Category Archives: Moral Equivalence

What About Jewish Triumphalism: Response to Harvey Blume and Gitlin’s Maps

In response to my post on why I am a member of Peace When, one commenter, the blogger Harvey Blume, posed the following challenge in an exchange with me: I had written that he seemed to be arguing that “Israel should hold everything ready for when the Palestinians are ready, including, presumably, stopping any construction (including natural growth) so that the Palestinians have the space they want.”

No stipulation about when the Jews/Israelis are ready? Not a one? Which they are increasingly, as per their increasingly right-wing governments indicate, they’re not?

Good example of mistaking the response for the cause. Israelis were enthusiastic about peace in the 90s and elected leftist governments. Over the last fifteen years, they have come to recognize the depths of the hostility and elected governments that reflected (rather than denied) that realization. Get Palestinians to show they can behave like neighbors rather than murderous enemies, and you’ll get 80% in favor of the most painful concessions.

For those committed to the cult of the occupation, however, the fault is Israel’s. All previous expressions of willingness to compromise made by Israel do not count. We demand more evidence, otherwise we peg you as an extremist.

I get you.

You’re the kind of polemicist who can cast Islamicism, dreadful, as it is, as innately triumphal and not think of Israelis claiming “Judea and Samaria” as Messianic writ, in the same way.

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.

Nuggets from the Pessin Affair: For Inclusiveness against Essentializing

As those following this blog know, I’ve been uploading documents on the Pessin Affair, a remarkable and terrifying moment when Connecticut College became Salem on the Thames.

As I sift through the evidence, the arguments employed by faculty when discussing the issue offer interesting insights into the kind of discourses that allowed the public sphere in the college be seized by cognitive Jihadis, driving an entire university community, with only the dimmest awareness of what they were doing, to conduct a human sacrifice in the name of inclusivity. Post modern shades of Rene Girard’s theory of sacrifice.

One of the memes much in use is that of the “equality of all cultures.” What this allegedly multi-cultural sentiment actually means in practice, however, is a dogmatic projection of a Western culture which has, by and large, renounced violence, encouraged individuality and diversity, and chosen to resolve disputes through public discussion. Combined with “moral equivalence,” this notion of cultural equality permits critics to equate acts that have vastly different moral and cultural settings and meanings.

This projection, which had something of a dogmatic sanctity to it, operated on two critical planes during the Pessin episode, granting to the “hurt students” all respect and concern for their feelings, despite the fact that they tendentiously interpreted Pessin’s remarks, and were “coming from a place” of war and not peace.

On a second plane, it operated to equate Israeli/Jewish culture and Palestinian/Muslim. Following up on comments outlining the wide range of beliefs and attitudes within the variegated Jewish community (i.e., opening up a place for Jewish colleagues to dissent from Pessin’s tone and opinions), a colleague insisted that everyone also should acknowledge the same for

… the much larger populations of Arab and non-Arab Muslims and Arab Christians worldwide who are nearly as diverse in their political and religious affiliations as culture itself. We must take care not to conflate these groups or essentialize them in our social / political / religious discourse.

Would this were true. On the contrary, the near-total homogeneity of the 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet when it comes to the political issue of Israel is nothing short of astonishing. There is vastly more variety of political opinion about the Arab-Israeli conflict, openly expressed, in .2% of the global population (12 million Jews), than there is in almost 20% of the global population (1.6 billion Muslims) about Israel. If this astonishing uniformity of opinion is a form of “essentializing,” then Muslims essentialize themselves by peer pressure and policing the narrow borders of dissent with violence, both state- and sect- driven.

Ironically, this professor’s advice not to conflate or essentialize contradicts his empirical assertions: he conflates Muslim and Jewish culture as “equally diverse in political matters,” and thus fails to understand the very dynamics that make this  conflict so adamantine.

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

[I re-post this item from 2010 after having attended a meeting at Temple Israel, a Reform Synagogue in Boston last night where J-Street and NIF talked us blue from their tikkun bubble chamber.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Corruption of the Media: Attkisson’s Testimony Helps Understand Mideast Coverage

If Matti Friedman tore off the veil from the AP’s modus operandi in covering the Arab-Israel conflict, then apparently, Sharyl Attkisson has done it for CBS’s modus operandi when it came to the White House over the past two decades. Apparently, Attkisson’s book is an update on Bernie Goldberg’s chronicling of a media militating for Obama with their coverage (A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media2009).

