Aras Ozgun on 18 Oct 2000 17:48:02 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Fwd: article on mideast conflict

Forwarded Message
Aras Ozgun
1:27 PM

1:15 PM
FROM: mark read
SUBJECT: : extraordinary article on mideast conflict

Mitchel Cohen wrote:

> Below is one of the finest articles I've seen debunking the US media's
> racism in portraying events in Israel/Palestine. The author is a Jewish
> person (no relation) from the Bay area, who has traveled extensively
> throughout the occupied territories.
> .
> - Mitchel Cohen
> Squeezing Blood From A Stone:
> US Policy, anti-Arab Racism and Israeli Arrogance
> May Be Greatest Obstacles to Peace.
> OR
> What Americans need to Know - but probably won’t be told - to Understand
> Palestinian Rage
> By Eduardo Cohen
> As the Persian Gulf War was raging I had what I felt to be the
> particular honor, as an American Jew, of being sponsored by the San
> Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination
> Committee on a fact finding mission to investigate Israeli human rights
> abuses carried out against Palestinians under emergency measures
> declared during the war.  I had been reporting on US policy in the
> Middle East for more than ten years on KPFA and other California radio
> stations and I had been documenting and lecturing on anti-Arab racism in
> American popular culture and the news media.
> After the delegation’s week of fact-finding was completed, I decided to
> spend more time on my own to dig deeper into what Israeli occupation
> meant for Palestinians In the next two weeks my travels would take me
> from the sandy back roads, sweet smelling orange groves and fetid
> poverty ridden slums of Gaza to meetings with Palestinian and Jewish
> activists in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And from the stifling heat
> of Jericho, where I interviewed Saeb Erikat under house arrest, to some
> of the West Bank’s most remote hills where the isolated rural villages
> were controlled by the Islamic political organization known as Hamas.
> Coming back and talking with most Americans about what I had seen and
> learned there made me feel as if I had entered an episode of the
> Twilight Zone - an episode in which the main character can see a
> dangerous and foreboding presence that no one else can see. The
> protagonist points it out to them but as soon as they look, it has
> disappeared. They cannot see it.  And pretty soon the increasingly
> desperate and frustrated character even begins to doubt his or her own
> sanity.
> But such was the gulf between what I had seen and experienced and what
> the American public perceived through the lens of the American news
> media.  I couldn't help but conclude that the American public wasn't
> even getting a fraction of the information it needed to comprehensively
> understand and intelligently monitor it's own government's policies in
> the Middle East.  Now, almost ten years later, little has changed and
> the gulf in perception is just as wide.
> Perhaps that is understandable. The American news media are probably the
> most pro-Israeli in the world.  Even the Israeli news media are more
> critical of the Israeli government than American journalists are.
> Perhaps this isn’t surprising since the US is Israel’s main benefactor
> and Israel receives more US aid than any other country in the world.
> But it is still disturbing to see how uncritically US news coverage
> seems to follow US foreign policy and how much the American news media
> protect Israel.
> If one never leaves the United States or reads the foreign news media,
> it is easy to be unaware of this incredible gulf between how the US
> media perceive and report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how it
> is viewed in much of the rest of the world.  Even the next most
> pro-Israeli press, that of Great Britain, shows sharp contrasts with
> American reporting on Israel and the Occupied Territories.
> In American coverage of the recent Camp David meetings the American
> press obediently followed the Israeli and US government spin that while
> Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made courageous concessions for peace,
> Palestinian unwillingness to compromise caused the meeting to fail.
> Never mind that Barak’s ‘courageous concessions’ consisted of allowing
> the Palestinians to have joint administrative responsibility over a
> couple of remote Arab neighborhoods of Arab East Jerusalem - pathetic
> crumbs tossed on the floor which Arafat was expected to gratefully pick
> up.
> I had to read the British press to find out that, according to documents
> leaked from Camp David, Arafat reportedly made so many major concessions
> that they could endanger the possibility of a creating a viable
> Palestinian state.
> According to a British newspaper, The Independent, Palestinian
> concessions at Camp David included the right of Israel to maintain a
> permanent military presence in the Jordan Valley, the presence of
> Israeli early warning stations on Palestinian territory, Israeli
> permission to fly over Palestinian air space, the right of Israel to use
> its army on Palestinian land if it fears a danger to the State of
> Israel, Palestinian agreement not to have an army, and permanent Israeli
> sovereignty over existing Jewish settlements - settlements which
> effectively cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and which,
> including the giant Jewish settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, effectively cut
> the West Bank into two pieces separated by Israeli territory.
