I think if you haven’t had much contact with the Middle East it is hard to comprehend how loony a region this is and the magnitude of the lies told about it. I had to deal today with something relating to the presence of Egypt’s embassy in Israel and it made me think about some past experiences.
A few years ago I was giving a lecture at the Australian National University. It was a pretty routine and uncontroversial session when suddenly the question and answer period erupted into something close to a melee. One of the people in the audience was the wife of the Egyptian ambassador to Australia and she started yelling about how horrible a country Israel was, full of evil racists.
What was her grievance? She claimed that when she walked around the streets of Tel Aviv, people threatened and spat at her. This was thoroughly bizarre even beyond all the obvious reasons. She obviously dressed in Western clothes and was not identifiable as an Egyptian or Arab. I had never seen a picture of the ambassador or his wife in the Israeli media so nobody would know what she looked like anyway.
The Egyptian embassy is located near Basle, an upscale yuppie area of expensive cafes and not particularly politicized. I don’t think there had ever even been a demonstration there. So aside from the fact that Israelis have never harassed foreign diplomats as far as I know and that there had never been an article or protest about such alleged harassment, there was every reason to believe that the whole story was a fantasy.
Yet she spoke with such passion and certainty that I wouldn’t have been surprised if some, many, most of the audience completely believed her and felt sorry for the poor woman who had been chased and harassed by (purely fictional) Israeli racist haters of Arabs, etc.
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