Farrakhan and the Jews

Louis Farrakhan just turned 87 and his Nation of Islam still represents the best of old-fashioned racism and anti-Semitism. He has more in common with the white racist right then he does mainstream African Americans. Farrakhan takes his battered wrecking-ball beliefs to the sweet spot of anti-Semitism; that is, he blames the Jews  for everything. The Jews, as Farrakhan tells it, have an elderly cabal of leaders who have made the destruction of black children their goal in life. Black economic progress, damage to black communities by Jews, and Jewish secret relationships are all a result of this conniving cabal that meets and plots on a regular basis.

Farrakhan is a magnetic trickster. He has been successful at exploiting individuals and bringing them under his spell so he can manipulatively interpret the history of slavery (that the Jews were the biggest participants in the slave trade) and other historical and sociological distortions.

These tropes about Jewish dominance and secretiveness have been around a long time and they resonate for certain groups of people. Such anti-Semitic conspiracy claims land on receptive ears. In Muslim and some Christian communities such claims serve important psychological purposes.

Farrakhan’s publication The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, which contains his charges against the Jews, serves as a comforting reassurance for some. And while he says that the white race is culpable it is the Jews who are to blame. He consistently tells groups that the Jews were at the rotten core of the slave trade. He goes on to hold the Jews responsible for the Ku Klux Klan (a truly creative point given the relationship between the Jews and the Klan).

Blaming United States for slavery, racism, Jim Crow laws, and the educational and employment structural variables that have discriminated against African Americans for generations, is understandable and defensible. But blaming the Jews! Farrakhan seems to have little use for something as trivial and apparently as malleable as reality. But all this appears to serve Mr. Farrakhan well because once reality is ignored or irrelevant then there is room for new conclusions even facts that better serve private purposes. Mr. Farrakhan, I ‘am sure to his horror, sounds like someone else is currently leading a great nation.

Fortunately, Farrakhan is not a builder. And something like the Million Man March doesn’t count because although he managed to rally enough people to gain some attention he used his speaking time to ramble on about a mystical number when there are so many more important things to talk about.. The march had no follow-up organization and resulted in little more than a momentary pleasure.

It actually is astonishing Farrakhan has the following that he does. But his natural charisma follows him as he is able to attract followers to his doctrine – wait a minute, what doctrine?


We Probably Need to Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine


The problem of polarization continues and is likely to be the defining political characteristic of contemporary United States. The US populace has been polarized before but it is typically over a single issue. Slavery, for example, in the 19th century. Below is some data from the Pew Foundation on the increasing tendency toward rigid opinions and polarized values.

As the Pew report concluded, the fault is structural; it is not the sort of problem that can be solved by an individual or piece of legislation. Political parties are more ideologically coherent than they’ve been probably at any time since the Civil War. As citizens spend more time talking to those who are like them – which is intensified in the current social media environment – they become more easily reinforced for their particular perspective. The literature by Sunstein and others conclude that this mediated world of interaction with others who hold the same opinion as you do causes those opinions to become rigid and increasingly unmovable. And the dynamic of polarization is increasing. But with the realignment of ideologies that started over the issue of civil rights in the 20th century, ideological purity became a bigger factor in American elections.

Ideological purity is a dangerous form of essentialism. One’s beliefs become so strong, and the sense of ingroup and outgroup become so clarified, that perceptions of the outgroup are assumed to be biologically natural.

Some data suggest that the problem of bias is characteristic of both liberals and conservatives (Baum and Groeling, 2008, Political Communication) are responsible for polarization because both parties have media outlets that are biased in one direction or the other, and attract large audiences. It might be time to reinstate the “Fairness Doctrine”, which legally guarantees equal time and presentation of both sides of an issue. And although such a political policy would be difficult if not impossible to institute, it is a step in the right direction with respect to the benefits of hearing both sides and suppressing the power of money in campaigns.


The Table above shows that from 1994 to 2014 a larger percent of Republicans became consistently conservative. And a larger percent of Democrats were consistently liberal. The two groups – liberals and conservatives – consistently drifted toward more rigid ideological opinions that do not vary and are less subject to moderation and persuasive influences.


The data reflected in the bar graph above shows that the two parties have increasingly unfavorable attitudes about the other. From 1994 to 2014 the unfavorable attitudes about the other party has more than doubled. I don’t need to reiterate the danger of these data. They make working together and solving problems in any sort of bipartisan way almost impossible.

Note: An earlier version of this posting was October 30, 2019.


Relativism and the Disinformation Epidemic

Trump’s unhinged and deceitful presidency continues. Just when you think you’ve heard it all he suggests that citizens inject themselves with the chlorine-based chemical as a possible cure for the coronavirus.

There is surely a degradation of truth and a decline in reasoning and decision-making quality. And I don’t accept the argument that those who make such statements are elitist and should be ignored because they are just trying to tell others what to think. The attack on others as elitist is an emotional way to gain ground in an argument without having to do the hard work of evidence-based reasoning. Satire, humor, and innuendo have replaced some journalism – not all. The vacuous cliché “perception is reality” has taken on hallucinogenic qualities in the Trump administration. At one time a candidate could skillfully influence an audience into perceiving him or her in a certain way; that is, they could present themselves as concerned about the welfare of citizens, or a good family man, hard-working, etc. But now the so-called created realities are rank lies that ultimately do harm to good political order. The Willie Horton ad was an early creation perception from the right. A perception that was clearly racist and a lying misrepresentation of a group of people based on a crude violent stereotype. [Do you want to see the Willie Horton ad? Go here] The Swift boat ad that turned John Kerry into a coward rather than the hero was a direct attack on the American military’s credibility and diminished the honorable behavior of a veteran. [Go here to see Swift boat ads and read about the controversy] We are a long way now from slight rhetorical flourishes that enhance the candidate’s credibility or something equally as innocuous.

Trump spent years defining himself to meet his momentary interests. He was at once a hotel magnate, then had a clothing line, is the head of a university, purveyor of steaks and bottled water, playboy, TV reality star, and civic leader. All of these images had to be embedded in his name so his only strategy was to create phony events designed to gain attention and associate his name with the perceptions. He is clearly a modern PT Barnum. What seems true and possible to believe has replaced truth in the traditional sense of the term which implies some connection between reality and comprehension of that reality. [I would encourage the reader to seek out Daniel Boorstin’s book, The Image, which treats these issues clearly and incisively]

The challenge now is not to just correct wrong information, which implies a truth to some other type of information, but to control disinformation which is purposefully false and misleading with the intent to deceive. One strategy used by the right and FOX News is to make outrageous statements (e.g. the Clintons killed Vince Foster) and state them quickly and briefly on the various talk shows and then drop the issue. But the media echo chamber picks up the story from Fox and repeats it on smaller more localized media thereby keeping it alive and repeating it often enough for portions of the audience to believe it or at least cast doubt on the accused.

More than ever before, there are plenty of warnings about the fragility of American democracy. And many of these warnings are exaggerated or overheated. But as Levitsky and Ziblatt maintained in their book “How Democracies Die” the most dangerous trends are a polarized and uninformed public that has the very institutions of democracy used against the public. The drift toward authoritarianism is inevitable when reasoning and analytical skills are in decline and the quality of information required to make sound decisions is compromised. Interestingly, Trump’s trivial, inconsequential, uninformed, and non-substantive messages will hobble American democracy.

But it will be entertaining.




Intellectual Tolerance

The desire to be civil, in its most robust form, is a desire to be moral, to treat others humanely, with respect, toleration and consideration. But if one wants to be moral, one must also know that in order to be good, sometimes one cannot be nice. This dilemma holds for making democratic based arguments as well.

The imperative to treat others civilly is never total because sometimes a moral good is won in rudeness. To display disrespect or enmity, to mock or shun, to insult or shame – these can be moral gestures. For even as we need to respect humanity, valuing human beings can sometimes require disrespecting some of them, precisely the ones who deny or damage our shared humanity. To show such people respect and consideration might let them have their way a bit, let them continue in their destructive ways.

I believe that righteous incivility is sometimes better than civility and that it can indicate a pattern of reasoning we morally need. Civility typically requires conformity to social conventions that symbolically signal prosocial values; we follow customs of courtesy to display respect, consideration and toleration for each other.

Democracies demand engagement, especially intellectual and argumentative engagement. Argument and disagreement are the “stuff” of democracy and the playing field in which battles take place. It’s just shy of impossible to live in and value democracy as just described without offending someone. It is perilously easy to make an argumentative point – one that is presented honestly and clearly and without undue passion – and still appear intolerant, uncivil, or just plain mean.

Stanley Fish has written eloquently about the consequences of students who are blind to anything but offenses when they are exposed to arguments alien to their own perspectives. Some students are so concerned with micro-aggressions and “safe spaces” (that would be spaces where there is no vigorous discussion or intellectual challenges) that they demand simple differences of opinion to be sufficient reason for sanctioning the speech of the other. The students claim that they have a right not to be exposed to unpleasant opinions, or perspectives that make them uncomfortable.

Well, democracy is advanced citizenship. You need experience, training, and practice. And a cultural recognition of these qualities is less clear and intense as it used to be. Subject matter in high schools and colleges used to include more rhetoric and argumentation along with clear demonstrations of the value of debate. Such instruction fostered mental strength and resilience.

