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Deconstructing Harris

August 2, 2014

Atheism is cool, atheism is trendy, atheism is the new religion which will cure all of mankind’s ailments and rid it once and for all from the scourge of humanity called war. So we are told. This chic new age movement, popularized in recent years by young IT workers across the internet, has produced a few celebrity spokespersons such as Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens and more recently celebrity neuroscientist Sam Harris, who under pressure from readers for the inherent contradiction between atheism and support for the theocratic ethnocracy Israel, penned a hideous apologist essay titled Why I Don’t Criticize Israel. This was all happening while Israel was raining down one ton bombs on defenseless Palestinian refugees in Gaza, razing entire neighborhoods and achieving an 80% score in the killing of over one thousand uninvolved elderly men, women, children and babies.

I have nothing against atheists or their preachers. In fact, I believe that the vast majority of atheists do not base their political views and analysis on the theism-atheism paradigm. However, I can see the sinister side of this ideology when it is adopted by the Western establishment to be the new vanguard in imperial wars against third world countries, which are “too religious” to their taste, and thus pushing the West back into colonial mode of interventionism and carrying the white man’s burden. It is not surprising that once these writers are adopted by the American establishment, they would stop being philosophers but instead become ideological weapons in the hands of neoconservatives and other supporters of a global empire, and by extension become advocates for the colonial offshoot Israel, warts and all.

Sam Harris could have answered the title of his essay with one sentence:

Because I know on which side the bread is buttered and I want to keep my writing and public speeches career which is possible only if you are adopted by the mainstream establishment in America.

But instead, Sam Harris gets the kosher stamp by going into a long diatribe of Zionist apologetics, performing mental gymnastics that display his ignorance as well as his belief in Jewish exceptionalism. Don’t worry: if his audience is American, they will not notice. After all, they were also taught to uphold the myths that underlie support for the Jewish State.

There is no mention of apartheid, colonialism or the dispossession and ghettoization of Palestinians anywhere to be found, except for a limp lip service to “I oppose a state based on religion” which is followed with a “but”. That already gives you a hint of the level of political analysis to expect from this charlatan. Harris is just there to impose some sort of rationalism on the West’s support for the colonial project in Palestine. The notion that Jews perhaps should live in Palestine as equals instead of a Jewish supremacist state, does not cross his mind, neither that this is the root cause of violence, much like S. Africa was under the rule of white supremacists. For Harris, like the intellectual dwarf that he proves himself to be, it is all about religion.

I understand Harris may not be an expert on Israel/Palestine: after all, this is not his forte. In that case he should have avoided the subject altogether. But what follows is a truly shocking piece of propaganda that seems to have been written by a third grader or by a US politician who is handed a script by his AIPAC lobbyist. It would take a lot more than one essay to debunk and analyze the mental fart that Harris produced so I will concentrate on just a few points.

1. Jews = Victims. This is known as The Sacred Equation, the axiom of all axioms, the point of departure from which all political thought emanates, such as the big bang of political analysis. Harris holds this to be an incontrovertible truth as he claims, in the wording of a layman: “the rest of the world has shown itself eager to murder the Jews at almost every opportunity“. Well indeed the Holocaust has been a terrible genocide, the worst of its kind in history, but awarding Jews the perpetual victim title and Israel the victim state designation, even as they are slaughtering children in Gaza, is an extension that is not awarded to anyone else. No group of people are perpetual victims or perpetual victimizers. Each crime should be judged separately and blanketing Jews with preordained victimhood means that they are absolved of any possible crime, even the most atrocious one. In fact, many people, horrified by what they witness in Gaza, started entertaining the thought that they may be witnessing the first genocide in history where the genocided people will be blamed for their misfortune and the perpetrator portrayed as victim with the warped narrative printed in history books (and if you don’t believe that such bending of history can be done, just read Zionist official history books that blame the victims for the crime against humanity which is the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine). That is a logical consequence of holding one group of people above the rest of mankind. Jews are no different than any other group of people and are quite capable of committing crimes just like anyone else and awarding them moral impunity is encouraging ever growing future atrocities, all the way down to genocide. There is no reason to treat Jews differently for good or for bad.

