Guardian

Tyranny of victimhood: Why the Guardian gives a free ride to reactionary Palestinian movement


Yesterday, some anti-Israel agitators pretended to be “civil rights” activists by riding on buses Israeli citizens in the territories use to travel to Jerusalem.

These buses do not allow non-citizens (without proper permits) to enter communities in Judea and Samaria in order to stop potential Palestinian terror attacks.  

No, it’s not surprising that the the decidedly reactionary Palestinian movement would cynically exploit the genuinely liberal US Civil Rights Movement – which, in the early 1960s, attempted to end the practice, in the American south, of requiring that African Americans ride on the back of municipal buses.

And, no it’s not surprising that the Guardian would give the stunt a positive spin, “Palestinian protest ‘racist’ bus policy“, , Nov. 15.

However, the mere ubiquity of such narratives (by both the MSM and the Guardian), which represent the Palestinian cause as anything resembling a truly progressive, anti-racist movement, doesn’t render them any less reprehensible.  

As we’ve noted previously, per Freedom House, Palestinian political culture is undemocratic and lacks basic checks and balances; it fails to respect the rights of religious minorities, women, and the LGBT community; and the rights of citizens to peacefully dissent and criticize the government are not respected.

Further, Palestinian culture is imbued with explicit antisemitism and incitement, and PLO officials have even stated that they will not allow Jews to live in a future Palestinian state.

Anti-Israel activists zealously advocating for the Palestinian cause seem, necessarily, to be required to strenuously repress the cognitive dissonance of understanding that such activism is often at complete odds with the progressive values they otherwise cherish.

How then to explain how such an illiberal movement has become a popular cause within liberal circles in the West?

The more I’m involved in efforts to combat the assault on Israel’s legitimacy at the Guardian the more I’m convinced that an unreflective sympathy for those deemed “victims” (whatever the objective merits of designating a group with such a status) party explains the resistance many have to even the most stubborn facts, logic and moral common sense about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – even evidence demonstrating Israel’s pronounced liberal advantage over her Palestinian neighbors.

Robbing their Palestinian protagonists (objects of an a priori sympathy) of the moral agency typically assigned to responsible adults allows the Western left to excuse, rationalize, or ignore clear evidence of Palestinian villainy – whether such behavior includes explicit expressions of antisemitism or other reactionary political values, or even acts of terrorism. 

A good start in further understanding this dynamic can derived by the thoughts of scholar Shelby Steele, whose recent lecture, (excerpted by The Hudson Institute), included a meditation on the moral interplay between the West and Palestinians.

In his lecture, “The Narrative of Palestinian Victimhood“, Steele argues that the real interest of Palestinians and their anti-Zionist supporters is to situate the Palestinian people within a narrative of victimization.  Their ulterior goal, Steele argues, “is to see themselves and to have others see them as victims of colonialism, as victims of white supremacy.”

Says Steele:

“Listen to their language; it is the language of colonial oppression. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas claims that Palestinians have been occupied for 63 years. The word oppressed is constant, exploited. In this, there is a poetic truth; like poetic license, in a poetic truth a writer will bend the rules in order to be more effective.”

Thus, Guardian foreign editor David Hearst, in a column with the chilling title of “Could Arab staying power overcome Zionism“, Aug. 5, can positively cite his Arab-Israeli protagonists as questioning the “supremacist” nature of Israel, a characterization of the Jewish state, I’ve noted, which was popularized by an antisemitic extremist.

And, ‘Comment is Fee’ can similarly publish an essay by Sam Bahour, Aug. 4, which characterized Palestinians as victims of the “settler, colonial, apartheid, racialist, exclusivist” ideology of Zionism.

It also explains why Deborah Orr can even interpret the release of Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1027 Palestinian prisoners as evidence of Israeli racism.

The narrative that Palestinians are victims of racism, colonialism, imperialism, apartheid, and even a from of racial supremacism has a life of its own, and, Steele argues, is often resistant to even the most serious critical scrutiny.  

Steele:

Poetic truths like that are marvelous because no facts and no reason can ever penetrate. Supporters of Israel are up against a poetic truth. We keep hitting it with all the facts. We keep hitting it with obvious logic and reason. And we are so obvious and conspicuously right that we assume it is going to have an impact and it never does.” [emphasis mine]

Adds Steele:

“These narratives, these poetic truths, are the source of their power. Who would [the Palestinians] be if they were not victims of white supremacy? They would just be poor people in the Middle East. They would be backwards. They would be behind Israel in every way. So this narrative is the source of their power….It is the source of their self-esteem. Without it, would they be able to compete with Israeli society? 

Steele further argues:

“The idea that the problem is…the Jews protects Palestinians from having to confront that inferiority or do anything about it or overcome it. The idea among Palestinians that they are victims means more to them than anything else. It is everything. It is the centerpiece of their very identity and it is the way they define themselves as human beings in the world…Our facts and our reason are not going to penetrate easily that definition or make any progress.”

As to why the liberal West perpetuates this narrative, Steele argues:

“The Western world [feels it] lacks the moral authority to call them on it. The Western world has not said…’your real problem is underdevelopment.’ That has not been said, nor will ever be said – because the Western world was once colonial, was once racist, did practice white supremacy, and is so ashamed of itself and so vulnerable to those charges, that they are not going to say a word. They are not going to say what they really think and feel about what is so obvious about the circumstances among the Palestinians. So the poetic truth that Palestinians live by carries on.”

“[So] the international media give [the Palestinian cause] a kind of gravitas that it would never otherwise have.”

Steele further argues that the I-P Conflict will never be solved until we somehow get beyond this “poetic truth” that they are the perennial victims of a malevolent and racist Israeli state.  

So, as long as the moral gate keepers at the Guardian, and the MSM, continue to prop up this poetic truth, grants it life, sustenance and moral license, Palestinians have little motivation to overcome the tyranny of their victimhood.

In contextualizing the Guardian each day, I read each story and commentary on Israel and the Palestinians without any question as to how the story will be framed.  The facts and details of each story may change, but the immutability of Palestinian victimhood renders any objective analysis of the I-P Conflict all but impossible.

Today, Palestinians are “freedom riders”.

Tomorrow it will be some other cynical exploitation of the language of liberalism and human rights which the Guardian will legitimize.

Israel’s military and terrorist threats are indeed quite real, but the cognitive war we’re fighting is every bit as dangerous and – unlike the physical theaters of war where battles are won or lost largely by strength of arms – requires a rhetorical arsenal we’ve yet to adequately develop, yet alone effectively deploy.  

13 replies »

  1. “Israel’s military and terrorist threats are indeed quite real, but the cognitive war we’re fighting is every bit as dangerous and – unlike the physical theaters of war where battles are won or lost largely by strength of arms – requires a rhetorical arsenal we’ve yet to adequately develop, yet alone effectively deploy. ”

    Very true but you don’t say why it’s not yet been adequately developed nor do you give any suggestions as to how it might be.

    The Islamist-inspired and manipulated discourse has not yet been openly named for what it is, except by a few brave souls like Robin Shepherd, Denis MacShane, Melanie Phillips and others. Blogs like this one need to continue to flag up every deliberate misrepresentation/lie about Israel, Jews and their alleged “evils” and counter them with hard facts which refute them for as long and as often as it takes for this to register.

    Perhaps more importantly, alongside that we need to spell out the motives behind the Islamist discourse and how it makes use of the MSM to spread its poison. We cannot do that by pussyfooting around what is essentially the elephant in the room – and not stating that Islamism is the main driver of antisemitism in the world today, and ignorant people the world over are lining up to be bamboozled by it into doing its will.

    We are too bound up in political correctness (and Islamists and their fellow travellers capitalise on the cognitive dissonance this causes us) and trying to understand this evil rather than fighting it in every way we can.

    People who want us dead, or ruined do not deserve to be understood or made allowances for. They deserve to be at least undermined sufficiently for what they say to be ridiculed and dismissed.

  2. Anti-Israel activists zealously advocating for the Palestinian cause seem, necessarily, to be required to strenuously repress the cognitive dissonance of understanding that such activism is often at complete odds with the progressive values they otherwise cherish.

