Harriet Sherwood’s July 18th Guardian story, on efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, reports on a meeting convened last night by Mahmoud Abbas with other Palestinian political leaders to decide whether to return to the negotiating table.
Whilst a story by the Guardian/Reuters published this morning reported that Abbas and his colleagues ultimately decided to simply defer making any decision at all on whether to enter talks, both Sherwood’s report and the Reuters story characteristically avoided any mention of the the single largest issue preventing peace between Israel and its neighbors: An Arab culture which consistently promotes the demonization and dehumanization of Jews – antisemitic incitement promoted by Arab governments which permeates their educational system, religious life, media, and popular culture.
You simply can’t have an honest discussion about the Arab-Israeli conflict without acknowledging the toxicity of the Arab world’s blind hatred towards Jews – racism which continues to render any hope for genuine peace and coexistence (and the Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state within any borders) merely an illusion.
Whilst the Guardian all but completely ignores the role Palestinian Jew-hatred plays in perpetuating the conflict, the Guardian (as my colleague Gilead Ini notes in his superb analysis of the broader problem) is by no means alone. With few exceptions, mainstream media outlets reporting on the political process of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict routinely fail to inform their readers of the broader moral and cultural factors which represent the main impediments to peace in the Middle East.
Ini writes the following:
Assume, for a moment, that the Jews are demons.
Imagine having been taught that they purposefully infect your countrymen with AIDS, and that such evil deeds have been a consistent part of Jewish history for thousands of years, ever since they killed their own prophets and tried to kill yours. Believe that their ultimate goal is to corrupt the world and hoard its money and power. Feel certain that they are so diabolical that even rocks and trees — the earth itself — wants them dead.
Could you possibly see them as good neighbors — good people like your own family and friends? Would you support negotiations with them, let alone substantive concessions?
A resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict will require trust. But you can’t trust the devil. It will require compromise. But you don’t compromise with evil. It will require an understanding by each side of the other’s legitimate interests and concerns. But if Jews — not just Israelis, not just one or another political party, but the Jews — are irremediably concerned with spreading disease, sowing corruption and accumulating money, it would be reasonable to conclude that they should be met with outright rejection, not concessions.
And what if, despite enormous headwinds driven by public revulsion for these demonized Jews, your leaders nonetheless signed a peace deal with them? Could it take root in such unfertile soil?
Can a society that accepts the most outlandish conspiracy theories about Jews, and that has long used Jews as the scapegoat for setbacks and failures, thrive? Can such a society successfully grapple with difficulties that, in reality, have nothing to do with Jews?
Walter Russell Mead argues that “widespread popular anti-Semitism is almost always a leading indicator of economic failure and autocratic rule.” Although anti-Semites might think this is because Jews “use their hidden superpowers to block and frustrate the economic development of peoples brave enough to tell the truth about Jewish machinations,” in fact, Mead says,
“anti-Semitism is usually associated with attitudes of bigotry, dogmatism and hostility to new ideas and different perspectives. Tolerance, openness to different ideas and a willingness to work with people from different religions and backgrounds are essential qualities for long-term successful and democratic development in a capitalist world, and people who hate and fear Jews usually lack them.”
In other words, for the two sides to coexist peacefully, sustainable and successfully, their worst passions must be subdued. As Martin Luther King Jr. says toward the end of the attached video (link below), hate makes you do irrational things. “You can’t see straight when you hate,” he explains.
But the video also reveals that, in all too many mosques, schools and television programs across the Arab and Muslim world, the public is indoctrinated with the most vile anti-Jewish bigotry. Hatred is idealized to a degree that the average American, and the average Israeli, cannot comprehend or imagine.
Journalists have a particular responsibility to inform global audiences about this scourge — about the presence and prominence of anti-Semitism and its role as “leading indicator” of societal dysfunction and spoiler of peace hopes. But with few exceptions there has been little coverage in the mainstream media of the phenomenon and its importance. Instead, an ossified storyline focuses on other supposed obstacles to peace in the Middle East that omits this central force.
CAMERA has produced an excellent short video to illustrate Ini’s post, which you can view here.