4 items this evening, the first of these containing positive news: sanctions against Israel proposed—not yet adopted, and not for all of Israel’s crimes (only because of settlement building), and not by governments, but nevertheless by a substantial group of former top EU officials—not to be sniffed at! This is just one first step, but one that till today has not been taken, and which could, might, lead to more sanctions and/or boycotts to pressure Israel to change its treatment of Palestinians and to honestly work towards peace. It hardly needs saying that so long as Israel continues to colonize the West Bank its leaders have no intentions of making peace.
The 2nd item reports this morning’s march and protest in Tel Aviv on the occasion of International Human Rights. The event quite naturally also protested the Rabbis’ letter disallowing the sale and rental of Jewish property to Arabs. A small contingent of Right Wing activists had a counter demonstration, to show that not all agree. But I am not sure that the larger number represents most Israelis. Recent polls would seem to suggest otherwise.
Item 3 relates the personal experience of a young Jewish man who came to Israel wanting to feel at home, but was taught by Jewish hoodlums that there is an unpleasant penalty to pay for freedom of speech, at least when such freedom is used to criticize Israel
Item 4 is rather long but important. It is John Pilger on the media’s complicity with governments in lying to the public about wars. It is not about the Israeli media, but its denouncement of how the media helps governments shape public opinion, applies to Israel as well. This does not mean that there is no criticism in either the Israeli press or the media in other countries. But the subtle ways of shaping opinion are used by the Israeli press no less than the press of other countries.
Even the terminology that the Israeli press uses brain washes the Israeli reader. Thus when reporting a demonstration against the theft of Palestinian land by construction of the wall, the press uniformly states that the demonstration was in opposition to the wall, rather than as is the case, that it was in opposition to the route of the wall that results in the uprooting of 1000s of trees and the theft of Palestinian land.
When I pointed this out once to a reporter he responded that had he written what I suggested (that the demo was against the route of the wall) he would not be published. Or again, in the Israeli press the IOF kills, but Palestinians murder. Another example: the Israeli media states uniformly that Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. This is patently false. He was a soldier in the armored corps in Gaza when taken by Hamas. Soldiers are not kidnapped. They are captured. The difference in the picture painted in the minds of the readers between those 2 words is considerable. Also, photos of him on TV often show him in civilian clothing—just another kid. His having been a soldier is downplayed.
Not all propaganda is as blatant as Joseph Goebbel’s, but it nevertheless suffices to brain wash.
All the best,
1. Haaretz Friday,
December 10, 2010
Former European leaders: Sanction Israel over settlement building
26 former top EU officials, including ex EU chief Solana and former German President Richard von Weizsacker, urge world powers to confront Jerusalem over its refusal to obey international law.
A group of 26 senior former European leaders who held power during the past decade are calling for strong measures against Israel in response to its settlement policy and refusal to abide by international law.
In an unusual letter sent Thursday to the leadership of the European Union and the governments of the EU’s 27 member states, the signatories, including former heads of state, ministers and heads of European organizations, criticize Israel’s policies.
Among those signing the letter are the former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, former German President Richard von Weizsacker, former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales, former president of the EU Commission and former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and former Irish President Mary Robinson.
The group drew up a series of recommendations to the current EU leadership during a meeting in London in mid-November.
The sharply worded document joins a decision by the governments of South American countries, including Brazil and Argentina, to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. In addition, the European Union Council has decided to support the Palestinian Authority’s decision to establish an independent state and put an end to the occupation.
The letter’s timing is also related to an announcement by the U.S. administration about the failure of the negotiations with Israel on extending the freeze on settlement construction. The former European leaders note that key American figures had suggested to them that the best way to help U.S. President Barack Obama in his efforts to promote peace was to make policy that contradicts U.S. positions come at a cost to Israel.
The European leaders are backing the Palestinians’ efforts to rally international support for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state as an alternative to the negotiations that have reached an impasse. They note that the Palestinians cannot expect to be able to set up an independent state without international political and economic assistance.
As such, they are calling on the European Union to play a more effective and active role vis-a-vis the United States, Israel and others. They also want it made clear that a European Union decision to upgrade relations with Israel and other bilateral agreements will be frozen unless Israel freezes settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
They also propose that the EU announce that it will not accept any unilateral changes to the 1967 border that Israel carried out against international law, and that the Palestinian state would cover an area the same size as the area occupied in 1967. This would also include the establishment of a capital in East Jerusalem.
The leaders recommend that the EU support only minor land swaps on which the two sides agree.
Friday, December 10, 2010
March and Rally
Protest: Racist lawmakers, inciting rabbis
Thousands of people gather at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to mark International Human Rights Day, on backdrop of letter against renting flats to Arabs and war on infiltrators. They urge leaders to resign over Carmel fire failures. Some 100 Im Tirtzu members hold counter protest, say ‘Jews have rights too’
Remebering Carmel disaster on Human Rights Day: Some 4,000 people arrived Friday at Rabin Square to attend an annual rally marking International Human Rights Day.
B’Tselem, Peace Now and Greenpeace activists carried pictures of Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the slogan, “Don’t investigate – resign!” following State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’ scathing report on the situation of Israel’s firefighting services.
Hundreds of refugees participated in the march as well. They carried signs reading, “No peace without human rights”, “Forests burning? Climate change is already here”, and “I have the right to live in peace”.
Amongst those who voiced their opinion during the main assembly were President of the New Israel Fund Naomi Chazan and President of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel Sami Michael.
Michael said that “the state captains have neglected human being and trees. Leaders who arm an advanced army and neglect the home front are suspicious leaders in our eyes, for they focus on aggression and not defending their people. We and our children will watch everything you do very closely.”
‘Don’t shut us up’
Former Knesset Member Naomi Chazan (Meretz) said during the rally that “the past year was not an easy one for human rights and human rights organizations in Israel.”
Chazan added that “this year the lawmaker has lost every restraint in a flood of racist, degrading and cruel legislation. Rabbis, who are civil servants, have chosen to incite against the other, instead of educating about values and the love of man.”
She thanked the participants, saying that “you are the ones who remind us that when we see discrimination and injustice, the important thing is not to shut up. We won’t shut up until Israel becomes a real democracy which honors others and cares for the weak ones. We won’t shut up in light of the growing racism and violence in the Israeli society.”
The assembly host, actress Einat Weizman, read aloud a letter written by Eli Zviely, a man who received threat letters after renting his Safed apartment to Arabs. Zviely had written that he will “continue to preserve his rights and human rights in general”.
Weizman also read a letter sent by Abdallah Abu-Rahma, who was arrested for organizing the protests at the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah. From prison he wrote, “The barriers, land theft and violent oppression are the true causes inciting violence.”
Advocator for Negev Bedouins rights Amal Elsana Alh’jooj said, “When we watch television and want to see what kind of light is projects – we see the rabbis’ letter. We do want to live together, we want a future together… this country is for both of us, Arabs and Jews, and for the foreign workers here with us today. This march is important for what’s going on at the Knesset… We respond immediately to anyone who thinks racism is the right thing.”
‘Leftists have no clue about democracy’
Some 100 activists of the right-wing Im Tirtzu movement held a counter protest, saying that “Jews have human right too” and “settlers have human rights too”.
Kobi Kol from Tel Aviv said, “Left-wing organizations have no clue about true democracy. They protest for Palestinians, when actually we are the only democracy in the area. We will protect democracy.”
Participants march to Rabin Square (Photo: Ben Kelmer)
Gil from Herzliya says he’s secular but sees “nothing wrong about defining a nation state.” He added: “We represent the majority of the Israeli public, but our voice isn’t always heard. I am glad for this rally today.”
Knesset Member Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu) arrived to support the right-wing activists, saying that “human rights are for everybody, they shouldn’t be split between Right and Left.”
The purpose of the human rights march, now in its second year, is to protest against the occupation, social gaps, violence towards women and diminishing freedom of speech.
One of the participants, Eli Ziv, told Ynet, “I am here to advocate worker’s rights, Arab and Bedouin rights. It’s awful that refugees are considered a different kind of people in a country that considers it self to be democratic.”
LONDON — Ira Stup was raised in Philadelphia attending Jewish day school and camps. He found his home in the Jewish community and was “intoxicated with Jewish democracy” as framed in the ideals of Israel’s foundation. Now he has returned deeply troubled from a one-year fellowship based in Tel Aviv.
The worst single incident occurred on Ben Yehuda Street in central Jerusalem. Stup, 24, a Columbia graduate, was returning from a rally with a couple of friends carrying a banner that said, “Zionists are not settlers.” A group of religious Jews wearing yarmulkes approached, spat on them and started punching.
“About 20 people saw the whole thing and just watched. They were screaming, ‘You are not real Jews.’ Most of them were American. It was one of the most disappointing moments of my life — you can disagree as much as you want with a banner but to allow violence and not react is outrageous. For me it was a turning point. Nobody previously had said I was not a real Jew.”
The view that American Jews supportive of Israel but critical of its policies are not “real Jews” is, however, widespread. Israel-right-or-wrong continues to be the core approach of major U.S. Jewish organizations, from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
To oppose the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank (“Zionists are not settlers”), or question growing anti-Arab bigotry as personified by Israel’s rightist foreign minister and illustrated by the “loyalty oath” debate, or ask whether the “de-legitimization” of Israel might not have something to do with its own actions is to incur these organizations’ steady ire.
Debate remains stifled, despite Peter Beinart’s important piece this year in the New York Review of Books describing growing alienation among young American Jews asked to “check their liberalism at Zionism’s door.” Oh, sure, you can find all sorts of opinions about Israel all over the place; America remains an open society. But Aipac has systematically shunned a debate with J Street, the upstart Jewish organization that supports Israel, opposes the settlements and attempts to reclaim the progressive ideals of Zionism by saying that the systematic oppression of the Palestinians undermines Israel.
“These organizations’ view remains essentially that any time you engage in an activity critical of Israel you are trying to destroy the state of Israel,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, told me. “Here are all these Jewish kids being raised on great liberal values at Hebrew schools — walks for the homeless, Darfur, AIDS — but God forbid we talk about what’s happening in Israel! It’s a dynamic that cuts off discourse.”
The issues are worth debating at the highest level. Middle East talks have just broken down again, precisely over settlements. President Barack Obama had virtually no domestic constituency for his attempt to denounce the continued growth of settlements as unacceptable and as undermining a two-state peace at its core: land.
Obama was left dangling, more so after the midterms, and had to retreat. This is not merely a failure of the parties. It is a failure of U.S. politics and the way those politics are straitjacketed by an Israel-right-or-wrong mantra that leads inexorably, over time, to one state with more Arabs in it than Jews. What then will remain of the Zionist dream?
Stup’s research took him often to the West Bank. He would come back to Tel Aviv and talk about Palestinian humiliation he’d seen and found that Israelis seemed unaware or unconcerned. He read in one newspaper that 53 percent of Israeli Jews would encourage Israeli Arabs to leave — “and I saw and felt that anecdotally.”
A painful question hardened: “Seeing what the occupation looked like, and given the ideals of Jewish democracy I was raised on, I wondered: Could Israel be failing and could we American Jews be defending that failure?”
It’s time to think again and, above all, think openly. Last month, Ben-Ami was scheduled to speak at a Reform Jewish synagogue, Temple Beth Avodah, in Newton, near Boston. At the last minute the event got canceled because of what the rabbi described as strong opposition from a “small, influential group” within the congregation.
Jewish groups, or Hillel societies, on U.S. campuses sometimes discover they will lose their biggest donors if they allow a J Street youth group to form within them.
Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans, was heckled by protesters holding banners suggesting the occupation and loyalty oaths de-legitimize Israel. Their banners were ripped (with teeth) and the young Jews dragged out. Where an important conversation could be held, confrontation prevails.
Stup, moved to act, has joined J Street. This decision caused tremendous pressure on his family back in Philadelphia. One very close family friend came over to his mother’s house recently and accused him of “poisoning the minds of young Jews.” The friendship has been strained to breaking point.
“Why,” Stup asked me, “is it poisoning minds to encourage them to think critically about the actions of the Israeli government?”
4. The Guardian
Friday 10 December 2010
Why are wars not being reported honestly? The public needs to know the truth about wars. So why have journalists colluded with governments to hoodwink us?
In the US Army manual on counterinsurgency, the American commander General David Petraeus describes Afghanistan as a “war of perception . . . conducted continuously using the news media”. What really matters is not so much the day-to-day battles against the Taliban as the way the adventure is sold in America where “the media directly influence the attitude of key audiences”. Reading this, I was reminded of the Venezuelan general who led a coup against the democratic government in 2002. “We had a secret weapon,” he boasted. “We had the media, especially TV. You got to have the media.”
Never has so much official energy been expended in ensuring journalists collude with the makers of rapacious wars which, say the media-friendly generals, are now “perpetual”. In echoing the west’s more verbose warlords, such as the waterboarding former US vice-president Dick Cheney, who predicated “50 years of war”, they plan a state of permanent conflict wholly dependent on keeping at bay an enemy whose name they dare not speak: the public.
At Chicksands in Bedfordshire, the Ministry of Defence’s psychological warfare (Psyops) establishment, media trainers devote themselves to the task, immersed in a jargon world of “information dominance”, “asymmetric threats” and “cyberthreats”. They share premises with those who teach the interrogation methods that have led to a public inquiry into British military torture in Iraq. Disinformation and the barbarity of colonial war have much in common.
Of course, only the jargon is new. In the opening sequence of my film, The War You Don’t See, there is reference to a pre-WikiLeaks private conversation in December 1917 between David Lloyd George, Britain’s prime minister during much of the first world war, and CP Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian. “If people really knew the truth,” the prime minister said, “the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know.”
In the wake of this “war to end all wars”, Edward Bernays, a confidante of President Woodrow Wilson, coined the term “public relations” as a euphemism for propaganda “which was given a bad name in the war”. In his book, Propaganda (1928), Bernays described PR as “an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country” thanks to “the intelligent manipulation of the masses”. This was achieved by “false realities” and their adoption by the media. (One of Bernays’s early successes was persuading women to smoke in public. By associating smoking with women’s liberation, he achieved headlines that lauded cigarettes as “torches of freedom”.)
I began to understand this as a young reporter during the American war in Vietnam. During my first assignment, I saw the results of the bombing of two villages and the use of Napalm B, which continues to burn beneath the skin; many of the victims were children; trees were festooned with body parts. The lament that “these unavoidable tragedies happen in wars” did not explain why virtually the entire population of South Vietnam was at grave risk from the forces of their declared “ally”, the United States. PR terms like “pacification” and “collateral damage” became our currency. Almost no reporter used the word “invasion”. “Involvement” and later “quagmire” became staples of a news vocabulary that recognised the killing of civilians merely as tragic mistakes and seldom questioned the good intentions of the invaders.
On the walls of the Saigon bureaus of major American news organisations were often displayed horrific photographs that were never published and rarely sent because it was said they were would “sensationalise” the war by upsetting readers and viewers and therefore were not “objective”. The My Lai massacre in 1968 was not reported from Vietnam, even though a number of reporters knew about it (and other atrocities like it), but by a freelance in the US, Seymour Hersh. The cover of Newsweek magazine called it an “American tragedy”, implying that the invaders were the victims: a purging theme enthusiastically taken up by Hollywood in movies such as The Deer Hunter and Platoon. The war was flawed and tragic, but the cause was essentially noble. Moreover, it was “lost” thanks to the irresponsibility of a hostile, uncensored media.
Although the opposite of the truth, such false realties became the “lessons” learned by the makers of present-day wars and by much of the media. Following Vietnam, “embedding” journalists became central to war policy on both sides of the Atlantic. With honourable exceptions, this succeeded, especially in the US. In March 2003, some 700 embedded reporters and camera crews accompanied the invading American forces in Iraq. Watch their excited reports, and it is the liberation of Europe all over again. The Iraqi people are distant, fleeting bit players; John Wayne had risen again.
A statue of Saddam Hussein is pulled down in Baghdad on 9 April 2003. Photograph: Jerome Delay/AP
The apogee was the victorious entry into Baghdad, and the TV pictures of crowds cheering the felling of a statue of Saddam Hussein. Behind this façade, an American Psyops team successfully manipulated what an ignored US army report describes as a “media circus [with] almost as many reporters as Iraqis”. Rageh Omaar, who was there for the BBC, reported on the main evening news: “People have come out welcoming [the Americans], holding up V-signs. This is an image taking place across the whole of the Iraqi capital.” In fact, across most of Iraq, largely unreported, the bloody conquest and destruction of a whole society was well under way.
In The War You Don’t See, Omaar speaks with admirable frankness. “I didn’t really do my job properly,” he says. “I’d hold my hand up and say that one didn’t press the most uncomfortable buttons hard enough.” He describes how British military propaganda successfully manipulated coverage of the fall of Basra, which BBC News 24 reported as having fallen “17 times”. This coverage, he says, was “a giant echo chamber”.
The sheer magnitude of Iraqi suffering in the onslaught had little place in the news. Standing outside 10 Downing St, on the night of the invasion, Andrew Marr, then the BBC’s political editor, declared, “[Tony Blair] said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating, and on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right . . .” I asked Marr for an interview, but received no reply. In studies of the television coverage by the University of Wales, Cardiff, and Media Tenor, the BBC’s coverage was found to reflect overwhelmingly the government line and that reports of civilian suffering were relegated. Media Tenor places the BBC and America’s CBS at the bottom of a league of western broadcasters in the time they allotted to opposition to the invasion. “I am perfectly open to the accusation that we were hoodwinked,” said Jeremy Paxman, talking about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction to a group of students last year. “Clearly we were.” As a highly paid professional broadcaster, he omitted to say why he was hoodwinked.
Dan Rather, who was the CBS news anchor for 24 years, was less reticent. “There was a fear in every newsroom in America,” he told me, “a fear of losing your job . . . the fear of being stuck with some label, unpatriotic or otherwise.” Rather says war has made “stenographers out of us” and that had journalists questioned the deceptions that led to the Iraq war, instead of amplifying them, the invasion would not have happened. This is a view now shared by a number of senior journalists I interviewed in the US.
In Britain, David Rose, whose Observer articles played a major part in falsely linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaida and 9/11, gave me a courageous interview in which he said, “I can make no excuses . . . What happened [in Iraq] was a crime, a crime on a very large scale . . .”
“Does that make journalists accomplices?” I asked him.
“Yes . . . unwitting perhaps, but yes.”
What is the value of journalists speaking like this? The answer is provided by the great reporter James Cameron, whose brave and revealing filmed report, made with Malcolm Aird, of the bombing of civilians in North Vietnam was banned by the BBC. “If we who are meant to find out what the bastards are up to, if we don’t report what we find, if we don’t speak up,” he told me, “who’s going to stop the whole bloody business happening again?”
Cameron could not have imagined a modern phenomenon such as WikiLeaks but he would have surely approved. In the current avalanche of official documents, especially those that describe the secret machinations that lead to war – such as the American mania over Iran – the failure of journalism is rarely noted. And perhaps the reason Julian Assange seems to excite such hostility among journalists serving a variety of “lobbies”, those whom George Bush’s press spokesman once called “complicit enablers”, is that WikiLeaks and its truth-telling shames them. Why has the public had to wait for WikiLeaks to find out how great power really operates? As a leaked 2,000-page Ministry of Defence document reveals, the most effective journalists are those who are regarded in places of power not as embedded or clubbable, but as a “threat”. This is the threat of real democracy, whose “currency”, said Thomas Jefferson, is “free flowing information”.
In my film, I asked Assange how WikiLeaks dealt with the draconian secrecy laws for which Britain is famous. “Well,” he said, “when we look at the Official Secrets Act labelled documents, we see a statement that it is an offence to retain the information and it is an offence to destroy the information, so the only possible outcome is that we have to publish the information.” These are extraordinary times.