Israel’s Approved Ethnic Cleansing, Part 3

Edward S. Herman

The U.S. mainstream
media have followed closely their government’s agenda of giving Israel carte
blanche in dealing with their Palestinian subjects, both within Israel and in
the occupied territories. This has involved a major intellectual and moral
challenge, given the facts of serious racist discrimination, the long Israeli
refusal to exit the occupied territories as demanded by an overwhelming
international consensus, Israel’s daily violations of the Fourth Geneva
Convention requirements on treatment of people in occupied
territories—including a massive ethnic cleansing openly designed to benefit
the “chosen people”—and their clear intention to create a Palestinian system
of dependent and poor bantustans in the occupied territories, organized
strictly for the advantage of the ethnic cleansing state.

Let us review
briefly, with some recent illustrations, some of the modalities by which
Israel’s more than half-century long, massive ethnic cleansing has been made

1. Language:
Ethnic Cleansing, Violence, Terrorism, Clashes. The phrase “ethnic cleansing”
is far more applicable to Israeli actions than to those of the Serbs in
Kosovo. The brutal Serb mistreatment of Kosovo Albanians was a feature of an
ongoing civil war, and the killings and large-scale expulsions during the NATO
bombing were war-related actions; they were not part of a long-term project to
“redeem the land” from non-Serbs. Albanians in Belgrade have not been limited
in property ownership as Arabs are in Israel and the occupied territories and
Kosovo Albanian homes were not demolished for the purpose of providing space
for Serbs. Despite this reality, in the three year period 1998 through 2000,
the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time, and
used the phrase “ethnic cleansing” some 1,200 times in discussing
Kosovo, in about four-fifths of the cases in reference to Serb policy, whereas
during the entire decade of the 1990s they used the phrase only 14 times in
discussing Israel, and only five times referring to Israeli policy. This
reflects massive internalized bias.

In media
reporting on Intifada II, “violence” means stone throwing and shooting, it
never refers to the “structural violence” of expropriating land, evicting
people from their houses and demolishing them, seizing and diverting their
water resources for the use of the chosen people, building roads that destroy
communities’ access to former neighbors and jobs, closing down access directly
by army orders and barricades, and tolerating and protecting settlers’
attacks, destruction, and seizure of Gentile property. Even though there have
been a substantial number of killings and injuries inflicted on the Gentiles
by army and settlers in this process, this massive low-intensity violence has
been entirely acceptable to the Clinton, Bush II, and predecessor
administrations, so for the mainstream media it is not classified as violence
or given serious attention.

But even within
their limited conception of violence, the media’s bias displayed during
Intifada II has been spectacular in giving far greater attention and exclusive
indignation to stone-throwing and suicide bombings by Palestinians, than to
the more cruel and deadly violence of the Israeli army. The better than six to
one ratio of killings and far higher ratio of Palestinian injuries to those of
Israelis is neutralized by greater attention to—and much greater humanization
of—Israeli victims. In a simple and rough measure of this bias, of eight
front-page photos of Intifada victims in the New York Times from
September 28, 2000 through March 9, 2001, six were of Israelis and two were of
Palestinians. This, along with massive suppressions, helps sustain the
identification of “violence” with the stone throwing and suicide bombing of
the population in revolt.

Similarly, the
media have continued their long tradition of finding the Palestinians
terrorists, the Israelis victims—even “under siege”—and engaging in
retaliation only. Almost without exception the media make deadly Palestinian
actions terrorism, and with indignant language attached—the killing of two
Israeli soldiers was a “sickening lynch-murder,” a Palestinian attack on a
settlers’ bus was “unspeakable” and a “terrorist outrage” in the New York
—but none of the 400 Palestinian deaths were worthy of such
adjectives. Thus, regarding a massive Israeli bombardment of a civilian area
in Gaza, this was “predictably…a strong Israeli response” to a previous
bombing of a settlers’ bus. Only the Israelis respond and retaliate, and do
this “predictably” (meaning responsively and reasonably). “Yesterday’s
Palestinian terrorism and Israeli retaliation…”(ed., NYT, November
21, 2000) is the formulaic language of deep bias.

