Category Archives: Ressentiment

On Abuse, Donkeys, Mass Murder, and Terrorism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secular Supersessionism: Explaining the Global Left’s Hostility to Israel

This is a video of a talk I gave last April in Bloomington Indiana at a conference organized by Alvin Rosenfeld.

Rabbi Yoffie and the Proxy Honor-Killing of Israel: An Un-Jewish Tragedy

In a recent op-ed in Ha-aretz, “Rabbi” Eric Yoffie illustrated the joke that the real name of the paper is “Dibat Ha-aretz” (libel of the land, or, Ha-aretz’ libel), in a rant about recent violence in Israel. (I refuse to link to such a poisonous piece.)

(HT: Pedro Zuquette, Elder of Zion, Jeffrey Bale, Arnold Roth, Daled Amos, et al.)

The reason for Jewish terror is Torah. It is not territories and occupation that are to blame, although they are part of the picture. It is not racism or hatred of Arabs that are at fault, although they play a role. The heart of the problem is Torah, the sacred teachings of Judaism.

It’s hard to imagine a more lacerating piece of self-criticism than this, especially from someone trained in the study of the Torah. And it’s harder to imagine a statement that would warm the cockles of the souls of Jew-haters the world over. Hitler was right, as too many Arabs in this neighborhood tend to say.

He then proceeds to make two further related claims: 1) though not yet found, the killers of the Palestinian baby killed in an arson attack are surely religious Jews, inspired to their actions by their religious beliefs, and 2) they deliberately murdered that child. Although the first claim may be true, it seems a bit premature to indict an entire religious teaching on the basis of a series of unproven presumptions; and the second claim – to attribute the deliberate desire to murder an infant to that religious teaching when there is no evidence that the death of the child was premeditated rather than the unintended consequence of reckless violence – seems itself, the height of recklessness. Indeed, that most tenuous presumption of intention to murder an infant, plays a critical role in the intensity of Yoffie’s anger and indignation.

What would drive a rabbi to such hasty and vicious (self-)accusations (on behalf of his fellow Jews), and drive a newspaper to publishing them? Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome (MOS)? Self-abasement as a means of dealing with shame? Boundless hatred of those who shame him?

Richard Landes, “Antisemitism’s Fatal Attraction: The Global Progressive Left, the Jihadi Right And Israel” March 30, 2015

Richard Landes,“Antisemitism’s Fatal Attraction: The Global Progressive Left, the Jihadi Right And Israel…” from ISGAP on Vimeo.

Seminar Series:
Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective

“Antisemitism’s Fatal Attraction: The Global Progressive Left, the Jihadi Right And Israel as the 21st Century Antichrist”

Richard Landes
Department of History,
Boston University

Monday, March 30, 2015, 5:30PM
ISGAP Center, 3rd Floor

Russel, Marx, Envy, Democracy and Communism

In a previous post Sergio quoted Bertrand Russel saying “that envy is the basis of democracy?” I asked for the source, and he responded:


The quote is from his book “The conquest of happiness” (1930).

Wikipedia´s comment on “envy” is also interesting, as it says Russell also thought that envy is the basis of human unhappiness. Also they mentioned two kinds of envy, a malign and a benign one. I quote:

“Bertrand Russell said envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness.[4] It is a universal and most unfortunate aspect of human nature because not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but also wishes to inflict misfortune on others. Although envy is generally seen as something negative, Russell also believed that envy was a driving force behind the movement towards democracy and must be endured to achieve a more just social system.[5] However, psychologists have recently suggested that there may be two types of envy: malicious envy and benign envy – benign envy being proposed as a type of positive motivational force.[6][7]“

RL: Precisely the distinction that Schoeck makes. Cultures in which anyone else’s gain is “my” loss, are ones in which there is a high price for success, where magic offers the envious means to strike back, where people fear the “evil eye.” Which is why Schadenfreude is so destructive.

Now no one can be “free of envy” (save the rare saint). But you can be careful. Some people are scrupulous on this. I got a call from a friend on a train which was whizzing by the cars stuck in traffic on Route 1 going to Tel Aviv. “Is it okay to feel a little Schadenfreude when I see those stuck motorists?”

I say this about envy in my chapter on Marx in Heaven on Earth:

In an early meditation on “raw” or “crude” Communism (der rohe Communismus), by which he meant the Communism of Babeuf and Buonnaroti, Marx explained its appeal as a universalization of envy. By implication, he distanced himself from it:

Universal envy establishing itself as a power is only the disguised form in which greed re-establishes and satisfies itself in another way. The thought of every piece of private property as such is at the very least turned against richer private property as envy, and the desire to level, so that envy and the desire to level in fact constitute the essence [of the hatred of the results] of competition. Crude communism is only the fulfillment of this envy and leveling on the basis of a preconceived minimum.

This is a highly sophisticated moral discourse that cuts to the quick of the mechanisms of ressentiment parading as idealism. But for all such insight, Marx ended up stoking the very fires he here critiqued. Helmut Schoeck notes: “It is only in Marxism, the abstract and glorified concept of the proletariat, the disinherited and exploited, that a position of implacable envy is fully legitimized.”

Haiku on Arab Exports

It’s now the anniversary of my father’s stroke, and for a while there it looked like he’d checked out. The doctors didn’t help with their extremely cautious prognoses. But he’s improved consistently, and although we knew he followed conversations and “got” what was being said — mostly because he’d laugh in the right places — his articulation was limited. Today he gave me the punch line to this haiku:

    do arabs export
    more oil or hate? and
    which do people value more?

The Psychology of Zero-Sum: Selections from my current manuscript

Part of an ongoing set of posts from my upcoming book subtitled A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century. For close readers of this blog, some of this material may be familiar, but I welcome comments and suggestions. This is, after all, for publication. Footnotes not included.

The Psychology of Zero-Sum: Envy, Schadenfreude, and Mistrust

One of the most difficult aspects of honor-shame cultures for us moderns to fathom is the way in which they tend to view the world as a “limited good” and therefore all transactions and developments as a zero-sum game in which when someone else wins, I lose, and when I win, someone else must lose. While there are obviously cases in our own society where such is also the case – all competitive sports are zero-sum – there are others where the modern economy has, by making economic growth the norm, made it possible for even classic zero-sum situations – competing for a job position, for an A – not so remorselessly zero-sum. Indeed since the “positive-sum” 60s, grade inflation testifies to the strong desire to make even scholarly achievement a fully positive-sum game: everyone is “special,” everyone gets a high grade.

But in a society of scarce resources, like the Bedouins in the desert, or the Karamojong of the arid plains, the very life of the clan depends on their control of oases and pasture land. Here someone else’s gain is your loss, and the competition can get ruthless. Among the Karamajong of Africa, initiation to manhood involved killing someone from the neighboring tribe, man or woman. When the shocked Western visitor objected to killing the women, the tribesman replied: “If we don’t kill their women, they will have more children who will grow up to be warriors and defeat us.”

Zero-sum attitudes have a close relationship to envy: if someone’s success necessarily diminishes others, then any success will elicit envy, and, in many cases, mobilize forces to bring down the haughty ones. Envy, like shame, may be peculiarly human, and play a key role in our evolution. As an individual phenomenon, it is hard to track since, being an admission of inadequacy in relationship to the person envied, few people want to admit to feeling envy. As a social phenomenon – i.e. collective envy – it may play an important role in distribution of wealth by forcing those with a great deal to share. In some tribes, hunter-gatherers hide food and eat it alone at night in order not to lose the “lion’s share” to envious neighbors who demand their share.

There is a joke about a peasant who unearths a magic lamp, rubs it, and out comes a genie who offers him anything, but warns him that his neighbor will get whatever he requests twofold. His answer, “poke out one of my eyes.” Now if this were a chess move rather than a joke, you’d put two exclamation points after it. Why? Because since chess is a zero-sum game, and only the king matters, even a queen sacrifice is acceptable. Here, in one deft move, this peasant has turned a situation in which he would become half a wealthy as his neighbor (had he, say, asked for 1000 head of cattle, or 1000 acres of land) into a spectacular “win” for himself: in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king. With this dramatic queen sacrifice, he has bought his dominion at the price of his self-mutilation.

Envy is a pervasive element of the human psyche and of human societies. The issue then, is how pervasive. What do cultures do with envy – accept it? or struggle against it? The expression “crabs in the basket” refers to the way if one crab tries to escape, the others will pull him down, hence, the tendency of people in poverty to show hostility to someone who, by dint of effort, rises above the collective condition and, by implication, sheds an unflattering light on those he or she leaves behind. This is not always negative. The argument that self-help warrior tribes are egalitarian, even ‘democratic,’ comes from their strong hostility to any single person rising to a position of dominance (kingship), not in any way to our notion that every individual, including women, have equal rights to speak and vote.

The evidence suggests that cultures that take envy as an inevitable and pervasive part of their lives produce societies of “limited good,” and by contrast that cultures that resist envy, even in relatively small but significant amounts, become wealth producing nations. When envy dominates a culture, its members mobilize against success. As the saying goes, “the higher up the pole you get, the more your ass is visible.” On the contrary, when people can tolerate success by others, even rejoice in the success of others, you have conditions for economic development. One might argue that monogamy, as painful as it is for alpha males who want to (are genetically programmed to?) spread their seed, is an effort to control the terrible conflicts of envy between multiple wives, not only for their own status, but for the status of their children. Polygamy, on the other hand, gives full range to both the alpha male’s power, and to a “family life” brimming with the most ferocious competitions at every level.

Those cultures in which envy flourishes, in which hard zero-sum games dominate virtually all relationships have certain characteristics worth keeping in mind when trying to understand them.

    Blaming the other: One of the more important dimensions of honor-shame self-help justice is the negative premium it places on self-criticism. The tendency of those who have been shamed by others is to blame the other for the insult. Public self-criticism registers in all but rare cases not as courage, but as an excuse not to fight, as a sign of weakness, of cowardice. To some degree this holds for almost any culture, even allegedly modern ones. “No one in France will admit to having made a mistake,” an observer told me, a few years ago. “It means you’re weak, and it’s the beginning of the end of your political career.” Rare are the cultures in which public admission of fault redounds to the credit of the confessor. Rather, most people blame, and, in some cases, scapegoat a designated guilty victim. The “other” must be wrong in order to save face.

Be Afraid and Learn the Lessons of Eurabia: Nidra Poller nails it, alas!

I went yesterday night to a talk at a synagogue in Stoughton by Geert Wilder, the Dutch lawmaker now on trial in his homeland for “hate speech” as a result of his movie Fitna, and recently ejected from the UK by an administration cowed by the threat of 10,000 Muslims besieging Parliament if they let Wilder show his movie. No one’s problems better illustrates the pathetic condition of Europe than Wilder.

While this was a last-minute affair with announcements going on a mere days before the talk, the room was full (not just of Jews, Miss Kelley and a number of her friends, appropriately marked with ash on their foreheads were also there); and Wilder got three standing ovations. The talk will be posted on the internet shortly.

His message was: “It’s not 8:55, it’s 11:55… We are in the last stages of islamization of Europe… and it’s closer than we imagine… It could happen very quickly… the USA is losing an ally to an ideology of hatred… the European political and intellectual elites have been intimidated and are now behaving like Dhimmi.”

Wilders has run into problems because, apparently, he called for the Quran to be banned, although according to Bostom that was not so much a serious call for banning the Quran as a ploy to emphasize that if you’re going to ban texts for hate-speech then the Quran should be at the top of the list. In honor of Wilder’s struggle, I post here a thoughtful, eloquent, and hard-hitting piece by Nidra Poller on what the USA can learn from European folly.


Europe’s Woes America’s Warning
by Nidra Poller

It is difficult to imagine how European nations could find the will and the ways to counter the subversive forces they have invited upon themselves and allowed to flourish for more than three decades. The current phase of global jihad, already underway in the much vaunted decolonization process, coalesced with the seizure of power in Iran by Ayatollah Khomenei (who had been living as a pampered refugee in France). But the American reader should be wary of concluding that Europe is lost…and the United States is standing firm.

On the contrary, all of Western civilization is under fire. As promised during the campaign, Barack Hussein Obama is making a radical change in American policy. Not of course the glorious change his worshippers promised themselves, but a troubling shift toward dhimmitude. The newly elected president lost no time in pleading guilty as charged by Muslim authorities and promising to refrain from further rebellion in order to receive their benevolent indulgence.

Similar methods produce similar results. Jihad forces in Europe — and in the United States — used Israel’s Cast Lead operation in Gaza as a pretext to organize virulent, violent pro-Hamas demonstrations. Because Europe is further down the path to surrender, the enraged pro-Hamas mobs were more violent, destructive, and physically threatening here than in the United States. But in both cases they advanced their dominion. This should be recognized as authentic conquest of territory by enraged mobs bearing down on hapless victims in an ominous show of force and not, as claimed and widely accepted, citizen demonstrators exercising their right to free speech.

