Saturday, April 06, 2002
On Thursday, George Bush made a major speech on the Israeli/Palestinian war, exciting those who felt that Bush "needed to do more" and annoying those who felt that Bush was appeasing terrorists. Everyone agreed, though, that this was a significant speech, signalling a change in direction for the United States. Everyone except Robert Fisk, that is. To Robert Fisk, there's no question of "balance." He doesn't think that Bush needs to condemn Israel as well as the Palestinians; he thinks that Bush should only be condemning Israel.
Ariel Sharon could not have done better. The heaping of blame upon an occupied people, the obsessive use of the word terror – by my rough count there were 50 references in just 10 minutes – and the brief, frightened remarks about "occupation" and (one mention only) to Jewish settlements and the need for Israeli "compassion" at the end were proof enough that President Bush had totally failed to understand the tragedy he is supposedly trying to solve.That's how I feel every time I read a Fisk piece -- like I've been mugged. It's as if he thinks the history of Israel starts in 1967, that Jews landed an expeditionary force on the shores of Haifa that year and conquered the country of Palestine, enslaving its people.
But of course, the White House, which according to the Israeli press has repeatedly been asking Mr Sharon how long he intends to reoccupy the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, is to give the Israeli Prime Minister more time to finish his invasion, destroy the Palestinian infrastructure and dismantle the Palestinian Authority.Bingo! That's what Israel is trying to do -- destroy the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure and dismantle the Palestinian Authority. I'm not sure why Fisk thinks this is a bad thing -- except, of course, that he writes as if he's on Yasir Arafat's payroll.
The speech was laced with all the "war on terror'' obsessions: Iraq as a sponsor of terror for donating money to a family of Palestinian "martyrs'', and Syria for not making up its mind if it is "for or against terror''.What the hell is up with Bush, being "obsessed" with terror? If he were only like a less "simplistic" European leader, who had the time to regulate the lumpiness of vegetable sauce.
The Palestinian suicide bombings, however, were the core of Mr Bush's address. He talked of the 18-year-old Palestinian girl who blew herself up and killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the Jewish state's "dream'' of peace with its neighbours. "Terror must be stopped ... no nation can negotiate with terrorists ... leaderships not terror ... you're either with the civilised world or you're with the terrorists ... all in the Middle East ... must move in word and deed against terrorists ... I call on the Palestinian Authority to do everything in their power to stop terrorist activities.'' Arafat had agreed to control "terrorism'' – "he failed'.' The reoccupation of the West Bank was a "temporary measure'', Mr Bush announced, trusting the word of the Israeli occupiers. "Suicide bombing missions could well blow up the only hope of a Palestinian state.''A few years ago, there was a Japanese cartoon that induced epileptic seizures in viewers through flashing lights. Fisk appears to have the same problem with the word "terror." Bush uses it, Fisk has a fit.
By the way, Fisk mentions "the reoccupation of the West Bank." Does that mean he's conceding that it wasn't occupied before the recent Israeli moves?
Only a heart of stone could not respond to the suffering of those Israeli families whose loved ones have been so wickedly cut down by the Palestinian suicide bombers. But where was Mr Bush's compassion for the vastly greater number of Palestinians who have been killed by the Israelis over the past 19 months, or his condemnation of Israel's death squads, house demolition and land theft? They simply didn't exist in the Bush speech.So Fisk joins the "but"-head community: killing Israelis is bad, but there's an occupation. Killing Israelis is bad, but what about suffering Palestinians? And the Fisks of the world love the moral equivalence of totalling the number killed, rather than looking at the reasons why they were killed.
The money for "martyrs" does not, of course, only go to the kin of suicide bombers – it goes to families of all those killed by Israelis, most of whom have been struck down by American-made weapons. Certainly, America has never offered to make reparations for the innocents killed by the air-to-ground missiles and shells it has sold to Israel.Oh, it doesn't go only to the kin of suicide bombers. It also goes to the kin of suicide gunmen. Well, that makes it okay, then. Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Fisk.
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