> There are other important facts that I regularly see mentioned in
> newspapers from other countries that are rarely mentioned, if at all, in
> American newspapers and broadcasts.
> In the British and European press, readers are often reminded that the
> very existence of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza is a
> clear violation of international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva
> Convention, and that the continued occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and
> East Jerusalem are in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions.
> Readers of British papers are also reminded regularly that what the
> Americans often characterize as an ‘inflexible’ and ‘radical’
> Palestinian demand for full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the West
> bank, including East Jerusalem, is exactly what is called for in United
> Nations Security Council Resolution 242 which, according to the Oslo
> Agreement, signed by Israel, is exactly the framework on which final
> resolution is supposed to be based.
> Reporting on Camp David, American reporters obediently quoted Israeli
> Prime Minister Barak’s statements questioning whether Palestinians are
> negotiating ‘in good faith’ but failed to report ongoing Israeli actions
> in Gaza and the West Bank that raise serious questions about Israel’s
> ‘good faith’: continuing demolitions of Palestinian homes; confiscation
> of Palestinian water; expansion and construction of Jewish settlements
> in occupied territory; denial of building permits to Palestinian
> homeowners; and construction of Jewish ‘security roads’ which cut 1/4
> mile swaths through Palestinian land
> Not only have American reporters left out crucial information necessary
> to a comprehensive understanding of the conflict and the peace process,
> but for far to long they have demonstrated a mindlessly uncritical
> acceptance of even the most absurd Israeli arguments against making
> peace. Foremost of these is the oft used Israeli argument that
> Palestinian authorities must guarantee an end to terrorist attacks as a
> prerequisite to any Israeli agreements. It has always been a laughable
> argument, except to American journalists.
> If the United States government could not prevent the bombings at
> Oklahoma City and the World Trade Towers and the Israeli government
> could not  prevent the assassination of its own prime minister, how can
> Yaser Arafat possibly guarantee the end of terrorist acts by Palestinian
> elements outside of his control?
> There are other serious lapses in American coverage which make it
> difficult for Americans to understand, on an emotional level, the
> Palestinians’ anger and frustration that are now boiling over in the
> streets of the Occupied Territories and even within Israel itself.
> Recent violence has been attributed to Palestinian anger about the visit
> by Ariel Sharon, accompanied by 1,000 police and hundreds of supporters,
> to the sacred Islamic "Noble Sanctuary’ where the Al-Aksa Mosque and the
> Dome of the Rock are located.  Although Ariel Sharon was described as a
> right-wing opposition leader hated by Arabs, Americans were offered
> little insight into exactly why he is so despised by Arabs.
> What Americans are generally not told, but what Palestinians cannot
> forget, is that Ariel Sharon was held responsible, even by the Israeli
> Knesset, for the massacre of from 1,000 to 2,000 unarmed Palestinian
> men, women and children in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and
> Chatila in Lebanon.  During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which
> General Ariel Sharon directed, Israeli troops surrounded the two refugee
> camps and allowed in Palestinian-hating Lebanese Phalangists who then
> spent two days raping, brutalizing and hacking to death hundreds of
> unarmed Palestinian civilians while the Israeli Army stood guard.
> Not only did American news media fail to include this critically
> important information, but many  actually gave Sharon, who went to the
> site to demonstrate Israeli sovereignty, the opportunity to explain that
> he went there "with a message of Peace."
> It is difficult for Americans to even imagine the frustration of
> Palestinians who see Jews arrive from the United States to act out
> Jewish James Bond fantasies in the Occupied Territories, sporting
> yarmulkes and 9mm submachine guns - weapons they would never be allowed
> to possess or walk around with in the streets of American cities - at
> the ready to draw Palestinian blood.
> American Jews, who left behind in the United States more economic
> opportunity and religious freedom than most people in the world can even
> imagine, and whose parents, grandparents and great, great great
> grandparents never set foot in Israel, are allowed to invoke the Jewish
> "right of return" and claim land that Palestinian families have been
> living on and working for centuries. And all this while many
> Palestinians still carry the keys from the homes they lost in the 1948
> war, and to which they have little or no hope of ever returning.
