Friday, November 16, 2012

A Way With Words

As Glenn Greenwald and others have cogently pointed out, the American media have been displaying a definite neo-con/neo-liberal bias when it comes to coverage of the recent Israel/Gaza violence. Israeli casualties are always mentioned in the first graf of New York Times stories, for example, while that much worse and so unfortunate "collateral damage" inflicted on the Palestinian side gets buried deep within the sixth or seventh paragraph.

And the coverage also reflects the dawning of the new age of War by Tweet. A series of graphic AP photos showing a grief-stricken Palestinian father holding his dead child have gone viral. The Times, while posting the image, obviously felt compelled to be fair and balanced by publishing a similar photo allegedly portraying an injured Israeli baby. It just so happens to have come directly from the Twitter account of the Israeli prime minister. Bibi seemingly has all the time in the world to tweet and post YouTube videos while waging his war. 


 Even as the Israelis bombed the head of the Hamas military into oblivion, it was conducting a parallel pre-emptive propaganda strike in social media. We saw it almost in real time. We Were There.

Meanwhile, the Times headlines today are again reeking of bias. We are told that Israel is "girding itself" for a ground assault. The connotion of "gird" is a positive and honorable one. Old Testament heroes girded their loins. Knights girded themselves in shining armor to do battle against dragons. Crusaders girded themselves to vanquish the infidel. And so it goes.

Hamas, meanwhile, in a much tinier subhead is "emboldened." This word has a negative slant. It connotes an articially fueled chutzpah or bravado, rather than bravery. The Oxford online dictionary give us this sentence as an example:  "Emboldened by the claret, he pressed his knee against hers."

Such not-no-subtle language is in perfect keeping with the Gray Lady's role as quasi-official White House propaganda flack. As Greenwald points out, it behooves the United States to take Israel's side in the conflict:
US policy always lies at the heart of these episodes, because Israeli aggression is possible only due to the unstinting financial, military and diplomatic support of the US. Needless to say, the Obama administration wasted no time expressing its "full-throttled support" for the Israeli attacks. And one can't help but notice the timing of this attack: launched just days after Obama's re-election victory, demanding an answer to the question of whether Obama was told in advance of these attacks and gave his approval.

 Extra-judicial assassination - accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children - is a staple of the Obama presidency. That lawless tactic is one of the US president's favorite instruments for projecting force and killing whomever he decides should have their lives ended: all in total secrecy and with no due process or oversight. There is now a virtually complete convergence between US and Israeli aggression, making US criticism of Israel impossible not only for all the usual domestic political reasons, but also out of pure self-interest: for Obama to condemn Israel's rogue behavior would be to condemn himself.
And that, of course, will never come to pass. Full-throttle, after all, means unrestrained, no holds barred, full speed ahead, Marlon Brando on a motorcycle, earsplitting loudness and machismo. It's the American way.  


James F Traynor said...

Below is a comment I made (which was published) in the NYT.

"Too late peaceniks, the war is on and the Israelis have been guilty for a long, long time - ever since '67. Let Iran have the weapon, the Israelis have been trading on their possession of it for too long. Remember the Liberty! They are no longer our friends and haven't been for years. They want Likud? Fine, let them have it and the consequences."

A response accused me of "...Israel hatred.." and referred to the "accidental attack" on the Liberty. I neither hate Israel nor was the attack accidental.Initially I bought the bullshit put forth by our government and the Israelis on the incident, but after looking at the evidence, I realized that I had bought bullshit and did it stink of mendacity.

Anyone condemning Israeli actions can expect automatic accusations of antisemitism, hatred and various other dementia.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Palestinians have only been living in refugee camps of one size or another for three going on four generations. How long is one obliged to muck with a people before they get the message and surrender everything?

At least in Gaza the occupied don’t any longer have to suffer the Swiss Cheese of real estate enjoyed on the West Bank thanks to more than 120 cookie cutter settlements providing needed shelter for over 300,000 needy Israelis. Nor are the residents of Gaza forced into the shade of an eight meter high barrier neatly dividing the West Bank from Israel. Unfortunate that Palestinian olive orchards on the West Bank were in the way of such needed improvements. In Gaza, thankfully, there is a high chain link fence that, as Virginia Woolf might put it, "lets the light through." And all of five crossing points for humans and cargo – on a somewhat limited basis.

To maintain security at its peak level for residents of Gaza, Israeli soldiers have standing orders to shoot anyone from the Gaza side detected at night crawling within a mile of the fence with ideas of doing it harm. Fired up with crazed resentment, Hamas turns to digging tunnels and firing rockets over the fence to draw attention to its baseless cause. It is only natural that Israeli patience is wearing thin.

The trouble began a long time ago when Arabs hit back after the Israelis started it. Peace will descend upon the Holy Land when Palestinians go someplace else or disappear. Israeli governments through the years, mindful of their scripture in dealing with the anawim, have been lending Palestinians generous assistance through a carrot-and-stick approach to bring that about.

Denis Neville said...

A way with words…

Why the Israeli operations Hebrew name "Pillar of Cloud" was changed to "Pillar of Defense" as a hashtag in its English tweets:

“What a Pillar of Cloud is: A worldly instantiation of an all-powerful, vengeful God seeking to demonstrate the primacy of his chosen people, to guide them in their affairs, and to confound their enemies. And that's what the people who conceived and executed this wave of strikes against Hamas officials and Gazan civilians chose to call them. If anyone was worried about the increasing religious and ethnic fanaticism of the Israeli leadership, they should still be worried. Did Israel launch this attack because there was no other rational route to maintain its security? Or was it pursuing a broader agenda rooted in ancient mysticism?”

“Pillar of defense just sounds more reasonable to the secular ear and hides the nasty Israeli racism and fanaticism that is behind this attack.”

Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, writes, “the only place on Earth the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) can raise hell and wreak havoc with total impunity and negligible "collateral damage"; the under-siege, illegally blockaded, collectively punished-to-death inhabitants of the open-air prison known as Gaza.”

Pearl said...

When we lived in Israel in the early l960's, a petition signed by several kibbutz groups, pleaded with then Prime Minister Ben Gurion to sit down at the table with refugee camps representatives surrounding the country and negotiate for fair living conditions. They warned that the situation was breeding the development of terrorists, creating serious future trouble. Ben Gurion, known for his temper, accused the petitioners of being treasonable Israelis, shouting and cursing their requests. Those miserable refugee camp conditions were never dealt with.

During our stay, I had a Christian Arab maid come in a few hours a week to help me with the housework as I was working part time and had 2 young children to take care of. One day she came in, visibly upset, and when I asked her what was wrong she broke down and told us that a young Arab man in her section of Haifa, had tried to flee the country over the border to escape the treatment he and others received in Israel and was shot dead without even being stopped for questioning. His body had been then dumped on the threshold of his family home where my maid lived.

It didn't take us long to size up the future of the country under the expansionist aims of the Zionists in power, aligned with the right wing religious groups in parliament. We left as soon as my husband's contract was up and tried to warn friends and family of what has since transpired in Israel. The country is now divided with any opposition being attacked in a similar pattern as in the U.S. Needless to say, the continuing financial aid from the U.S. to Israel fuels their military ambitions and many Jewish peace groups are fighting to end this aid and remove support for Netanyahu's policies, further dividing the Jewish community in America. A sad saga all around.

John in Lafayette said...

1967, indeed, Mr. Traynor. People who start wars have no business complaining about how they turn out. And your rush to accuse those who disagree with you of throwing around false accusations of anti-semitism is the sort of argument designed to stifle dissent. I suspect the amount of hatred of Israel that's grounded in anti-semitism as roughly equivalent to the amount of hatred of Barack Obama that's grounded in racism. While you may not be an anti-semite, let's not pretend anti-semitism doesn't exist, and let's not pretend that much of it is couched as condemnation of Israel.

Israel is between a rock and a hard place, and while the rock is certainly of their own making, the hard place most certainly is not.

The rock, of course, is their continued occupation of the West Bank and the increasing number of illegal settlements.

The hard place is the continued intransigence on the part of Hamas and other Palestinian factions for whom the total destruction of Israel is the only acceptable outcome.

The problem from the Israeli standpoint is that removing the rock won't get rid of the hard place. In fact, removing the rock is only likely to make the hard place harder. History has shown us that. Do we all recall the Oslo Accords and Hamas' response to same?

So I ask all of you piling on Israel to answer the following questions:

1) If you were responsible for the safety and security of the Israeli population, how would you respond to the rocket attacks from Gaza that are killing your civilians, knowing that those rocket attacks are originating from Palestinian civilian neighborhoods? Would you target those rockets knowing that you will, in all likelihood, kill Palestinian civilians, or would you allow the rocket attacks targeted on your own civilians to continue?

