partial) Realizations

JP. O’Mally writes a review in the Times of Israel of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East:

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.

Lethal, Own-Goal Journalism creates Caliphater BDS: Definitions

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)

Journalism

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.

Religion

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.

Economist Al Durah Cartoon Self-Destructs

The Economist ran the following political cartoon to illustrate an article about how Palestinians feel about losing the world’s attention.

economist's al durah

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.

Hamas Talking Points, Summer 2014

I am preparing a study of the degree to which the news media complies with Palestinian or Israeli desires in reporting on events in the land from the Jordan river to the sea.

The first step is to establish the talking points, the descriptions of events, the positions each side want the media to report. What follows here are:

Hamas talking points during “Operation Protective Edge, 2014”

Sources:

Palestinian spokespeople’s claims to journalists during the conflict.

Captured document: Hamas Minister of the Interior’s Directions to Gazan “social media” activists.

  • All Gazan casualties are civilians.
  • All Gazan casualties were caused by Israel.
  • This is a humanitarian crisis.
  • Israel started the hostilities.
  • 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 welcome additions, examples, suggestions.

 

The Failures of Journalism in the 21st Century

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.

They Savor Wine but Keep an Open Bar for the Hard Stuff

Richard Landes

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

Participants:

“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 Shame of Israel: Panic in a Crooked Mirror

The Jewish World has just published a version of the article below in the Adar I 5776/March 2016 issue, dedicated to The State of World Jewry, with other essays by Jack Engelhard, Lisa Klug, Manfred Gerstenfeld, Dov Fischer, Ari Soffer, Alex Maistrovoy, Steven Apfel, and Michael Freund. Below is a longer version of the article with more links.

On the American-Israeli Jewish Divide

Jewish anti-Zionism and Proxy Honor-Murder

Peter Beinart has written many a piece about the growing split between American Jewish youth and Israel, which he sees as the inevitable cost of Israel’s failure to make peace with the Palestinians, on the one hand, and the long-term effects on liberal sentiments of seeing an Israeli Goliath bullying the Palestinian underdog, on the other. This “youth,” according to Beinart has “imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights.” Studies show Jewish youth “resist anything they see as ‘group think’… want an ‘open and frank’ discussion of Israel and its flaws… and desperately want peace.”

To these folks, raised on bedrock values, every effort of Jews to defend Israel by criticizing the Palestinians offends their sense of fairness: blaming the victim is not a winning strategy. Beinart asserts:

For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead. Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral.”

Given a choice between Zionism and liberalism, American Jewish youth choose the latter.

For Beinart, at least, the case is pretty open and shut. Israeli political choices are illiberal, bad, and her politicians act in bad faith. The split between American Jews and Zionists, therefore, is inevitable. Beinart has little sympathy to the plaints from Israel that the neighborhood here does not permit such simplistic naïveté. Not much room in this worldview for Palestinian, Arab, contributions for the endlessness of the conflict, for their poisonous hatreds, for their insane religious violence. Don’t blame the [perceived] victim. Look at your own extremists which, you too have. Israel, says Beinart and a generation of Jewish critics of Israel, should act like a liberal, or lose our affections.

To which the obvious response from here is, “Are you kidding me? Do you know what we’re dealing with here?”

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

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

In a reported exchange, a J-Street organizer explained their self-perception vis-à-vis Israel:

Well, I’m the head of the J Street club on my campus and what you don’t understand is that we see Israel as our younger sister. We want our younger sister to be better — we love her and care about her.

Maybe that’s what you do in your neighborhoods (not!), but around here, you don’t show love and loyalty to your sister by trash talking her so you can hang out with the people who like to slander your sister. On the contrary, that kind of talk will get her killed much faster, because of the peculiar power here of shame and the overwhelming desire to annihilate such feelings, no matter what the actual circumstances.

The Shame of it all: Panic in a Crooked Mirror

A significant amount of this “split” in the American Jewish community between liberals and Israel can be understood not as a response to real problems in Israel – of which, like any country, especially one at war with her neighbors, there are many – but as responses to feeling ashamed of her. The feelings stem not because of what Israel has (often enough not) done, and certainly not in comparison with the behavior of our neighbors, but because of “how it looks” to outsiders. Shame comes from looking bad – awful – in the eyes of people whose opinion matters. When it comes to the emotion, it matters little what actually happened. In the most toxic of honor-shame communities, men kill their daughters and sisters not because they did something shameful, but because others think it, true or not.

