- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

When Mikhail Gorbachev told a Columbia University audience this week that the basis for communism was "pure propaganda," he said a mouthful. The statement wasn't original, or even provocative. But coming from a man who was, after all, of the Soviet system, by the Soviet system and for the Soviet system at least until the Soviet system went kaput it did pack a curious punch. As the former dictator put it, "We, including I, were saying, 'Capitalism is moving toward a catastrophe, whereas we are developing well.' Of course, that was pure propaganda. In fact, our country was lagging behind."

One point he failed to specify was when this light dawned when he realized Five-Year Plans never added up; when he learned there was nothing remotely "democratic" about socialist democratic republics; when, if ever, he actually faced up to the moral bankruptcy of a murderous creed he had spent a lifetime serving. Did it happen when, as a young apparatchik, he became privy to the dismal state of Soviet agriculture? Or was it during his days as a protege of KGB and later Soviet leader Yuri Andropov? Did Gorby and his comrades on the reviewing stand ever wink under their astrakhan hats while the guns rolled by, knowing full well there would never be any butter?

I've always wondered about the people who aid and abet the Big Lies of history the little ones, too. For along with the kind of macro-propaganda Mr. Gorbachev referred to, of course, comes all the small potatoes for example, that line about Andropov having been one cool, jazz aficionado. At what point, if any, do the people putting this stuff out become conscious of their duplicity? Do interior dialogues between good and evil take place, or is it all just a side-splitting struggle to keep from busting out laughing?

Similar questions arise on reading what might be loosely called an article by one Mr. Umayma Ahmad Al-Jalahma of King Faisal University printed just a few days ago in the Saudi government newspaper Al-Riyadh (translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute at www.memri.org). The good doctor, whose work obviously had to pass muster with government censors, explains how it is that, for the Jewish holiday of Purim, "the Jewish people must obtain human blood so their clerics can prepare the holiday pastries." He goes on to elaborate in ghoulishly cracked detail where the blood comes from (a non-Jewish "mature adolescent"), how it is painfully obtained (the victim is inserted into "a needle-studded barrel"), and how the resulting "torment affords the Jewish vampires great delight as they carefully monitor every detail of the blood-shedding with pleasure and love that are difficult to comprehend." Sure, these ravings offer Al-Riyadh readers a change of pace from newspaper coverage of the so-called Saudi peace plan, but talk about "difficult to comprehend."

In fact, such primitive lies boggle the mind. Does Mr. Al-Jalahma actually believe them? Certainly no small number of his readers do. Or want to, as a way of demonizing Jews. Funny, but such state-sanctioned propaganda doesn't seem like the best way to prepare the Saudi people for "accepting" the state of Israel now or ever. Indeed, it makes you wonder whether harboring much in the way of expectations for such a people constitutes, if not a Big Lie exactly, then at least a Big Delusion.

And what about when Palestinians tell the New York Times that Israel's recent incursion into the Palestinian territories to strike at terrorists is a plot "to provoke a wave of Palestinian violence just as retired Gen. Anthony Zinni returns to Israel"? Do Palestinians really believe the Israelis are collecting hundreds of weapons, destroying 10 to 20 Palestinian bomb labs, seizing hundreds of pounds of explosives and 20 Kassam rockets, as the New York Daily News reported one day this week, in order to "provoke" more teen-age deaths in a disco? It's hard to know. After all, these are the same inscrutables who celebrate when their kin self-detonate in proximity to baby strollers. It could be they're just trying to play us for fools. And maybe it's working.

After a brief window of moral clarity that allowed the United States not only to recognize the Palestinian attacks on Israel as terrorism, but also inspired us to declare solidarity with Israel's legitimate right to repel them, we seem once again to be lapsing into a blur of moral equivalence, failing to differentiate between the actions of the two sides. The Palestinians are condemned for acts of terrorism. The Israelis are condemned for fighting back. But "even-handedness" like this can backfire. "So long as the Israelis are condemned for defending themselves," the Jerusalem Post recently wrote, "the Palestinians have no diplomatic reason to end terrorism." Such is the hard truth behind a big delusion.

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