Author Archives: Alan in Australia

About Alan in Australia

I am a secular Jew living in beautiful Australia who believes in the concept of a fair go. Israel today is slammed in the media by those with an axe to grind. Unsuspecting consumers of that media are being cynically played by those who we trust to get it right. This blog will try and redress that imbalance through unequivocal, but fair, support of Israel, while exposing the cynicism and double standards of those who seek to delegitimize a sovereign country and people.

BDS – coming full circle

As the European–funded BDS movement loses steam and becomes merely a university campus annoyance, it is worth reminding oneself what this essentially ethno-racist anti-semitic political movement stood for.

Supporters of BDS today state that the 2005 “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS against Israel” was a movement tied to human rights and international law.

BDS, in actual fact, is far removed from either of those two laudable aspirations.

Officially founded in 2005, its real roots were embedded in the outcome of the anti-Semitic NGO Forum held in parallel to the UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in August and September 2001.

That Forum’s final declaration described Israel as a “racist, apartheid state” that was guilty of “racist crimes including war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.”

The resulting “Durban Strategy” promoted a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state, the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes and the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.

Consequently, the BDS campaigns were conceived as a form of political war to achieve Israel’s isolation where military Arab force in 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1967-70, 1973 and 1982 failed to wipe out the Jewish state.

This does not take into account the 1987-93 first “intifada”, and additional major military engagements in 1993, 1996, 2002, the second Lebanon war in 2006, and large scale operations against Arab Muslim Hamas in 2012 and 2014.

Clearly, the BDS movement had little to do with “human rights and international law” than it did with ethnically cleansing Jews from the Levant and putting an end to the Jewish state.

Unable to defeat the IDF militarily or weaken the Israeli population through persistent terrorism, the extremist groups, Islamic terrorists and their European allies embarked upon a global effort to demonize and isolate Israel, casting it as a pariah state. Thus, the utilization of Lawfare, became the main component of the “Durban Strategy”.

With the use of Lawfare, the BDS boycott campaign unwittingly sowed the seeds of its future impotence and failure as we shall see further in this article.

Historically though, the boycott campaign actually predates the establishment of Israel. In December 1945, the newly formed Arab League formally declared that: “Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries.” All Arab “institutions, organizations, merchants, commission agents and individuals” were called upon “to refuse to deal in, distribute, or consume Zionist products or manufactured goods.”

Seventy years ago, as today, the terms “Jewish” and “Zionist” were used synonymously where Arab strategy was always to isolate Israel from its neighbors and the international community, as well as to deny it trade that might be used to augment its military and economic strength.

Sixty years later, the call for the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) in Ramallah on April 6, 2004 was merely an old idea in new clothing. And just the 1945 initiative failed to cripple Jews and the (later) birth of the State of Israel, so too the 2005 BDS campaign has failed to quantitatively impact the Jewish State.

That the BDS movement was always destined to fail can be found in the words of its putative founder, Omar Barghouti who stated: “I am completely and categorically against binationalism because it assumes that there are two nations with equal moral claims to the land.” And if there was any doubt as to what Barghouti meant he further clarified that “The one state solution means a unitary state, where, by definition, Jews will be a minority.”

Lebanese Muslim supporters of BDS and Barghouti like Asad Abu Khalil put it even more baldly: “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel….That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”

The sentiments above have little or nothing to do with human rights and/or international law. This is because:

  1. Arab gays and battered women regularly flee to Israel from both Gaza and Judea and Samaria.
  2. No Jews are allowed to live in Gaza or Ramallah while Israel respects the rights of 1.8 million Israeli Arabs within its borders.
  3. Israel jails its security risks while the “Palestinians” shoot, hang and then drag mutilated bodies around the city chained to motorcycles.
  4. Jews have a legal basis for living east of the Green Line in international law. The 1920 San Remo Agreement and 1922 Mandate of Palestine clearly laid out the rights of Jews to live throughout There was no such thing as a “West Bank” which was a Jordanian invention during the 1948-9 Israel war of independence. The arbitrary line (which Israel and the Arab states all agreed was NOT a border) has no bearing on where Jews can and cannot live.
  5. There is no basis in law for “occupying” disputed territory. While the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine in 1947, the vote did not create the two states. This is because, in 1948, Jews declared the State of Israel. The Arabs declared war. Further, the Arabs rejected the partition, as they sought the entirety of the land. The land east of the Green Line (EGL) remains disputed and subject to various agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including Oslo II (1995).
  6. International law uses the term “occupation” only in relation to a foreign force taking over another country, not disputed land.
  7. Lastly, international law forbids seizing additional territory in an offensive action, not as a matter of defense as was the case of Israel defending itself from Jordanian attack in 1967.

BDS has failed because it was created as a tool of hate and ethnic cleansing. It was founded on a lie which was always going to be exposed.

Consequently, both Muslim and non-Muslim nations realised that economic, cultural and academic boycotts deliver no political message and in no way influence political policy.

And so, in America, back in 2015, Barack Obama signed into law, landmark legislation combating the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in Europe.

In February 2015, Canada officially and formally condemned the BDS movement on the grounds it abrogated the rights of Jews to live safely within defensible borders in a Jewish state through the subterfuge of economic sanctions.

In early 2016, Spain denounced the BDS movement as discriminatory.

By mid 2016 in America more than half of the states were considering legislating aimed at countering the BDS movement.

On June 17, 2016, the Dutch Parliament passed a non-binding motion calling on the government to “end as soon as possible direct or indirect funding for organizations… [that] promote a boycott of Israel.”

In September 2016, EU President Frederica Mogherini stated: “The EU rejects the BDS campaign’s attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.

Significant Israeli trading partners India and China with a combined population of2.3 billion potential customers totally ignore and shun BDS as ever closer economic and cultural ties between them develop.

In 2017, Israel trades with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Jordan and Egypt.

In 2017, Israel has a strong economy, a large part of which is driven by a booming tech sector that houses a number of premier Western tech firms. It’s difficult to see how even a massive surge in BDS campaigns could destroy that dynamic. And so far, BDS’s successes haven’t prevented Israel from seeing a steep increase in foreign investment in recent years.

  • Overall, Israeli exports have grown from around $5 million in 1948, to more than $47 billion in 2014.
  • The total volume of trade with the U.S. in 2014 was $36 billion.
  • Israel’s trade with the EU exceeds that of the U.S.. Roughly one-third of Israel’s imports and exports are a result of trade with the EU. Moreover, total trade with the EU has grown from approximately $21 billion in 2003 to $37 billion in 2013.
  • Countries outside of the EU such as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway cotniue to enjoy a free trade agreement Israel and business with these nations remains robust.
  • While the central hub of the BDS movement is in England, total bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to a record $6 billion in 2014, an increase of more than 7 per cent from the previous year.
  • Israel’s trade with Asia, which overtook the U.S. as Israel’s second biggest export destination expanded exponentially in 2016.
  • China is already Israel’s third-largest trading partner where trade has increased 220% from $50 million in 1992 to $11 billion in 2014.
  • Total trade between Israel and Japan reached $2.3 billion in 2014.
  • Israel’s relations with India have been steadily improving, as evidenced by the 2015 visit of Narendra Modi, the first Indian prime minister to go to Israel. Bilateral trade has grown from $200 million in 1992 to $6 billion in 2013. Between Modi’s election in May 2014 and November 2014, Israel exported $662 million worth of Israeli weapons and defense items to India. This export number is greater than the total Israeli exports to India during the previous three years combined.
  • Israel’s discovery of a large reserve of natural gas off its Mediterranean coast has led to a $15 billion deal for Israeli natural gas with Jordan, and a $1.2 billion agreement with Egypt.

BDS failed for six reasons:

  1. BDS was never pro-“Palestine”; it was always anti-Israel
  2. BDS betrayed its anti-Semitic mandate because people finally recognized that BDS was modern-day anti-Semitism that sought the end of one state, at the expense of a 2-state solution
  3. BDS was consistently and effectively fought by the Israeli government and the international Jewish community
  4. BDS underestimated Israel’s desirability in the world’s eyes as a diplomatic and economic partner
  5. BDS leaders played into the Netanyahu government’s hands by blurring the Green Line for their own reasons, and by mounting a campaign against all Israeli entrepreneurs and scholars
  6. BDS finally came face to face with very same International and local Lawfare where legislation, resolutions and executive orders were (and continue to be) signed prohibiting state agencies from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel

BDS unwittingly came full circle; it finally defeated itself.

And just to drive the point home on the economic (let alone cultural) front, here are only a very few instances of the failure of BDS in 2016 alone:

I-phone 8 hardware developed in Israel

Israeli scientists announce possible Alzheimer breakthrough

Bank of Ireland shuts down anti-Israel BDS accounts

Spanish High Court Rules against BDS

Samsung Open Branch in Tel Aviv

El Al Profits Doubled in 2nd Quarter.

It would, then, in the final analysis, be true to say that in the past 12 years, the BDS movement did have a profound impact on investment in Israel: it tripled.

Which is as it should be.

Kol Tuv.


Clarifying 100 Years of Balfour

In this centenary year of the seminal Balfour Declaration, myriad myths abound regarding the legality of the State of Israel and the illegality of building and living in Judea and Samaria, erroneously (but conveniently) labelled the West Bank.

