This will be the week when we see who runs the US-Israeli alliance

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 9 Apr 2002 23:52:49 +0100

'Since US soldiers are blindfolding and gagging Muslim prisoners, why
should Mr Sharon worry?' 

So what's the surprise? Suddenly Israel doesn't want to take our advice.
Ex-general Ariel Sharon prefers to go on wrecking the Palestinian
Authority, tearing up the Oslo agreement in the name of his Holy War on
terror. Why should he worry about the scandalous number of civilian
casualties among the Palestinians? After all, didn't America wreak its
own revenge ­ killing thousands of innocent civilians in one of the
poorest countries on Earth ­ after the crimes against humanity of 11
September? I must admit, though, to a grim satisfaction when I heard
President George Bush's puzzled, uncomprehending response to Mr Sharon's
refusal to withdraw his army from the West Bank. 

The Israeli Prime Minister is, after all, the man who sent his army into
Lebanon in 1982 to "root out Palestinian terror'' ­ note the identical
rhetoric, as well as the same cast of characters ­ and whose "elite''
Israeli forces killed up to 17,500 people, almost all civilians. Mr
Sharon is the man who then sent Israel's vicious Phalangist allies into
the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila, after which they
massacred 1,700 Palestinian civilians. For this he was held "personally
responsible'' by Israel's own commission of inquiry. Evidence now
emerging in Beirut suggests that most of the slaughtered refugees were
actually killed in the two weeks following the original massacre ­ after
the survivors had been handed back to the Phalange by Israel's own

So why should Mr Sharon stop now? If Mr Bush wants to rein in his
reckless ally, why doesn't he ask Mr Sharon a few questions? Why doesn't
he ask what has happened to the more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners
who have disappeared into Israel's hands over the past two weeks? What
happened, for example, to the five men, blindfolded and trussed up like
chickens whom I discovered in the Jewish settlement of Psagot? What
happened to the masses of young men I saw being taken in a bus with its
windows wired over, a bus that made its way around Jerusalem and headed
west on the Tel Aviv highway. How many of these young men are now being
tortured either in interrogation centres or in the Russian Compound, the
main torture compound in West Jerusalem? 

But since Mr Bush's soldiers are experts in blindfolding and gagging
Muslim prisoners ­ and putting them in front of drumhead military courts
­ why should Mr Sharon worry? For month after month, as Mr Sharon tore
up the Oslo agreement, put the building of Jewish colonies on Arab land
into overdrive and sent out his death squads to murder Palestinians, the
Bush administration ­ fearful of offending the Israelis ­ allowed him to
do what he wanted. In response to the wicked Palestinian suicide
bombings, Bush expressed outrage. In response to Israel's aggression, he
called for restraint ­ and then did nothing. 

Again, what's the surprise? For months the American media has refused to
tell its viewers and readers what is going on in the occupied
territories. Its newspapers have indulged the insanity of writers who
have been encouraging Mr Sharon into ever-more-savage acts. What are we
supposed to make ­ for example, of a recent article in The New York
Times by William Safire, referring ­ as usual ­ to Jewish civilians
murdered by Palestinians but to Arab civilians "caught in the
crossfire'', "crossfire" being the nearest many journalists will dare to
go in saying that the culprits were Israeli. 

Safire plays the old game of talking about the occupied territories as
"disputed'' rather than occupied, a grotesque distortion of the truth
upon which the State Department insisted in a policy paper sent out by
the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. 

But Safire adds a new threat to journalists who might wish to tell the 
truth: "These are disputed territories'' he writes, "to call them
'occupied' reveals a prejudice against Israel's right to what were
supposed to be 'secure and defensible' borders.'' You can see the way
the argument is going. If we have a 'prejudice' against Israel's rights,
it's only a short step to call us anti-Semitic. But what is one to make
of this nonsense? Am I supposed to pretend that the soldiers who blocked
my car and pointed their guns at me in the West Bank last week were
Swiss? Am I to believe that the rabble of soldiers shouting at
Palestinian women desperate to leave Ramallah were Burmese? 

Safire regularly takes phone calls from Mr Sharon (and then insists on
telling us of Mr Sharon's latest fantasies), but my old chum Tom
Friedman in his ever-more-Messianic column in The New York Times, has
almost gone one better. "Israel needs to deliver a military blow that
clearly shows terror will not pay,'' he announced last week. What, in
God's name, is an American journalist doing when he urges Mr Sharon to
go to war? Friedman was with me in the Sabra and Chatila camps. Has he
forgotten what we saw? Last week, however, Friedman was also amiably
advising the Palestinians to turn to non-violent resistance à la Gandhi.

For Friedman, "a non-violent Palestinian movement appealing to the
conscience of the Israeli silent majority would have delivered a
Palestinian state 30 years ago...'' Needless to say, when Westerners,
including two Britons, protested peacefully in Bethlehem ­ and were
wounded by an Israeli soldier who shot at them, Friedman was silent. 

The reason why the Palestinians turned to suicide bombing, according to
Friedman, was not despair over the occupation ­ occupation which, of
course, Safire tells us we mustn't refer to ­ but because "the
Palestinians are so blinded by narcissistic rage'' that they have lost
sight of the sacredness of human life. 

And so it goes on. Having bestialised the Palestinians over so many
years, why should we be surprised when a society eventually produces the
very monsters we always claim to see in them? Even Mr Bush's speech last
week in which he dispatched Mr Powell on his "urgent'' mission of peace
­ allowing him a lazy seven days to reach Israel, reserved its venom for
the Palestinians. And yet, after all that, he fails to see why Mr Sharon
might choose to keep his army in the field. 

So this week will be a crucial one in the American-Israeli relationship,
a real test of the Bush presidency. We shall find out who ­ the US or
Israel ­ runs America's policy in the Middle East. It would be nice to
think that it was the former. But I'm not sure. 

Source:  Independent

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