On Jew-hatred in Europe

By Oriana Fallaci

Corriere della Sera, Italy, April 12, 2002

Translation by Chris and Paola Newman

I find it shameful that in Italy there should be a procession of individuals dressed as suicide bombers who spew vile abuse at Israel, hold up photographs of Israeli leaders on whose foreheads they have drawn the swasitka, incite people to hate the Jews. And who, in order to see Jews once again in the extermination camps, in the gas chambers, in the ovens of Dachau and Mauthausen and Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen et cetera, would sell their own mother to a harem.

I find it shameful that the Catholic Church should permit a bishop, one with lodgings in the Vatican no less, a saintly man who was found in Jerusalem with an arsenal of arms and explosives hidden in the secret compartments of his sacred Mercedes, to participate in that procession and plant himself in front of a microphone to thank in the name of God the suicide bombers who massacre the Jews in pizzerias and supermarkets. To call them ³martyrs who go to their deaths as to a party.²

I find it shameful that in France, the France of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity, they burn synagogues, terrorize Jews, profane their cemeteries. I find it shameful that the youth of Holland and Germany and Denmark flaunt the kaffiah just as Mussolini¹s avant garde used to flaunt the club and the fascist badge. I find it shameful that in nearly all the universities of Europe Palestinian students sponsor and nurture anti-semitism. That in Sweden they asked that the Nobel Peace Prize given to Shimon Peres in 1994 be taken back and conferred on the dove with the olive branch in his mouth, that is on Arafat. I find it shameful that the distinguished members of the Committee, a Committee that (it would appear) rewards political color rather than merit, should take this request into consideration and even respond to it. In hell the Nobel Prize honors he who does not receive it.

I find it shameful (we¹re back in Italy) that state-run television stations contribute to the resurgent antisemitism, crying only over Palestinian deaths while playing down Israeli deaths, glossing over them in unwilling tones. I find it shameful that in their debates they host with much deference the scoundrels with turban or kaffiah who yesterday sang hymns to the slaughter at New York and today sing hymns to the slaughters at Jerusalem, at Haifa, at Netanya, at Tel Aviv. I find it shameful that the press does the same, that it is indignant because Israeli tanks surround the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, that it is not indignant because inside that same church two hundred Palestinian terrorists well armed with machine guns and munitions and explosives (among them are various leaders of Hamas and Al-Aqsa) are not unwelcome guests of the monks (who then accept bottles of mineral water and jars of honey from the soldiers of those tanks). I find it shameful that, in giving the number of Israelis killed since the beginning of the Second Intifada (four hundred twelve), a noted daily newspaper found it appropriate to underline in capital letters that more people are killed in their traffic accidents. (Six hundred a year).

I find it shameful that the Roman Observer, the newspaper of the Pope--a Pope who not long ago left in the Wailing Wall a letter of apology for the Jews--accuses of extermination a people who were exterminated in the millions by Christians. By Europeans. I find it shameful that this newspaper denies to the survivors of that people (survivors who still have numbers tattooed on their arms) the right to react, to defend themselves, to not be exterminated again. I find it shameful that in the name of Jesus Christ (a Jew without whom they would all be unemployed), the priests of our parishes or Social Centers or whatever they are flirt with the assassins of those in Jerusalem who cannot go to eat a pizza or buy some eggs without being blown up. I find it shameful that they are on the side of the very ones who inaugurated terrorism, killing us on airplanes, in airports, at the Olympics, and who today entertain themselves by killing western journalists. By shooting them, abducting them, cutting their throats, decapitating them. (There¹s someone in Italy who, since the appearance of Anger and Pride, would like to do the same to me. Citing verses of the Koran he exorts his ³brothers² in the mosques and the Islamic Community to chastise me in the name of Allah. To kill me. Or rather to die with me. Since he¹s someone who speaks English well, I¹ll respond to him in English: ³Fuck you.²)

I find it shameful that almost all of the left, the left that twenty years ago permitted one of its union processionals to deposit a coffin (as a mafioso warning) in front of the synagogue of Rome, forgets the contribution made by the Jews to the fight against fascism. Made by Carlo and Nello Rossini, for example, by Leone Ginzburg, by Umberto Terracini, by Leo Valiani, by Emilio Sereni, by women like my friend Anna Maria Enriques Agnoletti who was shot at Florence on June 12, 1944, by seventy-five of the three-hundred-thirty-five people killed at the Fosse Ardeatine, by the infinite others killed under torture or in combat or before firing squads. (The companions, the teachers, of my infancy and my youth.) I find it shameful that in part through the fault of the left--or rather, primarily through the fault of the left (think of the left that inaugurates its congresses applauding the representative of the PLO, leader in Italy of the Palestinians who want the destruction of Israel)--Jews in Italian cities are once again afraid. And in French cities and Dutch cities and Danish cities and German cities, it is the same. I find it shameful that Jews tremble at the passage of the scoundrels dressed like suicide bombers just as they trembled during Krystallnacht, the night in which Hitler gave free rein to the Hunt of the Jews.

I find it shameful that in obedience to the stupid, vile, dishonest, and for them extremely advantageous fashion of Political Correctness the usual opportunists--or better the usual parasites--exploit the word Peace. That in the name of the word Peace, by now more debauched than the words Love and Humanity, they absolve one side alone of its hate and bestiality. That in the name of a pacifism (read conformism) delegated to the singing crickets and buffoons who used to lick Pol Pot¹s feet they incite people who are confused or ingenuous or intimidated. Trick them, corrupt them, carry them back a half century to the time of the yellow star on the coat. These charlatans who care about the Palestinians as much as I care about the charlatans. That is not at all.

