The “big lie” appears to have settled immovably, like a tree stump with inordinately long roots, into the harvesting soil of public discourse.
It was always the case throughout history that demagogues and aspiring tyrants would proffer outrageous statements and explanations, usually scapegoating “the other” or “the stranger,” to a gullible, highly malleable public – what is often referred to as the “big lie.”
Today, however, resorting to the big lie is far more threatening, given the ability of falsehoods and fabrications to reach around the globe with the press of a button.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become one of the most adept practitioners of the big lie and his favourite target is Israel. (Though he has also been engaged in an ugly diplomatic quarrel with Germany over a number of German human rights activists who were arrested in Turkey.)
As the great restorer of the Ottoman Empire, he inveighs constantly against the Jewish state. Last month, for example, in the immediate aftermath of Israel’s efforts to restore order and security to the Al-Aqsa Mosque after two Israeli policemen were killed there by three Arab-Israelis using guns they smuggled into the holy site, the Turkish president screamed: “Israeli soldiers are defiling Al-Aqsa with their combat boots by using simple excuses to easily shed blood there. What is being done now is using the fight against terrorism as a pretext to take (the) Al-Aqsa Mosque from the hands of Muslims.”
Israel responded by pointing out the malice and inherent danger embedded within Erdogan’s big lie. Indeed, the only government that has ever assured freedom of access to all the holy sites in the area is the government of Israel. Neither the Ottomans (Turks), when they controlled Jerusalem prior to 1918, nor the Jordanians between 1948 and 1967, ever conferred even the most fundamental respect for non-Muslim shrines.
Erdogan has repeatedly tried to transform the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians into a clash of religions, rather than a territorial dispute, even though doing so would be extremely dangerous for the region.
In order to do this, he has levelled accusations against Israel that are based entirely on falsehoods – something that is clear for anyone who has eyes to see the reality of life in Israel, with all its societal stresses and imperfections.
Israel does not wish to take the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the hands of Muslims. On the contrary, the majority of Israelis sincerely aspire to peacefully coexist with their Muslim neighbours.
The Washington Post reported last month on the extent of Israel’s humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians whose lives have been hellishly overturned by the horrific civil war raging across the border. In the last year alone, Israel has assisted some 200,000 Syrians restore some semblance of respect and dignity to their lives.
“The Israeli army has facilitated basic medical treatment for Syrian children and their parents in triage clinics set up along the border, allowing more-serious cases to be treated in Israeli hospitals,” the Post reported.
Israel has sent large quantities of painkillers, anesthetics and basic medicine for diabetes and asthma to the suffering Syrians. Israel has also sent the Syrian people other essential goods, including some 360 tonnes of food, 450,000 litres of gasoline and 50 tonnes of clothing, as well as infrastructure repair equipment, such as generators and piping for the water system.
In addition to aiding Syrian civilians, the Post also noted that “Israel has provided emergency medical treatment to Syrian fighters seeking help. As many as 3,000 wounded individuals have made their way to the border and received lifesaving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals before returning to their homeland.”
Truth is its own entirety. And it must be told and retold, however inconvenient, because simple, unembellished truth remains the only antidote to the big lie.
If, of course, the audience will hear it.