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"Israel settles for a draw in the battle for hearts and minds" | Israel Hayom

2023-05-11T19:26:21.305Z

Highlights: Historian Richard Landes, the originator of the term Paliwood, reveals in his book how Western opinion leaders drag their culture into oblivion. He also laments Israel's laxity in propaganda, which plays into the hands of Islamist supporters. "The inability of the West to understand the medieval mentality that drives global jihad creates a real danger," he says. "To illustrate what we are up against, illustrate the false representations of the Palestinians and their supporters," Landes says.


Historian Richard Landes, the originator of the term Paliwood, reveals in his book how Western opinion leaders drag their culture into oblivion • He also laments Israel's laxity in propaganda, which plays into the hands of Islamist supporters • "Israeli spokesmen fight back, but don't understand that the world is still getting a distorted picture"


Professor Richard Landes is a concerned citizen. He may be an American citizen, but his concern lies with the future of Western civilization as a whole. "The West has lost its mind, or if you will, has lost its backbone and its connection to reality," he says, peppering his remarks with a picturesque metaphor: Two apocalyptic movements threatening the West – global jihad and the revolution of leftist radicalism – resemble a huge fire that could destroy the forest. There is no way to put out the fire completely, and just like dealing with fires, the only hope is not to let it spread to the entire forest.

As a respected historian who has studied the clashes of civilizations in the past, Landes presents the bleak picture without filters. "The inability of the West to understand the medieval mentality that drives global jihad creates a real danger," he says, pointing the finger at the elites who control the discourse – journalists and academics, who, in his opinion, are unable to understand the nature of the threat posed to their culture and are tempted to cooperate with it.

Recent events, chief among them the assassination of three Islamic Jihad commanders this week, illustrate his claim even more strongly: "After the assassination, the international media received two reports: from Israeli sources came the message 'Israel eliminated three terrorists,' and from Palestinian sources the message 'Israel murdered 13 people, including three women and four children.' Western media broadcast both reports, but the images and texts focused on Gazan civilians who were killed, or worse, they shamelessly whitewashed Islamic Jihad. A New York Times journalist named Raja Abdulrahim has gone so far as to present Islamic Jihad as a resistance to the Israeli "occupation" and conceal from the Western public the fact that in the eyes of this terrorist organization the "occupation" includes the entire country from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea."

"? Can 'The Whole World' Be Wrong" - Prof. Landes' latest book recently published in the United States is expected to cause quite a shock, just as his previous publications did. The book reveals how, since the beginning of this century, opinion leaders in the West have dragged their culture into oblivion and swept entire publics after them. "Along the way, they betray the basic principles of liberal and progressive values – the very values in whose name they supposedly operate," Landes asserts, adding with regret that Israel is the first victim of betrayal, but certainly not the last.

"Global jihad began to develop into a threat in the late 70s. In the first 20 years, the main events of jihad – the Islamic revolution in Iran, Sunni radicalization, the emergence of Hamas and Hezbollah, the establishment of al-Qaeda, etc. – took place in countries populated mainly by Muslims. Towards the end of the 20th century, this is changing, and the fire is first directed at Western democracy, when Hamas and its secular partners in the Palestinian Authority begin to attack Israel. And what is the West doing in response? He is wrong and presents it as a national liberation movement. As a result, people in the West literally applauded suicide terrorism, the typical weapon of global jihad, and were generally accustomed to identifying with their own enemy."

None of this would have happened without "deadly journalism," as Landes calls the growing tendency of Western media to report propaganda as news. "In the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, it's a total embrace of anti-Israel lies: it's simply amazing to see how inventions sucked from the finger and stitched with rough threads are accepted as truth and broadcast without any criticism or balance to the whole world," laments Landes.

One of the first and most important successes of anti-Israeli propaganda came in the Mohammed al-Dura affair, when a leading French television channel broadcast and distributed a fake video to substantiate a false claim that Israeli soldiers deliberately shot an Arab child. "The propaganda lie was reported under the guise of news, and the results were disastrous," says Landes, who investigated the affair. "The lie has become entrenched both in the Muslim world, where the boy has become an icon of global jihad, so much so that bin Laden also used him in the video to encourage the recruitment of fighters. Next, a French journalist drew a bizarre parallel between a picture of Mohammed al-Dura and a picture of a Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto. For me, this is the essence of the West's loss of factual and moral path, caused by the 'deadly press.'"

