It’s still not out, but the following article by Kyle Smith offers some extensive examples of partisan corruption of the mainstream news media that we in Israel know intimately. Below I draw some (of many) parallels, in order to highlight the way the mainstream news media’s Augean Stables of encrusted bad practices has become a transnational phenomenon.
Sharyl Attkisson is an unreasonable woman. Important people have told her so.
When the longtime CBS reporter asked for details about reinforcements sent to the Benghazi compound during the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack, White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor replied, “I give up, Sharyl . . . I’ll work with more reasonable folks that follow up, I guess.”
Another White House flack, Eric Schultz, didn’t like being pressed for answers about the Fast and Furious scandal in which American agents directed guns into the arms of Mexican drug lords. “Goddammit, Sharyl!” he screamed at her. “The Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable. You’re the only one who’s not reasonable!”
It’s natural for any stakeholder (political, corporate, personal) to want to protect itself from revelations that embarrass it. Anybody who can (i.e., has power), threatens with loss of access, hence access journalism. Nobody who can does not favor favorable journalists, and punish with exclusion (at the least) those who tend to reveal unpleasant information. The question is, how far will they go? How does the naturally self-protective agent respond to the failure of access journalism to control the situation?
The role of the journalists in a democracy is to fight against this disadvantage for reporters who need access, to resist the kinds of pressures that powerful and influential people can exercise. The remark by White House deputy press secretary Eric Shultz, enumerates some of the more prominent of the submissive journals: Wapo, LATimes, the Grey Lady. They all play nice (reasonable).
Sharyl, on the other hand, is doing her job as a professional journalist with a code. Her kind of journalist was once the pride of the profession. She has, however, become “unreasonable.” “Reasonable” here means someone who knows that, in order to stay in the game (that of access journalism, not real journalism), they will submit their work to a self-imposed censure.
For those trying to understand the Middle East conflict, if mere partisanship (liberal vs. conservative) in the West could produce such damage to the screens upon which we observe our world, imagine what kind of an impact the implicit, constant threat of sudden death, has on reporters working in Palestinian territories.
For many of us who understand how political cultures driven by honor-shame imperatives operate, the Sisyphean tendency of well-intentioned “peace makers” to “restart” the Oslo Process after its explosion into the Oslo Intifada in 2000, serves as a apt illustration of the (mis-)attributed quote of “Einstein’s” – the definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting a different result. (So un-Einsteinian: you can never try “the same thing.”)
So when someone like John Kerry takes over at State and goes on a tour of the area looking for how he can jump-start the peace process based on the principles of the Politically-correct paradigm in which we are all positive-sum players and if only we sweeten the pot for the Palestinians, they’ll join in, many of us roll our eyes and know he’s doomed to failure.
What few people consider is what Rubin analyzes here: not only is Kerry’s approach not going to work, if it did, it would make things worse. Not just, one step forward, two backward, but, as in 2000, blowback in our face. Consider Rubin’s analysis.
Secretary of State John Kerry has what-should-be-discredited cliché about the Middle East firmly ensconced in his head. Of course, he is not alone. I just briefed a European diplomat who came up with the exact formulation I’m going to deal with in a moment. What is disconcerting—though long familiar—is that Western policymakers hold so many ideas that are totally out of touch with reality.
They do not allow these assumptions to be questioned. On the contrary, it is astonishing to find how often individuals in elite positions have never heard counter-arguments to these beliefs. It is easy to prove that many of these ideas simply don’t make sense, but it is nearly impossible to get elite intellectuals, officials, and politicians to open their minds to these explanations.
This is a fascinating point. The PCP has literally eclipsed all other approaches in the minds of the Western elites. It becomes unthinkable to view the situation otherwise.
Yet we can’t just believe what we want to believe, what we’d like to see happen, what we hope for. Reality must be faced or things will be worse. Having uunexamined utopian ideas dominate this topic does not serve anyone’s interests.
Well, it does serve the interests of the demopaths, who keep pushing all our liberal buttons as a way to have things go worse. But we fine Westerners don’t even want to admit that there are enemies, much less ones that use our values to destroy us.
“I am intensely focused on this issue and the region because it is vital really to American interests and regional interests to try and advance the peace process and because this festering absence of peace is used by groups everywhere to recruit and encourage extremism.”
Supposedly, then, the reason that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so important and urgent to solve is that otherwise it is a powerful force in encouraging extremism. Of course, steps toward easing Israel-Palestinian tensions and stabilizing the situation are good but have no positive effect on the region.
Let’s stipulate that it would be a very good thing if this conflict would be resolved in a stable and compromise way. Let’s further stipulate that this isn’t going to happen.
But there is another point which sounds counter-intuitive and yet makes perfect sense:
Resolving the conflict in some way will encourage even more extremism and regional instability. How can I say that? Very simple.
Islamist groups and governments, along with radical Arab nationalists, Iran, and others, are determined to prevent any resolution of the issue. Anything other than Israel’s extinction they hold to be treason. If—and this isn’t going to happen—Israel and the Palestinian Authority made a comprehensive peace treaty those forces would double and triple their efforts to subvert it.
The folly of “linkage” is precisely the misunderstanding of what drives the conflict. If, as Obama and his advisors wanted to do at the beginning of his first administration, we “solve” the Arab-Israeli conflict, then, with the Arabs happy, we go after Iran. The only problem is that even if some (how many?) Arab leaders might be “happy” with a resolution that still left an Israeli state present and autonomous in the heart of Dar al Islam, far more would find that utterly unacceptable. Not only is linkage a Rube Goldberg machine, but it’s one that strewn with landmines just waiting to explode.
The government of Palestine would face determined domestic opposition, including assassination attempts on the “traitors” who made peace. Palestinian factions would claim to be more militant than their rivals and would seek to use the new state as a basis for attacking Israel in order to prove their credentials and advance their political fortunes.
What would the government of Palestine do once cross-border attacks inevitably began against Israel? It is highly likely it would disclaim responsibility and say they cannot find those responsible or even proclaim that these people are heroes.
Of course, the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip would not accept the deal, thus ensuring that it could not be implemented. That last factor, which is a huge and impassable barrier is simply ignored by the “peacemakers.” Israel would have to make major territorial concessions and take heightened risks in advance that would bring zero benefits from a Hamas government that would increase its attacks on Israel. Hamas forces on the West Bank, perhaps in partnership with Fatah radicals, would seek to overthrow Palestine’s government.
There would be attempts to carry out atrocities against Israeli civilians to break the deal, just as happened by Hamas alone during the 1993-2000 “Oslo peace process” period. Hizballah from Lebanon would also increase attacks on Israel to prove that the treasonous peace could not hold.
The ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria would do everything possible to help Hamas. There would be outrage in large sectors of public opinion and especially among the armed Islamist militias who would try to lever their countries into war, stage cross-border attacks against Israel, and back Palestinian insurgents.
Of course, the fact that they understand all of the points made above is one of the main reasons why the Palestinian Authority’s leadership isn’t interested in making a peace deal with Israel, and not even negotiating seriously toward that end.
Ironically, then, the recruiting and encouragement of extremism would be at far higher levels than it is now.
Which is why, ironically, like Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, we need to continue weaving a peace process that must not come to fruition.
But that’s not all. Who would be identified as the architects of this terrible setback for Islam and Arab nationalism? The United States and the West, of course. Imagine the increase of anti-American terrorism for having permanently “stolen” Palestine, perpetuated “injustice,” and so powerfully entrenching the “Zionist entity.”
Kerry, no doubt, thinks that the Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, and Iranians would applaud the wonderful U.S. achievement. This is sheerest nonsense, especially at a time when Islamists feel they are riding the crest of a tidal wave of victory.
Is Kerry that foolish? I’d like to think not, but I’m forever astonished at how foolish smart people can be in our day and age.
While the parallels are inexact, some aspects of such a situation remind me of what happened at the end of World War One. Many people in Germany were convinced that their country was not defeated but merely suffered a “stab in the back” by its foreign enemies and the Jews at home. Out of this soil arose the Nazi movement, to avenge this betrayal and defeat. You can make of that parallel what you will.
Remember, too, that the 1990s “peace process” effort came at a time when Arab regimes were weak, repeatedly defeated by Israel, having lost their Soviet superpower ally, been riven by the Iran-Iraq and Kuwait wars, and with a bankrupt PLO. Now we are in a new era when, for example, the most important single Arab pillar for peace—the Husni Mubarak regime in Egypt—has been driven out to the cheers of those Westerners who also claim to recognize the value of an Arab-Israel peace.