On March 10, 2017, Miriam Elman pithily summarized the proceedings of a talk given by Professor Eugene Kontorovich at the Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT) on the 28th of February 2017.

Professor Kontorovich’s thesis is as clear as it is simple: Jews have a legal right to live and make their homes on Arab-infiltrated lands in Judea and Samaria, erroneously labelled the West Bank by Israel’s detractors.

The most common almost meme-like point of view of those who would detract from Israel is that Judea and Samaria are “occupied territory”. This viewpoint is supported, according to the detractors, by their interpretation of Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations where representatives of the ICRC and other anti-Israel organisations interpret the Article to mean that “international humanitarian law does not require that the territory occupied by a foreign army must belong to a sovereign state.”

While Kontorovich does not address this point specifically in this lecture, others question that interpretation because Article 42 of the Regulation is filed under a category titled, “Military Authority Over the Territory of the Hostile State.”

There is little more that can be added to amplify that statement…………

On the other hand, Professor Kontorovich explicates clearly why others who use the much abused interpretation of Article 49, Clauses 1 and (especially) 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to delegitimize Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria are flogging a dead horse:

the Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 49(6) [is]… a set of injunctions on the occupier, and was explicitly meant to prevent the kinds of deplorable forcible deportations and mass transfers of peoples perpetrated by Nazi Germany during World War II.

[Nowhere does] Article 49(6)…say that civilians can’t voluntarily move to live in occupied territory. Nor does it require occupying powers to make it difficult or burdensome for civilians to reside in these territories.

With regard to the West Bank, a sizeable portion of Jewish Israelis who live there today didn’t move into the area, much less were they transferred there by Israel—they were born there! And these settler babies and kids aren’t there illegally.

[Thus], Article 49(6) doesn’t create a “no-go zone” for the nationals of the occupying power who wish to migrate into the occupied territory. Israel has indicated a willingness to trade away some of this territory as part of a negotiated agreement—having rights and title to territory doesn’t mean a state can’t waive them. But until that day comes, nothing in the Geneva Conventions makes it unlawful for Israeli citizens to voluntarily settle in a territory with no other legal sovereign.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

The terms “deport” and “transfer” are active, meaning that civilians are not acting on their own behest (Shamir, 2013).

Further, the decision to draft the Geneva Conventions of 1949 was spurred by the tragedy of World War II. The conventions were intended to fill the gaps in international humanitarian law exposed by that conflict.

Specifically, the article relevant to this discussion was drawn up in the wake of the Nazi policy of forcibly transferring parts of its own population into territories it occupied before and during the war. The most infamous of these forcible transfers or deportations was the masses of Jews who were sent to occupied territories to be murdered en masse in Poland and elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, with regard to forced deportations and transfers, no mention is ever made by those same sjws about Israeli “occupation” of the 19-year illegal Jordanian invasion and occupation of the “West Bank”, where for the first time in 3000 years, Jews were ethnically cleansed from East Jerusalem adn herded out from Hebron, while Muslim Jordanian nationals were imported into the occupied territory of the State of Israel to create facts on the ground.

To conclude, perhaps the most major reason there is no state of  “Palestine” today is that there is no legal precedence justifying its re-creation.

By this I mean that documented Arab refusal to have an additional state (now three) out of what was one originally designated area for the reconconstituting of a national home for Jews in what is today Jordan, Judea and Samaria and the State of Israel was corrupted and hijacked both by Arab corruption of the brief and intention of the League of Nations in creating the British Mandate, and the greed of Britain which refused to reduce its influence from near the sources of oil in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Empowered as it was by the League of Nations in 1922, it is Article 6 of the (lawful) British Mandate which encouraged “close settlement” by Jews in the area and the League of Nations’ Mandatory borders which are binding in international law (Kontorvich 2017).

By the end of 1947, opportunity was given by the vacating British to both Jew and Arab to initiate statehood. The Jews declared the State of Israel in May 1948. The Arabs declared war.

Thus, all else is merely subterfuge and frustration, economic blackmail and threat of violence, as well as a final resort to legal warfare because the Arab League failed, in three wars, to wipe out by force of arms, a tiny enclave of Jews who now had both moral AND legal claim to a Jewish state. In international law.

There is a reason there is no “Palestine” today.

The 100 year Arab-Israeli conflict is just that: Arab-Israeli. The red herring of “Palestine” is merely a red herring; a fiction pursued by Arabs and their funded western enablers to create an ethnically cleansed Middle East.

But that is a different story altogether.

‘Twixt Heaven and Earth

Iran must know its incredible run of political luck and fiscal fortune are very nearly at an end.

Per Caroline Glick:

[Trump’s Iran] plan…involves a multidimensional campaign that if successful will both neutralize Iran as a strategic threat and obliterate ISIS.

Regarding Iran specifically, Trump’s moves to date involve operations on three levels. First, there is the rhetorical campaign to distinguish the Trump administration from its successor.

Trump launched the campaign on Twitter on Wednesday writing, “Iran is rapidly taking over more and more of Iraq even after the US has squandered three trillion dollars there.”

Shortly before his post, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Abadi appointed Iranian proxy Qasim al Araji to serve as his interior minister.

At a minimum, Trump’s statement signaled an abandonment of Obama’s policy of cooperating with Iranian forces and Iranian-controlled Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

At around the same time Trump released his tweet about Iranian control of Iraq, his National Security Adviser Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn took a knife to Obama’s obsequious stand on Iran during a press briefing at the White House.

While Trump’s statement related to Iran’s growing power in Iraq, Flynn’s remarks were directed against its nonconventional threat and its regional aggression. Both were on display earlier this week.

On Sunday, Iran carried out its 12th ballistic missile test since concluding its nuclear deal with Obama, and its first since Trump took office.

 On Monday, Iranian-controlled Houthi forces in Yemen attacked a Saudi ship in the Bab al-Mandab choke point connecting the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.

Flynn condemned both noting that they threatened the US and its allies and destabilized the Middle East. The missile test, he said, violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that anchored the nuclear deal.

Flynn then took a step further. He drew a sharp contrast between the Obama administration’s responses to Tehran’s behavior and the Trump administration’s views of Tehran’s provocative actions.

“The Obama administration failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions – including weapons transfers, support for terrorism, and other violations of international norms,” he noted.

“The Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk.”

Flynn ended his remarks by threatening Iran directly.

“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” he warned.

[But] Perhaps the most potent aspect of Trump’s emerging strategy for defeating the forces of jihad is the one that hasn’t been discussed but it was signaled, through a proxy, the day after Trump took office.

On January 21, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a remarkable message to the Iranian people on his Facebook page. Netanyahu drew a sharp distinction between the “warm” Iranian people and the “repressive” regime.

Netanyahu opened his remarks by invoking the new administration.

“I plan to speak soon with President Trump about how to counter the threat of the Iranian regime, which calls for Israel’s destruction,” the prime minister explained.

“But it struck me recently that I’ve spoken a lot about the Iranian regime and not enough about the Iranian people, or for that matter, to the Iranian people. So I hope this message reaches every Iranian.”

Netanyahu paid homage to the Green Revolution of 2009 that was brutally repressed by the regime. In his words, “I’ll never forget the images of proud, young students eager for change gunned down in the streets of Tehran in 2009.”

Netanyahu’s statement was doubtlessly coordinated with the new administration. It signaled that destabilizing with the goal of overthrowing the regime in Tehran is a major component of Trump’s strategy.”

If Trump can do all this in 11 days (so far), does it necessarily mean that over 8 years, former president Barack Obama lied, inveigled and duped America into supporting a repressive Islamist regime, a state sponsor of terror in the Middle East by enabling its nuclear breakout capabilities and then providing it with billions of American dollars?

Barack Obama will have his legacy. Just not quite the one he hoped for.

The analyses of Obama’s time in office will make fascinating reading.

Joining the Jackals

In the wake of a political UNSC resolution on December 23rd 2016 which ruled the Western Wall and other Israeli sites and settlements legally invalid Israeli territory (FWIW, legally the UNSC hasn’t a leg to stand on…) and which exhorts other nations to boycott any and all commerce with Israeli products produced east of the 1949 Green Line, it is important for Israelis and their supporters to cut to the chase.

In the first instance it is important to recognize that though the U.N. Charter is considered a “law-making treaty”, the United Nations itself is not an international legislature that can make laws or pass legislations.

With that out of the way, and in relation to 2334’s ruling that Israeli settlements east of the green Line are legally invalid (they’re not…), legal scholars state: “Because of the ex iniuria principle [unjust acts cannot create law], Jordan never had nor now has any legal title in the West Bank, nor does any other state even claim such title.”

To this I add United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine which aimed to establish two states within Mandate Palestine.

The Resolution designated the territory described as “the hill country of Samaria and Judea” (including what is now known as the “West Bank”) as part of the proposed ARAB state.

But, aware of Arabs’ past aggressions, Resolution 181, in paragraph C, calls on the Security Council to:

“Determine as a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, in accordance with Article 39 of the Charter, any attempt to alter by force the settlement envisaged by this resolution.”

And so, the following progressions come into play:

  1. Clearly, with the Jordanian invasion and occupation of “Arab” Judea and Samaria in flagrant disregard of Article 39 of the UN Charter, the ones who sought to alter the settlement envisioned in Resolution 181 by force, were the Arabs who threatened bloodshed if the United Nations was to adopt the Resolution.
  2. Judea and Samaria were NEVER intended to be part of Jordan which invaded it in 1948.
  3. Until the second military defeat of Arab armies by a numerically inferior Israel in 1967, no Arab nation or group recognized or claimed the existence of an independent Palestinian nationality or ethnicity.
  4. Resolution 181 itself, which partitioned what was left of the mandate into an Arab and a Jewish state, was declared dead by the UN in July 30, 1949 when it stated that:

“The Arabs rejected the United Nations Partition Plan so that any comment of theirs did not specifically concern the status of the Arab  section of Palestine under partition but rather rejected the scheme in its entirety.”

By the time armistice agreements were reached in 1949 between Israel and its  immediate Arab neighbors (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Trans-Jordan) Resolution 181 had become irrelevant, and the armistice agreements needed to address new realities created by the war.

  1. This meant that when, in the late 1990s, more than 50 years after Resolution 181 was rejected by the Arab world, Arab leaders suddenly recommended to the General Assembly that UN Resolution 181 be resurrected as the basis for a peace agreement, there was no foundation for such a notion because even the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) uses the term “unbalanced” in describing the reason for Arab rejectionism of Resolution 181. This despite the fact that 77% of the area of the original Mandate for the Jews was excised in 1922 to create a fourth (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq) Arab state –Trans-Jordan (today Jordan)….
  2. In stating, on 23rd December 2106, and in invoking Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, that Israeli settlement east of the Green Line was “legally invalid” the UNSC was in contradiction of that same Article which stated:

“Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive. Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.”           [emphasis mine]

Article 49 is thus simply not applicable. Even if it were, it may be added that the facts of recent voluntary settlements seem not to be caught by the intent of Article 49, which was, rather, directed at the forced transfer of the belligerent’s inhabitants to the occupied territory, or the displacement of the local inhabitants for other than security reasons. This has implications for the legal challenge to UNSC if Bensouda of the ICJ decides to instigate a full investigation where Israel is charged with war crimes under the aegis of this Article.

Further, the UNSC Resolution 2334 ignores the fact that Israel and the Arabs agreed in the 1995 Interim Agreement, signed and witnessed by the U.S., the EU, Egypt, Jordan, Russia, and Norway, on a division of their respective jurisdictions in the West Bank into areas A and B (Palestinian jurisdiction) and area C (Israeli jurisdiction). They defined the respective powers and responsibilities of each side in the areas they control.

Israel’s powers and responsibilities in Area C include all aspects regarding its settlements – all this pending the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations per 242.

This division was accepted and agreed upon by the Palestinians, who cannot now invoke the Geneva Convention regime in order to bypass their acceptance of the Interim Agreement or their and the international community’s acknowledgement of that agreement’s relevance and continued validity.

For what it’s worth, where the decision was taken (and agreed to by the “Palestinians”) to break west bank into areas A, B and C, the breakdown was effected thus:

92% of Palestinians live in PA administered Areas A and B. Less than 2% live in Israeli administered Area C. That is, Palestinians have communities on 40% of the west bank; while 60% of the west bank is virtually empty.

As the Washington Post put it at the time:

 “Following the 1993 Oslo accords, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, like several before it, limited building almost entirely to areas that both sides expect Israel to annex through territorial swaps in an eventual settlement per Resolution 242. Almost all of the Jewish settlers live on only four percent of the West Bank,  the sector that Israel has been seeking to annex as part of a peace plan that was first presented twelve years ago.”

To return, there is only one International law concerning Israeli settlement that is binding and has never been superseded. The League of Nations, on July 24th, 1922, established the Mandate for Palestine, by unanimous vote, which included two Islamic states, Persia and Albania. Ratifying the 1922 agreement which has never been legally altered or abrogated, and which thus makes made it legally binding under international law it states:

‘Under this settlement, the whole of Palestine on both sides of the Jordan was reserved exclusively for the Jewish People as the Jewish National Home, in recognition of their historical connection with that country, dating from the Patriarchal Period … The Palestine aspect of the global settlement [is] recorded in three basic documents that led to the founding of the modern State of Israel: …’

In other words, recognition was “… given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country….”

That the British then unilaterally detached three fourths of the Palestine Mandate and created Trans Jordan, which was only for Arabs and banned to Jews is the subject of a whole different story.

In light of this, anyone who sees Israel as an occupier of foreign land has to argue either that the League of Nations Mandate was illegal or that Jewish settlement became illegal when Jordan invaded and occupied it. No one ever argued for the former, the illegality of the Mandate, and the latter is legally absurd and morally dubious.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 got it wrong historically, legally and morally.

The Land of Israel, in its entirety, is NOT, to my thinking, an eternal gift from this or that god.

The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish Nation through historical reference to international law codified in the UN Charter and two international treaties.

Israel’s international “birth certificate” was validated through uninterrupted Jewish settlement from the time of Joshua onward in the Land of Israel in the area known as Judea (aka the West Bank of the River Jordan…).

It was validated by three ancient Biblical [historicoreligious] texts; by the Balfour Declaration of 1917; by the San Remo Resolution of 1920; by the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration; the United Nations partition resolution of 1947; Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states; and, most of all, the society created by Israel’s people in decades of thriving, dynamic national existence.

UNSC Resolution 2334 is not the end-point of the deliberations of a peak peace-seeking body professing protection of human rights of a “disposessed” “people”.

Rather, it is just the beginning of a process which will now scrutinize the mandate of the United Nations and its legitimacy.

This because UNSC 2334 remains testament to an Islamic cartel, to anti-Israel NGO’s, a petulant, ill-educated American administration and a profoundly biased mainstream media.

The Green Line of 1949 was never an internationally recognised border, but rather a cease fire line.

The core principle of Resolution 242 of 1967 that state borders between the Jews and the Arabs were to be agreed upon thru negotiations, has never been abrogated.

Professor Julius Stone put it best when he stated:

“Israel’s legitimacy or the legal foundation for its birth does not reside with the United Nations’ Partition Plan, which as a consequence of Arab actions became a dead issue. The State of Israel rests (as do most other states in the world) on assertion of independence by its people and government, on the vindication of that independence by arms against assault by other states, and on the establishment of orderly government within territory under its stable control.”

History will record that President Obama’s risible abstention per UNSC Resolution 2334 will have counted, in the long run, for nothing.

After the Carter administration pulled a similar stunt against Israel at the Security Council in December 1980, the Washington Post published an editorial that does that paper honor today.

“It cannot be denied,” the editors wrote, “that there is a pack and that it hounds Israel shamelessly and that this makes it very serious when the United States joins it.”

That editorial was titled “Joining the Jackals.”

From Chicago to Turtle Bay – journey of a pro-Palestinian

As the dust begins to settle from the furore created by UNSC Resolution 2334, and as legal, less emotionally involved minds begin to look at the ramifications of the resolution, I print below, Elena Chachko’s take on the impact of 2334 on Israel.

After that, I will go back a little and show how Obama December 23, 2016 was but the culmination of Obama as lecturer at University of Chicago, his friendship with Rashid Khalidi and how, back in 2008, Martin Kramer predicted then exactly what Obama would do on finishing his term as President in 2016-17.


UNSC 2334 is the first Security Council resolution since 1980 (resolution 465) that focuses on settlements. It also demands an immediate cessation of all settlement activity.
However, the resolution does not invoke Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which governs the Security Council’s authority to take enforcement measures in response to a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace or acts of aggression.”
Its operative paragraphs do not include binding language, for the most part using the non-binding “calls upon” formulation.
Resolution 2334 therefore does not have immediate and direct implications in the form of sanctions or other measures with practical significance.
This means that while 2334 does not provide, say, ICJ prosecutor Bensouda with new legal arguments, it could affect her decision-making if ever there was a full investigation into “Israeli war crimes”.
In sum, in and of itself, Resolution 2334’s immediate practical significance is limited.

But what of Obama himself? How did long-time adviser Power’s explanation gell with the Obama we don’t talk much about?

In December 2016, Stanley Kurtz statesd that despite arguments to and fro regarding Obama’s pro-Muslim/Palestinian proclivities and how “moderate” Obama was as President, Obama’s long-held pro-Palestinian sentiments were sincere, while his post-2004 pro-Israel stance was dictated by political necessity.

He added that Obama’s abstention on the December 23, 2016 U.N. resolution condemning Israel could have had no practical political motive. The only plausible remaining explanations were “accumulated frustration” over Israel’s settlement policy, pure personal pique at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for past differences.

Thus, Obama’s decision to abstain from yesterday’s U.N. condemnation of Israel was increasingly problematic for advocates of the “moderate Obama” hypothesis and was something that would taint any legacy he might leave behind.

To support this view, Kurtz identifies Obama’s long and still poorly-known history of support for the most radical and committed Palestinian activists in the United States. Years of committed activism, personal friendship and study courses under Edward Said were always going to be lot tougher to fake than the pro-Israel policy positioning Obama adopted after his breakthrough at the 2004 Democratic Convention gave him a shot at the presidency.

