I still remember. It was in Marrakech, and I was about 13 years old. A 1980 E-class yellow Mercedes was crossing the narrow street. Inside, on the back seat, an old bearded man wearing a white kippah. The car drove passed me. I shouted unconsciously “Jew… Jew—!”
The reddish clayey walls echoed the shriek as my eyes chased the car fading away. As the years passed by, that scene never faded away from my memory. I still hear the echoes, and still see the kippah from the striped rear window.
Back in the 1990s, in Morocco as in the rest of the Arab world, there was a sole source of information available to the people — the state-run TV channel, the state-run radio station, and the state run- newspapers. Subjects were only allowed to know what the authority wanted them to know. The then new policies of Arabization implemented to the educational system throughout the 1980s made it even harder to acquire knowledge from an independent reliable source. The decline in the output of the translation movement kept the Arabs’ secluded mindset away from the world’s intellectual and cultural movement. The horizon of self-cultivation became more and more narrower, muted, and inclined towards Islamist totalitarian literature and worldview. In that, the Arab world have more than its share.
For modern history, most Arabs know little about. The so-called History lessons taught in public schools and colleges even universities are of propaganda nature and infested with blatant fabrications. The other alternative, the Islamist one, taught in mosques, religious institutions, through the Islamist movements’ cultural forums or by the prolific Wahhabi publications — are all the more doctrinaire and stinkingly egotistical.
It is no secret that the majority of Arab Muslims until today believe undoubtedly that Palestine was already a state long before Israel had gained its statehood. Many are unable to conceive the fact that their was no Palestinian national identity before the creation of Israel, nor any signs of an Arab nationalist consciousness before the decay of the Ottoman Empire. Even the Palestinian flag that was only adopted by the PLO in 1964 seems to them an eternal sovereign state flag. No one neither have any idea that Israel fought a war of independent against the British mandate, just like any other nation in North Africa did against the French.
As the clock hits 8pm, everyone peers at the TV screen. The morose host, with rugged complexion and usually wearing a heavy black mustache, starts reading from the script with a monotonous pitch. The usual opening monologue of every day lauding the ruler’s glorious activities and achievements and then, at the middle of the broadcast, just before the news of sports and meteorology, a biased dispatch of the Arab-Israeli conflict is an essential part of the show. Israeli soldiers in gas masks and military uniforms and Palestinians throwing rocks. A veiled Palestinian woman in a frenzy state shouting and cursing the fate is no less essential to the montage. A bunch of sulky press statements by Arafat or Hanan Ashrawi circulating throughout the united Arab wire. No context is given, no explanation, no casualties in the Israeli side are shown.
In tyrannical societies, those who are perceived as enemies shouldn’t be heard or seen, they shall not have voice or physical manifestation in social life, nor should they have the ability to defend themselves or argue for their opinions. Their images are obscured and words suppressed. Nothing about them should pique the masses curiosity but their malignant and demonic nature. As a result, Arab population is either uninformed or misinformed.
Outside in the streets and along the dim corridors of the city residential buildings and by the parapets of the school yards, young adolescents singing the “Arabian Dream” or Al-Hilm Al-Arabi — a pan-Arab hit song of the epoch which was a tribute to the Intifada, presented in a form of an operetta in Egypt and performed by a cohort of most prominent singers of the Arab world — its message was to foment bile and hatred towards the Jews and the West and express hopes for a racial united Arab nation.
The bells of anti-Semitism and anti-western values have been clanging for decades over the Muslim heads, they became a rite and dogma inherent in the cultural and religious corpus. Islamists and remnants of long-lost Panarabism are striving to maintain the triumphed bells ringing uninterrupted.
Nevertheless, things are gradually changing. With the arrival of the Internet and social media and the democratization of knowledge, the scope of being aware about what’s going on in the world became broader, and the quality of information a citizen of New York or Copenhagen have access to, is equally accessible to a citizen of Baghdad or Nouakchott. There are even Israeli websites that addresses its audiences in Arabic, and popular Hebrew pages on Facebook engaging Arab communities — breaking taboos and generating feedbacks.
Today, Arabs could watch video clips and documentaries showing the advanced and modernized Israeli cities; its healthy democratic institutions; its civilized social relations; its clean streets and beautiful gardens and mesmerizing beaches. An enclave that could be taken as an example to follow. And, to their astonishment, they could see even veiled Arab women pushing strollers of their toddlers and shopping safely around Tel Aviv, while Muslim men are free to practice their religion in grandiose mosques. Isn’t it fascinating, though, that while Bahais are persecuted and stripped off their fundamental rights in Egypt and other Arab states; they enjoy a magnificent temple with golden-capped shrine serounded by Babylonian gardens in Haifa!
However, as the new technologies and social media provided the Arabs with an unprecedented opportunity to catch up with the world and receive new ideas to approache the life differently, the new era has in fact had a negative effects on them since they have been ultimately exposed to the Islamist propaganda apparatus. Through the media consolidation by gulf states tycoons and Islamist-oriented websites, Islamists have been granted the necessary tools to shape and manipulate the psyche of the masses.