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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card April 29, 2002

Lies and Truth

Even when you know it's a bunch of lies, you can be deceived by the propaganda coming out of the Muslim world these days.

Partly it's because some of the people saying these things really believe them. They're repeating someone else's lies, and so profound is their ignorance of the world outside their little realms that they have no reason to doubt what they've been told.

Even the ones who know they're lying are so filled with rage and hate that they can be quite convincing. But, as every actor knows, rage is the easiest emotion to fake; and as every politician knows, hate is the easiest emotion to arouse in others.

Unfortunately, it's the hardest to control once you've turned it loose.

Here's something that a lot of people seem to forget: No matter how fervently and how often you repeat a lie, it's still not true.

For instance, it's widely believed in the Muslim world that there were no Muslims at all involved in the attack on the World Trade Center. It was all an evil plot by the Jews, says this lie, to bring the wrath of the U.S. down on the innocent Arabs. Their proof? The rumor that four thousand Jewish employees at the WTC stayed home from work that day because they were warned by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service.

Of course there is not even a shred of truth in this story.

The Palestinians who danced in the streets on 11 September believed that Muslims deserved full credit for the achievement. It was only after what happened to Afghanistan that the rumor that Muslims were completely innocent began to circulate.

In other words, if Muslims win, then hurray for Muslims. But if they lose, then look what the Jews have done to them!

The other night I heard an Arab spokesman on Fox News tell a real whopper. "Don't talk to us about anti-semitism. You Christians had a thousand years of pogroms against the Jews, and we Arabs have never had a pogrom."

For those who don't know the word, a pogrom is a sort of large-scale lynching. A mob would be whipped into a frenzy against the Jews and then would storm into the Jewish quarter of the town and slaughter, rape, and pillage until they ran out of victims or became exhausted.

At least the Spanish Inquisition used legal process to kill Jews. In northern and eastern Europe the bloody work was done by volunteers.

But it is not true that there were no Muslim pogroms against Jews.

In April 1920, five Jews died and 211 were wounded in a pogrom committed by Arabs in Jerusalem. Ninety Jews died in a pogrom the following year, and in 1929, 133 Jews were killed in Palestine by Arabs.

And the pogroms worked. The British government (which ruled the "protectorate" of Palestine in those days) was so horrified by this terrorism that it clamped down on Jewish immigration and made it much harder for Jews to enter Canaan legally.

In other words, terrorism directed against Jews in Canaan effected a change in the public policy of a Western government in favor of the terrorists and against the Jews.

Kind of makes Arafat's strategy look sensible, doesn't it? History is with him. Indeed, history is repeating itself.

Still, amid all the lies, there are still facts to be found, if you look for them.

The Zionist movement began in the late 1800s, and resulted in hundreds, then thousands of Jews from Europe (and even a handful from the Americas) moving to Canaan, where they bought or leased or rented homes and land.

When conflict began, it was not about religion. There had been Jews in Palestine -- lots of them -- throughout the entire history of Muslim domination of the region. But the Jews in the Arab world -- Sephardic Jews -- had accommodated themselves to the Ottoman Empire and the other Muslim governments that ruled over them. They knew how to get along, and nobody was killing anybody.

The conflict was only with Jewish immigrants from Europe. These Ashkenazim brought with them the European culture of enlightenment, nationalism, education, and democracy, while the ideals of socialism inspired many Zionists rather more than dedication to Torah.

These immigrant Jews tried to get along with the local Muslims. After all, they believed in tolerance, live-and-let-live, can't-we-all-be-friends.

But it didn't work for them.

Why? Because they refused to live like the locals. They refused to "go native" and trade in their superior European culture for the obviously inferior Muslim one.

I chose my words carefully when I said "superior" and "inferior." Contrary to the dogma of multi-culturalism, while the cultures of all societies are equally "legitimate," they are not equally successful in promoting the health, prosperity, freedom, happiness, and well-being of their citizens.

Most Muslims in that region had no idea that they were desperately poor, ignorant, and unfree until these European Jews came among them and began doing everything not just differently, but better.

Muslim culture had long wallowed in corruption, so that getting ahead depended on whom you knew. Laws applied only to those who didn't have the money to bribe the right officials. Hard work and cooperation did not improve your lot -- it just made you a sucker. And education consisted entirely of studying the Qur'an.

But here came these immigrant Jews, and they bought land that nobody wanted and made it produce better crops than the "good" land that the locals had farmed for generations. Jewish craftsmen made better products, and Jewish women behaved outrageously, working alongside their husbands and speaking up like equals.

Then it got worse. Britain took over the government of Palestine after World War I -- a naked act of imperialist betrayal -- and promptly declared, in the Balfour Declaration, that Palestine would be opened as a homeland for the Jews.

But nothing was given to the Jews except the right to enter the country. Every acre of land, every house, every tree, every blade of grass that the Jews occupied, they bought from the owners and paid for legitimately. When they were attacked, they defended themselves -- every kibbutz was an armed camp, and fields were tended with rifles at the ready. But they were not thieves.

And not all the Arabs hated them. Many were happy to do business with the Jews -- they were bringing great prosperity to this backwater land, as hardworking immigrants usually do.

The current Arab opinion that Israel was created as part of European imperialism is correct. But so is the Israeli view that their nation was created to give self-government to the Jewish majority already present in a small portion of their ancestral homeland. There are legitimate claims on both sides.

But to expel all the Jews from Canaan and destroy the nation of Israel would be to steal the land from people who legitimately bought it, who have lived there for generations, and whose government was from the moment of its inception every bit as legal, every bit as legitimate, as the Palestinian government that was supposed to come into existence alongside it.

Remember, though: What the Muslims have always hated about Israel is how European it is, how successful it is, how educated and industrious its people are. They hate the fact that Muslims who learn from the Israelis and act like them also prosper in the free land of Israel.

And rather than go through the wrenching cultural change that would transform all the Muslim world into nations as prosperous and free as Israel, it is far, far easier just to get rid of Israel. Then they wouldn't be embarrassed by how much more successful Israel has been -- in the same climate, on the same land, and without any oil -- than any Muslim nation, anywhere, period.

That is the reason the Muslim world has to lie about Israel. Because the truth makes them ashamed.

(Sources: On Muslim rumors about Mossad and the WTC, Joshua Muravchik, "Hearts, Minds, and the War Against Terror," Commentary (May 2002), p. 29. On pogroms in the 1920s, Efraim Karsh, "Israel's War," Commentary (April 2002), p. 25. Palestinian sympathizers will, of course, criticize me for citing Jewish journalists. "What do you expect them to say?" But Commentary has a long history of careful fact-checking, and exposes itself to constant public scrutiny. If anyone gets a fact or an interpretation wrong, there will be letters in the next issue pointing out the errors. While if a pro-Palestinian statement is exposed as incorrect, it is either denied ("We never said it!") or ignored, as the lie continues to be repeated regardless of the recorded facts. The truth is this: I get a more accurate picture of the legitimate points in favor of the Palestinian position from Commentary than from the rants of the anti-semites in the Arab world and their advocates in America and Europe.)

Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.


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