Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dr. Irad ben Zvi Treats the Naked Shame of Arab Bigotry

One year and two days ago, I posted the story of my First Encounter with the Beast. Within twenty-four hours that first post was picked up on by several of the big, established blogs. Soon, my newly minted blog was swamped with traffic. By the time I got Site Meter in place three days later the Initial surge of traffic was starting to taper down but I was still seeing a thousand hits per day for a couple of weeks after. The traffic was not just referrals from other blogs. It was coming in from mail clients as people were emailing it around the world via the Internet.

I began this blog by offering it as a public forum in the hope that more people would step forward and tell their own stories. When the stories came too slowly, I began to write up more of my own thoughts. They've been well received and Breath of the Beast has grown.

I have never given up hope of hearing from others, though, because I believe that the sharing of authentic experience Is the most effective way to spread the awareness of the danger that stalks us all. I have been honored to post the first person accounts of five courageous and insightful men and women who have experienced brushes with the multi-headed beast of Caliphate Islam with its terrorism (Erica Sherman), misogyny (Mark Nelson, Jim Glendenning and Phyllis Chesler), and the insipid multiculturalism (Nancy Coppock) that enables it.

Now, just a year into the enterprise, Irad ben Zvi has stepped forward to be the sixth. His is a very serious and subtle account of a few incidents that have made up his beast encounter. It is a unique perspective and his observations are most revealing. Irad ben Zvi is an Israeli physician, working in Chicago. Here is his story:

I have a patient in my medical practice, a very gentle and polite Muslim Egyptian. We became friendly over the years, and he brought in his wife as a new patient. She was a Coptic Christian from a well-to-do family. She had a "liberal" upbringing and she even attended university in Cairo. Before moving to the US, she lived in Gaza and visited Tel-Aviv many times. She told me about her relatives living in London, South America, and the US. She seemed to come from a truly modern, cosmopolitan family. She had a nephew, also a Christian, who moved to Gaza. I asked her if her nephew felt intimidated by the Hamas government in Gaza. She answered that there are only 5,000 Christians in Gaza today, and they have all learned to keep a low profile. When I asked her why her nephew stayed in Gaza despite discrimination against Christians, she replied that he wanted to "fight the Zionists." I asked her why Gazans were still fighting after the Israelis had already left Gaza? She replied that Gazans are defending themselves from the Zionists, who threaten to "shoot every Arab and throw them into the sea!" I told her this is utter nonsense. I reminded her that this quote came from Egyptian president Gamal Nasser in 1967, and originally referred to Arab intentions toward the Jews. I then asked her why the good people of Gaza don't stop the few radical terrorists in their midst from firing rockets into Sderot? She replied that everyone in Gaza supports the rocket attacks. "Why?" I asked incredulously, to which she replied that it was a part of the struggle against the "Zionist occupation." I reminded her that Sderot was over a mile from the border of Gaza and well within the 1949 Armistice Lines that defined the State of Israel until the 1967 War. I also pointed out that Sderot has no military bases, and that the rockets are hurting innocent civilians. She replied melodramatically: "When the people of Gaza look out across the border to Sderot, they see their former homes. They yearn for their land! They just want their homes back!" Her impassioned pleas were worthy of an Oscar®. But this critic doesn't buy such nonsense. Gaza residents would need super-human vision to see their homes from over a mile away, past security barriers and walls. More importantly, if they wanted their homes back so badly, then why are they destroying them with rockets and mortars? Perhaps I was taking her too literally. English is her second language, after all. Perhaps she was speaking metaphorically. So I re-stated the question: "If, for the sake of argument, Sderot was built on the site of a previous Arab village, why then should innocent people living in Sderot today have to suffer for a 60 year old battle they had nothing to do with? If an Arab really had proof of ownership of any land in Israel, then I am certain there are dozens of Israeli lawyers willing to represent them in front of the Israeli Supreme Court. These disputes can be resolved without a single rocket fired." She completely ignored my appeal to judicial conflict resolution, and repeated the hackneyed phrase that "Palestinians are desperate! They have nothing left to loose!" She was clearly unwilling to address the moral implications of terrorism. From her perspective, the displacement of Arabs 60 years ago was a crime that deserves eternal worldwide media attention, and justifies bloody vigilante retribution against innocent bystanders today. In stark contrast, the present-day suffering, displacement, and deaths of completely innocent Israeli civilians is not criminal, and barely deserves acknowledgment in any media reports. If hers was the voice of liberal, educated, and affluent Arabs, then I, too, have felt the breath of the beast.

I eventually told her that I was born in Tel-Aviv, that my father was Ben-Gurion's bodyguard, and that I strongly support preserving Israel as a Jewish state. She was immediately embarrassed for having spoken so ill of Israelis. She realized I had caught her in the act of spreading false propaganda. I had exposed her anti-Semitism. When her husband returned to see me, he brought a box of halvah as a present, and he apologized, not for anything she said specifically, but for her "getting carried away." They both still see me, and they even referred their children as patients. The lesson I learned is that political correctness is not the answer to conflict resolution. Political correctness creates a false veneer of civility that hides deep seated hatred. If the source of the hatred is never addressed, it will never be resolved, especially if the source is misinformation.

I will admit that it doesn't always work out positively. An Iranian patient once visited my office, and, upon learning that I was Israeli, never came back. Yet another Iranian family has returned frequently and brought in their children. I am also friendly with a deeply religious Pakistani family. One of the sons has even taken flying lessons! My family ate at their house. The men and women gathered in separate parts of the house. We watched them pray after the meal, and we even engaged in a lively discussion about Israel. I am certain that I am the only Israeli they have ever met in their lives. Our families still join for social gatherings, and I feel perfectly comfortable in their home. While I would not feel safe visiting Pakistan, here in the United States I feel secure in engaging my would-be enemies in friendly political discussions.

Frank discussions are the most productive. During all my conversations, I never engage in personal attacks, and I never raise my voice. I also never back away from the facts, no matter how inconvenient they may be. By standing my ground, metaphorically speaking, I establish my self dignity. Only then could I confidently extend my hand and affirm my Arab friend's dignity. Middle East debates have the potential of becoming highly emotionally charged. I am cautious in avoiding emotionally labile personalities, in choosing the topic of discussion, and in deciding when to start and stop a discussion. My discussions have also been restricted to individuals with stable careers and at least some Western education.

One consistent observation I made from all of these encounters is that, by gaining the respect of my potential enemies, I could create lasting friendships. I learned that religious Muslims respect Jews who are knowledgeable about Judaism; secular Arabs respect Jews who are knowledgeable about history. Everyone respects a Jew who has a strong sense of his/her own identity, and who doesn't apologize for it. I learned that in Arab culture, rhetoric is a well developed art form. Everything and anything can be used in the service of persuasion, including a combination of facts, fiction, poetry, hyperbole, sweetness, and graphic violence. One moment I may hear a sincere, impassioned plea for Israel to "just give Palestinians a chance to show the goodness in their hearts." Yet, when I point out the inconvenient fact that the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel, I am told not to pay any attention to that, "it is all just rhetoric." I am reminded of the haggling that goes on in the Arab markets, where the cost of a rug can start at $1000, and ends up at $20. But I am quick to point out that Hamas not only uses violent rhetoric, they act on it. Sometimes debates become contests of who can recite the most historical facts. If I get the upper hand, the debate will suddenly morph into recitations about international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. If I successfully rebut these arguments, the discussion swerves into poetic sentimentalism about human rights and dignity. If I counter with the need for Jewish rights and dignity, I may get hit with accusations of Jewish racism. If I counter with Arab racism and point out the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands, the conversation can take yet another turn. It can seem frustrating and futile. I often wonder if anything I am saying has any influence on them. If it is nothing more than a chess match, then all I can hope to accomplish is to gain their respect. It may seem like a lot of work for seemingly little effect, but I do believe it lays a foundation from which one can build. At the very least, I show that I am not afraid to talk face-to-face, and that I care enough to argue.

What have I learned from my Christian patients? Regardless of the denomination, the more devout they are in their faith, the friendlier they are toward me as a Jew, and the more sympathetic they are toward Israel. The most fervent Zionist I know is a Messianic Jew. We get along very well and share many of the same concerns about the world. Yes, he did invite me to worship at his church, but I didn't let that bother me. Instead, I suggested that I give his congregation a presentation about "Israel and the New Anti-Semitism." We're still working out the details. To all my Christian friends, I wish you a Very Merry Christmas! (editor's note: see this post- ) I am truly overwhelmed by the love and support I have received from all of you.
Finally, to my liberal, secular, self-effacing Jewish friends, I wish you luck. You may think you are building cross-cultural bridges. In reality, you are building a house of cards. While you may show deep and abiding respect to your Arab and Muslim friends, they do not respect you. They see you as traitors to your own people. They see you as weak, immoral and unprincipled. The more you give, in your attempt to buy their friendship, the more they will demand from you, and the less they will respect you.

In his accompanying email Irad added:
My feelings towards my Arab and Muslim friends are mixed. I am fully aware that
they can turn against me at any time. But I try to set aside my feelings while
pursuing a more important goal. The only way to learn about a rival is to stay
close to them. I certainly don't work for any government, but I understand how
Israel excels in human intelligence. I instinctively want to learn as much as I
can about them. I want to know what they think about me, and where they get
their information.
Perhaps I can convince them to seek different sources of
information. As far as changing Islam's attitudes toward dhimmi, that will
probably take a few more centuries, so I don't try to argue about such
fundamental problems in the religion. I am convinced that cautious political
engagement is important. My father told me that during all of Israel's wars, the
Israeli government was in constant contact with its enemies, using back
channels. I see the wisdom in that. Unfortunately, I don't see much wisdom in
the current Israeli government. But, in time, they too shall pass.

In typical Israeli fashion, Irad does not speak directly of his feelings but his story may have even more emotional impact because of this reticence. The doctor-patient relationship is an interesting twist on the Beast Encounter in three dimensions. First, because a physician may have a very personal power over his patients. He can tell them that they "must" eat, behave and even live differently; he evaluates and informs them of the state of their body. By the state of their bodies he knows things about them that they may not even admit to themselves. He sees them naked in body and soul. This power relationship is complicated by the Arab honor-shame culture in which it is considered to be acceptable to lie, dissemble and behave dishonorably unless other people know (and verbalize) that you are guilty of those things. The whole situation is redolent of the Court Jews who, down through the centuries, served Caliphs and Sheiks while being treated as dhimmis.

Irad is no dhimmi. He gives as good as he gets and I'll wager he has more of an effect on his Arab patients than he gives himself credit for. His description of the typical Arab debating sequence of wild accusation and mis-representation of historical fact, cynical argumentation of dubious legalisms, and pathetic appeal to shame and emotion, all with the express aim not of getting to a resolution of the problem but of exhausting the resources and resistance of the opposition rings absolutely true. It strips the cynical honor-shame (anyone interested in a very clear explanation of honor-shame should look here) tactics naked and exposes the hypocrisy of it. His goodwill and open-mindedness is combined with exactly the right amounts of knowledge, realism and self-preservation. If we only had more like him!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Political Correctness- The Fawlty Logic of the Left

This clip is an early instance of liberal political correctness in action. Many years ago, before my first encounter with the beast, I was involved with a very liberal young woman. This was at the time when the Public Television network was just introducing Fawlty Towers to the American audience for the first time. One evening I suggested that we watch it together and was shocked when she said that she hated Fawlty Towers.

In time I came to understand that it was not so much hatred but a powerful identification with Basil Fawlty’s personality that turned her off so violently. The episodes that affected her the most powerfully were the one’s in which Fawlty’s emotional lability, low self-esteem and priggish sense of propriety combined to drive him into outbursts of bizarre behavior.

Basil’s aversive paranoia about giving offense (“Don’t mention the war!”) comes into conflict with his actual feelings and opinions. He has suffered a concussion (note the bandage) earlier in the day which has presumably left him with a Tourette’s Syndrome-like low threshold for expressing his real thoughts. He treats the German tourists with exaggerated (loony) care and is furious when they “insult” him by thinking he is crazy and trying to reason with him.

