Monday, December 18, 2006

Stop Being Verbal Vegetarians!

Over the past two days, I've been attending various sessions of a conference disturbingly entitled, "The Media as a Theater of War, the Blogosphere, and the Global Battle for Civil Society". When I arrived yesterday after work, I joined a group of bloggers sitting in the back including Lisa, Yael, Rinat, and Allison. Having communicated with Lisa several times during the course of the day, I had a general idea of what to expect. Nevertheless, I was still shocked – shocked by the bleak outlook being forecasted by the speakers and the negative attitudes they projected. Journalists were described by one speaker as being craven creatures, and Israel was consistently portrayed as the innocent victim. It was all deeply unsettling, but nothing compared to the session I attended before lunch today, entitled "Paradigm Shifts: Radical Reorientations". The whole "Israel as the innocent victim" theme continued to play a large role, but what really made me bang my head repeatedly on the table (not literally, obviously, as my table mate Martin Solomon (that's Mr. Solomonia, for those of you in the know) would surely have developed an instantaneous negative opinion of me, as opposed to those whose negative opinions of me have been allowed to form over time) were the words of panelist Manfred Gerstenfeld, the chairman of the steering committee for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Dr. Gerstenfeld kept referring to the Palestinians as "the enemy", and made statements such as "incitement to murder is an integral part of Palestinian society" and "…fighting a society permeated with genocidal intentions". He suggested that we must "turn the accusers into the accused", and that we should "stop being verbal vegetarians".

It was a truly horrifying experience, and between the waves of nausea I was feeling, all I kept thinking was that thank god Charles was not in the room to hear this racist rant. I was angry enough, and would have been morbidly embarrassed had this utterly charming Lebanese-American blogger and conference participant heard what this man was saying. I was also thinking about Jostein Gaarder, who claimed in his defense last summer that he had only intended for Norwegians to read his article, and had not expected that it would be translated into English and sent around the world. Perhaps Dr. Gerstenfeld didn't think that his words would be transmitted around the world as well, or perhaps he just doesn't care. All I know is that it's words and ideas like his that have contributed to the overwhelmingly negative world opinion vis a vis Israel, and presentations like his that damage our credibility when we are forced to hem and haw our way out of yet another debacle, while at the same time attempting to claim moral superiority.

I came away from this conference feeling rather frustrated. Perhaps the sessions that I missed were more balanced (though my sources tell me that they weren't), but I was given the impression that these speakers essentially felt that there is no hope for peace, and that we would be repeatedly locked in conflict with our "enemies" until the end of time. As I mentioned earlier, a recurring theme was that of Israel as the victim. No one seemed to think that a shift in Israel's policies regarding its neighbors was required, and instead focused on the need to somehow put a positive spin on these policies and try to convince the world that we are the party in the right. I found this concept to be utterly maddening and ignorant. It means that there is no hope for the future, and that our attempts to break down barriers and try to achieve a state of normalcy and mutual respect are futile, which is something that I simply refuse to accept.

The one shining light in the conference was the session entitled "Cyberspace as a Media Revolution: Implications for Israeli Public Diplomacy", which featured presentations given by a number of prominent local and foreign bloggers. Lisa and Charles spoke of friendships forged across borders and the importance of these special, fragile connections, and Michael Totten touched on this subject as well. Charles challenged the audience to start taking a look around the Arab blogosphere, leaving comments and starting dialogs, and part of me hopes that he made these people uncomfortable enough to start thinking outside of their narrow little boxes.

Sessions aside, though, I'd have to say that my favorite part of the conference was having the opportunity to meet so many wonderful bloggers face-to-face, people whose blogs I'd been reading, people I was keen to meet. I finally had the chance to meet the fabulous Savtadotty, whose granddaughter will be marrying my son; Allison, one of the very first Israeli bloggers, and certainly one of the first bloggers to make it onto my blogroll; Idan and Tif of Pixane; Rinat; Don Radlauer, who is as charming and funny as he is intelligent; the lovely Ola Hadasha, whose blog I only recently discovered, though she will surely become one of my regular reads; Charles – who receives the same compliments as Don; and Michael Totten, whose blog I turn to whenever I want to find out about the latest events in Lebanon.

Initially, I wasn't sure that I was going to attend any of this conference, but I'm glad I did. Despite the direction taken by many of the panelists, I feel like I've recharged my batteries, reawakened a long dormant excitement for social causes, taking me back to my student days. I'm sure that must sound terribly cliché, and I'm also relatively certain that I'll come back down to earth with tomorrow morning's battle of the train commuters, but for now, I'm feeling good. I attended an interesting, controversial conference with interesting, controversial people, and I did it just for me. And for the free sushi they served at the blogger reception… ;-)

* This post cross-posted to Good Neighbours.

94 comments:

laila said...

hi Liza, thanks for this entertaining report :)

I just want to say that even though things look gloomy and hopeless, we cant give up on struggling to find a solution. we just cant afford it!

Lisa said...

Well, I guess you and I bitched enough about the things that were said at this conference - and I think your commentary is excellent.

All I have to add is, thank the gods that those reactionary people are not representative of mainstream opinion!

Nicole said...

I thought your son was already engaged to little miss anglosaxy?

Idan said...

Excellent and informative writeup. :)

It was a pleasure meeting you at the conference, and I posted the pics I took on the first day here.

nrg said...

I wish I would light a fire under my own a** and get involved in something that I feel passionate about again. It is presicely the views that were expressed by some of these panelists that should and most likely will fuel your desires to continue blogging, continue building bridges and increasing understanding... I envy your exciting blogging future, Liza!! :-)

News Service said...

My review of the conference:
The coming out party of the pro-Israel blogsphere.

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Gerstenfeld and some others may have been offputting, but the fact that this conference was held is a major victory. If we want the public defense of Israel to be dominated by the Israeli left, then the Israeli left has to start doing some defending.
Ami Isseroff
Zionism Israel Center

lisoosh said...

Liza - well I can see you are fired up, best post in ages. I wish I had been there ( you know I can't let that stuff go easily).
Lots to think about with this post.

Leila said...

Liza, thanks for your report on this conference - what a terribly depressing experience it was, apart from the few positives you mention. Thanks for the nice words too! Ola

Richard Landes said...

thank you for coming. i'm sorry you didn't speak with me, though. i don't think it helps to imagine what people might say and not engage them. For example, having spent a good deal of time with Charles, I would say he's considerably less fragile and offended by criticism of Arabs/Lebanese than you seem to think. Charles would have no problem having a conversation with Manfred Gerstenfeld, and is no verbal vegetarian himself.

as to Manfred, you quote him as follows:
"incitement to murder is an integral part of Palestinian society" and "…fighting a society permeated with genocidal intentions". He suggested that we must "turn the accusers into the accused", and that we should "stop being verbal vegetarians".

now my question to you is, do you not think that incitement to murder (actually genocide) is an integral part of palestinian culture, and if not, what do you make of the extensive evidence of precisely that? do you visit Palestinian Media Watch, or is that too bleak? too right wing? the real question is not whether or not it's any of these, but whether it's inaccurate.

it's not racist to point out that people are racist, and when those people are running the show and permeating the culture -- media, schools, mosques, sports -- with incitement to racial hatred (Jews are descendants of pigs and monkeys) and genocidal messages, it is a cultural reflection... it has nothing to do with genes, or race at all. that's just a piece of mud you sling at people who criticize people you don't want to offend. is abu mazen a racist?

and if i understand you, it's Manfred Gerstenfeld, not Jostein Gaarder who is the subject of the sentence:
it's words and ideas like his that have contributed to the overwhelmingly negative world opinion vis a vis Israel, and presentations like his that damage our credibility when we are forced to hem and haw our way out of yet another debacle, while at the same time attempting to claim moral superiority.

i'd have said just the opposite: it's moral imbeciles like Jostein Gaarder (whom i responded to here), and an MSM of people who slavishly follow the Palestinian/David Israel/Goliath "framing story" no matter how much the evidence contradicts it (example here) who have contributed the most to Israel's vilification.

as for the bleak outlook, the lack of hope, i'd say that if you purchase your optimism at the price of any grappling with realism, then you live in a fool's paradise. the idea that israel needs to make a shift in its policies towards its neighbors (which i presume from the tenor of everything you've written - forgive and correct me if i'm wrong) means that israel needs to be more conciliatory, is precisely the attitude the conference was convened to call into question. the clear evidence of the last decade, esp clear in this last summer's war, is that israeli concessions invite aggression. i know some people (you?) believe that we need to make more concessions. but what if you're wrong?

as for hope for peace. if you had come to me and asked me, i might have had some interesting things to say. (i'm an optimist, i just don't purchase my optimism at the price of living in denial). the very fact that you hear what we have to say and conclude that we think there is no hope for peace, says more about you than it does us.

you remark: I found this concept to be utterly maddening and ignorant. It means that there is no hope for the future, and that our attempts to break down barriers and try to achieve a state of normalcy and mutual respect are futile, which is something that I simply refuse to accept.

i admire your courage, as i admire Lisa's, which is why i invited her. but the fact that you can be maddened by our remarks and not speak with us, that you can continue to strive for mutual respect with people who harbor profound hostility for us (in the hopes of peace, granted) and yet turn on us and treat us as the problem and the enemy for pointing out that we have real enemies, reflects badly on your ability to have respect for people who disagree with you. if you can respect palestinians and other arabs and muslims, and not people who are every bit as committed as you to the principles of civil society, just because they read the situation differently, then i'm not sure you are doing what you need to in order for us to achieve a real rather than a fatally imagined peace.

Don Radlauer said...

Good post, Liza - and thanks for what appears to be a nice compliment! (Although all it actually expressed was a correlation; it leaves plenty of room for me to be stupid, charmless, and un-funny, as long as I do them all together. Hmph.)

I'm afraid that from what I saw of the conference (only the second day; I was too sick to come on Sunday), Liza's and Lisa's reactions seem entirely appropriate.

Richard Landes' argument about whether various forms of negative stuff are "integral" to Palestinian society is specious. It would be accurate enough to say that incitement, racism, and so on are an aspect of Palestinian culture and society; but to claim that they're "integral" implies that these elements are inextricably bound up with Palestian-ness; and if that's not racism, it's too damned close for comfort. Further, while Itamar Marcus and others do good work documenting the negative stuff that's out there, their work by no means demonstrates that that's all that's out there.

The problem with this conference (or at least with what I saw of it, and especially with the Monday morning sessions) was that it was dominated by an outlook that not only doesn't help Israel's public image, but actively works against us: the idea that Israel is always right, that the rest of the world is the enemy, and that our correct response is to close ranks and defend ourselves (hasbaraically or otherwise) as aggressively as possible. This approach doesn't work.

When we talk and write as if everything Israel does is wonderful and moral, all we do is make ourselves irrelevant to the people we want to convince. If we want to reach people, we need to be living on the same planet they're living on; and Danny Seaman, for one, is not living on the same planet as any of our target audience.

Sadly, many - if not most - of the people actively involved in Israeli hasbara are exactly the people who shouldn't be involved in it; and, as Ami pointed out in his comment, the people who should be leading Israel's defense aren't doing it.

tafka PP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tafka PP said...

Damn, wish I could have been there. Would have had to have brought a mask for the all-blogger picture though!

rami said...

to Ami Isseroff

thanks to the blogosphere.. the israeli left is actually improving israel's image abroad, don't you consider that a first line of defence, and for good reasons too.

Liza - I really wish i was there, this conference could have helped me alot in my work. Thanks for the report.

Judith said...

"For example, having spent a good deal of time with Charles, I would say he's considerably less fragile and offended by criticism of Arabs/Lebanese than you seem to think."

If that's the Charles who was on the panel with Lisa, and who I shared several meals and good conversation with . . . . no, he holds his own very well and is considerably more rightwing than you, Liza.

Liza said...

As far as whether or not Charles can hold his own isn't really the issue. Having spoken to him and listened to his presentation, I'm quite certain that he can. However, that is besides the point, the point being that most of what I and many other bloggers heard at this conference was a repetitive theme of maligning the Arabs without really examining Israel's role in regional conflict. If I as a Jewish Israeli blogger was invited to a similar themed Arab-sponsored conference where Jews and Israelis were made out to be the only ones in the wrong, I would be offended, as I was offended by what I observed at the Herzliya conference. How are Charles' political beliefs relevant here? His political beliefs were not under attack here - his identity as a an Arab was under attack.

Liza said...

Richard, I didn't want to let your obviously well-thought out comment pass without my responding, though I'm not sure how much more I can add to Don Radlauer's comment, which is essentially what I would have written, as well as my response to your comment on Ami Isseroff's blog. Also, I believe I covered Charles' "fragility" in my response to Judith's post, so I'm not going to repeat it.

I concede that I agree with some of the points you made regarding incidents of incitement and racism in Palestinian society, but as Don pointed out, the word "integral" "implies that these elements are inextricably bound up with Palestian-ness", which, in my mind, equals racism as well.

As far as Jostein Gaarder is concerned, I agree he acted like a moral imbecile, and I took him to task as well. I've also written other posts about the way that Israel is wrongly perceived in the world. I just don't believe that we are as moral as we claim to be, and we do not go nearly far enough in acknowledging our mistakes. We are far from the innocent, injured party here, as are all the parties involved.

Our track record with the Palestinians is abyssmal, and collective punishment is often the norm. The current Palestinian leadership is not a partner for peace, but had we spent far less time and effort in humiliating Abu Mazen and ensuring that his hands are tied more often then not, perhaps there would not have been a Hamas government.

Government and upper eschelon military behavior during last summer's war was an embarassment. We went far beyond what was necessary, and our arrogance set the region back many years.

However, all of this talk is missing the point. I don't know you, nor do I claim to know your political beliefs (though I get the feeling that they differ from mine). I merely reported my impressions from the conference, impressions that were clearly shared by quite a few of the other bloggers there, as evidenced by what I've read here and on other sites. We all came away with similar frustrations and feelings of disappointment, so apparently, after hearing what was expressed, we all came to the wrong conclusion together. Does that say more about your speakers or does that say more about us? Perhaps we are not the ones living in denial.

At no point did I treat you as the enemy. I merely contended that to point fingers only at the outside without allowing for the possibility that there might be problems inside as well does not seem like a plan of action that will be successful in the long run.

I find it interesting that you choose to distinguish between Palestinians, other Arabs and Muslims, and people who are committed to the principles of a civil society. I hadn't realized that the two groups are mutually exclusive.

nrg said...

Liza,
Excellent response. I think that you make the point that I feel is incredibly important in this situation. You are an individual with views and ideas and values that are not always identical with your country, your political leaders, and even your fellow bloggers. Which leads me to conclude that not all Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims can be categorically placed in a faceless, homogenious group and labelled with any kind of certainty (any more than Israelis can be categorized and labelled). The wonderful thing that the blogging world has shown me is that every society has intelligent individuals who represent an aspect of that society that may not be apparant as a result of the actions of those who represent them.

lisoosh said...

I was going to respond to Richard Landes post, but Don beat me to the punch, and quite effectively.

It would be good to reiterate that the focus of PMW is to uncover anti-Israel rhetoric and incitement to violence within the Palestinian territories, not to analyse the media in it's entirety and analyse everything produced, good and bad. They are not in the business of covering well balanced Palestinian journalists. I would certainly agree that it is delusional to ignore the pretty violent rhetoric that PMW uncovers, but it is no less delusional to focus on nothing else but that rhetoric.

I would also like to address the Jostein Gaarder incident. Liza covered this in depth. She also spent quite a bit of time in the Norwegian blogosphere (going to meet them on their own turf) explaining just how offensive and anti-semitic his piece was. It is just not true that Israeli leftists don't defend Israel when necessary. Even Mobius (Orthodox Anarchist) who is as left wing as they come (and is super critical of Israel) spent a couple of days combating a very anti-Israel, and factually incorrect, piece in the progressive on line magazine Salon.
What is true is that it is a thousand times more difficult to combat true anti-semitism and true rabid anti Zionist rhetoric when it crops up (and to be heard and taken seriously) when there are hordes of people running around screaming "Anti-Semitism" whenever someone legitimately criticises Israeli policy and actions.

As for Mr. Landes last paragraph, I hope that it was written in anger as it veers dangerously near the mantra of the right - that Jews must stick together no matter what the opinion and that all others, Arabs and Palestinians especially must be viewed as a dangerous, uncivilised "other". (Just a step away from that lovely insult, the "Self Hating Jew".) What ever happened to standing up for what is right? For what you believe?


I will agree with Mr. Landes on one thing - the different Israeli perspectives need to speak to each other. They have to. Israel has had military rule of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza for two generations now. Irrespective of any actions the Palestinians take, irrespective of what the world thinks, or the media says, we still haven't come to an agreement, as Israelis, with what we want to do.

lisoosh said...

Addendum;

During the war with Hizbollah some of the most vociferous and effective defenders of Israel were in fact the left wing bloggers.
While most of the right was wittering away with "I told you so's", blaming the left for the war (attacking other Jews, oh my, what happened to all that unity, and why not give Hizbollah credit where due?) and making plans to charge all left wing bloggers with treason, the left wing was actually out there, refuting Hizbollah propaganda among the Arab world and MSM.

Anonymous said...

"incitement to murder is an integral part of Palestinian society" and "…fighting a society permeated with genocidal intentions". He suggested that we must "turn the accusers into the accused", and that we should "stop being verbal vegetarians".

That is a very valid statement. These people teach their children from practically birth to become suicide bombers.

You will never have peace with the Palestinians. Opposition to the very existence of Israel is what defines them as a people.

So you are left with a choice of one of two options. You could leave Israel or you can realize that will never have peace with the Palestinians so you should always be prepared to fight them.

Anonymous said...

"Journalists were described by one speaker as being craven creatures"

That seems to be an universal quality that journalists. I know where I am from they are all craven creatures.

Anonymous said...

"Journalists were described by one speaker as being craven creatures"

That seems to be an universal quality of journalists. I know where I am from they are all craven creatures.

benjamin said...

I find the endless repitition of the charge of racism here to be extremely problematic. It is not racist to claim that there is an integral problem with the Palestinian national movement or with the state of civil or non-civil society in the Muslim world in general. People make this claim about Israel all the time and I do not think they are racist, I think they are wrong. I do think it is racist to claim that Israel or Zionism should be annihilated by force, but that is rather axiomatic, is it not? The only speaker who even came close to this was the one who advocated discussion of transfer. I think transfer is a deranged idea, but I am not going to demand that discussion of it be censored.

Whether all Palestinians or Muslims are hostile to Israel is not really the issue. The issue is who has the momentum and the power to act on their ideology. As has been said, when the Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian provisional government there were probably more communists in America than in Russia. In the end, it didn't matter.

I do not feel that Charles was attacked as an Arab and I certainly don't think he felt that way. If anything, he found some of the more extreme participants amusing. I think I was more offended by some of their claims than he was.

I also felt that some of the participants in the panel in question bordered on the ridiculous, but that was a political disagreement. You may disapprove of the politics of these gentlemen, but rhetorical demonization is not helpful.

Judith said...

Liza, you have no idea whether "Charles was offended as an Arab," and my comment was intended to make you stop and think that maybe his views are his own as an individual and not a carbon copy clone of yours.

if you truly believe that Arabs/Palestinians are not some homogenous mass with a single viewpoint, then why assume you know what his POV is? If you respect him as an equal, then ASK HIM FIRST. Otherwise aren't you being the racist?

My contention, having spent about 10 hours total with him and others shmoozing, eating, drinking, is that his views are not what you think. But let's wait to hear what he has to say.

But your assumptions are typical of white leftists who treat the objects of their concern as mouthpieces for their own ideology, instead of listening to hear what they actually think. Michael Totten described this attitude very well in his recounting of the journalists in Lebanon who assume that Hezbollah "speaks for Lebanese," and unwillingness to listen to anyone who disagrees. i.e. they arrogantly decide which "natives" they deem "authentic." Which is racist and white privilege and homogenizing the Other and all the rest of it.

Judith said...

To anyone reading this who wants to find out what was actually said at the conference, please don't come to conclusions until you actually read/hear the actual panels and speeches. Which i assume will be posted eventually on Augean Stables.

The spin from Liza and others is putting words in people's mouths. Ex: "Israel can do no wrong and the world is our enemy." No one said that or anything close to that. The fact is that much of the world has a stake in bias against Israel, that events are systematically misreported, that no one on any panel said that Israel "is always right."

People are putting words in our mouths to demonize the whole conference, so go to the source if you want to learn what it was about. Then decide for yourself.

Judith said...

"If we want to reach people, we need to be living on the same planet they're living on"

Not if their planet is virulently anti-Israel and anti-Jewish ("pigs and monkeys" "Israel is too immoral to exist" etc), and they systematically erase Jewish history (destruciton of the temple Mount, academic bias, etc), who have no concept of civil rights in their cultures.

Somne planets you don't want to live on, or legitimize, and some are too far gone to try to influence. You want to influence the vast decent middle who ARE on the same planet as you. And you might find that they are more open to supporting Israel and less admiring of the other planet than you think,l once they have some facts.

BTW, Don, I have linked to your 2003 report on comparative Palestinian and Israeli casualties many times, and sent that link to many people. That is a wonderful example of the kind of facts this situation needs. it's a shame you haven't brought it up to date, any chance of that happening?

Don Radlauer said...

Judith, the people we are trying to reach with hasbara (Lord, how I hate that word!) are not the ones calling us "pigs and monkeys" - they are the people out there in the West (mostly) who range from somewhat pro-Israel to somewhat anti-Israel in their attitudes, but still have minds open enough that they can change their attitudes. In your last comment you seemed completely to misunderstand this; the "planet" I'm talking about is not Planet Gaza, nor is it Planet Sheinkin - but it isn't Planet Yitzhar or Planet Monsey, either.

When I talk about being "on the right planet", I'm saying that in order to reach the people we need to reach, we need to be at least somewhere close to their wavelength. What I observed at the conference (and, unfortunately, I missed the first day as I was ill) was a lot of rather aggressive talk about hasbara and anti-Israel bias, but none at all about things Israel might do differently on the ground that would make our country easier to defend to the aforementioned target audience. As long as hasbara activists are working from a standpoint that Israel is more or less a priori always right, always moral, always just, and our adversaries are the reverse, we're not on that wavelength - we're just irrelevant at best, or part of the problem at worst.

Frankly, from what I saw there, I don't think that Liza or Lisa or I have mischaracterized the conference. What I saw was a lot of evidence of why we have a problem - and as far as I'm concerned, pretty much every panelist who spoke on Monday morning was part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

"An Engineered Tragedy" is indeed way overdue for an update - although I don't believe that anything that's happened in the last couple of years has significantly changed the demographic profiles of fatalities on either side, or the conclusions to be drawn. OTOH, I have some very interesting graphs dealing with the contrast between the demographics of Palestinians killed as "collateral damage" in Israeli "targeted killings" versus Palestinian noncombatants killed in other situations; I've shown these at a lecture in the States, but I don't believe they've been published anywhere.

The main reason "A.E.T." hasn't been updated is that we have no funding to pay for people to enter the updated data or even to gather the news reports that feed into the data-entry process. Know anyone with some money to spend?

Judith said...

Don, I wish I knew where the money spigots were! Some of the complaints of the panelists were on just that topic.....

Okay, so we both agree we think it's a waste of time to argue with Planet of the Extremists. I still think you mischaracterize the conference and my "planet description" as "Israel is always right." There is plenty of outright lying about Israel, and automatically assuming that Israel is lying and Palestinians/Arabs are telling the truth. There is plenty of documentation of that.

Countering that bias is not saying "Israel is always right." I am speaking to the planet which would appreciate being informed about the bias, because they want to support whoever is decent and they want to know what is really going on so they can do that. Exposing deliberate lying and spin of any kind is useful to the inhabitants of that planet.

What specific examples of bias or lying were given by any of the panelists which you felt just shouldn't be shared with our "planet of decent people"? How about the Palestinian videos or the al Dura staging? I think most people like to know when they are being manipulated.

Don Radlauer said...

The fact that "there is plenty of outright lying about Israel" is true enough - but countering one set of lies with another - intentional or otherwise - doesn't work. And while I didn't hear anyone explicitly say that Israel is always right, I certainly didn't hear any of the panelists Monday morning saying that there was anything Israel should perhaps be doing differently, other than putting out its messages more aggressively. I've heard the same messages at other conferences on the subject.

I'll give you one example of bias - although in this case it was the result of ignorance (willful or otherwise - I really don't know) rather than overt dishonesty. Phillipe Karsenty, the guy who was sued by M. Enderlin of the France 2 TV network for criticizing the Mohammed al-Durah reportage, had no idea that Israel had in fact killed hundreds of young Palestinian noncombatants for no good reason - something I know well from my own research, the results of which you've read. In other words, he honestly believed that if Israel didn't kill al-Durah, all the claims that Israel kills Palestinian kids are false! (In case you hadn't noticed, we just killed a completely innocent 14-year-old girl the other day; this time, the soldiers are facing some form of disciplinary process.)

Of course, anyone who knows what's really going on here knows that we are, unfortunately, responsible for an awful lot of unnecessary and avoidable Palestinian deaths. And, in consequence, anyone who doesn't know that - or doesn't acknowledge it - either doesn't know what's really going on here, or else is lying.

That's the kind of bias I'm talking about, and that's the kind of bias that makes so much Israeli hasbara useless or even actively harmful.

richard landes said...

response to Don R:

Richard Landes' argument about whether various forms of negative stuff are "integral" to Palestinian society is specious. It would be accurate enough to say that incitement, racism, and so on are an aspect of Palestinian culture and society; but to claim that they're "integral" implies that these elements are inextricably bound up with Palestian-ness; and if that's not racism, it's too damned close for comfort.

specious is a tough word to use. smacks of rhetoric rather than substance, which is what my remarks are based on. when, as i said in my comment, we're dealing with the tv, papers, mosques, sports arenas, and schools right down to kindergarten, then we're talking about something more than an aspect... this is a central part of palestinian public culture. and it contrasts notably with the way any hint of such hostility is banned from israeli public space (which is why we're having this discussion... as you say, "too damned close for comfort." as for your drawing the inference that this is then "inextricably bound up with Palestian-ness" -- which is neither my kind of language, nor my intent, illustrates how, when confronted with disquieting material, you prefer to shoot the messanger (or turn him into a straw man) rather than grapple with the bad news. i neither traffic in nor think in essentialist terms. the palestinians. i think they have an entire generation that has been systematically abused by a vicious political culture (both "secular" and religious), and that the israeli silence about this (no matter how well-intentioned) has contributed to this abuse.

Further, while Itamar Marcus and others do good work documenting the negative stuff that's out there, their work by no means demonstrates that that's all that's out there.

fine. show me any serious evidence (not just english statements meant to dupe us) of the other stuff out there that has serious weight in palestinian culture (eg. school curricula, tv programs, political parties, newspaper columnists, imams, that show us this "other face" of palestinian culture.

The problem with this conference (or at least with what I saw of it, and especially with the Monday morning sessions) was that it was dominated by an outlook that not only doesn't help Israel's public image, but actively works against us: the idea that Israel is always right, that the rest of the world is the enemy, and that our correct response is to close ranks and defend ourselves (hasbaraically or otherwise) as aggressively as possible. This approach doesn't work.

you seem to be dedicated to turning us into straw men. we did not say israel is always right... not one person as far as i remember. please tell me what leads you to make this statement (echoed by others, including some commentators). as for "this approach doesn't work..." part of the purpose of the conference was looking at how the other approach -- take as much responsibility as possible (including primary responsibility for the failure of oslo), not only doesn't work, it backfires. the confidence with which you pass judgment on what works, when israel's image is so stunningly blackened by a world opinion that seems to have completely lost it's moral compass, suggests that what "works" may not be your main concern. being moral at any cost may be more important. if i'm wrong, please correct me.

When we talk and write as if everything Israel does is wonderful and moral, all we do is make ourselves irrelevant to the people we want to convince. If we want to reach people, we need to be living on the same planet they're living on; and Danny Seaman, for one, is not living on the same planet as any of our target audience.

whom wd you define as your target audience?

r

richard landes said...

question to DR:
you write:
Israel had in fact killed hundreds of young Palestinian noncombatants for no good reason - something I know well from my own research, the results of which you've read.
can you please indicate to me where this study can be found?
r

Anonymous said...

this the article in question http://212.150.54.123/articles/researchdet.cfm?researchid=2

Don Radlauer said...

Richard wrote:

Specious is a tough word to use. smacks of rhetoric rather than substance...

No, I wasn't being rhetorical; that's just how I talk.


...what "works" may not be your main concern. being moral at any cost may be more important. if i'm wrong, please correct me.

You're wrong here. I'm far less nice a person than you imagine. My concern, as I've expressed repeatedly in this comment thread and elsewhere, is that if the people doing Israeli hasbara are going to be at all relevant to their audience (an audience, BTW, that I defined in another of my comments), they can't get away with sounding like a bunch of religious and/or political zealots. Just about every panelist on Monday morning did sound like a zealot, and in my opinion - and it's a not entirely naive opinion - not one of these panelists had much positive to contribute to Israeli public diplomacy.

