Shabbat Diarist: The Guardian, Ismail Haniyeh and leftists beyond good and evil

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist” – a story by the French poet, Charles Baudelaire

“The Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth, because they have displayed hostility to Allah.”   – Sermon delivered by ‘Atallah Abu Al-Subh, former Hamas minister of culture, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV, April 8, 2011, translation by MEMRI

“Allah will kill the Jews in the hell of the world to come, just like they killed the believers in the hell of this world.” – Sermon delivered by ‘Atallah Abu Al-Subh, former Hamas minister of culture, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV, April 8, 2011, translation by MEMRI

“The Jews: killed the prophets…slaughtered the innocent…imprisoned our pious… NO PEACE WITH THE MURDERERS.” – Hamas communiqué, March 9th, 1989.

“The Nazi Jews tried different methods…Let everyone know that Hamas… is only against Jews and those twisted in their manner…” – Hamas communiqué, October 5th, 1988.

We Palestinians are reclaiming our destiny” – ‘Comment is Free’ essay by Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh, June 8th, 2012.

My wife and I spent last Shabbat at the home of a friend – a half hour walk from our Jerusalem apartment. Among the nine other guests were several Israelis and a few visitors from abroad either studying in the country temporarily or considering Aliyah (immigrating to Israel).

Prior to the Shabbat meal (and the traditional pre meal-songs, prayers and customs), we all spent some time getting to know each other and the introduction of one young American woman (currently a writer in the U.S. who is evidently considering Aliyah) was particularly memorable.  

She explained to the group her short-term professional goal: to organize a groups of Israeli Jews to go to Afghanistan and offer local tribes and governments Israeli assistance in fostering their development.  There was a few seconds of silence in the room following the sincere expression of her cheerful ideal.

It’s been my experience that the custom on Shabbat is stay away from divisive political arguments and so the few queries which followed were asked respectfully and politely.  One guest queried her on whether her plan included protection for her group of erstwhile volunteers from U.S. and NATO forces. Another asked if she had thought through the immense security risks for Jews working in a state which is 99% Muslim – one still terrorized by sadistic Taliban terrorism. (There is reported to be literally one Jew left in the country).

Our Shabbat guest turned to us and said something to the effect of “Muslims aren’t especially antisemitic”.

Other than perhaps an eye roll, I maintained my composure and tried to change the subject, asking our friend about her academic background: what expertise did she possess which would prepare her for such an ambitious diplomatic undertaking?

It turns out she studied intercultural relations at a Harvard University.

I recount this story as it provides, it seems, a bit of insight into the Guardian world view and its intellectual and political salon: opinions and narratives about the regions they cover nurtured in a  hermetic bubble, informed a priori, free of investigation or critical thought and often impervious to contradicting facts or logic.

I am of course not discounting the benefits to advanced Western societies derived from the knowledge and (one would hope) critical thinking skills learned at universities.

However, it also seems that no other institution has done more to nurture the supremely dangerous notion that everyone in the world is “just like us”, and that it to prohibit people from imagining that there are those possessing malevolence which is impervious to our best intentions.

It seems far-fetched to even conjure a Harvard University professor imputing blind malevolence to Afghanistan’s Islamists, or sternly disabusing her students of the fantastical notion that intercultural dialogue could bridge the gap between Western and Taliban “cultures”.

Indeed, the cognitive barrier which prevents much of the Western left (including more than a few Jews) from understanding Islamist intolerance seems predicated upon several factors:

  • Western guilt: the post-colonial a priori (often arbitrary) determination of guilt and innocence, based on the West’s past (imperial) sins. Previously subjugated peoples seem never to lose their status as the “oppressed”.
  • Moral vanity: the desire of enlightened Westerners (often burdened with guilt derived from the dynamic above) to be seen as enlightened champions of those assigned as the the oppressed and downtrodden in the world.
And, finally, the focus of our discourse:
  • Moral equivalence and the rejection of “good and evil”: the faith that most, if not all, conflicts in the world are based on misunderstandings and that all cultures, nations, traditions, religions, are equal. One is no better than any other.

What my friend was saying, in effect, was not that there are no antisemitic Muslims, but rather that the argument that Muslims could be disproportionately antisemitic (based on any number of cultural, religious, and historical factors) flies in the face of everything she was taught about the world and all that she holds dear.

The Guardian’s near complete failure to inform their readers about the endemic antisemitism in the Middle East (and in the Palestinian territories in particular), as with their moral sympathy for even the most reactionary Islamist movements (per their decision to grant Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh a ‘Comment is Free’ commentary), is similarly predicated upon the dynamics explained above.

The institution’s ideological orientation seems to be continually in search of moral redemption for centuries of European colonialism and racism, together with the related desire to finally be seen to be on the correct (progressive) side of history, along with incredulity in the face of even the most convincing evidence human malevolence.