“O wad some power…” Fisking Michael Sfard

Israel’s Human Rights Activists Aren’t Traitors

By MICHAEL SFARD JAN. 5, 2016

In March 1968, my father was a member of the Warsaw University students’ committee that helped lead the enormous protests demanding reform from the Communist Polish government. The government responded with a smear campaign to try to delegitimize the protests’ leaders, claiming they were acting in the interest of Western powers, or — exploiting widespread anti-Semitic sentiments — of a Jewish-Zionist plot against the Polish People’s Republic.

In other words, the government labeled my father and his friends foreign agents. Traitors.

My father was detained for three months and expelled from the university. After his release, he left with his family for Israel, where I was born. Unlike my father, I grew up in an environment that welcomed free political discussion and allowed people like me to become human rights activists and criticize our government. When I claimed a few years ago, after yet another right-wing attack on Israeli human rights organizations, that we had reached “the bottom of the pit,” my father gave me a knowing smile. “The pit is much deeper than you think,” he said.

Precisely.

My father was right. Over the past month, I have begun to see its true depth.

No you haven’t. You do not have a clue. Nothing in Israel comes near what was going on in your father’s Poland, nothing near what the most mundane authoritarian regimes do to their own citizens, not even close to what Israel does to their enemies. It is precisely this rhetorical exaggeration that has people like you calling the IDF “war criminals” and Israel a “racist, apartheid, fascist, state.” You have no historical depth-perception, so you’re easy dupes for moral equivalence.

And the problem is, outsiders will mistake your “prophetic” rhetoric as an insight into the actual situation here in the Middle East, rather than into the fevered brains of those Jews stricken with MOS. Outsiders understandably have difficulty figuring out how to “read” these hyper-critics: are they sober and honest assessments of reality? or prophetic rhetoric uttered where no ancient prophet would have delivered his rebuke of his people, in the lingua franca of the larger world, and in the courtyards of their powerful ones?

On Dec. 15, an Israeli ultranationalist group

Ultranationalist is a term largely reserved for brown-shirt-type organizations, fascist in their principled resort to violence in their targeting of enemies: “defending one’s country even when it is committing horrific acts to its own citizens.”

Im Tirzu shares nothing in these matters with real “ultra-nationalist” groups, and the use of the term to lump the group with the worst of the far right is characteristic of this publicly self-accusing pseudo-prophetic rhetoric: our (Israel’s) smallest crimes (i.e., deviation from the strictest “progressive” values) are of such magnitude that they compare with what’s nastiest out there (ultra-nationalists, racists, fascists, Nazis). By your standards of inciteful rhetoric, this is a robust example of smearing.

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

released a video portraying four Israeli human rights defenders as moles planted by foreign states to assist terrorists. The 68-second video, which rapidly made its way across Israeli social media, shows four mug shots and claims that “While we fight terror, they fight us.”

Here’s the video:

As for the accusations, knowing some of the background, and while not quite the way I would have chosen to put it, the video does nonetheless expresses a legitimate opinion. You may not agree, because it questions you and your fellow activists’ behavior, but I don’t see where calling groups that take money from hostile foreign governments to defend and protect avowed enemies of the state, a “plant” or even a “traitor,” is in any way worse than the ones they are so accusing, that is no worse than you and your colleagues calling Israel and its soldiers “war criminals,” “facists,” “nazis,” and “racists.”

You may think that the PLO is an institution that deserves your active support in avoiding responsibility for committing acts of terror against Israeli citizens. But surely you can understand that others, convinced by the same evidence that you are presumably aware of, see the PLO/PA as a devoted enemy of Israel’s very existence, think they should not receive the help of Israelis to carry out their plans for our destruction, and that anyone who does is dangerous.

The video is outright slander and an outrageous incitement.

Amazing. As the great poet Robert Burns once put it:

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!

Borderlife: Who in the Education Ministry ever put this book on the list in the first place?

I’m on a listserv that recently circulated an article from Ha-aretz entitled:

This is available in Polish, translated by Malgorzata Koraszewska.

By Banning Book, Israel Maintains Purity of Blood

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?” 

Policy Perspectives from the World of Apocalyptic Honor-Shame

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).

Syria

(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?)