There will never be simple categories composed of definitions beyond reproach when it comes to defining hate speech, acceptable free speech, or the limits of tolerance and instability. And controversies, boundaries, and responsibilities will always be a little fuzzy when it comes to expectations about their definitions. But none of this makes for a slippery post truth world that has no meaning. On the contrary, sharper sense of meaning will emerge as a result of engaged and tolerant interaction. The solution, then, is equivalent to the problem; what is called for is more speech and passionate engagement.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is Officially a Joke

Rush Limbaugh received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is now officially a joke. You can note the decline in American culture and the thorough degradation of public political discourse by drawing a line punctuated by those who have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom– Edward R Morrow, Jonas Salk, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks– to the current recipient Rush Limbaugh.

Perhaps no person is more responsible for larding American political discourse with hate, factual distortions, and the death of civility than Rush Limbaugh. He is Donald Trump lite. Limbaugh came first; he set the stage and established the context for Trump.

Limbaugh is a rank racist who wanted to make sure that the core of the Republican Party identity was white. Trump’s preoccupation with Obama’s birth certificate was an attempt to delegitimize Obama, rooted in the fundamental racism of Rush Limbaugh. Trump went after those young black men (the Central Park Five) brutalized by the police with a fury and a determination that thoroughly exceeded what was justified. But these young men were black and that made them an immediate threat to Trump. Rush Limbaugh was blatant about portraying the other side (Democrats) as not a respected adversary but a dangerous enemy that must be eradicated. The other side was, as far as Limbaugh was concerned, irredeemable and must be eliminated. The only appropriate response is to burn with hatred.

Limbaugh continued his racism by labeling any piece of legislation from Obama as left-wing extremism designed to get what they deserved. This played on the fears of the populace by suggesting that an angry minority group was trying to overtake the political process. Notice how frequently Trump compares a legislative item of his own to Obama or the “previous administration.” Trump is more interested in delegitimizing Obama than he is in his own agenda. Again, this betrays his fundamental racism that he can’t avoid.

Limbaugh taught Trump that you can call people names and then laugh about it as if these things were harmless. Limbaugh cruelly told a joke about Chelsea Clinton who was 13 years old at the time. Trump is nothing if he isn’t callous, crude, and feeling deserving of the right to label somebody. He learned well from Limbaugh.

Rush Limbaugh created the subculture of talk radio. A subculture characterized mostly by anger, name calling, and the belief that anything someone believes strongly enough must be true. The Limbaugh subculture has devolved into narcissism and cults of personality fueled by the talk radio subculture’s big brother – Fox News. Any sensible concept of truth has evacuated. Just as Limbaugh successfully twisted the perceptions of journalism and media, Trump has convinced large portions of the population but most of the news is “fake.”

Just when you think Trump can’t do anything more offensive or crude, he awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh.

Below is an opinion piece written by Eytan Gilboa. I thought it was particularly good and relevant so I reproduced here in full. Eytan’s affiliations and contact information are at the end of the essay.
Eytan Gilboa <Eytan.Gilboa@biu.ac.il>
Mon 12/30/2019 2:13 PM

Fighting the Demonization of Israel at the International Criminal Court by Prof. Eytan Gilboa BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,386, December 30, 2019 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Fatou Bensouda,the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)at the Hague, has decided to indict senior Israeli policymakers and military officers for committing war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza. Her decision is baseless, preposterous, and discriminatory, and it violates the ICC’s own mission and rules. Bensouda’s action should be placed within the wider context of the Palestinian disinformation, delegitimization,and demonization campaign against Israel at international organizations. Israel should discredit and delegitimize the ICC in turn via aggressive political measures and collaboration with concerned liberal democracies, primarily the US. On December 20, 2019, Fatou Bensouda,the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)at the Hague, announced: “I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”She referred to 2014’sOperation Protective Edge in Gaza, the 2018-19 Hamas’s violent “protests”along the Israeli border with Gaza, and the Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. She mentioned war crimes committed by Hamas and other Palestinian “armed groups,”but that mention was no more than a fig leaf to create an impression of neutrality. The objectof her case—to target Israel for demonization—is reflected in the enthusiastic praise she received for her decision from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Bensouda’s opinion is baseless, preposterous, and discriminatory,and most importantly it violates the ICC’s own mission and rules. The Court was established in 2002 to prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious war crimes.The US and Israel did not ratify the Rome Treaty that established the Court out of concern that it would be used to deliver politicized and biased judgments. That concern has been proven valid.Bensouda’s action is a major threat to Israel. The ICC prosecutes individuals,not states.Therefore,if its pre-trial chamber of three judges acceptsBensouda’srequest and rulesthat the ICC has jurisdiction over the case, she will be able to subpoena senior Israeli politicians and military officers for interrogation.If they refuseto submit to interrogation, as they are likely to do, she could issue warrants for their arrest. TheICC is not a genuine court in that it does not followbasic rules of judicial evidence and procedure. It is yet another highly politicized UN body driven by a prejudiced political agenda. No jurisdictionThe main arguments against Bensouda’s decision are straightforward. Only sovereign states can file complaints. In 2015, the Palestinian Authority joined the Rome Treaty and several countries recognized Palestinian independence.Palestine is not, however,a sovereign state. Israel,like the US and about one-third of the countries in the world,didnot join the ICC. The Courttherefore has no jurisdiction over it. The ICC was established to deal with war crimes that leaders and countries ignore. Israel is a democracy and has one of the most respected legal systemsin the world. Israel investigatescases of war crimes and prosecutes those responsible. In contrast, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas never investigate their own war crimes and never prosecute those responsible. The ICCwas established to investigate and prosecute serious war crimes such as genocide. Crimes of this naturehave occurred recently in the Middle East,such as those committed by the Syrian government, Russia,and Iran during the Syrian civil war. They murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians, turned half the population of Syria into refugees,and destroyed cities, towns,and villages. The ICC (and for that matter no other UN body)did nothing to stop these war crimes and does not appear to have any interest in prosecuting anyone for them. Contrary to Bensouda’s claims, the ICC isnot an independent body,and her preliminary investigation was neither objective or neutral. The ICC depends entirely on the UN General Assembly for its funding and operations. In keeping withthe strong anti-Israeli attitude of the UN and its agencies, the Court uses and follows the highly distorted, biased,and one-sided resolutions and reports produced on Israel by UN agencies. Several liberal democracies have severely criticized Bensouda’s decision. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated:

