Pallywood: The Damage of Media Malfeasance

Melissa Jane Kronfled of the WJC interviewed me today on Pallywood and its implications. She’s an excellent interviewer, and I stayed largely coherent despite my characteristic roundabout answers. More »

German Arrogance 2017

My colleague and correspondent Doyle Quiggle, who has lived in Germany for many years, has written a lengthy response to my article in the Tablet, which deserves its own post. This outlandishly More »

The Small Kindness (Qur’an 107): A Magnanimous Solution to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Positive-sum westerners see “two states” as the obvious solution to the conflict on the land between the river and the sea. But analyzed in terms of honor-shame reasoning and the players involved, not only More »

Glossary List for Medievalist’s Guide to 21st Century

The following is a glossary list of terms I (and others) have developed to help describe the civilizational dynamics of the 21st century. I welcome suggestions for my definitions and for others More »

Caliphate Cogwar, Lethal, Own-Goal Journalism, and BDS

The Place of BDS and the Caliphate Cogwar BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is part and parcel of a wider cognitive war (cogwar) offensive against both Israel and the West. Cogwar is the main More »

Fisking Rob Bryan on Bassem Eid: A Glimpse inside the “Pre-Occupied Mind”

I recently had coffee with Bassem Eid, and he mentioned the following article by Rob Bryan that denounces him as a suck-up, a token Palestinian, pandering to right-wing Jewish audiences. It struck me as so classic an expression of what one might call the “preoccupied mind” (or the mindset of members of the “Cult of the Occupation“), that it seemed worth a fisking.

Meet Bassem Eid, the Former Palestinian Human Rights Activist Who’s Sucking Up to the Israel Lobby

Eid once monitored Israeli human rights abuses. Now he defends them before right-wing audiences.
Here’s the pitch, elaborated below. Caveat emptor, this is not about to give you an honest appraisal of either information or opinion.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Bassem Eid, a stocky 58-year-old Palestinian political analyst, stood in front of an audience of about 30 people this June 22 in the law offices of Duval & Stachenfeld in midtown Manhattan. The crowd snacked on stuffed grape leaves and drank red wine from the Northern Galilee region of Israel, eager to hear an exuberant man hold court on the plight of his people.

The Israeli-American Council (IAC), a lobbying organization explicitly dedicated to strengthening theing a st of questions sent to his personal email regarding his speaking fees. Yet the depth of Eid’s hostility towards the very notion of justice for Palestinians was genuinely surprising, as was the total fealty he showed towards the state whose abuses are well-documented.

Good illustration of the cult of the Preoccupation: justice is defined only in terms of denouncing Israel. The slogan “No peace without justice,” along with “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea!” means “No peace with Israel.”

The “abuses” are “well documented” by organizations like Btselem, which Eid left because they refused to document any abuses of Palestinian rights by their thuggish leaders, who reflect an Arab political culture that alleged “human rights” groups like HRW treat with great delicacy while reaching out to the for funding to “document” Israeli “abuses.”

“Friends,” said Eid, spreading his arms wide, “if you will look today to the Middle East map and the growing Islamic terror in the Middle East, in my opinion, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became the most safe place in the Middle East.” Not once did he criticize the occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, or the discriminatory laws passed against Arab citizens of Israel. To him, these were minor details.

Well, when you’re faced with someone with a light wound, and someone who’s at death’s door, it may make sense to shift the attention to the latter, the no cost target, Israel. Bryan will have none of this. Israel’s abuses, which have somehow produced one of the Arab world’s higher-ranking HDI (Israel’s Arabs and oil-rich countries excluded).

Here’s Eid’s way of putting it.

His animated diatribes sounded like the inner monologue of a right-wing member of Israel’s Knesset, inveighing against the “thugs and gangsters of the so-called BDS” and decrying Students of Justice in Palestine as a “bullshit group.”

He was being nice. SJP is one of the nastiest groups out there, and its founder, Hatem Bazian, one of the most aggressive purveyors of a definition of Islamophobia that strangles any criticism of Islam, and surely made Said proud.

His claim that the Arab League is “a rehabilitation center for handicapped people” drew big laughs. (Eid’s preferred rhetorical device is the one-liner, much to the delight of a middle-aged man sitting next to me who responded as though he was witnessing the second coming of Jackie Mason).

It’s so hard to realize that one (or one’s ally) has made oneself into a parody. The Arab League is indeed a big and bad joke. Here’s their ambassador to the UN explaining why Hamas can’t stop bombing Israel even though it means that their own people get bombed back.

Unpacked, this means, “it’s a no brainer (for us) that if we’re getting the stuffings kicked out of us, we have to keep hitting back (to show we’re men).” As the proverb goes: “Fighting an enemy who is stronger is not honor, it’s pride, often the opposite of honor.” Self-preservation, concern for the well-being of their own people? Not high on the Arab League’s priority list.

Eid’s point exactly.

Letter of Protest to Tom Paradise re: Phyllis Chesler

Barbara Joans, anthropologist, wrote the following letter to Thomas Paradise, the head of the “King Fahd Center for Middle Eastern Studies.” I post it here with her permission.

April 20, 2017

Thomas R. Paradise PhD, Director, University Professor
King Fahd Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Geosciences
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Dear Professor Paradise

It is with sadness that I write you about disinviting of Dr. Chesler to your conference on the subject of honor-killings. Since Dr. Chesler has long been one of the few scholars on this topic, it came as a surprise. Much is written about honor-killings but few writers take the time to read, study, research and analyze this cultural behavior. Dr. Chesler is one of the few scholars who actually reviews the material and she has been doing so for decades.

As we all know, describing an event, a cultural event from a culture, not our own, is not the same as evaluating nor critiquing the event. It is only when the cultural event is seen as horrendous within our own society, that just the description of it, can be seen as a put down, a criticism of the culture performing the behavior. This happens all too frequently. Dr. Chesler writes about those groups within Islamic Society who practice ritual murder, called honor-killings.

Dr. Chesler studies those societies who accept and participate in honor-killings as part of their culture. These ritual murders occur. She documents the behavior. The behaviors are not seen as innate nor inborn. There is nothing in the religion nor in the past sacred writings that prescribe such behavior. Other factors must be looked for. Cultural events arise for any number of reasons and Dr. Chesler looks for the factors that may have brought about the well documented occurrences.

What I do not understand is why you did not permit Skype to become a tool in your conference. With Skype, Dr. Chesler could have spoken as she wished and been free from the danger of students who did not understand that academia is suppose to take on and debate the hard questions. Another speaker, one who would take a different approach, perhaps an opposite one, could have Skyped into the conference and debated Dr. Chesler, without physical disruption nor confrontation. A fair exchange of views, researched and carefully considered, is what academic debate is all about. Why did you not permit this to happen? The outcome would have been seriously interesting and intellectually important.

As a legal anthropologist of fifty years, who both teaches and appears in court as an expert witness, I have a stake in such conferences. Though my academic and field work specialties are different, American Indians and urban US Sub-Cultures, a similar situation could easily arise. I remain perplexed about the dreadful way your conference played out. It was dishonorable.

Sincerely,
Barbara Joans PhD, Director of the Merritt Museum of Anthropology
Past Chair of the Anthropology Department at Merritt College
Author and Invited Speaker.

Note that in the rich Arab countries like Saudi and Kuwait, rather than the more conventional methods of killing daughters, “modern” families drown them in their swimming pools. Not King Fahd, of course, he gives money to American universities to teach about the Middle East.

Intellectual Corruption of Intersectional Academics: Ted Swedenburg’s Palestinian Anthropology

In the Phyllis Chesler case, one of the three authors of the letter (fisked here) that got her disinvited was Ted Swedenburg. The letter embodies everything about the current field of post-Oriental Middle Eastern Studies that leads me to conclude that most of its denizens are proleptic dhimmi – the fear of offending Islam, the use of terms like “Islamophobia” to silence dissenting infidels, their invocation of “safe spaces” and allusions to potential violence as a reason to drop a speaker. In turns out, Swedenburg has been at this for a long time.

In an article he wrote in 1989, Swedenburg lays out his methodology, which coincides quite remarkably with the hegemonic discourse across the “humanities” and “social ‘sciences'” of today. How much headway have they made in the last two decades! (HT: YM)

One of the first days after I had moved to Nablus, in November 1984, I had an experience that has now become a daily routine for Israeli settlers in the West Bank. I was driving downtown, when suddenly, bam! the car shook under the impact of a heavy blow to its side. A Palestinian youth, whom I never saw, had darted out of an alley, hurled a large stone, and rapidly vanished. He only man-aged, luckily, to put a large dent above my gas cap and did not break the wind-shield, the usual goal of hurled stones. I guess he singled out my car as a target from all the others on that busy street because its yellow license plates and my appearance led him to believe I was an Israeli settler. (As the holder of a tourist visa, I had to register my car in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, so its yellow plates stood out amidst the distinctive blue-plated vehicles driven by West Bank Palestinians.) I was so shaken that I was ready to give up fieldwork and go straight home.

