Monday, December 29, 2008

Crucify Him! (Do We Care?)

Caroline Glick is a very sharp reporter and columnist at The Jerusalem Post. I try to follow her pieces on a regular basis, because she is often the only voice I can find in the Middle East who does not shirk from speaking the truth, regardless of the consequences. She keeps tabs on all the ins and outs of Israeli politics, and at the same time she is a source of much information about what is going on in the Arab world.

But you cannot count on American (or even British) media to report the same things that she does. Here is the most recent example, taken from an article she filed on Christmas Day. I will wager that you did not read about this in any major Western news source---here are the lead paragraphs:

Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Yes, you read that right. The Hamas government in Gaza has authorized the penalty of crucifixion---for "traitors". So much for the apologists of Islam's much-touted "Shari'a law", including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Try this experiment: go to Google News, type in the word "crucifixion", and see what you find. As I said, you will not find any stories in the major news media. You will find this post at a blog called "Right Side News", which draws on Ms. Glick's article. And you will find this post at News Blaze, which helpfully translates some of the details from the Arabic at the al-Arabiya Website:
Section 59 of the law establishes that "punishment of death will be enacted on any Palestinian who intentionally does one of the following: Raised a weapon against Palestine on behalf of the enemy during war, was appointed to negotiate with a foreign government on a Palestinian issue and negotiated against Palestinians' interest, performed a hostile action against a foreign country in a way that endangers Palestine in war or in harming political relations, served a foreign army in time of war, advised or helped soldiers to enlist in this army, weakened the spirit or the force of resistance of the people, or spied against Palestine especially during war."
A post at "Strategy Page" adds another interesting detail about how Hamas dealt with the publicity---mostly in the Arab media---about its new Shari'a laws:
Hamas seems to have painted itself into a corner. Unable to loosen up its Islamic radical view of the world, it feels compelled to get stricter, and more vicious, with real, or perceived, enemies. In short, Hamas believes it is better to be feared than loved. At least in Gaza. When word of its new laws reached the Western media, Hamas denied it. But in Gaza, the Arabic media made it clear that the new laws were very real, even if embarrassing when trying to explain it to the infidels.
"Embarrassing"? In whose eyes? Obviously the Gaza legislators were not embarrassed to pass the law. I submit that the "embarrassment" is only perceived by the (unsigned) Western author who picked up the story for "Strategy Page". If Hamas tried to deny the facts to Western media, I conclude from the sparse coverage resulting two things:

1. Hamas' denials would not be based on any "embarrassment", but rather on the well-attested Islamic teaching of Taqqiyah ("dissimulation"), or lying to infidels when doing so will advance the spread of Islam. (Many Muslims advance a more narrow concept of the term, as justifying dissimulation only to avoid imminent death or capture, but Hamas has never done so.) 

2. Whatever goes on internally in Gaza, Western media simply do not care; it is of no interest to them, and completely beneath their radar screen.

Ms. Glick agrees strongly with the second point, not the first. She says, later in her article:
The reason that the West remains ignorant of the views and goals of the likes of Hamas and Iran is not that the latter have hidden their views and goals. It is because the leading political leaders and foreign policy practitioners in the West refuse to listen to them and deny the significance of their actions.

As far as the West's leaders are concerned, Iran and its allies are unimportant. They are not actors, but objects. As far as the West's leading foreign policy "experts" and decision-makers are concerned, the only true actors on the global stage are Western powers. They alone have the power to shape reality and the world. Oddly enough, this dominant political philosophy, which is based on denying the existence of non-Western actors on the world stage, is referred to as political "realism." 
She cites a recent example of such "realism":

The "realist" view was given clear expression this week by one of the "realist" clique's most prominent members. In an op-ed published Tuesday in Canada's Globe and Mail titled, "We must talk Iran out of the bomb," Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that given the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the dangers of a US or Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations, the incoming Obama administration must hold direct negotiations with the mullahs to convince them to end their nuclear weapons program.

In making this argument, Haass ignores the fact that this has been the Bush administration's policy for the past five years. He also ignores the fact that President George W. Bush adopted this policy at the urging of Haass's "realist" colleagues and at the urging of Haass himself.

Moreover, Haass bizarrely contends that in negotiating with the mullahs, the Obama administration should offer Iran the same package of economic and political payoffs that the Bush administration and the EU have been offering, and Teheran has been rejecting, since 2003.

