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Arab Propaganda and the New York Times By: Sharon Lapkin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, January 24, 2006


The New York Times published a photograph of a young Pakistani boy recently standing with an old man next to an ancient, unfired artillery shell. It placed a caption under it that read: “Pakistani men with the remains of a missile fired at a house in the Bajur tribal zone near the Afghan border.”

A short time later, the newspaper changed the caption to:Correction: A picture caption on Saturday with an article about a U.S. airstrike on a village in Pakistan misidentified an unexploded ordinance. It was not the remains of a missile fired at a house.”

The photograph – it appears – was a fake. A propaganda stunt set up by the Pakastanis to fool the Western media. It worked.

And, when Danish Muslim leaders recently toured the Islamic world with a 43-page report protesting 12 cartoons published by the newspaper Iyllands-Posten last October, they inserted an extra three into the Report for good measure. The Brussells Journal reported that the extra cartoons depicted Mohamed as a pedophile and a pigsnout, with a third, portraying a praying Muslim being raped by a dog.

Akhmad Akkari, spokesperson for the Muslim organizations involved in the tour, told The Brussels Journal that the three extra cartoons had been added to “give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims.” The truth – it appears – was considered insufficient by the 21 Danish Muslim organizations protesting the publication of pictures of their prophet, Mohamed.

The propensity to manufacture propaganda in the Arab world is traditionally accepted as a method to safeguard honor and status and to avoid shame. It is not, as David Pryce-Jones explained in The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs, a matter of morality or malice. “If honor so demands, “ he said, “lies and cheating may become absolute imperatives.” In fact, exploiting every possibility for converting shame to honor is considered a noble skill. Shia practice recognizes this predicament and permits taqyia, or “precautionary dissimulation” where Muslims can lie and cheat with religious sanctity.

Back in 2002, Palestinian media reported that Israel had committed the “massacre of the 21st century.” The refugee camp in Jenin, it claimed, was the burial ground of “hundreds of martyrs.” The Weekly Standard reported that Palestinian UN representative, Nasser al-Kidwa told CNN:

There's almost a massacre now taking place in Jenin. Helicopter gun ships are throwing missiles at one square kilometer packed with almost 15,000 people in a refugee camp. . . .Just look at the TV and watch, watch what the--what the Israel forces are doing. . . This is a war crime, clear war crime, witnessed by the whole world, preventing ambulances, preventing people from being buried. I mean this is an all-out assault against the whole population.

After the United Nations called emergency meetings and the world’s press published first-hand accounts of Israeli atrocities — they reluctantly discovered that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax. Arafat had called for “a million martyrs to march to Jerusalem” and inventing a massacre had provided a world stage for his propaganda machine. But, truth was the real massacre as the West climbed upon Arafat’s stage and danced his mountebank waltz.

When the Hollywood Foreign Press Association celebrated the morally repugnant subject of suicide bombing and rewarded its adaptation to a Hollywood template by presenting Paradise Now with a Golden Globe, the truth was in jeopardy again. Studded with historical inaccuracies and romanticized terrorists, the film attempts to normalize everyday mass murder by portraying murderers as misunderstood victims who kill innocents to create justice
The film’s producers couldn’t have known when they inserted historical inaccuracies into the script that the Hollywood entertainment industry would grant them “precautionary dissimulation” and then put gold in their pockets to reward them for their dishonesty.

And when the wannabe suicide bomber, Khaled, announced in the film that “the Palestinians have exhausted every political means” to achieving “a two-state solution”, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association forgot about 1937, 1947, 1967 and 2001, when the Jews accepted the partition of Palestine/Israel, but the Arabs rejected a two-state compromise. They chose instead, to adhere to the film’s representation where their newfound favourite actors could safely remain victims.

Hollywood gave Golden Globe winner, Hany Abu-Assad, the world stage and several million people to listen to his claim that the award was “a recognition that the Palestinians deserve their liberty and equality unconditionally.” They didn’t ask him why they’d already knocked it back four times and Hollywood didn’t appear concerned with the real historical details.

So, while it is clear that Arabs exercise taqyia to promote honor and prestige, it is unclear why the West is continually drawn into this charade. Recognizing trickery and deciphering propaganda have become essential modern day skills in the interpretation of Arab behaviour. David Pryce-Jones noted that for Arabs “Information control, which may or may not include lying, is the only effective strategy for arbitrating between honor and shame...”

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