Category Archives: Oslo Logic

On the meaning of “secular” in Arab discourse: Benny Morris and Palestinian identity

One of the most dangerous mistakes that Europeans — and more broadly, the gatekeepers of the public sphere in the West — made in late 2000 was to view the Intifada as a nationalist uprising against Israeli oppression, a cry of despair at the oppression of occupation. In so doing, they operated from certain basic axiomatic principles that had no real support in reality (independent evidence) and only appeared within the rhetorical world of Palestinian discourse tailored for Western audiences. Among the most dangerous of these axioms was the idea that Palestinians wanted their own independent state, to be, as the Israeli national anthem puts it, “free people in our own land.”

And the key corollary to this nationalist assumption was that such a nation would be a secular one, that it would separate “mosque and state” and grant everyone freedom of religion.

Nothing better illustrates liberal cognitive egocentrism, and the easy assumption that others share such liberal perspectives than this willingness to believe that Arab culture shares our commitment to separating “church and state.”

Benny Morris wrote a book on the War of Independence, 1948, during the research for which, much to his surprise, he found that it was not a “nationalist” war between Israel and Palestine, but, in the Arabs’ eyes, a Jihad, a religious war. Not only was the “secular discourse” a late phenomenon (under the influence of Soviet propaganda techniques), but never seriously held among Arab Muslims.

This came as something of an unwelcome surprise to his publishers who did not like the idea of spreading such awful and anomalous evidence to the public. They refused the book and it was only after that that Morris found the Yale University Press willing to publish it. If the gatekeepers had their way, we wouldn’t know about Jihad.

So when the Intifada broke out in 2000, the Europeans in particular were eager to believe that this was a) a local conflict between two nationalist movements, and b) by siding with the Palestinians, they would curry favor with their Muslim populations. Instead, it was the beginning of a new stage of global Jihad which targeted the Europeans as much (if slightly later) than the Israelis, and by siding with the Palestinians (actually the Jihadis) the Europeans showed just how cowardly and feckless they were — attacking their friends/allies and siding with their enemies. As a result they speeded up the process of weaponizing their own immigrant Muslim populations against them.

Benny Morris: The myth of a secular Palestine
Posted: May 13, 2009, 7:02 AM by NP Editor

Excerpted from One State, Two States by Benny Morris. Published by Yale University Press. © 2009 by Benny Morris. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press.

The Palestinian national movement started life with a vision and goal of a Palestinian Muslim Arab-majority state in all of Palestine — a one-state “solution” — and continues to espouse and aim to establish such a state down to the present day. Moreover, and as a corollary, al-Husseini, the Palestinian national leader during the 1930s and 1940s; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which led the national movement from the 1960s to Yasser Arafat’s death in November, 2004; and Hamas today — all sought and seek to vastly reduce the number of Jewish inhabitants in the country, in other words, to ethnically cleanse Palestine.

Al-Husseini and the PLO explicitly declared the aim of limiting Palestinian citizenship to those Jews who had lived in Palestine permanently before 1917 (or, in another version, to limit it to those 50,000-odd Jews and their descendants). This goal was spelled out clearly in the Palestinian National Charter and in other documents. Hamas has been publicly more reserved on this issue, but its intentions are clear.

The Palestinian vision was never — as described by various Palestinian spokesmen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to Western journalists — of a “secular, democratic Palestine” (though it certainly sounded more palatable than, say, the “destruction of Israel,” which was the goal it was meant to paper over or camouflage). Indeed, “a secular democratic Palestine” had never been the goal of Fatah or the so-called moderate groups that dominated the PLO between the 1960s and the 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power.

Middle East historian Rashid Khalidi has written that “in 1969 [the PLO] amended [its previous goal and henceforward advocated] the establishment of a secular democratic state in Palestine for Muslims, Christians and Jews, replacing Israel.” And Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah has written, in his recent book, One Country: “The PLO did ultimately adopt [in the late 1960s or 1970s] the goal of a secular, democratic state in all Palestine as its official stance.”

This is hogwash. The Palestine National Council (PNC) never amended the Palestine National Charter to the effect that the goal of the PLO was “a secular democratic state in Palestine.” The words and notion never figured in the charter or in any PNC or PLO Central Committee or Fatah Executive Committee resolutions, at any time. It is a spin invented for gullible Westerners and was never part of Palestinian mainstream ideology. The Palestinian leadership has never, at any time, endorsed a “secular, democratic Palestine.”

The PNC did amend the charter, in 1968 (not 1969). But the thrust of the emendation was to limit non-Arab citizenship in a future Arab-liberated Palestine to “Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion” — that is, 1917.

True, the amended charter also guaranteed, in the future State of Palestine, “freedom of worship and of visit” to holy sites to all, “without discrimination of race, colour, language or religion.” And, no doubt, this was music to liberal Western ears. But it had no connection to the reality or history of contemporary Muslim Arab societies. What Muslim Arab society in the modern age has treated Christians, Jews, pagans, Buddhists and Hindus with tolerance and as equals? Why should anyone believe that Palestinian Muslim Arabs would behave any differently?

Morris makes a critical distinction here between what people say and what they do. The track record of Arabs in democratic experiments is abysmal, and believing that they will do what they say when it’s about democratic promises of, say, religious tolerance, offers us a virtual definition of what it means to be a dupe of demopaths.

Breathtaking Folly — Surprise! — on the pages of the NYT: Roger Cohen’s Black Hole

I guess I’m like Charlie Brown with Lucy’s football. I am continuously amazed at how foolish our pundits are and how ready major newspapers are to give them full rein on their editorial pages.

lucy and the football

I’ve already fisked Roger Cohen before for his naïve PCP1, but this surpasses credulity (his and mine).

Middle East Reality Check

Published: March 8, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton grabbed headlines with an invitation to Iran to attend a conference on Afghanistan, but the significant Middle Eastern news last week came from Britain. It has “reconsidered” its position on Hezbollah and will open a direct channel to the militant group in Lebanon.

Like Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah has long been treated by the United States as a proscribed terrorist group. This narrow view has ignored the fact that both organizations are now entrenched political and social movements without whose involvement regional peace is impossible.

So were the Nazis an entrenched part of political and social movements in Germany and Austria. Including them in diplomacy didn’t make peace possible, it made it impossible. What on earth makes someone like Cohen think that by “including” a group that has a virulently anti-semitic platform and calls on its people to commit genocide, that somehow that will lead to peace?

Britain aligned itself with the U.S. position on Hezbollah, but has now seen its error. Bill Marston, a Foreign Office spokesman, told Al Jazeera: “Hezbollah is a political phenomenon and part and parcel of the national fabric in Lebanon. We have to admit this.”


This “Hallelujah,” more than anything else in the article, has me slackjawed. It’s one thing to clench your teeth and take your medicine like a man, it’s another thing to cheer as your being rearended by roadrage. The only reason I can come up with for such an extraordinary show of joy is double: 1) Cohen has no knowledge of what Hizbullah and Hamas are really about (how characteristically inappropriate for a pundit), and 2) he’s so convinced that being nice will work that, now that we’re being nice, it’s time to cheer because everything is about to work. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to agree with oao and cynic here, we’re in deep doodoo.

Precisely the same thing could be said of Hamas in Gaza. It is a political phenomenon, part of the national fabric there.

One difference is that Hezbollah is in the Lebanese national unity government, whereas Hamas won the free and fair January 2006 elections to the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority, only to discover Middle Eastern democracy is only democracy if it produces the right result.

And here I thought that that kind of nonsense was going to disappear quietly as Hamas showed its true colors. Apparently, not to the color-blind. What drives me crazy about these kinds of formulas is that they at once grant the status of “democracy” at the same time as they fail to hold the population responsible for their vote. “What, you have a problem with the Nazis? They were fairly elected.” The superficiality of such formulations, combined with the joy of ceding to the perverse choices of the Arab electorates in question, strike me as sure signs of a massive loss of common sense.

