In Search Of Truth, Not DogmaBy AMY PAGNOZZI, The Hartford Courant, December 19, 2000
You may have noticed that in the weeks that have passed since I began writing about Intifada 2000, I've been under a great deal of fire from critics.
Flamed? Charbroiled is more like it.
Outraged readers wrote the letters to the editor.
Lists of corrections ran - so long, they should have had my byline on them.
The paper's reader representative, Elissa Papirno, not satisfied with trashing my reputation in her Sunday column, took shots at the talented, decent man who edited my copy.
A declaration of war, and my first instinct was to strike out (or rather, meet her aggression with Israeli-style "resolve").
But perhaps Papirno's attack was a reflex - the conditioned response of a person programmed to believe that Israel does no wrong. I used to be one of them.
Whatever Israel says, the United States swears to. Then the palace court press duly records the sophistry, turning it into "fact."
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog group, has fired off one action alert after another, lambasting the American media for biased coverage of the current conflict, but it's been to no avail.
Watchdog groups are as easily ignored by the print media as the U.N. consensus to draft a resolution condemning Israel's "excessive use of force against Palestinians."
As for the networks, they are more biased - and even less accountable. "Occupied territories are no longer `occupied' on TV news," states FAIR.
FAIR says that a typical 90-second story on "Palestinian violence (as it is routinely called) neglects to mention that Palestinians are "fighting against a [foreign] military occupation." ... Their right "to use force ...universally recognized and enshrined in international law."
That's a concept we understand when it's anti-Milosevic Serbs in Yugoslavia throwing bricks and bottle bombs, "taking their struggle ... for democracy into the streets," as a Fox News promo put it.
But Palestinians tossing rocks or Molotov cocktails in the occupied territories are thugs, rioters - anything but freedom fighters.
Substitute the word "terrorists," and the slaughter of what fact- finding groups estimate is approaching 300 Palestinians and the wounding of thousands more (most unarmed, according to humanitarian groups) seem almost good deeds.
That's right. Organizations including the Israeli peace group B'Tselem and the international Physicians for Human Rights have, in recent weeks, released reports that support the fundamental assertions of my columns.
On Oct. 24, Physicians for Human Rights members were on the outskirts of Ramallah as a demonstration took place. Doctors from the organization "saw [Israeli Defense Forces] soldiers fire live and rubber ammunition at Palestinian civilians," yet saw "no evidence of Palestinians using firearms," a statement said.
The physicians' group concluded that: 1) Israeli soldiers are not firing in only life-threatening situations; and 2) they are firing at heads and thighs to injure and kill, not to avoid loss of life and injury.
Military brutality comes as no surprise to Israelis who have witnessed it first-hand, whose level of denial is but a fraction of ours - and whose newspapers print more of the truth.
The Independent of London's Robert Fisk - dean of the Middle East correspondents, with 24 years in the region - calls the American media "supine."
In particular, coverage in the Israel newspaper Ha'aretz "outshines anything" reported in the States, says Fisk. The Israeli paper's Gaza correspondent, Amira Hass, recently reported on an Israeli Defense Forces sniper whose orders were to shoot anyone over 12 as fair game.
We have as many peace groups trying to tell us the truth as Israel does, but fewer here care to listen.
As Palestinian-born intellectual Edward Said puts it, Zionism is "literally the last taboo in American discourse. Abortion, homosexuality, the death penalty, even the sacrosanct military budget have been talked about with some freedom.
"The American flag can be burned in public, whereas ... Israel's 52- year-old treatment of the Palestinians is ... a narrative with no permission to appear," Said says.
Israelis may freely criticize Israel in Israel, not so American Jews here.
Remarks made by Ami Ayalon - former chief of Israel's secret service, Shin Bet - were front page news in Israel, but they didn't even get reported in America, and no wonder.
Tossing around the word "apartheid" as if it were Israel's acknowledged system of governing the occupied territories, Ayalon blamed Israel for habitually bolting from negotiations - and refusing to honor what concessions were already made.
"We ... returned to [the peace process] only under threat of violence," giving "only when there was a gun to our heads," Ayalon said at an economics meeting on Dec. 4.
The Palestinians riot at the Western Wall, Israel cedes part of Hebron to them; they kidnap or kill soldiers - and only then does Israel comply with Palestinian demands for the release of political prisoners, he said.
"What should the Palestinians and Hezbollah understand from this?" Ayalon asked. "The Palestinians learned that Israel only understands force."
It was natural they should rebel, confined by the tens of thousands to impoverished, isolated "bantustans" whose borders were defined by their military occupiers.
"The things a Palestinian has to endure, simply coming to work in the morning, is a long and continuous nightmare that includes humiliation bordering on despair," said Ayalon. "Is the option of Jewish democracy with apartheid acceptable? I think not."
Any hope for true democracy in Israel depends on the ability of Jews and Palestinians to have a joint dialogue of their joined futures, Ayalon said.
Imagine, attempting to float the idea of an open dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis about how Israel should be run - as if the two groups were equals.
You'll peddle that soft stuff elsewhere if you know what's good for
you. Here in America, we take our Zionism straight up. Skip the
truth, ma'am, and just give us the facts. We'll correct them for you.