Back in May 26, 2011 Kurtz wrote:

“The continuing influence of Obama’s pro-Palestinian sentiments is the best way to make sense of the president’s recent tilt away from Israel. This is why supporters of Israel should fear Obama’s reelection. In 2013, with his political vulnerability a thing of the past, Obama’s pro-Palestinian sympathies would be released from hibernation, leaving Israel without support from its indispensable American defender.

“Obama’s heritage, his largely hidden history of leftist radicalism, and his close friendship with Rashid Khalidi, all bespeak sincerity, as Obama’s other Palestinian associates agree. This is not to mention Reverend Wright — whose rabidly anti-Israel sentiments…Obama had to know about — or Obama’s longtime foreign-policy adviser Samantha Power, who once apparently recommended imposing a two-state solution on Israel through American military action. Decades of intimate alliances in a hard-Left world are a great deal harder to fake than a few years of speeches at AIPAC conferences. The real Obama is the first Obama, and depending on how the next presidential election turns out, we’re going to meet him again in 2013.”

Prescient? Perhaps. But not as prescient as Martin Kramer’s address to the Shalem Center’s Manhattan Seminar on October 28, 2008.

I excerpt relevant selections below:

Regarding Iran:

The ultimate question isn’t whether Obama will unlearn what he learned at Columbia, Harvard, and Chicago. Should he actually initiate unconditional talks with Iran, it will dawn on him at some point that this was a mistake—that it legitimated the Iranian regime without receiving any concession in return, especially regarding Iranian conduct in Iraq and Lebanon; that it undermined the already fragile coalition of Arab states build so painstakingly by the Bush administration to contain Iran; and that it gave Iran an opportunity to continue its nuclear program under the cover of negotiations, perhaps buying enough time to bring it to completion.”
When Obama realizes this, he will face the very same narrow choice of options he wishes now to avoid: that is, either acquiescence in a nuclear Iran, or a military strike. Of course, when “engagement” fails, there will still be a sizable body of Muslim, European, and American opinion which will hold the United States to blame, for not going the extra mile. And even though Obama will have gone the extra mile, he’ll be criticized for not going yet another.
This is the relentless logic of appeasement.
But when “engagement” finally fails, Iran’s programs will be still further advanced, making the military option even less appealing than it is today. So “engagement” is not so much a third alternative between a nuclear Iran and a military strike, as it is a likely prelude to American acquiescence in a nuclear Iran. This would constitute one of the greatest failures of American foreign policy ever.”

Regarding Arab-Israeli conflict Kramer identifies Obama’s radicalization at Columbia through courses taken as a student and thru friendships forged at the University of Chicago in the early 90s, once he started to build a base in preparation for his 2008 election:

“But the University of Chicago is another story. His stay there, as a lecturer and senior lecturer, coincided with the meteoric rise of Rashid Khalidi. It’s here that Obama appeared in 1991, and for the first time we can link him to the Edward Said-Rashid Khalidi nexus. It would appear that Obama received his first primer on the Middle East from Rashid Khalidi.
…One can only hope that Obama realizes sooner rather than later that he too will not be able to draw the sword from the stone and bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace in our time. But lots of time and energy will be wasted in this learning process, it will put tremendous strain on the triangular relationship among the United States, Israel, and America’s Arab allies, and it will distract everyone from what has to be done to address the other pressing problems in the Middle East, all of which will be neglected on the erroneous assumption that America can’t do anything productive until it creates some sort of Palestine.”

As December 23 2016 shows, Barak Hussein Obama never unlearned his first Middle East primer.

The Balfour Circus is Coming to Town – or why the Abbas legal initiative will fail

November 2nd 2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. 2017 is also slated to be the year when the PA President, Mahmoud Abbas intends to litigate against Britain and sue her for creating the State of Israel; an action he deems a “crime” against a “people”.

Abbas’ intended action is futile and a waste of time and resources, because threatening legal action over what will be a 100-year-old document is a stretch, attracting more ridicule than serious analysis. In any event, the Declaration has in any case long been superseded by other decisions including UN resolutions.

For example, the Palestinian claim that they have a right to establish a sovereign state in the territories of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza rests on two legs:

(1) UN Assembly Resolution 181, concerning the partition of the western Land of Israel and the establishment of an Arab state alongside a Jewish state; and

(2) Resolution 242, concerning Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders.

Every single historical legal narrative will show that this claim can be dismissed outright, without considering it in detail, on the grounds that the “Palestinians” themselves rejected these resolutions at the time, and did all they could to foil them by force.

Not only that, but the Palestinian right to a state in addition to the one across the Jordan (which received indepen­dence in 1946), as recognized in UN Resolution 181, was controversial in itself, since it was bestowed on the Palestinians in contradiction to Article 5 of the original Mandate of 1922 (The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power), which the UN had undertaken to fulfill in Article 80 of its Charter.

That is to say, from the moment that the “Palestinians” rejected Resolution 181 and chose to attack Israel, aided by Arab states, with the intent to destroy it, they lost this right — on the basis of the general principle of “Right cannot grow from injustice.”

Furthermore, Abbas’ intended initiative has ignored the fact that in 1921, Mandatory Palestine was already partitioned in two, and in its eastern part, what was called “the Emirate of Transjordan” was set up.

This was designed not only to fulfill the commit­ments Britain had made to Emir Abdullah during the First World War but also to allocate land for the Palestine Arabs across the Jordan River.

Likewise, the Palestinians tend to forget the fact that in 1949 Transjordan annexed the territories of Judea and Samaria, and even changed its name to “the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” so as to emphasize that both banks of the Jordan were now included in its territory.

This gung-ho move proved to have long lasting legal implications which Israel has exploited to its fullest legal extent.

But, because I want to delineate some of the myriad reasons why Abbas’ efforts are a waste of time, I will look at discrete sections of the Mandate for Palestine, the 1939 White Paper, Abbas’ allegations of “illegality” and how, at every twist and turn, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are in disrespect of international law, its organisations and the very core of the UN Charter; the right to peace.

Sir Vincent Fean, former British consul-general in Jerusalem [glibly] argued that “…there is a moral responsibility on our government to complete the work that it started when Britain was the world power,” and that “It should work to deliver an outcome which respects the rights both of Israelis and Palestinians. That is two states – and on the basis of the 1967 borders.

Everything Fean says is contra-indicated by Palestinian behavior from 1948 in flagrant contravention of the UN Charter. And this is not to point out to Fean’s unconcern that the 1967 borders would mean retreat from East Jerusalem, and would take away Jewish sovereignty in the very parts of Israel’s capital and Judea and Samaria that most define the re-constituted Jewish state.

One of the things central to the UN Charter is the right to peace, a right which is conferred by the fact of membership in the UN, and which is absolute and inviolate.

With the crimina­lization of war/violence between groups in international law, and in the UN Charter, and the criminalization of denial of right to peace, Abbas and the Palestinians are in flagrant disregard of the rules of the very international organisations they now want to intercede on their behalf in their favour.

This blatant disregard and delegitimisation of Jewish right to a homeland is witnessed in an embarrassment of quotes. I will table but three of them.

The PLO Charter for its part still states that “claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.”

Mr. Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, said the following on Palestinian television on Sept. 16: “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah.

In November 2014 Abbas stated in an emergency session of the Arab League with foreign ministers from around the Arab world in Cairo that “We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel,”

Abbas has also famously said in Ramallah, “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it.”

Thus, Abbas’ rather bizarre July 2016 statement of intent to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration itself demonstrates yet again, not only disregard of the very UN Charter he now wants to grant him statehood, but verification of the continuing refusal of the Palestinian side to recognize the legitimate and indigenous connection of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, alongside the recognition the Palestinians seek for their own rights.

Not only that, but Mr Abbas’ Palestinian Authority is even seeking international recognition for the “right” to kill Israelis. Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch, reports that the PA asserts “it has the right to kill Israeli civilians, and they quote UN resolution 3236 of 1974 which ‘recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to regain its rights by all means.’ The PA interprets ‘all means’ as including violence and killing of civilians.”

Marcus points out the PA deliberately ignores the rest of the resolution that declares “the use of ‘all means’ should be ‘in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations…’ The UN Charter forbids targeting civilians, even in war.

Elon Yarden explains this Muslim Arab phenomenon best. He says that  Islamic law is monistic rather than pluralistic in essence, and only recognizes the legitimacy of a single all­-embracing state — the caliphate — that is based on a single, all-embracing religion — Islam.

International relations, according to this conception, are not relations of equality, but of subjugation between the caliphate and all other entities, to which a certain degree of autonomy is permitted, but not sovereignty.

Because of the lack of legitimacy in Islam for political pluralism and the between pluralism and monism, and the disparity between pluralism and monism, even today, after more than fifty years of political independence, the Arabs have trouble defining themselves in terms of bounded territorial nationalism, and prefer to think of themselves as part of the “great Arab nation” and even as part of the still greater Islamic nation.

Thus, Yarden continues, the crimina­lization of war in international law, by the UN Charter, is foreign to Arab understanding because it contradicts basic conceptions of Islamic law, first and foremost the institution of jihad. The Charter put an end to the older international law, in which war was legal so long as its purpose was “just”.

In the legal regime that the Charter has established, there is no longer any validity to the traditional distinction between a “just” war and an “unjust” war — instead, only a distinction between an “aggressive war”, which is prohibited by law, and a “defensive war”, which is permitted by it per the right to self-defense (Article 51) and in the authorization to enforce collective security.