Absolutely. As I argued almost five years ago, one of the major results of the al Durah affair was to allow the Arab street to take root in Europe. This is just the latest stage, and it’s most worrisome. Anyone reading this as “citizen demonstrators exercising their right to free speech,” is a useful idiot.

If you can carry signs equating the Magen David with the swastika, if you can scream “Jews to the ovens” in the face of Zionists in Ft. Lauderdale Florida, if you can storm into a synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela and terrorize the congregation, if you can bully the police in England, smash up the Place de l’Opéra in Paris, burn Israeli and American flags, shout Allahu Akbar without meeting resolute opposition, it means you can keep going and ultimately fulfill those murderous promises. Do American Jews understand what was acquired by these phony demonstrations that are really paramilitary operations? Wherever those enraged mobs set foot they transformed the streets into de facto waqf territory.

Precisely. This is a war that concerns gangs and territory. We in the West are badly equipped to handle it and (hence) to recognize it (i.e., if we can’t handle a problem, don’t have a solution, then don’t identify it as a problem).

Each successive crisis is an opportunity to ratchet up Jew hatred and the concomitant assault on Western civilization, achieving, step by step, tacit acceptance of the unspeakable. Here is how it works: first, the provocation. Jihadist attacks — thousands of rockets launched against Israel, a few airplanes flown into the WTC, capture and beheading of hostages, roadside bombs, inhuman pizzeria bombers, nuclear weapons programs — finally provoke a riposte. Bingo! The Muslim wailing machine goes into action. It is immediately picked up by complicit Western media and transmitted, with a Good Journalism stamp of approval, to public opinion. Israel, the United States and anyone else who dares to fight back is accused of war crimes, peace crimes, and original sin. This justifies subsequent acts of subversion and aggression against the free world.

It is a brilliant strategy, even if it involves the sacrifice of Muslim lives in order to pull it off. The pathetic, outrageous, inconceivable aspect of it is the role played by our own media.

When the United States used its formidable military force and assumed its international responsibilities, European nations, with rare exceptions, exploited opposition to “the war in Iraq” to undermine the American superpower. This agitation was exploited in turn by jihad interests to advance the Islamization of Europe… and by ricochet to influence domestic politics in the United States as Obamamania surfed on the theme of repairing America’s battered image.

So European resentment causes them to behave in self-destructive ways (striking at the only nation that has and can save them from their folly for what would be a third time), and American insecurity (which I run into among my colleagues all the time), takes European bad faith and cowardice as a model for us to imitate. It’s pretty amazing.

An Exercise in Empathy not Sympathy: Leon de Winter gets inside the Palestinian head

Empathy is trying to figure out what other people actually think; sympathy is trying to be as nice as possible as you figure out what someone else is thinking, trying to imagine what you would be thinking if you were in his situation. The latter is a form of liberal cognitive egocentrism. I’m particularly interested in what some of our more hostile commenters think about this piece which, I think, hits the tragic nail of an honor-shame culture driven pathological by its failure to redeem its honor in Israeli blood right on the head.

The piece nicely illustrates the Palestinian reaction to the Israelis leaving Gaza: You can’t leave me; you’re still beating me.

Our Neighbor and Why We Have to Kill Him
He humiliates us by his very existence. Destroying him will give our lives meaning.

January 19, 2009 – by Leon de Winter

Our neighbor lives in the house in which our grandfather used to live. He claims he bought the first part of the house from a Turki, and later the second part from a British bank, but that doesn’t make the sale any less illegal: my family lived in that house for hundreds of years and we don’t accept the documents of sale. Now he’s living there. He is the son of monkeys and pigs.

The problem is that he’s not just brazen, he’s also strong, although he is a tiny guy.

The whole neighborhood hates him. He’s a thief and possessed by the devil. But he seems to be able to beat everyone. We tried to force him out of the house together, but it didn’t work. He has bulletproof windows, and the roof is made of inflammable material.

All we think about is him. Our own home is in ruins because all our efforts, all our money and ideas and energy are devoted solely to destroying our neighbor’s house. We’re utterly convinced that we will be perfectly happy just as soon as we’ve killed him and his house is a heap of smoking rubble. We live for one thing only: our neighbor’s demise. It’s a noble ambition for which we’re all willing to die.

Sometimes our neighbor seems to forget we exist, then we throw a couple of pebbles at his windows. If we’re lucky, there’s a window open and we toss a Molotov cocktail inside to start a nasty fire. That makes our neighbor angry, and that’s good. We don’t want him to forget us. Life means nothing to us as long as our neighbor’s living in that house. So we make sure he remembers us, even though we can’t force him out and he sometimes beats the hell out of us.

Every now and then our neighbor gets fed up with our stone-throwing — those are the best moments. Then he storms out of our grandfather’s house and smashes our kitchen or bathroom or refrigerator to pieces. By doing so he proves that it’s right that we hate him. We provoke him until he reveals his true demonic character. That’s what we live for. We can’t beat him, but there’s something satisfying about watching him kick our old, worn-out, empty refrigerator to shreds after we have tried to ransack one of his freezers — he has several, all full of food which he bought with the wealth he found in our grandfather’s house. What he does to us is much worse than our provocations, but we keep provoking him because that’s the main thing we want in life.

Our neighbor, the dog, wants us to leave him alone. We can’t. His death is our ultimate ambition in life. We live in our hovel, we grow nothing in our garden, and we leave our schoolbooks on the shelf because we dream of returning to our grandfather’s house and work solely towards our neighbor’s collapse. Nothing is allowed to distract us from that.

Our neighbor claims that when he bought the house, it was just a wooden hut on a piece of barren land that he turned into a palace. He claims he planted a fertile vegetable garden — that’s a lie. It was an estate with fertile soil and the bathrooms had gold taps; our grandfather told us so himself, we even keep the key to his house in a sacred place. If we had still been living in our grandfather’s house then we would have had all those freezers in which our neighbor keeps his food. The family of monkeys and pigs never lived there before; our neighbor’s existence is based on clever lies and forgeries.