By the same
rule of bias Ariel Sharon, whose record of responsibility for killing unarmed
civilians exceeds that of Carlos the Jackal by a factor of 20 or more, is
never a “terrorist” or “war criminal” in the mainstream media, although
occasionally it is said that “they” (Arabs) so designate him. Rather, he has a
“new air of electability” (Philadelphia Inquirer, January 7, 2001) or
is “tough” and a “warrior” as the New York Times describes him on their
front page of February 7, 2001 (earlier, and shortly after the Sabra-Shatila
massacre, “the forceful general intent on security for Israel,” NYT,
February 11, 1983).

Robert Fisk
says that when he reads of death in “a cross-fire” or “clashes” he knows that
this means the Israelis did the killing. Fisk notes that even when CNN’s Cairo
bureau chief, Ben Wedeman, was shot in the back in a gun battle in Gaza,
almost certainly by Israeli soldiers, CNN could not bring itself to suggest
who was to blame “at this time.” And AP reported that Wedeman had been “caught
up in a crossfire” (Fisk, “Media: The Biased Reporting that Makes Killing
Acceptable,” The Independent, November 14, 2000). Fisk also notes how
easily the media refer to a “suspected Palestinian gunman” or “presumably by
Palestinians” when Israelis are shot at, whereas Palestinians always die “in
clashes”—“as if they were accidentally shot rather than targets for Israeli
snipers.” And if these snipers shoot numerous children, often in the eyes or
other vulnerable spot, the media—who never use the numerous photos of
Palestinian children with eye damage—are pleased to give credence to Iraeli
army suggestions that the soldiers are perhaps just a bit trigger-happy (Joel
Greenberg, “Israeli Military Worries Some Troops May Be Trigger-Happy,” NYT,
January 17, 2001).

The Israelis
are not only “worried” about over-zealous soldiers, they admit making
“mistakes,” and the media sometimes acknowledge that their responses may be
“excessive,” “heavy-handed,” or “disproportionate” in retaliating to
terrorism—but they are never engaging in state terrorism and killing
civilians, including children, deliberately and “unspeakably.” Their killings
are never “massacres,” as Serb killings in Kosovo were often designated.
Palestinian violence is never a “predictable” response to Israeli structural
violence and direct state terror.

Critical Frames:
Featuring the Violence of the Ethnic Cleansing State. Framing bias is closely
linked to bias in language, and there are powerful frames that put the locus
of blame for violence on the ethnic cleansing state and its sponsor. These
critical frames are spelled out by Israeli journalists like Amira Hass and
Danny Rubenstein, but they are as scarce as hens’ teeth in the U.S. mainstream
press, although they flourish in the alternative media.

The Injustice Frame. The
primary alternative frame we may call the injustice model. As I showed in Part
1, Amira Hass writing in
Ha’aretz employs a clear critical frame
that explains Intifada II as an inevitable response to the failure of Oslo to
do anything whatever for the Palestinians, and their further decline in
welfare and morale. Robert Fisk says the same: that the Intifada “is what
happens when a whole society is pressure-cooked to the point of explosion”
(“Lies, Hatred and the Language of Force, The Independent,
October 13, 2000). Hass, Fisk, Danny Rubenstein in Ha’aretz, and other
reporters and analysts have given similar interpretations that stress the
continued expropriations by settlers and the army, the racist and humiliating
treatment meted out to the Palestinians by their overlords, and the fact that
recent Israeli-U.S. plans not only ratify the illegal post-Oslo “facts on the
ground,” they provide for no meaningful resolution of the refugee crisis, no
credible East Jerusalem sovereignty, and no viable and independent Palestinian

In this
critical frame, the Palestinian uprising is rooted in extreme abuse and
injustice, disappointed hopes, disillusionment with both Oslo and the corrupt
and pitiful Arafat leadership serving as Israeli enforcers, and the final
provocation of Sharon and Barak at al-Aqsa. The explosion was widely expected,
“predictable,” and understandable, and in these senses it was a “rational”
response to extreme abuse and the absence of peaceable options.