To find "An Engineered Tragedy", go to my blog, click on "Stuff I Wrote", then on "My Non-Blog Articles". It's also up on the ICT website (www.ict.org.il), except that they recently switched to a new server and the version there doesn't have the graphs yet.

richard landes said...

i have looked thru the report. it is very impressive. but i don't find anything in it that could justify the following statement:

" Israel had in fact killed hundreds of young Palestinian noncombatants for no good reason." (comment of DR above).

On the contrary, one finds the following:

"(Note, though, that the number of children killed under the age of ten is very low – under five percent of noncombatants.) This is highly significant, as it is very different from the results one would expect from random Israeli fire into inhabited neighborhoods, or other forms of indiscriminate killing of which Israel has been accused.

These graphs suggest that even the noncombatants among the Palestinians killed in this conflict were not, for the most part, passive victims of Israeli aggression. It appears that there was a strong element of self-selection among those who would eventually be killed – in short, teenagers and young men decided, or were encouraged, to confront Israeli forces and, all too often, “achieve martyrdom”. In this context, it is unsurprising that this element of self-selection – showing up as a more “focused” distribution – is even stronger for Palestinian combatants."


Now this does not even begin to address the problem of the reliability of Palestinian reports which, altho you mention them at the start, does not appear in your graphs as a special category of statistic (as far as i can see... again correct me if i'm wrong).

the significance of this latter point cannot be exaggerated. i hope you've seen pallywood (and i welcome comments). the implications of this film for the reliability of claims of palestinian sources, i think, is substantial. i don't know what it means in real figures, but given that your category of children under 12 is barely over a hundred (and again, how many such reports are as reliable, since i presume you include al durah in your figures), the expressions "hundreds" and "for no good reason" strike me as infelicitous to say the least.

in fact, by responding to karsenty the way you do, you echo the most dishonest of palestinian and pro-palestinian responses in this matter -- al durah is a "higher truth." (so were the protocols of the elders of zion to those who believed.) if al durah is symbolic of anything it's a) how staggeringly dishonest and unreliable palestinian sources are, and b) how gullible and resistant to correction western ones. to attack the messenger by saying, "shut up, look at how many kids we killed -- from the man who did the report on how it isn't nearly as bad as it looks -- strikes me as alice in wonderland logic. and this over a story that literally operates as a terribly damaging blood libel -- and it damages far more than israel. it damages the west, and above all the palestinians, where al durah plays a key role in the culture of death and genocide that the society's leaders force-feed to their children. (i presume, given the hostility of many of you who comment here, that you did not view the movie "icon of hatred" at lunch time.)

as for you comment that specious isn't rhetoric because that's how you speak... well what can i say, you use rhetoric when you speak... inaccurately. (as is the "in fact" when referring to statistical findings using unreliable sources.)

my argument was not specious, i, and others, have backed it up with substance. please answer (rather than dismiss) the claim that the genocidal rhetoric PMW documents as pervasive in public sphere is not an integral part of palestinian culture right now.

Lee said...

It is strange, maybe telling, that Liza assumes Charles would be upset by this characterization of Palestinians. The fact is that many Lebanese, especially the Maronites, despise the Palestinians - not least because they hold the PLO's use of Lebanon as a launching pad largely responsible for the 15 year-long civil war. The Shia of course are at least suspicious of the Palestinians because of how they were treated by the PLO in the south during the war, and now of course they are concerned because as Sunnis the Palestinians in the camps represent a real and existential threat to them. Whether or not it is right for some Lebanese to feel this way is another matter, as are Charles' own opinions on Palestinians; my point is that it is not helpful, never mind progressive, to imagine that all Arabs are the same and of the same mind about the same things, like Palestinian "resistance": after all, Israelis are not the only ones in the region who have suffered from Palestinian violence. While reaching out to your neighbors, it would be good to know some of their history and what their real concerns are.

Anonymous said...

regarding Don Radlauer's remarks - you seem to have some very sound opinions about Israeli spokespersons and the work they do. But I will bet you never spent a single minute with anyone of them to talk to them and understand the world they are on every day. I have spoken intensively with them and am very impressed by the thoughtfulness and the effort they put in the job daily. Your smug sarcastic remarks may impress some, but reveal you haven't the faintest idea what you are talking about, and you show disrespect to the people who are on the front lines everyday, while you just whine on your blog to the 5 people who read your stuff. I would expect a little more seriousness from someone so opinionated as yourself.

Charles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Malik said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. It was truly a pleasure to meet all of you, and I felt very welcome by both the rightwing and leftwing.

There were plenty of people with whom I disagreed, but the ability to have the discussion is the amazing part.

I'm in Lebanon now. Let's just say, the conference is not the first thing I mention to people. Open debate is not yet possible here. We're working to widen the debate and make a diversity of opinions acceptable on a national level, not just within the confines of particular communities and groups.

Unfortunately, I don't have ample time to fully respond. Having to transit through third countries on my way back and forth means that I must give up significant amounts of sleep and free time. Hopefully, I'll be able to fully engage in the debate in a day.

M. Simon said...

War is collective punishment.

The Palestinians have declared war against Israel.

Proof? They have offered a truce. Why offer a truce if you are not at war?

So the Palestinians get collective punishment (war) in return.

As to incitement etc. If it is not integral with Palestinian society for all time it is certainly integral now and for the foreseeable future. I don't see that as racism. I see that as facing facts.

We have to deal with the Palestinians as they are. Not as we wish them to be.

M. Simon said...

Speaking of hasbara:

I have a post up agreeing with Olmert (a first for me).

Olmert says Israel needs to deal with restraint with respect to kassams. I agree. For at least one of the resons the Israeli government has given.

I agree with Olmert.

The reason is not very nice.

I'm not sure if it is good hasbra though. LOL

M. Simon said...

Don R.,

Sure a lot of young Palestinians are dying.

There is a reason. I've got a picture to illustrate it.

You would expect that male and female casualties under age 18 would be fairly equal (60/40 either way) if the killings were random. Are they? I haven't looked.

The age range to look at if it can be teased out of the data would be age 8 to 12. 5 to 12 might work if you could adjust in some way for killings of age 5 to 8 being fairly random.

Culturally when can a Palestinian child accept jihad knowingly?

Human Shields

BTW I very rarely do pictures or Youtube links with pictures. I try to be low bandwidth friendly. This was too important to miss.

That is good hasbra for sure!

*

M. Simon said...

rami,

The trouble with hanging your hat on the left is that despite its seeming strength it is a force in decline. Europe is shrinking. Assimilation is not working well. This will cause a return to hard fascism when the intifada breaks out as it has in France and Sweeden. French elections next year will tell the tale. Watch LePen's (or his party's) numbers. Add in (at lesser strength) those who vote for the right.

The real action is on the libertarian right. i.e. small government - the leave us alone folks.

Milton Friedman not Marx has pretty much won the economic arguments. Intellectually among economists if not generally among the polity.

BTW the above link is to streaming video of "Free to Choose".

Judith said...

"You would expect that male and female casualties under age 18 would be fairly equal (60/40 either way) if the killings were random. Are they? I haven't looked."

That was what Don's study was about. They weren't. His study showed disproportionate killings of Israeli women, children and old people vs dispropotionate killing of single young men on the Palestinian side. Since single young men are the ones most likely to insert themselves into dangerous situations, and the ones most likely to throw rocks, make bombs, etc, the study showed that Israelis were killing mainly people who were seeking aggressive confrontation of some kind, and the Pals were intentionally killing people who could in no way be considered seeking violence or confrontation.

Mainly, the study resoundingly put the lie to the claim that most Palestinain casualties in the Intifada were women and children.

I am not saying that all Palestinian young men are combatants or that all Israeli killings of same are deserved. But Don, you use your study to support the sweeping statement that "we kill hundreds of Palestinian kids a year for no good reason." Your study just doesn't show that to me.

d.K. said...

As usual, this post was a pleasure to read, especially considering the season of year, and at a time when voices of reason can still be hushed by the louder voices of dogma and convenient hate. Keep up the good work and the always desirable notion that hatred and intolerance do not necessary have to be conditions incapable of changing. :) Happy holidays!

Don Radlauer said...

1) Richard, the fact that Israel has killed relatively few Palestinian kids under the age of 12 is not really very relevant. All it shows - along with the gender mix - is that the vast majority of the killing was the result of riots, kids throwing rocks at Israeli forces, and the like, rather than our shelling residential neighborhoods or otherwise killing people completely at random. All this means is that the tragedy was engineered by both sides: the Palestinian leadership sent these kids out to be killed (as Itamar Marcus has documented), and we were kind enough to kill them. While your "Pallywood" work is commendable, it doesn't negate the fact that we have, indeed, killed hundreds of young Palestinians who presented no threat to us.

As to whether it makes sense to worry about Mohammad al-Durah, I think your arguments here are both specious and evil. To say that my work shows that "it isn't nearly as bad as it looks" is nonsense; my work shows that the tragedy was a collaborative effort between stupid Israelis and incredibly cynical Palestinian leaders, but it in no way absolves Israel of blame for hundreds of unnecessary deaths.

I will freely admit that incitement to violence, "suicide propaganda", and so on are important elements of current Palestinian media culture; I see no reason to bring in the word "inherent", with its racist overtones. Are sharp business practices "inherent" in Jewish culture? And in any case, who cares? Our goal as hasbarologists is not to be so fixated on how horrible the Palestinians are; as long as we focus on this stuff, we will never be successful at getting our message out where it belongs. Instead of focusing on self-righteousness, we need to focus on communicating - which is exactly what traditional, reactive, Manichaean Israeli hasbara has consistently failed to do.


2) Anonymous: I don't really feel that anonymous comments deserve a response (and they certainly don't deserve a detailed one); but I'll make one point: Your beloved "people who are on the front lines everyday" have been a total pathetic failure at their jobs, so I see no reason why I (or anyone else) should be deferential to them. "Thoughtfulness" and "effort"? Big deal. Failure is failure. The people who do this stuff as volunteers (like Richard) at least are doing this stuff on their own time; but the full-time government hacks who've been making a mess of Israel's international standing deserve neither my sympathy nor their salaries.


3) Simon and Judy: When a Palestinian kid with a rock in his hand is shot by Israeli soldiers with automatic weapons, body armor, tanks, APC's, and all the other advantages of modern military hardware, I find it very hard to believe that there was no alternative. And there are plenty of well-documented cases - documented by our side! - of Palestinian kids being shot by the IDF for no good reason. There are plenty of other cases where IDF soldiers shot wildly into crowds, not caring whom they hit. Yes, there is fault on the Palestinian side as well - but at the end, our side still pulled the trigger.


4) Again, the point here is not that Israel is horrible and the Palestinians are saints. The point is that we're trying to construct an effective public-diplomacy strategy for Israel, and that means communicating with the outside world, not just telling ourselves things that we find comforting. I'm aware that I'm not making myself popular here (which is why I wore my black hat to the conference); but being popular among the traditional hasbara-activist crowd is exactly the way not to be an effective advocate for Israel.

Judith said...

We are all communicating with the outside world fairly well. We are arguing about what it is we want to communicate.

Don, I don't doubt that Israelis have on occasion killed Palestinian kids without cause. In the midst of a riot it's easy to react wildly, and my hat is off to them for being as well-trained and restrained as they are. But to equate that to thousands of attempts (some successful) to deliberately kill the most vulnerable Israeli civilians in as gruesome a manner as possible . . . well, that's the position the Arab media machine wants the world to take.

I know Israel has apologized profusely whenever incidents like this happen, I have seen the apologies on TV and read them in newspapers. I know soldiers have been disciplined for excessive force. maybe not all of them, but some of them.

The PA and their cohorts have never apologized for shit.

But you want Israel to keep apologizing, in the absence of any similar response from the other side, in the presence of even more malevolent delegitimizing propaganda from the other side, when the other side uses every apology as an invitation to pursue their propaganda, rather than an imperative to apologize for their behavior (which is much worse) and correct it.

What kind of masochistic shit is that? Do you think you have no right to stand up for yourself unless/until you are perfect? Is that how you handle your personal relationships?

richard landes said...

Response to DR: (him in regular, me in italic)

1) Richard, the fact that Israel has killed relatively few Palestinian kids under the age of 12 is not really very relevant. All it shows - along with the gender mix - is that the vast majority of the killing was the result of riots, kids throwing rocks at Israeli forces, and the like, rather than our shelling residential neighborhoods or otherwise killing people completely at random. All this means is that the tragedy was engineered by both sides: the Palestinian leadership sent these kids out to be killed (as Itamar Marcus has documented), and we were kind enough to kill them. While your "Pallywood" work is commendable, it doesn't negate the fact that we have, indeed, killed hundreds of young Palestinians who presented no threat to us.

i went to Btselem with pallywood and was told it has nothing to do with them. when i suggested that it should at least suggest an epistemological problem i was informed they only dealt in "facts"; when i pointed out they dealt in narratives, not facts, and asked what kind of filters they have for false narratives, they assured me they had all they needed. and when one of the arab "researchers" who goes to check out these "narratives" saw the scene from Rehov's movie about the checkpoint, he was ready to go find out about yet another outrage. we have literally no idea what the actual figures are. i will not give any estimates of what the real figures of casualties are, but i would be very careful about throwing around words like hundreds of young Palestinians. from someone who's done such careful work with the statistics, it's very strange.

As to whether it makes sense to worry about Mohammad al-Durah, I think your arguments here are both specious and evil.

what on earth makes you use such inflated rhetoric?

To say that my work shows that "it isn't nearly as bad as it looks" is nonsense; my work shows that the tragedy was a collaborative effort between stupid Israelis and incredibly cynical Palestinian leaders, but it in no way absolves Israel of blame for hundreds of unnecessary deaths.

how this remark explains why my argument is "specious" a fortiori "evil" is beyond me. maybe you can explain both. but if not, it would be nice to hear the voices of those who are against using totalistic language with the palestinians speak up here about DR's verbal violence.

further, attacking al durah is not seeking absolution for the deaths of palestinian youth. that's an entirely different matter, and your assumption that that's what i'm doing is quite startling. how attacking a blood libel that has done terrible damage the world over -- did you see the movie we showed at lunch? -- is a) seeking absolution, and b) evil, is really beyond my ken. please explain. i mean it, i am genuinely puzzled by the logic here.

I will freely admit that incitement to violence, "suicide propaganda", and so on are important elements of current Palestinian media culture; I see no reason to bring in the word "inherent", with its racist overtones. Are sharp business practices "inherent" in Jewish culture? And in any case, who cares?

who used the term "inherent". when i do a search in this thread, your post is the only one to use it. i don't use it speaking about people, not even about cultures (eg altho i speak about arab culture as an honor-shame culture, which it has been from the beginning, i don't consider that an unalterable condition... indeed islam was supposed to challenge that in my read of the earliest stage). the only place i use inherent is in the case of an argument being "inherently flawed." and i'm careful about that. if yours are, i'll be quite sure before i say it.

in any case you are still tilting at windmills with poison lances. your arguments do not engage mine.


Our goal as hasbarologists is not to be so fixated on how horrible the Palestinians are; as long as we focus on this stuff, we will never be successful at getting our message out where it belongs. Instead of focusing on self-righteousness, we need to focus on communicating - which is exactly what traditional, reactive, Manichaean Israeli hasbara has consistently failed to do.

you have set this up as an either/or. i think of it as a nice-cop/tough cop. most people out there don't know how bad it is in the palestinian authority, don't know how terribly little children are abused by hate-mongers, and often remark in amazement when they find out. this is a major element in undermining the kind of flakey reporting that characterizes the NPR school, in which palestinian violence is primarily the product of israeli actions and not of the hate-factories that permeate palestinian culture.

and the widespread acceptance of israeli responsibility for the violence in this part of the world in europe and parts of the usa, whatever self-critical jews and israelis may think, plays an impt role in the west's inability to deal with really vicious movements like global jihad.

what i don't understand is that i don't consider your efforts to talk with the other side (tried them myself) evil. why would you not use what we do to motivate the dialogue. or are you incapable of saying, "look, i don't agree with these hardliners, but they do have a point. look at these hate factories. what are you palestinians going to do about it?" rather than accusing us of evil and effectively turning a blind eye to something so bad that, even i who uses the word sparingly, wd be willing to call it evil.

lisoosh said...

Judith- "But to equate that to thousands of attempts (some successful) to deliberately kill the most vulnerable Israeli civilians in as gruesome a manner as possible "

I don't get the impression that Don is trying to equate them at all, rather point out that most people do exactly what you just did - respond to criticism of Israel by pointing to Palestinian violence. His point as I see it, is that Palestinian violence or the actions of terrorists does not excuse us from reflecting on our own actions or finding better ways of doing things.

In simple terms, just because my neighbour lets his dog s^^t in the yard doesn't mean I have to, that just leads to a bigger mess.

Anonymous said...

I think in Liza's case she wants to engage the Palestinians so much that she is willing to overlook the hateful rhetoric coming from some of them (Gd knows I've seen Lisa do that countless times on her blog). I think she feels that in order to engage them she must also demonize other Israelis in order to gain a sort of "street cred." In the end, I don't think that will win her any real friends. It is best to be honest, especially with herself.

Israel is not perfect. I am sure none of the people at the conference claimed as much. In fact, it such an obvious reality, which is why I think it was not mentioned, nor did it have to be. Again, I fear it is that "street cred" thing where you feel Israel must be bashed relentlessly (by other Israelis/Jews) so the other side will think you are "nuanced."

Don Radlauer said...

In response to Richard's last post:

1) B'Tselem and the other "human rights" organizations are indeed faulty and unreliable sources of statistics for the "Intifada" - which is one of the reasons we started our project in the first place. We did use Palestinian sources for names, ages, and gender of fatalities in the early months of the conflict, before such information was consistently published in Western and Israeli media; but we always were careful to correlate this information with what was published by Israeli private and governmental sources. Reports that could not be verified were recorded in our database but tagged as doubtful, and do not appear in our graphs or statistical summaries. In effect, our numbers are reasonably conservative. (For Israeli fatalities, they are exact: the information is much easier to obtain and verify.)

Al-Durah, by the way, initially appeared as a Palestinian fatality "probably" killed by Israel - this was before all the various investigations came out. When it became apparent that there was considerable doubt as to who had actually killed him, we changed the responsibility for his death from "probably Israeli" to "unknown" - meaning that he no longer appears on our graphs or summaries as a victim of Israel.


2) My use of the word "evil" was in response to your seeming satisfaction that "barely over a hundred" Palestinian children under the age of 12 had been killed (at a point in the conflict where about 2000 Palestinians had been killed; the overall Palestinian number is now twice that). I do not find it morally acceptable to pass off that many fatalities of such young children as something acceptable - even if the Palestinian leadership was partly to blame. I'm sorry if my choice of words seems "inflated" or "verbally violent" to you; this was how I felt when I read what you'd written, and I expressed my feelings honestly. I'm sorry if that distressed you.

As of February 2003, Israel had killed over 140 Palestinian noncombatants under the age of 15 (see Graph 2.21). Graph 2.31 shows some 23 girls under 18, and 208 boys under 18. Even leaving out the 16- and 17-year-olds, we've got 20 girls and 147 boys. Again, remember that this is out of half the total fatalities to date! (Note that these are reasonably conservative figures, leaving out cases like al-Durah where Israeli responsibility cannot be established with reasonably high probability.)

Remember that these numbers are based on a total Palestinian fatality count of about 2,000 - half what it is today. While I believe that the percentage of kids - and of noncombatants in general - has been somewhat better in the last year or so than it was in the early days of the "Intifada", we're still talking about a minimum of 250-300 Palestinian noncombatants under the age of 16 having been killed by Israel.


3) I did see "Icon of Hatred" over lunch. I don't recall whether I've seen "Pallywood"; I've read descriptions of what's in it, so I think I have a fairly decent idea about it. I have no problem with these films, or with M. Karsenty's work; I merely question whether they are effective in reaching people who are not already substantially on our side. (They are, I would suspect, most effective at deepening the commitment of people who are already pro-Israel - which, of course, is not at all a bad goal!)

My complaint with the tenor of much of Israel's hasbara effort (and with most of the basses and baritones as well - sorry sorry sorry) is not that it includes things like "Icon" and "Pallywood"; my complaint is that there is so much else that isn't done, particularly regarding the formulation of government policy with some regard to how it's going to look to the outside world rather than to the Israeli electorate. Every hasbara conference seems to wind up as a bunch of us sitting in a room congratulating ourselves on how awful our adversaries are, rather than formulating ways of communicating effectively with people who aren't already on our side. To accomplish the latter, we need to be far more ready to embrace moral discomfort, to say and hear things that we do not enjoy saying and hearing.


4) You're correct that you did not use the word "inherent". Here are some things you did say:

4A) Now my question to you is, do you not think that incitement to murder (actually genocide) is an integral part of palestinian culture, and if not, what do you make of the extensive evidence of precisely that?

4B) It's not racist to point out that people are racist, and when those people are running the show and permeating the culture -- media, schools, mosques, sports -- with incitement to racial hatred (Jews are descendants of pigs and monkeys) and genocidal messages, it is a cultural reflection... it has nothing to do with genes, or race at all.

4C) When, as i said in my comment, we're dealing with the tv, papers, mosques, sports arenas, and schools right down to kindergarten, then we're talking about something more than an aspect... this is a central part of palestinian public culture.

4D) Please answer (rather than dismiss) the claim that the genocidal rhetoric PMW documents as pervasive in public sphere is not an integral part of palestinian culture right now.

So we've got two "integrals", plus one each of "permeating", "central", and "pervasive". As I stated in my first comment in this thread, I think you're on thin ice here - especially with your repeated use of "integral". The difference between "integral" and "inherent" - while it certainly exists - is not great enough for comfort.

All this aside, I do heartily agree with you on one thing: There's entirely too damned much of this crap being hammered into young (and not-young) Palestinian heads.


5) I'm not sure what you mean by my "efforts to talk with the other side" - I'm not personally involved in dialogue with the Palestinians, other than maintaining some blogger-to-blogger contacts. My main point in all this - and we've gotten very sidetracked! - has nothing to do with that; it's all about formulating a better public-diplomacy strategy for dealing with the public in the rest of the world.

Don Radlauer said...

Judith, you wrote:

Don, I don't doubt that Israelis have on occasion killed Palestinian kids without cause. In the midst of a riot it's easy to react wildly, and my hat is off to them for being as well-trained and restrained as they are.

I don't think the statistics (see my last comment, Section 2) justify your use of the phrase "on occasion"; "routinely" is more like it, I'd say. And calling our soldiers "well-trained and restrained" is also stretching the point rather far - especially in the early months of the "Intifada", when soldiers were placed in these situations without any meaningful training in crowd- or riot-control. (For that matter, most of these soldiers hadn't even been trained in close-quarters combat - which may be part of why they were so quick to use firearms.)


I know Israel has apologized profusely whenever incidents like this happen, I have seen the apologies on TV and read them in newspapers. I know soldiers have been disciplined for excessive force. maybe not all of them, but some of them.

Not quite. Israel has apologized only in a small number of special cases - particularly when women and girls were killed, or when especially large numbers of noncombatants were killed at one time. In the vast majority of cases - including all or nearly all cases where kids were shot for throwing rocks at Israeli armor - no apology was issued, and certainly no soldier faced discipline.


The PA and their cohorts have never apologized for shit.

It's not my job - or even my hobby! - to fix Palestinian hasbara. Thank God, that's someone else's problem.

The point here - and it apparently needs lots of repeating - is that we're not playing (or at least we shouldn't be playing) some kind of "moral superiority ping-pong" with the Palestinians. And I'm not even talking about "Israeli apologies" or anything else "masochistic". I'm talking about Israel's best strategy for being a success in the world.

Israel is not Palestine; nor is it Syria, or Iran, or even Jordan. Being thought marginally morally superior to the Palestinians would be no great victory for us! Israel is a small country whose economy depends on trade with the outside world, much of that trade in competition with other, larger countries. (Remember, too, that it's the Israeli economy that supports the Israeli military; we don't really have the option of telling the rest of the world to screw off, satisfying though that might be at times.) We don't want to be thought of as better than Hamas; we want to be thought of as a great place from which to buy computer software, irrigation equipment, and so on, and as a great place for tourists to visit.

In order to understand our goal as hasbarologists, we need to get our minds out of the immediate conflict with Hamas, Hezbollah, and the rest. It's not enough to "beat" these guys: we're trying not even to be seen as being in the same league as they are.

I suspect that the terrorists know this, by the way, even if many of us don't; and they would love nothing better than to reduce us to just another barbaric Middle-Eastern interest group. A lot of what Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and the rest are doing makes sense in this context: they're not really trying to "win" in the conventional sense, but rather to provoke us into responding in such a way as to torpedo our own international legitimacy, and thus weaken ourselves. They don't have this problem; they don't have Intel plants, Microsoft development centers, and all the rest. They don't care if they don't sell anything more high-tech than a tomato, because they don't have anything more high-tech to sell than a tomato. (I may be exaggerating a tiny bit in the last sentence, but only a bit. A more precise version just didn't "sing".)


This is why I'm so frustrated with most Israeli hasbara:

- It's reactive, trying to explain what's been done rather than influencing the formation of policy.

- It's largely based on saying things that reassure us and our supporters, rather than communicating effectively with those who are not already on our side. (Although, as I mentioned in my last comment directed to Richard, deepening the commitment of our supporters has value as well.) As such, it may often hurt our side's standing with the most important audiences more than it helps.

- It's far to obsessed with "beating" our "enemies", instead of with succeeding as a modern, thriving, Western-oriented democracy.

Savtadotty said...

There were plenty of people with whom I disagreed, but the ability to have the discussion is the amazing part.

Are we Israelis are too "spoiled" to appreciate or even notice our own freedoms? Charles seems to be the only one to point out what we have to be proud of. I vote for Charles to be Senior Consultant on Israeli hasbara. (Professionalism depends on merit, not nationality, and we need some professionals, not paid amateurs).

richard landes said...

response to lisoosh in italics

I don't get the impression that Don is trying to equate them [Israeli and Palestinian immoral behavior] at all, rather point out that most people do exactly what you just did - respond to criticism of Israel by pointing to Palestinian violence. His point as I see it, is that Palestinian violence or the actions of terrorists does not excuse us from reflecting on our own actions or finding better ways of doing things.

In simple terms, just because my neighbour lets his dog s^^t in the yard doesn't mean I have to, that just leads to a bigger mess.

this is, i think, a critical issue. on the one hand, it is characteristic of one school of israeli hasbara to say, "look, this is an awful neighborhood, and if my dog s**ts in the street and i don't pick it up under fire, you'll have to excuse me. this school has gotten more strident as the evidence of how vicious palestinian official culture is.

on the other, the other school, seeking dialogue, wants to downplay this focus since it consistently incenses Palestinians who feel, as one said in my dialogue, "you're dehumanizing us." the dangerous tendency here is, as i think DR did with me, to assume that if you point out how vicious Palestinians -- leaders secular and religious and their followers -- can be, then you really just want to excuse israeli behavior. as one friend said to me when i started on the al durah affair -- "you're whitewashing the occupation."

nothing of the sort, altho it may have the consequence of taking some of the moral heat off of israel as people begin to understand how depraved the tactics of her enemies.

the real dilemma we face is that, as a highly self critical culture, we run the risk of a) failing to defend ourselves when we're defamed (eg al durah), and b) failing to ask for self-criticism from the other side in the hopes of not upsetting them.

my position is that we all need to be self-critical, and to keep that self-criticism roughly in the same ball park for both sides. when our self-criticism lines up with their scapegoating, how are outsiders to understand what's going on?

right now the demonization of israel feeds off of a dysfunctional relationship between highly self-critical israelis/jews who will use prophetic rhetoric to reprimand what they don't like in Israel (racism, apartheid, war crimes), and highly demonizing arabs/muslims and "progressive revolutionaries" who admit no fault, and embrace paranoid world-views (9-11 conspiracy, israel=nazis, protocols).

if we are to "find better ways to do things," we can't live in a moral vacuum where what's going on over there doesn't exist. nor can we afford to call people on our side evil and enemies because they embarrass us in our dialogues. nice cops and tough cops are powerless when they fight among each other.

r

richard landes said...

response to DR's response to Judith

Israel is not Palestine; nor is it Syria, or Iran, or even Jordan. Being thought marginally morally superior to the Palestinians would be no great victory for us!

the very suggestion that we are only marginally better than the palestinians shows a) how little you know about them, and b) how harsh your judgment of israelis.

