Saturday, November 21, 2009

Norm & Jason

Just look at the kind of Israel-friendly language used by Sydney Morning Herald Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis in his 19/11/09 report Netanyahu shrugs off world criticism:

"Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem"/"built on land [which] is regarded as an illegal settlement by the United Nations"/"Gilo is home to 40,000 Jewish residents and completes a ring of Jewish neighbourhoods."

Jewish neighbourhoods, not Israeli colonies. Jewish residents, not Israeli colonists. Is regarded as illegal by the UN [presumably just another source of subjective opinion], not 'is illegal under international law'. And the 'o' word, occupied - banished entirely!

Contrast this with the no-nonsense language of another news report in the same issue on Sahrawi activist Aminatou Haidar ('African Gandhi' risks life, Xan Rice): "The Moroccan Government, which considers Western Sahara to be its southern provinces, even though this has no foundation in international law..." Render this into Morocco-friendly language and "no foundation in international law" becomes 'regarded as illegal by the UN'...

Israeli propaganda, peddled in the mainstream media by the likes of Koutsoukis, wreaks havoc on the public's understanding of the criminal Israeli colonization underway in occupied Palestine. Look what happened when one of these know-nothing peddler hacks bumped into the formidable Norman Finkelstein on Danish TV (You can enjoy the video on Finkelstein's website):

Norman Finkelstein: Any talks or resolution of the [Israel/Arab] conflict has to be based on international law, and the law is clear: the basic priciple of international law is that it's inadmissable to acquire territory by war. Israel acquired the Golan Heights in the June 1967 war, and therefore, in international law, it has no title to any of the Golan Heights. There has to be a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 4 border. That's a precondition. You can't resolve any conflict unless there are basic principles - and the principles for resolving the Israel/Palestine or Israel/Syrian conflict has to be international law.

Adam Holms: Just a couple of days ago Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon paid a visit to our studios. Just listen to what he says: 'Hamas is the real enemy of peace. Hamas is the enemy of Palestinian interests. By the way, Hamas does not represent Palestinian interests but Iranian interests. They're being helped and supplied and financed and equipped by Iran with the same ideology of sharia - a very radical Islamist entity...' It's pretty clear what he's saying: the onus rests with Hamas. What's your take on this?

Norman Finkelstein: Well it's not as if Hamas has been around since eternity. The Israelis had the option of settling the conflict with the Palestinians before January 2006 when Hamas was elected to office. If Hamas is the obstacle, then why weren't they able to settle the conflict before Hamas was elected into office? Because they refused the terms of the international community. Every year, as it happens, in November, the international community votes on a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly to settle the conflict and every year the vote is the same. The whole world on one side, 161 nations last year, and then there are the US, Israel, Naurau, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and sometimes Australia on the other side. The problem is not Hamas. Hamas has repeatedly said it's willing to settle the conflict in the June 67 border.

Adam Holms: But still they refuse to recognise the state of Israel.

Norman Finkelstein: Well they refuse to recognise what they call the legitimacy of the state of Israel, but under international law they're not obliged to recognise the legitimacy of the state of Israel. If you go back to 1947, Gandhi said he'd accept the reality of Pakistan but he would never accept the legitimacy of the state of Pakistan. And Hamas is not expected to be held to a higher level of diplomacy than Gandhi. Gandhi said Pakistan is a reality which I'm forced to accept but I don't accept it as legitimate and that's the same as the position of Hamas.

Adam Holms: But this is what makes Jerusalem wary of Hamas because they keep saying how can you have a neighbour that doesn't recognise our legitimacy?

Norman Finkelstein: You see the problem is... listen to your own language. You're just spouting Israeli propaganda. Why are you saying Jerusalem? East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law. That was the ruling of the International Criminal Court in 2004, and if you look at the Goldstone Report that just came out... they refer to East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory. But now you've given over Jerusalem to the Israelis. You're just repeating Israeli propaganda. They have no title under international law to East Jerusalem.

Adam Holms (sheepish & defensive): Speaking of what you call my Israeli propaganda, which I refute, but anyway you're on record for saying that Israel is a terrorist state, a lunatic state... Why do you use such stark language about a state which is essentially just defending its own right to exist?

Norman Finkelstein: OK, you accuse me of using stark and provocative language, so let's take the renowned international jurist Richard Goldstone, who was the chief prosecutor for the war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia - he came out a few weeks ago with a report on what Israel did in Gaza approximately a year ago and he said... Israel's purpose was to 'punish, humiliate and terrorise' a civilian population - terrorise a civilian population. So is Mr Goldstone guilty of incendiary language or is he simply accurately reporting on what happened? Terrorism is a fact and refers to the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure to achieve a political end, and Israel routinely targets civilians and civilian infrastructure to achieve political goals, so it's terrorism. I can't help it if that's what Israel chooses as its targets...

Adam Holms: Terrorist state or self-defence? It depends on the eye that looks at it.

Norman Finkelstein: No. Let's say for argument's sake that Israel were engaged in a war of self-defence in Gaza - that still means you can engage in terrorism. You can be engaged in a war of self-defence, but if, in the course of the war, you're targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure then you're engaged in terrorism. That's the basic distinction in international law between the reason why you went to war and how you're conducting the war.

Adam Holms: What do you think the international community should do about Israel? How should the case of Israel be handled?

Norman Finkelstein: There's a very simple way to handle it. They should enforce the law. That is the easiest and most efficacious way to resolve the conflict.

Adam Holms: So Israel's been granted special treatment you say.

Norman Finkelstein: The law is not being enforced against it. Richard Goldstone is saying Israel is committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, and Israel should be brought before the International Criminal Court if those who are guilty of these crimes are not prosecuted. Just enforce the law. These are not radical ideas...

Koutsoukis and his kind need a similar whipping.

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