We firmly oppose this (decision) and any other action that seeks to target Israel unfairly. We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC. The US also reiterates its longstanding objection to any assertion of ICC’s jurisdiction over nationals of States that are not parties to the Rome Statute, including the US and Israel, absent a referral from the UN Security Council or the consent of such a State. Australian PM Scott Morrison said his country does not recognize the “State of Palestine”or its status as a member state of ICC and therefore believes the ICC has no authority on the matter. Germany, a strong supporter of the ICC, issued a more delicate warning. Its foreign ministry stated that it’s “confident that the court will resolve the issues raised. This will also address issues of admissibility that may be doubtful.”The subtextis clear:Germany does not believe the ICC has jurisdiction over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Context Bensouda’s action should be placed within the wider context of the Palestinian disinformation, delegitimization,and demonization campaign against Israel. They employ three major instruments: the UN and its agencies;NGOs, particularly those claiming to advocate for human rights;and the Boycott, Divest,and Sanction (BDS) movement. These instruments are interrelated and they reinforce each other. At the UN, the Palestinians enjoy automatic support from Muslim countries, Russia, China, the EU,and developing countries. As they have failed to defeat Israel through violence and terrorism, they have opted to delegitimizeand demonizeIsraelat the UN and its agencies, portraying itasan evil, racist,and apartheid state, the worst violator of human rights in the world—so vile that it is devoid oftheright to defend itselfand even to exist. Unfortunately, several international human rights NGOs,including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International,are staffed by anti-Israeli directors and investigators,and they demonize Israel via highly biased, distorted,and misleading reports. Israeli and Palestinian human rights NGOs, too,disseminate distorted and sometime fabricated reports, especially on the confrontations in Gaza. Those organizations include B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Al Haq, Al-Dameer, and Al Mezan. Theyare heavily funded by Western European countries on condition that they frequently challenge the Israeli legal system and provide the ICC and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with incriminating information against Israel.

