Beast of the Month - November 2000
Ariel Sharon, Provocative Israeli Terrorist
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
Statistics are like opinions (as well as certain parts of the human anatomy): everyone's got one. And yet, there is one statistic behind the tragic events of October in the West Bank and Gaza that screams a disturbing conclusion: the stat sheet line of 154 to 12.
154 to 12 is, according to the International Red Cross, the last accurate death toll certified in the region, consisting of 141 Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs, and 12 Israeli Jews. That's a death rate of nearly 13 to one. Incidentally, according to Amnesty International, at least 40 of the Palestinian deaths have been of children. And not that it really matters, but over 3,500 were also injured by Israeli soldiers, policemen and armed settlers over this time period. These damning statistics can't be explained away too casually, which is why they haven't received much attention. After all, anyone who sees the numbers would have little confusion or trouble concluding which party in this conflict is the thuggish aggressor.
Not that it should be too difficult to figure out. Israel, after all, is the country that occupies the West Bank and Gaza in violation of international law. Even the United States agrees with the UN Security Council on this point, and Israel itself does not claim that the area is national territory, but merely an "administered territory." With this in mind, the dispute becomes clearer: the people of Palestine have every right to demand that the Israeli state get the hell off its land. The Israeli response to this legitimate demand - the shooting of unarmed citizens, as well as the usage of tanks, heavy artillery and attack helicopters - is a brutal suppression of basic human rights, an opinion shared by both Amnesty International and Human Right Watch. (On November 1, Amnesty International flatly declared that the violence could constitute war crimes.)
It hasn't helped the Palestinian cause that the group which represents their plight to the world - the PLO, or Palestine Liberation Organization - has a nasty reputation which isn't completely undeserved. The PLO and its most famous leader, Yasser Arafat, are viewed as "terrorists" by much of Israel and the world. This is legitimate criticism, but the state of Israel has their own dark history, including the Irgun and the Stern Gang. Of particular note is Irgun's Menachem Begin, who blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in the late '40s and lead terrorist raids that wiped out Arab villages: he later became Prime Minister of Israel. Despite this, Begin (like Arafat) would later win a Nobel Peace Prize, sharing it with Anwar Sadat in 1978 (like Arafat would with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin in 1994) for learning to deal with a former mortal enemy. The fact is war is an inherent act of terror, and peace often requires dealing with those one once wished would be dead. Besides, the not-so-big secret is that Arafat has been more incompetent than vicious over the years. By being both too violent to be pitied and too peaceful to be frightening - not to mention secular rather than a religious zealot to inflame truly powerful passions - he has managed to hurt the Palestinian cause over the years more than any Israeli propaganda program. No surprise, then, that Israel prefers to deal with him than the alternatives.
In any case, here is what Eric Alterman of The Nation had to say about the Middle East conflict: "The Palestinians attack with stones, Molotov cocktails and the extremely rare automatic weapon. Unlike nations that quell riots by their own people with tear gas and rubber bullets, the Israelis respond with live ammunition: antitank rockets, helicopter gunships and armor-piercing missiles. Armed Jewish vigilantes have undertaken murderous rampages against unarmed Arab citizens, shooting them in cold blood." Michael Lerner of Tikkun Magazine was just as blunt: "The preponderance of responsibility lies with Israel - and with an international media which continues to obscure the basic realities facing the Palestinian people"
Lerner, one of the few mainstream voices with a sense of honesty and integrity, is correct on this point. For, with the admirable exception of notable alternative outlets such as The Nation, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), The Village Voice and the World Socialist Web Site, the general tone of news coverage has ranged from "showing both sides" (i.e. pretending that the atrocities committed by the Israeli state are a reasonable response to Palestinian protests) to offensive anti-Palestinian propaganda. Thomas Friedman, author of the pro-globalist manifesto The Lexus and the Olive Tree, took time off from arguing that more power to international corporations is good for the world's poor to write a dismissive column titled "Arafat's War". In it, Friedman declared that the Palestinians had "unfurled all the old complaints about the brutality of the continued Israeli occupation and settlement building." (Yes, those Palestinians sure are whiners, aren't they?) Meanwhile, the most notable right-wing mouthpieces of the US - George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Kelly and Cal Thomas - all sang the same chorus of Israeli apologism, blaming the violence on Arafat rather than Israeli policies. They were echoed by the reactionary New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch (who has declared himself to be a "Christian Zionist".) The most egregious example of Palestinian dehumanization came from Slate columnist Scott Shuger, who called a participant in the killing of two Israeli soldiers "a piece of shit posing as a human being" and other Palestinians as "the other turds." (In fact, evidence such as the soldiers driving in an unmarked car disguised as civilians strongly suggests that, far from being oblivious innocents wandering aimlessly through the region, they were part of a Israeli military death squad known as Sayaret Matkal preparing a strike. While their death is still tragic, it becomes more understandable with the context of the crowd's logical suspicions.)
Not that media blowhards were alone in their Palestinian bashing. Ric Keller, a Republican Florida Congressional nominee, declared: "I think Palestinians are lower than pond scum." He then endorsed Israel's bombing of defenseless Palestinian cities. Former Drug War fascist and self-proclaimed Mr. Virtue William Bennett stated that "there is no moral equality between Israel and the Palestinians, one is a nation of violence and terrorism and the other is one of democracy and peace." Meanwhile, Hillary Klinton, New York "resident" and Democratic Senate nominee, repulsively gushed in defense of Israeli and blamed Arafat in a shameless attempt to pander to New York Jews. Little wonder, then, that one of the few things that George W. Bush and Al Gore could agree upon in their debates was placing the blame of the Middle East violence on Arafat and the Palestinians.
All of which leads The Konformist to say: "Enough." As any reading of the writings promoted here would reveal, The Konformist is not inherently anti-Zionist (or anti-Semitic), but it is opposed to any authority that exploits mass opiums to delude people in cheering on mass murder. And frankly, the state of Israel has received a free ride for quite awhile.
Part of the reason for the free ride is the exploitation of tragedy. For too long, the state of Israel and its bootlickers have used the Nazi Holocaust as a shield to defend its own offensive policies, by falsely smearing many legitimate criticisms as "anti-Semitic" attacks. The other main cause is economics: the Israeli lobby is a well-financed movement, and it has wisely invested their dollars significantly in mass media and the shaping of public opinion. While the term "Jewish-controlled media" is an unfair charge, the facts show that media money, Jewish and Gentile, is vastly on the side of the Israeli state. This same media elite has cheered on a policy of subsidizing Israel with US taxpayer funds. The end result is Israel does the dirty work of American corporations in the Middle East, fueling hatred of Israel and the vision of the USA as "Great Satan" in Islam.
To be fair, the state of Israel was hardly welcomed with open arms from its neighbors when it was founded in 1947. (Then again, leaders of Israel such as Begin were hardly blushing flower children themselves.) From day one, they have been surrounded by Arab nations led by those who desired, at least publicly, their destruction. (For the record, the Arab nations have long treated the Palestinians like trash themselves, and they embraced Palestine's "liberation" only after the homeland was taken by Israel from Jordan.) Such an environment doesn't lead to Gandhi-like sentiments. Nor does the fact that the Middle East is a hotbed for mass opiums in the name of Allah which make many people embrace vicious, genocidal war.
If it was Gandhi whom the Arab states expected, they sure were in for a surprise: within twenty years, Israel had developed a major league ass-kicking army, and this impressive force, led by Moshe Dayan, easily trounced its opponents in the Six-Day War of 1967.
Sadly, with this victory came the seeds of the current crisis. Beware what you oppose, for if you are not careful, it is precisely what you will become. And Israel, long given to a martyr complex, took the opportunity to treat with contempt the Palestinians as far as possible when given the chance.
