Category Archives: Oslo Logic

Flushing out the Honor Madness: Palestinian Leadership responds to Netanyahu’s Speech

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the Jews in a major city in the southern USA. He told me that by and large what they got in Sunday school was the classic AIPAC-style narrative: “The Arabs won’t accept Israel and want to destroy it; Israel’s efforts to make peace fail because the only thing they understand is strength, and if you make concessions they’ll interpret it as weakness and press for more.” After a moment of silence in which, presumably, I was supposed to cluck at the hopeless backwardness of such a “narrative” (which as readers of this blog know I call the Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm and consider fairly accurate), I asked, “So where do you find this narrative inaccurate.”

His response was so perfect that I wrote it down to use in my book.

    The vast of majority everywhere want a roof over their heads, to sleep peacefully at night, enjoy their families, food in their bellies and to say good morning to their neighbors and spouses.

Now how was this a response to my question? It had nothing to do with real data from the Arab world, nothing from the various responses of Arab leaders to various concessions Israel has engaged in since 1993. It’s his liberal cognitive egocentrism, raised to the level of an axiom of human nature (confusing human and humane), and then applied as a negation of any evidence to the contrary. If all people are like this, then the Arabs can’t be like that narrative. QED. PCP. The whole world is like us.

I cited for him the comment of one of the Arab rioters in 1936 to the Peel Commission’s question about why he so hated the Jews, if the Zionists have made the land far more prosperous than it had been before they came:

“You say we are better off: you say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not invite the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it, and I do not care how poor it is if I am only master of it” (Weathered by Miracles, p. 207).

He responded: “Do you think they all think like that?”

Good question. I say yes, I sound like a bigot. If I say no, then where are we?

Do they all think that way? Or is this irredentism “merely” an expression of the male mafia, the alpha males who crave vengeance, the political/religious leadership, “the Arab street”? What about the “vast, silent majority.” I’m not sure. I think that many… most… maybe even the vast majority would accept my friend’s lovely depiction of a prosperous and peaceful life. (It is, after all, at the core of the messianic promise.)

What I do know is that as long as honor-shame culture, with its demanded solidarity — asabiyyah — prevails, and as long as it’s enforced with such vicious brutality, whatever your “average Palestinian” thinks, he or she will have no ability to change the dynamic of the HSJP narrative. And when mothers can be driven to killing their daughters by a merciless community that demands it for the sake of family honor, then it can’t just be a problem of elites.

I give this anecdote as a preface to the following post on Palestinian reaction to Netanyahu’s speech, because so much of the dynamics we disagreed upon show up in unvarnished form. Netanyahu clearly struck on honor-shame chord.

If it were a chess game, Netanyahu’s speech would be a “?!.” “?” because if the Palestinians had responded intelligently — even while retaining their desire to destroy Israel — they could have said, “Fine. Let’s get on with it.” Then, when they got their demilitarized state, they could go ahead and militarize and no one could stop them. It’s a “!” because, true to form, Palestinian “pride” trumps (what we define as rational) self-interest at every turn. As a result we have the spectacle of unvarnished zero-sum Arab irredentism in response to a speech that called for basic mutuality — two states for two religious communities. Short of everything, it’s Palestinian suffering.

Below are a series of responses from Palestinian leaders that display all the elements of an honor-shame culture under conditions of humiliation which needs to be fixed by shedding blood — at once childishly violent in rhetoric, and violently malevolent in intent.

There are two questions here: 1) Is this the real reaction, or posturing? Even as posturing, it’s significant. Why take these mad postures? As bargaining tools? Possibly.

2) Is the West listening and registering this? And if so, do they have the wisdom and foresight to tell the Palestinian leadership to grow up and, as Obama might put it: “join the 21st century.”