    Indeed. I wonder if any of them have ever discussed the situation of Palestinian homosexuals forced to flee Palestinian legalities and take up residence in the horrible and disgusting Zionist entity with their Palestinian hosts?

    These false ‘human rights’ demonstrators need to be exposed for the ‘useful idiots’ that they are and perhaps, even more, for the rank idiots that they are.

  3. Their milieu is one of the most discriminatory and racist in the world.

    Ethiopian-born Israelis serving in the IDF hear “abid” from local Arabs every day, and there is of course much more.

    In case the Guardian and alike still don’t get it: the Arabs’ political spectrum is bound by fascism on one side and nazi-like genocidal doctrines on the other. The rest is offside.

    If there are any genuine liberals and democrats in their midst, one count ’em all with his ten fingers.

  4. I agree with Shelby Steele’s

    …“The idea that the problem is…the Jews protects Palestinians from having to confront that inferiority or do anything about it or overcome it. The idea among Palestinians that they are victims means more to them than anything else. It is everything. It is the centerpiece of their very identity and it is the way they define themselves as human beings in the world…Our facts and our reason are not going to penetrate easily that definition or make any progress.”

    Quite so, and this is an excellent description of what I believe also provides the main precursor conditions for the pernicious codependency, by which the useful idiots for Palestinian intransigence in the media and elsewhere are so enmeshed and invested in perpetuating the “victim” status of the Palestinians that they are almost parasitic on them, and, being so, actively prevent them from progressing away from it towards even a semblance of societal health and functionality.

    I have written about the Guardian’s codependency on Palestinian victimhood elsewhere here at http://cifwatch.com/2011/04/14/how-the-guardian-perpetuates-palestinian-misery/ but there is another very salient factor which does as much if not more to perpetuate Palestinian misery – that of their insh’allah” fatalistic mindset, which leaves them at the mercy of unscrupulous and at times frankly psychotic leaders.

    The situation of the Palestinians is indeed unique, in that nowhere else on earth has a people/population done so little that is positive and life-affirming to lift itself from the pit of its leaders’ making, preferring rather to externalise the cause of their problems and leave others to deal with them uniformly badly.

    For anyone who wishes to read more about this, I would recommend Robert R Reilly’s “The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide created the Modern Islamist Crisis”

    Reilly writes about the Islamism expounded by Qutb and Maududi, which is echoed in Salafism and Hamas today:

    “..The fuel for the permanent war [between Islam and kufar] is the same for Islamism as it was for Marxist-Leninism and Nazism; it is hatred. Only the object of the hatred changes – from the race hatred in Nazism and class hatred in communism to hatred of the infidel in radical Islamism, to include any Muslim who does not conform to its version of Islam…”

    Reilly continues that just as Lenin argued that hatred was a sine qua non for communism, bin Laden’s parallel doctrine was equally explicit: “As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarised by the Most High’s word: ‘We [Muslims] renounce you [non-Muslims]. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us – till you believe in God alone’ (Q’uran 60:4). So there is enmity evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart…. If the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart this is great apostasy!…. Battle, animosity and hatred – directed from the Muslim to the infidel – is the foundation of our religion.” (emphasis added)

  5. Let me pre-empt a question which is bound to arise from the less – how shall we describe them – situationally- and contextually-aware – of our contributors: Who would the Israelis be if there was not enmity from Palestinians?

    Easy. Having to defend itself against Islamist terror is just one facet of Israeli life and existence, whereas Israel- and Jew-hatred takes up almost all Palestinian energy. As well as defending herself Israel is among the leading nations of the world in terms of research, science, technology, agriculture – in other words she contributes to the good in the world. Living in peace alongside Palestinians would leave Israel more time to pursue research and do even more good/

  6. The victim status accorded to the Palestinians may – in part – be due to the overall trend in Western society to muddy the waters between right and wrong / weak and strong; a trend enforced by political correctness. Judgement is never crystal clear and there are often mitigating circumstances to be taken into consideration, but the West seems to have almost made a fetish out of victimhood.

