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Robert Fisk's World: Wherever I Go, I Hear the Same Tired Middle East Comparisons


Business  (tags: americans, abuse, dishonesty, corruption, lies, politics, usa, ethics, economy )

Pete
- 1924 days ago - independent.co.uk
It all depends where you live. That was the geography of Israel's propaganda, designed to demonstrate that we softies - we little baby-coddling liberals living in our secure Western homes - don't realise the horror of 12 (now 20) Israeli deaths in 10 year



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Pete M. (67)
Sunday January 11, 2009, 7:36 am
It all depends where you live. That was the geography of Israel's propaganda, designed to demonstrate that we softies – we little baby-coddling liberals living in our secure Western homes – don't realise the horror of 12 (now 20) Israeli deaths in 10 years and thousands of rockets and the unimaginable trauma and stress of living near Gaza. Forget the 600 Palestinian dead; travelling on both sides of the Atlantic these past couple of weeks has been an instructive – not to say weirdly repetitive – experience.

Here's how it goes. I was in Toronto when I opened the right-wing National Post and found Lorne Gunter trying to explain to readers what it felt like to come under Palestinian rocket attack. "Suppose you lived in the Toronto suburb of Don Mills," writes Gunter, "and people from the suburb of Scarborough – about 10 kilometres away – were firing as many as 100 rockets a day into your yard, your kid's school, the strip mall down the street and your dentist's office..."

Getting the message? It just so happens, of course, that the people of Scarborough are underprivileged, often new immigrants – many from Afghanistan – while the people of Don Mills are largely middle class with a fair number of Muslims. Nothing like digging a knife into Canada's multicultural society to show how Israel is all too justified in smashing back at the Palestinians.

Now a trip down Montreal way and a glance at the French-language newspaper La Presse two days later. And sure enough, there's an article signed by 16 pro-Israeli writers, economists and academics who are trying to explain what it feels like to come under Palestinian rocket attack. "Imagine for a moment that the children of Longueuil live day and night in terror, that businesses, shops, hospitals, schools are the targets of terrorists located in Brossard." Longueuil, it should be added, is a community of blacks and Muslim immigrants, Afghans, Iranians. But who are the "terrorists" in Brossard?

Two days later and I am in Dublin. I open The Irish Times to find a letter from the local Israeli ambassador, trying to explain to the people of the Irish Republic what it feels like to come under Palestinian rocket attack. Know what's coming? Of course you do. "What would you do," Zion Evrony asks readers, "if Dublin were subjected to a bombardment of 8,000 rockets and mortars..." And so it goes on and on and on. Needless to say, I'm waiting for the same writers to ask how we'd feel if we lived in Don Mills or Brossard or Dublin and came under sustained attack from supersonic aircraft and Merkava tanks and thousands of troops whose shells and bombs tore 40 women and children to pieces outside a school, shredded whole families in their beds and who, after nearly a week, had killed almost 200 civilians out of 600 fatalities.

In Ireland, my favourite journalistic justification for this bloodbath came from my old mate Kevin Myers. "The death toll from Gaza is, of course, shocking, dreadful, unspeakable," he mourned. "Though it does not compare with the death toll amongst Israelis if Hamas had its way." Get it? The massacre in Gaza is justified because Hamas would have done the same if they could, even though they didn't do it because they couldn't. It took Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times's resident philosopher-in-chief, to speak the unspeakable. "When does the mandate of victimhood expire?" he asked. "At what point does the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews cease to excuse the state of Israel from the demands of international law and of common humanity?"

I had an interesting time giving the Tip O'Neill peace lecture in Derry when one of the audience asked, as did a member of the Trinity College Dublin Historical Society a day later, whether the Northern Ireland Good Friday peace agreement – or, indeed, any aspect of the recent Irish conflict – contained lessons for the Middle East. I suggested that local peace agreements didn't travel well and that the idea advanced by John Hume (my host in Derry) – that it was all about compromise – didn't work since the Israeli seizure of Arab land in the West Bank had more in common with the 17th-century Irish Catholic dispossession than sectarianism in Belfast.