It is hilarious and it is sad. It is so funny because we all recognize the the conflict. It is sad because it causes so much harm. The Basil Fawlty governments of the west who simply can't force themselves to bring up the subjects of Palestinian bad faith, mis-management and terror as thy keep pouring aid into Palestinian Authority in spite of the proven correlation between that aid and terrorism aimed at innocent Israelis is a perfect example.

Forbidden to talk or even think about "certain" words and ideas that exist nevertheless, one becomes consumed by them, and humiliated by the result. The dishonesty and hypocrisy and unavoidable disasters caused by Political Correctness are most powerful in those whose character is weakest, emotions least stable and spiritual center is most jaded and hollow. It might well be called the Basil Fawlty Complex.

Here is the most interesting aspect of this clip: Basil Fawlty is clearly the loser (or, in the common phrase, “a loser”) in this scene. If the protagonist were a Palestinian, complaining about “the occupation” he would be viewed by most liberal westerners as either noble or, at the very least, understandable. Far more egregious behavior (murder of innocent civilians, warping of an entire generation of Arab children, random rocket attacks, and on and on) has been defined by the Fawlty Left as “resistance”, “understandable” and even “freedom fighting”.

It should come as no surprise that members of the honor-shame culture of Caliphate Islam are subject to this kind of tantrum. This is what honor-shame is all about. They will win the upper hand by any means that they think will work. They are, emotionally labile and see honor as a mere matter of having the upper hand. They are, by definition, The People of the Tantrum.

It is a tragedy, on the other hand, and a loss of civilization that so many westerners have today allowed this kind of honor-shame thinking to supplant rationality, freedom of thought and freedom of speech. We westerners who should have, in our schools and homes, absorbed the great traditions of western enlightenment, and come to value truth, ethics, rationality and morality over personal honor and shame should be able to transcend the tantrum.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Plea for "Merry Christmas"

I am a Jew. I grew up in an observant Jewish home in which we greeted Christmas with a mixture of fascination, respect and irritation. Jackie Mason once said, “I don’t understand something about Christmas; maybe you can explain this to me? Why is it that this time of year you Christian people bring all of the trees inside the house and take all the lights and put then outside”. I have always loved that line. It captured my general feeling of bemusement about the whole Christmas celebration. I didn’t get it.

My feelings were mixed for a variety of reasons. My Dad had a retail store so the weeks leading up to Christmas were always a time of tension and brutally long hours of work. The traffic on the roads, crowds in the stores, and the saturation of television (especially in those pre- cable times) and radio airwaves with programs and music left me very glad to have it over on December 26th.

As a kid, I felt excluded by the whole Christian celebration. I didn’t get it. I found the incessant Christmas music on the radio punishing, the goodwill frenzy unsettling and the talk about Jesus (in whose divinity I was not supposed to believe) uncomfortable.

As a result, I was always just a little unsure of how to respond when some well meaning person would wish me a Merry Christmas. I would feel simultaneous but diametrically opposed urges to
Thank the person and try to summon a convincing Merry Christmas in return
Say,” Thanks Very much but I don’t celebrate Christmas and then deal with the uncomfortable explanations and apologies.
Pretend I did not hear.

I am ashamed to admit it today but I was, at first, pleased when I saw, over the years, the ACLU types began pushing “Merry Christmas” out of the vocabulary of cultural discourse in favor of the more generic “Happy Holidays”.

I’ve grownup, though, and I’ve grown into a new perspective on this whole matter question and, today, when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I have a new response. It’s really simple-

I stop what I am doing
I thank them very sincerely
I wish them a Merry Christmas in return.

Here’s why:

I have come to see quite clearly that even if there are politically correct, multi-cultural, morally relativistic, post modern progressive busybodies who would like us to believe that our Christian friends’ and Neighbors’ spontaneous Christmas wishes are somehow injurious to us and our culture, they are nothing of the kind. A sincere “Merry Christmas is better for you than the blandest, most guarded “Happy Holidays”

You see, the U.S. was founded by Christians. Not just any Christians. The early colonists were both devout and independent. They were fervent Protestants whose purpose in coming here was to leave the Kings, Priests, state religions and archaic laws of the old world behind. They came here to build a country where every man could read scripture for himself and be his own priest, where he could be free to elect political leadership that he could follow gladly. Ultimately, that enterprise gave rise to the constitution and form of government we have today. At two hundred years old it is still the one in the entire world that best honors the individual and guarantees his rights.

It was these fiercely independent Protestants who set the tone for the nation in which we now live. It is important to remember that they were deeply religious people. When Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and the rest decided that there would be no Official Religion in this country they were aiming for Freedom of Religion not Freedom from Religion. They meant the freedom to practice your religion after the dictates of your conscience .

This is why America has become the destination of choice for any one wishing to escape repression or lack of opportunity elsewhere in the world. That's why Jews have gravitated here for two hundred years. But we are in danger of forgetting how this all works and I think this whole Merry Christmas thing is a symptom of that amnesia.

Fortunately, though, Jews do have a collective memory of stories if we just listen to them. My grand father told me stories about life in turn-of-the(last)–century Eastern Europe so I know what he escaped by coming here (not to mention that he was not in Zhitomir, his home town, thirty years later when the Waffen SS slaughtered thirty six thousand Jews there in one day!). I also have a friend who came here from Leningrad in the Seventies. He has told me many stories. Just few months ago, I worked with a client named Miriam who told me how she grew up in newly-born Israel after her family was expelled from Morocco in 1948. Each of these stories and so many others just like them have convinced me that The United States of America, as conceived by her Protestant founders, has been a miracle and a blessing to the entire human race. It has been especially important to the Jewish people.

We Jews are barely over one percent of the population here. We (a lot of us anyway) take pride in our contribution and participation to America’s dynamism. We point with satisfaction to the fact that the founding fathers of this country were inspired and informed by our holy book which they called The Old Testament. Many of them read it in the original Hebrew, something few of us modern Jews can do.

But why do I need to explain this? Why don’t we all understand the centrality of the Protestant ethic to the goodness of America? Partly, it’s because of a lack in the educational program. But it’s also because our media, whose responsibility it should be to make us aware of the important events and issues. But the media is often found to be doing just the opposite.

In the media, America is assailed daily for her imperfections; and if not assailed, then damned by the faintest of praise. The media’s emphasizes the imperfections instead of the achievements- the discords not the harmony. Hasn’t America (and her allies) banished the Taliban to isolated caves and mud huts in remotest Waziristan? Didn’t we free Afghan women to live more normal lives without the threat of torture, rape and summary execution for the crime of being female? Can’t, now, Afghans to grow beards to their own liking, listen to music, laugh in public send their daughters to school and have simple human dignity? Oh, well, yes, the press will whine, but there is still poverty, the occasional bombing and we never caught Osama bin Laden. Well then, have we also not saved thousands of Kurds, and non Baathist Muslims in Iraq from the depredations of Saddam and his two evil sons- people who raped and murdered fifteen year-old girls and put their political enemies (alive and feet-first) into industrial shredding machines just to hear them scream? Perhaps, but our press prefers to talk about a few incompetent American soldiers (who were punished for their stupidity) deriding and humiliating their Iraqi captives at Abu Ghraib and equating that with the horrors of Saddam.

I am one Jew who is all for the kind of spirit and strength of character that gets expressed at this time of year by wishing each other “Merry Christmas”. I’ll certainly take it over Allah HuAkbar. Give me Peace on Earth” and “Good Will Toward Men” over “Eternal Jihad” and “Dhimmi Status for Infidels” anytime.

If we do anything this holiday season, we need to loosen up and get a perspective on this “Merry Christmas” thing. It is not the people who say “Merry Christmas” and mean it that we need to be discouraging in America at this time. It is the people who find something wrong and suspect in the energy, enthusiasm and good-will that animates that “Merry Christmas” that we need to discourage.