Earlier anthropologists, who risked far more serious assaults in far less controlled environments – no recently annexed offices and registrations for Napoleon Chagnon, or any of those working a century ago. If an anthropologist wants to understand up close a culture in which violence is a quotidian presence, then he or she needs to be ready to experience some of it. No serious anthropologist feels entitled to safety (talk about white privilege).

My immediate thought was that I, of all people, should never have been stoned. After all, unlike those other Westerners one saw in the West Bank-the settlers, tourists, and embassy officials-I was a good foreigner, working in the best interests of the Palestinians. My response was typical of a mentality I shared with other Westerners who worked as teachers, journalists, or researchers in the occupied territories and sympathized with the Palestinians.

Réponse au sujet de l’Islam et la culture d’honneur et honte

Réponse au sujet de l’Islam et la culture d’honneur et honte

J’ai reçu une requête par Facebook d’un chercheur français au sujet de mon article sur Edward Said et la culture d’honneur et de honte.

Il m’a adressé la question en anglais, j’ai répondu en français pour essayer de formuler mes idées dans une autre langue. Merci Jean Patrick Grumberg pour une lecture correctrice approfondie.

(i) would you have any idea why honor and shame-avoidance seem to be such strong motivations in the muslim world compared to most non-muslim countries?

La puissance du désir de recevoir les honneurs et la crainte (dread) de la honte (oneidophobie) est énorme. Tout individu y est lié toute sa vie, et tout culture passe par ce “code d’honneur primordial ” “primary honor code.” Cela prend une forme particulièrement tenace chez les tribus de guerriers comme les germains, les celtes, les romains, grecs, sioux, japonais, mongols, africains, bedouins, berbères, etc.

Cette dynamique guerrière se trouve partout dans le monde, et l’importance de la dynamique honneur-honte est universelle.

Par contre, en Occident, on a su (à travers le dernier millénaire) transférer pas mal de valeurs vers un “code d’honneur inférieur” “secondary honor code” qui renverse le sens moral de certaines pratiques culturelles clé – par exemple le duel, l’esclavage (v. Appiah, The Honor Code and Moral Revolutions). Ce processus a produit entre autres, les Démocraties, et la culture de connaissance/ technologie/ production qui en ce moment est l’hégémonie du monde (siècle de globalisation), et peut-être destructeur de ce même monde d’abondance.

Pourquoi les musulmans, en particulier les arabes, ont-ils eu plus de problèmes avec ce processus ? Tous le monde (y compris l’Occident) expérimente le processus qui consiste à arriver à une société civile et pacifique comme un traumatisme (pour l’Occident, voir l’oeuvre de Norman Cohn). Par contre, les autres cultures non-occidentales, même en gardant la dynamique honneur-honte à une place prédominante, arrivent néanmoins à s’adapter au monde moderne, et semblent mieux négocier cette transformation. (exemple le Japon, et pas mal de cultures confucéennes)

Le problème de l’Islam, dans sa forme politique (dar al Islam/dar al Harb) traduit les préoccupations d’honneur et honte en religiosité triomphaliste. “Nous avons la vraie foi, car nous dominons” (jeu de somme nulle). Donc la victoire d’un occident post-honneur (qu’ils voient comme une forme d’emasculation), constitue une insulte narcissique intolérable, surtout après l’humiliation globale que represente Israël – le destin interrompu. Ils sont donc dans une spirale négative où ils cherchent à détruire le succès de l’autre par leur autodestruction (somme negative, terrorisme suicidaire)

 

(ii) according to you, why has the quest for honor taken a more and more religious overtone since the 1970s in the muslim world, i.e. from Morocco to Indonesia?

D’abord, pour les musulmans du Proche-Orient (les arabes), le “nationalisme arabe” (oxymoron du premier ordre) recelait la promesse messianique : en devenant laïque on pourrait maitriser le monde moderne, et developper notre puissance pour a) détruire Israël (et laver notre visage noirci dans leur sang), et b) ainsi tenir tête (au moins) au Occidentaux.

Après la Naqbah de 1948, toute l’énergie des élites était dirigée dans cette direction, avec des résultats médiocres. Les pertes catastrophiques de 1967 et 1973 contre le minuscule Israël ont détruit la force de cette promesse de libération “nationale et laïque.” Donc le souterrain jihadiste (toujours présent même s’il n’est pas dans la conscience des Occidentaux qui insistent toujours pour ne voir les palestiniens qu’en termes laïcs comme mouvement “national”) a resurgi, car il y a  toujours eu un jihad.

Le nouveau message salafiste est le suivant :

“On n’a pas fait faillite devant le monde parce qu’on était insuffisamment séculiers (une concession humiliante à l’ennemi), mais parce qu’on était insuffisamment dévoué.”

Dans les deux cas, la motivation est de compenser la perte d’honneur, de se venger, de verser le sang et retrouver son statut d’homme d’honneur et de respect. Cet aspect religieux, bien qu’il va à l’encontre des mouvements globaux sécularisants, prend son élan avec l’arrivée du mujaddid en 1979 (voir la suite).

Dans le reste du monde musulman (le monde des peuples convertis, selon Naipaul), je crois qu’une dynamique alliée, mais beaucoup plus multidirectionnelle, s’est déclenchée surtout en 1400 AH (1979). C’est le 14e mujaddid, moment centenaire qui au moins depuis 200 AH (815 CE), promet aux croyant l’apparition d’un “restaurateur” (dans l’analyse apocalyptique: un rédempteur/mahdi avant l’avent du centenaire, restaurateur après, ex post defectu).

Ce fut certainement un élément clé dans la transformation de la théologie shi’ite de Khoumeini (par exemple à Paris) en mouvement révolutionnaire (ie millénariste) en 1400/1979, développement qui eu rapidement une réponse dans le monde Sunnite, surtout avec l’émergence d’al Qaeda et du Hamas (1408/1988).

Bref, le Mujaddid de 1400 déclencha (selon moi) la vague du millénarisme apocalyptique qui eu son point fort au tournant de notre centenaire/millénaire en 2000, et qui continue à croitre.

Yussuf al Qaradawi considère tout le 15e siècle, déclenché par le mujaddid, comme le temps pendant lequel le Dar al Islam global va s’étendre, non seulement par le Jihad, mais aussi, et même plus encore, par la Da’wa. Le premier sursaut de cet esprit apocalyptique/millénariste se voit déjà chez les musulmans non-arabes dans le récit de voyage de VS Naipaul publié en 1981, bien que pour lui, comme pour Gilles Kepel en 2000, c’était le crépuscule de ces zélotes. Le Pakistan nous fourni un bon exemple d’un militantisme islamiste lié à une culture d’honneur et honte très prononcé. (ainsi que l’Afghanistan et toutes les autres sociétés tribales musulmanes (Somalie, Niger, Soudan).

Ceci dit, on espère que dans les courants spirituels musulmans, on trouvera un millénarisme un peu moins triomphaliste, par exemple même démotique. Mais à présent, dans le monde musulman, les gens qui prônent la dynamique honneur-honte (primary code), les oneidophobes, dominent l’espace public (à savoir que ce sont eux qui définissent le cadre de l’honneur : s’occidentaliser c’est s’émasculer).

Ils ont un point de vue radical du jeu de somme nulle (qui devient facilement un jeu de somme négative – voir les nouveaux “martyrs” du 15e siècle), et n’hésitent pas à recourir à la violence pour imposer leur hégémonie (takfir), et donc, la revitalisation de l’Islam de nos jours est, pour la plupart, très belligérent non seulement contre les kufars (nous), mais aussi contre les musulmans insuffisamment mobilisés.

Je n’ai pas de solutions.

Je crois qu’on ne peut s’adresser à ces sujets qu’en commençant par la compréhension du problème, et ensuite (ou pendant le processus de compréhension), on trouve des solutions, ou au moins des chemins à suivre.

S’interdire de comprendre parce que les problèmes ainsi identifiés n’ont pas de solutions immédiate, ou parce que c’est un “racisme orientaliste” d’ainsi parler des sociétés musulmanes, ne me semble pas un processus de raisonnement mais plutôt de dhimmitude proleptique.

How to Deal with Honor-Shame Dynamics: With Dignity, Refuse Proleptic Dhimmitude

[apologies for not posting this months ago.]

In response to my article in MEQ on Edward Said and honor-shame dynamics, one reader wrote in:

I thought Landes’ article pushed an important point on honor and shame.  If one takes it to be true, then the way to solve some of the problems would be to send over lots of therapists.  I know it sounds crazy but I am thinking perhaps there is something to it? 

There is a brief response in MEQ (which I can no longer find). The longer response I post below:

From the perspective of those committed to primary honor-shame codes, therapists represent the forces of an effeminate culture designed to castrate them and kill their triumphalist religion. So that’s not going to work. (It is common among Jihadis to believe that the Jews have castrated the Christian West, and now plan to do so to them.)

But good therapy is better in the doing than in formal introspection, and if progressives were serious about their values, they’d be helping Arabs to grapple with this authoritarian strain in their culture, to become more capable of handling criticism and introspecting. Hopefully, the Arab world will eventually produce a school of their own therapists who can help the process of harnessing (rather than castrating) the testosteronic impulses of their long-dominant primary honor codes.

