Challenges and Obstacles
"I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they'll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action." Malcolm X (Malik Shabazz)
"Free your mind and your ass will follow." - Black saying popular in the 1960s.
Tuesday June 19, 2001 Adel Hussain Al-Muqnin died of wounds he sustained Sunday when rock throwing Palestinians were shot at by Israel forces near Khan Yunis, He was 15 years old and his name in Arabic means fairness. His younger brother Ibrahim (=Abraham) was killed by Israeli forces eight months earlier at the start of the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation. US media chose to stay in the grip of Israeli propaganda and did not report this story. Between the deaths of these two brothers, Israeli soldiers and settlers killed over 500 Palestinians and injured 17,000. In the two year following that fateful June, the number of Palestinian casualties climbed to over 2500. Most were civilians. 250 lost eyes to so-called Rubber-coated steal bullets. One third of all those casualties of Israeli occupation were minors (under the age of 18). This is not surprising since this age bracket composes about half of the Palestinian population. What was surprising is the continued blindness of many in the US Congress and media about abuses of US and International law by the Israeli forces using US weapons and money. Instead, we were endlessly bombarded with talk of only a one sided suffering (Israeli victims), misguided political initiatives, and a lot of political rhetoric. Israeli forces continued the siege of Palestinian towns and villages rendering people prisoners in their own homes (many died while being prevented from getting to Hospitals, women have given births at checkpoints). Other collective punishments continue unabated including land confiscation, uprooting of trees, home demolitions, and bombardment of civilian areas by heavy artillery. How is one then able to understand let alone challenge the fact that many mainstream US media ignored all this and continued to talk about an imaginary agreements and "(Palestinian) terrorism."
It is important to understand the challenge and obstacles faced by activists for human rights in order to transcend these and move in a progressive direction of equality and justice. Learning from our successes and failures provides an excellent starting point for organizing to move forward and expand efforts. Human knowledge is after all gained through accumulating experiences (ours and others). The Arab-Israeli conflict has been initiated, propelled, and extended needlessly by opportunistic individuals working in groups (whether governmental agencies or non-governmental groups) or on their own to advance certain agendas. The damage they have done to countless lives and livelihoods is staggering. Just in terms of human lives and suffering, the cost has been almost unbearable. The real nature of the conflict and the real suffering of the natives at the hand of colonizers are intentionally buried. Those looking for real peace must find first their facts elsewhere whether in books, in alternative media, or on the internet.
Why the influential US mass media fails is a subject worth researching in depth. In my opinion, the role of propaganda and non-military aggressive programs has been equally as important in maintaining oppression and colonization as direct military force. Indeed Zionist groups have devoted tremendous energy and resources to both strategies. The colonial Zionist efforts in the first fifty years of the Zionist program (after 1897) were not military but PR, financial, and lobbying. And after the wars between 1947-1973, some would argue much more man-hours were spent at Hasbara (the Hebrew word for propaganda) than the Israeli army spent at maintaining the colonial system.
My own experiences showed the importance of counteracting the relentless propaganda campaign. Let me cite a couple of examples. In 1998 I was a faculty member at Duke University and a leader of a local Arab-American community group. In March 1998, we received a call from someone who is well connected who explained that Governor Hunt was making support for the state of Israel a key feature of his administration to repay some old favors. The governor had appointed Merrit A. Mulman, a seasoned fundraiser, as executive director of a new "North Carolina-Israel Partnership". This partnership then used state and federal money to allow significant travel for the Governor and others abroad. There was minuscule economic trade between Israel and North Carolina and this continued. What was further more disturbing was a scheduled concert and speeches at State grounds (NC Museum of Arts) for Israel's 50th Anniversary (in May 1998). The person who contacted us said the media was not interested. We contacted the media to do a story and they were not interested other than to cover our planned demonstration at the state grounds. Our demonstration went well, received good coverage, and initiated a fruitful public discussion about support for an apartheid state. Years later, the FBI was called to investigate the NC-Israel Partnership. Indictments were handed down to Lenore Behar and Merrit A Mulman in the case in 2001 (www.theunjustmedia.com/ officials%20indicted%20over%20use%20of%20grants.htm ). Mulman relocated to Ohio where he became number 2 in the Columbus Jewish Federation and then appointed in July 2003 as Executive Director of The Jewish Federation of the North Shore. http://www.jewishjournal.org/archives/archiveJune20_03.htm
Fast forward to 2002. We brought a Palestinian girl who was 7 1/2 years old when she was shot by an Israeli and lost her eye. Her mother came with her and we got her a prosthetic eye here. Yale issued a press release (as a humanitarian story with involvement of me as a Yale associate professor and of Yale Eye Center). Media came to interview. The girl, the mother, and I explained clearly that this girl was walking with her mom on a quiet street; they turned the corner on a street facing a settlement. No demonstrations or violence was going on (an Islamic religious holiday). Her mother only heard her daughter drop and say "my eye, my eye" and then noticed the Israeli soldiers across the valley on the hill of the settlement. Channel 8 came with good footage but then edited and spliced to produce a very biased story. They added footage of unrelated violent demonstrations (Palestinians throwing stones, Israeli shootings etc) and the headings of "caught in the crossfire." I called the reporter and asked why this was inserted (it is not true, she was not in any crossfire and no demonstrations were there at the time). The reporter apologetically stated that it was her editor who made this and perhaps it was for context. I asked her to speak to the editor to ensure this does not happen again. Indeed, future stories were better (but still short of our expectations). We also proceeded to do our own videos and broadcasts (e.g. on public access cable TV). These two experiences are illustrative of the need for activists to take things into their hands and not depend on the media to get the truth out.
There is a whole network now in the US to promote Zionism under the guise of fighting Islamism and creating straw enemies https://islamophobianetwork.com/