Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More on 'moderates'

Previous entries have looked at 'moderate' Muslims who turn out not to be so 'moderate'. In response, Richard Landes points out that the definition of 'moderates' in the Middle East turns out to be a complex tale - one in which Western media have great trouble finding their way.

Landes distinguishes between 'moderates' - those who typically denounce violence as anything but a last resort, are willing to negotiate, and can come to a positive-sum solution - and 'pragmatists' - people who adopt moderate positions only in cases where zero-sum solutions, like war, do not promise a win. While Western societies promote 'moderates' who can engage in self-criticism, traditional, tribal cultures value instead loyalty to the clan.

This pattern is evident in the Mideast, where Israeli 'moderates' are often most critical of their own side, while Palestinians rarely admit to any failings of their own. So how does the Western media cover this? By swallowing whole Palestinian self-justifications and accusations. In the process, they reveal 'such a low set of moral expectations from the Palestinians as to almost constitute a kind of unconscious (racist?) prejudice against the Arabs.' Maybe 'moderation' is a concept that needs closer examination on all sides.

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