At its core, I think this is about peer pressure – who determines what’s honorable? Anthony Appiah has an excellent meditation on the problem: The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, in which he treats four case studies where a society/culture changed its code: what had previously been considered honorable (slave-holding, dueling, foot-binding, and honor-killing) shifted to shameful according to the new dominant “honor group.”

From this perspective, the Muslim and Arab world have yet to undergo a passage from zero-sum, triumphalist rule-or-be-ruled, primary honor codes, to ones more tolerant of “others” – of free infidels, or independent women, in particular. (The only failed moral revolution in Appiah’s book was the shift from honorable honor-killings to shameful shame-murders in Pakistan.)

This is above all a cultural issue (exactly not, as many try to insist, a racial one); and until we learn to think about this from the perspective of the triumphalist Muslims, we cannot understand what we face. And once we do, we discover a whole range of areas where we can assert pressure, because their great weakness is now their great strength – their amazingly “thin skin.”

Right now, instead, the West (especially its “liberals”) do everything they can to avoid “shaming” the Muslim world, and so avoid pointing this out: if one brings up “honor-killings” as a symptom of a particularly regressive honor-shame culture, liberals will almost instinctively insist they have nothing to do with Islam. And while it’s true that some (few) other cultures also approve of – even insist on – killing women for the sake of family honor, it is most prominent in Islamic societies, and closely related to issues like the burka. Liberals think they’re being generous by sparing Islam criticism. Triumphalist Muslims see these same liberals as good dhimmi leaders who make sure their community does not “insult” Islam.

Holocaust Guilt and Holocaust Shame: Parsing Remorse for the Shoa.

 

[My thanks to Rabbi Mark Kujawsky who first helped me understand the difference.]

When I first heard about Catherine Nay – a prominent, mainstream, French journalist – stating on her Europe 1 news program that “with its symbolic charge of this picture, this death annuls, erases the picture of the little Jewish boy, hands up in front of the SS, in the Warsaw Ghetto,” I realized to what an extent Europeans had taken the story of the IDF killing 12-year old Muhammad al Durah in the arms of his father, as a “get-out-of-holocaust-guilt-free card“.

Picture from International ANSWER, Quote from Catherine Nay

At the time I marveled – and continue to marvel – at the astounding folly of the statement. How can a brief, blurry, chopped up video of a boy who, at best was caught in a cross fire started by his own people firing behind him, at worst an outright lethal fake, could eliminate – really replace – a picture that symbolizes the systematic murder of over a million children and their families? How morally disoriented can one get? Apparently escaping guilt made some people – too many people – do strange things… like adopt a supersessionist narrative: Israelis, the new Nazis, Palestinians, the new Jews.

But the profound distinction between guilt and shame suggests that the right formula is “get-out-of-holocaust-shame-free card.” (Doesn’t sound as good.) The difference: guilt is an internally generated sense of moral obligation not to repeat past transgressions, especially egregious ones like the unchecked attempt to exterminate of a helpless minority within one’s own society. Shame, on the other hand, is externally generated, driven by the “shaming look” of others (the “honor-group“). When Germans got caught carrying out a genocide, their nation was not only guilty of the deed, but shamed before the world… for doing it? …or getting caught?

There-in lies a key difference: for guilt, it’s the awareness of the deed and its meaning, for shame, it’s whether others know. In some countries in the world, it’s not a question of whether you’re corrupt or not (everyone is, everyone knows), but just if you get caught. How many teenagers apologize for getting caught? Some adulterers have no sense of wrongdoing, as long as no one else knows. On some level everyone is subject to these concerns.

While honor-shame cultures have moral codes, however, their vulnerability to the fear of shame can readily lead to a jettisoning of any moral concerns. After all, the limbic dread of shame – its disastrous psychological and practical impact on them – kicks in in times of humiliation and fear. Those afflicted with oneidophobia (overriding [limbic] fear of public blame/ humiliation), is that others not see, not know about, not talk about, what they have done, that one not bear the shame publicly, that one need not pay the steep price in social capital for one’s (mis)deeds. After two generations one can easily imagine German youth being fed up with this sense of moral indebtedness of having to bear this blame/shame publicly.

Guilt-integrity has moral codes that operate from within-out, rather than from without-in. Here the awareness of the transgression and the determination to not do it again operate inside the individual, as, for example, in the case of Judah, who refused to repeat his betrayal of his father (in the case of Joseph) with the betrayal of Tamar, the mother of his child (Genesis, 38). That process takes both genuine remorse (for which Joseph later tested), and an understanding of how it could have happened, so as to prevent it from happening again. It involves criticism and self-criticism. It involves a willingness, when absolutely necessary, (beware the public flagellant!), to make the painful sacrifice of public honor in order to maintain private integrity. In the case of Judah, this led to the first renunciation of an honor-killing/shame-murder in recorded history.

Who will defend Western Civilization? Not its “Social Justice Warriors”

David Brooks bemoans the inability of the West to defend itself and its values. The plaint is valid, the analysis deeply superficial and, I’d guess, ineffectual in reaching the “millennials” who think they’ve outgrown the need for those values and the democracies they created. Below a half fisking (critique) and whisking (elaboration) of Brooks’ proleptic threnody for Western civ. HT: YS.

The Crisis of Western Civ

David Brooks, NYT April 21, 2017
Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as “The Story of Civilization.” They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.
Note the lack of mention of ancient Israel. The Durants did address the issue what they called Judea, briefly if with limited sympathy in their opening volume, a small fraction of that first volume. In discussing the 6th commandment (thou shall not kill [really murder]) he notes:

nowhere is there so much killing as in the Old Testament; its chapters oscillate between slaughter and compensatory reproduction…

What a bizarre thing for a reader of the Iliad and great admirer of Greece to say! Why is so much of this chapter set on comparing ancient Israel (often, as here, unfavorably) with the worst of other cultures, including Christian religious practices like the inquisition?

That series encapsulated the Western civilization narrative that people, at least in Europe and North America, used for most of the past few centuries to explain their place in the world and in time. This narrative was confidently progressive. There were certain great figures, like Socrates, Erasmus, Montesquieu and Rousseau, who helped fitfully propel the nations to higher reaches of the humanistic ideal.

And Jews were a marginal part of the tale, victims of lamentable Western intolerance (read: aggressive supersessionism), but not actual contributors to that great civilizing venture we call the West. I was astonished, when I finally got introduced to “Western Political Thought” at Columbia, to find that everyone began with Socrates/Plato (5th-4th century BCE) and no attention to the Bible as a political document with remarkably modern resonance.

This Western civ narrative came with certain values — about the importance of reasoned discourse, the importance of property rights, the need for a public square that was religiously informed but not theocratically dominated.
… the principal of equality before the law, the value of manual (productive) labor, literacy and self-empowerment for commoners, respect and empathy for the “other,” criticism and self-criticism, rejection of oppression of those weaker, guilt at wrongdoing, the value of all human life…
It set a standard for what great statesmanship looked like. It gave diverse people a sense of shared mission and a common vocabulary, set a framework within which political argument could happen and most important provided a set of common goals.
And this civilizational consensus became the target of the Caliphaters, hard-zero-sum players from what we Westerners refer to as our “middle ages” or more broadly, pre-modern society, from a world of triumphalist religiosity, holy millennial war and inquisition. They have, with really astonishing success, managed to drive a wedge into democratic civilization and hammer away at fending what has become a internalized clash of civilizations between Western “left” and “right.”
Starting decades ago, many people, especially in the universities, lost faith in the Western civilization narrative. They stopped teaching it, and the great cultural transmission belt broke. Now many students, if they encounter it, are taught that Western civilization is a history of oppression.
Pascal Bruckner wrote about this in his Tyranny of Guilt (in French penitence). Tenured Radicals pursuing their supersessionist, revolutionary agenda. When I was at Columbia (1984-86), a fellow grad student gave a presentation in which he argued that liberalism was a self-creating fantasy that did not collapse in a manner similar to how Wylie Coyote did not fall when he ran over a cliff, until he looked down. I did not at the time imagine that GPL radicals would stampede us off the cliff. Now we have millennials, proud of their unerring instinct for social justice, ready to forgo democracy in search of… ?

Millennial Social Warriors Fighting for Justice
The nice touch here is that it’s Western civilization’s teachings that make it possible to identify this oppression, to detect social injustice in every micro-aggression, every invasion of safe space. You won’t find another civilizational ideology (excepting the Jews) that does not take exceptional privilege for the elite – legal and life-style – as a given. And yet now, the demand for radical social justice=equality (whatever that means) has been turned by those who have been trained in the western (and Jewish) moral tradition(s), exclusively on attacking western (and Jewish) exercise of power.

How Academics think about Freedom of Speech: Fisking the Email that Killed Phyllis Chesler’s Talk on Shame-Murders

In preparing an article on how Phyllis Chesler, one of the few scholars and feminists to tackle the problem of honor-killings/shame murders in the Muslim world (and elsewhere, eg, Hindus in India, Sikhs to a much lesser extent everywhere), got disinvited from a conference on the subject of honor-killings, I managed to get a hold of the email that nixed her invitation. Written by three professors from the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies at University of Arkansas: Joel Gordon (History, author of email), Ted Swedenburg (Anthropology), and Mohja Kahf (Comparative Literature), it addressed Thomas Paradise, the Head of the King Fahd Center.