The Folly of Generosity: David Pryce-Jones comments on Taba Donors Meeting

David Pryce-Jones, author of The Closed Circle, one of the better books on Arab Honor-Shame culture, has a piece at NRO on the 4.5 billion promised to the Palestinians of Gaza, rewarded for electing an vicious government that has brought disaster on them. Nothing like making sure history will repeat itself. Dan Pipes has asked if the donor nations — especially the Western ones, but even the Arab ones, can be so stupid, and concludes they have to be dishonest. Pryce-Jones elucidates on this madness.

The Rentier Population

David Pryce Jones
Wednesday, March 04, 2009

$4.5 billion: That’s what a conference of donors has just decided to give to Gaza, and that’s in addition to the hundreds of millions already paid out by United Nations agencies. True, about half the new money is due to come from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, and they rarely deliver what they promise. According to Mrs. Clinton, the United States is in for almost a billion, and she seems to think this is fine. A rentier is someone who lives off the labour of others by simply cashing dividends, and this cascade of dollars makes the Gazans a unique example of an entire rentier population. No other people in the history of the world have ever lived at the expense of others on this scale.

Of course, rentiers are generally well-off aristocrats. Here we have an impoverished, dramatically unproductive society as rentiers. Another way of putting this is that the Gazans have become the first rentier welfare nation in history. What’s worth asking is, why, if anyone can claim the title of rentire welfare state, why the Gazans, whose addiction to self-destructive violence will, in any future, honest historiography, become legendary in the annals of nationhood?

And what did they do to deserve their rentier dividends? Easy. They elected Hamas to govern them, in the certain knowledge that Hamas as good Islamists are bound to declare jihad with the purpose of wiping out Israel. Sure enough. Hamas duly fired daily barrages of rockets and mortars into Israel. Polls show that large percentages of the Gazans approved. A day came earlier this year when Israel had had enough, and went to war.

The number of pundits who have explained to their Western audiences that the Gazans chose Hamas because Fatah was corrupt is legion. But if that were the case, they could have voted for more liberal parties, dedicated to “transparency.” Instead, they chose the people who promised them, as Muslim Arabs, the return of their honor, the destruction of Israel.

Sweeping in a Hurricane: Pipes on the Donor’s Conference in Taba

As Phyllis Diller once said, cleaning up your kids room before they go to college is like trying to sweep up in a hurricane.”

heroin gaza
Dry Bones H/T: NB

That Surreal Gaza Reconstruction Conference
By Daniel Pipes | Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Was I the only one rubbing my eyes in disbelief yesterday, as the Egyptian government hosted an “International Conference for the Reconstruction of Gaza”?

It took place in Sharm El-Sheikh, attended by delegations from 71 states, plus 16 regional, international, and financial organizations. Its stated goal was to raise US$2.8 billion, of which $1.3 was for rebuilding what had been destroyed in the course of Israel’s recent war on Hamas (the rest would be sent to the Palestinian Authority to help improve its standing). The actual amount raised at the conference was $4.5 billion which, when added to previously committed funds, means the grant total for Gaza and the PA comes to $5.2 billion, to be disbursed over a two-year period. A delighted Egyptian foreign minister called the amount “beyond our expectations.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it “a very productive conference”

Israel’s “Three Choices”: A tentative response to “israeli”

In a previous post on Bob Simon’s 60-minutes piece, I got a long comment from someone with the tag “israeli”, in which he made the basic argument that Simon did about needing to act now in order to avoid either self-destruction as a Jewish democracy or apartheid.

My answer to him turned out to be much longer than I had planned, and fairly dense in both style and content… lot’s of contorted short-hands and long explanatory phrases in mid-sentence. But I do think it gets at some of my broader thoughts on some key issues concerning the problem of “solving” the conflict. So I’m putting it up as an independent post, and starting a new line of comments.

If anyone wants to offer some edits of my text so it’s not so convoluted, I’d be very grateful. If anyone has links to suggest, also welcome.

I am very late to this, so i am not sure RL will even see my comment but here it goes anyway…

RL, the points you bring up are valid, but there is one or two things you are not taking into consideration… I worked in the policy world for a while, on military matters… The main thing I learned was that critiques are no good if you cannot offer a better solution.

i understand, and have been told that many times. i think, however, that in the current situation, demanding solutions is a luxury we can’t afford. first we have to think seriously and realistically about the situation before we can come up with solutions.

indeed, it’s precisely this demand for solutions that contributed so much to getting into our current predicament. rushing to solutions that policy-makers hoped would work (positive-sum, marshall-plan, land-for-peace type solutions), we systematically ignored all evidence that they wouldn’t work, then didn’t work, indeed even ignoring that they’ve blown up in our face — in this conflict, right now, concession produces violence.

so we won’t find real solutions if we don’t do more reality testing (ie shed our liberal cognitive egocentrism, pay real attention to what’s going on on the other side, and learn to identify and isolate demopaths).

what solutions will emerge for clearly seeing and acknowledging the realities (which in good post-modern style, i will grant you are mutliple and variegated), will only emerge over time. if you won’t move off your current paradigm till you have a solution in sight for this problem, you will go nowhere.

In Israel today the situation is as follows: If there is no peace deal between Israel and the palestinians, the settlements will gradualy expand to the point that a two state solution will become impossible.

i don’t know why you say that. i really doubt any serious settlements are going up in the middle of clearly palestinian areas. most activity (as far as i know — and i’ll accept correction/rectification on this — are areas that a reasonable palestinian negotiating team will agree belongs under israeli sovereignty (e.g., maale adumim, gush etzion).

in any case, this is not what i would call an axiom, so much as it is an acceptance of the current palestinian negotiating stance as immutable — ie the settlements are the reason why there’s not been a 2-state solution yet (eg why Oslo failed), and they all have to go. so if the settlements grow, it’s all over. i don’t accept any of these positions or suppositions as either “fact” or justified.

At that point the palestinians will demand citizenship and Israel will have the choice of apatheid or a democracy that is dominated by the soon to be arab majority.

your very language suggests the degree to which your thinking has been taken over by others. by any sane rules of the democratic game, the “palestinians” have no right to demand citizenship and the israelis are under no moral obligation to grant either to them.

over the last 60 years, the palestinian leadership has pursued policies, both internal and external, that are so profoundly anti-democratic that the current palestinian population, especially the generation raised by the post-Oslo leadership (Fatah and Hamas), are radically incapable of sustaining a democracy among themselves much less participating in one created and maintained with great energy and immense risk, by the israelis.

the only reasoning that this kind of idiotic thinking — that the israelis must grant citizenship to the palestinians if they don’t “give them” their own state — is so fashionable is the result of a combination of incredibly superficial political thinking (along the lines of “hamas was elected, so it must be a democracy/israel, if it wants to be a democracy, can’t insist on being a jewish state”) and really nasty anti-zionism (make them swallow the indigestible palestinians either as citizens or as sovereign neighbors and watch them die a long and painful death).

(i know some of my commentators here will point out that i’ve just “combined” two expressions of the same thing — nasty anti-zionism. and i must confess that the superficiality of most political science right now is so breath-taking that it demands explanation, and that anti-zionism and its siamese twin anti-semitism are major candidates. but i’d like to at least allow the possibility that not every intelligent idiot is a scoundrel. there are genuine dupes of demopaths who, if they realized their folly and confronted the dangers, would change their mind.) Time to swallow the red pill.

Introduction to Bob Simon: Criticism welcome

Here’s the text of remarks I plan to make introducing Simon’s 60-Minutes piece. Suggestions welcome.

We’re about to examine Bob Simon’s lamely titled piece: “Is Time Running out for the Two-State Solution?”

