Adonis Diaries

Archive for May 3rd, 2012

Israeli Government suppressing 60 Minutes broadcast…

MJ Rosenberg posted (paragraphs between parenthesis are mine):

As one who has been harping for years on the Israel lobby’s unique ability to silence critics of Israeli policies, (critics working in politics, the media, academie or anywhere else…), I can’t say that I am surprised by the brouhaha surrounding Sunday’s 60 Minutes broadcast of a Bob Simon report on the treatment of Palestinian Christians.

It was a powerful segment which revealed that the Christian population has diminished dramatically in recent years as Palestinians left for other countries.

The exodus is not the result of Israeli policies that specifically target Christians and drive them from the place Christianity began. It is rather the oppressive policies toward Palestinians in general, policies that do not distinguish between Palestinian Muslims and Palestinian Christians, that have caused the Christian population to drop so dramatically.

(In 1967, Christians constituted 5 percent of Jerusalem’s population; today Christians constitute just 1.5 percent. Bethlehem, not long ago an overwhelmingly Christian city, is now hardly Christian at all).

None of this should be a surprise, given the incessant growth of Israeli settlements and the construction of the separation walls which, between them, have caused Palestinians of all persuasions to live literally between a rock and a hard place.

(Actually, Israel built two walls and starting to build a third on Lebanon borders. You have the Wall of Shame (of about 800 kilometers) erected on what is supposed to be the legal separation borders between the occupied West Bank and Israel proper and usurping Palestinian lands and cutting Palestinian towns and cities in half…, and the wall on Egypt’s borders separating Israel and the Sinai Peninsula in Gaza…) 

(Practically, Israel is reverting to the ghetto mentality so that “Out of sight, No see Palestinians, No mingling with Palestinians… Thus, no threats, no fear, do not exist occupied population…The walls are not for security reasons or for defensive means…just preventing the Israelis from seeing Palestinians under occupation…)

Christians, many of whom have relatives abroad, leave because they have places to go. But there is hardly a Palestinian, Christian or Muslim, who hasn’t considered getting out, given the miserable conditions the occupation has inflicted on them, and the end of any hope that U.S. pressure on Israel will lead to it ending its illegal occupation of the West Bank.

The 60 Minutes report caused the Israeli government to go ballistic, even before it aired. In fact, it tried hard to stop it from being broadcast.

That is because the Israeli government and its advocates here have portrayed the Christian exodus as the result of Muslim discrimination, and not the burdens of the occupation.

But 60 Minutes demonstrated how false that story line is. It does that not by interviewing Israeli government officials but by actually talking to Palestinians, none of whom mention Muslim discrimination, but all of whom talk about how the occupation is making their lives a living hell.

But the Israeli government’s problems with the segment go far beyond that.

Ever since the Likud party first came to power in 1977, Israeli propagandists have managed to successfully convince conservative American Christians that their counterparts in the Holy Land are Israelis, whose military power protects them from the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.

 But then along came 60 Minutes, which revealed to millions of American viewers (it was the sixth highest rated show last week) that, in fact, their counterparts are Palestinian Christians who are being squeezed out by the Israeli authorities and especially by the entire settlement enterprise, which is gobbling up their land, homes, and ability to travel from one town to another.

Suddenly, Israel would have a more difficult time claiming the mantle of defender of Christians in Israel and the occupied territories.

The Israeli government perceived the threat to its propaganda line even before the show was aired and called the top brass at CBS to demand that its representative Ambassador Michael Oren be invited to participate, and offer the government’s rebuttal. CBS agreed and the government was no doubt pleased that he would be able to neutralize the report.

That is not how it worked out, as can be seen in the televised segment. Oren, predictably, first attacked the report as biased against Israel and Jews. Correspondent Simon responded that the information he relied on “was endorsed by the leaders of 13 Christian denominations including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican.”

Oren: “These are denominations who have been exceedingly critical of the State of Israel. And sometimes to the point of going beyond legitimate criticism. And so —

Simon: What does that mean to go beyond….

Oren: Well, I think —

Simon: — legitimate criticism?

Oren: Accusing us — of crimes that would be very, I think, historically associated with anti-Semitism.

Nothing unusual about that. Israeli spokespersons invariably dismiss criticism of its government policies as anti-Israel and/or anti-Semitic.

But then came something rather different:

Oren: It seemed to me outrageous. Completely incomprehensible that at a time when these communities, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are being oppressed and massacred, when churches are being burnt, when one of the great stories in history is unfolding? I think it’s– I think it’s– I think you got me a little bit mystified.

Simon: And it was a reason to call the president of– chairman of CBS News?

Oren: Bob, I’m the ambassador of the State of Israel. I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador. It’s just– that’s an extraordinary move for me to complain about something. When I heard that you were going to do a story about Christians in the Holy Land and my assumption– and– and had, I believe, information about the nature of it, and it’s been confirmed by this interview today.

Simon: Nothing’s been confirmed by the interview, Mr. Ambassador, because you don’t know what’s going to be put on air.

Oren: Okay. I don’t. True.

Simon: Mr. Ambassador, I’ve been doing this a long time. And I’ve received lots of reactions from just about everyone I’ve done stories about. But I’ve never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn’t been broadcast yet.

Oren: Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob.