Whether or not I’ve convinced you, I assume that you must understand that a serious case can be made for the argument stated above. Yet none of these points will appear in the mass media or the high-level debate. The assumption is, as Kerry stated, that Israel-Palestinian peace will make things better and no idea will be considered that contradicts this notion.
Let me again emphasize that I am not making an “anti-peace” argument here. If it was possible to secure a lasting, stable compromise peace between Israel and the Palestinians, that would be a great achievement. That might be possible some day but, dangerous wishful thinking aside, that isn’t true now.
And wishing it so makes it worse. Until we look at the cultural issues involved in making peace, and begin to prepare the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims a generation or two down the pike to shift gears, none of our liberal fantasies will do any good.
At the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Nofei Nehemya, the children of Jewish settlers found relief from the heat and the sun.
By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: July 9, 2012
JERUSALEM — Flouting international opinion, an Israeli government-appointed commission of jurists said Monday that Israel ’s presence in the West Bank was not occupation and recommended that the state grant approval for scores of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts there.
Note the opening phrase. Objection, your honor, journalist is leading the reader. Before the reader even knows what’s going on, he’s been told what to think about the subject. Such a move suggests insecurity, a sense that the reader can’t or shouldn’t think for him or herself, a desire to impose a reading lest….
A government-appointed commission calls for the validation of scores of unauthorized Jewish outposts on the West Bank.
The committee’s legal arguments, while nonbinding, could provide backup for the government should it decide to grant the outposts retroactive official status. But such a move would inevitably stir international outrage and deal a significant blow to prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. And here’s the payoff. Such a move to legalize the settlements, regardless of the legal principles upon which that move was based, should not happen. The international community will be outraged (no need even to explain why, everyone knows); and it will deal a significant blow to prospects for a peace-settlement.
The Guardian, a paper whose obsession with Israel was illustrated during the Lebanon War of 2006 when they bragged about having 19 correspondents covering various aspects of the conflict (more than any other place or country in the world; apparently few to spare for Congo, or Darfur, or Sri Lanka), has just rejected an article by Denis MacEoin, the editor of the Middle East Quarterly, because they’ve published too much already on the subject.
But it illustrates one of the fundamental aspects of Western media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict: when the slanders are out, the MSNM runs the story; when they prove false, the press falls silent. Raphael Israeli already pointed this out in a close study of the Jenin “poisoning” scandal of 1983, one of the early episodes in the history of Pallywood.
MacEoin turned to CIFWatch, one of the most exemplary “shadow sites” of a major MSNM production (Comment is Free), which documents and refutes the systematic channeling of anti-Semitic themes via the socially acceptable avatar of anti-Zionism. Here is MacEoin’s piece via the internet, just the kind of thing that could not happen in the 20th century.
Those of you who take an interest – and, in most cases, that’s going to be a malign interest – in matters relating to Israel, Palestine, and the strangely lovable terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah – will have been greatly stirred by the troubling episode of the boat that tried to break a blockade imposed by a state acting within its legal rights, but which ended up with nine of its activists dead. What a rush to judgement this has been. Within hours of the event, half the world had decided it knew all the facts and wasn’t going to back down, regardless of any new facts that may come to light. I have some of those for you, but wait a little. What you need first is context, something in short supply in discussions of these matters.
If, like myself, you have a serious interest in Middle East affairs, you can’t be unaware of an accusation that has infected the Arab world and beyond. It’s very simple: take a war (any war will do), a revolution (ditto), a tragedy, and, lo and behold, the Jews are behind it. Here’s a string of such claims from a bog-standard white supremacist website [Warning hate site]. And here’s a representative (and much shortened) statement from Egyptian general Hasan Sweilem:
‘The Jews stood behind wars and internal strife, and that caused European rulers to expel them and kill them. For example, the Crusader armies, passing through the Rhine basin on their way east, massacred them and burned their houses as an act of repentance to their God. When the Crusaders entered Jerusalem, they collected the Jews in a synagogue and burned them live. Their kin in Russia suffered a similar fate….They were expelled from France, England, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Slovakia, Austria, Holland, and finally from Spain, after they underwent the Inquisition trials for their conspiracy to penetrate Christian society like a Trojan horse….The Jewish conspiracy to take over Europe generated civil revolutions, wars, and internal strife….The Cromwell Revolution failed in 1649 in England, following the Jewish conspiracy to drag England into several wars in Europe….Then the French Revolution broke out, which the Jews had planned, based on the first conference of their rabbis and interest-loaners that had been convened by the first Rothschild in 1773 in order to take over all the world resources….That conference adopted twenty-four protocols, including the uprooting of the belief in God from the hearts of the Gentiles, distracting people by distributing among them literature of heresy and impurity, destruction of the family and eradication of all morality….’
The Jews went on, he says, to start the First and Second world wars and to lay the foundations of both communism and Nazism.
The thing about these claims is that everything bad that has ever happened to Jews has been legitimate defence by those whom the Jews have harmed. The Holocaust, for example, was the deserved punishment for a people mired in every sort of treachery and hatred for mankind.
The best definition of the “relativity of time” is the title of this piece. Inside, you’re reading comfortably, time flies; outside you’re groaning with discomfort and moments seem like an eternity. It’s not about clock time; it’s about experiential time.
I say this because one of the more curious aspects of the “incident” on the Mave Marmara has gone largely unnoticed. According to some accounts, the Israeli SEALS who landed with their paintball guns and the loaded pistols and orders not to use lethal weapons unless absolutely necessary, waited forty minutes before actually firing. Given that they were attacked immediately, that’s forty minutes on the other side of the door of “comfort,” that’s forty minutes of taking a vicious beating from street fighting Jihadis who would be proud to kill them and die in the process.
A friend of mine (one of the folks I consider touched by MOS), wrote me a letter about your average person, viewing the footage that came out two days ago, with the following comment.
[Warning: it’s typically exaggerated (even he is aware, note the [sic]), and therefore difficult to listen to, but nonetheless well worth pondering.]
I’m writing to tell you that when I saw this video, it was obvious to me that just about anyone in America or Europe who is even vaguely neutral, uninformed, or “disinterested” on the subject, is going to view this video as EXTREMELY damning to Israel.
This is his typical rhetorical hyperbole (I did say he was a touch MOS), but we have to consider the possibility that he’s right about some important percentage or responses among the general public, what he calls: “anyone in America or Europe who is even vaguely neutral, uninformed of “disinterested” on the subject.”
On the other hand, note the excessive language, which suggests a snap judgment – the “obvious” implies “immediately” – i.e., I saw it right away. Presumably, this is some kind of “blink” test in which the consensual wisdom of the collective should count.
I know this might sound surprising to you, but I’m afraid I have some quick-and-dirty evidence that I’m entirely [sic] correct: All four people came back with an almost identical reaction to the video. Basically, that far from showing that the Israeli soldiers were “attacked,” it clearly showed the Israeli soldiers, in full combat uniform, rappelling from a helicopter to ATTACK and commandeer the ship, followed by a mob of people on the ship all using what they had at hand to fend off the attack.
No better text illustrates the power of narrative to shape perceptions. We all see Israeli soldiers land on board and get attacked. Everything after is narrative to make sense of what’s happening, including sequence of events and motives. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a “pre-pomo” who thinks we must stick only to the “facts” and be “objective.” Attribution of motive and reconstruction of sequence are critical to a story. They’re also subjective, especially in the case of motive. But we want our judgments to be as accurate as possible, and we need to take into account anomalies.
Several years ago I was asked to write an essay on the progressive case for Israel. The editor did not like the essay — thought it too convoluted, I think. I just ran across it, and thought I’d put it here. Comments welcome.
The Progressive Case for Israel, the Arabs, and the Global Community.
The following essay constitutes the groundwork for a discussion about globalization and fairness, with the Arab-Israeli conflict as the focus of a particular case study. It represents a progressive case that aims to benefit both Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and, in the longer run, hopefully, peoples all over the globe. It begins by making explicit progressive values and goals, and then considers how best to empower such values. Then the essay looks first at the ways in which these values play out in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and which forces on both sides of the ethnic conflict show commitment to those values. It then compares this analysis with the current Leftist consensus on the causes and possible solutions to the Middle East conflict, a contrast that suggests that current consensus actually undermines the progressive values it claims to promote. It concludes with the outline of a course of discursive actions which will hopefully lead to a progressive outcome for everyone in the Middle East and in this increasingly globalized world in which we live.
