The Low Countries at their lowest: Dutch Lethal Own-goal Journalism

I only now have become aware (thanks to Twitter) of Hans Moll‘s book (2011) on Holland’s most presitigious paper (only in Dutch alas) and Bruce Bawer’s review of it for Frontpage in More »

Spencer Pack to ConnColl Faculty on Harassing Jewish Faculty

Spencer Pack, who invited me to speak at ConnColl about the Pessin Case, has written to the faculty about their President, Katherine Bergeron’s response to claims of harassment of Jewish members of More »

Suicide Bombing, Western Disorientations and (Partial) Realizations

JP. O’Mally writes a review in the Times of Israel of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East: LONDON — In the closing sentence of More »

Lethal, Own-Goal Journalism creates Caliphater BDS: Definitions

The following is a set of definitions I will be using in a talk I’m giving on Sunday. They are, I think, critical terms in understanding what has happened in the 21st More »

Who Shocks Us? LCE’s reaction to Muslim terror attacks

Pedro Zuquette, a former c0-blogger here at Augean Stables and one of the early contributors to Second Draft, just sent me this with the comment: Cognitive dissonance.   Having just had a More »

Bo Persson, Swedish Public TV and Proleptic Dhimmitude

This is the first of many posts I’ll be making about the current scandal in Sweden over Bo Perrson’s Watching the Moon at Midnight. The Algemeiner has a brief article about it today, and there is a petition up which I urge everyone to sign.

Here is my comment on the petition:

The aggressive cowardice of SVT in this matter, combined with its pathetic denials, illustrates in detail why the Jihadis are winning the cognitive war against West democracies.

Jihadis say don’t you dare talk smack about us, but instead talk smack about our enemies, and SVT says, “Jawohl mein Herr” and then bares its teeth to the enemies of Jihad.

#ProlepticDhimmitude

Not a good sign for Sweden’s freedom.

Bo Perrson is a courageous documentarists who risked a great deal to tell the truth. He deserves the attention and support of all those who love freedom and honesty.

Been up so long looks like down to me: own goal punching

 

I had to cut the following from an article I’m writing. It concerns the reactions of the media to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and what it reveals about the impact of intimidation on journalists and news agencies and our resultant moral and empirical disorientation.

Been Down So Long: Cheering the Intifada and Punching Up

Few incidents illustrate the topsy-turvy world of cognitive disorientation than last year’s controversy about PEN giving Charlie Hebdo an award for “freedom of speech.” A significant number of authors, including Joyce Carol Oates objected. Charlie Hebdo certainly had the right to do what it did, they argued, but that hardly means that we need to reward them for their actions, especially given the bad taste involved. Picking on the Muslim minority in Europe is “punching down,” and as any comedian can tell you, “punching down is not funny.” When one “speaks truth to power,” wittily or not, one punches up. Gary Trudeau, author of the Doonsbury cartoons explained:

By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died. Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks.

Unpacked, Trudeau’s remarks amount to the following:

  • Muslims cannot be expected to control themselves: if we offend them they’ll get violent.[1]
  • We should be deferential to Muslims because of their tendency to violence.
  • We should view Muslims as a powerless, disenfranchised minority, whom we need to protect.
  • We should protect their right to support violence against those who offend them – i.e. those who “foolishly used their freedom of speech…”
  • We should protect their rights even as we disapprove of those who upset them.

Nor was he alone. Many a European newspaper, refusing to publish even the post-massacre cover depicting Muhammad shedding a tear – a newsworthy item if there ever were one – explained how they did so not because of intimidation, but just out of respect for Muslim feelings and contempt for the arrogance of those who would offend them.[2] The NYT, the only US paper not to publish the cover, insisted it was out of consideration for the feelings of Muslims, not fear of Jihadi retaliation.[3] Dean Baquet, the Executive Editor of the NYT wrote with a certain bravado to Politico:

I don’t give a damn about the head of ISIS but I do care about that [Muslim family in Brooklyn who read us and is offended by any depiction of what he sees as his prophet], and it is arrogant to ignore them.[4]

Only when stung by criticism that the NYT alone among US papers did not publish the “offending” image, did Bill Keller, the previous Executive Director, let the cat out of the bag:

An editor running a large, high profile, global news organization has to consider the potential consequences for reporters, photographers, translators and other staff. It’s easy for an editor in New York or Washington to take a stand (or strike a pose) [i.e. publish a picture of the Prophet (PBUH) but the dangers fall on journalists in the field. If you’ve had a few of your people murdered, as The Times has, this is not a concern you take lightly.[5]

Indeed. Unpacked, this means that the larger (and more exposed) a news agency – NYT, BBC, Reuters, AP, AFP – the more subject to intimidation.

Such concerns, masked as principled acts, can lead to oxymoronic statements like that of Reuters’ Global Managing Editor who, even as he admitted that his organization will not use the word “terrorism” to describe Jihadi acts of terror because it might “endanger its reporters in volatile areas or situations,” nonetheless insists:

My goal is to protect our reporters and protect our editorial integrity.”

In the final analysis, all this posturing disguises the fact that these news outlets and their journalists regularly appease Muslim sensibilities because far from being a “powerless, disenfranchised minority,” they’re the global bullies. How many times has everyone heard the comment: “I refuse to believe that we are at war with 1.6 billion Muslims,” almost always invoked to insist on not insulting them.[6] As one French academic confided to me as early as 2003, “the Arabs act as if they have a knife to our throat and we act as if they have a knife to our throat.”[7]

In describing how French journalists and diplomats were “brave” in attacking the US over Iraq, one noted: “courage is attacking the strongest, and America is the strongest.” On the contrary, it’s attacking not those who have the most power, but those who abuse power. Suicide terror is a horrendous abuse of the power that almost any determined person can exercise: sacrificing your own life in order to kill civilians.  Secretary of State John Kerry may consider the attack on Charlie Hebdo “senseless violence.” But the Jihadis who carried it out, and the targets of that violence got the message, no matter how much they insisted it was all about consideration for Muslims’ feelings.

