An Eye For An Eyelash: The Gaza Massacre - Part 2
Plan Dalet - A Hidden History Of Ethnic Cleansing
Defending the BBC's long record of biased reporting, the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, responded: "we have reported the facts about Israel's occupation many times, and we will do so again." (Bowen, email forwarded to Media Lens, January 2, 2009)
But the "facts" of the occupation are nowhere in sight.
Unknown to most of the British public, huge numbers of Palestinians were forced from their land when the Israeli state was formed in 1948. The Israeli historian Ilan Pappé notes that more than half of Palestine's native population, close to 800,000 people, were uprooted and 531 villages were destroyed. (Pappé, 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,' Oneworld Publications, Oxford, 2006)
The intention of 'Plan Dalet', carried out by the military forces of what later became Israel, was to ethnically cleanse a large part of Palestine of hostile "Arab elements". Numerous massacres occurred at Deir Yassin, Ayn Al-Zaytun, Tantura and elsewhere. Avi Shlaim, another Israeli historian, writes:
"The novelty and audacity of the plan lay in the orders to capture Arab villages and cities, something [Jewish forces] had never attempted before... Palestinian society disintegrated under the impact of the Jewish military offensive that got underway in April, and the exodus of the Palestinians was set in motion... by ordering the capture of Arab cities and the destruction of villages, it both permitted and justified the forcible expulsion of Arab civilians." (Shlaim, 'The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World,' W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2000, p.31)
Speaking in 1955, prominent Israeli military leader and politician, Moshe Dayan, asked:
"What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred for us? For eight years now they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived." (Quoted, ibid., p.101)
The Palestinians were forced to live as refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and on the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip. A series of conflicts and, at times, outright war followed between Israel and its Arab neighbours. During the 1967 (Six Day) War, Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem (previously under Jordanian control), the Gaza Strip and the Sinai peninsula (Egypt) and the Golan Heights (Syria). This occupation brought many Palestinian refugees under Israeli military control.
Jerusalem, a religious centre for Muslims, Jews and Christians, became a major centre of conflict. The Israelis also built illegal settlements in the newly occupied areas of Gaza and the West Bank and exploited natural resources, in particular taking control of vital water resources.
Shlaim writes that these settlements were part of a systematic policy intended to exert strategic and military control which in this case involved, "surrounding the huge Greater Jerusalem area with two concentric circles of settlements with access roads and military positions." (Ibid., p.582)
The public is able to learn almost nothing of this from media reporting, as the Glasgow University Media Group has documented many times. In their book, Bad News From Israel, Greg Philo and Mike Berry wrote of one study of media performance:
"The lack of historical knowledge made it very difficult for people to understand key elements of the conflict. For example, some [viewers] had written that 'land' was an issue but there was a great deal of confusion over what this meant. Another participant described how his understanding included no sense of the Palestinian case that land had been taken from them." (Philo and Berry, 'Bad News From Israel,' Pluto Books, London, 2004, p.216)
A Media Lens reader, Chris Newman, conducted a survey of 19 BBC online articles on the Gaza crisis on January 5, 2009 (http://www.medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2918). As examples of his analysis, he found:
1. Mentions of refugees of 1948 or 1967, who make up the bulk of the Gaza population and are entitled to right of return under international law - 1 mention in a side article.
2. Mentions of the Occupation of Gaza (as stipulated by the UN it is still occupied) - 2 mentions in a side article.
As Newman concluded: "very little context to the foundations of Palestinian resistance is given. The UN has reported that it is the Occupation that is the cause of the Palestinian resistance, and as such these are extremely important points."
It is standard media practice for such context to be entirely absent or buried out of sight.
Deeper Motives - Israel's Not-So-Hidden Agenda
Journalists fully accept Israel's claims that its actions were taken to stop Hamas firing rockets into Israel from Gaza. The media has also speculated that the goal is to restore Israel's military 'credibility'. A Financial Times editorial observed:
"The overall aim of the politico-military establishment... appears to be re-establish the credibility of Israel's deterrent power, lost in the 34-days' war against Hizbollah in Lebanon in 2006, which offered a very public exhibition of the limits to Israel's otherwise overwhelming military might. Now, Mr Barak says, Israel is going to 'change the rules of the game'." (Editorial, 'A dangerous gamble in Gaza,' Financial Times, January 4, 2009; http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e56ac646-da93-11dd-8c28-000077b07658.html)
But insightful, independent commentators have been willing to look at the deeper issues. Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook comments:
"The politicians and generals have been preparing for this attack for many months, possibly years - a fact alone that suggests they have bigger objectives than commonly assumed. Israel seized this particular moment - with western politicians dozing through the holidays and a change over of administrations in Washington - because it ensured the longest period to implement its plan without diplomatic interference." (Cook, 'Objectives bigger than commonly assumed,' The National, January 7, 2009; http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090107/FOREIGN/679011682/1140)
Cook argues that Israel's bigger objectives can be achieved whether Hamas falls or remains, so long as it is crushed politically. But what +are+ these objectives? And why does the corporate media have nothing to say about them?
Avi Shlaim observes:
"The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas and to intensify the pressure until its leaders agree to a new ceasefire on Israel's terms. The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood." (Shlaim, 'How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe,' The Guardian, January 7, 2009; http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/07/gaza-israel-palestine)
Historically, the United States - Israel's armourer and diplomatic sponsor - has played a supporting role, belying its carefully-crafted image as a "neutral broker". Thus, the US was the only country to abstain from last week's United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. A BBC report noted blandly that "the US abstention weakened the impact of the vote because Washington's support would have placed more pressure on Israel to halt its offensive". ('Bombs hit Gaza as UN calls for truce,' January 9, 2009; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7819371.stm)
A glimpse of the real US role, buried in almost all mainstream coverage, was provided by Israel's Haaretz newspaper. The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, had "received explicit instructions from his superiors at the State Department to torpedo any initiative proposed by the Arab bloc which is designed to grant the Security Council the status of an official arbiter that will have direct involvement with disentangling the Gaza crisis." (Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz correspondent, and Reuters, 'U.S. to foil any Arab bid to push Security Council resolution for Gaza cease-fire,' Haaretz, January 5, 2009; http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1052887.html)
Hamas has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders. But Israel has rejected the offer, just as it rejected the Arab League peace plan of 2002; and just as it has always rejected the international consensus for a peaceful solution in the Middle East. Why? Because the threat of such 'peace offensives' would involve unacceptable concessions and compromises. The well-known Israeli writer Amos Elon has written of the "panic and unease among our political leadership" caused by Arab peace proposals. (Cited, Noam Chomsky, 'Fateful Triangle,' Pluto Press, London, 1999, p.75)
The Palestinians are seen as an obstacle by Israel's leaders; an irritant to be subjugated. Noam Chomsky writes:
"Traditionally over the years, Israel has sought to crush any resistance to its programs of takeover of the parts of Palestine it regards as valuable, while eliminating any hope for the indigenous population to have a decent existence enjoying national rights." ('Chomsky on the US, Israel, and Gaza,' January 8, 2009; http://www.thecommentfactory.com/noam-chomsky-on-the-us-israel-and-gaza-1298)
And so, as Chomsky notes:
"The key feature of the occupation has always been humiliation: they [the Palestinians] must not be allowed to raise their heads. The basic principle, often openly expressed, is that the 'Araboushim' - a term that belongs with 'nigger' or 'kike' - must understand who rules this land and who walks in it with head lowered and eyes averted." (Chomsky, 'Fateful Triangle,' op. cit., p.489)
The full title of Jonathan Cook's latest book indicates the reality underpinning current Israeli policy: 'Disappearing Palestine: Israel's experiments in human despair.' Behind "a mask of false legitimacy", Israel "has carried out the destruction of Palestinian identity and living space and the theft of resources." (Cook, 'Disappearing Palestine,' p.70)
Veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery concurs, arguing that the Gaza blockade is "a scientific experiment designed to find out how much one can starve a population and turn its life into hell before they break." Avnery adds: "The present war is a continuation of the experiment by other means." (Uri Avnery, 'Molten Lead in Gaza,' Counterpunch, January 2-4, 2009; http://www.counterpunch.org/avnery01022009.html)
Reporting from inside Israel, Cook has carefully documented the longstanding oppression of the 4 million Palestinians in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, as well as the 1.2 million second-class Palestinian citizens within Israel itself. Because of their relatively high birth rate, Palestinians are seen by many Israelis as a "demographic time-bomb"; a threat to the Jewish nature of the Israeli state.