Palestinian Reactions to Netanyahu’s Speech
‘Akin to a Declaration of War’; ‘Netanyahu is a Liar and a Crook’; ‘The Speech is Worthless and Warrants a Determined Response’; ‘Not In a Thousand Years… Would [He] Find a Single Palestinian’ to Agree to His Conditions

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s June 14, 2009 speech was met with hostility by all Palestinian factions. The Palestinians called Netanyahu “a liar and a crook,” stated that the only purpose of his “hollow” speech was to placate U.S. President Barack Obama, and claimed that he was effectively ruining the chances for peace. Senior Palestinian Authority officials called on theU.S. to force Israel to implement the two-state solution, and on the PA to toughen its positions. Hamas called on PA to stop security coordination and to reassess their position on negotiations with Israel.

Following are excerpts from reactions in the PA press to the speech:

PA: Netanyahu’s Speech Has Ruined the Chance for Peace

Palestinian Authority negotiations department head Saeb ‘Ariqat stated: “The peace process can be compared to a turtle, and now that Netanyahu has turned it over, it’s lying on its back. Not in a thousand years will Netanyahu find a single Palestinian who would agree to the conditions stipulated in his speech. The speech is a unilateral declaration ending the political negotiations on permanent status issues.” [1]

This is an eloquent expression of the arrogance of prime divider elites. They will speak for their people without the slightest hesitation. Essentially, ‘Ariqat [also known as Erakat], the main expounder of the Jenin Massacre in 2002, is condemning his people to decades if not generations of suffering, but he not only doesn’t care, he makes no room for the slightest dissent. No proud Palestinian would stand for this (and I guess, by implication, no one shameful enough to accept the deal, is a Palestinian). So Erakat’s implicit answer to my friend’s query is: “Yes! Every Palestinian thinks this way.” (NB: Erakat’s considered a moderate, not a racist who demeans Palestinians by thinking they’re all war- and hate-mongers.)

The Two-State To Nowhere: Another Futile Attempt At Appeasement

Every once in a while it’s useful to consult a historian with a memory that goes beyond the “so fifteen minutes ago” of the current ADD generation. Here Alex Grobman explains why Netanyahu’s speech touched a nerve in the Arab world, especially among Palestinians. It’s not the Politically-correct Paradigm PCP — let’s compromise and get on with our lives in a spirit of mutuality — it’s the Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm HSJP — we can only breathe if you die. Or, as Yasser Arafat put it so delicately:

“We don’t want peace, we want victory. Peace for us means Israel’s destruction and nothing else. What you call peace is peace for Israel…. For us it is shame and injustice. We shall fight on to victory. Even for decades, for generations, if necessary.”

And, suprise! they’re still fighting.

The passages Grobman cites — all expressions of the honor-shame world of Arab irredentism when it comes to Israel — shed a particularly revealing light on President Obama’s (falsely) empathic remark about Palestinian suffering being intolerable. If it were “intolerable” they would do something about it. Instead they scream foul at Netanyahu’s speech and dig in for more suffering. Obama’s inability to understand this — and I think it is an incomprehensibility that pervades Western culture which is why I’m writing my current book — is at the heart of the dysfunctional relationship we have with the Arab world. “Suffering? You pussies ain’t seem nothing yet. We can take it, and you better be ready to take it. And if you protect yourself from our misery… we’ll call you apartheid racists.”

The Two-State To Nowhere: Another Futile Attempt At Appeasement

“There is reason to believe that [the president] cherished the illusion that presumably he, and he alone, as head of the United States, could bring about a settlement – if not a reconciliation — between Arabs and Jews. I remember muttering to myself as I left the White House after hearing the President discourse in rambling fashion about Middle Eastern Affairs, ‘I‘ve read of men who thought they might be King of the Jews and other men who thought they might be King of the Arabs, but this is the first time I ‘ve listened to a man who dreamt of being King of both the Jews and Arabs.’”1 Herbert Feis, a State Department economic advisor, did not say this about President Obama’s address in Cairo in June 2009, but after Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Ibn Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, in February 1945. Roosevelt wanted the Arabs to allow thousands of Jews from Europe to immigrate to Palestine to which Ibn Saud responded, “Arabs would choose to die rather than yield their land to Jews.”2