> I sensed some of the frustration and anger that Palestinians feel when I
> spoke with a typical Palestinian farmer in the West Bank whose well of
> precious water, which he needed to irrigate his crops, had been
> confiscated by Israeli authorities so a nearby Jewish settlement could
> fill its swimming pools and water its green lawns.
> I sensed some of what Palestinians felt when I interviewed more than a
> half dozen Palestinians whose homes had been dynamited or bulldozed by
> Israeli tractors because a teenage member of the family had tossed a
> rock at an Israeli troop carrier or because they tried to build an extra
> room without the building permit they knew Israeli officials would never
> provide.
> It is almost ten years later and, again, the influx of settlers, the
> expansion of Jewish settlements, the building of Jewish roads, the
> demolition of Palestinian homes and the confiscation of Palestinian
> water all continue.
> The factor of racism.
> American papers and American news networks offer Americans little
> opportunity to understand how much racism remains as one of the greatest
> obstacles to peace.
> I experienced some of the frustration that Palestinians must be feeling
> when I interviewed numerous Jewish-American settlers in the West Bank
> during the Persian Gulf War. Many of those I spoke with were from New
> York and, talking about Arabs, spouted some of the most hateful, racist
> diatribes that I had ever heard. I was reminded of the racism against
> Black Americans that I witnessed growing up in the American South.
> The images, often broadcast on American networks, of Palestinians
> chanting ‘death to the Jews’ have given many Americans the impression
> that Arab hatred of Jews may be the greatest obstacle to peace. But that
> could be a wrong and dangerously misleading conclusion.
> In spite of those chants, my experiences in Gaza and the West Bank gave
> me some interesting insights into how deep those feelings go in at least
> some Palestinians who would be described here as fanatic or extremist.
> Clearly there are virulently racist elements within the greater
> Palestinian community... but I found a real difference between Israeli
> racism against Arabs, based on a feeling of racial superiority, and
> Palestinian hatred of Jews which is an understandable Palestinian
> response to the policies of the Jewish government of Israel and a
> continuing Jewish occupation.
> It is comparable to the difference between the hatred of Black Americans
> by Southern white racists during the Civil Rights Movement in the United
> States and the hatred many Black Americans felt towards whites as the
> result of the racist oppression they experienced.  It is an important
> difference.
> Making no secret of my Jewishness, I traveled unarmed, without any
> police or military escort, and accompanied only by a sole translator,
> into remote mountain and desert areas in Gaza and the West Bank
> controlled by the militant Muslim organization called Hamas and where
> Israeli authorities told me I would probably be killed.
> I still remember the amazement of Palestinians there when they learned
> that I was a Jew investigating human rights abuses by the Israeli
> military and I was moved by how quickly I was invited into their homes
> to share tea with them. And I will never forget the tears of
> appreciation streaming down the cheeks of so many Palestinians who were
> so genuinely happy to meet a Jew who simply saw them as human beings and
> as equals and who was willing to acknowledge their suffering and listen
> to their side of the conflict.  The only Jews they had ever seen in
> their villages were soldiers there to assert Israeli control.
> Far away from any Israeli protection, in the heart of areas controlled
> by Hamas, I felt no danger whatsoever.  It was difficult to return to
> Tel Aviv and talk to Jews who would never allow an Arab to set foot in
> their homes, except perhaps to clean them, and who would explain to me
> with no doubt in their minds that it was impossible to reason with Arabs
> because they didn’t share the same faculties of thought and reason that
> "civilized human beings" possess.  I left with the sharp impression that
> anti-Arab racism in Israeli society was the much greater obstacle to
> peace.  And the evidence indicates that, ten years later, it hasn’t
> changed.
> I was introduced to Israeli racism before I even left the grounds of Ben
> Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv.  Outside the entrance in an area where
> travelers wait for collective taxis which usually whisk them away to Tel
> Aviv or Jerusalem, a Jewish Israeli asked me where I was headed.
> "Jerusalem" I told him. "Where are you going to stay?", he asked. I told
> him that I planned to stay at the YMCA Hotel. "Oh, the one next to the
> King David Hotel?" he asked, assuming that I would be staying at the
> YMCA in Jewish West Jerusalem. "No", I responded, "I’m staying at the
> YMCA in East Jerusalem." His face immediately twisted into a look of
> profound confusion and puzzlement.  "I don’t think its going to be very
> clean’" he warned.
