Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hillary’s “Blame-Men-First” Feminism May Prove Costly In 2016. By Camille Paglia.

Hillary’s “blame-men-first” feminism may prove costly in 2016. By Camille Paglia. Salon, January 27, 2016.


It’s Not Just the Settlements, the Palestinians Reject All of Israel. By David Horovitz.

Family and friends of Dafna Meir at her funeral in Jerusalem on January 18, 2106. Meir was stabbed to death at the entrance to her home in the settlement of Otniel on January 17. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Stop the incitement, stop the killing. By David Horovitz. The Times of Israel, January 26, 2016.


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has taken to giving press conferences to Israeli journalists of late. A picture of wounded innocence and goodwill, he has been using the opportunities to berate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for refusing to meet and talk peace with him, highlighting his forces’ ongoing security cooperation with Israel in the territories, and trying to wriggle out of his own personal role in fostering the vicious incitement against Israel that lies at the root of this ongoing Palestinian terror wave.

About to turn 81, Abbas may not be in politics that much longer, and there are plenty of Israelis who argue that we are missing an opportunity to make progress with him when it is clear that any successor is likely to be still more impossible to deal with.

His successor may indeed well be worse, but Abbas is impossible. His duplicitous terrorism-fostering predecessor Yasser Arafat assured the Palestinians that they had no reason or need to compromise with the Jews because we were colonial invaders, an unrooted and temporary presence that his people’s stubbornness and terrorism would eventually see off. Abbas chose not to counter that narrative, not to acknowledge to his people the Jews’ history of sovereignty in the Holy Land, and more recently intensified the strategic campaign of misrepresentation — telling Palestinians that the Jews have no business at the Temple Mount.

Meanwhile, the Fatah hierarchy he heads has been openly encouraging attacks on Israelis, and the Hamas terror group with which he seeks to partner in government is again plotting suicide bombings, developing more sophisticated rockets, and digging tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border ahead of its next planned war.

Abbas may well be deploying his forces to keep a lid on clashes in the West Bank, but he’s presiding over an ongoing, strategic demonizing of Israel and Israelis — via his education system, political and spiritual leadership and mainstream and social media — that positively guarantees Palestinian violence and terrorism. So effective is this process that, nowadays, when a young Palestinian has a row at home, feels depressed, or wants to make a name for him or herself, the default response is to grab a knife and go kill the nearest vulnerable Jew.

Dafna Meir

And so, last week, we buried Dafna Meir.

Shlomit Krigman

And today, we buried Shlomit Krigman.

Israel paid for Abbas’s last ostensible readiness for peace talks, in 2013-14, with the release of dozens of killers and other Palestinian terrorists from our jails. Prior to that, in 2008, Abbas spurned Ehud Olmert’s extraordinary readiness to give him everything he purportedly sought: We were gone from Gaza, and Olmert offered to leave the West Bank — with one-for-one land swaps — and to divide Jerusalem, including relinquishing sovereignty in the Old City. If that wasn’t good enough for Abbas, then obviously nothing we can offer will be.

While the United States and much of the international community refuse to internalize this, the simple, bleak fact is that everything Arafat, Abbas and Hamas have done since the collapse of the Bill Clinton-hosted Camp David 2000 attempt at forging a deal has persuaded Israelis that they dare not relinquish territory to the Palestinians, despite the imperative to separate in order to maintain a Jewish, democratic Israel.

Arafat returned from the United States and fostered the Second Intifada’s onslaught of suicide bombings — attacks throughout Israel that murderously demonstrated that it was not merely the territories that the Palestinians sought. That it’s not just the settlements, it’s all of Israel that is rejected.

In the years after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the rocket fire intensified, the Palestinians gave Hamas a parliamentary majority in elections, and Hamas ousted Abbas’s forces from the Strip in hours — underlining to Israelis the dangers of leaving adjacent territory, and the ease with which Islamist forces could seize power in any vacuum. The latest Israel-Hamas conflict, in 2014, only re-emphasized the danger: If a single rocket fired by Hamas that got through the Iron Dome defenses and landed a mile from Ben-Gurion Airport could send two-thirds of foreign airlines fleeing from Israel, including all the American carriers, how could Israel possibly entertain the idea of leaving the West Bank? Hamas would be running the show within days, and our entire country would be paralyzed and isolated.

The irony, of course, is that if the Palestinians had been capable of hiding their hatred for just a short period after we left Gaza, if they had managed to pretend for even a brief time that their hearts were set on peaceful coexistence, we probably would have withdrawn unilaterally from much of the West Bank as well.

Instead, Palestinian words and deeds have persuaded mainstream Israelis — those who don’t want to rule the Palestinians, don’t want to expand settlements in areas we do not envisage retaining under any permanent accord, don’t want to have to live by the sword forever — that no partnership is viable at present. They’ve even managed to kill off the optimism of the leader of the Israeli opposition, Isaac Herzog, who sadly concluded last week that a two-state solution is simply unrealistic: He “yearns” for it, said Herzog in a radio interview. But it’s “not possible” right now.

A grassroots approach

So, how, then, to break out of this awful new reality — of more Palestinian generations strategically brainwashed to hate, and a bleeding Israel unable to advance its own interest in a safe separation to guarantee the maintenance of our Jewish democracy?

