The debasement of 9/11 memory, & why the Guardian Left can’t take Palestinian terrorism seriously

The Guardian sure knows how to find them.

In a Guardian video post titled “Scott Atran: US foreign policy is set by people who’ve almost no insight into human welfare, education, labor, desires, or hopes“, Atran criticizes the Americans who administer USAID (the US agency responsible for dispersing civilian foreign aid) who, he argues, lack his sophisticated understanding of the people around the world receiving such support.

Who is Scott Atran? Well, he’s an American academic (an anthropologist by training) who has become a commentator on the issues of terrorism and national security, and has contributed to the Huffington Post and New York Times.

Atran, writing for the NYT, in the context of criticizing a US law banning the provision of “material support” to foreign terrorist groups, wrote the following about his discussions with Hamas:

“When we talked to Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas (considered a terrorist group by the State Department), he said that his movement could imagine a two-state “peace” (he used the term “salaam,” not just the usual “hudna,” which signifies only an armistice.” [emphasis mine]

While Atran’s Guardian video largely deals with USAID,  he frames the issue by first contextualizing what he sees as America’s appalling ignorance about the world by briefly commenting on the significance of 9/11.


The money quote – “Never before in human history has so few people with so few means caused such fear in so many” – has been advanced previously by Atran in an essay for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Such a passage certainly puts in proper context his capacity to believe that Hamas terrorists merely desire the same things we all want: peace, prosperity, and co-existence – a perfect illustration of what Richard Landes refers to as cognitive ego-centrism

Atran’s academic detachment in the face of reactionary terror groups who intentionally murder innocent civilians represents a perfect example of a Western left (especially, but not exclusively, of the Guardian variety) who can’t wrap their minds around the immutable malevolence of Islamist terrorist movements.

This failure of moral imagination – informed by a cultural and intellectual elite which mocks the idea that there is real evil in the world – represents one of the most serious strategic liabilities to Israel and the West. 

Atran’s contempt for Americans’ “hysterical” fear of terrorism following the murder of nearly 3000 civilians on 9/11 – by attackers who would have been happy if the number of killed had been in the tens of thousands – can not be casually dismissed as the unserious musings of another academic.

Atran’s views quite accurately represent the cognitive process which informs the Guardian’s Left’s appalling lack of empathy for a Jewish state under siege.

You can’t understand Harriet Sherwood’s callousness towards the threat posed to Israelis by terrorists in Gaza without coming to terms with how common such views are within the ideological circles she travels.

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