Since Harris upholds #1, then by logical extension it follows that:

2. Jews are good, Muslims are evil. Harris’s proof: you can be an atheist Jew but not an atheist Christian or Muslim. This is truly a bizarre statement that relegates being a Jew to one’s ancestry or a cultural belonging, i.e. accepting the Zionist interpretation of Judaism and a degeneration of a religion into ethno-nationalism. The question should follow, if that’s the case, why should Palestinians pay the price so that Jews can eat lox and bagels? They can do it anywhere else in the world last time I checked. Here is another mental fart that Harris produces: “They have been brutalized by this process—that is, made brutal by it. But that is largely the due to the character of their enemies.” What Harris is saying is something which could not been said about any other group of people. That is, Jews are pure and benevolent. If they behave badly it is because of their enemies, and their enemies are the bad guys as you know. This is a paraphrase of Golda Meyer’s “we cannot forgive them for making us kill their children“. And if an acclaimed writer such as Harris adopts the world view of a crude troglodyte such as Golda, any other trail of diarrhea left by his pen should come as no surprise.

3. If you follow the line of faulty reasoning above, it is inevitable that you would reach the third conclusion: Israel is fighting the West’s battle. “The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions towards them” – this is where Harris drops all pretense of a political analyst and simply repeats Hasbara lines that he picked up somewhere, without critical thought. In fact, the entire sentence bears second thought. Harris is repeating the ages old colonial view of Israel as the enlightened white man’s fortress surrounded by murderous savages. The savages have no grievances. They are guided by nefarious congenital instincts. I don’t know whether Harris considers Egypt and Jordan, who have peace treaties with Israel, as genocidal maniacs. What is certain is that Harris buys the demonization of Hamas lock stock and barrel. It does not occur to him that people who have been abused for so long, dispossessed and herded into a ghetto would be so enraged that they may utter unbearable thoughts, such as did the long abandoned Hamas charter. But that doesn’t change the fact that Israel has been committing politicide for decades now against Palestinians. I can imagine Harris, as someone who grew up in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles, cannot understand the level of abuse over generations that it takes to reduce people into committing acts of desperation and to be driven into extremism. I should remind him, as well as other Israel apologists, that Israel has been abusing and dispossessing Palestinians long before the rise of Islam as a political force, which refutes his simple minded theory of “good Jews versus bad Muslims”. In fact, the rise of political Islam in Palestine is a result of the failure of the secular forces to show any achievements in the face of Israeli intransigence and continued colonial dispossession. “Radical” Hamas at several opportunities hinted it will agree to a state in the 67 borders and in the absence of it support the one state solution, i.e. an inclusive Palestine for Jews Muslims and Christians alike. But Harris, who is a layman who gathered tidbits about the conflict from mainstream media and Israeli Hasbara, seems to embrace the silly notion that the conflict is about religion. This is the level of thinking of a 13 year old, not a man of logic, which makes me question all his other claimed philosophical achievements.

Harris also displays his ignorance, claiming that “if we ask why the Jews wouldn’t move to British Columbia if offered a home there, we can see the role that religion still plays in their thinking“. As a privileged white man, Harris is generous enough to offer someone else’s land to Jews, just like the British Empire did almost a hundred years ago. Why not his home state of California? Of course that would be unthinkable that Harris would give up his lovely home so that Jews can have a Jewish demographic state in California. It’s easier to take land from defenseless indigenous populations. But here are some facts that contradict Harris’s claim: the Zionist movement was a small, almost insignificant movement among Jews prior to WWII. Even after the horrors of the Holocaust, the vast majority of Jewish refugees had no interest in immigrating to Palestine. They preferred the United States. It was only the closure of US immigration that redirected their ships to Palestine, in large part due to pressure by Zionists who viewed that it was their goal to “ingather” Jews from around the world to Palestine. This pattern demonstrated itself again in the 90’s, which I still remember clearly: a million Soviet Jews had no interest in immigrating to Israel, even though it was an established state at that time that offered them generous incentives to do so. I would not be exaggerating if I said it was around 99% of them that preferred to immigrate to the United States. Apparently Jews do not believe they should be confined in a certain geographical area because of their religion or imagined ancient ancestry. It was once again, because of the closing of US immigration to Soviet Jews, initiated and encouraged by Zionist sympathizers in the US, that Soviet Jews were diverted by subterfuge into Israel. It is all documented in the Israeli press, Mr. Harris, you can check on that. If old Sammy still doesn’t believe that, he can still ask his Jewish friends in the US why they are not moving to Israel.