2) If the Israelis were to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and dismantle all settlements, do you think that would end Palestinian (violent) opposition to Israel's continued existence?

3) If the answer to (2) is no (and a yes answer is naive, at best) would you do the morally right thing anyway and unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank, when you also know that doing so will likely put your own population at much greater risk? Isn't that also morally wrong?

The Israelis are certainly part of the problem, but they aren't all of the problem. Any attempt to paint either Israelis OR Palestinians as being the sole root cause of the violence in the region is disingenuous at best.

John in Lafayette said...

"The trouble began a long time ago when Arabs hit back after the Israelis started it," says Jay in Ottawa.

How, exactly, did the Israelis start it? By showing up in 1948? And how, exactly, are they supposed to remedy the situation? By marching themselves into the sea? Will you do the same so the Native Americans whose land you sit on (and for whom your city is named), can have back what is theirs? How many years have to pass before the theft of Arab lands is as legitimate as your theft of Native lands?

If anyone started it 64 years ago, it was The United States and the remaining European powers who needed to do something with the few Jews left alive in Europe.

They could have put them back in their homes and helped them regain the wealth that was now safely stashed away in Swiss banks. But that would have caused too many problems for all the wrong people.

Far better to complete the work of the war and ship all the remaining Jews off to Palestine. This approach had a whole host of advantages. First, it allowed the monied interests to keep all the confiscated wealth while at the same time making them appear generous by giving the Jews a home of their own. It also helped that by doing so they also effectively removed every last vestige of Jewish culture from the continent. The Arabs would object, but who cares about those bloody wogs and what they want? And if they did succeed in wiping out the Jews......well, that would be regrettable, but it wouldn't be OUR fault.

And now the very same people who created this problem in the first place by denying the Jews their right to exist (either as Europeans or as people) are saying those very Jews are the entire cause of the problems in the Middle East.

Give me a stinkin' break.

"Cat" will do said...

Right! US and BBC media don't tell the story and remain stubbornly obtuse about who the real victims are. I have links to better coverage here:

thanks, cat

Pearl said...

John in Lafayette:

I wonder how much you and other intelligent people are aware of the manner in which Israel was formed and how its aims and behavior were hijacked by the right wing extremists who stamped its future. The facts were hidden for many years although many Israelis were aware of the manner in which Palestinians who had lived in the area were forced to flee, leaving behind their ancestral homes and land without compensation which had been one of the original agreements regarding the formation of the state.
This is a simplification of deeply troubling details of what occurred, making it possible for the worst
elements of Judaism to take over the running of that part of the world which could only survive by oppressing the original dwellers, aided and abetted by U.S. support representing American Jewish voters who were told untruthful versions of Israel's purpose.

What we are witnessing now is the takeover of Israeli politics by the truly obsessed backward settler mentality that has encouraged their members to move in and infiltrate the body politic, voting in leaders of the Netanyahu variety.
It has become a one sided power struggle and now several Jewish Peace
organizations are fighting hard to get President Obama to stop the flow of money to Israel which is used primarily for high tech armaments with obvious results. Recent events as well as previous ones have proven that Israel has been the first one to attack, kill, assassinate the opposition and then used any retaliation attempts to up the stakes. This is not my personal bias, it is based on information I receive from trusted reporters, observers and organizations of what is truly happening in that part of the world and which is beginning to make its way into the mainstream press.

Every attempt to forge peaceful solutions has been circumvented by Israel and not until our leaders in the U.S. withdraw from supporting Israel's expansionist agenda the current dangerous events will escalate, involving
the whole Middle East in the process.

I know you are trying to see both sides of the situation John, but there is no balance left with the current aims of Israeli leaders. The country is divided, opposition protests are stifled, people's jobs are threatened (as in academic circles) and you and others who are concerned should be writing
to your representatives in Congress about their role in allowing the financial support to go on. The UN must be supported at this time but as usual, our country will veto any attempts to force change in order to avoid further dangerous behavior by Israel.
U.S. support from the Jewish community is changing which will hopefully have some effect but it is beyond painful to witness the current horrors which we foresaw all those years ago when we lived in Israel.

John in Lafayette said...

