Arab Culture & the Arab-Israeli Conflict

ac-450x337Frontpage, by Mordechai Nisan, Dec. 10, 2014:

The multi-faceted essence of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israeli-Palestinian war is territorial, political, ideological, and religious – a convulsive confrontation between the mutually exclusive claims of Judaism and Islam.

But a fifth dimension of the conflict is culture – popular culture – embodied in a code of identity that differentiates one human community from another.

Culture is not negotiable or alterable: it is the texture of the life people live, and the local rhythm of things they know from their earliest memories. It is an inbred code of behavior and, as for all peoples, precedes and precludes morality, thought, and judgment.

The reason why the cultural component of the conflict is ignored stems from the fact that in order to appreciate a culture, you basically have to know it from the inside; and outsiders, non-Arabs, are ignorant of Arab culture, and haughtily assume that it has no value.

Add to this obstacle the fact that a native always behaves differently when he is with a foreigner than with a fellow-native. Surface-like conversations between people from different cultures can reveal very little. To call the Arabs rhetorically flexible is a kind way to infer their masterful command of deception.

It is Arab culture in particular, atavistic and organic, encased in the old binding from its historical origin, which must be addressed in order to better explore the intractability of the long Arab-Israeli rivalry


Arab culture is a family-clan-national social reality. An Arab owes absolute and blind loyalty to the group of his birth. He belongs to family and village, as a Bedouin belongs to his tribe. You can’t change your tribe, and you don’t change your family; and no other social framework demands more adhesion than blood relations. It follows from this premise that the Arab mistrusts outsiders. For the Arabs, the Israelis are the ‘others’, suspected of manipulation and treachery, and a permanent adversary and enemy, as taught in the Arabic Koran.


For the Arabs, language reflects culture in a way that prevents it being a vehicle for direct and clear communication. Words are used to impress, deflect intentions, disarm interlocutors, confuse listeners, and offer promises never to be fulfilled. The cultural subtext in discussions and negotiations with Arabs is often garnished in polite commitments and even written agreements. But there is little conviction to adhere to the summary accord because the culture code calls for gingerly saying what the other wants to hear; then agreeing to an appointment never to be kept, or promising a phone call that will never come. The Israelis were enthused that the Palestinians moved toward peace in the Oslo Accord, but it was followed by blood and murder, not reconciliation and brotherhood.


For the Arabs, the past defines the present because history is the anchor for all aspects of identity and aspirations. There is a mythological fascination with ancestors – as for the contemporary Salifiyya movement – combined with an axiomatic belief that sees the future as necessarily emerging from and even repeating the glorious Arab past. This contributes to an iron-will and patience until victory is assured. For the Arabs — Israel beware — never forget any perceived ill act against them. The early Islamic days of conquest and caliphate will be renewed, even if the shift in power takes forever.


Arab self-consciousness, spared any identity crisis, provides a psychological foundation for imposing the collective will upon others. To be a Muslim and an Arab, as Allah’s chosen people, launches the Arab on a path of self-justification, whose flip-side is to blame the non-Arabs for all Arab misfortunes and failures. Israel is always excoriated for crimes of aggression and violence. The composed Arab never doubts that justice is on his side: he can do no wrong. Thus, all the Arab-Israeli wars since 1948 are blamed on Israel. Considering that self-criticism is an ancient Jewish practice, Arab self-justification creates an imbalanced ethical equation that demoralizes the Jews while radicalizing the Arabs. In short, the Arabs seek victory, not peace.


Islamic truth claims, as in Koranic deviations from Biblical narratives, do not require proof or evidence, or even common sense validity. The Arabs are not perturbed by the lack of facts; their discourse is internal and self-enclosed, as reality is in their mind and not in the external objective world. The Arab mind-set inhabits a world of entrenched fantasy or diabolical conspiracy theories. Note the revelatory comment by Anwar Sadat that ‘all life is play-acting’. He was one to know. In 1993 Arafat demonstrated his theatrical adeptness at the Oslo signing ceremony at the White House.


It is essential to unlock the Arab culture code, and cease viewing the Middle East through a Western prism that leads only to delusion, disdain, and a host of ill-consequences and dashed hopes.

Dr. Mordechai Nisan writes and lectures on Israel and the Middle East. His most recent book Only Israel West of the River is available at and


Don’t miss Nonie Darwish on The Glazov Gang discuss How Arabic Stifles Freedom:

The Forgotten Child Victims of Hamas and ISIS

Hadeel-Al-Haddadby :

While furious mobs of leftists draped in Keffiyahs and corn syrup were shrieking about Gaza in the public squares of every major city, ISIS was continuing its genocidal advance on Baghdad. In the last 24 hours, the Yazidis, a non-Muslim minority, fled ISIS to a mountaintop where their children are dying of thirst.

The stark reality of their plight, caught between thirst and a genocidal army, is in sharp contrast to the phony claims made about Gaza where truckloads of goods continue passing from Israel during wartime, where the malls have iPhones and the five star hotels offer cakes so tall they can only be cut from a crane.

The dead Yazidi children won’t inspire any protests or much in the way of outrage. The hysterical rallies for Gaza won’t suddenly turn into anti-ISIS rallies. If any of the angry white hipsters with dead baby posters are asked about it, they will offer some variation on, “It’s Bush’s fault” or “It’s Tony Blair’s fault.”

And they had been out there in the early part of the century denouncing any move to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The dead children gassed by Saddam, along with the children in his prisons, were unfortunately created less equal than the photogenic, oddly blonde children of Gaza’s Hamaswood.

Anna, a two-year-old girl whose feet were crushed by Saddam’s torturers, never mattered to them.  It isn’t the children that they care about, not the dying Yazidi children in Iraq, the tortured children in Saddam Hussein’s prisons, or even the dead children of Gaza, used as human shields by Hamas in life and then brandished at rallies after their deaths as cardboard propaganda shields by furious Marxists.

When they thought that Israel had bombed a playground near the al-Shati refugee camp killing nine children, they went into murderous paroxysm of outrage. When it turned out that a misfired Hamas rocket was responsible, they fell silent.

They have equally little interest in the 3-year-old Gazan girl killed by a Hamas rocket in the early days of the war.

The same thing had happened in 2012 when a dead 11-month old baby, formerly an iconic front page photo, vanished into obscurity once the death turned out to have been caused by a Hamas rocket. The same thing happened to Hadil al-Haddad, a 2-year-old girl in Gaza, who went from iconic photo to yesterday’s news once it turned out that a Hamas rocket had been responsible for her death.

However the photos of those dead and wounded children, along with the dead children of Syria and perhaps soon the dead children of the Yazidi, will go on showing up at spitefully angry anti-Israel rallies.

If they genuinely cared about children, they would be at least as outraged, moved and pained by the death of a child at the hands of Saddam Hussein, as they were by ISIS terrorists dying at the hands of American and British soldiers. Instead dead Iraqi children inspired apathy and dead Al Qaeda outrage.

If it was the children that they cared about, then the death of an Israeli child or a Muslim child at the hands of Hamas would matter as much to them as the ones on the bloody placards they now brandish.

But they don’t and they never did.

They don’t love children or anyone else for that matter. They only hate. The dead children are only pieces of photographic paper to them which they use to shamelessly assault their ideological enemies.

Once Israel pulled out of Gaza, a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs found a striking increase in the amount of internal violence as the majority of deaths were now being caused by clan feuds.

During 2007’s battles between Israel and Hamas, as many Palestinian Arab children died in clan feuds as they did in Israeli air strikes. And unlike air strikes, children killed in clan feuds aren’t accidents.

The dirty little secret is that while Palestinian identity is as phony as a three dollar bill, clan identity is a powerful and defining force. Furthermore it is often hard to tell whether Hamas and Fatah terrorists are aligned with a movement because of personal belief or because their clan is aligned with a movement.

Hamas and Fatah aren’t just ideologies. They are also large extended clan families which fight over land, honor and economic control.

The origins of Israel’s struggle with terrorism go back to the roots of the al-Husayni clan which arrived in Jerusalem after the Crusades and has been trying to control the city and everything else ever since.

Prominent members and associates of the clan include Hitler’s Mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, and Yasser Arafat. (Arafat however was more directly associated with the Al-Qudwas, a clan which extends from Iraq to Egypt. Both clans considered themselves to be a sort of titled aristocracy, yet another fact which makes their post-colonial posturing as oppressed peoples ridiculously hypocritical and laughable.)