I. Progressive Values
The fundamental progressive commitment concerns the relationships between those with a hand on the technologies of power (elites) and those who labor (commoners). Put briefly, we might sum it up as the belief that elites should make the bounties of nature and culture available to all, commoners as well as elites, and hence dedicate themselves to programs that educate, empower and elevate commoners both to exercise freedom and participate in the deliberations of power. Correspondingly, all that seeks to prune back the excesses of power – opacity, arbitrariness, privilege, arrogance, violence, hierarchy and authoritarianism – find favor among progressives.
I have yet to fisk Frank Rich, partly because he rarely deals with an issue in which I have some expertise, partly because, like Daniel Pipes, he so thoroughly links his comments to other literature, that I have not had the time or the energy to look them all up. But Rich is a former classmate (Harvard ’71), and I’m on a class listserv where I posted David Brooks’ criticism of the psychological school’s approach to Major Hasan’s killing spree, and several classmates answered. So when Rich weighed in on the subject, I decided to call up all his links, read the material, and respond.
The result is long and sometimes circuitous. At times, following his logic is like trying to deal with a bucking bronco: easier to watch than to ride. But in the end, I think what a close look at how Rich dealt with problem reveals, is how bereft of serious thinking even the most intelligent and apparently well-read among the self-styled “liberal left” are on the subject of Islam and its extremist manifestations, and to what lengths they will go to belittle people who try to think clearly on the matter.
Nietzsche once likened serious thinking to diving into an icy river and grasping a stone lying at the bottom. Rich won’t get his feet wet, but he mocks those of us who are soaking from head to toe.
THE dead at Fort Hood had not even been laid to rest when their massacre became yet another political battle cry for the self-proclaimed patriots of the American right.
It also became a non-battle cry for the self-proclaimed progressives of the left, who far preferred the psychologization of the event — “pre-proxy-post-traumatic stress syndrome” — to any discussion of the problem with Islam. Will Rich have the courage to address the problem? Or will he just bash the “right”?
Their verdict was unambiguous: Maj. Nidal Malikan, an American-born psychiatrist of Palestinian parentage who sent e-mail to a radical imam, was a terrorist. And he did not act alone.
“Terrorist,” I think it’s hard to argue against. Did not act alone? That’s another matter. As for “unambiguous,” does Rich mean “unanimous”? I don’t know too many people who thought he acted in concert with anyone.
Indeed, the near-unanimous verdict was that he was a loner. If there’s any support group here, it’s some of the more radical members of his mosque, like Duane. So what does Rich mean here, other than suggesting that the “self-proclaimed patriots of the right” are conspiracy theorists? (Unlike the truthers who have come up with the scenario whereby Hasan’s been framed.)
His co-conspirators included our military brass, the Defense Department, the F.B.I., the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and, of course, the liberal media and the Obama administration. All these institutions had failed to heed the warning signs raised by Hasan’s behavior and activities because they are blinded by political correctness toward Muslims, too eager to portray criminals as sympathetic victims of social injustice, and too cowardly to call out evil when it strikes 42 innocents in cold blood.
Oh, now I get it. Rich means that the vast range of responsible figures, hands tied by a political correctness that he, among others, plays a major role in enforcing, are, in the minds of the “right,” collaborators. Is this what, “didn’t act alone,” means? I thought it meant, “had co-conspirators.” Rich takes it to mean “enablers.” Intellectual integrity is not the first word that comes to mind here.
Is this clearly sarcastic summary of the “self-proclaimed patriots of the American right” suggesting that there’s no problem here with political correctness? Does it not matter that our intelligence services can’t talk about “honor-shame” culture because some people — Rich? — think it’s racist as Edward Said so urgently insisted? Does it matter that Hasan’s multiple flags never quite tripped a switch somewhere? Does it matter that all those doctors who heard his alarming presentation were too embarrassed to say, “something’s wrong?”
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.”
“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
I haven’t posted a lot on Iran because it’s not really an area I know a great deal about. But what I can recognize is the predictable tropes of cognitive egocentrism, and that’s what this latest by Fareed Zakaria is full of. I’ve been following his program on CNN segments of which we’ll be posting soon at the new Second Draft site for comment and criticism. There, it’s hard to know what he thinks aside from how he chooses his guests — Gerges is less of an analyst than an advocate, but Zakaria doesn’t seem to notice — but in this piece he’s wearing his colors loud and clear.
Lorenz Gude, one of our regular commenters here notes:
I found myself pretty surprised by Fareed Zakaria’s piece on Iran in Newsweek entitled “They May Not Want the Bomb.” It is an example of apologetic propaganda that reminds me of hagiographies of Stalin.
Inside a land poised between tradition and modernity
How’s that for a start. It may be somewhere between the two conceptually, but to call it poised between them is to suggest those are its two possible (and imminent) directions. On the contrary, Khoumeini’s “Islamic Republic of Iran” is a terrifying experiment in anti-modern apocalyptic Islam. To leave that out of the picture already marks Zakaria’s (or is it the Newsweek editor’s) conceptual framework as critically deficient.
How about: Inside a land hijacked by anti-modern Islamists on the painful path from tradition to modernity
By Fareed Zakaria | NEWSWEEK
Published May 23, 2009
Religion Versus Reality
Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What’s the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons.
And they wouldn’t lie to us, would they? Zakaria seems to think that having nuclear weapons is like having dessert — something you can take or leave. Does he really mean this? Is this deliberate misinformation or just breathtaking naivete? As the kept woman said to the court when told that her senator lover denied having any knowledge of her, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime’s founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were “un-Islamic.” The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that “developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam.” Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini’s statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.
Of course they could be lying. And they could be doing that for the sake of Islam. After all, the Shiites are the original practitioners of Takkiya. As the Supreme Leader Khoumeini put it:
Should we remain truthful at the cost of defeat and danger to the Faith? People say, “don’t kill!” But the Almighty himself taught us how to kill… Shall we not kill when it is necessary for the triumph of the Faith? We say that killing is tantamount to saying a prayer when those who are harmful [to the Faith] need to be put out of the way. Deceit, trickery, conspiracy, cheating, stealing and killing are nothing but means… (Murawiec, The Mind of Jihad, p.43).
Are these statements made in English and broadcast to us, or in Pharsee and broadcast to the Iranian public. Could it just be fodder for dupes?
Iran’s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.
In yet another sign of Teheran’s stiffening resolve on the nuclear issue, influential Muslim clerics have for the first time questioned the theocracy’s traditional stance that Sharia law forbade the use of nuclear weapons.
One senior mullah has now said it is “only natural” to have nuclear bombs as a “countermeasure” against other nuclear powers, thought to be a reference to America and Israel.
The pronouncement is particularly worrying because it has come from Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of the ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is widely regarded as the cleric closest to Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Nicknamed “Professor Crocodile” because of his harsh conservatism, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi’s group opposes virtually any kind of rapprochement with the West and is believed to have influenced President Ahmadinejad’s refusal to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear programme.
The comments, which are the first public statement by the Yazdi clerical cabal on the nuclear issue, will be seen as an attempt by the country’s religious hardliners to begin preparing a theological justification for the ownership – and if necessary the use – of atomic bombs.
Does Zakaria know about this and doesn’t think it’s relevant? Is the Daily Telegraph misreporting?
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?
…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?
Barry Rubin, the prolific analyst whose every essay is well worth reading (not to mention his books), has a new blog, The Rubin Report. Here’s a piece from today’s selection that hones in on the dysfunctional (or should I say, counter-functional) relationship between a demopath (Ahmadinejad is among the finest) and a dupe. It’s a classic clash between PCP and HSJP.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave an interview to George Stephanopoulos of ABC. He knew what he was saying but others want to insist on refusing to understand him.
First the relevant exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinian people negotiate an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian people vote and support that agreement, a two state solution, will Iran support it?
AHMADINEJAD: Nobody should interfere, allow the Palestinian people to decide for themselves. Whatever they decide….
STEPHANOPOULOS: If they choose a two state solution with Israel, that’s fine.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, what we are saying is that you and us should not determine the course of things beforehand. Allow the Palestinian people to make their own decisions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if they choose a two state solution, if they choose to recognize Israel’s existence, Iran will as well?
AHMADINEJAD; Let me approach this from another perspective. If the Palestinians decide that the Zionist regime needs to leave all Palestinian lands, would the American administration accept their decision? Will they accept this Palestinian point of view?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ll ask them. But I’m asking you if Palestinians accept the existence of Israel, would Iran support that?….
STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinians sign an agreement with Israel, will Iran support it?
AHMADINEJAD: Whatever decision they take is fine with us. We are not going to determine anything. Whatever decision they take, we will support that. We think that this is the right of the Palestinian people, however we fully expect other states to do so as well.
