The Region: A veritable army of lies

Barry Rubin, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 12, 2004


Four points about the Arab-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian conflicts are so obvious and easily documented that an army of lies must be mobilized to ensure that elites and publics throughout the world don't grasp them.


# From 1948 to the present, with various exceptions and temporary truces, Arab regimes, the Palestinian leadership, and – since 1979 – Iran have sought to wipe Israel off the map. Whether employing harsh rhetoric ("Drive the Jews into the sea") or euphemistic phrases ("a secular democratic state," "right of return," "one-state solution"), this has remained the main viewpoint expressed daily in the Arab arena.


There are, of course, exceptions. These include Egyptian policy since 1978, the Jordanian government's position, a few courageous Arab liberals, and a sector of the Palestinian leadership. Morocco and a few other states in the Gulf could be added to this list.


But what is amazing is how limited all these forces are and how hesitantly they contradict that basic principle.


During the 1990s, the Western-oriented Palestinian Authority rhetoric spoke of two states, but this was not matched by what was said on the semi-official and official media, in school textbooks, mosque sermons, Fatah educational materials, and most other materials.

This anti-Israel extremism is enhanced by a daily Arab demonization of Israel that is so deep and extraordinary one may well despair of it ever being reversed.


Yet the pretense is that Arab and Palestinian leaders are ready for a two-state solution.


# The method used by the Palestinian movement, and often by Arab states, has been deliberate, strategic terrorism – purposeful attacks on civilian Israelis. It has been the expressed doctrine of PLO leaders since the 1960s.


Again, after a brief hiatus for much of the 1990s, this historic policy returned after 2000. It is easily demonstrated that Yasser Arafat has encouraged and supported these attacks and that many of them are in fact carried out by PA security forces. Public opinion polls show the masses' backing of them.


We are in the post-September 11 world, where a global war against terrorism is supposedly going on. Yet on this issue the Western media does not in most cases use the word "terrorist." To call Arafat an advocate and implementer of terrorism is considered a "controversial" position, even in the US.


# Israelis have favored a peaceful, compromise solution. Half the population has long supported an end to Israel's presence in almost all the territories captured in 1967 ("land for peace"); the other half opposed this mainly because it did not believe the Arab side would accept a real peace, even at this price.


For a dozen years now Israeli leaders have advocated major concessions and acceptance of the creation of a Palestinian state on the basis of a prior peace agreement. Now even Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has openly called for such a solution – a courageous position given the events of the last three years and attitudes in his own party.


The overwhelming majority of Israelis do not want to be occupiers, even of land which has the most significant religious and historical importance for them. They have been willing to take major risks for peace and have suffered huge casualties because of that readiness.


This truth is not negated by the existence of settlements, the view of a shrinking minority that this is part of the land of Israel, or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's three years in office during the mid-1990s.


# In 2000 Syria turned down peace even when offered the entire Golan Heights. Arafat rejected peace even if it meant he would get – in the context of an opening bid at the Camp David summit and of the final offer in the Clinton plan – an independent Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem, control of al-Aksa mosque, and massive refugee compensation.


THE PROPORTION of people in the Middle East, or even in the West, who understand these simple facts is far too low. There has been a massive literature seeking to rewrite history and claim that Arafat was never offered anything reasonable. Every day lies about these events and all the points made above appear worldwide from professors, journalists, and politicians.


Blotting out these four basic facts prepares the ground for demonizing Israel, or at least misrepresenting the situation so that it seems to be the villain. After all, if the Arab side is eager to make peace and doesn't really use terrorism while Israel wants the conflict to continue, seeks to hold onto all the territories, and is not facing any serious threat, what other conclusion can one reach?


There's an Arab proverb that can be very roughly paraphrased as: "How do you know it is a lie? Because it is so big."


In a sense, all the slander is a kind of compliment. After all, so much misrepresentation would be unnecessary were the case against Israel not so weak. Nevertheless, the denial of historical truth on these matters is the overwhelmingly dominant standpoint in the Arab world and among Muslims, the majority standpoint in Europe, and a significant factor in the US.


So why do I remain an optimist? Because I firmly believe that objective reality ultimately determines outcomes, and not the lies or misperceptions that people have along the way. This view has been richly and repeatedly proven by history.

The problem is that history also shows how much unnecessary suffering is inflicted meanwhile.


The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal and editor of Turkish Studies.


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