Analysis: The West's failing reactions to Jihadi killings

An eye-opening interviiew with Professor Richard Landes: 'In 2000, in siding with the Palestinians, Western progressives adopted the fatal principle: When Jihadis attack a democracy, blame the democracy. '

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

OpEds Professor Richard Landes
Professor Richard Landes
Manfred Gerstenfeld

“Starting in 2000, many in the Western world systematically misunderstood the nature of the threat posed to the West by global jihad, a medieval millennial movement. Four early examples from 2000 until 2006 illustrate the major mistakes made by Western thought leaders and media professionals.

One might consider the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada and the alleged Muhammad al Durah killing in September 2000 as the first Jihadi assault on a Western democracy. 

“Using suicide terror attacks as their main weapon, Palestinian jihadis began a war of extermination aimed at Israel civilians. Instead of identifying it as such, however, the Western media almost as a pack, presented the Palestinians as ‘freedom fighters’ resisting an unyielding imperial-colonial Israel that inexplicably -- or maliciously -- refused to grant this 'poor embattled people' their freedom.”

Professor Richard Landes, formerly of Boston University, was trained as a Medievalist. He focuses on the interaction between elites and commoners in various societies. He has published many books and maintains several websites including: ‘The Second Draft, AlDurah.com and a blog, the ‘Augean Stables.’ He has completed a manuscript treatment of the four incidents discussed here, entitled Stupidity Matters: A Medievalist Guide to the 21st Century. 

Landes continues: "When the image of Muhammad al Durah -- allegedly shot in his father’s arms by the IDF – first appeared, the legacy news media, the major classic news outlets, reported it as true. They did so without any serious investigation or even doubt. This marks a decisive victory for what one might call ‘lethal journalism.’ The media were reporting Palestinian war propaganda as news to their Western home audience. It was also ‘own-goal” journalism’ since, like other jihadis, they considered other infidel democracies every bit as much their enemy and target. 

“It didn’t take long for the next incident, this time a major one, to happen.

The second jihadi assault on on a Western democracy were the 9/11 attacks in 2001, indeed on the global democratic hegemony. There was an initial outburst of sympathy for the thousands of American victims and outrage at Bin Laden’s attack. But at that time, a series of countervailing reactions also set in that eventually came to dominate politically correct discussion. President George W. Bush insisted that Islam was a religion of peace. Good people asked: ‘What did we do to make them hate us so?’ 

“Worse, a number of progressives, academics and intellectuals, openly rejoiced at this blow to America’s ‘suffocating hegemony.’

Conspiracy theorists insisted that the Bush administration had carried out the attack to start a war with Islam. Noam Chomsky argued that the U.S. was an even worse terrorist and deserved this blow. Western journalists increasingly refused to use the word ‘terrorist’ to describe jihadis attacking democracies, and, in complete contrast with their publicizing of the false Palestinian al Durah icon, many Western editors stopped running pictures of the victims of 9-11.

The third example of foolish responses to the war with Jihad concerned what was falsely called the ‘Jenin Massacre.’ In April 2002 Israel undertook the first counter-attack against Palestinian jihadi suicide-warfare. Over a year of persistent, vicious suicide terror attacks and Israeli restraint culminated in the murder on Passover at a Netanya hotel of 30 Israeli civilians and the wounding of 140. The IDF then began a military operation that targeted the center of the attacks, a neighborhood in the Jenin refugee camp. After three weeks of fighting the number of Palestinian casualties, mostly gunmen, was about 54. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers were killed. It was one of the first, responses, and a remarkably careful one, by a democratic army to suicide jihad. 

“The legacy media in the West repeated the false Palestinian accusations of Nazi-like mass executions of civilians. Many presented it as an assault on the entire city of Jenin. Finally, when journalists had a chance to see the 5-block area in the camp they found not one of the Palestinian claims confirmed. Yet rather than recant, some, along with their NGO allies, doubled down. ‘Massacre Evidence Grows… Horrifying.’ Demonstrations in Europe against Israel had people wearing mock suicide-belts to show solidarity with the Palestinians. They cheered on their enemy in his most dastardly deeds. It was crazy Own-Goal Politics.

