Category Archives: “Occupation”

The Small Kindness (Qur’an 107): A Magnanimous Solution to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Positive-sum westerners see “two states” as the obvious solution to the conflict on the land between the river and the sea. But analyzed in terms of honor-shame reasoning and the players involved, not only is that solution not going to work, but it’s actually designed by “two-stage” Palestinian strategists, to pursue the zero-sum dream: “Palestine from the river to the sea.” When we understand that the problem is not “how much” territory is Israel willing to concede to satisfy the Palestinians?” but “how do Arab Muslims overcome the humiliation that is Israel, and find their dignity in the global community without subjecting infidels,” different landscapes and alternatives arise.

First it becomes crystal clear that resolving this contest in a way that convinces Islamist supremacists to stand down becomes imperative not only for Israel, but for the West and all other peoples around the world, who, in the early decades of the third (global) millennium, are also the target of this zero-sum, honor-driven, imperialist version of monotheism: one God, one rule, one religion. The idea that “land for peace” is an option (much less the only true option), has progressives, Jewish and not, convinced that if only they cram this solution down Israel’s throat (for its own good of course, à la J-Street), they’ll solve the problem. They seem oblivious to the possibility that such a solution only pours oil on the Jihadi fire.

The alternative perspective, however, by considering real causes, opens up new thinking and new solutions. This means viewing the specific conflict not, as the Palestinians would insist, between the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian David, but as the very term intifada means, the “shaking off” of a bug (Israel) by a great beast.

Who is the great beast? Obviously not the Palestinians. They may be that small part of the great beast’s skin that shudders off the bug. But they are proxies for a much greater and more powerful creature. In other words the conflict in Arab and Muslim eyes is not between mighty Israelis and poor Palestinians: if it were that alone, the humiliation of losing to the Jews might be less painful. It’s between Israel, the only state of the Jews in the world (and a democracy thriving in very difficult conditions), fighting off 22 Arab and 57 Muslim authoritarian states, and beyond them, a wide range of Jihadi and Da’wa non-state actors, all driven by a triumphalist, hard zero-sum vision of Islam, one that cannot tolerate the very existence of an infidel state in the midst of Dar al Islam. In short, it is a battle front in a war between Muslim theocratic, authoritarian political culture and the democratic West. And for the West not only not to understand that, but side with the triumphalist Palestinians (for whom no Jewish state is tolerable), against Israel, is more than foolish, it’s self-destructive.

In that framework, I’d like to suggest a Qur’an-inspired alternative, also an obvious solution, but one that addresses the heart of the dilemma, not only of the “local” Arab-Israeli conflict, but the global “Muslim-infidel” conflict, namely, the difficulty so many Muslims have in living peaceably with their neighbors, whether Muslim or infidel. The greatest challenge of this global generation – whether viewed as the first generation of the 21st century or the second of the 15th century) is to Muslims to effect major changes in the hard zero-sum way they have historically related to kuffar (infidels), and women, and anyone less powerful than they. Everyone’s life, on this increasingly connected planet at the beginning third millennium, depends on Muslims and infidels rising to this challenge.

In this sense, Israel is the Muslim’s Dreyfus Affair, their test of modernity. Can they shift moral paradigms and leave behind triumphalist religiosity? Can they live at peace with the rest of the world without trying to subject them? The test case, is how they get along with the Jews in their region, esp since these sovereign Jews have proven considerably more peaceful towards Arab Muslims (even the most belligerent), than these have even towards each other, mu

To those of Allah’s faithful who would like Islam to stand in a place of honor among the nations of a peaceful and peace-loving world, I make this suggestion that, I think, will set you on a fruitful path. In the Qur’an, Surah 107 explains to people that, at the Last Judgment, Allah will not smile on those who “would be seen (i.e., admired) yet refuse the small kindness.” And yet this is precisely what Arab and Muslims have done to the Jews for the last 66 years.

There are 1.x billion Muslims in the world, or about a fifth of the global population; there are 12 million, Jews, or about a fifth of a percent of the world population. Of the entire area occupied by Arab-speaking majorities in the world, greater Israel constitutes a fifth of a percent of that total. Given all that Islam shares with Judaism (dare one say, adopted from Judaism), do you Muslims really think that on the Day of Judgment, Allah will forgive you if they refuse us the “small kindness” of being allowed to prosper on this tiny sliver of land? For the sake of world peace – literally – do not refuse us this “small kindness.”

 

The Echo Chamber of Dupes: Human Rights Discourse in Service of Demopathy

I came across a recent article by Ron Dudai, “Entryism, mimicry and victimhood work: the adoption of human rights discourse by right-wing groups in Israel,” The International Journal of Human Rights, May, 2017.

His basic claim is that “right-wing” groups imitate, seek to be included in, and exploit “human rights” discourse in order to pursue a “right-wing” agenda whose aims are to hijack the movement from within, defend Israel and undermine the Palestinian struggle for their human rights. It’s a classic product of the PoMo-PoCo-Po-Zi discourse heavily favored at Hebrew U, and especially among Buber Fellows (of which he is one): filled with fashionable jargon – entryism, aggressive, colonial mimicry, mimetic isomorphism, counter-hegemonic strategy, etc. (It’s actually not as bad as it might be; and I shouldn’t complain because I make up terminology all the time.)

What’s striking about the article is the echo chamber effect of current “liberal/progressive” thought. It’s logic (and documentation) are impeccable within that echo chamber, recently criticized by the President of Wesleyan (!). The possibility, however, of anomalous evidence entering this mental universe has been minimized to the point where key questions cannot even arise, alternative perspectives cannot even be imagined.

The core of the problem revolves around two issues. First, the reification of the “right-left” phenomenon, as if (according to the medieval school of realists) when the author says “right-wing” that designates a real entity, and not his effort to organize a reality that his terms cannot possibly comprehend. Thus, the differences between what he identifies as “right-wing” and what he considers “progressive” or “left-wing human rights” movements are so fundamental, that the behavior of one side can only be malevolent, and the other only be beneficent.

Second, having reified the dyad, he cannot see any possibility that his criticism of the “right” for invoking human rights to undermine human rights (ie, demopathy“) has already occurred among the major “left-wing human rights groups,” and has been causing havoc in human rights for decades. As a result, he sees a group like NGO Monitor as essentially attempting to hamper the work of the “good left-wing” HRGs (which it is), because they are tribal, Israel-first, right-wingers (not Ron Dudai!), not because they’re opposing the devastating effects of “left-wing” HRGs that are working hand in hand with some of the worst “right-wing” demopaths on the planet. The damage done by this extensive “left-wing” adoption of the “human rights” discourse of demopathic Caliphaters (CAIR, Linda Sarsour, Marwan Barghouti) not only harms Israel (the only “human rights respecting” nation in the entire region), but the very cause of human rights.

(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?

Fisking Rob Bryan on Bassem Eid: A Glimpse inside the “Pre-Occupied Mind”

I recently had coffee with Bassem Eid, and he mentioned the following article by Rob Bryan that denounces him as a suck-up, a token Palestinian, pandering to right-wing Jewish audiences. It struck me as so classic an expression of what one might call the “preoccupied mind” (or the mindset of members of the “Cult of the Occupation“), that it seemed worth a fisking.

Meet Bassem Eid, the Former Palestinian Human Rights Activist Who’s Sucking Up to the Israel Lobby

Eid once monitored Israeli human rights abuses. Now he defends them before right-wing audiences.
Here’s the pitch, elaborated below. Caveat emptor, this is not about to give you an honest appraisal of either information or opinion.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Bassem Eid, a stocky 58-year-old Palestinian political analyst, stood in front of an audience of about 30 people this June 22 in the law offices of Duval & Stachenfeld in midtown Manhattan. The crowd snacked on stuffed grape leaves and drank red wine from the Northern Galilee region of Israel, eager to hear an exuberant man hold court on the plight of his people.

The Israeli-American Council (IAC), a lobbying organization explicitly dedicated to strengthening theing a st of questions sent to his personal email regarding his speaking fees. Yet the depth of Eid’s hostility towards the very notion of justice for Palestinians was genuinely surprising, as was the total fealty he showed towards the state whose abuses are well-documented.

Good illustration of the cult of the Preoccupation: justice is defined only in terms of denouncing Israel. The slogan “No peace without justice,” along with “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea!” means “No peace with Israel.”

The “abuses” are “well documented” by organizations like Btselem, which Eid left because they refused to document any abuses of Palestinian rights by their thuggish leaders, who reflect an Arab political culture that alleged “human rights” groups like HRW treat with great delicacy while reaching out to the for funding to “document” Israeli “abuses.”

“Friends,” said Eid, spreading his arms wide, “if you will look today to the Middle East map and the growing Islamic terror in the Middle East, in my opinion, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became the most safe place in the Middle East.” Not once did he criticize the occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, or the discriminatory laws passed against Arab citizens of Israel. To him, these were minor details.

