Friday, June 11, 2010

Propaganda Masks

Israel's Atrocities

By Linda S. Heard
Jun 11, 2010

Did you ever wonder why so many people in the US appear to be blind to Israel’s crimes? No matter how many international laws it breaks or UN Security Council resolutions it trashes, most Americans are oblivious to the truth.

Think about it! Since 2006, Israel has launched a war of aggression on Lebanon, killing 1,200. Then, in 2007, it began a complete blockade of Gaza before attacking its residents in the winter of 2008-09 and killing 1,440. Now, its commandos gun down nine activists on a humanitarian ship in international waters.

Yet even before the bodies were placed into coffins, the Israeli government attempted to paint these heroes as armed terrorists.

Palestinian advocates are amazed that this tiny US ally gets away with perpetrating atrocities over and over again with little more than a slap on the wrist. What is equally shocking is the backing the Israeli authorities receive from large sections of the American public.

You only have to tune in to US television networks such as Fox News or CNN. Their spin reflects the pro-Israel view of Congress and public sentiment that invariably sides with the Jewish state.

Israel’s narrative is so protected in the US that lawmakers have passed a bill calling for punitive measures against television networks in the Middle East for fuelling hatred. Such a move ensures that Americans remain indoctrinated.

Now for confession time! If these horrible events had occurred during my teens and early twenties, I would have probably been marching with Israel’s supporters.

The fact is that from the age of nine I grew up in a predominately Jewish area of London. Our neighbours on either side were Hassidic Jews and at least 70 percent of the girls in my grammar school were Jewish supporters of “poor little Israel surrounded by 100,000 hostile Arabs.”

During the 1967 war, several of my school friends flew to Israel to work on Kibbutzim and I remember wanting to go too. This didn’t go down very well with my naval officer father, who had fond memories of playing football with Palestinians in Haifa during the Second World War.

Some years later, I spent some time in Cyprus, where I was introduced to the Middle East expert and author Desmond Stewart and his agent Gillon Aitken. A lively discussion on the Israel-Palestine conflict ensued with Stewart and Aitken in Palestine’s corner and me stridently rooting for Israel as though I knew it all.

I still cringe at the thought of my arrogance and ignorance. They, on the other hand, were astonishingly patient while Stewart was kind enough to send me his book The Arab World.

My attitude softened when I lived in Algeria during the early 1970s, mainly because I had the opportunity to work with Palestinians, who told me their stories. But I wasn’t convinced enough to do a 180-degree U-turn.

Quite honestly, I must have been a complete idiot (I know, I’m leaving myself open with that one). I’ll tell you why. Algerian friends invited me to a party in Algiers and as my French was rusty in those days, I gravitated towards a small gathering of English-speakers, who turned out to be Palestinians.

Our topic of conversation was Palestine when, naturally, I launched into my usual babble. We spoke for hours. They told me of their enforced exodus from Palestine and the hardships they had endured. One explained that he was stateless. Another showed me a key to his father’s house that hung around his neck although he knew he would never live there again. A third described how life was like in a squalid refugee camp.

As I was leaving, one of the young men took me to one side to say, “Do you know who we are? We are Black September and I can assure you if you had been a man you would have been thrown out of that window.”

But everything changed for me when I actually visited Tel Aviv in 1974 and saw with my own eyes how Arabs are treated as second class citizens. In occupied Jerusalem, I witnessed elderly Palestinian women being stopped and searched and an Israeli soldier mercilessly taunting a Palestinian youth, who was hauled off when he was driven to snap back.

It soon became clear that my Israeli ‘friends’ considered the Palestinians as little better than vermin who should be exterminated. I was also a target of Israeli bigotry myself when a clinic refused to treat me for severe sunburn because I wasn’t Jewish and a hotel manager decided to berate me for having Arab stamps in my passport.

The other day, I heard an American activist on Al Jazeera saying, if ordinary Americans were allowed to know the truth they would turn over their country’s pro-Israel policy in a heartbeat.

If my own journey to an awakening of conscience is anything to go by, he may have a point.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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