Information Warfare: May 10, 2002


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has brought to the public's attention a lot of information war activities that the perpetrators would rather keep to themselves. First, there began a movement in Israel over the past few years to correct some of the historical in Israeli textbooks. Many of the atrocities and injustices committed against Palestinians early in Israel's history (particularly the 1948 war and its immediate aftermath) were ignored in textbooks covering Israel's origins. The point made, by Israeli critics, was that this left Israelis who were not alive in 1948 dangerously ignorant of those events that cause so much anger in the Palestinian community. Changes were made. But then Palestinian textbooks were examined and found to be worse, as these school books propagated the most virulent form of anti-Semitism. Further examination revealed that this approach to education was common in many Arab nations. During the current Palestinian-Israeli confrontation it got out (to the world media) something that was long known within Israel. Palestinian officials tended to say quite different things about peace with Israel depending on the audience. To non-Arab audiences, the Palestinians took a moderate line, pledging to negotiate. If nothing else, this brought in a lot of cash from Western donors to encourage peace in the area. But to Arab audiences, the main line was constant war and anti-Semitism. Some of the details of this were interesting. For example, to Arab audiences, Yasser Arafat admits that his real name is Mohammed Abdel Rahman al Qudwa al-Husseini. That much is true. But he also claims to have been born in Jerusalem. That is not true, he was born in Cairo. His claim to being born in Jerusalem is used to back up his claim to be related (as a cousin) to two prominent Hussenis; Amin al-Husseni and Faisel Husseni. Faisel is the nephew of Amin, who was the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and spent World War II in Berlin as a guest, and supporter, of Adolf Hitler. Faisel (born in 1940) became a prominent (and more moderate) Palestinian leader. There are four Husseini clans in the Israeli-Palestinian are, none of them related to each other. Arafat (who changed his name in the early 1950s) belongs to a Husseini clan from Gaza. The pro-Nazi enthusiasms of so many 1940s Arab leaders is still discussed, in Arabic to other Arabs. But this subject is carefully avoided when dealing with the non-Arab media. All of this shows that the Palestinian leadership realizes that Arab and non-Arab audiences get turned on, or off, by different messages. As a result, you get these two quite different approaches to Arab-Israeli relationships.


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