Well, when you’re faced with someone with a light wound, and someone who’s at death’s door, it may make sense to shift the attention to the latter, the no cost target, Israel. Bryan will have none of this. Israel’s abuses, which have somehow produced one of the Arab world’s higher-ranking HDI (Israel’s Arabs and oil-rich countries excluded).

Here’s Eid’s way of putting it.

His animated diatribes sounded like the inner monologue of a right-wing member of Israel’s Knesset, inveighing against the “thugs and gangsters of the so-called BDS” and decrying Students of Justice in Palestine as a “bullshit group.”

He was being nice. SJP is one of the nastiest groups out there, and its founder, Hatem Bazian, one of the most aggressive purveyors of a definition of Islamophobia that strangles any criticism of Islam, and surely made Said proud.

His claim that the Arab League is “a rehabilitation center for handicapped people” drew big laughs. (Eid’s preferred rhetorical device is the one-liner, much to the delight of a middle-aged man sitting next to me who responded as though he was witnessing the second coming of Jackie Mason).

It’s so hard to realize that one (or one’s ally) has made oneself into a parody. The Arab League is indeed a big and bad joke. Here’s their ambassador to the UN explaining why Hamas can’t stop bombing Israel even though it means that their own people get bombed back.

Unpacked, this means, “it’s a no brainer (for us) that if we’re getting the stuffings kicked out of us, we have to keep hitting back (to show we’re men).” As the proverb goes: “Fighting an enemy who is stronger is not honor, it’s pride, often the opposite of honor.” Self-preservation, concern for the well-being of their own people? Not high on the Arab League’s priority list.

Eid’s point exactly.

How to Deal with Honor-Shame Dynamics: With Dignity, Refuse Proleptic Dhimmitude

[apologies for not posting this months ago.]

In response to my article in MEQ on Edward Said and honor-shame dynamics, one reader wrote in:

I thought Landes’ article pushed an important point on honor and shame.  If one takes it to be true, then the way to solve some of the problems would be to send over lots of therapists.  I know it sounds crazy but I am thinking perhaps there is something to it? 

There is a brief response in MEQ (which I can no longer find). The longer response I post below:

From the perspective of those committed to primary honor-shame codes, therapists represent the forces of an effeminate culture designed to castrate them and kill their triumphalist religion. So that’s not going to work. (It is common among Jihadis to believe that the Jews have castrated the Christian West, and now plan to do so to them.)

But good therapy is better in the doing than in formal introspection, and if progressives were serious about their values, they’d be helping Arabs to grapple with this authoritarian strain in their culture, to become more capable of handling criticism and introspecting. Hopefully, the Arab world will eventually produce a school of their own therapists who can help the process of harnessing (rather than castrating) the testosteronic impulses of their long-dominant primary honor codes.

At its core, I think this is about peer pressure – who determines what’s honorable? Anthony Appiah has an excellent meditation on the problem: The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, in which he treats four case studies where a society/culture changed its code: what had previously been considered honorable (slave-holding, dueling, foot-binding, and honor-killing) shifted to shameful according to the new dominant “honor group.”

From this perspective, the Muslim and Arab world have yet to undergo a passage from zero-sum, triumphalist rule-or-be-ruled, primary honor codes, to ones more tolerant of “others” – of free infidels, or independent women, in particular. (The only failed moral revolution in Appiah’s book was the shift from honorable honor-killings to shameful shame-murders in Pakistan.)

This is above all a cultural issue (exactly not, as many try to insist, a racial one); and until we learn to think about this from the perspective of the triumphalist Muslims, we cannot understand what we face. And once we do, we discover a whole range of areas where we can assert pressure, because their great weakness is now their great strength – their amazingly “thin skin.”

Right now, instead, the West (especially its “liberals”) do everything they can to avoid “shaming” the Muslim world, and so avoid pointing this out: if one brings up “honor-killings” as a symptom of a particularly regressive honor-shame culture, liberals will almost instinctively insist they have nothing to do with Islam. And while it’s true that some (few) other cultures also approve of – even insist on – killing women for the sake of family honor, it is most prominent in Islamic societies, and closely related to issues like the burka. Liberals think they’re being generous by sparing Islam criticism. Triumphalist Muslims see these same liberals as good dhimmi leaders who make sure their community does not “insult” Islam.

“And all the blame goes to…”: Sisyphus, Kerry and the Failure of “Peace” Negotiations

Two articles and two blogposts have just appeared that tackle the failed peace negotiations conducted by John Kerry during the second Obama Administration. One, by a participant (with a long history of participation in these efforts going back to 1993), “Inside the Black Box of Israeli-Palestinian Talks” by Michael Herzog, in American Interest, and the other, a strong critique of the first piece, by Raphael Ahren, the diplomatic correspondent of the Times of Israel, and two extensive blogposts, by Yaacov Lozowick, and David Gerstman at Legal Insurrection that criticize the widespread lack of interest of the mainstream media on this revealing text, in part, they suspect, because it doesn’t indict Bibi.

Like most diplomatic issues written by negotiators, one has to read between the lines at what is not said. The issues here are crucial, since much of the logic that this information undermines, lies at the heart of Kerry’s final maneuvers to condemn the settlements as the roadblock to peace, and the vast international consensus – diplomatic and journalistic – that stand behind him.

For Herzog, there’s enough blame to go around:

All parties made mistakes, each exacerbating the others’ and contributing to a negative dynamic.

For Ahrens, Herzog’s piece is a “politely devastating critique” that “skewers Kerry for dooming the peace talks.”

What strikes me in reading Herzog is how much – despite his explicit conclusions – he provides an abundance of clear evidence for the fact that (as Lozowick also notes) the real reason the negotiations failed is because the Palestinians  never had any intention of negotiating. So blaming Kerry (or Bibi) for “dooming the peace talks,” is something like blaming a hospital emergency team for blowing the resuscitation of a mannequin.

If there’s blame to apportion here it’s a) the Palestinians for never negotiating in good faith, and b) the Americans, especially Kerry, for blaming Israel for killing the mannequin,  and c) the Israelis like Herzog for never catching on including (apparently) still now.

In reviewing this material, let me lay out what I think were the negotiating strategies of the sides for the last 25 years, a perspective repeatedly borne out by events, including the information in Herzog’s article:

(NB: I’m a medievalist, trained to piece together fragments of evidence into a larger picture. When the CIA launched after the WWII they tapped medievalists (including one of my professor, Joseph Strayer, specifically because of this training. So maybe I see more because I know less. Certainly, in these matters, I am far from familiar with the details.)

The Americans believed (to a man/woman?) that if only they could get the Palestinians and Israelis to agree on a deal that gave the Palestinians a state on the other side of the “’67 borders,” that would bring peace and solve a whole bunch of problems in the Middle East – linkage – including saving Israel from deciding between democratic or apartheid. They formally adopted a cognitively egocentric notion that the Palestinians really wanted a state, but needed to get the best possible deal to “sell it” to their own people. The way to get it was to pressure the Israelis to make concessions that would bring the Israelis into (what they imagined was) “the zone of possible agreement [between Israelis and Palestinians]” (Indyk), and then go to the Palestinians with a great deal (from the US point of view), and thereby achieve the holy grail of Nobel Peace Prizes, the deal that really is so obvious, you should be able to solve it with an email.

The American position represents a dogmatic extension of Oslo Logic after it blew up in Israel’s face in 2000 (Y2K Mind). It takes as a given that the Palestinians will accept a deal +/- on the “1967 borders,” but they can’t concede too much or they’ll lose face with their people. Applying that “reading” to the negotiations since 2000 (Bush/Condoleezza, Obama/Clinton/Kerry) has a) guaranteed US and Israeli failure, b) guaranteed Palestinian and Jihadi success. Once committed to the paradigm and its expectations, the US was incapable of realizing they were being played.

The Israelis wanted to appease the Americans, and I suspect most of the actual negotiators (Herzog/Livni) agree with the American position that a) peace is urgently needed, and b) believe peace is within their grasp, like in 20o0… “so close.” (Certainly Herzog shows no awareness of what’s available at PalWatch or MEMRI on Palestinian attitudes off the negotiating record.) Because they do want a deal soon for fear of the demographic timebomb, the Israelis are ready to make many of concessions, both short-term (slowdown of settlement activity, release of prisoners) and long-term (division of Jerusalem).

But at the same time they know that they have limits to their concessions, not only on some key issues like refugee return and how Jerusalem is divide (already a pocketed concession), but also the damage to their position from making unreciprocated concessions, increasing the odds that this “peace deal” too will blow up in the face of the conceding side. Thus the Israelis fight over every detail to protect themselves from likely attacks from an eventual Palestinian state, while still making concessions to move the process along, to get, as even Indyk admitted they had, into the zone of possible agreement. Herzog expresses his confidence in the Palestinian’s commitment to finding a solution, despite all the counter-evidence, with a credulous humanitarian credo:

But whoever knows the issues in-depth realizes how crucial they are to both sides’ future. And those of us who have spent years at the negotiating table know how arduous and excruciating a journey is required of both sides if they are to find a sustainable balance encompassing all core issues (italics mine).

That “whoever” who “knows” does not include the current crop of Palestinian “leaders” and their negotiators. On the contrary they’re not at all interested in finding a sustainable balance. No arduous journeys for them.

Bibi’s Strategy:

  • Take it seriously.
  • Fight every detail to get the best acceptable deal,
  • Show good faith, accede wherever possible to American demands
  • Ask for reciprocity.
  • Put really good people to work on it, and follow the details closely.
  • Hope that, if/when things fail, they won’t get blamed.

The Palestinians are nowhere near the American’s “zone of possibility.” As long as they can pretend to the cognitive egocentrics on the other side that they are near, ready, desirous of a deal, however, negotiators will play along pretending to accept the notion of a positive-sum, give and take, deal. Indeed they will indignantly rebuke any challenge to their sincerity.

Erekat argued that this was natural given in his view Abbas’ moderate positions: “He doesn’t need to convince Abbas. Abbas accepts the two-state solution [sic], recognizes Israel [sic] and does not build settlements [alas! He should be building settlements for Palestinian Refugees stuck in camps].”

But they know that their job is to make the process as difficult as possible, to give the impression they’ll make concessions without making any real concessions (eg their phony recognition of Israel). They want above all not to reach an agreement, without being blamed for the failure of negotiations. If, in the process, they can use the Americans to get unreciprocated concessions, great. The US wants them so badly to participate that the Palestinians can make just “sitting down to negotiate” a major concession on their part to match say, Israelis releasing prisoners. If they get blamed, go nuts:

The thing that really drove [Abbas] nuts,” Ashrawi relates, “is that they blamed him for the talks’ collapse. In his view, it’s all the Israelis’ — and the Americans’ — fault.”

The Palestinians are in no hurry because the suffering of their people, as long as Israel can be blamed, is a bargaining chip (like a non-funny remake of Blazing Saddles, “don’t no one come near or I’ll shoot this nigger”). They feel no need to make any actual concessions to Israel (that they wouldn’t carry through on anyway) because they feel time is on their side and they can wait. They know that Israel won’t kick the Palestinians out and can’t digest them; that the situation is a timebomb of ethnic warfare which will destroy everyone. (That’s why some Palestinians call for nuking the whole area.) And, anyway, the negotiator’s job is not to create a Palestinian state (pace “international opinion”), but to destroy an Israeli state. If they deviate from that task, if they make a deal with the Israelis, they’d lose face, be accused of betraying the sacred Arab-Muslim cause, and have tea with Sadat.

So they’re willing to “play along” with negotiations as long as the US pressures Israel. Abbas claims his side had “already exhausted its ability to be flexible in past years and therefore that the main onus was not on him.” If the US can force deeply wounding concessions (Green Line including East Jerusalem) on Israel, then maybe they can appease the Jihadis whom they honor in Arabic, by assuring them this is a major step in the “Two Phase Plan” for the destruction of Israel. If they can’t, they can’t risk the humiliation of agreeing to accept a state of free infidels in Dar al Islam, so they’ll walk away from the table and brag to their Jihadis about how they said “No,” to the mighty Americans.

Abbas’ strategy:

  • insist on settlements as main problem and let Western cognitive egocentrists think you mean the Green Line not the shore line;
  • avoid being involved in negotiations as long as possible;
  • refuse any deal, avoid even responding to any deal;
  • negotiate on other tracks (Hamas, International Community), for the time the talks “fail” (i.e., the moment pressure is put on them);
  • blame Israeli settlements for the failure and get outraged when criticized.

European Schizoid Dissonance: The Calm of Appeasement

At the Balfour Declaration centenary conference convened by JCPA Tuesday, February 28, there was a particularly interesting juxtaposition during the first panel between remarks by Colonel Richard Kemp and Professor Julius Schoeps.

NB: the videos of the talks are now up.

