Years ago many of us wondered how things that were obviously “beyond belief” could be made to seem normal by the intellectual culture and mainstream media.
Deborah Lipstadt, in a book entitled Beyond Belief, which dealt with the Holocaust and its treatment in the West, showed how easily the media could do this by pushing horrendous reports to the back pages, by ignoring other reports, and by episodic treatment without editorial support or indignation.
In a monstrous historical irony, we can see today that neither the Israelis nor the West in general have learned any lesson from the Holocaust, except on how to make acceptable and normalize policies that are “beyond belief” but which they now pursue.
Here are the heirs and survivors of a people that had been subjected to the truest Holocaust in modern times, virtually modelling themselves after their former killers, edging closer and closer to a “final solution” of the problem posed by “grasshoppers” (Shamir), “cockroachs” (Eitan), “beasts walking on two legs” (Begin), and “lice” (Ben-Eliezer) in the Occupied Territories, as they resist being pushed off of their land by a “chosen people” seeking what the Nazis called “Lebensraum.”
They now have as head of state a man who even an Israeli inquiry had to recognize as heavily responsible for the murder of between 800 and 3,000 unarmed Palestinians, mainly women and children, at Sabra and Shatila in 1982.
This was ten to thirty times the number of victims attributable to Carlos the Jackal over his entire terrorist career–and his 80-odd victims were not mainly women and children–and 20 to 50 times the deaths in the Racak massacre that precipitated NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia.
But this leader, who would have been a perfect Waffen SS commander, is treated as a respectable political figure, even as he organizes policies of force consistent with his murderous terrorist record. There is an alleged “Butcher of Baghdad” and “Butcher of the Balkans,” but no “Butcher of Tel Aviv,” by sheer political bias.
RULE 1 in normalization: a mass murderer can never be “evil” or a “terrorist” or a proper subject for a war crimes tribunal, as long as he serves Western ends.
It has also been a feature of Western coverage of events in the Middle East that Israel itself never terrorizes or commits murder, it responds to terror and retaliates to the provocations and violence of others. This conclusion is independent of evidence, but follows as a rule of affiliation. Although facts show a spiraling process of violence breeding more violence, the Israelis retaliate, the Palestinians don’t–they terrorize.
RULE 2, which permits normalization of escalating Israeli force against the Palestinian civil society, rests on this primary word usage: only one side terrorizes, the other retaliates.
Recently there was a huge outcry in Israel and among U.S. officials and media at Israel’s interception of a shipment of arms allegedly to be acquired by the Palestinians. Now an unbiased observer watching this struggle might ask: Why should the Israelis get huge arms shipments from the United States, even in the midst of Intifada 2, without any questions being raised, but a shipment to the Palestinians be an outrage and provocation?
This displays ignorance on the part of the questioner, who does not realize that ONLY THE ISRAELIS HAVE A “SECURITY” PROBLEM. Of course, the Palestinians are not very secure, and in fact have been unable to defend themselves against the missiles, helicopter gunships, and armed incursions of the overwhelmingly superior Israeli army.
But nevertheless the Palestinians do not have a “security” problem, by rule of affiliation and prejudice, and evidenced by the fact that U.S. officials and media NEVER use the word security in reference to the Palestinians.
It follows that anything the Israeli army does to Palestinians is defensible because it is by definition “retaliation” and in the service of “security.” Palestinian attempts to defend themselves, as by acquiring arms, threaten “terrorism” and the “security” of the only people to whom the word is applicable.
RULE 3: only the Israelis have a “security” problem, and only the Israelis are entitled to acquire arms to protect themselves.
Because only the Israelis suffer unjustly–and any Palestinian suffering results from responses to Palestinian terrorism–only the Israelis have a reasonable cause for anger and may understandably vote into office a world class terrorist commander like Sharon, and support policies of escalating force against mainly unarmed people.
Whereas the Serbs were allegedly “willing executioners” for allowing their “dictator” to ethnically cleanse people within his own country, the Israelis command only sympathy for their being “fed up” with the violent responses of their victims in the Occupied Territories. They are “reluctant executioners.”
RULE 4: as Israel only retaliates, the Israeli people are understandably angry and not to be condemned for the killings and immiseration inflicted on the Palestinians by their democratically elected leaders.
The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibits dispossession and settlement by the “belligerent occupying power,” and any such mistreatment of “protected persons” (here Palestinians) is counted as a war crime.
A UN Special Report of November 13, 2000, stated that under the Oslo Accords (1993) “Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land and construction of settlements and bypass roads for Jewish settlers has accelerated dramatically in breach of Security Council Resolution 242 and provisions of the Oslo agreements…”
However, the Clinton administration approved these violations, vetoing any possible international action protecting the “protected persons,” so that this ethnic cleansing could proceed without impediment.
RULE 5: as a favored U.S. client state, international law does not apply to Israel’s actions and it may ethnically cleanse as it sees fit.