It’s still not out, but the following article by Kyle Smith offers some extensive examples of partisan corruption of the mainstream news media that we in Israel know intimately. Below I draw some (of many) parallels, in order to highlight the way the mainstream news media’s Augean Stables of encrusted bad practices has become a transnational phenomenon.

(H/T Amos Ben-Harav)

Ex-CBS reporter’s book reveals how liberal media protects Obama

Sharyl Attkisson is an unreasonable woman. Important people have told her so.

When the longtime CBS reporter asked for details about reinforcements sent to the Benghazi compound during the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack, White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor replied, “I give up, Sharyl . . . I’ll work with more reasonable folks that follow up, I guess.”

Modal Trigger

Another White House flack, Eric Schultz, didn’t like being pressed for answers about the Fast and Furious scandal in which American agents directed guns into the arms of Mexican drug lords. “Goddammit, Sharyl!” he screamed at her. “The Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable. You’re the only one who’s not reasonable!”

It’s natural for any stakeholder (political, corporate, personal) to want to protect itself from revelations that embarrass it. Anybody who can (i.e., has power), threatens with loss of access, hence access journalism. Nobody who can does not favor favorable journalists, and punish with exclusion (at the least) those who tend to reveal unpleasant information. The question is, how far will they go? How does the naturally self-protective agent respond to the failure of access journalism to control the situation?

The role of the journalists in a democracy is to fight against this disadvantage for reporters who need access, to resist the kinds of pressures that powerful and influential people can exercise. The remark by White House deputy press secretary Eric Shultz, enumerates some of the more prominent of the submissive journals: Wapo, LATimes, the Grey Lady. They all play nice (reasonable).

Sharyl, on the other hand, is doing her job as a professional journalist with a code. Her kind of journalist was once the pride of the profession. She has, however, become “unreasonable.” “Reasonable” here means someone who knows that, in order to stay in the game (that of access journalism, not real journalism), they will submit their work to a self-imposed censure.

For those trying to understand the Middle East conflict, if mere partisanship (liberal vs. conservative) in the West could produce such damage to the screens upon which we observe our world, imagine what kind of an impact the implicit, constant threat of sudden death, has on reporters working in Palestinian territories.

Are we waking up? Maher calls it “liberal bullshit”

Bill Maher hosted Brian Levin, professor at CSU-San Bernardino, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. The exchange is most illuminating, primarily for what it shows about the kind of “therapeutic” scholarship that dominates the academy. HT: Jeff Poor at Daily Caller). Comments interspersed in the transcipt below.

BM: I’m always interested to know how people like the people we caught today up in Boston can have two minds going at the same time. I mean if you read what the older brother wrote on the internet, he said his world view “Islam” personal priorities, “Career and Money.” And we see this a lot. I mean the 9-111 hijackers went to strip clubs the night they got on the plane.”

BL: Could I just interject. Look, it’s not like people who are Muslim who do wacky things have a monopoly on it. We have hypocrites across faiths… Jewish, Christian who say they’re out for God and they end up…

Levin immediately takes Maher to refer to the hypocrisy of it all, when (particularly as a scholar) he might have addressed the issue of cognitive dissonance, and the kind of “doubling” that Robert Jay Lifton analyzes in Nazi DoctorsBut instead he immediately reaches for the “we too…” meme of moral equivalence.

BM: You know what, yeah, yeah, You know what — that’s liberal bullshit right there … I mean yes there … all faiths…

BL: There are no Christian hypocrites? You made a career on that!

Levin is very confident here, thinking that with Maher, producer of Religulous, he has a like-minded interlocutor. 

Al Durah as Blood Libel: Opening the Door to the Equation Zionism=Nazism


While some immediately compared Israel to Nazis in the aftermath of the incident (above photo from demonstration in Paris on October 6, 2000 at which the cry “Death to Jews!” was heard in a European capital for the first time since the Holocaust), it took the “Jenin Massacre” to make the comparisons go mainstream.

