|Hamas fighters line a road as some of the group leaders tour the city of Beit Hanoun after Israeli air strikes in the area, Gaza Strip, Sept. 2, 2014. (Photo: Wissam Nassar / The New York Times)|
The attack on Gaza was an attack on all of us. The denial of
justice to Palestinians is a symptom of much of humanity under siege and
a warning that the threat of a new world war is growing by the day,
says John Pilger.
"There is a taboo," said the visionary Edward Said, "on telling the
truth about Palestine and the great destructive force behind Israel.
Only when this truth is out can any of us be free."
For many people, the truth is out now. At last, they know. Those
once intimidated into silence can't look away now. Staring at them from
their TV, laptop, phone, is proof of the barbarism of the Israeli state
and the great destructive force of its mentor and provider, the United
States, the cowardice of European governments, and the collusion of
others, such as Canada and Australian, in this epic crime.
The attack on Gaza was an attack on all of us. The siege of Gaza is a
siege of all of us. The denial of justice to Palestinians is a symptom
of much of humanity under siege and a warning that the threat of a new
world war is growing by the day.
When Nelson Mandela called the struggle of Palestine "the greatest
moral issue of our time," he spoke on behalf of true civilization, not
that which empires invent. In Latin America, the governments of Brazil,
Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, El Salvador, Peru and Ecuador have made
their stand on Gaza. Each of these countries has known its own dark
silence when immunity for mass murder was sponsored by the same
godfather in Washington that answered the cries of children in Gaza with
more ammunition to kill them.
Unlike Netanyahu and his killers, Washington's pet fascists in Latin
America didn't concern themselves with moral window dressing. They
simply murdered, and left the bodies on rubbish dumps. For Zionism, the
goal is the same: to dispossess and ultimately destroy an entire human
society, a truth that 225 Holocaust survivors and their descendants have
compared with the genesis of genocide.
Nothing has changed since the Zionists' infamous "Plan D" in 1948
that ethnically cleansed an entire people. Recently, on the website of
the Times of Israel were the words: "Genocide is Permissible." A deputy
speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Moshe Feiglin, demands a
policy of mass expulsion into concentration camps. An MP, Ayelet
Shaked, whose party is a member of the governing coalition, calls for
the extermination of Palestinian mothers to prevent them giving birth to
what she calls "little snakes."
For years, reporters have watched Israeli soldiers bait Palestinian
children by abusing them through loud-speakers. Then they shoot them
dead. For years, reporters have known about Palestinian women about to
give birth and refused passage through a roadblock to a hospital; and
the baby has died, and sometimes the mother.
For years, reporters have known about Palestinian doctors and
ambulance crews given permission by Israeli commanders to attend the
wounded or remove the dead, only to be shot through the head.
For years, reporters have known about stricken people prevented from
getting life-saving treatment, or shot dead when they've tried to reach a
clinic for chemotherapy treatment. One elderly lady with a walking
stick was murdered in this way - a bullet in her back.
When I put the facts of this crime to Dori Gold, a senior adviser to
the Israeli prime minister, he said, "Unfortunately in every kind of
warfare there are cases of civilians who are accidentally killed. But
the case you cite was not terrorism. Terrorism means putting the
crosshairs of the sniper's rifle on a civilian deliberately."
I replied, "That's exactly what happened."
"No," he said, "it did not happen."
Such a lie or delusion is repeated unerringly by Israel's apologists.
As the former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges points out, the
reporting of such an atrocity invariably ends up as "caught in the
crossfire." For as long as I have covered the Middle East, much, if not
most, of the western media has colluded in this way.
In one of my films, a Palestinian cameraman, Imad Ghanem, lies
helpless while soldiers from the "most moral army in the world" blew
both his legs off. This atrocity was given two lines on the BBC
website. Thirteen journalists were killed by Israel in its latest
bloodfest in Gaza. All were Palestinian. Who knows their names?
A Huge Revulsion
Something is different now. There is a huge revulsion across the
world; and the voices of sensible liberalism are worried. Their hand
wringing and specious choir of "equal blame" and "Israel's right to
defend itself" will not wash any more; neither will the smear of
anti-Semitism. Neither will their selective cry that "something must be
done" about Islamic fanatics but nothing must be done about Zionist
One sensible liberal voice, the novelist Ian McEwan, was being
celebrated as a sage by the Guardian while the children of Gaza were
blown to bits. This is the same Ian McEwan who ignored the pleading of
Palestinians not to accept the Jerusalem Prize for literature. "If I
only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out
of bed," said McEwan.
