Richard Landes: Walt-Mearsheimer on Osama, Israel and the USA: MSM is the Key to Inverting the Story

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A close reading of Walt-Mearsheimer reveals that the MSM play a critical role in their “realist” perceptions. One might even argue that Walt-Measheimer’s thesis represents the best single illustration of the impact of Pallywood on our ability to perceive the world around us and make decisions based on those perceptions. Here they argue that Bin Laden is deeply moved in his hatred of the USA by our support for Israel, despite how cruel the Israelis treat the Palestinians. As those who have seen Icon of Hatred know, the footage of Muhammad al Durah played a key role in Bin Laden’s recruiting video.

As an introduction to Walt-Mearsheimer’s comments on Bin Laden, Israel and the USA, let me offer the reader some material on Osama and Al Durah from my upcoming book on millennialism:

When Osama bin Laden produced a recruiting video in the months after the Intifada, he gave particular attention to the footage of Muhammad’s death. He exploited the footage of a defenseless child “cut down by the Jews” to delegitimize all the Arab regimes who, in their cowardice, do nothing to take vengeance. Against a backdrop of images of the Jamal and Muhammad al Durah, someone reads a well-known poem:

Die in vain, my little one, Muhammad,
In vain your little age melted away
Let every leader be the ransom for your eyes
His share in the war is condemnation and accusation
Let every coward be the ransom for your eyes
From a distance of thousand miles he warns
O, boy, died by the hands of the Jews,
Don’t call upon us since we are the same as the Jews.
(A poem written by Dr. Ghazi al-Qusaybi, the Saudi ambassador to Britain and later the Saudi Minister of Education. (!) Note: The Arabic text is quoted many times on the internet, with variations (exact text of the recording ).

Perhaps inspired by Bin Laden’s call to vengeance of the “Jews,” Pakistani militants gave Al Durah’s image a central role in the first cyberspace Jihadi execution. The Daniel Pearl “execution video” announced the international Jihad of radical Islam against both Jews and journalists, and gave birth to a new genre that marks the 21st century.

Within the montage, shots of Mohammed and Jamal are given a sort of starring role: After Pearl makes his final statement in the confession portion – ‘my father is a Jew; my mother is a Jew; I am a Jew” – there is a cut to Mohammed and father huddling together. Seconds before Pearl is laid on the ground and hands begin to saw at his throat with long knives, a still shot of Jamal al-Dura clasping his dying son flashes on the screen. After Pearl’s detached head is exhibited, hanging from something that allows it to twist slowly in the air, there is a long crawl over a black screen informing the viewer that “scenes like this will be repeated” unless the United States stops supporting Israel and its “massacres of children. (Gutmann, The Other War, p. 42.)

These videos also recruit. By targeting Pearl as a Jew, the perpetrators at once fulfilled the apocalyptic hadith of killing Jews, and gave the signal for others to follow suit. Under the aegis of al Durah, the message went out that at last, the time had come.

Osama bin Laden, invoking al Durah, claimed: “It is as if Israel – and those backing it in America – have killed all the children in the world.” (Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden ed. Bruce Lawrence (London, Verso, 2005), p. 147-8.)

And after 9-11, Osama made the point in a specifically American context: “In the epitome of his arrogance and the peak of his media campaign in which he boasts of ‘enduring freedom,’ Bush must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Dura and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq. If he has forgotten, then we will not forget, God willing.”

Now let’s turn to how Walt-Mearsheimer handle the issue.

Oct 10, 2007 21:55 | Updated Oct 11, 2007 9:35
‘US support for Israel spurred 9/11′

US support for Israel was a “major cause” of the 9-11 attacks, according to University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard Professor Stephen Walt, who appeared at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week to promote their book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

“A critically important issue when talking about America’s terrorism problem is the matter of how US support for Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians relates to what happened on September 11,” said Mearsheimer, who played the role of attack dog, while Walt set the stage.

Notice the “brutal.” That’s Pallywood’s message.

Mearsheimer suggested that the notion of payback for injustices suffered by the Palestinians is perhaps the “most powerfully recurrent in [Osama] Bin Laden’s speeches,” who, he said, had been deeply concerned about the plight of the Palestinians since he was a young man. He said that Bin Laden’s concern had been reflected in his public statements throughout the 1990’s – “well before 9-11.” Citing the 9-11 Commission report, Mearsheimer and Walt argued that Bin Laden wanted to make sure the attackers struck Congress because it is “the most important source of support for Israel in the United States,” adding that Bin Laden twice tried to move up the dates of the attacks because of events involving Israel. Mearsheimer and Walt went on to argue that 9-11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences in the United States as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with US foreign policy favoring Israel. “Its hard to imagine more compelling evidence of the role US support for Israel played in the 9-11 attacks,” said Mearsheimer.

“In short, the present relationship between Washington and Jerusalem is helping to fuel America’s terrorism problem,” he went on to say.

This is a nice summary of the kind of thinking that gives us Eurabia in Europe: if Muslims get violent over disagreement with our foreign policy, let’s change our foreign policy so that we have a rapprochement with closer to European foreign Policy. If our allies offend people who hate us, maybe they’ll love us if we dump our allies. In fact, any serious analysis of the dynamics of honor-shame culture (which seems to escape W-M entirely) predicts that following their advice would precisely backfire.

They said that US support for Israel motivates some individuals to attack the United States and “…serves as an important recruitment tool for terrorist organizations,” according to Mearsheimer. He said that US support for Israel generates huge support for terrorists in the Arab and Islamic world.

Here’s an allusion to the recruiting tape mentioned above in which the Al Durah footage – and other Pallywood scenes – play a prominent role. Let’s try restating that with an awareness – which W-M apparently lack – of how our own foolish and incompetent MSM contribute to the hatreds of the Muslim world:

MSM airing of Pallywood footage and other Fauxtography serves as an important recruitment tool for terrorist organizations. MSM failure to hold Muslim journalists to any standards and apparent eagerness to run footage that demonizes Israel (while showing little interest in cases where Palestinians kill their own children ) generates huge support for terrorists in the Arab and Islamic world.

Imagine the MSM giving that thesis as much coverage as they give to the W-M thesis.

Suggesting that Israel had outlived its usefulness to the United States, Walt added that “Israel may well have been a strategic asset during the Cold War,” but that “…the Cold War is now over.” He said that America’s unconditional support for Israel in the Middle East is “one” of the reasons “we have a terrorism problem, and it makes it harder to address a variety of problems in the Middle East.”

Now we come to the heart of darkness. If anything, Israel represents the key ally in the global conflict that has replaced the Cold War. We have a terrorism problem because terrorism is the key weapon that Jihadis use in their asymmetrical warfare against the West. (And manipulating the MSM to blame the victims of terrorism – the Israelis and the West – is the other major weapon.) Israel is only the appetizer, and tossing her into the maw of hatred that Jihadis generate will do nothing but stoke the fire. The idea that we can better address the problems in the Middle East by distancing ourselves from Israel emerges from so superficial an understanding of the Middle East that one has to wonder what drives W-M’s argument.

At the same time, Walt admitted the US’s problems in the Middle East would not disappear if it had a different relationship with Israel, and that the US “does benefit from various forms of strategic cooperation.” Walt also noted that Israel’s human rights record was not “significantly better than that of the Palestinians,” adding that any reasonably fair-minded look at the history of the conflict shows that “neither side owns the moral high ground.”

Now here’s something interesting. I especially like the “reasonably fair-minded look.” So even though Israel never – even in its most desparate moments – engaged in so morally depraved a campaign as suicide terror, even though Israelis never – even in their most deparate moments – ever brainwashed their people into wanting to commit genocide against the Palestinians, even though Israel’s response to suicide bombing has been surgical strikes and a barrier that everyone in Israel didn’t want, rather than all-out retaliatory massacres, which are the norm in the Arab world whenever the power-differential allows, “neither side owns the moral high ground.” This line attests better than anything to W-M’s moral equivalence, their complete incapacity to judge and assess. Is this because they are incapable, or because the crazy discourse of what was once the far left radicals who have been delegitimizing Israel for decades, has now gone mainstream, and they can make these outlandish claims anticipating that their readers will agree.

Again, this is the function of Pallywood, especially once weaponized by al Durah.

More significantly, though, the only way W-M could possibly come to this astounding conclusion is by their exposure to NGO cum MSM Pallywood. Indeed, when we look inside W-M, we find they are impervious to the well documented bias of groups like HRW. Discussing Gerald Steinberg’s sharp criticism of HRW ’s publications during the Lebanon War, they cite approvingly Rosa Brooks’ column (a former HRW employee):

…anyone familiar with Human Rights Watch – or with Roth – knows this to be lunacy. Human Rights Wath is non partisan – it doesn’t “take sides” in conflicts. (W-M, The Israel Lobby, p. 328

The data mean nothing to W-M. They continue to cite the wild figures coming out of Lebanon as if no criticism had emerged, as if no subsequent proof of Hizbullah’s using Lebanenes civilians as human shields, had come out, no reconsideration – by HRW! – had occurred,. They count on the ignorance of their readers.

Mearsheimer and Walt argued that Israel and the pro-Israel lobby in the United States were two of the main driving forces behind the decision to invade Iraq. “It is hard to imagine that war happening in their absence,” said Mearsheimer, who added that Israel was the only country besides Kuwait where both “the government and the majority of the population favored the war.” He said that the Israeli government pushed the Bush administration hard to make sure that it did not lose its nerve in the months before the invasion. Mearsheimer said there was “no question” that the “neo-conservatives were the main driving force behind the war, but they where supported by the main constituents in the [Israel] lobby, such as AIPAC.”