To illustrate what we are up against and to accurately describe the false representations of the Palestinians and their supporters, Landes coined the term "Pallywood" about 15 years ago. It's an entire industry, a bit like a legitimate film industry, with one difference: the people of Paliwood forge photographs and films in order to produce effective anti-Israel propaganda as part of their struggle against the Jewish state.

According to Landes, Paliwood was particularly successful in portraying the IDF's operation to cleanse terror nests in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield as a "massacre." "The truth was quite the opposite, because the number of terrorists killed in this operation was three times greater than the number of civilians killed, while in urban battles of other armies three times more civilians than combatants are killed," Landes says. Even two decades later, most of the world's media did not see fit to admit to the mistake of presenting the operation and its results in a tendentious and false manner."

The Vaccine Failure of the West

The weapon of the lethal press was directed not only at Israel. In the book, Landes lays out how the Western press handled the September 11 attacks in the United States, and once again sinned against the truth. "The Western press has been taken over by the attitude that says, 'If jihad attacks democracy, blame democracy, not jihad.' In Europe, even the conspiracy theories that claimed that George W. Bush was behind the attacks were popular, but even those who admitted that the perpetrators were bin Laden and his associates tried to explain that the real culprit lay with us, the victim, because we made him hate us and do what he did.

"Next, they refused to treat Islamist terrorism as terrorism, and slowly adopted a variety of terms that whitewash the perpetrators. They call them 'fighters', 'militiamen' – just not terrorists. The attempt not to anger Muslims is so strong that the media sins in the simplest sense: they do not report attacks inspired by Islam, and if they do, attribute them to the mental state of the perpetrator, to personal frustration, to everything but the real motif. The fear is so great, because anyone who dares to speak the truth is labeled an Islamophobe."

Is the "deadly press" responsible for the spike in anti-Semitism in the Western world?
"Without a doubt. It has catalyzed a new wave of anti-Semitism even in those places that until recently were considered immune to such a phenomenon, such as the United States. Once Jews and Israelis are deliberately portrayed as the embodiment of evil and a modern incarnation of Nazis, the explosion of anti-Semitism is only a matter of time. The absurdity is that Israel is the only country accused of racism, apartheid and resemblance to the Nazis by the same people who are truly tainted with real racism, admire the Nazis and wish to end their project of exterminating the Jews.

"Who is the truth even interested in?" An Israeli tank in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield, photo: GPO

"As long as this absurdity reigns supreme among many opinion leaders in the West, our battle of consciousness is lost. Paranoid anti-Semitism has always played a leading role in destructive apocalyptic movements. I'm sorry, but historical experience doesn't bode well: Even in the past, cultures couldn't really stop the madness of Jew-hatred."

Have we been in a hurry in recent years to rejoice that the world is actually getting tired of Paliwood's false representations?
"The trends I identified at the beginning of the 21st century have only intensified over the past 20 years. The coverage of the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh illustrates this. The false accusation that IDF soldiers deliberately shot her is based on two witnesses, so to speak: one of them is a false liar, whose forgeries I exposed in a documentary I produced about Paliwood; The other is a pro-jihadist activist who is not credible. Nevertheless, the statements of the two men are reproduced by the media and journalists as if they were credible testimonies. When you complain about the dangers of journalism in the Middle East, you immediately pull out the case of Abu Akleh, but no one mentions another 196 journalists who were killed or murdered in the Middle East and the Arab world in the past seven years."

Even after two Israeli brothers, Hillel Weigel Yaniv, were murdered in Huwara, many media outlets around the world reported only the arson attack on the car slaughterhouse in the village and not the murder.
"Moreover, if you check websites that document the victims of Islamic terrorism, you will find that Israeli victims do not appear on the lists at all. Other burning events sometimes divert the world's attention from Israel, and then it seems to us that Israel is less discriminated against by the world media, but that this is an illusion. As soon as violence erupts again, the 'deadly press' is immediately directed at Israel. If there is a third intifada, the familiar and false motif of 'Israeli murderousness' will be redistributed in full force."