In his talk, “Israel as a Strategic Asset to Britain“, Richard Kemp drew a striking contrast between two European attitudes towards Israel. On the one hand, there are those who see her as a remarkably successful loyal ally, crucial not only to Montgomery in 1940s, but even more today in the 21st century. On the other, there are those who repeatedly sacrifice Israel’s interests and side against her. His illustrative example concerns Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paolo, the Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, who:

In 2009… visited Israel to study IDF tactics to apply to NATO operations in Afghanistan. He was particularly interested in Israeli tactics for fighting terror in civilian-populated areas. This visit came just weeks after the publication of the infamous Goldstone Report – which alleged that Israel had committed war crimes by deliberately targeting civilians in Gaza.

The contrast was striking: within weeks of the European Parliament endorsing the report, the European Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee was visiting Israel, for the third time in four years, to study ethical methods for dealing with terrorist insurgencies without causing undue harm to civilians.

Apparently the Europeans find scolding Israel nearly irresistible, even though they know their criticism is not only untrue… but, it’s the opposite. Israel behaves better than even other Western armies; a fortiori than the jihadis they fight, whose cannibalistic strategies create civilian casualties among their own people.

Let’s call it (European) schizoid dissonance: holding two diametrically and significantly contradictory notions in one’s empirical and moral discourse at the same time. On the one hand, the (European) cultural elite – journalists, critics, public intellectuals, researchers, NGOs –conduct a conversation in which despising Israel holds an important place, in which they have flipped the symbol and insist on seeing an Israeli Goliath bullying a hapless Palestinian David. On the other hand, the military, the security people, the grown ups in charge, ask the Israelis to teach them how to limit casualties when the enemy uses civilians as shields and how to enhance their security. And that schizoid dissonance seems to hold more or less for all European countries.

No sooner had Kemp finished his remarks than the next speaker, Prof. Julius H. Schoeps, the Director of the Moses Mendelssohn Centre of European Jewish Studies at Potsdam University, made remarks that seemed to illustrate the contradictions Kemp had just highlighted. After asserting German support for Israel and good will towards the morally admirable Zionist dream, he concluded by sternly urging “the Israeli state to prevent the national religious settler movement from carelessly and recklessly squandering the Zionist legacy of the founding fathers…” darkly hinting that a failure to do so would alienate Europeans and especially Germans.

#ASSO21C: How Kerry Knows Settlements an Obstacle to Peace

I’m a bit late on this one, but it’s such a good example of, and going into the list of Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century, that I have to fisk it. Last year, before the Obama Administration’s final flurry of attacks on the Israeli settlements, at the Saban Forum, John Kerry denounced the settlements as a “barrier” to any peace settlement:

I’m not here to tell you that the settlements are the reason for the conflict. No, they’re not.

Unless, as the Palestinian leadership does, you define any Israeli presence a settlement, like Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Ashkelon. So Kerry agrees that the settlements – by which he means Israelis living on the “West Bank” (including East Jerusalem?), are not the cause of the conflict – obviously, since the conflict precedes the “occupation.”

But

…and you knew this was coming…

I also cannot accept the notion that they don’t affect the peace process, that they aren’t a barrier to the capacity to have peace.

And I’ll tell you why I know that: Because the left in Israel is telling everybody they are a barrier to peace, and the right that supports it [them?] openly supports it because they don’t want peace.

Now this is truly a piece of work, and all the more remarkable because he actually explicitly invokes this contrast as his proof of why they settlements are a barrier. Let’s take the two one at a time:

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.

On Abuse, Donkeys, Mass Murder, and Terrorism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landes, “The Cult of the Occupation” NY, April 12, 2016

Last month I gave a talk to the ZOA chapter in NY at the kind invitation of Eytan Sosnovich. Here it is online.

I start slow and bungle my initial reference to Matti Friedman’s article for BICOM (British Israel Communications and Research Center, published in their journal, Fathom, “The Ideological Roots of Media Bias against Israel,” Winter 2015.

The Cult of the Occupation:

Explorations of one of the Suicidal Memes of the 21st Century

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.

ISIS, Palestinian Terrorism, and Global Jihad: Fisking Naomi Chazan

Naomi Chazan, former head of the NIF fund, has a piece in direct contradiction to an article that Tablet published the following day in which I noted:

People who insist that Hamas and ISIS have nothing to do with each other give global jihad an enormous boon: They disguise Hamas by presenting it as a movement for national liberation even as it fans the flames of global jihad. In so doing, many Westerners think they help the Palestinian cause, when in fact they empower a leadership that willingly sacrifices ordinary Palestinians to advance its cause, and at the same time, empower the global jihadis by running their Palestinian propaganda as news, and reinforcing a collective sense of victimization.