The letter is deeply embarrassing to its signers in its stupefying polemic, its craven reasoning, and its complete disregard for academic integrity. My guess (hope) is that its authors will object to its being made public in much the same way that “professors” of Middle Eastern Studies object to having their talks and class lectures made public.

UPDATE: Tom Paradise has been suspended as a result of his canceling Chesler’s participation, and the brave people who scuttled her are busy scrambling to get out of the hot seat. Ted Swedenburg told a journalist:

We did not call for her to be disinvited and how that happened, I don’t really know, because none of the three of us were a party to that discussion.

You be the judge of whether the letter quoted below reflects this disavowal.

NB: issue of terminology. “Honor-killing” is a supposedly neutral term that does not judge. Instead, I think, it enables, using “to kill” where, by any standards of modern democracy, these are murders. My use of “shame-murders” not only identifies the act as murder, but makes it clear that this is not restoring family honor – what family is honored by killing its daughter? – but rather it is a grotesque and criminal way of trying to wipe out shame.

Below, a fisking of this McCarthyite letter attempting to ban a major researcher on the basis of a dogmatic and anti-intellectual ideology.

Dear Tom:

It has come to our attention that MEST is co-sponsoring Phyllis Chesler to lecture via Skype at the University of Arkansas Law School’s symposium about honor killings on 14 April 2017. 

Chesler’s writings frequently feature on the ultra-right Breitbart forum as well as many other right-wing platforms.

“Right-wing” is thus, by definition, not acceptable. Merely the use of the term in describing someone renders that person unpresentable, outside of the realm of acceptable speech.

Honor-Shame Pathologies and 4th Generation Warfare

One of my colleagues with whom I discuss honor-shame issues is Doyle Quiggle, who in addition to his ability to think about what Daniel Lord Smail calls deep history (governed by honor-shame dynamics), also happens to work on military issues: COIN, Fourth Generation Warfare. He recently sent me the following query, which prompted me a formulation that brings together a number of threads of thought:

What aspects of your research and scholarship would you apply to help us reveal the honor dynamics of Somalia? 

The stubborn and irreducible pathology of conflict in Somalia must be accepted as an existential given. Failure to perceive this pathology and its generative sources condemns the analyst and operator to alienation from the primary psychological, social, economic, and security realities of this region.  That blindness will lead to fatal operational consequences, sooner or later. To operate effectively, let alone establish lasting communal stability in any part of this region, we must first see the pathology of conflict in this region for what it is, accept it, no matter how ugly it might be, and then attack its sources. Once exposed, this pathology is immediately seen to require an integrative “oncological” approach to killing both its tumors and its feeder cells.  However, the decisive operational question today is this: Do we continue to pursue a chemotherapeutic tactic (“paint & kill” drone strikes)? Or do we attempt to administer homeopathic remedies? Is the long-term strategy containment or stability?

A strategy of stability requires an organic, homeopathic approach. Paramount to this approach is co-opting local moral authority.  Local moral authority is used as a kind of homeopathy to kill the cancerous stem cells of Islamic extremism and jihad by use of their own pathogens.

[For further elaboration framing the problem, see below.]

My response:

I’d study the pathologies of honor-shame, i.e. the cases when warrior/stratified, zero-sum, cultures find themselves faced with a more powerful positive-sum culture and after losing repeated zero-sum encounters, instead of adapting, going negative-sum: I’d rather lose more and drag you down in the shit than let you win; I’ll even sacrifice myself/honor/family just to make you miserable.

The classic case of this is the Arab-Israeli conflict where, in response to losing a hard-zero-sum war with Israel, the Arabs were in such denial — recognize Israel? admit defeat? impossible! — that they turned the Arab refugees from their lost war into weapons in a longer war against the Zionist entity. (The original meaning of Nakba/catastrophe was coined by the refugees about what Arab leaders had inflicted on them.)

Take the Proleptic Dhimmi Test: Replace Zionist with Caliphater

I am currently reading about the excellent and depressing research of David Collier into the Palestinian Solidarity Commission, England’s largest and most “prestigious” “pro-Palestinian” group with Jeremy Corbyn and Ilan Pappe on their board.

He quotes one of PSC’s activists, Tony Gratrex:

The Zionists’ militarist mindset is evidently motivated by the ethnocentric myths of Jewish victimhood. World-conquering Neocon-Zionist belligerence is driven in large part by the religious adherence to the official propaganda of the victors of World War II.

As I read it, I recognized the classic projective conversion to which some, at times too many, fall prey in projecting their own desire for world dominion onto others. This is what the Nazis did with their “warrant for genocide,” the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the Jihadis do today with the same text, much embroidered with their own deft touches. Is this Gratrex’s secret desire? Not really my business. Is it the open desire of Jihadis whom Tony joins in attacking their common foe, Zionism? You bet.

Then an interesting mental exercise occurred to me: reverse the referents.

The Islamist’s militarist mindset is evidently motivated by the ethnocentric myths of Muslim victimhood. World-conquering Caliphater belligerence is driven in large part by the religious adherence to the official propaganda of the losers of World War II.

That, alas, is a pretty accurate statement, to which one might add the role that an own-goal, lethal Western journalism, obsessed with images of Muslim victims of Israeli violence, contributed to that sense of global victimization.

But it would be unthinkable in the Western public sphere today, to openly make such an observation, despite the widespread tolerance for the projective meme of Israeli/Jewish malevolence. Imagine Tony, or his fellow cultists at PSC like Falk, or Pappe, or Corbyn, tolerating the very mention of so broad-stroked and conspiratorial statement about Muslims. Just kidding.

Imagine Theresa May saying it. Not likely, until she takes Melanie Phillips as an advisor on these matters.

Why? “Because it would be Islamophobic, and offend many Muslims.”

As for the scurrilous attacks on the Jews… “deplorable, but let’s not forget freedom of speech.”

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?

Liberals without memory: Fisking Roger Cohen on Geert Wilders

Roger Cohen has another of his patented editorials, this time about Geert Wilders. Rapid fisking below.

 Somebody Else’s Babies

Roger Cohen MARCH 14, 2017

And so it begins. With the Dutch election on Wednesday, Europe embarks on a yearlong test of how far it’s ready to realign itself as an anti-immigrant, pro-Russian continent marked by ascendant nationalism, alt-Right intolerance and the fragmentation of the European Union.

The worst could happen. Nobody who has watched the British decision to quit the European Union in a strange little-England huff,

Anyone who thinks that English voters ignored all the dire predictions of econapocalypse if Britain left because of a “strange huff,” hasn’t a clue to what’s going on in the minds of people.

or the election of Donald Trump with his “America First” anti-Muslim jingoism, can think otherwise. The liberal order has lost its center of gravity.

It happened in 2000 when the progressive left sided with the Jihadis against a progressive ally (Israel), and dragged a cowardly narcissistic liberal center off kilter. (As Ian Buruma said in 2003, at the height of the suicide terror campaign against Jewish infidels: “it’s a liberal litmus test to be pro-Palestinian.”)

The only difference is that the “liberal order”, which managed to shunt aside any criticism by people who thought something was awry by exiling them to the Islamophobic, xenophobic, war-mongering, right-wing, is now discovering just how much they have alienated just how many people.

“And all the blame goes to…”: Sisyphus, Kerry and the Failure of “Peace” Negotiations

Two articles and two blogposts have just appeared that tackle the failed peace negotiations conducted by John Kerry during the second Obama Administration. One, by a participant (with a long history of participation in these efforts going back to 1993), “Inside the Black Box of Israeli-Palestinian Talks” by Michael Herzog, in American Interest, and the other, a strong critique of the first piece, by Raphael Ahren, the diplomatic correspondent of the Times of Israel, and two extensive blogposts, by Yaacov Lozowick, and David Gerstman at Legal Insurrection that criticize the widespread lack of interest of the mainstream media on this revealing text, in part, they suspect, because it doesn’t indict Bibi.

Like most diplomatic issues written by negotiators, one has to read between the lines at what is not said. The issues here are crucial, since much of the logic that this information undermines, lies at the heart of Kerry’s final maneuvers to condemn the settlements as the roadblock to peace, and the vast international consensus – diplomatic and journalistic – that stand behind him.

For Herzog, there’s enough blame to go around:

All parties made mistakes, each exacerbating the others’ and contributing to a negative dynamic.

For Ahrens, Herzog’s piece is a “politely devastating critique” that “skewers Kerry for dooming the peace talks.”

What strikes me in reading Herzog is how much – despite his explicit conclusions – he provides an abundance of clear evidence for the fact that (as Lozowick also notes) the real reason the negotiations failed is because the Palestinians  never had any intention of negotiating. So blaming Kerry (or Bibi) for “dooming the peace talks,” is something like blaming a hospital emergency team for blowing the resuscitation of a mannequin.

