Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Bad News from Israel - a Media Study
Glasgow University Media Unit
This is a study of TV new coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of how this coverage relates to the understanding, beliefs and attitudes of the television audience.In producing this study out intention was not to 'monitor' the media or to criticise individual journalists. Our intention was to discuss the pressures and structures within which they work to show the effects of those on new content and to examine the role of the media in the construction of public knowledge. It is a very extensive study with an audience sample of over 800 people and a detailed analysis of TV news over a two-year period. This work also raises a series of important theoretical issues in mass communications.
The study suggests that television news on the Israel/Palestinian conflict confuses viewers and substantially features Israeli government views. Israelis are quoted and speak in interviews over twice as much as Palestinians and there are major differences in the language used to describe the two sides. This operates in favour of the Israelis and influences how viewers understand the conflict.
Some Major Findings:
1. There is a preponderance of official 'Israeli perspectives', particularly on BBC 1, where Israelis were interviewed or reported over twice as much as Palestinians. On top of this, US politicians who support Israel were very strongly featured. They appeared more than politicians from any other country and twice as much as those from Britain.
2. TV news says almost nothing about the history or origins of the conflict. The great majority of viewers depended on this news as their main source of information. The gaps in their knowledge closely paralleled the 'gaps' in the news. Most did not know that the Palestinians had been forced from their homes and land when Israel was established in 1948. In 1967 Israel occupied by force the territories to which the Palestinian refugees had moved. Most viewers did not know that the Palestinians subsequently lived under Israeli military rule or that the Israelis took control of key resources such as water, and the damage this did to the Palestinian economy. Without explanations being given on the news, there was great confusion amongst viewers even about who was 'occupying' the occupied territories. Some understood 'occupied' to mean that someone was on the land (as in a bathroom being occupied) so they thought that the Palestinians were the occupiers. Many saw the conflict as a sort of border dispute between two countries fighting over land between them.
3. Journalists gave different views on why there was so little explanation on the news. George Alagiah from the BBC stressed the problem of time: In depth it takes a long time, but we're constantly being told that the attention span of our average viewer is about twenty seconds and if we don't grab people - and we've looked at the figures - the number of people who shift channels around in my programme now six o'clock, there's a movement of about three million people in that first minute, coming in and out.
Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 News also commented on how difficult it was to report in a controversial area: With a conflict like this, nearly every single fact is disputed, I think 'Oh God, the Palestinians say this and the Israelis say that?' I know it's a question of interpretation so I have to say what both sides think and I think sometimes that stops us from giving the background we should be giving.
4. Because there was no account of historical events such as the Palestinians losing their homes, there was a tendency for viewers to see the problems as "starting " with Palestinian action. On the news, Israeli actions tended to be explained and contextualised - they were often shown as merely "responding" to what had been done to them by Palestinians (in the 2001 samples they were six times as likely to be presented as "retaliating " or in some way responding than were the Palestinians). This apparently influenced many viewers to blame Palestinians for the conflict.
5. In news reporting there was a tendency to present Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as vulnerable communities, rather than as having a role in imposing the occupation. But as the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim has written, they have a key military and strategic function. They have been built on hilltops to give a commanding position and their occupants are often heavily armed. The Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, has pointed to its role in attacking Palestinians in attempts to seize land. Most viewers knew very little of this.
6. There was a strong emphasis on Israeli casualties on the news, relative to Palestinians (even though Palestinians had around 2-3 times the number of deaths as Israelis). In one week in March 02 which the BBC reported as having the most Palestinian casualties since the start of the intifada, there was actually more coverage on the news of Israeli deaths. There were also differences in the language used by journalists for Israelis and Palestinians - words such as 'atrocity', 'brutal murder', 'mass murder', 'savage cold blooded killing', 'lynching' and 'slaughter' were used about Israeli deaths but not Palestinian. The word 'terrorist' was used to describe Palestinians by journalists but when an Israeli group was reported as trying to bomb a Palestinian school, they werereferred to as 'extremists' or 'vigilantes'.
To read the entire article and view excerpts from the book, visit:
Monday, November 29, 2004
The Roadmap in an Arab Perspective
"Jordan fully backed efforts to attain an independent Palestinian state, Jordanian officials said.
"We feel that there is a chance to bring the peace process back on track," Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher told reporters. "We've expressed our full support for the Palestinian Authority. The focus will be on the political phase now.
"Palestinians are trying to promote the Mideast Quartet's Roadmap to Mideast peace, Muasher said, calling on Israel to create a "more conducive atmosphere" for a resumption of talks.
"We are not only talking here of halting the Israeli offensives but also a security calm-down and an Israeli withdrawal to ensure holding the Palestinian elections," Muasher said."
But, we must ask, "If there is a Palestinian commitment to resuming the talks on the Roadmap, it had better be beneficial to the Palestinians. Is it?"
Selim al Hoss wrote an article for Arabmonitor which casts some light on the Roadmap from the Arab perspective.
by Selim al Hoss, former Prime Minister of Lebanon
Beirut, October 2003- The road map, from the Arab angle, is not in the Palestinians' interest, simply on account of the fact that it does not provide any guarantees for the Palestinian people’s rights in their homeland. It looks rather like a subterfuge designed to precipitate civil strife among the Palestinians in its first phase, and provides for utterly futile negotiations with the Israelis in the third and final phase.
Yet the Palestinian authority decided to go along, espousing the plan, simply for lack of alternatives under the prevailing circumstances and in view of the position taken by the super power.
The road map is regarded as a bid for provoking civil strife among the Palestinians as it prescribes in its first phase not only the cessation of violence but also the dismantling of armed organizations and the prosecution of their leaders. Obviously the Palestinian Authority is neither capable militarily of achieving this objective nor is it in the least confident that this will be instrumental in rendering a fair solution to the Palestinian issue any closer.
To read the complete article:
Thoughtful observation of the happenings in Palestine and Iraq shows that the issue at essence is not an issue mistake in information sources because the American Intelligence and American Administration are not that naïve. It neither is failure in media courage and verifying facts because American media apparatuses are not that feeble. The issue is "deeper and more dangerous than this and that." It is a phenomena where western anti-Semitism is transforming from its conventional form into a new one where in the twenty-first century the Arabs have been officially chosen to be the new victim, one country after the other, one people after the other; falling victims to hatred, killing, ethnic cleansing, torture, and massacres under the pretext of a multitude of reasons and justifications including terrorism. They are not much different from the pretexts used in the past, and cannot conceal from the observant researcher that at their very essence they are but different expressions to anti-Arabism and hostility to Arab culture and existence. Abu Ghraib is a case in point, another is the wedding massacre in Iraq, another is the horrible crime against the people in Rafah, all but few examples showing beyond doubt how the Neo-Cons have modified their grandfathers’ anti-Semitism into a systematic campaign of hatred against Arabs.
There is no doubt that those who prepared and misled their people to wage the war against Iraq are the same people who believe in that racist view towards Arabs and are waging a war of eradication against Palestinians, and supervising the persecution methods secreted by the neo-anti-Semitism in its campaign against Arabs. If this is not true, then how could American planes drop bombs on a peaceful wedding party, killing forty children, men and women, and even with the testimonies of living survivors published in the British Guardian the Bush Administration still refuses to apologize for its generals’ deliberate killing of innocent children. Would the Bush Administration adopt a similar policy towards any other any other nation in the world? Would American media keeps the crime in total blackout if the victims were not Arabs? Then, the New York Times editors who are now apologizing for the bad coverage before the war continue in ignoring Arabs’ agony and the massacres committed against them in Palestine and Iraq. This is because an Arab life today is not equal in worth to a western life. Is this not the exact same essence of anti-Semitism that persecute, kills, and displaces Semitic people just for being Semitic, kills their children and women and displaces and violates their properties and countries just because they are Arabs.
It is no coincidence at all that the image of the old Palestinian searching the ruins of her house looking for her medicaments, which reminded Youssi Lapead, Israeli minister of justice, of his grandmother’s image, an old helpless woman, on the days of Nazi persecution of Jews. This image not only applies to the Minister’s grandmother’s, it is the reality of thousands of families in Palestine and Iraq suffering the tragedies, cleansing, and racial discrimination that has nothing to do with the war on terrorism or with the security of this side or that one.
To read the complete article:
Memoirs of an Anti-Zionist Jew
From a sheltered middle-class early childhood in Germany with only nominal connections to Judaism, to active participation in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, via a Zionist upbringing in Palestine including membership of the "Hagana" and later the Israeli "Defence" Forces, seems a winding if not contradictory road to have traveled. I don't believe this is, in fact, the case -but let's begin at the beginning.
My family were not just German, but ridiculously proud North-Germans with a Buddenbrook- like disdain for South-Germans, Jewish or otherwise. Austrians and East Europeans were beyond the pale. Our assimilation into German society had become deeply ingrained over generations, with religion playing a derisory role.My first intimation of being Jewish came in 1933: that Easter I started school and was told the previous evening that I would be asked to state my religion and was to answer "Jewish", which, my mother assured me, was nothing to be ashamed of.
Subsequent events soon proved otherwise: Hitler had come to power and most teachers increasingly railed against Jews in front of the class, some of the staff relegated us to one corner of the classroom and refused to teach us. Within a couple of years our former good friends had stopped playing with us and would no longer invite us to their homes nor visit ours. Increasingly, we were excluded from public places of entertainment: theatres, concert halls and swimming establishments to name but a few. To make matters worse, out went the Christmas Tree and Easter Eggs; the alternative festivals of Hanukkah and Passover were not a patch on them!
I remember concluding with a Jewish classmate that being Jewish was no big deal at all; in fact we heartily wished we weren't! The actual peril of German Jewry was largely concealed from us, probably not least because Berlin being a large city, Jews, and particularly the very assimilated ones, were unlikely to be known or recognized as such.However, there was an increasing exodus from Germany and we followed in 1937. Most of our circle of friends and acquaintances left for other European countries, including Britain, or for the USA. I fear the majority of my relatives were too short-sighted to move at all, finding the idea of leaving Germany unimaginable till it was too late; with one exception all of them perished in concentration camps.Why did we emigrate to Palestine? Certainly not because of Zionist ideals, particularly on my mother's side; however, father had two siblings who had become early Zionists- a rarity at the time- and had settled in Palestine around 1930. Their enthusiastic persuasion prevailed, not least after father explored the possibilities of finding a livelihood and was guaranteed secure employment with the British Mandatory Authorities as a specialist in electrical engineering (he had been working for Siemens).
And so we arrived at the port of Haifa on a beautifully clear and sunny morning in October 1937, in the midst of the second bitter Palestinian uprising, euphemistically termed "disturbances" by the British authorities and Jewish settlers alike.
At the time, the prevailing slogan was "Hebrew work for Hebrew workers"- translatable as a boycott of any dealings with, or employment of, Palestinian Arabs.On a daily basis relations between the communities were not quite so clear cut: in many cities neighbourly relations continued; I recently learned from a Palestinian friend of my generation that not only did she go to a Jewish teacher for piano lessons throughout this period, she also spoke Yiddish quite fluently because of neighbouring families. Similarly, in Haifa there was a certain amount of intermingling and some areas were quite mixed until the "liberation" of Haifa in 1948.The uprising (1936-1939) was aimed mainly at the British Mandatory Powers and at the new Jewish settlements which mushroomed continuously, often literally overnight. An old Ottoman law (still existing in Turkey) which allows a new settlement to remain legally in place once a watchtower and a fence are completed, was frequently used by settlers on disputed lands during nights.By this time (1937-1938) even the most greedy of absentee landlords, often living in Beirut, had stopped selling land to the Jewish National Fund from underneath his tenants' feet. Palestinian Arab fears of Jewish settler intentions had put increasing pressure on landowners, while such intentions were being completely denied by the Jewish community. We firmly believed that settlements, widely termed "Pioneer Settlements", were developed on otherwise neglected and unused land and lacked any understanding of indigenous people's feelings -we were not taking their lands from them, or so the accepted wisdom went, but turning an arid land into a fruitful and productive one. To that end, levies were paid on most goods and all public travel, not to mention the obligatory collection boxes in all shops, classrooms, restaurants, places of public entertainment and in many houses. Proceeds went to the Jewish National Fund and to the Settlement Fund. Money also came from Jewish communities in unoccupied Europe, the USA and various British colonies. Years later, in 1950 or 51, I was a Teachers' Union delegate to some national conference in which a discussion took place on whether to continue these collections and levies, particularly in schools. I could not see the point, as by then we had a state and - so I naively believed - all the land we had wanted and more. I was outvoted by a large majority.
During my school years I became increasingly involved in the Zionist movement as well as the Socialist one, as indeed a large majority of young people were at the time, especially those who stayed on at school after the age of 14. We perceived no contradiction: we were combating colonialism in the shape of the British Authorities and our training, initially in unarmed combat, later in armed combat as well as in various endurance courses in the underground "Hagana" (defence) organisation, was aimed at this.I relished the difference between living in Germany and Palestine from the start: the freedom from restrictions, the absence of the stigma and anxiety of being a Jew and last but not least, the beauty of the country, its climate and the general air of informality, of a common aim and purpose and of discarding the shackles of an "old" traditional lifestyle for a new, confident and assertive one, captured my heart completely. With hindsight, I realize that many of these sentiments led to a sense of superiority, self-importance, arrogance and aggressiveness, characteristics which are still often found in Israelis nowadays; for youngsters growing up, however, this was heady stuff!
Most of us dreamt of a pioneering life as founder-members of a new kibbutz; we had experience of working and staying in established ones, very poor at that time, as volunteers during the long summer holidays as well as weekends spent training in handling a variety of firearms. Most kibbutzim had hidden caches of arms.Meanwhile, the Palestinian uprising had come to an end in 1939; I was not aware at the time of how cruelly it had been crushed - indeed, the existence of the Arab population seemed somewhat remote and shadowy, barely intruding upon our consciousness. I can well imagine white children in other colonial countries - India, various African countries - growing up hardly noticing the indigenous population, except as servants, menial laborers or strangers occasionally glimpsed from a coach or car window.
This was also the time of growing anxiety about family members who had stayed behind in Germany: by 1942 all news of them had ceased; prior to this my mother had been trying in vain for some two years to obtain a permit for my widowed grandmother to join us. However, a quota had been imposed as a result of Arab protests, triggered by alarm at the sharp increase in the entry rate caused by Hitler's regime. Elderly people stood no chance of obtaining a permit. For a long time, mother was distraught; grandmother, so proudly German, had been sent to a concentration camp, as had all my other relatives. Only one survived.
The war years touched the Jewish community mainly by the terrible common anxiety, amounting to dread, of practically all European Jews about the fate of family and friends left behind, and by the mobilisation of large numbers of young men and women and their recruitment into the British army. There was also growing bitterness at the lack of action by the Allied Powers and Britain in particular, to try and rescue Jews in any significant numbers or to speak out against the terrible atrocities, news of which increasingly filtered through. Our poet laureate of the time wrote a poem of bitter indictment, cursing both the perpetrators of the atrocities and those who stood silently by.
Another, for me illuminating, aspect of the war years, however, (discounting a few rather feeble air attacks by the Italian air force) was that for the first time Palestinian Arabs, or at least a few of them, became real to me. We had finally settled in Haifa in late 1941. Prior to that we had moved around between Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa following my father's work in the government's telephone exchange modernisation.
Our neighbours in Haifa, as well as two other families in the street, were Arab. I became friendly with their eldest daughter, who was about my age, and was frequently in their house, always treated with friendliness and warmth although conversation was minimal: the little Arabic we learned at school was formal literary Arabic, fairly remote from daily discourse, and the female members of the family, as well as the father, knew only the colloquial spoken Arabic. They were first generation town-dwellers, who had moved to Haifa from Al-Tireh, a prosperous village not far away, ironically the location of my first teaching post - but of that later. I was fascinated by their lifestyle and attracted to much of it, not to mention developing a crush on the eldest son, who had recently graduated from Beirut University. Through my contact with the family I began to see Arab people as individuals, no doubt influenced by my mother's attitude to anyone she met, which showed a healthy disregard for origins or "race".
We had occasional help with heavy laundry from Arab women, often from near-by villages, and mother knew all about their families, homes and problems, with hardly any common language. She also persuaded my father, who had Arab colleagues, to obtain some samples and recipes of Middle Eastern cooking, which were added to our own repertoire. Even today I still have vivid memories of the sound of the old cannons in Acre, across the bay, going off in the evenings during Ramadan, signaling the end of the fast. Haifa was still reasonably mixed throughout these years and we often visited the largely Arab downtown area close to the port, with its mixture of large and small shops and stalls, a market boasting a wide variety of fresh products, particularly fish, small restaurants and, last but not least, the largest and best stocked bookshop in Haifa, "Habash".
One of my classmates took piano lessons from a notable pacifist Jew (Yossef Abileah), whose music school accommodated Arabs, Jews, Armenians, Greeks and others. Proud parents and friends sat together at the annual concerts. Years later, in Birmingham, I was invited by the Palestinian Students’ Association to attend a talk given by him, pleading for peace and recognition of Palestinian aspirations. He had just returned from the USA, a frail old man, who, together with his wife, was still striving for justice.
As a family we also frequently visited Acre, Nazareth and other well known Palestinian - Arab towns and there seemed to be a feeling of mutual tolerance at the time, although I knew of no other Jewish people in Haifa who regularly visited Arab homes. No doubt others did exist, particularly in the mixed areas.