What I do suspect, however, is that the split and near civil war between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has a lot in common with the division between the Irish Free State and anti-treaty forces that led to the 1922-3 Irish civil war; that Hamas's refusal to recognise Israel – and the enemies of Michael Collins who refused to recognise the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the border with Northern Ireland – are tragedies that have a lot in common, Israel now playing the role of Britain, urging the pro-treaty men (Mahmoud Abbas) to destroy the anti-treaty men (Hamas).

I ended the week in one of those BBC World Service discussions in which a guy from The Jerusalem Post, a man from al-Jazeera, a British academic and Fisk danced the usual steps around the catastrophe in Gaza. The moment I mentioned that 600 Palestinian dead for 20 Israeli dead around Gaza in 10 years was grotesque, pro-Israeli listeners condemned me for suggesting (which I did not) that only 20 Israelis had been killed in all of Israel in 10 years. Of course, hundreds of Israelis outside Gaza have died in that time – but so have thousands of Palestinians.

My favourite moment came when I pointed out that journalists should be on the side of those who suffer. If we were reporting the 18th-century slave trade, I said, we wouldn't give equal time to the slave ship captain in our dispatches. If we were reporting the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, we wouldn't give equal time to the SS spokesman. At which point a journalist from the Jewish Telegraph in Prague responded that "the IDF are not Hitler". Of course not. But who said they were?
 

Marion Y. (322)
Sunday January 11, 2009, 1:45 pm
Excellent report, Pete. Let's take this further out. Let's look at WHY Hamas is shooting rockets, HOW Israel has undermined the peace process all along, and WHAT Israel has done over the years to disrupt the lives of the Palestinians.

Israel does not want to sit at the table with Hamas and the Palestinians because they do not want to give them back what is theirs, and they do not want open the borders for food, supplies and commerce to move.

For peace to happen, Israel will have to give up what they have stolen. The Palestinians cannot survive otherwise.
 

Yvonne White (232)
Sunday January 11, 2009, 3:48 pm
I'd like to imagine for a moment that these "neighborhoods" call for Mediations - Peace Keepers.. Imagine if America had a President who would HELP instead of drive wedges & make stupid "judgement calls" - oh, yeah, we already do - ex-President Jimmy Carter! Oh well, he's a "disgruntled former employee"!
 

David Gould (155)
Sunday January 11, 2009, 6:17 pm
Yes I saw this article by old Friskie yesterday in the Independent...I loved his last line. The other little problem is that originally Hamas was created by Israel to counter al Fatah...but now that al Fatah are the good guys and Hamas won the election Israel can't take it and wants to destroy the Gaza enclave or concentration camp that it has become...who are the new Nazis?...you do the math.
 

Sir Walk F. (124)
Sunday January 11, 2009, 8:55 pm
Great Article!
 

Cal Mendelsohn (950)
Monday January 12, 2009, 4:20 am
A TERRIFIC ANALYSIS OF PALESTINIAN POLITICS, BUT A SIMPLISTIC ANALYSIS OF WHAT DRIVES PRO-ISRAEL THOUGHT.

DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU LIVE PHILOSOPHICALLY, SELF DEFENSE CAN EITHER BE A COVER FOR UNSPEAKABLE SLAUGHTER, OR ON THE CONTRARY, FOR RECOGNIZING THE REALITY THAT HUNDREDS OF HAMAS FIGHTERS WERE KILLED IN THIS WAR, AND LET'S NOT CALL IT ANYTHING BUT THAT, T'S A WAR. BLOODSHED IS NEVER ANY GOOD FOR ANYONE, AND THER'S NO JUSTIFICATION FOR CIVILIAN CASUALTIES, BUT LET'S NOT BE SUCH NAIVE 'SOTFIES' OURSELVES TO NOT REALIZE THAT MILITARY CASUALTIES ARE A NECESSARY HORRIBLE CONSEQUENCE OF WAR.
THIS ARTICLE CONVENIENTLY SKIRTS AROUND THE NEED FOR MUTUAL SELF-RESPECT AS A FOUNDATION FOR PEACE AND DOES ITS BEST TO PIGEON-HOLE THOSE WHO THINK THAT SELF-DEFENSE FOR ISRAEL IS...WELL, JUST AS VALID AND DECENT A POINT FOR A JEWISH NATION AS FOR A NON-JEWISH ONE. I THINK MOST PEOP.E WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE IN PEACE TO BETTER THEMSELVES AND THEIR CHILDREN. HAVING TO LIVE WITH MISSILES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD ISN'T COMFORTABLE TO A NYONE I KNOW, BUT HECK, THHERE'S ALWAYS SOMEONE WHO'S DIFFERENT. I SHARE THE FORTUNE OF NOT BEING IN HARM'S WAY, BUT WHAT GIVES THE AUTHOR THE RIGHT TO PASS JUDGMEENT ON THOSE WHO AREN'T AS FORTUNATE. I CANT' SEE ANYTHING IN HIS LIFE EXPERIENCE THAT SMACKS OF LIVING IN A WAR ZONE. AND BY THE WAY, THAT GOES FOR PALESTINIANS TOO, THEY DESERVE FREEDOM FROM TERROR IN THE WAR ZONE ALSO. THAT FROM AN OLD 'SOFTY ' LIKE ME. WHO KNOWS, MAYBE IF THE AUTHOR WRITES FROM FIRST HAND ACCOUNTS SOME DAY, THIS PERSPECTIVE WILL CHANGE. I RECOGNIZE THE LIMITS OF MY PERSPECTIVE, BUT THE AUTHOR DOESN'T SEEM TO SHARE THAT BY HIS COMMENTS.
 

Lisa P. (5)
Monday January 12, 2009, 11:00 am
There are always civilian casualties in a war. There are civilian casualties in the Middle East, in Africa, in Europe and Eastern Europe, in Asia, America, etc, etc. The human species is incredibly violent and greedy, period. It doesn't have anything to do with religion or race. We like to think it does because it creates the "us and them" dynamic that makes "us" feel superior to "them". We are more civilized, more "fair" than they are. If it had been us we would have done something different, etc. All violence must be condemned, whether the people doing it are poor or rich. Just because the Palestinians are poor it doesn't make them right or justified to commit acts of violence. I also live in Europe (Norway) and have surprisingly seen fairly educated discussion and debate from both sides of the story.
 

Mary D. (64)
Monday January 12, 2009, 2:57 pm
According to author Gerda Lerner, author of THE CREATION OF PATRIARCHY, war could have been created by old men who made up reasons for attacking neighboring tribes so that THEIR tribe could enslave more women. It must have worked, because, win or lose, many of the younger men were killed, and the old men got more women to impregnate. Can't anyone look around and notice that what's going on now is just a rewritten version of this story? Whether it's land, water resources, fertile farmland, or a warm climate, everyone always tends to wants something that they can't have. Today the main focus seems to be property (same old, same old) and oil. As for Israel, wasn't it Moses, a Jew, who brought the Ten Commandments to the world - one of which is "Thou shalt not covet." If everyone obeyed that Commandment, we probably wouldn't need to the other nine.
 

Cal Mendelsohn (950)
Monday January 12, 2009, 3:14 pm
Thanks Lisa, absoluyely right. Can't see why this is a 'business' article either!
 

Marion Y. (322)
Monday January 12, 2009, 4:52 pm
Good comment, Mary. It seems some don't obey their own rules.
 

Cal Mendelsohn (950)
Tuesday January 13, 2009, 4:06 am
Jealousy and greed, same old story, no matter which side you're supporting, that's right!
 

Pete M. (67)
Tuesday January 13, 2009, 1:09 pm
Hi Cal,

1) Robert Fisk lives in Beirut and has covered conflicts from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe over several decades, frequently coming under fire in the process.

2) Killing is their business and business is good.
 
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