Israel is a small country whose economy depends on trade with the outside world, much of that trade in competition with other, larger countries. (Remember, too, that it's the Israeli economy that supports the Israeli military; we don't really have the option of telling the rest of the world to screw off, satisfying though that might be at times.)

that's not what i'm suggesting we do. on the contrary, i'm saying the west needs to understand that if it judges this conflict unfairly, blaming they israelis when arab attitudes are primarily to blame, then the run the risk of misperceiving the threat to themselves. it may feel good for europeans to dump on israel (and your harsh judgments may help them do so), but if they have to underestimate the horrors of global jihad in order to blame israel, then they endanger themselves. if you want to suck up to europeans so they'll do business with israel by your rhetoric, then i can't stop you from doing it. but don't be so arrogant as to think that someone who disagrees with you is "evil."

We don't want to be thought of as better than Hamas; we want to be thought of as a great place from which to buy computer software, irrigation equipment, and so on, and as a great place for tourists to visit.

wow! that's a fancy version of tzippy livni's beach shots. it's okay. it's Israel 21c. but if you think that's all it's about, then i'd say you have a limited understanding of where the hatred and the boycotts are coming from. this is bandaids on gangrene.

In order to understand our goal as hasbarologists, we need to get our minds out of the immediate conflict with Hamas, Hezbollah, and the rest. It's not enough to "beat" these guys: we're trying not even to be seen as being in the same league as they are.

precisely. not in the same moral league as they. if you dont want to defend israel morally, fine. but don't treat those of us outraged by the absurd moral inversion of press where we are the world's bad guys, as lepers.

I suspect that the terrorists know this, by the way, even if many of us don't; and they would love nothing better than to reduce us to just another barbaric Middle-Eastern interest group. A lot of what Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and the rest are doing makes sense in this context: they're not really trying to "win" in the conventional sense, but rather to provoke us into responding in such a way as to torpedo our own international legitimacy, and thus weaken ourselves.

precisely. and the europeans who egg them on and demonize us for every error we make also want to see us do the dirty. that's why they jump on every occasion to accuse us of massacres (jenin, qana, beit hanoun). of course it's not satisfying because it's not true, so they keep egging on the palestinians and holding us back from defending ourselves. the problem is, that they are endangering the whole world with their reckless (im)moral behavior.

They don't have this problem; they don't have Intel plants, Microsoft development centers, and all the rest. They don't care if they don't sell anything more high-tech than a tomato, because they don't have anything more high-tech to sell than a tomato. (I may be exaggerating a tiny bit in the last sentence, but only a bit. A more precise version just didn't "sing".)

This is why I'm so frustrated with most Israeli hasbara:

- It's reactive, trying to explain what's been done rather than influencing the formation of policy.

that's pretty aggressive. you feel that you have a right to push israel towards a policy that you think is appropriate with hasbarah?!!!? that's exactly not what hasbarah is about. the israeli electorate makes the choices. this is what the media is doing (illegitimately) -- cover up the evidence of palestinian genocidal intentions, make mahmoud abbas into a moderate, conceal from the public things that might make them "vote right-wing." it may seem like a good ideal, but it's neither your job, nor the journalists job to spin things towards a political outcome. the media's job is to give accurate and relevant information and let the free citizens of democratic countries make up their mind, not manipulate them into some "higher" politics. as for hasbarah, i'm not sure what to say, but this needs to be discussed at length.

it occurs to me that this approach of yours may be why you and others here and at good neighbors think i'm right-wing neo-con. your politics are part of your presentation. you assume mine are part of mine. on the contrary, i'm interested in strengthening the position of those who would negotiate, so they have some hope of keeping the palestinians to their commitments. you do me and israel wrong in projecting your agendas on me in reverse.


- It's largely based on saying things that reassure us and our supporters, rather than communicating effectively with those who are not already on our side. (Although, as I mentioned in my last comment directed to Richard, deepening the commitment of our supporters has value as well.) As such, it may often hurt our side's standing with the most important audiences more than it helps.

at last! we agree on something. but i think we need to decide what we want to say and then figure out how to say it effectively (eg it's not for our sake that you need to reconsider your morally insane reading of this conflict, but for your own). i would agree that we hurt ourselves by saying the wrong things, but i also think we hurt ourselves by not saying certain things.

- It's far to obsessed with "beating" our "enemies", instead of with succeeding as a modern, thriving, Western-oriented democracy.

you act as if it were a straight line from here to modern, thriving, western-oriented democracy. as a historian i can assure you that israel has thrived and maintained democracy under conditions that would have led any other european or western nation (including the USA which i greatly admire, but has its limits) to go fascist, paranoid and vicious a long time ago, with people who dissent like you driven into hiding by mafioso types (who right now rule the roost in the arab world). you want to stay above the fray. you can't. at this point, no one can.

as Savtadotty said...

Are we Israelis are too "spoiled" to appreciate or even notice our own freedoms? Charles seems to be the only one to point out what we have to be proud of.

we jews and israelis, especially the heavily critical ones from both ends of the political scale, need more hakarat hatov. in our moral rigor, we risk internalizing the demonizing rhetoric of people who hate us and do not judge us fairly, and thereby encourage the rest of the world to judge us unfairly, placing free, democratic, civil societies at risk everywhere. it's a grave error, imnsho, to neither appreciate the enormous freedoms we have -- under extremely difficult circumstances -- nor the awful state of the arab -- not only the palestinian -- world.

this is not meant to say, "everything is alright." but if we lose perspective to the extent that we use terms like racist and apartheid to describe probably the least racist culture -- for all its flaws -- on the planet (name one), then we mislead everyone, no matter how good our intentions.

OnTheLeftCoast said...

This is mainly addressed to Richard (hi, Richard; I remember you from Berkeley) and Don.

Speaking of Berkeley, I remember the riots of the late '60s well. The cadres behind them deliberately placed kids up front with large rocks and bricks because to them whether a brick hurt a cop, or the cops hurt a kid it was a win-win situation for them (I sometimes wonder if that commonality of tactics isn't part of the reason for the Left's affinity for the "Palestinian cause" but that's not germane here.)
Let's be clear: big rocks and bricks or slung stones are deadly weapons.

Don, this is for you: if Israeli troops aren't permitted to respond with war-fighting means to threats from a mob, won't the mob be used as cover for military attacks on the Israelis?

The international circles that are so concerned about child soldiers in Africa and Asia seem to turn a blind eye to the Palestinians' military use of children; of course they also largely turn a blind eye to other Paestinian war crimes.)

Right now it suits the Palestinians to have what are in effect child soldiers (war crime) up front and in civilian clothes (war crime.) Oops, my bad. A virtue and not a war crime under the version of Sharia Hamas and Hizbollah follow. So when concerned humanitarians let these war crimes slide, it's another example of dhimmitude.

Crowd/riot control and close quarter battle are two very different skill sets, and neither is part of basic military training. But relatively casualty free riot control is only possible when the rioters don't have military weapons and personnel backing them up, or the possibility that at some point, at the rioters' discretion that those weapons and troops will be there. Isn't that the threat constantly faced by Israeli troops confronting a hostile Palestinian crowd?

The Palestinians behind the mobs (and who terrorize Palestinians who oppose their tactics) want civilian casualties, because the world has so far given them a free pass for their war crimes.

Israel has so far been unsuccessful at taking away that free pass. But Israel, rachmana latzlan, must have the tactical freedom to inflict civilian casualties when strategically necessary.

One thing I agree with Liza about, although I may see it in a different context than she does, is that it is high time to stop portraying Israel as a victim. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but pinning Israel's legitimacy to the Holocaust in essence means pinning Israel's legitimacy to Israel's being a victim.

That in essence deligitimizes Israel's power and use of it. That has to stop being a part of hasbara.

Yael said...

I haven't jumped in here much, given that I've been mostly following the thread over on Good Neighbors but I'm jumping in now.

Don is making some very good points. As someone who absolutely agrees that Israel is painted unfairly in a negative light outside this country, who is well-aware of what goes on with the pallywood industry, and so forth, I also agree that pointing these things out in a strident, hardline tone shoots yourself in the foot as much as, and possibly more so, as do the false/negative/biased-against-us reports that come out in the media.

People who already agree with you say yes, right, absolutely and walk away feeling vindicated. But they are already convinced and fully in your court. Everyone else turns you off immediately. They not only turn you off and don't hear the message you are trying to get across but they walk away saying "angry, aggressive, vindictive" Israelis/Jews/stridently pro-American/(insert category here) and the negative image is further strengthened rather than reduced.

I used to write and create public service announcements in the States and have a lot of background in crafting persuasive arguments and in getting one's message across and let me tell you, the folks who are officially in charge of doing hasbara for Israel generally break every single rule. Many of the speakers at the conference did the same.

Judith said...

"In simple terms, just because my neighbour lets his dog s^^t in the yard doesn't mean I have to, that just leads to a bigger mess."

What I don't do, and what I bet you don't do either except with regard to Israel, is to assume that the neighbor letting his dog sh*t in the yard is your fault, that if you criticize yourself enough for your dog sh*tting in the yard your neighbor will stop, that your neighbor makes a perfunctory show of reining in his dog but never actually does, when called on this he says he can't control the dog, but refuses to put it down (and the dog also barks all night and bited neighborhood children), and criticizes you without accepting any blame for himself, when you apologize for your dog sh*tting in his yard he never apologizes when he does the same. And all the neighbors pay him tons of money to have his dog keep sh*tting in your yard, and call you racist for pointing out that he never stops or apologizes. And the neighborhood association keeps blaming you and giving him money for doggy treats, all the while tisktsking whenever his dog sh*ts in the yard. Oh and the neighbor belongs to the local mafia which threatens to firebomb your house if you keep complaining and also walks around announcing loudly that you don't belong there and should be killed. if you buy a gun in response to the threats everyone in the neighborhood condemns you for being violent.

If this was your neighborhood what would you do?

Judith said...

"Everyone else turns you off immediately. They not only turn you off and don't hear the message you are trying to get across but they walk away saying "angry, aggressive, vindictive" Israelis/Jews/stridently pro-American/(insert category here) and the negative image is further strengthened rather than reduced."

I think the crux of this argument is that those of us on the "right" side simply don't think this is true, and those of us on the "left" side think it is.

I think this is a problem of having two different audiences, i.e. planets (to reference my conversation above with Don). Yes, the left/Euro elites/etc will walk away. THAT'S NOT ALL THERE IS.
As I said there are many many normal decent people who are under the radar in most countries with media elites, also in countries already understanding what Islamist terrorism is (Russia and India and Thailand to name a few).

You act as though the Euro elites are the ones who need to be convinced. To some extent they do (good cop) but they may not continue to be in power as Islamist terrorism spreads and more citizens are uneasy with the elitist position of appeasement. This is already happening in UK and France and Scandanavia.

We think sugar-coating the situation ultimately doesn't engage the very people whose alliance we most want. Well, you want the alliance of the Left more than anything, and we are spoiling your party, but the part of the Left which is ascendant, which finds terrorist thugs romantic (going all the way back to Che, well the nihilists really, that's what Anna's presentation was abou, and I would say going back to the French Reign of Terror), is not worth talking to.

And the dissidents of those countries terrorized by thesae thugs don't want you to appease the Left either, believe me.

Judith said...

"I used to write and create public service announcements in the States and have a lot of background in crafting persuasive arguments and in getting one's message across and let me tell you, the folks who are officially in charge of doing hasbara for Israel generally break every single rule. Many of the speakers at the conference did the same."

I would be interested in a breakdown of what the rules are and what the hasbara people do that breaks them. that is a sincere request, maybe you can write aobut it on your blog. or if you already have, can you link to it here?

Judith said...

PS to the "different planets" post above.

Another difference we have is that we on the "right" are willing to expose that the Palestinian terrorism and its sugar daddies in Iran/Syria are executing a well-thought-out STRATEGY. It is not just random kids with rocks, or normal adults who "snap" and put on a Semtex belt.

It seems to me that whenever we describe and give evidence for that STRATEGY you call us racist for sayind that these groups are doing this deliberately. We say they know full well what they are doing. The Left position depends on them being seen as victims, not actors, so your approach is to criticize Israel as if the terrorist strategy weren't there.

Once it is exposed as a coordinated decades-long campaign and not random acts of despair (although some individuals may act out of despair but the despair is also engineered, i.e. the PA's refusal to try to become a normal representative government with civic values, the hate taught in schools, etc), the pattern becomes apparent to people with common sense who can connect the dots. Which is not the Left, which has an emotional stake in the whole "poor Third World victims of White colonialism" schtick.

lisoosh said...

Judith:

"What I don't do, and what I bet you don't do either except with regard to Israel, is to assume that the neighbor letting his dog sh*t in the yard is your fault, that if you criticize yourself enough for your dog sh*tting in the yard your neighbor will stop"

Judith, I'd love to be able to respond to you, but as long as you are going to debate what you WANT me to have said, rather than what I said, that is impossible. You don't know me, you don't know what I think or do in regard to Israel or anything else, nor have we had enough cyber conversations for you to be able to deduce what I think or believe.

Rather than respond to the "left" by following the "rights" description of what the left has to say, try actually listening.

Don Radlauer said...

To Richard:

1) I never said that you were evil; I said that one of your arguments was "specious and evil", and I later explained why I had felt so. I don't believe you've responded to that explanation, and instead you've escalated your claim of victimhood. (I fully expect eventually to hear that I shot you, despite the fact that I'd left my gun at home that day.) In fact, I think that you're a perfectly good and well-intentioned person, but with some faulty thinking that I'm trying (without, so far, notable success) to correct.


2) For a working academic - and in the humanities, no less! - your ability to read accurately is rather disappointing. I wrote: "Being thought marginally morally superior to the Palestinians would be no great victory for us!" - to which you replied, "The very suggestion that we are only marginally better than the Palestinians shows a) how little you know about them, and b) how harsh your judgment of Israelis." [I've consistently fixed your lack of capitalization when quoting you; I assume it's due to a computer hardware problem.] Your response is a complete non-sequitur. I wasn't saying that Israel is only marginally superior to the Palestinians! I was (and am) saying that as long as we play the hasbara game by your rules, that's the best result we can hope to achieve, and it's basically a defeat. Is this really so hard to understand?


3) You wrote:

It may feel good for Europeans to dump on Israel (and your harsh judgments may help them do so)... If you want to suck up to Europeans so they'll do business with Israel by your rhetoric, then I can't stop you from doing it.

Ah, so I'm defaming Israel by suggesting that some things we do are less than perfect! I suppose that Amira Hass and Gideon Levy weren't doing the job adequately, so I got called in to add to the effort. And "my" form of hasbara is "sucking up" to the Europeans (who are, more or less by definition, evil incarnate - despite the fact that collectively they're are largest trading partner) - but God help me if I accused you of "sucking up" to Christian fundamentalists (for example). That would be "verbal violence"!

