Of Reason In Israel
VIEW FROM THE LEFT
Harley Sorensen, Special to SF Gate
April 21, 2003
In recent years, my relationships
with my Jewish friends and Jews in general has become somewhat strained.
I can discuss world affairs with my friends, and we pretty much agree
-- until the subject turns to Israel.
Then the agreement becomes
unraveled. In brief, I abhor the abuse of the Palestinians by the Israelis,
and my Jewish friends defend and justify it. That's pretty much a conversation
stopper, because we're both adamant in our views.
Also, over the past year,
I've been appalled by the number of normally pacifist American Jews
in public life who suddenly turned pro-war, favoring a war against Iraq,
a war that, incidentally, was thought to be greatly in Israel's interest.
So my former 99 percent favorable
rating for Jews and Israelis has diminished somewhat lately. Thus, it
was a great joy for me a few weeks ago, and a relief, to have Uri Avnery
brought to my attention. Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist.
He defends neither Israel's excesses nor America's. He is the best proof
I know of that not all Israelis support the mistreatment, murder and
ethnic cleansing of Israel's Palestinian underclass.
You can read all about Avnery
on his Web
site. Following are some samples of his writing, reprinted here
with his kind permission:
On Donald Rumsfeld: "Sometimes,
the entire character of a person is encapsulated in one single word
of theirs. This happened last week to Donald Rumsfeld.
"The world saw the terrible
pictures of what's happening in Baghdad under the eyes of the occupation
forces. Baghdad was ransacked as in the days of the Mongols. The mob
did not plunder only the government buildings, without which no modern
society can function, but also hospitals and museums. Priceless cultural
treasures from the cradle of human civilization were destroyed or plundered
-- one of the worst cultural disasters in the history of mankind....
A city of many millions was turned over to the mob.
"When Rumsfeld was asked
about it, the man who is responsible for this catastrophe said dismissively,
'When a regime falls, there is always some untidiness.' Untidiness!
One word that speaks volumes. About the man himself."
On the next war: "After the
hostilities in Iraq, the world will be faced with two decisive facts:
"First, the immense superiority
of American arms can beat any people in the world ...
"Second, the small group
that initiated this war -- an alliance of Christian fundamentalists
and Jewish neo-conservatives -- has won big, and from now on it will
control Washington almost without limits.
"The combination of these
two facts constitutes a danger to the world, and especially to the Middle
East, the Arab peoples and the future of Israel. Because this alliance
is the enemy of peaceful solution, the enemy of the Arab governments,
the enemy of the Palestinian people and especially the enemy of the
Israeli peace camp.
"[This alliance] does not
dream only about an American empire, in the style of the Roman one,
but also of an Israeli mini-empire, under the control of the extreme
right and the settlers. It wants to change the regimes in all Arab countries.
It will cause permanent chaos in the region, the consequences of which
are impossible to foresee.
"Its mental world consists
of a mixture of ideological fervor and crass material interests, an
exaggerated American patriotism and right-wing Zionism.
"This is a dangerous mixture.
There is in it something of the spirit of Ariel Sharon, a man who has
always had grandiose plans for changing the region, consisting of a
mixture of creative imagination, unbridled chauvinism and a primitive
faith in brute force."
Elsewhere, Avnery writes,
"Seemingly, all this is good for Israel. America controls the world,
we control America. Never before have Jews exerted such an immense influence
on the center of world power.
"But this tendency troubles
me. We are like a gambler who bets all his money and his future on one
horse. A good horse, a horse with no current competitor, but still one
On "The Disinformation Force":
"This war was waged simultaneously in two arenas: in the field and on
television. There was hardly any resemblance between the two....
"From now on, TV is a component
of the armed forces, along with the army, the navy and the air force.
Like them, it is directed by the command structure.
"Much thought and effort
was devoted to this arm. General Myers, the No. 1 soldier in Washington,
and General Franks, the commander of the actual campaign, personally
took part in the action. (It was a stroke of genius to put a black general
into the center of the picture.)
"The aim is to engender in
the mind of the home audience, world public opinion and perhaps even
in the mind of the enemy a picture of the war that has no connection
with reality. That is easy, because there is no more mendacious instrument
than television. He who controls it, controls the picture of reality,
and thereby the mind of the viewer.
"For example, in order to
support the claim that the aim of the war was to 'liberate' the Iraqi
people, it was essential to show the Iraqi population welcoming the
liberators with joy. Television delivered the goods.
"Nothing easier: Simply fill
the frame with a hundred jumping and shouting people, in order to create
the impression the whole country is jumping and shouting. Nobody will
ask: Who the hell are they? Where did they come from? Who called them
together? Did they get anything in return? Aren't they, by chance, the
same people who jumped and shouted a few days ago 'with our soul and
blood we will redeem you, Saddam?' And where are the other 5 million
inhabitants of Baghdad? What do they think and feel?
"During five very long hours,
all Western TV stations (and Al Jazeera as well) concentrated on showing
a crowd of Iraqis trying to bring down a giant statue of Saddam in the
center of Baghdad. A discerning eye could notice that the crowd was
no more than a hundred people, certainly half of them journalists. The
statue smashers acted manifestly for the camera. But, television wise,
that was 'the Iraqi people.' This picture will remain fixed in the mind
of the world as the defining image of the 'liberation.'"
I can't begin to do Avnery
justice in the short space of this column, so I plead with you to go
to his Web site and read his words of wisdom for yourself. If you have
trouble reaching the site (I did last Friday), do a Google search for
"Uri Avnery," and you should find a link that works.
If you have the time to read
his work, I think you'll find it extremely rewarding.
Harley Sorensen is a longtime
journalist and liberal iconoclast.
©2003 SF Gate