Pearl: This is exactly what I'm talking about; a well-meaning effort on your part, no doubt, but one that assigns all blame to one side. "Every attempt to forge peaceful solutions has been circumvented by Israel..." Really? What was Camp David? What was Oslo?

What was 1973?

Everyone is biased. Who you choose to put your trust in is evidence of yours (and mine, too).

I know quite well how Israel came into being, In fact, I tried posting something here earlier today that Karen, for some reason, saw fit not to post.

At the end of WWII, the US and remaining European powers were left with a problem; namely, what to do with the Jews still left alive on the continent. They could have tried putting them back in their homes and giving them back the wealth that had been stolen from them and was now safely ensconced in Swiss banks.

A far more convenient solution was hit upon, though. The Americans and British picked up all the remaining Jews and shipped them off to Palestine, essentially washing their hands of the problem. The concerns of the Arabs already living in the area were of no import to either the Americans or the British, nor, in actuality, was the well-being of the Jews. If the Arabs succeeded in killing them off it wasn't an American problem (and we knew the Arabs would attempt to do so).

I still find it unbelievable that people can look at the situation in the Middle East and ascribe all the blame to Israeli hardliners and none to Palestinian and other Arab hardliners. Jay in Ottawa says, sarcastically, that " Peace will descend upon the Holy Land when Palestinians go someplace else or disappear." But it isn't the Israelis who have said the only acceptable solution is the complete annihilation of the other.

So I put the question to you one more time, Pearl: If the Israelis were to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and dismantle all settlements, do you think that would end Palestinian (violent) opposition to Israel's continued existence?

Please don't tell me you can honestly answer that question in the affirmative.

Karen Garcia said...

I did not "see fit not to post" your second of three comments today. The system belches out a lot of duplicates for some reason, so when I saw your back-to-back comment alerts in my in-box, I assumed one of them was redundant and failed to read it. Mea culpa.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Part I

@ John in Lafayette

You repeatedly lay the charge that commenters are blaming ALL of the problem on Israel. Some of us may be saying things that are not politically correct, by some standards, but I don't read anyone here as blaming Israel for all the problems of the Middle East. May we remove that straw man from the scene?

As for my use of irony, this is Sardonicky, after all. Must we rehash the whole issue, step by step, going all the way back to 1945, back to the treatment of Indians in North America? Aren't you playing the old Israeli card to win a fresh hand?

It seems to me that this week's issues deal with proportionality and one's sense of justice.

What Americans here are being asked to do is to side with Goliath (Israel) against Little David, those roughneck Palestinians slinging unguided Qassam rockets against innocent Israeli citizens – and, oh yes, against the whole damn Israeli war machine backed by the most advanced home-grown army, navy and air force in the Middle East, which also happens to pack nukes in its bottomless arsenal.

The answers you claim to seek are all over the net. For a level-headed report – no irony, no sarcasm, no zionism – check out Glenn Greenwald’s blog already linked in one of Karen’s essays. You can't do much better than that.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Part II

I’ll try to deal those three impossible questions you pose. Seems like a fruitless challenge, since you predict that all takers must be deemed naïve. Full disclosure: I am not a Jew, but half my family is Jewish and several agree with the gist of what I am about to say. Collectively, we probably have too many subscribers to “Tikkun Quarterly.”

Q.1) If I were responsible for the security of the Israeli people, I would not carry out, over and over, the same brutal brutal policies that just don’t provide security but which, in addition, harm the legacy of the Jews in history. Has massive overkill calmed the Palestinians? Look where these policies have taken Israel. They are armed to the teeth. And they use those weapons liberally. They are under as much threat today as they ever were.

Aside from the issue of proportionality, does their strategy work? Is Israel any more at peace now than it was yesterday? Five years ago? Ten? Etc., back to 1948? Are they going to go on this way forever and call that security? Insane.

The great exception was when Sadat (on his initiative) and Begin sat down to work out their problems another way. Thank you, President Carter.

The Israeli government is packed with able, learned, politically-astute men and women of high character. Isn’t it time for them to come up with another approach than the bloody hammer?

Q. 2 & 3) Does the concept of Justice pull no weight in the deliberations of the Israeli government? Rabbis tell us, unapologetically, that the Jewish people have always had a special mission to civilize the world. I believe them. Aside from the Ten Commandments the influence of their literature has indeed over the centuries led many in the West away from barbarism. Before ancient Greece defined the word justice, Israel was already on the scene explaining justice in fine detail.

