James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Facing the truth of Israel

Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.

Israel is a terrorist state.

Those of us who were alive during World War II have so entirely absorbed the knowledge of the evils of Nazism and the horrors Nazis inflicted throughout the world that we shall never forget for an instant until that time when we or our memories no longer exist.

Most powerfully and specifically, the atrocities against Europe's Jews, Gypsies and other, smaller groups, are forever in our minds.

Our horror, anger and disgust, and something of collective guilt, have been absorbed by our children. Those emotions are part of the lore that makes up the core of our understandings and beliefs. Our grandchildren may not feel it as deeply, but they know of it and accept our sense of how it was and what that meant.

Largely because of those powerful emotions, tied to the truth of the evil we beheld, most Americans have supported Israel since its creation in Palestine after the world war.

Our support, our passion even, always has been encouraged by American governments, by politicians, by coming to know survivors of the Holocaust and their children, and by all of our country's news and entertainment sources.

There is hardly an American male of my generation who, as a youth or young man in 1960, did not see himself in his daydreams in Paul Newman's role as the heroic Ari in “Exodus,” the hugely successful film, based on a hugely successful novel about Israel's beginning as a modern country.

But we were conned, and we are being conned, and millions of human beings are suffering because the con continues.

Israel is a terrorist state.

The United States, in its constant, unquestioning and massive support of Israel in all things, is a terrorist state.

We are to Israel what Syria and Iran are to Hezbollah, the only substantive differences being that we've been at it longer and have, or could have, more control over our surrogate terrorists.

Huge financial backing and insanely expensive killing machines and uniforms do not transform terrorists into “soldiers.” Or, as comedian/social commentator George Carlin asked in one of his big-hall appearances: “Why are Israeli terrorists called commandos, and Arab commandos called terrorists?”

What “Exodus” glossed over, and what most Americans have forgotten – those who ever knew -- is that Israel began in terror and that many of its founders were terrorists. They shot and bombed, killed and maimed to back up their demands for a new state in what was Palestine. They have, since the beginning, abused their own Arab citizens.

When we were aware of what they were doing, which was only occasionally, we thought of them in terms of the European partisans of the 1940s who blew up trains and bridges and attacked German barracks to help free their countries from Nazi rule.

Besides, we didn't know a thing about Arabs, who were so often the terrorists' victims, felt no connection to them. They were exotics, not quite real to us. Young Israel drove Arabs from the homes and olive groves they had owned and worked for dozens of generations? Well, the survivors from Europe had to live somewhere.

Our news organizations lied to us about those events and have continued to lie to us for more than 50 years. Mostly they do it through withholding information they think we can't handle or shouldn't have, but which is essential to understanding what happened and what is happening in the Middle East. Sometimes, however, the lies are more active.

I watched a bit of a CNN broadcast Sunday, and had to turn it off; the “news” not only had gaping holes where there should have been facts, but some of the assertions were flatly wrong, as when the talking heads explained that the current violence began when Hezbollah rockets began “raining down” on Israel. The broadcast was thinly disguised propaganda.

Traditionally, our coverage of Israeli-Arab conflicts has been distorted. I was surprised a few days ago to see video of some of the destruction the Israeli military had inflicted on Lebanon. Almost all shown on American television when there is fighting in the area comes from the Israeli side of the conflict. The suffering on the other side usually isn't seen. Give the television people some credit this time, but also note they were able to get into Lebanon because it has been moving toward openness and peace since the long Israeli occupation of much of its territory ended.

On Sunday, the “reader representative” of my local newspaper wrote about how the paper's photo chief had made a great effort to bring the pictures of pain and destruction into “balance” after supporters of Israel had complained that it looked like Lebanon has been harder hit than Israel. Never mind that the damage to Lebanon IS 100 times worse.

Perhaps, for a couple of days anyway, CNN decided to show the pictures of Lebanon because, for awhile, they still tacitly acknowledged that the vast majority of Lebanese and, in fact, the government of Lebanon, had nothing to do with Hezbollah's actions against Israelis. I hope that acknowledgment continues, but I doubt it. I suspect most Americans have yet to realize that the vast majority of Lebanese and Gazans are entirely innocent victims of the Israeli onslaught.

When I say that you must look elsewhere than television or your daily newspaper for a reasonably complete picture of what is happening, I'm not talking about Hezbollah propaganda, but verified facts reported by reliable news agencies. You can get, as I have, some of the facts in the corporate-owned media. The problem is that stories rarely tell anything like a whole story, and a great many of the most telling facts are buried, passed over, treated as unimportant. You also have to look to on-line news operations such as TomPaine.com, Truthout and on-line versions of foreign newspapers. You have to put things together yourself.

