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Home arrow Blog arrow August 2008 arrow August 17, 2008

August 17, 2008
WAWA Blog August 17, 2008: 60 Minutes and Anger, Longing and Hope 



Last Sunday's 60 Minutes epsisode on the Israeli Air Force began with the oft repeated erroneous remark attributed to Ahmadinejad that, "Israel must be wiped off the map."

"In his October 2005 speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad never used the word "map" or the term "wiped off". According to Farsi-language experts like Juan Cole and even right-wing services like MEMRI, what he actually said was "this regime that is occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time."

"In this speech to an annual anti-Zionist conference, Mr. Ahmadinejad was being prophetic, not threatening. He was citing Imam Khomeini, who said this line in the 1980s (a period when Israel was actually selling arms to Iran, so apparently it was not viewed as so ghastly then). Mr. Ahmadinejad had just reminded his audience that the Shah's regime, the Soviet Union, and Saddam Hussein had all seemed enormously powerful and immovable, yet the first two had vanished almost beyond recall and the third now languished in prison. So, too, the "occupying regime" in Jerusalem would someday be gone. His message was, in essence, "This too shall pass."-Virginia Tilley, Professor of political science http://www.counterpunch.org/tilley08282006.html




Sixty Minutes Becomes Israeli-Occupied Television


http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=14074


By Ira Glunts, NY, US

As Philip Giraldi points out in his article "America’s Israeli-Occupied Media,"(1) the Israeli government is continuing its campaign to get the U.S. military to attack Iran or at least give a “green light” for a massive Israeli bombing strike.  In pursuit of this reckless and ill-conceived plan Tel Aviv has a willing co-conspirator in the mainstream American media, who will present the Israeli world-view without criticism or qualification.
 
The recent CBS broadcast (2) of the Sixty Minutes segment "The Israeli Air Force" (3) provides a rather startling example of how the American news media will permit the Israelis to present their point of view to the exclusion of any competing narrative. The report, which is presented by correspondent Bob Simon, first aired on April 27 and was rebroadcast on August 10.

The message of "The Israeli Air Force" is clearly and succinctly communicated by the CBS report as: Iran is a threat to Israel’s existence and to the rest of the world; Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon soon; when it does it will use it to destroy Israel. Thus it is apparent that if Iran does not quickly agree with the demands of Western powers to cease its uranium enrichment program, the Israeli Air Force can and will attack and incapacitate the Iranian nuclear facilities.

In order to produce this segment, CBS, by its own admission, accepted the "rigorous censorship" requirements of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). For a news organization to agree to censorship when covering a story is rather unusual. The explanation Mr. Simon gives for this arrangement is to quote the IAF’s dubious justification that "[i]f the Israelis blow their secrets, they insist, they'll lose the next war."  Maybe Simon should have just confessed that because CBS believes that these Israeli pilots are such amazing men, Sixty Minutes let them tell their own story, in their own way, without network interference.

In "The Israeli Air Force" Simon interviews Israeli pilots who are the "best and brightest." We are told they are destined to become heroes and some even legends. The report recounts the great IAF victory in the 1967 War and the difficult but "necessary" military air strikes in Gaza. No mention is made of the two disastrous air campaigns in two Lebanese wars. We also hear interviews with the pilots who bombed and destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981.

Yiftach Spector, who participated in the Iraq bombing, humbly rejects Simon’s compliment that he returned from the mission as a hero. Spector claimed "[w]e postponed a threat, a real threat. … I mean, the heroes were not us.  The "decision makers were the heroes on this because they showed the world what's right and what's wrong,"  Simon then comments, "[t]oday, Israel’s decision makers are faced with a similar choice, will they take out Iran’s nuclear facilities?"  You really wonder if this little play was written by someone at CBS or rather was actually composed by an Israeli government  press assistant or an official of the IAF censorship board.

In Bill Moyer’s documentary about the news coverage leading up to the invasion of Iraq, "Buying the War," Bob Simon correctly criticizes the media for only reporting the Bush/Cheney administration’s propaganda while ignoring all contradictory evidence.  Well ironically, when it comes to Iran, it appears that Simon’s reporting ignores all contradictory evidence while solely presenting the Israeli government line.

The 2007 U.S National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which states that there is a high probability that Iran has discontinued its nuclear weapons program in 2003, was never mentioned.  Neither were the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which have contradicted Israeli claims.

Additionally, the segment never addressed the fact that Israel views Iran as its main competitor in the region and as a financer and supporter of its enemies Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. This may have as much to do with the Israeli bellicosity toward Iran as any fear of nuclear weapons.

Finally, numerous high ranking officials in the American government including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Michael Mullen, are currently on the record as saying that any attack on Iran at the present time, whether it be American or Israeli, would be extremely harmful to U.S interests.   Some of the likely consequences of an attack would be: a further endangering of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, a skyrocketing price of oil, and a wider U.S. war in the region.  Bob Simon did not mention the opinions opposing an attack on Iran or any of these very relevant possibly disastrous consequences.

Any news program which deserves special citation for being produced from an Israeli perspective should follow these rules:  never mention the word "occupation", nor the conditions that Palestinians are forced to endure when speaking about the West Bank and Gaza;  if you address the issue of casualties suffered by innocent Palestinians as a result of Israeli military offenses, always give the Israelis time to appear “aware and troubled” and to claim they do everything possible to minimize collateral damage;  never mention anything negative or embarrassing about the Israeli armed forces which cannot be dismissed as an unfortunate mistake. Finally, and this is key, always express that the targeted enemy is "Hitler" and that the military action under consideration will prevent another Holocaust. I can attest that Bob Simon’s report more than adequately meets all these requirements.

The Sixty Minutes segment is not a news report, but a paean to "The Israeli Air Force" which also explains, justifies and advocates the use of military force against Tehran. 

It sells the idea of bombing Iran to the American people, just as the mainstream media sold the Iraq War, without reporting the complete story. 

It is frightening that CBS could produce a program which ignores any evidence which does not promote Tel Aviv’s world-view. 

What is even more terrifying is that even if the United States decides against the military option and advises Israel to do likewise, the same power and influence which enables "Israeli occupied news coverage," can make it possible for Israel to ignore American wishes and proceed with their plan to bomb Iran.


-Ira Glunts first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical education in a small rural community in Israel. He was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1992. He lives in Madison, New York where he writes, works as a college librarian and operates a used and rare book business with his wife. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

Notes:

1.  Giraldi, Philip, "America’s Israeli Occupied Media," Antiwar.com, August 12, 2008.

2.  "The Israeli Air Force," Sixty Minutes, video originally broadcast on April 27, 2008, rebroadcast on August 10, 2008, available at the CBS news web site, cbsnews.com.

3.  "The Israeli Air Force," Sixty Minutes, text version, titled "Israel's Air Force Chief, Iran Real Threat....", available at the CBS news website, cbsnews.com.



Uri Avnery on Mahmoud Darwish

16.8.08

                  The Anger, the Longing, the Hope

ONE OF the wisest pronouncements I have heard in my life was that of an Egyptian general, a few days after Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem.

We were the first Israelis to come to Cairo, and one of the things we were very curious about was: how did you manage to surprise us at the beginning of the October 1973 war?

The general answered: "Instead of reading the intelligence reports, you should have read our poets."

I reflected on these words last Wednesday, at the funeral of Mahmoud Darwish.
 

DURING THE funeral ceremony in Ramallah he was referred to again and again as "the Palestinian National Poet".

But he was much more than that. He was the embodiment of the Palestinian destiny. His personal fate coincided with the fate of his people. 

He was born in al-Birwa, a village on the Acre-Safad road. As early as 900 years ago, a Persian traveler reported that he had visited this village and prostrated himself on the graves of "Esau and Simeon, may they rest in peace". In 1931, ten years before the birth of Mahmoud, the population of the village numbered 996, of whom 92 were Christians and the rest Sunni Muslims.

On June 11, 1948, the village was captured by the Jewish forces. Its 224 houses were eradicated soon after the war, together with those of 650 other Palestinian villages. Only some cactus plants and a few ruins still testify to their past existence. The Darwish family fled just before the arrival of the troops, taking 7-year old Mahmoud with them.

Somehow, the family made their way back into what was by then Israeli territory. They were accorded the status of "present absentees" - a cunning Israeli invention. It meant that they were legal residents of Israel, but their lands were taken from them under a law that dispossessed every Arab who was not physically present in his village when it was occupied. On their land the kibbutz Yasur (belonging to the left-wing Hashomer Hatzair movement) and the cooperative village Ahihud were set up.

Mahmoud's father settled in the next Arab village, Jadeidi, from where he could view his land from afar. That's where Mahmoud grew up and where his family lives to this day.

During the first 15 years of the State of Israel, Arab citizens were subject to a "military regime" - a system of severe repression that controlled every aspect of their lives, including all their movements. An Arab was forbidden to leave his village without a special permit. Young Mahmoud Darwish violated this order several times, and whenever he was caught he went to prison. When he started to write poems, he was accused of incitement and put in "administrative detention" without trial.

At that time he wrote one of his best known poems, "Identity Card", a poem expressing the anger of a youngster growing up under these humiliating conditions. It opens with the thunderous words: "Record: I am an Arab!"

It was during this period that I met him for the first time. He came to me with another young village man with a strong national commitment, the poet Rashid Hussein. I remember a sentence of his: "The Germans killed six million Jews, and barely six years later you made peace with them. But with us, the Jews refuse to make peace."   

He joined the Communist party, then the only party where a nationalist Arab could be active. He edited their newspapers. The party sent him to Moscow for studies, but expelled him when he decided not to come back to Israel. Instead he joined the PLO and went to Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Beirut.
 

IT WAS there that I met him again, in one of the most exciting episodes of my life, when I crossed the lines in July 1982, at the height of the siege of Beirut, and met with Arafat. The Palestinian leader insisted that Mahmoud Darwish be present at this symbolic event, his first ever meeting with an Israeli. He sent somebody to call him.

His description of the siege of Beirut is one of Darwish's most impressive works. These were the days when he became the national poet. He accompanied the Palestinian struggle, and at the sessions of the Palestinian National Council, the institution that united all parts of the Palestinian people, he electrified the hall with readings of his stirring poems.

During those years he was very close to Arafat. While Arafat was the political leader of the Palestinian national movement, Darwish was its spiritual leader. It was he who wrote the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, which was adopted by the 1988 session of the National Council on the initiative of Arafat. It is very similar to the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which Darwish had learned at school. 

He clearly understood its significance: by adopting this document the Palestinian parliament-in-exile accepted in practice the idea of establishing a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel, in only a part of the homeland, as proposed by Arafat.

The alliance between the two broke down when the Oslo agreement was signed. Arafat saw it as "the best agreement in the worst situation". Darwish believed that Arafat had conceded too much. The national heart confronted the national mind. (That historical debate has still not been concluded today, after both of them have died.)

Since then Darwish lived in Paris, Amman and Ramallah - the Wandering Palestinian, who has replaced the Wandering Jew.
 

HE DID not want to be the National Poet. He did not want to be a political poet at all, but a lyrical one, a poet of love. But whenever he turned in this direction, the long arm of Palestinian fate dragged him back. 

I am not qualified to judge his poems or to assess his greatness as a poet. Leading experts on the Arabic language are still bitterly quarreling among themselves about the meaning of his poems, their nuances and layers, images and allusions. He was a master of classical Arabic, and equally at home with Western and Israeli poetry. Many believe that he was the greatest Arab poet, and one of the greatest poets of our time.

His poetry enabled him to do what no one had succeeded in doing by other means: to unite all the parts of the fractured and fragmented Palestinian people - in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, in Israel, in the refugee camps and throughout the Diaspora. He belonged to all of them. The refugees could identify with him because he was a refugee, Israel's Palestinian citizens could identify with him because he was one of them, and so could the inhabitants of the occupied Palestinian territories, because he was a fighter against the occupation.

This week some people of the Palestinian Authority tried to exploit him for their struggle with Hamas. I don't think that he would have agreed. In spite of the fact that he was a totally secular Palestinian and very far from the religious world of Hamas, he expressed the feelings of all Palestinians. His poems also resonate with the soul of a member of Hamas in Gaza.
 

HE WAS the poet of anger, of longing, of hope and of peace. These were the strings of his violin.

Anger about the injustice done to the Palestinian people and every Palestinian individual. Longing for "my mother's coffee", for his village's olive tree, for the land of his forefathers. Hope that the conflict would come to an end. Support for peace between the two peoples, based on justice and mutual respect.

In the documentary by the Israeli-French film-maker Simone Bitton, he pointed at the donkey as a symbol of the Palestinian people - a wise, patient animal that manages to survive.


He understood the nature of the conflict better than most Israelis and Palestinians. He called it "a struggle between two memories". The Palestinian historical memory clashes with the Jewish historical memory. Peace can come about only when each side understands the memories of the other - their myths, their secret longings, their hopes and fears.

That is the meaning of the Egyptian general's saying: poetry expresses the most profound feelings of a people. And only the understanding of these feelings can open the way for a real peace. A peace between politicians is not worth very much without a peace between the poets and the public they express. That's why Oslo failed, and why the present so-called negotiation for a "shelf agreement" is so worthless. It has no basis in the feelings of the two peoples.

Eight years ago, then Minister of Education Yossi Sarid tried to include two poems of Darwish in the Israeli school curriculum. This caused a furor, and the Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, decided that "the Israeli public is not ready for this". This meant, in reality, that "the Israeli public is not ready for peace." 

This may still be true. Real peace, peace between the peoples, peace between the children born this week, on the day of the funeral, in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, will only come about when Arab pupils learn the immortal poem of Chaim Nachman Bialik "The Valley of Death", about the Kishinev pogrom, and when Israeli pupils learn the poems of Darwish about the Naqba. Yes, also the poems of anger, including the line "Go away, and take your dead with you."

Without understanding and courageously facing the flaming anger about the Naqba and its consequences, we shall not understand the roots of the conflict and shall not be able to solve it. And as another great Palestinian man of letters, Edward Said, said: without understanding the impact of the Holocaust upon the Israeli soul, the Palestinians will not be able to deal with the Israelis.

The Poets are the marshals of the struggle between the memories, between the myths, between the traumas. We shall need them on the road to peace between the two peoples, between the two states, for building a common future.
 

I was not present at the state funeral arranged by the Palestinian Authority in the Mukata, so orderly, so orchestrated. I was there, two hours later, when his body was buried on a beautiful hill, overlooking the surroundings.

I was deeply impressed by the public, which gathered under the blazing sun around the wreath-covered grave and listened to the recorded voice of Mahmoud reading his poems. Those present, people of the elite and simple villagers, connected with the man in silence, in a very private communion. Despite the crowding, they opened a way for us, the Israelis, who came to pay our respects at the grave.

We bade our silent farewell to a great Palestinian, a great poet, a great human being.




 
   
 
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