by Elder of Ziyon, July 24, 2017

Once again, Palestinians are behaving irrationally.

Once again, no one knows what to make of it.

And once again, once you apply the honor/shame construct, it all makes perfect sense.

Abbas didn't want to see the terror attack on the Israeli policemen. But he is bound by the social rules of his society, and once the events were set in motion, he has no choice but to act like a typical Arab leader who is too cowardly to face down the insane shame culture.

Israel closing down the Temple Mount for two days was a source of a huge amount of shame. It showed that Jews ultimately control the area, and the myth that the Waqf controls it was shown to be a lie. The idea that Jews control the purported third holiest site in Islam is a source of deep shame that has been buried for years by the fantasy of Waqf control.

Once the shame started, it cannot be erased.

The fact that Israel re-opened the area in less than 48 hours is irrelevant; the metal detectors - or cameras or extra guards or wands or anything - just add to the shame of reminding the Arabs of who is the boss of the Temple Mount in the sense of who ultimately provides security. All else is irrelevant.

Once we have entered the honor./shame universe, actual facts or logic are meaningless - all that matters are symbols. And symbols don't get bigger than pretending to "defend Al Aqsa." (Which is what the stabber in Petah Tikva shouted this morning,[1] as he stabbed an Arab mistaking him for a Jew.)

Abbas cannot act in a way that diminishes his honor, so he needs to double down on demanding honor and refusing shame. He must use all the weapons in his arsenal to "win". Because the other aspect of honor/shame societies is the zero-sum game, and if Israel gets anything out of this episode that it didn't have before- like normal security that any society would demand - Abbas thinks he loses. Winning the zero-sum game becomes more important than human lives. Abbas therefore ups the ante and says he will end security cooperation - the biggest weapon in his arsenal. He feels he has to go for the big guns because if he loses, he is finished - his shame will end him as a leader.

So now a very reasonable Israeli expectation for basic security becomes a life-or-death pissing match to the Palestinian leadership. They cannot back down. If Israel would offer to compromise by painting a stick figure of a camera on all entrances to the Mount the pushback would be exactly the same. Actual facts are of no interest.

Meanwhile, the honor/shame dynamic is played out with more terror attacks. Hamas' leader called the father of the murderer of the father and his children in Halamish explicitly in terms of honor, saying[2] that "Your son brought pride to the nation." Abbas cannot be seen as less interested in national pride than Hamas, to do so would be politically costly, although he cannot explicitly praise the attack either or risk alienating his Western friends. So he stays quiet. But he will pay the salary of the murderer for the rest of his life.

As often happens, the logical West is confronted with the irrational Middle East. Usually the West blinks before dealing with these seemingly crazy people who would happily start a war over metal detectors. Because crazy people are scary and unpredictable and passionate, while normal people just want to live their lives without that drama.

The interesting part of this saga is how the Western world reacts. Israel's requirement for security in the face of a proven threat reflects what every other nation would do. The PA's reaction is completely bonkers by any normal yardstick. If the world wasn't so reflexively "pro-Palestinian" it wouldn't coddle the crazy demands, but the Palestinians have made an art form of these kinds of crazy demands that end up sounding reasonable over the years of constant repetition.

This time might be a little too crazy for, say, Western Europe at least. Palestinians have been losing their support behind the scenes, especially in Arab countries but cracks are appearing in the West as well. Their UN victories are getting narrower, and European parties are pushing back more against the UNHRC bias. They believe in the two state solution but they are not quite as certain that the 1967 lines are so sacred. Palestinian intransigence is being seen more and more as an obstacle to peace.

This episode may hurt the Palestinians in the long run much more than a symbolic victory would gain them. And this can be accelerated if the West uses the honor/shame dynamic[3] to shame the Palestinians into acting like responsible adults.





Readers' comments.

Charlie in NY

The Western reaction to Arab honor-shame craziness has been as simple as it has been consistent: use a double standard to demand conduct of Israel that it would never dream of imposing on itself. In this instance, Israel should publicly and vocally make the following statements (they should not be questions or any other public mechanisms that suggests Israel is making a plea for understanding, it is a sovereign nation and need not ask permission). First, Israel's security response to murder is well within the responses every Western country has imposed at far less sensitive sites for far less dramatic reasons.

Second, the World in general and Arab leaders in particular need to denounce the "al Aqsa is in danger" lie for what it is. To this, it needs to add Temple Denial and have the Pope, among other Chrisitan religious leaders, denounce such nonsense as anti-Christian (the Gospels are false when they relate Jesus going to the Temple in Jerusalem) as well as anti-historical and anti-Jewish.

Third, if the world really believes in the international declarations regarding freedom of worship as a universal value, then it will work with Israel to persuade the Waqf to prepare Muslims for the eventuality of Christian and Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.

Fourth, Israel should declare that the actions of Palestinian Arabs make it clear why they cannot be trusted with insuring Jewish or Christian rights to the Temple Mount. I think it is important that Israel always include Christians in this debate, for reasons that should be obvious.

Fifth, Israel should say that the Waqf's boycott of Muslim worship on the Temple Mount constitutes a change to the so-called "status quo" and is an abdication of the privileges Israel granted it in 1967. Consequently, Israel will step into that vacuum and now update everyone's rights consistent with international declarations of religious rights and leave the decision to pray to the individual worshiper. Jerusalem is NOT Mecca, it is open to all worshippers.

If this battle of wills is left as a "Jewish" problem, we already know how that plays on the international stage. That said, Israel needs to assert its rights forcefully and make it clear, without sounding defensive, that the onus is on the Arabs to get their own house in order if they want to be taken seriously as a partner for peace.

Liatris Spicata

Excellent comment, Charlie. I have long wondered what the implications of your fifth recommendation would be, and rather guessed it would result in a bunch of huffing and puffing in Turtle Bay and, of course, rioting, murder and mayhem for a bit in the Arab world, after which the matter would be largely ignored.

Elder implied, but didn't quite address head on, that the reason Moslems persist with their impulsive shame-honor responses is that they "work" in a tactical sense to gain support for their agenda. As it is, "The People Who Never Were in a Country That Never Was" are rewarded for their violent and seemingly irrational behavior- those very rewards confer a certain underlying rationale to what should be dismissed as childish and unacceptable behavior. I think once Moslems learned that violent, irrational responses didn't "work", at least in the West, we might see a tempering of that kind of response.

'Elder of Ziyon' is a pro-Zionist website devoted to accurate information on Israel and the Arabs. The name is a play on "The Protocol of the Elders of Zion", a counterfeit document that purported to prove that Jews ran the world, and all the infra-structure therein.

This article appeared on the Elder of Ziyon website July 24, 2017 and is archived at It is archived on Think-Israel at

Return _________________________End of Story___________________________ Return