George Antonius, an Arab nationalist, reiterated this point when he said, “no room can be made in Palestine for a second nation except by dislodging or exterminating the nation in possession.”3

Attempts to solve the Arab/Israeli conflict regularly fail because of the refusal to acknowledge that this dispute has never been about borders, territory or settlements, but about the Arabs refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. “The struggle with the Zionist enemy is not a matter of borders, but touches on the very existence of the Zionist entity,” declared an Arab spokesman.4

Unlike the Nazis who carefully concealed the Final Solution, Hamas and the Palestine Authority openly avow their intentions in their Charter and Covenant and in the Arab media which is available in English on the Internet on MEMRI and the Palestinian Media Watch.

For Hamas liberating all of Palestine to establish an Islamic state requires a holy war against Israel. Anyone daring to sign away even “a grain of sand in Palestine in favor of the enemies of God…who have seized the blessed land” should have their “hand be cut off.”5

Obama and the Settlements: Narcissistic Patterns?

One of the characteristics of a narcissist is that, being deeply in need of approval but not feeling they deserve it, they try endlessly to get the approval of those who don’t give it — i.e., those who see through them and need, therefore to be won over — and show contempt for those who like them because they are stupid enough to be fooled by their show and not see how worthless they are deep inside. So the classic narcissistic pattern is to suck up to enemies and dump on friends.

On the other hand, there are just people who are cowards, and suck up to people who might hurt them and dump on people they can depend on not to.

What’s going on here? Narcissism or cowardice? (HT/Steven Antler)

The Settlements Myth
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, June 5, 2009

President Obama repeatedly insists that American foreign policy be conducted with modesty and humility. Above all, there will be no more “dictating” to other countries. We should “forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions,” he told the G-20 summit. In Middle East negotiations, he told al-Arabiya, America will henceforth “start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating.”

An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone — Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton imperiously explained the diktat: “a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions.”

What’s the issue? No “natural growth” means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining. It means no increase in population. Which means no babies. Or if you have babies, no housing for them — not even within the existing town boundaries. Which means for every child born, someone has to move out. No community can survive like that. The obvious objective is to undermine and destroy these towns — even before negotiations.

To what end? Over the past decade, the U.S. government has understood that any final peace treaty would involve Israel retaining some of the close-in settlements — and compensating the Palestinians accordingly with land from within Israel itself.

That was envisioned in the Clinton plan in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, and again at Taba in 2001. After all, why expel people from their homes and turn their towns to rubble when, instead, Arabs and Jews can stay in their homes if the 1949 armistice line is shifted slightly into the Palestinian side to capture the major close-in Jewish settlements, and then shifted into Israeli territory to capture Israeli land to give to the Palestinians?

Flirting with Reality: Goldberg reviews Morris on Palestinian Irredentism

Nietzsche once remarked that thinking is like diving into an icy pond, going to the bottom and grasping a stone from the depths. Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, gets his feet wet and comes running out.

No Common Ground

Published: May 20, 2009

In March, Muhammad Dahlan, a former chief of one of thePalestinian Authority’s multifarious secret police organizations, and once a tacit ally of the C.I.A., defended Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, from the charge, made by Hamas, that it had previously recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict
By Benny Morris
240 pp. Yale University Press. $26

First Chapter: ‘One State, Two States’ (May 24, 2009)

“They say that Fatah has asked them to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and this is a big deception,” Dahlan said. “For the 1,000th time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Rather we are asking Hamas not to do so, because Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist.”

This was not a helpful statement, at least not to the peace-processors in Washington and in Europe, and to their diminishing band of confederates in Israel and the Palestinian territories. But Dahlan’s comment helps buttress the main argument of Benny Morris’s new book, “One State, Two States.” Morris, a professor of history at Ben- Gurion University in Israel, argues that Arab rejectionism is so profound a force that only the terminally obtuse could believe that Palestinians will ever acquiesce to a state comprised solely of the West Bank and Gaza.