Citing a 2004 editorial, Mearsheimer said that as President Bush attempted to sell the war in Iraq “America’s most important Jewish organizations rallied as one to his defense. In statement after statement, [Jewish] community leaders stressed the need to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Concern for Israel’s safety rightfully factored into the deliberations of the main Jewish groups.”

For a dissection of this argument, see the devastating review by Leonard Fein, a prominent member of Peace Now. Among other things he points out how shoddy and flabby the book’s reasoning, in particular their recourse to editorials and their lack of any serious primary research.

Methodologically, the book is a mess, adding unconnected little truths to one another as if together they constitute one big truth; relying far too heavily on secondary sources such as newspaper clippings and OpEd columns; riddled with internal contradiction.

What can we learn from the arguments of Walt-Mearsheimer? That Pallywood is a major psy-ops success whose impact on Western “intellectuals” produces suicidal policies. If he could, Osama would be voting Walt-Mearsheimer in 2008.

Richard Landes: Walt-Mearsheimer on Osama, Israel and the USA: MSM is the Key to Inverting the Story

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Richard Landes

Richard Allen Landes is an American historian and author, specializing in Millennialism. He retired from teaching history at Boston University in the Spring of 2015. He currently serves as the Chair of the Council of Scholars at SPME.

His work focuses on the role of religion in shaping and transforming the relationships between elites and commoners in various cultures. He has coined the expression "demotic religiosity," an orientation that prizes 1) equality before the law, 2) dignity of manual labor, 3) access to sacred texts and divinity for all believers, and 4) a prizing of moral integrity over social honor. Trained as a medievalist, his early work focused on the period around 1000 CE, a moment, in his opinion, of both cultural mutation (origins of the modern West), and intense apocalyptic and millennial expectations.

From 1995-2004, he directed the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University which held annual conferences and published an online journal, Journal of Millennial Studies. This involvement refocused his work on millennialism the world over and in different time periods, and has resulted in the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, (Berkshire Reference Works; Routledge, NY, 2000); Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience (Oxford U. Press, 2011), and The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred-Year Retrospective on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (NYU Press, 2011).

His work on the apocalyptic currents that built up during the approach to 2000 has led him to focus on Global Jihad as an apocalyptic millennial movement, whose relationship to the internet may parallel that of Protestantism to printing, and whose active cataclysmic apocalyptic scenario (Destroy the world to save it), makes it potentially one of the most dangerous apocalyptic movements on record.

In addition to his courses on medieval history, he offered courses on

Europe and the Millennium,

Communications Revolutions from Language to Cyberspace

Honor-shame culture Middle Ages, Middle East

The Biblical origins of the Democracy.

In 2011, he is a fellow at the International Consortium on Research in the Humanities at Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany. There he is working on the study with which his medieval work first began, the history of the “sabbatical millennium” with its expectation of the messianic kingdom in the year 6000 from the creation of the world: While God Tarried: Demotic Millennialism from Jesus to the Peace of God, 33-1033.

In 2005 he launched a media-oversight project called The Second Draft in order to look at what the news media calls their “first draft of history.” Since January 2005 he has been blogging at The Augean Stables, a name chosen to describe the current condition of the Mainstream News Media (MSNM) in the West.

As a result of this work on the MSNM, he has come to understand the role of cognitive warfare in the campaign of apocalyptic Jihad against the West in the 21st century, and the abysmal record of the West in defending itself in this critical theater of War. He plans a book addressing these issues tentatively entitled They’re so Smart cause We’re so Stupid: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century. 


  • Landes, Richard A.; Head, Thomas J. (eds.) (1987). Essays on the Peace of God : the church and the people in eleventh-century France. Waterloo, Ontario: Waterloo University. OCLC18039359.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Paupert, Catherine (trans.) (1991). Naissance d'Apôtre: Les origines de la Vita prolixior de Saint Martial de Limoges au XIe siècle. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols. 9782503500454.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Head, Thomas J. (eds.) (1992). The Peace of God: social violence and religious response in France around the year 1000. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press. ISBN 080142741X.
  • Landes, Richard A. (1995). Relics, apocalypse, and the deceits of history: Ademar of Chabannes, 989-1034. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674755308.
  • Landes, Richard A. (ed.) (2000). Encyclopedia of millennialism and millennial movements. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415922461.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Van Meter, David C.; Gow, Andrew Sydenham Farrar (2003). The apocalyptic year 1000: religious expectation and social change, 950-1050. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195111915.
  • Landes, Richard A. (2011). Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Landes, Richard A.; Katz, Stephen (eds.). The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred Year Retrospective on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. New York: New York University Press.

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