We keep challenging him and when we’ve insulted him enough and managed to wreck some part of his house, he marches angrily into our place. We can’t stop him and we have no idea how long he’ll stay in our hovel, until one day he leaves. Then we lick our wounds in satisfaction and survey in intense pleasure all the destruction he left behind, and we show it to the world. Our scars prove to us and to the world that our cause is just. We know he doesn’t harm us when we leave him alone, but we want him to harm us. If he wouldn’t, the world would think he is just an ordinary guy. Which he isn’t. That’s why we provoke him. Without him harming us, we wouldn’t exist.

We want to kill him, but we don’t have the right weapons. He has the means to kill us all, but he doesn’t, the coward. If we had the weaponry he has, we would have killed him long ago. And the fact that he doesn’t kill us, although he could, is a sign of his unbearable arrogance.

Some, who don’t live in our neighborhood and who don’t know how things work around here, occasionally ask us, “Why do you keep provoking him when you know that he’ll hit back so ferociously?”

This question proves they are ignorant about our neighborhood. We do it because that’s what our life is about. Our neighbor, who’s a murderer of prophets, humiliates us just because he is there. That’s why we can’t think about anything else. Our grandfather’s honor is worth risking our own lives and those of our children and grandchildren. We have no future as long as our neighbor lives in peace and plenty. None of us in the neighborhood can build as long as his house remains standing.

Strangers sometimes try to persuade us that we ought to build a viable house on our own lot. But nothing is viable beside our neighbor’s stolen property. He is the burning focus of our existence. He is rich, so we are poor. He is powerful, so we are weak. He has to disappear.

A little further along in our neighborhood we have a friend who supplies us secretly with stones and Molotov cocktails. He’s working on a big bomb that will reduce our neighbor to a miserable pile of atoms in a fraction of a second. That bomb will kill us too — that hellish thought is almost erotic. Our neighbor will burn, and we will as well, but one thing is certain: we won’t feel inferior anymore; at last we’ll have beaten him, in death — which we don’t fear, but he does.

The neighborhood will be completely gone. And that’s how it should be. Death will free us of the son of monkeys and pigs, and of our infuriating obsession with him.

Let’s not say this is the case for certain. But what if it is? What if this, rather than all the generous sympathetic projection that so moves the hearts of Western sympathizers actually animates the Palestinian cause? What then…?

Appeasement Yesterday and Today: Fishman reflects on the 70th anniversary of Munich

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.

Seventy Years Since the Munich Agreement

By Joel Fishman 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.

A Millennial critique of Rene Girard’s thesis on scapegoating

N.B.: The following is an essay I wrote several years ago while working on early Christian millennialism. It’s a critique of René Girard’s work on the subject, in particular, the ideas he delineated in a book with the modest title of Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World. I’m posting it here partly because Yaakov of Breath of the Beast is working through some of Girard’s ideas and we have come to similar critiques of this seminal thinker’s provocative work. I also welcome any suggestions or criticisms from readers, even though this is not in the main stream of this blog’s focus. The essay is neither polished, nor fully footnoted; consider it a draft.

According to Girard, the New Testament (NT) stands apart from all previous thinking on sacrifice, with the partial exception of Judaism, because, rather than declare the sacrificial victim guilty, the victim is the very image of purity and innocence. Thus a mythical implosion occurs. This unjust sacrifice of the innocent extinguishes the self-regenerating mentality of sacrificing the guilty, thus putting an end to scapegoating. The notion has problems with handling Jewish materials, something especially evident in the work of Hamerton-Kelly, whose anti-Judaic tendencies flourish under his apologetic pen.

What strikes the millennial scholar here, however, is the depiction of Jesus as innocent. Granted Girard is working with the “myth” of Jesus, – indeed, Girard regularly and, I think, revealingly, refers to not to Jesus but to Christ.1 But the myth is self-consciously embedded in a historical discourse about millennial hopes and apocalyptic expectations which – surely much to amazement of all sides at the time were they to know it but not retrospectively to Girard – continues to flourish to this very day.

From the millennial, that is from the historical rather than mythical point of view, Jesus is not “innocent.” On the contrary, he was wrong about the imminence of the apocalypse and, whatever his intentions, dangerous to those who brought their demotic millennial hopes to the surface in a prime divider society profoundly hostile to such sentiments, in the case of Jesus, during the pax romana, whose peace the Romans nailed down, literally, with crucifixion. The kingdom was not at hand, and he got crucified for simple and predictable reasons by Romans who had no doubt of his guilt. There may well have been Jewish aristocrats who shared this perspective, and even invoked the “safety of the people” (given Roman rule), for their conservative, prime-divider politics. The disciples, those who developed the myth as well as those who wrote it down, needed above all to save their faith in their own salvation. And they chose to do so by denying Jesus’ error and in so doing, denying their own continuing and continuously fruitful error of anticipating the end at any moment.

The sacrificial victim in this process of denial was Judaism, especially Pharisaic (later rabbinic) Judaism. This sacrificial Judaism was judged guilty by Christians for the mere fact that they did not accept the divine, blameless and faultless messiah of the Christians. Thus, far from putting an end to scapegoating, NT narratives actually imbedded a new kind of scapegoating into its very history and salvific myth. For Christians, Christ, Jesus sacralized, was innocent, the Jews guilty of the double crime of killing the man and denying the God.

Thus it cannot be “merely” the Saducees who are guilty of killing Jesus, it must be the Pharisees who are responsible for killing Christ. For the sake of saving themselves from the rocky shores of cognitive dissonance, Christians consigned their religious parent to perpetual guilt, and, as we shall see, when Christians gained power, to oppression, prison and death. Girard, despite his usual acuity in such matters, does not perceive any of this disguised sacrificial activity in the text, partly because it is crucial to his own reading of the Crucifixion, partly because his entire effort aims at showing that this text presents the end of sacrificial constructions. Thus he repeatedly refers to and analyzes the “Gospel” and the “text” as if it only needed direct interpretation, not deconstruction for its silent and disguised sacrificial activity.

Al Durah Affair and its Discontents: Karsenty vs. the AJC

Washing dirty laundry in public is always a good means to promote Schadenfreude among those who do not like you. Here Philippe Karsenty and the AJC go at each other publicly. Comment at the end of the article.

Jun 12, 2008 10:33 | Updated Jun 12, 2008 10:36
French media critic in bitter spat with US Jewish C’tee

In a bitter public dispute this week, a French media watchdog who recently won a landmark appeal against a French television station over their footage of the shooting death of a Palestinian boy has blasted members of a major American Jewish organization for their “destructive” role in the legal case.

