My way or your respect for my way

So Morsi’s a cultural relativist. You wouldn’t think a Muslim Brotherhood guy would be a cultural relativist, would you. Pretty much the opposite. There is one way to be and Mohammed is its prophet.

But then it’s not so much that he is a cultural relativist as that he thinks other people should be if they don’t share his non-relativist culture. Heads I win tails you lose. My way is the right way and your way is to respect my way. Mk?

He spelled it out for the New York Times, who wrote it down and put it in the paper.

On the eve of his first trip to the United States as Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger.

If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.

Keep tactfully silent, maybe. Respect? No.



  1. Rodney Nelson says

    If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule.

    This is a reasonable demand for Morsi to make. The Camp David Accords, signed in 1978, promised “full” Palestinian autonomy within five years in both Gaza and the West Bank. If Washington was to lean on Tel Aviv about the Palestinians, then the Israeli occupation would cease.

  2. simonsays says

    Agree with Rodney Nelson. What Washington should be doing is working towards Palestinian statehood or at the very least putting a stop to Israeli expansionism.

  3. says

    Agreed. It’s not unreasonable to say that you’ll only follow an agreement as long as the other guy does the same.

    The problem comes in the next part:

    He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.

    Do they respect the history and culture of the western world when it conflicts with their values? And on that basis, if they don’t respect our values, then why should we respect theirs?

    It’s the exact same approach that a lot of Christian fundamentalists are taking: It’s all relative, unless it’s my opinion.

    It’s bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.
    It’s the same kind of crap that we’ve been told ever since the playground bully said, “I’m not touching you!”

  4. StevoR says

    Memo to Mohamed Morsi :

    In our culture, respect is earned.

    You get some – but not much – default respect simply for being human and that’s about where it stops.

    If Islamic societies want to be respected, they have to earn it by deserving of respect. If they’re not, they’re not.

  5. StevoR says

    @Rodney Nelson & #2 simonsays :

    The Camp David Accords, signed in 1978, promised “full” Palestinian autonomy within five years in both Gaza and the West Bank. If Washington was to lean on Tel Aviv about the Palestinians, then the Israeli occupation would cease.

    Israel has withdrawn from Gaza and they voted for Hamas overwhelmingly at least once and then started firing rockets over the boarder and sending homicide-suicide attackers into Israel committing atrocities against innocent civilians.

    Back in Yasser Arafat’s era, the PLO were given significant autonomy in Judea and Samaria as the “west bank” area is also more properly called – and Arafat shipped in arms, started another intifada variety war (incl. more homicide-suicide bomber attacks) and thus the Israeli’s responded to that threat to their civilians and removed or rather only reduced that autonomy they’d granted.

    The Israelis have tried making peace many times but lack partners in Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the former PLO. The Palestinians themselves have, of course, waged civil war and are not democratically run.

    So I’d say Israel kept its side of Camp David granting Palestinian autonomy – which does NOT btw. mean giving them a nation of their own making already tiny Israel’s international boarders indefensible.

    Israel in its treaty with Anwar Sadat – who was promptly assassinated by the Muslim brotherhood (yes, the same group now governing Egypt) – did NOT agree to its own destruction or measures almost certain to lead to that. Nor should it be expected or forced to do so.

  6. dirigible. says

    “and then started firing rockets over the boarder and sending homicide-suicide attackers into Israel”

    The contortions that people will go through in order to ignore or justify these facts never cease to amaze (or disappoint) me.

  7. Rodney Nelson says

    I’m not ignoring that the Palestinians are not nice people to the Israelis. There’s been a low-level war between the Muslims and Jews in Palestine/Israel since the end of World War I. But it isn’t going to end as long as Israelis occupy land that the Israelis admit are Palestinian.

    Instead of saber-rattling at the Iranians, the US government might consider keeping the peace in Gaza and the Western Bank. If both sides are slapped down, then they’ll behave themselves. Or perhaps the Egyptians might be called upon to deal with the Palestinians. But the occupation of Gaza and the Western Bank by Israel is not doing anything to stop the war, something which even an Islamophobe like StevoR might be able to understand.

