//`Informed people make a democracy work'says Alan Hart at Popular Front Conference

`Informed people make a democracy work'says Alan Hart at Popular Front Conference

Bangalore, India, The Hindu : America, which is held out to be the sparkling example of democracy, is flawed in its working because its citizens are never told the truth of history, said Alan Hart, author and journalist specialising in West Asian affairs.

Delivering the keynote address at the Empower India Conference organised by Popular Front of India, he said: "For real democracy to exist, the citizens of nations must be informed enough to participate in discussion and debate about policy matters and issues and hold their leaders and governments to account… Generally speaking, a truth of our times is that the people of nations, almost all Americans especially, are not informed enough, and therefore, not empowered to make democracy work."

The starkest illustration of this "democratic deficit", said the former chief correspondent of Independent Television News (ITN) and presenter of BBC Panorama, was the Palestinian crisis that is the "cancer at the heart of international affairs".

A resolution of the crisis has remained outside the realm of politics and diplomacy because of the conflation of "Zionist colonial enterprise" of Israel and the religion of Judaism.

The fear of any anti-Israel stance being branded anti-Semitic also contributes to it, he said. Mr. Hart spoke of how and why the "the propaganda lie" of Israel being constantly under threat by the Arab world is kept alive by the mainstream media through actual and self-imposed censorship.

As one of the first Western correspondents in the region, he had seen how the media is constantly fed the myth about Israel being a victim rather than a colonising aggressor.

The creation of a "viable Palestinian state", Mr. Hart said, is the prerequisite for averting a catastrophe in the region which would be nothing short of a "clash of civilisations".

Only "informed public opinion" could change this. "If the mass of ordinary, decent peoples of nations had been properly informed about the cause-and-effect relationship of Israeli occupation to Palestinian violence, there might well have been pressure on the governments to oblige Israel to end its occupation long ago," said Mr. Hart, who has authored a two-volume book on the issue.

Mr. Hart ended with a word of warning that India should resist America's "imperial project to have India as their Israel in this part of the world".

Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelights of the conference, Mr. Hart said he had watched India transform over the years and feared that the Indian "new elite" might just "outdo Americans" in the mad race for money. "There is, after all, a low ceiling to what you can do with money," he said.