Industry of Lies: Answer to fake news and fake academia
The subject matter of this book can make your blood boil. But reading it made me smile.
First of all, the title is quite unique in our contemporary world: Industry of Lies: Media, Academia, and the Israeli-Arab Conflict. Until the 1980s, the conflict was, indeed, called the Israeli-Arab conflict. Once the Arabs in Judea & Samaria caught on that they would win more propaganda points by calling themselves Palestinians, the term Israeli-Palestinian conflict was adopted and the entire framing of the problem underwent a revolution. The title of Yemini’s book hints that he is going to cut through misnomers and distortions and bring us a more accurate account than we are used to seeing.
And what about the term, industry? “Industry” implies a concerted effort with the express purpose of lying about Israel, of manufacturing a product called Israel that is very different from the Israel that lives and breathes on the land of her forefathers and foremothers. And those involved in this industry gleefully sell their product to a naive consumer who gobbles up the collection of lies as if it was a gourmet meal and not what it really is: rancid falafel deep fried in old oil and served in stale pita.
Ben-Dror could no longer bear standing by as this odious industry weaves its evil in the world. He loves Israel and believes in Israel too much to let it go on unchallenged:
As time went on, it became clear that I was wrong [in not opposing the lies]. In recent decades, the public debate over Israel across the Western world has shifted, notably from a conversation about the possibility of reaching a comprehensive peace agreement to a conversation about whether or not Israel should be boycotted and condemned, sometimes as an evil regime along the lines of Nazi Germany or apartheid-era South Africa.
The lies have now become the central issue.
And this volume, first published in Hebrew in 2014 and now in an updated edition in English, is his answer to the lies.
My experience reading Industry of Lies
It was easy to recognize early on that Ben-Dror Yemini is a political leftist. That means that he believes in the two-state solution for the Israeli-Arab conflict: out of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, there should be one state for Jews and one state for the Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians. He apparently would like to see the settlements in Judea & Samaria dismantled in service of this goal. It is not clear, however, if he is talking merely of the more isolated settlements or if he is referring to the communities in Area C, those which his more right-leaning compatriots (like me) think should be annexed to Israel outright even now. In any case, throughout my reading, I kept on blurting out “Yes! Yes!” while, at the same time, wondering how it is that this leftist knows the truths, calls out the lies, and remains leftist.
I am distressed by my left-leaning friends, who go on and on about “narratives,” implying that we can replace knowledge of history with acceptance of narratives, even if these fly in the face of what we know. They tell me that peace can only be achieved when we accept the Nakba narrative of the Palestinian Arabs and assume the guilt associated with it. When I try to talk about history and historical context, they shut me down. They are not interested.
Therefore, I read Industry of Lies with a smile of relief. Here is a leftist who acknowledges the importance of truth and history and context. He even dedicated his book to the likes of Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others. He says that he wrote it for them and he hopes they read it with an open mind. I doubt they will. Just as I doubt my friends will be interested in having their theories shattered.
One thing I particularly like about Industry of Lies is its tone. He got emotional only in face of the blatant lies and evil liars. At the same time, his love of Israel reverberated throughout. He demonstrates respect toward those who have naively fallen under the spell of the liars, assuming that they have the best of intentions, that they love Israel as he does and only want peace. He thinks they are wrong, but he does not label them as self-haters, something we see so often in the social media. For me, as a right-leaning somewhat-anti-two-stater, I found this refreshing.
And I find that it is helping me hold onto a stance that does not demonize those to my left but, rather attempts to understand them, as I tried to do in this article. Ben-Dror Yemini, the knowledgeable leftist, reminds us that there can be those who know the facts, separate them out from the lies, and yet still believe in the two-state-solution. I can debate the issues with Yemini and others like him because we agree on the context and the framework of the problem. If I can get him out of his one-state-two-state box, then we can brainstorm. And if the Arabs who feel the same way join us, we might even find a solution.
Yemini succinctly and elegantly combats the lies told about Israel in this incredibly well researched book. Each chapter has a list of notes showing his sources, in some cases numbering dozens, while over 100 sources were used in two chapters. He has read the liars (hard to stomach, in many cases), primary historical documents, and truthful scholarly articles. For that reason, this book should be a basic text in Middle East academic programmes around the world.
Industry of Lies should sit on the bookshelves (or in the ebook collections) of all who care about Israel and Palestinian Arabs. Whether you simply want to know the truth for yourself or if you want to have more solid material to use when confronting Israel-hatred on university campuses or the social media, this book will equip you well.
Some Issues with which I have problems
Firstly, there is an entire chapter devoted to the context of the time in which Israel was declared a modern state. Wars created masses of refugees and displaced persons. For the sake of stability, it was considered beneficial to engage in population transfers, thus ensuring relative homogeneity of ethnicities within sovereign boundaries. On page, 24, Yemini writes:
Today, there is extensive cooperation between the countries, despite the shadows of the past. Instead of demanding a “right of return,” Poland and Ukraine merely debate the question of historical responsibility, as well as the numbers involved.
Given this understanding, I wonder why Ben-Dror is so adamantly opposed to the communities in Judea & Samaria, more specifically, Area C. In Area C, there is a very large majority of Jews. On the other hand, if his opposition to settlements only includes those outside of Area C, then he should make that clear in his book.
Secondly, on page 29, he makes this statement:
From the outset, all of Mandatory Palestine was meant to serve as a “national home for the Jewish people.” When the United Nations voted on partition in 1947, all Arab states waged a diplomatic campaign to block the passage of the recommendation . . . [emphasis added]
The recommended partition was of an already partitioned Mandatory Palestine. An Arab state, Jordan, had been carved out of what was meant to be a Jewish national home, and this should be made clear whenever partition is discussed. Over half of what had been intended for the Jews was given to the Arabs before a second Partition Plan was suggested and further dividing of the land between the Jews and the Arabs proposed.
Thirdly, throughout the book, Yemini refers to the West Bank. I wonder why he uses that name instead of its real name, Judea & Samaria. After all, West Bank is the name given by the Jordanian occupational regime, just as the name Palestine was once applied by the conquering Romans who occupied the Israelite kingdoms. Names are important. Names denote ownership — a belonging to the land. Renaming has been the historical means for cutting off indigenous peoples from their very own lands. Since Ben-Dror has written an entire book about lies, I wonder why he repeats this particular lie and, in effect, cements it in the psyche of readers to whom he has declared himself an expert in anti-Israel lies.
Quotable Quotes from Industry of Lies
There are pearls to be found on so many of the 331 pages of text in Yemini’s book. I will provide you with only a small selection of these, knowing full well that others may have found other statements more striking or noteworthy.
Israel has no connection to and never had a connection to any of the bloodiest wars that have been waged since its inception. . . . but the world media barely covers them. Far fewer research institutes and university chairs deal with them. But the Israeli-Arab conflict, whose relative contribution to violence and to the number of refugees in the world is marginal, has mysteriously because “the most dangerous country to world peace.” The focus on it is nothing short of obsessive.
Zionism has been stripped of its authenticity as a legitimate movement for self-emancipation.
But when subjective narratives clash so irreconcilably, it is imperative that ordinary people who wish to see peace arrive keep a handle on objective historical facts.
The industry of lies has created one of the greatest frauds of recent decades–a fraud of historic, even epic, proportions. However, the fraud was not created by professional propagandists. What is chilling is it originates not with public relations people but with members of academia, the media, and human rights organizations. Many of them are straightforward, decent, well-intentioned people. They want a better world. That does not lessen the severity of the fraud; it only increases our difficulty in dealing with it.
The result is that Israel has become the devil incarnate in the eyes of many otherwise good and reasonable people–people who genuinely want to see peace but inadvertently contribute to the creation of a monster. The tragedy is that they are not helping the Palestinians. They are not promoting agreement or reconciliation.
When it comes to Israel, the lie has become the truth, and the truth has become a lie.
This, then, is the true picture. The international community supported transfer. The International Court of Justice provided legal justifications for it. Almost all the Arab leaders supported the idea to some extent or another. . . . The real surprise is the minimal support that the idea garnered within the Zionist movement. This has not stopped historians with an “agenda” . . . from turning the fact on their head, claiming that such sporadic expressions of support and passing references amounted to a full-throated endorsement.
Indeed, there is a certain species of scholar who has no need for facts.
But here, again and again, academics throw out wild statements they cannot possibly back up. . . . There is a system here. When politicians, journalists, and academics want to demonstrate how enlightened they are, or just how much they adhere to post-colonialism, they look for a scapegoat and always find one in Israel.
The world is sane–until it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
The Palestinians are indeed victims–of their own choices, of their leadership, of the Arab states that exploited them, and of the naive international community that perpetuates their sorry state.
There is no foundation for equivalence between the Jewish and Palestinian Nakbas. What happened to the Jews was far worse than what happened to the Arabs of Palestine. The Jews of Arab countries declared war on no one and threatened no one. They were loyal subjects who suffered repression and violence without provocation on their part. Their only sin was to be Jewish.
Most of my audiences genuinely believe that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are places where crimes against humanity are rampant, because when it comes to Israel they have been taught to believe that anything is possible–and that one should never let the facts get in the way of self-righteous indignation.
Israel is not a utopia; there is discrimination. There are ugly phenomena that need to be addressed, but trying to claim that Arabs, citizens of Israel, suffer from apartheid, or that Palestinians in the West Bank suffer from apartheid, is an insult to one’s intelligence.
Criticism is justified and welcome–as long as it takes a comparative context and real conditions into account.
Israel may be losing the war for its image, but the Palestinians lose even more. . .If the truth wins, it will not only be Israel’s victory–it will also be a victory for the Palestinians, because the lie has become the main enemy of peace.
The concept of a “Palestinian” state was not mentioned [in 1948] because “Palestine” was a British designation for the Mandated territory, not an Arab one.
After two decades of national suppression and apartheid under Jordan and Egypt, paradoxically, Palestinian nationalism flourished under Israeli rule.
Israeli public opinion tends to baffle outside observers including journalists and scholars. . . . on the one hand, the majority or near majority support right wing parties, and on the other, there is widespread support for a peace agreement with part of the Palestinian leadership.
But desiring peace should not mean taking leave of common sense.
We should not give up on a final agreement for peace, but we do need to reconsider how to go about it in light of these new realities.
When it comes to Jew hatred in general–and Israel hatred in particular–new records of absurdity are frequently broken.
The academics and professionals who use their prestige and credibility as scholars to libel and demonize Israel cheapen and totally distort their own field of expertise. Do they care? Apparently not . . .What they are presenting is not the result of careful research. Either they don’t know this fact and are merely part of the herd, or they do know and willingly participate in a campaign of lies. They, more than anyone, should know the facts. So the unavoidable conclusion is that they are lying and know they are lying.
You live longer in Gaza than in East Glasgow. Needless to say, no one is running flotillas or airlifts into Scotland to protest.
. . . senior writers and editors at Haaretz who often compete with each other to demonstrate just how much they despise their own country. . . . Haaretz‘s venomous line is unswerving and systematic. . . It is editorial policy, from the editors on down.
It’s hard to know if Hass is merely thoughtless or heartless. . .
The question is how such hateful bile can pass as “journalism.”
There is no need to choose between Zionism and humanism, because Zionism is humanistic. . . . For generations, Jews were attacked for being a minority. Now, they are attacked for being a majority.
Both [the Jews and the Palestinians] deserve real peace, not academic fantasies.
The claim that those who identify with the Palestinians are concerned with human rights is one of the most ridiculous claims of the present era. . .
If this [being willing to listen only to the lies] is what progress and academic freedom looks like–we have a problem. It is not Israel’s problem, it is the problem of the free world.
The gap between the real Israel and the Devil incarnate, successfully portrayed by the industry of lies, is a terrifying one.
For Palestinians and Muslims, Jews and Israelis, and for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East–truth must prevail.
Types of Lies
Ben-Dror devotes a chapter to showing the types of lies and giving examples of them. Let me just list the types of lies and leave you to read the book for the examples:
- Deliberate lies
- Insidious lies (by taking things out of context)
- Lies of proportion
- Lies based on true stories
- Academic lies
- The big lie: accusing Israel of genocidal intentions and referring to Hamas (who make no secret of their desire to wipe out the Jews) as freedom-fighters.
A brief interview with Ben-Dror Yemini, author of Industry of Lies
Two hours after the release of his book in October 2017, Ben-Dror was interviewed in English on ILTV (Israel Television).
In this short interview, Yemini makes it clear that
- an understanding of historical context is essential for understanding current events in Israel and the Middle East;
- not only politicians and media news sites lie about Israel, but even senior and important academics lie about Israel;
- the fact that he does not agree with current Israeli government policy does not diminish his dedication to the state.
But he does present a confusing picture in the video interview: He says that our government should have welcomed the recent merger between Hamas and Fatah, for example, and not have rejected it. He goes on to say that Israel should say yes to the Quartet pre-conditions and let the PA say no. But then he recalls how the media and academia spin things to make it appear that Israel was the one to reject earlier negotiation offers when Israel did say yes and the PA said no. This is exactly where Yemini falls flat – in his ideas for solutions. Luckily, that is not the purpose of Industry of Lies.
But I would be happy to sit with Yemini over a cup of coffee and debate potential solutions in view of history and current events. Then I could tell him in person how happy I am he wrote this wonderful book. Thank-you, Mr. Yemini.
If you are teaching a class and using this book as a text, or if you have a book club and would like suggested discussion questions, here are some ideas that you may find useful (you can let me know in the comments section below, if you think of other questions):
- Author Ben-Dror Yemini is very careful about his choice of language. It is perhaps surprising, then, to see that he refers to the Israeli-Arab conflict in the title of his book, yet he believes in a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Historically, everyone referred to the Israeli-Arab conflict and after Oslo it came to be known as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What are your thoughts on his use of the former term in the title of his book?
- What is the purpose behind the INDUSTRY of lies? It is one thing for Arabs to promote propaganda based on lies — what can make the non-Arab media and academia promote these lies as well? Do you think the media and academic professionals actually believe the lies are truth, or do you think they are aware they are promoting distortions and lies?
- Yemini suggests that the general public, consumers of media messages and students who are still in early stages of their education, believe the lies out of naivety. Others are less generous and believe that those who swallow the lies are antisemitic to start with. What do you think?
- When Yemini talks about the two-state solution, do you think he believes the Palestinian state should encompass all of Judea & Samaria, or only Areas A and B, leaving Area C (where the bulk of the settlements are) in Jewish hands and exchanging tracts of Israeli land for it?
- How do you reconcile the fact that Yemini acknowledges that all conflicts in the past were solved in part with population transfers, but that he still believes Israel should support the two-state solution?
- Yemini uses very strong language: he calls the “industry of lies” a “fraud of historic, even epic, proportions;” that Israel has become “the devil incarnate;” he wonders “how such hateful bile can pass as journalism;” and more. And he admits that the fact that it is good people who really want a peaceful resolution to the conflict ”does not lessen the severity of the fraud; it only increases our difficulty in dealing with it.” What suggestions, if any, does Yemini offer in his book for ways to deal with the industry of lies? What do you suggest?
- When reading this book:
a. what made you most angry?
b. what made you saddest?
c. what surprised you?
d. what gave you hope?
- If you are not an activist on behalf of Israel, was there something in the book that made you think you might consider becoming one? If you already are an activist, what kind of impact did this book have on how you see your role?