Posts Tagged ‘Robert Fisk’

Fighting talk: The new propaganda

June 27, 2010

Journalism has become a linguistic battleground – and when reporters use terms such ‘spike in violence’ or ‘surge’ or ‘settler’, they are playing along with a pernicious game, argues Robert Fisk

The Independent/UK, June 21, 2010

Botch and learn: the  world's media await the arrival of the Gaza  flotilla that was stormed by the Israeli Navy
AFP / GETTY IMAGES

Botch and learn: the world’s media await the arrival of the Gaza flotilla that was stormed by the Israeli Navy

Following the latest in semantics on the news? Journalism and the Israeli government are in love again. It’s Islamic terror, Turkish terror, Hamas terror, Islamic Jihad terror, Hezbollah terror, activist terror, war on terror, Palestinian terror, Muslim terror, Iranian terror, Syrian terror, anti-Semitic terror…

But I am doing the Israelis an injustice. Their lexicon, and that of the White House – most of the time – and our reporters’ lexicon, is the same. Yes, let’s be fair to the Israelis. Their lexicon goes like this: Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror.

Continues >>

Robert Fisk: Why does the US turn a blind eye to Israeli bulldozers?

January 31, 2010

Most of the West Bank is under rule which amounts to apartheid by paper

Robert Fisk, The Independent/UK, January 30, 2010

“Palestine” is no more. Call it a “peace process” or a “road map”; blame it on Barack Obama’s weakness, his pathetic, childish admission – like an optimistic doctor returning a sick child to its parents without hope of recovery – that a Middle East peace was “more difficult” to reach than he imagined.

But the dream of a “two-state” Israeli-Palestinian solution, a security-drenched but noble settlement to decades of warfare between Israelis and Palestinians is as good as dead.

Both the United States and Europe now stand idly by while the Israeli government effectively destroys any hope of a Palestinian state; even as you read these words, Israel’s bulldozers and demolition orders are destroying the last chance of peace; not only in the symbolic centre of Jerusalem itself but – strategically, far more important – in 60 per cent of the vast, biblical lands of the occupied West Bank, in that largest sector in which Jews now outnumber Muslims two to one.

This majority of the West Bank – known under the defunct Oslo Agreement’s sinister sobriquet as “Area C” – has already fallen under an Israeli rule which amounts to apartheid by paper: a set of Israeli laws which prohibit almost all Palestinian building or village improvements, which shamelessly smash down Palestinian homes for which permits are impossible to obtain, ordering the destruction of even restored Palestinian sewage systems. Israeli colonists have no such problems; which is why 300,000 Israelis now live – in 220 settlements which are all internationally illegal – in the richest and most fertile of the Palestinian occupied lands.

When Obama’s elderly envoy George Mitchell headed home in humiliation this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated his departure by planting trees in two of the three largest Israeli colonies around Jerusalem. With these trees at Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim, he said, he was sending “a clear message that we are here. We will stay here. We are planning and we are building.” These two huge settlements, along with that of Ariel to the north of Jerusalem, were an “indisputable part of Israel forever.”

It was Netanyahu’s victory celebration over the upstart American President who had dared to challenge Israel’s power not only in the Middle East but in America itself. And while the world this week listened to Netanyahu in the Holocaust memorial commemoration for the genocide of six million Jews, abusing Iran as the new Nazi Germany – Iran’s loony president supposedly as evil as Hitler – the hopes of a future “Palestine” continued to dribble away. President Ahmadinejad of Iran is no more Adolf Hitler than the Israelis are Nazis. But the “threat” of Iran is distracting the world. So is Tony Blair yesterday, trying to wriggle out of his bloody responsibility for the Iraq disaster. The real catastrophe, however, continues just outside Jerusalem, amid the fields, stony hills and ancient caves of most of the West Bank.

