Separating truth from propaganda in the I/P conflict isn't always difficult. One good rule of thumb is that if someone on "the other side" says something so outrageously hateful that - for your purposes - it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
One well-circulated quote that has always seemed to me to be an obvious fraud is this one, allegedly spoken by Ariel Sharon to Shimon Peres on 3 October 2001, and allegedly reported on Kol Yisrael radio:
I want to tell you something very clear, don't worry about American pressure on Israel, we, the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it.Do you really believe that the Prime Minister of Israel blithely reaffirmed the old antisemitic canard about "the Jews" ruling the world, and that Voice of Israel included it in one of its news reports? Did he follow it up with, "And now Shimon, let us feast on the blood of Christian babies", or some other ludicrous Jewish caricature? God knows I'm no defender of Ariel Sharon, but there's no way he ever said any such thing. I don't know who first came up with that "quote", but I'd bet my car it wasn't Ariel Sharon. I'd bet it was fabricated by someone who themselves peddles antisemitic stereotypes, and made it up because it fit in with their own prejudices. Admittedly, my car is a 12-year-old Geo Metro, whose inoperative air conditioning system and cracked exhaust means that its resale value is about negative $1900, but the principle still stands.
And the NY Times fell for the same racist hate speech when it published an ad on behalf of the AJC yesterday. Here's the ad (click to enlarge):
I can't vouch for the accuracy of either of the quotes attributed to Hamas figures: either what they said, or what the context was. But just at a glance I know there are problems with the other two quotes. It's fairly widely known that "Israel must be wiped off the map" isn't exactly what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, but that he instead expressed the hope that the Zionist regime ruling over Jerusalem would disappear from the pages of history, just as Baathist rule in Iraq, Communist rule in the USSR and white rule in apartheid South Africa did.
And if the quote attributed to the Iranian President is problematic in that it is based on a twisted translation of what he really said, the problem attached to the genocidal anti-Jewish sentiment attributed to Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah - If the Jews all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide - is even worse.
As I have referenced in an earlier post, the problem with that quote is that Nasrallah almost certainly never said it. It is a quote attributed to Nasrallah on anti-Muslim websites just as frequently as the Ariel Sharon quote appears on conspiracy theory sites. But, as journalist Charles Glass pointed out in a letter last October to the London Review of Books, the senior staff at the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper, which is credited as the original source of the quote, don't believe that Nasrallah ever said it, and deny that the journalist who supposedly first scooped the "quote" ever interviewed Nasrallah.
Too fair to Hizbullah
From Charles Glass
Eugene Goodheart asks whether I am familiar with two statements he attributes to Hizbullah’s secretary-general, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah (Letters, 7 September). Goodheart uses the inflammatory quotations to accuse Nasrallah of being ‘an anti-semite with fantasies of genocide’. If I am unfamiliar with the statements, it is because they are in all likelihood fabrications. The first (‘If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide’) was circulated widely on neo-con websites, which give as its original source an article by Badih Chayban in Beirut’s English-language Daily Star on 23 October 2002. It seems that Chayban left the Star three years ago and moved to Washington. The Star’s managing editor writes of Chayban’s article on Nasrallah, that ‘I have faith in neither the accuracy of the translation [from Arabic to English] nor the agenda of the translator [Chayban].’ The editor-in-chief and publisher of the Star, Jamil Mrowe, adds that Chayban was ‘a reporter and briefly local desk sub and certainly did not interview Nasrallah or anyone else.’ The account of Nasrallah’s speech in the Lebanese daily As Safir for the same day makes no reference to any anti-semitic comments. Goodheart’s second quotation – ‘They [the Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment’ – comes from the Israeli government’s website at http://tinyurl.com/99hyz. For the record, a Hizbullah spokeswoman, Wafa Hoteit, denies that Nasrallah made either statement.
Goodheart wonders whether, as a former captive of Hizbullah, I may have succumbed to Stockholm syndrome; may I ask in return whether he is succumbing to the disinformation that passes for scholarship and journalism in certain quarters in the United States?
What really makes me sick about this is that if some antisemitic organisation with its own agenda to push had tried to post an ad inciting hatred of Jews in the NY Times, based on the "We Jews rule the world" comment, I am sure that all sorts of alarm bells would have gone off at the Times. I really don't believe that such an ad would ever have seen the light of day. But apparently you can get any hateful untruth or half-truth published with no trouble at all, so long as you target it at the kind of people we are conditioned to see as hate-filled caricatures. Truly, there is no hateful, inciting propaganda you cannot get away with in mainstream American discourse today, so long as your target is an Arab or a Muslim.