(Later on in your comment, you refer to my "morally insane reading of this conflict". So much for verbal pacifism!)

It seems that there is one set of rules for correct debate when I'm writing, but quite another set when you're writing.


4) In response to one of my points, you wrote: "Wow! That's a fancy version of Tzippy Livni's beach shots. It's okay. It's Israel 21c. But if you think that's all it's about, then I'd say you have a limited understanding of where the hatred and the boycotts are coming from. This is bandaids on gangrene." But just a few lines down, responding to my point about the necessity for hasbara to be one of the considerations to be included in the formation of public policy (rather than just reacting to it), you wrote: "That's pretty aggressive. You feel that you have a right to push Israel towards a policy that you think is appropriate with hasbarah?!!!? That's exactly not what hasbarah is about."

So which is it, Professor? In my world, if it's gangrene you amputate. But in your world, Israel's hasbara problems are pretty awful, but not so awful that (God forbid!) our government and military should actually do anything real about them!

I'm not saying - now or ever in the past - that Israel doesn't get unfair press coverage. I'm not saying that there isn't a real problem out there. I'm certainly not saying that there isn't anti-Semitism in the world. I'm not even saying that your efforts, and Philippe Karsenty's, are not part of what we should be doing. But if we're going to be effective in defending Israel, think how much easier it would be if our government didn't do stuff like home demolitions (which never worked as a deterrent to terrorism, as the IDF itself finally admitted) or indiscriminate cluster-bombing (as happened in the last days of this summer's Lebanon campaign). (Admittedly, the latter example does not appear to have been a matter of government policy.)

Yes, "the Israeli electorate makes the choices" - but the whole point of electing representatives rather than governing by referendum is that professionals are supposed to be able to make considered, professional judgements. We expect our political leaders to take appropriate military considerations into account when making decisions; given the importance of our international standing to our national security, why shouldn't our leaders take hasbara considerations into account as well?


5) You wrote:

It occurs to me that this approach of yours may be why you and others here and at Good Neighbors think i'm right-wing neo-con. Your politics are part of your presentation. You assume mine are part of mine. On the contrary, I'm interested in strengthening the position of those who would negotiate, so they have some hope of keeping the Palestinians to their commitments. You do me and Israel wrong in projecting your agendas on me in reverse.

Richard, you don't have any idea what my politics are; I haven't discussed them here, and I suspect that you haven't read enough of what I've written elsewhere to know. (And for that matter, I've never really written a "Don's Manifesto" outlining my political views in easily-digested form.) Nor, I believe, have I ever accused you (or anyone else, IIRC) of being a neo-conservative.

In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if my views on a number of issues were more right-wing than your own. Our dispute here really isn't about left- or right-wing politics; it's about how Israel can best promote its own interests. In my view, promoting Israel's best interests requires not only an aggressive effort to combat falsehood (which you're doing quite nicely); it also requires an unflinching and honest appraisal of our government's own actions, and an attempt to influence our decision-makers to act in our country's best interest rather than indulge in lowest-common-denominator internal politics.

Don Radlauer said...

To Judith:

I'd like to chime in briefly (by my standards, at least) on the whole "dog shitting in the yard" analogy that has sprung to fragrant life in this comment thread.

In one of your recent posts, you wrote in great detail about the analogy: "What I don't do, and what I bet you don't do either except with regard to Israel, is to assume that the neighbor letting his dog sh*t in the yard is your fault... If this was your neighborhood what would you do?"

What I found interesting about the analogy is that it never got outside the neighborhood. Indulge me for a moment:

Let's say I have the problem you describe with my neighbor and his dog, and the rest of the neighborhood, and the Mafia, and so on. Now, let's posit further that I have a good job somewhere - let's say I'm a computer programmer at a large HMO - and every day I complain to my coworkers about the neighbor, the Mafia, the dog, and the shit. After a while of this, how are my coworkers going to think of me? Will they think of me as Mister Competent Computer Programmer, or will they think of me as Mister Dog Shit? I would suspect the latter; and, like most people, I conduct myself in real life on this basis, leaving most of my non-work-related problems at home or, at most, discussing them only occasionally and lightly.

This is what I'm trying to express about hasbara: When someone confronts us on the subject of dog shit, by all means bring up the neighbor, his dog, and all the rest. But if we keep bringing up the subject, if that seems to be all we talk about, then we lose: not only is the neighbor's dog shitting on our lawn, he's also shitting on our desk.

lisoosh said...

Richard:

" "you're whitewashing the occupation."

nothing of the sort, altho it may have the consequence of taking some of the moral heat off of israel as people begin to understand how depraved the tactics of her enemies. "

Not an unworthy goal. Trouble is it doesn't work. They way it is being handled now, it looks like a powerful, rich nation with a billion dollar military budget is unable to handle an uprising without resorting to overkill and continuing to resort to pulling out the victim card.

To the media, whatever sells papers/TV advertising is a good story and the whole little guy fighting for freedom/big guy stopping him is one of the great classic stories, no matter who the actors are. The Jews had the upper hand in that narrative when Israel was formed, now we don't.

What is really depressing is that disorganized as they are, the Palestinians are doing a much better job of framing the narrative than we are. Our response up till now, and the one I see fixated on here, is the typical response of crying out "But that's not faaaaiiir! They're cheating! We're the victims! And look at Sudan, that's MUCH worse.".

I'll spell this out slowly - the issue is PROPAGANDA, and we suck at it. "Pallywood" was a good start, but handled unprofessionally and obviously prepared by someone partisan. These stories need to be put together well, given a news twist and sold off to bigger outlets. Being antagonistic toward journalists doesn't help, if you want someone to get a story out telling them they suck and you have no respect for them isn't going to do it.

Instead of assuming that anyone on the left just wants to apologize for Israel or is a "self-critical Jew" "self-hating Jew" or some other lovely little soundbite (and what a self defeating little snippet of copywriting that is, what a waste of ingenuity), perhaps someone could get the message that many of us are very supportive of Israel (when applicable) but painfully embarrased by Israeli and Diaspora efforts at framing the narrative.

And of course the other issue is to stop obsessing over propaganda, take all of that misplaced energy and to solve the problem at its root, therefor negating the need for Hasbara.

Judith said...

"Judith, I'd love to be able to respond to you, but as long as you are going to debate what you WANT me to have said, rather than what I said, that is impossible."

Um, I didn't do that. I wrote what *I* wanted to say. I just said that you probably don't act passive and apologetic if some neighbor behaves that way with his dog. There is nothing in that comment about "wanting you to have said" anything.

Don Radlauer said...

To OnTheLeftCoast:

You asked:

If Israeli troops aren't permitted to respond with war-fighting means to threats from a mob, won't the mob be used as cover for military attacks on the Israelis?

You're correct to an extent: although the Palestinians never used riots as a cover for any militarily serious assault on an Israeli position, there is no question that the Palestinian leadership put mobs, largely composed of kids 12 years old and up, in front of gunmen. In my view (see "An Engineered Tragedy") the numbers and demographics of Palestinian noncombatant fatalities strongly suggest that there was a conscious strategy on the part of Palestinian leaders to encourage a lot of these kids to confront Israeli forces and get themselves killed; Itamar Marcus has documented the other side of this contention, by showing the indoctrination efforts encouraging "suicide propaganda".

I can also personally vouch for the fact that at least some of Israel's authorities knew in advance about the "suicide propaganda" strategy: A month or two before the "Intifada" broke out, I was present at a police briefing where we were warned that the Palestinians would shortly launch a campaign of riots, with the intention of getting a lot of their own people killed by Israeli forces. The goal of a correct police response, we were told, would be not to give the Palestinians what they wanted.

Of course, when the rioting did break out, Ehud Barak chose to deploy the IDF rather than the police - despite the fact that the soldiers and their officers had no relevant training in riot-control. The result is history, and not particularly happy history.

The Israeli government and army did, eventually, figure out that creating (or, if you like, co-creating) lots of innocent young Palestinian "martyrs" was not helping Israel's cause; and the fatality rate for young Palestinians dropped dramatically after the first few months of the conflict. (Part of this may have been "riot fatigue" on the Palestinian side; but there were definitely tactical changes on our side as well.)

I have never said that Israel isn't allowed to create civilian casualties. However, in the last six years we've created a large number of unnecessary noncombatant civilian casualties, at great cost to ourselves (and, of course, even greater cost to the people we killed - unless the Koran is right about the babes in Paradise).

I am hardly a pacifist. I am, in fact, an armed settler with a magazine full of hollow-point bullets in my pistol, as well as a trained police sniper capable of consistently making 300-meter head shots with a .308 rifle. I'm not saying here (or anywhere else) that deadly force should never be used. What I am saying is that it should be used carefully and judiciously. This is what Israel has failed to do in the course of the "Intifada", particularly in the early days of the conflict but continuing to today (or at least last week).

I think the facts back me up on this - although I must admit that my sniper mentality probably enters into it as well: Pulling the trigger when you aren't aiming at something very specific just seems wrong to me, even if nobody gets hurt.

lisoosh said...

Judith -

Ok, lets try this again.
"What I don't do, and what I bet you don't do either except with regard to Israel, is to assume that the neighbor letting his dog sh*t in the yard is your fault, that if you criticize yourself enough for your dog sh*tting in the yard your neighbor will stop"

You said:
a. That in regards to Israel I assume that the violence is "my" fault.
b. If I criticize myself enough, it will make it stop.


How have you not just put words into my mouth?

Judith said...

"But if we keep bringing up the subject, if that seems to be all we talk about, then we lose: not only is the neighbor's dog shitting on our lawn, he's also shitting on our desk"

They are the ones who keep bringing up the subject, Don. in spite of Israel 21c etc, all most people want to talk about in regard to Israel is "the Occupation" and "the Wall." Dancers can't get their tours promoted by a European dance magazine because they are Israeli. Academics get boycotted because they haven't signed a form denouncing the Occupation. British Churches build "Wall" exhibits instead of creches. Any film about Israel that doesn't comment in some way on the conflict, it is pointed out by the reviewer that the film didn't mention the conflict. 3/4 of UN resolutions are aobut Israel. The Palestinians have their own UN agency, no other "oppressed" people has that. you know the phrase, "Jews are news."

We are not the ones who bring it up. Everyone in the office wants to talk about our dispute with our neighbor, and with the assumption that we are at fault, and they don't want to hear about our competent performance at our job or the charity projects we do or our kids' grades. All they want to talk about is dog sh*t. they won't sit next to us at the cafeteria and they pass us over for promotions and they always assume the worst of us.

So are supposed to just ignore all this? We talk about it because they will talk about nothing else in regard to us.

It's a measure of how you have internalized this attitude that you think we started this compulsive attention on our conflict.

Judith said...

Okay, Lisoosh. But I was pushing the analogy as far as I could and just caricaturing attitudes in general, I wasn't describing you in particular (and you are right I have no idea what you think). But I can see where it would come across that way.

lisoosh said...

Judith -
'if you criticize yourself enough for your dog sh*tting in the yard your neighbor will stop"

As I have time this morning I'll even add more.

I don't think that "criticizing myself" or "aplogizing for my actions" will affect anyone elses behaviour.

I do believe that TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for my own actions makes me a GROWN UP. I do believe that the ability to look with clear eyes at a situation is the only way that situation can be honestly resolved.
Whether or not the "other side" shows any inclination to take responsibility for itself is irrelevant. I'm not interested in their level of self reflection or moral or personal growth, only my own.

Nothing wrong with propaganda in the applicable place and done well. There is EVERYTHING wrong with believing your own propaganda. That's one of the things stopping the Palestinians with moving forward. I'd rather it didn't happen to Israel too.

OnTheLeftCoast said...

Don, I didn't mean that the rioters have been a tactical cover for armed aggression, I meant that that is an omnipresent threat behind every mob, and that the troops must have all options open to them at any given time.
I certainly didn't mean that Israeli governments have always been smart; it is also an unfortunate fact that the Israeli government has less leeway for stupidity than most.
And I like your sniper mentality.

Don Radlauer said...

Judith, you wrote:

It's a measure of how you have internalized this attitude that you think we started this compulsive attention on our conflict.

And who are you to say what attitudes I have internalized? As you did with Lisoosh, you seem to be awfully fast to assume that you know what my unstated thoughts are, and to state that I've said things I didn't say.

I never said that our side started the disproportionate attention focused on the Israeli-Arab conflict. What I did say - and I think it's correct - is that the approach we're taking to hasbara issues helps to keep attention focused exactly where we don't want it to be.

The world sees a conflict going on, seemingly forever. The world - conditioned to see things in terms of "underdog equals good guy" - sees impoverished Palestinians with rocks confronting relatively prosperous Israelis with high-tech weaponry. The world is primed to see Palestinian fatalities and suffering accordingly, as the result of Israeli malice rather than as a sad necessity of our need to defend ourselves against deadly aggression. (The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between - you're never going to convince me that all those 11-to-15-year-old Palestinian kids presented a terrible danger to Israel.)

And how do we respond to all this? We harp on about how awful the Palestinians are! In your view - and, as I understand it, in Richard's - by highlighting the evils of our adversaries, we explain to the rest of the world why it is necessary to do what we do - the killings, the roadblocks, home demolitions, and so on.

The problem is that this form of hasbara has exactly the reverse effect: By constantly kvetching about how awful the Arabs are, the message we convey to much of our audience - and of course it's the part of our audience that we actually most need to reach! - is that we hate the Arabs, we're prejudiced against the Arabs, we're racists, we're paranoid, we're obsessed with our own victimhood, and so on.

In other words, this whole type of hasbara plays directly into the myth of Israel-as-powerful-oppressor-of-the-poor-Palestinians. (As I recall, the Afrikaners of South Africa also used to portray themselves as a threatened minority when justifying their policies of apartheid; I suspect that part of the world's intolerance for the standard Israeli hasbara line is based on its experience with South Africa, despite the enormous differences between the realities of apartheid and the realities of the Middle East conflict.)

If we're going to get out of the conceptual trap we're in, we need to understand this: that while our messages about Palestinian incitement, terrorism, and so on may be factually correct, the message that is received is often quite different from the message we think we are conveying. Effective communication is results-based: If you see that you're not getting through to the person with whom you're trying to communicate, you have to try a different strategy, not just shout the same thing louder in the hope that s/he'll finally understand you.

Of course, you can always give up and grumble about how oblivious or anti-Semitic your audience is; then it's not your fault that you didn't get through. But I think Israel needs and deserves a better hasbara strategy than this.