Since non-religious Jews don’t seem to believe they belong in Israel (except for Israelis who are already born there) and religious Jews don’t need a state to be close to their religious sites as they have done for hundreds of years, what remains? A colonial project of ethnic dispossession that Harris and his ilk are left to defend as the new white man’s burden under the facade of atheism. That is something that Harris would have to improve his mental gymnastics skills to justify, which I am sure he will.

In the end of it all, it is colonialism and white supremacy all over again, which never left the West, just changed forms, receiving an intellectual veneer from the likes of Harris. It used to be that the white man’s burden was to bring religion to the savages, but nowadays, with the help of establishment philosophers such as Harris, the white man’s burden is to take away religion from the savages. Apparently the savages can never win unless they are white.

Sam Harris

Sam Harris

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    August 4, 2014 10:39 am

    This is one of the most powerful critiques of Sam Harris that I have read. Seriously, I have seen a good number of articles about this fraud and his love for war, but this one is just beautiful, The last paragraph is fabulous. You are right. He’s just a neocon pushing imperialism under the guise of atheism. He’s just a more refined and sophisticated apologist for an aggressive foreign policy based on Huntington’s clash of civilizations theory.

    I love it that he’s getting humiliated by a former officer in the IDF. The irony of ironies. He’s getting tutored in the reality of Zionism by a man who’s actually risked his life for it. I can’t tell you how much I admire that.

    I thought I knew a fair bit about Israel, but you’ve educated me too. I had no idea about the immigration restrictions on Soviet Jews. Was it really 99% who favored going to America than Israel? Astounding. Utterly debunks the myth of the conflict being over religion. He travels in the same circles as crooks like Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher, the so-called Four Horsemen of Atheism. More like the Four Donkeymen of Barbarism. I’m a secular humanist too, I just don’t want to be linked with supporters of murder and torture like this con artist Harris. You can’t get more disgusting than him.

    Oh I see that you’ve got a piece on Bill Maher too. Ha. I better read that too.

  2. mo79uk permalink
    August 4, 2014 9:20 pm

    I found this post amazing, following your blog now.

    One thing that Harris also omits is that if there were a need for Jews to have a homeland, under biology there would need to be homelands. Jews are a religious group but not a race designed for a specific climatal region. The biggest maimer of Jews of north European origin is the Middle Eastern sun. It’s injured more (burns, skin cancer; death) than any form of Palestinian resistance. In short, biology doesn’t endorse Zionism. At least Australians were honest colonisers.

    That said, the root crime cannot be undone. Hoping for a fast route to a binational state. Jews and their neighbours have got on and will get on again once Zionism is dismantled.

  3. August 5, 2014 2:28 am

    Excellent post. I have one question for you. As a Soviet Jew who immigrated to the US in the late 80s, I was caught by this particular bit from your essay:

    “It was once again, because of the closing of US immigration to Soviet Jews, initiated and encouraged by Zionist sympathizers in the US, that Soviet Jews were diverted by subterfuge into Israel.”

    I was not aware of this, and would be very interested in learning more. Do you have any sources that document that this was the case?

    • August 8, 2014 4:30 pm

      If I find the articles, they are going to be in Hebrew, which is not going to be of much use. But I assure you, this was exactly the case: the first trickle of immigration of Soviet Jews went entirely to the US, so when it started becoming a flood, the gate to America was closed on the behest of Israel, and the US even provided loans to resettle them in Israel. They were diverted to Israel by subterfuge even though they had no interest in going there – it’s all widely documented in the Israeli press and it was so outrageous that even some Israelis referred to it as “forced Zionism”.

