Tag Archives: Hamas

War, the western media, and Palestinian public opinion

When it comes to covering Israel’s efforts to rein in the rocket barrage that Hamas and other Islamist terror groups in Gaza have been directing at Israeli towns for years, the western media like to focus on stories and images that highlight the suffering of Palestinian civilians. As acknowledged in several Washington Post articles published during Israel’s November 2012 campaign against the activities of Gaza terror groups, this entails a more or less open appeal to emotions.

Addressing the controversy about a front page photo showing a grief-stricken father from Gaza cradling the shrouded body of his baby son, Patrick Pexton explained that the image was chosen because it “went straight to the heart.” In the same piece Pexton noted that while the rocket barrage from Gaza was “disruptive and traumatic” for Israeli civilians, most of the rockets could be dismissed as just “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.”

Another related article by Max Fisher was devoted to “The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo.” In addition to the photo of the grieving father from Gaza, Fisher contemplated two other images that showed a dead Palestinian boy and an injured Israeli girl.

WaPo Gaza-Israel child victims

Fisher argued that each of the three images “tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on.” In the case of the two dead Palestinian children, the assumption was of course that Israel was the “heartless enemy” responsible for the fatal injuries. Noting that there were controversies about the question if the two Palestinian children had really been killed by Israeli strikes, Fisher lamented that the “old arguments of the Middle East are so entrenched that the photos, for all their emotional power, were almost immediately pressed into the service of one side or another.”

But when it eventually turned out that all three children were indeed victims of Palestinian strikes, Fisher insisted that it wasn’t really all that important “whose rocket or missile” was to blame, asserting that “something as isolated as a single photo of a wounded or killed child offers a purer, cleaner, lower-risk way to talk about issues too messy to engage with directly.”

To put it cynically, Fisher has a point: it would obviously be quite “messy” to squarely deal with the fact that all the three images – which, according to his own characterization, “defined … the renewed fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas” – really showed the victims of Palestinian rockets.

But cynicism aside, it is downright obscene to suggest that it would be much “purer, cleaner, lower-risk” to let the “emotional power” of images of dead children work its magic. One just has to recall the hatred and fanaticism incited with the al-Durah-footage from 2000 to understand why some critics call this approach “lethal journalism.” One could also argue that less emotion and more reason would easily produce the realization that there wouldn’t be any photos of wounded or killed children from Gaza if Palestinian terror groups stopped using the territory they control as a launching pad for mortars, rockets and terror attacks on Israel.

The media’s eagerness to elicit empathy with Palestinian suffering is also problematic because there is plenty of evidence that confrontations with Israel are rather popular among Palestinians – and needless to say, this evidence is generally ignored.

For years, Palestinian public opinion has been regularly monitored. The most recent poll from Gaza and the West Bank shows that “40% support a return to an armed intifada.” A previous poll published last December, shortly after the end of Israel’s recent military campaign against Hamas, highlights among its main findings that the “events of the past several weeks have given Hamas a significant boost […] The fourth quarter of 2012 shows a dramatic change in public attitude favoring Hamas. Haniyeh’s popularity increases significantly allowing him to defeat Abbas if new presidential elections are held today. […] Needless to say, the outcome of the latest Gaza war between Hamas and Israel is responsible for this change.”

A detailed analysis of the poll documents that “Hamas has gained a great political victory in its war with Israel: 81% believe that it came out the winner and only 3% believe that Israel came out the winner […] Percentage of those who believe that Hamas came out a winner stands at 75% in the Gaza Strip and 84% in the West Bank. […]

Similar findings have been documented for years. Take for example a poll published in the wake of the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. Even though the media were dominated by reports and commentaries decrying the destruction and hardships inflicted on Lebanon, a staggering 86% of Palestinians viewed Hezbollah as the “winner in the Lebanon war.”  Fully 90% rejected the view that the war had been the result of “an uncalculated adventure by Hezbollah;” 73% believed the war “strengthens the resistance option in Palestine;” 75% expressed support for emulating Hezbollah by “taking Israeli soldiers prisoners in order to exchange them with Palestinian prisoners” and 63% said that “the Palestinians should emulate Hezbollah’s methods by using rockets against Israeli cities.”

It is noteworthy that Palestinian enthusiasm for firing rockets from Gaza was obviously not diminished by Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the territory in September 2005 and the fact that in spring 2006, Israeli voters handed an election victory to the Kadima party that had been newly formed to promote the disengagement from Gaza and additional withdrawals from the West Bank. In this context, it should also be recalled that just two months earlier, Palestinian voters overwhelming endorsed Hamas.

One of the successful Hamas candidates for this election was Mariam Farhat, better known as the proud and defiant “Mother of Martyrs” or “Umm Nidal,” named after her son Nidal who was considered the inventor of the Qassam rocket. An Israeli reporter who commented on Farhat’s recent death recalled his encounter with her during the election campaign:

“The scene was unforgettable. I saw a woman in her mid-fifties, full of bluster, wandering among the people of the refugee camps with a semi-automatic rifle in her hands and a white veil covering her head. Crowds of admirers tagged along, clearing a way for her wherever she went, as if she were some living saint.”

Umm Nidal had become a celebrity when she declared in 2005, at the funeral of her third son killed due to terrorist activities: “I have four sons left … I hope that they all become martyrs.”

When she passed away in mid-March, she was reportedly honored not just with a full military funeral and a eulogy by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, but also by words of praise and appreciation from Palestinian officials in the West Bank.

How many Palestinians really share the gruesome views of “Umm Nidal” is debatable, but given the pervasive glorification of “martyrdom” achieved through terrorism and “jihad” in Palestinian society, she can hardly be dismissed as a fringe figure.

A rare glimpse of this widely ignored reality could be caught when New York Times (NYT) reporter Jodi Rudoren noted in a Facebook post last November that it seemed to her that Palestinians in Gaza were sometimes rather “ho-hum” about their casualties. Needless to say, Rudoren’s observation caused great outrage, followed by a swift apology on the part of the NYT, which assigned a social media supervisor to the appropriately contrite Rudoren.

Reportedly, Rudoren readily acknowledged that she “should have talked about steadfastness or resiliency” and that she “just wasn’t careful enough.”

Rudoren clearly broke a taboo by making an observation that didn’t quite fit with the media’s mission to focus on Palestinian suffering caused by Israel.

But another remark that doesn’t quite fit with this mission went largely unnoticed – perhaps because it was made in “The Gatekeepers,” a film that was widely praised for providing harshly critical views of Israeli policies and the fight against Palestinian terrorism. However, one of the film’s seven segments is entitled “Our Victory Is to See You Suffer” – and this title quotes a remark by the well-known Palestinian psychiatrist and award-winning peace and human rights activist Eyad Sarraj. According to Ami Ayalon in “The Gatekeepers,” it was Sarraj who explained to him during a meeting devoted to developing a peace initiative at the time of the bloody Al Aqsa Intifada that, irrespective of the price paid by Palestinians, they saw it as their “victory” to make Israelis suffer.

As amply documented by the many polls and plenty of other evidence studiously ignored by the media, Sarraj was clearly telling the truth – though it is of course a truth that the western media don’t want to tell.

* * *

First published at The Algemeiner.

 

Stephen Walt and the Islamist Lobby

When John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published their book “The Israel Lobby” in 2007, the respected American scholar Walter Russell Mead argued in a very critical review that this “may be a book that anti-Semites will love, but it is not necessarily an anti-Semitic book.” Mead also noted that the book was “written in haste” and predicted that it would “be repented at leisure.”

As it turned out, the assumption that Mearsheimer and Walt would have any regrets about writing “a book that anti-Semites will love” was all too optimistic.

Some four years later, Mead commented on reports that John Mearsheimer had endorsed a book written by “a Hitler Apologist and Holocaust Revisionist.” Mead noted politely that “this is not normally the intellectual company a Distinguished Professor at the University of Chicago is expected to keep” and he suggested that “we may even hear some thoughts from Professor Walt about his co-author.”

Unfortunately, this was again an all too optimistic expectation, because Stephen Walt promptly used his blog at Foreign Policy to give his co-author a prominent platform to double down on his endorsement of the book in question and its author Gilad Atzmon.

At this point it was becoming increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that both Walt and Mearsheimer didn’t mind at all if their writings appealed to people with openly antisemitic views. Indeed, whether intentionally or not, there can be little doubt that Walt and Mearsheimer have done much to mainstream antisemitism.

Now Stephen Walt has taken another step to confirm this conclusion. He has been featured as the March 2013 Guest Writer for the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), a website whose self-described mission is promoting “the Palestinian cause” by reaching out “to opinion makers and decision makers in a deliberate, organized and sustained manner.”

However, as far as MEMO is concerned, the “Palestinian cause” is really the cause of Hamas. It is therefore no coincidence that, together with their esteemed guest writer Stephen Walt, MEMO also featured a “New strategic document” by Hamas leader Khalid Mishaal (also spelled Mashal or Meshaal).

Walt & Hamas on MEMO

 Screenshot from MEMO homepage

To be sure, Mishaal offers little that is in any way “new”; instead, he focuses mainly on re-affirming the Hamas principles laid down in the group’s notorious charter that provides religious justifications for eternal enmity towards Jews and claims Palestine “from the river to the sea” as Muslim land. When Mishaal calls for change, he demands a “move towards changing the attitude towards the resistance and resistance movements. What used to be strange, rejected, or taboo in the past by the standards of the official Arab norms, such as not supplying the resistance with arms, must become possible today.”

There can be little doubt that “resistance” in the sense Hamas understands it is something that MEMO fully supports. Consider this truly sickening homage to Ahlam al-Tamimi. You wouldn’t know it from the “fact sheet” posted by MEMO, but Tamimi is the terrorist who chose a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem as the target for a suicide bomber whom she brought there in August 2001. To Tamimi’s great pride and delight, the terror attack she helped plan and execute resulted in the death of 15 people, including 7 children, and some 130 additional victims with injuries – and to the great joy of her many ardent admirers in MEMO and elsewhere, Tamimi was among the convicts released by Israel in exchange for Hamas hostage Gilad Shalit in the fall of 2011.

As Walter Russell Mead observed, this may not be quite the company that a distinguished professor is expected to keep, but Harvard’s Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs Stephen Walt was apparently happy to be a MEMO Guest Writer.

Walt’s supposedly “exclusive” contribution to MEMO is entitled “Obama, American Jewry and the prospects for Middle East peace;” but as it happens, he was not the only writer on this topic featured by MEMO.  There was another piece by one of MEMO’s well-known contributors , Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, who prides himself on his “often controversial opinions” that include admiration for Osama bin Laden, endorsements of terror attacks against Israelis and the declaration that he would “dance with delight in Trafalgar Square” if Iran bombarded Israel.

Unsurprisingly, Atwan’s piece was entitled “Obama, the Israel sycophant;” and Atwan complained bitterly that Obama “has disappointed us and reminded us of Uncle Tom in the famous American novel.”

Since documenting the appalling views propagated by MEMO could easily fill a book, I will for now just highlight that the site’s current offerings include an utterly lunatic “report” claiming that “Israeli police enable rabbis and settlers to mark Passover inside Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Needless to say, MEMO is also among the ardent admirers of Sheik Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch in Israel, who subscribes to the medieval libel that Jews use the blood of Christian children to make Matzo bread.

Of course, Professor Walt may not have known any of this when he agreed to provide MEMO with an “exclusive” – but just a few moments of googling could have enlightened him and led him, for example, to this excellent post by Alan Johnson.

Among the unsavory examples of MEMO’s connections listed by Johnson is Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, who hosted a book launch in the House of Lords for the notorious Israel Shamir in 2005. As Johnson explains:

“Shamir’s speech, reported [by] the Times journalist Stephen Pollard, included these opinions: ‘All the [political] parties are Zionist-infiltrated.’ ‘Your newspapers belong to Zionists . . . Jews indeed own, control and edit a big share of mass media, this mainstay of Imperial thinking.’ ‘In the Middle East we have just one reason for wars, terror and trouble—and that is Jewish supremacy drive.’”

Writing in April 2011, Johnson noted that Lord Ahmed “paid no price” for going through with this disgraceful event. However, recently Lord Ahmed was accused of having expressed sentiments that echo the “Jewish control”-meme of Shamir, and he has been suspended pending an investigation.

But in general, Johnson is obviously right: efforts to mainstream anti-Jewish hatred and the Islamist demonization of the Jewish state have become so commonplace that there is little risk to high-profile professionals and academics who join in.

