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  Global Views
Truth and Consequences
Special Contribution
By Zvi November
Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, West Bank, is a shrine complex built mainly under Herod the Great (1st cent. BC) with additions by the Crusaders (12th century AD). It centers around the Cave of Machpelah, an ancient double cave revered since at least 1000 BC as the burial site of the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives.

When I was about four years old my father read the story of Pinocchio to me and my sister. Every time Pinocchio told a lie his nose grew longer. Later on, in school I learned about George Washington who told the truth and confessed to chopping down a cherry tree. So, I learned at an early age that ‘honesty is the best policy’. Then, in high school, I was introduced to science which is a never-ending search for truth based on facts and provable theories.

Even though philosophers such as Isaiah Berlin speak about multiple truths, one cannot deny that objectivity is fundamental to our way of life. Other cultures, however, do not place the same value on truth, honest research and accurate reporting.

Click on to access the Palestinian Media Watch’s website. This organization monitors the Palestinian press, TV and radio broadcasts on a daily basis. Palwatch translates Palestinian “truths” and libels from Arabic into English. Palestinian Arab media consumers learn, for instance, that Jesus was a Palestinian Moslem even though the Roman term Palestina was coined about 130 years after Jesus died on the cross. Palestinian TV frequently interviews historians who assert that Jews have no substantive connection to the Land of Israel despite the existence of literally thousands of archaeological sites that attest to a rich ancient history long before the Arab invasion in 632. This why Palestinian representatives object to archaeological surveys and have successfully enlisted UNESCO to negate the Jewish connection to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb outside of Bethlehem as well as the original City of David in Jerusalem.

I have a small guidebook entitled Al-Aksa Mosque that was published by the Islamic Wakf [the Islamic trust controlling the Temple mount] Administration which declares (on page 3), “Some believe it was the site of the Temple of Solomon, peace be upon him, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, or the site of the Second Temple, completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, although no documented historical or archaeological evidence exists to support this.”

In other words, the books of the Old and New Testaments as well as secular Roman historians in addition to massive archaeological evidence that can be seen by any visitor to Jerusalem are, according to the Moslems, just myths. By contrast, as far as the Wakf is concerned, Mohammed’s celestial journey from Mecca to Jerusalem on the back of “al-Buraq, a white winged beast” (page 4 in the guidebook) around 620 is a fact.

We know that Jerusalem in not mentioned even once in the Quran and the real al-Aksa (literally “furthermost mosque”) is actually in Arabia. Indeed, Jerusalem’s al-Aksa was built some 60 years after Mohammed’s death.

The Wakf has carried out unauthorized (they don’t recognize Israeli sovereignty) infrastructure work on the Temple mount using heavy equipment. Enormously important archaeological debris was removed and dumped because the Wakf does not respect Jewish traditions or sensitivities.

Mahmoud Abbas who is referred to alternately as “chairman” or “president” of the Palestinian Authority wrote his doctorate dissertation on the Holocaust which he claims never really happened. Today, he and his followers refuse to recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

In 2002, at the height of the last INTIFADA war, Israeli army units carried out counter-terrorism operations in the center of the Jenin refugee camp. Palestinian Authority spokesman Saeb Erekat announced to the world that 500 Palestinians were killed and the international media instantly disseminated this lie without checking the facts. Actually only 53 Palestinians, most of whom were fighters, died.

More recently, after the last round of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations during the previous Olmert-led government, Erekat averred that the Palestinians made no concessions. However, al-Jazeera got hold of documents from Erekat’s office proving that some (minor) concessions were made to the Israelis. Embarrassed, Erekat immediately resigned. But he has recently bounced back as the main Palestinian negotiator/spokesman.

Lying in Islam by Abdullah Al Araby is a short essay I found on . This is a Christian website that reaches out to moderate Moslems in an effort to help garner respect and safety for Christian communities in the Middle East. It also welcomes Moslems who have converted to Christianity which is often an expression of their rejection of radical Islamic jihad/violence. This article cites the Quran and other Moslem sources that actually support and encourage lying if it serves to advance Islamic causes. The writer explains that the principle of al-Takeyya (literally “to prevent” or “guard against”) allows Moslems to lie so as to protect Moslems. In Al Araby’s words, “Bluntly stated, Islam permits Muslims to lie anytime that they perceive that their own well-being, or that of Islam, is threatened.”

The Moslem/Arab aversion to truth is, no doubt, a significant factor in the never-ending Arab-Israeli conflict. However, there is a positive side to this cultural trait. And I found it while reading Arabs at War by Kenneth M. Pollack (University of Nebraska Press 2004). [This 706 page book is an exhaustive study of Arab military performance between 1948 and 1991. Pollack examines, in detail, the twenty-eight military campaigns of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia which, in a word, range from ineffective to dismal.]

According to Pollack, one major problem these six Arab armies have concerns honest reporting. He writes: “A constant among Arab armed forces during this period was consistently exaggerated and even falsified reporting by military personnel to higher echelons. Simultaneously, superior officers routinely withheld information about operations from their subordinates. These reinforcing tendencies meant that Arab forces routinely operated in a thick fog of ignorance and half-truths. Lower echelons sent inaccurate reports to strategic commanders, who then made plans based on misinformation. Since the higher authorities rarely provided all available information to lower formations, many units had to execute operations with little knowledge of the enemy, the terrain, or the larger mission. Field units then either had to try to execute the operation – which was often suicidal because of the limited and inaccurate information available to the planners – or to lie and report that they did perform it when they did not.” (Page 561)

An increase in accurate and honest communications between field commanders and headquarters would improve Arab military performance and thus make life harder for Israeli soldiers. But, on the other hand, objectivity and truth may well lead Arab soldiers and officers to ask why they are fighting Israel in the first place.

Of course there are Arabs throughout the Middle East and in the West who do value truth and honesty. Even Saudi TV 1 back in 2006 allowed Dr. Ibrahim Al-Buleihi, a member of the Saudi Shura Council, to emphatically speak out against violence in the name of Islam. (This interview can be accessed at Unfortunately, clear-thinking, moderate Arabs are few in number and when they do speak out they put their lives on the line because radical Islam is in ascension and does not tolerate dissenting voices.

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Zvi November, who grew up in New York, served as a Peace Corps' teacher in rural Philippines. He also taught at Hong Kong Int'l School. He earned his diploma from Univ. of Edinburgh, his MA from Syracuse Univ, both in anthropology. Now he is an activist in Israel's Media Watch and other civic bodies.






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