Towards the end of the war tensions escalated, especially between the Jewish community and the British authorities, but also between the former's main parties and the extremist right-wing "Beitar" party (led by the late Menahem Begin, later to become the "Etzel" and "Stern" gangs). Officially at least, the community defence force, the "Hagana", claimed to be at war with the right - we were instructed to tear down their posters wherever they appeared; we also attempted - in vain - to have two pupils who were members of "Beitar" expelled from our school. Most of us were still blind, though, to the hidden agenda with its dangers to the Palestinian Arabs.
In 1945 I completed school and went to Jerusalem to study. At that time, we were still free to wander about in the Arab part of the city - far more Arab than it is now, when so much of the Arab sector has been gnawed away, partly openly and partly by stealth. Tensions continued to mount, with terrorist attacks by Etzel and Stern gangs, with frequent curfews imposed by the British, with desperate attempts to land illegal ships packed with survivors from Europe and with increasing demands for a Jewish state.
The 1947 declaration by the United Nations of the partition of Palestine and of the creation of such a state were greeted with wild jubilation and all-night street celebrations; we were somewhat taken aback by the grim and worried faces of Arabs the following morning - little did we realise that fighting had begun and that expulsions were already occurring in other parts of the country.Hostilities escalated sharply after the unceremonious departure of the British in May 1948. Having for years played the game of divide and rule, successfully contributing to the animosity between the Arab and Jewish communities, they washed their hands of the affair and left the two sides to their own devices. However, most British police stations, in the main well fortified and stocked with ammunitions, fell into Jewish hands, as did prisons, radar stations and warehouses. Pure coincidence, I now wonder?
We finished our studies early that summer. Jerusalem had been under siege since winter and there was no electricity, petrol or other fuel and very little food or water. Since January most of us students and others had spent nights on guard duties for the Hagana in the hills surrounding Jerusalem. In June we became full-time members of the developing "Israel Defence Force". Many of us, however, had by then experienced the first of many deeply disturbing shocks: the massacre at Deir Yassin.
Early one morning in April 1948, a friend burst into my room with tears streaming down her face: "they are butchering everyone in Deir Yassin!" It took some time to sink in - we had been repeatedly told that the village's inhabitants were entirely peaceful and the senseless brutality of such slaughter was incomprehensible. Our only comfort, if such it could be called, was that the atrocity was perpetrated by the Stern gang, forerunners of "Likud". That fig leaf was torn away when, a few months later, Stern and Etzel members were incorporated into the regular army and their commanders became our officers. Complaints fell on deaf ears; we now had one state with one army, we were told. At this perilous time, everyone was needed in the defence of the fledgling state and meting out punishment would be counterproductive. Nowadays it is of course widely known that Deir Yassin happened with the full knowledge and cooperation of Ben Gurion, our first prime minister. That summer there was a brief cease-fire and I returned to Haifa for a week. During my absence the "liberation" of Haifa and of many other towns and villages had occurred: Jaffa, Afula, Safad, Lydda and many more. We had been unaware of any of this in Jerusalem, being cut off by the siege. The inhabitants had been driven out, sometimes by straightforward attacks, at other times by different means, often by deliberately terrorising people. In Haifa, for example, many Palestinian Arabs had been given 24 hours to leave; armed soldiers ensured they complied. The predominantly Arab downtown business area was cleared as well as purely residential areas: our neighbours as well as the owners of the two other Arab houses in the street shared this fate. My mother recounted the story with tears, my father with pride. The term "ethnic cleansing" was as yet unknown, it certainly was a very apt description of what was, and indeed still is, happening.
The large shops and business premises downtown were now "liberated" and in Israeli hands. Only one Arab quarter remained, as it still does today: Wadi Nisnas, a small, largely poor, ghetto-like part of Haifa. What had become of our Arab neighbours, indeed of all Haifa's large Arab population many of whose families had been settled in that city for hundreds of years? It was a nagging doubt which refused to go away. Upon my return to Jerusalem, I was assigned to a regiment commanded by Moshe Dayan (later General Dayan, Chief of Staff, later still, prime minister). He had "liberated" some Arab towns and villages and used to boast freely of his fear-striking tactics: he had ordered his troops to release a veritable deluge of shrieking sirens, careering searchlights, massive explosions of shells, grenades and other ammunition, prior to mounting an attack on these places. By that time, most of the inhabitants had fled in sheer terror. Dayan was rather proud of his successes gained by this method; I believe he used it often. The fact that the inhabitants of these places, like all Palestinians who had fled or who had simply been away from home during the "Independence War", had lost any right ever to return was left unmentioned. Indeed, for a long time- far too long - I realise with hindsight, it was so much easier to believe the propaganda we were bombarded with: the bulk of the Arab population had fled despite Israel's efforts to reassure them and to persuade them to stay put. Moreover, Jews from a variety of Middle Eastern countries were suffering persecution and peril and had to emigrate, or so we were led to believe, so it was a fair exchange. It was not until the early nineteen fifties, when I encountered some of these "persecuted" immigrants, that a very different picture began to emerge.In early 1950 all female teachers and nurses were released from the army and shortly after that I started my first teaching job in Al-Tireh, formerly a prosperous Palestinian village which we had often glimpsed from the main Haifa - Tel-Aviv road. I was astonished to see the fine, modern school building erected and then abandoned by the villagers: the general perception by the majority of Israeli Jews was that Arab village dwellers, with very few exceptions, were illiterate.
The village was now peopled by new immigrants, the bulk of them from Bulgaria and Turkey. Initially, we had no means of communication, but in time it became clear that many of our pupils' parents were less than happy in their new homes. All the Bulgarians had come from Sophia and were used to big-city life; the Turks also felt that the wonderful promises of life in the Jewish homeland had failed to materialise. All of them felt unneeded and even unwelcome; they had been dumped in abandoned villages - if they were lucky - and were usually unemployed or were overqualified for the jobs they were doing. The young men, of course, had immediately been drafted into the army.
My opportunity to meet some of these young soldiers came when I was called up to go on reservist duty: in February 1952 I was sent to Eilat for a month. At that time, it was nothing but a military camp on the shores of the Red Sea. I was assigned to a class of new immigrant soldiers who spoke no Hebrew. The hostility of the 25 or so young men I encountered on the first morning shocked me: they wanted to learn no Hebrew! One young Yemeni who spoke a little Hebrew explained that all of these men from various, mainly Arab, countries, had left settled and contented lives in their former homes. They had been persuaded by the constant urgings of Zionist propaganda to come to the aid of the new Israeli state, which was in danger being destroyed by the surrounding Arab states, as indeed were their own communities. They had been made to feel needed, perhaps essential; what they had not been told was that their main role was to act as cannon-fodder. On arrival, they were sprayed with DDT at the points of entry and then crammed into extremely primitive reception camps. Within a week or two they were drafted into the army for a three-year term and sent to their bases, often without knowledge of where their families had been placed or how they would survive economically. They were far from unaware of the very different treatment accorded to European immigrants whose camps were far superior, who received help in finding suitable accommodation and who were quickly given jobs. Vast numbers of Eastern immigrants now wished to return to their countries of origin as soon as possible - the Indians even held a sit-down strike in central Tel Aviv demanding their fares back - very few had this wish granted. One difficulty was the very high level of taxes levied at the time on Israelis traveling abroad. This was compounded by the fact that, at that time, all Jewish immigrants, on arrival in Israel, had been automatically made Israeli citizens, without being informed properly, let alone consulted or asked for consent. As a result, most had lost their original citizenship.
On a recent visit to Palestine and Israel I met an Iraqi who had been part of this influx; he told me that he still felt bitter about what had happened to him, to his community and to all the other non-European immigrants.
The Eilat experience opened my eyes to the reality of life for the new, mainly non-European immigrants. Later on I saw some of the purpose built, shoddy villages, literally in the middle of nowhere, in which many of them had been dumped; quite often these were later abandoned and the disillusioned inhabitants were housed in - inferior - ex-Palestinian accommodation; the better type of such accommodation, particularly in the cities, had gone to European immigrants. The increasingly blatant inequality of treatment that existed between the Jewish and the remaining Arab citizens of Israel began to worry and to raise doubts and even anger in the minds of progressive Israelis, sadly not many of them. This was explained away by "security" needs: dangers had to be faced up to, especially those posed by the "fedayeen" (armed intruders, many of them farmers desperate to get back to their lands). However, everyone knew that these were few and far between and only affected the southernmost and northernmost borders, not any centres of population. It made no sense not to allow Arab-Israeli citizens to travel freely, not to give them access to health, education and other services in any comparable measure and to restrict their entry into a whole range of studies and professions, not to mention into trade unions.