And how did the Israeli online service of Yediot Aharnot newspaper, YNet News, play this? Here’s the headline: “”Ahmadinejad ‘fine’ with two-state solution.”
Well, not exactly. He refused to say that. All Ahmadinejad said was that he would support what the Palestinian people decided. What does that mean?
First, he personally believes that they would never accept a two-state solution so there’s nothing to worry about in that respect.
Second, of course, he knows that Hamas would never agree to such a thing and Hamas already controls how people vote in the Gaza Strip. One might presume that if a referendum was held there, the vote would be “100 percent” against a two-state solution. In addition, Hamas and others opposing a two-state solution would get between 30 and 70 percent of votes in the West Bank. A lot of Fatah supporters would also vote against it. The exact numbers aren’t important because whether the number is the higher or lower figure such a proposition would always be defeated.
Third, any two-state solution would only be made by Fatah. Iran supports Hamas. If Fatah and the Palestinian Authority were to make a deal with Israel, Tehran would still back Hamas in overthrowing that government, using the deal to portray its rival as treasonous. Once Hamas took over the state of Palestine, it would tear up all the agreements and invite in the Iranian military.
So in effect Ahmadinejad just said that he would never accept a two-state solution but why put that in clear words when the dumb Westerners can be left to interpret it as they wish.
But Ahmadinejad also put a little bomb in the interview which no one seems to notice. Let me repeat one of his answers:
AHMADINEJAD; “Let me approach this from another perspective. If the Palestinians decide that the Zionist regime needs to leave all Palestinian lands, would the American administration accept their decision? Will they accept this Palestinian point of view?“
What’s he saying here? “All Palestinian lands” might sound like saying the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem to Western ears, but everyone in Iran and among the Palestinians knows this means: all of Israel plus all the territories it captured in 1967.
So here’s what the Iranian president is saying: Suppose the Palestinians vote that they want all of Israel, would the United States accept that? The answer, of course, is “no” and so, Ahmadinejad is saying: I’m the one in favor of democracy and you’re against it.
(According to him, of course, Israelis have no rights to a state so they don’t get to vote.)
Ahmadinejad has built his own career on regarding the West as extremely stupid, cowardly, and easy to fool. Many or most of his colleagues in the Iranian regime agree with him.
I could write at this point that the one exception was when in the mid-1980s the United States was appearing ready to attack Iran unless it ended the Iran-Iraq war. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini did so but I think he was misreading American intentions (albeit to the credit of U.S. policymakers in pulling off that bluff).
Still, I’m tempted to say that up to now that the Iranian leaders’ assumption has never proven to be wrong.
In my honor-shame class today we read about honor-killings, and their role in restoring men’s sense of well-being by killing disobedient women. The discussion was very lively as we tried to figure out how to deal with the mutual contradictions between liberal beliefs about human nature, and the evidence from the dossiers on honor-killings that depict a profoundly cruel and tyrannical mindset on the part of the men defending their family honor, and — perhaps more distressing — the larger community supporting, if not demanding, their behavior.
As part of the exercise in dealing with the moral problems, I assigned the article below by Chris Seiple on how to dialogue with Muslims. At one point, a student made the classic liberal case that honor-killings are morally repugnant and wondered aloud how, given the peer-pressure involved, we can get Muslims to oppose them. I put to him the classic progressive challenge: isn’t that cultural imperialism? Who are you — we — to tell them what to do? In struggling with the problem, he ended up crying out “auuuugghhhh” in frustration.
Students laughed; some clapped. Exactly. What do we do?
I don’t have a clear answer to that now, but what I do think I have to offer is some thoughts about what we shouldn’t do. And I want to use the deeply well-intentioned Seiple’s meditations as guide to all the errors involved in the current fashionable approach (this one by a Nobel Prize winner) to dealing with Muslim honor: respect their sense of honor; do not engage in gratuitous provocation; avoid insult. Seiple’s essay highlights brilliantly how liberal thinking literally twists itself into its opposite and creates the Moebius Strip of Cognitive Egocentrism. Prepare to have your head hurt.
By Chris Seiple
Christine Science Monitor
March 28, 2009 edition
ARLINGTON, VA. – In the course of my travels – from the Middle East to Central Asia to Southeast Asia – it has been my great privilege to meet and become friends with many devout Muslims. These friendships are defined by frank respect as we listen to each other; understand and agree on the what, why, and how of our disagreements, political and theological; and, most of all, deepen our points of commonality as a result.
I’d very much like to hear about those points of commonality, deepened by these discussions. I have difficulty understanding what “frank respect” means. We’re frank because we respect each other? Or we frankly (overtly, obviously) show respect for each other. I have difficulty, given the subsequent discussion, imagining Mr. Seiple being frank about anything.
I have learned much from my Muslim friends, foremost this: Political disagreements come and go, but genuine respect for each other, rooted in our respective faith traditions, does not.
Again, I don’t understand. Right now, I think there are some very long-term political disagreements. And one of them concerns just the topic he wants to oppose to what he considers transient political issues — the alleged tolerance and respect that Muslims [don’t] have for infidels. How many of the Muslims that Mr. Seiple has met in his world travels, who expressed their respect for his faith, really meant it?
(I’m certainly not saying “none,” but I do think that any fervent Muslim will have difficulty feeling genuine respect for non-Muslims. As far as I know, there is no category in Islam as in Judaism of the “righteous gentile.”)
And while I am willing to believe that some of his interlocutors genuinely respect Seiple’s religion and outreach, I’m also fairly confident that a number of them told him what he wanted to hear and felt contempt for his lack of conviction in his own faith. Indeed, one of the things one must ask oneself is not, “what do these interlocutors say to may face?” but “what do these interlocutors say to their fellow Muslims behind my back.
(Again, I’m not even saying that in cases where they make fun of us to their fellow Muslims they do so because they feel it; it could be just yielding to [heavy] peer pressure.)
If there is no respect, there is no relationship, merely a transactional encounter that serves no one in the long term.
This is pure “positive-sum” thinking. If one rethinks this from a zero-sum perspective (i.e., pre-modern Islam [or Christianity]), the “merely transactional encounter” becomes a vehicle for manipulating the “other” into taking a submissive posture which a) forbids him to uphold his values or crticize mine, b) compels him to let me press mine without opposition, and c) creates a long-term advantage for my side, then it unquestionably serves me “in the long run.” Seiple assumes that his interlocutors share his deep mutuality (frank respect), and that they understand that only through that will the long run win-win occur.
But what if they’re not thinking that way? What if they’re in the “I win only if you lose” game? Whatever any individual Muslim may be thinking, I suspect that if you present Seiple’s message — only through deep mutual respect for our differences and commonalities, and an acceptance of each other’s “otherness” will peace come to our sorely troubled planet — and get a candid response from the majority of Muslim leaders around the world today, you’ll get either outright laughter or profound hostility.
As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them. Obviously, we are not going to throw out all of these terms, nor should we. But we do need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.
If I understand correctly, Seiple’s now offering us a list of terms that he feels are likely to hurt efforts at “building relationships” with Muslims, and that he learned this from his “dear Muslim friends” — i.e., those he believes have a deep and frank respect for him and his own religious convictions.
1. “The Clash of Civilizations.” Invariably, this kind of discussion ends up with us as the good guy and them as the bad guy. There is no clash of civilizations, only a clash between those who are for civilization, and those who are against it. Civilization has many characteristics but two are foundational: 1) It has no place for those who encourage, invite, and/or commit the murder of innocent civilians; and 2) It is defined by institutions that protect and promote both the minority and the transparent rule of law.
This is an amazing passage… conceptually breathtaking in its disinformation. Let’s begin with the confident assertion: Invariably, this kind of discussion ends up with us as the good guy and them as the bad guy. On the contrary, for those Muslims who view this as a “clash of civilizations,” it’s a no-brainer: they’re the good guys and we’re the bad guys. They care about honor and morality, and we’re a bunch of corrupt, self-indulgent sinners.
This statement betrays how little Seiple actually empathizes with (he overflows with sympathy for) his Muslim interlocutors, and only sees things from his own perspective… which, great-souled man that he is, he will gladly renounce (i.e., the sense that his civilization is better), for the sake of mutual respect (a characteristic Western idea).
But it gets better. Seiple then sets up the opposition between those in favor of civilization and those against it, and defines civilization quite explicitly. 1) It has no place for those who encourage, invite, and/or commit the murder of innocent civilians; and 2) It is defined by institutions that protect and promote both the minority and the transparent rule of law.