I find it shameful that many Italians and many Europeans have chosen as their standard-bearer the gentleman (or so it is polite to say) Arafat. This nonentity who thanks to the money of the Saudi Royal Family plays the Mussolini ad perpetuum and in his megalomania believes he will pass into History as the George Washington of Palestine. This ungrammatical wretch who when I interviewed him was unable even to put together a complete sentence, to make articulate conversation. So that to put it all together, write it, publish it, cost me a tremendous effort and I concluded that compared to him even Ghaddafi sounds like Leonardo da Vinci. This false warrior who always goes around in uniform like Pinochet, never putting on civilian garb, and yet despite this has never participated in a battle. War is something he sends, has always sent, others to do for him. That is, the poor souls who believe in him. This pompous incompetent who playing the part of Head of State caused the failure of the Camp David negotiations, Clinton¹s mediation. No-no-I-want-Jerusalem-all-to-myself. This eternal liar who has a flash of sincerity only when (in private) he denies Israel¹s right to exist, and who as I say in my book contradicts himself every five minutes. He always plays the double-cross, lies even if you ask him what time it is, so that you can never trust him. Never! With him you will always wind up systematically betrayed. This eternal terrorist who knows only how to be a terrorist (while keeping himself safe) and who during the Seventies, that is when I interviewed him, even trained the terrorists of Baader-Meinhof. With them, children ten years of age. Poor children. (Now he trains them to become suicide bombers. A hundred baby suicide bombers are in the works: a hundred!). This weathercock who keeps his wife at Paris, served and revered like a queen, and keeps his people down in the shit. He takes them out of the shit only to send them to die, to kill and to die, like the eighteen year old girls who in order to earn equality with men have to strap on explosives and disintegrate with their victims. And yet many Italians love him, yes. Just like they loved Mussolini. And many other Europeans do the same.
I find it shameful and see in all this the rise of a new fascism, a new nazism. A fascism, a nazism, that much more grim and revolting because it is conducted and nourished by those who hypocritically pose as do-gooders, progressives, communists, pacifists, Catholics or rather Christians, and who have the gall to label a warmonger anyone like me who screams the truth.

I see it, yes, and I say the following. I have never been tender with the tragic and Shakespearean figure Sharon. (³I know you¹ve come to add another scalp to your necklace,² he murmured almost with sadness when I went to interview him in 1982.) I have often had disagreements with the Israelis, ugly ones, and in the past I have defended the Palestinians a great deal. Maybe more than they deserved. But I stand with Israel, I stand with the Jews. I stand just as I stood as a young girl during the time when I fought with them, and when the Anna Marias were shot. I defend their right to exist, to defend themselves, to not let themselves be exterminated a second time. And disgusted by the antisemitism of many Italians, of many Europeans, I am ashamed of this shame that dishonors my Country and Europe. At best, it is not a community of States, but a pit of Pontius Pilates. And even if all the inhabitants of this planet were to think otherwise, I would continue to think so.

Can Israel be a state like all others?
That is the true question of its existence, writes Edward Said


Despite Israel's effort to restrict coverage of its extraordinarily destructive invasion of the West Bank's Palestinian towns and refugee camps, information and images have nevertheless seeped through. The Internet has provided hundreds of verbal as well as pictorial eyewitness reports, as has Arab and European TV coverage, most of it unavailable or blocked or spun out of existence from the mainstream US media. That evidence provides stunning proof of what Israel's campaign has actually (has always) been about: the
irreversible conquest of Palestinian land and society. The official line (which the US, along with nearly every American media commentator has basically supported) is that Israel has been defending itself by retaliating for the suicide bombings that have undermined its security and even threatened its existence. That claim has gained the status of an absolute truth moderated neither by what Israel has done nor by what in fact has been done to it.

Plucking out the terrorist network, destroying the terrorist infrastructure, attacking terrorist nests (note the total
dehumanisation involved in every one of these phrases): the words are repeated so often and so unthinkingly that they have therefore given Israel the right to do what it has wanted to do, which in effect is to destroy Palestinian civil life with as much damage, as much sheer wanton destruction, killing, humiliation, vandalism, purposeless but overwhelming technological violence as possible. No other state on earth could have done what Israel has done with as much approbation and support as the US has given it. None has been more intransigent and destructive, less out of touch with its own realities, than Israel.

There are signs, however, that the amazing, not to say grotesque, nature of these claims (its "fight for existence") is slowly being eroded by the harsh and nearly unimaginable devastation wrought by the Jewish state and its homicidal prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Take this front-page report, "Attacks Turn Palestinian Plans Into Bent Metal and Piles of Dust" by the New York Times's Serge Schmemann (no Palestinian propagandist) on 11 April: "There is no way to assess the full extent of the damage to the cities and
towns -- Ramallah, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Nablus, and Jenin -- while they remain under a tight siege, with patrols and snipers firing in the streets. But it is safe to say that the infrastructure of life itself and of any future Palestinian state -- roads, schools, electricity pylons, water pipes, telephone lines -- has been devastated." By what inhuman calculus did Israel's army, using 50 tanks, 250 missile strikes a day, and dozens of F-16 sorties, besiege Jenin's refugee camp for over a week, a one square kilometre patch of shacks housing 15,000 refugees and a few dozen men armed with automatic rifles and with no defences
whatever, no leaders, no missiles, no tanks, nothing, and call it a response to terrorist violence and the threat to Israel's survival? There are reported to be hundreds buried in the rubble Israeli bulldozers are now trying to heap over the camp's ruins.

Are Palestinian civilians, men, women, children, no more than rats or cockroaches that can be killed and attacked in the thousands without so much as a word of compassion or in their defence? And what about the capture of thousands of Palestinian men who have been taken off by Israeli soldiers without a trace, the destitution and homelessness of so many ordinary people trying to survive in the ruins created by Israeli bulldozers all over the West Bank, the siege that has now gone on for months and months, the cutting
off of electricity and water in all Palestinian towns, the long days of total curfew, the shortage of food and medicine, the wounded who have bled to death, the systematic attacks on ambulances and aid workers that even the mild-mannered Kofi Annan has decried as outrageous? Those actions will not be pushed so easily into the memory hole. Its friends must ask Israel how its suicidal policies can possibly gain it peace, acceptance and security.

A monstrous transformation of an entire people by the most formidable and feared propaganda machine in the world into little more than "militants" and "terrorists" has allowed not just Israel's military but its fleet of writers and defenders to efface a terrible history of suffering and abuse in order to destroy the civil existence of the Palestinian people with impunity. Gone from public memory are the destruction of Palestinian society in 1948 and the creation of a dispossessed people; the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza and their military occupation since 1967; the invasion of 1982 with its 17,500 Lebanese and Palestinian dead and the Sabra
and Shatila massacres; the continuous assault on Palestinian schools, refugee camps, hospitals, civil installations of every kind.