So Israel is doomed to lose the hasbara battle again?
"Israel is used to military victories, and is equally used to losing the battle for hearts and minds over and over again. Ironically, it loses it to people whose values are contrary to what the progressive camp believes. Paradoxically, since the days of the first Durban conference, the jihadists have merged with the progressive left when it comes to hating Israel and the United States. These two radical movements have found a common enemy, and that has not changed to this day.

"See, for example, how the Black Lives Matter movement sides with the Palestinians. Progressives in the West are too stupid to understand what's going on. In my new book, I try to answer the question of how liberals can support those who have made murder the primary means of their struggle. In fact, it's worse and more dangerous than the 'deadly press': progressives embrace the propaganda of their ideological enemy."

If this is the diagnosis, what is the cure?
"I don't want to sound pessimistic, but it's like immunodeficiency. The West has contracted AIDS culturally, and just like AIDS, instead of attacking an invading virus, we attack parts of our bodies. As a historian, I fear that the West, in its current state, is unable to cope with the forces that rise up against it.

"In order for us to begin to heal, we must shake off the obsession with blaming Israel, which has spread through the world of journalism, the world of NGOs and the world of international organizations.

"In addition, we must admit that Israel contributed to the escalation of the 'disease' by adopting the false 'occupation discourse' and flowing with the false assumption that if the 'occupation' stops, there will be peace. What fuels the conflict is the desire to impose Islam throughout the Middle East, not Israel's control of one territory or another. Whoever gives territories will only get war in return."

Still, what should Israel do?
"Israeli spokesmen are fighting back, but the feeling is that they are satisfied with a draw and don't really understand that the wider world is still getting a distorted picture. For example, when Hamas missiles killed ten children in Gaza's Shati refugee camp in 2014, the IDF presented without delay proof that it was done by Hamas, and even some journalists were forced to admit it. But if we examine all the media, it turns out that these findings remained mainly in the "ghetto" of the Jewish media, and did not penetrate the general media. We must not let go, expose and criticize those who provide false news and attack the credibility of Palestinian propagandists.

"You can't win the battle for hearts and minds just through stories about the wonders of the taste of falafel in Israel and how wonderful life is there. We must demand that journalists covering the Middle East be aware of what the Palestinians are saying in Arabic, to their home audience, and these are usually terrible things, the kind of admiration for Hitler. This is a war of consciousness, and it must be waged at the forefront of consciousness.

"Accusations of Islamophobia have a paralyzing effect precisely because the promoters of the Caliphate have so far won cognitive victories. These victories have to be reversed. There are a lot of Muslims who will stand by us if we only show willingness to fight back."

Lower self-righteousness

Even in the current confrontation in Israeli society over the legal reform being promoted by the Israeli government, Prof. Landes sees the signs of harm caused by the bad faith press. Particularly conspicuous, he said, was the attempt by opponents of the reform to internationalize the issue through invited and orchestrated pressure exerted on Israel through the international media and other foreign elements.

"On this issue, those who oppose the reform are trying to enlist the same journalists who contributed to the creation of the problem for Israel in the first place, and to invite American intervention, which may yet become a 'toxic drug,'" he warns. "I don't think that the rifts in Israeli society will heal as long as there is no deep soul-searching on both sides regarding the mishap dubbed the Oslo process, and the role played by false news (even those born out of good intentions) in motivating it.

"On the one hand, the peace camp responded to the jihadist terrorism born of the Oslo process in the early 2000s by accusing Israel and dismissing all critics as 'fascists,' 'extreme rightists,' 'dark messianics,' and 'destroyers of Israeli democracy.' On the other hand, those who recognized the nature of the fanatical hatred motivating Israel's neighbors interpreted this response by the peace camp as a betrayal and an alliance with Israel's enemies. The rift that has been created is reflected sharply in the displacement from Gaza, and even now."

Is there even a way to overcome this rift?
"Rifts have both cognitive and emotional aspects. We now live in an environment dominated by news fermented on social media – some of it false news, which usually no one can refute or correct. We tend to assume that those who don't think like us are motivated by bad intentions and rely on wrong sources. We won't be able to return to sanity if we don't sit down and talk, stop making understandable assumptions, recognize that the contrast between right and left is toxicly misleading, lower self-righteousness, and start a discourse that knows how to filter false news from credible news. To do so requires a capacity for self-criticism, which only a few cultures on the globe possess."

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Source: israelhayom

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