Robert Fisk: America is performing its familiar role of propping up a dictator

November 5, 2009

As in Vietnam, Karzai is going to rule over an equally tiny island of corruption

Robert Fisk, The Independent/UK, November 4, 2009

Could there be a more accurate description of the Obama-Brown message of congratulations to the fraudulently elected Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan? First the Palestinians held fair elections in 2006, voted for Hamas and were brutally punished for it – they still are – and then the Iranians held fraudulent elections in June which put back the weird Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whom everyone outside Iran (and a lot inside) regard as a dictator. But now we have the venal, corrupt, sectarian Karzai in power after a poll far more ambitiously rigged than the Iranian version, and – yup, we love him dearly and accept his totally fraudulent election.

Robert Fisk: Most Arabs know Obama’s speech will make little difference

June 2, 2009

I suspect that what the Arab world wants to hear is that Obama will take his soldiers out of Muslim lands

Robert Fisk | The Independent/UK, June 2, 2009

More and more, it looks like the same old melody that Bush’s lads used to sing. We’re not against the Muslim world. In fact, we are positively for it. We want you to have democracy, up to a point. We love Arab “moderates” and we want to reach out to you and be your friends. Sorry about Iraq. And sorry – again, up to a point – about Afghanistan and we do hope that you understand why we’ve got to have a little “surge” in Helmand among all those Muslim villages with their paper-thin walls. And yes, we’ve made mistakes.

Everyone in the world, or so it seems, is waiting to see if this is what Barack Obama sings. I’m not sure, though, that the Arabs are waiting with such enthusiasm as the rest of the world.

I haven’t met an Arab in Egypt – or an Arab in Lebanon, for that matter – who really thinks that Obama’s “outreach” lecture in Cairo on Thursday is going to make much difference.

They watched him dictate to Bibi Netanyahu – no more settlements, two-state solution – and they saw Bibi contemptuously announce, on the day that Mahmoud Abbas, the most colourless leader in the Arab world, went to the White House, that Israel’s colonial project in the West Bank would continue unhindered. So that’s that, then.

And please note that Obama has chosen Egypt for his latest address to the Muslims, a country run by an ageing potentate – Hosni Mubarak is 80 – who uses his secret police like a private army to imprison human rights workers, opposition politicians, anyone in fact who challenges the great man’s rule. At this point, we won’t mention torture. Be sure that this little point is unlikely to get much play in the Obama sermon, just as he surely will not be discussing Saudi Arabia’s orgy of head-chopping when he chats to King Abdullah on Wednesday.

So what’s new, folks? Arabs, I find, have a very shrewd conception of what goes on in Washington – the lobbying, the power politics, the dressing up of false friendship in Rooseveltian language – even if ordinary Americans do not. They are aware that the “new” America of Obama looks suspiciously like the old one of Bush and his lads and ladies. First, Obama addresses Muslims on Al-Arabiya television. Then he addresses Muslims in Istanbul. Now he wants to address Muslims all over again in Cairo.

I suppose Obama could say: “I promise I will not make any decision until I first consult with you and the Jewish side” along with more promises about being a friend of the Arabs. Only that’s exactly what Franklin Roosevelt told King Abdul Aziz on the deck of USS Quincy in 1945, so the Arabs have heard that one before. I guess we’ll hear about terrorism being as much a danger to Arabs as to Israel – another dull Bush theme – and, Obama being a new President, we might also have a “we shall not let you down” theme.

But for what? I suspect that what the Arab world wants to hear – not their leaders, of course, all of whom would like to have a spanking new US air base on their property – is that Obama will take all his soldiers out of Muslim lands and leave them alone (American aid, doctors, teachers, etc, excepted). But for obvious reasons, Obama can’t say that.

He can, and will, surely, try his global-Arab line; that every Arab nation will be involved in the new Middle East peace, a resurrection of the remarkably sane Saudi offer of full Arab recognition of Israel in return for an Israeli return to the 1967 borders in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 242. Obama will be clearing this with King Abdullah on Wednesday, no doubt. And everyone will nod sagely and the newspapers of the Arab dictatorships will solemnly tip their hats to the guy and the New York Times will clap vigorously.

And the Israeli government will treat it all with the same amused contempt as Netanyahu treated Obama’s demand to stop building Jewish colonies on Arab land and, back home in Washington, Congress will fulminate and maybe Obama will realise, just like the Arab potentates have realised, that beautiful rhetoric and paradise-promises never, ever, win against reality.

Robert Fisk: A historic day for Iraq – but not in the way the British want to believe

May 2, 2009

The Independent, UK, May 1, 2009 

Brigadier Tom Beckett (right) hands over to Colonel Henry A Kievenaar III at Basra Airbase yesterday

PA

Brigadier Tom Beckett (right) hands over to Colonel Henry A Kievenaar III at Basra Airbase yesterday

One hundred and seventy-nine dead soldiers. For what? 179,000 dead Iraqis? Or is the real figure closer to a million? We don’t know. And we don’t care. We never cared about the Iraqis. That’s why we don’t know the figure. That’s why we left Basra yesterday.

I remember going to the famous Basra air base to ask how a poor Iraqi boy, a hotel receptionist called Bahr Moussa, had died. He was kicked to death in British military custody. His father was an Iraqi policeman. I talked to him in the company of a young Muslim woman. The British public relations man at the airport was laughing. “I don’t believe this,” my Muslim companion said. “He doesn’t care.” She did. So did I. I had reported from Northern Ireland. I had heard this laughter before. Which is why yesterday’s departure should have been called the Day of Bahr Moussa. Yesterday, his country was set free from his murderer. At last.

History is a hard taskmaster. In my library, I have an original copy of General Angus Maude’s statement to the people of Baghdad – $2,000, it cost me, at a telephone auction a few days before we invaded Iraq in 2003, but it is worth every cent. “Our military operations have as their object,” Maude announced, “the defeat of the enemy… our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.” And so it goes on. Maude, I should add, expired shortly afterwards because he declined to boil his milk in Baghdad and died of cholera.

There followed a familiar story. The British occupation force was opposed by an Iraqi resistance – “terrorists”, of course – and the British destroyed a town called Fallujah and demanded the surrender of a Shiite cleric and British intelligence in Baghdad claimed that “terrorists” were crossing the border from Syria, and Lloyd George – the Blair-Brown of his age – then stood up in the House of Commons and said that there would be “anarchy” in Iraq if British troops left. Oh dear.

Even repeating these words is deeply embarrassing. Here, for example, is a letter written by Nijris ibn Qu’ud to a British intelligence agent in 1920: “You cannot treat us like sheep… it is we Iraqi who are the brains of the Arab nation… You are given a short time to clear out of Mesopotamia. If you don’t go you will be driven out.”

So let us turn at last to T E Lawrence. Yes, Lawrence of Arabia. In The Sunday Times on 22 August 1920, he wrote of Iraq that the people of England “had been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information… Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows.” Even more presciently, Lawrence had written that the Iraqis had not risked their lives in battle to become British subjects. “Whether they are fit for independence or not remains to be tried. Merit is no justification for freedom.”

Alas not. Iraq, begging around Europe now that its oil wealth has run out, is a pitiful figure. But it is a little bit freer than it was. We have destroyed its master and our friend (a certain Saddam) and now, with our own dead clanking around our heels, we are getting out yet again. Till next time…

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Robert Fisk on Gaza and the media

February 24, 2009

Reporting independently from the front lines of war is an increasingly rare engagement for journalists working for major international media outlets. From Iraq to Afghanistan, reporters are increasingly embedded with Western military forces, operating without independence.

