Landes Discusses Pallywood Theory

By Coleman E. Shear

On November 11th, Boston University Professor Richard Landes came to Dartmouth to speak about jihadi cognitive warfare and its effects on the US media at the invitation of Dartmouth Chabad and Hillel. Landes’s area of expertise is Medieval History, an area that gives him an interesting perspective on current events: Landes drew comparisons, for instance, between medieval rumors of blood libel and the fashion in which Jews are portrayed in the modern Arab and left-wing European media today. The thesis of Landes’ lecture was that jihadi cognitive warfare is eroding Western civilization from within: without losing a single battle in the war on terror, Landes argued that the West might yet lose itself to radical Islamists.



Professor Richard Landes
Landes began his lecture by discussing the effects of what he described as psychological warfare, disseminated by Palestinians to the international community, a phenomenon he referred to as “Pallywood.”  “Pallywood” production centers allow the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to manufacture fictional events and “atrocities” by Israeli troops, and greatly exaggerate the events that do happen.

Landes admits that Palestinian suffering is real. He suggested that his views — which were once more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause — changed drastically after the failed Camp David summit of 2000, when Landes says he was dismayed by the Palestinian Authority’s behavior in refusing an offer of land for peace. This event caused Landes to conclude that Palestinians did not want peaceful coexistence with their Jewish neighbors, but wanted to slowly gobble up Israeli territory and erode Israel’s morale from within, views further confirmed by the violent Palestinian reaction to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and dismantlement of its settlements there, which saw Hamas firing rockets at civilian targets. And yet, despite all the facts being on Israel’s side, Palestinians have managed to win the support of Western liberals through their shrewd use of imagery.

In fact, one of the most iconic images of the Second Intifada never happened at all.  A famous photo claims to depict the killing of Muhammad Al-Durrah, a Palestinian twelve year old, by the IDF, while his wounded father tried to use his body to shield his dying son. According to the European media, this is the fate that they met at the hands of Israeli soldiers while protesting the “occupation” in Gaza. The image that the Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma showed was one of brutal Israeli soldiers gunning down an innocent Palestinian boy, meant to conjure up a famous Warsaw Ghetto Uprising photo, in which German soldiers escort a young boy out of the Ghetto at gunpoint. In 1982, Beiruit was compared to Warsaw by the European media almost daily. It has become fashionable in Europe to believe that the Jews are the new Nazis.

But there is evidence to show that this powerful image was a hoax. Israel would not come out and say this until 2007, because the government feared that public opinion would never believe it. The cameraman, Talal Abu Rahma, never showed the complete footage, and in fact the Palestinian Authority never displayed the boy’s body. The boy is also clearly seen moving after he has supposedly been hit in the stomach, and not grabbing his stomach, which most doctors have stated is the normal reaction of someone shot in the stomach.  The boy’s body is never seen, and when Israeli investigators returned to the scene to investigate, they found light red fake blood instead of the dark stains of old blood.  The pictures of Muhammad Al-Durrah’s body were compared to the images from the video and experts confirmed that it wasn’t the same boy. Despite all of these facts pointing to a hoax, the French media decided to show the footage on France 2 anyway, after which Landes argued that this was a hoax in a French court of law.

It was no matter: the image of Al-Durrah proved to be so powerful that it stoked the fires of the intifada. Pre Al-Durrah, only 25% of Palestinians polled stated that they supported suicide bombings. Post Al-Durrah, it skyrocketed to 80%. The number of minutes that Al-Durrah was shown on Al-Jazeera correlated directly with how violent the intifada was on a particular day.

One of the problems with the Western media now is that they don’t care that many of the events that they film in the West Bank and Gaza are staged because they have convinced themselves that these events happen all the time anyway. Often, a large group of Palestinian youths provoke Israeli soldiers into a confrontation by throwing stones at them. Charles Enderlin, the French reporter who covered the Al-Durrah incident claims that, “This is not staging its playing for the camera… that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t true… they wanted to be filmed throwing Molotov cocktails and being shot with rubber bullets… That’s not staging, it’s reality.” To justify his exploitation of the truth Enderlin stated, “They do it all the time”, when talking about Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian children. He had no problem running the story because regardless of whether it happened or not, according to the European media, it happens “all the time” and therefore should be shown anyway even if it is manufactured news. Landes describes this attitude as “[misstating] the news to reach a higher truth.” These are not just reporters but crusaders out to cure the world of all its injustice.  Israel is another scene of light skinned Europeans (a questionable generalization itself) committing crimes against darker indigenous peoples; a new South Africa.  The Muhammad Al-Durrah image spread like wildfire throughout the Arab world and ran daily on Al-Jazeera, in a direct parallel of the blood libel imagery of ages past.  All this surrounding a crime that never took place.

Muslim extremists, although in the minority of Muslims, are currently engaged in asymmetrical warfare with the western world. They realize that a classic military victory is impossible and therefore seek to make Western society weaken itself.  Liberals in the West feeling guilty for colonialism and their own wellbeing lap up manufactured images and blame Israel and western nations for propping up the “Zionist crusader state”. In the late 19th century, it was often the European right that was accused of anti-Semitism, especially after the famed Dreyfus Affair in France.  Extreme anti-Semitism went hand in hand with ultra-nationalism throughout Europe. Fascism, of course, is not a force from the right wing, but forges both nationalism and collectivism.  Today anti-Semitism in Europe comes from the left and it is considered part of the canon of Europe’s political correctness.

After the Muhammad Al-Durrah footage was run on French television, attacks on Jews in France became an almost daily occurrence and Muslim immigrants targeted synagogues throughout France.  Throughout Europe, Muslims associate Jews with the state of Israel and feel that they have a right to attack them.  The Left does not help the situation by providing a welfare state that allows immigrants to have more children then they can afford and promoting a cultural relativism that has even gone so far as suggesting that Europeans allow Muslims to rule their own neighborhoods under Sharia. These are the fruits of a successful PR campaign to portray Palestinians and all Muslims as being wronged and oppressed and the victims of a Zionist conspiracy.

That Israel commits human rights violations is now viewed as fact by many Europeans is a testament to how successful the Islamic fundamentalists have been in European discourse. Landes recalled giving a speech in Budapest where one of the people who was hosting the lecture interrupted his statement that the IDF is one of the most moral armies in the world by saying that “everyone knows that Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian kids.” It is rarely publicly questioned in Europe that Israelis are the new Nazis and that if Israel didn’t exist all of Europe’s problems with Islamic fundamentalism would go away.  Landes recalled a 2003 anti-Iraq war protest in Paris, where Jews participating in an anti-war rally were beaten up by Palestinian youths carrying Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein banners.  The irony of this story is that these were Jewish liberals who wanted to protest alongside Muslims against the Iraq War. These Muslim youths didn’t care that these Jews held similar opinions about world politics; they beat them up anyway because they were Jews. The European left will wake up one day and find out that the people they have hopped into the bed with don’t share their “liberal” values, and that cultural relativism has destroyed the open society that it valued most.

The West’s response to this PR onslaught has largely been a poor one. Europeans have largely acted how the Muslim Fundamentalists want them to act by giving in. From the Danish Muhammad cartoons to comments by the Pope, Europeans have largely given into all threats by angry Muslims and have apologized for insults real or imagined rather than defend freedom of speech in their own nations. They have even taken their anger out on their Jewish populations. After Al-Durrah, Catherine Nay from Europe 1 said, “This death annuls that of the little boy in the Warsaw Ghetto.” Europe no longer has to atone for the Holocaust because it is now the Jews that are the aggressors.  Europe’s problems with violent Muslim fundamentalists are not caused by Muslim fundamentalists but by Europe’s Jewish population.

One of the greatest reasons that the West is losing the media war is because our freedom puts our enemies at great advantage, Landes believes. The media publishes stories that they know will sell and attract viewers. For this reason, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict received over a hundred times more coverage than the conflict in the Congo between 1989-2009, despite the latter fighting resulting in 540 times more deaths.  Liberals perceive the Congo as black on black violence not worth their time, while Israel is viewed as a European crime that has the bonus of exorcising Europe’s Holocaust guilt because in the eyes of the Europeans the Jews are the new Nazis.

The Islamic Fundamentalist PR machine, of which “Pallywood” is a part, is eroding confidence in the West, destroying it from within without even a major military victory and potentially dooming freedom and democracy along with Western civilization.

It is important that the media seeks to be less biased in its coverage of the Middle East and that it seeks to bring to the attention of the world other horrible situations and not just the ones into which they can weave a Neo-Colonialism narrative. The lack of journalistic integrity amongst the European media when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an embarrassment that has gone on for too long.