> He had almost certainly never been to the YMCA on Nablus Street but he
> had assumed it would be dirty simply because it was located in Arab East
> Jerusalem.  That was just the first and mildest of many exposures to
> Israeli racism towards Arabs.  Travelling through Israel I witnessed a
> deep, widespread and racist contempt for Arabs that I now see as
> possibly the most serious, but seldom mentioned, obstacle to finding a
> just and lasting peace.
> Judging by statements by the Shas party’s most prominent religious
> leader, not much has improved.  Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader
> of Shas, an ultra-Orthodox party which is the  third largest party in
> the Israeli Knesset, recently described Palestinians as "snakes" whom
> God "regrets creating."  Until just recently Shas had formed a major
> part of Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s governing coalition.
> The anti-Arab racism that exists in Israel is not without its
> counterpart in the United States.
> During that 1991 trip I visited the sacred Islamic site that includes
> the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.  Just a few months before,
> in October of 1990, 19 unarmed Palestinian civilians had been shot to
> death by Israeli police.  I interviewed eye witnesses and photographed
> bullet holes left in the side of the mosque by Israeli gunfire.  Victims
> even included Red Crescent ambulance staff attempting to provide medical
> assistance to the wounded.
> In Great Britain, the conservative weekly news magazine, 'The
> Economist', used the term ‘massacre’ to describe the slaughter.  They
> called it a massacre on their front page, in their editorial, and in the
> headline of their news story.  The New York Times didn’t report a
> massacre but described an outbreak of violence about which there were
> "confusing" and "contradictory" accounts.
> But one of the most reprehensible displays of anti-Arab racism was
> provided by Time Magazine which characterized the massacre of 19 unarmed
> Palestinians with a headline which read "Saddam’s Lucky Break." This
> indefensible murder of Arab civilians was described as a "propaganda
> victory" for Saddam Hussein and even implied that he had more
> responsibility for the killings than the Israeli police who had pulled
> the triggers.
> There is a slightly more subtle version of anti-Arab racism that
> continues to permeate our news coverage of the Middle East and the
> Palestinian-Israeli conflict to this day.
> It is characterized in Judy Woodruff’s words on CNN talking about the
> recent violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories in which more
> than 76 Palestinians have now been killed by Israeli police and
> soldiers: "The uprising that has shut down much of Northern Israel is
> blamed for as many as 50 or more deaths."  According to CNN then, it is
> the uprising, not the decisions of the Israeli security forces to shoot
> at Palestinians with steel-jacketed bullets and anti-tank rockets that
> is responsible for more than 50 dead Palestinians.
> This racism is reflected in the Sacramento Bee headline "Riots Escalate
> in West Bank" with a smaller tagline mentioning "12 dead, hundreds
> hurt".  It is present in the SF Examiner headline: "Death Toll Reaches
> 29 in Mideast Clashes."
> In none of these samples is it made clear how people died and who did
> the killing.  Now we know, at the time of this writing, that more than
> 76 Palestinians have been killed.  We should all know, deep in our
> hearts, that if 29 or 55 or 76 Israelis had been killed by Palestinians,
> the headlines would be screaming at us from the headlines of almost
> every newspaper '29 Israelis Killed by Palestinians' or 'Arabs Kill 76
> Israelis'. The headlines would certainly not read  'Death Toll Reaches
> 29' or '76 Israelis Die in Mideast Violence' - headlines that fail to
> attribute any direct responsibility for the killing.  A SF Chronicle
> story carried a headline which read, 'Palestinian Riots Spread Into
> Israel.' Three paragraphs into that story we are informed that 12
> Palestinians have been killed.  In a particularly egregious example,
> another Sacramento Bee headline reads, "Palestinian gunmen fire on
> Israelis" over a story that tells us that twelve more Palestinians have
> been killed."
> This is something that happens repeatedly in the American press and
> implicitly attaches one value to the lives of Israeli’s and a lesser
> value to the lives of Arabs.  Israelis are "killed" but Palestinians
> "die."  I am not alone in noticing these disturbing disparities that
> work to camouflage Israeli responsibility.
> Award winning British journalist Robert Fisk wrote in The Independent
> that when he reads that Palestinians have died in "crossfire" it almost
> always means that  "the Israelis have killed an innocent person."  So
> when he read on the Associated Press wire that 12-year-old Mohammed
> al-Durah was killed in Gaza when he was "caught in the crossfire", Fisk
> writes, "I knew at once who had killed him."