Although the U.S. and NATO war against Serbia was allegedly based on Serbia’s “ethnic cleansing” of Kosovo Albanians, a German Foreign Office report just before the commencement of the bombing declared that “the actions of the security forces [were] not directed against the Kosovo Albanians as an ethnically defined group, but against the military opponent and its actual or alleged supporters.”
In contrast, the Israelis have been demolishing Palestinian homes, pushing out Palestinians to make way for settlements, and killing them for many years, very clearly to “redeem the land” for the “chosen people.”
In other words, this hasn’t been any civil war–i.e., an armed conflict over the control of territory by indigenous groups–it has been a deliberate long- term ethnic cleansing of an indigenous population by a foreign occupying power.
But once again, the West implicitly accepts the Shamir-Begin-Sharon view that we are dealing here with grasshoppers and cockroachs, so that just as such creatures don’t need “security,” the policy of ethnic cleansing is also tolerated and given de facto support by the United States.
The United States insisted on bombing Serbia for its alleged ethnic cleansing, although Serbia had allowed 1,400 international monitors into Kosovo (and killings had fallen off despite U.S. support and encouragement of the KLA), but it regularly vetoes any proposal for international monitoring of Israel’s treatment of the “protected persons” in the Occupied Territories.
RULE 6: Israel’s long-term ethnic cleansing, now pursued with increasing savagery, cannot be subject to “international community” constraint, by rule of superpower affiliation and favor.
Freedom to ethnically cleanse also depends heavily on a mass media that not only uses words properly–the ethnic cleansing state never “ethnically cleanses,” and only “retaliates”–it depends on the massive suppression of evidence.
For example, the media’s focus on suicide bombers and Israeli civilian victims goes hand-in-hand with the downplaying of the much larger number of Palestinian victims and failure to humanize them (for details, see Herman, “Israel’s Approved Ethnic Cleansing,” Part 3, Z Magazine, June 2001).
There is almost zero attention to Israeli law violations– the Geneva Convention that is violated daily by Israel is unmentioned; the December 2001 conference in Switzerland organized by the Swiss Foreign Ministry to discuss the application of the Geneva Convention in the Israel-Palestinian conflict was completely blacked out by the New York Times and other mainstream media.
The U.S. government and Israel opposed the holding of this conference, and they vote virtually alone in the UN when there are appeals to Israel to adhere to the Geneva Convention.
For example, a UN General Assembly vote reaffirming the applicability of the Geneva Convention to Israeli-occupied territories on December 11, 2001, was approved by 145 to four, the four in opposition being Israel, the United States, the Marshall Islands, and Micronesia.
The media blackout of the Swiss-organized conference, and the General Assembly votes that show U. S. and Israeli isolation on this issue, demonstrate once again the subservience of the media to a U.S.-Israel party line.
Perhaps most important, although an Amira Hass in Ha’aretz in Israel has regularly described the daily abuses and humiliations of the Palestinians by the Israeli army and settlers, which have grown over the years, these almost never show up in the U.S. mainstream media.
If they were properly reported, the U.S. citizenry would see the absolutely striking similarity in the behavior of Israel toward the Palestinians to the Nazi behavior toward the German Jews in the late 1930s, described in painful detail by Victor Klemperer in his book I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1933-1941.
This would not do for the U.S. media, as it, plus evidence of the economic crushing of a people, would not only explain Palestinian desperation, it would produce anger and sympathy for the victims.
RULE 7: the suppression of evidence of Nazi-like practices in demolitions/expropriations on behalf of the chosen people, physical abuse and harassment of the grasshoppers, systematic violations of UN and Security Council resolutions and the Geneva Conventions, and the international isolation of Israel and the United States in supporting Israel’s ethnic cleansing, is required for the implementation of U.S. policy support for anything Israel does. The U.S. mainstream media meet this requirement.
The New Humanitarian David Rieff claims that human rights “has taken hold not just as a rhetorical but as an operating principle in all major Western capitals,” and fellow New Humanitarian Michael Ignatieff says that “fifty years of human rights” have affected our “moral instincts…strengthening the presumption of intervention when massacre and deportation become state policy.”
Naturally these men never discuss Israel and Palestine, where human rights have been stomped on for years, with the active support of the same governments (United States and Britain) that have proclaimed the dawn of the new human rights era.
In fact, their support for Israel’s human rights violations has never been stronger than today, with a blank check now given terrorist commander Sharon to escalate his wholesale terrorist operations, and with much discussion now taking place in Israel about the desirability of mass expulsions and transfer of the population-in-the-way.
We are perhaps about to witness a new and more brutal phase of ethnic cleansing that may help advance a “final solution” to the search for Israel’s “security.”
Ignatieff, who had claimed with great indignation that “Milosevic decided to solve an ‘internal problem’ by exporting an entire nation to his impoverished neighbors” (a brazen misrepresentation of the circumstances of the Kosovo flight and expulsions), remains completely silent as Israelis ethnically cleanse and openly debate “exporting an entire nation,” but with the tacit approval of his humanitarian leaders in Washington.
It should be no surprise that Ignatieff is both a New York Times favorite and the Carr Professor of Human Rights at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.