Self-evidently, there will no accord with Mahmoud Abbas. But one thing that Abbas has been saying at his recent press conferences is worth picking up on. Previous peace efforts created a joint mechanism intended to combat incitement on both sides, and Abbas has pronounced himself ready to revive that mechanism. Israel should take him up on that right away.

Netanyahu has rightly focused on incitement as a root cause of the current terror wave. We all have an interest in utilizing any and every tool that just might help alleviate some of the hostility.

It was lousy politics of Herzog to publicly give up for now on the two-state solution. If peace is not on the horizon, after all, why would Israelis elect a leader who is now acknowledging that his whole prior strategy was misguided? But Herzog’s sad and sober conclusion underlines that there can and will be no quick fixes.

What’s needed, what has always been needed, to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is a grassroots approach to peacemaking. An approach focused on education. An approach under which international resources and leverage are utilized to rewrite educational curricula, to marginalize extremist political and spiritual leaders, to promote moderation and peaceful interaction.

The Arafat-Abbas-Hamas strategy of hostility to Israel achieves the precise opposite of what the Palestinians purport to seek — independent statehood. It has now even managed to persuade the center-left opposition, the peacemaking Labor Party, that Israeli readiness for compromise is insufficient.

Perhaps the international community — so insistently led by US President Barack Obama in seeking to persuade Israelis that they can afford to take risks for peace when the bloody evidence all around them shows the contrary — will learn Herzog’s lesson.

Perhaps it will move to adopt the grassroots approach.

Perhaps it will use its immense leverage to gradually help create a climate in which it is not the most natural thing in the world for teenage Palestinians to set out with knives and kill Israeli mothers of six and 23-year-old industrial design graduates.

Democrats Will Hold Their Noses and Nominate Hillary. By Dana Milbank.

Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative CGI America meeting in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, June 13, 2013. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders. By Dana Milbank. Washington Post, January 26, 2016.


I adore Bernie Sanders.

I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity.

And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.

And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.

Ultimately, I expect that’s what Democrats will do — because as much as they love Sanders , they loathe Donald Trump more. It seems more evident each day that Republicans have lost their collective reason and are beginning to accept the notion that Trump will be their nominee. And I doubt Democrats will make an anti-immigrant bigot the president by nominating a socialist to run against him.

Sanders and his supporters boast of polls showing him, on average, matching up slightly better against Trump than Clinton does. But those matchups are misleading: Opponents have been attacking and defining Clinton for a quarter- century, but nobody has really gone to work yet on demonizing Sanders.

Watching Sanders at Monday night’s Democratic presidential forum in Des Moines, I imagined how Trump — or another Republican nominee — would disembowel the relatively unknown Vermonter.

The first questioner from the audience asked Sanders to explain why he embraces the “socialist” label and requested that Sanders define it “so that it doesn’t concern the rest of us citizens.”

Sanders, explaining that much of what he proposes is happening in Scandinavia and Germany (a concept that itself alarms Americans who don’t want to be like socialized Europe), answered vaguely: “Creating a government that works for all of us, not just a handful of people on the top — that’s my definition of democratic socialism.”

But that’s not how Republicans will define socialism — and they’ll have the dictionary on their side. They’ll portray Sanders as one who wants the government to own and control major industries and the means of production and distribution of goods. They’ll say he wants to take away private property. That wouldn’t be fair, but it would be easy. Socialists don’t win national elections in the United States .

Sanders on Monday night also admitted he would seek massive tax increases — “one of the biggest tax hikes in history,” as moderator Chris Cuomo put it — to expand Medicare to all. Sanders, this time making a comparison with Britain and France, allowed that “hypothetically, you’re going to pay $5,000 more in taxes,” and declared, “We will raise taxes, yes we will.” He said this would be offset by lower health-insurance premiums and protested that “it’s demagogic to say, oh, you’re paying more in taxes.”

Well, yes — and Trump is a demagogue.

Sanders also made clear he would be happy to identify Democrats as the party of big government and of wealth redistribution. When Cuomo said Sanders seemed to be saying he would grow government “bigger than ever,” Sanders didn’t quarrel, saying, “P eople want to criticize me, okay,” and “F ine, if that’s the criticism, I accept it.”

Sanders accepts it, but are Democrats ready to accept ownership of socialism, massive tax increases and a dramatic expansion of government? If so, they will lose.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York mayor who floated a trial balloon over the weekend about an independent run, knows this. As the New York Times reported: “If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz, a hard-line conservative, and Democrats chose Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg ... has told allies he would be likely to run.

President Obama seems to know this, too — which would explain why he tiptoed beyond his official neutrality to praise Clinton in an interview with Politico’s Glenn Thrush. “I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics,” he said. He portrayed Sanders as “the bright, shiny object that people haven’t seen before.”

It doesn’t speak well of Clinton that, next to her, a 74-year-old guy who has been in politics for four decades is a bright and shiny object. The #feelthebern phenomenon has at least as much to do with Clinton as with Sanders: Democrats are eager for an alternative to her inauthentic politics and cautious policies.

I share their frustration with Clinton. But that doesn’t make Sanders a rational choice.

In An Age of Terror, How Thinking Right Can Save the Left. By Richard Landes.

In an Age of Terror, How Thinking Right Can Save the Left. By Richard Landes. Tablet, November 24, 2015.


What’s needed is more tribalism, not less.

Among the responses in Israel to the Paris Terror Attacks, there has emerged a divide that deserves attention. Depending on where you spend your political time, one or the other response will appear predictable (and lamentable).

First, there are the self-referential Zionists who think, as they did after the attacks of Sept. 11 and the London bombings of July 7, 2005, and so many other moments: “Now, maybe they’ll understand our plight, and realize we have the same enemies,” and “We Israelis have a lot to teach you.” Their battle-hardened cousins further to the right reply, “Don’t bother trying, they’re all anti-Semitic and judge us by a double standard” or even “The West deserves what they’re getting, as a punishment for their hypocrisy.”

On the other hand, we have those who see this entire range of responses as distasteful, to say the least. Instead, they urge an expression of sympathy and solidarity unclouded by words of reproach, by displaying the French flag online as a way to declare #JeSuisFrançais. It’s really not cool for Israelis to complain about a double standard at a time like this, they scold. It’s not about us—it’s about France. As for those people, like the prime minister, who compare ISIS to Palestinian terrorists, they are engaging in a low form of propaganda, trying to use the victims of other wars in other places to wash away the sins of Israeli occupation.

In a deeply disturbing and repeating 21st-century, paradox, however, the approach of Israel’s generous and selfless ones has worked to the benefit of most regressive forces on the planet—while on the contrary, the voice that awakening Europe needs most to heed in the current crisis is that of those self-centered Israelis who relate European woes to their own pain. The failure to understand this paradox explains both why Western elites are so poor at resisting global jihad, and why, for a disaffected youth—Muslim by birth or by choice—it makes sense to join that jihad. Indeed, this split in Israeli discourse about the Paris attacks illustrates the disproportionate impact of a peculiar Jewish dispute on the current cognitive disorientation of the West.

But first, let’s explain our terms. Let’s call the first response the tribalist approach. It is centered on the self, preoccupied with defending family, clan, group; suspicious by default of others, especially of strangers; and easily rendered defensive by threatening behavior. Tribalists think in terms of “us vs. them”; they treat “their own” differently from others, and when they feel sufficiently threatened, they will lash out. They think of their own pain and feel anger at hypocrisy (in this case against the French for their 15-year-long indifference to the pain of their Jews). This mindset historically favors vengeful attitudes—“they deserve it”—and rough justice.

Politically, these folks appear on the “right” of our spectrum, and they remind us of historical periods when people with power lacked empathy and used it cruelly, a political culture of rule or be ruled, that democracies hope to have outgrown. Tribalists are the zero-sum folks: “I only win if they lose,” and, “they only understand force.” Like Huntington, one of their intellectual heroes, these tribalists tend to look for enemies. They find reasons to be belligerent, to provoke war, they “invent the enemy.”

Let’s call the second response the universalist: considerate of others, self-abnegating: “This is not about Israel.” These are the positive-sum folks, the ones who make friends, who build on trust, who come up with mutually beneficial projects from which everyone profits, who look for the voluntary win-win rather than the coerced win-lose. They reject the selfish me first, the invidious us-them, the tribal my side right or wrong.

These folks appear on the “left” of our political spectrum. They empathize with the “other” and embrace diversity. They can and want to trust. In renouncing the win-lose, they become capable of granting dignity and freedom to others—the fundamental social contract of a successful egalitarian culture. They imagine themselves as inhabitants of a future diverse, civil, and peaceful global community, where racism and xenophobia are no more.

This dichotomy between tribal and universal sheds light on the current paradoxical situation in Europe, where the most extraordinary cognitive disarray rules. Specifically, when it comes to judging Israel’s conflict with its neighbors, Europeans have inverted vision. And the ensuing radical cognitive disorientation contributes to a fatal misreading of the forces Europeans themselves face.

By and large, the European elites—journalists, academics, policy pundits, political class—are members of the universalist camp. In their reading, Israelis are the zero-sum players. They deserve the hostility of their neighbors; they have brought upon themselves the suicide bombings, the intifadas, and the deep hatreds. They have done so with their settlements and occupation and humiliating checkpoints and periodic bombing raids that kill hundreds of children and thousands of innocent civilians.

They think the Israelis are the tribal players here, needlessly but persistently humiliating their poor Palestinian victims; that if Israel stopped constantly frustrating Palestinian aspirations with their insistence on ruling over them and rather made noble gestures, Israel would take a dramatic step toward that peace and make the world a better place for all. Its refusal to so act, proves that Israel is the greatest obstacle to peace, the great provoker of Palestinian grievance. However lamentable, Palestinian hostility comes from an understandable reaction to what Israel does to them.

Many a prominent Israeli, especially among their cultural elites, shares this view. They embrace and promote the story frame of the Israeli Goliath crushing the poor Palestinian David. For them, the conflict with the Palestinians has nothing to do with the jihadi attacks on the West, and it’s offensive for Israelis to complain about not being included among the victims of terrorism. They believe that Palestinians have limited, national goals, and that once Israelis stopped being so awful, Palestinians would stop hating them. They fervently hold that this conflict is not a religious war about eliminating the Jews from the Waqf—holy trust—that goes from the river to the sea.

In order to think this way, of course, one has to ignore a lot of important data, especially what Muslims say to each other. And yet, despite its immediate relevance to the European predicament, both Europeans, and many Israeli intellectuals, insist on ignoring the basic terms of jihadi discourse. Like those who say, “ISIS is not Islamic,” they turn a deaf ear to a discourse that is not theirs.


