Bradley Burston
April 13, 2010 - 12:00am

Allow me to begin with a word or two about lying.

Lying in the Middle East is not the same as lying other places. In the Mideast, lying is a way of life, which is to say, it is a cultural imperative. It is at once armor and entryway. It cushions and conditions the way people feel and think, it lubricates commercial and social intercourse, it frames all political debate and negotiation.

Lying, for the permanent population of this area, is the very foundation of truth. That is to say, hereabouts, your personal set of familial, professional, and ideological lies, is the core of your identity. So if it may appear to the tourist, to the journalist, to the fair-minded researcher, that everyone here lies all the time, this is more than just appearance.

None of the foregoing, moreover, is a judgment. I live here, too. Which is to say, I lie here. I have a cursory mastery of the byzantine etiquette of greeting and parting, of bargaining in the open market, of talking politics when my interlocutor and I are on opposite poles of the spectrum and both of us are armed.

It is for this reason that or the purpose of this discussion, a more precise definition of lying is in order: Let us decide for the moment that lying is the conscious, politically motivated manipulation and selective burial of facts by people who know better.

Example 1. The Origin of the Palestinian Refugee Issue

Expert Answer A:

The immediate cause of the problem was the Arabs' rejection in 1947 of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 - which would have partitioned the British Mandate area into an Arab state and a Jewish state - and the resulting war started by the Arabs in the hope of destroying the nascent Israeli state.

Many Palestinian Arabs who lived in areas where the fighting took place abandoned their homes, either at the request of Arab leaders, or due to fear of the fighting or the uncertainty of living under Jewish rule. A refugee problem would not have been created had this war not been forced upon Israel by the Arab countries and the local Arab leadership.

Expert Answer B.

The Palestinian refugee problem arose not from a conflict in which, as claimed, the Zionist forces overcame overwhelming odds against the Arab armies and the Palestinian population voluntarily left, but from a systematic policy of ethnic cleansing....

Terror and Dispossession: Jewish underground terrorist groups such as Haganah, Irgun and Stern had the mission to terrorize the Palestinian street, destroy villages and slaughter entire Palestinian families. 34 massacres were committed within a few months ... These attacks aimed to annihilate the entire Palestinian territory and population ... Israeli forces killed an estimated 13,000 Palestinians. They forcibly evicted 737,166 Palestinians from the homes and land.

So, How Do You Know When a 'Mideast Expert' is Lying?

1. The Expert knows with certainty which of the two sides - only one - is responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and which - the same one - for the failure of Mideast peace efforts.

2. The Expert treats the civilian victims of violence on one side as individuals, but assesses collective responsibility for the violence on the whole of the other side.

The Expert speaks as though the entire civilian population of the other - call it the Dark - side, were directly, actively, complicit and thus accomplice to whatever excesses were committed in its name, and therefore deserves whatever sanction, condemnation, or reflexive collective punishment the Dark Side civilian population is about to experience.

3.Field Guide

Dark Side: Commits atrocities, war crimes, crimes against humanity.
Expert's Side: Exercises its right to self-defense.

Dark Side: Violates peace deals with impunity.
Expert's Side: Cannot move forward in light of Dark Side's bad faith.

4. The Expert hints, implies, or states outright that the actions of the DS are comparable to those of the Nazis.

5. The Expert begins, "The conflict is fundamentally very simple."

6. The Expert advocates a One State Solution, but doesn't come out and say so.

This is the intersection of lying and True Belief.

In some cases, the obfuscation about being a One Stater, or the reliance on phrases like "It is not for me to say what the solution is, only to give voice to those whose voices go unheard" may have something to do with not wanting to come right out and say that you really believe that there should be no Palestine at all, ever, or that Israel should not continue to exist. Especially when a two-state solution, as difficult as it will doubtless be to effect, is the stated goal of most parties to the conflict, including the Obama administration, the UN, the PA, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

For various reasons*, the closet One-State Expert may instead attack every other option, by the process of elimination. "Peace Plan A can't be implemented, Peace Plan B will cause civil war, Peace Plan C will cause thousands of deaths, Peace Plan D is another word for genocide ..."

Or, One Staters may use lies aimed at reinforcing their side:

"Jews should be able to live anywhere in East Jerusalem. After all, Arabs can live anywhere they want in West Jerusalem." [Untrue]

"Arab rulers have always related to their Jewish subjects with tolerance, respect, security and freedom." [Untrue]

Oddly, both in the case of pro-Israeli and pro-Palestian True Believers in their respective One State solutions, the tactic is the same: foil, undermine and otherwise ice any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

*The unstated belief on the part of the True Believers is that time is on their side, and only their side. If current trends and historical processes continue, the reasoning goes, my side will have its One State.

And what about the other? While the reply of the Expert will likely be sophisticated, the bottom line will be plain:

"They had their chance."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017