  8. khms says

    It’s much easier to convince people to behave in a civilized way toward you if you are yourself behaving in a civilized way towards them.

    If one side regularly humiliates the other, steals and smashes their property, and assassinates them, and forbids third parties to help them out now they’re hurting, it’s pretty hard to convince them doing stuff to hurt them back is not justified, no matter what it is.

    That is not to say that it necessarily is justified, just that you’ll have a hard time convincing people it isn’t.

    Of course, that also means the first party will nurse a permanent grudge, too.

    I tend to think that in such a mess, the stronger party will have to stop first, and have some patience while the weaker party convinces itself that it really is over – and every time the stronger party goes back will make that belief harder to acquire.

    Unfortunately, you can’t just tell both sides to leave the playground and go home, because the whole point is that the playground is their home.

    Remember how long it took to get peace in Northern Ireland. And remember that there are still people on both sides who prefer fighting over peace. You can’t make it a precondition that that doesn’t happen, otherwise you’ll never get any peace.

    At least in the case of Israel and Palestine, it seems possible to have both sides have non-overlapping territories.

    (I sometimes think the Palestinians should offer to keep the Israeli settlers, so long as they switch citizenship to Palestine and agree to the same status in Palestine as Palestinians have when they are Israeli citizens. Just to see their faces.)

  9. Trends says

    Palestinians don’t want peace. Islam’s theology is far too anti-semitic to allow Jews to live in peace as equals with Muslims.

    The pogroms against Jews in Hebron back in hte late 20s, years before Israel was even created, come to mind.

    What was the probleme then? Certainly not an “occupation”.

  10. Albert Bakker says

    Israel, even the two state solution, or rather especially the two state solution, necessarily has to be an Apartheid system. Necessarily, because the Israel is defined as a Jewish state. It is not citizenship of Israel but Jewishness that defines the relation of it’s inhabitants, and even non-Israeli Jews, to the State.

    This, while not unique in the world, is and will continue to be anomalous in the current world order. It conflicts violently with the very idea of the modern nation state and is also necessarily incoherent with respect to universal human rights. The construct remains a strange mixture of an ethnocracy and a theocracy under the veneer of a democracy. It is a spherical disaster.

  11. stewart says


    It’s disingenuous to be dismissive of what you’re referring to as a 90-year-old example. Complex and intractable the situation may be, but to pretend the problems began in 1967 or even 1948 is far worse than mere over-simplification; it ignores crucial facts. Anyone who says the solution is Israel going back to pre-1967 borders must relate to the military and other conflicts that took place when Israel was within pre-1967 borders and anyone who says it’s Israel’s existence that is the problem must also relate to the riots of 1936-39, the 1929 pogrom, what happened in 1920, etc. If what happened in 1929, to be specific, is too old to be counted as relevant in this story, what is the cut-off date? If terrorist attacks of the 60s and 70s are not to be counted as having a bearing on the situation today, surely neither should anything Israel did back then or earlier. I am not, by the way, pleading for Israel here; I am pointing out what even-handedness ought to mean, so if you respond, try to avoid arguing as if I belonged to one of the sides, otherwise you’ll be barking up the wrong tree.

  12. Didaktylos says

    Actually I believe there are quite a few Muslim citizens of Israel. I understand that one of the less reported things that occurs in Israel is the gerrymandering to ensure that the situation never arises that the political parties representing this section of the population come hold the balance of power in the perpetually-squabbling Knesset.

  13. says

    Palestinians don’t want peace. Islam’s theology is far too anti-semitic to allow Jews to live in peace as equals with Muslims.

    For centuries, muslims provided considerably more tolerant-to-the-jews land than Christians, but now it’s an innate trait of Islam that it is far too antisemitic to let Jews live in peace, while Christianity gets a pass? Really? There’s no chance that maybe it’s due to a host of factors?

    Make no bones, even during the time of relative tolerance, it was anti-semitic, but it was generally less so than its Christian competitors.

    @13: Another very under-reported thing is that Israel’s left is not nearly as racist or horrible as its right. Of course, it’s weak, since the only ‘true’ israelis are their right wing, so of course they get all the foreign support, etc.