* * *

First published at The Algemeiner.

 

 

Who will tell the truth about the Masharawi tragedy? [updated]

A heartbreaking picture dominated the world media last November, just a day after Israel launched its “Pillar of Defense”-campaign to stop the barrage of rockets from Gaza. The picture showed a grief-stricken young father in Gaza holding the shrouded body of his baby son.

The Washington Post was among the newspapers that featured the photo prominently on its front page.

WaPo Gaza baby Fpage

 Twitter screenshot

Unsurprisingly, Hamas was quick to also distribute the photo, adding rather ridiculously: “Where is the media coverage of Israel’s crimes in Gaza[?]”

Hamas Gaza baby

Twitter screenshot

But while the media generally agreed with Hamas that it should be taken for granted that Israel was to blame for the death of the baby, blogger Elder of Ziyon pointed out that there were many reasons to question this supposed “fact.” However, the BBC would have none of that: while it devoted several reports to this tragic story because the bereaved father was employed by the BBC’s Gaza office, it firmly dismissed all doubts, insisting that baby Omar most likely “died in the one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks.”

Months later, the BBC continues to feature this story – despite the fact that by now, a UN investigation has concluded that baby Omar Masharawi (also spelled Mashhrawi or Misharawi) was indeed killed “by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.” As BBC Watch notes, the relevant UN report has been published four days ago, and the BBC hasn’t yet gotten around to issuing any correction to its original stories. The same is probably true for most of the mainstream media that prominently featured this tragic image and the related story – and even if corrections were issued, they wouldn’t be given the prominent and dramatic coverage that the original received. The grief-stricken father in Gaza holding the shrouded body of his beloved baby son will inevitably become part of the “lethal narratives” that are spread eagerly by mainstream journalists who have long embraced the notion that Goliath Israel is cruelly oppressing and killing the Palestinian David.

*

I wrote about this tragic incident in late November last year, when the Washington Post’s ombudsman Patrick Pexton (whose term just ended) responded to the controversy about the front page photo. His article included a callous dismissal of the rocket barrage from Gaza, which Pexton compared to “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.”

According to Pexton, the photo of Jihad Masharawi mourning his baby son was selected for the front page because everyone at the Washington Post felt that it “went straight to the heart, this sobbing man who just lost his baby son.”

Of course, the rocket was fired with the intention to create such a scene in Israel.

Pexton also argued that “an effective photograph…moves the viewer toward a larger truth” – though he didn’t make entirely clear what he had in mind. But he also linked to a related Washington Post article on “The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo,” which featured three images: the first on the left is the photo that was the controversial choice for the Washington Post’s front page; the one in the middle is an injured Israeli infant, and the third photo is again from a boy killed in Gaza who was rushed to Gaza’s Shifa Hospital just when Egypt’s Prime Minister was visiting there with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

WaPo Gaza-Israel child victims

Washington Post screenshot

Commenting on the three images, Max Fisher argued:

“Each tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on. It’s a narrative that speaks to the pain of a grieving people, to the anger at those responsible, and to a determination for the world to bear witness. But the conversations around these photos, and around the stories that they tell, are themselves a microcosm of the distrust and feelings of victimhood that have long plagued the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Whatever story Max Fisher thought the three photos were telling and whatever uplifting contemplations he intended to offer, the plain truth is that all three children were victims of rockets shot by Hamas and other Gaza terrorists. The plain truth is also that they hoped that only Israeli children would be injured or killed by their rockets, but they knew that if they wouldn’t quite succeed and some children in Gaza got killed by their rockets, nobody would hesitate to blame Israel for it.

After all, everyone knows that the strikes of the Israeli Goliath kill, while the attacks of the Palestinian David are merely “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind” – and who cares that every Israeli strike that kills a Palestinian child or civilian is considered by the Israeli military and the vast majority of the Israeli public a tragic event, while every Palestinian “bee sting” that kills an Israeli child or civilian is considered by Palestinian terror groups and their supporters a reason to cheer and celebrate.

The Washington Post’s Max Fisher certainly doesn’t care about this well-documented fact, as his not-so-subtle exercise in equivalency illustrates: “a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy” implies after all that just as Hamas is a “heartless enemy” to Israel’s children, the IDF is an equally “heartless enemy” to Palestinian children.

As far as Fisher is concerned, this is the “story” told by the three images he comments on. But it is of course he who is telling a story about heartless enemies wounding and killing innocent children. I doubt that Fisher will take the time to revisit his story and ponder how much – or rather how little – sense it makes once we know that each of the children shown in the photos was a victim of Palestinian fire.

Fisher focuses mainly on arguing how terrible it is that there are controversies about such photos and the stories they supposedly tell. But as this example illustrates so well, it is always people who tell stories about images, and it indeed matters a lot what stories they tell – because facts matter if we want to understand reality.

Of course, when it comes to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (and the broader Arab and Muslim world), focusing on facts and their proper context isn’t all that fashionable.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Update:

In the end, quite a lot of media outlets reported the UN finding that the son of Jihad Mashrawi was most likely the victim of a Palestinian rocket. However, as J.E. Dyer rightly points out in her excellent and detailed analysis of several incidents that were falsely blamed on Israel (“Oops – The IDF didn’t kill Baby Mashrawi (and other things that didn’t happen during Pillar of Defense)”), this incident showed once again that media organizations that care about their reputation should be considerably more careful about vetting their sources and verifying the details of events they report on.

The perhaps most impressive correction for the Masharawi incident was published by AP, which had taken the widely published photo of the mourning father back in November.

However, the BBC was extremely reluctant to correct its story. Similarly, the Washington Post’s Max Fisher doubled down on his earlier false equivalence that implied there was no difference between Hamas and the IDF. Accordingly, Fisher now wrote in his new post on the subject:

“But, as I wrote in November when reports suggested that an Israeli strike had killed Mishrawi, does knowing which military’s errant round happened to have landed on this civilian home really determine the larger narrative of one of the world’s thorniest and most complicated conflicts? Does assigning blame for Mishrawi’s tragic death, awful as it may be, offer us any real insight into who holds the blame for 60 years of fighting? And is partitioning blame really going to serve either side particularly well?