The nasty three-year-old spat between Philippe Karsenty and the New York-based American Jewish Committee burst out in the open just a week after a Paris appeals court ruled in favor of Karsenty in the high-profile libel case claiming that French 2 footage of the 2000 shooting death of Mohammed al-Dura was faked.

“There is one organization, the American Jewish Committee, that should have been a natural ally,” Karsenty wrote in a June 8 letter posted on his Web site. “Instead it functioned as an obstacle to all my efforts.”

Karsenty singled out the AJC’s Paris Director, Valerie Hoffenberg, who has a close rapport with the French establishment, for the harshest criticism. He accused her of “working actively against his efforts to reveal the truth,” and blocking his access to French government officials so as not to jeopardize her relationship with the establishment.

“The most serious damage to our cause was done by certain members of the American Jewish Committee, notably the AJC’s representative in Paris,” he wrote in a damning May 30 letter circulated in e-mails and on the Internet.

Karsenty said “her role was crucial and destructive.”

Facing Failure: Avi Issacharoff interviews the former Head of the Al Aqsa Brigades

Avi Issacharoff has a fascinating interview with Zakariya Zubeidi about the failure of the Intifada. What Avi can’t do, and I can, is point out that these reflections come from someone who is bitter about the failure of the Intifada not because it was a mistake, but because it was incompetently carried out. Like the Palestinians bitter about the Naqbas of 1948 and 1967, they’re not ready to rethink fundamentally, just to bitch about Arab leadership’s incompetence and corruption. So while the interview is revealing to those of us in the West who want to know about what went on inside the Palestinian leadership during the “spontaneous” eruption of violence in response to Sharon’s visit to the Haram al Sharif (Temple Mount), it offers little in the way of openings for a real solution.

zakaria zubeidi
Former Al-Aqsa commander Zakariya Zubeidi

Last update – 10:47 04/04/2008
‘Marching toward total ruin’
By Avi Issacharoff

JENIN – “When you see Zakariya, maybe you’ll be surprised, but he looks like just any other Palestinian man now. Without armed men, without a weapon, just an ordinary guy,” related an acquaintance of Zakariya Zubeidi, until not long ago the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in Jenin.

This is a subtle way of saying, here’s a guy who used to walk with swagger, a weapons-bearer with wise guys who could intimidate anyone he wanted (i.e., fellow Palestinians).

Though Zubeidi is no longer hiding from the Israel Defense Forces, for a number of hours the people at the theater where he works tried to find him. Zubeidi didn’t answer his mobile phone even when the commander of the Palestinian security forces in Jenin, Suleiman Umran, called him. In the end, a woman who works at the theater explained that he usually sleeps late and maybe that’s what he was doing.

In the past, Zubeidi used to show up briefly at his house, in the Jenin refugee camp, together with his wanted colleagues, before disappearing for fear that Israelis would ambush him. The only reminder of those days are the framed pictures of the “martyrs” killed recently in the camp, and the huge poster of Saddam Hussein posted in one of the alleys leading to Zubeidi’s home. The door is opened by his son Mohammed, who immediately summons his father. He comes down in sandals and a black T-shirt, and promises that in a few minutes he will come to the theater offices. Zubeidi arrives in his officer’s “battle” jacket and mountaineering shoes, but without a weapon and without his erstwhile colleagues from the brigades.

What are you doing these days?

Zubeidi: “Nothing special. We’ve shut down the Al-Aqsa brigades and I haven’t yet received a full pardon from Israel. I’m at home a bit, at the theater a bit.”

Why haven’t you received a pardon?

“They lied to us, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The PA promised us that after we spent three months in PA facilities and if we didn’t get involved in actions, we would receive a pardon. The three months ended and nothing happened. We still need to sleep at the headquarters of the security organizations. They promised us jobs and they haven’t materialized either. Some of us are getting a salary of NIS 1,050 a month. What can you do with that? Buy Bamba for your children? They lied to everyone, they made a distinction between those who were really in the Al-Aqsa Brigades, whom they screwed, and groups that called themselves by that name, but in fact were working on behalf of the PA.”

I wonder what he expected in the way of “jobs.” On the payroll? Or something productive? In any case he clearly has a sense of entitlement — so what if I engaged in terrorist activity, they owe me.

So why have you stopped?

“In part because of the conflict between Fatah and Hamas. Look, it’s perfectly clear to me that we won’t be able to defeat Israel. My aim was for us, by means of the ‘resistance’ [code for terror attacks], to get a message out to the world. Back in Abu Amar’s day [the nom de guerre of Yasser Arafat], we had a plan, there was a strategy, and we would carry his orders.”

And what was this “message to the world”? That the Palestinian resistance would fight to the last man? That the Israelis are vicious, genocidal killers? That we poor, suffering Palestinians are brave and need the world to help us get our “legitimate rights?” It’s interesting that the terror attacks were seen primarily as a way of “getting the message to the world” rather than to the Israelis. And of course, initially, that worked. People were demonstrating in favor of these suicide terror attacks in European cities; models wore nothing but suicide bomb belts; Palestinians were the cause du jour. And accordingly Arafat was elated.

In effect, are you saying what Amos Gilad and intelligence always said, that Arafat planned everything?

“Right. Everything that was done in the intifada was done according to Arafat’s instructions, but he didn’t need to tell us the things explicitly. We understood his message.”

This remark is worth pondering on several levels.

Marash quits English al Jazeera over the (British) anti-Americanism

The Herald Tribune has an article on David Marash’s departure from English Al-Jazeera. His reason for leaving is most interesting.

Note that when he took the job, he assured everyone that Al Jazeera was a fine and reputable news organization:

Calling Al Jazeera “a thoroughly respectable news organization,” Marash, who will co-anchor the news from the network’s Washington studio, said the new show aimed to “win the high end. We want to give the most sophisticated, most nuanced and most global view of the day’s events.”


Anchor quits Al-Jazeera, cites anti-American tone

NEW YORK: Former “Nightline” reporter Dave Marash has quit Al-Jazeera English, saying Thursday his exit was due in part to an anti-American bias at a network that is little seen in this country.

Marash said he felt that attitude more from British administrators than Arabs at the Qatar-based network.

Marash was the highest-profile American TV personality hired when the English language affiliate to Al-Jazeera was started two years ago in an attempt to compete with CNN and the BBC. He said there was a “reflexive adversarial editorial stance” against Americans at Al-Jazeera English.