Always a first time. In other words, the Israeli government intends to continue its efforts to intimidate the media into shelving stories it perceives as critical of Israel, even before it knows what is in the story. In legal terms, this is what is called “prior restraint.”

Of course, this is far from the first time. Every journalist knows that writing or producing news pieces critical of Israel is a sure recipe for trouble. Usually the trouble does not come directly from the Israeli government (with the prime minister’s support).

Usually it comes from the Israel lobby, which organizes campaigns to stop a show from airing or to threaten punishment after the fact.

That happened in this case too when the largest Jewish charity in the world, the Jewish Federations of North America, sent out the following emergency email to its affiliates and members urging that the community do everything it can to stop CBS.

“We hope that CBS will be flooded with responses through their in-boxes, Facebook, Twitter and mail after the program to express discontent if it is as biased as we anticipate.”

That is how it works. Criticize Israel and you’ll be attacked as anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, or worse.

This explains what Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, was alluding to the other day when he explained why he avoids writing about Israel at all.

“The truth is that like many liberal American Jews — and most American Jews are still liberal — I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide — and that’s bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention the world. But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism…”

In other words, even a figure as distinguished, well-known and influential as Paul Krugman fears to tangle with the lobby. I don’t blame him.

His issue is income inequality in America and the economics of greed that is destroying the American Dream, along with the reality. He cannot, and should not, get bogged down in a battle with modern-day McCarthyists who will seek to destroy his influence on the subject that matters to him most.

But isn’t it terrible that this is where we are today.

There is no other issue like this — not abortion, unions, nuclear power, climate change, guns, equal rights, big or small government, taxes, racism — about which people on either side are actually intimidated into silence. Not one, except Israel.

How long can this go on? One thing is certain: it won’t go on forever.

MJ Rosenberg on Twitter:

Syria city of Edleb by Turkish border: 10 checkpoints on a 70-mile stretch…

Two weeks ago, I was walking in the neighborhood and was stopped by Syrian workers riding in a car.  They wanted to know whether I have any idea of the availability of rooms to rent. They were thinking of living 6 of them in a room, just to have a roof over their head since they are working in construction…The wages of Syrian workers in Lebanon decreased because there is more offer than demand, and because daily wages in Syria is reaching less than $3…

There are more than 30,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon since the Syrian uprising started, mainly located in north Lebanon (Akkar district) and in the Bekaa Valley.  There are over 100,000 Syrian refugees on the Jordanian borders, and about 40,000 on the Turkish borders…

I asked one of the Syrians: “From where are you?” He was from the city of Edleb in the north, one mile away from the Turkish border…and they were returning to Lebanon after a visit to their hometown. I said: “What! You went to Edleb as it is bombarded by the Syrian army?”

Two of the workers were from Edleb and they told me that there are 10 checkpoints on a 70-mile stretch, starting from the border of the district of Edleb to their main city of Edleb… The Syrian army is maintaining strong strategic positions outside Edleb city-limit.

You have to first reach the port city of Latakieh, passing by Tartus and Banias and drive north-east toward Aleppo before you get to the Edleb province.  Ironically, there are no checkpoints until you reach the Edleb district border. I guess many checkpoints are set up toward the hot resistance cities of Homs, Hama, and Daraa…

By the way, the province of Edleb is the size of the State of Israel and more twice the size of Lebanon (10,250 sq.kilometer)

I recall that, even three years after the Syrian troops vacated Lebanon in 2005, the Lebanese army kept strategic strong points with tanks and canon…in many key districts in Lebanon…

I guess that the Syrian people are in for many years of seeing many army positions and checkpoints, even after Syria political situation stabilizes…

I visited Syria in 1973 and vast modern highways were crisscrossing the country. The highway between Latakieh and Aleppo is straight like an arrow, and you may set the cruise control and get a 40-minutes nap.

The problem in Syria is not lack of food, but variety. You go to a restaurant and hotels and your choices are chicken, chicken and rice, non tasty humus, bread, and a few varieties of vegetables…and this in the land of bounty! Things must be even harder with all the financial and economical embargo, meant to drive the Syrian people miserable.  Sort of pushing misery to win the revolution, and then the armed revolution to drive the people back to misery…

And you thought that misery is misery and cannot sustain sophisticated taxonomy of differentiating among them…But you discover there is a misery “with dignity” (Tunisia, Egypt, Iran), misery under absolute obscurantist monarchies (Saudi Arabia) with no freedom of expression whatsoever, misery under absolute monarchies with nominal constitutions (Morocco, Jordan) with successive demoting of Prime Ministers, misery under oil rich oligarchies (the Arab Gulf States) where you don’t have the right to vote since you pay no taxes, misery in pseudo muti-theocratic State with unlimited freedom of opinion (Lebanon), misery under tribal political structures (Libya, Yemen)…

You have this peninsula named Qatar with barely 300,000 “citizens” and four fold that number in foreign immigrants put to work as slaves in order to “maintain” the life-style of the Emirs…You hardly stumble on any Qatari “citizen” to ask his opinion: They are nowhere to be seen…And yet, the Emir of Qatar thinks that he has the rights to disseminate his brand of “democracy and freedom of speech”, which do not exist in this Gulf State, and want to impose his views on people who have thousands of years of urban culture and civilization…

All kinds of miseries that the people in the Middle-East got accustomed to: The first and basic responsibility of questioning authority figures are not even in the list of people entitlements.




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