Yarden posits that the Muslim Arab world has not succeeded in internalizing the revolution that the UN Charter has wrought, just as it has difficulty internalizing constitutional law and other Western norms.

Hence, despite the fact that the Arab states owe their independence to international law, it is difficult for them to adopt its principles, especially the more powerful states among them. That explains why the Arab states fail to recognize not only Israel’s legitimacy but even that of other Arab states; why the strong states among them seek to conquer the weak ones, with the goal of reestablishing the vanished caliphate.

The lack of peace between Israel and the Arab states does not stem, therefore, from the existence of conflicts between the sides, but from the Arab states’ refusal to recognize the legal regime that international law has established, since it runs counter to Muslim law. Hence their war against Israel is also perceived as normative, even if it contradicts their obligations according to the UN Charter. That is also why they ascribe no importance to the series of agreements they have signed with Israel since its establishment.

In legal terms, because, according to international law, the State of Israel is the legal sovereign over the entire territory of Mandatory Palestine west of the Jordan River, the Palestinians have no right except to autonomy, with the extent of its authority to be determined in negotia­tions between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas cannot even retreat into the Oslo accords in pursuit of his lawsuit. In light of the sweeping prohibi­tion of the use of force or even the threat of it in international law, the traditional peace arrangements for bringing an end to war, including peace treaties, are no longer valid because they result from the prior use of force.

This would make the Oslo agreements which tried to remediate what the Arabs vetoed in 1948, invalid because they were obtained as a result of the ongoing use of terrorism over many years, in Israel and outside of it, as well as the resort to “intifada when things didn’t go their way.

Any additional Abbas appeal to Oslo is also invalid because, according to the language of the Palestinian Covenant and other basic documents, the Palestinians have not relinquished the use of armed force as a means of destroying the State of Israel even subsequent to the signing of the Oslo agreements.

I have mentioned above that according to the UN Charter the right to peace, conferral of peace on a member state of the UN cannot be made dependent on any additional conditions.

Thus, after having vetoed Resolution 181, Resolu­tion 242, which makes Israel’s right to peace conditional on the handing over of territories to the Arabs, has no legal validity per the cornerstone of modern international law, whose constitution is the UN Charter.

This absolute right to peace poses the following conundrum for Abbas and the PLO: if the Arabs wish to belong to the international community that the Charter has established, they must clearly declare that they repudiate war unconditionally and unequivocally. They must declare that they recognize Israel’s right to exist in secure and recognized borders, without making this conditional on the handing over of any territories. And if Abbas refuses to do so, then he has clearly removed those he represents from the fold of the international community, and thus no longer entitled to any assistance that that community is authorized to provide.

Writing in HuffPo in 2013, Avi Ben Hur stated that in 1939 the British understood that they would not be able to resolve the conflict between the sides. On the eve of WWII, the British issued a “White Paper” – a declaration of policy — in which they claimed to have fulfilled their commitments undertaken in the Balfour Declaration.

This Paper put in writing the failure of Great Britain to further dance between the raindrops, having twice promised parts of the Mandate to Hussein of Mecca AND the Jews. To that end, tucked away in the middle of its three sections it stated its interpretation that

“His Majesty’s Government believe that the framers of the Mandate  in which the Balfour Declaration was embodied could not have intended that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population of the country.

And so, having done the colonial thing and secured Iraq’s oilfields for Britain after the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire, It was now leaving the mess it created to be sorted out between essentially westernized Jews who believed in a pluralistic international law with a body of Muslims who believed in monistic Islamic law. So, while the Levantine Arabs may in fact harbor some grievances about a nationalism, indigeneity, culture or history they had no concerns about till 1967, the illegality of Israel and the “criminal” nature of the 1917 Declaration has absolutely no legal bearing on legal creation of the State of Israel.

And it is not as if those who penned the 1939 White Paper were unaware of the impact of the words they were committing to paper.

Section III of that Paper (Land) puts it all front and centre [emphasis mine]:

The vagueness of the phrases employed in some instances to describe these obligations has led to controversy and has made the task of interpretation difficult. His Majesty’s Government cannot hope to satisfy the partisans of one party or the other in such controversy as the Mandate has aroused. Their purpose is to be just as between the two people in Palestine whose destinies in that country have been affected by the great events of recent years, and who, since they live side by side, must learn to practice mutual tolerance, goodwill and co-operation. In looking to the future, His Majesty’s Government are not blind to the fact that some events of the past make the task of creating these relations difficult; but they are encouraged by the knowledge that as many times and in many places in Palestine during recent years the Arab and Jewish inhabitants have lived in friendship together.

Now go sort it out…………….

In 2016, the existence of the modern State of Israel is a fact and the Balfour Declaration was one of the important milestones in enabling the Zionist movement to realize its dream of Jewish national independence in the Land of Israel.

As Avi Ben Hur puts it: “Despite all of the arguments surrounding the Balfour Declaration, Israel’s legitimacy does not rest on it or even on the 1947 UN Resolution 181 to partition the country to two states: one Jewish and the other Arab. It rests (legally) on the fact of its existence, the continuity of its existence, its assertion of independence by its people, its vindication of it independence by force of arms, its having an organized government within territory under its control and its recognition by the generality of nations.”

Seventy seven years ago, the 1939 White Paper recognized that groups of people need to “…live side by side…[and] practice mutual tolerance, goodwill and co-operation…”

Further, it stipulated that was essential to be known that Jews were entitled to be in Palestine “…as of right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognised to rest upon ancient historic connection.”

Abbas will be wasting everybody’s time in 2017 with a frivolous lawsuit.

Indeed, the essence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (nee Arab-Israeli conflict) until today has been the systematic and total rejection by the Palestinian leadership of the Jewish people’s legitimate national rights in the Land of Israel.

Abbas’ attempt to undermine the Balfour Declaration is part and parcel of his “moderate” campaign to undermine the basic rights of Jewish peoplehood and the legitimacy of the State of Israel. As I have stated above, rejecting the Balfour Declaration is tantamount to rejecting the internationally-recognized natural rights of the Jewish people to a national home in the Land of Israel and runs counter to the very core of the UN Charter.

Abbas’ attempt proves yet again that he is less interested in establishing his own state alongside Israel than he is in forging it instead of Israel. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the recent historical denial of internationally-recognized Jewish rights by the Palestinian leadership, reflected in the recent attempts in UNESCO to erase the Jewish and Christian heritage of Jerusalem.

Amongst other firsts, Israel is the world’s first modern indigenous state: the creation and declaration of the sovereign nation of Israel marks the first time in history that an indigenous people has managed to legally regain control of its ancestral lands and re-constitute a nation state.

The importance of both the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations decision lays in the legal international recognition of preexisting natural, historical, and legal rights of the Jewish people to their homeland, in which there had been a continuous Jewish presence throughout the centuries.

This is further emphasized by the language used in the League’s Mandate decision. The Palestine/Land of Israel Mandate specifically calls to “reconstitute” the national home of the Jewish people, not to constitute anything new.

This was done. Israel exists.







“Celebrating” Orientalism – Richard Landes

This article is here reprinted with permission of the author. Edward Said was himself a classic example of the honour-shame culture he succeeded in white-washing.

Whether one views the impact of Edward Said (1935-2003) on academia as a brilliant triumph or a catastrophic tragedy, few can question the astonishing scope and penetration of his magnum opus, Orientalism. In one generation, a radical transformation overcame Middle Eastern studsaid-1ies: A new breed of “post- colonial” academics, boasting a liberating, anti-imperialist perspective, replaced a generation of scholars disparaged by Said as “Orientalists.” Nor was this transformation limited to Middle Eastern studies: Said and hispost-colonial paradigm assembled a wide range of acolytes in many fields in the social sciences and humanities.

And yet, when one surveys the past two decades alone, Said’s academic progeny have been spectacularly off the mark in their analyses of and prescriptions for action in the Middle East; and nowhere has this been more apparent than in the misreading of the disastrous Israeli-Palestinian Oslo “peace process” and the “Arab spring,” with its rapid deterioration into a welter of tribal and sectarian wars that have, among other things, created millions of refugees, many of whom have literally washed up on Europe’s unhappy shores.


Much of this failure can be attributed to the strictures placed by post-colonial thought on the ability to discuss the Middle East’s social and political dynamics:If scholars and journalists were mesmerized by the prospects of Arab-Israeli peace and the mirage of a wave of Arab democratization, it was partly because they had systematically underplayed the role of honor-shame cultures in Arab and Muslim societies, and its impact on Islamic religiosity, all of which Said had tarred with the derogatory brush of “Orientalism.”


Honor-Shame Dynamics: Political and Religious



The term honor-shame designates cultures where the acquisition, maintenance, and restoration of public honor trump all other concerns. While everyone cares what others think and wants to save face even if it means lying, in honor-shame cultures, such concerns dominate public discourse: There is no price too high to pay—including one’s life—to preserve honor. In such political cultures, public opinion accepts, expects, even requires that blood be shed for the sake of honor. In such societies, when people voice public criticism of those in power—those with honor—they attack their very being; were the latter not to respond —preferably through violence—they would lose face. Authoritarian societies accordingly enable their alpha males to suppress violently those whose language offends them. Hence, honor-shame cultures have immense difficulty tolerating freedom of speech, of religion, of press, and an equally hard time dealing with societies that do.