Some of these issues have now been addressed but many still hold true and today there is the added danger of "Judaisation" - of the Galilee, for instance, and of old villages and settlements being expropriated and their inhabitants transferred against their will. Today we are told that these villages and settlements had never been officially recognised and hence had never had electricity, water or road access introduced; at the time no-one, at least outside government, had ever heard of unrecognised villages. Our disillusion with the new state reached its climax during the 1956/7 Suez crisis: this could not be explained away as a security measure by any feat of the imagination - it was naked aggression! Most Israelis - excepting communist party members and some far sighted individuals - were jubilant.We (I had married by that time and was living in Jerusalem once more) found that open criticism led to social ostracism in all but a few cases. During this period, our Indian postman (a graduate of Madras University) knocked on our door very early one morning to inform us in a frightened whisper that all our mail was being opened. So, when in 1958 Bristol University offered my husband a post as research fellow, we finally decided to emigrate.For many years thereafter I still visited Israel fairly regularly but after 1978, following Menahem Begin's election as prime minister, I felt too alienated to do so any longer.
During my years in Britain I came across writings by early Zionists (the unedited version of Herzl, inter alia) as well as those by Palestinians such as Edward Said, R. Sayigh and others which had not been widely available in Israel, and I gradually came to realise that my perception of Zionism having lost its way was mistaken: Zionism had never been justifiable from its outset. I also met numerous Palestinians, mainly students, during the seventies in Britain and began to see their side much more clearly. However, it took the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 to turn me from a non-Zionist into an anti- Zionist.At a large demonstration in London that summer I came across groups of like-minded former Israelis and/or Jews for the first time and discovered that I could become involved and active in this country. For an even moderately politically aware, progressive former Israeli, I believe this is an unavoidable consequence.
Addendum: I recently discovered that Israeli citizens have either Jewish, Arab, or Druze Nationality rather than Israeli one – discrimination from cradle to grave. (2003)
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Security and Democracy, Israeli style
The above quote is something to keep in mind when using the word "security" if it is Israel that is uttering it. A message Richard of the London-based Just Peace UK newsgroup kindly posted raises some interesting elements for reflection. He wrote:
"In case you haven't come across the Ariel Centre for Policy Research here's a taster. (I looked them up because one of their number will be joining Melanie Philips and Shlomo Ben-Ami in speaking against the motion Zionism today is the real enemy of the Jews. Speaking in favour will be Jacqueline Rose, Gideon Levy and Avi Shlaim.
It's 'about us' merely says:
---The Ariel Center for Policy Research (ACPR) was established in 1997 as a non-profit, non-partisan organization, committed to stimulating and informing the national and international debates concerning all aspects of security policy - notably those policies which are an outcome of the political process started in Oslo and subsequently called the Peace Process.
Peace is a noble challenge and there is no other nation in the world which needs peace more than Israel. However, a true peace can only be obtained in the Middle East if Israeli security and national interests are safeguarded. A peace which will force Israel to its pre-1967 borders, i.e. losing those territorial assets critically needed for the very existence of the Jewish State will not be but a recipe for war.
The ACPR has taken upon itself to help crystallize a strategic design for the State of Israel. This will be presented to the policy-makers and general public by various means. Among them, research and policy papers, forums of experts, video and film productions, an internet site, publishing house and a major journal of strategic thought.----"
And, here is the illuminating paper that Richard found.
Policy Paper No. 141, 2002
"Democratizing Islam" shows that "Islamic fundamentalism" or "Islamism" is in fact authentic Islam - the Islam of Muhammad. To democratize Islam it will be necessary for the United States to conquer Iraq and other Islamic regimes and maintain an occupation force for two or three decades, as was done in post-war Japan and Germany.
A generation of Muslim children will have to be re-educated. Anti-Jewish and anti-Christian verses in the Qur`an should be neutralized by contrary verses and commentaries. The principle of Jihad must be eliminated from the four schools of Islamic law. Islamic regimes must abide by the Seven Noahide Laws of Universal Morality.
Non-Arab states should follow the example of Turkey and remove Arabic from public documents and public education and establish their native language as the only official language of the state. This will diminish pan-Arab as well as pan-Islamic sentiments.Various Islamic concepts such as "consultation" and "consensus" should be reinterpreted to prescribe a non-secular constitutional democracy. Civil society and political institutions must be developed to counter the authoritarian tendencies of Islamic culture. A market economy conducive to the formation of a middle class will hasten this development.
Decentralization of power is essential. In Islamic countries with large ethnic minorities, it will be necessary to establish a federal system of government based on territoriality. Bicameral legislatures should be established to protect minorities.
Israel can facilitate the democratization of Islam by adopting a model constitution based on Jewish principles. To be true to its heritage, Israel should avoid diplomatic relations with any evil regime. It should call for the expulsion from the UN of any state that violates the democratic provisions of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By its behavior, Israel's government should set an example to mankind.
Encounter with Avi Shaim, Gideon Levy, Jacquline Rose, Shlomo Ben-Ami and Melanie Philips
Date: Tues 25th January 2005
Royal Geographical Society
1 Kensington Gore
London SW7 2AR
Book online at www.intelligencesquared.com or call the booking line 020 7494 3345.
Palestinian refugees of the diaspora can not vote
Colin Powell arrived yesterday in Palestine to talk to Ariel Sharon about the restaging of the Roadmap-circus. The show is scheduled to begin with an "election process" and talks are under way to persuade Israel to temporarily redeploy the occupation forces to allow for the "election process" to take place without turning into a tragicomedy which would reveal to the world the reality of a brutal military suffocation of an entire population on what is left of its homeland.
Now, I am writing for this: A lot of Palestinians living here in Italy enthusiastically are registrating to participate in the "voting process". I'm talking about Palestinians who are NOT refugees. Because those who are refugees, will not be able to vote. Should we, as Al Awda and as Palestinian Right to Return Coalition not seize this opportunity and demand that the "election process" include the some five million refugees ? In 1995, when Yasser Arafat and the group from Tunis seized the opportunity of an "election process" to organize a referendum legitimizing the Palestinian Authority, they took care to sidestep thePalestinian diaspora. At that time, Al Awda and the PRRC did not exist yet. But now that we exist,we should not allow this to happen again. What can we do to get the five million Palestinians living in the diaspora registered to vote in January ?
Emergency Gaza Relief Fund - Please Contribute Now
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The One State Solution
Israel Shahak reckons, and probably accurately, that no Israeli government will ever agree to a two state solution due to the influence of religion on Israeli politics. He has noted that an extreme religious party holds the balance of power in the Knesset and Rabbis are ministers. According to religionists and the government, Israel is redeeming the land. They cannot countenance agreeing to Palestinians having sovereignty in any part--no matter how small--of the promised land. So a two state solution will probably not come about through negotiations. Israel will continue to rule the OT without annexing them. The Palestinians will demand "one person, one vote" and eventually the rest of the world will support them. Israel will be faced with two choices - the only way out is for it to ethnically cleanse the OT or to become a secular democratic state.
But Israel is certainly not the only side in this conflict, and considering the interests of Israel exclusively is revealing itself to be a behaviour that the international community has a harder and harder time substantiating. Since the point is not to second guess what will be acceptable to only one party, those who are in this case the occupiers, let's just stick to the facts:There really is no paradigm of thousands of complications because there is actually only one solution, a very simple, yet drastic solution: Israel aims at annexing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The prospected partial Gaza withdrawal does not alter this state of affairs both for the continued control that Israel will have over borders, air space and many infrastructures as well as for the lengthy timetable which is always open to modification.
The complicated interweaving of Israelis and Palestinians is supported by geographic maps that demonstrate settlements, military outposts and restricted zones in vast areas of the Occupied Territories. Since this appears to be true, one is required to recognize the facts created "manu militarti", that is, facts on the ground created by Israel to make the division of Palestine unrealisable. Taking account of the reality, the solution is to officially declare the annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, that way there exists the basis for the single possible solution of the conflict: the declaration of a single State in the confines of historical Palestine (British Mandate for those who like that terminology) - from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean.
It would be a revolutionary step, an act that will require the Israelis to adopt the paradigm of equal treatment before the law, something which is unfortunately not likely. Ideally, within the annexed State, all discriminations on ethnic and religious basis must be abolished.
The United Nations had already indicated the solution - which is quite simple: when in 1947 they sanctioned the division of Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab, they in no way sanctioned the expulsion of the Palestinians from the part assigned to the new Jewish State and, following the expulsion, in 1948 they explicitly declared the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their villages and towns of origin as well as the restitution of their property. The adhesion to this Resolution on the part of Israel, is the only solution that is compatible with principles of international legality and Human Rights.
Someone may have the kneejerk reaction of: "with the return of the Palestinians, you are working towards the extermination of the Jews". Yet... what has been spoken of, and what is on the table now in many cross sections of Israeli public opinion? It is a State of Rights, with a constitution that is meant to guarantee equal rights to all of its citizens, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or anything outside of those, in order to achieve democracy in Palestine-Israel or whatever name the State would assume. Make note that even to this day, no constitution exists in Israel. The right of return of the Palestinians to their homeland would mark a step towards progress and true reforms - and the creation of a multi-faith, multi-ethnic society based upon a constitution, which is long overdue, that will reunite all of historical Palestine around the principle of equality of rights for all citizens. In essence, it is a progressive reform. The hinderance, in Israel's way of viewing, is of course the presence of the Arabs in the area. But, despite any wishful thinking, these people will not just vanish in the night, and they will not let themselves be deported. The options are killing them or living with them. I think the choice is clear of the only action that can be taken.
Right of Return is not a deterrent from the solution, the very solution lies therein, and by now, all know this, Palestinians and Israelis alike. That is why it is so important to keep it in the forefront, for it is the ONLY aspect of which Palestinians will not make concessions. Why should they?! It is their right that they are demanding! It is vital to understand something about what the Fourth Geneva Convention dictates in matters pertaining to Rights of Refugees. It is an inalienable and non-negotiable right. That means that is can not be exchanged for different rights without surrendering the initial right which is precisely what the refugees are asking. Of course, no one does much of anything but violate these rules, yet, seeing as though they do exist, the long suffering Palestinians are waiting until the tide turns and some world leaders get in there and act upon enforcing the laws.
To address for a moment the practical aspect of a Palestinian State comprised of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.... It is important to recognise that States without geographical continuity are practically doomed to failure for logistic, burocratic and economic reasons. Not to mention, have any of you even SEEN these fabled maps of the proposed Palestinian State? Of course not, because it is impossible to decide exactly where to place geographic borders. If the settlements are englobed into the Palestinian State, which is bound to occur even for some very populated ones, the settlers must renounce Israeli citizenship, for they cannot continue to utilize the services of a foreign armed guard, private roads, etc. If they are included into an Israeli State, densely populated Arab villages and areas which are well beyond the Green line and therefore beyond the scope of the Roadmap and difficult to maintain in eternum, will of course make demands upon Israel that Israel may not be willing to concede, such as development of infrastructures. Ask any Jew living in a so-called Development Town what sort of service they get and then hear them laugh if you say that the Palestinians will get infrastructures. So, at the start, whatever solution is arrived at, will be the cause of a multitude of problems that neither side has the tools to resolve. The very prospect of a fragmented State is relatively difficult to foresee a long-term positive outcome. Perhaps the only solution would be to permit the Negev to be assigned to Palestine, but for reasons that have to do with not wanting to permit territorial continuity to the Palestinians, even this largely barren area is seen as being impossible to permit as Palestinian land.
To insist upon the dichotomy between Jews and non-Jews is simply to emphasise the precise opposite points that the One State supporters are stressing. It is obvious that we are endorsing the overcoming of divisions based upon ethnic character, and it is a substantial negation of the counterposition between the various groups. We are insisting upon the recognition of individual rights, to take precedence over group rights. The individuals who have the internationally recognized right to live in their homeland should be permitted to do so, should be granted political rights and should be recognized as members of a democratic society. If the society excludes them upon basis of race, creed, color, political beliefs, that society is sick, and should be reformed.
There is no shortage throughout history of various "ethnic decongestions". The creation of communities based not on the principles of citizenship, but strictly on those of ethnic membership is the common trait of totalitarian and far right wing societies and governments. Supporting such a system, one must have better arguments than "they won't like it! You don't mess with them!" In the long term, these ethnic decongestions are not morally sustainable, nor are they politically viable. There is a residual element of instability and a legacy of injustice that can not leave these communities unstained.
What is to be gained for Israeli society if they decide to adhere to UN resolutions regarding them? I would say many things. Principally, if they wish for their economy to recover, they need peace. Peace can come about only if there is justice and justice can happen only if there is respect for international law. In a single State solution, they can maintain the settlements, which seem to be so important to them. All of the land would be territory of citizens, and not colonies, occupied territories and refugee camps.
The refugees and exiles, based upon studies by Abu Sitta, are not likely to settle into largely Jewish areas, which are heavily concentrated and occupy small areas. The Palestinians were basically, before they were cancelled from having a social role, involved in agriculture, and it is likely that this trend would continue, so cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa would remain largely Jewish in character. Many villages where Palestinians were expelled from have remained barren, for "security" reasons, and these would be re-occupied by Palestinians. Many Palestinians (at least the many of my acquaintance) are not placing Self-Rule as the primary political demand, but rather, equal rights in the enlarged society and a place in society, expressed by representation in whatever government they are ruled by. They have been occupied by foreigners for over 54 years now, and have made much more progess in compromise than the Israeli, in spite of the fact that they are the oppressed, and not the oppressor.
It must be admitted that a land without territorial integrity has absolutely no possibility of success, and this is clear and evident to almost everyone by now. That is the very reason that Israel at the end accepted such a proposal, because it is unworkable. Add to that the leopard skin nature of the settlements and it is a recipe for eternal disaster. One may not like South Africa, but they made the choice of territorial integrity, one man = one vote and economically, socially and culturally, it has been a vast improvement upon previous governments. They are still overcoming the damage caused by decades of racist separation, but rapproachment can be done, and it certainly is being done. This is another nation which has nuclear weapons, which has the total economic domination in the hands of one ethnic group. But, that sort of system, in the long run is unsustainable, morally, economically, socially and legally it is bankrupt. Sooner or later Israel will come to terms with this fact. It will probably be a relief to not feel so detested once they begin to adhere to legality, and they will quite possibly have a renaissance. I would say that in addition, the knowledge that they were acting according to the tenets of Human Rights would be good for the moral fabric of the Israeli as citizens. Not to mention, the reduction of so-called Defense spending, as well as the reduction of collective paranoia will be beneficial in education, and other important areas of Israeli society. They can't possibly believe that the Palestinians are out to drive them into the sea. The Palestinians have a lot of anger, yes, and this will be reduced when the oppression against them is reduced. This is logical. Arab culture in general places a very high value on respect, and once the rights of these people are respected, there isn't space for vendetta, as the Palestinians are progressive people and desire to get on with developing their society.
I DO believe that the task of peace lies firmly in the hands of Israel. They are the ones who are the military aggressors, they are the ones who are the occupiers. They are the ones who have the political might, the enormous funding, the unconditional US support. They have all the tools to obtain whatever it is they want. Have you ever stopped to think that perhaps they WANT the random terrorist acts that an extreme minority of Palestinians perform? It seems as though they do everything in their power to provoke at precisely the "right" moments to deflect attention away from the wall, from house destruction in Rafah and other of the operations that they are just waiting to put into action? The terrorist acts against Israeli citizens unfailingly creates a tidal wave of indignation in the mass media of the West, who so a-critically sees it as one-sided and without cause. It is useful to maintain a level of "insecurity" and "enhanced security needs", carried out by repression and collective punishment and targeted assassinations of presumed terrorists in the Palestinian population, and propaganda instilling fear and mistrust of the Arab and Palestinian people in the Israeli one.
If there weren't suicide bombers, the Israeli government may have to had invented them, because they gain so much for so little. That may scandalize some of you, who will read this in some way to suit your ideologies. But, think about it. Read the statistics about strikes and retaliations. (Oh, always in THAT order, although logic says, provocation, reaction). It is evident that the greatest quantity of civilian losses is caused by the Israeli State terrorism against the people of Palestine. The number is much greater than the civilian Israeli losses, although by what the US mass media writes, one is lead to believe the opposite. And one is lead to hate Arabs and classify them as barbarians who deserve collective punishment.
As for electing leaders, one was elected, and he was too secular for Israel. With the actions Israel has taken, it appears that they want a fanatic or a puppet so that the task of manipulation is simplified. Real leaders are possibly on the rise, but these things take time, and most importantly, they need outside support since they will be viewed as a danger to Israel if they serve the interests of their people. Like it or not, their primary interest should not be "Israel's security" but rather the well-being and the rights of Palestinians.
The decontextualization of terrorism, and the emphasis it is given in the mass media, far outweigh its true scope or effect. It has really become a cost-effective tool for the Israeli government to implement long-range plans of territorial occupation, (land grabbing walls, blocking of water supplies to Arab territory), political manipulation of adversaries (Arafat was flawed, but he was essentially a secular leader and that was not something that Israel wanted to deal with. Much better to allow radical factions to form so that they can be promoted as terrorist groups with murder on their agenda for reasons of revenge). Overplaying the "security" card, is a common subterfuge, in order to gain consensus from largely uninformed public who don't know what is going on from the media bias and the creation of the "Arab monster". This card is used to carry out State terrorism that will force the Palestinians into further surrender or play right into Sharon's game of becoming the enemy. How do they KNOW someone is a terrorist? How is a pilot who drops a Hellfire bomb any less of a terrorist than a man who straps a homemade one on his belt?