“I have to wonder about people who compare Israelis to Nazis, I ask myself, why do they hate Israel, which is, after all, the Jewish state, so much?” Elie Wiesel

• Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank to Auschwitz (March 2002) and later declared that the Jewish people no longer deserved sympathy for the Holocaust. (October 2003)

• Binghamton University (NY) professor James Petras defends Saramago’s remarks and argues for the validity of the analogy between Israeli and Nazi policies. (April 2002)

• Belgian parliamentarian says that Israelis are “making a concentration camp out of the West Bank.” (April 2002)

• Norman G. Finkelstein, professor of political science at DePaul University, writes that “if Israelis don’t want to stand accused of being Nazis they should simply stop acting like Nazis.” (April 2002)

• Irish Poet and Oxford academic Tom Paulin calls Jewish settlers “Nazis.”(April 2002)

• Michael Hoffman, a former reporter for the New York bureau of the Associated Press, publishes a book titled “The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians.” (2002)

• Michael Neumann, a philosophy professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, in “Israelis and Indians” (2002) states that Jewish settlers want peace “just as Hitler wanted peace.”

• French anti-Globalization activist Jose Bove use of words ‘internment camps”, “watchtowers,” “roundups” to describe Israeli actions, implying a comparison with Nazism. (2002)

• In Greece, mainstream media references to Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Dachau are often made in cartoons depicting Israeli soldiers as Nazi soldiers.

• Welsh politician likens Israel to Nazi Germany. To him: “Hitler’s Nazi regime occupied Europe for four years only. Palestine and the West Bank have been occupied for 40 years.” (January 2003)

• Greta Duisenberg, Dutch, wife of the European Central Bank (ECB) chief Wim Duisenberg, called Israeli policies in Gaza and the West Bank as “worse than the Nazi rule in Holland.” (January 2003)

• In an article in French newspaper “Le Monde” titled “Israel, Palestine: The Cancer” the authors wrote that Jews, a “dominating and self-assured people” who are “behaving as a superior race” and who “were the victims of a pitiless order are imposing their pitiless order on the Palestinians. The Jewish victims of inhumanity are displaying a terrible inhumanity.” (June 2002)

• Antiwar rallies in the West feature flags and posters that equate Israel and Jews with Nazi Germany


• British MP compares the situation in Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto. (June 2003)

• Portuguese commentator Sousa Tavares wrote in newspaper PÚBLICO that: “If there is a World War III, it will be because of Israel … and of its attempt to solve the Palestinian problem, not through any peace accord, but through, you have to excuse me, a ‘final solution’ – the political, civic and, if necessary, human extermination of Palestinians.” (November 2003)

• Italian survey found that close to 40 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “the Israeli government is perpetrating a full-fledged genocide and is acting with the Palestinians the way the Nazis did with the Jews.” (January 2004)

• Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire compared Israel’s nuclear arsenal to Hitler’s gas chambers. (December 2004)

• The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) 2004 Witness Report concluded that Israelis were trying to “rid the land of Palestinians” just as “Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews.”

• German survey reveals that 51% of Germans believe that Israel’s present-day treatment of the Palestinians is equivalent to the Nazi atrocities against European Jews during World War II. (December 2004)

• Anthony Lipmann, in a comment piece in The Spectator (UK) compares the battle for Jenin to Auschwitz. (January 2005)

• Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, compares Jewish reporter to “concentration camp guard.” (February 2005)

• Pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie is compared to Anne Frank (April 2005).

• Review of Jacqueline Rose book “The Question of Zion,” (2005) who compares Israeli treatment of Palestinians to German treatment of Jews.

The “how would you like it if we said that about you?” meme: Reflections on Rudoren’s FB Page

Jodi Rudoren has a post about Gaza to which one reader commented:

Gazans killing their own, nothing new about that sadly

Another poster, named Mariam responded angrily:

You are plainly sick! Imagine I say the same thing about Americans? That the attack they suffered was inflicted by themselves? You will probably be horrified and calling me all kinds of names. Don’t de- humanize people and show respect for those that are dying while you watch TV. Wish you could experience Gaza life for a day, you would be ashamed of your words

Mariam’s argument, “what if i were to say that about Americans (or Israelis), then you’d scream…” is a very weighty one in the politically correct “public debate.” People readily back off when confronted with it, especially when it’s accompanied, as is Mariam’s, with implied accusations of “blaming the victim.”

But it really is a fallacious argument. Whether Hamas (and other Gazan “militants”) use their own civilians as shields, whether they not only invite Israeli attacks on civilian areas, but hit their own people with “friendly fire,” is not a matter of feelings hurt or otherwise. It’s a matter of evidence. The strong empirical evidence from many independent sources (cited by a number of commenters at Rudoren’s page in this thread) including Gazan, is that Hamas uses their own people as human shields and tries to benefit from the misery they inflict on their own people by blaming Israel. They even brag about it.