What anti-terrorist purpose is served by destroying the building and then removing the records of the Ministry of Education, the Ramallah Municipality, the Central Bureau of Statistics, various institutes specialising in civil rights, health and economic development, hospitals, radio and television stations? Is it not clear that Sharon is bent not only on "breaking" the Palestinians, but on trying to eliminate them as a people with national institutions?

In such a context of disparity and asymmetrical power, it seems deranged to keep asking the Palestinians, who have neither army, nor air force, nor tanks, nor defences of any kind, nor functioning leadership, to "renounce" violence, and to require no comparable limitation on Israel's actions. Even the matter of suicide bombers, which I have always opposed, cannot be examined from a view point that permits a hidden racist standard to value Israeli lives over the many more Palestinian lives that have been lost, maimed, distorted and foreshortened by long- standing Israeli military occupation, and the systematic barbarity openly used by Sharon
against Palestinians from the beginning of his career in the 1950s until now.

There can be no conceivable peace, in my opinion, that does not tackle the real issue: Israel's utter refusal to accept the sovereign existence of a Palestinian people that is entitled to rights over what Sharon and most of the people supporting him consider exclusively to be the land of Greater Israel, i.e. the West Bank and Gaza. A profile of Sharon in the 6-7 April issue of the Financial Times concluded with this extremely telling extract from his autobiography, which the FT prefaced with "he has written with pride of his parents' belief that Jews and Arabs could live side by side." Then the relevant quote from Sharon's book: "But they believed without question that only they had rights over the land. And no one was going to force them out, regardless of terror or anything else. When the land belongs to you physically... that is when you have power, not just physical power but spiritual power."

In l988, the PLO made the concession that the partition of historical Palestine into two states would be acceptable. This was reaffirmed on numerous occasions and certainly again in the Oslo documents. But only the Palestinians explicitly recognised the notion of partition. Israel never has. This is why there are now over 170 settlements on Palestinian lands, why a 300-mile network of roads connecting them to each other and totally impeding Palestinian movement exists (according to Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, it has cost $3 billion and has been funded by the US), why no Israeli prime minister, from Rabin
on, has ever conceded any real Palestinian sovereignty to the Palestinians, and why of course the settlements have increased on an annual basis. The merest glance at a recent map of the territories reveals what Israel has been doing throughout the peace process, and what the consequent geographical discontinuity and shrinkage in Palestinian life has been. In effect, then, Israel considers itself and the Jewish people to own the land of Israel in its entirety: there are land ownership laws in Israel itself guaranteeing this, but on the West Bank and Gaza the network of settlements, roads, and no concessions whatever on sovereign land rights to the Palestinians serve the same function.

What boggles the mind is that no official -- US, Palestinian, Arab, UN, European, or anyone else -- has challenged Israel on this point, which has been threaded through all of the Oslo documents, procedures and agreements. That is why, of course, after nearly 10 years of "peace negotiations," Israel still controls the West Bank and Gaza. They are more directly controlled (owned?) by over 1,000 Israeli tanks and thousands of soldiers today, but the underlying principle is the same. No Israeli leader (and certainly not Sharon and his Land of Israel supporters who are the majority in his government) has either officially recognised the occupied
territories as occupied territories or gone on to recognise that Palestinians could or might theoretically have sovereign rights -- that is, without Israeli control over borders, water, air, security on what most of the world considers Palestinian land. So to speak about the "vision" of a Palestinian state, as has become fashionable, is mere vision alas, unless the question of land ownership and sovereignty is openly and officially conceded by the Israeli government. No Israeli government ever has made this concession and, if I am right, none will in the near future. It needs to be remembered that Israel is the only state in the world today that has never had internationally declared borders; the only state not the state of its citizens but of the whole Jewish
people; the only state where over 90 per cent of the land is held in trust for the exclusive use of the Jewish people. That it is also the only state in the world never to have recognised any of the main provisions of international law (as argued recently in these pages by Richard Falk) suggests the depth and structural knottiness of the absolute rejectionism that Palestinians have had to face.

This is why I have been sceptical about discussions and meetings about peace, which is a lovely word but in the present context simply means that Palestinians will have to stop resisting Israeli control over their land. It is among the many deficiencies of Arafat's terrible leadership (to say nothing of the even more lamentable Arab leaders in general) that he never made the decade-long Oslo negotiations focus on land ownership, and thus never put the onus on Israel to declare itself constitutively willing to give up title to Palestinian land; nor did he ever ask that Israel be required to deal with any of its responsibility for the sufferings of his people. Now I worry that he may simply be trying to save himself again, whereas what we really need are international monitors
to protect us, as well as elections to assure a real political future for the Palestinian people.

The profound question facing Israel and its people is this: is it willing juridically to assume the rights and obligations of being a country like any other, and forswear the kind of impossible land ownership assertions for which Sharon and his parents and his soldiers have been fighting since day one? In 1948 Palestinians lost 78 per cent of Palestine. In 1967 they lost the last 22 per cent, both times to Israel. Now the international community must lay upon Israel the obligation to accept the principle of real, as opposed to fictional, partition, and to accept the principle of limiting Israel's untenable extra-territorial claims, those absurd Biblically-based pretensions, and laws that have so far allowed it to override another people completely. Why is that kind of
fundamentalism tolerated unquestioningly? But so far all we hear is that Palestinians must give up violence and condemn terror. Is nothing substantive ever demanded of Israel? Can it go on doing what it has without a thought for the consequences? That is the real question of its existence: whether it can exist as a state like all others, or must always be above the constraints and duties of all other states in the world today. The record is not reassuring


Robert Fisk: Fear and learning in America
As an outspoken critic of US policy in the Middle East, Fisk expected a hostile reception when he paid his first visit to the American Midwest since 11 September. He couldn't have been more mistaken
17 April 2002