> "Sure enough" Fisk confirms, "reporters investigating the killing said
> the boy was shot by Israeli troops."   "So was his father ? who survived
> ? and so was the ambulance driver who was killed trying to rescue the
> boy."
> This failure of American editors and reporters to clearly attribute
> responsibility for the killing of Palestinian victims is just one of
> many ways in which the American press continuously devalues the lives of
> Arabs.  This almost constant devaluation of Arab lives is reinforced by
> a popular culture that has made it safe to openly make the most racist
> statements about Arabs without fear of castigation or even
> condemnation.
> Just last month Bill Maher, host of ABC’s Politically Incorrect, argued
> on his show that racial profiling "might be OK in some cases" like when
> you’re on a flight to Israel and "some sweaty Arab" sits down next to
> you.  Worse than the blatantly racist insult to Arabs was the fact that
> no one even noticed it.
> Anti-Arab racism is almost certainly a factor in continued American
> disinterest concerning a US driven embargo that has, according to UN
> agencies and several high ranking UN officials, caused the deaths of
> over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians and continues to cause the deaths of
> 4,000 to 5,000 Arab children every month.
> It is telling that a policy that is killing as many as 5,000 Arab
> children each month didn’t even merit a brief mention in the recent US
> Presidential debate.  And despite the fact that Palestinian blood was
> literally flowing, as the Democratic and Republican presidential and
> vice-presidential candidates debated, from wounds inflicted by American
> supplied weapons including Apache attack helicopters, that too merited
> nary a mention by any of the candidates and neither of the two
> moderators.
> A clear but unspoken racist double standard permeates US policy in the
> region as well as its coverage in the US news media.  We are bombing and
> economically strangling the Arab nation of Iraq for invading Kuwait and
> seeking to develop nuclear weapons.  But we have provided Israel with
> staggering and uninterrupted quantities of economic and military aid
> despite its even more violent invasion of Lebanon, its refusal to
> respond to countless UN security council resolutions, and its continued
> building of what is already one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals.
> And it should certainly be clear by now which side of the
> Israeli-Palestinian conflict the "honest brokers" of the Clinton
> Administration are on.  Despite the well known role of East Jerusalem as
> the cultural and intellectual center of Palestine, the Clinton
> Administration continues to support Israeli sovereignty over most of
> Arab East Jerusalem.  And in spite of a long list of major compromises
> by the Palestinian negotiators, the administration blames only
> Palestinians for being inflexible and pressures them for yet more
> concessions.
> The results of America’s imbalanced policy choices are now playing out
> in the streets of Israel and the Occupied Territories and the time has
> clearly come for an American President and his policy advisors to
> realize the responsibility they share for the death of a 12 year old boy
> in his fathers arms and the torrent of Palestinian blood that is now
> flowing.
> President Clinton needs to be pressuring Israel, not the Palestinians to
> make more concessions for peace.  As the larger and more powerful of the
> two entities, Israel clearly has more room to bend and it is the
> Palestinians, not the Israelis whose backs are truly against the wall.
> He could also make continued US aid contingent on Israeli compliance
> with international law and UN Security Council resolutions.  Then all
> that would need to be negotiated, apart from a Palestinian right of
> return, would be when, not whether, Israel will return the occupied
> lands seized in 1967.
> Because of the major role that the United States plays in life and death
> issues in the Middle East, American editors and reporters have a special
> responsibility to constantly examine the fairness of their reporting and
> how critically they examine information they present to the American
> people. And they need to examine the possibility of their own racism and
> begin treating Palestinians and other Arabs as equal citizens whose
> lives carry just as much value as Jewish Israeli lives.
> Israelis need to examine their own racism and their arrogance in using
> their military superiority to wring yet more concessions from a people
> who are struggling to keep a mere 20% of what was formerly Palestine.
> They must realize that in forcing humiliating concessions on the
> Palestinians they are only planting the seeds of continued resentment,
> hatred and violence.
> Above all, Israelis need to realize that the creation of an
> economically, politically and geographically viable Palestinian state is
> inextricably linked with any prospect they might have of a peaceful and
> secure future.  The Israelis’ apparent inability or unwillingness to
> recognize this basic truth may be the greatest single obstacle to a just
> and lasting peace.
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