Tuesday, July 18, 2006
From the River to the Sea. posted by Richard SeymourThat charming picture on the left is from mark at Interbreeding. They say, over and over, that Israel must defend itself. Israel has the right to defend itself. Israel is 'under attack' by 'extremist elements', and therefore it must respond. Certainly, it is conceded, Israel should be more restrained but the sympathetic viewer, listener and reader would understand the human impulse that drives them to be zealously protective of their population. This is the bullshit that we are being told, not only by the Prime Minister on behalf of his Washington masters, but also in more or less sophisticated ways by every media outlet in this country. Of course it's a lie - it was Israel that stole Gaza and the West Bank, Israel that subjected the Palestinians to an ever worsening prison regime, Israel that engaged in ethnic cleansing, and continues to do so. They talk about the capture of Corporal Shalit - whose name we know while the many many victims of Israeli kidnappings, most of whom are civilians, many of whom are children, are nameless - and the capture of two soldiers on the border with Lebanon. These are 'kidnappings' (while the abduction of much of the Palestinian government and many of its civilians is merely an 'arrest'). Because of this, Lebanon deserves to be mauled, pounded to dust, its people reduced to pink mist if they happen to be on the wrong bus, or road, or in the wrong building? Because of this, Gaza deserves to be razed again and again, with the only power station blown up, with the already measly, ravaged infrastructure further destroyed? Its people deserve to starve more? They deserve to go through terrifying sleepless nights while Israel sets off sonic booms? What must Israel's crimes merit, if this kind of collective punishment is to be permitted? When Israel entered Gaza on June 24th and took two civilian hostages, was this not provocation? An act of war?
Understanding for Israel's plight is ubiquitous - when a Fox News reporter was shot at by Israelis, a studio guest remarked that Israel is targeting press people since all the crew had 'Press' clearly marked in big fuck-off lettering on their flak jackets. The anchor actually responded by saying first that if "you're somebody and you're a long ways away and you just see something and you don't know who it is, sometimes you just start shooting", and later that "bad guys will shoot at anything" (he wasn't referring to Israelis, who actually carried out the shots). Similarly, Eli Stephens reports a CBS headline: "Israeli Demand: Let Our People Go". The Angry Arab reports on the pathetic, apologetic drivel emanating from The Nation, America's best-selling left-wing magazine. An Australian viewer complains to ABC News: "A statement made, summing up the day's casualties: 'Between the two sides,
there were 57 deaths...'. On the day, 3 Israelis and 54 Lebanese were killed."
And the BBC - the fucking BBC. They led yesterday with the story of eight people killed in Haifa, but only half-way through the news broadcast, and in an entirely desultory manner, did they get round to discussing sixteen civilians killed in a single Israeli strike on a convoy. In their world, Israel is always 'vowing' things - they 'vow' revenge, peace, war, enmity, friendship, determination, diplomacy, whatever the Israeli Embassy says is their official position. Lebanese suffering is hardly mentioned, and neither is that of Gaza. 200 Lebanese civilians have died so far, but the emphasis is always on Israel's claims that it only means to hit the bad guys: if you bomb a bus, or a road, or a bridge, if you destroy the infrastructure, then you know civilians will be hurt, maimed and killed. How would one react to a Hamas spokesperson who said that a suicide attack on a bus was only meant to get soldiers? But while Israel's brutality is treated with the most sincere, tender understanding, Palestinians are barely registered as humans. Lebanese - well, they're mere Ay-rabs, aren't they? Robin C Miller outlines The Media’s Middle East Rules of Engagement:
Rule 1: See the Middle East through Israeli eyes.
Rule 2: Treat American and Israeli governmental statements as hard news.
Rule 3: Ignore the historical context.
Rule 4: Avoid the fundamental legal and moral issues posed by the Israeli occupation.
Rule 5: Suppress or minimize news unfavorable to the Israelis.
Rule 6: Muddy the waters when necessary.
Rule 7: Credit all Israeli claims, even if wholly unfounded.
Rule 8: Doubt all Palestinian assertions, no matter how self-evident.
Rule 9: Condemn only Palestinian violence.
Rule 10: Disparage the international consensus supporting Palestinian rights. (via).
That's not exhaustive by any means, but I have a feeling you'll recognise all of those straight away.
The effect of the media's determined and wilful refusal to represent faithfully what is happening is to bewilder and confuse. It is hardly a surprise that most people interviewed by the Glasgow University Media Group for Greg Philo and Mike Berry's book on news reporting of Israel-Palestine had no idea what was happening. Many thought the two sides were fighting over a strip of land, or it was about religion, or that Palestine was trying to take away the land rightfully belonging to Israelis. Only a minority understood the salient facts. We're not talking in-depth here, only the central issues that any five year old could understand if it was explained to them. Aside from that, the effect is quite consciously to marginalise and stigmatise dissidence, since you'd have to be crazy not to support Israel's Right to Defend Itself. However, being angry about the media has to be complemented by activism aimed both robbing Israel of its bloody halo and at forcing our government to stop its support for Israeli atrocities.
Last night's emergency rally at the Friends Meeting House in Euston was a start. Before I go any further, I should mention that the pictures I took are crap, as were the video clips I got, but here's a quick one of Azzam Tamimi, whose electrifying speech was immediately followed by Galloway's:
And here's Galloway:
Some of what was said by various speakers was obvious or at least doesnt' need to be discussed here, but I do want to mention what Lindsey German and Galloway both said: this aggression against Hezbollah is a precursor for war with Iran. They know that if they tried to attack Iran now, they'd have Hezbollah fighting them on their northern border. And so, since Bush and Blair are blaming Syria and Iran, the likelihood is that the mode of justification for attacking Iran will shift toward They Support Terrorism, with And Imagine What Those Madmen Could Do With Nukes playing a supporting role. The strategy of the Israeli ultra-right has become the strategy of the Bushniks and the Blairites, because it suits US imperialist interests to see Iran's power curbed and to smack the Arabs about. So, it's an emergency. We need to be on the streets of London this Saturday in force. We need to be lobbying our MPs to get the lazy, pigheaded, right-wing bastards to even utter a squeak in Parliament about the government's support for naked aggression. If they're too racist to care about Palestinians, they should at least care that Israel bombed an airport where British citizens were queuing up to return home. They can't be allowed to merely grovel and simper in those insulated chambers. If the media are lying to us (as they so blatantly are), we need to let them know about it. We need to donate money, support a boycott of Israeli goods and instutions, and do whatever we can to show solidarity with the Palestinians and the Lebanese people.
PS: Here is a statement by the Lebanese Communist Party Oh, and by the way, if anyone fancies an impromptu protest - Jeb Bush and Tony Blair are having breakfast with some serious bankers in the atrium at ABN Amro near Liverpool Street station, but they're leaving fast so I'd get a move on.