Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The New York Times and Historical Revisionism
In an Op-Ed in the New York Times (NYT) two writers – Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sakolski “Let’s Be Honest About Israel’s Nukes” intertwine Arab use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) with Israel’s clash of civilizations. They omit any historical data and pay homage to Arab propaganda as if it is fact. Muslim protestations of self-defense against Israeli (Jewish) ‘threats’ are accepted without ever questioning what is clearly a wholly one-sided and disingenuous interpretation of history. The dishonesty displayed by the authors (and the NYT for publishing something this damaged) is in their omission of pertinent facts. A parallel article would have condemned Britain as a warmonger and as a threat to world peace for fighting back against Nazi Germany. In a modern twist to the fable that turning the other cheek protects the innocent, the aggressor becomes the victim and the victim (the modern Jew) is turned into a stereotyped thug. It truly is a reinvigorated formulation for antisemitism and a subtly crafted 21st Century blood-libel.
The reality of Israeli survival in the Arab jungle has been one of necessary reaction. Violent regimes have never respected those that are passive in their self-defense. Russia is known to have stoked the flames of war in 1967, by supplying false data to the Syrian regime on Israeli troop numbers near the Syrian border with Israel. In 1973 it supplied Syria with chemical weapons. When faced with defeat, Syria threatened to cover Tel Aviv with a lethal chemical cloud. Israel informed the leaders of the Soviet Union, through diplomatic third parties, that its intelligence on Israel was wrong, that Israel possessed a second strike response, that Israel would not hesitate to respond and most crucially, if even a single shell succeeded in reaching Israel, Israel's subsequent survival depended upon a massive response. Just as it did in 1967, the Arab world panicked. The USSR was again found to be ‘in error’. It had reported that Israel was defenseless. The Arab world lost the war. But from day one after the cessation of physical hostilities it is assumed that Israel began to develop its own WMD capability. A bluff only works once.
Put into context, this war between Islam and Judaism is now being fought out in the global press. It is the failure to respond to this propaganda war that is Israel’s greatest failure.
Israel may respond to acts of violence against it with what appears to its critics, as overzealous enthusiasm for a military response. In a region where Arab violence has been the norm for over a thousand years and Islamic prejudice daily prescribes the unfavorable treatment afforded minorities, this fear is a natural, learned response. Israel’s post-oppression identity is a direct consequence of its treatment by Islam and its Arab masters. In the Arab world caution has fatal consequences. Fundamentalist Islam is macho. Its focus on obedience, superstition and an eternal Manichean good guy bad guy conflict is seductive in its attraction to those who are lost because it is so prescriptive.
Yasser Arafat invoked the “peace of the brave” when talking to non-Muslim audiences but in Arabic he decreed that his Peace for the Jews was a “peace of Koreish” – the conquest and extinction of the non-Muslim presence in Mecca by Mohammad.
A murderous thug accustomed to violence and the threat of violence is incapable of conceding rejection. Jews have turned the other cheek for most if not all of the 1,400 years of Muslim conquest, domination and threat.
The dystopian past is more than just memory. It is a trap from which the Muslim world also appears powerless to escape. The narrative of ascendancy is a difficult one to forgo, particularly when, as is the case with Islam, it is driven by religious imperative. But even a psychopath understands fear and the threat of retaliation serves as an effective brake on the inclination towards violence in most cases. After the Arab defeat in 1967 Egyptian Commander in Chief and first vice-president Abd al-Hakim Amer (President Nasser’s life long friend) committed suicide (or was poisoned by Nasser). The Arab defeat in 1973 spelled the end of Soviet influence in the Middle East. It would take another 40 years before a US President gave Russia the key to restored super–power status, a welcome mat and an open door through which it will march on the whole region.
The campaign to rewrite the history books, the violent assault that the Left and its allies perpetrate against Israel in the international arena (at every opportunity) are all part of the same pattern of violence with which passive Jews have lived throughout their history. And the problem with that NYT article to which I referred at the beginning, is that crass, opinionated articles selectively cherry pick only that which validates their prejudice. The NYT dresses up its bigotry in the finery of cant disguised as scholarship. When we give publicity to tyrants such as Putin, Assad or Rohani, we validate the thug.
You never provide oxygen to bigots, unless that is, you have a biased agenda.
Quality refers to depth of analysis, or does it? When we refer to the quality press, accuracy is not a prerequisite for selling the message. Repetition overcomes skepticism. Delivery is most effective when it exploits existing prejudices (beliefs) and establishes the authority of the message by making false connections and by being selective about the truth. This is the essence of propaganda.
In any discussion of the press we can see three levels of reporting.
Beginning at the bottom, the red tops (the tabloid press) are known for their excellent sports cover, their page 3 half-naked women and their sensationalist and superficial reporting of everything else. The mainstream press is no less opinionated but is usually less shallow in their opinion pieces. They also offer an in-depth analysis of national and some international stories. But they remain partisans in their reporting. We then reach the pinnacle of our global press, the quality newspapers. In reality, they are no less prejudiced but they offer a more thorough deception in the web they build around their arguments. Their arrogant self-assertion of impartiality is easily pierced by examining their work practices as well as what they write. Selective morality is buttressed by careful choice of contributors; if you are going to be a hypocrite, at least have the big guns by your side to ring your praises. The ends truly do justify the means in this ethical wasteland.
Probably the single most dishonest characteristic of the quality press is its need to disassemble the facts before creating a narrative in its own distorted image. That NYT article had one purpose only, and that was to put Israel in the dock.
First President Vladimir Putin wrote an article for the NYT that was so deceptive that any serious student of history must have wept at reading it. Then the Iranian President Hassan Rohani graced NBC with his learned opinions (followed by an interview with the Washington Post) and finally President Bashar Assad was interviewed by Fox News. And now, Bashar Assad will forever remind me of a chocolate box. His picture has been doing the rounds. The mass murderer is all smiles as he sits at a table with his wife and children, the image of innocence and calm reason. But then they all were. That is where the propagandist creates authority and an image of fairness.
President Abbas of Palestine has similarly expressed his opinions without reference to the truth. No one challenged him or any of the others who spoke. We are too polite for that. The best example of this was that both Abbas and Rouhani have referred to the ‘legitimate refugees’ and their right of return to their ‘ancestral home’. Most Palestinian non-Jews were recent immigrants to the Holy Land at the fag end of the 19th Century and up to the middle of the 20th Century. Turkey and Britain allowed them unrestricted immigration to the Holy Land but severely restricted Jewish immigration. By some miracle, the immigrant Arab became ‘indigenous’ while the immigrant Jew became (at best) the indigenized settler. Such racial magnanimity is rare amongst our enemies. But because no one has challenged this Muslim/Leftist version of history, it is today, too inconvenient to question. It does not fit in with the current global narrative. No one disputes the tyrants as their self-righteous calm shimmers out from television screens and their pristine words bask in the unchallenged pages of the international press.
“The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.” (Benjamin Netanyahu). To that should be added the tragic reality that the international quality press cannot be trusted with the truth.