2B. The
Israeli Provocation Model.
A secondary alternative frame, that actually
supplements the primary injustice model, starts with the fact that Intifada II
was clearly begun by Ariel Sharon’s visit to the al-Aqsa mosque on September
28, 2000. Even Thomas Friedman and the mainstream media acknowledge that this
was a “provocation,” but by various tricks they make the Palestinian response
causally more important than the provocation.

One trick has
been to portray Barak as a person of peace who was offering a reasonable
settlement, and distancing him from the provocation. Thus, Thomas Friedman
says that “In short, the Palestinians could not deal with Barak, so they had
to turn him into Sharon. And they did” (“Arafat’s War,” NYT, October
13, 2000). But Friedman suppresses relevant facts. First, Arafat, his chief
negotiator Saeb Erikat, and Palestinian official Faisal Husseini, all pleaded
with Barak not to allow the Sharon visit because of its destabilizing
potential, and Barak not only turned them down he supported Sharon’s
provocation with 1,000 border police. Second, on the day after Sharon’s visit,
Barak’s police were massively present at al-Aqsa and fired to kill in the
turmoil that ensued, leaving seven dead and several hundred wounded. Third,
following this further provocation Barak did nothing to reduce the tensions,
and in fact offered a further show of force. But for Friedman and the
mainstream media, this series of provocations and failure of Barak to do
anything peaceable does not make him responsible; it was Arafat who had to
call off his people.

By rule of deep
bias, while the media have speculated freely on Arafat’s motives in possibly
influencing the Palestinian response—his “chancy gamble” as Time put it
(October 23, 2000)—they never even raise the possibility that the Israeli
leaders might have had political aims leading them to provoke and that might
explain their response. That the Sharon provocations, with Barak’s
cooperation, might have been intended to induce violence and might be
explained by Israeli political dynamics is simply outside the apologetic
frames of reference. Eduardo Cohen argues that the Sharon-Barak provocations
flowed from their political calculations: Sharon wanting to take center stage
before Netanyahu’s recovery from his scandal—he was exonerated in a court case
on alleged corruption on September 27, 2000, the day before Sharon went to
al-Aqsa—and knowing that a tough stance and renewed war would serve his
political interests; Barak hoping to undercut Sharon and precipitate a crisis
and early election in which his chances would also be better than if he waited
for the political recovery of Netanyahu (Cohen, “American Journalists Should
Have Looked a Little Deeper,” undated). Whatever the merits of this line of
argument, the failure of the U.S. media even to discuss possible political
reasons for the provocations, and whether they might have been intended to
provoke the ensuing violence, reflects overwhelming bias.

Apologetic Frames:
Those That Blame any Violence on the Victims of Ethnic
Cleansing. Almost without exception the U.S. mainstream media frame their
presentations of the issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so as to
apologize for Israeli policy and put the blame for any violence on Israel’s

3A. The
Injustice Model:
Barak’s Generous Offer, Arafat’s war, Irrational
Palestinian Outburst. Essential ingredients of this dominant mainstream frame
are the assumptions that Barak was a “moderate” and that his offers and the
“peace process” have been reasonable, so that any disturbances or uprisings
are therefore irresponsible, unjustifiable, or irrational. Trudy Rubin, the
editorial foreign policy commentator of the Philadelphia Inquirer, is
not alone in finding that “Irrationality drives violence in the region”
(October 18, 2000). Absolutely essential to propagating this frame is the
refusal to discuss issues of justice and to evaluate those in detail—so you
will never find Friedman, or Rubin, discussing the Israeli policy of
systematic expropriation of Palestinians in the occupied territories, the
demolitions, the appropriation of water for Jewish use, the doubled settler
population since 1993, the road construction that makes a Palestinian state
unviable, or the policy of killing and injuring Gentiles freely, but not Jews.
They never seriously discuss—let alone urge—the right of return of expelled
Palestinians, although both Friedman and Rubin were aggressively supportive of
the right of return of Kosovo Albanians. The news columns in their papers, and
the mainstream media more generally, also follow the official (U.S. and
Israeli) party line.

In his
“Arafat’s War,” which gives us Friedman’s standard “injustice” model,
characteristic of the Times as an institution, and predominant
throughout the mainstream media, Friedman mentions the “old complaints about
the brutality of the continued Israeli occupation and settlement building.
Frankly, the Israeli checkpoints and continued settlement building are
oppressive.” He finesses this huge set of issues by making them “old” (stale),
and avoiding details, numbers, or discussing the racist violence in
expropriation for Israeli Jews only, the large-scale violations of the Fourth
Geneva Convention, or the beggaring of the Palestinians under Oslo. He also
argues that such matters are now irrelevant because Barak offered
“unprecedented compromises,” so that if the Palestinians don’t fall in line
with these any violence is their fault. He never discusses why Sharon engaged
in his provocation or explains why this act by an Israeli leader does not
deserve considerable weight; and he fails to acknowledge Barak’s support of
the provocation and never suggests that these Israeli actions might be related
to Israeli politics. And he has not one word of criticism of the Israeli
killings of September 29 or the ensuing brutal repression. He mentions the
“gleeful savage mob murder of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah,” but otherwise
there was only a “week of Israeli-Palestinian killings,” but no “murders” let
alone “gleeful savage murders” of Palestinians.

Friedman never
mentions that the vague terms of the Oslo deal allowed Israel, with total U.S.
support, to double settlements and create facts on the ground extremely
damaging to Palestinian welfare. Thus the “old complaints about brutality”
etc., continued despite that prior good deal. Now the new good deal gives the
Palestinians a fine alternative—“more than 90 percent of the West Bank for a
Palestinian state, a partial resolution of the refugee problem and Palestinian
sovereignty over the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City of
Jerusalem…” Even Bill Clinton likes this plan, so what more need be said
about fairness? The “90 percent” figure is the Israeli version, that allows a
“facts on the ground” Greater Jerusalem to be counted as part of Israel—so
that 70 to 80 percent may be more accurate. There is also the question of the
quality of the land, the implicit Israeli control of the mountain acquifer
under the West Bank, and the fact that the land allocations, Jewish
settlements, and “for Jews only” road networks have broken the “90 percent”
into unconnected enclaves, with no borders except with Israel. This is a
bantustan solution that does not yield a viable or independent state; and of
course it does not return to the Palestinians any of the property stolen even
since 1993 for Israel’s “security” and lebensraum for some of the chosen

Friedman is
satisfied with the “partial resolution” of the refugee problem that involves
Israel recognizing Palestinian “pain” and promising to allow a “return” to
“historic Palestine,” which includes the West Bank where the refugees are
already congregated, not to their original homes and not promising
compensation in lieu of such return. Palestinian sovereignty over the Muslim
and Christian quarters of the Old City does not include Harim Al Sharif, and
those Muslim and Christian quarters have been broken into pieces by
expropriations and massive Israeli construction for Jews only since the last
good deal (1993).

“Arafat’s War”
rests on the failure of the Palestinians to acknowledge total defeat: their
unwillingness to accept all the past injustices, including post-1993
expropriations, a bantustan system worse than that imposed by South Africa
under apartheid, and continued military domination by a country that has been
a wee bit “oppressive” (Clinton and Barak demanded a demilitarized Palestinian
state, and continued Israeli occupation rights in the West Bank, out of
consideration for Israeli security). If Arafat wouldn’t accept this, and sign
another agreement that once again left much to the goodwill of Israel and its
sponsor, all the violence is his doing.

This is the
“injustice model” that amounts to crude apologetics for ethnic cleansing. And
it was hardly confined to Friedman and the New York Times editorial
pages. It was pretty standard in the news as well as editorial pages that it
was Arafat’s choice of “Peace or Victimhood” (Jane Perlez, “Fork in Arafat’s
Road,” NYT, December 29, 2000).

