Displaying posts categorized under


The Red Cross and the Holocaust As early as 1933, the Red Cross received letters from Dachau, including one pleading: ‘I beg you again in the name of the prisoners—Help! Help!.’ Samuel Moyn reviews “Humanitarians at War” by Gerald Steinacher.

By the eve of World War II, the International Committee of the Red Cross had reshaped the landscape of humanitarianism. Founded in 1863 by Henry Dunant, a Swiss businessman appalled by the carnage he saw on an Italian battlefield, the organization had made itself the central player in the modern law of war. Having organized the conference that drew up the original Geneva Conventions, the ICRC was formally empowered to tend to wounded, sick and imprisoned soldiers and to ensure that they were humanely treated rather than left for dead. The ICRC had given rise to Red Cross organizations around the world, including in the United States, and had begun attending to disasters, natural and manmade.

But what began as an organization meant to curb the barbarity of warfare has found it difficult to live down its most grievous mistake: cozying up to the Third Reich, remaining silent about the Holocaust and later helping Nazis escape justice. In his last book, “Nazis on the Run: How Hitler’s Henchmen Fled Justice” (2011), historian Gerald Steinacher chronicled one aspect of this shameful era. His newest effort, “Humanitarians at War: The Red Cross in the Shadow of the Holocaust,” synthesizes what he and other historians have learned about the ICRC’s conduct during this troublesome period before adding new material on what the organization did next. This more comprehensive account of the ICRC’s actions equips the reader to decide whether the organization truly recovered from its wartime and postwar errors.

Much of “Humanitarians at War” re-treads the ICRC’s missteps in those dark years, rightly laying most of the blame on Switzerland’s Carl Jacob Burckhardt. With the ICRC’s moralistic Christian president, Max Huber, elderly and often ill during the 1930s, it was Burckhardt, his second in command, who made major decisions regarding relations with Adolf Hitler’s government. A diplomat and known careerist, Burckhardt harbored a traditional anti-Semitism and such hatred of communism that he regarded German Nazism as a bulwark of civilization and a necessary evil. As early as April 1933, the ICRC was receiving desperate letters from inmates of German concentration camps, including one from Dachau pleading: “‘I beg you again in the name of the prisoners—Help! Help!’” Yet as Mr. Steinacher writes, during this period Burckhardt was given an inspection tour “and officially lauded the commandant of Dachau for his discipline and decency.”

It wasn’t just willfully repeating the Germans’ propaganda that stained the ICRC. Nor was it only the fact that, knowing the Nazis had confirmed their policy of mass extermination of the Jews at the 1942 Wannsee Conference, the ICRC did nothing to intervene. What was more difficult to defend was Burckhardt’s sympathies with and efforts on behalf of Nazi actors after Germany’s defeat. He opposed the Nuremberg trials, labeling them “Jewish revenge.” Red Cross officials attempted to whitewash the record of Nuremberg defendant and high-ranking Nazi diplomat Ernst von Weizsäcker. After the Holocaust, the ICRC—by then helmed by Burckhardt—even abetted the flight of Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele by providing them with travel papers. CONTINUE AT SITE

In Search of the Origin of the Jews For a long time, the biblical narrative held sway. Now scholars seek to distinguish historical fact from religious myth—if it is possible to do so. By Benjamin Balint

Can we grasp the essence of something by laying bare its origins? “An origin is not just a beginning,” Steven Weitzman writes, “it is a ‘beginning that explains.’ ” In “The Origin of the Jews,” Mr. Weitzman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, aims to find one nation’s elusive starting point. “The Jews have one of the longest and most intensively studied histories of any population on earth,” he notes, “but the beginning of their history, how it is that the Jews came to be, remains surprisingly unsettled.”

The reason for this is that, until recently, the biblical narrative held sway: Jews understood themselves to be the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, members of a family that was forged into a people by enslavement in Egypt and revelation at Mount Sinai. Yet ever since the Bible’s historical veracity came under scrutiny in the 18th and 19th centuries, scholars seeking to distinguish historical fact from religious myth have questioned how Jews today are related to the Hebrews of the Torah and the Judeans of the New Testament.

Because origins can be entangled with authenticity, the inquiry is not without its risks. “Going back to antiquity,” Mr. Weitzman writes, “anti-Jewish animosity has sometimes expressed itself in the form of counter-origin stories that seek to mock and discredit the Jews by negating their own understanding of their origin.” Centuries of Christian polemics, Mr. Weitzman adds, “sought to discredit the Jews as authentic heirs to biblical Israel” by questioning the continuity between Jews and their ancient forebears and caricaturing them as a rootless people.

Today the search for origins, already fraught, has come to be entangled with the legitimacy of the state of Israel. Mr. Weitzman cites critics who challenge Zionist claims that modern-day Jews, sharing a genealogical and geographical origin with their ancient ancestors, are indigenous to the land of Israel.