Refuting the Israeli war crimes thesis While all Bensouda’s accusations against Israel should be rejected on the basis of the legal and political arguments discussed above, there is additional overwhelming evidence to dismiss her allegations about Israel’s purported “war crimes”during military confrontations with Hamas in Gaza. Bensouda claims her decision relieson reports on these confrontations submitted to the UN, particularly those initiated and approved by the UNHRC. That dysfunctional and corrupt organization is dominated by authoritarian countries, some of which are among the greatest abusers of human rights on earth. The UNHRCis notorious for its bias against Israel.Ithas one agenda item just for Israel and another for the entire rest of the world.The UNHRC appointed several “independent”commissions to investigate Israeli “war crimes”in Gaza. One investigated 2014’sOperation Protective Edge and another the 2018-19 Gaza “protests.”Both relied on questionable and fabricated information provided by local and international “human rights”organizations. The first chair of the 2014 commission,William Shabas, resigned after Israel found that he had previously worked for the PLO and was biased against Israel. Among other things, he said before his appointment that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu should be indicted for “war crimes”committed during the 2006 Second Lebanese War. (Besides his bias, Shabas revealed just how much he really knows about Israel and the Middle Eastwith this charge. The prime minister of Israel during the 2006 war was Ehud Olmert, not Netanyahu.) The ICC’s investigators did not include anyonewith any military background orexperience. However, several high-level officers and officials with substantial military experience from several countries investigated the cases cited in Bensouda’s opinion and reached definitive conclusions that are completely at odds with her claims. In November 2014, following a fact-finding mission to Israel, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said that“in the 2014 Gaza conflict, Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.” In June 2015, the independent High-Level Military Group led by General Klaus Naumann, former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee,and 10other former chiefs of staff, generals, senior officers,and officials from seven countries investigated the 2014 Gaza operation. They unanimously stated:Each of our own armies is of course committed to protecting civilian life during combat. Butnone of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances…During Operation Protective Edge,in the air, on the ground and at sea, Israel not only meta reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.Similarly, Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan,blasted and systematically refuted the war crimes allegations and reports submitted to the UNHRC on the 2014 Gaza operation and the 2018-19 violent Gaza “protests.”He submitted detailed reports based on research and observations on the ground. He blamed Hamas for the violence and for war crimes and argued that Israel exercised great restraint—and unlike Hamas,took exceptional measures to adhere to the laws of armed conflict and to minimize civilian casualties. He accused the UNHRC of endemic bias against Israel and rejected the reports it had approved as totally wrong and baseless. Both the UNHCR and Bensouda ignored all thisdiverse military expert evidence as it did not fit their agenda. The US approachIn November 2017, Bensouda asked the ICC’s pre-trial judges for an authorization to open an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by the US in Afghanistan. In September 2018, NSA John Bolton called the ICC “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the US, Israel, and other allies. He threatened the ICC with sanctions: “We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the US. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system.” In March 2019,Pompeo warned that the US would revoke the visas of ICC officials who pursued allegations against US forces in Afghanistan or against Israel. On April 5, 2019, the US revoked Bensouda’s visa.A few days later, the ICC’s pre-trial judges rejected Bensouda’s request to open an investigation against the US by arguingthat it is likely to fail due to lack of cooperation from the parties involvedand budgetary constraints.The judges were more concerned about losing their entry visasto the US and about other American sanctions than aboutthe case itself. President Trump called the judges’ decision “a major international victory” and denounced the ICC for its “broad, unaccountable, prosecutorial powers,” as well as for what he considered its threat to American sovereignty. He said,“Any attempt to target American, Israeli or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response.”

What should Israel do?Israel must fight the ICC through aggressive political means. Bensouda joined those who delegitimizeand demonizeIsrael. The best response would be to delegitimize and penalize her and the ICC via an alliance of countries under US leadership along the lines adopted by the Trump administration. If the pre-trial judges approve Bensouda’s request, Israel should ask the US to fulfillits commitment, cancel the visas of Bensouda, the ICC judges,and itsinvestigators,and apply other severe sanctions against them. Like the US and other countries, Israel should ban entry by ICC investigators into Israel, the West Bank,andGaza;pass laws that protect Israeli officials and officers from ICC directives and potential indictments;and sign bilateral agreements with states refusing to comply withICC orders and arrest warrants. Israel should also consider sanctions against the Palestinian Authority,which,with Bensouda’s help,startedthe ICC preliminary investigation. These steps can help to expose the ICC’s complete lack of credibility or legitimacy. Prof. Eytan Gilboa teaches public diplomacy at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy in Los Angeles and a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.eytan.gilboa@biu.ac.il
Eytan Gilboa <Eytan.Gilboa@biu.ac.il>
Mon 12/30/2019 2:13 PM
**External Email*


Eytan Gilboa, PhD

Professor, School of Communication

Senior Research Associate, the BESA Center for Strategic Studies

Bar-Ilan University

Ramat- Gan  52900 Israel

Mobile Israel: +972-52-860-7227  Secretary: +972-3-531-7060/1  Office: +972-3-531-7174

Fax.+972-3-736-1338, e-mail: eytan.gilboa@biu.ac.il


Senior Fellow

Center on Public Diplomacy

University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Tel.:+1-213-821-2078  Fax. +1-213-821-0768

e-mail: egilboa@usc.edu



Virtue Signaling in Political Discourse

In a post-truth world, and one where the death of expertise is an increasing threat, it makes sense that artificial moral dialogue should find a place in political discourse. In other words, as Tom Nichols has pointed out in his book The Death of Expertise, the low-information voter and other sorts of political ignorance (e.g. the uninformed who disdain proper sources of expertise, the claim that those who are experts are nothing more than elitists, the emergence of the customer satisfaction model in education, and the merging of information and entertainment) have begun to rely more on virtue signaling than actually making an argument or refining their moral discourse.

Virtue signaling is a pejorative term for the expression of a moral position that signals the speaker’s morally superior stance on some issue. When your office mate declares that she does not eat red meat and advises that for the good of water management and the environment you adopt a vegetarian diet, she’s engaging in virtue signaling. It is a message (signal) that expresses the speaker’s virtues and carries the underlining implication that the speaker is morally superior. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” is a banality that carries no logical path and is little more than a generality designed to portray Trump as someone who recognizes what it means to be great and therefore must be great himself. It carries the quality of virtue signaling because it’s not really designed to change minds as display himself as someone who is great.

