Sunday, January 13, 2008

Propaganda v Self-censorship

The Australian's editorials on Palestine-Israel are a bottomless pit of Zionist mythology and propaganda. In Two-state solution is worth the effort: Palestinian allies must not stymie the peace process (14/1/08), the editorialist spins the proverbial sow's ear of Bush's recent gigs in Jerusalem and Ramallah into the silk purse of a serious attempt to create a "viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent" Palestinian state. Amid his pigs-will-fly persiflage, he embeds the following Zionist myths, lies, misrepresentations and errors: "In 2000, after the Clinton administration brokered an agreement in which then Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak offered a deal that would have set up an independent state in all of Gaza and 90% of the West Bank, PLO leader Yasser Arafat rejected the offer and Palestinians responded by launching a 4-year suicide-bombing campaign, targeting Israeli civilians. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas launched a bombing campaign on Israel and a brutal takeover of the territory, with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah later attacking Israel from Lebanon in 2005."


The myth of Barak's 'generous offer' is staple fare for The Australian (and the mainstream media in general), recycled ad nauseam over the years on the basis of Goebbel's formula: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

Mearsheimer & Walt's indispensable The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy (2007), offers just one of the many scholarly refutations of this nonsense. Under the heading, Camp David Myths (pp103-107), they write: "According to this story [ie the portrayal of Israel as primed for peace and the Palestinians as bent on war], Prime Minister Barak offered the Palestinians 'almost everything' they wanted at Camp David...But Arafat, still determined to derail the peace process and eventually destroy Israel, rejected this generous offer and instead launched the Second Intifada...There is only one problem with this widely held version of events: it is not correct...the terms [Barak] offered them at Camp David were far from generous."

Mearsheimer & Walt point out that: a) The Palestinians were offered immediate control of Gaza b) Eventual control of 91% of the West Bank c) Minus 10% of the West Bank in the form of the Jordan Valley, which Israel would hang on to for 6-21 years, leaving the Palestinians with immediate control over only 81% of the West Bank d) Minus a further 5%, owing to Israel's more reductive definition of what actually constituted the West Bank. That is, the Palestinians were effectively offered only 76% of the West Bank, and this despite "the fact that they had already agreed in the 1993 Oslo Accords to recognize Israeli sovereignty over 78% of the original British Mandate [of Palestine]. From their perspective, they were now being asked to make another concession and accept at best 86% of the remaining 22%."

Nor were the Palestinians to get a) a contiguous state b) sovereignty over occupied Arab East Jerusalem c) control over borders, airspace or water resources. In addition, they would be denied the right to form an army.

"Given all this," Mearsheimer & Walt conclude, "it is not surprising that Barak's former foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, who was a key participant at Camp David, later told an interviewer, 'If I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David as well'."[Mearsheimer & Walt's account unfortunately omits to mention Israel's refusal to repatriate or compensate Palestine's 1948 and 1967 refugees.]

As for the origins of the Second Intifada, Mearsheimer & Walt write that "The common claim that Arafat launched the Second Intifada in...2000...does not stand up to evidence either...The former head of Shin Bet, Ami Ayalon, has stated that 'Arafat neither prepared nor triggered the Intifada'...[Shlomo] Ben-Ami is exactly right that the Second Intifada 'did not start merely as a tactical move. It erupted out of the accumulated rage and frustration of the Palestinian masses at the colossal failure of the peace process since the early days of Oslo to offer them a life of dignity and well-being, and at the incompetence and corruption of their own leaders in the Palestinian Authority'."

Lies & Misrepresentations

"When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas launched a bombing campaign on Israel..." asserts the editorialist.

In fact Hamas observed a unilateral 'temporary hudnah' or tahdi'ah (calming) from March 2005 until an Israeli shell pulped a Palestinian family enjoying a picnic on a Gaza beach in June 2006. While the Palestinians both offered, and unilaterally observed, truces/ceasefires on a number of occasions since the outbreak of the Intifada, for the Israeli killing machine it was always just business as usual.

Then there's the assertion that "Iranian-backed Hezbollah attacked Israel from Lebanon in 2005." Zionist propaganda typically misrepresents both Hamas and Hezbollah as mere puppets of Iran/Syria, because to acknowledge them as indigenous, essentially nationalist reactions to Israeli aggression and occupation would be to shift the focus of responsibility for their existence and behaviour onto Israel. Notice too how Israel, which is funded by the US to the tune of $3 billion in direct foreign assistance per year, is never routinely described as 'American-backed'. Then there's the characterization of Hezbollah's limited hostage taking raid, which provided Israel with the pretext to launch its own premeditated aggression on Lebanon, as a general 'attack' on Israel. And finally, there's the straight factual inaccuracy of claiming that this took place in 2005, instead of 2006.

The Sydney Morning Herald's editorial of the same day, Ambushed in the Levant, thankfully manages to avoid the above, and even contains some meat: "Israel refuses to return to its pre-1967 borders, as required by United Nations resolutions, insists it will hold onto all of Jerusalem, and is determined to deny the right of return to Palestinians uprooted from their lands when Israel was created in 1948."

Those words, however, are prefaced (and compromised) by the following inanity: "[Olmert and Abbas] have not budged from their entrenched positions."

While Israel's intransigence is clearly referenced, the editorialist cites no such intransigence on the Palestinian side. The nonsensical notion that there is some kind of balance of intransigence here is sadly typical of the Fairfax press, and suggests a reflexive deference, honed by pressure from the Israel lobby, to the empirically false idea that, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, both sides are somehow equivalent. Forthrightly acknowledging that Israel to Palestine is as hammer to anvil is to invite flak from lobby hacks, so Fairfax invariably takes the line of least resistance, indefensible assertions notwithstanding.

The Herald editorial is further marred by the following unbelievably coy reference: "It is to be hoped that future US leaders put a premium on trying to resolve regional conflicts earlier in their terms, and are braver in staring down powerful domestic lobby groups that erode their ability to act as credible honest brokers." Which "regional conflicts"? What "lobby groups"? The Herald editorialist simply cannot name names. He's loud in urging future US presidents to 'stare down' the lobby whose name he dares not speak, but can barely emit a squeak when it comes to naming the bugger himself.

It takes a Mearsheimer & Walt to spell it out: "Once again, as the presidential campaign season gets underway, the leading candidates are going to enormous lengths to demonstrate their devotion to the state of Israel and their steadfast commitment to its 'special relationship' with the United States.

"Each of the main contenders emphatically favors giving Israel extraordinary material and diplomatic support - continuing the more than $3 billion in foreign aid each year to a country whose per capita income is now 29th in the world. They also believe that this aid should be given unconditionally. None of them criticizes Israel's conduct, even when its actions threaten US interests, are at odds with American values or even when they are harmful to Israel itself. In short, the candidates believe that the US should support Israel no matter what it does.

"Such pandering is hardly surprising, because contenders for high office routinely court special interest groups, and Israel's staunchest supporters - the Israel lobby, as we have termed it - expect it. Politicians do not want to offend Jewish Americans or 'Christian Zionists', two groups that are deeply engaged in the political process. Candidates fear, with some justification, that even well-intentioned criticism of Israel's policies may lead these groups to turn against them and back their opponents instead...

"...they fear that speaking the truth would incur the wrath of the hard-liners who dominate the main organizations in the Israel lobby. So Israel will end up controlling Gaza and the West Bank for the forseeable future, turning itself into an apartheid state in the process." [Israel's false friends, Los Angeles Times, 6/1/08]

No comments: