Palestine occupée

Western illusions that vilify Arabs and glorify Israel

Masters of illusion tell deceiving tales



Paul J. Balles
Vendredi 18 Décembre 2009

Western illusions that vilify Arabs and glorify Israel
Paul J. Balles looks at Western illusions about the Arabs – illusions created by media that vilify Arabs and portray Israel in the most favourable light and compounded by Westerners' "failure to recognize the deceptiveness of the chimera and subterfuge manufactured by Hollywood and the TV studios of New York and London".
The propagandists have known there was little chance of their myth-making becoming exposed, primarily because few Westerners live among Arabs long enough or close enough to discover the reality.”
The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. (Daniel Boorstin)
Many people think they know something about Arabs; but many of those thoughts are as divorced from reality as genies emerging from bottles. Not many Westerners, other than expatriates who have lived in the Arab world, know much about the customs, traditions, language or cultures of the Arab world.

When I first travelled to the Middle East for a university teaching job, I knew very little about Arabs. That trip into a land of mystery happened more than 40 years ago; and Kuwait and Bahrain have been my hosts since.

During that time, I learned a great deal about many Arabs. I also learned that it’s dangerously misleading to think that Arabs are alike. Yet, many Westerners do just that. I remember how easy it was, as a child, to develop standardized images of people belonging to a particular ethnic group or culture. Part of this comes from the illusionists.

Magicians perform as masters of illusion, and artists have fascinated viewers with optical illusions. Filmmakers qualify as experts at creating illusions. As illusory as the magician's trick and the optical mirage, the history of both film and TV has been as full of deception as a dry desert lake appearing full of water.

The problem with the illusions created by the media comes from our failure to recognize the deceptiveness of the chimera and subterfuge manufactured by Hollywood and the TV studios of New York and London.

My first illusion: that Arabs and Israelis were more alike than different in expressing their antagonism toward each other. One of each happened to be in a class I was teaching in Los Angeles, California. Each would sidle up to me, separately and at different times, to explain what was wrong with the other.

The Israeli would tell me how Arabs wanted to drive Israelis into the sea. The Arab would tell me how Arabs and Jews lived in harmony for centuries in Palestine; and he couldn't understand why the Israelis were stealing their land.

Assuring me that they were threatened, the Israeli reminded me of how six million Jews suffered the horrible fate of the holocaust. He complained that Israel was under constant threat from millions of Arabs surrounding his people.

Telling me how groups called the Stern Gang and Irgun were terrorists who slaughtered both British and Palestinians, the Arab explained that thousands fled their lands after hundreds of Palestinians were massacred in the village of Deir Yassin.

So it has evolved for years, with most Israelis under the illusion that they have an absolute right to Palestine, and many Arabs under an illusion that America or Europe will put things right some day.

To make matters worse, the Western media has presented a distorted view of the story. Arabs have been vilified in the media for decades, while Israel has been generally portrayed in the most favourable light.

The Arabs’ adversaries include men and women in powerful and influential positions. Many in the highest ranks of US government have the ears of both the American administration and the Congress. No Arabs have such positions.
The propagandists have known there was little chance of their myth-making becoming exposed, primarily because few Westerners live among Arabs long enough or close enough to discover the reality.
Experience has revealed some of the truths that the illusionists have hidden or glossed over. Hopefully, expatriates with experience in the Arab world will learn enough to expose some of the deceptive illusions.

Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.

http://www.redress.cc/global/pjballes20091218 http://www.redress.cc/global/pjballes20091218



Vendredi 18 Décembre 2009


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