by Seth Sandronsky
[Ed. This article was written in October 1996 and published in Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive paper. We are republishing it with only slight edits to conform to Swans style sheet. Ten years later the author's analysis applies to 2006 -- the only differences: A Republican administration today, a Democratic one a decade ago, the rich are getting richer (see current oil company profits) and the poor poorer. Death and destruction in the name of greed and imperialism remain unchanged.]
(Swans - August 14, 2006) Since the end of Word War II, Israel has been the primary "regional enforcer" in the Middle East, ensuring that oil profits flow to the "US, its British client, and their energy corporations" (Noam Chomsky). And successful? Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell Group ranked ninth and tenth among the biggest corporations with 1995 profits of over $6 billion each (Fortune, 8-5-96).
U.S. taxpayers help to pay the bill for this rich men's club. Under President Clinton, American aid to Israel has risen to $8 billion annually (Covert Action Quarterly, Summer 1996). This public subsidy helps Israel buy fighter jets from Lockheed-Martin and attack helicopters from McDonnell-Douglas, major Pentagon contractors.
Israeli militarization has decreased security for the ordinary people of the Middle East, especially those in Lebanon, its Arab neighbor. Below I take a brief look at news and views of Israel's bombing of a UN refugee camp in Qana, Lebanon, launched in April 1996 following three suicide bombings in Israel by the Islamist group Hamas.
A Sacramento Bee report on the protest against Israel's recent aggression in Lebanon covered up a crucial fact: Israel's military occupation of Lebanon, East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights and West Bank (4-20-96). Israel first invaded Lebanon in 1978 on the pretext of pursuing the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Again in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, killing over 10,000 people with American-made cluster bombs and other weapons. Eventually Israel withdrew to the southern portion of Lebanon, known as Israel's "security zone." According to Chomsky, the "security zone" has created the social conditions for the rise of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist group.
New York Times' reporter Serge Schmemann described military activity undertaken by Hezbollah against the Israeli military as "attacks by anti-Israeli guerillas" (4-20-96). He made no mention of "bombings by anti-Lebanese invaders." The USA Today called Israel's shelling of civilian villages in Lebanon a "response to terrorism" (4-19-96).
But why is Lebanese opposition to Israel's occupation described as "terrorism" instead of "resistance"? Moreover why is the UN majority's consistent opposition to U.S.-Israel foreign policy regularly ignored? What the corporate media will not discuss does not exist, an effective device for shaping public opinion.
Schmemann also humanized Israelis and dehumanized Lebanese. Israelis -- ex-Prime Minister Shimon Peres and a grandmother walking with her grandchildren -- were quoted and given distinct personalities. In contrast, the Lebanese were voiceless and nameless. This campaign of misrepresentation continued at the top levels of the U.S. government.
The official American justification for Israel's attack on Lebanese refugees in Qana focused on Hezbollah's wickedness. Clinton remarked that "Hezbollah's deliberate tactics in their positioning and firing" close to the Lebanese refugee camp left the Israeli army no choice but to shell it. Ex-Israeli Prime Minister Peres claimed that Hezbollah rockets fired from "within" the Lebanese refugee camp prompted the Israeli shelling.
However, British journalist Robert Fisk's interviews with UN peacekeepers and Israeli forces cast serious doubts on the official line (London Independent, 6-1-96). Additionally, a video of the Israeli attack and a UN investigation -- reluctantly released by UN General Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali -- countered Clinton's and Peres's statements. Altogether, Fisk's reporting revealed that the Israeli bombardment of Lebanese women and children was premeditated, and undertaken without regard to the position of the Hezbollah fighters.
Criticism of Israel's foreign policy should not be confused with being anti-Jewish. A strongly-worded press release by a group of Jewish-American professors condemned Israel's slaughter of over 200 Lebanese refugees and displacement of over 400,000 others.
The Jewish Committee on the Middle East wrote: "The entire world is well aware that when it comes to Israel the U.S. applies a grossly hypocritical double-standard that seems to have no limits and relates only to domestic American political representation." Namely, "the powerful Israeli/Jewish lobby" [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the registered pro-Israel lobby] and "the American media [which] plays along with Israeli duplicity and technological terror" (5-9-96).
Hamas suicide bombings in Israel and Israeli attacks on Lebanon are linked to Middle East oil politics and U.S.-British domination of the region. The U.S.-Israel corporate-government-media connections cloud such Middle East realities to the American people, who are misinformed about a regional status quo that impoverishes the majority and enriches a handful of U.S. and British energy corporations.
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