How Orientalism Explains the Arab World and the Failure of the Peace Process

It was once common for anthropologists to categorize certain societies as having “honor-shame” cultures. Among academics, such categorizations, at least when applied to the societies of the Middle East, have become passé if not taboo, thanks to Edward Said’s 1978 work Orientalism, which branded virtually all prior Western scholarship on the Middle East racist and imperialist. As a result of Said’s influence, writes Richard Landes, universities have produced numerous experts who have consistently misdiagnosed the resurgence of radical Islam, the Arab Spring, and above all the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

[The] honor-shame dynamic explains much of the Arab and Muslim hostility to Israel, as well as to the West. Israel, a state of free Jews living [in historically Muslim-held territory] constitutes a living blasphemy; and Israel’s ability to survive repeated Arab efforts to destroy it constitutes a permanent state of Arab shame before the entire global community. . . .

Any effort to understand what is happening in the Arab world today needs to take into account this dynamic. And yet, by and large, [it] is not only ignored but those underscoring it are rebuked. . . . Much of this ignorance can be traced back to Said, who made “honor-shame” analysis an especially egregious “Orientalist” sin. . . .

Just because Western and Israeli analysts failed to pay attention, however, does not mean the laws of honor-shame ceased to operate. After the ceremonial signing of the Oslo deal on the White House lawn, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat found himself the target of immense hostility from his Arab and Muslim honor-group for having brought shame upon himself, his people, and upon all Arabs and Muslims. When he arrived in Gaza in July 1994, Hamas denounced him roundly, calling his visit “shameful and humiliating.” . . .

Edward Said, proud member of the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s quasi-parliament, echoed the language of Hamas, [declaring that Arafat’s] compromises involved a humiliating and “degrading . . . act of obeisance, . . . a capitulation” that produced a state of “supine abjectness [by] submitting shamefully to Israel.” . . . [T]his was the very language Westerners avoided discussing lest they “Orientalize the Orient.” And yet Arafat himself used the same honor-shame language in Arabic, from the moment the accords were signed and the Nobel Prize granted.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Arab World, Edward Said, History & Ideas, Middle East, Peace Process

Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship