• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 13 maart 2010

Hirsi Magan Ali




Ayaan Hirsi Magan/Ali krijgt in NRC, de slijpsteen voor de geest, de volle ruimte om het volgende te verkondigen:


Hirsi Ali: Wilders is goed voor Nederland



Wat zouden de heren intellectuelen in de polder van dit stemadvies vinden? Ik bedoel die blanke mannen in de overgangs leeftijd die een affaire hebben gehad met deze moslim fundamentaliste, inmiddels uitgegroeid tot rechts-radicale mevrouw, al die opgewonden kerels die haar intellectueel gevormd hebben, en al dan niet haar teksten hebben geschreven. Wat zou bijvoorbeeld professor Herman Philipse en professor Paul Scheffer nu denken? Overigens, haar shortcut to enlightenment die weer een ander voor haar zou schrijven is nog steeds niet verschenen. Too short.

vrijdag 12 maart 2010

Wouter Bos


Het volgende schreef ik vier jaar geleden:



Wouter Bos is politiek uitgespeeld en het enige dat hem nog rest is te vertrekken. Al die jaren in de oppositie tegen een kabinet van brokkenmakers en toch niet weten te winnen, erger nog, tien zetels verliezen, zegt alles. De oorzaak is simpel: Wouter Bos voerde geen oppositie, omdat hij al die tijd dacht dat de PVDA de grootste partij zou worden als hij maar niks deed. En ondertussen niet teveel het CDA tegen de haren instrijken, want hij moest straks weer met ze regeren. Bovendien had Wim Kok al de koers bepaald toen hij sprak over "de bevrijdende werking van het afschudden van de ideologische veren." Een proces dat al lang op gang was, zoals de concurrent Jan Marijnissen eerder al op wees: 'Wim Kok's "afscheid van het socialisme" in De Rode Hoed in Amsterdam eind 1995 was vooral een herhaling van wat hij zes jaar eerder zei op de Universiteit van Nijmegen. In de aanloop naar de verkiezingen in 1989 vertelde een naar meeregeren hunkerende Kok daar dat zijn partij afscheid had genomen van het streven naar het Grote Doel: "Er is", zei de opvolger van Joop den Uyl, "geen alternatief voor de maatschappelijke constellatie die we nu hebben en dus heeft het geen enkele zin daar naar te streven."' Zie: http://www.janmarijnissen.nl/opinies/De_veren_van_Wim_Kok.html


Welnu, Bos vertrekt. En nu inderdaad opletten welk concern de eerste is dat hem zal belonen voor zijn grote verdiensten voor het vaderland, en zeker ook voor de failliete bankwereld, die hij zonder het parlement te raadplegen miljarden aan belastinggeld gaf. Hij heeft ongetwijfeld al enkele aanbiedingen gekregen. Kok ging hem voor. Politiek heeft hij toch geen toekomst meer. Het enige verschil met vier jaar geleden is dat zijn marktwaarde inmiddels aanzienlijk gestegen is. Tijd om te cashen. Hij heeft goed op de winkel gepast, sterker nog, dankzij zijn inzet, is de zaak niet failliet gegaan. De komende generatie zal de prijs daarvoor moeten betalen. Want die miljardensubsidie moet ergens vandaan komen.



Wouter Bos verlaat de politiek

Uitgegeven: 12 maart 2010 10:58
Laatst gewijzigd: 12 maart 2010 12:17
AMSTERDAM - PvdA-leider Wouter Bos stapt uit de politiek. Hij stelt zich niet kandidaat voor het lijsttrekkerschap van de PvdA en is ook niet beschikbaar voor andere functies in de politiek, zei hij vrijdag.


Bos uit politiek slideshow
Burgemeester van Amsterdam Job Cohen heeft zich volgens Bos kandidaat gesteld als opvolger. "Cohen lijkt me bij uitstek de premier om dit land te kunnen leiden", zei Bos op een persconferentie.
Bos en Cohen voeren al sinds 2007 gesprekken over een mogelijke opvolging.

Bos zegt zijn besluit in de periode tussen de val van het kabinet in februari en de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen van 3 maart te hebben genomen.
Persconferentie
Cohen geeft vrijdagmiddag om drie uur een persconferentie op het partijbureau van de PvdA aan de Herengracht in Amsterdam.
Daar zal hij ingaan op zijn mogelijke kandidaatstelling als opvolger van Wouter Bos als partijleider.
Fakkel
Bos zei dat hij het leiderschap van de PvdA met een gerust hart overdraagt. ''Cohen is de best mogelijke opvolger die wij in huis hebben. Bij hem is de partij in goede handen.'' Bos zei dat hij de fakkel overdraagt aan iemand in wie hij ''veel vertrouwen'' heeft.
Bos zei ook dat het partijbestuur nog wel moet nog beslissen of Cohen inderdaad de lijsttrekker wordt. ''Maar als je mij vraagt wie richting 9 juni de partij moet leiden, dan zeg ik: Job Cohen.'' Cohen is volgens Bos bij uitstek een leider. ''Een premier die dit land nodig heeft in de komende jaren.''
Zware tol
Bos gaf aan dat hij de partij twaalf jaar heeft gediend en dat zijn politiek leven een ''zware tol'' legt op zijn privéleven met hele jonge kinderen. ''Als ik door zou gaan en premier zou worden, zie ik mijn eigen kinderen gewoon niet opgroeien. Dat is het mij niet waard."
Bos blijft partijleider tot het PvdA-congres op 25 april en hoopt ''tussendoor'' alvast wat bij te slapen.
Ter Horst
''Het is een heel dapper besluit, maar ook een groot verlies voor de partij en het land'', zei Guusje ter Horst over het besluit van Bos, die meer tijd aan zijn gezin wil besteden.
''Al die mannen die hun kinderen niet zien opgroeien, dat is pas schandalig'', aldus Ter Horst. Cohen is volgens haar een zeer ervaren politicus. ''De verbinder die we in de PvdA nodig hebben.''
Weerhouden
Ronald Plasterk respecteert Bos' besluit maar heeft Bos ervan proberen te weerhouden uit de politiek te gaan. Volgens Plasterk zou Cohen als lijsttrekker echter goed kunnen uitpakken.
''Het zou een zegen zijn voor het land als Cohen premier is. Hij is wijs, heeft gezag en veel bestuurservaring'', aldus Plasterk.
Hamer
Ook PvdA-fractievoorzitter Mariëtte Hamer vindt Cohen de beste kandidaat om Bos op te volgen als partijleider.
Volgens Hamer is Cohen in staat om de stijgende lijn die de partij te pakken heeft samen voort te zetten. Ze zei veel respect te hebben voor het besluit van Bos.
Het is volgens haar voor Bos als jonge vader altijd een worsteling geweest. ''Ik heb altijd gehoopt dat het besluit een andere kant zou opvallen.''
Ploumen
"De partij zal hem missen maar we begrijpen zijn persoonlijke afweging", zei ze partijvoorzitter Lilianne Ploumen in een reactie.
"Wouter Bos was de leider die de Partij van de Arbeid na het dal van 2002 weer terug heeft gebracht", vervolgt ze.
"Hij heeft in een moeilijke en bijzondere periode, zowel voor de PvdA als voor Nederland, zich met hart en ziel gewijd aan de sociaaldemocratie in de tradities van haar beste leiders."
Verheugd
Ook Ploumen ziet Cohen als mogelijk opvolger van Bos wel zitten. "Als voorzitter van de Partij van de Arbeid ben ik verheugd over de kandidatuur van Job Cohen. Het is goed dat iemand van zijn kaliber zich kandideert voor de eerste plaats van de lijst van onze partij. Eventuele andere kandidaten kunnen zich kandideren tot woensdag 17 maart, 10.00 uur."
© NU.nl/ANP

Israel als Schurkenstaat 40

The dark face of Jewish nationalism

By Dr Alan Sabrosky

12 March 2010

Alan Sabrosky considers the characteristics that differentiate Jewish nationalism from other nationalisms, highlighting in particular its intrinsic extremism, its xenophobia, racism and militarism, its undermining of civic loyalty among its adherents in other countries and its propensity to hatred and racial exclusivity.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu once remarked to a Likud gathering that "Israel is not like other countries". Oddly enough for him, that time he was telling the truth, and nowhere is that more evident than with Jewish nationalism, whether or not one pins the "Zionist" label on it.

"...whereas extremism in other nationalist movements is an aberration, extremism in Jewish nationalism is the norm, pitting Zionist Jews (secular or observant) against the goyim (everyone else)..."

Nationalism in most countries and cultures can have both positive and negative aspects, unifying a people and sometimes leading them against their neighbours. Extremism can emerge, and often has, at least in part in almost every nationalist/independence movement I can recall (e.g. the French nationalist movement had The Terror, Kenya's had the Mau Mau, etc.).

But whereas extremism in other nationalist movements is an aberration, extremism in Jewish nationalism is the norm, pitting Zionist Jews (secular or observant) against the goyim (everyone else), who are either possible predator or certain prey, if not both sequentially. This does not mean that all Jews or all Israelis feel and act this way, by any means. But it does mean that Israel today is what it cannot avoid being, and what it would be under any electable government (a point I'll develop in another article).

The differences between Jewish nationalism (Zionism) and that of other countries and cultures here I think are fourfold:

1. Zionism is a real witches' brew of xenophobia, racism, ultra-nationalism and militarism that places it way outside of a "mere" nationalist context — for example, when I was in Ireland (both parts) I saw no indication whatsoever that the Provisional Irish Republican Army or anyone else pressing for a united Ireland had a shred of design on shoving Protestants into camps or out of the country, although there may well have been a handful who thought that way — and goes far beyond the misery for others professed by the Nazis;

2. Zionism undermines civic loyalty among its adherents in other countries in a way that other nationalist movements (and even ultra-nationalist movements like Nazism) did not — e.g. a large majority of American Jews, including those who are not openly dual citizens, espouse a form of political bigamy called "dual loyalty" (to Israel and the US) that is every bit as dishonest as marital bigamy, attempts to finesse the precedence they give to Israel over the US (lots of Rahm Emanuels out there who served in the Israeli army but NOT in the US armed forces), and has absolutely no parallel in the sense of national or cultural identity espoused by any other definable ethnic or racial group in America — even the Nazi Bund in the US disappeared once Germany and the US went to war, with almost all of its members volunteering for the US armed forces;

3. The "enemy" of normal nationalist movements is the occupying power and perhaps its allies, and once independence is achieved, normal relations with the occupying power are truly the norm, but for Zionism almost everyone out there is an actual or potential enemy, differing only in proximity and placement on its very long list of enemies (which is now America's target list); and

4. Almost all nationalist movements (including the irredentist and secessionist variants) intend to create an independent state from a population in place or to reunite a separated people (like the Sudeten Germans in the 1930s) — it is very rare for it to include the wholesale displacement of another indigenous population, which is far more common of successful colonialist movements as in the US — and perhaps a reason why most Americans wouldn't care too much about what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians even if they DID know about it, is because that is no different than what Europeans in North America did to the Indians/Native Americans here in a longer and more low-tech fashion.

The implications of this for Middle East peace prospects, and for other countries in thrall to their domestic Jewish lobbies or not, are chilling. The Book of Deuteronomy come to life in a state with a nuclear arsenal would be enough to give pause to anyone not bought or bribed into submission — which these days encompasses the US government, given Israel's affinity for throwing crap into the face of the Obama administration and Obama's visible affinity for accepting it with a smile, Bibi Netanyahu's own "Uncle Tom" come to Washington.

The late General Moshe Dayan, who — Zionist or not — remains an honoured part of my own Pantheon of military heroes, allegedly observed that Israel's security depended on its being viewed by others as a mad dog. He may have been correct. But he neglected to note that the preferred response of everyone else is to kill that mad dog before it can decide to go berserk and bite. It is an option worth considering.


Alan Sabrosky (PhD, University of Michigan) is a 10-year US Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the US Army War College. He can be contacted at docbrosk@comcast.net.

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http://www.redress.cc/zionism/asabrosky20100312

Hans van Mierlo. Tragedie. 2



En zo zag hij er precies 40 jaar na 1966 uit, de kraag nog steeds opgestoken, nog steeds pragmaticus, zonder beginselen, maar nu ook zonder toekomst. Hoe ziet een beginselloze toekomst eruit? We kunnen het hem niet meer vragen. Hij wist inmiddels 1 ding zeker: het leven is taai, onderhevig aan de onveranderlijke wetten van oorzaak en gevolg. Hij had op de winkel mogen passen, had gezorgd dat alles keurig op zijn plaats bleef. Alles is zoals het is omdat als het anders was geweest alles dan gewoon anders was geweest. Zoiets, ongeveer. Navigare necesse est. En ergens in de verte ligt de horizon.

Hans van Mierlo. Tragedie.



Zo zag hij eruit, in de vorige eeuw, in 1966 om precies te zijn, Hans van Mierlo, van D'66, een van de meest tragische politici van Nederland. Hij was de vleesgeworden vernieuwing die nooit kwam, het icoon van een partij zonder beginselen, en daar trots op was. De pragmaticus die toen het establishment hem eindelijk minister liet worden, hem minister van Defensie in een conservatief kabinet maakte, verantwoordelijk voor het voortbestaan van het meest reactionaire instituut dat het Westen kent, de NAVO.

Niks vernieuwing, niks pragmatisme, gewoon doodordinaire beginselloosheid, tenminste, dat wil zeggen: krampachtig behoud van de beginselloze macht als meest belangrijke beginsel. Het hoogtepunt, zo u wilt, dieptepunt beleefde D'66 in 2003 toen de redelijk alternatieven ervoor zorgden dat het CDA langdurig en in volle glorie kon terugkeren in de regering. Dankzij de vernieuwing kregen we zeven lange aaneengesloten jaren Balkenende, het meest beginselloze, karakterloze conservatisme denkbaar. Daar loopt hij, Hans van Mierlo, de kraag omhoog gestoken, guur weer op komst, maar toch die vieve tred, die ongestuurde dynamiek, het product van marketing en hoop. Het is alleen nooit duidelijk geworden waar D'66 op hoopte. Van het pragmatisme is niets overgebleven, wel van de beginselloosheid. D'66 doet denken aan een hoestdrank tegen kriebel in de keel. Zodra de hoest voorbij is, zet je het drankje weer in het medicijnkastje, net zolang tot je weer een rauwe keel krijgt.

En het meest ironische is het feit dat de D'66-vernieuwers nooit zullen beseffen dat 'alleen verandering eeuwig is, bestendig en onsterfelijk,' zoals Schopenhauer het formuleerde. Hun beginselloosheid heeft hen blind gemaakt voor de werkelijkheid. Dat is pas echt tragisch.

donderdag 11 maart 2010

Israel als Schurkenstaat 41

Het Israel van de zionisten is een zieke samenleving geworden. Reclame met in de hoofdrol Joodse doodseskaders en vervolgens deze krankzinnige reactie. Men zou bijna denken dat dit door een antisemiet is geschreven:

Daniel Feldman wrote:
The humor is coming from the sad irony that Europe and the rest of the world hasn't changed. Europe is still the same hellole for Jews now as it was for the last 2000 years. Jews are tarred and feathered like no other people. Every perceived Jewish/Israeli infraction is disproportionately kept alive and the commentators show their visible disdain for Israel/Jews. It feels as though Europe's hatred of Jews seeps out of every pore of every news story involving Jews. It's frightful and therefore something to be made fun of. Even when the evidence of the subject matter is up for question, the Jews/Israel is guilty. It is the scapegoating. The European press unfairly mocks and harrasses Israel. Europe completely lacks any understanding of the situation Israel faces. In paticular, it is the Brits hatred of Jews that reminds us the Holocaust can happen again.
Just a case in point: How much attention has the British media given to the fact that 3 Israeli passports were used by Iranian spies for travel to the Seychelles Islands? The passports were stolen from Israelis in Thailand. (By the way, nations usually put caught spies immediately on the next plane out of their country like Seychelles did.) Why wasn't there any editorial on how wrong it was to steal Israelis' identitities? Yes, the crime happened to Israelis and not from Israelis. And that is the joke. Don't forget that Jews became the funniest people in the world because we had to somehow deal with all the tortuous times Europeans heaped upon them year after year, century after century.
March 11, 2010 12:01 PM GMT

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7057819.ece#comment-have-your-say

Op den duur vernietigt Israel zichzelf. Het gruwelijke is dat door deze fascistische houding van een aanzienlijk deel van de Joden in Israel de conclusie gerechtvaardigd lijkt dat Hitler uiteindelijk er toch in is geslaagd het Jodendom te vernietigen.

israel als Schurkenstaat 40



Israel als Schurkenstaat 39

US Vice President Joe Biden, on a trip to Israel, has condemned the plans for new homes in East Jerusalem. (photo: Ariel Schalit/AFP/Getty Images)

US Vice President Joe Biden, on a trip to Israel, has condemned the plans for new homes in East Jerusalem. (photo: Ariel Schalit/AFP/Getty Images)


he far rightwing government of Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel majorly sandbagged Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, demonstrating once again that it has not the slightest interest in pursuing a just peace with the Palestinian people or in trading a cessation of its colonization of the Palestinian West Bank for a comprehensive peace with the Arab world.

Biden went to the Mideast to kick off negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and reassured the latter of undying US support for them. On Chris Matthews' Hardball, Biden explained that when you marry someone, you tell them you love them, but that does not remove the obligation to keep saying it years later. Apparently, however, Washington is henpecked by Tel Aviv to the point almost of being a battered spouse. In response to Biden's loyal support for Israel over decades, the Likud-led government kicked him in the teeth. Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai abruptly announced that he would build 1600 new households (for 8,000 people?) in a part of the Occupied West Bank that the Israeli government had annexed to Jerusalem District. It was precisely such new and increasing Israeli building on Palestinian territory that had led Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reject negotiations and to threaten to resign. The announcement put in doubt whether the negotiations would go forward, and made Biden and the United States government look like fools.

Joe Biden should have turned around and left the country. Instead, he showed up 90 minutes late to a state dinner hosted by Netanyahu and dared actually directly complain about the way he was treated, "I condemn the decision," he said, calling it "precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel."

Aljazeera English reports on Biden's visit and the Israeli announcement of new colonization measures:

The Netanyahu government had announced a settlement freeze in much of the West Bank for 8 months, but does not include the areas it unilaterally annexed to the district of Jerusalem as West Bank territory. Nor is the 'settlement freeze' really any such thing, since there are plans to expand housing in existing colonies on the West Bank.

This controversy comes on the heels of demonstrations in al-Khalil/ Hebron and Jerusalem by Palestinians outraged by the unilateral Israeli designation of the Tombs of the Patriarchs and the tomb of Rachel, in Palestinian West Bank territory, as Israeli heritage sites. In Palestinian experience, such Israeli claims often precede Israeli annexation. While US mass media did not cover the demonstrations in any detail (much reporting from Israel in US media is by dual citizens or by reporters who have served or have children serving in the Israeli army), they are a big story in the Middle East, and the creeping Israeli expulsion of Palestinians from East Jerusalem is guaranteed to enrage the world's 1.5 billion Muslims and result in violence.

The Obama administration came into office determined to restart the negotiations between Abbas and the Israelis, with the aim of achieving a two-state solution. After over a year of meetings and carrying messages and cajoling, the patient-as-Job special envoy George Mitchell finally convinced Mahmoud Abbas to agree to indirect negotiations with Israel. For the past year, Abbas had refused to talk, on the grounds that the Israelis were actively colonizing the West Bank and so taking away the very territory that was subject to negotiation. How do you parlay with someone who is stealing from you at that very moment?

The Oslo process of the 1990s, initiated by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, had aimed at establishing two states side by side, Israel and Palestine. Neither the Likud Party of Netanyahu nor Hamas among the Palestinians wanted to see that process succeed. Likud wanted all of the former British Mandate of Palestine to be permanently under Israeli control, including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967 and which have a stateless, rights-less Palestinian population of over 4 million persons. The Israelis have steadily and determinedly usurped Palestinian territory throughout the last nearly a century, and by now it is highly unlikely that what is left of the Palestinian West Bank and the besieged, half-starving Gaza Strip can plausibly be cobbled together into a 'state.'

In my view, it doesn't really matter if Netanyahu's slap in the face to Biden derails the proposed indirect talks. The Likud-led government has no intention of allowing a Palestinian state, and there is now no place to put one. Israel-Palestine has unalterably entered the era of Apartheid (actually something worse), and it will spell both the end of dreams of peace in our generation, and probably over time the end of Israel as Netanyahu's generation knew it. The Palestinians cannot be left stateless (the legal estate of slaves as well as of Jews under Nazi rule, i.e. people with no legal rights) forever. If they can't have Palestinian citizenship, then they'll have to have Israeli citizenship. The future of Israel-Palestine is likely to become a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state like Lebanon. Ironically, it is Netanyahu who is in no small measure responsible for this likely outcome, the opposite of the one he aspires to.

Israelis claim a 'birthright' to do things like colonize Palestinian territory, based on romantic-nationalist reworkings of biblical narratives. But Canaan was populated for millenia before some Canaanite tribes adopted the new religion of Judaism, and it was also ruled, as Palestine, for centuries by Romans and Greeks, and for 1400 years by Muslims. The Palestinian Jews converted to Christianity and then to Islam, so they are cousins of the European Jews (who appear to have gone to Europe voluntarily as male merchants around 800 CE,, where they took local wives). European Jews are about half European by parentage and all European by cultural heritage, and it is no more natural that they be in geographical Palestine than that they be in Europe (where nearly two-thirds of their mothers were from and about a third of their fathers). From a Middle Eastern point of view, European Jews planted in British Mandate Palestine by the British Empire were no different from the million colons or European colonists brought to Algeria while it was under French rule from 1830-1962. (Algeria had been ruled in antiquity by Rome, and the French considered themselves heirs of the Roman Empire, so it was natural that people from Marseilles should return to 'their' territory. Romantic nationalism, whether French or Zionist, always has the same shape). I don't predict the same fate for Jewish Israelis as befell the French colons. Rather, I think they are likely to more and more resemble in their position the Maronite Catholics of Lebanon-- i.e. powerful and formerly dominant population-wise, but increasingly challenged by other rising communities.

http://readersupportednews.com/opinion/75-politics/1201-israel-sandbags-biden

Israel als Schurkenstaat 38


Two Humiliations - Can Obama Live With A Third?

By Alan Hart

March 10, 2010 "
Information Clearing House" -- Amazing! While in Israel, an American vice president explicitly condemns an Israeli decision to build yet more homes, 1,600 apartments, in occupied Arab East Jerusalem. "I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem,” Joe Biden said. “It’s the kind of step that undermines the trust we need". Yes, but...

They were only words. And they call to mind a comment made by Uri Avnery, the grandfather of the Israeli peace movement, in a piece he wrote for Tikkun on 23 September 2009, after President Obama’s call for a complete freeze had been rejected by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“There’s no point in denying it,” Avnery wrote. “In the first round of the match between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama was beaten... In the words of the ancient proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Netanyahu has tripped Obama on his first step. The President of the United States has stumbled.” And Netanyahu had won in a big way. “Not only did he survive, not only has he shown that he is no ‘sucker’ (a word he uses all the time), he has proven to his people - and to the public at large - that there is nothing to fear: Obama is nothing but a paper tiger. The settlements can go on expanding without hindrance. Any negotiations that start, if they start at all, can go on until the coming of the Messiah. Nothing will come out of them.”

Whether or not Netanyahu himself had advance knowledge of the decision to humiliate Biden is not the point. It is that Biden and so Obama were humiliated, the president for a second time. And that begs my headline question – Can he, Obama, live with a third humiliation?

If the history of previous American attempts to give life to a peace process is a good guide, Obama will have no choice but to live with a third humiliation, and no doubt others, at least for a while. An explanation of why is offered in the Epilogue of the forthcoming Volume 3 of the American edition of my book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews. (The Epilogue is titled Is Peace Possible?) Explaining why Obama moved so quickly with his demand for a total settlement freeze, I put it this way:

He knew something that all American presidents know about when serious initiatives for peace in the Middle East can and cannot be taken. (I know what that something is because one of them told me a few months after events had denied him a second term in office). Any American president has only two windows of opportunity to break or try to break the Zionist lobby’s stranglehold on Congress on matters to do with Israel/Palestine.

The first window is during the first nine months of his first term because after that the soliciting of funds for the mid-term elections begins. (Presidents don’t have to worry on their own account about funds for the mid-term elections, but with their approach no president can do or say anything that would cost his party seats in Congress. In Obama’s case that is going to be an extremely critical consideration because of the Democrats’ loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat, on 19 January 2010, to a Republican who had demonstrated his ability to read from Zionism’s script during the campaigning).

The second window of opportunity is the last year of his second term if he has one. In that year, because he can’t run for a third term, no president has a personal need for election campaign funds or organised votes.
And that calls to mind the words of an eminent Arab-American, actually a Palestinian-American, who knew Obama very well and, before the race for the White House entered its final, decisive stage, had private conversations with him. A few months before Obama’s victory, this gentleman said to a very dear friend of mine, “Don’t expect any real pressure on Israel from Obama until he is well into his second term.”

I am inclined to the view that after the mid-term elections of a second term, Obama could indeed be the president to do whatever is necessary to bring Zionism to heel in order to best protect America’s own real interests. But the prospects of him winning as second term don’t look very good at the moment.

Visit Alan's website
http://www.alanhart.net


http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article24957.htm

Robert Fisk 55



Robert Fisk: Mubarak's challenger can't rely on a fair race

World Focus: Opponents accuse ElBaradei of wanting to play Karzai in a new pro-American Egypt

Friday, 5 March 2010

Supporters of Mohamed El Baradei gathered to welcome him at Cairo Airport a fortnight ago. The former director general of the UN's nuclear agency has indicated he might stand for president in 2011 if the election were to be free and fair

EPA

Supporters of Mohamed El Baradei gathered to welcome him at Cairo Airport a fortnight ago. The former director general of the UN's nuclear agency has indicated he might stand for president in 2011 if the election were to be free and fair


What keeps old men in power in Egypt? And what keeps middle-aged men wanting power in a country whose crippled society, increasing sectarianism, brutal police force and endemic corruption is only compounded by an electoral system widely regarded as a fraud? Most Egyptians don't think that President Hosni Mubarak is immortal, even though he still reigns supreme at the age of 81. Even the pharaohs believed they would live on only in the next world.

But now the former head of the UN's nuclear agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, says that if there's a fair election next year, he might stand for president. "If" is a big word in Egyptian politics, however, and the saintly ElBaradei shows no sign of appreciating just how tough are his chances. He has called for changes in the Egyptian constitution and an end to emergency laws. But even he must realise that Hosni Mubarak will not be shaking in his shoes at this news.

The real problem, of course, is not ElBaradei's chances – pretty much nil – but Mubarak's age. Both the president and his son, Gamal, deny that Gamal wants to be president, but the son's steady ascent in Egyptian political life suggests otherwise. If he did inherit his father's throne, of course, there would be a second caliphate in the Arab world – the other being Syria, where Bashar al-Assad took over after his father's death and some deft switching of Baath Party rules.

Omar Sulieman, Mubarak's senior intelligence man – he is also involved in the constant negotiations with Hamas over the future of Gaza – has never publicly expressed interest in the presidency. Besides he suffers heart problems. Meanwhile in interviews with news agencies over the past week, ElBaradei has been waffling about Egypt's youth and the internet as organs of change. Indeed, his new coalition is called the National Front for Change. "People are talking about all sorts of things and they might go to civil disobedience if there is no change," he said. But when the opposition "Enough!" movement could not get enough support from youth in the streets of Cairo – some of its female members were assaulted by plain-clothes police officers – what chance does ElBaradei have? The internet is watched closely by the security cops, and ElBaradei is going to get no support from the likes of Barack Obama.

Many Egyptian intellectuals now suspect that the corrupted old Egyptian governments are partly responsible for the increasingly sectarian nature of disputes between Muslims and Egyptian Copts – always presented by the government, of course, as domestic disputes which have nothing to do with religion. But the alienation of the Christians and the increasingly "Islamicisation" of the country has got a lot to do with it.

The police force is virtually outside the law, and routine state violence is now accepted as a fact of life – or death. Indeed, the killing of 60 economic migrants by Egyptian police since 2007 – they were seeking to cross the border into Israel – has simply gone unreported.

Osama al-Ghazali Harb, editor of the monthly Al-Siyassa al-Sawliyya (published by Al-Ahram), traces the sectarian tensions right back to the 1952 military coup, when members of the Egyptian Free Officers had close links with the Muslim Brotherhood. All the coup officers were Muslims. He points out that great harm was also done to the Egyptian body politic later when Anwar Sadat described himself as "the Muslim president of a Muslim state".

But ElBaradei has other problems. Some opposition politicians in Egypt believe that he did not do enough to prevent the US invasion of Iraq, accuse him of wanting to play Hamid Karzai in a new pro-American Egypt, and even suggest that there should be a mock trial of the Nobel Prize winner for his failure to stop the American occupation of Iraq. Egyptian politics is an unkind sport.

ElBaradei says he is trying to make the connection between economic and social development and political reform, and that "if you move into a democratic system, everything else will fall into place". But why should the Mubarak father-and-son team try to change the system?

The previous contender for Mubarak's job, Ayman Nour, was imprisoned after the 2005 election for forgery, a charge which he said was fraudulent. It might be more difficult to lock up Mohamed ElBaradei. But he's likely to find "democracy" in Egypt a more daunting task than keeping his eye on Iran.

More from Robert Fisk


Jonathan Cook 2

The Decline of Israel and the Prospects for Peace

What did you make of Ehud Barak’s recent comparison of Israel to South Africa?

We should be extremely wary of ascribing a leftwing agenda to senior Israeli politicians who make use of the word “apartheid” in the Israeli-Palestinian context. Barak was not claiming that Israel is an apartheid state when he addressed the high-powered delegates at the Herzliya conference last month; he was warning the Netanyahu government that its approach to the two-state solution was endangering Israel’s legitimacy in the eyes of the world that would eventually lead to it being called an apartheid state. He was politicking. His goal was to intimidate Netanyahu into signing up to his, and the Israeli centre’s, long-standing agenda of “unilateral separation”: statehood imposed on the Palestinians as a series of bantustans (be sure, the irony is entirely lost on Barak and others). Barak knows that Netanyahu currently has no intention of creating any kind of Palestinian state, even a bogus one, despite his commitments to the US.

The last senior Israeli politician to talk of “apartheid” was Ehud Olmert, and it is worth remembering why he used the term. It was back in November 2003, when he was deputy prime minister and desperately trying to scare his boss, Ariel Sharon, into reversing his long-standing support for the settlements and adopt instead the disengagement plan for Gaza. Olmert’s thinking was that by severing Gaza from the Greater Israel project – by pretending the occupation had ended there – Israel could buy a few more years before it faced a Palestinian majority and the danger of being compared to apartheid South Africa. It worked and Sharon became the improbable “man of peace” for which he is today remembered. (Strangely, Olmert, like Barak, defined apartheid in purely mathematical terms: Israeli rule over the Palestinians would only qualify as apartheid at the moment Jews became a numerical minority.)

Barak is playing a similar game with Netanyahu, this time trying to pressure him to separate from the main populated areas of the West Bank. It is not surprising the task has fallen to the Labor leader. The two other chief exponents of unilateral separation are out of the way: Olmert is standing trial and Tzipi Livni is in the wilderness of opposition. Barak is hoping to apply pressure from inside the government. Barak is eminently qualified for the job. He took on the mantel of the Oslo process after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination and then tried to engineer the final separation implicit in Oslo at Camp David in 2000 – on extremely advantageous terms for Israel.

Can he succeed in changing Netanyahu’s mind? It seems unlikely.

Avi Shlaim recently described Tony Blair as ‘Gaza’s Great Betrayer’. What do you make of Tony Blair’s role as Middle East peace envoy?

Blair is a glorified salesman, selling the same snakeoil to different customers.

First, he is here to provide a façade of Western concern about mending the Middle East. He suggests that the West is committed to action even as it fails to intervene and the situation of the Palestinians generally, and those in Gaza in particular, deteriorates rapidly. He sells us the continuing dispossession of the Palestinians in a bottle labelled “peace”.

He is also here as a sort of European proconsul to advise the Americans on how to repackage their policies. The US has become aware that it has lost all credibility with the rest of the world on this issue. Blair’s job is to redesign the bottle labelled “US honest broker” so that we will be prepared to buy the product again.

His next task is to try to wheedle out of Israel any minor concession he can secure on behalf of the Palestinians and persuade Tel Aviv to cooperate in selling an empty bottle labelled “hope” as a breakthrough in the peace process.

And finally, he is here to create the impression that his chief task is to defend the interests of the Palestinians. To this end, he collects the three bottles, puts them in some pretty wrapping paper and writes on the label “Palestinian state”.

For his labours he is being handsomely rewarded, especially by Israel.

You have described how Israel is becoming increasingly repressive regarding its own Arab population. In what ways?

Let’s be clear: Israel has always been “repressive” of its Palestinian minority. Its first two decades were marked by a very harsh military government for the Palestinian population inside Israel. Thousands of Bedouin, for example, were expelled from their homes in the Negev several years after Israel’s establishment and forced into the Sinai. Israel’s past should not be glorified.

What I have argued is that the direction taken by Israeli policy since the Oslo process began has been increasingly dangerous for the Palestinian minority. Before Oslo, Israel was chiefly interested in containing and controlling the minority. After Oslo, it has been trying to engineer a situation in which it can claim to no longer be responsible for the Palestinians inside Israel with formal citizenship.

This is intimately tied to Israel’s more general policy of “unilateral separation” from the Palestinians under occupation: in Gaza, through the disengagement; in the West Bank, through the building of the wall. Israel’s chief concern is that – post-separation, were Palestinian citizens to remain inside the Jewish state – they would have far greater legitimacy in demanding the same rights as Jews. Israelis regard that as an existential threat to their state: Palestinian citizens could use their power, for example, to demand a right of return for their relatives and thereby create a Palestinian majority. The problem for Israel is that Palestinian citizens can expose the sham of Israel’s claims to being a democratic state.

So as part of its policy of separation, Israel has been thinking about how to get rid of the Palestinian minority, or at the very least how to disenfranchise it in a way that appears democratic. It is a long game that I describe in detail in my book Blood and Religion.

Policymakers are considering different approaches, from physically expelling Israel’s Palestinian citizens to the bantustans in the territories to stripping them incrementally of their remaining citizenship rights, in the hope that they will choose to leave. At the moment we are seeing the latter policy being pursued, but there are plenty of people in the government who want the former policy implemented when the political climate is right.

The frequent claim by Israeli officials is that Israel is a democracy and that Israeli Arabs are afforded the same rights as other citizens. What is your view?

The widely shared assumption that Israel is a democracy is a strange one.

This is a democracy without defined borders, encompassing parts of a foreign territory, the West Bank, in which one ethnic / religious group – the Jewish settlers – has been given the vote while another – the Palestinians – has not. Those settlers, who are living outside the internationally recognised borders of Israel, actually put Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman into power.

It is also a democracy that has transferred control over 13 per cent of its sovereign territory (and a large proportion of its inhabited land) to an external organisation, the Jewish National Fund, which prevents a significant proportion of Israel’s own citizenry – the 20 per cent who are Palestinian – from having access to that land, again based on ethnic / religious criteria.

It is a democracy that historically gerrymandered its electoral constituency by expelling most of the indigenous population outside its borders – now referred to as the Palestinian refugees – to ensure a Jewish majority. It has continued to gerrymander its voting base by giving one ethnic group, Jews around the world, an automatic right to become citizens while denying that same right to another ethnic group, Palestinian Arabs.

This is a democracy that, despite a plethora of parties and the necessity of creating broad coalition governments, has consistently ensured that one set of parties (the Palestinian and anti-Zionist ones) has been excluded from government. In fact, Israel’s “democracy” is not a competition between different visions of society, as you would expect, but a country driven by a single ideology called Zionism. In that sense, there has been one-party rule in Israel since its birth. All the many parties that have participated in government over the years have agreed on one thing: that Israel should be a state that gives privileges to citizens who belong to one ethnic group. Where there is disagreement, it is over narrow sectoral interests or over how to manage the details of the occupation – an issue related to territory outside Israel’s borders.

Defenders of the idea that Israel is a democracy point to the country’s universal suffrage. But that is hardly sufficent grounds for classing Israel as a democracy. Israel was also considered a democracy in the 1950s and early 1960s – before the occupation began – when a fifth of the populace, the Palestinian minority inside Israel, lived under a military government. Then as now, they had the vote but during that period they could not leave their villages without a permit from the authorities.

My point is that giving the vote to 20 per cent of the electorate that is Palestinian is no proof of democracy if Israeli Jews have rigged their “democracy” beforehand through ethnic cleansing (the 1948 war); through discriminatory immigration policies (the Law of Return); and through the manipulation of borders to include the settlers while excluding the occupied Palestinians, even though both live in the same territory.

Israeli academics who consider these things have had to devise new classifications to cope with these strange features of the Israeli “democratic” landscape. The generous ones call it an “ethnic democracy”; the more critical ones an “ethnocracy”. Most are agreed, however, that it is not the liberal democracy of most Westerners’ imaginations.

You describe the long time anti-occupation activist and writer Uri Avnery as being a “compromised critic” of Israel. What do you mean by this? What is wrong with Avnery’s position on the occupation?

There’s nothing wrong with Avnery’s position on the occupation. He wants to end it, and he has worked strenuously and bravely to do so over many decades.

The problem derives from our, his readers’, tendency to misunderstand his reasons for seeking an end to the occupation, and in that sense I think his role in the Palestinian solidarity movement has not been entirely helpful. Avnery wants the occupation to end but, it is clear from his writings, he is driven primarily by a desire to protect Israel as a Jewish state, the kind of ethnocratic state I have just described. Avnery does not hide this: he has always declared himself a proud Zionist. But in my view, his attachment to a state privileging Jews compromises his ability to critique the inherent logic of Zionism and to respond to Israel’s fast-moving policies on the ground, especially the goals of separation.

In a sense Avnery is stuck romantically in the 1970s and 1980s, the heydey of Palestinian resistance. Then the Palestinian struggle was much more straightforward: it was for national liberation. In those days Avnery’s battle was chiefly inside the Palestine Liberation Organisation, not inside Israel. He favoured a two-state solution when many in the PLO were promoting a vision of a single democratic state encompassing both Palestinians and Israelis. As we know, Avnery won that ideological battle: Arafat signed up to the two-state vision and eventually became the head of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian government-in-waiting.

But with Oslo, and formal Palestinian consent to the partition of historic Palestine, Avnery had to switch the focus of his struggle back to Israel, where there was much more resistance to the idea. While the Palestinian leaders were willing, even enthusiastic participants in the Oslo process, Israel’s leaders were much more cynical. They wanted a Palestinian dictatorship in the OPTs, led by Arafat, that would suppress all dissent while Israel would continue exploiting the land and water resources and the Palestinian labour-force through a series of industrial zones.

Because of his emotional investment in the separation policy of Oslo, Avnery has been very slow to appreciate Israel’s bad faith in this process. As the horrors of the wall and the massacres in Gaza have unfolded, I have started to see in his writings a very belated caution, a hesitation. That is to be welcomed. But I think looking to Avnery for guidance about where the Palestinian struggle against the occupation should head now – for instance, on the question of boycott, divestment and sanctions – is probably unwise. On other matters, he still has many fascinating insights to offer.

You are an advocate of a one state solution to the conflict. Given the overwhelming opposition of most Israelis to such a solution how is this to come about?

Let me make an initial qualification. I do not regard myself as being an “advocate” for any particular solution to the conflict. I would happily support a two-state solution if I thought it was possible. I do not have a view about which technical arrangement is needed for Palestinians and Israelis to live happy, secure lives. If that can be achieved in a two-state solution, then I am all in favour.

My support for one state follows from the fact that I have yet to see anyone making a convincing case for two states, given the current realities. Those in the progressive community who advocate for the two-state solution seem to do so because their knowledge of the conflict is based on understandings a decade or more out of date, and typically because they know little about what drives Israeli policies inside Israel’s internationally recognised borders – which is hardly surprising, given the dearth of reporting on the subject.

This relates to the question of how Israelis can be won over. If the criterion for deciding whether a solution is viable is whether it is acceptable to Israeli Jewish public opinion, then the two-state crowd have exactly the same problem as the one-state crowd. There is no popular backing in Israel for a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders; a connection between the West Bank and Gaza; open borders for the Palestinian state and the right for it to forge diplomatic alliances as it chooses; a Palestinian army and air force; Palestinian rights to their water resources; Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital; and so on. Almost no Israeli Jews would vote for a government advocating that solution.

When we hear of polls showing an Israeli majority for a two-state solution, that is not what the respondents are referring to: they mean a series of bantustans surrounded by Israeli territory and settlers; severe controls on Palestinian movement between those bantustans; Palestine’s capital in Abu Dis or some other village near Jerusalem; Israel’s continuing control of the water; no Palestinian army; and so on. The Israeli public’s vision of Palestine is the same as its leadership’s: an extension of the Gaza model to the West Bank.

So we might as well forget about pandering to Israeli public opinion for the moment. It will change when it is offered a different cost-benefit calculus for its continuing rule over the Palestinians, as occurred among white South Africans who were encouraged to turn against the apartheid regime. That is the purpose of campaigns like boycott, divestment and santions. Let’s think instead about workable solutions that accord with the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live decent lives.

Interestingly, despite the mistaken assumption that Israelis favour a (real) two-state solution over a one-state solution, there are now indications that a broad coalition of Israelis accept that the moment for a two-state solution has passed. Meron Benvenisti, the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, is one from the Zionist left. But surprisingly he was recently joined by Tzipi Hotovely, an influential MP from Netanyahu’s Likud party, who argues for granting citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank.

Other writers such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein argue in favour of a two-state solution, pointing out that world opinion and international law is firmly on the side of such a solution. How do you respond?

Much as I respect Finkelstein and Chomsky, I find those arguments unconvincing.

“World opinion” in this case means little more than opinion in Washington, and as Chomsky has eloquently pointed out on many occasions the US, along with Israel, is the rejectionist party to the conflict. In fact, it is precisely because the US and Israel are the rejectionist camp that we should be wary of accepting that a two-state arrangement is a viable solution to the conflict now that the leaderships of both countries ostensibly support it.

Rather I would argue that the US and Israel pay lipserve to a two-state solution to provide cover for the emerging reality on the ground, in which Jewish privilege is being maintained in a unilaterally imposed one-state solution by Israel. Without that cover, the apartheid nature of the regime and the creeping programme of ethnic cleansing would be blindingly obvious to everyone.

Since Oslo, Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Livni all understood that “world opinion” could be kept at bay only as long as Israel appeared to favour a two-state solution. Netanyahu has embarrassed the West, and the US in particular, by dropping that pretence. It is why he is so unpopular and why we are starting to see more critical coverage of Israel in the media. Things are not worse, at least in the occupied territories, than they were under Olmert and co (in fact, it could be argued that they are moderately better), but it is much easier for journalists to cover some of the reality now. I guess this is a way of bringing Netanyahu into line.

The international law argument in this context is not much more helpful. While international law offers a discrete and invaluable set of principles when it comes to determining the rules of war, for instance, matters are not so straightforward when related to borders and territory.

Which bit of international law are we referring to? Why not take as our reference point the 1947 partition plan, which would see nearly half of historic Palestine returned to the Palestinians, and Jerusalem under international control? And what are we to make of UN Resolution 242, which refers to “the acquisition of territories” in the English version and “the acquisition of the territories” in the French version? Should the Palestinians be offered 28 per cent of their homeland or less than 28 per cent? And what do the Oslo accords mean in practice for Palestinian statehood, given that the final status issues were left open?

One can argue over these points endlessly, and dwelling on them to the exclusion of all other considerations is a recipe for helping the powerful in their struggle to ensure that the status quo – the occupation – is maintained.

The primary goals of international law are twofold: to safeguard the dignity of human beings; and to ensure their right to self-determination. In my view, those aims cannot be realised in a two-state solution, given both the realities on the ground and the conditions on Palestinian sovereignty being demanded by Israel and the international community.

Instead we should look to international law to provide a frame of reference for finding a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it should not tie our hands. The objective is to find a practical and creative political arrangement that has legitimacy in the eyes of both parties and can ensure that Israelis and Palestinians lead happy, secure lives. The goal here is not a technical solution; it is an enduring peace.

British media coverage of the conflict is typically more sympathetic towards Israel than towards Palestinians and generally fails to give proper historical background to the conflict. Why do you believe the British media behaves in this way regarding the conflict

There are various reasons that are sometimes difficult to disentangle. For the sake of simplicity, I will separate them into three categories: practical issues facing journalists covering the conflict; expectations imposed by the supposed “professionalism” of journalism; and ideological and structural constraints that reflect the fact that the dominant journalism practised today is a journalism cowed by corporate interests.

Of the practical issues, one of the most important – though least spoken of, for obvious reasons – is the fact that foreign desks prefer to appoint Jewish reporters to cover the conflict. In part the preference for Jewish reporters reflects an assessment, and probaby a correct one, by editors that Israel, not the Palestinians, makes the news and that Jewish reporters will fare better as they negotiate the corridors of power in a self-declared Jewish state. Faced with candidates for the job, a foreign editor will often take the easy choice of a Jew who speaks fluent Hebrew, has family here who will provide ready-made contacts, and has some sort of commitment to living here and gaining a deeper understanding of (Israeli) life. Of course, those are precisely the reasons why an editor ought to judge the reporter unsuitable, but in practice it does not work that way.

I know from my own experiences that most Israeli officials try to find out whether you are Jewish before they will build any kind of intimacy with you as a reporter. That works to the advantage of Jewish reporters when a job comes up in Jerusalem.

I should add that the historical tendency of the Britsh media to appoint Jewish reporters has diminished in recent years, possibly because the desks have become more self-conscious about it. But it is still very strong among the American media, and it is the American media that set the news agenda on the conflict. The NYT’s Ethan Bronner is fairly typical on that score and the paper’s indulgent decision to allow him to continue in his posting after revelations of a clear conflict of interest – that his son has joined the Israeli army – simply highlights the point.

A second practical issue is the location of British bureaus: in Jewish West Jerusalem. That results in a natural identification with Israeli concerns. It would be just as easy, and cheaper, to locate journalists a short distance away in Ramallah, or even in a Palestinian neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, but few if any do so.

Then there are the local sources of information that a reporter relies on. He or she reads the Israeli media, most of which have English editions, and comes to understand the conflict through the analyses and commentaries of Israeli journalists. This is even more true for those reporters who read Hebrew. Are there any British journalists reading the Palestinian media in Arabic? I doubt it.

Similarly, Israeli spokespeople are much more likely to be sources of information: they usually speak English; they are accessible, especially if you are Jewish and seen as “sympathetic” to Israel; and they are authoritative from the point of view of the correspondents. By contrast, the Palestinians are in a much weaker position. Who counts as a Palestinian spokesperson? Usually reporters turn to the Palestinian Authority for comments, even though the PA’s agenda is severely compromised and Palestinian opinion is deeply divided. In addition, official Palestinian spokespeople are often hamstrung by a rigid bureaucracy, lack of accountability, problems of language, and little knowledge of the decisions being taken in Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem that shape their lives.

Issues deriving from journalism’s so-called “professionalism” must be factored in too. The professional training of journalists encourages them to believe that there are objective criteria that define what counts as news. A consequence is that professional journalists are expected to follow similar lines of inquiry and turn to the same groups of “neutral” contacts. This justifies both the hunting-in-packs philosophy that underpins most mainstream journalism and the reliance on establishment sources whom journalists use to interpret the news story.

In the case of Israel-Palestine, we end up with very similar looking accounts of the conflict that are usually filtered through the perspectives of a narrow elite of politicians, academics and diplomats who share in the main fanciful assumptions about the conflict: that there is a meaningful peace process; that Israeli leaders are acting in good faith; that the occupation is unpleasant but temporary; that the Palestinians are their own worst enemies or genetically prone to terrorism; that the occupation in Gaza has ended; that the Americans are a neutral broker in the conflict; and so on.

“Balance” is also seen as an essential quality in any professional news report. Balance of the “Israel said-the Palestinians said” variety encourages a view that the two sides in the conflict are equal. It favours the status quo, which favours Israel because it is the dominant party.

Another issue that skews coverage is the fact that professional journalists are supposed to take directions in their coverage from senior editors, usually thousands of miles away. The mainstream media is very hierarchical and few journalists will risk engaging in repeated fights with senior editors if they wish to be successful. The problem is that those editors have formed their views of the conflict in part by reading influential columnists, particularly those in the US who are considered to be close to the centres of power. That means that Zionist commentators like Thomas Friedman and the late William Safire shape British editors’ understanding of the region and therefore also the sort of coverage they expect from their reporters. Professional journalists do not usually invent things to satisfy their editors but they do steer clear of certain topics and lines of inquiry that conflict with their editors’ assumptions.

This tendency is strongly reinforced by the pro-Israel lobby in Britain, which gives reporters and their editors a hard time whenever they depart from common, and usually erroneous, assumptions about Israel. The sheer weight of the lobby, both in terms of its leaders’ connections to the British elites and its large number of foot soldiers, makes it very intimidating to the media. Minor matters of interpretation by a reporter can quickly be blown into a full-scale scandal of biased reporting or accusations of anti-Semitism. Even accurate reporting that is critical of Israel can be damaging to a journalist’s reputation, as Jeremy Bowen found out last year when absurd complaints against him were upheld by the BBC Trust.

The effect of the lobby in Britain is further heightened by the far greater power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US. British editors, as we have already noted, look to US commentators for guidance about the conflict. So the US lobby, in shaping the views of the American media, also affects the British media’s conceptions too.

These last problems are closely related to the much larger structural and ideological issues affecting modern journalism that direct the coverage of Israel-Palestine.

In my early career working for British newspapers, I was a very traditional liberal journalist. Only when I turned freelance, moved to the Middle East and started covering the Israel-Palestine conflict from a Palestinian city did I discover that most of my life-long assumptions about the liberal British media were untenable. It was a period of rapid and profound disillusionment. Out here, I was faced with a stark choice: report the conflict in the same distorted and misleading manner adopted by the mainstream reporters or become a so-called “dissident” journalist. I struggled with the first option for a while, publishing in the Guardian and the International Herald Tribune when I could, but it was with a heavy conscience. It was during this period that I heard about the propaganda model of Ed Hermann and Noam Chomsky, as well as websites like Media Lens, which finally made sense of my own experiences as a journalist.

The structural problem of modern journalism is a huge subject I cannot do more than outline here.

Professional journalism exists in its current state because it is subsidised by fabulously wealthy owners and fabulously wealthy advertisers, both of whom share the interests of the corporate elites that rule our societies. The corporate-owned media ensures its journalists share its corporate values through a process of “filtering”. Journalists who make it to a position like Jerusalem bureau chief, for example, have gone through a very lengthy selection process that weeds out anyone considered undesirable. Typically an undesirable journalist fails to abide by the implicit rules of the profession: she is not intimidated in the face of power and authority, she looks beyond the elites to other sources of information, she rejects the bogus idea of objectivity and neutrality, and so on. Such journalists either get stuck in lowly jobs or are pushed out.

The result is a sort of Darwinian natural selection that ensures corporate, clubbable journalists rise to the top and select in their image those who follow behind them.

Given this analysis of corporate journalism, it becomes much easier to understand why the media in the West, where financial, military and industrial interests prevail, should demonstrate a much greater sympathy for Israel’s concerns than the Palestinians’.


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