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Understand the Context

CONTENTS

Zen & Understanding the Middle East

Introduction
Sellers' Market
Will to Believe
Rules of Thumb

"The truth is out there "
Use & misuse of words
False information signals more false information
Technical whiz-bang
Understand the Context
Lies, More Lies, Damn Lies and Newspapers
Beware of Generalizations
Theology and scripture
Misleading Statistics
Smoke in your eyes: a picture can be worth a thousand lies
What is Missing?
Myth versus fact versus narrative
The past was not like the present; the future will be different

Fallacy Recognition in the Middle East

Fallacies and Arguments
Cause and Effect
Slippery Slope
Gambler's Fallacy
Ad Hominem
Authority
Beliefs
Appeal to Novelty
Appeal to Emotion
Appeal to Tradition
False Dilemma or Black and White Thinking
Special Pleading
The Spotlight Fallacy
Who is to Say?

Fallacy Handbook

Understand the Context

Quotes - Quotes are often misleading or out of context, and there is a great traffic in fake quotes. Be suspicious if an article is based primarily on quotes, especially if there are ellipses (...) in the quotes. These are often used skillfully to make the speaker seem to say the opposite of what they really said. Thus, for example, Noam Chomsky could make it seem that Anthony Lewis wrote that Yitzhak Rabin wanted a Palestine that was poor and small, by selective quoting and creative use of ellipses. Others have made it seem that Moshe Dayan said that all the land settled by Jews was stolen from the Arabs, by omitting the phrase in his speech where he specifically noted that the land had been purchased. Words change their meaning and connotations over time. "Colonialism" is a "very bad" word today. 120 years ago it was quite acceptable in Western society. Colonialists were the good guys, and colonists were brave pioneers.


Misuse of source documents, references and articles - Numerous fabrications and distortions are based on the premise that people will not bother to check a source. Ilan Pappe wrote in his book, The Making of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, that Hagannah Plan Daled was a plan for permanently expelling the Arabs from Palestine. He never quotes from the document, because it is hard to find evidence for his claim in the document. In "The Iron Wall," Avi Shlaim gave the impression that there is a Zionist ideology of power, that was set down in an article by Zeev Vladimir Jabotinsky in an article called "The Iron Wall" written in 1923. This is the basis of Israeli foreign policy and military strategy according to Shlaim. Readers of the original article will note that it is about establishing a small Jewish self-defense force in mandatory Palestine and not about the modern IDF, and that Jabotinsky's views were rejected by the majority Zionist movement. These intentional distortions are cited repeatedly at third and fourth hand by people who never read the original documents.


Documents, like quotes, are sometimes unintelligible out of context. The Magna Carta is frequently cited as a charter of human rights, but those who succeed in reading it find it to be a farrago of medieval legal gobbledigook that provided rights to British nobles. It was only reinterpreted as a charter of legal rights for Englishmen by later generations.

Understanding the Cultural Context

Words and concepts that are translated the same way may have different meanings in different society. "People" (or community, Ouma) as in "Arabic Nation" or "Palestinian people" (Shaabi Filistiniyeh) does not have the same meaning as "people" as in "British people." There is an Arabic Ouma and a Muslim Ouma. There can be a British nation or people and an American people or a French people. There is no Christian people. "Arabic nationalism - a concept that embraces a number of sub-nations, doesn't mean the same thing as British nationalism or peoplehood. Separation of Church and State means something else in Europe were many states were born and separated from the same religion, and in the Middle East, where peoples and states were inextricably connected with religion. Cultural pluralism is the norm in Europe and the Americas. In the Middle East, societies and cultures are segmented. The differences in concepts and cultures can too easily be used to show that Middle Eastern cultures are "undemocratic" - because they don't institute the same sort of separation of church and state as exists in Western democracies, or "Apartheid" because they do not foster integration of cultures as is done in the West.

 

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