A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. — Mark Twain
…in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility. … the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. — Adolf Hitler
From the 1960s, inversion of truth and reality has been one the most favored propaganda methods of Israel’s adversaries. One of its most frequent expressions has been the accusation that the Jewish people, victims of the Nazis, have now become the new Nazis, aggressors and oppressors of the Palestinian Arabs. — Dr. Joel Fishman (2007)
The big lie and concomitant reality inversion has been a fabulously successful propaganda strategy for our enemies. One common inversion is to accuse Israel of the very crimes and intentions of their Arab enemies. So Zionism is equated to racism, Israel is accused of being an apartheid state, and Israelis are said to be trying to commit ‘genocide’ against the Palestinian Arabs.
And of course there is my personal favorite, “the IDF deliberately targets children,” an accusation reminiscent of the medieval blood libels:
If there ever was an inversion, this is it. No better example can be given than the recent murder of five members of the Fogel family, where one of the perpetrators returned to the house to kill a crying baby, and one said that they would have killed two other children if they had known they were present. There was the recent murder of a child when an antitank missile was fired directly at a yellow school bus. And there have been any number of ‘actions’ like the Ma’alot massacre, the Bus of Blood, the attack on the nursery at Misgav Am, etc., in which the victims were primarily children. — Vic Rosenthal (2011)
There are several reasons this technique works so well. As Mark Twain noted, it’s easy and quick to spread a lie; but refuting one effectively requires time and research, which in itself can be challenged. The paradigm case of the lie that won’t die is the accusation that IDF soldiers shot young Mohammad al-Dura in 2000, as ‘documented’ by the original ‘Pallywood’ video. Even after it was definitively proven that fire from the Israeli position could not have hit al-Dura, it remains a worldwide article of faith that this is the correct interpretation.
Hitler, who incidentally was accusing the Jews of lying in the quoted passage — and thus inverting reality — seems to have understood the technique well. In addition to the credibility a lie gets from its audaciousness, he observed that even when a lie has been refuted, “traces” remain, perhaps a propensity to believe similar lies.
There is also the “when there’s smoke, there’s fire” effect. Anti-Israel propagandists don’t just tell one lie, they tell hundreds. When one is refuted, others pop up. Someone who isn’t aware of the strategy might easily think “there has to be something behind all this.” There is, but it is an orchestrated campaign of lies.
And then we have what I call the “divorce court fallacy.” If the two sides have diametrically opposed positions, an observer is tempted to think that the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. But this is not the case if one side is audaciously lying and the other is telling the truth (or close to it).
All of these explanations in part account for the success of the big lie, but there is one other factor that is particularly important when the big lies are being told about the Jews and their state: the antisemitic prejudice that lurks just below the surface in so many minds, not excluding Jewish ones. A recent example of this phenomenon was the failure of NPR interviewer Diane Rehm and her producer to notice the absurdity of the suggestion that Sen. Bernie Sanders was a “dual citizen” of the US and Israel, or that the websites on which they ‘checked’ it were less than reliable.
One approach that Israel’s supporters have employed is to respond reactively and try to refute the lies, sometimes — as in the case of al-Dura — with too little and too late. This is necessary, but not sufficient. As we’ve seen, the big lie technique is resistant to the defensive approach. Sometimes attempts at refutation only help spread the original libel.
Another has been to ignore them, and to divert attention to the attractive aspects of the country, the economy, science and technology, liberalism, democracy, beaches, music, etc. While there is nothing wrong with doing this, it is also completely ineffective against the dark, poisonous weaponized falsehoods disseminated against us.
Much better to go on the offensive. To attack our enemies as the true murderers of children, the aspirants to the title of the greatest killers of Jews since Hitler, the oppressors of women and gays, the invaders and thieves, the ones whose ‘culture’ consists of incitement and whose heroes are terrorists.
We’ve been far too tolerant of the presumptive needs of the Palestinian Arabs, who actually have only one overriding want, which is that we will disappear and leave the land to them.
Let’s explain to the world that there was no ‘Palestinian’ civilization here, ever; that the ‘Palestinians’ suddenly turned nationalistic when it became the best way to oppose the Jews; that the Palestinian leadership worked with the Nazis and reveres them still; and that the culture they’ve built since the days of al-Husseini is sick and evil.
The Palestinian Arabs do not respect our culture, they do not respect our history, and they do not respect the truth. They don’t give a centimeter on their absurd demands, and they don’t stop inciting their youth to murder. Why should we show respect to them?
This isn’t a job for bloggers. It isn’t even for arbitrary members of the Knesset or particular newspaper writers. It should be made clear to the world that this is the official position of the Israeli government and Prime Minister.
Are we afraid that the Europeans will boycott us if we tell the truth? I have news: the only way to get them to not boycott us will be to give up and die. Then some of them, perhaps, will feel sorry for us as they do for the murdered victims of the Holocaust (although, truth be told, a considerable number of Europeans believe that the fewer Jews, the better).
Are we afraid of Barack Obama, a true believer in the Palestinian cause? What will he do, help Iran get nuclear weapons? Are we afraid of the UN? Will they issue another report to buttress the big lies of of our enemies?
In addition to taking an offensive role in the military and diplomatic spheres, we should take it in propaganda as well. Being the nice guy of the Middle East hasn’t worked for us. It’s time to stop.