In self-help justice cultures, this insistence on honor can mean killing someone who killed a relative, and in Japanese culture, honor can mean killing oneself. However, in some honor cultures, this concern means killing a family member for the sake of the family’s honor. And driving the performances, motivating the need to save face, and defining the ways to do so is “public judgment,” whose verdict decides one’s fate in the community. The Arabic term for gossip is kalam an-nas (talk of the people), which is often harsh in its judgment of others. Psychologist Talib Kafaji writes,

Arab culture is a judgmental culture, and anything a person does is subject to judgment … induc[ing] many fears… with serious consequences on individual lives. Avoiding such judgment can be the constant preoccupation of people, almost as if the entire culture is paralyzed by Kalam [an]-nas. In other words, all of the people in Arab society are hostages of each other.

Despite sounding “Orientalist,” this attention to a crippling and pervasive judgmentalism provides important insights into the dysfunctions of the Arab world today.


Jerusalem. The honor-shame dynamic explains much of the Arab and Muslim hostility to Israel. A state of free Jews (i.e., non-dhimmi infidels), living inside the historic Arab Dar al-Islam, constitutes blasphemy. Israel’s ability to survive repeated Arab efforts to destroy it constitutes a permanent state of Arab shame before the entire global community.

Honor-shame cultures tend to be zero-sum: Men of honor jealously guard their honor and view others’ rise as a threat to self.In zero-sum cultures of “limited good,” honor for one person means shame for others. If the other side wins, you lose; in order to win, the other side must lose. Those just below continuously challenge those just above, and ascent comes through aggression. You’re not a man until you’ve killed another man. Taking from another—theft, plunder—is superior to producing. Rule or be ruled. One washes a blackened face in blood.

The same hard zero-sum, rule-or-be-ruled, mentality that dominates most interactions in the politics of honor-shame cultures, has its analog in the religiosity of triumphalism, or the belief that the dominance of one’s religion over others proves the truth of that religion.  In the same way that triumphalist Christians took the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity as proof of their supersessionist claims about the Jews, triumphalist Muslims, in a supreme expression of honor-driven religiosity, believe that Islam is a religion of dominance destined to rule the world.

This honor-shame dynamic explains much of the Arab and Muslim hostility to Israel, as well as to the West. Israel, a state of free Jews (i.e., non-dhimmi infidels), living inside the historic Dar al-Islam (realm of submission), constitutes a living blasphemy; and Israel’s ability to survive repeated Arab efforts to destroy it constitutes a permanent state of Arab shame before the entire global community. This in turn makes triumphalist Muslim hostility to Israel a particularly severe case of a much broader hostility toward infidels and “moderate” Muslims.

Any effort to understand what is happening in the Arab world today needs to take into account this religio-cultural dynamic. And yet, by and large, this dynamic is not only ignored but those underscoring it are rebuked for (supposedly) contributing to worsening the conflict rather than understanding it. Much of this ignorance (both active and intransitive) can be traced back to Said, who made “honor-shame” analysis an especially egregious “Orientalist” sin. Even before his work anthropology had moved away from such analysis, he made it dogma. So much so, that in the last third of the twentieth century, it became paradoxically shameful—indeed racist—for an anthropologist to discuss Arab or Muslim “honor-shame.”

 Said’s Shame and the Disorientation of the West

Said’s Orientalism exploited a Western proclivity for moral self-criticism over criticism of other cultures to shield his people from shame. For him, criticism of Arabs or Muslims reflected the West’s ethnocentric prejudices and its discriminatory, cultural map for imperial dominion. It was not what the Orientalists pretended they were doing, namely, offering accurate observations on the characteristics and conditions of another culture and its history. Rather, any contrasts between the cultures of the democratic West and those of Arabs and Muslims—certainly any that put the latter in a poor light—were ugly examples of invidious xenophobia directed at an inferior “them,” not a reflection on a social reality. Speaking of the nineteenth century, Said wrote: “[E]very European in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.” He  issued a plea for an alternative:

At all costs, the goal of Orientalizing the Orient again and again is to be avoided … Without “the Orient” there would be scholars, critics, intellectuals, human beings, for whom the racial, ethnic, and national distinctions were less important than the common enterprise in promoting human community.

Unpacked, this appeal asks scholars not to talk about ethnic, racial, or religious differences—what most Middle Easterners will say are very important cultural issues for them. Hence, in his 1994 “Afterward” to a new edition of Orientalism, Said complained about the growing Western focus on Islam as a danger: “both the electronic and print media have been awash with demeaning stereotypes that lump together Islam and terrorism, or Arabs and violence, or the Orient and tyranny.”  Such phenomena, Said insisted, were “not part of the whole picture” and focusing on them “demeans and dehumanizes lesser people … [and] denies, suppresses, distorts.” In essence, Said enjoined fellow non-Muslims to ignore the very issues they most needed to understand in order to follow the developments of the twenty-first century.

Hence, the very factors now dominant in Arab and Muslim political culture—religious zealotry, violence, terrorism, unbridled authoritarianism, and exploitation of the weak, including women, refugees, and, of course, the perennial victims of Arab political culture, the Palestinians, are not to be mentioned because doing so belittles Arabs and Muslims and hurts their feelings. Those who violate these new, anti-Orientalist directives elicit predictable anger from those they criticize, and equally vehement, if less violent, protests from fellow Westerners, accusing the Islamic critics of racism and of blaming the victim. Those who criticize Muslim hate speech are accused of aggravating the conflict.

So even as the traits that Said branded racist stereotypes grsaid-3ew in strength in the “Orient,” the mandarins of Middle East studies and post-colonial academics discussed them only reluctantly, and when pushed to do so, primarily to play them down. As a result, Western audiences remain to this day misinformed about Arabs and Muslims.

 Israeli troops during the 1967 Six-Day War. Said experienced thecatastrophic Arab defeat during the war as a “punishing destiny.” As a “Palestinian,” he lost face in this catastrophe, and his honor response was anger at those who thought badly of Arabs and who claimed to hold the moral high ground

While Said framed his critique of the West in post-modern, humanistic terms, it may well be framed in terms of the cultural dynamics of honor- shame. Kalam an-nas—the public opinion whose disapproval is so painful—helps to explain the direction of Said’s thought leading up to Orientalism. As an Arab who had great success playing by Western rules, surrounded by admiring colleagues (his “honor world” to that point), Said experienced the catastrophic Arab defeat of the 1967 Six-Day War as a “punishing destiny”:

The web of racism, cultural stereotypes, political imperialism, dehumanizing ideology holding in the Arab or the Muslim is very strong indeed, and it is this web which every Palestinian has come to feel as his uniquely punishing destiny. No [American academic] culturally and politically ever identified wholeheartedly with the Arabs; certainly there have been identifications on some level, but they have never taken an “acceptable” form as has liberal American identification with Zionism.


As a “Palestinian,” Said had lost face in this catastrophe, and his honor response was not a self-critical look at the Arab attitudes and actors that had contributed to both the unnecessary war and catastrophic defeat,

but rather, anger at those who thought badly of Arabs and who claimed to hold the moral high ground. Accordingly, he showed no concern for whether or not the Palestinian cause, whose “wholehearted” support he endorsed and wished others to share, reflected (or disdained) the liberal values to which he appealed. For the honor driven, championing a side in a conflict is not about integrity or liberal values, but about honor, about how one looks, about “face.”

Not surprisingly, few topics so incensed Said as the discussion of the role in Arab culture of seeking, maintaining, and regaining honor, and avoiding and eliminating shame. Given that such cultural traits as misogynistic patriarchy, honor-killings, blood feuds, slavery, civilian massacres, etc., did not look very good to Western liberals, Said had to save Arab face by averting that hostile occidental gaze. In a brilliant move, by labeling it racist, he managed to make it shameful for Western academics even to refer to these matters in discussing the Arab world.

His Orientalist playbook, by contrast, demanded a moral and cultural affirmative action. Accordingly, Said and his acolytes rebuked anyone who dared explain the perduring Arab Muslim obsession with destroying Israel in terms of their cultural issues: “How dare you treat them like they’re a bunch of savage, irredentist, superstitious yahoos, who feed on fantasies of genocidal revenge to restore honor lost and to retake dominion?!” On the contrary, Said insisted, “the connection between Arabs, Muslims, and terrorism” that so many “Orientalists” make was “entirely factitious.” For any outsider to suspect Palestinian (or Arab or Muslim) leaders of culturally-embedded, belligerent behavior, constituted, for post-colonials, an unacceptable aggression, a form of racism. For them, the conflict is about Israeli imperialism and the natural resistance it provokes.

With this brilliant defense of Arab face, of dealing with kalam an-nas, Said’s Orientalism flipped the vectors of the paralyzing negative judgment. On the one hand, it shielded Arabs from public criticism, on the other, it made the “imperialist” West (and its supposed outpost, “colonial Israel”), the object of relentless criticism. His success in this regard, gave rise to a generation of Middle East specialists, including academics, who described the Arab and Muslim worlds as “thriving civil societies,” imminently “democracies,” even as they berated the democratic West as a racist, imperialist culture badly in need of deconstruction, theoretically and practically. Such a move may have flattered Arab and Western (progressive) self-images, but it came at the cost of ignoring the darker realities on the ground.