It seems that Israel never tires of asking for concessions when it is obviously Israel that has got to start conforming to international law if it simply won't conform to laws of ordinary decency. I personally believe that the Palestinians have given all there is to give. If Israel won't stop short of the Palestinian's total capitulation, that speaks volumes about Israel's dedication to peace.
Israel, like the US, each claiming to be idealistic States, basically functions on the concept of utilitarism. That which "gets the job done" (or is perceived as such) is the action which is undertaken. Therefore, in the unlikelihood of reversing the Occupation, with the impossibility of annexation, the only solution that can somehow bring practical benefit to Israeli society is the cessation of hostility and this can only be achieved with the "historical compromise" that is starting to be spoken of in Israeli circles and elsewhere. Many of the common worries are basically based on misperceptions of events and on fears accountable for stereotypes and things repeated so often they are just taken as truth, for example, the "need" for a Jewish national homeland in modern society and the belief that Palestinians would prefer being deported (some call it compensated) in some far-off land rather than returning to their own.
We must not forget the importance of considering the apprehensions that the Palestinians would feel, to give up part of their aspirations of having total control over their own future as a people, and that is something which must be more carefully investigated. Since most of those who I have spoken with in the past four or five years, since I came into contact with this proposal, are Palestinian, and practically all of them are favorable to implementing it, I had assumed that this was a representative thought. There will have to be a lot of forgiving done, and there will be moments that are of course difficult for us to come to understand, given that many of us are not the protagonists of this. Yet, we must be aware that the idea of one single, unified State is gaining ground very rapidly. Is it because it has the utilitaristic aspect, or is it because so much damage has been done, and there really IS no other solution if one is hoping to end the stalemate and stop the suffering on both sides?
Monday, November 22, 2004
Crawling from the Wreckage
Iraq is aflame. I don't think that's a news item or an opinion. It is the reality. The promises of "Everything will be better once we get Saddam out of there" have revealed themselves to be empty. Almost everything is worse. The investments for reconstruction? There will be lots of reconstruction that needs to be done to replace the factories and homes, but they aren't really that tasty for investors, so they may never be realised. The improvement in the living standards of an Iraqi people liberated are just more fables of the reconstruction.
There has been a hell of a lot of destruction. First the raids and blitzes. Then the widespread banditism and looting. Then the second phase of the war and occupation. And, in the midst of all this ruin and wreckage..... the Iraqis are expected to vote.
How can the Iraqis be expected to vote in the current conditions? I am not talking about the practical difficulties of the matter, which are innumerable. I am speaking of the moral ones. When there is a cataclysmic event going on, such as the constant turmoil and destruction of all Iraqi infrastructures and social systems, not to mention the war which is drawing on and dividing the Iraqis into ethnic groups, camps and factions pitted one against the other, how can serene and honest campaigning be done? How can it have any semblance of being a popular vote, and not just a simple technique to legitimize the occupation? How can the safety of the people, candidates and voters alike, be assured? Is the concept of a national identity for the well being of the nation instilled enough to promote such elections? Isn't the presence of an occupying force inhibiting to the free and democratic expression of the Iraqi people? Can a people occupied really decide their own future? Will there be permitted a party whose program is immediate ending of US presence in Iraq and the ceasing of the occupation, which is one of the primary elements of Iraqi resistance and popular opinion.
And, importantly, how can the total participation of the populace be guaranteed? It can't. That is the point. It won't, and that is something which will make whatever result comes out of the ballot boxes a farce. There will be areas that will be prohibited from voting. Major segments of the population will be excluded from the vote. Not to mention that notwithstanding the largescale boycotts called by the Association of the Ulema, adhered to by dozens of factions of Iraqi civil society, the voice of the people will count for little to nothing. But, somehow, some way, things will stay the same as they are now. A total disaster.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Ethnic Cleansing and the Art of Camouflage
If you want to fully understand the wall that Israel has built, I advise you to start at the beginning, where its first sections were erected nearly two years ago on land belonging to the villages of Pharaon and Irtah, on the edge of the city of Tulkarem. The living room of Fayez Odah in Irtah offers an excellent view of the 25-foot-high monolith, which has eaten 60% of his land. He and his wife Mona and five children are also in danger of being arrested or fired upon every time they try to farm the remaining 40%, because it is in the "security zone" next to the wall. The structure is even more imposing for being on a raised section of ground, with a sort of ditch in front of it.That is of course how it appears from the Palestinian side. However, it wouldn't do to sully the view from the Israeli side, nor to remind the Israeli public of the suffering that is being imposed on the people whose land they covet. Hence the transfer of massive amounts of earth to the Israeli side, where it abuts the wall, creating an attractive but artificial hill, planted with roses in many places. The earth movement also accounts for the lower ground on the Palestinian side. It gives double meaning to the notion of land transfer. In the northerly direction, the wall continues as far as one can see, puncutated by periodic guard towers reminiscent of a medieval fortress. However, to the south it changes to two parallel electrified chain link fences topped with razor wire that is so dangerous that it is illegal to use for security purposes in many countries. A patrol road runs between the two fences, and sand fields outside the fences with warning signs not to tread on the sand complete the barrier. This type of barrier relies upon width rather than height, and is the structure of choice when the purpose is to directly confiscate more land.Of course, direct confiscation for the purpose of construction is only a small part of the land transfer. Between Irtah and Pharaon, where the barrier type changes, it suddenly jogs east. This was not the original plan, but the change allows the barrier to be built closer to the villages, placing more of the village land on the opposite (Israeli) side. Without ever explaining why the change was made, the Israeli authorities assured the local Palestinians that the many gates in the barrier would allow them access to their land. The reality has been quite different, with Israel being the party that decides when Palestinians need to go to their land.Israel apparently also decided that it built the wall too close to Pharaon. Many of the houses in the village were so close to the wall that they were deemed a security threat. In order to assure that there would be sufficient distance between the barrier and the Palestinian homes, therefore, these houses were demolished, dispossessing more than 100 residents.Restricting access of Palestinian farmers to their land over the last two years has paid off big to Israeli land developers. When land is unused for a specified time, it reverts to the state which, in the case of Israel, turns it over to the Jewish National Fund, the organization that controls 93% of the land in Israel and whose charter requires it to discriminate against non-Jews, a provision which the Israeli High Court has ruled legal under Israeli law. (Israel has no constitution or bill of rights.) In the case of the land of Irtah and Pharaon, much of it is now being cleared of ancient olive trees for use as an industrial park.However, that is still not enough. A new military road on the Palestinian side now connects two gates in the barrier, enclosing a small section of land that houses nine families. The families must have permission to cross the road, and they are blocked on the other side by the wall. This illustrates a technique of land confiscation that can be used to acquire coveted land that happens to fall inside the barrier, thus confining ever larger numbers of Palestinians inside ever shrinking areas of land.There is, however, one consequence of wall construction which is not immediately apparent from Irtah and Pharaon. For that you have to go to Mas'ha, farther south, to the home of Hani Omar. Hani's house is outside (on the Israeli side) of the wall, but a chain link fence topped with razor wire encloses him on three sides. He is thus emblematic of the many Palestinians who are caught in what is known as the "seam zone" between actual Israeli territory and the wall. Tens (and eventually possibly hundreds) of thousands of Palestinians, including entire villages, find themselves in this limbo, with limited access to Palestinian areas but no right to enter Israel. The resulting strangulation may eventually be effective in forcing them out of their homes and into the dwindling lands inside the wall.When the Berlin wall was built, its purpose was to separate East Berlin from the rest of the city. It was therefore constructed along the line dividing the two, and specifically on the East Berlin side of that line. When Israel built its wall, however, it did not do so along the line separating it from the Palestinian territories. Instead, the projected path of the wall will enclose less than half of the territories yet be more than twice as long as the dividing line with Israel.Why? The answer can be seen in villages like Irtah, Pharaon and Mas'ha, which illustrate the methods of land seizure made possible by the wall. In addition, the route of the wall makes apparent its intent. As poorly as the wall is designed for security, it is highly efficient in enclosing as many Palestinians as possible in as small an area as possible. Those it does not enclose will eventually be forced inside, while even those inside are not safe from further encroachment. The result is not only a form of gradual ethnic cleansing but also a masterful camouflage of the same. Those who may wish to understand its subtleties would be advised to visit the villages of Irtah, Pharaon and Mas'ha.