It’s difficult to see how knowing whose rocket or missile killed Mishrawi would resolve the larger questions for which that debate is a proxy: responsibility for continuing the long-term conflict, for sparking the latest round of fighting in November, and for the Israeli and Palestinian civilians who suffer as a result. But these are notoriously thorny debates. As with so many protracted geopolitical conflicts, neither side comes out looking as angelic or demonic as its partisans might wish. In many ways, something as isolated as a single photo of a wounded or killed child offers a purer, cleaner, lower-risk way to talk about issues too messy to engage with directly. […]”

While this is pure nonsense on several levels, I will for now just note that if Fisher wants to see Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza as a “military” just like the IDF, he would have to hold them both to the same standard – which means he would have to deal with the fact that Hamas and the other Palestinian terror groups intentionally target Israeli civilians and are jubilant if they manage to kill or maim them. The fact of the matter is that there wouldn’t be any photos of wounded or killed children from Gaza if Palestinian terror groups stopped using the territory they control as a launching pad for mortars, rockets and terror attacks on Israel.

The child-soldiers of Palestine

* Originally published at my JPost blog on January 26 *

Last Thursday, many Sunni Muslims celebrated the birth of Islam’s founder Muhammad. As the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported, Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced during a ceremony to mark this occasion that Hamas was planning to establish a “military academy” that would offer training to children as young as twelve. The children attending the school would be able to “graduate with a diploma or a BA in military affairs.”

However, as a widely quoted Associated Press (AP) report indicates, this was apparently not an entirely new initiative: since last September, Hamas has been offering a military training program as “a weekly elective…in all Gaza high schools,” and the ceremony on Thursday included celebrations of the “graduation” of the first 3600 participants:

“More than 3,000 Palestinian teenagers on Thursday graduated from the ruling Hamas terror group’s first high school military training program in the Gaza Strip, displaying mock weapons, crawling commando-style on the ground and taking up fighting positions for thousands of cheering supporters.

Hamas officials said the Futuwwa, or ‘Youth,’ program is aimed at fostering a new generation of leaders in the struggle against Israel.”

A fifteen year old graduate of this program quoted in the AP report was enthusiastic:

“My officer taught me the values of courage, sacrifice and love of jihad, as well as some battle tactics […] I feel that I can free my energy in a good way. I can do for real what I do in video games.”

There may well be a connection between this “educational” initiative by Hamas and the efforts mentioned by senior Hamas commander Zaher Jabarin in a recent interview with Hamas’ Al-Quds TV. In the interview, Jabarin boasted that Hamas labors “day and night” to educate Palestinian children to become suicide bombers.

“There was training of the divine generation, the true generation of martyrdom-seekers, through which we can participate in the battle. First, before anything else, before any Jihadi action, before the transfer of weapons, money, etc., and everything required for action, first and foremost is the individual person. The Islamic Movement [Hamas] took care of the education of this youngster who will participate in this battle […] We labored day and night to build the person, who will participate in this battle […] The Palestinian youngsters, the resistance and Jihad warriors, fight and quarrel over performing a courageous suicide operation.”

Jabarin emphasized that Hamas was “now preparing for the battle of liberation, and not just the resistance as we have done in the past” – and tellingly, the teenagers “graduating” on Muhammad’s birthday were called “Liberation Vanguards.”

Among the many questions that should be raised in this context is whether the claim by AP that Hamas has been offering a military training program as “a weekly elective…in all Gaza high schools” means that UNRWA – which runs 245 schools for 225,000 students in Gaza – cooperates with Hamas in hosting or otherwise facilitating the military training of teenagers. UNWRA also has a program for donors to “adopt” a Gaza school, and recently, the German government donated 3 million Euros for the construction of two additional UNRWA schools in Gaza. No doubt these donations are well-meant, but they obviously also allow the Hamas-rulers of Gaza to avoid committing resources to the education of Gaza’s children while leaving them free to finance instead “jihad” training for teenagers.

It is perhaps also time that the organizations that are so eager to indict Israel for any harm that comes to Palestinian teenagers in situations of conflict take note of the longstanding and prevalent Palestinian practice to provide children with some sort of military training.

In June 1970, Life Magazine featured a report on “Palestinian Arabs” with a cover photo that showed a group of boys holding what seems to be real guns; the photo was captioned: “The ‘Tiger Cubs’ train at a camp in Jordan.”

Life 1261970 cover

The report included another similar photo accompanied by a text explaining that it showed “student guerillas in Jordan receiv[ing] weapons instruction in a tent under the stern gaze of Che Guevara. The course is sponsored by the liberation front.”

Life 1970 Pal story

Or consider this revealing testimony, first published in 1985 and reprinted 1998 for a special Al-Ahram series on “50 years of Arab dispossession”: in an interview, Nagi El-Ali, a prominent cartoonist, decries Israel’s 1982 campaign against Palestinian terror groups in Lebanon, but then he boasts:

“I saw for myself how afraid the Israeli soldiers were of the children. A child of ten or eleven had sufficient training to carry and use an RBG rifle. The situation was simple enough. The Israeli tanks were in front of them and the weapon was in their hands. The Israelis were afraid to go into the camps, and if they did, they would only do so in daylight.”

Right: those cowardly Israeli soldiers, utterly shocked when they encounter heavily armed children sent by cynical adults to fight for them… And of course, these adults know very well when to switch from the perverted pride reflected in El-Ali’s recollection – and countless other similar statements – to a display of abject victimization.

To be sure, Palestinian youngsters no longer train “under the stern gaze of Che Guevara,” but otherwise, not all that much has changed: nowadays, they get trained as “Jihad warriors” who proudly graduate on Muhammad’s birthday, indoctrinated to regard it as a privilege to perform “a courageous suicide operation.” The international community makes sure Hamas won’t have other expenses for education and continues to overlook the vicious legacy of decades of determined Palestinian efforts to teach children that violence and terrorism are noble and admirable.

 

Just a thought: Cheering Al Jazeera America

In an excellent commentary on “Al Gore’s Al Jazeera sellout” in Ha’aretz, James Kirchick highlights some of the issues that have caused considerable concern about the profitable sale of Current TV that was acquired by the Qatari network in order to build up “Al Jazeera America.” Krichick begins by recalling that in July 2008, Al Jazeera celebrated the release of the notorious Lebanese terrorist and murderer Samir Kuntar – whom Israel exchanged for the remains of two abducted soldiers – by hosting a televised birthday party for him. During the program, the head of Al Jazeera’s Beirut office praised Kuntar as a “pan-Arab hero.”