“Given the global feelings about the Bush administration, it’s not surprising,” Marash said.

But he found it “became so stereotypical, so reflexive” that he got angry.

The English working for an Arab news outlet, more anti-American that the Arabs? I am shocked. This is another fine illustrations of the kind of politics of resentment that have produced an “American Derangement Syndrome” that, along with its mate, Israel Derangement Syndrome, drive so much self-destructive European coverage.

Imagine… these British journalists who feed Arab hatred of the USA… they probably think the Arabs respect and like them for this. More likely, like the Algerians who cheered when France vetoed American efforts to fight Iraq, they think, “these people are weak; they side with their enemies and attack their friends.” And they’d be right to think that.

The Prophetic Stream, Conspiracy Theory and Paranoia: What’s Wrong with African-American Preaching

There’s a brouhaha about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr. which deserves close consideration. I have written a good deal about self-criticism, and its origins in the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Bible. Recently I have been hearing a consistent invocation of this “prophetic tradition” among those explaining (if not justifying and admiring) Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr.’s preaching style.

Reverend Joseph Lowery explained on CNN that Wright’s sermons were only “divisive” in the sense that they distinguished between people who were in this prophtetic tradition and those who weren’t “in the community of faith” defined by that tradition.

Well, they certainly separate us from the people who are not from the community of faith and who do not subscribe to prophetic preaching. There are hundreds and hundreds of preachers in black churches across this country who may not use identical language, but they have a common theology with Jeremiah Wright. They’re in the prophetic stream.

The prophets of old, the Jeremiahs, the Amos, and they spoke angrily and sometimes with cruel phrases and words, to the rulers and kings of their day. That’s who they were talking to on behalf of the poor and oppressed of their day.

The black church has been a place where black people take their sorrow, their travail and their longing for hope and for deliverance. They expect the preacher and thank the preacher and say, “Amen, hallelujah,” to the preacher, who takes their burden to the Lord. And then they join in a movement to help bring new order and a new day into being. That’s prophetic preaching, and it’s traditionally the black church.

Similar remarks from Randall Bailey:

I often wonder if those who criticize these homiletical strategies of calling the nation to judgment do not read the 8th to 7th C. BCE prophets, such as Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. They delivered judgment speeches against the nations of Israel and Judah and their rulers because of the ways in which they oppressed the poor, perverted justice, and ignored the moral and ethical imperatives of the religion.

As someone who has read the prophetic texts, and thought a good deal about them in the context of the tradition of self-criticism, I think these characterizations of the “prophetic stream” represent a profound misunderstanding. The prophets are ferocious in their criticism of their own people; they have relatively little to say about the real oppressive forces in the world of their day in the 8-7th centuries BCE. When the people of Israel get smashed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the prophets don’t go into a rant about how evil these vicious imperialists are; they invoke them as God’s agents in punishing Israel for their sins. When, under more normative conditions, when they chastize rulers and aristocracy for their treatment of the poor, they do so again with vigorous, even violent rhetoric, but they do so in the hopes of changing their people. The prophets, however rough they may be, love the people they chastize, and rebuke them for the sake of their transformation.

Historically, this “prophetic turn” represents something exceptional among ancient peoples, and one of the reasons that the Jews have survived these defeats, while the other nations, once conquered, decimated, sent into exile, tended to disappear. For these rebukes of the prophets aimed at reminding the elites that they had obligations to the poor; that the people of Israel constituted the unit, and that rulers ruled “for the people.” As a result, Jewish communities in the ancient and medieval world had an exceptionally high degree of internal cohesion that permitted them to survive under the most adverse conditions. Among elites in various civilizations — rulers, aristocrats, wealthy — Israelite and Jewish elites have the most highly developed sense of obligation to their commoners. Most nations, once conquered, saw their elites abandon them and join the lower echelons of the imperial administration that now held power. As Abraham Heschel pointed out, the prophets were among the few who denounced “the idolatry of power” with such fervor.

But the core reason for their success comes from the profound attachment that the prophets felt for their people. There is no trace of hatred in their clean anger, no desire to see failure and punishment, no joy in the downfall of the sinners. Indeed, their commitment to the very people they rebuked, in some cases, so savagely, meant that, often enough, those rebuked took them seriously. The very fact that these prophetic denunciations became canonized as sacred scripture — that we hear the shepherd Amos’ version of the tale, not that of the royal priest Amatzia — tells us that not only the prophets, but the leaders of the people shared these values and accepted the prophetic rebukes.

All this is very far from what is here invoked as “Black Liberation Theology” or the “prophetic stream” of African-American churches. There, although Reverend Wright repeatedly speaks about “we,” he really means the white ruling class who, in his mind, deliberately conspire to destroy, even wipe out the blacks, the innocent victims of that malevolence.

Some commentators have complained that Wright’s sermons have been cherry-picked — snippets out of context — for their shock value, and that a longer exposure to his thought gives a significantly different impression. Here is a larger segment of the post-9-11 sermon that Wright gave, so one can get a sense of the context.

The people who posted this did so under the title “FOX Lies!! Barack Obama Pastor Wright”. They apparently think that this longer piece makes the snippet that played — as far as I know it was ABC, not FOX who broke this story — negates the meaning of the snippet. It certainly does show Reverend Wright calling 9-11 “unspeakable” and showing empathy at the tragedy of people — “black people” — throwing themselves out of the burning building. And this may or may not mitigate the appalling expressions of triumphalism — even glee — that Reverend Wright expresses to the delight of the audience, as he hits his “chickens coming home to roost” theme, although it hardly makes a “lie” of the snippet.

Let’s examine some of this larger sermon.

The Sweet taste of Moral Schadenfreude: Archbishop of Canterbury Denounces US to Muslim Journal

[Post by Lazar and Richard; hat tip: Roger Simon, who brings it as further proof that Christopher Hitchens was right about religion.]

An interesting article in the London Times by Abul Taher discusses an interview with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Emel, a British Muslim lifestyle magazine. (Actually the article is itself a fairly editorial write-up of the interview. I wonder how Archbishop Williams feels about it.)

Given that the Times’ article makes Williams’ even more anti-American than (his own words in) the interview, it raises an interesting question we will address at the end of this post. Is the author doing a hatchet job on the Archbishop by making him sound even more ludicrously anti-American than he really was? Or is he trying to spell out for his readership the anti-American lessons that the Archbishop was too subtle to articulate as clearly as the “reporter” wanted?