3B. Arafat
And The Return To Terrorism.
For years Arafat and the PLO were terrorists
for Israeli and U.S. officials, and therefore for the mainstream media. Israel
has only engaged in retaliation and counterterror, by rule of political bias,
whatever the facts. Then in 1991, when Arafat surrendered and allowed himself
to be sucked into a “peace process” that made him the Israeli enforcer, but
gave his people absolutely nothing, he suddenly ceased to be a terrorist and
became a statesperson. With Intifada II, however, and his failure to perform
his function of keeping his defeated people under control, he has been
tentatively returned at least in some media to the terrorist class.

So we find
regular media references to Arafat’s responsibility for failing to contain the
violence, speculations on whether he actually stirred it up to improve his
bargaining position with Israel, and admonitions to Arafat to get his people
under control. Among many other cases, Time had him taking a “chancy
gamble”; the Inquirer’s Trudy Rubin said he “fanned, or failed to calm,
religious and national passions” (October 18, 2000), and she asked “Can Arafat
stop the violence” (November 1, 2000). Some of the claims of his deliberate
incitements have come from Israeli army and intelligence sources, which the
media find highly newsworthy (Tracy Wilkinson, “Is the violence beyond
Arafat’s control?,” Los Angeles Times, October 4, 2000). Jane Perlez
asks “Can Arafat Turn It Off?,” subtitled “U.S. Officials Debate Degree of His
Control” (NYT, October 17, 2000). There have not been any articles
entitled “Is the violence beyond Barak’s [or Sharon’s] control?,” nor have the
media been able to locate anybody to assess Barak’s or Sharon’s motives and
responsibility. And in a spectacular display of bias they rarely if ever
suggested that Barak could or should have stopped the wholesale violence that
he carried out from September 29, 2000; only “Arafat had a choice” (Rubin),
not Barak, or Sharon, who are implicitly engaging in “retaliation” and
“counter-terror,” in a longstanding propaganda tradition.

3C. Pushing
The Children Forward As Martyrs
. In a similarly disgusting pattern, the
mainstream media also latched on to the claim that the Palestinians are
callously pushing their children forward to die, that they suffer from a
martyr syndrome, and that the parents, Arafat, and the penchant toward
martyrdom are therefore responsible for the numerous shooting deaths of
children (Chris Hedges, “The Deathly Glamour of Martydom,” NYT, October
29, 2000). This penchant for martyrdom is also responsible for the breakdown
of peace (John Burns, “the Promise of Paradise That Slays Peace,” NYT,
April 1, 2001).

Philadelphia Inquirer
played this line with relish, with a news article on
“Grieving Arabs find comfort in concept of martydom” (October 25, 2000), an
op-ed column by Rubin on “The children’s crusade” that blames the Palestinians
for the death of their children (October 25), and a cartoon by Tony Auth
showing Arafat urging children to plunge to martyrs’ deaths over a cliff
(October 26). Auth has twice had cartoons showing Arafat with blood on his
hands, but never an Israeli leader.

Uri Avnery
notes that this ready attribution of responsibility for the child killings to
the Arab parents “betrays an obnoxious racism” (“Israel/Palestine: Twelve
Conventional Lies,” October 21, 2000). He also observes that Palestinian
parents can hardly restrain their children “when they live under a cruel
occupation and their brothers and sisters provide examples of heroism and
self-sacrifice” in a tradition going back to 16-year-old Joan of Arc. He also
points out that there is a Jewish tradition of children fighters and heroes,
and that the settlers routinely exploit their children, “not hesitating to put
them in harms way,” and without eliciting any suggestions of irresponsibility
and a desire for martyrdom on the part of the critics of Palestinian parents.

“The right
question is why do our soldiers kill these children? And in some cases in cold
blood?” But that is Eyad Serraj writing in Le Monde Diplomatique
(November 2000), not a U.S. mainstream news source. Rarely if ever do the
media point out that the Israelis are doing the shooting, that many of the
children are shot with the intent to seriously injure or kill them, and that
non-lethal methods of crowd control are used by the Israelis, but only when
dealing with protests by Israeli Jews.

