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- 04:27pm Apr 12, 2002 EST (#1308
Robert Fisk: This will be the week when we see who runs the
US-Israeli alliance 'Since US soldiers are blindfolding and
gagging Muslim prisoners, why should Mr Sharon worry?' 08 April
So what's the surprise? Suddenly Israel doesn't want to take
our advice. Ex-general Ariel Sharon prefers to go on wrecking the
Palestinian Authority, tearing up the Oslo agreement in the name
of his Holy War on terror. Why should he worry about the
scandalous number of civilian casualties among the Palestinians?
After all, didn't America wreak its own revenge – killing
thousands of innocent civilians in one of the poorest countries on
Earth – after the crimes against humanity of 11 September? I must
admit, though, to a grim satisfaction when I heard President
George Bush's puzzled, uncomprehending response to Mr Sharon's
refusal to withdraw his army from the West Bank.
The Israeli Prime Minister is, after all, the man who sent his
army into Lebanon in 1982 to "root out Palestinian terror'' – note
the identical rhetoric, as well as the same cast of characters –
and whose "elite'' Israeli forces killed up to 17,500 people,
almost all civilians. Mr Sharon is the man who then sent Israel's
vicious Phalangist allies into the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra
and Chatila, after which they massacred 1,700 Palestinian
civilians. For this he was held "personally responsible'' by
Israel's own commission of inquiry. Evidence now emerging in
Beirut suggests that most of the slaughtered refugees were
actually killed in the two weeks following the original massacre –
after the survivors had been handed back to the Phalange by
Israel's own soldiers
So why should Mr Sharon stop now? If Mr Bush wants to rein in
his reckless ally, why doesn't he ask Mr Sharon a few questions?
Why doesn't he ask what has happened to the more than 1,000
Palestinian prisoners who have disappeared into Israel's hands
over the past two weeks? What happened, for example, to the five
men, blindfolded and trussed up like chickens whom I discovered in
the Jewish settlement of Psagot? What happened to the masses of
young men I saw being taken in a bus with its windows wired over,
a bus that made its way around Jerusalem and headed west on the
Tel Aviv highway. How many of these young men are now being
tortured either in interrogation centres or in the Russian
Compound, the main torture compound in West Jerusalem?
But since Mr Bush's soldiers are experts in blindfolding and
gagging Muslim prisoners – and putting them in front of drumhead
military courts – why should Mr Sharon worry? For month after
month, as Mr Sharon tore up the Oslo agreement, put the building
of Jewish colonies on Arab land into overdrive and sent out his
death squads to murder Palestinians, the Bush administration –
fearful of offending the Israelis – allowed him to do what he
wanted. In response to the wicked Palestinian suicide bombings,
Bush expressed outrage. In response to Israel's aggression, he
called for restraint – and then did nothing.
Again, what's the surprise? For months the American media has
refused to tell its viewers and readers what is going on in the
occupied territories. Its newspapers have indulged the insanity of
writers who have been encouraging Mr Sharon into ever-more-savage
acts. What are we supposed to make – for example, of a recent
article in The New York Times by William Safire, referring – as
usual – to Jewish civilians murdered by Palestinians but to Arab
civilians "caught in the crossfire'', "crossfire" being the
nearest many journalists will dare to go in saying that the
culprits were Israeli.
Safire plays the old game of talking about the occupied
territories as "disputed'' rather than occupied, a grotesque
distortion of the truth upon which the State Department insisted
in a policy paper sent out by the Secretary of State, Colin
- 04:27pm Apr 12, 2002 EST (#1309
... But Safire adds a new threat to journalists who might wish
to tell the truth: "These are disputed territories'' he writes,
"to call them 'occupied' reveals a prejudice against Israel's
right to what were supposed to be 'secure and defensible'
borders.'' You can see the way the argument is going. If we have a
'prejudice' against Israel's rights, it's only a short step to
call us anti-Semitic. But what is one to make of this nonsense? Am
I supposed to pretend that the soldiers who blocked my car and
pointed their guns at me in the West Bank last week were Swiss? Am
I to believe that the rabble of soldiers shouting at Palestinian
women desperate to leave Ramallah were Burmese?
Safire regularly takes phone calls from Mr Sharon (and then
insists on telling us of Mr Sharon's latest fantasies), but my old
chum Tom Friedman in his ever-more-Messianic column in The New
York Times, has almost gone one better. "Israel needs to deliver a
military blow that clearly shows terror will not pay,'' he
announced last week. What, in God's name, is an American
journalist doing when he urges Mr Sharon to go to war? Friedman
was with me in the Sabra and Chatila camps. Has he forgotten what
we saw? Last week, however, Friedman was also amiably advising the
Palestinians to turn to non-violent resistance à la Gandhi.
For Friedman, "a non-violent Palestinian movement appealing to
the conscience of the Israeli silent majority would have delivered
a Palestinian state 30 years ago...'' Needless to say, when
Westerners, including two Britons, protested peacefully in
Bethlehem – and were wounded by an Israeli soldier who shot at
them, Friedman was silent.
The reason why the Palestinians turned to suicide bombing,
according to Friedman, was not despair over the occupation –
occupation which, of course, Safire tells us we mustn't refer to –
but because "the Palestinians are so blinded by narcissistic
rage'' that they have lost sight of the sacredness of human life.
And so it goes on. Having bestialised the Palestinians over so
many years, why should we be surprised when a society eventually
produces the very monsters we always claim to see in them? Even Mr
Bush's speech last week in which he dispatched Mr Powell on his
"urgent'' mission of peace – allowing him a lazy seven days to
reach Israel, reserved its venom for the Palestinians. And yet,
after all that, he fails to see why Mr Sharon might choose to keep
his army in the field.
So this week will be a crucial one in the American-Israeli
relationship, a real test of the Bush presidency. We shall find
out who – the US or Israel – runs America's policy in the Middle
East. It would be nice to think that it was the former. But I'm
- 04:31pm Apr 12, 2002 EST (#1310
The NYT and it's hacks may win Pull-it-sir (pull the other one)
prizes ... but ... their deviation from truth wrt the Middle East
just doesn't impress Robert FISK !
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