Photo: WSJ
The Origin of the Jews

By Steven Weitzman
Princeton, 394 pages, $35

The first to gauge the formative moment of this people’s story, Mr. Weitzman says, were 20th-century archaeologists who claimed that around 1200 B.C. the Israelites emerged from the earlier Canaanite culture. The archaeologists variously proposed that the Israelites were invaders from Egypt who seized Canaan in an act of conquest; migrants from Mesopotamia who infiltrated the land peacefully; or Canaanite peasants who revolted against their exploiters and gave birth to a new set of rituals and principles. The pioneering biblical archaeologist W.F. Albright (1891-1971) found evidence of an abrupt leap: “The Canaanites, with their orgiastic nature-worship . . . were replaced by Israel, with its nomadic simplicity and purity of life, its lofty monotheism and its severe code of ethics.”

Still other scholars locate the Jews’ founding moment in the encounter with the ancient Greeks. Drawing on Shaye Cohen’s study “The Beginnings of Jewishness” (1999), Mr. Weitzman takes up the theory that Judaism (itself a Greek coinage of the second century B.C.) was catalyzed by the Judeans’ cross-fertilization with Hellenistic culture. Before Alexander the Great’s conquest, Judean identity was a matter of ethnicity, determined by birth. Afterward, emulating the ways in which Greeks thought of their “Greekness,” it became a community of belief. Paraphrasing Mr. Cohen, Mr. Weitzman writes that “the Judeans realized under the influence of the Greeks that identity was not fixed by birth, that one could make oneself into a Jew through conversion.” CONTINUE AT SITE

Adrian Williams: Muhammad: Social Justice Warrior

A woman or girl in any number of Muslim countries may face forced marriage, gender apartheid, honour killing, female genital mutilation, polygamy and harsh punishment for being a rape victim. To author Susan Carland, aka Mrs Waleed Aly, any mention of this is Islamophobic.

Fighting Hislam: Women, Faith and Sexism
by Susan Carland
Melbourne University Press, 2017, 182 pages, $29.99 ______________________________________

Much attention has been given to women and Islam in the Australian media during the first few months of this year. On February 13 ABC television presenter Yassim Abdel-Magied asserted on Q&A that Islam is “the most feminist religion”. On February 22, the President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Keysar Trad, explained to Andrew Bolt’s Sky News viewers the circumstances under which a husband is permitted to beat his wife, qualifying this by saying it is a “last resort”. This was followed by a Facebook video posted by the Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir in which two women further attempt to justify and explain how and when a man can strike his wife.

It was, therefore, particularly disappointing that the prominent Somali-born Dutch-American writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali was forced to cancel her tour of Australia in April due to security concerns. Here was a chance for local audiences to hear first-hand from a prominent and thoughtful critic of Islam and its treatment of women. Instead we have this newly published study of Islam and feminism by Susan Carland, an Australian academic, better known as television personality Waleed Aly’s wife.

Fighting Hislam, an adaptation of Carland’s PhD thesis, is concerned with countering the “allegedly” sexist treatment of women in Islamic communities as well as highlighting the thriving feminist movement within the religion. Islam, she writes, is not “inherently oppressive towards women” and concerns shown by non-Muslims for the welfare of Muslim women can be understood in the “broader context of Islamophobia”. Whereas Hirsi Ali has written honestly about female genital mutilation in Islamic communities, and is personally a childhood victim of this ritual, Carland refuses even to address it, claiming the people who raise the issue with her are smugly ignorant. Like, for instance, the shop owner responsible for binding her thesis. When collecting it she found herself on the receiving end of an “unsolicited and impenetrable rant about female genital mutilation”, and adds, “this was not the first time a stranger had felt entitled to raise the potential religious interference of my genitals with me”.

Carland was born and raised in Australia and converted to Islam when she was nineteen, so religious interference with her genitals is unlikely, but this gives the reader an idea of where her book is headed. Muslim feminists like her, she states, face their greatest challenge from the “patriarchy”, presumably meaning the men who forcibly and unjustly dominate the world, not from the men who dominate Islam. Indeed, any resistance to feminism in Muslim circles is just an “understandable reaction from a minority community that frequently feels itself under siege”. The reality, she argues, is that feminism and Islam are complementary, as the Koran has a mandate of “gender equality and social justice”.

Today a woman or girl in any number of countries with sizeable Muslim populations, and not just in North Africa and the Middle East I might add, may be subjected to forced marriage, gender apartheid, honour killings, female genital mutilation, polygamy, and harsh punishments for adultery or for being a rape victim. Of course, to Carland, any mention of this represents typically negative and condescending attitudes towards Islam. She instead draws the reader’s attention to the challenges faced by Muslim women in Australia, such as coping with our supposed “obsession with the hijab” and the “inadequate space for women” that exists in many mosques. Her personal experiences are no less harrowing, remarking as she does at the necessity for her to avoid dawdling behind her husband when walking in the street for fear that onlookers will accuse her of being subservient.