All points along the spectrum of political philosophy virtue signal – those on the left and the right. But there seems to be slightly more moral outrage in the form of virtue signaling on the left. Social programs, the democratic state, moral positions on gun-control and welfare, etc. easily lend themselves to virtue signaling.

Signaling of course is part of human evolutionary development. Humans have evolved ways to signal availability for reproduction, danger, and ways to control the costs of signaling.

You are more likely to see virtue signaling in environments where decisions cannot be traced to a single person. In logical environments where actions are understood as having a connection between one act and another virtue signaling is less effective. So, businesses making financial decisions don’t virtue signal very often because it’s difficult and costly. But when a corporation wants to express its good citizenship it can virtue signal by common conscious slogans such as “We Are Going To Go Green” and our products are “Environmentally Friendly”. An article in Aeon explains how the use of religion to virtue signal is common. Appeals to God and religious morality certainly signal the speaker’s virtue along with a clear moral discourse.

Most citizens feel overwhelmed when it comes to real political action. They are exhausted by the possibilities and requirements, both organizational and financial, and consequently do nothing. So, the performance of ostentatious displays of virtue and high diction condemnations of others on the basis of “social justice” takes the place of actual moral mechanisms that guide our action.

It’s not surprising that virtue signaling has surfaced as an alternative to tighter logical systems of reasoning and decision-making. An alternative that political figures exploit in order to supply ideological images that stir our emotions more than anything else.

Israel’s Rights in the West Bank and International Law

Israel’s Rights in the West Bank and International Law.

Alan Baker

Tablet Magazine

November 20, 2019

The issue of international law seems to be increasingly important and an issue that can be interpreted as supportive of either side. Alan Baker weighs in on some issues as I will in a future post.

The issue of Israel’s rights in the West Bank under international law, as simple as it sounds, conceals a complex and extensive web of historic, legal, military and political issues that, for many years, have engaged and continue to engage the parties to the conflict, as well as the international community as a whole.

This article will briefly analyze the three major elements defining Israel’s rights in the West Bank.

Firstly, and underscoring all other considerations, are the international legal rights emanating from the indigenous and historic claims of the Jewish people in the area as a whole, virtually from time immemorial. These rights were acknowledged in 1917 by the Balfour Declaration’s promise of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, and subsequently recognized internationally and encapsulated into international law through a series of international instruments.

Secondly, Israel’s legal rights following the 1967 Six-Day War, as the power administering the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria (so described in the U.N. 1947 Partition Resolution 181), and the concomitant, unique sui genesis status of the area.

Thirdly, Israel’s rights under international law following the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, and especially the 1995 Interim Agreement, (commonly known as Oslo 2) which established a unique territorial arrangement as a form of lex specialis, that divided the control and governance of the West Bank areas between a Palestinian Authority established for that purpose, and Israel.


Israel’s rights in the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria did not originate with Israel’s attaining control of the area following the 1967 Six-Day War.

Long before, the Balfour Declaration issued by the British government in 1917 acknowledged the indigenous presence and historic aspirations of the Jewish people to reestablish their historic national home in Palestine. While legally the Balfour Declaration, in and of itself, was a unilateral governmental declaration, it received international legal acknowledgement and validity in a series of instruments, commencing with the 1920 San Remo Conference and Declaration by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers. San Remo encapsulated the content of the Balfour Declaration into the post-World War I arrangements dividing the former Ottoman Empire. In this way, the Principal Allied Powers finalized the territorial dispositions regarding the Jewish people in respect to Palestine and the Arabs in respect to Mesopotamia (Iraq), Syria, and Lebanon.

The San Remo Declaration stated inter alia that:

“The mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the 8th [2nd] of November, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people …”

This was incorporated into Article 95 of the (unratified) Treaty of Sèvres of Aug. 10, 1920, and subsequently in the Preamble and Article 2 of the Mandate for Palestine approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922:

 “The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.”

The continued validity of these foundational legal rights encapsulated in the various international instruments predating the establishment of the United Nations was also assured under Article 80 of the United Nations Charter:

“… nothing in this Chapter shall be construed in or of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.”


The second element defining Israel’s rights under international law in the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria relates to the period following the 1967 Six-Day War, subsequent to Jordan’s participation in the combined military action against Israel, in concert with Egypt and Syria. During this conflict Israel attained control of the areas of Judea and Samaria and established a military administration to govern the local population, pursuant to the accepted norms and requirements of international law.

However, the issue of Israel’s international rights in administering the area was complex in light of the unique legal and political status of the territory.

In classical situations of belligerent occupation of the territory of a sovereign state, the rights and obligations vis-a-vis the territory and the local population are set out in the 1907 Hague Regulations of Land Warfare and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

These instruments prescribe clear norms of behavior between an occupier and the local population as to the rights and duties involved in administering the area, protecting the forces of the occupier and respecting the humanitarian rights of the local population. Such norms cover issues of property, respect for local law and private property rights, ensuring public order and safety, and respecting the territorial rights of the sovereign pending settlement of the dispute.

