Saturday, June 2, 2007

40 YEARS of OCCUPATION and still the cheap shots against the Palestinians from the usual suspects

It is too easy for me to pick on the Jewish News and it would be a cheap shot to vilify its Six-Day War 40th Anniversary Issue.
Then again, I live in a neighbourhood where this right-wing paper is free in the local supermarket and I am angry, ANGRY about its puerile, bullying tone, and sickened by its facile propaganda. So in answer to one gloating cheap shot against the Palestinian people - the fortieth birthday celebration of an illegal occupation - here is my own:
How can a paper that dares to call itself the Jewish News, endorse such inhumanely biased and pitiful journalism? In an item called Key rhetoric from the 1967 war of words, I looked in vain for a considered exposition on the impoverished rhetoric that triumphs in times of war. As Jacqueline Rose says in her Guardian feature on the poetry that came out of that war, Words without borders, to speak the unspoken, "When rhetoric has played such a key role in establishing the political reality, to challenge that rhetoric is to unravel political conviction at its source."
The JN is not interested in such unravelling, rather it seeks to reaffirm a false dichotomy to be found throughout its paper, between the peace loving Israelis and the bloodthirsty Arabs:
"Spearheading those forces lined up against Israel, Egypt's Gamal Abdal Nasser made no secret of his intentions ahead of the war when he declared: "We shall not enter Palestine with its soil covered in sand, we shall enter it with its soil saturated in blood."
The JN then adds that the most important statement of war on the Israeli side came from Defence Minister Moshe Dayan:
"following the reunification of Jerusalem, he announced: "To our Arab neighbours, we extend our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples' holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others in unity."
On the facing page, there is an interview with Moshe Dayan's daughter, Yael, who is asked how her late father would now regard the situation. Her answer is in part a very muted recognition of the failure of Israel to live up to the 'promises' of her father: "he certainly wouldn't have wanted to sit in the middle of a dense Palestinian populations with these kind of settlements." The paper would not seem to agree with her, as elsewhere the odious columnist, Charlie Wolf claims to hardly be able to hold back his tears of laughter when reviewing the Independent paper, that regularly covers Israeli war crimes: "The Independent had 'uncovered' a memo written by a legal advisor in the Israeli Foreign ministry at the time opining that settlements on the West Bank would contravene the Geneva Convention." Wolf finds that the case they make for the settlements being illegal is 'pretty weak'. He adds contemptuously that "history also records Israel offered to give the territories back soon after the war but the Arabs declined - another missed opportunity for their Palestinian brothers."
It is only in the opinion section that the JN gets to the heart of the matter, however. A man who is introduced as the Executive Director of NGO Monitor (and what a sinister sounding NGO it is), Prof Gerald Steinberg, challenges the 'myth of occupation'. He charges that "The myth that "occupation" is the cause of the conflict rather than a symptom and consequence, is also spread by powerful political organisations that exploit the rhetoric of humanitarian assistance and human rights." Hence his heroic career choice presumably. It is Steinberg that puts the word occupation in speech marks, thus questioning its validity. He is much encouraged, however, by the collapse of the Oslo "peace process" (my own speech marks) which ended: "for the vast majority of Israelis, the era of simplistic slogans and wishful thinking."
Here I beg to differ; wishful thinking is alive and well in the Jewish News, exemplified in Alexander Bligh's leading feature on the six-day war, Forty years on: "Within three hours, the Arab forces were destroyed and within 144 hours Israel controlled a territory almost three times its size. [...] On the Eastern front most failures of the War of Independence were corrected." To suggest that the occupation of East Jerusalem was a corrective act - in other words, one that put things straight/ reversed an incorrect state, and thereby resolved an unfortunate mistake, is beyond comprehension.
Jacqueline Rose reminds us that 1967 was a time 'when the language of triumph was wiping out the possibility of justice. She suggests that Darwish, in his poem, "A soldier Dreams of White Tulips", is "uncompromising in his political judgment, at the same time as he has given to the young solidier the profoundest knowledge of the damage that his nation was doing, and would go on doing, both to the Palestinians and to itself. Language as much as deeds laid down the lines of a political tragedy still unresolved today." The triumph of rhetoric over reality has engendered only violent words that destroy the possibility of dialogue, "or any form of meaningful contact".
The reality of the Jewish state precluded the option of extending the hand of peace to Jerusalem's' Arab inhabitants as Dayan proclaimed. Rather Rose writes, "in the heady euphoria of victory, two days after the fall of the Old city, its Moroccan sector, home to more than 200 Palestinians who had lived there for generations, was razed to create what was essentially a parade ground in front of the Wailing Wall." And by August 1967 Moshe Dayan "was insisting that Israel must never return to its former borders, citing Ben-Gurion who had once said - again according to [Amos] Elon - that the borders of 1948 were a cause to 'lament for generations' because they had not included the West Bank." Not only that, but when the Oslo accords affirmed the West Bank and Gaza to be one unity, Israel undertook to open four safe passages between them, an obligation that it has violated from the first day. The clear desire of Israeli's leaders to extend its imprisoning borders puts into serious question columnist Wolf's defensive reaction to the Independent story, that "this was a defensive war not of Israel's choosing." When, one wonders will the Israelis acknowledge a offensive role in the Middle East crisis?
The Israeli poet, Amichai further questions the Israeli state's illusion of securing better, more secure borders: "Loneliness is always in the middle/ protected and fortified. People were supposed/ to feel secure in that, and they don't."
No we don't.

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