This sort of anecdotal “evidence” of the alleged gender discrimination Muslim women endure is reflected in her research methodology. She bases her study on interviews conducted with twenty-three Muslim women in Australia and North America in 2011 and 2012. These women are described as theo­logians, activists, writers and bloggers. Nine are Muslim converts, and therefore presumably born in North America or Australia, seven are single, eight are divorced, eight have no children and all but one have university degrees. Wisely, Carland does not attempt to claim they are representative of Muslim women around the world.

Just Say No to Naomi Klein By Norman Rogers

Naomi Klein has made a career giving guidance to the dumbest segment of the juvenile left. Each new generation brings a new crop of kids susceptible to the siren song of Marxism. With movie-star looks and a fake humble act, Klein repackages Marxism, explaining to her star-struck acolytes, most of whom probably never heard of Marx, that evil billionaires and scheming corporate bosses are conspiring to further oppress every oppressed group. Her act sells millions of books. Her mama didn’t raise any dumbbells.

Her latest book is No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. The book was hurriedly written so that it would be published before people became used to having Trump as president. Klein describes Trump’s election as a naked corporate takeover. Apparently, much of the corporate establishment was only pretending to be in Hillary’s camp.

Klein explains the world by shoehorning the real world into Marxist categories. Some of the people in Trump’s Cabinet are wealthy – proof for Klein that scheming capitalists have taken over the government.

Klein is a dual American-Canadian citizen. Her parents fled the U.S. for Canada in 1967 to escape military service and jail.

According to Klein, the meaning of Trump’s election is that a “gang of predatory lenders, planet-destabilizing polluters, war and ‘security’ profiteers joined forces to take over the government and protect their ill-gotten wealth.”

What do predatory lenders and planet-destabilizing polluters have in common? Perhaps the predatory lenders enable people to buy cars so that the planet-destabilizing polluters can sell gasoline – obviously a sinister conspiracy. Planet-destabilizing pollution is a political slogan, not a scientific category.

Lockheed Martin, presumably a war profiteer, made 8% profit on sales. Apple, presumably not a war profiteer, made 21%. It must be that the profits of war are depressed.

The far left, when it obtains political power, always suppresses its opponents. In the U.S., if the hard left obtained power, the opposition would be demonized as racists or promoters of hate. Their fate would be a prison camp or worse. Thugs would be utilized to beat up or kill opposition figures and reporters.

When the left does not hold power, it holds itself out as the protector of wronged people and wronged groups. That is a strategy for building political support. Naomi Klein constantly invokes a long list of groups supposedly wronged by capitalism.

Here is how Klein, bizarrely, describes Trump’s electoral appeal:

It is this complex mix of factors that allowed Trump to come along and say: I will champion the beleaguered working man. I will get you those manufacturing jobs back. I’ll get rid of these free trade agreements. I’ll return your power to you. I’ll make you a real man again. Free to grab women without asking all those boring questions. Oh, and the most potent part of Trump’s promise to his base: I will take away the competition from brown people, who will be deported or banned, and Black people, who will be locked up if they fight for their rights. In other words, he would put white men safely back on top once again.

This is a clear attempt, a pathetic attempt, to incite racial animus if not a race war. White men are parodied as mean-spirited and lording it over women, brown people, and black people. This is Klein dropping the sweet and humble act and baring her fangs. If only she and her allies can tear the country apart by inciting racial animus, there might be an opening for the left to obtain political power.

Fortunately, Trump was elected president, and Naomi Klein is a lefty gadfly.

Global warming/climate change is a natural leftist cause. If we aren’t swearing off fossil fuels, it must be due to the sinister influence of corporate America. So, to get the maximum political mileage, global warming is depicted as unquestioned science – something like the law of gravity. Given that, if we are not eliminating carbon dioxide emissions, it must be because capitalist forces are selfishly, for profit, spreading confusion and lobbying against saving the world.

A “New History” and Old Facts By Uri Bar-Joseph | Summer 2017 Fifty years after the conflict, Guy Laron’s The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East attempts to upend our understanding of the hostilities.

In his new history of the 1967 conflict, Guy Laron claims to upend previous scholarship by arguing that the conflict was precipitated by war-mongering generals in Egypt, Syria, and Israel; in the last case, these militarists were in cahoots with “settlers” with whom they shared an obsession with territorial expansion. Meanwhile, the pressure of economic problems in Egypt and Israel left President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol without the political clout to rein in their respective generals. Reviewing the book, Uri Bar-Joseph finds it disorganized, crammed with “too much information about too many irrelevant issues,” and “filled with factual errors,” some of which “show an alarming lack of expertise.” But the book’s real problem lies elsewhere:

Laron’s principal contribution is to advance a narrative so poorly substantiated as to border on conspiracy theory. . . . [It] is based on a biased selection of previously published sources, mostly in Hebrew and thus beyond the independent assessment of most American and European scholars. Anyone familiar with the documentary evidence will instantly recognize his account as groundless. . . .

After Israel was compelled to withdraw from the Sinai in 1957, there was a consensus within the military that acquiring territory was no longer a viable option. . . . [T]he IDF’s goal was simply to compel Syria to stop providing a base for Palestinian terrorists. . . .

But if Israel had no plans to occupy and annex the Golan Heights, why did the IDF prepare only offensive plans for a possible war against Syria? . . . [T]he answer has far less to do with territorial expansion than with Israel’s military doctrine. Due to the country’s small size and severe lack of strategic depth before the 1967 war, this doctrine called for preemptive strikes and, whenever possible, immediately taking the fight into enemy territory. . . .

[Meanwhile], Egyptian accounts reveal that Nasser’s generals also believed that they were not ready for war and objected to [his decision] to close the Straits of Tiran.

In short, what led to war was not the aims of Israeli and Egyptian generals but the Egyptian president’s decision to close the straits and remilitarize the Sinai.

In May 15, 1967, Israel’s long-simmering border conflict with Syria and its PLO clients came to a boil when the Soviet Union falsely warned Syria and Egypt that Israel was about to carry out a large-scale attack on the Golan Heights. In response, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt advanced his army into the Sinai, which had been de facto demilitarized since the end of the 1956 Sinai-Suez War. A few days later, emboldened by waves of popular indignation across the Arab world, Nasser expelled the UN Emergency Force from the Sinai and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, thus blocking Israel’s maritime access to the Indian Ocean through its southern port of Eilat. Taken together, Nasser’s actions created the sense of an imminent, existential threat to the State of Israel. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s government regarded the actions as cause for war.

American attempts to defuse the crisis led nowhere, and, once Syria and Jordan (with the material support of other Arab states) joined Nasser, Israel had no choice but to strike first. Its surprise air attack against Egypt’s air force on the morning of June 5 lasted three hours and destroyed most of it, giving Israel air dominance as the IDF launched its ground forces into the Sinai—an offensive that lasted four days and ended with the devastation of the Egyptian army and the occupation of the entire peninsula. At the same time, and in response to shelling by Jordanian artillery, the IDF launched an attack that ended in three days with the occupation of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem. Finally, Israel took the Golan Heights, in a battle that ended six days after the war began.

This, at least, is the story that has been told and retold by the authors of both older and more recent accounts, and it is this story that Guy Laron attempts to upend by placing it in the larger context of Israel’s military plans in the late 1950s and 1960s, as well as the Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union for influence in the region. The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East, which Yale University Press brought out shortly before the recent 50th anniversary of the war, is an attempt to thoroughly revise our historical understanding of the conflict.

False Black Power? A new book dispels the myth that blacks need political power to succeed. Mark Tapson

Obama’s ascension to the White House was the culmination of the black struggle to attain the pinnacle of political power. But decades of that obsessive focus on black political advancement has not yielded the results that civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson promised. Even after eight years of Obama, racial gaps in income, employment, home ownership, academic achievement, and other measures still exist, and many civil rights leaders both new and old– including Jackson – explain that by pushing the self-serving narrative that blacks in America are still the victims of systemic racism, and that continuing to pursue political power is the answer.

Jason L. Riley, a Wall Street Journal columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, disagrees. The thrust of his slim but significant new book, False Black Power?, from Templeton Press, is the politically incorrect conclusion that black “political clout is no substitute for self-development”:

The major barrier to black progress today is not racial discrimination and hasn’t been for decades. The challenge for blacks is to better position themselves to take advantage of existing opportunities, and that involves addressing the antisocial, self-defeating behaviors and habits and attitudes endemic to the black underclass.

Riley argues in False Black Power? that the left’s politically useful argument of white oppression serves only the interests of the people making it, not blacks themselves, and that “black history itself offers a compelling counternarrative that ideally would inform our post-Obama racial inequality debates.”

Mr. Riley, also the author of Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, consented to answer some questions about the book via email.

Mark Tapson: When America elected its first black president there was widespread hope that he would accomplish everything from healing our racial divide to slowing the rise of the oceans. What was the actual legacy for American blacks of eight years of Barack Obama?

Jason Riley: It was a decidedly mixed bag for blacks. They saw racial gaps widen in poverty, homeownership and household incomes, for example. The black jobless rate did improve toward the end of Obama’s second term, but it was quite a wait. Black unemployment didn’t fall below double digits until the third month of his seventh year in office. But my broader argument is not that Obama failed to narrow these kinds of racial divides but that the civil rights strategy has failed. Since the 1960s, the focus has been on pursuing black political power—electing more black officials—in hopes that the black socio-economic gains would rise in concert. Obama’s presidency was both the culmination of that strategy and more evidence of the limit of that strategy.