Instead of recoiling from the horror, the more demented—but sincere—Western “progressives” shout “We are Hamas.” And those Israelis who rush to assure the global community that people who argue, as I have above, are just trying to hide their own crimes against the Palestinians, effectively blind those who listen to their counsel to a shared foe of all decent people—Muslim, Jew, Christian, and secular, alike.

Since she takes precisely the position I was criticizing (had I known, I would have linked it at “those Israelis who rush,” and since her thinking illustrates nicely the cognitive disarray that cripples both Israeli and more broadly Western intelligentsia, I think it worth a fisking. I’ll pay special attention to identifying the political agenda that drives her insistence that the Palestinians have nothing to do with ISIS.

Unfortunately, the piece is a collection of assertions, repeated far more often than explained or supported. So at certain key points I’ll both develop her own argument and rebut it. Sigh.

Terror, terrorism and terrorists

NOVEMBER 23, 2015, 12:19 PM
BLOGGER Naomi Chazan
Professor Naomi Chazan, former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, is Dean of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo


A Palestinian youth raises a knife during clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank city of Tulkarem, October 18, 2015. (AFP/JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)

Terrorism is the most abhorrent of political tools: it is a purposeful act of violence directed primarily against innocent civilians in order to create intense fear and sow widespread havoc to promote particular political goals. The use of terrorism is vile: it is merciless, indiscriminate, cruel, and beyond inhumane. Any act of terrorism — whether in Paris or Jerusalem, in Bamako or in New York, in Damascus or in Bangkok — is unconscionable.

So far so good. She’s already less compliant with Jihadi demands that AFP, which published a list of terror attacks from 9-11 to the ones in France this month, which excluded attacks of Israelis.

The broad condemnation of the latest unspeakable wave of terrorism is more than justified; the frequent conflation of these actions with their motives — which confuses cause and effect — is not.

Huh?

Israeli officials, often backed by the media, have contributed to this discombobulation.

Here she no doubt means the few Israeli and other pro-Israel media outlets who operate in something of an echo chamber. The mainstream media firmly rejects the position she is about to describe.

In the tent pissing in: Fisking J-Street’s Alan Elsner’s Op-Ed on Jerusalem Violence

CNN published an op-ed by Alan Eisner. It’s logic is quintessential (cookie cutter) J-Street logic. Good insight into how Western audiences tragically misread the situation here. I first experienced Elsner at a conference on BDS at University of Baltimore Law School. Feeling a bit defensive, he at one point said, “Look, do you want us in the tent pissing out, or outside the tent, pissing in.” To which someone from the audience called out, “We’re afraid you’ll be in the tent pissing in.” And here we go.

Stabbings put Israel on dangerous precipice

Alan Elsner is vice president of communications for J Street, the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Well, except that CNN, in its disavowal, still manages to parrot J-Streets own self-designation as news, “pro-Israel, pro-Peace.” There are some who think that, like they used to say about the “moral majority”, it’s neither. And especially after their utterly gratuitous, enthusiastic involvement in the Iran Deal, where they partnered with real enemies of Israel, it’s worse than a “not,” it’s beginning to like anti-Israel and anti-peace.

Jerusalem (CNN) To be in Jerusalem these past few days is to feel a city giving way to an overwhelming feeling of panic and terror.

Actually not at all. Jerusalemites responded with a great deal of what the French call sang froid, defended themselves remarkably well, and by and large did not let the madness of their neighbors drive them into the “overwhelming panic and terror,” which was precisely the intention of our mad neighbors. His description is precisely what the Palestinians want to hear.

The city, on high alert after a series of stabbings by Palestinians in recent weeks, is surrounded by roadblocks and checkpoints manned by nervous, heavily-armed soldiers. Helicopters whir overhead. Any Palestinian vehicle trying to enter is stopped and searched. The government has empowered the police to close off Palestinian neighborhoods and impose curfews.

And yet it is doubtful whether these measures can do anything to restore calm or prevent attacks. Israel is not facing an offensive mounted by organized terror cells but a series of seemingly spontaneous individual knife attacks mostly carried out by teenagers.

They say that predictions often express wishful thinking. Here we have a prediction that, again, coincides with Palestinian goals: “If only we can turn this into an intifada!” Why would Elsner want that? Maybe because it will force more Israeli concessions.

