Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Media and fantasy

A serious problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the undeniable fact that for many Palestinians the goal is not to coexist with Israel in an adjacent peaceful Palestinian state, but to destroy Israel and to push its Jewish population into the Mediterranean.
More than 51% see the liberation of all historic Palestine - and the removal of Israel from the map - as the true goal of the intifada, according to JMCC's findings.
(Though it should be noted that the poll dates from 2002 and other trends seem to have improved significantly since then, so, hopefully, this idea may not be as widespread anymore as this poll suggests.)
Notwithstanding the (at best) naive statements of Mahmoud Abbas and the recent blathering of Condoleezza Rice, the Palestinian Authority is not only failing to even attempt the disarmament of terrorists, but it is actively ensuring that its population is misinformed and indoctrinated with the most vile myths about Jews, Israelis and their history. Nothing indicates this more clearly than the textbooks that are used in the schools run by the PA.

Europeans seem to be (at best) unaware of this clear lack of even good intentions on the PA's part and it is no wonder: while in no way comparable to the outright propaganda and censure practiced by the Palestinian Authority, Europeans too are in thrall to a media culture rife with bias and distortion, as can be seen from the behaviour of even the most prestigious organizations.
And here too the perceptions of children (via No Pasaran) indicate what biases trickle down from our media and society:
In January, a cartoon festival was held in the town of Carquefou, just outside of Nantes in the northwest corner of France. Students of all ages competed in a contest to illustrate their vision of the United States. They drew obese Americans devouring Coca-Cola and McDonald's hamburgers. They drew the Statue of Liberty with fangs or in chains or being run over by a wicked Uncle Sam on a motorcycle. And they drew George W. Bush: Bush riding a tank to war; Bush taking over the world; Bush as a liar; Bush as a monster.
There were a few lighthearted drawings of Hollywood and Las Vegas and fast food (hamburgers, always hamburgers) but, predominantly, from ages 8 to 18, the French students sketched images of a fierce and fearsome country. One cartoon summed up American villainy with a series of three hands. The first was a fist representing Stalin's Russia. The second was a saluting palm, representing Hitler's Germany. The third was another fist clutching a cross, representing Bush's America.
Stalin, Hitler and Bush -- one French student's axis of evil.
In the face of such things I am at a loss for words. My hope is that freedom of expression coupled with the advent of the internet, globalization and bloggers will lubricate the market of ideas in Europe, and eventually the PA, rooting out the fiction and bringing some sanity. Evidently differences will remain, as they should. What is scary and frustrating is that many conceptions people hold here are based on pure fantasy.

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