The fourth example of the war with Jihad concerned the ‘Danish Muhammad Cartoons’ scandal in February 2006. The Danish daily, Jyllands Posten, published twelve cartoons featuring the prophet Muhammad. Several months later, a group of radical Danish imams sought to amplify the protest. Eventually they animated the global Muslim Street with a ‘Day of Rage,’ not only in Muslim countries, but also in some Western capitals. These demonstrations denounced the Danish paper for blasphemy and in some cases, openly declared the Jihadis desire to conquer the West and subject it. A Muslim Street in Europe had come of age.

“This was an upgrade of the attempt to extend the laws of Sharia to the Western world. The first round had happened in 1989, when Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against British-Indian, London-dwelling novelist Salman Rushdie. Muslims so as to try to regulate the behavior of infidels in the Western world, especially to demand deference. Sure enough, Western leaders tripped over themselves to apologize for insulting Muslims. In a show of sympathy at the insult, Westerners compared the rather mild Danish cartoons to Nazi cartoons demonizing Jews.”

How should the West have reacted to these cases?

Landes answers: “The legacy media bears a very heavy burden of blame in this. Journalists and editors should have reported what the Palestinians said in Arabic, especially their genocidal jihadi rants about ruling the world. They should also have stressed the extensive threats and intimidation Palestinians directed at them to stop them from reporting the dark side of Palestinian culture and deeds. They should have upheld a bare minimum of professional scruples. The media pack failed in the most spectacular way.

“Charles Enderlin, the correspondent of the French press Agency AFP, turned the Al Durah footage into a viral ‘news report.’ Instead he should have fired his cameraman, who staged the footage. Thereafter Enderlin should have broadcast a piece on how Arab cameramen use Western equipment to film war propaganda. With this kind of coverage, it would have been easier for Westerners to understand that the outbreak of the ‘intifada’ was the start of global Jihad against the West and not welcome it with open arms. 

“The intifada was the Palestinian Arabs' answer to the positive-sum peace of Oslo that so many progressives had invested so much energy in during the ‘90s. Instead this media coverage gave rise to the mentality that still dominates most Western elites. In 2000, in siding with the Palestinian Arabs, Western progressives adopted
Scholars should have come out with a curriculum for understanding Caliphaters, i.e., Muslims who believe that the time has come for Islam to rule the world.
the fatal principle: When Jihadis attack a democracy, blame the democracy.

“Granted that President Bush needed to calm the U.S. public’s hostility to their fellow Muslims. Yet scholars should have come out with a curriculum for understanding Caliphaters, i.e., Muslims who believe that the time has come for Islam to rule the world. That should have also included a technical vocabulary of the Arab terms these Muslims use and what they therefore understand and believe.

“The 9/11 Memorial in New York should have been set up as a major center of such teaching. It should help people understand what motivates Muslim mass murderers. Instead, under pressure from ‘moderate’ Caliphaters, it avoids any discussion of the perpetrators.

"Public intellectuals should have conducted debates over how to distinguish between moderate Muslims -- who appreciate their freedom of religion enough to grant the same freedom to others – versus those who abuse this religious freedom to plan to take away that of others. Journalists should have used the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those Muslims who deliberately target civilians. They should have explained how someone who wants to conquer the world and subject others to –sharia -- apartheid rules is not even remotely a ’freedom fighter.’ 

“As far as the Jenin case is concerned, Western media should have withheld giving any credibility to Palestinian claims about an alleged massacre until proof became available. They already had extensive experience with the unreliability of Palestinian sources. The media should have explained to the public why this specific target in Jenin was chosen. Then, maybe, Western ‘progressives’ wouldn't have danced and cheered on their enemy.

“At least, properly informed, Westerners would have understood that these suicidal jihadis also had them in their sights. When the Jenin camp was reopened to journalists, they should have reported the low death rate, the high percentage of Palestinian Arab fighters among them, and the unprecedented sacrifice of IDF soldiers to keep Palestinian civilian collateral deaths low. They should also have discussed in detail the evidence for the Palestinian death cult of suicide terror as expressed by posters and televised sermons so prevalent in Palestinian society.”

Regarding the Danish Cartoon scandal Landes says: “Western spokespeople should have denounced the impresarios of the ‘days of rage.’ The Muslim inciters made three additional cartoons, which were far more blasphemous than the Danish ones. These included ‘Muhammad as a pig’, ‘Muhammad being buggered by a dog while in prayer’, and ‘Muhammad as a pedophile.’

“In rebuking the real blasphemy, the West could have set the scene for a serious and mature conversation with intelligent Muslims, of which there are plenty. These people found the rabble rousing of the radical imams both dangerous and ridiculous. Instead Western public figures, even in security, identified Caliphaters such as CAIR in the U.S. and the MAB in the U.K. as moderates and sought their advice on how to approach the Muslim community. They ignored the genuinely moderate, peace-loving Muslims who were getting marginalized in their own communities. Western elites ended up siding with our enemies, the Caliphaters. It was a huge act of collective submission.”

What are the results of the West's failure to react as it should have?

Landes states that through these failures the West lost major terrain in the global public sphere: “In the upswing to 2000, most progressives, whatever their reservations, hoped for a civic global public sphere in the new, the first global millennium, one based on positive-sum principles. Instead of the spread of a genuinely progressive discourse, however, with ample room for disagreements and in-course corrections, progressives gave way to a morally and cognitively confused discourse that took the Palestinian Arab cause – at the very height of its suicidal terror campaign – as a ‘litmus test of liberal credentials.’ Pacifists like Judith Butler even embraced Hamas and Hezbollah as part of the global progressive left.

“Those who disagreed with such nonsense fell silent. Others quietly picked up the thread that inverted key moral issues by exploiting the unconscious ‘humanitarian racism’ of Western progressives. From their moral heights, progressives looked down and felt sorry for those 'poor downtrodden' Palestinian Arabs. They considered that these people have no moral agency and thus have ‘no choice’ but to turn to killing themselves in order to massacre Israeli civilians. These humanitarian racists looked at how vicious Palestinians were, and shook their heads sadly, ‘what choice do they have… given how cruel you Israelis are.’ They then made adherence to so revolting a cause the entrance fee to progressive circles. No effective voice emerged to oppose this.

“Instead the West should have found ways to heal the split within its own societies. At the time, the democratic body social still had some cohesion. They should have come to some basic agreements about the rules of the game between left and right, conservative and progressive. Instead the West internalized the ‘clash of civilizations’ as a form of cultural AIDS. The proponents of this cultural disorientation about Caliphaters played the role of the white blood cells that attack not the invader, but the messengers reporting the invasion. They saw the natural response of ‘circle-the-wagons-we’re-under-attack,’ as deplorable. Anyone who worried about Islam, that supposed religion of peace, was a xenophobe and Islamophobe. This is still happening.

“The fear of being called an Islamophobe exercises astonishing influence in the West in the 21st century. For example, for over a decade, this fear prevented public officials in more than one British city from stopping a group of local Muslims from gang raping and sex-grooming British girls – in these Muslims’ eyes, ‘infidel’ girls, sex slaves. This silence and failure of the authorities to intervene was devastating.

“That such a nebulous – if not bad-faith -- word as ‘Islamophobia’ has so much power in the Western public sphere today is disastrous for our ability to think clearly. It is a big part of the increasingly visible divide in so many democracies, between the people on the one hand, and their elites on the other. The elites see the obvious self-defensiveness of the tribalists as deplorable populism, while simple people see the elite’s dogmatic and suicidal insistence on appeasement as either stupid or treasonous. The elite’s response to Israel’s operation in Jenin can be summarized as: ‘Who are you to defend yourself against Caliphater aggression? Don’t you know that infuriates them.’ Indeed, they were saying that to everyone.

How do you see Trump's attitude to the Palestinian Arabs?

“Today, the sad joke is that Trump, the crude, playground bully, has produced by far the sanest Middle East policy, both in his wariness of Muslim-majority nations over there and his attitude toward the Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinians have been able to destroy peace negotiations with the Israelis and blame Israel repeatedly in the last 20 years, twice in the Obama period. This illustrates how loopy the ‘peace industry’ has become. Their positive-sum logic -- land for peace – is in the service of a bad-faith partner who wants land for war.

“Trump’s deal of the century is actually the kind of solution to this problem that’s obvious to anyone who’s not in thrall to the notion that for the sake of their honor, Palestinians have to get back the entire ‘West Bank’ and that the ‘two-state solution’ is the only possible solution to the conflict. 

“In fact, the Palestinians are not at all ready for statehood, a fact obscured by the current hysterical anti-Zionism. Palestinian Arab political culture has been dominated for over half a century by violent groups that preach hate and genocide, and systematically abuse their own children and sacrifice their people. The two-state solution concept may be the single most idiotic Western notion, despite its being currently widely accepted almost as a dogma. Such a solution would be nice and even fitting. The Palestinians however are nowhere near being able to establish a democratic state. Autonomy in the areas where Palestinian Arabs are most populous would actually be generous. There they can work on improving their civic skills so long neglected under conditions of Western adoration. 

“Yet overall, countries that are constitutionally dedicated to fairness and legal equality are still losing ground against a medieval millennial movement that came partly out of the caves of Afghanistan. Whatever separates us within the democratic body politic does not call for war; indeed, what joins us is our particularly productive way of handling differences. To move, however, into a tribal, ‘us-versus-them’ team-mode seems to be happening in many democracies, including the U.S. and Great Britain. It is disastrous. Indeed, it internalizes the very clash of civilizations that so many elites refuse to even acknowledge is underway.

“The legacy media has gotten marginally better about the conflict ‘between the river and the sea,’ mostly thanks to the nagging of watchdogs like CAMERA and Honest Reporting. But every time blood is shed, these media rapidly revert to their old lethal habits, feeding jihadi hatreds with their depictions of Palestinian suffering, and dividing democratic forces.

“Al Durah was the victory of a fake news campaign that still thrives today, with the large majority of news stories fitting into the Israeli-Goliath versus Palestinian-David narrative. Now we see this kind of fakenews – or advocacy journalism -- spreading to domestic U.S. news. From Fox to CNN to MSNBC we find a kind of partisan licentiousness with both terminology and ‘facts’ that echoes the kind of assault Israel suffered from the Western media in earlier decades. 

“Any creature whose eyes and ears -- in the case of Western democracies, the news media -- betray them, will not long survive, especially if they have serious enemies. The Corona virus presents us with a stress test of
The current wave of Jew-hatred in the West, the first since the Nazis, started in 2000 when demented journalists like the French Catherine Nay announced that the picture of Muhammad al Durah erased and replaced the picture of the boy in the Warsaw Ghetto.
how robust and accurate our information systems operate. So far, not encouraging.

“The anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian journalism feeds the Caliphaters’ discourse in which Israel is bad and guilty and the Palestinian Arabs are good and innocent. All of the BDS campaign is based on the fake news ‘progressive’ advocacy journalists and ‘human rights’ activists have been generating in this region especially since 2000. Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yemini has called it the ‘industry of lies.’ BDS’ current strength, even though so many of their claims are disprovable, suggests that there is an important audience, who long for stories of Jews behaving badly. Where does that malicious joy in Israel’s moral debasement come from?

“The current wave of Jew-hatred in the West, the first since the Nazis, started in 2000 when demented journalists like the French Catherine Nay announced that the picture of Muhammad al Durah erased and replaced the picture of the boy in the Warsaw Ghetto. The progressive and Caliphater replacement narrative – ‘Israel equals Nazis, Palestinians equal Jews’ – continues to poison the West. Under the conditions of the Corona pandemic, where an ancient and consistent urge to blame the Jews for misfortune beckons, this kind of toxic discourse continues to threaten everyone, including the Jew-haters." 

Landes concludes: “Israel is obviously the main target of Palestinian war propaganda and suffers first. Israel’s widespread negative reputation is now mainstream in the British Labour party, and reaching the public discourse of some Democratic candidates for president of the U.S. It is a direct result of a steady diet of lethal journalism about Israel. 

“Yet Israel is hardly the sole or even major victim of the foolish choices made in the Western public sphere. Progressives cheered as emerging Palestinian Arab culture was hijacked by genocidal jihadis, who brainwashed their children. These alleged advocates of peace, adopted a narrative that made having a Palestinian peace camp impossible. 

“Ironically, the blow to Jews both in Israel and in the diaspora has also had a positive impact on everything from the refining of Israeli military techniques for sparing civilians way beyond those of any other army in the world, to the proliferation of NGOs genuinely committed to progressive causes. 

“In view of its circumstances, Israel is the most progressive country in the world, filled with problems and contradictions, but also a consistent source of progressive approaches to problem solving, including all kinds of therapy. It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that it should have a widely spread reputation as a racist, apartheid, genocidal monster that shouldn't exist. Granted, that’s what Caliphaters think. But they’re hardly progressive. What could explain why progressives, people who support Israel’s values, accept that demonizing narrative?”



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