I recently read an article on the Poughkeepsie Journal saying that Israel refuses to accept funding from the EU for research if it means that the money cannot be applied beyond the Green Line. People reading this article get the distinct impression that the intransigent Israeli government is determined to continue its defiance of the world. Yet the truth is somehow different. About 10 days ago, the EU passed a law requiring that any future agreement for research funding between the EU and Israel must include a paragraph in which Israel recognizes that all the land beyond the Green Line is not part of Israel. Since Israel is currently engaged in negotiations with the Palestinians and land is very much part of that negotiation, what the Europeans are asking is for Israel to give up its negotiating chips in exchange for nothing. Why are the Europeans doing this?
It is tempting to believe that the European attitude is fueled by blind hatred of Israel because it would make it unnecessary for us to look in the mirror and see if we have any part in shaping that attitude. The Europeans have lived for many years (indeed several generations) under the shadow of what their ancestors did (or did not) during World War II. They have been forced to have a hard look in the mirror and to recognize that Nazism was the product of European Nationalism and Anti Semitism taken to an extreme. When the Arabs started presenting Israelis as Nazis oppressing the poor Palestinian victims, they offered some Europeans a way out – their largest victim had become a victimizer, thus providing them with some sort of redemption and even justification. And when the Arabs started presenting Israel as an imperialistic power bent on oppressing the poor “natives”, they gave European yet another way to redeem their own colonialist past.
So why do these lies persist? Look at the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – a 108 year old proved forgery still selling very well all over the world. What is it that makes it so popular?
We all have, as individuals, regrets over things we did or did not, as well as unfinished businesses. And this is where the con man comes in. This popular character knows how to identify our weaknesses or regrets and offering a way to redeem or to fix our past. In the process, we pay a price for that redemption. The con man fools us because we want to be fooled. We want to believe what we are being told because it allows us to put regrets and doubts to rest. The con man offers redemption.
We all have, as well, doubts. We all question our beliefs in one way or another, and eventually we grow weary of those self doubts and we seek incontrovertible validation of our convictions. Because we all need to have firm beliefs to be able to look at the world and make sense of it. The con man can sometimes also help us with that. He/She offers a confirmation that what we believe is the Truth, and those who believe otherwise are all mistaken. We therefore have indeed the right to impose our views out of our care and concern for our fellow Human beings. We get to feel really good about ourselves.
But it takes two to Tango. The con man (or con woman) needs to be good enough to identify our weaknesses, regrets and doubts and to offer us a way to deny them or bury them deep enough. But we need to be willing to buy what the con man is selling.
If we are desperate enough; if we believe strongly enough that we need a way out of a particular situation; if we feel strongly enough that we want to change something in our past... we are open to the con man charm. And sometimes, the only way we learn is when we buy the Brooklyn bridge.
And as communities of individuals we are not different. Organizations can also be fooled, as can whole societies.
I only wish that if we do need to learn the hard way, our learning be fast and the cost not too high...