HisStory and TheirStory
Submitted to the IMEMC by. Dr. Christof Lehmann
I hope that the reader will bear over with me for inventing the word theirstory, but if history is written by those who are victorious and powerful enough to position them selves and their narratives about historical events into acceptance by mainstream historians and media, then, what else should one call the narratives of those who have suffered defeat. Palestinians have for decades suffered from being in the position of the defeated.
Their history is theirstory, the one that does not make it into the textbooks of history. When dealing with human beings and their emotional as well as intellectual frailties however, the fact that those who write history are the one that are victorious, and those who write theirstory are those who have suffered defeat does neither validate history nor theirstory. Both usually are “a” story, a narrative about a discourse, as seen form a particular perspective.
The language of political discourse is generally speaking, and by virtue of the nature of politics, dominated by attempts to position one self and others. From perceived positions derive perceived rights and privileges as well as perceived duties and obligations for one self and others. Scapegoating is but one of the many tactics that are applied in the political game of positioning one self and ones interests in the most favorable manner, while positioning ones adversary much less favorably.
Spin Doctors or Propaganda Experts are playing a crucial role; so do lobbies, economy, geopolitical considerations and a cohort of other factors one can easily identify. Sadly, the abuse of the language of the political discourse has contributed considerably to prolonging the dispute between Palestine and Israel. Decades of conflict, and unimaginable human suffering of both Palestinian and Israeli individuals, families, communities would not have been possible without eliciting a world wide demand to bring an end to the suffering; That is, if only the conflict would have been presented in a factual manner; That is, if media and entertainment industry would not have been playing a crucial role in dehumanizing one side of the conflict, while eliciting the suffering of the other.
A very well researched and documented movie produced by The Media Education Foundation, REAL BAD ARABS, demonstrates how badly Hollywood has contributed to positioning the Arab people as uncivilized, brutal villains, terrorists, and right out inhumane, or sub human (1).
In the movie, featuring Dr. Jack Shaheen, Dr. Shaheen documents that Arabs are being positioned as the most malign group in the history of Hollywood. Rightfully Dr. Shaheen is drawing the comparison between the way Hollywood has been and is positioning Arabs as sub-human, with that of the German National Socialists positioning of Jews as Untermenschen.(ibid.)
In both cases, in that of the positioning of Jews and the inhuman suffering that has been inflicted on European Jews during the National Socialist Era in Germany, and the ongoing positioning of Arabs as sub-human, and the suffering of Palestinians, the effect of the positioning is a significant increase in general populations accept of politically motivated violence as legitimate means to solve political conflicts.
This includes politicians who grew up with the stereotyping media and entertainment.
In his book “REAL BAD ARABS, How Hollywood Vilifies a People ” (2), Dr. Jack G. Shaheen looked at more than one thousand movies, from the oldest archives of Hollywood movies to the greatest “Blockbuster” movies up to 2001. Shaheen elicits the stereotypes that rob a whole people of their humanity.
One could say that Dr. Shaheen is demonstrating on Hollywood productions, that what the renown Palestinian scholar Edward W. Said has described as “Orientalism” (3). While Said analyzed the stereotyping of all people of Asia Minor to East and South East Asia, Shaheen particularly analyzes the position Hollywood determines for Arabs.
In the movie “REAL BAD ARABS“, Dr. Jack Shaheen elicits that the Disney Classic “Aladdin” that has been and is being seen by millions of people world wide, is recycling all the old stereotypes. The song at the beginning of the movie is setting the scene. “Where they cut off your ear if they don´t like your face, it´s barbaric, but hey…, it´s home.” People world wide, and particularly children, are coached into believing that Arabland is a place where innocent women have their hands amputated for forgetting to pay at the bazaar.
In other movies Arab men are described as imbecilic super-rich, as sex addicted tyrants who mistreat their woman, and most importantly, American women. Women are kidnapped and sold of to sleazy Arabs in auctions. Dr. Shaheen elicits that over three hundred movies, nearly 25 % of all Hollywood movies in one way or the other demean Arabs. (ibid.)
With respect to demeaning an entire people, the same could be said about the countless movies produced during and subsequent to World War Two, who depict the German people as beasts, inhumane monsters, and genocidal maniacs.
Countless Hollywood productions elicit the legitimate suffering of the Jewish people during world war two. As far as I am aware there has not ever been a Hollywood production that elicits the suffering of the at least 25.000 Germans that were burned to death during the bombing and total destruction of Dresden (4), or the at least 17.600 Germans that were burned to death after a 20 minutes bombing raid over Pforzheim (5).
The author of this article has lost almost all of his family during the bombing of Dresden and grew up without ever having a grandfather or grandmother, a great grandfather or great grandmother, uncles, or aunts from his fathers side of the family.
Is that suffering not legitimate? Is the suffering of those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that of those left behind not legitimate human suffering. The fact is, that human beings are kind hearted by nature, and we do not wish to inflict pain and suffering on fellow human beings, as long as those fellow human beings are granted their dignity as human beings, and not being systematically dehumanized and stripped for all human value.
Dr. Jack G. Shaheen elicits in both the movie and the book “REAL BAD ARABS“, that Hollywood and politics go hand in hand in dehumanizing Arabs. Further, he documents that the dehumanization of Arabs began subsequent to World War Two.
The Palestinian Israeli conflict, in which the USA unequivocally supported Israel, the Arab Oil Embargo in the seventies, and the revolution in Iran have been the main driving and motivating factors behind the dehumanization in Hollywood productions. (ibid)
Ever since the founding of the state of Israel, every single US-Administration has unequivocally declared that it is committed to what is often called “The American Israeli Friendship”, or by other euphemisms for the unwavering support of Israel, no matter what, and no matter what violations of international law it commits.
On the other hand, the USSR was known for it´s unequivocal support of the Palestinian course, more or less regardless what violations of international law there were committed by the militant member organizations of the PLO.
In todays Russia, this support is more critical, but it is mainly driven by geopolitical rather than human rights considerations. The people of Israel and Palestine, Arabs, Christians and Jews alike have been, and are still the pawns in superpowers geopolitical stratagems.
Policies impact consensus reality by means of media and the entertainment industry. Consensus reality determines if a people is perceived as human beings, with all the legal, ethical, and moral consequences it implies, or if a people is perceived as sub-human, whose suffering can be tolerated or condoned; if a people can be murdered with impunity. In REAL BAD ARABS (ibid.)
Dr. Shaheen is drawing attention to the many Hollywood movies that are produced with the help of the US-Department of Defense, referring to numerous movies where the murder of Arabs is glorified. But it does not stop there.
The Pentagon, as well as other defense departments world wide, invest in Media Corporations, infiltrate media with so called “experts and analysts” with ties to civilian and military intelligence services and armed forces. Even the book market is to a large degree controlled by government and military censorship, as demonstrated by the case of Lt. Col. Anthony Schaeffer, whose book “Operation Dark Heart“(6) the Pentagon tried to prevent from entering the market. (7)
After growing up and being indoctrinated to the degree that Arabs utterly have lost their humanity, after growing up and daily being influenced by media reports that are designed to deprive Arabs of their value and dignity as human beings, and after growing up with a constant stream of so called entertainment that vilifies Arabs while it glorifies the murdering of them without the slightest concern about their humanity, is it surprising, that the populations of the West silently and complicity accept the daily violence that is committed against the people of Palestine, or the recent massacres of tens of thousands of Libyans.
After all, Libya has supported the PLO and Palestinians for decades, so Libyans must be heartless terrorists, whom Western military forces and hired mercenaries can massacre with impunity in the tens of thousands.
After all, what those people in the West have learned from early childhood via Disney cartoons such as Aladdin, and countless other dehumanizing productions is, that the Arabs, and for most Westerners Libyans are perceived as an Arab country, can be murdered and massacred with impunity. They are, after all barbaric and sub-human, we have learned it from the get go.
The reason why the suffering of the People of Palestine is not perceived as legitimate suffering, on an equal scale with the suffering of the Jewish people in Europe during World War Two, and the suffering of Israelis who are killed by Palestinians is, that the governments of Western countries systematically have deprived the people of Palestine from their humanity.
It is a fact that human being has an innate resistance against taking another human beings life. As long as we are not speaking in terms of psycho-pathology, it takes months of rigorous military training, before a person can overcome this innate human trait.
It does not matter if one analyzes this aversion against taking another human beings life from a purely moral or ethical perspective, or if one analyzes it from an evolutionary perspective. Our innate unwillingness against taking another human beings life is meaningful, and has the function to preserve ourselves as a species and human civilization.
We can establish as fact, that there is history and theirstory. Both are equally invalid. While history is a function of political control for those who are in positions of relative power, which can be instrumental for dehumanizing others, and for providing apparent legitimacy for the oppression of others, theirstory is often instrumental in recruiting resistance against the dominant powers while dehumanizing the oppressor.
Neither the decades long conflict in Palestine or Israel nor any other conflict can be truly understood, let alone be solved, by a rhetoric approach to the language of the discourse.
Language is a powerful instrument that contributes to a great degree in determining our thinking and our actions. Problems in conflicts are only truly comprehended and solved by a language that is free from positioning, scapegoating, and dehumanizing one, while providing legitimacy to the other. Without the foundation of a pure and factual language to the discourse, even if one is aiming for peace, it is almost impossible to discern which arguments in the Palestinian – Israeli discourse are legitimate and valid, and which are not.
END of Part ONE
All opinions presented in this piece are the opinions and analysis of their author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the IMEMC.
About the Author:
Dr. Christof Lehmann is a clinical psychologist as well as political advisor. Besides his clinical work, Dr. Lehmann has for now 29 years been working as political advisor.
HIs clients, include 2 Presidents, one Prime Minister, and many other high profile politicians. Among them, in 1982, H.E., the late Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat.
Dr. Lehmann is a life long peace activist and advocate for Palestinians right to statehood, self-determination, the right to return, an end of the occupation.
On August 28 2011, Dr. Lehmann started the news blog nsnbc to help break western media´s embargo on truth. My articles are published worldwide.
References for All parts of this piece
1. Real Bad Arabs; Movie, Media Education Foundation.
2. Jack G. Shaheen (2001); HYPERLINK ‘http://www.amazon.com/Reel-Bad-Arabs-Hollywood-Vilifies…63887‘ ‘_blank’ REAL BAD ARABS, How Hollywood Vilifies A People” Olive Branch Press, New York, New Hampton.
3. Said Edward G. (1978); HYPERLINK ‘http://www.amazon.com/Orientalism-Edward-W-Said/dp/0394…4067X‘ l ‘eader_039474067X’ ‘_blank’ Orientalism , Random House, USA.
4. The Bombing of Dresden in WW II. Wikipedia. https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Bombing_…ar_II
5. The Bombing of Pforzheim in WW II. Wikipedia. https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Bombing_…ar_II
6. Schaeffer Anthony Lt. Col. (2010); Operation Dark Heart , St. Martins Press, New York.
7. Chris McGreal (2010); Pentagon Tries to stop book, publishing details of US Black-Ops in Pakistan. http://www.pakistankakhudahafiz.com/2010/09/16/pentagon…eart/
8. Moghaddam F. and Marsella (2004); Understanding Terrorism, American Psychological Association, Washington, USA. pp. 91-102.
9. Mandelstam P. (2001, December 29). IRA aims make them freedom fighters, says Mandelstam. The London Times, p.2
10. Moghaddam Fathali M.; The Staircase to Terrorism. Georgetown University. http://fathalimoghaddam.com/upload/doc/1256627851.pdf
11. Teleology – Wikipedia. https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Teleology
12. Der Ewige Jude; Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/der….html
13. Stannard David E. (1996); The Dangers of Calling the Holocaust Unique, The Chronicle of Higher Education. http://www.codoh.com/reference/dangofcall.html
14. Congo Free State – Wikipedia. https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Congo_Fr…State
15. Norman Finkelstein Biography. http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/biography/
16. Finkelstein Norman (2001), The Holocaust Industry, Verso, London, New York
17. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 – Wikipedia. https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Balfour_…_1917
18. Press Release about recognition of Israel. http://www.archives.gov/global-pages/larger-image.html?….html
19. Recognition of the State of Israel. Palestine Facts. http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_independence_recogniti…o.php
20. Littlewood Stuart (2011); Shalit got off lightly, nsnbc no spin news. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/shalit-got-off-li…htly/