Scientists would consider repeating failed experiments without learning from their mistakes irrational, and repeating experiments that blow up in your face, folly. Alas, that’s precisely what Simon invites us to do by restating all the failed assumptions that guided the previous peace-making experiemnts as if they were axiomatic truths:

• that to achieve a peaceful 2-state solution, Israel must retreat to the 1967 border
• that a Palestinian state has to be free of Jews and therefore Israel must dismantle all the settlements
• that the Palestinians would accept this withdrawl as sufficient for a real peace
• that the settlers are religious fanatics, the primary obsactle to peace
• that the “humiliating” checkpoints and separate roads are the product of Israeli land greed rather than a response to Palestinian terror
• that one can safely ignore the fanatic terrorism of the Palestinian camp, including the teaching of hatred that pervades their media
• that Israel has only three choices: full retreat, apartheid occupation or ethnic cleansing

In so doing he repeatedly misrepresents reality, disguises critical dimensions of the problem, exaggerates those that support his argument, and in the end, creates a perception that endangers:

• Israel, to whom he advises concessions that have consistently resulted in violence

• Palestinians, who will remain in the grip of a self-destructive fanatic leadership which he refuses to expose

• And, ultimately, the West, which, so badly misled, is likely to pursue policies that will benefit global Jihad and paralyze democratic defenses.

Inevitably, one must ask, is this intellectually dishonest, and if so, is it deliberate. We invite you to make up your own mind as we fisk this remarkable piece of “investigative journalism.”

60 Minutes on the expiring “Two-State” Solution: Invitation to a fisking

I have begun doing some video fisking which we are calling “Dialogues with the Media.” For the first examples, see here. I’ll be putting up some shortly, one on Annie Lennox, another on a CNN interview with Diana Buttu, and a third on a BBC with Hamas official Mahmud al Zahar. In the meantime, one of the major cases I’m looking into is the CBS piece by Bob Simon entitled “Time Running out for a Two-State Solution?” In preparing it, I welcome comments from readers on what they suggest I say in response to this piece (as well as links to others who have already critiqued it). Remember, in video fisking, the comments have to be as succinct as possible.

Below is the transcript.

Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?
Jan. 25, 2009

(CBS) Getting a peace deal in the Middle East is such a priority to President Obama that his first foreign calls on his first day in office were to Arab and Israeli leaders. And on day two, the president made former Senator George Mitchell his special envoy for Middle East peace. Mr. Obama wants to shore up the ceasefire in Gaza, but a lasting peace really depends on the West Bank where Palestinians had hoped to create their state. The problem is, even before Israel invaded Gaza, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians had concluded that peace between them was no longer possible, that history had passed it by. For peace to have a chance, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank, which would then become the Palestinian state.

It’s known as the “two-state” solution. But, while negotiations have been going on for 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have moved in to occupy the West Bank. Palestinians say they can’t have a state with Israeli settlers all over it, which the settlers say is precisely the idea.

The NYT Ship of Fools: Rodenbeck (PCP2) Reviews Pollack (PCP1)

I recently posted on the way the NYT packages discussions of the Middle East. Now we get a close look at how it packages book reviews. Below is a review of a book by Ken Pollack offering a grand strategy for the US to contribute significantly to resolving the Middle East conflict. It seems like a flawed book in many ways, but hardly in the terms in which the chosen reviewer critiques it. The reviewer is Max Rodenbeck, the Middle East correspondent for The Economist. It’s a case of washing away PCP1 with a dose of PCP2, rather than balancing it with a more sober appraisal of the situation (HSJP)

For a more valuable critique, see Michael Rubin’s review in the New York Sun. Thank civil society for multiple sources of opinion. Thank the NYT for sheltering you from painful realities, and loading up its pages with writers from the ship of fools.

War and Peace

Published: August 22, 2008

Back in 2002, I ran into one of the Brookings Institution’s top Middle East hands at the inaugural session of the United States-Islamic World Forum, a now annual event that Brookings sponsors jointly with the government of Qatar. “How’s it going?” I asked, expecting to hear about clashing misperceptions across the cultural divide. “Good,” came the gruff reply. “They’re beginning to realize that they are the problem.”

A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East
By Kenneth M. Pollack
539 pp. Random House. $30
First Chapter: ‘A Path Out of the Desert’ (August 24, 2008)

Reading this big, ambitious book by Kenneth M. Pollack, who is the head of research at Brookings’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, it is hard not to wish that what he refers to as Washington’s “policy community” would more often realize that they are the problem.

That’s pretty amazing. If he had written, “they are part of the problem,” okay. But “they are the problem.” That’s pure MOS: Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome — as if there were no problem besides our bungled attempts to solve the problem. It’s a little like saying all health problems are iatrogenic. There are no diseases; it’s the doctors’ fault.

It would have been nice, for instance, had Pollack himself thought harder before arguing, in scholarly papers and his widely read 2002 book, “The Threatening Storm,” that America had “no choice” but to invade Iraq. That ostensibly sober appraisal, coming from a former C.I.A. analyst, Clinton official and self-described liberal, arguably added more gravitas to the shrill cries for war than any other voice.

Pollack has long since confessed to having been wrong about Iraq. “A Path Out of the Desert” includes other mea culpas. “There has been far too little asking the people of the region themselves what they thought and what they wanted,” he ruminates at one point, though the book offers slim evidence of his having pursued this advice. While the administration that Pollack served gets some light wrist-­slapping, it is the following eight years of Bush policy that he calls “breathtakingly arrogant, ignorant and reckless.”

Rudenbeck speaks as if it’s a) clear how to consult the people of the region, b) that they are clear on what they want, and c) they’ll give you a straight answer whether they are clear or not.

Many of Pollack’s other judgments are as sound as is this criticism of the Bush administration. Since most of the post-cold-war world has stabilized, democratized and prospered, it is probably correct to suggest, as he does, that America should commit itself to helping the messy Middle East come up to par.

Now there’s an breathtaking piece of ignorant and reckless arrogance. Who says they want democracy? And who is they? And even if they say they want it, who says they (and here I’m speaking of the key players, the alpha males) are willing to make the sacrifices necessary for democracy (like giving up honor-killings or self-help justice). What a mealy-mouthed homogenized view of post-war culture Rodenbeck offers up with this description of post-war culture and the [obvious] conclusions he thinks we should draw from it.

Maghen Challenges Leading Conventional Ideas on Agreement Between Iran and the West

Ze’ev Maghen, Senior Lecturer in Islamic Religion and Persian Language at Bar-Ilan University, and Chair of the Department of Middle East History, recently published “From Omnipotence to Impotence: A Shift in the Iranian Portrayal of the “Zionist Regime“. The article examines and challenges some of the prevailing notions about the prospects for and the price of an agreement with Iran, and what the implications would be for Israel.

One of the interesting points about his study concerns the wild swings of Iranian thinking on Israel. One minute it’s omnipotent, the next, impotent. Not only does this reflect the Iranian mullahs’ lack of touch with reality, but also their terrible lack of confidence which they must compensate for by using totalistic language. Profound imbalance, profound instability.

