Friday, November 28, 2008

Janet's Dream

Janet, this is the Spirit of Investigative Journalism, come to you in a dream. Truly, this latest column of yours (Hostages to fear & systematic loathing in Israel, The Australian, 26/11/08) is a truly woeful effort, a mere conduit for propaganda fed to you during the course of your recent Jewish Board of Deputies/Israeli Foreign Ministry rambamming (the definition of this term may be found in this site's 17/11/08 post Rambam Alert!) in Israel. How many times have I reminded you of the importance of doing your homework, reading widely, and thinking critically before putting pen to paper? Perhaps I'm being naive here. After all, the whole point of the rambamming process is to recruit journalists such as yourself, and others, to act as uncritical diseminators of Israeli propaganda. Then, of course, there's your job. We all know that Rupert wouldn't have it any other way. Still, I'm disturbed at the tendency of so many of you in the media these days to succumb so easily to the blandishments of Israel lobbyists whenever a rambamming junket is dangled before you. Sadly, it seems that journalistic ethics are now a thing of the past. And please don't think it's enough to append a disclaimer as you've done (although it's certainly more than that dreadful Paul Sheehan did in his paean to Israeli "warrior-scholars" - see the previous post, His Master's Voice) or to gesture half-heartedly to "the Israeli settlements that poison relations and stymie solutions, the Israeli blockade of Gaza" and so on to provide a veneer of objectivity. The reader is not fooled, Janet. He knows where you're coming from. Your column fairly oozes Israel advocacy.

You refer in your introduction to the Clayton's ceasefire entered into by Israel and Hamas in June, and hint darkly about "yet another culprit killing the prospect of peace." I'm sure you didn't have the Israeli military in mind when you wrote this. But were you not aware that UN records show that of the 8 violations in its first week alone, 7 were by the IDF? (UN: Israel violated truce 7 times in one week, ynetnews.com, 27/6/08).

Predictably, you were taken to the Israeli pilgrimage site of Sderot. But did it ever enter your mind to ask why you (and your fellower Australian rambammers), and David Miliband before you, and every other man and his dog undergoing a rambamming, have for years now been whisked off to rocket-ravaged Sderot? Did it ever occur to you that Sderot and its rockets are simply too precious a propaganda tool for the Israeli government to warrant the hammering out of a genuine ceasefire and a real peace with the Gazans, that the inhabitants of Sderot might be simply hostage to the requirements of Israeli power politics? While you were told that Sderot had "endured thousands of rocket attacks in recent years," you were, of course, kept completely in the dark as to the number of rockets, missiles, shells, and bullets rained down on the length and breadth of Gaza for as long as I can remember. Did you ask about that? Did you ask to visit Gaza?

As for that unfortunate "young Ethiopian woman, who has lost relatives to the rocket attacks from Gaza?" Did it not seem odd to you that she hadn't been relocated out of harm's way? Further, did you wonder what an Ethiopian was doing there, in Israel, in the first place, considering how successive Israeli governments have kept millions of Palestinian refugees in political limbo now for over 60 years, denying their right to return to their homes and lands in what, until 1948, had been Palestine? A stark illustration of this bizarre species of discrimination practised routinely by the Jewish State came with the news in August that a group of 1948 Palestinian refugees, "stranded for the last 2 years in a makeshift camp in the desert on the Iraq-Syria border," part of the refugee exodus of your vaunted Operation Iraqi Freedom, had been taken in by - wait for it - Iceland! (Resettlement to Iceland rescues Palestinians from border camp limbo, unhcr.org, 4/8/08)

You mention that "40% of all Palestinians" live in the Gaza Strip. Given this territory's rather arid nature, did you not ask yourself why almost half of all Palestinians not exiled in surrounding Arab countries are cooped up in the Strip in squalid and sprawling refugee camps? The answer's simple, Janet. They're the descendents of Palestinians ethnically cleansed from southern Palestine by Israeli forces under cover of war in 1948 and denied the right of return to their homes and lands in what is today Israel.

On a more prosaic level, who told you that "if elections were held in the West Bank today, predictions are that Hamas would win there, putting an end to the cooperation that has stopped the terrorism emanating from that enclave." In fact, according to the latest poll on Palestinians' voting intentions by An-Najah University, Fatah would take 31.4% of the vote in parliamentary elections against 14.4% for Hamas (Fatah would win Palestinian elections: opinion poll, news.yahoo.com, 26/11/08).

Now we come to your argument: that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is generations away because "an entire generation of Palestinian children is being raised on a full diet of hate education, on jihad and anti-Semitism." Your one and only source is "Palestinian Media Watch... where analysts have long tracked what the Palestinian leadership under Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas is doing." What do you really know about this organization? Just how objective do you think it is? I assume you met its director, Itamar Marcus? What do you know about him? Would the fact that he was a Netanyahu appointee in the 90s give you pause for thought? The fact that he is "an Israeli political activist of the West Bank settlement of Efrat who previously lobbied to keep West Bank aquifers under Israeli control?" (Palestinian Politics After the Oslo Accords: Resuming Arab Palestine, Nathan J Brown, 2003, p 296). For Marcus' earlier 'work', motivated by allegations of 'incitement' in Palestinian textbooks, I refer you to Professor Brown's critique, The Incitement Charge (pp 235-243), in the above book. It does not leave Mr Marcus looking terribly good. Consider it homework, Janet. Ditto for studies by Dr Ruth Firer, Matti Steinberg, the European Union, and Jennifer Miller. A useful point of departure for you might be the 2005 Council for the National Interest study by Reema Hijazi: Unwarranted Controversy: American Politicians, Israeli Critics, & Palestinian Textbooks, cnionline.org.

You write of Palestinian geography books "that encourage children to see no Israel, books that feature maps of Israel in the colours of the Palestinian flag, and described as Palestine." Have you ever asked yourself where exactly are Israel's borders? After all, as Israeli scholar Idith Zertal has pointed out: "At no stage has the State of Israel defined its own borders - optimal, official, secured - nor acted to constitute these borders and win international recognition for them." (Israel's Holocaust & the Politics of Nationhood, 2005, p 184) Should they be the borders of 1947? That is, 54% of historical Palestine? 1949? 78% of historical Palestine? The West Bank minus land alienated from Palestinian ownership by Israel's West Bank Wall? The West Bank minus Israel's settlement blocs? An assortment of non-contiguous bits and pieces which Israeli settlers and/or the Israeli army haven't yet got around to snapping up?

Did you ask to be taken to the occupied West Bank? If you had spent any time there, you would surely have seen evidence of the relentless expansion of Israeli settlements, roads, security zones etc. You would have seen the little that is left of Arab Palestine being wiped off the map with no regard whatever for the 1949-67 Green Line, now a quaint relic of history, which used to demarcate the Israeli border. Even if, as you claim, Palestinian textbooks contain maps of Israel in the colours of the Palestinian flag, it is Israelis, backed by a succession of complicit governments and protected by the IDF, who are busily engaged in painting the actual land, if you like (& I've little doubt you do), in the colors of the Israeli flag. Oh, and did you check out any Israeli textbooks when you were there? Or some of the critical studies on them by the likes of Professor Eli Podeh, or Professor Daniel Bar-Tal? More homework, Janet.

As for soccer matches and summer camps for Palestinian youth "in honour of terrorists," did it ever occur to you to ask about, say, the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre, or the Memorial to David Ben Gurion, or the Ariel Sharon Memorial Park, or the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial, all of whom have presided either directly or indirectly over the slaughter of thousands upon thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians, not to mention guided the ongoing Zionist project of wiping Palestine off the map. And those quizzes "identifying Israeli landmarks, towns and ports such as Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat as Palestinian." Are you aware that these were once Palestinian "landmarks, towns and ports," stolen from the refugees of 1948? Allow me to draw your attention to some Israeli straight talk, for a change - Moshe Dayan's famous speech before students at the Israel Institute of Technology (Techniyon) in 1969: "We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs, and we are building here a Hebrew, Jewish state. In a considerable portion of localities we purchased the land from the Arabs. Instead of the Arab villages Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of these villages and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only the books, but also the villages no longer exist. Nahalal was established in the place of Mahalul, Gevat in the place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Hanifas and Kefar Yehoshu'a in the place of Tel Shamam. There is not a single settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village." (Quoted in Haaretz, 4/4/69) If you care to read about Palestinian Haifa, Janet, see the 7/5/08 post on this site, Bend It like Benny. Many of the families of the children you describe as receiving "hate education" were actually driven out of such places in 1948. This is history, not "hate education."