OnTheLeftCoast said...

Hear hear. Because if Israel's legitimacy is predicated on the Holocaust and victim status, the moment Israel isn't the biggest victim/underdog, there goes the legitimacy.
Israel's existence is also opposed by internationalists, as it mostly was by Communism -- nominally, together with socialism, intenationalist. (Yes, there was that moment in 1947 when the USSR decided to stick a thumb in Britain's eye and vote for partition.) Today, Islam presents both a transnational vision and in its Islamist form, implacable hostility those stumbling blocks to internationism, the USA and Israel--which is why the knee-jerk Left, along with internationalists buy and sell the idea that Israel's establishment was a mistake best corrected ASAP.

maryatexitzero said...

The one shining light in the conference was the session entitled "Cyberspace as a Media Revolution: Implications for Israeli Public Diplomacy", which featured presentations given by a number of prominent local and foreign bloggers. Lisa and Charles spoke of friendships forged across borders and the importance of these special, fragile connections, and Michael Totten touched on this subject as well. Charles challenged the audience to start taking a look around the Arab blogosphere, leaving comments and starting dialogs, and part of me hopes that he made these people uncomfortable enough to start thinking outside of their narrow little boxes.

I was going to comment on the controversy here, but this part of Liza's post inspired me to spend a lot of time re-reading Charles and Lisa's stunning posts about the 'Lebanese' war in July and August. I'm still working on the background of all of this..

But I agree that focusing on the bad deeds of some Arabs doesn't really help Israel's cause. Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are at war with Israel, doing bad deeds is their job. Focusing on the bad deeds done by Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, the Iranian mullahs, the Pakistan-supported militants in Kashmir, the Saudi-supported militants in Thailand, the Arab-government sponsored riots against the Danish Cartoons, the Islamist-inspired riots in France doesn't do anyone any good. These groups are at war with us; fighting us, making our lives as miserable as possible in order to win concessions from us is their job.

We should instead be asking why the media and democratic nation states are so ineffective at fighting back. Why does the media report, word for word, the tales that groups like Hezbollah spoonfeed them. There are plenty of Arab voices out there criticizing groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Why does the media ignore them?

We shouldn't ignore them. We should make a special point of publicizing them.

Israel is just one of many democratic nations states who are fighting Arab/Islamist state-sponsored paramilitary groups. The media has gotten into the habit of portraying Israel as being alone in this fight. Playing along with the 'Israel vs. the world' paradigm doesn't help Israel, and it doesn't help the other democracies who are also being attacked by the same forces.

Focusing on the worldwide effects of Arab/Islamist aggression/warmongering, focusing on the pro-freedom, pro-democracy voices in the Arab world and publicizing those voices would offer an alternative to the media's 'Israel vs. the poor, poor Palestinians and the world' story.

We need to create a new paradigm - 'Islamists/the kneejerk internationalist mass media vs. democratic nations states/independent pro-freedom bloggers' is one possibility.

richard landes said...

this is too complicated and involved to pursue here. reading DR's remarks, i realize the ways in which my comments can lead to misunderstandings, and way's i've misunderstood others' comments. i think we need to meet and discuss this. is there an interest in a meeting either in tel aviv or jerusalem?
i'd be up for a meeting early next week (i leave for europe till late january on thursday), but i have to write up policy recommendations on israel and the blogosphere, and i'd like consult with those unhappy with the tenor of the conferences remarks before writing that section.
please respond to me at rl.seconddraft@gmail.com and extend this invitation to those who might be interested.

M. Simon said...

Don Radlauer,

Just because the Palestinians are fighting under a disadvantage is no reason to avoid killing them.

If they would rather not be killed the easiest way is to stop fighting.

War is an ugly business.

BTW human shields are legit collateral damage in war. If the Palis want to surround their fighters with kids some kids are going to get killed. In fact that is why they send their kids. In the hopes of getting a headline and your sympathy.

So that is what their children are worth to them. Cannon fodder.

Sorry to see that cannon fodder tugs at your heart strings. Me? I'm incensed at their evil parents and the government (such as it is) that supports them.

My take? If they want their children to die they should be accomodated. Or else the Jews of Israel should leave.

Being nice in war is a recipe for making the war go on forever or defeat. Whichever comes first.

I suppose the Israelis could give the Palis tanks, aircraft, body armor, etc. to make it more of a fair fight. Except that in war no military commander wants a fair fight.

However, if you think the Palis need support you could always join ISM or at least send a donation.

The left is full of wimps except when they are cheering on Stalin or some other such brutality.

Everything the left touches turns to horror, decay, and collapse. Economic stupidity. Political stupdity. Absence of courage. Which is why I'm no longer a leftist.

The courageous left died with John Kennedy.

M. Simon said...

Don I know how to fix the problem.

Take away the Israeli soldier's rifles and give them rocks.

Israel's problem is not bad hasbara. It is bad government.

A government that has lost its nerve.

Olmert is defeated. He is tired of fighting. If that is what the Jews of Israel want - so be it.

M. Simon said...

don,

The people you are trying to reach are so full of colonial guilt that changing their attitudes is going to be a very hard slog. Two or three generations at least.

These are the folks who acquiese in the Islamic take over in Europe.

Europe is primed for a new genocide. Except the Euro left think they are bringing peace by avoiding war. It has been tried before. With the usual consequences.

Socialism is like Islam. Without new conquests or outside support it is not economically viable.

Europe has decided that American style capitalism is too hard. Sharia for them seems easier.

The results will not be pretty.

The left is fighting phantoms (racism is everywhere). I can say that in America racism is the very least of our problems. Leftist defeatism is going to hurt us way worse than any residual racism in Israel or America.

Leftism is a disease. Thank the Maker my fever broke 25 years ago.

M. Simon said...

If you want to defeat your enemy it is essential to dehumaize them. To deny them political legitimacy.

America fought the Huns and Japs in WW2. Now we are friends with the Germans and Japanese.

Both those reactions, esp. the second, are signs of a superior culture. No grudges once the other side loses.

Good Hasbara is turining the Islamic Fascists into Huns, Nazis, and Fascists.

Unfortunately the left doesn't have the guts to do what needs to be done.

The evils of Palestinian culture must be magnified. The problems of Israel minimized. After the war is won we can deal with Israeli problems (as America did re:racism after defeating the Axis).

For the time being, for me, Israel is good and the Islamic fascists are evil and that is how it needs to be presented.

We need to pound the Palis' associations with the Nazis in WW2 and show how their current situation is an outgrowth of their alliances with the Nazis and the Nazi death camps. Pound it in.

Abbas is no better than Ahmadinnerjacket when it comes to Holocaust denial. Pound it in.

Levana said...

Another good question to ask is why is Ahmedinijad villified for denying the Holocaust, yet Abbas, who has clearly done the same and never renounced his claims, is hailed as a moderate? Is it cognitive dissonance or denial?

Don Radlauer said...

To M. Simon:

I think you're completely misunderstanding the strategic implications of noncombatant Palestinian fatalities in the "Intifada". The argument that Israel should conduct itself differently in relation to the Palestinians is not only a moral one, but also a matter of sound strategy.

You wrote:

the Palis want to surround their fighters with kids some kids are going to get killed. In fact that is why they send their kids. In the hopes of getting a headline and your sympathy... If they want their children to die they should be accomodated... Being nice in war is a recipe for making the war go on forever or defeat.

For the moment, let's put aside all moral considerations (while remembering that the rest of the world continues to view our conflict in moral terms, even if we think they misunderstand the various moral issues) and think purely about strategy and tactics. I'll start with an analogy:

Let's say you're playing chess against an expert opponent. Your opponent makes a move that threatens one of your rooks, to which the obvious response is to reposition one of your bishops. You do so, and quickly find out that your opponent has set up a trap for you: your response to save your rook allowed him to capture your queen!

Anyone who has played chess against a much better opponent has faced this kind of situation: your opponent has seen farther ahead than you, and has tricked you into worsening your own position.

Now, extend this kind of thinking into the Israeli-Palestinian arena. I believe (with, I think, very good justification) that there was a conscious, deliberate, and considered strategy on the part of the Palestinian leadership to engineer confrontations where a lot of Palestinian noncombatants would be killed by Israeli forces. Now, you see this, if I'm understanding you correctly, as essentially a distraction from the main military confrontation - although you also realize that the Palestinian strategy involves using these fatalities to gain the world's sympathy.

But let's look at it a different way: Just as the threat to your rook in the chess example was really just a trick to manipulate you into making a bad move, let's assume that the entire goal of these confrontations, including the rather ineffective Palestinian gunfire aimed (very generally) at Israeli positions, is to create "suicide propaganda". If that's the goal - and, really, it's the only strategy under which the Palestinians' actions make any sense - then why should we play along?

Unless we assume that there is a positive benefit to killing Palestinians simply because they're Palestinians - and even from an amoral standpoint, I don't think that's a good assumption - why should we think that it's good strategy to do exactly what the Palestinian leadership is attempting to get us to do?

Certainly "collateral damage" is acceptable when it's necessary for our own self-defense. But Israel has killed large numbers of Palestinians in situations where there was little or no danger to Israeli civilians or soldiers; and even when there was some perceived danger to our soldiers, in many cases they fired their weapons indiscriminately in situations where they had every opportunity and motivation to fire more precisely. Even absent all moral considerations, this is bad strategy.

In effect, Israel has done itself tremendous damage by allowing itself to be provoked into behaving oppressively, taking various "security measures" that cost us more in reputation than they benefit us in actual security. (And no, that doesn't mean I'm against all security measures - I'm just saying that the word "security" shouldn't be used as a way of turning off our brains and acting reflexively.) This is why I believe that hasbara needs to be an input into decision-making, not merely an afterthought; not because I'm an altruist, but simply because it's a necessary part of sound strategic thinking, an aspect that is sadly absent from most Israeli policy-making.

lisoosh said...

Mr. Landes,

A fantastic and generous suggestion.
Wish I could make it, unavailable till June.

Hope you guys can organize a constructive meeting.

Judith said...

"I do believe that TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for my own actions makes me a GROWN UP. I do believe that the ability to look with clear eyes at a situation is the only way that situation can be honestly resolved."

I do too. We seem to disagree on what taking responsibility entails, also on what the situation really is.

i will be in Israel till Jan 4, would love to meet. A neutral facilitator might be good. :-)

colorless.blue.ideas said...

Thanks for the interesting discussion.

I'm in the process of reading the 2002 study ("An Engineered Tragedy" (AET)), which I greatly appreciate. Funding lack is mentioned as a reason for not updating the study (or keeping a database). How much funding would be required? Is there any other organization which keeps track of such data?

Keeping in mind that I'm still reading AET, I think that there should be a category of "Palestinian deaths, Palestinian responsibility", to include both the "human shield" deaths (which should be attributed as Palestinian- caused, not Israeli-caused) as well as efforts by various extremist groups to terrorize fellow Arabs or which occur in the jockeying for power. Perhaps these should be two separate categories themselves, but I believe that separating them out would shed light on the situation.

Thank you again for the discussion.

maryatexitzero said...

Unless we assume that there is a positive benefit to killing Palestinians simply because they're Palestinians - and even from an amoral standpoint, I don't think that's a good assumption - why should we think that it's good strategy to do exactly what the Palestinian leadership is attempting to get us to do?

The Palestinians are at war with Israel. They're fighting this war using asymetric warfare, which differs from conventional military strategy. It's important to focus on the strengths of asymetric warfare, but it's also important to note its weaknesses.

Conventional military strategy assumes that the job of the soldier is to defend the civilian population and the political leaders. In conventional warfare, the soldier assumes the physical risks. The leaders, the VIPs, are protected. In conventional war, you have to go through the soldiers to get to the mid-level and higher level political structure. When one side's political structure falls, that side loses the war.

Under conventional warfare, the other side's civilians are often targets, but hitting them won't win the war. The leadership, whose security is guaranteed by the foot soldiers of the military, is the target.

A paramilitary force that uses asymetric warfare can survive the decimation of its leadership. In asymetric warfare, the foot soldiers, the trained, well-financed paramilitary forces, don't exist to protect the leaders or the civilians. They use the civilian population to sheild themselves. Sometimes these civilian shields volunteer for the job, sometimes they don't.

Religion and ideology are recruiting tools, but the goal of these paramilitary groups is the same mundane goal all aggressors share - to gain more political power, more money. The Palestinian paramilitaries, like most of the Islamist-financed paramilitary groups out there are basically thugs hiding their real goals behind the skirts of ideology. They're more easily understood by watching the Godfather then by playing chess.

The support of local civilians is not required for modern terrorist paramilitary groups to function. Modern terrorists aren't fish swimming in a sea of peasant supporters, they're fish swimming in a sea of petrodollars. That's the only support they need.

Petrodollars are also asymetric warfare's greatest weakness. While terrorist paramilitary soldiers are almost impossible to effectively hit, the politicians and bankers who provide them with petrodollars are completely unprotected. They're also combatants in this war, and, as targets, they're the most vulnerable.

The average Saudi or Iraniian oil tick who provides the money for the war against Israel would be overjoyed to see Israel mistakenly killing noncombatants. But they wouldn't be overjoyed to see the dismembered head of their trusted banker lying at the foot of their beds.

It's hard to get information from a captured terrorist, but it probably wouldn't be hard to get infromation from their banker, or from the mid level politicians who support them. These mid-level people are the weakest link in the asymetric warfare chain.

Don Radlauer said...

To colorless.blue.ideas:

Contact me offline (you can find my email address at my blog, under "More Stuff / Get in touch") to discuss funding issues - not that I have a number available off the top of my head, but I can consult with my colleagues about it.

Early in the course of the study, we decided to adopt a strictly physical criterion for determining responsibility for deaths - that is, we don't care if someone "needed killing" (like a terrorist in mid-attack); we simply go by who was physically responsible for each death. (We even thought about some rather gruesome hypothetical cases: My "favorite" is one where a pregnant woman carrying a bomb is intercepted by Israeli security forces; the Israelis shoot at her to prevent her carrying out her attack; but the bullets hit her bomb and set it off, killing both her and her unborn baby. Who is responsible for the unborn baby's death?)

The reason for avoiding any question of moral responsibility for death is that it would irrevocably bog us down in politically-contentious debate; and we would instantly lose all credibility, with good cause. If, as you suggest, we attributed the deaths of Palestinian "human shields" to the Palestinian side of the conflict even though they were killed by Israeli soldiers, we might run into situations where we would have to do the same sort of thing in reverse. The result, either way, would be to destroy the usefulness of the study.