If there’s blame to apportion here it’s a) the Palestinians for never negotiating in good faith, and b) the Americans, especially Kerry, for blaming Israel for killing the mannequin,  and c) the Israelis like Herzog for never catching on including (apparently) still now.

In reviewing this material, let me lay out what I think were the negotiating strategies of the sides for the last 25 years, a perspective repeatedly borne out by events, including the information in Herzog’s article:

(NB: I’m a medievalist, trained to piece together fragments of evidence into a larger picture. When the CIA launched after the WWII they tapped medievalists (including one of my professor, Joseph Strayer, specifically because of this training. So maybe I see more because I know less. Certainly, in these matters, I am far from familiar with the details.)

The Americans believed (to a man/woman?) that if only they could get the Palestinians and Israelis to agree on a deal that gave the Palestinians a state on the other side of the “’67 borders,” that would bring peace and solve a whole bunch of problems in the Middle East – linkage – including saving Israel from deciding between democratic or apartheid. They formally adopted a cognitively egocentric notion that the Palestinians really wanted a state, but needed to get the best possible deal to “sell it” to their own people. The way to get it was to pressure the Israelis to make concessions that would bring the Israelis into (what they imagined was) “the zone of possible agreement [between Israelis and Palestinians]” (Indyk), and then go to the Palestinians with a great deal (from the US point of view), and thereby achieve the holy grail of Nobel Peace Prizes, the deal that really is so obvious, you should be able to solve it with an email.

The American position represents a dogmatic extension of Oslo Logic after it blew up in Israel’s face in 2000 (Y2K Mind). It takes as a given that the Palestinians will accept a deal +/- on the “1967 borders,” but they can’t concede too much or they’ll lose face with their people. Applying that “reading” to the negotiations since 2000 (Bush/Condoleezza, Obama/Clinton/Kerry) has a) guaranteed US and Israeli failure, b) guaranteed Palestinian and Jihadi success. Once committed to the paradigm and its expectations, the US was incapable of realizing they were being played.

The Israelis wanted to appease the Americans, and I suspect most of the actual negotiators (Herzog/Livni) agree with the American position that a) peace is urgently needed, and b) believe peace is within their grasp, like in 20o0… “so close.” (Certainly Herzog shows no awareness of what’s available at PalWatch or MEMRI on Palestinian attitudes off the negotiating record.) Because they do want a deal soon for fear of the demographic timebomb, the Israelis are ready to make many of concessions, both short-term (slowdown of settlement activity, release of prisoners) and long-term (division of Jerusalem).

But at the same time they know that they have limits to their concessions, not only on some key issues like refugee return and how Jerusalem is divide (already a pocketed concession), but also the damage to their position from making unreciprocated concessions, increasing the odds that this “peace deal” too will blow up in the face of the conceding side. Thus the Israelis fight over every detail to protect themselves from likely attacks from an eventual Palestinian state, while still making concessions to move the process along, to get, as even Indyk admitted they had, into the zone of possible agreement. Herzog expresses his confidence in the Palestinian’s commitment to finding a solution, despite all the counter-evidence, with a credulous humanitarian credo:

But whoever knows the issues in-depth realizes how crucial they are to both sides’ future. And those of us who have spent years at the negotiating table know how arduous and excruciating a journey is required of both sides if they are to find a sustainable balance encompassing all core issues (italics mine).

That “whoever” who “knows” does not include the current crop of Palestinian “leaders” and their negotiators. On the contrary they’re not at all interested in finding a sustainable balance. No arduous journeys for them.

Bibi’s Strategy:

  • Take it seriously.
  • Fight every detail to get the best acceptable deal,
  • Show good faith, accede wherever possible to American demands
  • Ask for reciprocity.
  • Put really good people to work on it, and follow the details closely.
  • Hope that, if/when things fail, they won’t get blamed.

The Palestinians are nowhere near the American’s “zone of possibility.” As long as they can pretend to the cognitive egocentrics on the other side that they are near, ready, desirous of a deal, however, negotiators will play along pretending to accept the notion of a positive-sum, give and take, deal. Indeed they will indignantly rebuke any challenge to their sincerity.

Erekat argued that this was natural given in his view Abbas’ moderate positions: “He doesn’t need to convince Abbas. Abbas accepts the two-state solution [sic], recognizes Israel [sic] and does not build settlements [alas! He should be building settlements for Palestinian Refugees stuck in camps].”

But they know that their job is to make the process as difficult as possible, to give the impression they’ll make concessions without making any real concessions (eg their phony recognition of Israel). They want above all not to reach an agreement, without being blamed for the failure of negotiations. If, in the process, they can use the Americans to get unreciprocated concessions, great. The US wants them so badly to participate that the Palestinians can make just “sitting down to negotiate” a major concession on their part to match say, Israelis releasing prisoners. If they get blamed, go nuts:

The thing that really drove [Abbas] nuts,” Ashrawi relates, “is that they blamed him for the talks’ collapse. In his view, it’s all the Israelis’ — and the Americans’ — fault.”

The Palestinians are in no hurry because the suffering of their people, as long as Israel can be blamed, is a bargaining chip (like a non-funny remake of Blazing Saddles, “don’t no one come near or I’ll shoot this nigger”). They feel no need to make any actual concessions to Israel (that they wouldn’t carry through on anyway) because they feel time is on their side and they can wait. They know that Israel won’t kick the Palestinians out and can’t digest them; that the situation is a timebomb of ethnic warfare which will destroy everyone. (That’s why some Palestinians call for nuking the whole area.) And, anyway, the negotiator’s job is not to create a Palestinian state (pace “international opinion”), but to destroy an Israeli state. If they deviate from that task, if they make a deal with the Israelis, they’d lose face, be accused of betraying the sacred Arab-Muslim cause, and have tea with Sadat.

So they’re willing to “play along” with negotiations as long as the US pressures Israel. Abbas claims his side had “already exhausted its ability to be flexible in past years and therefore that the main onus was not on him.” If the US can force deeply wounding concessions (Green Line including East Jerusalem) on Israel, then maybe they can appease the Jihadis whom they honor in Arabic, by assuring them this is a major step in the “Two Phase Plan” for the destruction of Israel. If they can’t, they can’t risk the humiliation of agreeing to accept a state of free infidels in Dar al Islam, so they’ll walk away from the table and brag to their Jihadis about how they said “No,” to the mighty Americans.

Abbas’ strategy:

  • insist on settlements as main problem and let Western cognitive egocentrists think you mean the Green Line not the shore line;
  • avoid being involved in negotiations as long as possible;
  • refuse any deal, avoid even responding to any deal;
  • negotiate on other tracks (Hamas, International Community), for the time the talks “fail” (i.e., the moment pressure is put on them);
  • blame Israeli settlements for the failure and get outraged when criticized.

Sand Storm helped me work on a 50-year old puzzle: Predestination

I went last night to the Jerusalem Cinematheque for a screening of Sand Storm by Elite Zexer, sponsored by the Times of Israel. The film is superb, a testament to the enormous talent and empathy of the director, right up there with Footnote and To Fill the Void for movies that penetrate into seemingly alien cultures and yet touch on deep human dilemmas, leaving the viewer with a brilliant “end” that is not an end.

In her excellent conversation with Jessica Steinberg that followed, Zexer made the interesting point that she did not want it to be an “anthropological” film that depicted this foreign culture in all its strangeness, and she certainly succeeded. There was no heavy-handed allusions to (my favorite topic) honor-shame cultures, and the kinds of pressures it puts on the members of the tribe, even though the entire drama revolves around a classic honor-issue: whom does a daughter marry – the youth she met at university in Be’er Sheva, or the tribal member her father chooses for her?

No dark allusions to shame-murders (aka honor-killings), no explicit dialogue about how various figures have shamed or might shame others, no lectures on honor and its preservation, no allusions to the shameful fact that the father is an “abu-banat” – father of only (4) daughters, no invocation of kalam al nass, the deeply judgmental “talk of the people” that, at least according to some observers, paralyzes Arab society. All sous-entendu.

And yet one theme – one might say the main theme – of the movie was the conflict between the father and his women over how to behave. Repeatedly the father makes decisions that damage his family emotionally, and repeatedly he justifies it by saying “I don’t have a choice.” And repeatedly, both his wife and daughter challenge him by insisting “You always have a choice.”

 

European Schizoid Dissonance: The Calm of Appeasement

At the Balfour Declaration centenary conference convened by JCPA Tuesday, February 28, there was a particularly interesting juxtaposition during the first panel between remarks by Colonel Richard Kemp and Professor Julius Schoeps.

NB: the videos of the talks are now up.

In his talk, “Israel as a Strategic Asset to Britain“, Richard Kemp drew a striking contrast between two European attitudes towards Israel. On the one hand, there are those who see her as a remarkably successful loyal ally, crucial not only to Montgomery in 1940s, but even more today in the 21st century. On the other, there are those who repeatedly sacrifice Israel’s interests and side against her. His illustrative example concerns Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paolo, the Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, who:

In 2009… visited Israel to study IDF tactics to apply to NATO operations in Afghanistan. He was particularly interested in Israeli tactics for fighting terror in civilian-populated areas. This visit came just weeks after the publication of the infamous Goldstone Report – which alleged that Israel had committed war crimes by deliberately targeting civilians in Gaza.