To universalists who wish to understand just what kind of peril they—and their universal values—are in, I would suggest that they might pay attention to the unmistakable voices of the hardest of zero-sum thinking among Israel’s declared enemies. Here you find the regressive, drive for “our” domination and “your” subjection, of gaining honor from debasing the “other.” At their worst, such voices demonize and dehumanize (devil, apes, and pigs). They appeal to the most megalomanic hopes and paranoid fears of their audiences. They cultivate an irredentist hatred of the “other.” And such voices permeate the discourse of Palestinian hatred of Israel.

Now compare the tribal and religious hatreds that target Israel with those that move the jihadis who attacked Parisian nightlife this month, the United States on Sept. 11, Barcelona, London, and who knows how many more places. How different are they? Here we find the same raging sense of victimhood, the same call to pre-emptive vengeance, arising from a firm conviction that one’s very self is under attack, the belief that, if “we” do not exterminate our foe, “they” will exterminate “us.” Here we find the same wanton attitude toward human life, even one’s own: Muslim kills Muslim to kill infidels; Hamas kills Gazans to rocket Israel.

At its most intense, we find in both places, apocalyptic believers for whom the current conflict is both existential and cosmic. They engage in a pitiless war on evil, in which the enemy must be wiped out or subjected, lest “they,” by their malevolent existence, destroy “our” faith. If you want to touch the gold standard of genuine xenophobia, paranoia, and genocidal hatreds, listen to what apocalyptic Muslims say about the infidel.

In France, the motto is “padamalgam”: Don’t lump the vast majority of innocent and peaceful Muslims with the tiny minority of crazies who have hijacked their religion. But that move falls into the equally problematic amalgam of all nonviolent Muslims as moderates. Indeed, here’s the problem. The amalgam, “the vast majority of nonviolent Muslims,” actually spans a great gamut of Muslim religiosities, from those ready to live side-by-side in tolerance and peace with non-Muslims, to enthusiastic but not public supporters of the jihadis.

The key to distinguishing within this “vast majority” between genuine moderates and covert jihadis is to identify what one might call “triumphalist” Islam.

If “religiosity” represents a way of “living” one’s religion, triumphalism represents that form of religiosity that needs to assert visible dominance in order to prove the validity of its claims about God and especially claims to being God’s favorite. Many a patristic theologian argued that the “Conversion of the Roman Empire” proved the superiority of Christianity over paganism, philosophy, and Judaism. The use of power to impose religious truth—crusades and inquisition, permitted by this “triumph,” was not undone until the American Constitution when, for the first time in Christian history, tolerance was a winner’s creed.

When conquering Muslims built empires based in Damascus and Baghdad, Sharia, and especially that governing the behavior of dhimmi (non-Muslims), legislated an inequality that honored Muslims and disgraced those who were stubborn enough to reject the true faith. All jihadis are triumphalists; not all triumphalists are jihadis; and not all Muslims are triumphalists.

Europeans who bother to inform themselves about their and Israel’s enemies will find the same zealous hatred of infidels, the same misogynistic fear of difference, of otherness, of dissent, of contradiction, a fear of the very possibility of humiliation at the hands of someone who should be inferior, like women and infidels, the same deep discomfort at the very thought of equal treatment for infidels and the faithful.

They will find the same shrill insistence on a triumphalist Islam that proves the truth of its claims to superiority over all other faiths, by dominating and subjecting recalcitrant infidels, by humiliating, and, where necessary exterminating those who threaten their superiority.

The hatred these triumphalist Muslims feel for the “Zionist Entity” comes not from Israel’s unwillingness to compromise, not because of settlements and occupation since ’67, but because any territory in Dar al Islam where infidels have sovereignty, constitutes an unbearable blasphemy. And triumphalist Muslims, everywhere, share this hostility to autonomous infidels, the contempt, the desire to spread dar al Islam to hold dominion, to raise up a triumphant Islam by debasing and subjecting the West.

This triumphalism explains why Israel is a peculiar variant on the more extensive jihadi hostility to infidels. Most threatening of all to this kind of religiosity, tiny Israel’s ability to resist being obliterated constitutes the supreme modern sacrilege to the triumphalist’s notion of Allah. Triumphalist Muslims, humiliated more generally by the modern success of infidels since Napoleon, have experienced repeated humiliation since 1948 by Israel and the United States. In their mind, global jihad means that, at last, now, is the time for the apocalyptic hadith enshrined in the Hamas charter, about a final war of extermination on the Jews, when the Jews will flee and hide, and the rocks and trees will call out to Muslims to denounce the Jew hiding behind them. And although that particular hadith does not go on to discuss what happens next, the larger apocalyptic scenario sees the elimination of the Jews as a prelude to subjugating the rest of the infidels.

From this critical perspective, ISIS and Hamas are part of the same jihad against the West—maybe differing in their stage of development, their circumstances, their leadership, their life-destroying strategies, but essentially the same in their triumphalist belief in Islam’s destiny to rule the earth, and their role in violently bringing about that destiny. They share a hatred and contempt for infidels of all kinds—dhimmi, apostates, blasphemers, pagans, ignoramuses. They share the same paranoia, the same sense of victimization, the same sense of existential threat, the same sense that they defend the true faith by taking vengeance on those who mock the Prophet.