You ask whether the Australian foreign minister knows how your 'aid' dollar and mine is being used by the Palestinian Authority, whether perhaps it's paying for books showing maps of Israel/Palestine in red, green, white and black. Rest assured, Janet, our hard-earned money is being put to a use I'm sure you'd approve of - "enabling a Vichy-style PA to police Israeli-occupied West Bank Palestinians on behalf of their occupier" - as has been described in this site's 4/11/08 post The Bigger Picture.

And speaking of the bigger picture, Janet, if you want to know what is really shaping the minds of Palestinian children, you need look no further than the Israeli occupation. Here's how the individual is taught to hate by the teachers of the IDF: "I was shocked at the destruction and devastation. I was hysterical and began to cry and scream. I ran all around, but nobody was in the area. I went to where my wife and children were to make sure they were all right, but nobody was in the house. I returned to the ruins of my house and sat on a pile of stones and dirt and started to cry again. People came to comfort me. My neighbors were also in shock. The women screamed and tried in vain to remove possessions from under the piles of stone. The sun was coming up. Thousands of residents, and also journalists, came to the site. My wife and children came home and saw that the house had turned into a pile of stones. My wife fainted, and the neighbours took her to the hospital. The children started to cry. I was still in shock and couldn't do anything, not even go to the hospital to be with my wife. My wife was treated and returned to the site about 3 hours later. My children, who had been wandering around among the thousands of people, came to sit with us on the pile of stones, and we all cried until one o'clock in the afternoon. Some neighbours felt bad about what had happened to us and brought us food. We ate while sitting on the pile of stones. We slept at a relative's house. We all stayed in one room and spent the whole night there. The next day, we returned to the ruins of our house and stayed there all day. For two days, the children did not go to school because all their books and notebooks were buried among the ruins. On Thursday afternoon [12 April], the Red Cross began to distribute tents and blankets to the residents. We received a tent and ten blankets. We put the tent on the stone pile. We sat in the tent throughout the day and at night went to sleep with my relative because we were afraid that the army would fire at the tent to prevent us from returning to live on the site. The next day, some good people came and gave every schoolchild a small bag with notebooks, coloured pens, and a game. On Sunday, the Palestinian Ministry of Education gave all the children whose houses were destroyed a bag and fifty dollars. My children went to school, but their behavior changed. They wet the beds at the relative's house, and screamed in their sleep because of their nightmares." (Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, Saree Makdisi, 2008, pp 108-109)

And if you really want to know about Palestinian education, check out this appalling set of numbers:

Number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli army, 2000-2007: 854

Percentage of Palestinian children living in fear, according to 2003 USAID study: 93

Percentage who have personally experienced violence: 48

Percentage displaced from home due to violence: 21

Percentage who feel their parents can't protect them: 52

Percentage who value their education as a means of improvement: 96

Number of Palestinian schools closed due to Israeli curfews and closures, 2002: 580

Number of Palestinian schoolchildren affected: 226, 000

Number of Israeli assaults on Palestinian schools, 2003-5: 180

Number of students and teachers killed as a result: 181

Schooldays lost due to Israeli closures in West Bank and Gaza, 2003-5: 1,525

Number of university-age people in Gaza: 400,000

Capacity of Gaza's university system: 70,000

Percentage of university-age Gazans denied the right to an education: 75

Number of Gazan students attending Birzeit University in West Bank, 2000: 350

Number in 2005: 35

Number in 2007: 15

Number of those who are there with permits from Israel: 0

Number who can visit their families and then return to university: 0

Number who can freely move around the West Bank: 0

Number of registered physically disabled people in Gaza: 24,000

Number of educational courses addressing physical rehabilitation in Gaza: 0

Percentage of disabled Gazans barred by Israel from studying in West Bank: 100

Length of closure imposed on Hebron universities by Israeli army, 2002-3: 8 months

(ibid, pp 196-197)

It's really quite simple, Janet: if hate there be, it's the occupation that incites it.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I quite enjoyed the froth and bubble in the comments page for Janets' piece of "journalism" at theaustralian.com.

Greg

MM said...

Brilliant rebuttle MERC, just brilliant!