Even more disturbingly, Haass ignores the fact that Teheran made its greatest leaps forward in its uranium enrichment capabilities while it was engaged in these talks with the West.
She goes on to cite further instances of such pseudo-"realism" in dealings with Hamas, Syria and even North Korea. (I'll bet you didn't hear anything in the major media about their threat to destroy South Korea when they broke off the latest talks with the Bush administration---talks which Western media elites had earlier accused Bush of deliberately avoiding, because the President simply was more interested in "bullying" than in "success." And after two years of talks, what "success"! No one in the West is even sure whether Kim Jong Il is still alive and able or willing at this point to conduct further "negotiations".)

The ultimate irony of the Western ability to ignore anything out of the Middle East was evidenced by the UK Channel Four's recent decision to air a "Christmas message of peace" from Iran's President Ahmadinejad. By offering air time to him, the British media showed how thoroughly none of its audience would actually listen to what he had to say. Channel Four's spokesman unbelievably claimed: "We're offering him the chance to speak for himself, which people in the West don't often get the chance to see." As Caroline Glick powerfully demonstrates, exactly the opposite is the case:

While [Channel Four's claim] sounds reasonable, the fact is that Westerners see Ahmadinejad speaking for himself all the time. They saw him at the UN two years in a row as he called for the countries of the world to submit to Islam; claimed that Iran's nuclear weapons program is divinely inspired; and castigated Jews as subhuman menaces to humanity.

They saw him gather leading anti-Semites from all over the world at his Holocaust denial conference.

They heard him speak in his own words when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

And of course, over the years Ahmadinejad has often communicated directly to the British people. For instance, in 2007 he received unlimited airtime on UK television as he paraded kidnapped British sailors and marines in front of television cameras; forced them to make videotaped "confessions" of their "crime" of entering Iranian territorial waters; and compelled them to grovel at his knee and thank him for "forgiving" them.

The British people listened to Ahmadinejad as he condemned Britain as a warmongering nation after its leaders had surrendered Basra to Iranian proxies. They heard him - speaking in his own voice - when he announced that in a gesture of Islamic mercy, he was freeing their humiliated sailors and marines in honor of Muhammad's birthday and Easter, and then called on all Britons to convert to Islam.

Yet as far as Channel 4 is concerned, Ahmadinejad is still an unknown quantity for most Britons.
So crucifixion for traitors to the Palestinian cause? No problem to the Western media. Their attitude is as untroubled as that of this prospective juror in Alabama, who was being examined about his attitude toward the death penalty by the defense attorney in a murder case:

Attorney: Now, you know that my client is charged with murder, is that right?

Juror: Yes, that's right.

Attorney: And you know that the penalty for murder in this State is death, right?

Juror: Yes, I do. 

Attorney: Does that bother you in any way? I mean, can you participate in an endeavor in which the ultimate result might be death by lethal injection?

Juror: Well, let's see now---they do that up in Huntsville, don't they? Yes, I could do it---if it was on a weekend.

Ignorance has its price, but it can be remedied by a willingness to learn. Arrogant ignorance is not as readily cured. Those who argue that all President Obama has to do is sit down with the mullahs to reach an understanding are being willfully blind: blind to the history of the negotiations that have been going on for the past five years, and blind to the culture that the mullahs fiercely claim as their own, and are willing to impose by force on others. In that culture, death by crucifixion is no more barbaric than is death by stoning, or death by beheading. 

It is also interesting to see how modern-day Palestinians, who proudly assert that their ancestors predated the Jews in Israel, are turning to execution methods introduced by the Romans, and probably taken by them from the Persians through Alexander.  The article just linked explains the intent behind its use:
Crucifixion was never performed for ritual or symbolic reasons; usually, its purpose was only to provide a particularly painful, gruesome, and public death, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal.
(Notice that crucifixion was never used on Roman citizens, but was reserved for subjugated people. Paul---the Roman citizen---was reportedly beheaded, while the simple Galilean fisherman Peter was crucified.) 

Thus in Palestine today, the same people who danced in the streets after seeing the gruesome pictures of September 11, 2001 are supporting execution by one of the most gruesome and prolonged means ever devised by the mind of man. In doing so, they are following in the recent steps of those at Dachau, of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and of the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese war. The only other regime reported to use crucifixion today is the Sudan.