Nice beginning, especially when speaking to an audience of self-selecting liberal cognitive egocentrists.

Morris is equally dismissive of those who believe that a so-called one-state solution might work in place of a two-state solution. Muslim anti-Semitism and the deep cultural divide that separates Arab from Jew, among other realities, make this notion a fantasy. In this short book Morris asserts there is no one-state solution to the Middle East crisis, and no two-state solution. Morris does promote the possibility of a Palestinian confederation with Jordan, but he makes the case anemically and cursorily.

This is not to say that Morris isn’t convincing at times, for instance when he says that one-staters, like the constitutional scholar Daniel Lazar and the historian Tony Judt, who envision a utopian post-Zionist future, in fact are calling for Israel to be eliminated.

Yet Morris, like Judt, has an almost irretrievably dark vision of Israel’s future as a Jewish-majority state. The difference is that Morris does not believe that Israel’s mistakes — even the settlement movement that colonized the West Bank — are what might doom it. The culprit is the implacable fanaticism of Arab Islamists, who are unwilling to accept a Jewish national presence in what is thought of as Arab land, a position that hasn’t changed since the meeting of the third Palestine Arab Congress, in 1920, which rejected Jewish claims to the land since “Palestine is the holy land of the two Christian and Muslim worlds.” Subsequent events that seemingly contradict this belief — most notably, the P.L.O.’s ostensible recognition of Israel in 1988 — have been staged for the benefit of gullible Westerners, Morris writes.

Most people still think that the PLO changed their charter. They voted to change their charter at some point in the future, and people like Hanan Ashrawi voted against it. Part of the reason we don’t know about it is that both the media , authors like Graham Usher (chaps. 10-11), and the proponents of the Oslo Process like President Clinton were so eager to move on that they pretended that it had already happened. Details and extensive references here.

When on journalist reported on Ashrawi’s no-vote — on the basis of good honor-shame concerns (“This will appear to be a succumbing to Israeli dictate.”) — she was told by her editor that that can’t be true because, “Ashrawi is a moderate.”

On the Power of Statelessness: Why Palestinians prefer not to have a state according to Robert Kaplan

In a mediocre article, replete with logical non-sequiturs (especially at the end), Robert Kaplan, national correspondent for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, tries to spin off from more substantive article by Jakub Grygiel (“The Power of Statelessness: the Withering Appeal of Governing”). Although the analysis is superficial and the policy suggestions at odds with the analysis, it’s worth looking at for both what it occasionally says that’s valuable, and as an example of how hard it is, even for smart people, to think clearly about the Arab-Israeli conflict. (HT/YP)

Do the Palestinians Really Want a State?

Why landlessness may be its own source of power
by Robert D. Kaplan

The statelessness of Palestinian Arabs has been a principal feature of world politics for more than half a century. It is the signature issue of our time. The inability of Israelis and Palestinians to reach an accord of mutual recognition and land-for-peace has helped infect the globe with violence and radicalism—and has long been a bane of American foreign policy. While the problems of the Middle East cannot be substantially blamed on the injustice done to Palestinians, that injustice has nonetheless played a role in weakening America’s position in the region.

Obviously, part of the problem has been Israeli intransigence. Despite seeming to submit to territorial concessions, one Israeli government after another has quietly continued to bolster illegal settlements in the occupied territories. The new Israeli government may be the worst yet: Its foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, is so extreme in his anti-Arab views that he makes the right-wing Likud prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appear like the centrist he isn’t. The prospects for peace under this government are fundamentally bleak.