While Al Jazeera later acknowledged that its enthusiastic coverage of Kuntar’s release had been inappropriate, Kirchick argues that “[such] coverage is all too typical of Al Jazeera, and it is important to keep the above scene in mind as American liberals, so-called ‘media studies’ experts, and other denizens of the global cosmopolitan class trip over themselves in praising the Arab Satellite network’s acquisition of Current TV.”

Kirchick goes on to argue:

“Indeed, vital to understanding Al Jazeera is acknowledging that it does have an ideology. This is something that many of its Western fan boys choose to ignore. Calling the network’s ethos an ‘ideology’, however, gives its modus operandi a little too much credit; the network, despite its protestations, is ultimately a tool of Qatari foreign policy. The network’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is invariably influenced by the fact that the Emir of Qatar has heaped hundreds of millions of dollars on Hamas. See, for instance, its highly manipulative and irresponsible presentation of the ‘Palestine Papers’ two years ago, which emboldened the implacable terrorist organization while portraying the Palestinian Authority as feckless, Zionist collaborators.”

Kirchick then focuses on the New York Times editorial board that praised Al Jazeera as “an important news source” that “could bring an important international perspective to American audiences” because it “often brings a nuance to international stories that can be lacking on American networks.”

Somewhat sarcastically, Kirchick adds:

“One wonders what specific ‘nuance’ the Times commends. Is it the musings of Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, who shares his thoughts on permissible spousal abuse to 60 million viewers via his program ‘Shariah and Life?’ It was on Al Jazeera Arabic that Qaradawi, the most popular Sunni cleric in the world, declared that Adolf Hitler ‘managed to put [the Jews] in their place.’ The Holocaust, he declared, ‘was divine punishment for them,’ even though, of course, they ‘exaggerated’ it.”

Western praise for Al Jazeera is also remarkable given the restrictions upheld in Qatar. Here are some of the relevant passages of the 2011 Freedom House report on Qatar:

“While Qatar permits its flagship satellite television channel Al-Jazeera to air critical coverage of foreign countries and leaders, journalists are forbidden from criticizing the Qatari government, the ruling family, or Islam, and are subject to prosecution for such violations. […]

As a government-subsidized channel, Al-Jazeera refrains from criticizing the Qatari authorities, providing only sparse and uncritical local news. […]

The concentration of media ownership within the ruling family as well as the high financial costs and citizenship requirements to obtain media ownership licenses continue to hinder the expansion and freedom of the press.

Approximately 69 percent of the Qatari population used the internet in 2010, a major increase from 32 percent in 2007. Sixty-three percent of households have access to the internet. The government censors political, religious, and pornographic content through the sole, state-owned internet-service provider. Both high-speed and dial-up internet users are directed to a proxy server that maintains a list of banned websites and blocks material deemed inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political, and moral values of the country.”

That Qatari authorities are very serious about enforcing these restrictions is illustrated by the case of a renowned Qatari poet who has been given a life sentence for “a poem considered offensive to the nation’s symbols.”

Presumably, this kind of story is not one of the “nuances” that the New York Times hopes to get from Al Jazeera America.

Update:

Clifford D. May has another excellent article on this matter in National Review Online. May cites two journalists who worked for Al Jazeera but left due to a pro-Islamist and anti-American bias; he also quotes an interesting commentary from 2001 by Fouad Ajami, who noted that

“[Al Jazeera] may not officially be the Osama bin Laden Channel, but he is clearly its star . . . The channel’s graphics assign him a lead role: there is bin Laden seated on a mat, his submachine gun on his lap; there is bin Laden on horseback in Afghanistan, the brave knight of the Arab world. A huge, glamorous poster of bin Laden’s silhouette hangs in the background of the main studio set at Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. […] Although Al Jazeera has sometimes been hailed in the West for being an autonomous Arabic news outlet, it would be a mistake to call it a fair or responsible one. Day in and day out, Al Jazeera deliberately fans the flames of Muslim outrage.”

May also highlights Qaradawi’s star role at Al Jazeera:

“One more reason to be less than optimistic: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the host of Al Jazeera Arabic’s most popular program, Sharia and Life. Qaradawi endorsed Ayatollah Khomeini’s call to execute novelist Salman Rushdie for blasphemy, called what Hitler did to Europe’s Jews ‘divine punishment’ (adding that ‘Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers’). In 1991, one of his acolytes, Mohamed Akram, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, wrote a memorandum, later obtained by the FBI, asserting that Brothers ‘must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.’”

Molad – or: what’s wrong with the Israeli left

In a post entitled “Confessions of a lapsed leftist,” I tried to explain more than a year ago why my lifelong allegiance to the left had begun to crumble. Of course, many Israelis who had supported “Peace Now” in the 1990s and who had hoped that the negotiations at Camp David and Taba would result in a peace agreement went through a similar experience in view of the fact that the Palestinians chose to respond to Israel’s offers with the long and bloody “Al Aqsa”-Intifada.

The historian Benny Morris has repeatedly described the unfortunate learning process that many of us went through, most recently last fall in a long interview with Ha’aretz. The problem is that Israel’s left – which represented the peace camp – has not been able or willing to go through the same learning process. As a result, there are lots of politically homeless people like me in Israel, and I think the dizzying proliferation of new parties over the past few years is at least in part a reflection of this widespread homelessness.

Personally, I can’t say that I find any of the new options attractive or politically convincing and sound, and it is perhaps for this reason that I felt particular frustration when I recently discovered that a new left-wing Israeli think tank that had been established a year ago is apparently resolved to continue the left’s head-in-the-sand-approach. The two posts I wrote about the new organization were first published in The Algemeiner and on my Jerusalem Post blog; they are cross-posted below with some minor changes. Continue reading

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

If it was a western president or prime minister – let alone an Israeli one – who had made utterly bigoted and hate-filled remarks about Muslims not long before he took office, it sure would be a top news item all over the world. But when it turns out that some two years ago, the man who is now Egypt’s president called “the Zionists” “blood-suckers,” “warmongers,” and “the descendants of apes and pigs,” most of the mainstream media (MSM) seem to think it should be politely ignored.