People who insist that Hamas and ISIS have nothing to do with each other give global jihad an enormous boon: They disguise Hamas by presenting it as a movement for national liberation even as it fans the flames of global jihad. In so doing, many Westerners think they help the Palestinian cause, when in fact they empower a leadership that willingly sacrifices ordinary Palestinians to advance its cause, and at the same time, empower the global jihadis by running their Palestinian propaganda as news, and reinforcing a collective sense of victimization. Instead of recoiling from the horror, the more demented—but sincere—Western “progressives” shout “We are Hamas.” And those Israelis who rush to assure the global community that people who argue, as I have above, are just trying to hide their own crimes against the Palestinians, effectively blind those who listen to their counsel to a shared foe of all decent people—Muslim, Jew, Christian, and secular, alike.


When Western Europeans opened their gates to receive a rapid influx of hundreds of thousands even millions of Muslims fleeing the madness that ruled in their homelands, it stunned those of us who see Islamic radicalism as a real and global threat. Who, knowing the cultural and demographic dynamics, would imagine that Europe would throw its gates open to a massive wave of largely male Muslim immigration? How many of these newcomers, who made it into Europe undocumented, would, we thought, immediately disappear into those “non-existentno-go zones and provide a powerful reinforcement to the jihadi presence already there? How many more, stuck in refugee camps, would offer a perfect recruiting ground for the caliphate? Indeed, among other things, the recent attack in Paris reflects how much these reinforcements have increased their confidence. As more and more people realize, this massive influx of newcomers—refugees, migrants, jihadis—is a catastrophe for civil society in Western Europe.

And yet, far from thinking they were committing cultural suicide, the Europeans perceived themselves as saving their humanity, their commitment to universalist values, their compassion. In their minds they were giving succor to a wave of desperate refugees, showing their universalist values (and atoning for the Holocaust). In this they were systematically encouraged, not only by the news media but also by their elected officials. All these players resonated to the progressive and redemptive call to make a grand and compassionate gesture that could transform hostile relations with Muslims into peaceful ones. The Universalists, unaware of whom they dealt with, welcomed into their safe spaces, tribalist enemies.

Earlier this month I was slated to speak on a panel sponsored by a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons on the BBC. After the public announcement, Ben White, an activist journalist, published a piece on how an MP was about to appear on a panel with a known Eurabian conspiracy thinker: Me. His major proof was a remark I made in 2007 at a Herzilya Conference:
European democratic civilization can fall before the Islamic challenge. Do not say that this will never happen in Europe and that Islam will not be able to take control of Europe. If Europe continues its current path, the fall will be sooner.
This remark, amply supported by events during the following eight years, and which today I would only amend by adding “triumphalist” to modify “Islamic challenge,” was sufficient to frighten a pro-Israel MP into bumping me from the panel. White’s article had caused him “considerable embarrassment,” he noted in explanation for his decision. One thinks fondly of A Fish Called Wanda, in which Archie (John Cleese) describes to the American Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) Brits’ greatest fear: “You see, Wanda, we’re all terrified of embarrassment. That’s why we’re so … dead.” A Britain in which warning about the plans of global jihadis to bring Dar al Islam to where Dar al Harb used to be, can so embarrass one’s associates that they cringe, is a Europe, which, because it cannot even identify the enemy, cannot figure out how to fight back.

What has this got to do with the two Jewish-Israeli responses with which I began this discussion? Ironically, it suggests that those tribal Jews/Israelis that Europe deplores are fighting not only for themselves, but for a decent democratic and egalitarian culture the world over, against a deeply regressive, triumphalist Islam. The “left-wing” Israeli responses that disdain tribalism, and promote lofty universalist values, dismiss this Israeli tribal voice as paranoid, conspiracy-minded, xenophobic, Islamophobic. Yet, in so doing, they contribute to the cognitive disorientation of the outside nations and peoples. In their eagerness to confess Israel’s sins, to consider Palestinians innocent and Israel guilty, they shield outsiders from hearing the much harsher jihadi voice that explicitly targets not just Israel but them.

The foreign minister of Sweden or the head of the socialist party in the Netherlands shows just how powerfully this cognitive disorientation has Europeans in its thrall. Responding to events in Paris, they did not make reference to the problems in Sweden and Holland, all of them a function of their own ever-more aggressive, triumphalist Muslim fringe. Instead they invoked the contribution of Israel to the frustration of Palestinian Muslims, apparently in the empirically contradicted hope that dumping on Israel will improve rather than further damage their own situation.

When those who wish for peace are not prepared for war, not even cognitive war, when they ignore the Roman dictum si vis pacem para bellum, then they bring about a war they will lose. Bellum efficiunt, et pacem volentes.

Do we, as Jews and Israelis, beneficiaries of, and contributors to, free and democratic societies the world over, really want to contribute to the catastrophic disorientation that now, astonishingly, rules the discourse of free nations? Or are we ready to set aside, at least momentarily, our universalist self-abnegation, and help people of good will everywhere understand our plight, which is also theirs?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Arab Winter. By The Economist.

The Arab Winter. The Economist, January 9, 2016.

The Economist:

Five years after a wave of uprisings, the Arab world is worse off than ever. But its people understand their predicament better.

“I AM the free and fearless. I am secrets that never die. I am the voice of those who will not bow…” The voice in question, raised in song amid the crowds packing Avenue Bourguiba, a promenade in Tunis, at the beginning of 2011, was that of Emel Mathlouthi. For a moment of calm in a month of clamour, she gave voice to the aspirations of hundreds of thousands of her compatriots.