Maghen opens with a description of the banal, ubiquitious nature of calls for the destruction of the U.S. and Israel in Iran. After classical music performances, soccer goals, and even a speech by Ayatollah Khamenei meant to counter President Ahmadinejad’s extreme rhetoric about Israel, Iranians robotically call for Israel and America’s demise:

In January 2006, the Iranian daily Jomhuriya Eslami carried the text of a speech delivered in Tehran’s main mosque by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene’i. Attempting to defuse the diplomatic tension occasioned by newly elected President Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel’s destruction at the previous month’s “World without Zionism” conference, Khamene’i concluded his uncharacteristically moderate sermon with the following ringing remarks: “We Iranians intend no harm to any nation, nor will we be the first to attack any nation. We do not deny the right of any polity in any place on God’s earth to exist and prosper. We are a peace-loving country whose only wish is to live, and to let live, in peace.” Without missing a beat or evincing even a hint of irony, the reporter who had covered the event continued: “The congregation of worshippers, some seven thousand in number, expressed their unanimous support for the Supreme Leader’s words by repeatedly chanting: marg bar Omrika, marg bar Esra’il – ‘Death to America, Death to Israel!'”1

PCP Runs into Opposition: Kristof vs. Steinberg on Hebron

I was going to fisk this prime example of the Politically-correct paradigm, with its Oslo Logic of inverted cause and effect, and I still welcome commetators to do so. That it comes from Kristof, whose work in Darfur is so courageous and relevant, is sad but not surprising. In the meantime, Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor has published an excellent rebuttal which I reproduce below.

(UPDATE from Shrinkwrapped below.)

The Two Israels

Published: June 22, 2008
HEBRON, West Bank

Nicholas D. Kristof: Inside the West Bank

To travel through the West Bank and Gaza these days feels like traveling through Israeli colonies.

You whiz around the West Bank on new highways that in some cases are reserved for Israeli vehicles, catching glimpses of Palestinian vehicles lined up at checkpoints.

The security system that Israel is steadily establishing is nowhere more stifling than here in Hebron, the largest city in the southern part of the West Bank. In the heart of a city with 160,000 Palestinians, Israel maintains a Jewish settlement with 800 people. To protect them, the Israeli military has established a massive system of guard posts, checkpoints and road closures since 2001.

More than 1,800 Palestinian shops have closed, in some cases the doors welded shut, and several thousand people have been driven from their homes. The once flourishing gold market is now blocked with barbed wire and choked with weeds and garbage.

“For years, Israel has severely oppressed Palestinians living in the center of the city,” notes B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, in a recent report. The authorities, it adds, “have expropriated the city center from its Palestinian residents and destroyed it economically.”

“So What if Al Durah was Staged?”: Meditations on the Colonization of the Israeli Mind

I recently gave a talk at a conference on Media and Ethics in Jerusalem, where I presented the case against Enderlin’s version of the Muhammad al Durah story. Apparently, the presentation was relatively convincing since one of the first criticisms I immediately received from a prominent Israeli professor of communications was: “So what? According to reliable statistics, the Israeli army has killed over 800 Palestinian children since the second Intifada. So what difference does it make if this case is staged or not?” His intervention was followed by a round of applause from about a third of the 200-some person audience.

The remark should not have surpised me. Gideon Levy and Tom Segev have already offered the same response. It did, however, seem unusual coming from a professor of Political Science and Communications, who specializes in media (including focus on their role in peace processes), who would, therefore, presumably know this “one” case was hardly “interchangeable” with the hundreds of others.

These remarks seemed even more misplaced given the conference’s keynote address delivered just before our panel by Daniel Dayan, the French sociologist of the media. In that talk Dayan discussed the ways in which the media frame the problem of terrorism, and among the issues he raised, one seemed particularly relevant to the issue of al Durah. The terrorist, in this frame, is a “victim fighting back” while the “hegemonic forces” against which he struggles – occupation, invasion, colonialism – are the true terrorists. This kind of media narrative erases both the identity of the terrorist (he is a freedom fighter who “has no choice”) and the victims of the terrorist (they deserve what they get).

This framing works particularly well, Dayan noted, in terms of a “Politics of pity.” Pity, he pointed out, is not a good mathematician. It can only count to one. But from that one it then manages an algebraic transformation where that one stands for all the victims of the (newly defined) terror emanating from the oppressor. As Osama bin Laden put it so eloquently: “In killing this boy, the Israelis killed every child in the world.” Thus the “freedom fighter,” or, as Michael Moore refers to the Jihadis in Iraq who blow up their fellow Muslims with alarming regularity, the “Minute-Men,” use the “weapons of the weak” to assault the atrocious foe. Or, to quote ISM activists: “Resistance is not terror,” and since all Israeli children will eventually become soldiers of the occupation, Israel has no civilians.

These conceptual remarks shed a fierce light on the significance of al Durah since this icon was a spectacular and unprecedented event in the history of TV: not only the first “live TV-recorded” death of a child in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but perhaps any conflict, and it was presented to the world as a murder. It thus carried an emotional impact equivalent to a nuclear blast, and became a symbolic matrix that defined the second Intifada and redefined Zionism. The “martyr” Muhammad al Durah became not only the “icon” for the Arab and Muslim world, he became the touchstone of Western perception about the nature of the conflict and the nature of Israel.

David Landau, Oslo Logician, Asks Condi Rice to “Rape” Israel

In today’s Jewish Week, the editor Gary Rosenblatt has a shocking piece on the editor of Ha-Aretz, David Landau’s conversation with Condi Rice last September, in the build-up to Annapolis. Both the message and the language shed a harsh light on the condition of the “anti-occupation” Israeli mindset. The landscape is not pretty.

Haaretz Editor Urged Rice To ‘Rape’ Israel

David Landau: Crude language over the top, or well placed?
by Gary Rosenblatt

Israelis are known for being direct and blunt. But comments made by David Landau, editor of the Israeli daily, Haaretz, to Condoleezza Rice about Israel needing to be “raped” by the U.S. to achieve a Mideast settlement caused quite a stir among the 20 or so attendees at a confidential briefing with the secretary of state on a recent visit to Israel.

The incident, which took place Sept. 10 at the private residence of America’s ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, has not been fully reported until now. What is contested is not the raw language Landau used but the context of his impassioned comments.

Following Rice’s briefing to the gathered military, academic and media elites at the dinner, the guests offered their views and comments about the Mideast impasse. Landau, who was seated next to Rice, was said to have referred to Israel as a “failed state” politically, one in need of a U.S.-imposed settlement. He was said to have implored Rice to intervene, asserting that the Israeli government wanted “to be raped” and that it would be like a “wet dream” for him to see this happen.

This represents an extreme expression of Oslo Logic: If only Israel would make the right concessions — painful but necessary — it could end the “occupation.” Since the inordinate influence of “right-wing” irredentists who don’t want to give up any territory prevents Israel from making the necessary concessions, it needs to be forced to do so. Then we’ll have… peace?

I’m not even sure that Landau is so naive. I have friends who think that the “occupation” — which I am whitewashing by arguing that the Israelis didn’t shoot Muhammad al Durah — is such a blot on the soul of Israel that it should be ended immediately — including the division of Jerusalem. When I point out that this is likely to lead to even more violent aggression and more devastating forms of warfare, the answer is consistently: “I don’t care. Israel, if it is to be a moral state, cannot endure the corruption of its youth who must do terrible things as a result of occupying, oppressing, and humiliating another people.”

So Landau may be shrewd enough to know that these concessions will not lead to peace, indeed might well lead to war. But on the other hand, he’s almost surely not telling that to Rice, who might think twice about forcing Israel to make concessions that will make the situation worse. Of course, who (not steeped in the intricate pathways of Jewish self-criticism) could begin to understand the toxic moral perfectionism that drives highly intelligent Israelis to take such suicidal stances? She, enamored of her Palestinian “Martin Luther King Jr.,” Abu Mazen, surely thinks this is an exaggerated but well-intentioned effort to achieve peace.

And yet, consider the catastrophic potential of this “self-abnegating” advice. First, the concessions that Landau wants to make are much more likely to whet the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim appetite for destroying Israel than “changing the tide” and heading us all towards a “negotiated solution.” And this is true even if Israel came to that decision all by herself. But if Israel’s foes think that they have now turned the only serious ally Israel has, the USA, against her, then the smell of weakness and failure in their nostrils will arouse even greater hopes of ultimate victory.

