Israel/Palestine

An Open Letter to the Corporate Media

By Sadu Nanjundiah

Dissident Voice

December 20, 2002

 

Two weeks ago (December 5), a massive force of Israeli tanks, helicopter gunships and warplanes raided one of the poorest Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza (al-Bureij), killing ten (eight civilians that included two United Nations relief employees) and maiming at least twenty people. This barbaric attack, yet another in a series of horrific Israeli onslaughts on crowded refugee camps in Gaza since August and, as usual, conducted under cover of darkness hardly made it into the mainstream American media (video, audio and print).

 

The "newspaper of record" (New York Times, Dec. 6) carried its correspondent's report on an inside page titled, "10 Palestinians killed in Israeli Hunt for a Militant." The typical provincial broadsheet (Hartford Courant, Dec. 6 as one example) printed a wire service report buried deeper inside the paper, with the article merely repeating assertions of the Israeli military that its "operation targeted a militant" and Israel "regretted" the death of Palestinian civilians.

 

While Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli civilians are routinely excoriated by the media even as they are acts of utter desperation by some people, the mightily armed (by none other than the U.S government) Israeli military is immune from any criticism even as it commits acts of unmitigated savagery upon the Palestinian people at will. Its government actually has the gall to claim its actions as gratuitous service to the civilized world, "ridding" us of the menace of "global terrorism." And the unfortunate fact that many innocent Palestinian civilians also pay for the "service" with lives and property is a small price to pay for ensuring the "security" of Israel.

 

The humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints, using Palestinians as human shields, preventing medical staff from carrying out their work without interference, opening fire on civilians, exploding a house without informing and removing all the residents, shooting and killing first - and investigating later, all stem from the same cause, the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

 

Young Israeli soldiers feel they can act with impunity, because no one is watching them and no one really cares. The fact that over 2,070 Palestinians have died in the last 2 years and three months - that's almost an average of three Palestinian deaths every day - bears out this fact.

 

The ongoing Israeli destruction of homes, shops, orchards in the occupied West Bank and Gaza is horrific and being conducted with little publicity in the U.S. media. The "pinpoint precision" attacks of the Israeli military against Palestinians have been carried out with wanton disregard for the lives of the most deliberately devastated people on earth, and with the complete support of the U.S. administration and Congress. While the European Union, the United Nations and many of the governments in the outside world condemned (albeit ineffectively) dastardly Israeli attacks on the most densely populated spot on the globe (the Gaza strip), the U.S. State Department trots out (for the bloodiest incidents only) a low-level official who urges Israel to "exercise restraint." After the December 5 slaughter of Palestinians, Philip Reeker (one of Colin Powell's mouthpieces) said, without any shame, "Israel must complete its anti-terrorist operations as quickly as possible to prevent further Israeli casualties"(!)

 

Surely the time has come (one would be more accurate saying it has long passed) for the American mass media to recognize the reality of the Israeli agenda - denying the Palestinians any hope of a genuine freedom and a just peace?

 

All we hear and read about is the need to "balance" the aspirations of the Palestinian people with "security" for Israelis! As though the Palestinians don't desire or deserve any security from the Israeli juggernaut supplied courtesy of American taxpayers. Whenever the angry, frustrated and desperate Palestinians attack Israelis in misguided ways (suicide bombing of civilians) or in legitimate ways (attacking the Israeli soldiers of occupation), the American corporate media goes into convulsions of revulsion with no effort to put Palestinian acts of resistance in the context of half-a-century of relentless Israeli oppression. But when the fourth most powerful military machine in the world decides to seek blood-revenge on Palestinians, flouting all international conventions and treaties with utter disdain, there is nary a peep from the Bush administration. And the pusillanimous media here follows suit, fighting shy of criticizing "democratic" Israel for fear of being targeted by its zealous supporters.

 

The fundamental fact of Palestine - its illegal and belligerent occupation by Israel - goes unrecognized. There is no other place on earth under such a repressive colonial occupation. Any fight against occupation is just there are no two ways about it. The U.S. fought British colonialism and, once upon a time, even claimed to support the just aspirations of subjugated people everywhere to be free.

 

But now this hyper-power and its apologetic hacks only mock people who want to be free, offers lip services to, or actually impedes, the valiant efforts of the oppressed who desire to throw off their shackles. Not surprising perhaps, considering that the shackles have been provided courtesy of this "greatest" bastion of "democracy and freedom."

 

Under normal circumstances, one would expect Americans to support wholeheartedly the just cause of the Palestinian people. But things are hardly normal when people in the United States get to see, hear and read only of Palestinian "terrorism" and the "carefully measured," "justifiable" and "targeted" Israeli responses to it. Who would have thought that such a deliberate suffering could ever be inflicted on a people by any government, least of all by one that cloaks itself in the mantle of the Holocaust?

 

But that is the real story most of the American media obtusely refuses to believe in and reveal to the public. All the circumstantial evidence leads one to conclude that corporate media is blinded by a combination of intent, guilt and fear. The occasional op-ed bemoaning the awful plight of the Palestinian people (and yet, blaming it on them) is swamped by the news, commentaries and editorials that favor Israel's unforgiving and deadly belligerence. How can the media highlight certain atrocities (Israeli), as though some people's lives mattered more than others?

 

The reality of U.S. culpability (another $14 billion in arms and aid has been solicited by the Sharon government) in the indescribable, relentless and willful oppression of the people of Palestine, day in and day out, is rapidly becoming yet another shameful chapter in the history of this country.

 

Sadu Nanjundiah teaches physics at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut, and works with the Coalition for Social Justice, a group of faculty and students at CCSU that discusses and acts on issues of peace and justice, locally and internationally. Email: sadanand@ccsu.edu

 

 

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