On January 14th those protesters forced Zein al Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s dictator for the previous quarter-century, from office. What followed was not easy. Terrorism hindered both economic progress and deeper political reform. But in 2015 the country became the first Arab state ever to be judged fully “free” by Freedom House, an American monitor of civil liberties, and it moved up a record 32 places among countries vetted by the Vienna-based Democracy Ranking Association. In December Ms Mathlouthi sang before another spellbound audience—this time in Oslo, as part of celebrations surrounding the award of the Nobel peace prize to four civil-society groups that shepherded in the new constitution of 2014.  

Sadly, that outcome remains a stark anomaly. There were six Arab countries in which massive peaceful protests called for hated rulers to go in the spring of 2011. None of the other uprisings came to a happy end. Libya and Yemen have imploded, their central states replaced in whole or part by warring militias, some backed by foreign powers, some flying the flags of al-Qaeda or Islamic State. Egypt and the island kingdom of Bahrain are now yet more autocratic, in some ways, than when the protests began. And Syria has descended into an abyss. Half its cities lie in ruins, much of its fertile land has been abandoned; millions have been displaced within the country, millions more have fled beyond it; hundreds of thousands have died; there is no end in sight.

With the exception of its far east and west—the oil-rich Gulf and quietly prospering Morocco, aloof behind a border with Algeria that has been sealed for 21 years—the rest of the Arab world does not look much better. Iraq’s Shia south and Kurdish north and north-east are, in effect, separate countries, while in the war zone of its Sunni-dominated west the fearsomely brutal rule of the so-called Islamic State has taken root. The Algerians and Sudanese have emerged from civil wars to find themselves still beholden to opaque and predatory army-backed cliques. Palestinians, divided into rival cantons, are weaker and more isolated than ever. Jordan remains an island of calm preserved through fear: both the kingdom’s own people and the donor countries that prop it up are too spooked by the chaos buffeting its borders and flooding it with refugees to talk much of political reform.

Change it had to come

In short, Arabs have rarely lived in bleaker times. The hopes raised by the Arab spring—for more inclusive politics and more responsive government, for more jobs and fewer presidential cronies carving up the economy—have been dashed. The wells of despair are overflowing.

The wealthy Gulf states have seen their incomes slashed by collapsing oil prices. The tighter immigration rules they have set up to replace expatriate labour from other Arab states with natives, or Asians, have hit the remittance flows through which they subsidised their poorer brethren. Demographic pressures are unyielding. Some 60% of the region’s population is under 25. Figures from the International Labour Organisation show that youth unemployment in the Middle East and north Africa, already a terrible 25% in 2011, has risen to nearly 30%, more than double the average around the world. Rent-seeking remains rampant, and standards in both public education and the administration of justice are still dismal. Economic growth is slow or stagnant; the hand of the security forces weighs heavier than ever, more or less everywhere. Sectarian divisions and class rivalries have deepened, providing fertile ground for radicals who posit their own brutal vision of Islamic Utopia as the only solution.

The Arab spring seems therefore to have brought nothing but woe. It has become fashionable in some circles to ape Russia and Iran in blaming this failure on supposedly “naive” Western policymakers. Had Western powers not abandoned old allies such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak; had they not intervened in support of Libyan rebels; had they not presumed that the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad was just another domino waiting to topple; had they not turned a blind eye to the danger of Islamist fanatics: then all would be well.

This is tosh. To frame the uprisings of 2011 as a sequence of isolated events, each of which had a unique and optimal policy response, is to deny the historical reality of what happened. Such hindsight belies the actual experience of seeing an entire region—and the world’s most politically torpid region, at that—whirl into sudden, synchronised motion. It also denies agency to the actors themselves: to the crowds whose cries of “Enough!” reached critical mass; to the paranoid rulers whose responses exacerbated the protests.

This is not to say that the events of 2011 had no precursors. Algeria’s Islamist uprising in 1991, two intifadas in Palestine, the “Independence revolution” that ousted Lebanon’s government in 2005, even the short-lived “Green revolution” in non-Arab but nearby Iran, all signalled the region’s desire for change. But the world’s democracies were, by and large, correct in judging that what they were seeing in 2011 was something broader, more potent and more difficult to steer than a set of national crises that happened to coincide. Nor were they naive to think that an empowered “Arab street” would seek to move its countries closer to global norms of good governance. That was the demand the demonstrators made in protest after protest, from the Gulf to the Atlantic.

In judgment of all wrong

The West’s naivety, which was shared—and paid for—by those hopeful demonstrators, lay in underestimating two things. One was the fragility of many Arab states, too weak in their institutions to withstand such ructions in the way that, say, South Africa did when apartheid fell. The other was the vicious determination with which established regimes would seek to retain or recapture control. Who could believe that a soft-spoken leader such as Mr Assad would prefer to destroy his country rather than leave his palace? Those were the truths that brought hope to the ground.

Just as the spring itself was more than just a set of national events, so the current period of counter-revolution is an international matter. Conservatives across the region have received powerful backing from the Gulf. One early and stark example of this was Bahrain, where the ruling family called on fellow Sunni monarchs to help it crush a pro-democracy movement championed by its Shia majority. Last year’s intervention in Yemen by a Saudi-sponsored coalition can be seen in the same light. The Saudis are seeking not only to thwart Houthi rebels, whose Iranian backing they revile. They are trying to force a return to the status quo.