Osama bin Laden once told me that Americans did not understand the Middle East. Last week, in a little shuttle bus shouldering its way through curtains of rain across the Iowa prairies, I opened my copy of the Des Moines Register and realised that he might be right. "BIG HOG LOTS CALLED GREATER THREAT THAN BIN LADEN," announced the headline. Iowa's 15 million massive pigs, it seems, produce so much manure that the state waterways are polluted. "Large-scale hog producers are a greater threat to the United States and US democracy than Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, says Robert F Kennedy Junior, president of... a New York environment group... 'We've watched communities and American values shattered by these bullies,' Kennedy said..." I took out my pocket calculator and did a little maths. Cedar Rapids, I reckoned, was 7,000 miles from Afghanistan. Another planet, more like.
I've been travelling to the United States for years, lecturing at Princeton or Harvard or Brown University, Rhode Island, or San Francisco, or Madison, Wisconsin. God knows why. I refuse all payment and take just a business-class round trip from Beirut because I can't take 14 hours of screaming babies in each direction. American college students are tough as nails and bored as cabbages, and in some cities – Washington is top of the list – I might as well talk in Amharic. If you don't use phrases like "peace process", "back on track" or "Israel under siege", there's a kind of computerised blackout on the faces of the audience. Total Disk Failure. Why should my latest bout of Americana have been any different?
Sure, there were the usual oddballs. There was the old black guy whose first "question" on the Middle East in a Chicago University lecture theatre was a long and proud announcement that he hadn't paid taxes to the IRS since 1948 – a claim so wonderful that I forbore the usual threat to close down on him. There were the World Trade Centre conspiracists who insisted that the US government had planted explosives in the twin towers. There was the silver-haired lady who wanted to know why God couldn't be made to resolve the hatred between Israelis and Palestinians. And a Native American Indian in Los Angeles who ranted on about a Jewish plot to deprive his people of their land. A bespectacled man with long white hair in a ponytail shut him up before declaring that the Israeli-Palestinian war was identical to the American-Mexican war that deprived his own people of... well, of Los Angeles. I began to calculate the distance between LA and Jenin. A galaxy perhaps.
And there were the little tell-tale stories that showed just how biased and gutless the American press has become in the face of America's Israeli lobby groups. "I wrote a report for a major paper about the Palestinian exodus of 1948," a Jewish woman told me as we drove through the smog of downtown LA. "And of course, I mentioned the massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin by the Stern Gang and other Jewish groups – the massacre that prompted 750,000 Arabs to flee their homes. Then I look for my story in the paper and what do I find? The word 'alleged' has been inserted before the word 'massacre'. I called the paper's ombudsman and told him the massacre at Deir Yassin was a historical fact. Can you guess his reply? He said that the editor had written the word 'alleged' before 'massacre' because that way he thought he'd avoid lots of critical letters."
By chance, this was the theme of my talks and lectures: the cowardly, idle, spineless way in which American journalists are lobotomising their stories from the Middle East, how the "occupied territories" have become "disputed territories" in their reports, how Jewish "settlements" have been transformed into Jewish "neighbourhoods", how Arab militants are "terrorists" but Israeli militants only "fanatics" or "extremists", how Ariel Sharon – the man held "personally responsible" by Israel's own commissioner's inquiry for the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre of 1,700 Palestinians – could be described in a report in The New York Times as having the instincts of "a warrior". How the execution of surviving Palestinian fighters was so often called "mopping up". How civilians killed by Israeli soldiers were always "caught in the crossfire". I demanded to know of my audiences – and I expected the usual American indignation when I did – how US citizens could accept the infantile "dead or alive", "with us or against us", axis-of-evil policies of their President.
And for the first time in more than a decade of lecturing in the United States, I was shocked. Not by the passivity of Americans – the all-accepting, patriotic notion that the President knows best – nor by the dangerous self-absorption of the United States since 11 September and the constant, all-consuming fear of criticising Israel. What shocked me was the extraordinary new American refusal to go along with the official line, the growing, angry awareness among Americans that they were being lied to and deceived. At some of my talks, 60 per cent of the audiences were over 40. In some cases, perhaps 80 per cent were Americans with no ethnic or religious roots in the Middle East – "American Americans", as I cruelly referred to them on one occasion, "white Americans", as a Palestinian student called them more truculently. For the first time, it wasn't my lectures they objected to, but the lectures they received from their President and the lectures they read in their press about Israel's "war on terror" and the need always, uncritically, to support everything that America's little Middle Eastern ally says and does.
There was, for example, the crinkly-faced, ex-naval officer who approached me after a talk at a United Methodist church in the San Diego suburb of Encinitas. "Sir, I was an officer on the aircraft carrier John F Kennedy during the 1973 Middle East war," he began. (I checked him out later and he was, as my host remarked, "for real".) "We were stationed off Gibraltar and our job was to refuel the fighter jets we were sending to Israel after their air force was shot to bits by the Arabs. Our planes would land with their USAF and Marine markings partly stripped off and the Star of David already painted on the side. Does anyone know why we gave all those planes to the Israelis just like that? When I see on television our planes and our tanks used to attack Palestinians, I can understand why people hate Americans."
In the United States, I'm used to lecturing in half-empty lecture halls. Three years ago, I managed to fill a Washington auditorium seating 600 with just 32 Americans. But in Chicago and Iowa and Los Angeles this month, they came in their hundreds – almost 900 at one venue at the University of Southern California – and they sat in the aisles and corridors and outside the doors. It wasn't because Lord Fisk was in town. Maybe the title of my talk – "September 11: ask who did it, but for heaven's sake don't ask why" – was provocative. But for the most part they came, as the question-and-answer sessions quickly revealed, because they were tired of being suckered by the television news networks and the right-wing punditocracy.
Never before have I been asked by Americans: "How can we make our press report the Middle East fairly?" or – much more disturbingly – "How can we make our government reflect our views?" The questions are a trap, of course. Brits have been shoving advice at the United States ever since we lost the War of Independence, and I wasn't going to join their number. But the fact that these questions could be asked – usually by middle-aged Americans with no family origins in the Middle East – suggested a profound change in a hitherto docile population.
Towards the end of each talk, I apologised for the remarks I was about to make. I told audiences that the world did not change on 11 September, that the Lebanese and Palestinians had lost 17,500 dead during Israel's 1982 invasion – more than five times the death toll of the international crimes against humanity of 11 September – but the world did not change 20 years ago. There were no candles lit then, no memorial services. And each time I said this, there was a nodding of heads – grey-haired and balding as well as young – across the room. The smallest irreverent joke about President Bush was often met with hoots of laughter. I asked one of my hosts why this happened, why the audience accepted this from a Briton. "Because we don't think Bush won the election," she replied.
Of course, it's easy to be fooled. The first local radio shows illustrated all too well how the Middle East discourse is handled in America. When Gayane Torosyan opened WSUI/KSUI for questions in Iowa City, a caller named "Michael" – a leader of the local Jewish community, I later learnt, though he did not say this on air – insisted that after the Camp David talks in 2000, Yasser Arafat had turned to "terrorism" despite being offered a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem and 96 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza. Slowly and deliberately, I had to deconstruct this nonsense. Jerusalem was to have remained the "eternal and unified capital of Israel", according to Camp David. Arafat would only have got what Madeleine Albright called "a sort of sovereignty" over the Haram al-Sharif mosque area and some Arab streets, while the Palestinian parliament would have been below the city's eastern walls at Abu Dis. With the vastly extended and illegal Jerusalem municipality boundaries deep into the West Bank, Jewish settlements like Maale Adumim were not up for negotiation; nor were several other settlements. Nor was the 10-mile Israeli military buffer zone around the West Bank, nor the settlers' roads, which would razor through the Palestinian "state". Arafat was offered about 46 per cent of the 22 per cent of Palestine that was left. I could imagine the audience of WSUI/KSUI falling slowly from their seats in boredom.
Yet back at my folksy, wooden-walled hotel, the proprietor and his wife – P Force volunteers in the Kennedy era – had listened to every word. "We know what is going on," he said. "I was a naval officer in the Gulf back in the Sixties and we only had few ships there then. In those days, the Shah of Iran was our policeman. Now we've got all those ships in there and our soldiers in the Arab countries and we seem to dominate the place." Osama bin Laden, I said to myself, couldn't put it better.
How odd, I reflected, that American newspapers can scarcely say even this. The Daily Iowan – there are no fewer than four dailies in Iowa City, press freedom being represented by the number of newspapers rather than their depth of coverage – had none of my hotel landlord's forthrightness. "The situation in the Middle East is one that many Americans do not adequately understand," it miserably lamented, "nor can they be reasonably articulate about it." This rubbish – that Americans were too dumb to comprehend the Middle East bloodbath and should therefore keep their mouths shut – was a pervasive theme in editorials. Even more instructive were the reports of my own lectures.
The headline, "Fisk: Who really are the terrorists?" in the Daily Iowan last week at least caught the gist of my message, and included my own examples of American press bias in the Middle East, although it failed on the facts, wrongly reporting that it was the United Nations (rather than the far more persuasive Israeli Kahan Commission) which concluded that Sharon was "personally responsible" for the Sabra and Chatila massacre. The Des Moines Register's account of one of my talks was intriguing. It concentrated on my interviews with Osama bin Laden – which I had indeed mentioned in my lecture – and then referred to my account of how an Afghan crowd beat me up last December. I had told the American audience that the Afghans were outraged by US bombing raids that had just killed their relatives around Kandahar and how important it had been to include this fact in my own report of the fray – to give context and reason to the Afghan attack on me. The Register used my words to describe the attack but then itself made no mention of the reasons. Long live, I thought, the Iowa City Press-Citizen, whose own headline – "Middle East reporter slams media" – got the point.
It's not that Iowans have any excuse to be unaware of the Middle East. In the small town of Davenport, Israelis have been trained in the systems of the Apache AH-64 attack helicopters used to assassinate Palestinians on Israel's wanted list. According to one local journalist, several Iowa companies, including the regional office of Rockwell, have been involved in military contracts worth millions of dollars with Israel. CemenTech of Indianola supplies equipment to the Israeli air force. The day I arrived in Iowa City, John Ashcroft, the US Attorney General, was telling Iowans that a hundred foreign nationals "from countries known as home to terrorists" had been interrogated in the state. Another hundred were likely to be "interviewed" soon. There was no editorial comment on this.
So Iowa University classes were absorbing. One young woman began by announcing that she knew the American media were biased. When I asked why, she said that "it has to do with America's support for Israel..." and then, red-faced, she dried up. Not so the student in Rex Honey's global studies class. After I had outlined the military trap into which the Americans had been lured in Afghanistan – the supposed "victory" followed by further engagements with al-Qa'ida and then, inevitably, daily battles with Afghan warlords and sniping attacks on Western troops – he put his hand up. "So how do we beat them?" he asked. There was a gentle ripple of laughter through the room. "Why do you want to 'beat' the Afghans," I asked? "Why not help them build a new land?" The student came up to me afterwards, hand outstretched. "I want to thank you, sir, for all you told us," he said. I had a suspicion he was a military man. Are you planning to join the army, I asked? "No, sir," he replied. "I'm going to join the Marines."
I advised him to stay clear of Afghanistan. In its own way, the American national press was doing the same. Two days later, the Los Angeles Times, in a remarkable dispatch from its correspondent David Zucchino, reported on the bitterness and anger among Afghans whose families had been killed in United States B-52 bomber raids. The recent American battle in Gardez, the report said, had left "bitterness in its wake".
If only the same bluntness was applied to the Palestinian-Israeli war. Alas, no. On the freeway past Long Beach on Friday, I opened the LA Times to be told that Israel "mops up [sic] in the West Bank", while the syndicated columnist Mona Charen was telling readers in other papers that "98 per cent of Palestinians have not been living under occupation since Israel pulled out under the Oslo accords" and that the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, Ehud Barak, had offered Arafat "97 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza". This was 1 per cent higher even than the statistic from "Michael" on WSUI/KSUI radio. Arafat – "this murderer with the deaths of thousands of Jews and Arabs on his hands" – was to blame. The issue between Israel and her neighbours, Charen contended, "is not occupation, it is not settlements and it certainly is not Israeli brutality and aggression. It is the Arabs' inability to live peacefully with others".