  14. simonsays says

    stewart, there is an overwhelming international consensus on what the two-state solution looks like that already takes into account all the relevant history on both sides (and indeed the broader region).

    There is no legitimacy whatsoever to continued Israeli expansionism into the West Bank as well as the brutal bombing and blockade of Gaza. If Israel wanted a lasting peace they would have stopped both of these long ago. Neither side is perfect but we don’t have to pretend like one isn’t extremely more powerful and aggressive.

  15. stewart says

    simonsays, I don’t think anyone’s arguing Israel isn’t more powerful, but the degree of aggression? I don’t think it’s clear-cut that there isn’t more coming from the other side. There’s plenty one can criticise in Israeli policies, but I’m unaware of anything on state-controlled Israeli media that comes close to the level of incitement to violence directed by its Palestinian equivalent at small children. Do you wish to imply that all the rocket-fire emanating from Gaza was directly provoked? Can you point to any case of a country being subjected to attacks of that kind that didn’t react with far greater harshness? And I do trust that you’re not mentioning Gaza without having read, in full, the charter of the organisation that runs it, replete with citations from the notorious “Protocols” and an explicit rejection of peaceful means for resolving the conflict. If you look at all that, it becomes pretty difficult to agree with the claim that most of the aggression comes from the Israeli side (even if some does).

  16. simonsays says

    Ah yes, the rocket attacks that the Israeli government repeatedly asserts as its rationale for collectively punishing Gaza. Here are the stats on the amount of casualties:

    Keeping in mind that many of the 2008 and 2009 rocket attacks were during the Gaza War, let’s look at the amount of kills by the IDF:

    Let’s look at the effects of the War on Gaza that are still felt today:

    And here’s more information on the Gaza blockade:

    People can judge for themselves who is the more aggressive and destructive party.

  17. stewart says

    Agreed; they can judge for themselves. I never use Wikipedia as a primary source for anything and one of the articles to which you linked bears the disclaimer “The neutrality of this article is disputed.” Another, in which your link jumped to the middle of the piece, begins with a figure of 8,600 rockets fired at Israel between 2001 and 2009. I’ve never been the leader of a country, so I don’t know how I’d react in such circumstances, but I find it rather hard to imagine that I’d do nothing. You didn’t say anything about the Hamas charter. It’s true I mentioned it rather late in my last comment; nonetheless I think it is one of the most basic points that needs to be considered.

  18. simonsays says

    Wikipedia cites it’s sources and you can accept or decline them. I stand by my assessment that Israel has inflicted much more pain and suffering on the people of Gaza than vice versa. What reputable source are you using that says otherwise?

  19. stewart says

    I didn’t say I thought either side had inflicted more pain or suffering than the other. I did decline to accept a simple assertion that Israel was more aggressive. That’s one of the reasons I think the charter is so important. I know of no official Israeli document that rejects negotiation in principle with its enemies; the Hamas charter is precisely such a document. If two sides have a violent conflict and the founding document of one (and only one) of the sides rules out peaceful negotiations, both in principle and a priori, then it becomes rather pointless to blame the other side for not sitting down at the table. To somehow try to bypass that whole issue is incompatible with taking the conflict as a whole seriously.

  20. simonsays says

    OK, so you either believe that a) Hamas is the more aggressive side or b) that they’re about equal.

    Again, you’re not really telling us what you base this on.

    And there are not exactly just two sides here. There is also Fatah in the West Bank. The Israeli goverment had decades to make a deal with Fatah and they still haven’t done that even when they control the West Bank. So forgive me if I consider the whole charter discussion a red herring.

    Of course ever since Hamas won elections in 2006 their legitimacy to speak for all Palestinians is diminished. An outcome that was entirely predictable given their failure to secure a long-term outcome.

  21. stewart says

    It’s ok, we don’t have to agree. My life does not revolve around the Middle East conflict, but that doesn’t mean I have no opinions on certain aspects of it. It’s good to clarify where we disagree: on whether or not the Hamas charter is a red herring. You don’t require my forgiveness for thinking it is; it just seems that we place a different value on official pronouncements made by parties to this conflict. Again, I presume you’ve read the charter in full before suggesting, essentially, that it not be considered as part of the equation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *