[sixties-l] Re: Free Speech and Israel

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (jab@tucradio.org)
Date: 12/14/00

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    NT (London)13 December 2000
            Robert Fisk
    'The abuse being directed at anyone who dares to criticize Israel is
    reaching McCarthyite proportions'
    In the Middle East jungle, a journalist has to expect a few sticks and
    stones. A Bahrain newspaper cartoonist once depicted me as a rabid dog
    (fit, of course, for extermination), and Cairo's most lickspittle
    columnist called me " a crow pecking at the corpse of Egypt" .
    But the degree of abuse and outright threats now being directed at anyone
    -  academic, analyst, reporter  -  who dares to criticize Israel (or dares
    to tell the truth about the Palestinian uprising) is fast reaching
    McCarthyite proportions. Take Edward Said, the brilliant Palestinian
    academic who is a professor at Columbia University.
    He has been facing unprecedented abuse from the Zionist Organisation of
    America, which last year demanded that he be fired from the Modern
    Language Association and which now demands on an almost daily basis his
    dismissal from his professorship at Columbia  -  solely because he points
    out, with clinical ferocity and painful accuracy, the historical tragedy
    of Palestinian dispossession, the brutality of Israel's continued
    occupation and the bankruptcy of the Oslo " peace" agreement. Columbia
    University has issued an unprecedented public defence of Said and " the
    fundamental values of a great university" , quoting John Stuart Mill and
    adding that to give way to the Jewish lobby's demand would be " a threat
    to us all and to academic freedom" .
    Too true. Noam Chomsky  -  himself Jewish  -  is one of the most profound
    philosophers of our age, but his scathing reviews of the Israeli
    occupation and America's blind, unquestioning support for Israel now earn
    him ever more ruthless abuse. In the United States, he wrote recently, a
    whole population is kept in ignorance of the facts because " the economic
    and and military programmes (of Israel) rely crucially on US support,
    which is domestically unpopular and would be far more so if its purposes
    were known."
    Ignorance of the Middle East is now so firmly adhered to in the US that
    only a few tiny newspapers report anything other than Israel's point of
    view. You won't find Chomsky in The New York Times. It was put very well
    by Charlie Reese in a recent issue of the Orlando Sentinel  -  note the
    boondocks location  -  when he wrote that " Palestinians won't get their
    independence until Americans get theirs" .
    But the attempt to force the media to obey Israel's rules is now
    international. We must say that Israel is under siege by Palestinians
    (rather than occupying Palestinian land), that Palestinians are
    responsible for the violence (even though Palestinians are the principal
    victims), that Arafat turned down a good deal at Camp David (though he was
    offered just over 60 per cent of his land, not 94 per cent), and that
    Palestinians indulge in child sacrifice (rather than question why the
    Israeli troops have shot so many Palestinian children).
    Israeli ambassadors and Israel's lobbyists have never been such frequent
    visitors to European newspaper offices, to complain about reports or
    reporters, sometimes in a quite disgraceful manner. The Johannesburg Star
    -  a sister paper of The Independent which carries my own Middle East
    reports  -  was confronted by one pro-Israeli group this year which
    claimed that I was in some way assisting the right-wing historian David
    Irving  -  someone I have never met and never wish to meet. They
    subsequently withdrew their allegation.
    Then an odd thing happened in Ireland  -  at a prize-giving ceremony in
    memory of a Belfast journalist. Mark Sofer, Israel's ambassador in Dublin,
    had been invited to talk about reporting in conflict zones to journalism
    students under the auspices of Co-operation Ireland, a charitable movement
    dedicated to North-South relations. But at one point he chose to use the
    opportunity to attack my own reporting of the Middle East, to suggest that
    it should not be read or believed. Mr. Sofer is, of course, entitled to his
    views  -  but not to air his prejudices in a charitable forum without
    allowing a right of reply. The charity has since announced that it "
    totally dissociates itself" from the ambassador's remarks. So it should.
    And yet it goes on. In South Africa, in Europe, in Australia  -  I still
    treasure the five pages of abuse in an Australian lobby group's magazine
    headlined " The Ignoble Scribe"  and accusing me of a " stupor of
    self-deception" . Oddly, you can now learn more from the Israeli press
    than the American media. The brutality of Israeli soldiers is fully
    covered in Ha'aretz, which also reports on the large number of US
    negotiators who are Jewish. Four years ago, a former Israeli soldier
    described in an Israeli newspaper how his men had looted a village in
    southern Lebanon; when the piece was reprinted in The New York Times, the
    looting episode was censored out of the text.
    So here's just one final question. If Arab ambassadors and lobbyists
    behaved like their Israeli opposite numbers, would we listen to them?
    Would we respect them? Would we run for cover and print only one side of
    the story? Would we hell.

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