With regard to the West Bank areas, the legal situation was not the classical situation of belligerent occupation of the land of a sovereign state. This irregularity stemmed from the fact that Jordan was not considered by the international community as having attained legitimate sovereign rights over the areas of Judea and Samaria, following its 1950 unrecognized annexation of the areas. As such, from the legal point of view, since there existed no legitimate sovereign power, a sui generis situation existed in which the classic laws of occupation were not legally applicable.

Israel’s status, as explained by its then Military Advocate General, Meir Shamgar (later to become Israel’s attorney general and chief justice), was:

“The territorial position is … sui generis, and the Israeli government tried therefore to distinguish between theoretical juridical and political problems on the one hand, and the observance of the humanitarian provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the other hand.”

From the start, Israel distinguished between the unique nature and status of the territory on the one hand, and accepted and requisite international obligations vis-a-vis the local population in the day-to-day administration of the territory, on the other hand, pending a peaceful solution regarding its final status.

Concomitant with its assuming control in June 1967 Israel committed itself, through a series of military proclamations and orders to act in accordance with the relevant norms of international law in all matters including property, respecting existing local legislation, and other general provisions.

In the same context, without officially acknowledging the formal applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories, which would have been tantamount to recognizing that the territory was Jordanian, Israel committed itself to apply vis-a-vis the local population, the humanitarian provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Pursuant to Article 55 of the 1907 Hague Regulations dealing with the issue of property, Israel, as “administrator and usufructuary,” maintained the right to use public, non-privately owned land and property, pending the final outcome of the dispute.

This premise served as the basis for Israel’s settlement policy, enabling use of public lands and properties while strictly respecting private rights of ownership of local residents of the territories. Thus, residents of Israeli settlements never received ownership rights to the land, which is provisionally leased to them by a government custodian pending an agreed determination of the territorial dispute.

Israel has consistently rejected the oft-heard accusation in international political bodies that its settlement policy violates the prohibition in Fourth Geneva Convention on the mass transfer of its residents into the territory. This in light of the provenance of such prohibition in the post-Second World War mass transfers of populations in Europe by the Nazis in an attempt to alter the demographic structure of the countries involved. This was made clear in the official Red Cross commentary, edited by Jean Pictet, on the sixth paragraph of the Geneva Convention article 49, regarding deportation and transfer of persons into occupied territory.

According to Pictet:

“…. It is intended to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain Powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territories. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.”

The fact that the 1993-95 Oslo Accords determined that the issue of settlements will be a negotiating issue in the permanent status negotiations underlines the fact that the settlement issue has yet to be agreed upon, and is, of necessity, inherently linked to the other permanent status issues, including borders, Jerusalem, security and the like. As stated in the Oslo Accords:

“It is understood that these negotiations shall cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest.”

Pursuant to the 1967 Six-Day War, U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, adopted on Nov. 22, 1967, set out the basic framework of rights and obligations intended to lead to a solution of the Middle East conflict. The nonbinding but key resolution, adopted under Chapter VI of the U.N. Charter dealing with the pacific settlement of disputes, affirmed inter alia the rights of all states in the area to just and lasting peace, termination of belligerency, respect for sovereignty and independence, and secure and recognized boundaries, and called for negotiations to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement.

This resolution has constituted the basis for the subsequent peace treaties between Israel and its neighbors Egypt and Jordan. It also serves as the central pillar in the series of agreements signed between Israel and the PLO regarding the West Bank. Such negotiations proceeded over the years to develop possible models for Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate between them the rights that they respectively claim in the areas of the West Bank.

During this period, and up to the signing of the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords, Israel continued to administer the areas on the basis of the rights to which it was entitled pursuant to international law.


The third element defining Israel’s rights in West Bank was the landmark 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Oslo 2) witnessed by the world leaders and endorsed by the U.N.

The parties agreed, pending the negotiation an agreement to determine the permanent status of the area, to divide the effective control between a Palestinian Authority established for that purpose, and Israel. In this way the Oslo Accords created a sui generis legal regime, a lex specialis that overrides any other, previously applicable legal framework that may have been applicable, including the Geneva Convention.

As such, the PLO, as the formal representative of the Palestinian people, formally agreed that in addition to those West Bank and Gaza Strip areas in which all powers and responsibilities for governance and administration would be transferred into the hands of the Palestinian Authority (Areas A and B and the Gaza Strip), Israel would retain powers and responsibilities in part of the area (Area C) vis-a-vis both local Palestinian residents in the area, as well as the Israeli citizens residing in settlements and villages. The parties agreed that this arrangement would remain valid pending the outcome of negotiations between them on the permanent status of the areas.

