Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Even an Eight-Year-Old Can Tell Middle East Fact from Fiction

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Even an Eight-Year-Old Can Tell Middle East Fact from Fiction

Article excerpt

Even an Eight-Year-Old Can Tell Middle East Fact from Fiction

The Arab Airways DC-3 taxied to a halt at the airport in Amman, Jordan on a summer afternoon in late June, 1955. I was only eight years old at the time, but I can still remember the warm wind and the glare of the sunshine as I stepped onto the tarmac.

My father had just taken a position as an agricultural adviser with the AID program and we were moving from the state of Montana to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I had a sense of excitement and trepidation as I anticipated living in this new and strange land.

Even at that young age, I had formed the opinion that the Israelis were the "good guys" and the Arabs were somehow the "bad guys." Exactly why I felt that way, I cannot be sure, but it was probably due to a combination of factors.

Early Biases

I had attended the First Baptist Church in Billings, Montana with my family. I had been taught in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School that the ancient Israelites were a force for good and the ancient Egyptians and Philistines were a force for evil. Perhaps it was difficult for my eight-year-old mind to realize that a few millennia can change things considerably. Many Christian fundamentalists continue to err by applying an ancient Biblical scenario to the present day Middle East.

The other opinion-molding factor may have been television news. Television had barely arrived in Montana, but my parents never missed the Huntley-Brinkley Report. Back then, it was only 15 minutes in length, and I would generally watch it with them. I cannot honestly remember any specific broadcasts at that time that might have shaped my opinions on the Mideast. However, if the bias of the networks at that time was anything like it has been for the past 20 or 30 years, I suspect I was influenced in that fashion as well.

Whatever the roots of my pro-Israel prejudices, they were soon to be challenged by facts that could not be hidden by a smooth Israeli public relations machine. The Palestinian refugee camps (the ugly fruits of Israel's "War of Independence") littered Jordan in terrible squalor. The barren hillsides of Amman were covered with thousands upon thousands of flimsy shelters. Huts made of cardboard or a piece of canvas spread over a few poles would pass as a home for an entire Palestinian family. Perceptibly malnourished Palestinian children would knock on our door, asking for a piece of bread. Palestinian women would walk for miles to fetch a small container of water from the public well.

Only seven years earlier, these sad and desperate refugees had been prosperous shopkeepers, farmers and craftsmen in what had been known as Palestine before the holocaust had descended upon them.

My "seeing the light" was not a sudden realization that I had been "conned." There was no bolt of lightning or moment of insight to reveal suddenly the dark side of Zionism to me. However, by the time my family and I returned to the U.S., my views on the Middle East were no longer black and white. The pro-Israel bias of the media was now obvious to me. The inaccuracies, half-truths, and lies that masqueraded as news on the Middle East only served to further my suspicions that Americans were being fed propaganda and not the facts.

By the time I was in high school, my previous pro-Israel sentiments had been transformed into a healthy skepticism about the basic morality of the creation of the modern state of Israel. …

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