Maybe California is organically different from the rest of the United States, but its journalists as well as its students seemed a tad smarter than the Midwest of America. The Orange County Register, a traditionally conservative newspaper in an area that is now 50 per cent Latino, has been trying to tell the truth about the Middle East and was carrying a tough feature by Holger Jensen, which warned that if President Bush didn't rein in Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister "will succeed where Osama bin Laden failed: forcing us into a war of civilisations against 1.2 billion Muslims". When I lunched with senior editorial staff, they invited three members of the Orange County Muslim community to join them.
Cocktails with friends of the Methodist church revealed a sane grasp of the Middle East – one of them was deeply disturbed by a recent remark by Israel's Internal Security Minister, Uzi Landau, who had said that "we're not facing human beings, but rather beasts". A black guest commended the UN secretary general Kofi Annan's criticism of Israel. Yet when I flipped on Fox News, there was Benjamin Netanyahu out-Sharoning Sharon, declaring that Palestinian suicide bombers would soon be prowling America's streets, meeting Congressmen to enlist their help in Israel's "war on terror", even while the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, was in Israel.
"Why Israel's Mission Must Continue," the New York Times's comment page shouted on Friday. A long and tedious article on Israel's crusade against "terror" by an Israeli army colonel, Nitsan Alon, included several of my favourite cop-out phrases, including the stock reference to "a large number of civilians" who were – yes – "caught in the crossfire".
By the time I was addressing the more bohemian denizens of an art club in Los Angeles, the newspapers I was attacking were beginning to turn up. Mark Kellner arrived to report for The Washington Times. "He's going to stitch up everything you say," a friend remarked. "The Washington Times is to the right of the Republican Party." We shall see.
But if my audiences had been largely made up of Americans without any Middle East roots, the same could not be said of Sunday's cocktails at the home of Stanley Sheinbaum, the philanthropist, art collector and libertarian – we shall forget the period in which he helped to run the Los Angeles Police Department – where my little speech was to set off some verbal hand-grenades. Sheinbaum it was who met Syria's President Hafez el-Assad at President Jimmy Carter's request, arranging Assad's extraordinary summit with Carter in Geneva. "Tell me something good about yourself," he said to me. Have you heard nothing good from anyone else, I enquired? "Nope," he said.
But I liked Sheinbaum, a crusty, humorous man in his eighties who encourages every liberal Jewish American to have his say about the Middle East. As the lunchtime fog embraced the rose gardens and villas and swimming pools and hills of Brentwood, up stepped Rabbi Haim dov Beliak to explain how he intends to close down the bingo and gambling operations of one of America's greatest Jewish settlement builders. "Call me when you get back to Beirut – by all means write about it." As we scoffed Stanley Sheinbaum's strawberries and sipped his fine Californian red wine, another rabbi approached. "You're gonna have some hostile people in your audience," he said. "Just let 'em hear the truth."
So I did. I talked about the cowardice of Secretary Powell, who dawdled his way around the Mediterranean to give Sharon time to finish destroying the Jenin refugee camp. I talked about the rotting bodies of Jenin and the growing evidence that back in 1982 Sharon's troops handed the survivors of the Sabra and Chatila massacre back to their Phalangist tormentors to be killed. I said that Arafat was never offered 96 per cent of the West Bank at Camp David. I advised the 100 or so people in the room to read the Israeli journalist Amira Haas' courageous reports in Haaretz. I talked about the squalor of the Palestinian camps. I talked of suicide bombings as "evil" but suggested that Israel would never have security until it abided by UN Security Council Resolution 252; that Israel would never have peace until it abandoned all of the West Bank, Gaza, Golan and East Jerusalem.
"I find it very difficult to ask you a question, because what you said made me so angry," a woman began afterwards. Why did I not realise that the Palestinians wanted to destroy all of Israel, that the right-of-return would destroy the state? For an hour I explained the reality I saw in the Middle East; an all-powerful Israel fighting an old-time colonial war. I talked about the 1954-62 Algerian war, its brutality and cruelty, the French army's torture and killings, the Algerians' slaughter of civilians, the frightening parallels with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I talked about the Palestinians who wanted, at the least, an admission of the injustice their people had suffered in 1948, adding that there were Palestinians aplenty who realised that financial compensation would have to suffice for most of those refugees whose homes were in what is now Israel. I talked about Sharon and his bloody record in Lebanon. And about the pressures of the Israeli lobby in America, the fear of being labelled an anti-Semite, and the feeble reporting of the Middle East.
A rabbi was the first to tell me afterwards that the Palestinians were victims, that they should be given a real state. An old lady asked me for the name of the best book on the Algerian war. I gave it to her; Alastair Horne's A Savage War of Peace. A card was pushed into my hand. "Insightful talk!" the owner had written at the bottom and – hate though I do the word "insightful" – I couldn't help noticing that the name on the card was Yigal Arens, the son of one of Israel's most ruthless right-wing ministers, who had once informed me – in Beirut, back in 1982 – that Israel would "fight forever" against Palestinian terror.
On the freeway to LAX afterwards, the terminals and control tower looming through the Californian haze, I looked over Saturday's LA Times. A report on page 12 revealed that the BBC's award-winning film on Sharon's involvement in the Sabra and Chatila massacres had been dropped from a Canadian film festival after protests from Jewish groups. The organisers had explained that The Accused "could invite unwanted attention from interest groups" – whatever that means. But a paragraph at the end of the report caught my attention. "Sharon, who was the Israeli defence minister at the time, allegedly facilitated the assault on the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps..." There it was again. Allegedly? How many angry letters was that little lie supposed to avoid? Allegedly indeed.
But on reflection, I didn't think the Americans I met would be fooled by this. I didn't think my hotel proprietor would accept "allegedly". Nor the old naval officer from the John F Kennedy. Nor the listeners to KSUI. Nor even Stanley Sheinbaum. Yes, Osama bin Laden told me he thought Americans didn't understand the Middle East. Maybe he was right then. But not any more.

