Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Evading Palestine

I'm always intensely irritated by those who pose as progressives but are invariably missing in action when it comes to Palestine/Israel.

One such is the presenter of Radio National's Late Night Live, Phillip Adams. While reliably warm and fuzzy with his legions of Zionist guests, should any of his interlocutors display pro-Palestinian sympathies, a chill seems to enter the studio, a mocking tone may intrude, and evasive tactics become the order of the day. Adams must surely be the quintessential closet Zionist.*

His interview with progressive Australian journalist Alex Mitchell last Thursday, on the occasion of the latter's new memoir, Come the Revolution, is a case in point. (For others simply click on the PA tab below.):

Adams broached the subject of Palestine with the following question about the late Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat: "You held and still hold Arafat in high regard, and in fact you say he's the most impressive figure you've met throughout your career in journalism."

I should acknowledge at this point that at least the above was a distinct improvement on his mocking introduction to a 24/8/05 interview on Arafat which began with the words: "Yasser - that's my baby, no sir, I don't mean maybe. We're doing Yasser Arafat tonight - the good, the bad and the ugly." Given that the interview itself, with Atlantic Monthly 'journalist' David Samuels, was outrageously titled How Arafat destroyed Palestine**, it goes without saying that one would listen in vain for any discussion of the forces actually involved in wiping Palestine off the map.

Mitchell responded thus:

"Yes, I think of all the people, and I've met lots of heads of state, princes, and chancellors and presidents and prime ministers, the thing about Arafat, and I think most foreign correspondents who have met him would attest to this, [is that] he was so engaging because he knew so much and he shared it with you. The others are playing some [diplomatic games]. I'm not saying Arafat didn't play diplomatic games - he played diplomatic games par excellence, but what he would do is educate you. While you were sitting with him talking you'd say 'Well what about Hafiz al-Asad in Damascus?' and he'd give you anecdotes, stories, raw information, and I know personally of diplomats, foreign editors and correspondents who owe all their knowledge of that time in the Middle East, and even world politics, to Arafat. I mean Arafat would sit there and they'd say 'What's happening in Russia?' and he'd give blow-by-blow accounts of what was happening in the bureaucracy in Moscow. Now how did he do that? He had an absolute fascination with world politics and he understood it intimately and he shared it with people and I find that impressive.
Adams: And you feel he's never been given the accolades he was due?
Mitchell: Well he got a Nobel Peace Prize. I...
Adams: But very odd people get Nobel Peace Prizes..."

True. Obomber or Shimon Peres, for instance. But no prizes for guessing who Adams is referring to here. Mitchell, however, pushed on:

"I meant from the journalists who used to bleed him white of information and he would say 'Trust us. Give us the honour of writing about us respectfully when you get back to your country'. They'd leave and immediately forget the Palestinians and write the garbage that most of them have been employed to write, and so I felt quite sad about the way... serious journalists who understood what he was doing and trying to never sort of said, you know, 'This bloke's not the warmonger, the madman he's painted as', and that's how he was caricatured in most of the Western media. They knew it and when you'd had a drink with them afterwards you'd say 'But you just wrote this', and they'd say 'I know but you've got to do it, mate', and I said 'You don't have to do it'. When are we going to start being honest about the Palestinian question and talk about it rationally so that Israelis will understand it as well? They don't want to read all this bloodthirsty nonsense. They want to read some serious journalism about a serious international problem that we all want to see solved."

Predictably, instead of exploring Mitchell's pregnant anecdote about journalists working under some kind of mysterious pressure, and broaching the role of the Israel lobby in manufacturing consent for Israel, Adams characteristically changes the subject:

"Who are your heroes in mainstream journalism?"

[*For those who wonder why see my 19/9/09 post He Just Doesn't Get It; **Adams' appalling ignorance of the basics is on particular display in this interview. In it he talks about "the Arab defeat and the flight of the Palestinian refugees in 1967," and Arafat "going to Lebanon in 1967 and setting up a Palestinian state in exile."]

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