When Israeli military forces launched an invasion into the Gaza Strip, international journalists were barred entry into the territory by the Israeli government for the majority of the conflict, despite a ruling from the Israeli Supreme Court that called on the government to allow international reporters into the territory. Major international media outlets, including CNN and the BBC, ended up reporting from hilltops in Israeli-controlled territory kilometres away from the actual conflict.

British journalist Robert Fisk has offered fiercely independent accounts of conflicts throughout the Middle East for decades. Stationed in Beirut, Lebanon, Fisk reports for the UK-based Independent newspaper and is widely read around the world. Fisk spoke with community activist and journalist Stefan Christoff about the media response to the recent war on Gaza.

Stefan Christoff: Historical context is often not included in daily reporting on the Middle East. Could you offer some historical perspectives to the recent war in Gaza?

Robert Fisk: In 1948 when the Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes — 750,000 is the figure widely accepted — those in the north in the Galilee area of what became Israel fled into Lebanon, those in the Jerusalem area fled east toward what we now call the West Bank and those in the south fled into what we now call the Gaza Strip.

For example, in 2000, after the Israelis finished their final withdrawal after 22 years of occupation and went across the border back into Israel, many Palestinians in Lebanon went down to the border and looked across, not because they were looking at northern Israel but because they were looking at the northern part of Palestine as they had known it – some could actually see the villages that their parents or grandparents had come from in 1948.

So there is this whole Diaspora around the state of Israel who can’t go home because their home is on the other side of the border. This reality revolves around the whole issue of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 on the right of return, [which stipulates that] these Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes.

Well over half the people living in Gaza are families, either survivors or descendants of Palestinians who lived only 10 or 12 miles into what is today Israel. So when you hear the Israelis say the terrorists are firing rockets into Israel, the Palestinians in Gaza can say in many cases, ‘Well, my grandson is firing a rocket at my town because before 1948 these areas would have been Palestinian property.’

SC: Can you talk about your perceptions of media coverage on the latest war in Gaza?

RF: There were two things that happened. First, the international press allowed for their own humiliation: Israel told the press that they couldn’t go into Gaza and they didn’t really try to, so the press sat outside Gaza and pontificated from two miles away. Israel wanted to keep the international press out of Gaza and they were kept out, that was that.

It is instructive to note that no major Western media outlet had a reporter based inside Gaza who would have been there when it started. Clearly, after the kidnapping of a BBC reporter, who was based in Gaza, it is not surprising that the international news agencies were hesitant to base reporters there. However, it is also instructive to note that it was the Hamas government that had the BBC reporter released, which is not often mentioned now.

SC: So what kind of more widespread effect did the reporters who were left in Gaza have on Western media?

RF: Faced with the fact that the only journalists left inside Gaza were Palestinian reporters, the major networks were forced to hand over their reporting to Palestinian Arabs, who in many cases were refugees inside Gaza. This meant that you had Palestinian reporters on the ground talking about their own people, unencumbered by Western reporters cross-questioning them or trying to put 50 per cent of the story on one side and 50 per cent of the story on the other side.

Al Jazeera came out as the heroes of journalism because they had their international service, their English service and also their Arabic service fully operational from offices inside Gaza. Individual Palestinians working for Western news organizations showed that they could be competent journalists, and the Western journalists who sat outside Gaza looked as pathetic as their reporting on the Middle East is becoming.

Palestinian reporters were telling their own stories, in the case of [the Independent's] Palestinian reporter inside Gaza, his father was killed in an air strike, his father, who was a pro-Palestinian Authority, English-speaking, well-educated judge, was killed in his orchard. So the Independent had on our front page this terrible and tragic story of this innocent man destroyed, atomized into pieces of flesh by an Israeli air strike on his orchard, a story reported by his own son in our newspaper.

So this was the kind of journalism from Palestine that we hadn’t seen in the major [Western] press, so there was an upside to the [international] press being banned from Gaza. However, the work of the international reporters was truly pathetic.

Stefan Christoff is a community organizer and journalist based in Montreal.


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