In a way one could actually argue that this really isn’t newsworthy, because if the MSM accurately reported on Islamist ideology, everyone would already know that implacable Jew-hatred is an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s views and agenda. After all, Morsi’s statements from 2010, which were recently translated by MEMRI, faithfully echo themes that are all too familiar from the Hamas Charter, and similar views are regularly propagated by well-respected Muslim scholars.

The question why this torrent of loathsome statements by influential and widely respected figures who clearly shape and represent mainstream views is studiously ignored in the MSM was recently addressed by Pat Condell, who focused on the Palestinians and argued that this kind of “political correctness” reflected a patronizing and ultimately racist attitude.

While I largely agree with Pat Condell’s broader argument, I think there are also other important factors at work – first and foremost perhaps the western mantra that other societies should be approached as “people like us.” The problem with this approach is that, while it is always true on an individual level – we can meet people we personally like and get along with anywhere –, it is not true for societies.  A society where the reactionary and bigoted views of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood are mainstream is simply not like a society where it is mainstream to reject and even loathe comparably reactionary and bigoted views.

Human Rights Watch: War Crimes for Dummies [updated]

As predictable as night follows day, Human Rights Watch (HRW) will come up with accusations against Israel as soon as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) do what they are supposed to do: defend Israel’s citizens.

So there is no reason to be surprised that HRW is now claiming that “Israeli army attacks on journalists and media facilities in the Gaza Strip during last month’s military operation violated the laws of war.”

Rejecting Israel’s explanations for these specific attacks, HRW Mideast director Sarah Leah Whitson reportedly quipped “Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so.”

The legal adviser of the Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor, Anne Herzberg, had a great response to Whitson: “Just because HRW claims something is a war crime does not make it so.”

But it is arguably also very instructive to see when HRW does NOT claim that war crimes have been committed:

 “Human Rights Watch has conducted a thorough investigation of civilian deaths … On the basis of this investigation, Human Rights Watch has found that there were ninety separate incidents involving civilian deaths … Some 500 … civilians are known to have died in these incidents. … nine incidents were a result of attacks on non-military targets that Human Rights Watch believes were illegitimate. … Thirty-three incidents occurred as a result of attacks on targets in densely populated urban areas … the use of cluster bombs was a decisive factor in civilian deaths in at least three incidents. … In its investigation Human Rights Watch has found no evidence of war crimes.”

When some 500 civilians die, when non-military targets are attacked and cluster bombs are used and yet, the conclusion is that there is “no evidence of war crimes,” you can be sure of one thing: Israel wasn’t involved. Indeed, the quote here is from a HRW report on NATO’s bombing campaign in Yugoslavia in 1999.

Incidentally, the NATO campaign also included a strike on the headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), killing sixteen people and leaving many trapped for days in the damaged building.  In this case, HRW was content to assert that this was an “inappropriate” target because “[the] risks involved to the civilian population in undertaking this urban attack grossly outweigh any perceived military benefit.”

It is important to remember that this NATO campaign was officially justified as a humanitarian intervention designed to protect the Kosovo Albanians from Serbian aggression. Yet, in the course of this campaign, civilian infrastructure was deliberately targeted and destroyed; cluster bombs were used, causing the death of an estimated 90-150 civilians; and, according to the report cited above, “inventory shortages and cost considerations” led to the replacement of precision-guided weapons with “dumb” bombs.

As the report on the NATO campaign illustrates, there is no simple and straightforward definition of what constitutes a war crime. But at HRW, a very simple and straightforward definition is emerging: whenever the IDF is involved, it must be a war crime.

* * *

This post was first published at The Algemeiner.

Update:

In the meantime, HRW has gotten around to condemning the rockets launched from Gaza into Israel as “unlawful.” As rightly noted in an excellent post on Harry’s Place, this condemnation was discreetly published on Christmas Eve, when it wouldn’t attract too much attention – though the fact that it was published would still allow HRW to claim impartiality. But as also pointed out at Harry’s Place, it is of course utterly ridiculous that HRW pretends that Hamas might be in any way interested in upholding international law:

“There is an element of dark comedy in the following rather odd statement [by HRW]:

‘As the ruling authority in Gaza, Hamas has an obligation to stop unlawful attacks and punish those responsible.’

The notion that Hamas might stop such attacks… is laughable. They glory in them, and revel in the supposed cowardice of Jewish civilians running for shelter. […] they’ve boasted of their success in terrorising Jews.”

While HRW is apparently not willing to fully acknowledge that Hamas doesn’t commit war crimes by mistake, but that targeting Israeli civilians is their deliberate modus operandi, HRW did at least acknowledge that some of the rockets launched from Gaza – often from populated civilian areas – have fallen short and caused casualties among Gaza’s civilian population.

As widely noted, the body of one boy killed in such an incident was then used by Palestinians in Gaza for a widely distributed media story meant to blame Israel for the death.

Donate for a daily dose of hate

The Electronic Intifada (EI) website is currently soliciting donations from its readers with the goal of raising $150 000 by the end of December.

Founded in 2001, EI describes itself as “an independent online news publication and educational resource focusing on Palestine, its people, politics, culture and place in the world.”

Judging from the contents offered by EI, Palestine’s “place in the world” is defined first and foremost by the relentless demonization of Israel – and inevitably, this goes along with efforts to discredit definitions of antisemitism that take account of the obsessive hatred directed against the world’s only Jewish state.

Donate to EI

The current call for donations promises EI readers that supporting the site will make them “influential,” because supposedly, the EI-propagated “truth about Palestine” reaches an ever-expanding audience and “journalists from major and independent media all over the world [are] eager to get our perspectives.” However, when it better suits the purpose to claim that the media are terribly biased against the Palestinians, EI co-founder Ali Abunimah will happily put out the opposite message, complaining bitterly that “not one ‘mainstream’ US media org called me during #GazaUnderAttack.”