MT: What do you think about the claims of many black voices, from Colin Kaepernick to the Black Lives Matter leaders, that blacks in America are under the thumb of an entrenched system of racial oppression?

JR: I find that sort of thinking politically expedient but overly reductive. If racism explains racial disparities today, how were blacks able to make the tremendous progress we saw in the first half of the 20th century? During the Jim Crow era, when racism was rampant and legal–and black political clout was minimal–racial gaps in poverty, income, educational attainment and other measures were closing. In the post-60s era, however, and notwithstanding landmark civil rights victories and huge increases in the number of black elected officials, much of that progress slowed, stalled or even reversed course. Racism still exist, but its existence doesn’t suffice as an explanation for today’s racial gaps. I think other factors—mainly culture—play a much bigger role.

MT: Why do today’s black leaders, from Al Sharpton to Ta-Nehisi Coates to Michael Eric Dyson, perpetuate a victimhood among American blacks instead of empowering them with the story of black triumph over adversity in the post-Civil War, pre-civil rights era?

JR: I can’t say for certain because I don’t know those individuals. But I do know that the grievance industry is a lucrative one. But I will say that the left’s victimhood narrative helps Democrats get elected and keeps civil rights leaders relevant.

MT: Over fifty years since Daniel Moynihan’s controversial study of the black family, why is it still so taboo to suggest, as you do in your book, that there is a “strong connection between black poverty and black family structure”?

JR: Political correctness has played a role. Being called a racist still stings. I cite a couple of black sociologists in the book—William Julius Wilson and Orlando Patterson—who have chided their fellow social scientists for ignoring the role that ghetto culture plays in black outcomes. For politicians, you can win a lot of votes by telling black people that white racism is the main cause of all their problems and that government programs are the solution.

MT: Can you expound on why the sharp rise in violent crime in the inner cities seems to coincide, as you write, with the increase of black leaders in those same cities?

The Strange Death of Europe Douglas Murray’s new book confronts the Islamization of Europe. by Danusha V. Goska

After you turn the final page of Douglas Murray’s 2017 The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, you may find yourself staring off into the distance, sipping absent-mindedly at your absinthe, planning your escape to New Zealand or better yet, Mars. You may enter a monastery or a gun store. You may immediately plan to have twelve children, or you may get sterilized.

The basic facts are few: after the mass slaughter of World Wars I and II, Europe faced a labor shortage. Europe voted in socialists, and promised cradle-to-grave benefits. To solve both problems, Europe imported large numbers of often Muslim laborers. The World Wars’ horrors, documented in excruciating detail, followed by the collapse of European imperialism, caused many elites to feel ashamed of their own identity, and to promote cultural relativism and multiculturalism. Europe abandoned its Judeo-Christian roots and the concept of the nation-state. Europe’s most theatrically “moral” and “enlightened” elites promoted “diversity,” open borders and a denigration of European culture as the height of virtue. At the same time, non-European cultures were assessed as superior.

These trends reached their climax in recent years, when massive numbers of mostly Muslim migrants made their way toward Europe in rickety boats and fragile rafts, and Europe, led by Angela Merkel, announced, “Come on in. Our social safety net will support you with cash, housing, and healthcare. Our multiculturalism will elevate you above any critique.” Among the migrants were some who indeed assessed their own culture not only as superior to European culture, but as the culture that should, through violence and terror, dominate the world. The inescapable boogeyman of this tale is simple mathematics. Muslims have more children; Europeans have fewer. “By the end of the lifespans of most people currently alive, Europe will not be Europe and the peoples of Europe will have lost the only place in the world we had to call home,” as Murray puts it.

Similar territory has been covered by other books: Oriana Fallaci’s 2002 The Rage and the Pride, Bat Yeor’s 2005 Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, Bruce Bawer’s 2006 While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, Melanie Philips’ 2006 Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within, Claire Berlinski’s 2007 Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s, Too, and Mark Steyn’s 2008 America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It.

Murray addresses what has often been referred to as “the migrant crisis,” dated from 2015, and he covers events as recent as December, 2016. Murray brings his own late-night, brooding, depth. This is a book that dares to relate life’s big questions to current headlines.

The Strange Death of Europe’s 320 densely-packed pages open with four irrefutable words: “Europe is committing suicide.” There are ample shocks to be had when reading this book. Here is one: Murray tells the truth. Truth has been so demonized that we are used to speakers avoiding truth, the way a muddy dog avoids a bathtub. I found myself, more than once, turning to the copyright page to confirm that this was not a self-published book.

Let’s begin with a few bullet points culled from The Strange Death of Europe.