Every picture tells a story
In many major American newspapers and, undoubtedly, soon throughout the Muslim world is a photo of conquering Marines inside a Fallujah mosque "resting on a plush red carpet." This one picture tells why the "liberating forces" enjoy such low popular support. As Zeynep remarked on the informative site Under the Same Sun, "Does anyone understand anything about religious feelings in general or about Islam in particular? Have they spent even half a day watching a documentary or two about Islam and noticed that people carefully and respectfully take their shoes off before entering a mosque, where they will kneel and put their head on that carpet? (Those "plush red carpets", by the way, are prayer rugs, or "sajjade." And you don't step on them with your combat boots, especially inside a mosque, and smile for the cameras unless you really want to fight to the death with up to a billion people. This is either the most arrogant, incompetent, ignorant occupation, ever, or the most clever, insidious, skillful effort towards bringing about an apocalyptic world war."
Saturday, November 20, 2004
How to get along with other Americans
By Sam Smith
The Progressive Review
The most important fact about prejudice
It's normal. That isn't to say that it's nice, pretty, or desirable. Only that suspicion, distrust, and distaste for outsiders is a deeply human trait. The anthropologist Ruth Benedict wrote that "all primitive tribes agree in recognizing [a] category of the outsiders, those who are not only outside the provisions of the moral code which holds within the limits of one's own people, but who are summarily denied a place anywhere in the human scheme. A great number of the tribal names in common use, Zuñi, Déné, Kiowa . . . are only their native terms for 'the human beings,' that is, themselves. Outside of the closed group there are no human beings."
Many attempts to eradicate racism from our society have been based on the opposite notion -- that those who harbor prejudice towards others are abnormal and social deviants. Further, we often describe these "deviants" only in terms of their overt antipathies -- they are "anti-Semitic" or guilty of "hate." In fact, once you have determined yourself to be human and others less so, you need not hate them any more than you need despise the fish you eat for dinner. This is why those who participate in genocide can do so with such calm -- they have defined their targets as outside of humanity.
What if, instead, we were to start with the unhappy truth that humans have always had a hard time dealing with other peoples, and that much ethnic and sexual antagonism stems not from hate so much as from cultural narcissism? Then our repertoire of solutions might tilt more towards education and mediation and away from being self-righteous multi-cultural missionaries converting yahoos in the wilds of the soul. We could turn towards something more akin to what Andrew Young once described as a sense of "no fault justice." We might begin to consider seriously Martin Luther King's admonition to his colleagues that among their dreams should be that someday their enemies would be their friends.
Finding the right words
Linguists say that when something matters greatly in a culture there are many words for it. Here in America, we have no single word for a four-wheeled vehicle. Yet when dealing with issues of race and sex, we have comfortably settled on racism and sexism, two overburdened words called to fulfill an astounding collection of functions. The net effect is to dissipate the power of the most violent acts and to exaggerate minor transgressions. Linguistically, we have put genocide and the failure of a professor to assign any reading by a black author on the same level.
In the end, how well we get along will be decided not by our cultural differences but by the significance we place upon them. We may all be creatures of our own culture, but we are also all free to determine just what that means. Most important, the future is the one culture -- for better or worse -- we will all inevitably share and all help to make. We are, each of us, brothers and sisters in the tribe of tomorrow.
To read the entire article, which by analogy offers insights into the Israeli-Palestinian problem,
Edward Said, polyhistorian of Palestine
Read any article by Said, any book, and you will find the most complete interdisciplinary compendium imaginable on the argument. Cultural, social, historical elements of the Palestinian population are divulged in a clear yet extremely erudite manner. But if it were just that, we could say that Said was a good historian of his people. Yet, it goes far beyond that. Said studies the mileu surrounding Palestine, from British Mandate Palestine to contemporary Israel and the Occupied Territories up to and including the American-European axis and the "rest of the world". He is aware of the big picture of Colonialism, Imperialism and conquest. The concepts of Race, Ethnicity and Identity and the place they play in the historical process are constantly presented as well, so as to provide a reading which runs the gamut of intellectual research, resulting in the most comphrensive analysis of the question available. Reading Said is an intellectual experience, but it is also seeped in emotion and discovery.
In Zionism from the Standpoint of its Victims, middleeastinfo.org/article47.html , Said is at his best. Several exerpts should suffice to demonstrate the depth and far-reaching scope of his approach.
Zionism was legitimated and indeed valorized by Gentile European thought. On one important issue there was complete agreement between the Gentile and Jewish versions of Zionism: their view of the Holy Land as essentially empty of inhabitants, not because there were no inhabitants--there were, and they were frequently described in numerous travel accounts, in novels like Benjamin Disrael's Tancred, even in the various nineteenth-century Baedekers--but because their status as sovereign and human inhabitants was systematically denied. While it may be possible to differentiate between Jewish and Gentile Zionists on this point (they ignored the Arab inhabitants for different reasons), the Palestinian Arab was ignored nonetheless. That is what needs emphasis: the extent to which the roots of Jewish and Gentile Zionism are in the culture of high liberal-capitalism, and how the work of its vanguard liberals like George Eliot reinforced, perhaps also completed, that culture's less attractive tendencies.
None of what I have so far said applies adequately to what Zionism meant for Jews or what it represented as an advanced idea for enthusiastic non-Jews; it applies exclusively to those less fortunate beings who happened to be living on the land, people of whom no notice was taken. What has too long been forgotten is that while important European thinkers considered the desirable and later the probable fate of Palestine, the land was being tilled, villages and towns built and lived in by thousands of natives who believed that it was their homeland. In the meantime their actual physical being was ignored; later it became a troublesome detail.
The three ideas that depended on one another in Hess and Eliot-and later in almost every Zionist thinker or ideologue-are (a) the nonexistent Arab inhabitants, (b) the complementary Western-Jewish attitude to an "empty" territory, and (c) the restorative Zionist project, which would repeat by rebuilding a vanished Jewish state and combine it with modern elements like disciplined, separate colonies, a special agency for land acquisition, etc. Of course, none of these ideas would have any force were it not for the additional fact of their being addressed to, shaped for, and out of an international (i.e., non-Oriental and hence European) context. This context was the reality, not only because of the ethnocentric rationale governing the whole project, but also because of the overwhelming facts of Diaspora realities and imperialist hegemony over the entire gamut of European culture. It needs to be remarked, however, that Zionism (like the view of America as an empty land held by Puritans) was a colonial vision unlike that of most other nineteenth-century European powers, for whom the natives of outlying territories were included in the redemptive mission civilisation.
Zionism never spoke of itself unambiguously as a Jewish liberation movement, but rather as a Jewish movement for colonial settlement in the Orient. To those Palestinian victims that Zionism displaced, it cannot have meant anything by way of sufficient cause that Jews were victims of European anti-Semitism and, given Israel's continued oppression of Palestinians, few Palestinians are able to see beyond their reality, namely, that once victims themselves, Occidental Jews in Israel have become oppressors (of Palestinian Arabs and Oriental Jews).
These are not intended to be backward-looking historical observations, for in a very vital way they explain and even determine much of what now happens in the Middle East. The fact that no sizeable segment of the Israeli population has as yet been able to confront the terrible social and political injustice done the native Palestinians is an indication of how deeply ingrained are the (by now) anomalous imperialist perspectives basic to Zionism, its view of the world, its sense of an inferior native Other. The fact also that no Palestinian, regardless of his political stripe, has been able to reconcile himself to Zionism suggests the extent to which, for the I Palestinian, Zionism has appeared to be an uncompromisingly exclusionary, discriminatory, colonialist praxis. So powerful, and so unhesitatingly followed, has been the radical Zionist distinction between privileged Jews in Palestine and unprivileged non-Jews there, that nothing else has emerged, no perception of suffering human existence has escaped from the two camps created thereby. As a result, it has been impossible for Jews to understand the human tragedy caused the Arab Palestinians by Zionism; and it has been impossible for Arab Palestinians to see in Zionism anything except an ideology and a practice keeping them, and Israeli Jews, imprisoned. But in order to break down the iron circle of inhumanity, we must see how it was forged, and there it is ideas and culture themselves that play the major role.
Friday, November 19, 2004
US Media Ignores Fallujah Inferno
From World Socialist Website
Not a single major voice has been raised in the American media against the ongoing destruction of Fallujah. While much of the world recognizes something horrifying has occurred, the US press does not bat an eye over the systematic leveling of a city of 300,000 people.
A week of ground combat by Marines and some Iraqi troops, supported by tanks and attack helicopters, added to the destruction in a city where the homes and businesses for about 300,000 people are packed into an area a little less than 2 miles wide and a little more than 2 miles long. ... Cats and dogs scamper along streets littered with bricks, broken glass, toppled light poles, downed power lines, twisted traffic barriers and spent cartridges. Walls are full of bullet holes. Marines have blown holes in walls and knocked down doors to search homes and shops. Dead Iraqis still lay out in the open Monday.”
For all intents and purposes, the US military declared any male in Fallujah and any family unlucky enough to be caught in the hail of deadly fire legitimate targets for death. We will perhaps never know how many civilians have been slaughtered by US forces.