The contrast was striking: within weeks of the European Parliament endorsing the report, the European Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee was visiting Israel, for the third time in four years, to study ethical methods for dealing with terrorist insurgencies without causing undue harm to civilians.

Apparently the Europeans find scolding Israel nearly irresistible, even though they know their criticism is not only untrue… but, it’s the opposite. Israel behaves better than even other Western armies; a fortiori than the jihadis they fight, whose cannibalistic strategies create civilian casualties among their own people.

Let’s call it (European) schizoid dissonance: holding two diametrically and significantly contradictory notions in one’s empirical and moral discourse at the same time. On the one hand, the (European) cultural elite – journalists, critics, public intellectuals, researchers, NGOs –conduct a conversation in which despising Israel holds an important place, in which they have flipped the symbol and insist on seeing an Israeli Goliath bullying a hapless Palestinian David. On the other hand, the military, the security people, the grown ups in charge, ask the Israelis to teach them how to limit casualties when the enemy uses civilians as shields and how to enhance their security. And that schizoid dissonance seems to hold more or less for all European countries.

No sooner had Kemp finished his remarks than the next speaker, Prof. Julius H. Schoeps, the Director of the Moses Mendelssohn Centre of European Jewish Studies at Potsdam University, made remarks that seemed to illustrate the contradictions Kemp had just highlighted. After asserting German support for Israel and good will towards the morally admirable Zionist dream, he concluded by sternly urging “the Israeli state to prevent the national religious settler movement from carelessly and recklessly squandering the Zionist legacy of the founding fathers…” darkly hinting that a failure to do so would alienate Europeans and especially Germans.

Malliet: Update on Georges Bensoussan Trial in Paris

A tireless warrior in the cogwar, Martin Malliet, frequent commenter here, left a long comment with an update on the George Bensassoun blasphemy trial in Chambre 17 in Paris. I post it here to give it the attention it deserves.

This is indeed a fascinating case that shows how crazy things have gotten in France. (I put some things together on my facebook page.)

Georges Bensoussan, a French Jewish historian and activist against islamism (with quite some credentials in this field), in a debate on the radio (high-brow France-Culture almost nobody listens to) explains how widespread antisemitism in the French Muslim community makes it vulnerable to the islamists’ attempts to set it up against French society.

He then is accused of incitement to hatred against the Muslim community by professional anti-racism organisations, with the lead being taken by the CCIF (against islamophobia). Other anti-racist organisations join in, among which the venerable old LICRA (against racism and anti-semitism) with its star witness Mohamed Sifaoui, an Algerian journalist in France who is a very outspoken critic of islamism and at the same time very much maligned by the CCIF for being former PM Manuel Valls’s sidekick and by the CCIF’s followers for being a ‘zionist agent’, who explains his testimony against Bensoussan with the wish not to leave the defense of the French Muslims entirely to the CCIF.

Apart maybe from the CCIF, nobody seems to be thinking about the sketch Dieudonné is going to make on Bensoussan, who is also associated with the French Shoah memorial, if he is ever found guilty by the court of incitement to hatred against Muslims, as the public prosecutor demands (with a fine of €1.500), after debates at the trial that lasted for 12 hours (till 1h30 in the morning). The verdict will be pronounced on the 7th of March.

The judge, who is Mme Siredey-Garnier, in the meantime has published a sort of opinion piece in the ‘Gazette du Palais’ in which she contrasts the 12-hour long Bensoussan trial with other hearings where she has to decide on the fate of some 23 illegal immigrants in about the same amount of time. The idea she tries to put forward seems to be that the Bensoussan trial is merely about a symbolic matter whereas the other cases are about real lives. But she reminds herself of the trials of Flaubert, Zola, Baudelaire and Charlie, which were also held before the same tribunal (17me chambre), and promises to do her duty by giving every case the attention it deserves.

Her piece inspired me to write a last message in support of Georges Bensoussan that I secretly hope will come to her attention (in French) and that on my part is meant as a simple plea for sanity: “Pour ma part, j’espère seulement que le juge jouera pleinement son rôle de juge, et admettra d’autres considérations que celles introduites par les parties avant d’arriver à une conclusion. Comme par exemple le fait qu’il s’agissait d’un débat contradictoire à la radio, et que dans ce cas on ne peut attendre de personne qu’il pèse vraiment tous ses mots. Que Georges Bensoussan est certes responsable de sa parole, mais qu’il ne peut être tenu responsable de toutes les interprétations malveillantes que d’autres veulent en faire. En d’autres mots, que le juge se rend compte que devant un tribunal révolutionnaire Georges Bensoussan serait facilement condamné pour incitation à la haine raciale. Mais qu’il décide ensuite que devant le tribunal d’un état de droit comme la RF il ne le mérite aucunement. Et qu’il condamne chacune des parties civiles à €10.000 de dommages pour procédure abusive, harcèlement et atteinte à la réputation de Georges Bensoussan.”

http://www.marianne.net/agora-proces-bensoussan-reponse-mohamed-sifaoui-100249704.html

 

On the “Clash of Civilizations” in the Era of Trump

[NB: I wrote this last November, but forgot to post it. Better late than never, and given the reaction to Trump’s Executive Order about admitting people from seven Muslim-majority nations as feeding global Jihad, it seems still highly relevant.]

Pundits are worried that Donald Trump and team – Bannon, Flynn, Pompeo – are “bringing back” the clash of civilizations (back to 2001). This regression, we are told, is a dangerous move that will play right into the hands of the Jihadis. Notes Fawaz Gerges:

What Trump and his followers do not get is that their inflammatory rhetoric plays into the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda, who labor hard to convince skeptical Muslims that the West is waging a war against Islam.

Indeed this sentiment inspired both Bush’s famous “Islam is a religion of peace” speech within a week of 9-11, and Obama’s aversion to any association of Islam with violence. “ISIS is not Islamic.” It goes along with hand phrases like, “We can’t go to war with 1.6 billion Muslims.”

Much has been written of late about the dangers of exaggerating things. Democrats/ Liberals/ Progressives exaggerate the flaws of their “right-wing” opponents, abusing terms like racism and xenophobia till it ceases to move people. Republicans/ Conservatives/ Realists paint with a broad brush, tarring all Islam with the stain of Jihadi extremism.

And the danger here involves not merely the outsiders who cease to respond to the exaggerated rhetoric intended to stampede them against those designated as “beyond the pale.” It also carries the danger of convincing true believers that the sky really is falling. In this sense, Trump may have won in part because his foes had so abused terms like racist and Islamophobe that some voters even warmed to him because he so openly mocked their politically correct strictures. And in the wake of his stunning victory (unforeseen in part because the mainstream of news and commentary so believed their own pack rhetoric), we now have “progressives” alarmed, even panicked, at the prospect of such a terrible man inhabiting the White House, a man so beyond the pale, that normalizing him would be Orwellian “newspeak.”

And yet the same folks who consider “normalizing Trump” an act of newspeak, would not dream of identifying the claim “Islam is a religion of peace,” as a variant on a central theme of newspeak: War means peace, peace means war. In fact Western infidels have formulated the problem of Islamic violence in a way that guarantees it won’t be understood, much less effectively addressed. Right now, certainly since the turn of the millennium, outside dealings with violent Muslims only made things worse

However well-intentioned, or defensive we infidels might be, whatever we do, we make it worse: if we appease, we invite further demands; if we push back, we elicit further hostility. And while we fail miserably to recognize danger and menace coming from without we consume our energies with internecine warfare between “left” and “right”: our tough cops assault our nice cops for being self-destructive fools, while our nice cops assault tough cops for their obscene and atrocious belligerence: each side correctly predicting the failure of the others’ strategies.

Meantime their tough cop (Jihadis) terrify, and their nice cops (Summoners) show us the path to proleptic dhimmitude, to submission. And the first and most important submission of the dhimmi is not to blaspheme, not to criticize, not to shame a Muslim publicly. Accusations of Islamophobia currently play the role of making substantive criticism of currents of Muslim religiosity impossible.

Thus what began as respectful, politically-correct concerns about not offending others, when applied to Muslims, has become so charged with anxiety (and fear) that anyone who addressed the more problematic aspects of Muslims response to the modern world, gets marginalized. As a result, serious discussion about “radical” and “moderate” Islam, and their relationships to each other and infidels, cannot take place, even though they’re key to responding to the challenge of global Jihad.

Reuel Mark Gerecht offers a fine example of the rhetoric that has made discussion so difficult. Even as he faults Obama for failing to address the issue at all, he then turns on the “anti-Islam crowd:

However, I do have a really big problem when certain individuals attempt to paint Islam, in all its 1400-plus years of glorious complexity, as a deranged civilization and faith, whose denizens and practitioners are somehow uniquely capable of violence because they are hard-wired to do so, via the Koran, the holy law, and whatever else the anti-Islam crowd thinks makes Muslims tick. This is just historically atrocious. It is often obscene.”

“Anti-Islam crowd thinks… deranged faith… Koran makes Muslims hard-wired for violence tick… just historically atrocious… often obscene.”

I’ve long learned to beware the term “just” used dismissively. It has a knack for pulling the rug out of a discussion: the anti-Islam crowd’s view of Islam and Muslims is just awful and tasteless, don’t listen to them. And yet, when one subjects Islam, Muslims, to historical scrutiny, it turns out that on just this subject of war and violence, Islam has the most expansive armory of sacred war phrases, which Mahdi warlords and their mujehaddin have used them, generation after generation, Mujadded after Mujadded, to wage war on Allah’s enemies. Any impartial assessment of the historical record on religious war and violence – thoughts and deeds – would fairly rank Islam at the top of the list in its intensity and recurrence. “Islam is a religion of peace,” as historical generalizations go, is about as misleading as one can possibly get to newspeak.

The Qur’an, the sayings, and the law in Islam all give a great deal of attention to non-believers – kufar, those who cover the truth – and much of it is distinctly hostile. War on the infidel qua unsubjected infidel, plays a role in Muslim thinking that has no parallel in any religion in recorded history known to me. For some Muslims (how many?) Jihad a religious vocation: it is a way of proving one’s fervor for Allah. Indeed it would seem fair to venture that historically and currently, Muslims have a lot of trouble dealing with the “infidel other.”

What attitudes and range of behavioral norms govern Muslim interaction with non-believers, those living within and outside of Dar al Islam? How to deal with dissenters and apostates, those whose voices challenge and undermine the faith’s hegemony? Just how important is it to Muslim identity that Islam’s destiny is Muslim rule over all other, false, religions? Where there was Dar al Harb (realm of war), there shall be Dar al Islam (submission). How many Muslims teach and how many learn that the meaning of Muhammad’s urging wala wa bara means “love your fellow Muslims and hate the infidels”?

How painful is the condition of Muslim believers in a modern world that subjects everything, Muhammad and the Qur’an included, into the same critical matrix. Fair treatment for Islam would be very embarrassing. it has thrown Moses and Jesus and their respective documents? And in what complex ways do Muslims deal with that pain? When the simple, arousing, absorbing, deadly appeal of jihadi triumphalism reaches young Muslims passionate about their faith, who can resist, how many are they, and what do they do to shut down the venue for violence.

These are all legitimate observations from the perspective of a free West, indeed one might even argue, indispensable observations. And yet, when weighed in the balance of Gerecht’s judgment, these historically-based observations, come out on the side of “atrocious and obscene.” It’s not that this is all there is to Islam, but that in its history, cases of hostility to religious “others” has led to “deranged [and destructive] episodes, repeatedly giving birth to “practitioners… uniquely capable of violence because they [we]re hard-wired to do so, via the Koran, the holy law,” the hadith, the histories, the tales of glory, the teaching of the global Caliphate. This is historically accurate. It’s Verités de la Palice. If it is “obscene,” one should ask: In whose eyes the offense?

The ability to disagree, to listen, to self-criticize, to empathize with other perspectives, has played a key role in success of civil polities. To talk about real issues, relevant issues, and try and understand them as best we can, is almost too self evident an activity to need defending. And yet, now, if one discusses such matters, rumblings of Islamophobia, of racism, of paranoia, of obscene and atrocious pronouncements, of a racist lack of empathy for the marginalized, for the not-privileged. This dynamic has led to a radical misunderstanding of the violent Muslim forces at play in these matters, initially concerning Israel, now a global phenomenon, come home to roost in your campuses, and even your halls of power.

Take a particularly critical topic: the emergence of sanctified suicide terror, the most potent weapon of global jihad in the 21st century. Historically speaking, one of the critical moments for apocalyptic movements, is when they go public. History is littered with the corpses of slain messiahs, including the most famous one of all. Most authorities throttle even peaceful millennial enthusiasm, a fortiori, millennial hostility. So when an apocalyptic death cult that believes they must destroy the world to save it appears, societies mobilize in opposition.

(Today, the vast majority of those killed by suicide bombing are Muslims.)

And yet, quite to the contrary, the first suicide-terror attacks were greeted with such unanimity on the Arab/Muslim street, that even the most staid theologians in Cairo, yielded to the pressure and legitimized both suicide and attacking civilians. The meme gave birth to a movement; the revenge poetry of pink mist. Certainly this is a tragedy for Muslims, who today, by far, suffer the most from this apocalyptic weapon unleashed upon their world.

The behavior of the West, however, was still more unusual. Rather than protesting this moral monstrosity, this paranoid hatred for a demonized “other” for whom one has no empathy – the Nazi formula – which was now reappearing in Islam, which threatened planetary peace itself. Western progressives, reacting to lethal reports of a “Jenin massacre,” cheered the Palestinian martyrs on, some wore mock belts in solidarity. In the history of civilizational-suicidal gestures, that ranks high, although the last 16 years have been very high in such incidents.

In the history of the millennial movement of global jihad, that moment in the early aughts (Spring, 2002), when infidels cheered on the most ominous new development in the war on themselves, will stand out as a major turning point. In their eagerness to believe in the IDF as Nazi, they, like the Arab theologians, threw out basic principles of humanity. It was a stunning loss of empathy for people who, only two generations earlier, had a special claim on European empathy.

And for whom did the progressives who shouted “We are Hamas!” in European capitals have empathy? For the Palestinian “people,” for their cause. The people whose culture had produced Hamas’ martyrdom operations, in which the apocalyptic meme of “pink mist” arose, designating that magic moment after explosion when your own blood mixes with the blood of your victims, and your soul ascends to heaven and your victims’ descend to hell. A case study of paranoid violence against an utterly demonized “other,” “martyrs” with no trace of empathy. So instead of identifying the phenomenon of martyrdom operation as a massive social problem, and more specifically, an tragic failure in even the most elementary forms of empathy, it cheered on the death cult as resistance, and protested when the autonomous infidel, under attack, defended.

Of course if Gerges and others were concerned with not radicalizing the Muslim world, they would have spoken out long ago against the own-goal lethal journalism that Western journalists and “progressive activists” have engaged in over the last decade and a half, depicting the Israelis as (Muslim) child-killers and the Western militaries as killers of hundreds of thousands of Muslims – when indeed and alas, Muslims kill many more Muslims than Westerners do.

#ASSO21C: How Kerry Knows Settlements an Obstacle to Peace

I’m a bit late on this one, but it’s such a good example of, and going into the list of Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century, that I have to fisk it. Last year, before the Obama Administration’s final flurry of attacks on the Israeli settlements, at the Saban Forum, John Kerry denounced the settlements as a “barrier” to any peace settlement:

I’m not here to tell you that the settlements are the reason for the conflict. No, they’re not.

Unless, as the Palestinian leadership does, you define any Israeli presence a settlement, like Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Ashkelon. So Kerry agrees that the settlements – by which he means Israelis living on the “West Bank” (including East Jerusalem?), are not the cause of the conflict – obviously, since the conflict precedes the “occupation.”

But

…and you knew this was coming…

I also cannot accept the notion that they don’t affect the peace process, that they aren’t a barrier to the capacity to have peace.

And I’ll tell you why I know that: Because the left in Israel is telling everybody they are a barrier to peace, and the right that supports it [them?] openly supports it because they don’t want peace.

Now this is truly a piece of work, and all the more remarkable because he actually explicitly invokes this contrast as his proof of why they settlements are a barrier. Let’s take the two one at a time:

Traduction française de mon article sur Edward Said et la Culture d’honneur et de honte

French translation of my article, “‘Celebrating’ Orientalism,” by Magali Marc and published at Dreuz.
Traduit par MAGALI MARC le 29 JANVIER 2017

 

 

Pour les lecteurs de Dreuz, j’ai traduit ce fort long texte, un exposé magistral d’un grand ami de Dreuz, Richard Landes*, qui est à lire absolument et à faire lire à nos amis bien-intentionnés mais mal informés, gauchistes, pacifistes, pro-palestiniens, anti-islamophobes, pasdamalgamistes, si tant est qu’ils soient encore nos amis…

La victoire de l’Orientalisme
Par Richard Landes
(publié dans le Middle-East Quarterly du site Middle East Forum)
Hiver 2017

Que l’on considère l’impact d’Edward Saïd (1935-2003) sur le monde universitaire comme un grand triomphe ou comme une tragique catastrophe, peu de gens peuvent remettre en question l’étonnante portée et la pénétration de son magnum opus, L’Orientalisme.

En une génération, une transformation radicale a dominé les études du Moyen-Orient : une nouvelle catégorie d’universitaires «post-coloniaux», ayant une perspective libératrice et anti-impérialiste, a remplacé une génération d’érudits que Saïd a dénigrés en les traitant d’«Orientalistes».

Cette transformation ne se limitait pas aux études du Moyen-Orient : Saïd et son paradigme post-colonial réunissaient un large éventail d’acolytes dans de nombreux domaines des sciences sociales et humaines.