On the other hand, there’s no evidence that either Israelis or Americans do this. On the contrary, they go to extensive lengths not only to protect their own civilians, but those of their enemies. So of course, we don’t like to be so accused. We do everything to avoid being guilty of so heinous a crime, even sacrifice our own soldiers. And accusing Hamas of doing this is not “dehumanizing” them. That’s something they do all on their own.

Thus, it’s not intellectually or morally honest to not criticize someone else for something they’re doing because you wouldn’t like to be (falsely) accused for doing it, and its pure demopathy to invoke the principle to shut up our criticism.

But it’s even worse. This trope of not blaming the victim is actually a form of victimizing. The good people of Gaza (many of whom rue the day they voted “democratically” for Hamas), are the victims of Hamas’ cannibalistic  strategy, which only succeeds if the Israelis are blamed. By blaming Israel even where it’s clearly the fault of Hamas, one makes such a terrible and inhumane strategy profitable. As one of the commenters and my Daily Telegraph blog put it, the people who support the Palestinians by demonizing Israel are co-dependents in Hamas’ terror tactics against their own people.

Nothing better illustrates the argument that the “left” hates Israel far more than they care about the Palestinians. Alas!


The Dead Baby War: Fisking Max Fisher

The Dead Baby War:

Reflections on Palestinian Thanatography and Western Stupefication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Problem with Today’s Intellectuals when they Think about Culture: Sloppy Symmetry

I’m in the midst of an email exchange with a number of people as a result of my pieces on culture. Part of the issue concerns the way different cultures handle honor and shame, emotions prominent in every society and every individual who ever lived. As in the political world, with the matter of libido dominandi, different cultures handle these universal feelings differently. I personally restrict honor-shame cultures proper to those societies in which it is accepted, expected, even required to shed blood for the sake of honor.

In my search for people who have handled these complex and politically charged issues, I’ve found lots of cases of good work spoiled by a sloppy kind of symmetry in which the author dare not distinguish between various cultures. Russell Jacoby, one of our more prominent intellectuals, the  Moishe Gonzales Folding Chair of Critical Theory (at least he has a sense of humor), has written a book on the roots of violence, an obvious topic of interest for me: Bloodlust: On the Roots of Violence from Cain and Abel to the Present (Free Press, 2011)

Alas, the book is full of even-handed passages in which cultures far less prone to violence must be matched to depressingly violent societies, and texts of great subtlety on the subject get reduced to caricatures to “make the point.”

Enmity marks the relationship of brothers throughout the Hebrew Bible. Esau considered killing Jacob; Joseph’s brothers contemplated killing Joseph.96 “Am I my brother’s keeper?” rings out as the great rhetorical question of Western culture. (Russell Jacoby, Bloodlust, pp. 61-62).

Actually, Jacoby might have gotten away with this had he written “… throughout Genesis.” But even there, that’s not the case. In the patriarchal narratives – i.e., Abraham’s progeny of “God’s chosen,” self-control and reconciliation replace the fratricidal impulse. And while sibling rivalry is a major theme of the patriarchal narrative, there is a clear progression from the zero-sum hostilities of the first generations (Ishmael-Isaac, Esau-Jacob), explicitly made worse by parental favoritism, to the remarkable positive-sum resolution (through atonement and forgiveness) of the third generation, where all the brothers inherit the blessing (despite parental favoritism).

And the following three books of the Pentateuch (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers) feature probably the most exceptional and dynamic sibling collaboration in the history of world narratives: Moses and Aaron. Did Jacoby stop reading at Genesis? Or did he just want to make a point about how the fratricidal origins of civilization in which these tales, suitably reduced to their lowest denominator (sibling rivalry) offer us, in Hannah Arendt’s terms, “cogent metaphors or universally applicable tales (p. 58).” In any case he managed to profoundly misrepresent a foundational text in search of the “universal.”

Is it any surprise then, that when he gets to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he goes for the same symmetry, kin rivalries.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict also is waged not between strangers but rather between kindred peoples. In the heady years after World War I, when the Arabs and the Jews sensed the possibility of independent states, the principals emphasized the kinship of their peoples. That was a moment when a defeated Ottoman Empire gave the victorious Europeans the power to divvy up the Middle East and to create new countries both for diasporan Jews and for the Arabs, who had been dominated by the Turks. Faisal Ibn Husain, who would become king of Iraq, met with Chaim Weizmann, who would become the first president of Israel. In the aftermath of the encounter, Faisal declared that “the two main branches of the Semitic family, Arabs and Jews, understood one another.” He called the Jews our “nearest relations” and “our cousins.” Of course this could be a problem.