* In December, 2014, Africans took a smugglers’ boat from Morocco to Spain. A Christian prayed. The captain and crew systematically identified, beat, and threw overboard all Christian passengers. This is not an isolated incident. Christian passengers on other boats have been drowned. Not just Christophobia but also racism dominates on the boats. Economically better-off Tunisians and Syrians look down on, and outrank, darker skinned and poorer sub-Saharan Africans. Middle Eastern Muslims occupy the best seats on the boat and are most likely to survive any accidents.

* On September 27, 2016, a 27-year-old Pakistani migrant in Germany was arrested while publicly raping an Iraqi girl. The girl’s father approached with a knife. The police shot him dead, presumably right in front of the little migrant who had just been raped. She was now orphaned, as well as being a six-year-old, stateless rape survivor. She is not alone. Women are regularly raped and pimped by their fellow migrants, who are majority young men.

French Islam’s Radical Turn, and Its Ramifications for French Jews A new book shows the role played by anti-Semitism in the strengthening and consolidation of Islamism in France.Neil Rogachevsky

Recent attacks in Paris, London, and Manchester have supplied horrifying evidence that “homegrown jihad” remains a potent force in Western countries, especially but not only in Europe. Yet a good understanding of the phenomenon remains elusive. Why are non-negligible numbers of young Muslim men, born often to quite secular parents and brought up in Western societies, transforming themselves into self-styled knights of jihad?

Of the many explanations that have been advanced, two may be regarded as serious. According to the first, this homegrown phenomenon is a fanatical reaction to, precisely, life in the modern West. That is, for young and newly devout Muslims, Islamism offers a substantive something as against the empty nihilism increasingly typifying Western culture. In this reading, the fairly common turn to Islamism, and by a smaller subset of the young to jihadist violence, is a symptom of the crisis of the contemporary West.

According to the second explanation, the problem originates within Islam itself and is related to the religion’s accumulating demographic strength in Europe, to its ideological vigor (and rigor), and to inflammatory geopolitical factors like today’s civil war in the Middle East. In this reading, it is to internal developments within Islam that we should look in grappling with the rise of sharia-friendly politics in Europe and the creation of environments hospitable to the jihadist impulse.

A principal promoter of the second view is Gilles Kepel, a political scientist at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. An expert less in Islamic theology than in the politics of Islam today, Kepel has written extensively on the Middle East and France, most recently on the deteriorating situation in the immigrant-heavy suburbs (banlieues) that surround many French cities. His latest book,Terror in France, first published in French as Terreur dans L’Hexagone, offers a concrete account of how Islamism, in both its more passive and more militant varieties, has gained ground in France over the last few decades.

As against big-think approaches to the problem of Islamism, Kepel’s politically-minded approach, with its cultivated indifference to more theoretical considerations, is rather refreshing. To be sure, one cannot altogether discount the more abstract explanations. Anyone who has become religious in our time can recognize the desire to replace what was previously lacking with the totality of whatever one has newly embraced. And who could now deny that a political and moral crisis afflicts the West?

Kepel’s central pointis that since the middle of the last decade, the former mainline (if not exactly moderate) Muslim organizations in France have lost control over Islam. In recent years, a new, more militant generation of imams, pamphleteers, and “Islamist entrepreneurs” has emerged, bearing sophisticated and technologically-adept strategies designed to promote “total Islam.” As signs of the deepening crisis, Kepel points to the extremely effective use of social media, new kinds of speech in mosques, and even an experiment in collective Islamist living in the south of France.

True, not all Islamic leaders have articulated the Islamist line or tolerated violence. In the 1990s and early 2000s, some important French institutions were influenced by Muslim Brotherhood activities and doctrines. As Kepel indicates, that influence was hardly benign. In particular, he attributes to it the zealous promotion and diffusion of the term Islamophobia to discredit any criticism of Islam as well as to stoke a sense of victimhood among European Muslims. But while Brotherhood-influenced preachers and institutions surely stood for a species of “total Islam,” they did not openly preach violence in the West

Beginning in the “pivotal” year of 2005, however, with street riots in Paris’s northern banlieues, things took a decisively more radical turn. Over the following years, the center of gravity of French Islam shifted from the centralized institutions to those neighborhoods, in which Saudi-trained imams have gained followings and accumulated significant authority. The easy diffusion of jihadist literature and videos through social media has fired the imagination of young Western Muslims; combined with the opportunity for jihadist study abroad, facilitated in turn by the decomposition of the Arab and Muslim Middle East, this has finally led to the perfect storm that now faces France and other European countries.

In France itself, Kepel notes in qualification, there is as yet no coherent Islamist political program. In fact, Islamist tendencies have been rather plural in character. Sometimes Islamists have sided with figures of the radical right in an alliance built on mutual antagonism toward Jews (a subject to which I’ll return shortly). At other times, Islamists have worked with the radical French left, inveterately open as ever to allies in its eternal combat against capitalist society.

