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How the U.S. and Israel justify the killing
Myths, lies and propaganda

August 11, 2006 | Page 10

ANTHONY ARNOVE is co-author, with Howard Zinn, of Voices of a People's History of the United States, and editor of the South End Press collection Iraq Under Siege. Here, he talks about the hypocrisy and double standards of the Israeli government and the U.S. media and political establishment.

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MOST OF the time, the media act like the Israeli assault on Lebanon is an evenly matched conflict. What's the real balance?

THE IDEA that Israel is evenly matched with Lebanon, or with the forces of Hezbollah and Hamas, is a complete denial of reality.

Israel is one of the world's largest and most advanced military powers. Though the media rarely acknowledge this, Israel has more than 200 nuclear weapons (and is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). It has one of the world's most advanced air forces and world-class military technology in every other respect.

And Israel is backed fully by the United States, which not only arms Israel as no other country, but supplies it with more than $3 billion a year in direct aid. So really, you can't talk about Israel versus Lebanon or any other force in the region. You have to talk about the United States and Israel versus Lebanon.

We saw this explicitly when the response of the Bush administration to Israel's criminal assaults on Lebanon--which by that point had killed some 300 people--was to speed up delivery of laser-guided missiles so Israel could carry out more killing.

What else to read

One book that definitively documents the lies of the Israeli state and its U.S. sponsor is Noam Chomsky's Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians. Chomsky expands his analysis in World Orders Old and New .

For a history of the Palestinian people and their struggle, check out Palestine and the Palestinians , by Samih Farsoun and Christina Zacharia, and the collection of essays by the late Edward Said Peace and Its Discontents. Another useful resource is Gilbert Achcar's Eastern Cauldron: Islam, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq in a Marxist Mirror.

 

The reality is that Israel alone--and certainly with U.S. backing--can militarily overwhelm any combination of states in the region. The Arab states have shown that they are unwilling or unable to challenge Israel, for fear of the political and military consequences, which is one of the reasons why Hezbollah's response to Israeli attacks has received such support.

But Hezbollah's missiles are no match for Israel. The balance of casualties--now running at well over 10 Lebanese killed (overwhelmingly civilians) for every Israeli casualty (mostly military, involved in the invasion)--clearly reflects this.

The advantage the Lebanese have against Israel is not military. It's political. Despite its overwhelming firepower, Israel is failing to achieve its objectives, much like the U.S. is failing to achieve its objectives in Iraq. The price, though, is being paid by Iraqis, Palestinians and Lebanese--and will continue to be paid as long as the United States and Israel are allowed to get away with this.

MOSHE YAALON, a former top Israeli general, wrote in the Washington Post: "Hoping to retain its high moral standards in the face of such a cynical enemy, Israel has made every effort to avoid harming civilians." Is that true of the assault on Lebanon?

YAALON IS engaged in the basest propaganda. Israel's logic is that it doesn't "intend" to kill innocent civilians, so therefore, Israel cannot be held accountable when its bombs kill innocent civilians. The U.S. has long used this same specious argument about Iraq.

But the fact is that in its choice of weapons and targets, Israel is routinely carrying out attacks that will inevitably kill large numbers of civilians.

Israel is deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure to provoke the people of Lebanon and Palestine to take political actions that will benefit Israel. The only term for this is state terrorism.

And Israel has said that the people of Lebanon and Gaza (and elsewhere in Palestine) are legitimate targets because they are "harboring" Hezbollah and Hamas--or, as you commonly hear in the media, "suspected terrorists." This is another blanket excuse for carrying out war crimes.

What we are seeing today in Gaza and Lebanon is a continuation of Israeli policy historically. The Qana massacre we just witnessed, with at least 28 Lebanese killed, is an echo of the 1996 Qana massacre, in which more than 100 people were killed.

Before Israel's official establishment in 1948, the Zionist groups that founded the state used violence in order to drive out the native Palestinian population. Then, when Israel became a formal state, it did so through the violent expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians, many of whom have been in exile since, along with their families, or died in exile. Israel then created a new generation of refugees in its expansionary war of 1967.

It has used torture and violence to maintain its hold on the Occupied Territories, to suppress the Arab minority within Israel, and to expand its control over Palestinian land through settlements, roads and now the apartheid wall that it is expanding.

In 2001, journalist Chris Hedges described what life is like under occupation for ordinary Palestinians: "Yesterday, at this spot, the Israelis shot eight young men, six of whom were under the age of 18. One was 12. This afternoon, they kill an 11-year-old boy, Ali Murad, and seriously wounded four more, three of whom are under 18.

"Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered--death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo--but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport."

EXAMPLES ABOUND of the double standards of the U.S. media when it comes to reporting on Israel and the Middle East. Can you talk about why?

THE FACT is that Israel is a vital ally of the United States, and therefore, its actions are viewed through that distorting prism. The U.S. and its allies have essentially a blank check from the establishment press, which reflects the values and priorities of those who are in power--because the media have the same class interests, the same world view, the same institutional roots.

Karl Marx once wrote that the ruling ideas of a given society are the ideas of its ruling class, and that is certainly true of the propaganda pumped out by the mainstream media today. The media are corporations, and most journalists who succeed in the world of establishment journalism do so by internalizing the values of those who dominate our society.

The press doesn't have a conservative bias or--as it is often absurdly alleged--a liberal bias, but an establishment bias. We saw this very clearly in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, when the corporate media served as a megaphone for the lies that Washington concocted to sell this war.

It's not just Israel that received special treatment as a U.S. ally, as some allege. When Saddam Hussein was an ally of the U.S., his crimes were unimportant to the press. But when he became a threat to U.S. interests, the very crimes that the U.S. media ignored before were now such outrages that they justified invading Iraq, overthrowing Hussein and occupying the country.

This pattern is widespread. The U.S. and its partners or clients can get away with murder. Their enemies are always guilty, no matter what the evidence.

THE U.S. is supposed to be an "honest broker" of peace in the Middle East. What's the real relationship between Israel and the U.S.?

THE UNITED States has never been an honest broker in the Middle East, and today, the Bush administration isn't even keeping up the pretense of being one. The U.S. has let the Israeli attack dog off the leash and is urging it on, hoping Israel can advance U.S. interests in a region where the U.S. has suffered a serious setback since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

And that really is the heart of the relationship. Israel is a watchdog for U.S. interests in the strategic Middle East, a region with two-thirds of world oil reserves. It is a client state.

Richard Nixon understood this. Nixon was a raving anti-Semite, but he loved Israel, because Israel had shown its ability to confront Arab nationalism.

And Israel is the one state in the region in which the population supports (and benefits from) the alliance of its government with the United States. In all of the Arab states, the opposite is the case, which makes Arab clients such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan far less reliable.

IS THERE any evidence that U.S. officials are trying to restrain the Israeli attack, as they claim?

THIS IDEA would be laughable, if the reality of what the U.S. and Israel are doing were not so tragic. The U.S. didn't just give Israel a green light, it urged Israel on, armed Israel, bought Israel time, gave Israel political cover, and protected it from international censure.

The United States has outsourced its policy of regime change temporarily to Israel. And soon, I think we will see Israel in turn try to outsource its occupation of Lebanon to the so-called international community, with U.S. backing.

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