The Guardian likely views Ismail Haniyeh primarily as a “Palestinian”. That is they seem him, and judge him, not as they would you or I, but as an abstraction. They project upon him the inherited mantle of colonialism’s victims (a status perpetuated by an ideological orientation which views the Israel-Palestinian Conflict similarly through this colonial paradigm).  

To the degree that they are forced to confront the extreme, homicidal antisemitism of Haniyeh’s Islamist movement, it can be rationalized away as an understandable (if, perhaps, unfortunate) response to the indignity of oppression and occupation.

Address Hamas’ concerns, liberate them from the shackles of Israeli tyranny and, according to the theory my friend and so many in the Western left would subscribe to, they will transcend their animosity.  There will be peace in our time.

This is the failure of the leftist intellectual establishment which my Shabbat interlocutor seems to share: the habit of mind which, a mere 66 years after the grotesque consequences of moral abdication in the face of an indescribable evil,  rejects the very notion of immutable (indeed insatiable) Islamist Jew hatred.

One need not devolve into essentialist arguments about Islam to believe those of the radical persuasion when they explain continually, clearly and without qualification their extreme malice towards not merely Israelis, but Jews as such – a racism not contingent on any specific set of political circumstances but, rather, one which forms the very foundation of their ideology.

Finally, there is a debate among those who battle Islamism over the question of why more genuinely moderate Muslims don’t speak out against this hideous perversion and proclaim loudly, boldly, courageously: ‘not in their name’. (See this Daniel Pipes essay for a brief answer to this question.)

The same query could be posed to the large numbers who identify with the genuinely progressive, anti-totalitarian and undeniably decent left. Why don’t more speak out against the grotesque distortion of this proud and moral tradition which appears daily on the pages of the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’?

This is the vexing and supremely taxing question which haunts my thoughts as I engage daily in a cognitive battle against the cowardly, dishonorable and (often) malign activists at this “respectable’ journal.  

However, it is a debate in which the left, and only the left, needs desperately to engage.   

7 replies »

  1. Fascinating story Adam, and you’ve given us excellent background to the thought processes of liberal-left progressives.

    How you kept a straight face when confronted by such eye-watering political correctness is a mystery to me. I would either have collapsed in hysterical laughter or launched on a tirade of condemnation. Once again I take my hat off to you (metaphorically anyway 🙂 ) for your patience in the face of adversity and absurdity.

    Did anyone else present debate the young woman’s proposal?

  2. Islam has already over-reached itself.

    It’s arrogance and violence have besmirched its image in the eyes of most ordinary people in the west. Suicide bombings, beheadings, rape of young white girls, anti-semitism, attacks on Christians – its all contributing to the resentment. Of course, few dare not say so out loud, for fear of being accused of racism.

    Nevertheless the genie is already out of the bottle; Islam is a busted flush in the west. Nobody believes it is a ‘Religion of Peace’, or a religion of anything really.

    The Guardian is trying desperately to hold back the tide by publishing fawning articles about Islam and damning ones about its enemies, but its too late. The backlash against Islam will happen, it is only a matter of time.

  3. Adam, I admire your restraint.

    “It turns out she studied intercultural relations at a Harvard University.”

    Oh dear… a Berch-alike who probably came”top in her class in discrimination” (sic) (so says Berchmans as his excuse for perennial defence of whatever Islamists do to Jews).

    Well I hope she gets to Afghanistan. It should open her eyes big time.

  4. If she ever gets to Afghanistan,her eyes won’t be the only thing that would be opening big time.She should take Rachel Shabi and Seth Freedman with her.And the rest of the Israeli Leftists writers that write for the Guardian………

    Is there anyway to persuade this woman to stay where she is.Israel has more than enough of these starry eyed do-goobers……..

  5. “The same query could be posed to the large numbers who identify with the genuinely progressive, anti-totalitarian and undeniably decent left. Why don’t more speak out.”

    They can’t because socialism is a religious cult.

    It is very difficult to criticise a cult when you are still inside it, subject to the constant brainwashing and reinforcement.

  6. The “Left” started to go off-track when it began to wholeheartedly embrace Identity Politics and unfettered relativism. The Identity Politics bullshit almost certainly goes back to Marx, who saw the world in terms of “groups” rather than individuals, and rejected the rational Liberalism of the Enlightenment. Add to that the mid-20th-Century intellectual trend towards full moral and cultural relativism (as opposed to mere meta-ethical subjectivism, which is very hard to argue against), and you have a recipe for disaster.

    “Liberalism” used to mean something. Something specific. It meant that you believed in the liberty of each *individual* to do whatever he or she wanted, as long as it did not impinge on the liberty of any other *individual*. Now, apparently, it means not wanting to criticize regimes that hang gays from cranes, or people who rape their wives and mutilate their daughters. In fact, in some ways, the word “Liberalism” is now used to denote almost the polar opposite of what it used to mean.

    The equality of individuals is inherently antagonistic to and incompatible with the equality of “cultures”. You cannot be committed to both. Those who choose commitment to the latter can call themselves whatever they want, but they are not true Liberals in the original sense of the word, and they most certainly are not “Progressive”.