There has been nothing like the attack on Fallujah since the Nazi invasion and occupation of much of the European continent—the shelling and bombing of Warsaw in September 1939, the terror bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940. All the talk about precision bombing in Iraq is dust thrown in the public’s eyes. The purpose of the devastation in Fallujah is to terrorize the Iraqi people and the entire population of the Middle East. Large numbers of people have been killed in the assault on the city.
Nowhere in the American media do you find a word of protest. No one asks for verification that the city is being held "hostage" by criminals and "foreign terrorists." No one questions an operation to "root out" a relative handful of terrorists that requires razing a city to the ground.
It is necessary to put this on record. In the future, people will ask: what did you do and say while Fallujah was being destroyed? If readers can find major newspaper or television editorials denouncing the murderous attack, by all means, send them in to the WSWS. We have searched in vain.
Some typical press coverage:
Comments the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “In the annals of war, there has never been a fighting force as capable as the Americans of waging urban warfare with weaponry and tactics more attuned to the need to avoid innocent loss of life. Fallujah was a citywide safe house for all manner of bad guys, beheaders and insurgents. It was an open taunt that prevented political progress and future amity among the ethnic and religious groups in Iraq. It had to be shut down.”
The editors of the Des Moines Register echo this sentiment, “America’s magnificently trained and equipped fighting forces are again on display in the long-awaited offensive to retake Fallujah from the Iraqi insurgents. There’s little doubt the troops can prevail militarily. Let us also pray that their bravery and sacrifice will be rewarded in the larger sense of bringing enough stability to Iraq to hold elections.”
for full article: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/nov2004/fall-n17.shtml
Whose War is it Anyway?
We are all unwitting participants in a campaign of thought control. No, nothing so dramatic as the reality described in "The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, The CIA and Mind Control", where LSD, sensory deprivation and unethical psychological manipulation were techniques applied to create the perfect killer for the powers that be. It is much simpler and more subtle than that, and it's there every time you listen to the news, read the paper or go down to the corner pub for a drink. It's in the mis-appropriation of terms in order to give them a definition that is suitable to the agenda of the power élite.
Every war or aggression against another force has it own personal manipulation of idiom. Shock and Awe, Days of Penitence, Antique Babylon, etc. A war can be "The Great War", as WWI is referred to in Europe, or even "The Good War", as WWII is referred to in the United States. In the days of globalisation, what will this war, WWIII, be referred to as?
If one takes into account the use of terminology, it's already quite clear that it is a war that has an enemy, and what proper war wouldn't? There are other means to establish law, order and reconstruction that don't see the firing of a single bullet, much less a rain of cluster bombs and Hellfire Missiles. Who is the good guy, and who is the enemy?
Is this enemy actually the people that are supposedly being liberated? Or are they merely a population that has to be dominated in order to appropriate the land and resources? The enemy was personified in Saddam, but Saddam is no more, so why is the massacre of the Iraqi people continuing to take place? Why are those who resist to a forgeign force that has invaded, occupied and now engages in technological warfare as well as the more visible garden variety of armed combat, called "insurgents", "rebels" and often in street talk, "terrorists"? Whose home is it anyway? Why are the Marines called "The Allied Soldiers" or "The Coalition"? International law dictates that they are an "Occupying Force", and that is just a nice name for what they really have been since day one, the "Invading Force". But, in the technical jargon of jus bellus, they are held to maintain certain rules of war pertaining to combat and its side effects, such as protection of the civilian population, avoiding any combat which could cause damage to civilian structures. Are the atrocities committed just "collateral damages"? Is human life and human suffering that cheap? Those who have given the soldiers the mandate to attack, (the government of the US and the other "coaltion States", and certainly not the Iraqis nor international institutions who had actually begged that this intervention be avoided at all costs), are even called upon to supply basic life sustainance needs to the persons in the area of occupation.
What have the Marines done on behalf of those who had sent them? They have forced the more fortunate members of the civilian population of Fallujah to flee in some instances, including even the hospital and its patients, without providing for their safety. Those who remained of course were denied water, electricity or food, and were under fire 24 hours a day. Most of Fallujah is now rubble, but it won't be the Marines who are cleaning up.
So, someone remind me, who is supposed to be the bad guy?
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Benny Morris' Alamo
Chris Shortsleeve Deconstructs Benny Morris in one of the best reviews I have yet read of the research of this "Progressive Zionist" (sic). Here are two small excerpts, but the entire article is a MUST READ!
Morris is markedly pro-Israel in that at various points he comes right out and blames the Palestinians as the original initiators of the conflict. He writes, "Muslims…drove the colonists, at least during the early decades of Zionism, toward occasional overassertiveness and even aggressiveness in an effort to wipe out the traces of their traditional and formerly humiliating image" (Morris, 13). This is the classic liberal Zionist position on who to blame for the violence between Israel and the Palestinians (if you haven’t guessed yet, it’s the Palestinians). Morris has the gall to pose as a progressive because he has made a very mild criticism of Israel’s ‘overassertiveness and aggressiveness.’ Nonetheless, let there be no mistake, the Palestinians "drove the colonists" to do it! Never mind that the colonizers colonized the Palestinians and took their land, it was the Palestinians who are to blame for the violence. Like a battered house wife sitting in an emergency room hospital bed, like a female rape victim who "provoked" her attacker by her very existence, the Palestinians having been hearing "why do you make me do it, honey? Why do you make me do it?" for over a hundred years. Would the Zionists then say that the Native Americans, who originally welcomed the Pilgrims as refugees but fought them when they let it be known that they came as colonists, provoked their own genocide? If the European crimes against European Jews were so bad (which they definitely were), why didn’t the Jews flee to Palestine as refugees and not as colonists? Why did they not, and why do they not, seek multiracial harmony, rather than the racist apartheid that is Israel today?
Time and again in this book, Morris traces the root of the conflict to Palestinians’ unwillingness to compromise with Jewish colonization and expropriation of their land, Palestinians’ unwillingness to meet the colonists halfway, the Palestinians’ unwillingness to sympathize with the Jews’ plight (Morris, 678). But while every ethical person should always sympathize with genocide, is colonization the answer to that? And furthermore, why should the Palestinians have to meet their colonizers halfway? Sure they should sympathize with the pain caused by the Jewish holocaust. Sure they should welcome the Jews as refugees and racial equals, with whom they should live side by side in multiracial harmony (just as the Israelis today should welcome the Palestinian refugees back into their country, recognize their right of return, and live with them side by side in multiracial harmony). But as long as the Jews in Palestine continue to be colonists and not racial egalitarianists, why should the Palestinians have to meet them halfway?
They’re colonizers. And the Palestinians are a colonized people. Why should they have to prove they’re a ‘partner in peace?’ Morris also writes that, "the Palestinians never really understood the Zionist claim to the land" (Morris, 678). This phrase "never really understood" is evocative of a Palestinian people too stupid to understand Zionist history.
The No Partner Myth
This potent myth accordingly suggested that the escalating conflict was due to the absence of a partner, rather than to Israel’s unwillingness to address Palestinian grievances and demands.
Israel’s problem is that Arafat’s death will not resolve anything. The reasons for the conflict will persist. Prime Minister Sharon must therefore choose between two radically different courses of action. He can decide to address Palestinian claims, which undoubtedly would entail painful compromises by Israel but could eventually lead to peace in the region. Alternatively, he can fashion a new myth, one that would again divert the public’s gaze from the real issues, and enable Israel to continue expropriating Palestinian land and destroying the population’s infrastructure of existence. This latter option is the one Sharon will most likely embrace. The question then becomes: What new myth will be created?
for the whole article:
Shalom: No Elections for East Jerusalemites
FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: As I've said, we'll do everything in order to give them the possibility to enable them to have their election, to have a free and fair election. We will do everything that is needed to give them freedomof movement, but of course, we'll do it while we are not doing anything to harm or to damage our security or our safety. We will do it in a way that will enable them to have the possibility to vote without, as I've said, damaging our security. I think it can be done and we are planning to do it. We will give them all the assistance that they will ask for and that they will need because we would like them to have a free election for the first time.It will be very positive signal that in January we will have free elections in Iraq and within the Palestinian Authority. It might encourage some other countries in our region to ask for the same system of democracy to have an election in their countries. And we had enough being the only democracy in our region for almost 60 years. We would like others to join us.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Hold Your Head High, You Are In Fallujah!
April 12, 2004 - The Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu once said: "To win a war, you must know yourself, then your enemy."
Apparently, the US does not know either itself or its enemy. Blinded with the arrogance of racism and military superiority, Uncle Sam is being subjected to a severe beating by the Iraqi resistance. It is absolutely sensational to watch the outnumbered and poorly equipped Iraqi volunteers, without a central command or logistics supply lines, fight back with their thin bodies, after fourteen years of sanctions, the most powerful empire in the history of humankind.