Sunday, January 22, 2023

Can “The Whole World” Be Wrong?: Lethal Journalism, Antisemitism, and Global Jihad, by Professor Richard Landes, is a hard but important book to read. 
Landes does no less than directly taking on the orthodoxy of the liberal world that regards Israel as one of the worst human rights violators, that regards supporting the Palestinian cause as the archetype of progressive values, that regards the West as Islamophobic and institutionally racist. He challenges the reader - what if everything you have read is wrong, and I am right? 

The first part of the book goes into some detail on four episodes from the early 2000s. 

It is no surprise that one of those episodes is the  Al Dura affair, which Landes is one of the world's experts in. It was indeed the first blood libel of the new millenium, where the media unquestioningly accepted and promoted the idea that Israeli forces murdered the child Al Dura on TV and in cold blood. The French reporter, Charles Enderlin, who spread the libel wasn't there and he trusted the reporting of a Palestinian cameraman. Hours of footage from the same scene showed it was essentially a soundstage, where Palestinians were play-acting injuries. Yet almost no Western reporters questioned the story, as the Arab media ran the footage non-stop for days.

Occuring only two days after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000, the incident inflamed the Palestinians and the Arab world. Indeed, it would not be inaccurate to call the second intifada the "al-Dura intifada," as it almost certainly was the spark that kept the brand new riots going.And it was all a lie - it is impossible that the IDF could have shot the child from their position. 

The other incidents that Landes examines from the early part of the millenium are 9/11, the Jenin "massacre" that wasn't, and the Muslim world's reactions to the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Landes uses each of these incidents as springboards into examining the West's reactions, which often were, as he notes repeatedly, stupid. On page after page, Landes gives scores of examples of this stupidity: the reluctance by media to use the term "terrorism," the constant repetition that Islam is peace, the bending over backwards to find fault with Western and specifically Israeli actions and ascribing them the responsibility for Islamist violence.

It is easy to forget the early aughts of this century, but Landes reminds us that just as today we will see Western progressives justify Hamas rockets by asking "what choice do they have?," the reaction to the tsunami of suicide bombing attacks in Israel during the bloody years of 2000-2004 prompted the exact same justifications by the same crowd. 

The other two major parts of the book examine the key players in pushing the bizarre mindset of Western self-blame and bending to the will of the Islamists (whom Landes terms "Caliphators") and the current outlook on the war between the West and apocalyptic Islam - and how the Islamists are winning the battle by disabling their enemy. On the way, Landes expertly analyzes the honor-shame culture and the zero-sum thinking of the Islamists as well as the stupid western tendency to project our own mindset onto them, even as they use our own strengths of self-criticism against us.

Throughout the book, Israel is the canary in the coal mine. By any objective standard, Israel is the most progressive and liberal state ever in an extended state of war. Its successful integration of a 20% Arab population as equals is far more successful than what we see in Paris or Malmo with a much smaller Muslim minority. Yet Israel is regarded, even by those other "enlightened" progressive European elites, as a "shitty little country" that has no right to exist. 

As I said, it is a hard book to read. The amount of information is sometimes overwhelming - and often infuriating. Landes also often peppers the text with gems that demand to be re-read. Happily, he chooses to use footnotes instead of endnotes so one can dig deeper into his often offhand examples.

I have some nitpicks too. I didn't see that he has a glossary of terms, many of which he created, until I finished the book, so one often sees his coinages like "Y2KMind" or "Caliphator" a hundred pages before he defines them in the text. I'm not as convinced as Dr. Landes of the millennialist component of Islamist thinking.  

The tone of the book is often more strident than objective, but it is hard to fault Dr. Landes for that, since the reader is apt to be upset along with the author. There is ample excuse to get angry while reading it.  And while Landes gives some general advice on what the West needs to do in order to recognize and defeat the enemy of Islamism, I wish it was more actionable. (I have written and spoken about how I think the Arab honor/shame culture can be used to Western advantage.) 

In general, though, this is an important book to read, and even those of us who are immersed in these topics will learn a great deal and see connections that we hadn't thought of before. 

Disclosure: I am friends with Richard, and this site is mentioned at least three times in the book.



Buy the EoZ book, PROTOCOLS: Exposing Modern Antisemitism  today at Amazon!

Or order from your favorite bookseller, using ISBN 9798985708424. 

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