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Issues of the Holy Land
By M. Zeyaul Haque

M. Zeyaul HaqueIssues of the Holy Land
The Palestinian national liberation movement has entered a crucial phase, a phase which has hiked the cost of occupation for the Israelis in terms of Jewish lives lost, economic drain, and loss of face in the international community for the barbaric repression of the occupied population.

The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), otherwise a toothless organisation, has urged member states to suspend all relations with Israel, and this time round quite a few states seem to be taking the OIC resolutions rather seriously. Several leaders have demanded that Israel should be expelled from the UN and all of its organisations for the violation of the UN Charter and its key resolutions on which the very membership of Israel to the world body hinges.

There is a growing demand for initiating criminal proceedings against Israeli leaders for crimes against humanity and genocide of Palestinian people. For people who are witness to the scene, which includes media representative in the holy land, the brutalities of the Zionist regime far exceed anything that the white Dutch Afrikaners did to blacks in South Africa under apartheid. As it is, what remains of Palestine today has been turned into Bantustans (a cluster of disjointed Palestinian enclaves, each surrounded in turn by Israeli territory guarded by Israeli army). The Palestine Authority is a misnomer because it is exactly what Arafat had once angrily rejected as a proposed "government to run sewers".

In fact, it is worse than what Arafat said it was. The "sewers" run through Israeli territory after every few kilometres and they can choke it at any point they fancy. No wonder, Prof. Boyle remarked at a recent press conference in Washington that the Oslo accords had "run their course", and have nothing much to offer. The issues remain unresolved: Haram Sharif, return of refugees, halt to Palestinian land confiscation and illegal Jewish settlement building, compensation to victims since 1948 – none of these have been settled. To cap it all, the occupation continues.

As this column is largely about the media-Muslim interface (and the Arab-Muslim stake is the highest in Palestine), it is interesting to note that a small, but perceptible, change has occurred in the attitude of the international media over the last few years. This is not to overlook the fact that media moguls like Rupert Murdoch (he calls himself "a Christian zionist"), Ted Turner (whose CNN has been analysed in The Milli Gazette of 16 May 2001) and Mortimer Zuckerman (whose US News & World Report, Atlantic and other publications see no evil in Israel) remain as obdurate as ever. Also, most other media outfits of the West too remain unrepentent.

However, we are talking here of only a "small" change, but a welcome change nonetheless. So, let us begin with the write-up of BBC’s Paul Adams who had covered Jerusalem for three and a half eventful years. Adams wrote and posted it on the BBC’s website on April 14, 2001 at the time of leaving. Aptly titled "Farewell to Jerusalem" and subtitled "Jerusalem: A city where the living often invoke the dead", it contains certain observations we don’t usually find in the Western media.

For instance, the label of "anti-semite", which is freely tagged on to anyone daring to air viewpoint different from Israeli establishment’s, works as a deterrent for Western journalists. Rarely does a Western journalist muster enough courage to invite the stigma of being an "anti-semite". Now see, what Adams has to say on all this: "So much hatred and so much grief – the past seven months seem to have been about nothing else. ... As the bombs explode, carrying away the lives of innocent civilians, it is simply not enough to talk of hate. …But it does not spring from some innate disposition as some Israelis seem to believe. Calling it anti-semitism may be tempting but it is wrong."

Now, how many articles do we see written in this vein by Westerners? Adams goes on: "The Palestinians have ample reason to mistrust and resent their powerful overlord. The destruction of more than 400 of their villages following the establishment of Israel in 1948. The exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of them driven from their homes by force of arms. The conquest of what remained of their homeland in 1967 and the subsequent decision to colonise West Bank and Gaza Strip – a disastrous policy illegal under international law, which lies at the very heart of today’s violence."

Most of the time what we hear from Western columnists is not what Adams says but just the reverse of it – that it is not the relentless Israeli oppression that forces the Palestinians to the wall and to resort to stonethrowing or small-arm fire, but their "innate disposition" that makes them resort to "violence". What is described by Israeli and Western journalists as Palestinian "violence" is a puny caricature of what Israelis do with their helicopter gunships and laser-guided bombs. The quality and quantum of violence shows well in the toll of Israeli and Palestinian lives.

Adam says Israelis "have retreated under a tough shell bearing the name of their new prime minister, Ariel Sharon". On the contrary, this war criminal is hardly the person to usher in peace. "Palestinians, who yearn for statehood on equal terms, despair that Israel will even give them the chance. More and more of them have come to believe that violence is the only way." He says the situation may get much worse before it improves.

As Israelis step up the repression, the anti-American sentiment grows in Arab youth because all this is going on with American support, American money and American weapons. No wonder, the U.S. credibility as an impartial peacemaker has been declining steadily.

Coming back to the media’s treatment of the situation in the holy land, we have a couple of Jerusalem correspondents of Indian newspapers who could as well have been PROs of Israel’s defence ministry. One of them is The Statesman’s Eric Silver. However, the newspaper has more than compensated for Silver’s inadequacy with Aditi Bhaduri’s responsible handling of the Mitchell Commission Report on the situation in Palestine.

In another unusually forthright piece on the op-ed page (May 30, 2001) retired Indian Army officer J K Dutt makes an important point: "… any incumbent of the White House will ever have to equate with one powerful political group, the Jewish lobby. This lobby exerts tremendous influence on all of U.S.A.’s West Asian policies, so having them oriented as to suit the Jews."

Dutt remarks that "once the Jewish lobby’s stranglehold (on the U.S. presidency) can be eased, the U.S. presidency will be able to adopt a more equitable approach towards West Asia." And that will be the end of the anti-America sentiment in West Asia.

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