3D. The
United States As Honest Broker.
The Israelis do not want any interference
with their ethnic cleansing, so they “rightly resist any shift to an
international format,” as it was expressed in a New York Times
editorial of November 13, 2000, and the Israelis are happy to have the United
States, the 50-odd year sponsor and underwriter of their ethnic cleansing, as
a substitute for a genuine international presence. The appropriateness of this
arrangement thus becomes the U.S. official position and media truth, and the
demand for international protection of the victims of Israel’s ethnic
cleansing becomes not a moral issue fulfilling that new Western dedication to
protecting defenseless people but rather “a favorite of Palestinians” (Keith
Richburg, “Israel rejects international presence,” Philadelphia Inquirer,
November 11, 2000). Richard Holbrooke says that “no force would be supported
without Israeli approval” (Nicole Winfield, “Arafat appeals for U.N.
protection, but Israel, U.S. oppose,” Philadelphia Inquirer, November
11, 2000), so that settles the matter for the mainstream media. No comparison
with Kosovo, no mention of the similar performance in East Timor where the
Clinton team deferred to its Indonesia client, thereby allowing the
destruction of East Timor.

Nor will the
media ever discuss the huge, long-standing pro-Israeli bias of the U.S.
government that has protected Israeli expropriations and ethnic cleansing for
many decades. As noted earlier, Thomas Friedman cites Clinton’s approval of
Barak’s peace proposal as if an assessment by an honest broker, not a
partisan. On the aggressively pro-ethnic cleansing right, William Safire
postulates that Clinton and company really are honest brokers, and decries
this fact as “Israel Needs an Ally, It does not need a broker” (NYT,
October 12, 2000).

Although the
Palestinians have been militarily defeated and ethnically cleansed by a
powerful combination of a superpower and its main client, it is essential that
the mainstream press pretend that the supportive superpower is objective and
not helping the ethnic cleansing state capture the fruits of this rather
uneven military contest. The media have cooperated fully in doing this,
although occasionally the Times, for example, allows it to be mentioned
that the Palestinians are becoming a bit distrustful of the honest broker.
(William Orme, “As New Peace Talks Go On, Palestinians Criticize Clinton,”
, January 23, 2001).

Impatient Israelis versus Serbian Willing Executioners.
The mainstream
media repeatedly tell us that the Israelis have “lost patience” with the
Palestinians, with the “peace process,” and with their leaders who have
allowed this new spate of (Palestinian) “violence.” If they have voted in
Sharon, and now support a more brutal response to the Intifada, this does not
discredit the populace for murderous attitudes and extremism. On the contrary,
it is a given to which the world must adjust. Back in 1999, Stacy Sullivan
asked: what if a people “supports ethnic cleansing—actively or passively? In
that case, we do have a quarrel with the…people… It is the very mentality
of the nation.” But she was talking about the Serbs as “Milosevic’s Willing
Executioners” (New Republic, May 10, 1999), not a populace supporting
an approved ethnic cleansing.

In reference to
the Serbs, the official and therefore media party line was that what the Serb
armed forces were doing to the Albanians in Kosovo was ugly and criminal and
must be stopped, so the idea of Serb “impatience” with the Kosovo Albanians
for their resistance and “terrorism” would have been viewed as outlandish. The
question was: how guilty were ordinary Serbs for the crimes of their
government, and even though the Serbs were alleged to be suffering under a
“dictatorship,” Anthony Lewis, Blaine Harden, and Thomas Friedman in the
and Stacy Sullivan and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in the New Republic,
and many others, found the Serbs guilty, either because of their indifference
concerning their government’s crimes or their positive support, as “willing

In the case of
Israelis, many more of them than Serbs have been openly in favor of violence
against their state’s victims, and there are numerous available quotes of
Israelis saying “I would kill all Arabs,” “Arabs must be eliminated,” the
Palestinians are mere “grasshoppers,” and that these “vipers” should be
“annihilated” (Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Israel’s Shas party,
speaking on April 9, 2001). But here, where ethnic cleansing is approved, the
media never suggest Israeli citizen guilt, and Israeli support of escalated
state terrorism against Palestinians is reported antiseptically and even
sympathetically, as the Israelis are the victims of “terrorism” but never
themselves terrorize. They may be killing and wounding innocent civilians at a
rate 20 or more times the rate of their victimization by the “terrorists,” but
that doesn’t affect an equation where the value of lives of the terrorists and
their families is zero.

Suppression of Inconvenient Facts:
A Case Study in Normalizing the
Structural Violence of Demolitions. Eye aversion is extremely important in
protecting the approved system of institutionalized injustice and ethnic
cleansing. Thus, the mainstream U.S. media simply won’t discuss the laws
applying to an occupying power and their responsibilities under the Fourth
Geneva Convention, and Israel’s massive violations of these rules in
expropriations, discriminatory use of water and other matters are barely
noted. The violence of Israel in imprisonments, torture, beatings, killings,
and injuries, and aid and protection to settler violence is enormously greater
than Palestinian violence against Israel, but it is downplayed and relevant
information on these matters is subjected to massive suppression.

The media’s
treatment of Israel’s systematic demolitions of Palestinian homes provides an
enlightening case study in suppression and bias. The policy of demolitions is
horrendously inhumane, with its racist concentration on Palestinian homes.
There has been a steady stream of stories on the web issued by the Ethnic
NewsWatch, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD), the
Palestinian Land Defense Committee (PLDC), Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT),
the Hebron Solidarity Committee (HSC), and other groups, that describe army
demolitions that push out Palestinians virtually without notice. (See the
website of the Hebron Solidarity Committee: “CPT Hebron”

These stories
are numerous, dramatic, and often heart-breaking as Jewish Israeli protesters
and Christian teams struggle to protect Palestinians from the racist onslaught
of the army and settlers. The stories often describe demolitions of houses
being rebuilt by protesters and then being bulldozed out of existence by the
army for a second or third time. Amnesty International had a report on this
savage policy (December 8, 1999), stressing the racist essence, the widespread
Palestinian fear of being demolished, and the murderous character of the
policy—in one case, 100 border police coming without notice, starting to
destroy a house, Palestinians starting to throw stones, and the police
shooting dead Zaki ‘Ubayd, a 28-year-old father. This AI report was ignored by
the Free Press.

A Nexis search
of coverage of demolitions of Palestinain homes in the New York Times,
Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time,
and Newsweek for the five
years from January 1, 1996 through December 31, 2000, comes up with only 23
articles: none in Time, 1 in Newsweek, 5 in the New York
, 11 in the Washington Post, and 6 in the Los Angeles Times.
With only a single exception in the Washington Post, these articles
never mention the Israeli Committee Against Demolitions, the Hebron Solidarity
Committee, and the Palestinian Land Defense Committee. Only 2 of the 23
articles made the front page, and only 5 give substantial detail on the
brutality of the practice and suffering of the Palestinian victims. Twenty of
the twenty-three give the Israeli rationale that the Palestinian homes were
illegally built, and nine mention the demolitions as being a response to
Palestinian violence; only six note that Palestinians are not allowed to
build, and only one suggests even indirectly that the demolitions and
settlements violate the Oslo accords as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In that single
exceptional case, Steven Erlanger says that “While Labor governments have also
expanded existing settlements and the Oslo accords do not limit them from
doing so, the Palestinians have complained that Israel now builds large new
neighborhoods near existing settlements in order to call them expansion,
rather than label them new,” (NYT, September 12, 1997). Note first that
Erlanger’s statement that Oslo does not preclude expanding settlements is
strictly the Israeli interpretation of general language; and he cannot admit
that new settlements have taken place, but only speaks of Palestinian
complaints. He does not discuss whether doubling the number of settlers and
other Israeli actions might possibly violate the spirit of Oslo.

