Previous installments: 1
I guess I could be defined as a peace activist. Everybody seems to be calling themselves that nowadays.
I enjoy talking to the Arabs and Palestinians – meaning those who live in the Palestinian-Authority administered territory under the Oslo Agreement – in my classes, on the bus (if I happen to be sitting next to one or have a particularly friendly bus driver), in taxis, stores, shuk stalls, and restaurants. I love exploring our common ground and enjoy the experience of exploring our mutual humanity. Israel is a country where strangers talk to each other, where it’s rare to have a seatmate on an intercity bus who doesn’t become a friend by the time the ride is over. Last but not least course, there is nothing to lose by being kind.
However, I am cognizant of the fact that many aspects of peace activism are traps, be sure to watch out for them:
Part Two: Assuming Cultural Equivalence
The biggest mistake with moral equivalence, discussed in the previous installment, is that it doesn’t work, and it sells our people out in the process.
But those who have been at it for a long time should know better by now that they are being majorly duped by some of the biggest con artists there are. This isn’t tit-for-tat for them. No matter how much Peace Warriors want it to be won’t make it true. Some cultural context: their honor-shame culture. The most obvious aspect of this culture is their tradition of hospitality, which most honor-shame cultures are known for. Why? Because they see hospitality as a way to show off their honor. In addition to showing off their honor (which is generally material wealth and family cohesion) through hospitality, they also serve to maintain it by keeping guests and outsiders in their favor, at least on a one-on-one basis. This tendency manifests itself in them telling guests and outsiders whatever they think they want to hear in the most syrupy sweet way. It’s actually how they win over previously impartial journalists by sending fixers who lay the hospitality and kindness on thick while Trojan horsing their toxic antisemitic belief system in the most culturally palatable way to them (whilst they convince them they aren’t antisemitic and come from a place of pure magnanimity). They mainly use the sympathy card and take advantage of their chance to “vent their frustrations” as a way to spread lies and libel to shame Israel, which they feel in turn increases their honor. If everything is Israel’s fault, they have nothing to be ashamed of, and in Arab culture, honor is the highest value and one must rid himself of any shame by any means necessary.
This tendency is also exhibited at its most extreme in honor killings, stemming from the belief that even murder is justified against someone who negatively impacts another’s honor (like a child to a parent). Since they see restoring their honor as a matter of utmost importance, even sometimes more so than life itself (and land is often tied to honor), they have gotten very good at selling their narrative. They also get this skill from a cultural history and tradition of proselytizing. THIS is why they are winning the PR war while we are asleep, though inborn antisemitism or guilt allows for some eager recipients.
The Palestinians these PWs speak to tell them what they want to hear, and then they rejoin the herd of sheep as their culture tells them to. They have no alternative. Any deviation from the culturally accepted party line leads to dishonor of the family and community that would raise a person to stray in such a way, and forces them to shun the “deviant” not only to protect their honor by making it clear they do not condone her and are not associated with her actions, but also as a deterrent for others who are thinking of deviating in any way. I may sound like I’m generalizing, but I have spoken to many culturally competent people on the issue, including a professor of cultural studies who was born and raised in Iraq and lived in the West, who spent his life studying and teaching about these cultural differences.
As a result, while it may seem noble, the PW strategy of refusing to admit cultural differences exist and are at play here, whether they have been duped enough to believe they don’t exist or they fear being called racist, doesn’t work. It would work if the Palestinians that PWs spoke to were left-wing SJWs, which they pretend to be, when in fact they are often right-wing Islamists, so hooked on Arab pride and honor, who fear being shunned, believe the antisemitism they were tacitly taught in their schools, or a combination of two or more of the three, that they are blinded to the truth even if it is right in front of them.
Acknowledging their suffering may appear at face value to increase sympathy for a Jewish state but it doesn’t – it only creates a semblance of it in order to encourage Jews to acknowledge the Palestinian narrative more, and to believe peace activism works because it adds lots of legitimacy to the Palestinian cause. In addition, admitting wrongdoing or weaknesses of one’s in-group is taboo in Arab culture, which is why they tend to blame others for their problems, and also look down on Jews who admit Israel’s faults as low on honor and therefore easy to exploit, even if they may act otherwise. So contrary to popular PW belief, criticizing Israel to your Palestinian friends will not win their favor for your cause; it will instead bolster their belief in the rightness of their claims and win their favor due to the fact that you are a walking own-goal. Then they harness their PW backing to promote their own legitimacy and use it in support of Israel’s demise.
Don’t believe me? Learn Arabic.