Category Archives: right-left

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

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

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

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

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

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

What If…?

What If…?

What if “right-wing” Israel is right about why the peace process has failed?

What if negotiations repeatedly failed because the Palestinians used every occasion to demand concessions from Israel and broke them off rather than reciprocate?

What if, when Palestinians say “the Occupation,” they mean all Israel?

Does it make sense to use language like, “the whole world thinks the occupation is the problem”? and wring one’s hands over the (imagined) loss of viability of the (imagined) two-state solution?

And then attack us?

What if the reason that the peace process has failed for so long is because Westerners (including Israel) think positive-sum, and Palestinian Arabs play hard zero-sum?

They want it all, and so do their jihadi brethren the world over – infidels must be dhimmi, starting with Israel.

What if Israel is fighting a common enemy with you liberals and progressives, Caliphaters who want to subject or convert infidels the world over?

Why would you side with your enemy against us?

What if your jihadis are watching and studying the deeds of our jihadis, to turn them against you?

Does it make sense for you to cheer them on when they’re hitting us, and then wonder why they’ve hit you?

Does it make any sense to desire a two-state solution, passionately, and, when one side acts in bad faith, you take his side against the side that did try, did sacrifice, and lost big in the failed deal(s)?

Zionist propaganda, you say? Perhaps. And you’ll find no lack of Jews and Israelis eager to confirm your disdain. But given that most of your information replicates Palestinian propaganda, that should hardly disqualify it as a source.

What if it’s not just a “right-wing” point of view as you’re told, but a realistic one, unhappily accepted by liberals and progressives who refuse to be seduced by unrealistic hopes, and who actually cherish and want to protect progressive values, endangered by misplaced trust in enemies of those values?

Do you help yourself by dismissing our war narrative as useless and adopting the Palestinian one? Or should you at least run through a “what if ‘right wing’ Jews are right” scenario.

Imagine all the people… getting it badly wrong….

Nah, emperor’s new clothes scenarios are just kid’s stories, not real.

And if you decline the invitation to even do that “what if…”, are you not becoming a proleptic dhimmi who rejects speech – even thought – that might upset Triumphalist Muslims?

Own-Goal Cognition, anyone?

Triumphalist Religiosity: The Unanticipated Problem of the 21st Century

The Tablet recently published a piece of mine. Below is a longer, linked piece.

Triumphalist Religiosity

The Unanticipated Problem of the 21st Century

Recent events have brought to a crisis-point the problem of trying to talk about the relationship between Jihadism and Islam. The incapacity of the Democratic candidates to even discuss what may have led to the mass murder at San Bernardino, coupled with the controversial Republican responses, illustrate our dysfunctions. We do much better yelling at each other for not saying enough, or too much, rather than actually analyzing the problem.

The following discussion aims to identify a key dimension of the problem that is both empirically-based in current and historical data, and sufficiently discriminating in its criticism that it avoids “insulting all Muslims”. On the contrary, I hope it offers a good understanding of the challenge we all – Muslims and infidels – face. Only when we assess the problem accurately can non-Muslims and peaceable Muslims, successfully deal with the current paroxysms shaking Islam the world over. Only with such an awareness, can we hope to forge a world of tolerance and mutual respect between Muslim believers and those of us who do not share their religious convictions.

Current administration policy is based on a broadly held consensus that:

  • We should not use the term extremist or radical or violent to modify Islam (“religion of peace”): e.g., ISIS is not Islamic.
  • We should not make any connections between the behavior of violent extremists who claim to follow Islam, and the vast majority of Muslims who do not approve of their deeds (“pas d’amalgames”).

Any public figure who moves too far along the lines of an inquiry into the links between radical Islam and the larger Muslim community, runs the risk of being called an Islamophobe, whose hurtful comments will insult moderate, peaceful Muslims, who might then turn to these extremists.

The illogic here normally should arouse suspicion. If such extremist violence has nothing to do with their “religion of Peace,” how could they become so offended by a discussion of violent elements within Islam, that they embrace this extremism? –  To detectives not on rekaB street: dig here. This is a discourse to deconstruct.

Instead, this argument has become widely current, leading some specialists to urge, that we should never use terms like Jihadi or radical Islam to designate such terrorists, because that gives these mass murderers too much legitimacy. The dominance of this logic makes it almost impossible to discuss the problem, and when someone like Donald Trump makes a remark about

a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,

the subject everyone discusses is not, “what’s going on,” but rather, how offensive his remark. Even his own party members need to publicly dissociate from this.