Archbishop Williams already has a history of anti-American behavior in his own right, and consistently urges the West to understand terrorists, not demonize them. As chaplain of Clare College, Cambridge, Williams was active in anti-nuclear protests at U.S. bases. After 9/11, he said that terrorists can have “serious moral goals“, and that they should not be labeled “evil“. Yet he had no problem calling the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq “immoral”.

In 2002, Dr. Peter Mullen wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal describing the Most Rev. Williams as

    an old-fashioned class warrior, a typical bien-pensant despiser of Western capitalism and the way of life that goes with it. Perhaps this would not matter much in ordinary times, but when the future of Western civilization itself is under threat, such posturing is suicidal. What havoc this man might wreak from the throne of Canterbury.

US is ‘worst’ imperialist: Archbishop
The Sunday Times
November 25, 2007

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the United States wields its power in a way that is worse than Britain during its imperial heyday.

“Imperial heyday” is Taher’s term. Williams actually did not make this point in his article, although he could fairly be construed to have made it. After all, this kind of thinking is so common in Europe today — the Anti-Zionist variant holds that Israeli imperialism is far worse than, say, French imperialism in Algeria — that the Archbishop could well have made it without any awareness of how facetious it is, how, in a matter of days, British imperial troops and policies killed more “natives” — men, women and children, than the number killed by Americans in any of their recent wars, or the Israelis in the last century.

Michael N: Reflections on Europe’s Moral Dilemma

In response to a long exchange of thoughts commenting on two posts, one on the Oxford Union’s bizarre notion of serious debate, and one on the issues raised by that post by Sophia, Michael N. wrote the following set of reflections which I think worthy of a post all to itself on the problem of Europeans and moral envy.

It began with a brief remark by MN on the hostility of the Europeans to the USA:

I think that if America DID act more like a traditional empire-building superpower, we might even resent it less here; it would not then compare so favourably with our own record!

That caught my eye since one of the things I think is going on right now about Zionism is that with moral perfectionists like Michael Lerner and the extraordinary self-restraint and self-sacrifice exercised by the IDF (e.g., at Jenin), the Israelis are driving people crazy with their moral standards so far in excess of that of their neighbors. Therefore, one of the reasons why Israel gets demonized is to cut it down to size (i.e., the Jenin “Massacre”). So I responded by asking MN to elaborate:

rl: that’s an extremely interesting final remark. there’s no doubt in my mind that if israel were more brutal, there would be less verbal and physical aggression against them. they just don’t have it in them, and then they get attacked for being brutal.

your comment suggests that the real problem is moral envy, a particularly pernicious form of envy that thrives on some appalling moral “thinking” that includes the kind of moral hysteria we hear from people for whom abu ghraib is far worse then saddam’s (or any other arabs’) prisons, the crimes of israel far worse than, say, darfur.

do you really think this is the operative factor?

because if so, then there’s an inverse relationship between how badly (or well) the usa (and israel) behave, and how roundly the europeans (and the “left”) denounce them.

This is Michael N.’s response, which I think takes the discussion in very interesting directions:

Europe, America, and moral envy. The situation is so multi-layered it’s almost impossible to say that moral envy represents the primary operative factor.

It is perhaps something else closely related; a hatred of obligations. Europe owes America, and it knows it owes America. It is therefore rushing as quickly as it can to forget what and why it owes America.

Or, as I learned from trying to teach my kids, it’s almost as hard to say, “Thank you,” as it is to say, “i’m sorry.” Both involve the implication of obligation.

Sophia on Oxford Union Post

As requested by Anat, here is Sophia’s comment to my post on the Oxford Untion, turned into a post. Her comments in bold, mine in italics.

Why isn’t this just the same old Europe, with its apparently endless and irrational problem with Jews? It’s wearing a new face now, is all.

As the French say, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Not only do we have a Europe reveling in Judeophobia, but one that seems determined to destroy its civilization. Apparently WWI and II (or, the “Thirty Years’ War”) were not enough to figure out that Europeans, for all their vaunted “maturity” can’t take care of themselves. Only this time, I doubt the US will come to their aid. At least the last two times they let war-mongering and fascism take over, they didn’t accompany their folly with furious anti-Americanism.

And, how many problems in the Middle East are directly related to antisemitic European propaganda that began filtering into the East in 1920 at the latest?

Don’t forget the 1840 Damascus blood libel. But don’t get carried away in this vein. The Middle East has been a deeply troubled region long before the Jews arrived: Hama rules were not invented recently.

Mein Kampf is still a best seller there and so are “The Protocols.” That they’ve found a willing audience there is tragic but they did originate in Europe; how much of the strife between Arabs and Jews has been incited by interested parties in the West, parties who realize a calm, united Middle East might actually become a rich and powerful international group and therefore a threat?

I actually don’t think the Europeans fear that. It wouldn’t occur to them. (I may be wrong.) I think the European mischief in the Middle East is largely the product of the appeal of Arabs as proxy anti-Semites in a post-Holocaust world where it’s not politically correct for Europeans to express those sentiments openly. Ironically, the Palestinians constantly complain that they’ve been forced to pay for the Europeans’ sins of the Holocaust, when they are primarily the victims of their (willing) seduction into the role of the carriers of the deadly virus of anti-Semitism. Like the Spanish in the 16th century, they kicked out their Jews, and the wealth they have has washed through their societies leaving the people impoverished and the elites immeasurably corrupt.

On the other hand, that may be too kind. As Andrew Boston argues cogently and with much material to support his case (contra Bernard Lewis), Islamic anti-Semitism has its own autonomous sources.

And how much of the conflict in the Middle East is driven by industrialist/nationalist desire to keep oil prices high? I’d bet a lot; Gary Kasparov, who is running against Putin in Russia, makes the same point in relation to Putin’s otherwise absurd defense of the indefensible – Ahmadijenad. Similarly the Soviets sought a Middle Eastern partner in Egypt, Libya, Syria and PLO and the people there got trapped in the middle. One of the biggest assets Russia has are its oil resources; combine that with a huge footprint in the Middle East and Central Asia and the global balance of power shifts dramatically; it’s the Great Game in Action, 2007 version, and Israel, with its futuristic, multicultural voice and independence, and its possibility of leading a modern Middle East, is obviously a challenge. Middle Eastern warfare and conflict, though, maintains the status quo.

