I was watching the BBCNews Channel’s Dateline London programme earlier today, anchored as always by the likeable Gavin Essler. To his right sat an Israeli diplomat, and next to him a Palestinian diplomat….if that isn’t an oxymoron.
The Palestinian bloke suggested that, after decades of prevarication, it was time for Israel to recognise the Palestinian State’s right to a seat at the UN. You sort of have to agree with that.
“Tell me, ” asked Essler ever so gently of the Arab gentleman, “Why should the Israelis recognise your seat at the UN, when you don’t recognise their right to exist at all?”
The Palestinian representative immediately began talking about disgraceful Israeli behaviour in Gaza. Nobody guided him back to the point. There was much thoughtful nodding around the table. Then the Israeli diplomat observed:
“We signed an agreement with the elected Government of Gaza, and then they disappeared….not by democratic means, I might add”.
Voices were raised. I switched over to another news channel – CNN. And there was our old friend Recep Erdogan, talking about how Israel was plotting to come between Turkey and Iran.
What has actually happened is that Erdogan has allowed NATO to install a radar defence system in his country. As a NATO ‘ally’, it would be a rum business indeed if Turkey were to refuse such a thing. But Recep’s closest chum on earth, former Iranian agent and fraudulently elected President Mahmoud Ahmahadinnejhad, has had one of his eye-rolling wobblies about it. So this is being interpreted as Israel interfering between friends.
“Should you be friends with a State like Iran?” his Arab interviewer asked politely. My question would’ve been, “Isn’t it a bit rich of you to talk about interference given your recent war-mongering about Gaza peace flotillas?”, but let that pass: Erodgan answered by saying that his best mate Mahmoud fully understood the radar defence need – neither an answer to the question…nor indeed the truth.
From a very young age – about the time Krushchev started telling the West that Russian peoples peaceloving and Americans warmongering fascists – I have had this really quite uncanny ability to tell honesty from bollocks. This is because – even at the age of ten – I was already aware of a passionate interest in media persuasion generally, and propaganda specifically. I have read, listened and even attended rallies where speakers presented up as down, green as red, and Tuesday as Marble Arch. I never accepted that the Caudillo might be quite nice really, that the Nationalist Party in South Africa treated the blacks equally, that Breshnev had no expansionist ambitions, that Vladimir Putin doesn’t want the old USSR territories back, or indeed that the Israelis are baby-skewering war criminals.
In 1965 I went to East Berlin and smelt the fear, while reading enormous placards that announced ‘The West’s collapse is imminent, long live the DDR’. Somehow, Erich Hoenneker could never explain why people were risking life and limb to get out of the dump: the nearest he got to bothering was to assert (and this is a direct quote) “Escapees to the West are nothing more than anti-social elements working for American intelligence”. Each time I pointed all this out to fellow-students in the Liverpool University politics department two years later, the laughter would go on for hours: I was a naive victim of bourgeois liberal propaganda, they insisted. As Ghandi said, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they put you in prison. Only then do you know that you’ve won”. I do not doubt that Nelson Mandela would agree with every word.
My conclusion over the years has been, nine times out of ten, that for every psychopathic political liar there are a million dupes prepared to believe his or her every word. Josef Goebbels, Eva Peron, Joe Stalin, Joe McCarthy, Verwoerd, Jacob Zuma, Robert Mugabe, Travellers’ leaders, Sadam Hussein, Charlie Whelan, Lord Mandelson, Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch, Wen Ziabao, Mao Tse Tung, Richard Nixon….it makes no difference what side of the political spectrum they’re on: mad people are mad people, and sensible democratic leaders should have little trouble in choosing the sane over the manipulatively delusional.
Bankers, multinational companies, media barons, scam artists, political power-freaks and religious maniacs will lie and lie and lie until they reach the point where, quite literally, they too believe the bollocks. George Orwell understood this, as did Norman Mailer, Aldous Huxley, Aleksander Solzhynetsin, Charles Dickens and a host of other visionaries unwilling to deny the evidence of their experience.
The profound problem we face in the West is that such discernment is almost entirely absent from our political classes. All of them at one time or another – but notably Obama, Cameron, Osborne, Sarkozy, Blair, Brown and Harman – have allied themselves with utterly undesirable people and regimes. The Berlusconis, Gadhaffis, Mugabes, Kim Il Sungs and Erdogans crave the respectability they need to retain power. Only rarely do they find a shortage of Western leaders prepared to give them such recognition.
Islamism – not moderate Islam – is the Nazism of our time. Hear what they say, but note what they do: there is always a Grand Canyon of mendacious hypocrisy between the two.
(Cue lots of threads telling me I’m an Arabophobe).