Lying is cultural trait of Arabs, says Barak - Guardian, UK
- Lying is cultural trait of Arabs, says Barak
Brian Whitaker in Jerusalem
Thursday May 23, 2002
Palestinians have no compunction about telling lies
and see truth as irrelevant, the former Israeli prime
minister Ehud Barak has claimed in an interview.
"They are products of a culture in which to tell a
lie... creates no dissonance," Mr Barak says. "They
don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that
exists in Judaeo-Christian culture."
"Truth is seen as an irrelevant category," he
says."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'."
Interviewed by the Jewish historian Benny Morris for
an article in the latest issue of the New York Review
of Books, Mr Barak not only relates his comments about
lying to Yasser Arafat in particular, but to Arab
society in general.
He says: "The deputy director of the US Federal Bureau
of Investigation once told me that there are societies
in which lie detectors don't work, societies in which
lies do not create cognitive dissonance [on which the
tests are based]."
As an example of Mr Arafat's alleged mendacity, Mr
Barak cites an incident in October 2000, shortly after
the start of the intifada. The Israeli and Palestinian
leaders, together with Madeleine Albright, the US
secretary of state at the time, were meeting in Paris
to discuss a ceasefire.
Mr Arafat had agreed to call a number of his police
commanders to implement a truce.
Mr Barak recalls protesting: "'But these are not the
people organising the violence. If you are serious,
then call Marwan Bargouti and Hussein al-Sheikh [two
West Bank Fatah leaders].'
"Arafat looked at me, with an expression of blank
innocence, as if I had mentioned the names of two
polar bears, and said, 'Who? Who?'
"So I repeated the names, this time with a pronounced,
clear Arabic inflection... and Arafat again said,
"At this, some of his aides couldn't stop themselves
and burst out laughing. And Arafat, forced to drop the
pretence, agreed to call them later."
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