Alright, so Kaplan’s not the sharpest pencil in the box when it comes to Israeli politics. But all this is really just a set-up. In the meantime, I think it worth noting that if the “moderate” Abbas were an Israeli politician, whose views in his native tongue were duly translated and broadcast globally by the likes of Ha-Aretz, then he’d appear as a far-right, ultra-nationalist, racist, intransigent, war-monger. It’s only the skew of comparing politicians from a civil polity with those from a prime divider society that permits the kind of cheap throw-away lines such as that used by Kaplan above. Indeed, my guess is that if any Israeli politician were to say in Hebrew the kinds of things Abbas says in Arabic, he’d be debounced as an intransigent and banned as a racist.

And yet this Israeli government faithfully represents the Israeli electorate, which is in utter despair over the impossibility of finding credible partners on the Palestinian side with which to negotiate. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas’s more moderate Fatah movement may be willing to live in peace with Israel, but it has insufficient political legitimacy among Palestinians to negotiate such a deal. With Fatah and Hamas facing off against each other, the Palestinians are simply too divided to plausibly meet Israel across the table. And because the Palestinians are unable to cut a deal, a majority of Israelis, as shown by the recent election results, have apparently given up any hope for peace.

Well that’s quite a feat. The despair of the Israeli electorate is not just over the present “stalemate,” but about the repeated failure of concessions to ameliorate the situation. Oslo “Peace” Process (1993-2000), leaving Lebanon (2000), leaving Gaza (2005), all have led to more aggression, including suicide bombing. It’s this ferocious and relentless will to aggress on the part of the Palestinians, fed by a media that constantly incites to genocidal hatreds, that has them worried.

But there is a deeper structural and philosophical reason why the Palestinians remain stateless—a reason more profound than the political narrative would indicate.

It’s nice of Kaplan to recognize that (his and the consensually accepted) “political narrative” doesn’t get to the point. But instead of going to matters of honor and shame, he goes to an interesting, but largely “rational” analysis of the strategic advantages of statelessness.

It is best explained by associate Johns Hopkins professor Jakub Grygiel, in his brilliant essay, “The Power of Statelessness: the Withering Appeal of Governing” (Policy Review April/May 2009). In it, Grygiel does not discuss the Palestinians in particular, but rather the attitude of stateless people in general.

Statehood is no longer a goal, he writes. Many stateless groups “do not aspire to have a state,” for they are more capable of achieving their objectives without one. Instead of actively seeking statehood to address their weakness, as Zionist Jews did in an earlier phase of history, groups like the Palestinians now embrace their statelessness as a source of power.

Interesting point, except that it ignores the past. At no point in this process have any Palestinian leaders showed any real desire for statehood. The “now” is an a-historical attempt to describe a “new” development.

New communication technologies allow people to achieve virtual unity without a state, even as new military technologies give stateless groups a lethal capacity that in former decades could be attained only by states. Grygiel explains that it is now “highly desirable” not to have a state—for a state is a target that can be destroyed or damaged, and hence pressured politically. It was the very quasi-statehood achieved by Hamas in the Gaza Strip that made it easier for Israel to bomb it. A state entails responsibilities that limit a people’s freedom of action. A group like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the author notes, could probably take over the Lebanese state today, but why would it want to? Why would it want responsibility for providing safety and services to all Lebanese? Why would it want to provide the Israelis with so many tempting targets of reprisal? Statelessness offers a level of “impunity” from retaliation.

But the most tempting aspect of statelessness is that it permits a people to savor the pleasures of religious zeal, extremist ideologies, and moral absolutes, without having to make the kinds of messy, mundane compromises that accompany the work of looking after a geographical space.

And of course, if the world is willing to dump on Israel for its inherent messiness as a state, and give the stateless a free ride, why not?

Grygiel raises a challenging proposition. If his theory is correct, then the Palestinians may never have a state, because at a deep psychological level, enough of them—or at least the groups that speak in their name—may not really want one. Statehood would mean openly compromising with Israel, and, because of the dictates of geography, living in an intimate political and economic relationship with it. Better the glory of victimhood, combined with the power of radical abstractions! As a stateless people, Palestinians can lob rockets into Israel, but not be wholly blamed in the eyes of the international community. Statehood would, perforce, put an end to such license.