Mr. Seiple apparently has no knowledge of civilizations — including European — before the latter half of the 20th century. His first condition is clearly aimed at denouncing terrorism. Of course, unless you insist that civilians are only “innocent” under certain specific situations, we have a Muslim world which is almost unanimous in its approval of killing “non” innocent Israeli civilians, and many more who approve of killing civilians — infidels and Muslims — for political ends. In addition to the “tiny minority” who actually attack civilians, there are widening gyres of Muslims who encourage and invite it.
But the second definition is even more striking and contradictory. This is a purely self-referential Western (or democratic) definition of civilization. Transparency is a modern notion, reinforced by a free press which can report without fear the transgressions of those in power (including judges). As for protecting and — especially — promoting minorities, that is a peculiarly post-WWII phenomenon, fruit of a world aghast at the Holocaust, legislating Geneva Conventions for the world, instituting the United Nations, promoting human rights around the world. No earlier civilization promoted minorities. On the contrary, they saw their authority as a license to put minorities in their place.
Islamic “civilization” (the scare-quotes are in application of Seiple’s definition) does not make the grade here. Dhimmi may mean “protected” (and Seiple may have that in mind), but anyone who knows anything about Islam knows that a) the protection was from the choice of conversion or death, b) there were other groups (pagans) who were not so “protected,” and c) that “protection” involved not promotion but systematic humiliation and subordination.
So what Seiple’s done here is a classic inversion of meaning. In defining “all” civilizations, he’s done just what he said we shouldn’t — made a Eurocentric (Occidento-centric) value judgment that “we are better” (i.e., our values are better than any other; indeed they are the very measure of civilization). But to avoid the “clash of civilizations” he’s granted “civilized” status to everyone else. “They” are civilized like “us.”
It’s more than five years old, but for many reasons, Tony Judt’s “Israel: The Alternative” is worth revisiting (and fisking) now as we reach the closing years of the aughts, and like the keffiya, the “One-state solution” is becoming increasingly fashionable on the left.
The essay received a number of sharp responses, some as eloquent as they were hard hitting. But the damage was done: another “alter-juif” — who even as he presented his bona fides as a Jew, deligitimated the Jewish state — had contributed to calling Israel’s very existence into question in the public sphere. And he made his case not with passion and invective, but with an argument that was primarily historical. I had not read the essay at the time it appeared, but had heard of it, especially from Rosenfeld’s piece on “Progressive” Jewish Thought and the New Antisemitism (p. 15f.)
A close read several years later proves a valuable exercise in writing a “Second Draft,” particularly since this piece is a kind of “historical journalism” in which Judt uses his wide familiarity with 20th century history to advise and orient those concerned with current events. What the passage of five years reveals, however, is hardly flattering to Judt. On the contrary, from his appraisal of key players like Sharon and Arafat, to his serene confidence in the European model (with which he critiques Israel’s shoddy moral record), to his sense of the strength of Israeli “fascism,” he seems to have gotten almost everything wrong. As bad as it seemed to some readers at the time, it seems the worse for five years’ wear.
Anyone who had read the first essay carefully should not be surprised at how badly Judt read the situation in 2003. Although written by an accomplished historian of precisely the period in question, the essay makes elementary errors of historical analysis and comparison that fail the standards of first-year graduate school. Indeed, Judt mangles his historical analysis so thoroughly that it raises questions about what could possibly have led him to restrict his data so tightly to Israel — in order to single her out for opprobrium — and then reach such outlandish conclusions/solutions — her dissolution. Whatever the deeper causes, it certainly illustrates how powerful a distorting influence the pull of anti-Zionism — and Anti-Americanism — was on the minds of some of the best and the brightest in the early 21st century.
As such, it’s a sad but valuable document.
[Judt in block-quote, bold; bold italics my emphasis.]
The Middle East peace process is finished. It did not die: it was killed. Mahmoud Abbas was undermined by the President of the Palestinian Authority and humiliated by the Prime Minister of Israel. His successor awaits a similar fate. Israel continues to mock its American patron, building illegal settlements in cynical disregard of the “road map.” The President of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: “It’s all Arafat’s fault.” Israelis themselves grimly await the next bomber. Palestinian Arabs, corralled into shrinking Bantustans, subsist on EU handouts. On the corpse-strewn landscape of the Fertile Crescent, Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat, and a handful of terrorists can all claim victory, and they do. Have we reached the end of the road? What is to be done?
At the dawn of the twentieth century, in the twilight of the continental empires, Europe’s subject peoples dreamed of forming “nation-states,” territorial homelands where Poles, Czechs, Serbs, Armenians, and others might live free, masters of their own fate. When the Habsburg and Romanov empires collapsed after World War I, their leaders seized the opportunity. A flurry of new states emerged; and the first thing they did was set about privileging their national, “ethnic” majority — defined by language, or religion, or antiquity, or all three — at the expense of inconvenient local minorities, who were consigned to second-class status: permanently resident strangers in their own home.
Note the emotional appeal of the last sentence. We all believe that “inconvenient local minorities” should not be consigned to second-class status, that they should not be made “permanently resident strangers in their own home.” Clearly any country that does so is “not good,” or in Judt’s moral-political universe, not like the “post-nationalist” Europeans. One would not know from this phrasing that accomplishing this feat of egalitarian treatment of native and stranger is almost unheard of in human history – the Greeks never came near; the Americans took over two centuries to get close, and the Europeans had to go through two centuries of revolution and insane millennial warfare just to begin to treat their own minorities and fellow Europeans fairly by Judt’s exacting standards.
By taking this unique accomplishment of advanced modernity — polities built on the idea of respect for others, and abandonment of the “us-them” mentality — as a global norm, Judt obscures its rarity historically (and, implicitly, cheapens the accomplishment). The overriding political axiom for most of human history, and certainly for the European and Arabian political cultures under discussion here has been “rule or be ruled.” The very issue of “minorities” only arises after the nation state has undermined the fundamental prime divider of pre-modern societies, between the ruling minority and the mass of commoners fleeced and living at subsistence. As the Mexican bandido in The Magnificent Seven, Calvera, says to Chris Adams (Yul Brenner) about the defenseless peasants he exacts tribute from, “If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”
But Judt’s not interested in discussing the political culture of the Arab world into which Zionism as a European phenomenon was inserted, but in identifying what brand of European nationalism Zionism best compares with. Rather than the Western European model of liberal or “democratic” nationalism (France, England, USA), he prefers to compare Israel to the Eastern European countries that aspired to national autonomy around the same time as Zionism did.
Judt clearly considers these Eastern European nationalisms inferior: unlike the Western democracies, they consigned their “inconvenient” minorities to second-hand status. And, although Judt does not so note in his essay, one might even argue that this failure to grant equal rights to all – the core of a civil polity – contributed significantly to the weakness of these fledgling “constitutional states” and their vulnerability to fascism and totalitarianism, which swept through Eastern Europe within decades of their founding. “Nationalism gone wrong.”
But one nationalist movement, Zionism, was frustrated in its ambitions. The dream of an appropriately sited Jewish national home in the middle of the defunct Turkish Empire had to wait upon the retreat of imperial Britain: a process that took three more decades and a second world war.
Wait. Only “one nationalist movement” was “frustrated”? What about Arab nationalism? They weren’t frustrated? The Egyptians were furious at the treatment they got at Versailles, as were the Chinese, the Kurds, and many others. Indeed, the exceptional aspect of Zionism among the many cases of post-war frustrated nationalisms, is that, within a generation of this disappointment, the Zionists alone managed to establish a democratic civil polity).
Why, then, would Judt make such a strained, ahistorical claim? The next paragraph clarifies.
And thus it was only in 1948 that a Jewish nation-state was established in formerly Ottoman Palestine. But the founders of the Jewish state had been influenced by the same concepts and categories as their fin-de-siècle contemporaries back in Warsaw, or Odessa, or Bucharest; not surprisingly, Israel’s ethno-religious self-definition, and its discrimination against internal “foreigners,” has always had more in common with, say, the practices of post-Habsburg Romania than either party might care to acknowledge.
The obituaries for this man were cloying at best, idiotic at worst. And they were everywhere. Except, of course, Nelson Ascher whose stealth obituary I reproduce below:
A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY
Indignation took hold of the whole world as soon as news transpired of the cold-blooded murder of Transylvania’s spiritual leader, Count Dracula. The militant and founder of the local anti-imperialist movement was a victim of what both human right organizations and specialists in International Law called an “extra-judicial execution”. The UK government took responsibility for the action, justifying it as a legitimate reprisal against an open enemy in a context of war. Diplomatic sources, on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that the aristocrat has been killed by members of the SAS under the command of the notorious Dr. Abraham Van Helsing.