In my opinion, much of the strength and usefulness of "AET" is precisely that we don't rely on political or moral judgements, but instead base everything on facts which are (comparatively) verifiable and non-contentious, such as age and gender of those killed.


To MaryAtExitZero:

You raise some interesting points about asymmetric warfare - but you're missing one important point relating to the "Intifada": Most of the fatalities on the Palestinian side are not directly related to the actions of terror organizations (unless you label the Palestinian civilian leadership as a itself a terror organization).

A huge number of the Palestinians killed by Israel were killed in the course of riots, which had nothing directly to do with terrorism. (And in fact, the highest rate of killing of Palestinian noncombatants occurred before most of the terrorist part of the "Intifada" had really gathered momentum.)

This is where the chess analogy comes in (at least the chess analogy that I used this time; I reserve my right to use other chess analogies!): the "suicide propaganda" aspect of the "Intifada" was not a product of the terror organizations, but of the Palestinian governmental apparatus. (I even seem to recall that Hamas actively opposed the strategy of getting lots of Palestinian kids killed.)

Your point about terrorists "swimming in a sea of petrodollars" is not entirely correct; and it's more true for some organizations than for others. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for example, is a small organization that exists purely to carry out terror attacks, with no dawa element; so it tends to correspond to your description. Hamas, on the other hand, has a huge social-welfare ("dawa") apparatus, and thus it does have a very close relationship with the population among which it dwells.

Your idea of targeting bankers and the like is an interesting one; I'm not sure, though, how feasible it is. And remember that the money involved is small by modern standards; it's quite possible to fund a terrorist movement without using conventional banks at all.

lisoosh said...

Judith -
I'm a pussycat in real life. :-)
I'm in the States at the moment, won't be in Israel until the summer.
If you are ever in the tri-state area I will take you up on it though.

maryatexitzero said...

Your idea of targeting bankers and the like is an interesting one; I'm not sure, though, how feasible it is. And remember that the money involved is small by modern standards; it's quite possible to fund a terrorist movement without using conventional banks at all.

The idea is mostly to point out the weak points of asymetric warfare. Asymetric warfare offers the foot soldiers a fair amount of protection - they're not uniformed, they use civilian shields, they blend into the population. Instead of aiming for the hard targets, we should attack the terrorist infrastructure at its weakest points - the unprotected middlemen. This includes the politicians, the weapon supply chain, the legal and illegal financial network - any part of the terrorist infrastructure that's protected only by implausible deniability.

The goal in a war is to destroy the enemy's infrastructure by the most efficient means possible. Since these terror supporters are part of the terrorist infrastructure, they are enemy combatants and should be treated as such. Since they are relatively unprotected, they can be removed more quickly, and in more massive numbers, than the terrorist foot soldiers. When their support structure is weakened, the foot soldiers might become easier targets too.

colorless.blue.ideas said...

IRT Don Radlauer's polite comment:

Thank you for your note. I'm having trouble with blogspot's communications with my browser, so it may take awhile to get your email address. I may have to try another browser.

I appreciate the goal of seeking to publish just the (comparatively) verifiable and non-contentious facts. I think it is a good one. What I see as a problem in meeting this goal is that, in AET, moral judgements are made, albeit implicitly. For example, graph 1.2 specifically denotes "Killed by Opposite Side" (in the title), and "Resp[onsibility]" in the key. These are effectively moral judgements; the term "responsibility" is almost certainly understood as a morality comment.

In the case of a "human shield", the responsibility is at a minimum shared, and arguably that of the one seeking shelter behind the shield. [Aside: I think that "shelter" should be augmented by the military term "cover" in order to be more accurate.] In the absence of such categorization, the data will fail to meet its express purpose of assigning responsibility. In the AET case (to the extent that I've read it), the data shows that the Israelis tend to target combatants and the "Palestinians" (let's more accurately say Muslim Extremists) tend to target with less discrimination (at least). My prediction is, however, that were the "human shield" category included, the data would be even more lopsided. This would be to Israel's advantage in the "Media Theater of Operations" (MTO) in the current wars, and such is my take with respect to the conference that Mr. Landes..

I probably should include some background. I am neither Israeli nor Jewish, and have no a priori interest in defending the Jewish State. For example, I may be a minority of one in this discussion in thinking that Jonathan Pollard's life sentence for spying for Israel was justifiably light for his situation and crime. That said, I have come to the conclusion that Israel generally gets a very raw deal in the Media Theater of Operations, and have come to see Israel and my own country (the United States) as being more-or-less on the same 'side'.

I also don't have a problem with refering to the terrorists as "the enemy", and, in context, understand the use of metonymy in refering to "Palestinians" as "the enemey". Perhaps it is different in Israel, but in the United States, charges of "racism" are usually efforts to avoid or prevent thinking about what someone is saying rather than accurate categorizations of the statements made by people.

It is said that maturity is the ability to make appropriate distinctions. I believe that the AET report is a very good first cut, but that it is immature (not in a pejorative sense, but in the sense of being not fully developed) in not distinguishing "human shield" deaths.

lisoosh said...

colorless.blue.ideas

FYI, I'm Jewish and Israeli and am fine with the sentence for Jonathon Pollard. What he did was for Israel, that he got caught in the US and punished according to its laws is just the way things go.
I tend to think that the people who have made him a cause celebre actually damage Israels credibility.

Joaquim R, in Canada said...

All of you seem to be missing the point. All that matters to the media is happening in the lobby of the American Colony Hotel.

Read Melanie Gutmann's The Other War (2005).

Nidra Poller said...

[This was my first reaction to the comments above...communicated directly to Richard Landes who suggested I post it here. Now I have re-read a good part of the thread and will come back, with your permission, in detail.
PS. It's Stephanie (not Melanie)
Gutmann ]

Last night I listened to Aussie Dave's podcast on the Conference, and this morning I checked out les tireurs aux flancs, starting with Lisa Goldman (I knew where she was coming from after hearing her speak at the Conference.) At first it was interesting to follow the thread, then it wore more and more thin. It leaves me with a grumble, like an empty stomach. Should I reply, should I try to forget, should I lash out, should I reply directly or leave it for my coming post on the Conference...

All that talk should lead somewhere, clarify something. Instead it digs deeper and deeper into the muddle. Nitpicking is the least of it, but in fact most of the thread is nitpicking and hand me down Saïd. Instead of trying to get at the truth, wade through impressions and reach solid ground and concrete facts, most of the comments aim at some never never land where nothing exists unless they give it permission.

They don't understand that:

Jew hatred is real, is really dangerous, is growing dangerously
Israel is criticized by Jew haters so that it can be destroyed for a good reason
This criticism of Israel has nothing to do with ethical standards, can not be satisfied by anything Israel might do or refrain from doing

Enderlin's logic appears abundantly in that thread: what matter if the al Dura report was staged, because Israel killed x hundred Palestinian kids for no good reason. OK, as it turns out it was for a good reason, but once you've said it you can still hang your coat on that peg. And totally ignore the question of media sources, reliability, factuality, impact, etc.

[later]

I can't get that trashing-the-Conference- from-the-Left discussion out of my mind. Especially today, when the Ethiopians kicked the jihadis out of Somalia in the space of a week, and French TV laconically announced that 3000 Islamists were killed and 4000 wounded [Metula News Agency gives 2,500 killed, 10,000 wounded, that’s probably the accurate figure]. Just announced it flatly, no emotion, no dismay, no disapproval…and no civilians killed or wounded, no children either.

So it occurs to me that most of the people trashing the Conference on that Something Something thread seem to think that what is at stake is what people think of Israel, not what happens to Israel and the Jews. Of course they are blissfully ignorant about the difference between honest judgments and looking for pretexts to hang Israel, the Jews, and the US in the bargain, but beyond that, they really think it's just a question of image and opinion, and not of the terrible fate that awaits us if we don't stop the poison.

Jiro is getting the craziest reactions from a wild variety of his correspondents when he tells them he was in Israel, and/or sends them his (beautiful) photo of the kotel. For most of them, Israel is checkpoints and soldiers in tanks, nothing else. I mean literally, Israel doesn't exist.

Nidra Poller said...

[Having taken another look at the thread…]

Where does the disgust come from? Liza writes about the “bleak outlook” and “negative attitudes” of Conference speakers determined to portray Israel as “innocent victim.” She is horrified by Manfred Gerstenfeld who refers to the Palestinians as “the enemy.” She is nauseated by “utterly maddening…ignorant” speakers who felt there was no hope for peace and didn’t “think that a shift in Israel’s policies regarding its neighbors was required.” One hopeful note in all this bleak landscape: the cross-border friendship between (Israeli) Lisa and (Lebanese-American) Charles.
Well bravo, kinderlich, if that’s all it takes to find grace in your eyes, let me introduce you to my friend Mohamed. Meet Nonie. And my Lebanese friend, Brigitte. How many friends do I need to wipe out the harsh-judgment pasted collectively on the speakers at the Conference--a bunch of religious and/or right-wing zealots, harsh and vindictive, counter-productive, blabbing for two days on end, signifying nothing.
Might there be something unjust in all this righteous criticism? Not only unjust but insincere? And insecure?
What logic underlies Liza’s accusation that Charles’ “identity as an Arab was under attack.” We must not say that our enemy is 21st century jihad conquest…because it might offend someone? We have to invent a different enemy, or claim there is no enemy. Or take responsibility for our enemy’s sins: “[Liza] Our track record with the Palestinians is abysmal, and collective punishment is often the norm. The current Palestinian leadership is not a partner for peace, but had we spent far less time and effort in humiliating Abu Mazen and ensuring that his hands are tied more often than not, perhaps there would not have been a Hamas government.” “[in Lebanon we went] far beyond what was necessary…. Our arrogance set the region back many years.”
Don Radlauer says we have to live on the same planet as the people we are trying to reach. He specifically mentions Danny Seaman as someone who is out of bounds, off planet and, implicitly, bad for Israel’s image.
To each his own planet. Now let’s do some reality testing:

[Don Radlauer] “I'll give you one example of bias - although in this case it was the result of ignorance (willful or otherwise - I really don't know) rather than overt dishonesty. Phillipe Karsenty, the guy who was sued by M. Enderlin of the France 2 TV network for criticizing the Mohammed al-Durah reportage, had no idea that Israel had in fact killed hundreds of young Palestinian noncombatants for no good reason - something I know well from my own research, the results of which you've read. In other words, he honestly believed that if Israel didn't kill al-Durah, all the claims that Israel kills Palestinian kids are false! (In case you hadn't noticed, we just killed a completely innocent 14-year-old girl the other day; this time, the soldiers are facing some form of disciplinary process.)

Of course, anyone who knows what's really going on here knows that we are, unfortunately, responsible for an awful lot of unnecessary and avoidable Palestinian deaths. And, in consequence, anyone who doesn't know that - or doesn't acknowledge it - either doesn't know what's really going on here, or else is lying.”

And yet Don admits, in a subsequent post: “A lot of what Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and the rest are doing makes sense in this context: they're not really trying to "win" in the conventional sense, but rather to provoke us into responding in such a way as to torpedo our own international legitimacy, and thus weaken ourselves.”

It is hard to argue that Conference participants were ignorant and close to useless, and then display such a shallow understanding of the al-Dura blood libel as it fits into the jihad strategy of attacking Israel with self-invited civilian casualties. Don says Israel should not fall into the trap. But he and other harsh critics who have expressed themselves on this thread fall into a much deeper far more dangerous trap of pleading guilty on all counts.
The people who are accusing Israel (= the target audience) are not motivated by humanitarian concerns. They do not judge you from the heights of lofty ethical standards. It is utterly delusional to believe “[DR] that the rest of the world continues to view our conflict in moral terms.”

That’s why the Conference was convened.

There is only one planet, and it is currently shaken with the recurrence of an age-old affliction: exterminationist Jew hatred. You can beat your breast and plead guilty from morning to night, you will never satisfy the lust that consumes your accusers. The more you plead guilty, the more they hate you.

How do we reconcile respect for our own ethical standards with defense against a hypocritical campaign to destroy us… and get rid of the burden of that ethical imperative. How do civilized nations fight against ihadis who attack us with civilian casualties? Hold our fire, as Don suggests? It won’t work. That is the lesson of al Dura… Jenin, Gaza Beach, Qana, and how many other masquerade massacres.

Take a look at the 1930s, read what Europeans were saying about Jews, and tell me what we could have done, then and there, to prove we were not guilty, to defend our right to exist. Israel isn’t a sop thrown to us as a beg your pardon for the Shoah. And we can’t let it be the target for a rerun of that sick scenario. We did not deserve the death camps, we do not deserve the inhuman bombers. The journalists, intellectuals, officials, and common people who paved the way for the Shoah thought they were simply describing reality. The same thing is happening today.

The Conference addressed that threat with hope, not with despair. The same cause will not have the same effects if we can face reality and overcome our own self-destructive qualities, the very strength that is our weakness, the capacity for self-criticism. Some of us think we can indulge in it without restraint. Others are saying that when your critics come at you with fire and sword, you should greet them with a shield, not a bared breast.
We should be able to debate that, n’est-ce pas?

lisoosh said...

Nidra,

First I'd like to complement you on these lines:
"And we can’t let it be the target for a rerun of that sick scenario. We did not deserve the death camps, we do not deserve the inhuman bombers"

Which were really quite beautiful.

However, I almost didn't get there after reading this:

"So it occurs to me that most of the people trashing the Conference on that Something Something thread seem to think that what is at stake is what people think of Israel, not what happens to Israel and the Jews. Of course they are blissfully ignorant about the difference between honest judgments and looking for pretexts to hang Israel, the Jews, and the US in the bargain, but beyond that, they really think it's just a question of image and opinion, and not of the terrible fate that awaits us if we don't stop the poison."
And this:
"There is only one planet, and it is currently shaken with the recurrence of an age-old affliction: exterminationist Jew hatred. You can beat your breast and plead guilty from morning to night, you will never satisfy the lust that consumes your accusers. The more you plead guilty, the more they hate you."

I could go on and on about how it takes a special sort of arrogance to assume that if someone doesn't agree with you they must just be "blissfully ignorant", or to assume you know the full extent of their opinions or experiences based on a few written lines concerning one small topic.
I could also go on and on about the strange assumption that if you don't see Israeli "hasbara" as having a positive effect, you just don't care at all.

Instead I'll just point out that if you truly believe that Israel and the Jews are at a point of crisis (and I neither agree nor disagree here) then you would have to:
a. Agree that the job done so far in protecting them has been sorely lacking.
b. Be willing to listen to the opinion of each and every Jew and Israeli in an effort to find the best way forward and be willing to accept their viewpoint as valid.