Abunimah ignored

Already a few years ago, the widely respected Arab-American analyst and commentator Hussein Ibish noted that Abunimah “tailors his statements to appeal to different audiences in different media at different times.” Ibish also rightly highlighted Abunimah’s enthusiastic cheerleading for Hamas:

“He has defended the most recalcitrant elements in Hamas and encouraged its most obstructionist and counterproductive attitudes, with sentiments like, “’Hamas: We will never recognize the enemy.’ Let’s hope they keep their word.” A March 2009 article by Abunimah and his father Hassan [a former Jordanian diplomat] accused Hillary Clinton of “sabotaging” Palestinian reconciliation talks […] and urged Hamas not to agree to the conditions of the Middle East Quartet. This is hardly surprising, given that he is opposed to both peace and negotiations, instead endorsing, “Liberation through resistance not ‘peace’ through ‘negotiations.’”

His admiration for Hamas leaders is often gushing: “Nothing better than a live interview on Aljazeera with a top Hamas official. They are always so eloquent and clear.” As for the leadership of the even more extreme Islamic Jihad organization, his enthusiasm seems to go beyond the political. In one of his earliest and perhaps most unguarded tweets, Abunimah wrote, “I think [Islamic Jihad leader] Ramadan Shallah is super intelligent, eloquent and hot.” Yes, hot.”

Given these views, it is hardly surprising that among EI’s current offerings, an article that worries mightily about a potential “moderation” of Hamas and Islamic Jihad was warmly recommended by Ali Abunimah as an “important analysis.”

This “important analysis” boils down to the argument that Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza achieved a major “victory” over Israel in the recent fighting that might be easily squandered “[w]ithout a clear and uncompromising roadmap to engage the West Bank in the resistance project and end the Palestinian Authority’s stranglehold over it.”

One can’t ask for a more open call to transform the West Bank into another Gaza-style Hamastan, where residential neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, sport facilities and mosques all serve as storage, training or launching facilities for weapons, explosives and rockets.

However, what is arguably most revealing is the contrast between, on the one hand, EI’s constant lament about the poor, defenseless, helpless and destitute Gazans who suffer endlessly from Israeli oppression and brutality and, on the other hand, the boasting about the mighty “resistance:”

“There is no question that Israel’s latest attack on Gaza enhanced the resistance’s deterrence capacity. The coordinated and consistent launch of an average 200 rockets a day and the unprecedented strategic depth of the attacks (Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) reflected a highly disciplined and developed resistance force.”

Ali Abunimah and his fellow activists at the EI know of course full well that the rockets shot from Gaza at Israeli civilians are war crimes – indeed, as Alan Dershowitz has emphasized:

“Every rocket fired by Hamas from one of its own civilian areas at a non-military Israeli target is a double war crime that should be universally condemned by all reasonable people.”

But since the EI claims to have raised $192,000 in 2011, it seems that there are quite a few people who will happily pay to support a site that cheers Hamas and Islamic Jihad while pretending to care about human rights.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog; this post was corrected since I mistakenly described Hussein Ibish as a Palestinian commentator. Even though Ibish is a staunch defender of the Palestinian cause – if it is understood to be a negotiated two-state solution — he is reviled by “pro-Palestinian” anti-Israel activists. When one of them recently protested my reference to Ibish as a Palestinian commentator, I checked and found out that he indeed is not Palestinian: his father was a famous Syrian-Kurdish professor and his mother was apparently European or American.

 

 

Ali Abunimah hopes Obama will make history [updated]

No, the title of this post doesn’t mean that Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada hopes President Obama will achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in his second term. After all, like most “pro-Palestinian” activists, Abunimah is not primarily interested in the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather in getting rid of the Jewish State.

Yet, as much as so-called pro-Palestinian activists may hate Israel, they often also have plenty of other resentments that add up to an utterly unhinged world view. There is perhaps no better way to examine the fringe views that are so popular in “pro-Palestinian” circles than to follow Ali Abunimah on Twitter.

Consider this recent tweet by Abunimah:

Abunimah on Obama

To be sure, once upon a time, Abunimah had a much more favorable view of Obama – but that was of course when Obama would “attend events in the Palestinian community in Chicago all the time.”

By now, Abunimah seems thoroughly disenchanted, not just with Barack Obama, but even with the Democratic Party in general:

Abunimah on US parties

It is noteworthy that in this tweet, support for Israel ranks only third in the list of Democratic faults.

That is because Abunimah was also tweeting a Reuters report published by the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that described how some Pakistanis reacted to Obama’s re-election.

Abunimah on Pakistan

Of course, Ali Abunimah doesn’t usually care all that much what’s going on in Pakistan, and he certainly wouldn’t like it if people started to compare all the attention the Palestinians are getting to the disgraceful neglect of the Baloch struggle against Pakistan’s murderous oppression of their aspirations for freedom.

However, Abunimah’s concern for Pakistani victims of American drone strikes is apparently due to his view that both the US and Israel should be condemned for fighting against Islamist terrorism. It was therefore hardly a surprise when Abunimah retweeted a complaint that General Petraeus had resigned because of an extramarital affair, and not because “he murdered innocent people.”

Abunimah on Petraeus

Elaborating on this issue at the Electronic Intifada, Abunimah not only reminded his readers that Petraeus once made a controversial remark blaming the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict for fuelling the flames of Arab hatred for America, but also claimed that this remark was motivated by “the same cold calculation of how to maintain and advance US imperial domination that allowed him [Petraeus] to oversee – on behalf of the president – wars, occupations and murders of children and teenagers and other civilians all over the world using drones.”

So in the world of Ali Abunimah and his many fans, the US president and the generals who serve in the US army are all just murderers and criminals.

Needless to say, this is even more true when it comes to Israel. Here is Ali Abunimah’s take on the recent aggression from Hamas-ruled Gaza:

Abunimah Gaza resistance Abunimah PalDefForces

Amazingly, there are still people who apparently think Abunimah should somehow be taken seriously. Last March, The Forward published a fairly sympathetic profile of him, which concluded with the remark that Abunimah feels that the criticism he gets proves that people “are paying attention” to him. The Forward profile ended by quoting Abunimah:

“I am not a professor at a big university. I don’t have a think tank behind me. I don’t have a title, and yet I am able to influence in one way or another the way people think and the way that they act […] As much as the opposition would like to ignore me, they can’t, and that is not because of any title I carry.”

Well, with all this influence Abunimah fancies himself having, Obama has already one leg in prison… Of course, there may be severe overcrowding, since most US generals should probably also be there, and let’s not forget George W. Bush and all Israeli leaders and generals and whoever else isn’t in favor of the glorious “resistance” put up by Islamist terrorists in the Middle East and elsewhere.