Punching Down with Jihad: Mistaking the Intidfada

As similar inversion and resulting disorientation occurs in the journalists’ reading of the conflict between Israel and her neighbors. Palestinians call their two most recent violent protests (1987-1992, 2000-2005), “intifadas.” Journalists systematically translate it as “uprising” and present it as the Palestinian David freedom fighters resisting the Israeli Goliath occupation.[8]

And yet, the word means “shaking off” as when a great beast like a horse or camel, shakes its hide to shoo away a fly. In the minds of the Palestinians, they are the shuddering skin of the great beast (the Islamic Umma), shaking off the tiny fly of Israeli Jews: 1.6 billion vs. 6 million. Journalists, instead give us a radically disorienting account of events, in which a “national resistance movement of Palestinian underdogs rose up against Israeli “Occupation” of their land in 2000. Retrospectively, it’s clear that the most apocalyptic Muslim prophet was right: The Intifada of Rajab was the opening stage of a global Jihad.

The result of this intimidation-driven disorientation? Astoundingly stupid statements from journalists like “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter,” or from prominent European figures to the effect that if we were denied our freedom, we might also, like the desperate Palestinians, blow ourselves up. And all the while, these radically misinformed Westerners did not realize that those who sought to shake off Israel from Dar al Islam, were part of a larger movement that wished to impose Dar al Islam on the remaining parts of Dar al Harb, in particular, the West. Instead, the “global progressive left,” embraced Hamas and Hizbullah as part of a vast “anti-imperialist” alliance.

If you told a signer of the Hamas charter in 1988/1409 that within two decades, kufar in European capitals would be waving their flag and shouting “We are Hamas!” he would probably have responded, “Only Allah can make people that stupid.”

_____

Footnotes

[1] A similar attitude was expressed by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer when he suggested that burning a Qur’an might be compared to shouting fire in a crowded theatre, thus comparing Muslim violence at being offended to the natural panic that would seize a crowd at the thought of being burned alive. George Stephanopoulos, “Justice Stephen Breyer: Is Burning Koran ‘Shouting Fire In A Crowded Theater?’,” ABC, September 14, 2010; http://blogs.abcnews.com/george/2010/09/justice-stephen-breyer-is-burning-koran-shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater.html#tp. For the most ludicrous example of this kind of thinking, see the pressure on Pope Benedict to apologize for remarks about Islam being a violent religion, which set of waves of violent Muslim protest: Landes, “The Pope’s Remarks about Islam: The Joke too few Get,” September 29, 2006; http://www.theaugeanstables.com/2006/09/29/the-popes-remarks-about-islam-the-joke-too-few-get/.

[2] Aidan White, Director oof the “Ethical Journalism Network,” assured the audience at a Jerusalem Press Club Conference, The Freedom of the Press (2015) that British newspapers like the Guardian had not published the cartoon out of deference, not out of fear. http://jerusalempressclub.com/fotpcon2015/5881-2.

[3] See Margeret Sullivan, “A Close Call on Publication of Charlie Hebdo Cartoons,” NYT January 8, 2015; http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/charlie-hebdo-cartoon-publication-debate/?_r=0.

[4] Dylan Byers, “Does free media have an obligation to Islam?” Politico, January 14, 2015; http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/01/dean-baquet-addresses-nyts-republication-of-anti-semitic-cartoons-200788#ixzz48RZ29xOd Note that Baquet dismissed the contradictions between this sensitivity to Muslim feelings and the NYT’s renown readiness to publish artwork and cartoons offensive to Jews and Christians: “I would really do some reporting – I did – to make sure these parallels are similar for the two religions. You may find they are not. In fact they really are not.”

[5] Michael Calderone, “New York Times Only Top U.S. Newspaper Not To Publish Charlie Hebdo Cover,” Huffington Post, January 15, 2015; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/14/new-york-times-charlie-hebdo_n_6470338.html.

[6] President Obama and members of his administration are prominent proponents of this thesis: Cody Fenwick, “We Are Not At War With Radical Islam,” Care2, November 18, 2015; http://www.care2.com/causes/we-are-not-at-war-with-radical-islam.html.

[7] Landes, “Paris Notes, Summer 2004,” The Augean Stables; http://www.theaugeanstables.com/essays-on-france/paris-notes-summer-2004/.

[8] Intifada coverage.

Landes, “The Cult of the Occupation” NY, April 12, 2016

Last month I gave a talk to the ZOA chapter in NY at the kind invitation of Eytan Sosnovich. Here it is online.

I start slow and bungle my initial reference to Matti Friedman’s article for BICOM (British Israel Communications and Research Center, published in their journal, Fathom, “The Ideological Roots of Media Bias against Israel,” Winter 2015.

The Cult of the Occupation:

Explorations of one of the Suicidal Memes of the 21st Century

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

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

The Failures of Journalism in the 21st Century

I am finally composing my long promised book, They’re So Smart cause We’re so Stupid: A Medievalist Guide to the Jihadi Cogwar of the 21st Century. It begins with a list of the “Astoundingly Stupid Statements of the 21st Century” (#ASSO21C). I’ll be posting material from the book as I compose it. Part I introduces the key Players: Triumphalist Muslims, the Global Progressive Left (GPL), and the lethal own-goal, journalists. The following is the opening to the third chapter:

Lethal, Own-Goal, Dhimmi, Journalists:
The Bane of the West in the 21st century

The Failures of Journalism in the 21st Century

Towards the end of 2000, a professional failure of epic proportions took place among Western journalists. This failure began among Middle East correspondents reporting on the conflict, which broke out anew in late September 2000, between Israel and her Arab (triumphalist) neighbors. In this phase of “lethal journalism” Western reporters, almost as a pack, systematically reported Palestinian accusations against Israel – lethal narratives – as if they were eminently credible, indeed as if they actually happened, in other words as news. These reports had their desired effect in the conflict, supporting the “underdog” and “leveling the playing field,” prolonging the war, protecting the Palestinians from Israeli efforts to prevent their terror attacks, and severely damaging Israel’s global image.