In sum, in a
period of intense demolition activity by Israel, the five print media examined
treated the issue in very low key, with zero editorial attention. They created
a phony balance by giving serious weight to alleged building code-violations
and responses to Palestinian terrorism as the basis for Israeli policy,
downplaying the violations of Oslo and international law, the hugely
discriminatory features of Israeli law, and the direct terroristic abuses of
the army and settlers in demolishing and taking over Palestinian property.
They handled the issue in such a manner that the U.S. public would hardly know
of this practice, and would hardly be roused to indignation, in contrast with
their responses to the media’s focus on Palestinian stone throwing and other

5. Rewriting
In systems of propaganda, not only are inconvenient facts blacked
out or treated in very low key where awkward, but history is also rewritten.
Thus it has long been an important part of Israeli, U.S. official, and hence
mainstream media propaganda that Arafat and the PLO have always been
“rejectionist” whereas Israel and its sponsor have been patiently awaiting a
negotiating partner. However, it has been shown time and again that this is an
Orwellian inversion—that in fact only the ethnic cleanser and its sponsor have
rejected an international consensus, long accepted by the PLO and Soviet Union
as well as everybody but the “nyet duo,” that would have returned the
“occupied territories” to the Palestinians and involved mutual recognition.

Another key
myth has been that the Palestinian flight of 1948-1949 was carried out
voluntarily, not mainly by deliberate Israeli violence. This myth was long ago
exploded by Israeli historians like Benny Morris and Simha Flapan, among
others, but it also continues to live even today within the U.S. propaganda
system. Thus, Elie Wiesel says that “Incited by their leaders, 600,000
Palestinian left the country convinced that, once Israel was vanquished, they
would be able to return home” (“Jerusalem in My Heart,” NYT, January
24, 2001), and this fabrication is not only published by the Newspaper of
Record, it is not corrected in the letters columns or “Corrections.” It also
shows up uncorrected in the “news,” where reporter John Kifner says that 52
years ago “750,000 people fled the fighting that commenced with the Arab
attack on the newly created state of Israel” (NYT, December 31, 2000).
They didn’t “flee the fighting,” most of them were deliberately driven out in
the first phase of “redeeming the land.”

Conclusions: The Media’s
Supportive Role in Ethnic Cleansing; Where Will It End In Making a “Safe”
Israel? Robert Fisk notes that “Oddly, you can now learn more from the Israeli
press than the American media. The brutality of Israeli soldiers is fully
covered in
Ha’aretz, which also reports on the large number of
U.S. negotiators who are Jewish. Four years ago, a former Israeli soldier
described in an Israeli newspaper how his men had looted a village in southern
Lebanon; when the piece was reprinted in the New York Times, the
looting episode was censored out of the text” (Independent, December
13, 2000).

The U.S.
mainstream media’s coverage of Middle East issues shows a genuine propaganda
system in action. As I have indicated, the media have done an outstanding job
of supporting state policy by making Israel’s ethnic cleansing palatable,
finding the victims the source of the violence, and thus facilitating
virtually any level of wholesale violence Israel deems necessary to protect
itself against “terrorism.” As its ethnic cleansing policies inevitably
produce secondary reactions to the primary (Israeli) violence, the media
therefore contribute to an escalating process with no decent end in sight.

A “safe” Israel
could be obtained by accommodation to a Palestinian presence with justice, but
that has never been consistent with the Israeli policy of “redeeming the land”
from the Gentiles, and there is no evidence that it has been seriously
considered as a policy option in the Clinton and Oslo years or in any Bush
signals or media perspectives. The other routes to a “safe” Israel, although
cruel, dangerous, and almost certain to fail, are more consistent with the
drift of actual policy, Sharon’s victory, and media apologetics for everything
Israel has done up to this moment. One route is a more aggressive policy of
expulsions from any contested territory, a solution long advocated by
Netanyahu and Sharon. The other route, easily combined with a policy of
expulsion, is a still more violent crackdown that would kill or injure even
larger numbers in the hope that this would escalate an exodus, directly
deplete Palestinian numbers, and keep any remnants passive from fear.

I have no doubt
that this semi-genocidal and dangerous policy, already approached in the
Intifada II crackdown, would be effectively rationalized by the mainstream
media as a regrettably necessary response to “violence” and the demands of
Israeli “safety.”                                                  Z

Herman is a professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School, University of
Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous books, including:
Consent (with Noam Chomsky), Triumph of the Market, and The Global
Media (with Robert McChesney). He is just going to press with The Myth
of The Liberal Media: an Edward Herman Reader. A longer version of this
article can be seen on the ZNet web site.