Sharon, Arafat, Abramoff, and the media
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
More than a year ago many in the US media focused on how the passing of an ailing Arafat would become the key to unlock the deadlocked peace process (we now know this to be untrue or was vastly exaggerated). There was hardly any US coverage of the nature of his “mysterious illness” (to date there was no diagnosis). There was hardly any coverage the good wishes he received from leaders around the world. Nor was there balanced discussion of his history or even of his Israeli supporters or his Palestinian critics (only Israeli critics were highlighted). Now Sharon is ailing and the contrast in some coverage could not be any more dramatically different. The double standard goes deeper and perhaps relates to the wider problem of US foreign policy credibility around the world.
Arafat, while derided as an obstacle to peace and for cronyism, was imprisoned in his compound in Ramallah by Israeli forces that controlled even his access to food and water. Arafat was actually challenged by nearly half of the Palestinian people for moving away (starting in the 1970s and culminating in Oslo in the 1990s) from national liberation to unbalanced and unfair "negotiations" leading to agreements that failed to protect Palestinian human rights as codified by International law.
Sharon sat as a leader of the fourth or fifth strongest military power in the world (with extensive weapons of mass destruction and significant violations of International law). But Sharon was also responsible for massacres at Qibya in 1953, at Gaza in 1971, at Sabra and Shatila in 1982 (for details, see http://www.indictsharon.net/), and more recently for large scale demolition of Palestinian homes and for targeting civilians (see reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and Israeli Human Rights organizations like B’Tselem). He was even held “personally responsible” for Sabra and Shatila massacres by Israel’s own investigative commission. More recently legal proceedings were brought against him under Belgium’s Universal Jurisdiction laws and a huge pressure from Israeli and US governments were put on the judiciary in Belgium to drop the case.
Most of the world understood that the major obstacle to peace is Israeli colonization and oppression of a native Palestinians in contravention of International law and over 60 UN Security Council resolutions. Most of the world also recognizes that the support by the US government to Israel was critical in its evasion of International law (e.g. about the need to let Palestinian refugees return to their homes and lands). This support was buttressed by the influence of the Israeli lobby in DC and in some media outlets. Most of the world knows it is mere distractions and delays the approach of peace to personalize issues (around Arafat or Sharon), to focus on the violence of those resisting occupation and colonization (but not the violence of the occupier/colonizer), and to speak of unilateral “solutions” that involve walls and Bantustans as advancing peace. Such distractions were attempted in Apartheid South Africa and failed.
Yet, many in the US media persist in trying to use these fig leafs. It is not easy to understand who benefits from vilifying Arafat and making Sharon's policies of dictating unilateral “solutions” look good. Why would one discuss the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza without explaining that per International Law, Gaza remains occupied or that in exchange for withdrawing the 2% of total settlers (from Gaza), Sharon added 4% settlers in the West Bank? One can understand the media’s concern for the health of an Israeli Prime Minister but what should never be excused is shabby journalism and hypocrisy in covering illnesses of leaders like Arafat versus Sharon.
Perhaps other affairs gives more hints of these double standards. Going back, one could site the dubious reasons for invading Iraq while supporting Israel (Israel was and continue to be in violation of 10 times more UN resolutions than Iraq ever was). More recently the Abramoff affair may also shed some light (and may be the straw that breaks the camels’ back). Abramoff pleaded guilty to defrauding Native American tribes of million and directing the money through fake charities to gain political influence and to help his pet causes. But why is it that many in the US media (with few brave exceptions) failed to mention that his top “cause” and his passion was Israeli colonization of Palestinian lands. Abramoff for example diverted money (“charity donations”) to Israeli settlers living illegally on Palestinian lands. His “customers” were told this money is intended for inner city poor Americans. Instead the money bought military hardware to help settlers terrorize native Palestinians. Ironically Native Americans were defrauded into funding oppression and colonization of other native people. Abramoff also used his influence with Congressman Bob Nye to get a government contract worth $3 million to an obscure Israeli security company and on and on.
But why is this information not being highlighted or even mentioned on the pages of major newspapers or discussed in TV programs. Could it be that this could harm the “special relationship” between the US and
Israeli governments that is so well guarded now and so detrimental to US public interests. After all, even if one accepts the ludicrous suggestion that Israel is a democracy, why should we give Israel (0.1% of the world population) more money and resources and vetoes at the UN Security council than Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Central America combined? Why should US taxpayers give more federal aid to Israel per capita than many states in the US? One can only be thankful that we have an international mainstream media, some courageous US media outlets that publish such information, and the Internet. Dare we hope that 2006 will be a pivotal year when the avalanche of information and public activism become so large that the fig leafs of misinformation, diversions and double-standards will be swept aside?
1) Contact media outlets
2) Abramoff links
Abramoff lobby "charity" sent money to West Bank Settlers
Money meant for the inner city went to fight the intifada. http://msnbc.msn.com/id/7615249/site/newsweek/
Abramoff sent money to Israeli sniper school
Abramoff used Delay to fund anti-Intifada activists
Two former Abramoff Associates flee to Israel
Abramoff lobbied congrssman Robert Nye to award $3 million contract to Israeli company
Abramoff said of Congressman Delay “He’s a religious Christian, I’m a religious Jew. He’s very actively pro-Israel. I’m rabidly pro-Israel. We had a lot of mutual friends as well”