Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The PalArab rumor weapon

One of the most used weapons in the Palestinian Arab arsenal is the rumor.

Some Palestinian Arab leaders like to burnish their own images and self-importance by starting rumors - usually baseless - that they hope will result in actions that will benefit them.

Rumors work particularly well in the Arab world. While everyone is predisposed to believe rumors that conform to their own worldview, Arabs are more likely to perpetuate and amplify rumors. The Arab media, which admittedly has improved a lot in recent years, will still publish and propagate rumors without fact checking way too often.

Nothing incites Arabs, especially Arab Muslims, more than rumors that attack their honor.

The 1921 Arab riots against Jews started from a rumor that Jews had killed Arabs.

The 1929 Arab pogroms started from a pure rumor that Zionists had cursed Mohammed and had attacked Muslims in front of the Western Wall.

The 1987 intifada was sparked by rumors that four Arab victims of a car accident were in fact killed by Israelis.

The 1996 Temple Tunnel riots were likewise sparked by false rumors about Israel's digging under the foundations of Al Aqsa.

The Mohammed cartoon riots, a large part of the Palestinian Arab flight from their homes in 1948, and any number of other events have been fueled by rumors - sometimes purposefully planted, sometimes just wishful thinking (as in the Apollo 11 rumor that I had mentioned recently.)

By any measure, however, a large number of people have been killed because of the Arab propensity to believe rumors, and in many cases these rumors are started purposefully to create just such a violent atmosphere.

The most prevalent recent rumors, as had many of the past, focused on supposed Jewish desecration of the Al Aqsa mosque. Every couple of weeks, a press conference is held by some Palestinian Arab Muslim leader who warns the Arab world of Jewish plans to dig underneath the foundations, to expell thousands of Palestinian Arabs from Jerusalem, and, more recently, to build a synagogue on the Temple Mount.

These rumors have been growing more hysterical and more fanciful with every telling. It is hard to imagine that these are not coordinated efforts by some Palestinian Muslim leaders - possibly associated with the PA, but maybe not - to fan the flames of anger in the Arab world in an effort to start a new uprising, this time not only an intifada but an "extrafada" that would engulf the entire Muslim world.

It appears that these recent efforts have been largely ignored by most Muslims outside the territories. This has not dissuaded the rumormongers; it only makes them try to redouble their efforts to anger world Muslims by embellishing and adding to their lies, secure in the knowledge that no Arab or Muslim newspaper would dare contradict any story that shows Zionist Jews to be anything less than pure evil.

The Jerusalem rumors have hit a new level in the past few days. As Ma'an (Arabic) reports:
The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs demanded a need to hold an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers to take necessary action to protect the city of Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque; [and they also demanded] the formation of an international commission of inquiry on the "criminal" practices of the occupation in their excavations under the Al Aqsa mosque.

[There were reports] earlier in the media that Israeli extremists are preparing to rocket shelling of the Al Aqsa Mosque in the month of Ramadan. Palestinian sources said that Jewish settlers had already brought rocket launchers to the Old City of occupied Jerusalem.
And the Ma'an story is illustrated with a picture that appears to be a stereotypical Israeli settler in front of an array of rockets, taken from an Israeli newspaper but obviously way out of context (not to mention probably Photoshopped.)

It is no coincidence that this rumor arose on the anniversary of the 1969 arson attack of the Temple Mount by an Australian Christian, an event that itself was falsely rumored - and probably still widely believed - to have been done by Jews.

This rumor that Jews are planning a rocket attack on the Temple Mount, as many before it, is simply incitement to murder Jews.

Whether this rumor will gain traction is yet to be seen, but the fact that there has been a clear escalating pattern of rumors over the past few months - all centered on the Al Aqsa mosque - indicates that some group is consciously trying to start a new conflagration in Jerusalem.

And neither the PA nor the PalArab media is doing anything to stop it.