The impact, however, went far beyond what these reporters imagined. They had an electric effect on Muslims the world over, including the West. Given overwhelming proof – the Western media reported it – of the victimization of Muslims in Palestine, many a triumphalist Muslim awoke to the siren call of Jihad. Demonstrations in the West made ample room for a newly aggressive Muslim Street, and recruiting for Jihad made great headway in the heart of the enemy. In particular, Europe’s largely unassimilated Muslim population radicalized significantly.

Indeed, lethal journalists, in their cognitive disorientation, didn’t realize that, in purveying Palestinian propaganda as news, they greatly amplified not Palestinian “nationalist” efforts to get their “self-determination,” but instead they mainstreamed Jihadi war propaganda that targeted their own societies as much as Israeli – all kufar to be either converted, dhimmified, or eliminated. In so acting, they engaged in an unprecedented form of war journalism, not the traditional patriotic version of lying for your own side, but own-goal war journalism, where the journalists lied for their side’s enemies.

Why did they do this? A close look at the lethal journalism at work against Israel reveals a striking underlying pattern: not only did it report often false accusations against Israel that incited outrage and hatred, but it did not report (or played down) often true stories about the Palestinians – their terrorism, their mistreatment of their own people, and their genocidal incitement to hatred of the Jews.

Here was pattern of compliance with Palestinian “Media Protocols” that essentially demanded that journalists report the conflict as a black and white morality tale: Israelis were always the aggressors and Palestinians always the victims, resisting the occupation. This obedience to the demands of Palestinian Jihadis  in fact replicated itself in the broader journalistic coverage of global Jihadi efforts. In this sense, both the lethal, own-goal war journalism of the journalists reporting from the Middle East, and the disastrous misreporting on triumphalist Islam in the West, constitute what can best be described as Dhimmi journalism, that is, journalism that follows the rules of the dhimma: do not offend Muslims and attack those who do offend Muslims.

Of all the things that help us understand why the West has fared so badly in countering Jihadi cogwar in the 21st century, this across the boards failure of the Western MSNM, stands at the head of the list.

They Savor Wine but Keep an Open Bar for the Hard Stuff

Richard Landes

The following is the text of talk I delivered at the Council for European Studies in Philadelphia entitled, “European Resilience?” The panel was entitled: 

A Measure of European Resilience: Anti-semitism(s) Old and New

Chair: Jeff Weintraub

Participants:

“A New ‘Exodus’? The Political Economy of Jewish Migration.” Scott Siegel, San Francisco State University

“European Muslim Antisemitism: Its Sources, Its Allies.” Gunther Jikeli, Indiana University

“They had it Coming: Retributive Justice Attacks on European Jewry.” Steven Baum, Journal for the Study of Antisemitism; Florette Cohen-Abady, College of Staten Island – CUNY

“Secular Supersessionism and Post-Christian Europe’s Tolerance for Anti-Semitism.” Richard Landes, Bar Ilan University

Discussant: Jeff Weintraub, Harvard University.

 

They Savor Wine but Keep an Open Bar for the Hard Stuff

Secular Supersessionism and Post-Christian Europe’s Tolerance for Anti-Semitism

The following represents excerpts from a chapter of a history book, written in 2050, on the asymmetric war of invasion that Jihadis had been waging against the West since 1979/1400. The historian identified this as an apocalyptic war for Muslim world conquest, a drive to turn all of Dar al Harb into Dar al Islam. The excerpts focus on Jihad in Europe during the first decade and a half of the 21st century, a period this historian considered the turning point in the Jihadi campaign, and a set-up for the subsequent decades-long civil wars that plagued the continent from 2020s onwards. The first segment describes the process of reversal of forces in 2000, the second attempts to explain why the Jihadis had such widespread and unexpected success. As a preliminary note, this author has the habit of writing his chronology not only AD/CE, but also AH, the Islamic count; and refers to the first two decades of the third millennium as the “aughts” and the “teens.”

The turn of the millennium, 2000/1420, marked a dramatic change in the fate of Europe. From this point onward, the rapports de forces between Europe and the movement of global Jihad that targeted the democratic continent, shifted dramatically in favor of the “weak side” of this asymmetrical invasion. This occurred just as the EU was reaching its highest point of both extension and integration, a development that seemed to make the EU a global colossus on a par with the USA. At the time, few even noticed the shift, much less attributed any real significance to it.

Up until the “fin-de-siècle/millennium” of 2000/1420, global Jihad’s goal of Muslim world conquest struck virtually everyone as ridiculous, especially in the West, now, with the internet, the globally dominant hegemon. Granted the Jihadis had scored major victories in the previous decades: Khoumeini in Iran (1979/1400), Bin Laden in Afghanistan (1989/1410), and the same year, Khoumeini’s dramatic extension of Sharia law to Dar al Harb with his death fatwa against the blasphemer Salmon Rushdie. But the idea that Muslims could actually take over Europe, the West? Inconceivable! Even Muslims who found the dream tantalizing, still considered it a pipe dream.

In late 2000, however, global Jihad took an immense leap from the margins to the center of the global community, and surprisingly enough, often with the enthusiastic approval of the very European elites whom they targeted. The dynamic so rapidly took hold, that what in the 1990s/1410s was virtually unthinkable – namely the Islamic take-over of the European continent – by the mid aughts/1420s, started to look to some observers as inevitable: a string of books made the dire prophecy of European demise: Eurabia (2005), Londonistan (2006), While Europe Slept (2006), America Alone (2006). These books were treated by the gatekeepers of the public sphere as either dangerous or ridiculous, alarmist, conspiracist, creating the very hatreds they warned against.

On the contrary, many Europeans thought they were in their glory days. In the very same years as the dire books appeared, another set proposed a profoundly optimistic, even triumphalist scenario of European dominance in the 21st century: The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy (2005), The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (2005), Why Europe will Run the 21st century (2006). And all of this, just moments before the Muhammad Cartoon affair extended Muslim blasphemy laws world-wide.

It began with the second Intifada, in late September and the rapid rise to dominance of a school of lethal journalists who systematically reported as news Jihadi war propaganda. This war propaganda electrified the global Umma, including in Muslims in Europe. The actual Palestinian military uprising was a failure: it failed to chase the Jews from Israel. But it did sanctify the supreme Jihadi weapon of the new century, suicide terror, soon turned on other infidels – the next year 9-11 – and then on Muslims. The suicide terrorist became the trademark of a global jihad that fed on the destructive chaos it created.