And the liberals are silent---but not because they want to hide anything. Rather, since it is not Western torture, like waterboarding (1,190,000 results on Google), or humiliation in Abu Ghraib (2,790,000 results), crucifixion by the Palestinians (4 results) just doesn't rise to the level of their attention.


  1. Thank you so much for the research and for putting this together!

  2. To quote from the article,

    "It is because the leading political leaders and foreign policy practitioners in the West refuse to listen to them and deny the significance of their actions."

    Hear no Evil
    See no Evil
    Speak no Evil

    The three monkeys may not be the best analogy for the mainstream media's and our political strategy in dealing with the axis of evil.

    I wonder if a better analogy would be,

    Afraid to hear Evil
    Afraid to see Evil
    Afraid to call out Evil

    Maybe the media and the politicians fear retribution from the evil ones. Recall the negative response to President Bush after the famous Axis of Evil speech.

  3. You correctly state that we liberals are silent about crucifixion, as mandated by Hamas, in comparison to Western torture. Why is that?

    First, we, like most, simply haven’t heard about it. For that reason, conservatives haven’t said much about it either. But more importantly, while we abhor all torture, we’re most concerned with what our government is doing. First, we have more influence on it in our democracy than on governments in other lands. Second, our government is the representative of “we the people.” Let’s look at how it has been doing that for the past eight years.

    We have a vice president, Dick Cheney, who recently stated that he approves of waterboarding, in defiance of the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act. But why worry about that? After all, not too long ago we had an attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, supposedly charged with enforcing the law, who stated that the Geneva Conventions were “quaint.” Likewise, the humiliations of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are our practice of humiliation. In addition, we have been in league with the countries you cite when we practice extraordinary rendition, the sending of detainees to countries that practice torture. We have discovered that we are not as different from our enemies as we thought.

    We have good reason to be concerned about these policies and practices; they are, to our horror, in complete contradiction to what we thought of as our democratic, Western values–the very values through which we define ourselves. The one bright spot is when the Supreme Court has stepped in and challenged some of the excesses of the Bush administration, as in the case of habeas corpus. Yet how shocking to have had a president who claimed the right to lock up without legal representation anyone he deems an “enemy combatant”–a practice reminiscent of Stalin.

    You brought up the example of capital punishment in the U.S. That is one punishment that we have in common with the regimes mentioned: Gaza, Iran, Syria and North Korea. While there is reason to oppose it everywhere, we must be most concerned when it is our death penalty–a penalty that we alone bring to the Western world.

    We must, of course, be concerned about torture as practiced everywhere, whether abroad or in the U.S. That is why I encourage everyone to support Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union.

  4. Thank you, Jeff, for giving us the liberal perspective on the silence in the media that I noted in the post.

    For all that I can nod my head in agreement with what you say, I am still bothered by the willful silence. The news has appeared in major Jewish and Arabic papers, and now on ever more blogs, but I will wager you that we can wait for a month and there will still be no story in the major Western news media that gives it anywhere near the prominence that they gave to Abu Ghraib in their pages.

    I am sure you do not mean to imply that waterboarding, or Abu-Ghraib-type humiliation, is the equivalent of crucifixion. Yet when I look at the reams of ink devoted to the former, and compare that to the scant mention of the latter, I cannot help but conclude that there is a lack of balance, and a lack of perspective, in how the media approaches its task of reporting the news. The fact that there is capital punishment in America in no way equates to the fact that capital punishment in Gaza can now consist of crucifixion. It's too much like the old joke about the reporting of the race between an American car and a Russian car: When the American car won, it was so reported in Western media, but the Russian newspapers headlined: "Russian car finishes second in international competition---American car finishes next to last." In looking at how our media deal with stories like Palestinian crucifixion---not imposed by a single dictator, or by a corrupt official, mind you, but voted in by an elected legislature---I frequently get the feeling that they are no better than the Russian media were in that joke. And the saddest part is that in our case, it's not a joke.

  5. I not only wrote about waterboarding or humiliation; one of the factors that is so disturbing about extraordinary rendition is that we have no control over what happens to a detainee sent abroad. We do know, however, that we have sent a prisoner to a country that practices torture. That in itself makes us complicit.

    I don't want to be misunderstood, however, so let me state unequivocally that waterboarding or humiliation are not at all equivalent to crucifixion. That practice does indeed deserve strong universal condemnation.