This is cross posted at Augean Stables by Richard Landes. His latest book, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience, was published by Oxford University Press.
In an article in Ha-Aretz, where he argues a stylish pomo-poco case that the prisoner exchange reveals Israel’s racism, Alon Idan makes a number of statements that reveal the counter-empirical assertions that necessarily underly his argument:
Yet behind this feeling of superiority [at how much Israelis value life more than Palestinians] lurked a murky, inverted truth. The fact is, the release of one Israeli soldier for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners is not normal; certainly it does not represent an inferior love felt by a Palestinian mother for her son compared to an Israeli mother…. This equation derives from the way we, not Hamas, view reality: 1,027 Palestinians are worth one Jewish life not because the Palestinians minimize the importance of their own lives, but because we diminish the value of their lives.
Certainly. I remember hearing the same from Ted Koppel at the outbreak of the intifada. Hosting a program in which he had to have the Israelis separated from the Palestinians – on the insistence of the Palestinians – he responded to one Israeli claiming that the Palestinians wanted war: “I don’t believe that for a minute. A Palestinian mother cares about her children every bit as much as an Israeli mother.”
It was indeed these dogmatic kinds of politically correct statements that led me to formulate the expression “liberal cognitive egocentrism.” This kind of thinking, which Edward Saïd insisted we – not the Arabs – adopt, is a major element in the cognitive war that Islam wages against us, and creates an extensive epistemological confusion in which we cannot identify the problems or analyze how to resolve them. The editors of the NYT, and their major columnists like Friedman, Kristof, and Cohen, all participate in this liberal, PC dogma, and accordingly, find themselves constantly ignoring reality and coming up with ludicrous solutions. (As Pierre Taguieff pointed out long ago, when all the fishes swim in the same direction it’s because they’re dead.”)
Indeed, as long as you believe that the Palestinians are “just like us” and all they want is a state of their own, and their terror is a sign of the desperation at not getting what everyone else has (rather than aspiration to destroy someone else’s), then obviously, Bibi (and any other Israeli leader who doesn’t retreat to the 67 boundaries) is responsible for the impass which – everyone knows – could be resolved, in the words of one BBC commentator, by email. Never mind that in the real world, people who pursue these satisfying if fantastic solution end up looking – at best – like keystone cops.
The Islamic Jihad website Saraya has an article about Khansa Fatima Sheikh Khalil, a Gaza mother who has had five of her terrorist sons killed “in martyrdom.” She is looking forward to joining her sons in paradise. The article says that she did not cry for more than five minutes upon news of her son Ahmad’s death on Saturday. She expressed joy and praised Allah for what happened, and expressed hope that her sons are all accepted into Paradise where they would be, presumably, happily screwing a bunch of virgins for eternity. Khalil also expressed her fervent wish that Islamic Jihad continue to create Jewish widows and orphans. She called on Allah to grant success to the “resistance” and to defeat the Jews for “our land.” She has two more sons left, as well as two daughters. Ahmed also leaves behind three wives. One of Ahmad’s remaining brothers said “we always expected him to be killed.”
Now will someone please show me a mother in Israel today (cf. 2 Maccabees, 7) who would be proud about not crying for her dead children, and eager to send more to their death if only she could create widows and orphans among the Arabs? Even if some mother felt so, she would not express such emotions openly: for Israelis such overriding desire for revenge is shameful.
And if you wish to argue that this mother doesn’t really feel these things, she’s just responding to social pressures, from a moral point of view you’ve jumped from the frying pan into the fire: what culture demands that its mothers not mourn their dead children, indeed, that in some cases, mothers kill their own daughters?
The problem here runs deep. Ever since I debated some ISMers in 2002, I’ve become familiar refrain that if you talk about what’s wrong with the Palestinians you’re a racist. But I’ve come to realize that it’s the liberals who don’t think Palestinians (or Arabs, or Muslims) can handle serious criticism, who are the racists, and they defend themselves by pretending that “they’re just like us” and demonizing anyone who disagrees. In the words of Simon Deng, a freed Sudanese slave, it’s not only “absurd, it’s immoral.”
We need a spatial term to correspond to the chronological term anachronism. Just as we tend to project our contemporary experience and attitudes on people who lived in the past, so we do that to people who live in other cultures. It may make us feel good for not passing judgments on others, for cleaving to moral equality, but one has to wonder at what price we are willing to indulge. It makes us easy marks for demopaths.
Better dead than [considered a] racist?
How… honor-shame, and how utterly wasteful!
In an exchange with Paul Halsall at Facebook, he encouraged me to make the following clarification.
Paul wrote: “I think your problem is that that you have got into some sort of circular thought pattern, and are now not showing that you are able to see the common humanity of actual individual Palestinians.”
I respond: I have no problem seeing the common humanity of actual individual Palestinians. I’m all for those kinds of friendships, and it’s clear that a real friendship with Arabs is not a dull affair. My problem is with Palestinian culture right now, with what’s permitted and encouraged in the public sphere. Are there mothers who secretly grieve? I’ll bet many, most. But they can’t show it because of a dominating, disgusting political culture that runs right down from the religious and secular tyrants to the alpha males who dominate their women – daughters and wives – with death threats in the service of their honor. That’s what we should be criticizing as progressives, not reinforcing that predatory patriarchal elite by buying into their scapegoating of Israel to distract from their terrible deeds (eg the Palestinian refugees).