Pourtant, quand on examine les événements des deux dernières décennies, on peut dire que les héritiers académiques de Saïd se sont plantés de façon spectaculaire dans leurs analyses et prescriptions concernant la façon dont il fallait s’y prendre pour régler les problèmes du Moyen-Orient.

Nulle part cela n’a été aussi évident que dans la lecture erronée du désastreux «processus de paix» israélo-palestinien d’Oslo et des fameux «printemps arabes» qui se sont rapidement détériorés en vagues de guerres tribales et sectaires, créant des millions de réfugiés, dont beaucoup ont littéralement détruit les malheureux rivages de l’Europe.

Une grande partie de cet échec peut être attribuée aux restrictions imposées par la pensée postcoloniale sur la capacité de discuter de la dynamique sociale et politique du Moyen-Orient. Si les experts et les journalistes ont été hypnotisés par les perspectives de paix arabo-israélienne et le mirage d’une vague de démocratisation arabe, c’est en partie parce qu’ils avaient systématiquement sous-estimé le rôle de la culture d’honneur et de honte dans les sociétés arabes et musulmanes et son impact sur la religiosité islamique.

La dynamique «honneur-honte» dans les dimensions politique et religieuse

Les termes honneur-honte désignent des cultures où l’acquisition, l’entretien et la restauration de l’honneur public triomphent de toutes les autres préoccupations.

Alors que tout le monde se soucie de ce que les autres pensent et veut sauver la face même si cela signifie mentir, dans les cultures d’honneur et de honte, ces préoccupations dominent le discours public : il n’y a pas de prix trop élevé à payer– y compris la vie– pour préserver l’honneur.

Dans de telles cultures politiques, l’opinion publique accepte, attend, exige même que le sang soit versé pour l’honneur.

Dans de telles sociétés, quand les gens critiquent publiquement ceux qui sont au pouvoir– ceux qui ont l’honneur– ils attaquent leur être même. Si ces derniers ne répondaient pas– de préférence par la violence– ils perdraient la face.

Les sociétés autoritaires permettent donc à leurs mâles dominants de supprimer violemment ceux dont les paroles les offensent.

Conséquemment, les cultures d’honneur et de honte ont une immense difficulté à tolérer la liberté d’expression, de religion, de la presse tout autant que de traiter avec les sociétés qui pratique cette tolérance.

Dans les cultures où les gens se font eux-mêmes justice, cette insistance sur l’honneur peut signifier tuer quelqu’un qui a tué un parent, et dans la culture japonaise, l’honneur peut signifier se suicider.

Cependant, dans certaines cultures d’honneur, cette préoccupation signifie tuer un membre de la famille pour sauver l’honneur de la famille. Le «jugement public», dont le verdict détermine le sort de la communauté demeure le vecteur qui motive le besoin de sauver la face, et définit les façons de faire. Le terme arabe pour «commérage» est kalam an-nas, (la parole du peuple), qui est souvent sévère dans son jugement des autres.

À ce sujet, le psychologue Talib Kafaji a écrit :

«La culture arabe est une culture de jugement, et tout ce qu’une personne fait est sujet au jugement… induisant de nombreuses peurs… avec de graves conséquences sur la vie individuelle. Éviter ce jugement peut être la préoccupation constante des gens, presque comme si toute la culture était paralysée par le kalam [an] –nas.»

Autrement dit, dans la société arabe, tous les individus sont les otages les unes des autres.

En dépit de sa résonnance «orientaliste», cette attention à un jugementalisme paralysant et omniprésent fournit des aperçus importants sur les dysfonctionnements du monde arabe d’aujourd’hui.

Les cultures d’honneur et de honte ont tendance à être à somme nulle : les hommes d’honneur gardent jalousement leur honneur et considèrent l’ascension des autres comme une menace pour eux-mêmes. Dans les cultures à somme nulle de «bien limité», l’honneur pour une personne signifie la honte pour les autres. Si l’autre gagne, vous perdez. Afin que vous ayez le dessus, l’autre doit perdre.

Ceux qui sont juste en dessous continuent de défier ceux qui sont juste au-dessus, et l’ascension n’est possible que par l’agression. Tu n’es pas un homme tant que tu n’as pas tué un autre homme. La prise des biens d’autrui –par le vol ou le pillage– est supérieure à la production. Domine ou soit dominé. Le visage noirci (de la honte) est lavé dans le sang (de l’honneur).

Cette même mentalité dite «à somme nulle», «gouverne-ou-soit-gouverné», qui domine la plupart des interactions dans la politique des cultures d’honneur et de honte, a son analogie dans la religiosité du triomphalisme, la croyance que la domination de sa religion sur les autres constitue la preuve de la vérité de cette religion.

De la même manière que les chrétiens ont pris la conversion de l’Empire romain au Christianisme comme un signe que leurs revendications sur les Juifs avaient triomphé ; les musulmans triomphalistes, dans une expression suprême de la religiosité inspirée par l’honneur, croient que l’islam est une religion de domination destinée à gouverner le monde.

Cette dynamique d’honneur et de honte explique en grande partie l’hostilité arabe et musulmane envers Israël, ainsi qu’envers l’Occident.

Israël, un État de Juifs libres (c’est-à-dire, des infidèles non-dhimmis), vivant à l’intérieur du Dar al-Islam historique (royaume de la soumission), constitue un blasphème vivant. La capacité d’Israël à survivre aux efforts répétés des Arabes pour le détruire constitue un état permanent de honte arabe devant toute la communauté mondiale. Cela fait de l’hostilité musulmane triomphaliste envers Israël un cas particulièrement grave d’une hostilité généralisée envers les infidèles et les musulmans «modérés».

Tout effort pour comprendre ce qui se passe dans le monde arabe aujourd’hui doit tenir compte de cette dynamique religio-culturelle.

Pourtant, dans l’ensemble, cette dynamique n’est pas seulement ignorée, mais ceux qui en parlent sont réprimandés pour (prétendument) contribuer à aggraver le conflit plutôt que de le comprendre.

Une grande partie de cette ignorance (à la fois active et intransitive) remonte à Saïd, qui a fait de l’analyse «honneur-honte» un péché «orientaliste» particulièrement impardonnable.

Avant même que n’arrive la contribution de Saïd, l’anthropologie s’était éloignée de cette analyse. Lui en a fait un dogme. A tel point que, dans le dernier tiers du XXe siècle, il est devenu paradoxalement honteux– voire raciste– qu’un anthropologue discute de l’«honneur et de la honte» arabe ou musulmane.

La honte de Saïd et la désorientation de l’Occident

L’Orientalisme de Saïd a exploité une tendance occidentale à l’autocritique morale concernant l’analyse des autres cultures, dans le but de protéger son peuple de la honte. Pour lui, la critique des Arabes ou des musulmans reflète les préjugés ethnocentriques de l’Occident et de son projet culturel discriminatoire de domination impérialiste.

Ce n’était pas ce que les orientalistes croyaient faire, eux pensaient qu’ils offraient des observations précises concernant les caractéristiques et les conditions d’une autre culture et de son histoire.

Pour Saïd, au contraire, tout contraste entre les cultures de l’Occident démocratique et celles des Arabes et des musulmans– certainement ceux qui montraient ces derniers sous une lumière peu flatteuse– étaient des exemples lamentables de xénophobie hostile dirigée contre des «inférieurs», et ne pouvaient pas constituer une réflexion sur une réalité sociale.

À propos du dix-neuvième siècle, Saïd a écrit : «Tout Européen qui parlait de l’Orient était raciste, impérialiste et presque totalement ethnocentrique».

Saïd a lancé un plaidoyer en faveur d’une alternative : il fallait à tout prix éviter d’orientaliser l’Orient, encore et encore.

Sans l’«Orient» il y aurait des érudits, des critiques, des intellectuels, des êtres humains pour lesquels les distinctions raciales, ethniques et nationales seraient moins importantes que l’entreprise commune dans la promotion de la communauté humaine.

Bien compris, cet appel demande aux chercheurs de ne pas parler de différences ethniques, raciales ou religieuses, alors que la plupart des moyen-orientaux vous diront que ce sont des questions culturelles très importantes pour eux.

Ainsi, dans la nouvelle édition d’«Orientalisme» publiée en 1994, SaÏd se plaignait-il de la focalisation croissante de l’Occident sur le danger que représente l’islam : «les médias électroniques et imprimés ont été inondés par des stéréotypes dégradants qui amalgament l’islam et le terrorisme, les Arabes et la violence, l’Orient et la tyrannie.»

Linda Sarsour’s tweet on those who disagree with her

Linda Sarsour, the controversial but highly acclaimed co-chair of the Women’s March, tweeted out her good will towards those who disagree with her.

I think this raises some important questions. First, what does it mean to bring in love in these matters? Normally the formula is “we can disagree and I can still listen to you, tolerate you, interact with you civilly.”

Second, what kind of conditional is that? Who decides when disagreement “is rooted in her oppression, in denial of her humanity? She does? What if her definition of what “oppresses,” “denies her humanity,” threatens her “right to exist” is extremely sensitive? What if she takes offense at the disagreement by claiming it threatens her very being?

And what happens then? Does she hate those she disagrees with?