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Poison Paperback – February 12, 2002
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
Israeli's paradigmatic case study is important for several reasons. Beyond his analysis of a particular case, he reveals how the methodology of Arab hate propaganda has been in use for many years. His contribution will be even more valuable if it is part of a larger study of the Arab libels against Israel that have been spread with the willing and uncritical collaboration of Western media, governments, and international bodies. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
About the Author
Raphael Israeli is Professor of Chinese History and Islamic Civilization at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is the author of A Critical Biography of Chinese Islam(1994) and Fundamentalist Islam and Israel (University Press of America, 1993).
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Raphael Israeli's examination of this 1983 incident shows how Middle East news often becomes distorted. On March 21, 1983, girls at Arrabeh school near Jenin were reportedly poisoned en masse. Before classes began at 8 a.m., a 17-year-old student ran to the window, coughed, complained of breathing difficulties, headache, nausea, drowsiness and stomach pains. Then 17 more girls became ill. On March 22, West Bank health services director Dr. Hussein Ubeid confirmed visiting the school and reported a sharp odor that irritated his nostrils and throat.
On March 23, the author shows, a poison pollution team examined the school but found no trace of poison. Within four days, however, the school issued two more mass poisoning reports. The following week, 56 girls at Jenin's Zahra Middle School similarly took ill. In April, 310 Hebron girls were hospitalized with Jenin syndrome. Serious cases went to Israel's Ramban Hospital in Haifa. Patients were given oxygen, glucose infusions and tranquilizers--and improved.
Reported here are findings of 15 scientists dispatched to the sites, who found zero evidence of food, water, gas or pesticide poisoning or pollution. But Israeli health director general Dr. Baruch Modan's assurances--that there were "neither poisoning nor a physical disease, nor any obscure scheme against those young women's health"--
fell on deaf ears.
As the author shows, journalists attributed to military sources "news" of "poisonous substances"--supposedly "sprinkled on the curtains of the classrooms." Furthermore, Islamic, Arab, Soviet block and Western European media reproduced, often verbatim, "accusations and statements regarding the mass poisoning,"--including unsubstantiated claims "that nerve gas was used in this affair." The book shows how the extensive media reports of unusually high levels of protein in the girls' urine were in fact fabricated. The author demonstrates reporters' hateful suggestions that Israel used Nazi methods.
Israelis realized at that juncture, the author notes, that Europe's cradle of anti-Semitism was again savoring an anti-Semitic bouillon, this time, one concocted in the Arab middle East.
Actually, the reported poisoning was merely a case of mass hysteria, he shows. It precisely matched descriptions in a landmark 1947 medical report on physiological results of psychogenic hyperventilation. Of many similar cases worldwide, the author demonstrates, no others attracted much press coverage. But the media hype--which the author exposes as paralleling medieval European blood libels and Middle Eastern slanders targeting Jews--falsely provided the news with international traction.
The author also exposes a shocking press role in which virtually every major media outlet participated. They reproduced mass-distributed lies, unedited, without skepticism--and without compunctions about the potentially deadly consequences.
Months before, the book also notes, Israel invaded Lebanon to halt decades of cross-border rocket and terror attacks that took hundreds of civilian lives. The author demonstrates that here, too, the media engaged in a festival of anti-Israel bashing. Reports had routinely endowed fundamentalist murderers with progressive traits, he discovered, but meticulously smeared their Christian and Jewish opponents. The author found that reporters had even mis-translated and reported pleas in Arabic --- that Israel rid Lebanon of PLO terrorist jerks --- as pleas to stop killing us.
The author compares the 1983 incident to other medical stories, frequently sensationalized to sell newspapers and ads. Even in instances reporters had deemed un-newsworthy, a professional study the author found demonstrated the reportorial tendency to manufacture news by attributing severe causes, more ominous than actual events.
The author also shows Western media unwillingness to expose a genuine Middle Eastern sensation, intense hatred featured regularly in Arab government newspapers that target Jews and Israel with false claims that they poison Arabs, bake Passover matzo with Christian blood, kidnap Arab children to drink their blood --- and so on. The author believes that Western media failure to recognize or expose this phenomenon lets it seep into their news --- which remain uncorrected, even when proven wrong.
The author exposes that the 1983 deception involved two kinds of lies, active lies --- deliberately falsified information --- that victimized the intended Israeli targets. And passive lies promulgated by Palestinian friends and political allies which furthered the false impressions and aided the Arab war on Israel.
The author analyzes motivations that make lying common to spies, subversives, saboteurs and other swindlers: It constitutes an assumption of power, in which the ones deceived are reduced in stature, and symbolically nullified, while impostors temporarily grow more powerful.
Israeli also condemns the masquerades of investigative journalists and the false and exaggerated claims of advertisers --- an important point, since global media are mainly ad-supported corporations. He concludes that political lies were calibrated for modern mass communications within the tension-filled Arab Israeli conflict, to aggrandize Palestinian victimhood, psychologically-induce mass hysteria --- and necessarily reverberate against mankind's oldest hatred.
The author concludes that while it may be politically incorrect to instigate hatred for any ethnic or religious minority, this taboo does not transfer to nations, which enabled political cartoonists, writers and reporters to easily slide thinly disguised stereotypes past their editors--and mass disseminate virtual facsimiles from Der Sturmer.
He also concludes that within the 55-year military and intellectual jihad against Israel, lazy, unwary newsmen, wittingly or unwittingly, often play a big role.
--Alyssa A. Lappen
That is why I find this book, which discusses a truly arbitrary fabrication, to be very important. We may laugh at the accusations that were made against Israel in this case of "poisoning." But witch hunts are no joke. And the threat to all of society is very serious, even though at first it may seem that only a few "witches" are being attacked.
Raphael Israeli describes the case in a straightforward manner. That makes this book very useful, because Big Lies will occur in the future. And he implies that the same scenario will repeat: the bewilderment of the accused, the outrage of the accusers, the complicity of media and authorities, the indifference of neutrals, the claims that there really is no such thing as truth, and the generation of more lies and more escapades.
The final third of the book is the best part. In it, the author discusses what a lie is, what a hoax is, why people lie, what types of lies exist, and what political lies are. He then gives a little of the history of antisemitic lies. And he shows how these lies are used today to attack Israel's legitimacy.
Perhaps if we all read more books like this one, we would not be so easily misled by liars and their media accomplices.
I found this work to be an authoritative and impressive study which commendably draws on sources & documentation from Israeli, Palestinian, European, Arab, American and other International elements. The attitude of the media in its news reporting in relation to the Jewish state is cited as libel and misrepresentation and described in the book as poison; psychological, social, emotional and especially political.
Aptly and with due reference to the subject of "poison", the book presents its case initially through the events of March 21 1983 when Palestinian girls at Arrabeh school near Jenin were reportedly poisoned en masse by .....Israel. Further events following at later dates with 56 Arab girls at Jenin's Zahra School likewise being taken ill and in April another 310 Arab girls at Hebron being hospitalized.
Despite investigations revealing that the reported poisoning was merely a case of mass hysteria, the book reveals how the International media reported Palestinian/Arab accusations as fact, irrespective of the circumstances and their lack of authenticity. Little if any time being given to provide the Israeli version of events and the fact that poison pollution teams had examined the schools but found absolutely no trace of poison in any case. Reporters instead are shown to be only too prepared to publicly declare the horrendous allegation that Israel had used Nazi methods in these alleged incidents.
The book includes two sections entitled "Lying About Jews" and "The Nature Of Political Lies". With due study here it can be seen that the media's extraordinary ability to influence world opinion is undisputed with journalists being trained to reserve personal opinion for the editorial page, but sadly only those few with discipline and integrity taking it upon themselves to comply. Through a thorough investigation and presentation the book provides the individual reader with an opportunity to examine how those who we trust to impartially report the news actually write with a persistent and undeniable slant against Israel.
Stories are described which show how it has been possible to distort the truth behind the headlines in parallel with the Palestinian doctrine of hatred and propaganda daily directed towards the Jewish State through the use of sensational selective headlines which allegedly distort the facts on the ground to advance particular points of view.
Reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian situation through a series of half-truths and selective headlines are shown here to have exacerbated widespread anti-Jewish feelings, eroded any possible support for Israel and which have considerably increased sympathy for the Palestinian/Arab position. A policy which is shown to pander to the agendas of Palestinian extremists who seek exploitation of the media and prey on the fears of the public in order to alter their perception of events and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Although the book takes great pains to illustrate and emphasise the inherent dangers within the reporting by the media of events such as the alleged "poisoning" in this manner, it is evident from the text that this principle applies in relation to the entire Middle East conflict and not only the Jewish people.
I have no doubt that many readers of this work who have studied the Nazi Holocaust in any depth will find themselves reminded here of the anti-Jewish sentiments prevalent in the years preceding that period which provided such a fertile ground for the genocidal policies which followed. Sentiments which the book sadly expose, not only still exist, but are perhaps now more widespread than ever. It is said that if a lie is repeated often enough, then it eventually becomes regarded as the truth and also that those who forget the past are condemned to relive it. That is why I consider this to be a very timely, appropriate book which I highly recommend.