First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Let me tell you about an audiobook that I hated.
I didn't hate it because it was badly written -- it was mediocre in the way that mediocre thrillers usually are, and that means it would ordinarily have been tolerable.
No, the reason I stopped listening to Steve Berry's The Alexandria Link is that this book is evil.
I don't mean it's about evil. I don't even mean that it is evil-porn, like those horror books whose authors are pervertedly devoted to thinking up cool ways to torture and kill people.
I mean that this book, to the degree that it is read by people ignorant of history (i.e., practically everybody), will move us closer to a future in which our society permits or even approves of the murder of Jews and the destruction of the state of Israel.
Wait! This book is fiction! How could it have such an effect?
Well, it can't -- not all by itself. Its effect is incremental. But it's real.
Here's how it works.
At the beginning of the book, we are shown a Palestinian during the 1948 war over the creation of the state of Israel. The scene is about how this Palestinian has been torturing a man he captured in order to find out what he is doing; then he kills him. But the torture is not treated in the fiction as anything other than a regrettable necessity; later, the character does in fact regret his actions that day.
That's not what makes this book evil. No, it's the fact that Berry sets this scene against a background in which Israelis are systematically driving all the Palestinians out of Israel; the Israelis are heavily armed by the British while the Palestinians have no weapons to counter them; and the Israelis have rounded up whole villages of Palestinians and slaughtered them, men and women alike.
These things are not what the scene is about. They are slipped in as background; they are treated as if they were the sort of thing that was really going on in Palestine in 1948.
This is the kind of thing that readers -- especially ones who don't know anything about history -- are likely to assume the writer has researched, so that it can be trusted. The book is fiction, so we know this particular character did not torture and kill the other guy -- that part is obviously made up. But the background is assumed to be real. And readers often come out of books like this thinking they now know something about the real world.
In fact, what Berry is providing is pure propaganda -- the propaganda created by terrorists and murderers to "prove" that Jews "deserve" to be blown up by suicide bombers. It is exactly as reliable as the widely-believed propaganda lie that either President Bush or the state of Israel -- or both -- actually carried out the 9/11 attacks in order to provide a pretext for invading innocent Muslim countries.
(Oddly, the same liars who make this claim often turn around and talk about how proud they are that Islam stood up against the West on 9/11. Which is it? Why would you be proud of it if you didn't do it? They know they're lying; the incredible thing is that so many supposed intellectuals in the West believe it, or pretend to.)
The truth -- the well-documented historical truth -- is that the British did not arm the Israelis. They blocked all attempts by the Israelis to arm themselves. Every weapon that the Israeli army had in 1948 was smuggled in. While the "poor, unarmed Palestinians" were supported by the fully-armed military forces of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. The Arabs had the military advantage, in numbers and in weaponry.
Furthermore, while there were places where Israelis encouraged Muslims to flee, it was not a systematic effort, and many of those who fled did so at the well-documented insistence of Muslim leaders, who wanted Muslims out of the way so they could set about the business of slaughtering Jews. Only Israeli courage and audacity in combat prevented the genocidal outcome intended by the Arabs who defied the United Nations by trying to destroy Israel at the moment of its creation.
At the end of the war, the reason there was no Palestinian state is not because the Israelis prevented it. It was because the Arab nations prevented it -- Egypt took over the rule of the Gaza Strip and Jordan ruled the West Bank, declaring it to be part of their national territory and suppressing any attempt to create a Palestinian state there.
As for wholesale slaughter of Palestinian civilians by Israelis, it didn't happen. Nowhere, not in 1948, and not since then. A lot of people think it has happened because of propaganda. Like when the media was full of reports, during the intifadeh, that Israelis had massacred hundreds or thousands of Palestinians in Jenin. Later, sober investigation showed that no such thing had happened -- that, on the contrary, Israelis had suffered needless casualties on their own side because of the extraordinary lengths they went to to prevent civilian casualties on the other side.
So when a novel like Berry's The Alexandria Link treats such events as background, as if everybody knew that this is how Israelis act, what it is really doing is furthering the propaganda of one side in a desperate war.
The propaganda takes the standard form of accusing the victims of perpetrating exactly the crimes that the propagandist has committed against them. Since the Palestinian leadership has always been (and remains today) committed to murdering Jews everywhere and in Israel particularly, they claim that Israelis in particular (and Jews everywhere) are conspiring to murder Palestinians.
So what was Berry's problem? Why did he swallow this propaganda? Why does he perpetuate it?
I can think of several theories.
1. Maybe Berry is an old-style anti-Semite, who has seized upon terrorist propaganda in order to justify a hatred he already had toward Jews.
2. Maybe Berry really thinks what he's writing isn't anti-Jewish, just anti-Zionist (though to Muslim fanatics, "Jew" and "Zionist" are exact synonyms). And when he writes these ludicrously false charges against Israel, maybe he really believes the Palestinian propaganda, so he thinks he's telling the truth.
If number 2 is true, then one must conclude that either Berry is so lazy as a writer that he did not bother to do any more research than to read whatever propaganda he found, or he's too morally stupid to even think he has a responsibility to do research before writing things that could very well lead, quite directly, to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
Wait a minute -- how could a book of fiction lead "directly" to people dying?
It's this simple: Without the support of America, Israel would have been destroyed years ago; they do their own fighting to defend themselves against the incessant attacks of their enemies, but they can't supply all their own military equipment. On several occasions, without American aid they would have run out of bullets before they could finish destroying the invading enemy army.
So if American support for Israel ever evaporates, Israel may well be doomed. And novels like Berry's are the most effective way for anti-Jewish pro-Palestinian propaganda to enter the American consciousness and become part of the way ordinary Americans think.
The readers of this book think they're just getting a cool thriller in the Da Vinci Code tradition. In fact, what they're getting is blood slander against a people who are innocent of the charges.
The fact is that in 1948, Jews were a majority in large sections of the British mandate of Palestine. The proposal to divide that territory into two nations was identical to the policy that divided India into two nations -- a decision that Muslims approved of, since the minority portion was Muslim Pakistan. It was not a crime, it was a recognition of a fact on the ground. The alternative was to give all power to the Muslims who had already threatened genocide against the Jews in Palestine. It would have been a crime against humanity to allow this to happen again.
Why were there so many Jews in Palestine? Because of Zionism, absolutely. But let's remember what Zionism consisted of: Buying land and then inviting Jewish settlers in to work that land and make it prosper. Jews came to a land that was bandit-ridden impoverished desert. They drove out the bandits, and on land they had legally purchased, they created prosperous communities.
That was when Arabs started immigrating into Palestine. It was now a peaceful, prosperous place. Because of the Jews and the work they did, educational standards rose, the population boomed, and Palestine became one of the best places to live in the Arab world.
No Jew stole any Arab's land prior to 1948. True, the Arabs tried to block Jewish immigration -- their racist, hate-filled policies did not begin with Al Qaeda. But the Jews who came to Palestine did so without doing violence to any Arabs except bandits, and without stealing anything from anybody.
Then, in 1948, it was Arabs who announced their intention to destroy Israel the moment it was created. Arab armies marched. The Israeli Defense Force used their limited resources and defeated their enemies. In the process, they seized territory that was not given to them in the original UN mandate.
As soon as the Arabs were completely whipped, they begged for the UN to force a ceasefire; then they demanded that Israel retreat to the borders of the original mandate. Do you get the irony here? If the Arabs had respected that border in the first place, there would have been no war. Only after they failed in their genocide did they think those borders were a good idea.
Let's get back to Berry's novel. Because if his vile slanders against the Israeli people and nation had been confined to that opening chapter, I would have chalked it up to ignorance and laziness.
But no. The farther I got into the book, the more false charges were leveled against Jews.
Naturally, the book also loathes the Bush administration -- that's a requirement in fiction today. (When I wrote a thriller in which American soldiers actually approved of the war against Terrorist nations and groups, and actually respected President Bush, I was attacked by Leftists as if I had created a piece of intolerable propaganda -- never mind that the real American military is full of people with those views, and the point of the novel, if it had one, was to deplore extremism on either side. Actual tolerance toward conservative views is regarded as a crime by America's "tolerant" and "freedom loving" intellectuals today.")
Incredibly enough, Berry shows a high official in the Bush administration actually saying that if only Israel would show the tiniest willingness to compromise instead of resorting to the murder of Arabs at the slightest provocation, the problems of the Middle East could be solved. He has characters talk about how the Palestinians now have a moderate, elected government but Israel simply refuses to deal peacefully with them.
Berry has to know this is a pack of lies. The Palestinians elected Hamas, which is rabidly anti-Israel and an open sponsor of genocidal attacks against Jewish civilians in Israel and elsewhere. My guess is that they chose Hamas because they seemed better, for the Palestinians, than the Nazi-style thugs of Al-Fatah who had ruled them under Arafat. But there has never been a hint that Hamas is willing to compromise with Israel on anything. Indeed, the opposite is true. (And in all likelihood, any Palestinian politician who tried to run for office on a platform of living peacefully with Israel would be murdered long before the election.)
Furthermore, over the past sixty years, Israel has compromised over and over, keeping its side of agreements to an almost insane degree when you consider that Palestinians have kept none of their promises. None. Never. Do you get that? Israel is expected to keep "compromising" with an enemy that never keeps its word.
Would you keep compromising with a next-door neighbor who broke every promise while demanding that you keep all of the agreements and then make even more "compromises"?
If there is anything that the Bush administration has made clear, it is that they are not going to require Israel to make any more deals with terrorist-led Palestinian governments.
