TCS Daily

No Strangers to Fiction

By Ken Adelman - April 17, 2002 12:00 AM

Among the more serious, yet least noticed, casualties in the war on terrorism now raging in Israel is basic truth. Along with attacking civilians, the Palestinians are attacking the truth and creating facts out of whole cloth.

This attack on the truth is clearly documented by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a document called "Lies and Disinformation as a Palestinian Weapon."

Now, skeptics may claim that of course the Israeli ministry would claim that the Palestinians are lying, just as the Palestinians claim about the Israelis. But this moral equivalency omits an important basic point: Israel is a full democracy, whereas the Palestinian Authority - like every single Arab entity or government - is a dictatorship. Hence Israel has a free press which can -- and quite doggedly does -- question reports from their officials. In contrast, the Arab authorities themselves determine the 'facts,' and publish them as 'facts.'

It's stunning, and depressing, to realize that meetings of the Arab League are the only international meetings -- since the Soviets assembled the Warsaw Pact nations -- without one single elected government. No other world forum - none meeting in Asia, Latin America, Europe, or elsewhere - lacks a government which respects human rights and allows freedom of speech, press, and the other values civilized people hold dear. This sorry state of affairs enables Arab dictatorships to create "truth" which is picked up by the regime-controlled press of Arab nations, and - all too often - the Western press.

Dr. Lynne Cheney, wife of the current Vice President, best explained the moral damage done by such distortions seven years ago in her excellent book, "Telling the Truth" (Simon & Schuster, 1995).

"Without the idea that we live in reality... compassion is impossible and so is any other virtue one could name. Nothing beyond the gratification of the moment matters in such a world, not fairness, not justice, not responsibility, not honor. None of them matters because in such a world none of them exists."

In a world where the 'truth' is manufactured and not objectively observed and reported, Dr. Cheney insightfully explains, barbarism is sure to follow. We are witnessing this now as horrid homicide bombings follow horrid distortions of truth.

Among the most outrageous distortions, some of which were subsequently broadcast by the Western press:

  • A Palestinian spokesman Hassan Asfor told BBC radio that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had broken into Arafat's office and that Arafat's office was "on the brink of disaster." His office was never broken into.

  • The Italian and French media picked up a Palestinian television report of April 2 that the Palestinian leadership announced that a priest, Jacques Amathis, had been killed and dozens of monks wounded in an IDF action in Bethlehem. The announcement in the West created outcries of protests in Europe. Yet the very next day, Father Amathis was interviewed and confirmed that he and the monks in the monastery were safe and well.

  • Chairman Arafat told Al Jazeera, the television network watched across the Arab world, on April 3rd that Israel had "burned the mosque" opposite Santa Maria Church in Bethlehem and "destroyed many churches and mosques." He called upon the Christian and Muslim world to take action. All of this was creating truth. None of it happened.

  • In an interview with Abu Dhabi television on March 29, Arafat told of an "incident in Hebron, that insolent and criminal incident; [the IDF] even attacked and killed in the Hebron area three members ofthe international force: two from Turkey and one of the nurses from Switzerland." The Turkish member of this force said in a later radio interview that the attack had been carried out by a uniformed Palestinian.

The examples of such truth-creation go on and on. The full text can be found here.

Somehow, if the Palestinian and Arab world is to begin taking humane actions, it must begin telling the truth. Dr. Cheney writes of "the moral consequences of insisting that reality is nothing more than what" is created out of thin air. "The idea of responsibility - of being accountable for one's actions - has no meaning in a world where there is neither truth nor reality."

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