Saturday 23 May 2020

What shall we do?

When artists describe themselves as ‘self-taught’ - which they often used to announce boastfully - one could interpret that as a warning that they’re just ‘not very good’. Of course, when art colleges swapped traditional teaching for conceptual ephemera, all that changed. Nowadays, ‘self-taught’ all but evokes self-motivation and personal commitment. 

I can’t remember why I started off in that vein. It was either because I’m permanently conscious of my own deficiencies, or because I wanted to explore the woeful state of ignorance surrounding my favourite topic. (A bit of both - not an either-or.)

I’ve been watching some webinars. They make pretty painful viewing because technical bugs plague both the audio and the image. Constant freezing; fuzzy sound that keeps getting out of sync with the picture and I’d have liked proper captions to identify the speaker. 

One of the webinars I watched yesterday ‘Propaganda in Schools’ (H/T David Collier) was about the aforementioned ‘woeful ignorance’ surrounding Middle East history and the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. The misinformation and bias, or what we now call ‘fake news’  has been passed down from generation to generation, gathering ever more ludicrous moss as it goes along. 

The hour-long webinar tackles various aspects of the problem and probably has limited appeal, but what was particularly fascinating to me was the detailed description of the contents of Palestinian textbooks; explicitly Jihadist, blatantly inciting violence, glorifying martyrdom, and all to the tune that ‘Palestine’ is rightfully Muslim ‘from the river to the sea’ and that’s it. The icing on the cake was the reminder of the painful fact that we - the British taxpayer - help fund this bile through UK foreign aid. Keep an eye out for Marcus Sheff.

Melanie Phillips reports the gradual defrosting of relations between Israel and certain Arab leaders,  who are almost at the end of their tether with Mahmoud Abbas’s increasingly strident and stubborn intransigence.
 “Saudi writer Abdulhamed al Ghobain, a political activist who reportedly shares the viewpoint of the reformist Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, told BBC Arabic TV: “There is a deluge of opinions against the Palestinian cause… Unfortunately, the Palestinians have lost. The Palestinians have not contributed anything. We can say that they are emotional people whose behaviour is governed by their feelings…
“People say out in the open that they do not care about the Palestinian cause and about the Arabs in general, and that we must steer our relations in keeping with our interests. Israel is an advanced country and we can benefit from it. We should deal with reality. The relations with Israel have become warm. It is no longer just about normalization.”

One of the worst offences a Palestinian can commit these days is to show any sign at all that they’ve ever thought about ‘normalisation’ with Israel. This self-sacrificial position even precludes accepting generous offers from Israel, including direct help connected with coronavirus.

An interesting piece by Manfred Gerstenfeld in ‘Artuz Sheva’ (who looks alarmingly like Jeremy Corbyn in the illustration ) but don’t let that put you off(!) recounts that Israelis are not fully aware of how bad their image is overseas. Top in every field of excellence to which Israel cares to apply itself, but nil points for its own self-publicity.
“A few months ago, I had a brief talk with a former Israeli minister. In all sincerity this Minister believed that some Israeli ministries deal competently with antisemitism and anti-Israelism. They have been given funds to do so. The idea that ministerial employees and ministries with all their constraints can possibly deal with a complex problem like this is however absurd. 
The basics of strategy is that attack is the best defense. Palestinian extreme hate mongers are an easy target. Their leading party, Hamas, is a genocide promoter and the second largest Fatah -- and the Palestinian Authority it controls -- are murder glorifiers. The employees of a new Israeli anti-propaganda agency in their first days of employment would only have to go through the Palestinian Media Watch website to get a rapid indication of how to expose the Palestinian Arabs. Hate speech, demonizing, antisemitic cartoons, and misuse of Western funding are just a few among many topics.”
An underlying theme of the webinar was ‘what can be done about it?” I hope, by drawing the problem to the attention of people whose eyes normally gloss over at the first sound of “Israel/Palestine” that, in my self-taught clumsy, learn-as-you-go fashion, I am doing my bit. While my family (much to their irritation) would complain that I can’t be faulted on ‘personal commitment and self-motivation’ I can’t tell how effective I’ve been, if at all, over roughly a decade of trying. 

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