The secular, morally blind, multi-cultural, Progressive ignoramuses who dare to equate the fully investigated, litigated, redressed and punished mistakes of a few misguided soldiers Abu Grhaib and Haditha with the bloody reign of terror under Saddam Hussein display their ignorance twice- First, because and find no moral difference are the same moral idiots who make excuses for the thousands of rockets a day that are being intentionally fired at the civilian population of Israel, rockets loaded with explosives, ball bearings and nails so as to injure and maim indiscriminately but still insist that any attempt to hunt down and stop the terrorists responsible for these rockets is equivalent or even worse.

The choice is between warm hearted friends with morals and ethics and heartless enemies with no moral compass who think they can rationalize almost anything with reasonable sounding, non-judgmental sophistry. Do you need a moment to think about that?

By saying “Merry Christmas” in public we are not agreeing that Jesus was the son of God, we are just acknowledging that some very good people believe it. When we say it, that does not constitute accepting Jesus as our personal savior; it does show his followers that we see them as fellow countrymen, friends and brothers-in-arms in the defense of the highest ideals of our civil society. What is the problem with that?

The first four words of this essay “I am a Jew”, are exactly the words that Daniel Pearl was forced to say on camera just before he was pinned down and his head was sawn off. I'd like you to try a little thought experiment simulating a better world here- Pretend that the next sentence that I write followed that first one and I had no need for the rest of the explanation in between...
"Have a Merry Christmas"

Monday, December 3, 2007

Are Liberals Less Liberal As Media Consumers?

Here’s something we need to investigate further. While researching a major post on Political Correctness, I have run across a study on the web site of the Pew Research for the People and the Press. This study, “sorts voters into homogeneous groups based on values, political beliefs, and party affiliation.” It then looks at various aspects of their behavior and, using survey results. presents statistical evidence and analysis. It’s a big study with a lot of interesting ideas threaded through it. I was enjoying reading through it and was thoroughly sidetracked for a day or so as I read it. One thing jumped out at me and I wanted to pass it on. Second Draft needs to take a hard look at this.

It is not specifically referred to in the written analysis of the article but there is a glaring (and I do mean red, purple and throbbing) anomaly in the data presented. On page 73 of the report, there is a table entitled “Typology Groups and Media Use”. This chart looks at the kinds of media that each political type relies on for their information. It immediately jumped out at me that the largest single political type had the smallest average use of television as an information source. This was no small artifact. The Liberal typology was almost 40% (37.54, to be exact) larger than the next largest group (Conservative Democrats) and their television usage was nearly 20 % (17.55%) lower than the next lowest group (Upbeats).

I decided to drill down into the numbers. Now, this is a little suspect because the numbers are already averaged out and it is not clear how some of them were derived from the research (for example it is not clear whether the break down of the television numbers into categories like network, local, CNN, etc…, reflect some sort of break down of anwers that were asked independently or is the television average was derived from aggregated usage numbers for all categories). But if the numbers are good to begin with, then my manipulations should not be too far out on a statistical limb.

I totaled up the percentages for each of the media cited as main sources of information by each political type. This should give a rough measure of how broad a range of information sources the average subject in each group is accustomed to using.

Here are the numbers I came up with:

Social Conservatives 269
Pro-Government Conservatives 264
Conservative Democrats 262
Upbeats 256
Disadvantaged Democrats 256
Enterprisers 253
Bystanders 242
Disaffecteds 239
Liberals 230

It may have meaning or not (certainly there are methodological questions that would have to be addressed) but the numbers are tantalizing. According to these numbers, Liberals are at the very bottom of the scale for media variety. This implies that, as a group, they tend to draw on a thinner variety of information sources.

On the other hand, the largest conservative typology (Social Conservatives) has a media variety index that is almost 20% (16.955) higher than that of the liberals.

It is also interesting that Liberals rank highest for Internet usage. Anyone reading this post knows very well that, between search engines and link sharing with friends and colleagues, when you read and explore on the internet you are mainly pursuing sources that you agree with.

So, it makes me wonder if what many of us think might be provable; that conservatives tend to look at more possibilities before making up their minds and liberals tend to stick their index fingers into their ears and shout “La, La, La, La” when they come up against information that does not confirm their preconceived ideas.