As for the random nature of this, that’s deeply misleading. The thing is orchestrated, not it its details, but in it incitement, from the top, including Mr. Moderate (according to J-Street), Abu Mazen. Stop the incitement, rally Palestinians who oppose abusing and sacrificing their children on the altar of genocidal violence, and voilà, you can stop this madness.

What to do when you realize there’s No 2-State Solution: Fisking Shlomo Avineri

Shlomo Avineri, renowned professor of Political Science at Hebrew University wrote an op-ed recently in which (without really saying that he was critiquing his own positions) he dismissed as fatally flawed the Oslo logic of “two states” because the Palestinians do not see the conflict in those terms and do not consider Israeli claims to statehood legitimate, and will never agree to such a deal. He then explains how the Palestinians do view the problem, and suggests a path of action for Israelis who acknowledge the fatal impasse of past peace-making.

It’s hard to imagine a more striking split between diagnosis and therapy. Having told us we can’t expect reciprocity from the Palestinians, he suggests Israel make unilateral sacrifices. The argument illustrates as well as any I know, why Political “Science” is crippled by its inability to factor into its analyses key factors — neither honor-shame, nor religious, dynamics appear in this discussion.

As a result, Avineri suggests that we deal with a conflict that has resisted all “positive-sum” solutions precisely because of the lack of reciprocity, by making positive-sum sacrifices without any demand for reciprocity.

Palestinian irredentists could not ask for better.

Below, a fisking.

With no solution in sight: Between two national movements

There is more than one reason for the failure of the Oslo Accords, but at the basis lies a fundamental difference in how each side views the conflict.

By Shlomo Avineri | Ha’aretz, Oct. 2, 2015

Twenty years after the Oslo Accords, the time has come to ask why they did not bring about the historic compromise envisaged by their initiators and supporters. This is a question to be asked especially by those who supported them and viewed them, justifiably, as the opening toward an epochal reconciliation between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples.

“Justifiably?” There’s hardly been an epochal reconciliation. Were they justified in thinking that had it worked, it would have been epochal?

I think “unjustifiably” is the appropriate word here.

There is more than one reason for the failure to achieve an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: mutual distrust between the two populations, internal pressures from the rejectionists on both sides, Yasser Arafat’s repeated deceptions, the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the electoral victories of Likud in Israeli elections, Palestinian terrorism,

Strange that Palestinian terrorism, which innovated with suicide bombing in 1994, would follow the murder of Rabin (1995) and the election of Likud (1997) on this list.

continuing Israeli settlement activities in the territories, the bloody rift between Fatah and Hamas, American presidents who did too little (George W. Bush) or too much and in a wrong way (Barack Obama),

Bush may have done too little in his first administration, but did a great deal, with the hapless efforts of the paradigmatically cognitive egocentric, Condaleezza Rice, in his second.

the political weakness of Mahmoud Abbas, governments headed by Netanyahu that did everything possible to undermine effective negotiations. All this is true, and everyone picks and chooses what fits their views and interests – but beyond all these lies a fundamental difference in the terms in which each side views the conflict, a difference many tend or choose to overlook.

I agree with this last sentence completely.

Most Israelis view the conflict as a struggle between two national movements: the Jewish national movement – Zionism – and the Palestinian national movement as part of the wider Arab national movement. The internal logic of such a view leads in principle to what is called the two-state solution. Even if the Israeli right wing preferred for years to avoid such a view, eventually it has been adopted by Netanyahu, albeit reluctantly, and is now the official policy of his government.

The point is that those Israelis who see the conflict in the framework of a struggle between two national movements assume that this is also the position of the other side; hence when negotiations fail, the recipe advocated is to tinker with some of the details, hoping that further concessions, on one or the other side, will bring about an agreement.

In other words, Israelis by and large – and I’ll attest to this – are positive-sum players. They, like Jews, like progressives, tend to look for win-win solutions, ones where reciprocal compromises lead to both sides benefiting. (Indeed, I’d say that’s one of the main reasons Jews have survived for so many millennia in such adverse conditions. But that’s an aside.)

Avineri’s reference to “tinkering with details” is euphemistic in describing reaction of “true believers” to the failure of their positive-sum Oslo Peace process. As Golan Lahat describes it in his The Messianic Temptation: Rise and Fall of the Israeli Left, the reaction of Israeli Left to Oslo was nothing short of classic “cognitive dissonance” experienced by disappointed messianic believers. And some of the more extravagant forms drove them to believe in even greater and more dramatic sacrifices (including taking all responsibility on Israel for the failure of the negotiations).