This essay is a contribution to understanding “what’s going on.” I suggest we look at a matter not so much of theology (Islamism), or even exegesis (of the Qur’an’s notably problematic passages), as of “religiosity” – a particular “style” of living one’s religion, the way one’s religious convictions affect the way one treats others, both co-religionists and outsiders. Religiosity goes a long way towards understanding how any given believer reads his or her sacred and legal texts, and to what theological principles they will find themselves drawn.

“O wad some power…” Fisking Michael Sfard

Israel’s Human Rights Activists Aren’t Traitors

By MICHAEL SFARD JAN. 5, 2016

In March 1968, my father was a member of the Warsaw University students’ committee that helped lead the enormous protests demanding reform from the Communist Polish government. The government responded with a smear campaign to try to delegitimize the protests’ leaders, claiming they were acting in the interest of Western powers, or — exploiting widespread anti-Semitic sentiments — of a Jewish-Zionist plot against the Polish People’s Republic.

In other words, the government labeled my father and his friends foreign agents. Traitors.

My father was detained for three months and expelled from the university. After his release, he left with his family for Israel, where I was born. Unlike my father, I grew up in an environment that welcomed free political discussion and allowed people like me to become human rights activists and criticize our government. When I claimed a few years ago, after yet another right-wing attack on Israeli human rights organizations, that we had reached “the bottom of the pit,” my father gave me a knowing smile. “The pit is much deeper than you think,” he said.

Precisely.

My father was right. Over the past month, I have begun to see its true depth.

No you haven’t. You do not have a clue. Nothing in Israel comes near what was going on in your father’s Poland, nothing near what the most mundane authoritarian regimes do to their own citizens, not even close to what Israel does to their enemies. It is precisely this rhetorical exaggeration that has people like you calling the IDF “war criminals” and Israel a “racist, apartheid, fascist, state.” You have no historical depth-perception, so you’re easy dupes for moral equivalence.

And the problem is, outsiders will mistake your “prophetic” rhetoric as an insight into the actual situation here in the Middle East, rather than into the fevered brains of those Jews stricken with MOS. Outsiders understandably have difficulty figuring out how to “read” these hyper-critics: are they sober and honest assessments of reality? or prophetic rhetoric uttered where no ancient prophet would have delivered his rebuke of his people, in the lingua franca of the larger world, and in the courtyards of their powerful ones?

On Dec. 15, an Israeli ultranationalist group

Ultranationalist is a term largely reserved for brown-shirt-type organizations, fascist in their principled resort to violence in their targeting of enemies: “defending one’s country even when it is committing horrific acts to its own citizens.”

Im Tirzu shares nothing in these matters with real “ultra-nationalist” groups, and the use of the term to lump the group with the worst of the far right is characteristic of this publicly self-accusing pseudo-prophetic rhetoric: our (Israel’s) smallest crimes (i.e., deviation from the strictest “progressive” values) are of such magnitude that they compare with what’s nastiest out there (ultra-nationalists, racists, fascists, Nazis). By your standards of inciteful rhetoric, this is a robust example of smearing.

NB: I’ll bet the store that you would never compare Palestinian political culture to “ultra-nationalists,” even though the parallels to the most violent type of that phenomenon are close. On the contrary, some of you revel in your contempt for evidence.

released a video portraying four Israeli human rights defenders as moles planted by foreign states to assist terrorists. The 68-second video, which rapidly made its way across Israeli social media, shows four mug shots and claims that “While we fight terror, they fight us.”

Here’s the video:

As for the accusations, knowing some of the background, and while not quite the way I would have chosen to put it, the video does nonetheless expresses a legitimate opinion. You may not agree, because it questions you and your fellow activists’ behavior, but I don’t see where calling groups that take money from hostile foreign governments to defend and protect avowed enemies of the state, a “plant” or even a “traitor,” is in any way worse than the ones they are so accusing, that is no worse than you and your colleagues calling Israel and its soldiers “war criminals,” “facists,” “nazis,” and “racists.”

You may think that the PLO is an institution that deserves your active support in avoiding responsibility for committing acts of terror against Israeli citizens. But surely you can understand that others, convinced by the same evidence that you are presumably aware of, see the PLO/PA as a devoted enemy of Israel’s very existence, think they should not receive the help of Israelis to carry out their plans for our destruction, and that anyone who does is dangerous.