When the humor died David Grossman’s award-winning novel fails on many levels and underscores how the left has forgotten how to laugh: David Goldman

Laughter is the antidote for self-pity, but self-pity is poison to humor. Once the Left shifted its attention from social progress to support for self-pity, it was lost to humor. The Left now is so humorless that we make self-referential jokes about its lack of humor, for example: “How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?” “One – and it’s not funny.”“Saturday Night Live” would not dare to re-do Eddie Murphy’s “Black History Minute” sketches of a generation ago. The greatest comic talent of his generation broke into the big time with send-ups of black cultural warriors at Saturday Night Live, prosperity-gospel preachers in “Coming to America,” and street hustlers in “Trading Places.” Murphy, sadly, stopped making us laugh 20 years ago. It isn’t just Murphy. Even the potty-mouthed scriptwriters at “Southpark” would think twice about repeating their send-up of transsexuality in the celebrated “Transpecies” episode.

There are still some laughs in standup, wrung at great risk from unsuspecting audiences — as when Louis C.K. says that abortion is no different than a bowel movement, unless, of course, it’s murdering a baby — it has to be one or the other. But this is the painful laughter of existential anguish, not light-hearted laughter at ordinary silliness. Once we decide to wear our silliness as a badge of identity and proclaim, “Silly Lives Matter!,” humor dies. We are like the man with a sore throat who takes laxatives so that he will be too afraid to cough —except that we are too afraid to laugh.

These glum thoughts came to mind as I attempted to read David Grossman’s celebrated but utterly humorless novel about an Israeli stand-up comedian, A Horse Walks Into a Bar. (The bartender says, “Why the long face?) Grossman is an icon of the Israeli left, a peace activist whose political views seep out between the lines of his novels. He has also lived through Israel’s national distress. His son was killed in the last moments of the 2006 Lebanon War.

Despite the prestigious Man Booker award, I found Horse dreadful. Its action transpires on the stage of a nightclub in the coastal town of Netanya, where an aging stand-up comedian turns his act into a heart-rending confessional. The device is promising, the execution execrable. The bathos of the final self-revelation might have worked in contrast to something funny at the beginning. But the jokes aren’t funny; they are simply smutty, or nasty. Here’s an extract from the stand-up routine:

There’s an Arab walking down the street next to two settlers in Hebron. We’ll call him Little Ahmed.” The whistles and stomping die down. A few smiles here and there. “All of a sudden they hear an army loudspeaker announcing curfew for Arabs starting in five minutes. The settler takes his rifle off his shoulder and puts a bullet through Little Ahmed’s head. The other one is a wee bit surprised: ‘Holy crap, my holy brother, why’d you do that?’ Holy Brother looks at him and goes, ‘I know where he lives, there’s no way he was gonna make it home in time.’ ”

That’s an ancient joke, told about Russian sentries, British soldiers inNorthern Ireland, the military government of Ethiopia, and so forth; it wasn’t that funny to begin with and does Grossman poor service in his dotage. Perhaps there should be a rule that prospective novelists first have to serve an apprenticeship as comedy writers.

More mawkish still is Grossman’s attempt to introduce the subject of God in the Holocaust. His comedian complains that the nightclub’s management didn’t bother to put up posters about his appearance:

“F—–s didn’t even stick a bill on a tree trunk. Saving your pennies, eh, Yoav? God bless you, you’re a good man. Picasso the lost Rottweiler got more screen time than I did on the utility poles around here. I checked, I went past every single pole in the industrial zone. Respect, Picasso, you kicked ass, and I wouldn’t be in any hurry to come home if I were you. Take it from me, the best way to be appreciated somewhere is to not be there, you get me? Wasn’t that the idea behind God’s whole Holocaust initiative? Isn’t that really what’s behind the whole concept of death?” The audience is swept along with him.

I doubt any audience, let alone an Israeli one, would be “swept along with” this heavy-handed, pedantic attempt to blend less-than-amusing comedy with the theological issues of God’s presence in the death camps. Perhaps the jury for the Man Booker Award found this sort of thing deep; more likely, they felt an affinity for Grossman’s self-pity. I didn’t quite finish the book. Dorothy Parker’s encomium came to mind: “This is a novel that should not be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” I am very sorry that Grossman’s protagonist had a traumatized childhood, but it really is more than I wish to know.

Most of the other jokes in Grossman’s stand-up routine are quite as unfunny, but cannot be quoted in a family newspaper. Not one of them is characteristically Jewish. Jewish humor about horrific situations has a different function entirely: It displaces the listener’s vantage point away from the blunt impact of the horror. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s book on the subject is highly recommended. Holocaust humor is a case in point.

For example (and I paraphrase Telushkin): During the Polish government’s anti-Zionist campaign of the late 1960s, when the Communist regime hounded Jews out of government jobs, Cohen is walking through the winter streets of Warsaw, cold and hungry. He meets an old acquaintance, Silverstein, who is wearing a fur coat and smoking a Cohiba. “Silverstein,” exclaims Cohen, “How do you manage in such awful times?” His friend replies, “Remember that Polish couple that took me in during the Holocaust and saved me? I’m blackmailing them!” The bitter humor helps the listener look at his predicament from the outside in.