The odds that this will lead to war — just as the NIE report increases the likelihood of war — are enormous. And the odds that that war will force the USA into either much more costly engagements in the Middle East, or, even worse, huge losses in this area, make his advice almost as bad for the USA as it is catastrophic for Israel. The collateral damage of his single-minded opposition to the “morally corrupting” occupation is enormous. Right now the Israelis who oppose the occupation worry about the humiliation of thousands and the killing of dozens of Palestinians. When they trigger the wars their postures will invite — quod absit! — they will have an opportunity to weep over the death of millions of Israelis and Palestinians.

When contacted this week, Landau said the description was “inaccurate” and “a perversion of what I said.” He said his views had been delivered with “much more sophistication.”

But he added: “I did say that in general, Israel wants to be raped — I did use that word — by the U.S., and I myself have long felt Israel needed more vigorous U.S. intervention in the affairs of the Middle East.”

Not clear how much more sophisticated his own “general” summary is from the one reported. Indeed his subsequent remarks contradict his opening denial.

Landau, often outspoken in his views, is a bit of an anomaly in Israeli society in that he is a native Brit editing Israel’s oldest newspaper and an observant Jew (and former yeshiva student) with decidedly left-wing views.

This is an interesting detail, and not that anomalous. Some of the most ferocious “left-wing” critics of Israeli policy in Israel and abroad, are observant and learned Jews who are driven to their positions by moral imperatives. The fact that they do not engage in much realism, and show almost no interest in “the other side” (other than to view it, as so many reporters for Ha-Aretz do) as the innocent victim of Israeli misdeeds, has much to do with the “four-dimensional Israeli/two dimensional Palestinian/Arab/Muslim” problem I have discussed before.

The fact that Landau can refer to Israel as a “failed state” because it won’t adopt his policies of massive concessions to an Arab political culture that cannot even — does not apparently even want to — build a Palestinian state no matter how dysfunctional, illustrates the degree of self-referential isolationism that informs this aggressively self-abnegating “left-wing” position. Indeed, if we were to rate the states in the Middle East by how they treat their own people — I believe the standard by which the states Landau wants Israel to be a part of are judged — then we’d find 22 failed Arab/Muslim states well below his own.

He told The Jewish Week that the context of his remarks was that each of the dinner attendees spoke of Israel’s challenges, and when it was his turn he pointed out that since 1967, Israel has failed to resolve its territorial conflicts with the Palestinians.

And in the mind of Landau and others who share his masochistic omnipotence complex, if there’s been a failure, it’s obviously Israel’s. Of course it’s our fault; of course if we had behaved differently (MY way), things would have been better. Of course the Arabs are not nice to us and want to get rid of us… it’s because we haven’t been nicer to them.

“I told [Rice] that it had always been my wet dream to address the secretary of state” on these vital matters, he said.

This, coming from an orthodox Jew to a female Secretary of State, is stunning. It suggests a level of verbal incontinence that makes one wonder about Landau’s mental balance. Even if we ignore the inappropriateness of the imagery, the sentiment behind it — he’s long dreamed of having the opportunity to tell the USA to force Israel into concessions — suggests that Landau, like so many people on the “left” actually have contempt for the democratic process, and since they trust their own political judgment so much more than that of leaders produced by their democratic process, they feel completely justified in using any device to “force” their own polities to “be free.”

Her response, he said, was “fantastic” in that she was “completely unfazed” by his remarks, and remained “urbane and diplomatic.” Attendees said she told the assembled that the U.S. had no intention of imposing a settlement on the Israelis and Palestinians.

She was probably so embarrassed that she didn’t know what to do.

Isi Leibler, a weekly columnist for The Jerusalem Post who has written critically of Landau, said that “by any benchmark, Landau’s behavior as an Israeli citizen would be deemed unacceptable.” He said it was “unconscionable” for someone in Landau’s position to urge a U.S. Secretary of State “to ‘rape’ his own government.”

Note that Landau’s position is as editor of the “NYT of Israel,” the most widely read Israeli newspaper outside of Israel. As one of my students noted when I presented the Al Durah case and she read the coverage Ha-Aretz gave to it, “I thought Ha-Aretz was an Israeli paper. Why does it sound like a Palestinian one?” Landau was not editor at the time, but he has hardly made things better. On the contrary, he made some remarks in Moscow that reveal an astonishing degree of open advocacy involved in what he, as editor, allows his newspaper to publish.

I agree here with Liebler (whose comments on the affair can be read here). Landau, based on his own peculiarly hyper-self-critical logic, has called on the USA to take Israel’s foreign policy into recievership. He didn’t do this because in his mind the USA is the wisest of nations — unless he’s a Jewish “racist” and holds a radicaly different standard for the non-Jews, he must think the occupation of Iraq is a catastrophic venture — but because it’s the strongest, and can “do the job.” In other words, he goes by the logic that destroyed democratic Greece: “those who can do what they will, those who cannot suffer what they must.”

In a sense, he represents a contorted, modern, activist version of prophetic logic. Back in the old days, the prophets saw the behavior of empires who smashed Israel as delivering the punishment of the Lord. They showed minimal interest in the moral behavior of the nations, whose imperialist ambitions they took for granted and only fore-saw a change among the nations in messianic times: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares…”. In the unredeemed present, however, the prophets focused only on the role the Israelites who, by their immorality, had brought this plague upon themselves. That position lies at the heart of masochistic omnipotence syndrome: “we are the omnipotent God’s chosen people. If terrible things happen to us from merciless gentile armies driven by the basest of imperialist drives for dominion, then it’s our fault for having offended our God and provoked him to remove his protection.” As Max Weber points out, this remarkable and unique form of self-criticism contributed crucially to the eventual emergence of Western civilization.

But in the modern world, where even many people who believe in God don’t expect his direct intervention in history — especially after the Holocaust — the situation is radically different. Among other things, in principle, the other nations have renounced their imperialist drives, and we expect from all “players” in the world of democracies and civil societies, a certain measure of moral behavior in political culture that Israelite and Jewish thought had long demanded (and whose failure to maintain, led to the loss of God’s favor). It’s not accidental that the UN’s “peace square” has the messianic passage from Isaiah as it’s motto. In our day and age, imperialism is officially “not good.”

So today, with God non-interventionist, and people more morally responsible, there is considerably less need for the kind of hyper-self-criticism that marked the invective of the prophets. Now, the discourse of criticism and self-criticism should be a matter of negotiation between mature political cultures in conflict that resolves problems. Jewish self-criticism in principle in a civic world should not need to overcompensate by turning up its own perfectionism in response to a pervasive failure to self-criticize on the other side of the conflict. And yet, here we have newspaper editor David Landau, having wet dreams about telling the greatest power on earth to rape his own people because they are not living up to his prophetic standards. Not only is he playing the role of the God who he apparently does not expect to intervene, but with a particularly crude and heavy hand.

Ehud Yaari, a leading broadcast and print journalist in Israel who reported the incident on the air but did not mention Landau by name, called it “embarrassing.”

But Landau said he had no regrets and that, on the contrary, he was pleased, adding that he was later congratulated by several professors in the room who felt “I articulated what many Israelis feel.”

I wonder who these “professors” are. Can one find them chronicled here?

Humiliation and Apartheid: On how NOT to make Peace

When people hear my analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of honor and shame, they quite consistently challenge me in one of two ways: 1) “That’s racist”; and 2) “So what do you suggest we do?”

The sous-texte of such a challenge is: “This is a cultural problem so deep there’s nothing one can do to change it.” Indeed, right under the surface of the argument that this is racism lies a particularly nasty “essentialist” argument that Arabs cannot grow up; they will always be stuck in a world of excessively touchy honor to which they will consistently sacrifice not only the lives of those they feel have “humiliated them,” but their own welfare as well.

And yet, the self-same people who dismiss trying to change Arab/Muslim attitudes towards honor, regularly seek to appease and cater to those same concerns. The entire edifice of Western appeasement — don’t provoke them by criticizing them — rests on an astounding abdication of the great power we have to influence them, indeed, a surrender to their weakest trait: their desperate need for “respect.”

Caroline Glick’s recent column on the Annapolis meeting offers an ideal opportunity to examine not only the dynamics of this misconceived policy, but also how to change it constructively.

Column One: Apartheid, not peace
Caroline Glick , THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 30, 2007

This week the Bush Administration legitimized Arab anti-Semitism. In an effort to please the Saudis and their Arab brothers, the Bush administration agreed to physically separate the Jews from the Arabs at the Annapolis conference in a manner that aligns with the apartheid policies of the Arab world which prohibit Israelis from setting foot on Arab soil.

Evident everywhere, the discrimination against Israel received its starkest expression at the main assembly of the Annapolis conference on Tuesday. There, in accordance with Saudi demands, the Americans prohibited Israeli representatives from entering the hall through the same door as the Arabs.

Glick is absolutely right to put this in the context of apartheid, since apartheid is all about humiliating others, all about the efforts of insecure people to reassure themselves of their superiority by showing how they can visibly dominate others. This is the logic of the dhimma in Islam, where those who refuse to convert to Islam deserve humiliation because they were irrational enough to reject Islam. Several scholars have noted the correlation between the insecurity of Muslims and the intensity with which they insisted on humiliating the Dhimmi:

    The periods when Islamic states were strong generally coincided with more relaxed attitude towards dhimmis; however, treatment of non-Muslims usually became harsher when Islam was weak and in decline.[51][52] Over time, the treatment of dhimmis tended to develop in cycles, such that periods of when restrictions imposed on dhimmis were relaxed were immediately followed by the periods of pious reaction when such restrictions came to be enforced again.[53]

The Saudi demand not only not to shake hands with the Israelis not only reflects this apartheid mentality, but also expresses their utter refusal to recognize the Israelis as legitimate. No better symbol of the fundamental problem in this conflict: an independent Jewish state cannot — must not — exist in the heart of dar al Islam. For the Americans to allow this at a alleged “peace” conference represents the height of folly. It is a clear signal to the Saudis — and their fellow Arabs — that they can continue to militate for the elimination of the humiliating Zionist entity.

Granted, the Americans were in a pickle. They desperately wanted the Saudis to come, and [did not think they] were not in a position to tell them to either grow up or not come. But they could have isolated the Saudis, by having them come through their own door, and the Israelis and the others come through the main door. Standing firm on this — you cannot insist on the humiliation of the Israelis — seems to me to be a fundamental principle that should underlie all US diplomacy. This should be non-negotiable.

At the meeting of foreign ministers on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called her Arab counterparts to task for their discriminatory treatment. “Why doesn’t anyone want to shake my hand? Why doesn’t anyone want to be seen speaking to me?” she asked pointedly.

Apparently, allowing the Saudis to come made sure that everyone stepped into line. It is one of the characteristics of an honor-shame culture (and the MSM) that pack mentalities rule. If you shake hands with the Israelis along with many others, that’s okay; if you are the only one to shake hands with the Israelis, then you are ostracized. One of the ways the US could have handled this Saudi demand, was to insist that all the other delegations shake hands with the Israelis.

Israel’s humiliated foreign minister did not receive support from her American counterpart. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who spent her childhood years in the segregated American South, sided with the Arabs. Although polite enough to note that she doesn’t support the slaughter of Israelis, she made no bones about the fact that her true sympathies lie with the racist Arabs.

As she put it, “I know what it is like to hear that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian. I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness.”

Rice’s remarks make clear that for the Secretary of State there is no difference between Israelis trying to defend themselves from a jihadist Palestinian society which supports the destruction of the Jewish state and bigoted white Southerners who oppressed African Americans because of the color of their skin. It is true that Israel has security concerns, but as far as Rice is concerned, the Palestinians are the innocent victims. They are the ones who are discriminated against and humiliated, not Livni, who was forced – by Rice – to enter the conference through the service entrance.

The problem of Condoleeza Rice’s projections of her own “liberal” cognitive egocentrism onto the Arab Israeli conflict are well known. Indeed, her insistence on seeing the conflict through the screen of American race relations — Israeli checkpoints are like Jim Crow laws; Abbas, like MLK, wants peace — call into question her renowned intelligence, and illustrate how easily even the most intelligent conservatives are subject to the kind of idiotic analogies that so often drive “progressive” thought.

Of course, the Israelis should have seen this coming, and hit CR with a pack of information distinguishing between the predicament of the Palestinians and that of the African Americans, as soon as she started making this grotesque analogy. She should be publicly ashamed to make such hair-brained comparisons that illustrate the worst of “progressive” thought these days. Instead, she feels she can make these kind of remarks as part of a “balanced,” “both sides suffer pain” speech that encourages the worst kind of thinking.

Annapolis shows that long-range thinking is completely absent from both the Israeli and the American agenda, and as a result, the long-range Arab thinking consistently positions itself well. The core of the conflict is honor-shame; and the core of its resolution will be to address these issues. Israelis owe it to themselves and the rest of the free world to think these things through carefully, and be prepared not only to make some demands the next time these issues arise, but to make clear why those demands are in everyone’s favor — Israelis, Westerners, Palestinians, Muslims… the whole world. No one but the most regressive warmongers can benefit by this complete abdication in the face of the demands of Arab “honor.”

UPDATE (HT: Judith Rosay): Caroline Glick has subsequently retracted this report which both US and Israeli government officials have contradicted, denying that there were separate entrances at Annapolis. This obviously changes the tenor of my remarks about US behavior which was considerably better than I had feared. The underlying analysis remains; as does the revolting behavior of the Arabs at Annapolis.

The Facts of the Conflict Do Not Inspire Confidence in the Annapolis Conference

Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have returned to the center stage with this week’s Annapolis conference. While peace between the parties remains an honorable and elusive goal, organizers of the conference are repeating the mistakes that doomed past negotiations. Instead of letting realistic analyses of data guide them, they place faith in unproven — indeed counter-indicated ideals. Foremost among these is the belief that Israel ceding control of land to the Palestinians will lead to peace with a democratic Palestinian state. Oslo, southern Lebanon, and Gaza suggest otherwise.

Prof. Bernard Lewis, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, clarifies the conflict with a simple question – what is the conflict about? He takes an unsentimental approach and lets the implications of his answers lead him to the conclusion that Annapolis is unlikely to succeed.

On the Jewish Question

November 26, 2007 Wall Street Journal

Here with some thoughts about tomorrow’s Annapolis peace conference, and the larger problem of how to approach the Israel- Palestine conflict. The first question (one might think it is obvious but apparently not) is, “What is the conflict about?” There are basically two possibilities: that it is about the size of Israel, or about its existence.

Condi Rice’s Faith on Display in Annapolis

The following article, by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr, raises an important issue. Often it is the religious sectors who are denounced as ‘zealots’, as making decisions based on faith, and not facts. This charge is often used to describe the national-religious camp in Israel, whose opposition to land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians is derided as a product of blind faith and not reason.

But who is really relying on blind faith? Experience and history alone lead one to the conclusion that territory given up by Israel will be used by Jihadi groups to oppress the local population and carry out attacks against Israel. To come to the conclusion that abandoning the West Bank will advance the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, one must have deep faith in the unproven doctrines that have dominated the peace efforts since the first days of Oslo.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is behaving like a zealot. In her ever-more-rash pursuit of a Palestinian state, she is exhibiting the syndrome defined by the philosopher George Santana, as one who redoubles her efforts upon losing sight of the objective.

Let’s recall: The objective laid out by President Bush, when he decided in June 2002 to support the creation of a homeland for the Palestinian people, was to provide a stable, secure neighbor for Israel, committed to leaving peaceably with the Jewish State.