It’s maddening, in the fact of looming environmental disaster, that this should be so. One of the few countries in the world that has shown what can be done in a difficult environment is Israel; it’s cutting edge – yet one British politician blamed Israel for deflecting attention from global warming due to “the occupation!”

What’s the link to this? What a great case of… I don’t think we have a word yet for this kind of idiocy. First you (the Brits, the French, the “left,” etc) become obsessed with “the occupation” to the point where you can’t even see the tragedies that are really happening, and then you blame Israel for distracting you.

And, have any of you read some of the English intellectuals from the 1930’s? Even brilliant artists like Lawrence Durrell were viciously antisemitic. It was usual; it was the voice of the British upper classes and her intelligentsia – when he and Henry Miller couldn’t find a publisher for their work, though, they turned to a Jew – whom they continued to denigrate for his identity even as he put them on the international map.

Sartre did the same thing with his Jewish admirers (and lovers) when the Nazis came. It’s similar to the way Europeans treat the US today.

The role of the British in the Middle East, the Palestine Mandate and during the 1947-1948 wars and the Wars of Attrition, up until the Suez Crisis, is abominable and little understood. We in America think of Britain in glowing, idealistic and almost patriotic terms but a closer reading of modern history, certainly vis a vis “The Great Game” in Central Asia, even WWI in Turkey and definitely in relation to the Jews both in the Yishuv and those trying to flee the Holocaust, and Europe in the wake of the Holocaust, will show a different face – the face of the Britain our national forefathers fought to escape.

So the English, like the French with their behavior in Algeria and Indochina, have much to repent for, indeed good reason to be highly self-critical of their own culture. And yet their way of handling that guilt is to a) welcome Muslims to prove they’re no longer the racist, imperialists they once were, and b) dump on Israel for reminding them of their colonial past. Will there be historians in the mid-twentieth century to wonder at this folly, or merely triumphant Islamists presiding over a ruined world?

Britain didn’t even recognize Eretz Israel for nine months, drew the disastrous borders of the modern M.E. including the catastrophically divided Iraq, gave “Jordan” to a Hashemite prince and, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, recognized and endorsed the annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem by Jordan in the wake of the war with Israel. This of course included the complete and deliberate expulsion of the Jewish people from those regions as it extinguished the hopes of Palestinian nationalists – and also placed the holiest sites in Jewish history beyond even the reach even of worshippers.

It’s hard to be a Chosen People wannabe when the real Chosen People are still around.

Risk-Free Dissent: The Psychology of Dhimmi Aggression

Mark Steyn has an excellent piece on the issue of “free speech/academic freedom” and the Ahmadinejad visit to Columbia. In it he raises the issue of “risk-free dissent” which points out the critical inconsistencies of leftist indignation: on the one hand there is no limit to the verbal violence, and far too few limits to the physical violence that “progressives” will indulge in when the target won’t strike back. On the other hand, when we look at the targets that these same progressives take great pains not to offend and refuse to attack, we find that often enough they represent groups who might well make any criticism a costly endeavor.

Risk-free dissent the default mode of our culture

By Mark Steyn

“I’m proud of my university today,” Stina Reksten, a 28-year-old Columbia graduate student from Norway, told the New York Times. “I don’t want to confuse the very dire human rights situation in Iran with the issue here, which is freedom of speech. This is about academic freedom.”

Isn’t it always? But enough about Iran, let’s talk about me! The same university that shouted down an American anti-illegal-immigration activist and the same university culture that just deemed former Harvard honcho Larry Summers too misogynist to be permitted on campus is now congratulating itself over its commitment to “academic freedom.” True, renowned Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo is not happy. “They can have any fascist they want there,” said professor Zimbardo, “but this seems egregious.” But, hey, don’t worry: He was protesting not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presence at Columbia but Donald Rumsfeld’s presence at the Hoover Institution.

The use of “fascist” as an epithet here is a key sign of the terminological disorder of the left. When Bush used the expression Islamofascism, progressives — the very people who called anyone fascist in the 60s who so much as looked at them cross-eyed — all of a sudden discovered the historically specific meaning of fascism. One must not call Islamists fascists.

Reflections on the French: Kline Responds to my fisking

In response to my fisking, Brett Kline has written an interesting comment which he kindly has permitted me to turn into a post.

Dear Mr. Landes:
Thank you for taking the time to criticize my paper for JTA. First, you should have posted the updated paper, which includes the Paris judge’s order (request or order?) that France 2 furnish the raw footage for screening.

I still can’t find this.

Then, several points, not necessarily in order of importance. This whole affair has left the arena of Israel-Palestine politics, and has a life of its own as a French media scandal, that probably should be taught in journalism school as an example of manipulation. However, it will never be taught in French school, because the French sincerely do not give a damn about this.
Displaying any emotion in an intellectual debate is a sign of weakness in France. The facts or possible facts do not matter here for the French; what matters is the personalities involved.

For those who read my ramblings about honor-shame culture, this is a signature description of an honor-shame culture. As Henry Higgins put it: “The French don’t really care what they say, actually, just so long as they pronounce it correctly.” Makes the Dreyfus affair, where people passionately cared about what they and others said, even more of a mystery. And of course, it raises the question, can the French rise to occasion this time? If they don’t the consequences are a lot worse than merely condemning an innocent man to Devil’s Island. Their society is at stake.

As for the comment on how it should be in the curriculum of Journalism schools… I not only agree, I’ll go further and say that if it is not, then the future of journalism and a free society will be in jeopardy.

Enderlin is respected as a journalist, so whatever he says is true. Karsenty is seen, for the few who bother to look, as a fringe case, so whatever he says cannot be taken seriously. That is French [honor-shame – rl] logic.

Karsenty did tell me that he believes Enderlin was a part of the staging with the cameraman. That is where I disagree with him, because I respect Enderlin’s work in Israel and Palestine. I think Enderlin was taken for a ride, along with France 2, but the public TV powerhouse will never ever admit that.

How can you think Enderlin ran staged footage of such explosive nature, and still respect his work? Doesn’t this give you pause about the rest of his work? My impression is that he’s “gone over,” not so much to the Palestinian side, but to the Palestinian style. (Upcoming post on that shortly.)

As for Karsenty’s opinion of Enderlin, he tells me he never said anything of the sort, and he has never taken that position in my conversations with him. He’s also smart enough not to say it publicly even if he believes it (many do: Enderlin is not known as “scoop Enderlin” for nothing). And certainly, in the article that got him in trouble, Philippe’s quite explicit that he thinks Enderlin “se trompe.”