Sunday, December 17, 2023

The ICRC falls for the honor/shame trap

We've discussed the honor.shame culture of the Arab world many times, and last week a perfect example came up.

Visiting International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Mirjana Spoljaric Egger told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that public pressure will not work on Hamas, rejecting the notion in Jerusalem that her agency isn’t doing enough to secure visits to the remaining 135 hostages in Gaza.

“You have every avenue, every right and every expectation to place public pressure on Hamas,” Netanyahu told Spoljaric during a portion of their meeting that the premier’s office filmed and issued to the press.

“It is not going to work because the more public pressure we seemingly would do, the more they will shut the door,” the Red Cross chief responded.

“I’m not sure about that. Why don’t you try?” Netanyahu asked the unconvinced Spoljaric.
This is how the West misunderstands the honor/shame culture, and how Hamas (and other Palestinians) take advantage of it.

When Hamas reacts strongly against the idea of allowing the ICRC to visit prisoners, that very vehemence is proof that pressure does work! Their anger is designed to keep the pressure off. The Western world usually recoils from confrontation and the Arab world takes advantage of that to avoid shame, making Westerners their own deputies in guarding their honor.

Arabs are very sensitive to looking immoral to the West. Insisting that they allow visits by the ICRC - especially when they falsely accuse Israel of not allowing those visits to prisoners - is not something htey can argue with logically, so they fall back on lashing out. That strategy almost always works, because the West doesn't understand honor/shame mechanism that caused the response.

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