The Region: Distorting the truth in the Middle East

Every day in the Middle East, terrible things happen. The lies and distortions of truth help ensure things don’t get better.

By BARRY RUBIN
October 23, 2011 22:14
PA President Mahmoud Abbas waiving

PA President Mahmoud Abbas waiving 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Every day in the Middle East, terrible things happen. The worst are the acts of violence and oppression. The second worst are the lies and distortions of truth that help ensure things don’t get better. Every day in the West, the lies are echoed and amplified, and new ones invented. This not only helps ensure things don’t get better in the Middle East, it guarantees they will get worse in the West.

There is an ancient Navaho proverb that explains this phenomenon: You cannot awaken someone who is only pretending to be asleep. Or in other words, someone who deliberately believes a lie cannot be convinced of the truth. Such people have abandoned professional ethics, democratic and intellectual norms. They are propagandists and supporters of authoritarian and bloody regimes.

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IF THERE was a last straw for me regarding what was once the English-speaking world’s greatest newspaper, it is this New York Times editorial of October 19, 2011:

“One has to ask: If Mr. Netanyahu can negotiate with Hamas – which shoots rockets at Israel, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence and, on Tuesday, vowed to take even more hostages – why won’t he negotiate seriously with the Palestinian Authority, which Israel relies on to help keep the peace in the West Bank.”

What has one thing have to do with the other? Israel isn’t negotiating with Hamas on a political level but to save the life of a young Israeli who has been in horrible captivity for five years.

But what’s really disturbing here is the idea that it is Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who have been refusing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority rather than the other way around.

Funnily enough, within hours of this editorial we have the ultimate Palestinian “moderate,” Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, saying:“We want to see an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. We want the Palestinian people to live with dignity.”



Fayyad went on to explain that while the Palestinians are committed to resolving the conflict, “the conditions are not right to resume talks.”

In other words, even when the Palestinian prime minister openly rejects talks and even after dozens of previous rejections by him and Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas, and dozens of documented acceptances of negotiations by Netanyahu and Israel, the lie that Israel doesn’t want to negotiate and the Palestinian Authority does is repeated.

Obviously, this is not a misunderstanding.

One reason for the perpetuation of this lie is that if the truth were to be told it would have to be explained why the “poor,” “desperate,” “victimized” Palestinians don’t want to negotiate. The answer would have to be an be the uncomfortable truth: Their leaders don’t want peace, compromise, or a two-state solution, but total victory.

Note the reaction of the leaders of the two Palestinian regimes to the prisoner swap: Abbas told the released prisoners: “You are freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland.”

Hamas deputy leader Abu Marzouk insisted: “The rest of the prisoners must be released because if they are not released in a normal way they will be released in other ways.”

By murdering Israeli civilians, both the “moderate” and the “radical” explain, these people have done nothing wrong and are free – even encouraged – to do so again in future.

You cannot build a democratic state on the basis of calling terrorists “freedom fighters” (and note the “secular” Abbas’s reference to jihad). You cannot truly be interested in compromise with the other side when you continue to urge and justify the deliberate murder of its civilians.

ISRAEL DID not agree to the prisoner swap because it expected that would change Palestinian thinking or behavior. But many in the West won’t understand that concessions simply bring more demands and greater intransigence. (Israel knows the intransigence already exists so from its standpoint the prisoner swap does no harm in that department.) How did Abbas react to the prisoner swap? By demanding that Israel release even more Palestinian terrorists.

Here’s the Time magazine coverage: “As Palestinians exult in the release of 477 prisoners from Israeli jails, and anticipate the arrival of the 550 more due to be freed in December under the terms of the bargain Hamas brokered for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is pushing Israel to release even more, citing what he terms a secret promise from a previous prime minister.”

Of course, no such promise exists. On the contrary, Abbas rejected prime minister Ehud Olmert’s peace proposal.

But, wait, there’s more. Here’s the Washington Post coverage : “Newly released Palestinian prisoners held rambunctious homecoming receptions... as leaders of the Hamas militant group that secured their freedom expressed hope that Israel would ease the blockade it imposes on the Gaza Strip.”

Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar claimed that Israel should now “make an end to the blockade,” no doubt so that Hamas could import more weapons, money equipment, and gunmen to attack Israel.

So now that Israel has made a big concession, they can only demand more concessions.

This has been the pattern of the entire “peace process” to date, and another factor making peace impossible and so much of Western policy in the region entirely futile.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “I am very encouraged by the prisoner exchange today after many many years of negotiation. The United Nations has been calling for [an end to] the unacceptable detention of Gilad Schalit and also the release of all Palestinians whose human rights have been abused all the time.”

It would be bad enough if the leader of the global community established a moral equivalence between Schalit and terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians, but in fact he treats the latter as superior.

He doesn’t mention their murderous deeds (which almost all of them admit, indeed brag about) or their conviction in courts, but claims, on no basis whatsoever, that their human rights have been abused. A listener would think these are Palestinian civilians pulled at random off the streets. In short, he has declared that the terrorists are the true victims.

This is the agency supposedly fit to judge the future of the conflict and which constitutes one-fourth of the Quartet?

In the words of the Greek playwright Euripides, though many have said something similar, “Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first deprives of their senses.”

Those who willfully misinterpret events in the Middle East are setting up their own destruction. Perhaps the real reason they cannot forgive Israel is that it does not choose to join them in this endeavor.

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