The Guaranteed Failure of Catering to Muslim Perception

So long as widespread suspicion exists, and it does exist, amongst the Arab population, that the economic depression … is largely due to excessive Jewish immigration, and so long as some grounds exist upon which this suspicion may be plausibly represented to be well founded, there can be little hope of any improvement in the mutual relations of the two races. -- 1930 statement by the British government

What does this statement, following an inquiry into the 1929 Muslim attacks upon Jews in Mandatory Palestine, have to do with a recent disinvitation to speak at Britain’s Cambridge University for Israeli historian Benny Morris?

The statement marks the emergence of the Western phenomenon of making decisions on the basis of what Arabs and Muslims perceive, or are said to perceive, at the expense of the facts or the merits of the case.

Note the reasons offered by Jake Witzenfeld, president of Cambridge University’s Israel Society, for disinviting Morris:

I decided to cancel for fear of the Israel Society being portrayed as a mouthpiece of Islamophobia. ... We understand that whilst Professor Benny Morris’ contribution to history is highly respectable and significant, his personal views are, regrettably, deeply offensive to many.

Morris, once the darling of anti-Israel radicals, is in recent years execrated by them for emphasizing Arab rejection of Jewish statehood as the origin of enduring conflict. Mr.Witzenfeld is clearly overawed by this. Note, in Mr. Witzenfeld’s words, the 1929 leitmotiv: the facts aren’t important -- how they could be perceived or portrayed is.

This intellectually and morally bankrupt approach can be seen among those who urge an alteration of U.S. policy. Three examples from recent years:

January 2008: Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, urged America to engage Iran over its nuclear weapons program because “most Arabs don’t see Iran as a major threat.”

March 2006: John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, in their neo-Nazi- and Islamist-approved antagonistic paper on Israel and its American supporters, say that Palestinians resorting to suicide bombing “is not surprising ... because the Palestinians believe they have no other way to force Israeli concessions.”

April 2004: Egyptian president Husni Mubarak reportedly argued that “many Arabs perceive a sense of ‘injustice’ in the way the United States has offered strong backing for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel.”

Were these sorts of representations to be heeded, what would occur? We needn’t guess -- Western governments have been listening for years to this sort of talk, with the following results:

Iran has replied contemptuously to Western diplomatic coaxing by turning up the uranium enrichment lever. Sunni Arab powers, far from yawning in their imagined security, are likely to engage in a nuclear arms race with Shia Iran.

Through much of the Oslo process (1993-2000), Israel was deeply attentive to the notion that Palestinian terrorists blow up Israelis because they are frustrated peace-seekers rather than jihadists -- a theory still popular among policy analysts who call themselves "realists." Yet unilateral concessions embolden rather than pacify jihadists -- witness the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which produced a dramatic increase in rocket assaults upon southern Israel and turned Gaza into a Hamas emirate clattering with imported arms.