And when Berry openly demands that the reader's heart break over Palestinian civilians killed in Israeli shellings of Gaza, it can't just be ignorance that keeps him from mentioning that these shellings are attacks on terrorist installations in direct retaliation for the massacre of Israeli civilians by Palestinian suicide bombers. There is zero evidence that Israel would ever bomb Palestinian territory if Palestinians stopped murdering Israelis; there is zero evidence that Israelis have, except for an abortive attempt at tit-for-tat terrorism in the early 1950s, ever targeted Palestinian civilians.
Terrorists deliberately hide among civilians so that any military action against them is almost guaranteed to cause civilian casualties. That is the terrorists' choice; Israel is not required to commit national suicide by refraining from striking back at their enemies for fear of killing innocent civilians.
I'm not making these things up. I don't get them from Jewish propaganda. This is information that serious historians all recognize as being factual. All the claims to the contrary have, upon investigation, turned out to be deliberately fraudulent or indefensible on scholarly grounds.
One can argue for or against many decisions of the Israeli government, but it takes a flagrant disregard for historical accuracy or standards of fairness to pin any significant part of the blame for the killings in Palestine on Israel.
Berry's novel is not just a book that happens to mistake some Palestinian propaganda for truth. It is a book that systematically and continually makes false and damaging charges against Jews, Zionists, and Israel, while denying or ignoring the massive number of betrayals, lies, atrocities, and crimes against humanity committed by Israel's enemies.
Anybody who reads Steve Berry's The Alexandria Link is opening his mind to pro-terrorist hatred and lies. This is not a situation where you read both sides and assume the truth is somewhere in the middle. This is a situation where Berry's work is based on lies designed to goad people into supporting or tolerating the murder of innocent people.
Having written this, Berry should no more be acceptable among civilized people with standards of decency and honor than, say, O.J. Simpson. And if, as many in Israel fear, America does someday withdraw its support and Israel is destroyed, Berry will be among those who have blood on their hands.
Berry is not alone. The propagandists in America who are promoting hatred of Jews and the belief that Israel is evil are deliberately trying to create a climate in which America will stand by and let Israel be destroyed.
If Kosovo has a right to self-government, carved out of Serbia just because immigrants established a majority -- and our bombers under Bill Clinton declared that it did -- then Israel, established under United Nations authority in recognition of the existence of a Jewish majority, has a right to exist -- and to defend its existence against the murderous bigots who oppose them.
Berry has the right to freedom of the press. But I also have a right -- no, a responsibility -- to name his book for what it is: An act of evil against Jews in general and Israelis in particular.
How did this get past editors and find its way into print? No doubt because Berry's previous books have sold so well. But freedom of the press does not imply that publishers have no responsibility for the consequences of what they publish.
This book reflects what is going on among "intellectuals" in America. Steve Berry is a lawyer. In college he majored in political science. I imagine that he has respectable, "educated" friends who believe exactly the same things he does. In fact, anti-semitism is now becoming quite fashionable among American "intellectuals" -- proving once again how easily people can talk themselves into moral obscenities as long as they only talk to other people who think exactly like them.
I bet that Berry and all his friends are quite convinced that they are the good guys. But they would be utterly wrong in that belief. They are the poster children for the ability of smart people to believe in stupid lies -- just like the people who preached in favor of slavery or segregation because, for various specious reasons, black people "deserved" or "needed" to be "taken care of" by whites.
Berry and his ilk have chosen to support lies that justify the murder of Jews -- no, wait, the bigots call them "Zionists" now, don't they, the way segregationists said "nigra" so they didn't use the actual N-word -- but at the same time, in a moral contortion that deserves to be in a sideshow, they still claim the mantle of "tolerance" and consider their enemies to be the neanderthal bigots.
Guess what, kids: You're in bed with Adolph Hitler and with the bombers of innocent people in Palestine. You are attacking people who are no more deserving of attack than, say, Americans who live in rich communities on the coast of Georgia (where Berry lives), on land stolen from Indians and long worked by the labor of black slaves.
Oh, and keep this in mind: Berry has served on a board of education and is currently (according to his website) a member of the Camden County Board of Commissioners in Georgia.
Well, gosh. He's just so busy, no wonder he doesn't have time to find out the truth before he slanders an entire people.
I didn't finish reading Berry's book. Maybe the secret cabal of callous murderers in his novel will turn out not to be the Learned Elders of Zion. Maybe the great secret in the hidden Library of Alexandria will not be a revelation that the promise to Abraham that his descendants would have Israel as the land of their inheritance was an ancient fake. Maybe the book will even offer a few half-hearted efforts to pretend not to be a dangerous piece of Jew-hating, terrorist-justifying filth.
No such efforts will be enough to undo the damage that will be done to (and potentially by) those who trustingly read the portion of the book I got through before I choked on the lies.
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