The closest that Israelis and Palestinians ever came to peace was at the end of the Clinton Administration in 2000, when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak of the center-left Labor Party offered a slew of concessions to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat—only to have Arafat reject them. Arafat’s epitaph was that he remained loyal to the cause of his people, that he never compromised, and that he was steadfast to the bitter end. He may have seen that as a more morally and emotionally satisfying conclusion to a life of statelessness than that of making the unenchanting concessions associated with achieving statehood.

Even if Grygiel’s theory is right, the United States should apply ample pressure on the new Israeli government to compromise with the Palestinians—ratcheting up the rhetoric and slowing down arms deliveries if necessary. It should do this because it is the right thing to do, and because it will help the U.S. to reestablish credibility in the Muslim world. But the U.S. should also brace itself for an Israeli-Palestinian conflict that may never end, because the Palestinians may already have what they want.

Now there’s a brilliant ending to an otherwise interesting article. It’s as if he says, “ignore what I just said and act as if the prevailing paradigm — force Israeli concessions in the hopes of bringing out Palestinian moderation — were still good. Because it’s “the right thing to do.” By whose standards?

Does this man even believe what he says? Or is he just bowing to the “conventional wisdom”? And one wonders how phenomena like the “emperor’s new clothes” can happen.

In any case, what a pedestrian conclusion: wake up and go back to sleep.

It is not a country, it is a weapon: Thoughts on creating a Palestinian State

Everywhere the mantra is “two-state solution.” The very term implies something not at all self-evident, that is, that creating a two-state situation — by the creation of a Palestinian state, will “solve” anything that those who use the formula might consider the problem. For those who think it will bring peace, that it will “solve” the Arab-Israeli conflict, there’s not much evidence to suggest that it will. To the contrary, most evidence suggests that it will only strengthen the hardliners among the Palestinians.

And yet, anyone who opposes Palestinian statehood is considered a racist and a bigot. It’s the kind of moral equivalence one find in a Roger Cohen who can’t understand why, if Israel has a bomb, the Iranians shouldn’t. Jews have a nation… why not Palestinians? Same, same, no?

No. On many counts.

Below the reflections of Sultanknish. See also:

Jeff Jacoby, Statehood for Palestine? Take a Good Look

Emmanuel Navon, How to Deserve a State

Caroline Glick, Welcome to Palestine

Hillel Fendel, PA Rep Says 2-State Solution Will Kill Israel

Elya Katz, “Palestine 2.0 is a monster with only one purpose, to create Holocaust 2.0.”

Some excerpts from Sultanknish below:

Who Needs a Palestinian State?

…Currently ruled by mutually hostile armed gangs loyal to either the Fatah or Hamas terrorist groups, Palestine 2.0 has already been a failed state for over a decade. Every attempt at foreign investment has failed. The ruins of industrial zones, greenhouses and even a casino, dot the landscape. Palestinian Arab Christians from overseas who returned to build up the economy fled quickly in the face of relentless shakedowns, kidnappings and militia gangs masquerading as law enforcement.

The vast majority of Palestinian Arabs work for two employers. The UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority… which in turn is funded by foreign donors. Work for the Palestinian Authority usually means belonging to a militia gang which is loyal to a particular figure in the PA leadership, who in turn passes that loyalty on to the current “government”. With little to do, the gangs spend their free time dealing drugs, carrying out terrorist attacks and collecting protection money from their town’s remaining stores.

For 17 years, Israel, America and just about every interested party has tried to build a Palestinian state. They provided weapons and training to build a modern Palestinian police force. They sent advisers and fortunes in economic aid, thousands per Palestinian Arab. They created industrial zones and transferred greenhouses. Billions in funds from the EU, America and various do-gooders were swallowed up to fund the lavish lifestyles of Arafat and his henchmen.

To those who argue that a Palestinian State will build regional stability, the rational person must ask, how in the world has any of this contributed to regional stability?

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.