Especially for the Arabs who pursued an alliance with their cousins the Jews, and often enough got themselves assassinated by their brothers.

“We Israelis resemble our Arab enemies in more ways than we care to know,” writes Avner Falk, an Israeli psychologist, in a book titled Fratricide in the Holy Land. Falk refers to character traits, customs, food, and dress. He reminds us that Jews and Arabs believe they descend from two biblical half brothers, Isaac and Ishmael. “From the psychological viewpoint, the Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs think, feel and act like rival brothers who are involved in a fratricidal struggle.”68 He notes also that “almost half of the Israeli Jewish population came from Arab or Muslim countries” and that “many of them are culturally and linguistically Arab.”69 This does not mean that this population appreciated their Arab counterparts more than the European Jews might. Closeness has bred contempt. Sephardic Jews—at least those from the Middle East—are generally much more anti-Arab than the Ashkenazi from Europe and Russia. The assassin of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin came from a family of Yemenite Jews and believed Rabin to be too conciliatory toward Arabs. He declared after his arrest in 1995, “I was afraid an Arab might kill him [Rabin]. I wanted Heaven to see that a Jew had done this.”70 (Jacoby, pp. 52-3).

One would not know from this account, that the degree of fratricide among Arabs is as stunningly high as it is low among Jews. Every Arab “uprising” has a rate of internecine murder equal to or higher than that of Arabs killed by outsiders (1936-39, first intifada). Not only does Jacoby get a self-critical Jew to obliterate the differences, but he focuses on one of the rare cases of fratricide among Jews (Rabin). As a result, he can cram the Israeli-Arab conflict into the same procrustean bed as all this other examples. Indeed, who knows how he’s mutilating those other cases to fit his symmetrical pattern.

I do not question Jacoby’s commitment to finding ways out of the violence against stranger and brother that we see around the world (writing a book is no mean feat). I just question whether some of the folks engaged in finding answers are sufficiently committed to the task that they will violate the politically correct dogmas of our age in order to think clearly. After all, would Chris Hedges have given him a laudatory blurb had he not put the Israelis in their place?

Nietzsche once compared thinking to diving into an ice-cold pond and seizing a stone lying on the bottom. Time to wet more than our feet.

Andrew Sullivan on Breivik’s Epistemic Closure: Left, Right, Not

Now I understand where my persistent, somewhat repetitive, commenter, Chris, comes from. Another illustration of the problem. He comes from Andrew Sullivan who quoted the passage to which Chris objects, disapprovingly. Here’s his post with my comments.

Breivik’s Epistemic Closure

Chris Bertram analyzes it:

We may be, now, in the world that Cass Sunstein worried about, a world where people select themselves into groups which ramp up their more-or-less internally coherent belief systems into increasingly extreme forms by confirming to one another their perceived “truths” (about Islam, or Obama’s birth certificate, or whatever) and shutting out falsifying information. Put an unstable person or a person with a serious personality disorder into an environment like that and you have a formula for something very nasty happening somewhere, sooner or later. Horribly, that somewhere was Norway last Friday.

This is an interesting quote for what it vaguely alludes to in its “whatever.” The whole paragraph is an analysis, quite shrewd indeed, of the epistemological slippery slope to what Damian Thompson calls self-brainwashing. But that depiction applies equally well to those on the other side of the political divide, including (probably – I’m guessing here) to the author of the blog and the person he’s quoting.

In this case, as acute as they are to what’s in the eyes of the “right,” the “left” has a major beam in their eyes that they seem to have difficulty acknowledging. On the contrary, their tone, their style, their rhetoric all express a kind of supreme confidence that treats all dissonant voices as not merely wrong but bad, not merely dismissively, but contemptuously. And yet that “whatever,” can be expanded far wider than the current list of “right wing” examples Bertram offers, starting with 9-11 truthers who swarm within the epistemic clotures of the left far more than birthers do on the right, and not just among the weirdo fringes.

Anders Sandberg urges us to check our cognitive biases when calling Breivik insane and bin Laden an ideologue. Richard Landes (cited in Breivik’s manifesto) tries, but doubles down, in some almost Malkin-worthy rhetoric, on blaming the other side:

Then Sullivan cites me without comment.