  4. August 5, 2014 4:57 am

    Excellent rundown. But, regarding Jewish immigration to Israel, what do you say of the Hasbara claim that the then-newly liberated Arab countries, impelled by anti-Semitism and fear of internal Jewish espionage for Israel, compounded the problem by terrorizing and expelling their Jewish citizens?

    • August 23, 2014 5:33 pm

      It reminds of the boy in the Charlie Chaplin movie who is sent to break windows, and then Chaplin offers his window repair services. The boy and Chaplin of course work together. Same with Zionism – it deliberately put a wedge between Jews and their neighbors in Arab countries and then claims to be a victim of the situation it created and takes advantage of it since it serves the Zionist interest of in-gathering. Others would equate it with the story about the man who murders his parents and then asks the judge for leniency for being an orphan.

  5. Leslie permalink
    August 5, 2014 7:51 am

    The first few lines of this piece do it a real disservice. Mocking atheism as being merely a trend is pretty flawed on it’s face. And for all the criticisms you can throw at Sam Harris, mainstreamer is not one of them. No, he wrote that terrible, terribly flawed piece because his view is skewed towards thinking about hypotheticals and intentions, not because he thinks, “Actually, Israel shouldn’t exist,” would ingratiate him with the now flailing pro-Israel MSM. He could have been much less strident on some of his points, on both sides of the argument, if that was his goal.

    That being said, sharp, accurate critique on the whole. Also, atheists are your friends. There are several atheists on the right side of this conflict, but most of them don’t drop their “A” card, which gives the illusion that literally every Atheists agrees with Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins on everything.

  6. August 5, 2014 11:52 am

    “The savages have no grievances. They are guided by nefarious congenital instincts.”

    Did you actually read Sam’s article:

    “But there is no way to look at the images coming out Gaza—especially of infants and toddlers riddled by shrapnel—and think that this is anything other than a monstrous evil. Insofar as the Israelis are the agents of this evil, it seems impossible to support them. And there is no question that the Palestinians have suffered terribly for decades under the occupation.”

    • Bara permalink
      August 5, 2014 1:32 pm

      The first part that you quoted has nothing to do with the second, what this article said about the way Israelis see us has nothing to do with what Sam is saying about the slaughter in Gaza, which by the way was followed by a “buuuuut” right after that quote ended.

      Regarding how they see us:
      Israelis’, including IDF soldiers’ social media posts or interviews shows how most of them see us, “filthy muslims” or “savage arabs”, not Palestinians, certainly not people, go to Tel-Aviv and ask anyone from the street what they think about the death of Palestinian infants.
      But of course this article does a better job of explaining this point of view than I.

      To continue your quote:
      ” This is where most critics of Israel appear to be stuck. They see these images, and they blame Israel for killing and maiming babies. They see the occupation, and they blame Israel for making Gaza a prison camp. I would argue that this is a kind of moral illusion, borne of a failure to look at the actual causes of this conflict, as well as of a failure to understand the intentions of the people on either side of it. [Note: I was not saying that the horror of slain children is a moral illusion; nor was I minimizing the suffering of the Palestinians under the occupation. I was claiming that Israel is not primarily to blame for all this suffering.] ”

      —So basically, it’s also our fault as well as Israel’s that we’re under occupation, and the killing of our children is the result of that, and not fully Israel and its supporters’ over many many years. I guess we were supposed to stay silent and never try to fight back, because surely in the future Israel would have just left Gaza alone, maybe after they’ve starved to death or died of disease, or maybe they would just swiftly pull a large scale “Der Yaseen”, I mean they got away with it the first time, right? because they were just fighting back against “hamas” back then too, right? it’s all self defense, really, who can blame Israel for anything?

      This is what I got from that:
      “yeah, sure they’re getting brutally murdered..but they had it coming, right? I mean it’s not like Israel is the bad guy here or anything, nobody is the bad guy here” if this had been published last year before this “awakening” of the world media , you can simply replace “nobody” with “hamas” and most westerners who actually sympathize with Gaza today would have believed him.

      “It is clear that Israel is losing the PR war and has been for years now.”
      It is clear that this guy has been aware of the public opinion about Palestine/Israel, in his own country at least, for years now.
      As far as Americans/Israeli’s are concerned, if 1/10 people sympathize with Palestine over Israel, Israel is losing the PR war, despite having the most talented, experienced, PR and media specialists in the world working for it, and despite the fact that the people who control the world media are ___.
      How many Americans can define the term “Antisemitism” and how many know what “Palestine” is?

      • August 5, 2014 2:37 pm

        “So basically, it’s also our fault as well as Israel’s that we’re under occupation”

        Well, do you honestly see the whole situation as purely Israel’s fault? No blame to go on those launching missiles or abducting people?

  7. MALLIKARJUNA SHARMA permalink
    August 5, 2014 4:55 pm

    Will Palestinians move to Alaska or a State in US if offered to them?

  8. Jahan permalink
    August 5, 2014 8:27 pm

    Well said.

  9. August 6, 2014 1:52 am

    Reblogged this on [Modern Times].

  10. August 8, 2014 4:06 pm

    By starting an article with the assertions that atheism is a religion/trend–you undercut any other points you make because (on both of those accounts) you’re simply INCORRECT.

    • August 8, 2014 4:12 pm

      That was of course a hyperbole. I think most people understand that atheism cannot by definition be a religion unless you define the lack of belief as a belief system.

      • August 8, 2014 4:27 pm

        Hyperbole is an exaggeration not meant to be taken literally. This wasn’t an exaggeration, it was a blatant falsehood.

      • August 8, 2014 4:37 pm

        This essay was not meant to foster a debate about atheism or theism, so this is irrelevant and missing the point.

  11. Caruthers Sebastian permalink
    October 19, 2014 5:04 pm

    Jews may want their ethnocratic state in Palestine rather than elsewhere because of a “blood-and-soil” racist ideology (as was prevalent in Europe in Hitler’s—-and Hertzl’s—formative years), rather than because of religion.

  12. Kma permalink
    October 20, 2014 6:26 am

    As an Iranian American, I m completely in admiration for your blog and your posts regarding some of these hate mongers like bill maher and Harris. I m continually frustrated by the political battles our leaders draw us into. Jews and Muslims have so much common ground. Focus on family and education For instance. Cultural and historical pride. Even the sense of humor (at risk of stereotyping two groups) is so similar…We will evolve as a species when we begin to focus on the commonalities of our human condition not the differences. Israeli children want to live in a safe and secure world as do Palestinian children and American children do. When they grow up they want to be able to work and provide for their families and live their lives in peace and have a chance to be prosperous and safe. Only propaganda and the brainwashing by powerful elite try to teach us different.

  13. Darren permalink
    January 1, 2017 11:16 pm

    This was a great article. You could have done without using emotive rhetoric against atheists however. I started listening to Sam Harris after I read, Letter to a Christian Nation. I listened to his debates against Christian theologians, and he, along with Hitchens, Dawkin and Daniel Dennet would mop the floor with the Christian apologists nonsensical world view. Then, he moved onto the Islamic religion which appears to have become his ‘bread and butter…” I listened to his podcasts and because I know my history, I began to find Sam unpalatable.

    By the way, I am an Atheist, and I once argued with another Atheist, who was praising the virtues of being free from magical thinking. He believed the world we be a better place without religion. I asked him one question, which he skirted around until I pinned him down on it: “If the world was only full of Atheists, do you believe there would be no more wars.? When he finally decided to answer that one question, he had to admit in the reality. “Yes, there would most likely still be wars.” Atheist in the majority (my opinion), do not fit the description of them you wrote in your article. But I get why you could come to that conclusion.

    Thanks for the article

Trackbacks

  1. On My Recently Dashed Hopes For Sam Harris | The Ubiquity Principle
  2. Deconstructing Harris | Dancing With Palestinians « The Progressive Mind

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