But what the Palestinian Jihadis failed to achieve on the kinetic battlefield, they more than compensated for in the cognitive theater of asymmetrical global war. News images of Palestinian suffering and Israeli cruelty awakened Muslims the world over, and the nascent internet multiplied the effect manifold. These images of Jewish terror and Palestinian victimization aroused immense anger among Muslims, and confirmed the message that apocalyptic Jihadis had been pushing for decades: Islam was under existential threat: This is a war on Islam itself. Al Jazeera rose to unprecedented heights distributing these icons of hatred in the Arab and Muslim world. Bin Laden turned the footage of the IDF shooting a twelve year old boy to death in the arms of his pleading father, into a video summons to the global Jihad of planetary conquest.

Among Europeans, the victory of Jihadi war propaganda was at least as spectacular: not only did the icons of victimization and hatred awaken European Muslims, but the message was given immense prestige and reach when Western journalists presented it as news. In turn, the same media that emphasized Israeli aggression, systematically underreported the Muslim aggression those broadcasts provoked against European Jews. This pattern was most pronounced during periods of military clash between Israel and their neighbors, during which pack journalists unwittingly, but enthusiastically, promoted Jihadi propaganda and played down Jihadi aggression.

And even as they incited Jihadi hatred against Israel and cheered on the “resistance” by demonstrating in suicide bomber belts, they became paralyzed. “The Arabs act as if they have a knife to our throat and we act as if they did,” noted one scholar in hushed tones. And indeed they did: the knife was the threat of suicide terror. So when during Ramadan of 2005/1426 rioters shouting “Allahu Akhbar” rioted all over France in response to a lethal narrative about French cops killing two Arab boys, the police tried to contain; and French journalists and academics denied it had anything to do with Islam.

Indeed, the early aughts brought to prominence a kind of “global progressive left” street presence whose spokespeople, by 2003, claimed – in the pages of the NYT – to constitute one of two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion, which was against war. These demonstrations, which reached into the tens of millions worldwide in 2003, gave prominence to and welcomed the energy of Jihadis, who proudly sported giant portraits of Saddam and Arafat and in various places like Paris, beat up Jewish participants in the rallies. In the replacement theology of the global left, Israel became the secular anti-Christ, the new Nazis, committing genocide against the Palestinians, the new Jews.

This “Street” of public opinion, initially sponsored by the global progressive “anti-war” left, spawned its own, aggressive, and independent “Muslim Street” in Europe: starting with the Ramadan riots in France in 2005/1425. It continued with protests against the blasphemous Danish Cartoons (Salmon Rushdie redux, 2006/1426) and protesting the Pope calling Islam a violent religion (2007/1427). Infidel progressives tended not to join these demos, although they did not laugh at the absurdity of Muslims violently protesting someone calling them violent.

But the one constant, the one phenomenon that brought out all the protesters in their most enthusiastic and angry moods, was the periodic episodes of lethal journalism about Israel. Even American war crimes – in some cases far worse – did not bring out the angry crowds. Thus, each episode of fevered own-goal journalism – Al Aqsa Intifada, Jenin Massacre, Lebanon, Gaza I, Mavi Marmara, Gaza II, Gaza III – produced major gains for European Jihad. Indeed, by the end of the aughts, Hamas had developed the pattern into a formal strategy: provoke an Israeli attack, get as many Muslim civilians killed as possible, and count on the Western news media to so outrage the world community, that diplomatic pressure forced Israel to stop.

In communicating the lethal narrative of Palestinian anguish and Israeli cruelty, the news media fueled the widely held belief in Europe, even among infidel intelligentsia: “The IDF kills Palestinian children every day”… the first global blood libel of the early 21st century and global Jihad’s best recruiting device.

In 2000, for the first time since Hitler, the cry of “Death to the Jews!” was heard on the streets of a European capital, in the Place de la Republique in Paris. After a decade and a half of own-goal war journalism, this genocidal cry was heard all over Europe, chanted publicly for hours. Jihadi hatreds shattered the streets of European capitals; and European leaders suddenly realized they were losing their Jews to those hatreds. “La France sans ses juifs n’est pas la France,” noted the Foreign Minister Manuel Valls, in a multi-cultural variant on De Gaulle’s more imperious version. In response, Jihadis stepped up attacks on any European infidel. In those days, anti-Zionist post-modern gentiles turned to their former Jewish friends leaving for Israel and lamented, “at least you have some place to go.”

The journalists who so acted, did this not because they were consciously supporting the goals of Jihad, but because their obsession with Israel blinded them to the longer-term consequences of their actions. They thought they were siding with the “underdog,” the Palestinians whom they, as a pack, viewed as victims and freedom fighters, the “David,” resisting the Israeli “Goliath.”

Studies in Proleptic Dhimmitude: Bush’s speech at the Islamic Center after 9-11

With 15 years of sad learning, reflections on President Bush’s speech should have at the Islamic Center in Washington DC

On September 17, 2001, surrounded by select Muslim leaders, President Bush said:

Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday’s attacks.  And so were Muslims all across the world.  Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens. These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.  And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself:  ‘In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.’ The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.

In the annals of Cognitive Warfare, this may stand near the top for catastrophic mistakes. Indeed, it is hard to shake the sense that these are rarely, if at all, Bush’s own words. He is reading from a script. (NB: So did President Obama’s recently at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.)

If we seek an author for the script, I think strong odds are that it was in large part either written or dictated by triumphalist Muslims. The discourse he adopts is precisely what a such a Muslim would want the President of the United States to proclaim. In framing matters the way he does, with his inverting equivalences, Bush turns dhimmi discourse – Muslims have a right to the “comfort of their faith” (which includes dominion over dhimmi) – into universal human rights discourse (everyone wants to be comfortable). Intimidation of Muslims by infidels is un-American; even as not a word addresses the intimidation of both Muslims and infidels by triumphalist Muslims on the warpath.

Above all, the passage Bush read meant exactly the opposite of what he (and his audience of American infidels) thought it did. The triumphalist reading is as follows:

In the long run [i.e., soon], evil in the extreme [our punishing violence] will be the end of those who do evil [e.g., America]. For that they [Americans/infidels] rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.

How much more eloquent in the original Arabic! From the perspective of triumphalist Muslims, a dhimmi President had just waved the flag of Jihad from the nation’s capital. Those who read events in this manner, were probably not surprised that, within the decade, infidels would be shouting “We are Hamas!” from European capitals and claiming “anti-imperialist” solidarity with the sadistic Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi’s army.

Only Allah could make infidels so stupid.

What the President should have said, and should still now say:

My fellow Americans:

I address both the citizens of our nation in general, and our Muslims citizens in particular, at this very dark hour.

What for many of us was unthinkable, has happened. Jihadis from half-way around the world have struck at America in the most savage manner. They did so without mercy for civilians – on the contrary, they targeted civilians. They did so without any visible provocation. They did so with supreme malice.

And they did so as fervent, believing Muslims.

Today, we turn to our Muslim community and say:

What is this?

What kind of Islam does it represent?

What relationship does it have to what you teach in your communities?

Condemnation of the deed is not enough for us, your fellow citizens. We want to know:

What do you have to say – religiously – to these fellow Muslims who cite your scripture, traditions, and laws to justify those deeds?

How do you read these scriptures cited to justify such terrible deeds?

What do you have to say to your fellow Muslims around the world, and here “at home” who rejoiced at this great Jihadi deed?

And what do you have to say to your fellow Americans – indeed to the whole free world – upon whom your fellow Muslims have declared a barbaric Jihad?

I hope you understand. I am not trying to tell you what Islam means to you. I – we, rather – want to know what your beliefs mean to all other non-Muslims around the world. After all, the Muslim Jihadis who attacked us, call us kufar (infidels), harbis (destined for the sword), and dhimmi (subjected). They show us limitless, contemptuous hatred.

What do you call us?

What are your principles about your relations with people who do not share your faith? What do you think we, should be the lot of those who do not share, persist in not sharing, your faith?

Show us where you stand. We need to know whether you are prepared, appropriately, to man the frontline in fighting this medieval, theocratic, inquisitorial, holy war! This spiritual work, makes a free, cooperative, tolerant, and peaceful world possible. Without it, democracy is impossible.

Show us that Islam, at least in democratic societies like ours, is prepared to leave behind its medieval triumphalism, and join the community of nations and religions that live together in peace and mutual tolerance on this sacred globe.

If the President had said that, then maybe today the American Muslim community would be the leading voice of reform in global Islam, contributing to peaceful relations between Muslims and their neighbors worldwide.

Instead, the current situation in America, and more broadly in the democratic world, looks like one in which potential Muslim reformers have been intimidated into near silence by triumphalist Muslims. This small but domineering group, for whom the world is divided into (true) believers and infidels (to be subjected), have not only bullied Muslim reformers, but they use cry-bully techniques to push Western progressives into creating a safe space for their triumphalist Islam.

And it is precisely for this kind of situation that President Bush’s speech, written by triumphalist Muslims for a dhimmi leader, paved the way.

My review of Edward Alexander’s Jews against themselves

Below is a longer version of the Review published by the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, of Edward Alexander’s collection of essays entitled Jews against Themselves.

Jews against Themselves

by Edward Alexander

(New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2015), 178 pages

Reviewed by Richard Landes

Senior Fellow, Center for International Communications, Bar-Ilan University

Every Anglophone reader, Jew and non-Jew, owes it to him or herself to read Jews against Themselves. And every non-Anglophone country that aspires either to establish or maintain democracy owes itself a good translation. Rarely has a book so thoroughly and eloquently identified, analyzed, and rebuked a form of thinking that endangers the very democracy from which that thinking arose. In this case, one might call the problem “the tyranny of penitence” or “masochistic omnipotence syndrome”—the tendency to blame oneself for everything in the vain hope that in fixing oneself, one can fix everything.[1] Since, in the current world crisis of the early twenty-first century, this problem has struck the (post-) modern West with unusual force, and since the particular variant upon which Edward Alexander, professor of English at the University of Washington, focuses in this book is an especially powerful contributor to the phenomenon, his work deserves close attention. Alexander’s book is a collection of articles and op-eds written over the course of some three decades, from the mid-1980s to the present.

I have read many texts that try to explain why some Jews turn on their own people, from Sander Gillman’s Jewish Self-Hatred to the endless current Jeremiads by assertive Jews about how self-accusing Jews are a bane, not only on their own people, but on those who trust their pseudo-prophetic utterances. Never have I read one with such moral clarity, subtlety of thought, and, above all, such calm but righteous anger. The enormity of the deeds Alexander chronicles does not make him shrill in his indignation, but rather drives him to repeatedly point out, with a certain black humor and as little ad hominem as one could expect any human to muster, the exquisite and corrosive ironies that riddle the world of Jews who publicly attack their own people.

His case is a painful one, and meticulously chronicled. In a series of essays written between 1986 (chapter 1, discussion of Gilman’s book) and the present (essay on moral inversion at The New York Times), Alexander documents a phenomenon that Gilman had delineated as follows: “How Jews see the dominant society seeing them and how they project their anxiety about this manner of being seen onto other Jews as a means of externalizing their own status anxiety.” Unpacked, this sentence means that some Jews, seeing how negatively gentiles view them, turn on their own kind, holding them responsible for that hatred: “If only ‘they’ would behave the way ‘we good Jews’ do,” they tell themselves, “then non-Jews wouldn’t think so badly of us.”

Reversing Humiliation: Jihadis and the West

I just delivered this paper to a conference organized by Springs of Hope at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, March 6, 2015.

Reversing Humiliation:

How Jihadis Interpret the Way Westerners Treat the Victims of Jihad

I’d like to engage you all in an exercise in empathy. Mind you empathy does not mean sympathy. It means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and thinking the way they do. If, as in this case, the people with who we empathize are thoroughly repulsive, learning to think like them hardly means sympathizing with them. Today the subject of our empathy will be jihadis, and the topic we want to understand about how they think is “how do they respond to the way that we Western infidels, treat their victims.

In order to do so we have to look at the role of humiliation in the mindset of the Jihadi. The following discussion takes its cues from Farhad Khosrokhavar’s Inside Jihadism: Understanding Jihadi Movements Worldwide (2015). According to him, humiliation plays a key role and that on three registers:

There is the humiliation of the Muslim condition of inferiority to the West. Here are the remarks of the Saudi ideologue Youssef Uyayri:

Muslims are at war today. What distinguishes our time from other times is the humiliation and the contempt suffered by the Umma, which was unheard of in the past. At the same time, Muslims are in a state of lethargy and anemia (wahn), instead of mobilizing and fighting against this humiliation. There is a Saying of the Prophet attributing anemia to the love of this world and the aversion of death… Nowadays this is the deadly illness of which the Muslim world suffers.”

Clarifying “Triumphalism”: Response to Andrew Gow

My friend and colleague Andrew Gow wrote a long and thoughtful response to my piece on triumphalist religiosity, which raises some interesting issues. Below is a response/clarification.

I agree entirely that we should call jihadis jihadis, and it’s legit to call them jihadi Muslims, since that’s what they claim to be — just as Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists claim to be Christians, even though many other Christians would deny that term to them. I have no problem with terms like extremists and terrorists either, and I think you are right about jihadi libido dominandi and the reasons for terror attacks of the kind we recently saw in France. That’s a powerful analysis.

But I’m also fairly certain that jihadis and extremists of the sort who carried out those attacks do not represent or even belong to an opposing civilization. While by no means uniformly peaceful (as some Muslims claim Islam is), Islam is as capable of producing peaceful societies (under the right conditions) as Christian societies were.

Are those “right conditions” those of dominion? Then the peacefulness you identify may have less to do with tolerance than appeased triumphalism.

You and I both know the long and painful experience of Christian sovereignty, and could easily, especially from the perspective of either Jews or other religious dissidents (those designated “heretics” or “witches” for example), draw a picture in close parallel with how sovereign Muslims behaved. But I certainly wouldn’t make an easy parallel between Islam and Christianity.

When Christians go “apostolic”, their model, Jesus, is a pacifist who preaches turning the other cheek, when Muslims go “salafi”, their model is (most often) a Jihadi who punishes unbelievers for mocking the true faith. The Muslim equivalent of the “Protestant Reformation” – sola scriptura – happened in the 18th century. They called themselves Wahabbis. Notes Ray Ibrahim:

Thus, if Martin Luther (d. 1546) rejected the extra-scriptural accretions of the Church and “reformed” Christianity by aligning it more closely with scripture, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (d. 1787), one of Islam’s first modern reformers, “called for a return to the pure, authentic Islam of the Prophet, and the rejection of the accretions that had corrupted it and distorted it,” in the words of Bernard Lewis (The Middle East, p. 333). The unadulterated words of God—or Allah—are all that matter for the reformists.

I personally avoid simple equations of Christianity with Islam. Complex comparisons, fine.

It’s just that that has rarely happened in recent times.

And yet, what more propitious time than now, when so many prominent figures in the global community are committed to peaceful relations, and with Muslims living without dominion in the West. One would expect, hope, that a genuinely peaceful Islam – ie one tolerant of autonomous infidels – would emerge precisely in recent times.

What About Jewish Triumphalism: Response to Harvey Blume and Gitlin’s Maps

In response to my post on why I am a member of Peace When, one commenter, the blogger Harvey Blume, posed the following challenge in an exchange with me: I had written that he seemed to be arguing that “Israel should hold everything ready for when the Palestinians are ready, including, presumably, stopping any construction (including natural growth) so that the Palestinians have the space they want.”

No stipulation about when the Jews/Israelis are ready? Not a one? Which they are increasingly, as per their increasingly right-wing governments indicate, they’re not?

Good example of mistaking the response for the cause. Israelis were enthusiastic about peace in the 90s and elected leftist governments. Over the last fifteen years, they have come to recognize the depths of the hostility and elected governments that reflected (rather than denied) that realization. Get Palestinians to show they can behave like neighbors rather than murderous enemies, and you’ll get 80% in favor of the most painful concessions.

For those committed to the cult of the occupation, however, the fault is Israel’s. All previous expressions of willingness to compromise made by Israel do not count. We demand more evidence, otherwise we peg you as an extremist.

I get you.

You’re the kind of polemicist who can cast Islamicism, dreadful, as it is, as innately triumphal and not think of Israelis claiming “Judea and Samaria” as Messianic writ, in the same way.

The Shame of Israel: Panic in a Crooked Mirror

The Jewish World has just published a version of the article below in the Adar I 5776/March 2016 issue, dedicated to The State of World Jewry, with other essays by Jack Engelhard, Lisa Klug, Manfred Gerstenfeld, Dov Fischer, Ari Soffer, Alex Maistrovoy, Steven Apfel, and Michael Freund. Below is a longer version of the article with more links.

On the American-Israeli Jewish Divide

Jewish anti-Zionism and Proxy Honor-Murder

Peter Beinart has written many a piece about the growing split between American Jewish youth and Israel, which he sees as the inevitable cost of Israel’s failure to make peace with the Palestinians, on the one hand, and the long-term effects on liberal sentiments of seeing an Israeli Goliath bullying the Palestinian underdog, on the other. This “youth,” according to Beinart has “imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights.” Studies show Jewish youth “resist anything they see as ‘group think’… want an ‘open and frank’ discussion of Israel and its flaws… and desperately want peace.”

To these folks, raised on bedrock values, every effort of Jews to defend Israel by criticizing the Palestinians offends their sense of fairness: blaming the victim is not a winning strategy. Beinart asserts:

For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead. Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral.”

Given a choice between Zionism and liberalism, American Jewish youth choose the latter.

For Beinart, at least, the case is pretty open and shut. Israeli political choices are illiberal, bad, and her politicians act in bad faith. The split between American Jews and Zionists, therefore, is inevitable. Beinart has little sympathy to the plaints from Israel that the neighborhood here does not permit such simplistic naïveté. Not much room in this worldview for Palestinian, Arab, contributions for the endlessness of the conflict, for their poisonous hatreds, for their insane religious violence. Don’t blame the [perceived] victim. Look at your own extremists which, you too have. Israel, says Beinart and a generation of Jewish critics of Israel, should act like a liberal, or lose our affections.

To which the obvious response from here is, “Are you kidding me? Do you know what we’re dealing with here?”

To which the apparent response is, “No. And I’m not listening… Nobody’s hearing nothing.”

But why? Why do you turn a deaf ear on us, your family, trying to explain how hard it is to maintain good, liberal values in this neighborhood? Why will you cut us no slack? Why do you join groups that claim they’re “pro-Israel, pro-peace” when they relentlessly criticize us, and team up with groups that hate us? Why do you stay silent when the US and Iraqi troops devastate the city of Ramadi, when you shouted “War crime” from the rooftops when Israel did a fraction of that damage in Gaza? What is going on here?

In a reported exchange, a J-Street organizer explained their self-perception vis-à-vis Israel:

Well, I’m the head of the J Street club on my campus and what you don’t understand is that we see Israel as our younger sister. We want our younger sister to be better — we love her and care about her.

Maybe that’s what you do in your neighborhoods (not!), but around here, you don’t show love and loyalty to your sister by trash talking her so you can hang out with the people who like to slander your sister. On the contrary, that kind of talk will get her killed much faster, because of the peculiar power here of shame and the overwhelming desire to annihilate such feelings, no matter what the actual circumstances.

The Shame of it all: Panic in a Crooked Mirror

A significant amount of this “split” in the American Jewish community between liberals and Israel can be understood not as a response to real problems in Israel – of which, like any country, especially one at war with her neighbors, there are many – but as responses to feeling ashamed of her. The feelings stem not because of what Israel has (often enough not) done, and certainly not in comparison with the behavior of our neighbors, but because of “how it looks” to outsiders. Shame comes from looking bad – awful – in the eyes of people whose opinion matters. When it comes to the emotion, it matters little what actually happened. In the most toxic of honor-shame communities, men kill their daughters and sisters not because they did something shameful, but because others think it, true or not.

Studies in Mimetic Desire: Haram al Sharif, 1954, 2007

In a famous Simpsons episode (Season 13, ep. 11), Lisa explains to Bart what mimetic desire is: wanting something or someone because someone else wants the same thing. Bart is hurting because he dumped a girl who then picked up with someone else, and the scene begins (at 27 sec.) with him bemoaning his mistake in letting her go. Lisa explains:

In order to begin to understand why the “Cult of the Occupation” is deluded, consider the following evidence.

Dome_Of_The_Rock-1954

Haram al Sharif, 1954

Haram al Sharif, 2007

One can well imagine, the weeds are gone.

Of course, as René Girard, the theorist of mimetic desire, pointed out long ago, there’s a direct link between mimetic desire and scapegoating.

 

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.

Why I am a member of Peace When

Two State Solution, yes, just not now;

or,

Why I am a member of Peace When.

Almost everyone in the positive-sum world of “getting to win-win” agrees that the most equitable resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, is a two-state solution. Land for peace, reciprocal compromise, give a little, get a lot. This positive-sum thinking lies at the heart of what makes modern democracy possible, and has enabled the Europeans to replace millennia of wars between tribes and nations (in medieval times, an annual activity) with a cooperative and productive Union. To progressives, it’s so obvious that, as one BBC analyst put it: you could work it out with an email.

And yet, the conflict has proven amazingly enduring, and resistant to the best intentioned efforts of Western outsiders for the last twenty years. Indeed, not only did it ruin the final year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, but it made fools of both of Obama’s Secretaries of State, who confidently predicted that they would resolve this in less than a year(!). Like a Sisyphus with Alzheimers, doomed to repeat the same motions without registering the repetition, Western “conflict resolution” experts repeatedly attempt to implement the same “positive-sum” solutions, with predictably the same results: not just no success, but actual failure. The situation is worse after than before.

What escapes many who, like me, accept the idea of a two state solution, is the unmentioned now that accompanies all current efforts. This notion that this solution can and should be implemented right away, has good reasons behind it. In addition to its concern for a putting an end to the suffering caused by the conflict as soon as possible, the haste acknowledges the demographic problems in the next generation: can Israel be both Jewish and democratic?

Both are good reasons to want to move quickly, but not good reasons to ignore the obstacles in the way. The reality on the ground, the combination of “strong horse” political culture, and tribal, apocalyptic Jihadi religious culture, makes it impossible to close one’s eyes and hope that both sides are ready for it, and it’s just a matter of finding the right formula of compromise to hit the jackpot.

On the Honor-Shame-Jihad Paradigm: Response to a reader

I recently posted my responses to policy question posed to me by a classmate. In it I referred repeatedly to the Honor-Shame-Jihad paradigm (HSJP) that I think handles the reality here far better than either the Politically-Correct Paradigm (PCP1) or the Post-Colonial one (PCP2). One reader found serious defects in the HSJP. Another reader answered him. Below, my response.

Looking at Muslims as being driven by an Honor-Shame-Jihad dynamic is full of problems:

1. It’s hard to confirm or refute the analysis. I’d need to psychoanalyze a bunch of Muslims or be a mind-reader. It’s a picture of the internal mental state of people from another culture.

I hope you’re not as reluctant to interpret what people say in your real life as you are in this case. The evidence for this mindset is overwhelming. Just spend some time listening in at either MEMRI or PalWatch, and listen to what they say in Arabic, or at least read the works of those who do pay attention to what they say.

2. HSJ reeks of our self-flattery. They have this mental problem, we don’t. It could be an intellectual way of saying “Ah, you’re nuts!”. I should beware of any analysis that flatters me.

Agreed on the suspicion of self-flattering analysis. As the fox says to the crow he duped into losing his cheese: “All flattery lives at the expense of those who listen to it.” But there’s an equally dangerous tendency, which is to ignore a good analysis because it puts one (or in this case, one’s culture) in a good light. The moral chasm between Western democratic values and those of global Jihad are so massive that only a kind of insane self-abnegation (of the kind Martin Amis ran into in London) could miss it. This hardly means we in the West don’t have serious problems – every society does. But it does mean that they are of a radically different order from groups that believe that slavery and the slaughter of civilians are legitimate forms of “defense.”

3. HSJ could be true anyway, but it doesn’t lead to a clear plan for a solution.

Actually, I think it does. Above all, it makes it possible to identify the motivations and goals of the enemy. This helps eliminate the non-possibilities like the “win-win” Oslo “peace process,” which only empowered global Jihad. It makes it possible to identify problems like triumphalist Islam, and figure out ways to resist.

4. HSJ skips over more mundane but probably more powerful factors, especially the impact of “Oil money”.

Quite the contrary it helps understand how the Oil money impacts certain groups like Salafis and Wahabbis.

a) By the year 2000, Islam and Jihad were problems for the West. In 1900, Islam was not a problem.

Tell that to the British in Khartoum dealing with the Mahdi (1882 CE = 1300 AH).

But back in 1800, Islam was a problem, mainly in the form of the Barbary Pirates, who kidnapped people and sold them as slaves.

b) If the Western industrialized countries had dumped trillions of dollars on the Eskimos, the Laplanders, the Zulus, or the Russian peasantry, they’d also have decided that God loves them specially, and they should use their wealth to conquer the world. Why not the Muslims?

That may be so, although far less likely. None of those groups has a religious tradition with strong tendencies towards world conquest, nor adherents numbering over a billion all around the world. I think you need to do some more reading before you make comparisons that really don’t reflect the real world.

In any case, the 21st century is a completely different kettle of fish. Globalization has transformed culture-contact. For the implications, see Amy Chua, World on Fire. As for Jihadis, they see Western, technology-driven globalization as the vehicle for their success: Praeparatio Califatae.

c) If the Muslim world were pushed back to the state of misery, poverty, and ignorance they had before the discovery of oil, their HSJ dynamic wouldn’t matter to us at all. The prescription is to pump out the oil without paying for it.

There’s no question that oil money feeds Jihad, which is one reason why it’s so bizarre that people worried about global warming don’t seem to care much about Jihad, even though the two are closely bound. As for the state of misery, poverty and ignorance, all the petrodollars in the world have had very little effect on the Muslim masses, whose elites have (typically) gorged on the surplus and kept them in the dark.

In any case, poverty, misery and ignorance are not the main sources of Jihad. Triumphalism is. Jihad is not an act of desperation, it’s an act of aspiration.

“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!

Borderlife: Who in the Education Ministry ever put this book on the list in the first place?

I’m on a listserv that recently circulated an article from Ha-aretz entitled:

This is available in Polish, translated by Malgorzata Koraszewska.

By Banning Book, Israel Maintains Purity of Blood

My comments don’t address the article much, but more broadly the role of the controversy in the larger framework of the media’s unhealthy obsession with Israeli misdeeds.

This is a classic:

  • Haaretz features a “journalist” who misrepresents the situation to make Israel look as bad as possible,
  • that hatchet job is then avidly taken up by the Western press, written by and for people who apparently can’t get enough of stories about Israel behaving badly.
  • “Good,” “liberal,” “anti-racist” Jews feel they have to distance themselves from this disgusting Israeli behavior.

The Haaretz headline about “purity of blood” is grotesque, and not just picked up by neo-Nazis (Stormfront), but other papers who mistranslated “fear of assimilation” with “fear of miscegenation.” The author, Alon Idan, has the characteristic contemptuous tone for those Israelis he dislikes so brilliantly discussed by Edward Alexander in Jews Against Themselves. Idan takes a delicate, difficult, deeply personal subject and reduces it repeatedly to race, as if what has parents hoping their children marry one of “their own” – with its enormous cultural, religious, and social dimensions – is essentially an expression of dark hatreds that echo the Nazis. 

Israel did not ban the book, a message Haaretz so diligently tried to convey, and which so many in the British MSNM immediately and tendentiously trumpeted, starring, among others, the BBC’s Lyse Doucet. In fact, as the article entitled so negatively above, explains the situation is as follows: Several teachers had asked to include the book in the national curriculum for advanced literature. Their request went to the academic advisory committee which voted to recommend including the book. The recommendation went to the Ministry officials who actually have the legal authority set the curriculum. They decided not to accept the recommendation. The academic committee appealed to the Ministry officials to reconsider their decision (there is a formal appeals process for this). After reconsideration, the Ministry officials stood by their initial decision.

Bottom line: The book was never included in the curriculum at any time. Its proposed inclusion in the curriculum was never cancelled, because the only people with authority to set the curriculum never included it. It was not removed from the curriculum, because it was never in it. No decision was ever made by anyone in the Israeli government to forbid the teaching of the text. No order forbidding teaching the text was ever issued. I believe this is what one might call a tempest in a teapot.

But let us, for a moment, consider why the book, at whatever level of opposition, might have been negatively evaluated by the education ministers. In addition to being, in the queer theory meaning of the word, deeply transgressive in for its depiction of the love affair (which plenty of Israeli parents, Jewish, Christian and Muslim don’t want their children to be exposed to at so early an age), but it also depicts the IDF as sadistic war criminals. 

In a country where the IDF makes constant and valiant efforts, not only to avoid the sadism so prominent among our neighbors, but to raise the level of concern for enemy civilians to unheard of heights in the annals of warfare, such depictions, however artistically compelling, demean a genuinely noble national spirit, in particular by accusing us of things our neighbors do all the time, and as a matter of (their) principle. As for the racism charge, Israel is, given the circumstances, one of the least racist countries in the world (come to our hospitals, our universities). To stretch and distort the story in order to level charges against us, while ignoring the far more terrifying stuff our neighbors do, is pretty mean spirited, to say the least.

Whatever its literary and conceptual merits, there is no reason on earth why a national school curriculum would want to require, or even encourage its youth to read the book. Indeed, the real question any sound journalist should be asking is: “Who on the academic advisory committee in Israel thought this book was appropriate for high schoolers in the first place?” 

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?)

Landes on Islamism, Honor-Shame, and the Media

This is from a talk I gave in Berlin, Germany in 2011 (before Merkel’s Folly).