And yet, to many, that ignorance seemed like a small price to pay. After all, Said’s framework offered conflict-averse progressives a way to avoid a clash of civilizations. Give Arabs and Muslims the benefit of the doubt, treat them with honor rather than gratuitously incensing them with criticism. That is the way to solve conflicts and bring peace. Educated Western adopters of Said’s discourse saw it as a kind of therapeutic narrative, which, by accentuating the positive and glossing over the negative, encouraged, rather than alienated, the “other.” It meant, among other things, treating Arabs and Muslims as if their political culture had already reached modern levels of societal commitment to universal human rights, to peace through toleration, to egalitarianism, to favoring positive-sum relations—when in reality, such an assessment was not only not objective (as in the post-modern world it cannot be), but also very far from any accurate assessment (which presumably it claims to be).

 From Oslo “Peace” to Jihad

Few debacles better illustrate the folly of ignoring honor-shame dynamics than the Oslo “peace process,” which based its logic on the principle of an exchange of “land for peace”: Israel cedes land to the Palestinians (most of the West Bank and Gaza) to create an independent state; the Palestinians bury the hatchet of war since they’re getting what they allegedly want, without the need for war.



PLO chairman Yasser Arafat accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, December 10, 1994, Oslo. After the signing of the Oslo peace deal and the granting of the Nobel prize, Arafat found himself the target of immense hostility from his Arab and Muslim honor-group for having brought shame upon himself, his people, upon all Arabs and all Muslims.

Thus the accords banked on a Palestinian shift from their charter- defined commitment to regaining Arab and Muslim honor by wiping out the shame that is Israel, to a readiness to accept Israel’s legitimate existence. Such a shift depended on their understanding that this promissory concession to Israel would bring what Palestinians “yearn for,” namely the freedom to govern themselves in peace and dignity. A win-win so obvious, that, as Gavin Esler of the BBC opined, “it could be solved with an email.”

What the Oslo architects and their Western supporters so completely underestimated was the hold that his native honor-world held over Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasser Arafat. This lack of insight not only dominated thinking in Western circles (not put at risk by such a gamble), but even Israeli political and intelligence circles, who had much to lose:

[I]t is clear that it was not only Israel’s political leadership that was held hostage by the chimerical conception that an era of peace with the Palestinian Authority had begun: M[ilitary] I[ntelligence] and the Shin Bet security service had trouble liberating themselves from the same feeling. The intelligence officials were not always willing to let facts disturb a rosy perception of reality.

Just because Western and Israeli analysts failed to pay attention, however, does not mean the laws of honor-shame ceased to operate. After the ceremonious signing of the deal on the White House lawn, PLO chairman Arafat found himself the target of immense hostility from his Arab and Muslim honor-group for having brought shame upon himself, his people, upon all Arabs and all Muslims. When he arrived in Gaza in July 1994, Hamas denounced him roundly: “His visit is shameful and humiliating, as it occurs in the shadow of occupation and in the shadow of Arafat’s humiliating submission before the enemy government and its will. It is impossible to present a defeat as victory.” Edward Said, proud member of the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s semi-parliament, echoed the language of Hamas: the compromises involved a humiliating and “degrading … act of obeisance … a capitulation” that produced a state of “supine abjectness … submitting shamefully to Israel.” Thus did the “post-colonial” intellectual speak the zero-sum, tribal language of Arab and Muslim honor-shame, attacking negotiation as dishonorable; this was the very language Westerners avoided discussing lest they “Orientalize the Orient.”


And yet Arafat used the same honor-shame language in Arabic, from the moment the accords were signed and the Nobel Prize granted. Six months after returning from Tunisia in July 1994, to what had, as a result of the accords, become Palestinian-controlled


To the extent that Arabs were sold on the Oslo process, it was as a Trojan horse, not as a humiliating concession.

territory, Arafat defended his policy to fellow Muslims in South Africa, not by speaking of the “peace of the brave,”  but rather by invoking Muhammad’s Treaty of Hudaybiya, signed in weakness, broken in strength. To the extent that Arabs were sold on the Oslo process, it was as a Trojan horse, not as a (necessarily) humiliating concession; a plan for honorable war not for ignominious peace. In cultures where, for honor’s sake, “what was taken by force must be retaken by force,” any negotiations are shameful and cowardly.


By and large, Western journalists and policymakers, including the “peace camp” in Israel, and even intelligence services, ignored Arafat’s repeated invocations of Hudaybiya. Advocates of peace viewed them as antics designed to appease public opinion (itself a thing worth pondering) and remained confident that, in the end, the more mature call of the international community would sway Arafat to the side of positive-sum reason. Practitioners of “peace journalism” in Israel, for example, consciously avoided such discouraging news items in general and the meaning of Hudaybiya in particular. In his 800-page memoir on the Oslo failure, Dennis Ross, the U.S. Middle East envoy most deeply involved in negotiations with the Palestinian leadership, has not a word to say about the Hudaybiya controversy, despite how consistent it was with his own assessment of Arafat’s problematic behavior, his “failure to prepare his people for the compromises necessary for peace.” Worse. Arafat’s sin was not of omission, but of commission: He systematically prepared his people for war right under the noses of the Israelis and the West.

Rather than consider the implications of this counter-evidence, those supporting the process attacked anyone who drew attention to them. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a so-called Muslim civil rights organization with ties to the same Muslim Brotherhood of which Hamas is a branch, led the attack in the name of protecting the Prophet Muhammad’s reputation. Daniel Pipes wrote repeatedly about the Johannesburg mosque speech, the meaning of the Treaty of Hudaybiya, and the trouble Westerners found themselves in when they brought up the subject. Despite being studiously fair to the Muslim prophet on historical grounds, Pipes provoked furious condemnation and an early accusation of “Islamophobia.”

The outcry essentially forbade critics from examining evidence relevant to their pressing concerns. Instead, peace enthusiasts viewed Arafat and the Palestinian leadership as full-fledged modern players who wanted their own nation and their freedom, and whom one could trust to keep commitments. Most thought that Arafat would, when the opportunity presented itself, choose the imperfect, positive-sum, win-win, over the zero-sum, all-or-nothing, win-lose. They “believed” in the Palestinian leadership and shamed anyone who dared to suggest the Palestinians still clung tightly to atavistic revenge. Thus, even as Jerusalem and Washington prepared for a grand finale to the peace process at Camp David in the summer of 2000; even as Israel’s media prepared their people for peace, Arafat’s media prepared Palestinians for war. And none of the key decision-makers paid any attention.


In the aftermath of Arafat’s terror war (the “al-Aqsa Intifada”) in 2000, apologists made heroic efforts to interpret his behavior as rational, to ignore his deliberate planning of the terror war, and instead to blame Israel. Criticism of Arafat, especially for behavior characteristic of honor-shame cultures, elicited shouts of racism.

The inability to understand the dynamics of maintaining honor (through fighting Israel) and avoiding shame (brought on by compromising with Israel) doomed Oslo to failure from the start. People involved, who thought that they were “so close” and that if only Israel had given more, it would have worked, got played.[45] For the Palestinian decision-makers, it was never close. Even a successful deal would have led to more war. Indeed, according to that logic, the better the deal for the Palestinians—i.e., the “weaker” the Israelis—the more aggression will accompany its implementation.

Once Oslo exploded, Westerners who clung to their fantasies continued to misunderstand subsequent events. In the aftermath of Arafat’s resounding but predictable “no” at Camp David in July2000, and on several other occasions after the outbreak of his terror war (euph emized as the “al-Aqsa Intifada”) in late September, apologists made heroic efforts to interpret his behavior as rational, to ignore his deliberate planning of the terror war, and instead to blame Israel.


As part of the counter-attack, criticism of Arafat, especially for behavior characteristic of honor-shame cultures, elicited shouts of racism. In an interview with Israeli academic Benny Morris, for example, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak complained about systematic lying on Arafat’s part, which made every discussion a calculus between calling out lies or ignoring them and moving on at a disadvantage.


These remarks incensed Middle East observers Hussein Agha and Robert Malley:



[Barak’s] words in the initial interview were unequivocal. “They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie … creates no dissonance,” he pronounced. “They don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo- Christian culture. Truth is seen as irrelevant.” And so on. But, plainly, factual accuracy and logical consistency are not what Morris and Barak are after. What matters is self-justification by someone who has chosen to make a career—and perhaps a comeback—through the vilification of an entire people.[49]


This is classic Edward Said: Attack the motives of your critics (often projection); claim moral injury at the insult, and in the process, distract attention from the accuracy of the Orientalist remarks. Though backed by hard evidence of extensive and fluent Palestinian use of open lies in the negotiations, Barak’s charge becomes, in the hands of Arafat’s apologists, the “vilification of an entire people.”


The success of this ready use of what one might call the “racist card” has meant that the academic literature on lying in Arab culture, which should cover walls of bookshelves (at least in the libraries of our intelligence services), is seriously underdeveloped.

If Oslo failed, it was primarily because the Israelis and the Americans refused to believe that the Palestinians were lying to them—across the boards.


Ignoring the Ongoing Quest for the Caliphate



For this and many similar reasons, when the jihadists came out of the belly of the Oslo Horse in late September 2000, too many Westerners, eager to interpret the violence as the “desperation” of freedom fighters denied their rights, ignored the evidence that Arafat planned the war,  and instead, blamed Israel. As a result, many journalists and scholars who told their Western audiences that the “al-Aqsa Intifada” was a national-liberation uprising against occupation seemed to have had no idea, or if they did, chose not to speak of how, in the minds of many of these fighters, the “al-Aqsa intifada” launched a new phase of an apocalyptic global jihad, whose messianic goal was a worldwide caliphate, and for whom suicide terror was its newest and most potent weapon.The  indifferent, if not negative, response of the scholarly community to early studies in Hamas’s apocalyptic thought in the 1990s meant that the Western public sphere needed to wait until the second decade of the twenty-first century to find out that the global jihad that created a caliphate in substantial parts of Syria and Iraq and targeted infidels in their own countries, was driven by the same apocalyptic visions. Indeed, it is still not clear to most observers how global jihadists exploited the “al-Aqsa Intifada” to fuel their own campaigns and recruitment.

So, instead of being wary of this new and violent religious imperialism and condemning jihad’s savage martyrdom operations, European journalists spread its anti-Zionist war propaganda as news while European progressives welcomed and cheered it on. Misinformed by media reports in

April 2002 of the Israel Defense Forces’ supposed massacre in Jenin, Western protesters marched in the streets wearing mock suicide belts to show solidarity with Hamas “martyrs.”


said6Recruits line up at a Hamas training camp. In the wake of the Lebanon war in 2006, scholars such as pacifist Judith Butler, welcomed Hamas and Hezbollah into the “global progressive left” as “comrades in the anti-imperialist struggle”.























In the wake of the Lebanon war in 2006, scholars such as the pacifist Judith Butler welcomed Hamas and Hezbollah into the “global progressive left” as “comrades in the anti-imperialist struggle.” Thus did progressives, woefully uninformed, enthusiastically welcome a jihad that then struck at Israel, but now haunts the entire world, especially the Muslim world.

So blinded were Western information professionals—journalists, scholars, policy analysts, even translators—by their own post-colonial rhetoric, that they proved incapable of identifying the triumphalist Islam that gained steady momentum in its drive for a global caliphate in this generation and century. Or, if they did realize the presence of such imperialist Muslims, they refused to discuss them and attacked anyone who did. This prevailing attitude seriously damaged the West’s ability to distinguish between false moderates who want to reduce infidels the world over to dhimmitude and  moderates who truly want to live at peace with non-Muslims.



















The difference between radical and “moderate” Islamists is less a matter of differing goals than of differing tactics.



Almost everyone will agree that those jihadists who resort to the sword, such as al-Qaeda or ISIS (Islamic State), are not moderates. But what about those who stick to da’wa (summons to conversion), who work in nonviolent ways for the same ultimate goal of reestablishing the caliphate? When the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf Qaradawi says that the “United States and Europe will be conquered not by jihad, but by da’wa,” does that make him a moderate? What if the da’wa preacher is just playing the good cop to the jihadist bad cop? From the perspective of the millennial goal of a global caliphate, the difference between radical and “moderate” Islamists is less a matter of vision than timing, less a matter of differing goals than of differing tactics. Such connections, however, do not register on the radar screens of information professionals who observe Said’s anti-Orientalist strictures. Rather they urge us to see the two as clearly distinct.

Such an approach, however, falls into a classic jihadist trap. When da’wa proponents of caliphate denounce al-Qaeda or ISIS for their violence, insisting that these jihadists have nothing to do with Islam, they do so as a deceptive cognitive war tactic. They know full well that the Islam they embrace is a religion of conquest. They just do not want the Western “infidels,” their sworn enemies and targets, to acknowledge that implacable, imperialist hostility, at least as long as global jihad is militarily weak. Rather they want Western policymakers to renounce “Islamophobic” talk of world domination and, instead, appease Muslim grievances.

And far too many Westerners have complied—from George W. Bush’s “Islam, religion of Peace” speech right after the 9/11 terror attacks, to the Obama administration’s great efforts to ignore, deny, and euphemize anything redolent of Islamic violence, to a long string of academics who should have hastened to correct the record after Bush’s rhetorical concession and instead went out of their way to underscore Islam’s peaceful nature.

And things get progressively worse. The insistence on the basic sameness (the “common humanity”) of Arab/Muslim culture and Western culture (the “vast majority” of peaceful Muslims, the “vibrant civil societies” in Syria and Iraq) has gone from therapeutic experiment to dogmatic formula: To question it is racist and “Islamophobic.” Violators who discuss unpleasant things are punished, excluded, exiled. Indeed, so strong is the fear of the “Islamophobic” accusation that it has come to play the role of the sea serpents that strangled Laocoön when he tried to warn his fellow Trojans against the Greeks’ wooden horse. British politicians, police, and journalists, for example, did nothing to protect thousands of girls from sexual exploitation for over a decade, in order to avoid being branded “Islamophobic.

Few incidents better illustrate this self-induced blindness and incompetence than the way Western information professionals handled the Arab uprisings of 2010-11. In a radical misreading of the popular and social-media empowered protests that drove some Arab dictators from their perches, scholars interpreted the uprisings in light of European democratic revolutions: the “Spring of Nations” of 1848 and the liberation of Eastern Europe and Russia in 1989. Systematically dismissing the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood taking power in democratic elections, commentators and policymakers urged support for the Islamist movement, seen by post-colonial information professionals as their mirror image, their comrade in arms. If pre-Said, “Orientalists” had (supposedly) seen only the bad they projected, then after him, post-Orientalists could see only the good they projected.

This politically correct approach even infected U.S. intelligence services. In February 2011, just when the Obama administration was making crucial (and misguided) decisions on how to deal with the Egyptian crisis, James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, testified with the following astonishing assessment to Congress (which he quickly walked back): 

The term “Muslim Brotherhood” … is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.

It is hard to catalogue the misconceptions involved in this astonishingly foolish statement. It bespeaks a lack of understanding of triumphalist religious behavior and a superficial application of inappropriate terminology that leaves the observer wondering whether this was a deliberate act of misinformation or a genuine product of U.S. intelligence gathering and assessment.

It is also hard to separate this utterly disoriented operative assessment from the academic discussion underpinning it, largely influenced by the penitential paradigm Said urged on the West. Here Western dupes are to interpret nonviolence as a sign of Muslim moderation and attribute Muslim violence to Western provocation; here we are to assume that when Muslims denounce violence, then they are with “us” and not with “them,” that they do not share the jihadist goal of a worldwide caliphate. Rather than carry on about an enemy aspiring to world dominion, Islamists urge the West to address Muslims’ sense of powerlessness by empowering them.

The results of this blind disregard for the reality on the ground—’the power of honor-driven religious movements; the variable calculus of violence when feeling weak or strong; the responses to perceived weakness and lack of resolve on the enemies’ part _ meant that what Western thought leaders believed to be a democratic spring, which they eagerly welcomed, was actually springtime for tribal and apocalyptic warfare: Oslo jihad redux, on a massive scale.[73] A generational, cataclysmic, “thirty-year war” that is just beginning. Where the West intervened (Libya, Egypt), it backfired, and where it did not (Syria), it exploded. And as millions of refugees are thrown up on the shores of Europe by these upheavals, Western policymakers remain captive to suicidal memes (“we can’t just refuse them entry”) that bespeak a profound ignorance of Arab and Muslim culture—those fleeing, those making them flee, and those with the power but not the desire to address this meltdown of their societies under the blows of the caliphate.


Through the backdoor of an unreciprocated concern for the “other,” educated Westerners have allowed a hostile, bullying, honor-shame discourse to take over much of their public space: “Islamophobia,” not Islamism, is the problem;[74] Palestinians continue to save face and regain public honor by besmirching Israel, which, by its very existence and success, shames them; while so many social justice warriors, consumed with post-colonial guilt and fearful of the “Islamophobic” label, join forces with the “honor- brigade” in driving Israel beyond the pale.


In the larger picture of civilizational development, this is lamentable. It took a millennium of constant and painful efforts for Western culture to learn how to sublimate man’s libido dominandi to the point of creating a society tolerant of diversity, one that resolved disputes with a discourse of fairness rather than violence, and one where positive-sum encounters are a desired norm. To insist, as many liberals do, that this exceptional achievement be considered the default mode for mankind regardless of how far the “other” is from this cherished goal, and to exempt enemies of democracy from the civic responsibility of self-criticism even while redoubling its burden on oneself, is to undermine the freedoms Western civilization has built up over centuries.

Unless and until academics and information professionals reclaim and till fields like honor-shame dynamics and Islamist triumphalism, Westerners will not be able to understand Arab and Islamic societies and will continue to indict the critic, not the legitimate target of criticism, at great peril to their democratic values and national interests. The inability to engage in self-criticism is the greatest weakness of honor-shame cultures, and the ability to do so is the greatest strength of those committed to integrity. Yet, now, astonishingly, the inability is strength, and our over-eagerness to compensate, our weakness.

Richard Landes is a medieval historian currently writing a book provisionally entitled, They’re So Smart Cause We’re So Stupid: A Medievalist Guide to the 21st Century. He lives in Jerusalem and blogs at The Augean Stables.