For a while now our news outlets have been talking as though the Israeli invasion of Lebanon was begun in response to rockets “raining down” (the almost inevitable phrase) on northern Israel. Totally forgotten is the fact that Israel's massive military strikes originally were justified as a move to recover three captured – sorry, kidnapped – soldiers.

(Originally, you may recall, the soldiers' captors wanted to exchange them for prisoners held by Israel, which holds hundreds of Arabs prisoner, some of them with no more cause than we have for holding many of the people at Guantanamo.)

But even if you believe the new war is about protecting Israeli citizens from haphazard Hezbollah rocket attacks, which began this time only after Israel's military began slaughtering the guilty and innocent alike, the actions of the Israelis make no sense in the context of self defense.

Some basic facts: As of today, as I write this, mainstream media around this country are reporting that to this point, 39 Israelis have died in the fighting and terror actions. In the same period, 375 Lebanese, more than 20 percent of them children, have died. I can't find a figure for the number of Palestinians in Gaza who have been killed, but the last time I saw a number it was substantial.

Of the Lebanese killed, all news agencies agree, a great majority were innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the Hezbollah terrorists. I can find no numbers on the number of people, civilian and combatants, maimed, blinded, broken. Neither are there any numbers on the people whose homes have been destroyed – but the Israeli military has wiped out entire villages and towns, as well as large areas of cities. Leveled them. The news services have reported it, the Israelis proudly acknowledge it.

For a few days, there was criticism in this country because of Israel's “unbalanced” response to Hezbollah. That has faded as Israel and its vocal and intolerant supporters in this country hammered at those who talked that way. There can be no “balance” when you are defending yourself, they roared.

But some of us keep thinking: How is a heavy air attack on civilian refugees crowding a road to the Syrian border self defense? It happened a few days ago, was widely reported, and you heard no apology or explanation from Israel.

How does destroying Lebanon's infrastructure –a major airport (Hezbollah has no air force), electrical production, water plants, mosques -- make Israel and its citizens safer? Much of the damage has been done in areas in which Hezbollah is not known to operate. And, you will see with attentive reading, many of the people killed and places destroyed are merely “suspected” of having something to do with Hezbollah. Many have no connection whatever.

I saw an accusation in a forwarded email from a Lebanese man that the Israeli military destroyed a couple of villages and shot dead every man, woman and child they could hit as the people fled from their ruined homes. I do not know if the accusation is true, but isn't it horrible that it may be? And why do I think it may be? Because there are thoroughly documented cases of the Israeli army committing just such slaughter in the past.

Self defense? The actions against Lebanon, which was growing toward just the kind of peaceful country we and the Israelis claim to want in the region, has people lining up to join Hezbollah, numerous reports from the area say. An article in the Star Tribune here quotes a Lebanese Christian as saying that many of the country's Christians, up to now committed to peace, are so angry that they have become Hezbollah sympathizers.

The insane slaughter, much of it anyway, could have been prevented. In fact, this situation need not have existed at all.

The United States could have stopped it.

Instead, the Bush administration is making an “emergency” rush delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which apparently ran low from bombing the hell out of Lebanese civilians and power plants and such. The Bush people have made clear to Israel and the world that Israel is free to do what it will to its neighbors. We will not interfere until they decide they've killed enough this time.

Understand this: Our basic subsidy to Israel – by far the richest country in the Mideast, even richer than oil-loaded Saudi Arabia – is $3 billion a year. The total, though unknown, is considerably greater. All told, Israel gets 25 percent of all the reported foreign aid dollars this country distributes. That to a country that has a gross national product greater than those of Spain, Ireland and a host of other old countries.

With that kind of support comes leverage, but this country never has dared use the leverage. It's about votes. Our politicians are petrified.

Now we have an Israel gone berserk – not for the first time – and apparently controlled by those whose hatred of Arabs has tipped into madness, leading them to actions that inevitably will bring evil to their countrymen. It is not the first time that the abused have become abusers.

And we have an America ruled by right wing fools who leap at every opportunity to start shooting and who seem to believe that, given enough explosives, they can impose their will on anybody. They do not set the stage for a “new Middle East” as the inane Condi Rice claims; they set the stage for more decades of chaos and mayhem, in the Middle East and probably in this country.

Hatred of this country is increasing at an enormous rate, by the way, as even most of the major corporate news outlets have admitted in recent days.

This is the very definition of insanity.

It could be stopped if our legislators showed any willingness to face up to Israel's supporters in this country and demand that Israel stop the wholesale slaughter. Peaceful coexistence can be brought to reality in that region, but first we have to rein in Israel's militarists, and to do that we have to let our government know that we want an end to the brutatlity, demand it, and show them that we are as determined as Israel's unquestioning supporters.