June 7, 2007

Collective Amnesia

Do so-called journalists suffer from collective amnesia? Or do they just engage in paid double-speak when it comes to reporting the Palestinian conflict?

According to folks in mainstream Western media, Hamas–for some mysterious and unknown reason–broke a cease-fire with the Israelis and began launching Qassam rockets into the southern city of Sderot again. Israeli air strikes against civilians in Gaza and the mass arrests of West Bank mayors are merely a retaliatory measure aimed at protecting Israeli security and of course, their "right to exist."

However, it wasn’t Hamas who broke the cease-fire.

Although the powers that be desperately want us to forget the circumstances surrounding the current round of violence, let this serve as a reminder: During March of this year, the Israeli Army conducted no less than 30 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. All of this was confirmed at one time or another by the Associated Press, although what measly coverage they did provide was buried in half-inch columns on the back pages of American newspapers.

On March 6 and again on March 17, dozens of Israeli jeeps and hundreds of soldiers had surrounded the Old City of Nablus and declared a curfew. Their stated mission was to capture or assassinate eight fighters from Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. Meanwhile, the 40,000 residents of Nablus Old City were trapped in their homes, unable to go to work or school, or even to buy food for their families.

On March 7, the Israeli Army invaded Ramallah, arresting 107 Palestinians, bringing the total number of arrests to 671 since the beginning of 2007. Northeast of Hebron, the Israeli Army stormed the offices of charitable organizations and associated kindergarten programs, confiscating documents, books and computers. They subsequently ordered the closures of both the charities and the kindergartens.

Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Army razed large tracts of land around the town of Beit Hanoun.

Anna Baltzer, an extraordinary young woman whom I had the pleasure of meeting last summer at the University of Illinois, is a volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service and was in Nablus at the time of the Israeli closure. She kept a journal, written in harrowing detail, of the humanitarian crisis that ensued. She took pictures of Israeli soldiers detaining medical relief volunteers and preventing them from delivering medical services.
Anna personally broke curfew, delivering bread to Palestinians trapped in their homes. As an international worker, she gambled that she wouldn’t be shot–and thankfully, she was right. This time.

To read more about Anna Baltzer’s experiences in Palestine, go to www.annainthemiddleeast.com/ or check out her book, Witness in Palestine: Journal of a Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reported that Israeli forces used Palestinians as human shields in earlier raids on Nablus during February 2007. Three individuals: a 15 year-old boy, a 24 year-old man and an 11 year-old girl, testified that Israeli soldiers forced them to enter houses that were alleged hideouts of Palestinian resistance fighters.

In one instance, Israeli forces took control of a house and interrogated the family about the location of armed Palestinians. The soldiers subsequently forced eleven-year old Jihan Dadush to lead them to an adjacent house, where she was made to open the door and enter in front of the soldiers.

"I was shaking with fear. I was afraid they would kill me or put me in jail. The only thing I wanted to do was sleep… I am afraid that the soldiers will come back and take me," the young girl told B’Tselem.

The preceding should be more than ample explanation to any reasonable person why there are rockets raining down on Sderot again. The Palestinians have the right and moral obligation to defend their people and their right to exist. Unfortunately, Hamas doesn’t receive billions in U.S. military aid, so they have to rely on homemade rockets.

To which the Israelis, as always, have responded with more airstrikes on civilians, assassinations, arrests, curfews and closures. To which the U.S., as always, has responded, "Israel has the right to defend herself."

Forty-nine Palestinians have been killed in the past 11 days.

According to U.S. policy, killing Palestinians is kosher. Look at the $40 million in military aid we just rushed to Lebanon to continue the bombardment of the Nahr al-Bared camp for Palestinian refugees. Does anyone dare ask–anyone in our illustrious crew of reporters or news anchors–where praytell was that aid last summer when over 1,000 Lebanese civilians were murdered by the Israeli Air Force, their infrastructure bombed back to the Stone Age?

Does anyone dare ask how can the U.S. get away with sending $60 million to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as the head of Fatah? Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Fatah, is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department.

The strategy is simple: divide and conquer. Encourage Fatah to put down Hamas rather than let them build a coalition. This presents a weaker front to negotiate–or fight as the case may be–with the Israelis. To achieve this, our government breaks its own law by funding a group who, according to its own watch list, is linked with terrorism.

The people whose profession it is to raise these questions amble along placidly, sending back their little stories of "humanitarian concerns" amid the threat of growing "Islamic extremism," which is countered by "Israeli reprisals."

I guess the media are no better than those invertebrates in the U.S. Congress who can’t even stand up to an inarticulate redneck with a 28% approval rating. I had higher expectations of our journalists.

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