* * *

This is a belated cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

In response to this post, G-Nice‏@ArikSharon alerted me to an interesting piece written by the widely respected Palestinian* commentator Hussein Ibish a few years ago. Under the title “What does Ali Abunimah really believe?,” Ibish notes that he and Abunimah wrote “numerous articles and monographs” together, but that Abunimah’s views “have shifted radically in recent years.” Ibish also points out something I’ve often noticed when reading Abunimah’s output: namely, that he “tailors his statements to appeal to different audiences in different media at different times” – which perhaps indicates that he is aware that openly standing by the unhinged views with which he fires up his fans would come with the price of not being taken serious by a less partisan audience.

Needless to say, I fully agree with Ibish’s view that “its not really possible to fully understand what Abunimah’s real thinking is without consulting [his] tweets in which he has been letting his guard down and allowing those who pay attention to get a close glimpse of his actual agenda, which is decidedly not a pretty picture.”

But since Ibish uses the term “agenda,” it’s worth highlighting that Abunimah combines his enthusiastic cheerleading for Hamas and Islamic Jihad with a relentless demonization of Israel, passing it off not only as “pro-Palestinian”, but also as a progressive defense of human rights.

This is of course exactly the kind of “pro-Palestinian” activism that has done so much to poison progressive politics.

Whether or not Abunimah’s activism can be described as “pro-Palestinian,” it sure qualifies as obsessively anti-Israel. Yet, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated with his recent speech at the UN to much applause, it indeed seems that championing the “Palestinian cause” is generally understood as requiring harsh denunciations of Israel.

But it is too often overlooked that the most fervent anti-Israel ideologues show symptoms that are hard to distinguish from those that Walter Russell Mead has repeatedly described so well for antisemitism. As Mead put it:

“Jew haters don’t understand how the world works; anti-Semitism is both a cause and a consequence of a basic failure to comprehend the way pluralistic and liberal societies behave. As a result, nations and political establishments warped by this hatred tend to make one dumb decision after another.”

Those who are consumed by hate for the world’s only Jewish state and dedicate themselves single-mindedly to the goal of undoing its establishment tend to exhibit similar failures of comprehension – which is arguably no coincidence given the often observed overlap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

But as Mead rightly noted in a post on “The Hate That Dares Not Speak Its Name,” “many of today’s anti-Semites like to think of themselves as enlightened, modern people and [they] get all huffy and hissy if anyone accuses them of prejudice in any form.”

This is certainly true for Ali Abunimah and many of his fellow activists and followers. Yet, while Abunimah has repeatedly tried to distance himself from activists who propagated antisemitic tropes all too openly, there is no denying that the politics of the supposedly “progressive” down-with-Israel crowd differs very little from the hate-filled visions of antisemites.

As hard as Abunimah may try to pose as a progressive anti-racist and defender of human rights, his enthusiastic cheerleading for Hamas and groups like Islamic Jihad ultimately means going along with the seething Jew-hatred expressed in the Hamas Charter and in countless jihadi pronouncements.

But there is arguably more to it, because – as I tried to illustrate by highlighting Abunimah’s views on Obama – dedicated anti-Israel activists like Abunimah tend to have radical fringe-views not only on Israel, but also on many other issues. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the down-with-Israel-crowd also hates a lot about America and the West in general – and this hate is so all-consuming that there seems to be little else.

Those who happily subscribe to these fervent resentments will therefore usually be unable or unwilling to see the Middle East and the Muslim world as anything but victims of Western depravity. Whatever might be wrong there is not deemed worthy of attention given the enormity of Western wrong-doing.

To be sure, this version of “The White Man’s Burden” has long been a widely accepted part of the supposedly progressive world view that elevates the “Palestinian cause” to the all-important issue of our time. While the latent antisemitism that is so frequently an integral part of this “progressive” activism certainly helps to explain some of the bizarre positions that are so enthusiastically embraced by “pro-Palestinian” campaigners, it is also very interesting to look at this as a broader manifestation of the Zeitgeist. Some of the writings by Richard Landes are particularly interesting in this context. He has coined the term “Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome,” arguing:

“Without self-criticism and its accompanying learning curve, there is little progress. Hence progressives rightly emphasize self-criticism. […] In some cases, however, self-critical progressives can take this strategy so far that they fall into the trap of taking most or all of the responsibility for something when it is not primarily of their doing. To some extent, this unusual generosity reflects the notion that it takes a “big man” to admit fault, and that if we progressives are stronger, we should make the first, second and even third moves of concession and apology, in order to encourage those with whom we find ourselves in dispute. Combining inflated rhetoric with a therapeutic notion that the disadvantaged should not be held to the same exacting standards (moral equivalence) leads one to fall into self-critical pathologies.

In the most extreme cases, we encounter Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome (MOS): “it is all our fault; and if we can only be better, we can fix anything/everything.” This hyper-critical attitude can be seen with particular clarity in the response of some progressives and radicals to both the 9-11 attack in 2001 in the US, and the 7-7 attack in 2005 in London. For many, “What did we do to make them hate us?” trumped “What are they telling themselves that makes them hate us so?” In a sense, the very preference for the former question underlines our desire to be in control. Maybe we can fix what it is that we do to them, so they’ll not hate us so. Maybe even, they’ll like us. […]

The tendency to hyper-self-criticize leads to a kind of moral self-absorption in which one loses any sense of the other side of any conflict as moral agent. […] the real tragedy here comes with the unconscious racism involved in such a moral argument. The proponents of such thinking fail to grant the “other side” any moral agency. “Their behavior is entirely reactive, a response to our bad deeds. If only we would stop, they would stop.” This approach, which gives us, among other things, the current policy of appeasement in the West, also operates on assumptions that the “other” — in this case, the global Jihadis and the Muslim cultures from which they draw their recruits — are not autonomous moral agents. In other words, they, like animals, can’t help themselves. Hence, we make no moral demands on them, indeed, we lower ourselves to their moral level with our equivalences.”

* * *

*Correction: Somebody on Twitter protested my description of Ibish as Palestinian, and indeed it seems I was mistaken. There is only very little information on Ibish’s family background available, but a 2003 obituary of his father, Professor Yusuf Hussein Ibish, indicates that he came from a Syrian-Kurdish family while his mother Joan Schenck was apparently European or American.