Mr. Bush explicitly preconditioned such support on: an end to Palestinian terror; a Palestinian leadership that was not tainted by ties to terrorism; and the elimination of the infrastructure in Palestinian areas that enables such behavior. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States was in the business of eliminating terrorist-sponsoring regimes, not creating them.

The Kid-Gloves Approach to Iranian Honor/Shame

The following article, in today’s Independent, was written by Gabrielle Rifkind, a specialist in conflict resolution (i.e., in positive-sum, win-win, negotiations). While war should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, Rifkind’s solutions — hot lines, shuttle diplomacy, and regional summit — seem to be written from a stance of ‘avoid war at all cost’, instead of’ ‘keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons at all cost’. Once Iran understands that the West will not go to war against it, they are even more unlikely to give up their aspirations of regional dominance. Without the credible threat of military force, the U.S. would have to give Iran a free hand in Iraq in order to get them to surrender their nuclear ambitions. (Si pacem vis, para bellum.)

Rifkind also constantly draws parallels between ‘hardliners on both sides,’ which fails to understand the radical asymmetry of the role of the belligerents/peace makers on ‘both sides.’

She does make the very important point that we must understand Iran’s motivation, something we in the West have not done well. Much of what she describes as driving Iran is the manifestation of Iranian Honor/Shame. However, if the West ever fully comprehends Iran’s motivation, the result will not be the one Rifkind is advocating.

Gabrielle Rifkind, a specialist in conflict resolution, is a consultant to the Oxford Research Group

Further reading ‘Making Terrorism History, Scilla Elworthy and Gabrielle Rifkind (Random House, £3.99)

Prefatory remarks by Lazar, inter-textual remarks by rlandes.

Gabrielle Rifkind: This dialogue of the deaf is making war more likely
Only the hardliners in the US and Iran are helped by their mutual mistrust – but they are winning
28 October 2007

Sabre rattling and ratcheting up tensions is the dominant discourse between Iran and the US. The BBC was yesterday full of talk of whether war had become inevitable. A US attack could make problems in Iraq look like a sideshow. There are plenty of hardliners on both sides who would welcome such an attack, as it would strengthen their positions. It could lead to the declaration of an emergency government in the country that could keep the hardliners in power for a decade.

Of course, there are other outcomes as well. This sounds like an echo of “War is not the answer,” which only makes sense when both sides want positive-sum outcomes.

Diplomacy is currently framed around carrot and stick. There is some engagement, but there is also a process of demonisation on both sides. The US has designated the foreign wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organisation. The Iranian parliament for its part has voted that both the US military and the CIA are terrorist organisations. This is not the climate in which deep political differences are accommodated.

Here we see clearly the catastrophe of adopting the “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” approach, one that our media — BBC in the forefront — have taken as policy. The problem here is, is the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization? Do they support, help, and deploy people who target civilians as a matter of policy? If so, then it’s not demonization to call them terrorists. The other side does not cease from its demonization (on a much grander — cosmic — scale), and the author is working from a place in which maybe, if we stop “demonizing them” (i.e., identifying the centrality of their most radical elements), then maybe the people we have ceased to demonize will return the favor.

But on the battlefield of information warfare — something Rifkind seems unaware exists — our move merely disguises the radical nature of our foe, and fills us with a false hope that our concessions will produce counter-concessions rather than proof of our suicidal combination of stupidity and weakness. Think aliens in Mars Attacks laughing themselves silly over the President’s message of peace.

Critique from a Listener to the Lars Larson Show: Whose Side am I on?

I was recently on the Lars Larson Show, interviewed about the situation in Gaza. One of the readers had some criticisms which he sent me. I publish them below with my response. First his letter as he wrote it, then my interlinear response.

July 7, 2007
Professor Richard Landes
Boston University
Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Professor Richard Landes;

This is written to comment somewhat critically of your thoughts as expressed on the Lars Larson radio program recently regarding the Palestinian question. The root problem with the Palestinian crisis is America’s creation of the state of Israel out of Palestinian lands in the full flush of U.S. world domination following World War II. The lands did not belong to the United States to give away. And this to this day remains the underlying source of antagonism that animates not only Palestinians but nearly all Arab Muslims. A secondary matter is the power which American Zionist interests hold largely in terms of social propaganda over the American body politic, most obviously in this country’s Middle East foreign policy. In order to maintain the fiction of moral authority of Israel over the Arab world, American Zionists have crafted an entire view of the world that isolates the United States and leads it into its many wars in the region. Since the early 1960s, America has foolishly dedicated its considerable powers to preserving the Jewish state in the Middle East at enormous cost to itself as to the countless millions of Arab Muslims who protest this state of affairs. Frankly speaking, by the direction of your own political dialogue on the Lars Larson radio program, one suspects a similar dedication to the Zionist cause. If so, it would be more objective and sincere that you announce your position unilaterally favoring the Israel side and not speak with words that imply dedication to American national interest.

Here’s my response.

Failure of PCP: Ya’alon Nails It

Moshe Ya’alon, former chief of Staff, gets it. Would that the leaders of the West (including Olmert) did.

Ya’alon: Land for peace concept failed

Etgar Lefkovits, THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 4, 2007
The concept of land for peace is a proven failure in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and any future withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank will create a ‘Hamastan’ there too, former Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday.

The former military chief said that Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip and the creation of “the first Jihadist Arab entity” on Israel’s doorstep last month was “the last nail on the coffin” in a string of faulty conceptions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which have been the earmark of Israeli and Western policy for decades.

“The strengthening of Hamas after the Israeli pullout from Gaza and the Hamas takeover of Gaza necessitate a renewed examination of Israeli and international conceptions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, to my mind, are no longer relevant,” Ya’alon said in an address organized by the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem research institute, on the ramifications of the Hamas takeover of Gaza.

In a succinct address which tore at the most basic premises of Middle East peacemaking, Ya’alon said that the faulty conceptions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict included the notions that the Palestinians wanted – or were able – to establish an independent state on the 1967 borders, that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the creation of two states on the 1967 borders, that land for peace should be the basis for any peace agreement, that peace would bring security, and that the key to stability in the Middle East was the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Also known as the Politically-Correct Paradigm (PCP).

He argued that the violent Palestinian rejection of the peace offer put forward to them at Camp David seven years ago, which would have awarded them with a Palestinian state on upwards of 95 percent of the West Bank, and the refusal of both Hamas and the more moderate Fatah to recognize the existence of a Jewish state, negated the very essence of Israeli and international policymaking on the conflict – that the Palestinians want an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel on the 1967 borders.

We should have all realized what the Palestinian leadership – Hamas and Fatah — were saying with the “no” of Camp David in the summer of 2000 and the violence of the “al Aksa Intifada” in the fall. But we didn’t want to recognize that the positive-sum logic of land for peace wouldn’t work. I remember at the height of the suicide bombing, I noted to a colleague that it was amazing how little outrage there was among progressives at such morally depraved behavior. “What choice do they have?” he answered without missing a beat. “What about Oslo?” I responded. “Oh, yeah, there was Oslo…”

“We are talking about [a Palestinian Authority which is] a gang authority and not a political authority,” he said.

Ya’alon said that stabilization in the region did not hinge on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as many Western leaders argue, but on the defeat of Islamic Jihadism, led by the Iranian regime.

Not only will an Israeli concession not reduce the threat- it will increase it,” he said.

“Israeli concessions today will impede not only Israel’s interests and those of the West, but of moderate Arab regimes in the region,” he added.

To which we need to add Europe. A Israeli withdrawal from the territories, or an American withdrawal from Iraq will endanger Europeans above all. They are vulnerable, and their radicalized Muslim youth increasingly aggressive. Throwing Israel into the maw of Jihadi hatreds — which is the natural extension of current European policy (minus Sarkozy) — will only fan the consuming flames.