Read more at Front Page

Daughter of Gaza, Nonie Darwish explains Islamic Jew-hatred mandates war to conquer Israel


Gaza-born, former Muslima, Nonie Darwish, lectures a group of Israeli-Americans about the bigotry in Islamic culture towards Christianity and especially Judaism which underlies the conflict against Israel and Christian minorities.

Mrs. Darwish authored three books, ‘Now They Call Me Infidel”, “Cruel and Usual Punishment”, and “The Devil We Don’t Know; the dark side of revolutions in the Middle East.”

Nonie holds a Bachelors degree in Sociology and Anthropology and was a journalist at the Middle East News Agency. She founded, 1994, to promote understanding, peace and a new paradigm for Arabs to view Israel.   Recorded July 20th in Los Angeles, California.

Why the Arab World Is Lost in an Emotional Nakba, and How We Keep It There

A Palestinian protester aims sparks from a flare toward Israeli security forces during clashes near the Israeli checkpoint in Hebron on Feb. 25, 2013. (Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian protester aims sparks from a flare toward Israeli security forces during clashes near the Israeli checkpoint in Hebron on Feb. 25, 2013. (Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)

But the problem goes far beyond Israel and her neighbors. As anyone paying attention knows, the Salafi-Jihadis, who have “hijacked” Islam the world over, embody this self-same honor-shame mentality in its harshest form: the existential drama of humiliate or be humiliated, rule or be ruled, exterminate or be exterminated. Dar al Islam must conquer dar al Harb; independent infidels (harbismust be spectacularly brought low, their women raped; Islam must dominate the world … or vanish. The language of Shia and Sunni Jihadis alike reverberates with the sounds of honor, plunder, dominion, shame, humiliation, misogyny, rage, vengeance, conspiracy, and paranoid fear of implosion.

By Richard Landes:

Anthropologists and legal historians have long identified certain tribal cultures—warrior, nomadic—with a specific set of honor codes whose violation brings debilitating shame. The individual who fails to take revenge on the killer of a clansman brings shame upon himself (makes him a woman) and weakens his clan, inviting more open aggression. In World War II, the United States sought the help of anthropologists like Ruth Benedict to explain the play of honor and shame in driving Japanese military behavior, resulting in both intelligence victories in the Pacific Theater and her book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Taking her lead, the great classicist E.R. Dodds analyzed the millennium-long shift in Greek culture from a “shame” culture to a “guilt” culture in his Greeks and the Irrational, where he contrasted a world in which fame and reputation, rather than conscience and fear of divine retribution, drive men to act.

But even before literary critic Edward Saïd heaped scornon “honor-shame” analysis in Orientalism (1978), anthropologists had backed off an approach that seemed to make inherently invidious comparisons between primitive cultures and a morally superior West. The reception of Saïd’s work strengthened this cultural relativism: Concerns for honor and shame drive everyone, and the simplistic antinomy “shame-guilt cultures” must be ultimately “racist.” It became, well, shameful in academic circles to mention honor/shame and especially in the context of comparisons between the Arab world and the West. Even in intelligence services, whose job is to think like the enemy, refusing to resort to honor/shame dynamics became standard procedure.

Any generous person should have a healthy discomfort with “othering,” drawing sharp lines between two peoples. We muddy the boundaries to be minimally polite: Honor-killings, for example, are thus seen as a form of domestic violence, which is also pervasive in the West. And indeed, honor/shame concerns are universal: Only saints and sociopaths don’t care what others think, and no group coheres without an honor code.

But even if these practices exist everywhere, we should still be able to acknowledge that in some cultures the dominant voices openly promote honor/shame values and in a way that militates against liberal society and progress. Arab political culture, to take one example—despite some liberal voices, despite noble dissidents—tends to favor ascendancy through aggression, the politics of the strong horse,” and the application of “Hama rules”—which all combine to produce a Middle East caught between prison and anarchy, between Sisi’s Egypt and al-Assad’s Syria. Our inability, however well-meaning, to discuss the role of honor-shame dynamics in the making of this political culture poses a dilemma: By keeping silent, we not only operate in denial, but we may actually strengthen these brutal values and weaken the very ones we treasure.

Few conflicts offer a better place to explore these matters than the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Read more at Tablet

Guest Column: The Final Death of Lawrence of Arabia