All those people who, in the mid-aughts, like Cherie Blair and Jenny Tonge among so many, thought that Palestinian terror was an understandable response to their hopeless condition, for which Israeli was responsible, owe it to themselves to think: what did I to contribute to Breivik’s despair, with my insistence that anyone who sounded the alarm was an Islamophobe?

Now I’ve been told by a close and trusted source that this passage made at least one sympathetic reader wince.  So let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My interlinear responses:

A conservative defense for Apartheid & colonialism

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

The Folly of Egocentric Empathy: Derfner does it again

I have a friend who thinks the JPost keeps Derfner on as a columnist is because they satifsy two needs at once: they get a “left-wing” columnist and comic relief. I admit that Derfner’s writing provides a fair amount of amusement, and I’ve long ceased to take him seriously. (He did do a good piece on a Druze honor-killing in 2005.) Now he surpasses himself in combining the lamest kind of cognitive egocentrism which he then presents as a courageous challenge to the meanest taboos of Israeli society. (HT:ALG)

Rattling the Cage: A taboo question for Israelis
Dec 30, 2009 21:26 | Updated Dec 31, 2009 14:01

There’s a question we Israelis won’t ask ourselves about the Palestinians, especially not about Gaza. The question is taboo. Not only won’t anyone ask it out loud, but very, very few people will dare ask it in the privacy of their own minds.

However, I think it’s time we start asking it, privately and in public. If we don’t, I think there’s going to be Operation Cast Lead II, then Operation Cast Lead III, and each one is going to be worse than the last, and the consequences for Palestinians and Israelis are going to be unimaginable.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: If anybody treated us like we’re treating the people in Gaza, what would we do?

We don’t want to go there, do we? And because we don’t, we make it our business not to see, hear or think about how, indeed, we are treating the people in Gaza.

I’ll let either masochists or humorists continue to read his article at the JPost site. I just have two major comments to make on his premise.

1) If we behaved towards other people the way that the Palestinians under the benighted leadership of Hamas and Fatah have behaved towards us, there would be no end to the Israelis — Derfner included — who would say we were getting what we deserved. (They say it anyway.)

(The idea that Israeli treatment is the cause of the Palestinians’ behavior, that somehow we need to understand their hatred and violence as a direct function of our deeds [rather than mere existence], is a nice illustration of masochistic omnipotence syndrome. We can change it all by changing our behavior.)

2) We know how Jews have behaved with those who treat them badly. Without sovereignty they were largely meek and mild; and when they did fight back (e.g., the Warsaw Ghetto) against things far more vicious than anything Israel has ever done to the Palestinians, they never targeted German civilians no matter how weak and desperate they were. Even Sharon, from a position of overwhelming superiority of force, when he took over at the onset of the second intifada and its staggering wave of suicide attacks on civilians, waited two years before striking back.

To make this comparison is already to misunderstand profoundly. To think it’s a brave and penetrating mental exercise suggests that my friend’s theory may well be right: the man is a (bad) joke… and one that doesn’t begin to fathom his own people, even himself. (As commenter 417 put it: “You can be compassionate without being stupid.”) Where’s the still-living Palestinian Derfner? Too smart to open his or her mouth?

Ireland vs. Israel: The Value of the Comparison

In response to one of my posts a medievalist colleague of mine posted a comment here and a thread on his own site in which he compared the situation in Ireland with that in Israel.

I confess that I’m not sure how he got from my post, on the cognitive dissonance that results from trying to pressure the Palestinians to behave rationally and, for example, during Operation Cast Lead, stop bombing Israel in order to stop the damage to their own people’s lives and infrastructure, to “Who is to blame in the Israel-Palestine [sic] Debate?,” but it certainly gave him the occasion to make a series of comparisons between the conflict in the Middle East and that in Ireland. I confess to feeling that his analogies were defective throughout, but didn’t quite know how to respond substantively.

One of my regular and valued commenters here at the site responded with an excellent essay on the historical differences which, I think, illustrates just how ill-informed the comparison. With his permission, I republish it here with some short comments of my own [in italics].

Historian Fails History Test
Ray from Seattle:

When I read comments like Paul Halsall’s, I am incredulous. How can any objective person possibly compare the Arab/Israeli situation to Ireland’s?

Protestants ruled the Catholic majority in Ireland for hundreds of years before the “troubles” – which were really a recent flareup in the ongoing struggle by the natives of Ireland over several centuries to divorce themselves of British rule and gain independence. The modern troubles are just another chapter in that long saga of Britain’s colonialism and its ultimate decline.

The state of Israel was created by deliberation of the UN, including all of the new Arab states whose membership required their legal commitment to honor all agreements reached by that body. It concerned the fair assignment of sovereignty over the stateless territory of Palestine – according to majority populations in those areas of the two main ethnic / religious groups living there. It was a generous attempt by the democracies that won WWII to avoid further war and genocide by fair and legally enforceable deliberation and negotiation of opposing interests as judged by that world body of nations.

No More Messiahs: Kerstein on Obama at Oslo

A provocative, well-written and thoughtful essay by Benjamin Kertsein on Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech with some very sharp perceptions on the human condition and the necessary limits of messianism. Comments welcome. HT/oao (who’s not commenting much these days here)

Obama in Oslo: No More Messiahs
by Benjamin Kerstein

There is a fairly well-known phenomenon among alcoholics referred to as the “moment of clarity.” It is the momentary lifting of the haze of intoxication and denial, giving the drinker a sudden and often shattering insight into the stark reality of their situation. There is a strong possibility that President Obama’s December 9 Nobel Prize acceptance speech has given us a glimpse into a remarkable and somewhat unprecedented variation on this phenomenon: a political moment of clarity — one taking place, or at least publicly announced, on a global stage.
It must be said at the outset that the speech was also unprecedented in the context of Obama and the Obama phenomenon. It was both the first time Obama has said anything of substance, and certainly the first time he has displayed anything resembling political courage. It should also be noted that much of the speech was all but guaranteed to alienate both the president’s far-left base (already incensed by his decision to expand the war in Afghanistan) and his bien-pensant Scandinavian hosts.

Indeed, a great many of Obama’s greatest admirers consider the war on terror to be a malicious imperial project whose purpose is to enforce American hegemony on the world. Obama, however, referred to Afghanistan, now once again the major front in that war, with refreshing accuracy as “a conflict that America did not seek,” and “an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.” He also emphasized that “I — like any head of state — reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation.” For a president who has often seemed disturbingly addicted to irrational adulation, this willingness to invite derision deserves, at the very least, some measured praise.

More tellingly, Obama’s speech also included several statements that cannot be described as anything other than thinly disguised restatements of the Bush Doctrine. Assertions like “as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation…. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world,” represent precisely the kind of unnuanced moral absolutism that the Bush Doctrine’s critics – including Obama himself – explicitly denounced and rejected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad hominem? Moi?

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

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

Fisking Goldstone: What’s happened to this man?

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

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

Justice in Gaza

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

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

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

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

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

MSNM, NGOs and Paranoia: Nelson’s Reflections

I’ve posted several pieces on the latest dust-up between HRW and NGO Monitor recently, that raise fundamental questions about both the credibility of the “human rights” NGOs, but also their disturbing relationship to the MSNM, especially in their way of viewing the world (what the Germans call Weltanschauung). Now Nelson (Europundit) has offered an essay that gets at the core of the problem in a way I’ve only hinted at. Below, his essay. My notes — and others who comment here — to follow.

Nobody trusts the government. The politicians are corrupt. The government is always lying to the people. It works against the people’s true interests and only promotes the selfish interests of its own members and their friends. Those in power invent scary threats to distract the public’s attention from their own wrongdoings.

No, I’m not talking about the US. Well, not exclusively at least. Everything I’ve just said has been repeated day in day out, for years and decades, by the papers and the electronic media wherever there’s anything resembling a free press. That’s the MSM’s real message in all democratic nations. Whatever else they talk about is secondary.

Is it true? Often it is. Is it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Each one of us can judge by him or herself. And, as we have been doing so collectively for some time, the MSM has been losing most reliability it might once have had, to the point that, in countries like the US, it is not only as little trusted as the government and the politicians themselves, but it’s clearly seen as just another partisan political player.

That’s, however, quite a small consolation, because the damage they, the MSM, could do has already been done and, even without being trusted, they can go on doing it. What’s exactly this damage? The corrosion and eventual destruction of public trust. No open society can work without it and, though the government and all state institutions must always be closely watched, it works at its very best when the people’s default attitude towards these is one of conditional trust, not one of perpetual mistrust.