The video is outright slander and an outrageous incitement.

Amazing. As the great poet Robert Burns once put it:

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!

Policy Perspectives from the World of Apocalyptic Honor-Shame

I recently received a challenge from one of my less avid fans on a list-serv that I participate in. He challenged me to answer a series of policy questions from the perspective I irritatingly espouse – namely current Western policy concerning the Middle East and Islamic nations is useless at best, self-defeating, even suicidal, at worst because it ignores what I call the HSJ paradigm that focuses on honor-shame dynamics and their current vehicle, apocalyptic Jihad.

I post here my answers.

Dealing with Islam:

Right now in the West, the reigning prime directive reads: “Don’t piss them off.” We think it’s the “vast majority of Muslims” that we thus soothe, but we also encourage the triumphalists, especially with the extent of our placation, our appeasement.

Instead of thus empowering triumphalist aggression, we should pick our fights and target triumphalism. There are so many places the cultural Maginot Line of a robust civil society have crumbled, so many places to start getting serious about what Muslims ask of us and we ask of Muslims. (For a good view of one of the early collapse see, alas, France after 2ooo in The Lost Territories of the Republic.) We need to arm progressive Muslims in their fight with the forces of triumphalism, not concede repeatedly (often with a post-colonial objective) to triumphalist aggression.

Without reciprocal relations, free societies cannot exist, much less aspire to the near utopian hopes of global progressives.

Educate about Islam, not just the masses but the policy folks. I’ve spoken to an audience of 400 people in homeland security and only 1/10 of them claimed they knew what dar al Islam and dar al Harb is. If you don’t know that, you’re historically and religiously illiterate about a crucial element of our current predicament. And 15 years after 9-11, and 26 years after Khoumeini’s fatwah against Rushdie extended Shari’a to the West?! We can’t afford that ignorance.

Right now, we are babes in the woods. As much as I want to believe what you [another list member] say about this administration [being fully aware of the problem], everything I see and hear indicates the opposite: it is overprotective of the “99.9%” of Muslims who, they tell us on their behalf, “reject the extremists.” Where does Obama come up with this stuff? How on earth can serious people take this seriously? Unless of course, they’re in such denial about the problem we face that they’ll take the pablum.

But part of our predicament has been we believed that these indulgences in moral posturing (PC) – Moral and Tolerant Europe Triumphant, The Passionate “cause” of the Palestinian Underdog – were somehow cost free. (If “tout flatteur vit aux dépens de celui qui l’ecoute,” then how damaging is self-flattery, which can be endless?)

On the contrary, these moral postures have allowed the Jihadis to maneuver the progressives into suicidal positions, into a proleptic dhimmitude where the GPL sees itself salvific warriors bringing world peace through self-abnegation, even as it submits to Muslim triumphalist demands that they not only dare not criticize (triumphalist) Muslims, but, rather, they must adopt the Muslim enemy (Israel).

Syria

(Let’s just hope it’s better than criticizing the Obama Administration for not giving enough aid to the Free-Syrian Army).  American troops?  How about Israeli troops  (no, that wouldn’t work); Turks?  (strike that);  Iran (Never, never).

Syria is a symptom of a breakdown of a political culture. The Arab “Spring” was actually a quake that hit a very weak political culture – Lee Smith’s Strong Horse. Those political dynamics reflect a broader, heavily authoritarian (patriarchal honor-murders) culture, and these social dynamics make it virtually impossible to launch and sustain a democratic political culture.

Instead it was springtime for Jihad and tribal warfare.

As for policy, our our journalists and academics and talking heads, systematically misinformed us about the situation beforehand, as well as during. With foolish expectations borne of the “post-colonial” paradigm, we thought – and were encouraged to foresee – a wave, from Tunisia to Syria of more democratic, vibrant, civil societies. Muslim Brotherhood? “Moderate,” and “almost secular.”  So whether we intervene (Libya) or don’t (Syria), it works to the advantage of the Jihadis because they are the most brutal in a brutal culture, and we are clueless. And when they fail, as all such brutal efforts do, they – at least under current conditions – just prepare more wretched chaos to fuel the next round of violence.

To think differently about this means having an appreciation of the impact our behavior has on others (allegedly a Western specialty).

In 2003, when the GPL and European countries (led by Chirac) had such a grand time turning Bush into the Antichrist, I got an email from a medievalist who was in Tunisia. “The Arabs think the French are weak. They side with their enemies and humiliate their friends.” By that logic, I can assure you that triumphalist Muslims think the Left is weak.

I’m not saying, “don’t oppose the Iraq War just because you don’t want to look like a wuss,” but rather “be cognizant of the impact of what you’re doing in terms of how your enemy (triumphalist Islam) perceives you.” The public mutual contempt the Left and Right have expressed for each other has done terrible damage.

In the 11th century, it was emperor and pope attacking each other publicly for fifty years that loosened revolutionary forces; and among the beneficiaries of that open hostility, were the free towns, the urban communes of the later 11th and 12th centuries. In the 21st cn, however, by far the greatest benefactor of public hostilities between twin poles of public discourse (in this case right-left, rather than royal-papal) has been the Jihadis… by comparison with a progressive 11th cn, the 21st cn looks alarmingly regressive.

We can’t even begin to think strategy much less tactics as long as we can’t talk about this larger massive politico-cultural failure/dysfunction in the Arab and Muslim world. And yet, thru some alchemical process operated by a particularly irresponsible branch of post-modernism, it has become “racist” to address cultural and religious problems.

Iran –Let’s hear the deal/threats or  bombing policy that you recommend and why?

I’d go very strong on rallying collective hostility to Iranian claims, use every kind of pressure to get them to stand down. i wd have been blown away if you had told me in the 1980s that the nuclear disarmament crowd would not say a word in the 21st century about re-starting a nuclear arms race, this time in the highly volatile Muslim world, i’d have said, “don’t be absurd.”

Of course, if you told a signer of the Hamas Charter, with its genocidal paranoid participation in a movement for global Islamic dominion, that within twenty years, infidels would be marching in the streets with their banners, shouting “we are Hamas!” he would have responded, “Only Allah can make infidels that stupid.”

Iraq  (Can’t be working with Iranian, Shi’a militias, right?)

Rethinking the Political Meme, Right-Left-Wing: Call for Papers

One hears often the complaint that “right and left” are not good terms for describing and categorizing various thinkers in today’s world. But all the complaints barely make a dent in the widespread use of this dichotomy as a key to identifying the “players” in today’s public sphere: journals, public intellectuals, academic fields, politicians, movements, NGOs, think-tanks, are all labeled along a continuum with such nodal identifiers as far- or center- right/left.

Indeed a peculiar dynamic has taken shape over the last two decades: a kind of western “narcissism of small differences,” between right and left wing in which each speaks of the other in strident terms and limits any serious discussion with the other,on the one hand, and the application of left and right to political cultures where they have no possible corresponding meaning, on the other hand. When, 2006, Judith Butler acknowledged that Hamas and Hizbullah, two groups of the most regressive religious zealots, were part of the “global progressive left,” she rendered the term meaningless. Or so one would think. And yet, right and left continue to be used extensively to identify and either include or exclude some voice in the public sphere.

Whatever the problems involved beforehand, in the 21st century, the designations “right” and “left” as they are used, have become a polemical shorthand that dis-informs, rather than informs. Part of this relates to sociability patterns in which “left” and “right” wingers hang together, and view the other as of questionable legitimacy. Readers who accept the labels right and left as indicators of the reliability of the source, tend to dismiss writings labeled the “other side,” as biased and propagandistic. The mutual ostracism that “right” and “left” have accomplished has an increasingly deleterious impact on the discussion in the public sphere.

One of the places where this impact has been most deleterious is in our ability to think about the Muslim and Arab world, the source of some of the most regressive religious forces on the planet, in its most extreme form, a millennial vision of world conquest. And yet despite how much the values of Islamism contradict progressive principles, the closest allies that Jihadis have, in the Western public sphere that they plan to take over, are people self-consciously identified as “the global progressive left.” Judith Butler’s defense of that alliance emphasized the shared bond of anti-imperialism. Dubbed the “anti-imperialism of fools,” by Michael Totten, this leftist embrace of Jihadi groups brought some of the most ferocious imperialists on the planet into the allegedly “anti-imperialist” camp.

Back in the aughts, the irony of siding with imperialists in an “anti-imperial” struggle, might escape a viewer unfamiliar with, say, Muqtada al Sadr’s messianic sadism:

denver al sadr

Democratic National Convention, Denver Colorado, 2008

Today, the contradiction is no longer even hidden:

anti-imperial caliphate

Global Caliphate for Dummies.con