The cruel treatment of the Palestinians has been excused and encouraged by crude caricatures portraying the people singularly as savage barbarians who follow a backward religion. The irony, of course, is that the main raison d'etre for the Israeli state is the silly belief that they have some claim on the land courtesy of a proclamation from God. It isn't just Jews who endorse this ancient fairy tale. The Reverend Franklin Graham, vice chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and son of the noted evangelist, declared to a national television audience: "God gave that land to the Jews. The Arabs will never accept that. Why can't they live in peace?" Peace, by Graham's definition, means accepting a status as second-class citizens at best. The sad reality is that the situation in the Middle East is fueled by religious delusions of all flavors, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. However, despite all the rabid emotions inspired by the blood feud, one thing is pretty evident: if Israel has proven anything over the last 33 years, it is that it can clean the clock of the Palestinian people any day of the week. Simply put, the Palestinians are no threat to Israel, nor have they ever been. The whole claim of Israeli "self-defense" falls apart once this is clear.
The history of Palestinian subjugation is an ugly one, but the low point was in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon in its war against the PLO. As many as 2,000 Palestinians were killed at refugee camps outside of Beirut, at the hands of the fascist Phalange, Christian militiamen allied with Israel. These dirty deeds were, by any definition, horrid acts of terrorism.
The murderous operation was orchestrated by Israel's Minister of Defense, Ariel Sharon (The Konformist Beast of the Month.) Even a whitewashing Israeli report declared he was "indirectly" responsible for the massacres, saying he did nothing to stop the militias from entering the camps, knowing full well what was planned. He was forced to resign. US Middle East Envoy Philip Habib declared that "Sharon was a killer obsessed with hatred of Palestinians. I had promised Arafat that his people would not get any harm. Sharon, however, ignored this commitment entirely. Sharon's word is worth nil." Others were even less charitable, and Sharon earned the nickname "The Butcher of Beirut".
This, of course, is the same Sharon whose September 28 visit to the Temple Mount sparked the current unrest and Palestinian revolt, which is being termed a second Intifada, a sequel to the 1987-88 rebellion. His visit, under a heavily armed guard, has been labeled as "provocative." The truth is, he didn't need to do much to provoke outrage thanks to his reputation. In any case, met with protestors, Israeli troops pulled a Kent State and opened fire, killing six. The rest, as they say, is history.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has tried to play Merkin Muffley to Sharon's Buck Turgidson, but his hands are just as bloody over the fiasco. Still, it is Sharon who has instigated the mess, for the suspected purpose of gaining power for himself and his right-wing Likud party. If that was his goal, he has been smashingly successful: inflamed by the conflict, Israeli voters seem to favor a Likud takeover of Knesset. A recent poll showed Barak's personal approval rating at only 30 percent, and (incredibly but not suprising) 49 percent believed he has used too little force against the Palestinians.
Of course, maybe Sharon's goals are much deeper: Israeli investigative journalist Barry Chamish (a dedicated Zionist who certainly disagrees with most of the sentiments in this article) has argued persuasively in his book Who Killed Yitzhak Rabin? that the Rabin Assassination was an attempt to keep the Oslo peace accord moving forward, a recipe, Chamish insisted, not for peace but war. The past month has only confirmed Chamish's dire warnings. Elsewhere, Chamish has claimed that Sharon has long been an agent for other interests in the Middle East. In fact, the battle he's helped incite the past month, like the bloody Beirut massacre of 1982, has deservedly given Israel a black eye in the international community. Chamish points out that the Vatican has long desired Jerusalem back under their control, but to do so, they first must discredit the claims of others to the Holy Land. If Ariel Sharon was working for them, he couldn't have done a better job in helping their cause.
In any case, we salute Ariel Sharon as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Ariel!!!
Who Killed Yitzhak Rabin?, Barry Chamish
Israel and the Occupied Territories: Failure to Investigate Deaths Cheapens Life
Ariel Sharon: Peacemaker or peace breaker?
Missing from Mideast Coverage: Occupied territories no longer "occupied" on TV news
Muffled Coverage of U.N. Vote: Media Ignores Broad Mideast Consensus
Media Misinterprets Middle East
Danny Schechter, MediaChannel.org
ON TO THE "FINAL AGREEMENT" - SHARON THE "KILLER" IN CHARGE
Media Spin Remains in Sync with Israeli Occupation
Israeli provocation against Palestinians ignites a social powder keg
Israel's right wing take Middle East to the brink of war
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