| © 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
Grieving survivors say the Israelis buried war crimes in heaps of reeking rubble
by Phil Reeves in Jenin

17 April 2002
Gaunt and exhausted, tormented with worry about his missing family, Jamal Fayed yesterday wandered round the vast heap of reeking detritus where Israel has buried the war crimes of Jenin refugee camp.
The last time Mr Fayed, a Palestinian science teacher, saw his wife and children, eight-year-old Majed and six-year-old Ahmed, was just after Israeli forces had invaded a fortnight ago. He told the family to leave their house because he feared a nearby Israeli tank was about to begin shelling. He stayed behind, because he thought that if he left with them the soldiers would open fire on them, assuming him to be a fighter.
"Maybe they have gone to another village," he said. "I just don't know where they are." He stood in the dust of what used to be a large residential area, now reduced by Israeli bombardment and bulldozers to a wasteland, fetid with the stench of decomposing human bodies beneath it. Nearby, old women picked through the debris, trying to salvage the pitiful, battered remains of their lives.
International aid workers are beginning the arduous task of establishing how many people were killed in the camp in the Israeli's so-called counter- terrorism operation, a long bout of fighting which culminated with the bulldozing by the army of hundreds of dwellings. Witnesses said civilians were inside. The UN agencies and Red Cross say they find a growing number of refugees who are missing relatives.
Humanitarian aid workers who got into the devastated area of the camp yesterday reacted with deep anger and shock. A large area, about a third of a mile wide, has been flattened. Many other homes, half-wrecked by the heavy fighting, including rocket bombardments from Israeli helicopters, are uninhabitable. One official called the sight "absolutely unbelievable" and a "humanitarian catastrophe".
A senior UN official said: "Given the deplorable and unprecedented refusal to allow international relief organisations in to the camps while people were slowly dying in the rubble of their wounds and thirst, the onus is definitely on the state of Israel to account for the missing thousands of refugees who lived in that camp until a few weeks ago.
"I have not met one person in the international community who had any other explanation for this refusal other than the fact that they were hiding a war crime, in fact, two war crimes: the mass killing and the denial of humanitarian relief."
The Palestinian minister for planning and international cooperation, Nabil Shaath, called for an inquiry into the "massacre" in Jenin. Amnesty International also called for a full investigation by the UN Security Council. A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said the camp "looks as if it has been hit by an earthquake". Barred entry for a week, the Red Cross found and rescued a badly injured man trapped under rubble. The Israelis appear to have made no efforts to use heat-seeking equipment, or dogs, to find survivors, aid workers said.
Amnesty investigators in Jenin have taken dozens of witness statements covering the past fortnight. People say they saw bodies being buried in individual graves. One claims Israeli soldiers buried 32 corpses in a trench. They have also interviewed many refugees who fled the camp after their houses were demolished. Derrick Pounder, a professor of forensic medicine from Dundee University working with the Amnesty team, said a "pattern of credible evidence" is emerging from witnesses that residents were not warned by the army before bulldozers crashed into their homes. "The only warning was their house collapsing," he said.
Professor Pounder, who has worked in Sarajevo and Kosovo, believes the Israeli tactics inevitably means large numbers of dead civilians. "Sooner or later those bodies will be discovered and the facts will become absolutely clear."
UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, is to re-register all surviving refugees and match their names to its previous list of 13,000 camp residents in the hope of establishing the number of dead. But the task is expected to take months. Thousands are unaccounted for, although many fled to surrounding villages. Hundreds of men were rounded up and are thought to be in Israeli detention.