The most internationalised conflict is the bitter civil war in Syria, where powers from the region and beyond contend through proxies. The war has long since metastasised into a monumental free-for-all involving dozens of belligerents. But it remains at its core a fight between aggrieved citizens and a narrowly based—and in Syria’s case largely sectarian—elite intent on keeping its hold on power.

In Egypt, a nation-state of longer standing and greater stability, the ancien régime’s fight has—again with help from the Gulf—been won, for now. Egypt has long been seen as the region’s bellwether, and for good reason. Over the past five years it has provided the Arab spring’s most revealing story of failure; today it highlights the degree to which the tensions persist that brought about the uprisings.

The world looks just the same

In 2010, six months before the protests in Tahrir Square turned into the uprising (even Egyptian enthusiasts are now shy of calling it a revolution) that ousted Mr Mubarak, this newspaper warned of looming change in Egypt and suggested that there were three ways in which it might play out. The country might, like Iran in 1979, experience a popular revolution which would then be hijacked by Islamists. Like Turkey in the 2000s, it might become a genuine, if shaky and flawed, democracy, one with the power needed to tame the military-backed “deep state”. Or, like Russia, it might suffer a Putinist putsch, with the deep state reasserting control under a new strongman.

We were too parsimonious. Egypt has, in a jumbled fashion, experienced not just one but all three of these outcomes. Its revolutionaries did overcome, if briefly, the security forces that underpinned Mr Mubarak’s rule. Egyptians then voted in a government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood—a government which, rather than shrinking the deep state, tried instead to insert party loyalists into its depths. (As it happens, this is also what Turkey’s Islamist-leaning government has been doing since 2011, with rather more success.) Popular anger against the Islamists, stoked and nurtured by the deep state, then brought Egypt to the Russian option in a soft coup that saw Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, a general and the minister of defence, installed as president in June 2013.

Two and a half years later, Mr Sisi’s counter-revolution appears all but complete. Mr Mubarak and his cronies, not to mention the police responsible for killing and maiming hundreds in the clashes of 2011, are out of jail. Tens of thousands of Muslim Brothers, along with hundreds of secular revolutionaries, are imprisoned, in exile, or dead. Nearly 1,000 Islamists were killed when anti-coup protests were crushed in 2013. The police have killed scores more since then; others have died from torture or neglect in prison.

Mr Sisi’s men have taken particular care to harass the technically adept young people whose social-media skills made the revolutionary experiment possible. And the state has made an unprecedented effort to control the courts, universities and media. A tailor-made constitution that grants sweeping powers to the president and the army, and electoral rules designed to produce a fragmented parliament, furnish it with the trappings of democracy. But it is a sham. The Mukhabarat (secret police) intervened in 2015’s elections to ensure supine legislative loyalty to the president. Not surprisingly, turnout was dismal, particularly among the young. Their disdain proved further justified when the government abruptly cancelled the results of December’s student-council elections in the country’s universities. Pro-revolution candidates had won across the board.

Many Egyptians praise Mr Sisi for delivering the country from both Islamists and revolutionary hotheads. Many more now shun politics altogether, which from the autocrats’ point of view is almost as happy a result. The Muslim Brotherhood remains in shattered abeyance and more radical Islamists, who have mounted terror attacks and grabbed a chunk of territory in north-east Sinai, have not made broader inroads among the general public. Another uprising on the scale of 2011 is unlikely in the near future.

But the effort to build a bigger, stronger “wall of fear” has further alienated Egypt’s people from a state that is not just cruel, arbitrary and unaccountable, but also both too incompetent and too broke to buy their acquiescence. Investors are put off by erratic policymaking, the overweening power of the army and Mukhabarat, and unpredictable, often vindictive courts. Egypt’s government debt remains colossal. The budget deficit has topped 10% every year since 2011; in mid-2015 Egypt’s combined domestic and foreign liabilities pushed past 100% of GDP. The currency is in decline—and so is tourism. Incidents such as the killing of a group of Mexican tourists mistaken for terrorists by the air force, or the government’s farcical handling of what appears to have been the bombing of a Russian civilian airliner on Egyptian territory in October, show the state to be inept. Mr Sisi’s benefactors in the Gulf, who have propped up his regime with perhaps $30 billion in cheap loans, central-bank deposits and fuel, are reputedly running out of patience and risk running out of money. Repeatedly bailed out in the past, Egypt has no more saviours-in-waiting.

Tip my hat to the new constitution

A recent tweet—“Has anyone tried switching Egypt off and turning it on again?”—sums up the despairing mood of this broken country’s people. For lack of an alternative, or an on-off switch, most have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, praying that Mr Sisi will lighten his grip or hoping for a palace coup to install a less military-minded ruler. “The cheapest option is internal change inside the regime,” says Abdel Moneim Abul Fotoh, a former Muslim Brother whose centrist platform captured 4m votes in the 2012 presidential election. “Revolutions are cumulative, and it will take time for pressure to accumulate.”

But if the uprising changed little in the way things work, it changed much in how they are perceived. Hani Shukrallah, an Egyptian commentator, likens memories of Tahrir Square to King Hamlet’s ghost, a presence that may be intangible yet remains the driving force of the drama, and which mutely insists that something is rotten in the state of Egypt.