There was a time when leftists knew how to laugh. Dashiell Hammett, creator of the modern detective novel as well as a lifelong Communist, wrote in “Red Harvest” a tale of internecine slaughter among gangsters in a Montana mining down that Andre Malraux characterized as “Grand Guignol.” Bertolt Brecht, a Communist from his youth and a pillar of the postwar East German regime, wrote one of the funniest and nastiest works of the 20th century, “The Threepenny Opera.” That was when the Left still upheld a standard of the New Man by which humanity was to be redeemed — even it meant killing very large numbers of undesirables, as in Hammett, or “bashing man on the head until he’s good,” as in Brecht’s “Song of the Unattainability of Human Striving.”

Today’s left, by contrast, occupies itself with sheltering the fragile identities of “marginalized” peoples, which excludes the possibility of laughing at them. The left used to say with Voltaire, “I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Now it says, “If a marginalized personal disagrees with you, I will defend toyour death zhe’s right not to hear it.” Zhe, of course, is a gender-neutral pronoun introduced by the Newspeak censors of the totalitarian left.

Underneath the shell of every Social Justice Warrior who tries to fight Islamophobia by defending female genital mutilation while fighting misogyny by requiring written rules of sexual engagement at universities, there is a very frightened and lonely being. This being nurses a fragile and ephemeral sense of identity, often complicated by some degree of what is now called “gender fluidity.” The left defends marginalized groups as they wallow in their own self-pity because individual progressives like to wallow in their own personal self-pity. That is no laughing matter and probably explains why David Grossman’s novel about a comedian has plenty of self-pity but no humor at all.

What happens when famous novelists ‘confront the Occupation’ in the West Bank By Matti Friedman ****

“What it’s really about is the writers. Most of the essays aren’t journalism but a kind of selfie in which the author poses in front of the symbolic moral issue of the time: Here I am at an Israeli checkpoint! Here I am with a shepherd! That’s why the very first page of the book finds Chabon and Waldman talking not about the occupation, but about Chabon and Waldman. After a while I felt trapped in a wordy kind of Kardashian Instagram feed, without the self-awareness.”

Matti Friedman is a journalist in Jerusalem and the author, most recently, of “Pumpkinflowers.”

Last year, the American novelists Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman and Dave Eggers led a group of writers to “bear witness” to the crisis in Iraq, confronting the fate of that country during and since the American occupation — the hundreds of thousands of dead, the vanished minorities, the chaos spreading across the region. The resulting anthology adds up to a piercing, introspective look at what it means to be American in the 21st century.

I’m kidding! Reporting on Iraq is bothersome, and so is introspection. Instead, they came to “bear witness” to the crisis in the West Bank and Gaza, where thousands of reporters, nongovernmental organization staffers, activists and diplomats hover around a conflict with a death toll last year that was about a third of the homicide number in Baltimore. It’s the kind of Mideast conflagration where writers can sally forth in an air-conditioned bus, safely observe the natives for a few hours and make it back to a nice hotel for drinks.

The resulting anthology, “Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation,” includes essays by American and international authors such as Eggers, Mario Vargas Llosa, Colum McCann and Colm Toibin — an impressive list — with a few locals thrown in. The visitors were shown around by anti-occupation activists and wrote up their experiences. Edited by Chabon and Waldman, the 26 essays here constitute a chorus of condemnation of Israel.

Chabon, for example, interviews a Palestinian American businessman about life in the West Bank — the byzantine permit system, the 1,001 humiliations of undemocratic rule. Another essay looks at a village of impoverished shepherds, Susiya, in the shadow of an Israeli settlement. Geraldine Brooks describes a stabbing in Jerusalem. We meet children detained by troops, people made to wait at checkpoints and others scarred in different ways by the military occupation that began here after the 1967 war.

I’ve seen the West Bank from many angles over more than two decades in Israel, as a soldier at checkpoints and as a reporter passing through them with Palestinians, and I know the injustices of the situation are real and worth attention from knowledgeable observers. What we get here, though, is a peculiar product. The visiting writers aren’t experts — most seem to have been here for only a few days, and some appear quite lost.

Chabon and Waldman tell us on the very first page of a visit to Israel in 1992, which they remember vividly as a time of optimism, when the “Oslo accords were fresh and untested.” But their memory must be playing tricks, because the Oslo accords happened in the fall of 1993. Chabon and Waldman, who live in Berkeley, Calif., are accomplished writers, but the reader needs a few words about what they’re up to here. Do they have special expertise to offer? Israel is probably the biggest international news story over the past 50 years, so is there a reason they decided the world needs to know more about it and not, say, Kandahar, Guantanamo, Congo or Baltimore?