In 2002, General Eitan Ben Elyahu, a former head of Israel's air force, declared on Israeli television that "eventually we will have to thin out the number of Palestinians living in the territories." (Cook, op. cit., pp.134-135)
This vision of ethnic cleansing would have been familiar to David Ben-Gurion, one of the main architects of Israel and its first prime minister. The vision is a campaign of bombing, starving and maiming to terrorise the Palestinian population into flight; a terrible echo of 1948. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, was massive and brutal, but incomplete: 80 per cent not 100 per cent of the Palestinians were expelled.
Cook warns that the political rise of Avigdor Lieberman, an immigrant from Moldova who leads a far-right party, is a sign of things to come. Lieberman, says Cook, "is the likely face of Israel's political future. He has been publicly promoting, and garnering support for, the expulsion of Israel's Palestinian minority, a policy that has been secretly formulated by more mainstream leaders for some time." (Ibid., pp.139-140)
Israeli historian Benny Morris, previously a liberal voice, "is one of a growing number of Israelis espousing this hardline policy of expulsion, or 'transfer' as it is more commonly, and coyly, referred to." (Ibid., p.141)
Cook argues that Israel's real intention is to replicate the apartheid model of South Africa; to transform Palestinian cities into Bantustans in a sea of Israeli-dominated territory, leaving Israeli settlers in possession of the arable land and vital water resources. He warns:
"The apartheid model is unlikely to be the end of the story, however... Another solution - transfer - will be needed. The Israeli public is already being softened up, with government ministers openly subscribing to it. Palestinians will have to be encouraged, or made, to leave their homes and land." (Ibid., pp.149-150)
Ilan Pappé notes that leading Zionist figures have long held such views. One of them, Yossef Weitz, wrote in 1940: "it is our right to transfer the Arabs" and "The Arabs should go!" (Pappé, 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,' OneWorld, Oxford, 2006, p.23)
In 1948, David Ben-Gurion argued:
"We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." (Edward S. Herman and Grace Kwinjeh, 'Ethnic Cleansing: Constructive, Benign, and Nefarious (Kafka Era Studies, No. 1),' ZNet, August 9, 2006; http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/3419)
Fifty years later, in 1998, Ariel Sharon made the same point:
"It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonization or Jewish state without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands." (Ibid.)
On May 24, 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a joint session of congress that "I believed and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land." (Ibid.)
Disturbingly, up to 60 per cent of Israeli Jews support schemes to encourage or force Arabs to leave both the occupied territories and Israel. (Cook, op. cit., p.141)
Edward Herman and Grace Kwinjeh point out that Israel's brutal invasion of Lebanon in 2006 was portrayed as an act of self-defense against a threat from Hezbollah. In fact, as Kaveh L Afrasiabi wrote, this was a war "to annex a major chunk of Lebanese territory without necessarily saying so, under the pretext of security buffer and deterrence against future attacks on Israel". (Quoted, Herman and Kwinjeh, op. cit.)
This drive to "redeem the land", in Zionist parlance, requires the forcible takeover of land in the possession of others. As such, Herman and Kwinjeh note, it "constitutes a model case of a quest for a 'Greater' entity - here a Greater Israel - a drive which in the case of Milosevic's and the Serbs' alleged drive for a 'Greater Serbia' was presented as a prime element of illegal activity in the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia] indictment of Milosevic." (Ibid.)
As Chomsky says so well, the violent reactions of Hamas "can be condemned as criminal and politically foolish, but those who offer no alternative have no moral grounds to issue such judgments, particularly those in the US who choose to be directly implicated in these ongoing crimes - by their words, their actions, or their silence." (http://www.thecommentfactory.com/noam-chomsky-on-the-us-israel-and-gaza-1298)
The ongoing assault on Gaza, then, is about far more than restoring military pride, preventing rocket attacks and crushing Hamas. It is about Israel's strategic plan to deliver the Palestinian people to an abysmal fate in pursuit of the Zionist dream.
As is the case for all major US-UK allies, honest analysis of state policy of this level of ugliness is all but unthinkable for a mainstream corporate media that is anything but free and independent.
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
Write to Jeremy Bowen
Write to Helen Boaden, director of BBC News
Jon Snow, Channel 4 news presenter
David Mannion, ITV news editor in chief
Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian
Roger Alton, editor of the Independent
Please send a copy of your emails to us