| © 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd


>By Russell Banks

>Late last week, at the end of a five-day voyage with seven
>fellow-members of the International Parliament of Writers (IPW) through
>the battered archipelago of reservations that make up the Palestinian
>Territories, I met for breakfast at the King David Intercontinental
>Hotel in Tel Aviv with two young leaders of the so-called Refuseniks,
>the members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) who have publicly
>declared their refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories. These men
>are not peaceniks or pacifists; they're not of the Left or veterans of
>the now-demoralized Israeli peace movement; and they are certainly not
>cowards. They are Zionists, university-educated, articulate, patriotic
>sons of Israel, and their stand has become in these terrible dark days
>the most serious challenge that anyone has put to Israel's moral credibility from inside the family.
> We met alone and at their request. They wished to meet with me,
>they said, because of my role as president of the IPW and leader of the
>delegation, but mainly because they had learned from the Internet that
>I was an American who had been involved in the anti-Vietnam War
>movement in the 1960s and -70s. They wanted avuncular advice from
>someone who, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was
>thought likely to identify with their decision to stand apart from
>their nation's oppressive policy against the Palestinian people. This
>conversation took place two days after the sickening suicide bombing of
>the Passover celebration in Netanya a few miles north of Tel Aviv and a
>day before Israeli Prime Minister Sharon declared Chairman Arafat his
>"enemy" and launched Operation Defensive Shield with the brutal assault
>on Ramallah. The young men knew that everything was now about to get
>much worse for both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and they needed
>to decide what to do next. My advice was simple: make it a single-issue
>movement; broaden your base to include women and men from every rank
>and Israelis of every type; and keep it in the family. Then speak truth
>to power.
> At this writing, there are 370 Refuseniks, with ten or more joining
>their ranks every week. Events of the last week may accelerate that
>rate or they may have the opposite effect. We cannot know. I asked them
>what had moved them to separate themselves from their brothers and
>sisters in the IDF and invite rage and confusion from their fathers and
>mothers and prison sentences from their government. What had made them
>willing to be called at best naive and at worst cowards and self-hating
>Jews? For this is indeed what these young men face daily in the Israeli
>press and in their homes. Their eyes were opened, and their minds were
>changed, they said, when they were assigned to duty in the West Bank
>and the other Palestinian Territories. There they saw everything that I
>and my fellow writers in the IPW delegation had seen in the preceding
>five days as we traveled from Tel Aviv to Ramallah, passed through the
>cities and towns of the West Bank and descended into Gaza, where we
>visited the refugee camps, gazed mournfully on the violent destruction
>of whole neighborhoods and villages, witnessed the deliberate,
>calculated humiliation of the checkpoints, and saw for the first time the appalling scale, the dominance, and encroachment of the Jewish settlements.
> Our delegation had traveled to the Middle East from four
>continents: from Africa came the Nigerian Nobelist Wole Soyinka and the
>South African poet and memoirist Breyten Breytenbach; from China, the
>dissident poet Bei Dao; from Europe, the Spanish novelist Juan
>Goytisolo, Portugal's Nobelist Jose Saramago, Italian novelist Vincenzo
>Consolo, and the French writer and Secretary General of the IPW,
>Christian Salmon; and from North America, myself, a novelist of the
>United States. We came in response to a plea from one of IPW's founding
>members, the great Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, to express our
>solidarity with him and his fellow Palestinian poets and writers whose
>living and working conditions have increasingly come to resemble house
>arrest. The International Parliament of Writers is not a human rights
>organization or an NGO; it is simply a loose collective of poets and
>storytellers committed to aiding in as concrete a way as possible our
>fellow writers who find themselves under physical threat or political
>control because of their work as writers. Darwish and his colleagues,
>most of them based in Ramallah and the Palestinian Territories, have
>for a year and half been enduring conditions that we believe are intolerable, conditions that must be condemned by those of us who are free.
> By the same token, in expressing our solidarity with Darwish and
>his colleagues and in bearing witness to their intolerable
>circumstances, we were expressing solidarity with the people whose
>daily lives and history are celebrated in the poetry and stories of the
>Palestinian artists. To stand beside Neruda is to stand beside the
>Chilean people; to celebrate Whitman is to celebrate the American
>people. Governments and politicians, I'm sorry to say, usually have to
>look out for themselves. We came to the Palestinian Territories,
>therefore, to see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears what was happening to the Palestinian people.
> And so we passed with them through the checkpoints, alongside old
>women with groceries, pregnant women and mothers with babies, somber,
>frightened school children, men and women going to work or coming home
>from their jobs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and all of us forced to walk
>a half-mile in the hot sun by heavily armed, stone-faced Israeli
>soldiers. We entered the narrow streets and open-sewer alleys of
>Ramallah, and viewed dumbstruck the wantonly destroyed homes and public
>buildings in the refugee camps of the West Bank and Gaza. We listened
>to students and faculty sustaining against nearly overwhelming
>opposition their beloved university at Bir Zeit, and saw, with dismay,
>the looming, rapidly expanding settlements. We witnessed firsthand the
>abject poverty and powerlessness of the majority of Palestinians. Grim
>statistics gained a human face. Hopelessness and suicidal desperation exposed its roots.
> One evening in Ramallah, after a dinner hosted by Mahmoud Darwish
>and other members of the city's intellectual and artistic community, I
>strolled with the Palestinian novelist, Izzat Al-Ghazzawi, to a high
>ridge behind our hotel and looked out on a broad, moonlit valley below.
>My companion pointed out Jerusalem, barely seven miles in the distance,
>glowing like the center of the universe, the glittering capital of all
>the world's religious dreams, it seemed. Closer to hand was a Jewish
>settlement, looking like a suburb of Denver. With its smartly laid-out
>streets and mini-malls, multistory dwellings, and apartment complexes,
>its postmodern infrastructure up and running, all of it brightly
>illuminated by a grid of streetlights, it seemed to have been placed
>intact and overnight onto the rocky hillside by a flotilla of gigantic
>spaceships. Below the settlement, not quite adjoining it, an Israeli
>military encampment was laid out with geometric precision like a game
>board, observation towers at the corners, barracks and storage depots
>placed strategically between the towers, searchlight beams sweeping the
>grounds inside the compound and patrolling the rugged, rock-strewn,
>moonlit terrain beyond. And further down, in the shadows adjacent to
>the city of Ramallah, was a cluster of darkened, mostly cinder block
>cubes, a refugee camp, and the only light coming from down there was
>the pale moonlight reflected off the corrugated iron roofs. Jerusalem,
>the settlement, the military post, and the refugee camp’Äìall four
>washed by the same moonlight, all four visible from the same point on a nearby ridge in Ramallah, but none o f them visible to each other.
> At his request, we met with Chairman Arafat in his now shattered
>compound, knowing that to some at home we would look like a bunch of
>Jane Fondas hugging Ho Chi Minh. Even so, we were not concerned with
>public relations and felt no particular need to appear "evenhanded" in
>our inquiry. Nonetheless, we also met with Israeli writers and peace
>activists. Wole Soyinka and I sat with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon
>Peres, at his invitation also, and listened to his version of the
>events in the Middle East since 1947. This is a perspective, however,
>the Israeli perspective from right to left, that we in Europe and the
>United States have no difficulty obtaining daily from our popular
>media. The Palestinian perspective is not so easily accessible.
> Each of the eight writers brought his own experience, temperament,
>and political inclination to bear on what he saw and heard, naturally.
>We had no party line, no official stance or position. In order to
>imagine the nature of reality for the Palestinians, we needed the
>quotidian details, the daily particularities of their situation; but we
>did not need to hear yet another litany of interrupted peace processes,
>broken treaties, deceptions, and rejections in order to get the
>picture. Analogies and comparisons drawn from what we already knew
>provided us with insights and gateways to understanding. Soyinka and
>Breytenbach could see obvious parallels to apartheid in South Africa,
>as well as the differences. I could make comparisons to the English
>"settlements" in seventeenth century Ireland, and note that in North
>America, after the Europeans militarily overwhelmed the Native
>Americans, their policy of relocation and containment corresponded in
>certain distressingly familiar ways to Israel's policy in the Occupied
>Territories since 1967. We spoke of parallels to the Balkan conflict
>and the strategies of ethnic cleansing, to China's treatment of the
>Tibetans, and so on. One of us, Saramago, even made a comparison to the
>Nazis' treatment of the Jews (a comparison, incidentally, quickly rejected for obvious reasons by the other members of the delegation).Yet nothing really compared.
> And that, of course, is a big part of the problem for every one of
>us who wishes for nothing more than peace, freedom, and security for
>all Israelis and Palestinians. Nothing really compares. Consequently,
>peace activists on both sides, intellectuals, academics, poets and
>storytellers from every nation, and especially those men and women
>holding the power to make policy for the Israeli government and for the
>Palestinian Authority’Äìall of us have to go deeper into our
>imaginations than we have ever gone before. Before anything else, the
>mindless brutality of Sharon's assault against the people living in the
>Occupied Territories and the mind-numbing attacks by Palestinian
>suicide-bombers against the Israelis must be ended. We can't, as usual,
>turn to the United Nations or the United States or to any other third
>party’Äìalthough almost everyone we met on our journey, whether
>Palestinian or Israeli, believed that a third party was necessary to end the conflict. But that's been tried and has failed too many times already.
> This is why I felt ever-so-slightly uplifted on my last day in the
>Middle East, when I met in Tel Aviv with the two young Israeli men who
>are called Refuseniks. Here, I thought, is the only possible way out of
>this horror. The men and women who make up the occupying army must
>refuse to serve. Only then will their tragically desperate opposites,
>the suicidal young Palestinians who believe that they have no
>meaningful future except as human bombs, begin to believe that their
>lives might be worth living instead. Only then can the negotiations
>April 3, 2002
>Saratoga Springs, New York