When a major violent incident takes place between the Mediterranean coast and the Jordan River, Deborah Sontag is dispatched by the New York Times to determine the “cause of death”. She is also the designated expert at writing obituaries for both Palestinian and Israeli victims in the latest episodes of ‘violence’ that have claimed 484 Palestinian lives and 108 Israeli lives. Although she appears to have attended every Israeli funeral, Sontag’s obituaries for the Palestinians can be quite brief. She has gained a reputation for writing one-word obituaries for the Palestinians. In a Sontag article, you never know if they are teenagers or children, their lives always seem so unimportant, and there is always that glaring lack of sympathy for the victims.
Sontag’s report on the assault by the Israeli air force against the Nablus prison does not even bother mentioning that it was a war crime. Not only that, but a war crime involving the illegal use of American-supplied weapons. At the New York Times, Israeli war crimes are given automatic pardons based on ‘security reasons’ and the need to ‘send a message’. Sulzberger has refined a formula for marketing Israeli state sponsored operations as legitimate acts of vengeance designed to kill Palestinians in acts of ‘retaliation and deterrence’. Like their partners in the other sections of the Israeli lobby, a New York Times journalist is always ready to justify the latest round of criminal and random assaults against Palestinian civilians. Collective punishment is always endorsed as rational Israeli policy.
Reporting on the recent carnage in Tel Aviv, Sontag left no doubt that it was an act of terrorism by a single individual. Yet, that individual act of vengeance, by her reckoning, required an immediate ‘retaliation’ by Ariel Sharon. You can feel her personal outrage. A day after she reported the attack, she revisits the site to paint this picture; “This morning, at the beach-front site of the Tel Aviv explosion, the street still bore the stain of dried rivers of blood. It was littered with bone fragments and bits of scalp with hair attached. The acrid smell of burned flesh fouled the air.” (Deborah Sontag, NYT, June 3,2001). When Palestinians are wasted by the thugs in Sharon’s army, Sontag always fails to detect any discernible change in the quality of the air or any sign of “rivers of blood”. The use of Israeli helicopter and other weapons of war against crowded refugee camps is never questioned. Whatever the Israelis deem necessary for their security is good enough for Sulzberger’s crew. The notion of Palestinian security needs is too alien and problematic for the ethnic partisans on 43rd street.
On the subject of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the story line at the New York Times is determined by an entrenched ideological dogma that is enforced with Stalinist zeal by the publisher, Sulzberger. Here is a little proof.
The average Palestinian teenager, being of Mediterranean stock, and due to the economic hardships of a brutal 34-year old Israeli military occupation, is probably slightly smaller in stature than an Israeli of Eastern European or Russian origin. But for the most part, they have approximately the same amount of blood running through their veins. Most of the Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli snipers, many of them teenagers, have taken bullets in the head and the chest, many bleeding to death as ambulances were obstructed from reaching the scene of the crime. So if there have been “rivers of dried blood” from Jewish victims of the current ‘war’, there must be an ocean of Palestinian blood that Sontag either failed to notice or neglected to report.
Now, considering that the Israeli army drew first blood, it would seem logical to assume that the first act of ‘retaliation’ should be credited to the Palestinians. While only one of every six victims is Israeli, almost all are portrayed as innocent civilians. Many organizations, including Israeli Human Rights groups, have documented that the majority Palestinians casualties were deliberately and callously murdered by Israeli occupation troops operating in a designated ‘free-fire’ zone. There is another important distinction. Although most Israeli casualties, including the Tel Aviv disco, were attacked by individual assailants, the Palestinians have been cut down by the army of the Israeli state. Indeed, the Israelis elected Sharon to kill as many Palestinians as required to put down the Palestinian independence uprising.
Sontag obviously believes in retaliation as a rational Israeli policy. Now, if she knows anything about Palestinians, she should realize that ‘retaliation’ is not a foreign concept to these Holy Land home boys. Being the original natives of the land, it was their ancient sages who came up with the original ‘eye for an eye’ concept.
There are those who recommend that the Palestinians try passive resistance against the land thieving Israeli settler movement backed by the full strength of the Israeli Army. But no one should mistake the Israelis for the British. The Israelis did not come to Palestine to organize and manage the natives on plantations; they came to evict the Palestinians from their native lands. They don’t have British manners or any other sort of manners. In the absence of a Palestinian ability to deter Israeli violence, the Israelis will continue their creeping annexation of Palestinian lands. Israel’s well armed settlers will continue to inflict humiliation on the unarmed native population living under the permanent threat of a very crude institutional violence that is the essence of Israeli military rule. The Israelis have one golden rule. They do whatever they can get away with.
The whole occupation has been an international criminal enterprise. If the United Nations had provided the Palestinians with protection, maybe there would have been fewer Palestinian casualties and less of a rationale for Palestinian retaliation or individual acts of vengeance. When Jewish demonstrators riot, the Israeli police are not even authorized to use tear gas, much less lethal shots to the head. The use of non-lethal force could also have reduced Palestinian casualties and reduced the risk of Palestinian retaliation.
So was the Israeli War Crime at Nablus prison a ‘retaliation’ for a suicide attack? More likely, it was the suicide attack that was retaliation for some one’s brother or cousin who was among the 484 needless casualties of Israel’s latest killing spree? The racist Israeli occupation has created a group of desperate young Palestinians who seem to be driven by the urge to take personal vengeance for their people and their kin. They are a decidedly new phenomenon in the Israeli/Palestinian struggle. As members of a generation that grew up under Israeli guns, they have collectively tasted the racist insulting behavior of Israelis settlers and soldiers who dominate every aspect of their lives. Most Israelis still subscribe to a religious and political ideology that makes no secret of their plan to steal and colonize additional Palestinian native lands.
Truth be told, an unlikely prospect at the New York Times, while Israel was dangling false promises of a Palestinian state, the Israeli settler movement continued to confiscate massive amounts of land and doubled the number of settlers. How they managed to sell this Oslo ruse to a feeble Arafat is another subject for another day. But why would the Israelis continue eating away at the meager portions of Palestine still in native hands and than let the clock run out on a final solution? Why elect a demented war criminal like Sharon of Qibya to crush an almost predictable uprising by a people who had been so cruelly duped? Because the Israelis still have fantasies of confiscating every square inch of Palestine. Many still hold onto the notion that, with enough ruthless application of military might, Palestinians will either have to accept living as a servile under-class to their Jewish lords and masters or will need to abandon their ancient ancestral homes. Using Sharon’s language, William Safire of the New York Times still refers to the West Bank and Gaza as ‘disputed territories’.
Here is an interesting statistic for those who believe that the Palestinians are driven by an irrational will to become ‘martyrs’. The Kingdom of Jordan has some of the lowest suicide rates in the world as reported by the World Health Organization. Suicide is considered shameful to both Christian and Muslim Palestinians. The explanation for these acts of rage is that these kids want to retaliate against Israeli war crimes, even at the cost of their own lives. It takes an individual who has been completely tormented by the Israelis to resort to this kind of act. It takes a very angry young man whose brother or sister was murdered in cold blood by an Israeli sniper or a deranged settler. It takes a complete absence of hope resulting from a depressing life under the rule of a vicious foreign occupation army sent by a racist nation with the explicit intent of putting your people in a permanent choke hold.
If the ‘journalists’ at CNN and the New York Times would put aside their ethnic prejudices for a New York minute, they might see that suicidal bombers become infuriated before they become suicidal and before they become bombers. They are driven by a determination to retaliate for indiscriminate pounding by the Israeli army, air force and navy. In this latest spasm of Israeli violence, the Israelis have given each of 484 Palestinian families a reason to retaliate. The last thing Israel needs to do is give more Palestinians a reason for committing personal acts of vengeance. They can substantially reduce the risk of further antagonizing the Palestinians by immediately ending the military occupation and accepting the generous Palestinian offer to allow them to have a Jewish Supremacist State on 78% of the Palestinian homeland. It is extraordinary that the average Israeli is so blinded by their religious and ethnic chauvinism to not recognize the enormity of these Palestinian concessions. They are fools to think that the next generation of Palestinians will be more generous. They are even greater fools if they think that their historical mythologies will ever be anything more than a cruel joke to the native people of Palestine. Every Israeli needs to reckon with every individual Palestinian. Long after Israeli public relations victories on the pages of the New York Times fade into distant memory; long after Deborah Sontag’s narrative is exposed as third rate propaganda, there will be the formidable task of sharing the land with those who have Palestinian memories.
Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)