The count, better known among his many friends as Vlad Tepes (Vlad, the Impaler) founded and has been leading for over 500 years the MLT (Movement for the Liberation of Transylvania). Though nobody disputed his popularity in the region, a popularity made obvious by the thousands of protesters who took immediately to the streets of Timisoara, Oradea, Cluj-Napoca and Tirgu Mures, his enemies insisted that he was nothing but a “vampire”, something his followers deny, claiming that “one man’s vampire is another man’s freedom fighter”.
The spiritual leader of the Transylvanians was finally found out by his killers yesterday in the crypt of his castle in Bran, 20 miles from Brasov, in the Central Carpathians. His spokesperson, Mr. Renfield, told our reporters that, cowardly caught during his morning nap while he was resting in his coffin, the defenseless old man had no chance to react against the high-tech wooden stakes with which the Americans supply abundantly the British army. He also assured us that “there are no vampires: they’re but an excuse to deprive us criminally of our lands and to justify this illegal occupation”.
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.
(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.
I had an argument last night with a friend about the US sending a delegation to the preliminary discussions for Durban II. I argued that it’s better for Obama to go, see what’s there, and walk away, than not to show up at all. He argued that this is a disastrous first step to participating. Gerald Steinberg, who knows more about this than most anyone on the planet comments on how this is a high-stakes gamble. Anne Bayevsky’s report, alas, suggests that we’re going to lose this one big time.
Yesterday in Geneva, President Obama unveiled the new look of America’s foreign policy — obsequiousness. It was Day One for his emissaries to the U.N. planning committee of the Durban II conference. This is the racist “anti-racism” bash to be held in Geneva in April. The U.S. and Israel walked out of the first go-round in Durban, South Africa in September 2001. Ever since, the U.S. government has refused to lend any credibility to the Declaration adopted after they left. That is, until yesterday.
U.S. representatives were addressing a human-rights negotiating committee with an executive consisting of a Libyan chair, an Iranian vice-chair, and a Cuban rapporteur. Russian Yuri Boychenko was presiding over Monday’s “human rights” get-together. Before them was a draft document which participants plan to adopt in finished form at the conference itself. The draft now contains mountains of offensive references to limits on free speech, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish provisions, and incendiary allegations of the victimization of Muslims at the hands of counter-terrorism racists.
Here is how the American delegates responded to a proposal they understood was incompatible with U.S. interests (“Brackets” denote withholding approval at any given moment in time.): “I hate to be the cause of unhappiness in the room . . . I have to suggest this phrase remains in brackets and I offer my sincere apologies.”
Having watched U.N. meetings for the past 25 years, I can’t remember a U.S. representative in a public session so openly obsequious, particularly in the presence of such specious human rights authorities. And yet the U.S. delegates appear happy to be there and convey the marching orders of their new commander-in-chief.
Unfortunately, while Obama’s calling the tunes, items like freedom of expression are being rearranged. On the table was a provision which “Calls on States to ensure that lawmakers discharge their responsibilities in conformity with . . . article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination . . . ” What did the American delegation have to say about that? Among other things they proposed: “add after article 4, ‘and 5(d)(viii) of the Racial Discrimination Convention.’”
Flashback to 1994. The United States Senate imposed a reservation on U.S. ratification of the Racial Discrimination Convention concerning article 4 because it restricts free speech. Article 4 aims to limit incitement to racial hatred, but is open to an interpretation in direct conflict with the First Amendment.
Obama’s delegation, however, did not object to the proposal to ensure lawmakers adhere to article 4. Instead, they suggested adding a reference to another part of the Racial Discrimination Convention that guarantees an equal right to freedom of expression regardless of race. This idea does not in any way meet the Senate’s command to ensure that the Constitution trumps the treaty in matters of free speech.
There is no escape from Durban II — at least with our vital principles intact.
On Monday, President Obama’s decision to wander into the Durban II sinkhole also raised concerns in the Jewish community. In deciding to attend the planning session, Obama had ignored the direct plea from Israel’s Foreign Minister to stay away, along with Israel and Canada. Instead, on Monday the President sent reassuring messages via phone calls from senior White House and State Department officials.
According to reports, these officials claimed “that Washington’s decision to participate in the conference was being coordinated with the Israeli government.” That would be true — if “coordination” meant announcing hours in advance that the United States intended to do the opposite of what had been requested.
Jewish leaders were also told that the U.S. presence was “an effort to change the direction of the conference.” Apparently, someone in the administration forgot to read the map. The conference objectives have already been unanimously agreed to by all participants, including the European Union. Objective number one is to “foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration” — the same one that claims Israelis are racists, in fact, the only racists U.N. member states could recall. Those directions aren’t going to be changed. On the contrary, the opening words of the Durban II document — also already accepted by consensus — read “reaffirming the Durban Declaration.” Change you can’t believe in, again.
Overall, on Day One, U.N. members were delighted by the new administration’s timidity. And they know exactly how to ensure those promises of change continue. In an entire day of a four-day meeting, they reviewed only 11 of the 140 paragraphs. The next set of meetings will be in April right before the conference itself. By the time somebody begins to suspect it might not change, it will all be over, in more ways than one.
— Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and at Touro College, New York.
There are few developments I can think of that are more catastrophic than this. Omri Ceren has a particularly astute post on this, with a challenge to Marty Peretz, whose support for Obama — and Samantha Power — included his certainty that this would not happen.
As for the involvement of Samantha Power, see here.
I’m teaching my favorite course this semester on “Honor-Shame Cultures, Middle Ages, Middle East.” In a discussion, we touched on President Obama’s interview on Al Arabiya and his offering an open hand to soften the clenched fist of the Muslim world, including an offer to meet with Ahmadinejad without conditions. When I asked them what they thought the response might be, the closest I got to an accurate estimation was, “they ignored it.”
I pointed out that, as we had been learning about cultures given to blood revenge, people have long memories, and that they keep score. In that sense, since 1979 — i.e., when Khoumeini took over — Iranians had humiliated the Americans and the West repeatedly, from the seizure of the American Embassy, to kicking the US out of Lebanon via their proxies, Hezbullah, to intimidating the Western intelligentsia with the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, to messing with the US in Iraq, again via proxies. So Iran, having been offered the hand of friendship was less likely to view this offer as a sign of magnanimity and courage and a new opening for a peaceful diplomacy, than as a sign of weakness and cowardice.
And within moments, Ahmadinejad responded precisely as a player in the honor-shame game could be expected to respond, not with magnanimity but with the aggresion one can expect from someone who smells blood: to Obama’s offer to meet without conditions — a position that many warned was an ill-advised concession — Ahmadinejad responded with a host of conditions, from further grovelling (Iran has their own list of grievances against the US), to major on-the-ground unilateral concessions.
And still more predictably, dedicated America haters chimed in — Hugo Chavez blamed Obama for not showing sufficient respect; while our own media discussed his “cool” or “ambiguous” response.
Below, Victor Davis Hanson’s analysis with comments from the honor-shame perspective.
President Barack Obama is being praised for choosing an Arabic TV network for his first formal television interview on the Dubai-based, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel. I think we can all appreciate the thinking behind such bold outreach, given that the media at home has chortled to the world that our new guy’s unusual background, in sort
A classic PCP move based on principles of integrity: be self-critical, and generous in judging the other side. They in turn, out of gratitutde for how you’ve shown them respect, will reciprocate. The Israeli progressives tried this on a massive scale during the Oslo process, including rewriting/revisioning Zionist history in the form of an apology to the Palestinians for all the damage Israelis had caused their neighbors.
Now this kind of historiography is a form of “therapeutic” history — “if I apologize, then the other side can accept my acknowledgment of the suffering I’ve caused them, and we can both move on. But therapy is a most dangerous platform on which to build a serious history, not only because it subordinates facts to a rhetorical stance, but because if you misjudge your audience(s), it can misfire. Indeed, not only has post-Zionism (predictably) provoked more hatred — “we told you so, we always knew you were to blame! — among Palestinians and other anti-Zionists, but it has seriously, dangerously, undermined Israeli self-confidence.
Obama, in a minor way, is trying the same maneuver. Let’s hope he’s got a fast learning curve. In any case, both history, and the study of honor-shame cultures suggests that this maneuver will backfire.
On the 9 pm (Jerusalem time), December 28, 2008, CNN International channel, anchor Ralitsa Vassileva challenged Tsipi Livni in an interview. Livni claimed that this attack was meant to strength the moderates on the Arab side. But Vassileva countered: “Couldn’t this backfire? Isn’t it more likely that the Arab moderates will necessarily rally around beleaguered Hamas? Isn’t that what we’re seeing around the Arab world?”
Not satisfied with Livni’s response, like a teacher who keeps calling on students to get the “right answer,” Vassileva then turns to Diana Buttu, an “independent Palestinian analyst.” Livni says this should help the moderates, but, she adds helpfully, don’t you think it will help Hamas? Buttu, who is anything but “independent,” and follows the Palestinian narrative quite crudely (it’s a “massacre, a war crime… the Israelis are telling a “complete lie… Tsipi Livni’s head is in the sand…”), needs no leading questions.
This exchange, like so many others from CNN anchors (Rosemary Church, Ralitsa Vassileva) and BBC (Peter Dobbie), reflect an interesting standard in the moral reasoning of our newsmedia, a standard that, when examined closely, reveals on the one hand, a puerile notion of morality (intention doesn’t matter) and on the other such a low set of moral expectations from the Palestinians as to almost constitute a kind of unconscious (racist?) prejudice against the Arabs. And, ironically, that serves the worst elements in the Arab world and undermines the very values each of these anchors think they uphold.
In order to understand the issues at play, I have analyzed the issue of two different cultural styles of moderation at work in this conflict. On the one hand we have a “fair-weather moderate” discourse that lasts only as long as it serves “my” side (my family, clan, people, state). When it comes time to chose between a self-critical adherence to moderate principles or a “my side right or wrong” solidarity, fair-weather moderates choose solidarity over principles of reciprocity, while committed moderates choose self-criticism and the principle of reciprocity over solidarity. These two styles align closely to what I have characterized as the difference between an “honor-shame culture” and an “integrity gult culture.” For those who wish to explore this issues further, I recommend my essay “Meditations of Moderation and Demopathy,” the final paragraphs of which are included below.
During the Oslo “Peace” Process, one could see the contrast between Israeli and Palestinian “moderates” in precisely these terms. The Israeli peace camp constantly criticized Israeli extremists, in particular, the settlers who, in their PCP conception of the conflict, were the base cause of Arab hostility. The settlers’ belligerence towards their Arab neighbors was inexcusable, culpable, worthy of public denunciation in no uncertain terms. Thus Israel abounds in groups and individuals who are once fiercely Zionist and fiercely moderate, who do not hesitate to publicize every Israeli sin that they can possibly find. As opposed to Arab moderates, they move in the remarkable direction of being even more severe on their own group rather than the hostile “other.”
The Arab peace camp and NGOs might have denounced the terror of the extremists, but they never even considered arguing that those terrorists should not dominate the political and cultural public discourse. On the contrary, the Arab moderates put far more effort into “softening” the image of their extremists in the eyes of the West than they did into fighting their extremists. Indeed, the genocidal Jihadism that drives suicide terrorists to their inhumane frenzy still dominates Palestinian TV and radio and schools on both parts of the Palestinian divide (i.e., “even” where the “moderate” Abbas “governs.” Instead, the vast majority of Palestinian “moderates,” spoke little of the self-generation of these hatreds and “explained” suicide bombing as the “understandable” rage created on the one hand by Israeli intransigence and on the other by the “hopelessness and despair” that intransigence “inevitably” instilled in the suffering hearts of the Palestinians.
Human Rights organizations are the product of integrity-guilt culture. Only when you view the “other” as equal to yourself, can you develop the notion that he or she deserves the same treatment before the law as you do, both in theory (constitutional government that guarantee such rights legally) and in practice (NGOs that try to remedy the injustices of the system). Thus Human Rights Groups in the West, from the ACLU to HRW, to B’tslem, scrupulously observe the human rights of the “other,” as the real measure of a commitment to egalitarian principles – my principles applied to all sides.
Most (all?) Israeli “human rights organizations” are genuinely moderate by my definition, dedicated to documenting Israel’s violation of the human rights of others. Indeed, they are so moderate, that they will unfairly side against their own side. The excessive predilection for this counter-intuitive direction produces what Charles Jacobs calls “the Human Rights Complex.”
Palestinian HROs, on the other hand, reflect a paper-thin moderation that has no principled adherence to any kind of reciprocity. Thus, they regularly document the violation of their own human rights by the (Israeli) “other”; but when it’s time to self-criticize, they beg off; what self-criticism one finds often appears only in the foreign language version of the website. Understandably, public self-criticism is taboo in serious honor-shame cultures: it shames those criticized. And of course, in a culture where any male who wants authority is expected, allowed, even required to shed someone else’s blood for the sake of his honor, public criticism regularly elicits violence against the critic.
Thus the classic demopathic pattern emerges – Palestinian “moderates” demand their side’s human rights, even as they defend fellow Palestinians who seek not just the systematic refusal of rights to the Israeli “other,” but even their annihilation. And of course, Israeli and Jewish dupes, eager to believe that by assuring the rights of the other, peace will come, embrace the Palestinian moderates. Mix such a near-unbeatable combination of demopathy and credulity with blood libels like Al Durah, stir with the potent cry of western radical and Islamic jihadi outrage, and voilà, the demopaths delight… Durban I, and, coming soon, Durban II.
Fortunately the picture is far more interesting than this stark and disheartening contrast. There is, for example, Bassam Eid’s Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. When throughout the Second Intifada, while other Palestinian NGOs shouted Israeli genocide to the world, he remorselessly documented the systematic abuse of Palestinian human rights by Palestinian “authorities,” noting that over 15% of Palestinian casualties during that Intifada were inflicted by Palestinians on themselves! (There is no corresponding figure on the Israeli side.) When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, he documented their brutal application of Machiavelli’s “economy of violence” in a depressing detail that should be read by every foolish pundit who talks about Hamas as a democratically elected – and therefore democratic – government.
Hamas as another link in the chain of Palestinian rejectionism, i.e., in their tendency to refuse all suggestions of compromise. This tendency, he said, is rooted in religious extremism and brings disaster upon the Palestinians.
Thus, not all Arabs think with their shoes. But these folks are always in danger of being accused of being sell outs (coconuts: brown on the outside, white on the inside), an honor-shame accusation people like Saïd make against serious intellectuals like Kanan Makiya and Fouad Ajami, and Western commentators too readily accept.
The Western acquiescence in this honor-shame demand for solidarity no matter how inexcusably Hamas behaves has reached such a consensus that news analysts have no hesitation representing it as a given. Here Alvaro de Soto, former UN envoy to the Middle East takes it as a given that the Israelis have no right to try and restrict their dealings to the moderates, whom he contemptuously refers to as “the ones who mark the x’s on the appropriate boxes…”
Rather than negotiating as if one portion of the Palestinian didn’t exist, the portion that supported Hamas in legitimate elections, the sooner it will be possible to get something serious. Because on the current path when you negotiate only with Palestinians you like and the ones you check the appropriate boxes, you won’t get anywhere.
Note that de Soto has already taken the position that Hamas — legitimately elected — has a right to the negotiating table, regardless of her stated goals, her principled acts of terror, her revolting discourse. Is this because he doesn’t know about it? Or because he is afraid to challenge it? Or because he really wants to see Israel forced to try and deal with a group that wants her destruction. In any case, he’s “objectively” a dhimmi, that is, someone subjected to Sharia law which demands public submission to Muslims.
This Western eagerness to submit to Arab honor-shame demands goes very far. It can actually have a Westerner egging on an Arab to show the kind of fraternal unity that their honorable cause demands. Here Nisha Pillai of the BBC, after having badgered Bibi Netanyahu for Israeli-caused casualties in Gaza, then challenges the Arab League spokesman (no fan of Hamas), not to moderation, but to a show of solidarity in response to Israel.
Where she has no hesitation telling Israel to play by civil rules, she has even less hesitation telling the Arabs to get their act together and fight back.
This astoundingly misplaced Western “peer-pressure” can make it difficult for Arabs to maintain “moderate” positions. Take the case of Mahmoud Abbas, who made a statement that looked a lot like that of a genuine moderate, although may well be that of a pragmatist who, like the Egyptian ruling party, happens to hate Hamas.
We want to protect Gaza, our people there, we don’t want genocide for our people. There are some who say, even if Gaza is wiped out, so be it. We reject this, this logic annot be accepted, has nothing to do with the interests of the people. We want to protect every drop of blood of our people…
Here’s a stark contrast between Abbas here and Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum who assured reporters that his organization “will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood,” and the Palestinians that Abbas refers to (presumably West Bankers) who say “even if Gaza is wiped out, so be it” (note the sweeping gesture). Now how genuine is Abbas’ moderation? When the Arab street starts screaming for Israeli blood, will he hold the line? When other Arab leaders start to abandon their silence and weigh in behind Hamas as the honor-shame imperative now demands, will he hold the line?
And note the vast contrast between how flabby Arab “moderation” and how vigorous, even extreme, Israeli moderation. In Israel there’s a whole world of intellectuals ready to say something quite close to “the other side, right or wrong,” who criticize relentlessly even when their “peers” (i.e., their own people) pressure them heavily to tone down their public criticism, especially when it’s based on dubious information. Not all the demonstrations or threats in the world could get them to rally round their own flag.
How could Arabs and Muslims help their societies if their program for progress is built upon violence?… [Hamas or Hizbullah] seek power instead of duty, money instead of benevolence, and longevity in both instead of renewal for the good of their people… Hizbullah and Hamas must be destroyed and the regimes in Damascus and Tehran must be changed for all Arabs and Farsi people to survive and prosper… Their poisonous rhetoric of violence feeding a frenzied mass of ignorant Arabs leaning on their extreme religion to honor their incapacity to compete with the West is destroying future generations of hopeful saviors of our culture and traditions… We Arabs must be the ones to stop Hamas and Hizbullah, rather than support their demonic and twisted logic of resisting development, enlightenment, and progress of the region.
Let’s return to Ralitsa Vassileva’s question to Bibi. She assumes that the vast majority of Arab moderates are fair weather. Won’t your attack backfire? Won’t it force the moderates to side with Hamas? This is a question they repeatedly ask of their Arab “analysts” (with a distinctly leading tone), which they dutifully answer: “Of course.”
What we have here is the soft racism of low expectations. Vassileva not only does not expect real moderation from the Arabs, she assumes they will rally round their people. And the people she interviews, and introduces as “independent analysts” all represent the Arab honor-shame consensus that this is Israel’s fault and all Arabs should rally together to fight her.
Here the CNN anchor questions reporter Nic Robertson about the support for Hamas as a result of this onslaught. He first summarizes the remarks of a “human rights” reporter whom he then channels without the slightest caution: Hamas gets more support every day.
After all, given Hamas’ revolting behavior, who would expect the people to rally around them other than someone who thinks they’re moral and rational idiots? To amend PT Barnum’s famous dictum, “the only way you can fool all of the people all of the time, is by knee-capping dissidents.” But rather than expose his audience to an alternative take, Robertson, along with his “Human Rights” worker, becomes the advocate of a united response: The Israeli Goliath is not going to pound this proud Palestinian David into submission.
Of course, when it comes to the Israelis, these same anchors have a radically different set of expectations. Challenging Bibi Netanyahu over when Israel will stop creating this humanitarian crisis, Nisha Pillai got the following response:
Her reponse to him was to interrupt and repeat her challenge — the international community’s great concern for innocent Palestinian civilians:
She’s missed the moral point entirely. He says, “watch out for playing the moral equivalency card” (in which case Israel loses the mathematical game because it kills more civilians than Hamas), because when you do, you basically favor people who target civilians. (In terms of this article, you basically support the anti-moderate honor-shame “unity” of Arab “resistance” to Israel, and feed Jihadi sense of entitlement the world over.) Her response resembles that of some of the less accomplished Israeli spokesmen who, when challenged, return to talking points rather than answer the question. Ironically she ends up answering Bibi by doing what he warned against: reiterating the scapegoating narrative that focuses exclusively on Israeli-caused civilian casualties.
Bibi patiently explains:
Her response? End of interview.
Even though one might be hard put to offer a different explanation, I don’t think her moral incomprehension reflects a lack of intelligence so much as an inability to even conceive of the vast gulf that separates Arab and Israeli moral culture. Politically correct insistence on moral equivalence makes such a thought not only inutterable, but unthinkable. In a sense, she cannot think this one through. Instead she takes refuge in an even-handedness that pleases no one except, perhaps, an audience that thinks this makes sense. And as a result, she makes a perfect dupe.
But given the huge global audience that these CNN and BBC anchors have, it offers a troubling prognosis for a troubled world. Here we find Western intellectuals incapable of even perceiving, much less analyzing the interests of the civil society in which they thrive, and which they endanger, precisely as Bibi described it, with their foolish moral equivalence.
Hamas Likely to Respond to Attacks That Seem to Stun West
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 28, 2008; Page A20
Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza yesterday, in retaliation for a nonstop barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas fighters, raised the prospect of an escalation of violence that could scuttle any hopes the incoming Obama administration harbored of forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
We’ll see Abramowitz’s logic in a moment. But before that, let me note that this is actually a golden opportunity for Obama to peel some Arab “moderates” away from Hamas (and by implication Hizbullah and its patron Iran), but making it clear that Israel has every right to defend itself. In particular, this makes the possibility of a peace that stands a remote chance of actually succeeding possible, since anything that included Hamas was, pace Jimmy Carter, a catastrophe in the making.
“If the casualty reports are accurate, Hamas is going to respond. And this isn’t a two- or three-day deal in which the genie is put back in the bottle,” said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author of “The Much Too Promised Land.” “This takes the already slim chance of an early, active and successful Obama engagement on Israel-Palestinian peace and lowers it to about zero.”
The idea that a) the casualty reports are accurate, and b) that only if they’re accurate would Hamas respond are both absurd contingencies. You know you’re dealing with someone in the thrall of “liberal cognitive egocentrism” when you see remarks like that. If we pass from PCP1 to PCP2, we have an interesting conflation of the casualty figures with civilian casualty figures. For the Peter Beaumont of the Guardian (who agrees with Abramowitz’s analysis), this attack should be compared with Deir Yassin and Sabra and Shatilla.
That’s doubly wrong: the Israelis killed no one at Sabra and Shatilla; and both those examples are massacres of civilians. What’s especially striking about this operation is the extraordinarily high rate of military targets and accordingly low rate of civilian, possiby under 10%. As the NYT reported about the first strikes:
The vast majority of those killed were Hamas police officers and security men, including two senior commanders, but the dead included several construction workers and at least two children in school uniforms.
This kind of toilette of course, works nicely to reinforce people like Beaumont, for whom this operation is something to be ranked with Deir Yassin. With the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Something, at last, that Israel’s foes can say looks like an atrocity.
As for taking the “already slim chance of an early, active and successful Obama engagement… to about zero,” that’s probably wrong on two counts. 1) It gives Obama a new angle with which to engage various key players (as noted above), and 2) the chances of an early Obama engagement’s success were already below zero. If anything this situation, properly handled, could actually increase the odds significantly.
Joel Fishman, an American-born and -trained historian living and thinking in Jerusalem and whom I am pleased to call a friend, has an excellent meditation on the 70th anniversary of the “Munich Agreement,” the prime example of the folly of appeasement in Western history. It is a sad tale of liberal cognitive egocentrism, moral arrogance, and, as Fishman puts it, “lack of imagination [for evil]” that drove Chamberlain not only to pursue a(n effectively) suicidal policy, but to silence anyone who disagreed with it and keep “his” public in the dark. The interesting thing is that not only are those who forget history condemned to repeat it, but especially those who refuse to learn from history… And therein lies our curious paradox: why are our leaders – even, here below, George Bush – so intent on denying the lesson Munich offers.
By Joel Fishman
FrontPageMagazine.com Friday, September 26, 2008
Photographic stills and newsreels have immortalized the moment when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich and at Heston airport triumphantly waved the signed agreement in the air. The British Prime Minister proclaimed that he had brought “Peace in our Time… Peace with Honor,” and the crowds received him as a hero because he responded to their deepest hopes.
The job of the historian is not merely to look back from a sadder and wiser time – after some 50 million people died in World War II, most of them civilians – and say, “what folly!” The historian needs to recreate that time of “innocence,” before people knew it was folly, and grasp the enthusiasm, the sense of triumph that this folly inspired at the time. Only then can we begin to grasp the conditions under which it can happen again. Note the reference to an “honorable peace” in Chamberlain’s statement
[The following is the wording of a printed statement that Neville Chamberlain waved as he stepped off the plane on 30 September, 1938 after the Munich Conference had ended the day before]:
“We, the German Führer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe.
We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe.”
[Chamberlain read the above statement in front of 10 Downing St. and said:]
“My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour… I believe it is peace for our time… Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”.
“Peace in our time… peace with honor!” Something for everyone. Curious that someone who had so little understanding of what “honor” meant in the Nazi context would declare his concessions honorable. And behind it lurks the coming of the worst war in history and the greatest disgrace imaginable for Chamberlain. As for sleeping soundly, it was almost two years to a day that the blitz began and Londoners slept underground.