Despite attempts by the international community, through nonbinding political statements and resolutions in the U.N., to prejudge the outcome of the negotiations by claiming that the territories are “occupied Palestinian territories,” there exists no such legally accepted or agreed to determination.

Similarly, the Oslo Accords did not specify the form the permanent status of the area would take—whether one state, two states, federation, confederation or otherwise. Thus, states and organizations advocating a “two-state solution” are, in fact preempting the outcome of the negotiations that have yet to take place. Any agreed solution will only emanate from negotiations between the Palestinian leadership and Israel and cannot be imposed unilaterally by U.N. resolutions, or by any international forum, or individual leaders.

Any permanent status agreement, if and when reached, will be the sole agreed upon instrument duly determining the status of the area and the respective international and bilateral rights and commitments both of Israel and the Palestinians.

Time will tell.

The Dangerous Trend Toward Polarization and Ideological Purity

The problem of polarization continues and is likely to be the defining political characteristic of contemporary United States. The US populace has been polarized before but it is typically over a single issue. Slavery, for example, in the 19th century. Below is some data from the Pew Foundation on the increasing tendency toward rigid opinions and polarized values.

As the Pew report concluded, the fault is structural; it is not the sort of problem that can be solved by an individual or piece of legislation. Political parties are more ideologically coherent than they’ve been probably at any time since the Civil War. As citizens spend more time talking to those who are like them – which is intensified in the current social media environment – they become more easily reinforced for their particular perspective. The literature by Sunstein and others conclude that this mediated world of interaction with others who hold the same opinion as you do causes those opinions to become rigid and increasingly unmovable. And the dynamic of polarization is increasing. But with the realignment of ideologies that started over the issue of civil rights in the 20th century, ideological purity became a bigger factor in American elections.

Ideological purity is a dangerous form of essentialism. One’s beliefs become so strong, and the sense of ingroup and outgroup become so clarified, that perceptions of the outgroup are assumed to be biologically natural.


The Table above shows that from 1994 to 2014 a larger percent of Republicans became consistently conservative. And a larger percent of Democrats were consistently liberal. The two groups – liberals and conservatives – consistently drifted toward more rigid ideological opinions that do not vary and are less subject to moderation and persuasive influences.


The data reflected in the bar graph above shows that the two parties have increasingly unfavorable attitudes about the other. From 1994 to 2014 the unfavorable attitudes about the other party has more than doubled. I don’t need to reiterate the danger of these data. They make working together and solving problems in any sort of bipartisan way almost impossible.

Anti-Semitism and its Double Binds

Anyone who thinks anti-Semitism is exaggerated or not a growing problem should read Bari Weiss’ new book “How to Fight anti-Semitism.” It’s a sobering account of historical anti-Semitism and the renewal we are currently experiencing in the United States, Europe, and of course the Muslim world.

I have always found it interesting and a little perplexing that Jewish discrimination goes on, and even when conditions change anti-Semites find a new way to continue their twisted logic and maintain the strength of their anti-Semitism. For example, I have observed that curiously the Jews were hated when they were weak, so they got strong. And now that the Jews are strong (e.g. state of Israel) they hate them because they’re strong. Inferential reasoning is not the key process; observing some behavior and drawing a generality from it, which is a defensible cognitive process, is not what’s going on with crude anti-Semitism. The perpetrators hold the attitude about the Jews first and some crude behavior follows.

The power of this self-serving and recursive process provides an organizational framework for just about all anti-Semitism. Weiss’analysis of anti-Semitism from the right and then from the left is a further demonstration that there is not some logical inferential process. Rather, it doesn’t matter where you are on the political spectrum, you’re capable of the same anti-Semitism as those who hold opposite political views.

So, for example, anti-Semitism from the right views Jews as not white enough and part of an international conspiracy. Jews have more universal values and global interests. From the left, on the other hand, the peoplehood of the Jews is denied and Israel is considered a remnant of ancient tribalism. So, from the right the Jews are criticized for being broadly global, and from the left they are criticized or being tribal. Which is it? They can’t win.

But there is more: the hard right is the home of white supremacists who hate everybody who isn’t white. But the group they hate the most, the Jews, present themselves as white (mostly in America and Europe). So once again the Jews become the great tricksters because the group that is most preventing them from natural dominance – Jews – is white. There is a mirror image of this argument from the left which holds that describing Jews as “white” strips them of their ability to claim victimhood.

This double bound logic is what catches people in the paradoxical binary that the Jews are at once white and nonwhite. They are the tools of white supremacy and the handmaidens of immigrants and people of color in cahoots with both the oppressed and the oppressor.

Alas, I could continue but encourage the reader to find Bari Weiss’ book. It’s not a perfect volume but it does remind one of the uniqueness of anti-Semitism along with the logical, semantic, and political stretches that characterize the distortions of anti-Semitism.

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