    Instead of seeing the incident itself and making an informed, fair and balanced judgement according to the merits of the case, the tendency is to both over and under value the status of the people involved. It is often the case that if the perpetrator is judged to be somewhere near an ever-moving ‘edge of society’, then the cause must be rooted mainly in society itself and the perpetrator its victim with diminished responsibility for his or her own actions. If the victim is doing quite nicely, thank you, then the sympathy diminishes whilst the responsibility increases. I am not necessarily saying that this is how the law always works (although sometimes it does!), but how society has reacted.

    We saw this during the recent British riots when some who were interviewed on TV showed sympathy and understanding not for the proprietor of the shop that was looted and trashed, but for the kids carrying out the actions. .
    .
    . One of the reactions to terrorism is ‘what have we done to make them want to kill us?’ – automatically assuming that the terrorists must be victims and that we are responsible. Time and again we exhibit this near-automatic response. It’s as if we’re suffering from a collective bout of Beaten Wife Syndrome.

    Clemency and understanding are decent Western values that we want to uphold, but by going too far we may well have taken away the very tools the ‘victims’ need if they are to make their own mark on life and be happy, successful people. Removing personal agency is to leave them stuck firmly in one place, unable to move up the ladder – and this appears to be what supporters of the Palestinian people have done to those they claim to care about.

    Still on the matter of the Palestinians: I agree with Steele in many ways. I believe that Palestinian leaders are shrewd and know exactly what causes the Western bosom to heave with sympathy. Such vehement support for the Palestinian cause is not commensurate with the duration of this conflict. It began much later and I’d imagine there is a correlation between this Western, near-automatic response to victimhood and the ardent championing of the Palestinian cause

    • Penny, from what I have read what you call “Beaten Wife Syndrome” is a very good example of codependency.

  7. “Supporters of Israel are up against a poetic truth. We keep hitting it with all the facts. We keep hitting it with obvious logic and reason. And we are so obvious and conspicuously right that we assume it is going to have an impact and it never does.”

    There’s no denying that logic and reason alone can only take us so far. Countering the misinformation works well with those who are open-minded and intelligent enough to know that this conflict cannot be solved unless the facts are known. These facts can be fudged to make a point and a battle won; but the truth eventually emerges: sometimes too late to avert or even win the war (Neville Chamberlain springs to mind here!)

    Steele talks of changing narratives and it’s a view I’ve held for three years. However, I don’t believe there is one overarching narrative because there isn’t one overarching ‘type’ to be reasoned with. If that was the case we’d have been home and dry years ago. It seems awful to say this because we’re talking about peoples’ lives and the safety and well-being of future generations, but were this conflict a product, the need for a marketing plan would be obvious.

    In my view, then, there is a need to identify the types, because they seem to fall into distinct categories who will respond to different rationales and different narratives.

  8. Yes – Mitnaged directed me to that article and I’ve read it a few times.

    Another example is the in-group/out-group type that are not actually convinced one way or another, but feel pressured into a position they may not hold. Which I see as somewhat different from mesmerism.

    You see this in-group/out-group phemenon in all ages and at all levels; the most obvious example being an open vote. It’s not easy to be in a minority and I’ve certainly seen people vote in a particular direction not because they believe it’s right, but because the majority did. Herd mentality sounds harsh, but it is, nonetheless, a very human trait. We recognise this anyway because during elections we have private polling booths and police visiting polling stations to ensure there’s no intimidation of voters.

    You won’t tease out the pro’s from the anti’s in this group with reason, logic and arguments alone because what they lack is the confidence to believe in their own opinion. I think this is particularly true of young people. So the narratives here have to counter the ‘All Hamas Now’ thing (which,amongst students I tend to think is often more right-on than real) whilst working towards more promotion of Israel: a positive, take-no-prisoners, confident promotion. That takes time but I think it would gain momentum.

    When you consider what turned the tide for the Civil Rights and Gay Rights movements, then I think it’s reasonable to say that self-belief, confidence and promotion – alongside reason and logic – played a big role not only in changing public opinion, but also the law.

    Anyway – that’s one type. There are others but I don’t want to outstay my welcome on a blog by writing a thesis!