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Monday, October 16, 2006

Family Feud, 'Palestinian' style - it's all about honor

I trust you all remember that very cute game show hosted by Richard Dawson called "Family Feud." That is not what this post is about.

In Friday's National Journal, Jonathan Rauch reviews a new book by James Bowman called "Honor: A History" in which Bowman argues that the terror war is an honor war:
The journalist-poet was speaking the language of traditional honor, a tongue that modern Westerners have largely forgotten -- to their peril, if James Bowman is right. In a recently published and bracingly original book called Honor: A History, Bowman -- a cultural critic and historian affiliated with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington -- argues that honor remains a potent force in world affairs, perhaps more potent today than in many years, because it is central to the liberal West's confrontation with militant Islam. If he is right, the terror war is really an honor war, but only one side knows it.

Boiling Bowman's richly nuanced 327 pages down to four paragraphs does the book a cruel disservice, but this is journalism, so here goes. Honor, for Bowman's purposes, means "the good opinion of people who matter to us." The basic honor code requires men to maintain a reputation for bravery, women a reputation for chastity. If a man is insulted, injured, or disrespected, he must avenge the offense and prove that anyone who messes with him (or "his" women) will be sorry.

The West's history is rich with traditions of honor, and equally rich with examples of its dangers and follies, among them the duel that killed the most brilliant of America's Founders. Singularly, however, the West has backed away from honor. Under admonitions from Christianity to turn the other cheek and from the Enlightenment to favor reason over emotion, the West first channeled honor into the arcane rituals of chivalry, then folded it into a code of manly but magnanimous Victorian gentlemanliness -- and then, in the 20th century, drove it into disrepute. World War I and the Vietnam War were seen as needless butcheries brought on by archaic obsessions with national honor; feminism and the therapeutic culture taught that a higher manly strength acknowledges weakness.

"Yet we are, in global terms, the odd ones out," Bowman writes. Outside the West, traditional honor codes remain strong, and nowhere is that more true than in the Muslim world. In the modern Islamic world, few share the West's view of honor as outdated and unnecessary. "The honor culture of the Islamic world predates its conversion to Islam in the seventh century," writes Bowman.

Islam overlaid itself above honor and, unlike Christianity in the West, did not challenge it. Today's militant jihadism takes the ethic of honor to extremes, fixating on manly ferocity and glorious vengeance.

Thus, Bowman writes, "America and its allies are engaged in a battle against an Islamist enemy that is the product of one of the world's great unreconstructed and unreformed honor cultures." Jihadism wages not only a religious war but a cultural one, aiming to redeem, through deeds of bravery and defiance, the honor of an Islam whose glory has shamefully faded. It aims, further, to uphold a masculine honor code that the West's decadent, feminizing influence threatens to undermine.
Nowhere is honor more important than in the Gaza Strip. Much of the anarchic violence occurring in the Strip has less to do with Fatah-Hamas wars than with family honor, as the Toronto Globe and Mail relates:
The Gaza Strip is less a political entity now than a vast underworld slum, with each street controlled by a different faction or family.

Mr. Kafarneh can't go to nearby Gaza City, he says, because the Kafarnehs, who are based in Beit Hanoun, are locked in a bloody honour feud with the Dugmash clan of Gaza City. Three Dugmashes have been killed so far in the fighting and the Kafarnehs are braced for the inevitable revenge-taking.

"Because of this problem with the Dugmash family, I cannot leave my house," Mr. Kafarneh says, sitting in a smoky, unlit room while his brother and son guard the door with Kalashnikov assault rifles. "I cannot go to Gaza alone. I could only go with my weapons, six or seven of us together, armed with Kalashnikovs and [rocket-propelled grenades]."

The enmity between the Kafarnehs and the Dugmashes is rooted in logic that fans of The Sopranos television show would appreciate. When several Kafarnehs rented rooms in a Gaza City apartment building owned by a member of the Zwayed family, they were promised that a nearby well was reserved only for tenants of their building.

A week later, after the landlord was caught drawing water from the well for use by residents of another apartment block, the Kafarnehs -- one of the largest families in Gaza -- marched en masse to the building to protest. Outnumbered, the Zwayeds called on the Dugmashes for help.

Things turned bloody, and three members of the Zwayed family and one Dugmash were killed by Kafarneh bullets that day in May. The Zwayeds bought their way out of the feud by agreeing with the Kafarnehs that they had been in the wrong in the well dispute and the three dead were just rewards. They compensated the Dugmashes for their lost relative by giving them the two apartment buildings in question.

That left the Dugmashes looking to settle their score with the Kafarnehs. Two more Dugmashes were killed in street battles before the two sides called off hostilities for Ramadan. But Mr. Kafarneh says the fighting will resume as soon as the Muslim holy month is over on Oct. 23. His family, many of whom have jobs in Gaza City that they can't go to out of fear of assassination, plans to enter the city the next day with their guns blazing to put an end to the matter. "This will end only by force," Mr. Kafarneh shrugged. "Some will die on each side."
What nice people. As Rauch points out:
In a traditional honor culture, that sort of pride-swallowing compromise may not be possible. Honor trumps interest (or subsumes it). The well-educated and talented Arabs of the Levant might today be enjoying the same prosperity and security as Spain or South Korea if years ago they had accepted Israel as a fact of life, made peace, and moved on. To Hamas and Hezbollah militants and their supporters, however, Israel's continued existence is a standing humiliation, and the debt to honor must be paid, never mind the cost.
Let's give them a state reichlet so they can kill us along with themselves.

/sarcasm

4 Comments:

At 6:11 PM, Blogger M. Simon said...

I covered this in my article on Tribalism.

I will add a link to this in my article.

 
At 7:56 PM, Blogger Kranky (in the civilized world) said...

There is of course a simple set of tactics to deal with this. Place before the "palis" a choice between two things, both unpalatable, but one far worse than the other. These things are final outcomes. State simply that these are their only two choices, and if they do not chose, a choice will be made for them; that of the greater of two evils for them. They can reject it all they want, and you don't give a rodents behind. The conflict will end in one of two ways. Any alternative method attempted or proposed will immediately and irrevocably invoke the worse (for them) solution. Give them 3 months to decide. I don't care who is in power.

At the end of 3 months, if they have not chosen, the worse-for-them choice is automatically taken. There is no going back, no post choice negotiation. No changes possible.

The choices are

a) "Palis" state at peace with Israel in Gaza, and select small sections of Judea/Samaria.

b) No "Palis" state anywhere, mass expulsion to Sinai and Jordon. Official state of total war against any "Palis" and anyone who supports them.

This is an ultimatum. Needs a politician with balls. I am hoping that Israel finds a politician that can grow a pair of these quickly.

You should not care who is in charge, or if the recognize Israel. That is not your problem. Thats theirs. Stupidity, ego, and honor appear intertwined in "Palis" society.

They can't control themselves, you shouldn't have to control them. Let Egypt and Jordan deal with them.

 
At 6:02 AM, Blogger Yoel.Ben-Avraham said...

A more realistic scenario (see previous comment) is perhaps as follows:

- Israel finishes Security Fence stopping all contraband smugling of illegal workers or goods (stolen from Israel to PA and illegal from PA to Israel) killing the only economy the PA's have (outside of foreign aide)
- Security and Stability inside PA gets worse as time goes on driving more and more of the PA's "normal" population to seek secure stable "home" elsewhere they can earn a living and raise children
- Continued militancy of Hamas, Fatach etc. create situation where even Arab countries refuseto support them for fear of their influence on their populations

And little by little, over the next twenty years, the so-called West Bank empties of any meaningful population until the few remaining old and uneducated beg the Jews to assist them in relocating to a decent home somewhere else in the world.

Its NOT that far fetched a possibility!

 
At 7:24 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Yoel,

I am afraid you underestimate the 'Palestinians' desire for 'honor.' Remember that jealously, desire and HONOR destroy a person's place in the world.

 

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