In a post yesterday, Andrew Sullivan quotes former Israeli Prime Minister Barak describing the Palestinian leadership:
“They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie…creates no dissonance. They don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn’t. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as ‘the truth’.”
This troubles me a bit. If Barak is referring to the culture of the PA itself, then I’m with him 100%. But he seems to be referring to Palestinian culture more generally.
To be clear: I’m willing to accept the possibility that Palestinian culture does have genuine defects, and that one of them may be a more tolerant view of deception. I do not suffer from the liberal disease of assuming that all cultures and religions are equal, and that none of them have any inherent flaws. But if you’re going to fling out an accusation like this, I’d like to see some evidence or basis to back it up. (And no, the fact that Arafat is a liar does not prove the point: one man does not a culture make).
Anyway, this smacks to me of a statement that Sullivan has picked up on because it happens to agree nicely with his worldview (and for the record, at least with respect to the PA, it also syncs with mine). But that doesn’t make it a valid argument.
And by the way: How exactly is Barak separating Palestinian culture from Judeo-Christian culture? Last time I checked, “Palestinians” included some Christians as well.
Anyone else with a firmer grounding in Palestinian or Arab culture care to chime in here? I’d welcome input from people who actually have knowledge in this area.
Finally: Yes, this is yet another post which criticizes Mr. Sullivan (at least a little bit), so I think I’d better put my cards on the table here. I actually like Sullivan, and enjoy his writing. He’s got a sharp mind, and a good moral sense that does not reduce down to “everyone should do what I think is right”. I think he’s got a blind spot with respect to Bush, but nobody’s perfect. And I also think he’s been letting his weblog run on autopilot a bit lately, which I suspect is because he’s devoting his energies to his stage performance in “Much Ado About Nothing” (and more power to him for it!) And finally: I’ve sent Sullivan an email each time I’ve commented on him in my weblog, which is my standard practice with anybody. Yes, I certainly wouldn’t have minded a link; no, I didn’t get one. But that’s his right; no complaints here.
Got it? Good…