So what about justice in this case? Before the moral imperative of Justice those settlements on the West Bank are grossly unjust, period. It would be naive to argue otherwise.

It is impossible for moderate Palestinians on the West Bank to make a country out of a territory riddled by Israeli settlements. That's the fix started by Menachem Begin to make a Palestinian state impossible. To travel from West Bank point A to point B, Palestinians have to go roundabout by way of X, Y and Z because they are forbidden to travel directly, which would take them too near one of the 120 settlements. C'mon, fair? Whose naive now?

As for the city, Jerusalem, it belongs to the Jews. And Islam and Christianity. Since none of these faiths own the place, no matter how much zealot rabbis, imams and priests make noise to the contrary, let us work that Jerusalem becomes, as wiser heads have counseled, an international city. A preliminary agreement by all parties would be an act of respect of all three faiths towards each other and, I maintain, would go further than present Israeli policy to ice the hotheads and put an end decades of retaliation against real and imagined injustice. Instead, Israel has been kicking Arab residents out block by block for years.

I agree, Israel is not all of the problem. However, leaders like Netanyahu, bent on force, stand in the way of a solution.

Now may I pose three questions for you:

1) Are Israel's actions of the past week towards Gaza just and proportionate?

2) As you have laid out the case for Israel, can you fairly lay out the reasons for Palestinian resistance? Why the bombs, intifadas, rockets? Do they suffer any existential threats?

3) Should Americans support President Obama's unqualified support of Netanyahu's policies?

Pearl said...

"So I put the question to you one more time, Pearl: If the Israelis were to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and dismantle all settlements, do you think that would end Palestinian (violent) opposition to Israel's continued existence?

Please don't tell me you can honestly answer that question in the affirmative."

My answer John - I could answer in the affirmative when and if the Israeli government removes itself from the physical and political oppression of the Palestinian people and allows them either right of return to their original land ownership or just compensation and refuses money from the U.S. for the their military armaments and agrees to a just peace involving a two party solution supervised by the UN.

John in Lafayette said...

Karen: Thanks for the explanation and I apologize for jumping to a conclusion.

Jay: I'm sorry, but what part of "The trouble began a long time ago when Arabs hit back after the Israelis started it" fails to blame the problems of the Middle East on the Israelis? Or Pearl's comment that, "Every attempt to forge peaceful solutions has been circumvented by Israel..."?

But please don't get me wrong. I am highly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. They have just as much right as anyone to live under a government of their own choosing, and it is the Israelis, not anyone else, who are denying them that right.

John le Carre, in an introduction to his book "The Little Drummer Girl" put it best when he said he was torn to pieces by the battle between two peoples who both have justice on their side.

Ultimately, though, whose "fault" this is is irrelevant. Both sides are going to have to accept a solution that is unjust. The best will be equally unjust to both. And the reality of the situation is that the Israelis are the ones who are going to have to give on this. Palestinian tanks, after all, aren't running through the streets of Tel Aviv.

But people need to be clear: Doing so will require that the Israelis put their very existence at risk. It would have required, for instance, that the Israelis not respond to the provocation of the second intifada. How many of us would have been able to do that? How many of us would be willing to sit back and accept the attacks that are an inevitable result of such a policy?

It's very easy for us to sit here and tell the Israelis what they have to do since we won't ever have to do it, and since the history of the world is not one long list of attempts to exterminate us.

Pearl: So, yes?

Pearl said...

John: I suggest that rather than go on forever debating history we do something useful to help the people of the Middle East as I and many others are doing. Namely, sign petitions or write to your Congressperson about the need to demand that Israel abide by the agreements going along with receiving the huge amounts of money it receives from the U.S., contact President Obama or a suitable representative and urge him to involve himself in the urgent need for a UN or other suitable world organization to discuss a peace agreement if Israel is to be on our payroll. And any other useful manner of demanding action to end the bloodshed which could be useful.

It is obvious that President Obama is open to the reactions of the people that voted him back in office and now is the time to hold his feet to the fire on this issue as well as many others eventually. Israel is facing its self destruction otherwise similar to what our country is facing as well and citizen action is sorely needed. And widen your horizons with regard to information about the Middle East. Reports from other countries often bring fresh insights to the conondrum.