A few weeks have passed since the horrendous massacre in Itamar took place. Thus far no group has claimed responsibility. This has led many in the Arab world to conclude that the murders were carried out by non-Arab foreign workers or even by Israel itself. Such conclusions are hardly surprising knowing the history of truth evasion in the Arab Middle East. Accusations leveled at Arabs by non-Arabs are generally brushed aside and replaced by conspiracy theories.A timely example of this was a recent editorial in the Saudi daily, al-Watan, which claimed that Israel was responsible for carrying out the Itamar murders. One Arab-Israeli weekly, Kul al-Arab declared that Israel’s leaders know that a foreign worker murdered the Fogel family. Another Saudi paper, al-Madina, made the claim that the attack was “a natural response to Israel’s actions in Gaza.”Without contemplating the absurdity of the analogy – stabbing a baby vs. targeting terrorists – or the definition of natural, such editorials are a reminder of the disease that is perhaps the most widely spread in the Arab world, namely the utter and complete inability to exercise any form of public self-criticism. Some months ago I conducted an interview with Daniel Pipes whose book The Hidden Hand discusses conspiracy theories in the Arab world. Pipes sees an extraordinary dependence on conspiracy theories in the Arab world.Another student of the Middle East, David Pryce-Jones, delves deep into the Arab culture in his incisive work, The Closed Circle, in which he deals with the concepts of shame and honor in the Arab context:
Lying and cheating in the Arab world is not really a moral matter but a method of safeguarding honor and status, avoiding shame, and at all times exploiting possibilities, for those with the wits for it, deftly and expeditiously to convert shame into honor on their own account, and vice versa for their opponents. If honor so demands, lies and cheating may become absolute imperatives.
In the Arab world the truth is often turned completely on its head and repeated long enough until it is no longer one of many competing narratives, but the only truth available. In Egypt and Jordan most Muslims do not believe that Arabs carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This being the case, it should not come as a surprise that in the Arab world, the Itamar massacre was not committed by an Arab.