What underlies the rot, in Egypt and elsewhere, is the failure of generations of Arab elites to create accountable and effective models of governance, and to promote education. After some 60 years of essentially fascistic rule—the forced rallying behind a bemedalled patriarch, pomp and parades and propaganda disguising the reality that the people have no voice—it was perhaps not surprising that the backlash, when it came, was inarticulate and lacked direction. The Arab revolutions produced few leaders, few credible programmes for action, and few ideas. But they did produce much-needed clarity about such things as what political Islam actually means in practice, where the Arabs stand in the world and with each other, and what the weaknesses and strengths of Arab states and societies are.

Before it came to brief and inglorious power in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood attracted believers with the simple but vague slogan “Islam is the solution”. Experience now prompts many more Arabs to ask, which Islam? If it is the arm-twisting, head-lopping version proclaimed by Islamic State (IS), which dismisses all Muslims but its own ardent followers as shirkers and sinners, there are few takers. If it means giving political power to more mainstream religious figures who cannot agree on points of doctrine, this does not look appetising either. Nor do the Muslim Brothers, who revealed themselves to be conservatives bent on capturing rather than reforming the state, hold much more of an appeal.

For decades Arab opinion-makers have ascribed a host of regional ills to Western—and particularly American—meddling, even as its leaders turned habitually to the West for aid or military protection. And the West is hardly innocent; the biggest regional debacle until recent years was America’s spectacularly inept occupation of Iraq. But the morass left by that unforced error, along with the West’s ineffectual response to the Arab spring, have convinced all but a conspiracy-addled fringe that there is not much substance to talk of Western omnipotence, American hegemony or even a Zionist conspiracy. The West’s capacities have been revealed as limited and seldom effectively exercised. It is the region’s own weakness, rather than malign Western intent, that keeps sucking in outside powers.

At the same time many Arabs have also seen, not for the first time but perhaps now more clearly than ever, how weak the links between Arab states actually are, despite decades of slogans proclaiming Arab unity. And they have seen how weak the states themselves are, and more sadly how weak many of their own societies are. Iraqis and Syrians are fond of saying that before the American invasion or the 2011 uprising there were no tensions between Sunnis and Shias. If this is true, though, such solidarity was very easily shattered.

History ain’t changed

If states’ weaknesses stand exposed, so do their workings. In Egypt and Tunisia, and even more so in Mr Assad’s Syria, no one used to know who in which of the many competing security agencies really controlled what, or how. They could not put their finger on the way that, say, a compliant judiciary fitted in to the overall shape of things. Now they can. In Egypt the current crop of thoughtful young revolutionaries shuns the street in favour of drawing up quiet plans for overhauling the police or reforming the judiciary. If another uprising starts, its demands will go beyond the removal of a figurehead and the election of a legislature kept well away from the levers of real power.

Sisi and Mubarak. Meet the new boss... AFP/Engy Imad.

And what else may be on the agenda for change? One place to look is to IS—which, in ghastly irony, is the only truly new model of government that the wave of revolutions has thrown up. The group is monstrous. Its “state” is in many ways a far nastier reproduction of previous autocratic regimes, overlaid with a brutal “Islamic” veneer that most Muslims find repulsive. Yet the fact that this ugly experiment survives at all, despite the world’s semi-united efforts to abort it, holds lessons for the region.

Although IS’s laws are grotesque, other Arab states should take note that its emphasis on quick and firm justice appeals not only to Syrians and Iraqis desperate for order amid chaos. It responds to a burning public need to right decades of perceived wrongs. So does IS’s intolerance of corruption within its own ranks and its focus, even with limited means, on providing services such as health, education and social welfare. Unlike other Arab states, which tend to be hyper-centralised, IS grants broad powers to local administrators. These officials seek to regulate and tax commerce rather than to control it. Instead of assuming ownership of the oil industry, as nearly all other Arab states do, it sells the crude oil in its territory at the wellhead, subsequently exacting taxes from the people who go on to refine and transport it.

The missing ingredients in this formula are obvious: a basic respect for human rights and for diversity, systems of accountability, a method of lawmaking that pays heed to the will and interest of the public and not simply religious texts or the whims of a so-called caliph. Such essential components of good governance are often lazily bundled together as part of a grab-bag labelled democracy. The Arab spring showed that it may be these constituent elements, more than such theatrics as toppling tyrants or holding noisy elections, that are the key to success.

In the tense calm that has settled over countries such as Tunisia and Egypt, in the brittle peace that will no doubt eventually prevail across Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and during the continuing, ever-expectant pause endured by other Arabs as they wait for change, it is these kinds of institutional building blocks that need attending to. Arabs may take heart from the fact that in Europe, the supposedly revolutionary years of 1848 and 1968 produced little forward motion; indeed their immediate effect was to prompt a conservative backlash. A.J.P. Taylor, a historian, described 1848, a year of continent-wide insurrection against autocracy, as a moment when “history reached a turning point but failed to turn.”

But in both cases revolutionary change did come, in protracted form, in the next generation. It was brought about less by street action than by quiet evolutions in culture, society and the economy, and by the building of new and stronger institutions. It is not as intoxicating as mass action in Tahrir Square. But if some future season of rebirth is to lead to a lasting summer, there needs to be some thoroughgoing climate change first.