The former military chief, who is expected to be a future top contender in the political arena, said that Israel must treat the Hamas-run Gaza Strip as an “enemy entity,” and should “disengage” from being the provider of water, electricity, and goods to the volatile coastal strip where 1.4 million Palestinians live.

At the same time, he opined that Israel should give the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority in the West Bank a chance to establish autonomy, while Israel would be in charge of security in the area.

Ya’alon said that any IDF pullout from the West Bank would lead to the creation of a Hamastan there, which, he said, would threaten both Israel and Jordan.

He added that he opposed the stationing of Jordanian – or any foreign – troops in the West Bank, calling it a fruitless idea that has been ineffective in the past.

Ya’alon’s tenure as Israel’s top military officer from 2002-2005 was marked by both a successful military crackdown on Palestinian terrorism, and his very overt falling out with then prime minister Ariel Sharon over his opposition to the premier’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

I personally don’t think Fatah is a good bet. What else can Israel do? Ironically, it’s the outsiders who can play a key role here: insist on dismantling the teaching of hatred, insist on shutting down the terror attacks in the West Bank, and then the Israelis can slowly loosen their headlock.

But that would take will. Maybe Sarkozy has that kind of vision and determination.

There’s still a huge amount we can do, if only we start challenging the Arabs and Muslims on the terrain of values. They have no right to demand what they do; and we have the right to demand a great deal more than we do. And we should do it.

When Shame Hits: A Clueless West and a Humiliated Arabia

Youssef M. Ibrahim writes an extremely interesting meditation on the psychological situation in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Mr. Ibrahim, a former New York Times Middle East Correspondent and Wall Street Journal Energy Editor for 25 years, is a freelance writer based in New York City and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and a contributing editor of the NY Sun.

Arabs losing faith in ‘the cause’

By Youssef M. Ibrahim

Why is America trying to pour new money and more weapons into Palestinian Arab hands barely days after the Gaza debacle? It is an ill-considered policy, both premature and useless. The only sure result will be that warring gangs in the West Bank will use every new weapon to continue the mayhem and that the millions paid out won’t buy as much as a bottle of milk for Palestinian Arab civilians. Instead, the money will end up in the pockets and bank accounts of the same crooks who lost Gaza.

Indeed, why try to recreate a world that has just crumbled? America and Israel may want to wait for what may turn out to be a changing of the guard: Arab voices, both expert and popular, are rising in vociferous denunciations of the once sacrosanct Palestinian Arabs.

“It is idle to think that Gaza could be written off as a Hamas dominion while Fatah held its own in the towns of the West Bank,” Fouad Ajami of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies noted in a sobering analysis published Tuesday in the New York Times. “The abdication and the anarchy have damaged both Palestinian realms. Nablus in the West Bank is no more amenable to reason than is Gaza; the writ of the pitiless preachers and gunmen is the norm in both places.”

While Mr. Ajami’s commentary is poised, there is no such thing:

“Palestinians today need to be left without a shred of a doubt” as to what other Arabs think of them, a widely read opinion commentator for the Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat, Mamoun Fandy, thundered on Monday. “We need to tell them the only thing they have proven over 50 years is that they are adolescents who cannot and should not be trusted to run institutions of state or any other important matters.”

While it could be argued that the overwhelming public outrage in Saudi Arabia reflects resentment over the collapse of the much-vaunted reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah — which was personally brokered by King Abdullah earlier this year in Mecca — the anger expressed across the Muslim Arab world reflects deep embarrassment at the discredit Hamas has brought, in the name of Islam, through its savagery against Fatah.

For its part, the Egyptian press has become unhinged, spewing vile denunciations of what is universally known as “the cause” — support for the Palestinian Arabs — and describing it as dead. Egypt’s government pulled its embassy out of Gaza on Tuesday.

Kuwaitis, who have harbored contempt for Palestinian Arabs ever since they allied themselves with Saddam Hussein’s occupation in 1990-91, also dropped all restraint. “Palestinians are neither a modernized nor a civilized people,” Ahmad Al Bughdadi wrote Monday in Al Siyassah, an influential Kuwaiti daily. “They are not statesmen. If what happened in Gaza is what they do without a state, what then shall they do when they get one?”

If there could be an editorial coup de grace, it surely was delivered by no less than Abdelbari Atwan, undoubtedly the Palestinian Arabs most influential and respected journalist and a familiar face on both Western and Arab television.

Writing in the London-based Al Quds International, his painfully felt commentary, “Yes, We Have Lost the World’s Respect,” argued that “the cause” may have lost its legitimacy: “Many, myself among them, find it difficult to speak of Israeli crimes against our people in view of what we have now done,” Mr. Atwan wrote. “I never thought the day would come when we would see Palestinians throwing other Palestinians from the tops of buildings to their death, Palestinians attacking other Palestinians to tear their bodies with knives, Palestinians stripping others naked to drag them through the streets.”

Because when they did it to Israelis or other Arabs (e.g., in Lebanon), no one had a clue they’d do it to themselves?

All of which suggests letting this Arab storm run its course: It may be a purging of the Arab mindset that creates new realities and opportunities.

For instance, throughout the Arab Gulf region, starting with Al-Jazeera of Qatar and Al-Arabiya of Saudi Arabia, the press has long been controlled by Palestinian Arabs practiced in spewing anti-Western and anti-American propaganda. But the Gaza conundrum has left them stymied, opening space for “local sentiments,” which differ markedly.

Instead of pouring good money after bad in the western part of the Arab world, it may be wiser for America to help foster the revolutionary new thinking unfolding in its East — perhaps by nudging along a propaganda purge among friendly Arab regimes.

Bit of honor-shame analysis: Now, after being humiliated in front of the world, Arabs — even Palestinians — grow self-critical, end up saying things that (right-wing) Israelis have been saying for decades… like, “They’re not ready for statehood.” We, instead of saying, “At last! Now let’s get serious,” rush in to cover their shame. How stupid can we get? Very.

Another teaching moment will be lost because of the inane advice of well-intentioned fools.

Erlanger, Dupe of Demopaths: Does he really believe this stuff

Erlanger adds new layers to the Augean Stables. In an
audio report available at the NYT with accompanying pictures (which in their own way contradict his analysis), Erlanger manages to repeat all of the tritest tropes of Hamas demopathy as if this were real reporting. The guys not stupid. What’s up? (Hat tip: David Sobel)

I have transcribed the finale:

Hamas being now in sole control may be able to provide the poor people of Gaza with more security and even jobs and investment than Fatah was able to do. Hamas may live up to the responsibility of viewing the people of Gaza and all of their problems in a way that tries to show the rest of the Muslim world that radical Islam works. That is the thing that the US and Israel must be most worried about. It’s a very dicey strategy but Israel and the US are searching for short and medium term responses to a collapse neither saw coming, and both are eager to limit the impact of this latest victory of radical Islam over Western-backed secular forces.

I don’t know where to begin. If he had just showed up at the scene this would be incompetent at best. But he’s seen the last months merciless murder. He (presumably) has read Hamas’ Charter. He knows just how vicious Hamas can be in the implementation of those goals, even to their fellow Muslims who get in the way. But it’s as if he’s listening to Ahmed Youssef has to say, and regurgitated it. Could Hamas ask for better PR?

So now what Israel and the US fear most is that Hamas will “make a go of it” and show the world how radical Islam can do better running a country than corrupt Arab regimes. Not that they will continue to spread their Jihadi violence everywhere so as to cover up the stench of their dystopian failures to implement Sharia. How did he come to this startling conclusion? Because the other efforts to implement Sharia by groups who use terror to gain power have such a stellar track record — Taliban, Shiite Iran, Sudan?

And I especially like his Oslo-logic PCP reference to Fatah as “secular.”

With journalists like this, no wonder we don’t have a clue.