If they could speak, the dead of Gaza might say: Stay in bed, great
novelist, for your very presence smoothes the bed of racism, apartheid,
ethnic cleansing and murder - no matter the weasel words you uttered as
you claimed your prize.
Understanding the sophistry and power of liberal propaganda is key to
understanding why Israel's outrages endure; why the world looks on; why
sanctions are never applied to Israel; and why nothing less than a
total boycott of everything Israeli is now a measure of basic human
The most incessant propaganda says Hamas is committed to the
destruction of Israel. Khaled Hroub, the Cambridge University scholar
considered a world leading authority on Hamas, says this phrase is
"never used or adopted by Hamas, even in its most radical statements."
The oft-quoted "anti-Jewish" 1988 Charter was the work of "one
individual and made public without appropriate Hamas consensus . . . The
author was one of the 'old guard' "; the document is regarded as an
embarrassment and never cited.
Hamas has repeatedly offered a 10-year truce with Israel and has long
settled for a two-state solution. When Medea Benjamin, the fearless
Jewish-American activist, was in Gaza, she carried a letter from Hamas
leaders to President Obama that made clear the government of Gaza wanted
peace with Israel. It was ignored. I personally know of many such
letters carried in good faith, ignored or dismissed.
The unforgivable crime of Hamas is a distinction almost never
reported: It is the only Arab government to have been freely and
democratically elected by its people. Worse, it has now formed a
government of unity with the Palestinian Authority. A single, resolute
Palestinian voice - in the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council
and the International Criminal Court - is the most feared threat.
Since 2002, a pioneering media unit at Glasgow University has
produced remarkable studies of reporting and propaganda in
Israel/Palestine. Professor Greg Philo and his colleagues were shocked
to find a public ignorance compounded by TV news reporting. The more
people watched, the less they knew.
Greg Philo says the problem is not "bias" as such. Reporters and
producers are as moved as anyone by the suffering of Palestinians; but
so imposing is the power structure of the media - as an extension of the
state and its vested interests - that critical facts and historical
context are routinely suppressed.
Incredibly, less than 9 percent of young viewers interviewed by
Professor Philo's team were aware that Israel was the occupying power,
and that the illegal settlers were Jewish; many believed them to be
Palestinian. The term "Occupied Territories" was seldom explained. Words
such as "murder,""atrocity," and "cold-blooded killing" were used only
to describe the deaths of Israelis.
Boundaries of Fake Impartiality
Recently, a BBC reporter, David Loyn, was critical of another British
journalist, Jon Snow of Channel 4 News. Snow was so moved by what he
had seen in Gaza he went on YouTube to make a humanitarian appeal. What
concerned the BBC man was that Snow had breached protocol and been
emotional in his YouTube piece.
"Emotion," wrote Loyn, "is the stuff of propaganda, and news is
against propaganda." Did he write this with a straight face? In fact,
Snow's delivery was calm. His crime was to have strayed outside the
boundaries of fake impartiality. Unforgivably, he didn't censor himself.
In 1937, with Adolf Hitler in power, Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The
Times in London, wrote the following in his diary: "I spend my nights in
taking out anything which will hurt [German] susceptibilities and in
dropping in little things which are intended to soothe them."
On 30 July, the BBC offered viewers a masterclass in the Dawson
Principle. The diplomatic correspondent of the program Newsnight, Mark
Urban, gave five reasons why the Middle East was in turmoil. None
included the historic or contemporary role of the British government.
The Cameron government's dispatch of £8 billion worth of arms and
military equipment to Israel was airbrushed. Britain's massive arms
shipment to Saudi Arabia was airbrushed. Britain's role in the
destruction of Libya was airbrushed. Britain's support for the tyranny
in Egypt was airbrushed.
As for the British invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, they didn't happen, either.
The only expert witness on this BBC program was an academic called
Toby Dodge from the London School of Economics. What viewers needed to
know was that Dodge had been a special adviser to David Petraeus, the
American general largely responsible for the disasters in Iraq and
Afghanistan. But this, too, was airbrushed.
In matters of war and peace, BBC-style illusions of impartiality and
credibility do more to limit and control public discussion than tabloid
distortion. As Greg Philo pointed out, Jon Snow's moving commentary on
YouTube was limited to whether the Israeli assault on Gaza was
proportionate or reasonable. What was missing - and is almost always
missing - was the essential truth of the longest military occupation in
modern times: a criminal enterprise backed by western governments from
Washington to London to Canberra.
As for the myth that "vulnerable" and "isolated" Israel is surrounded
by enemies, Israel is actually surrounded by strategic allies. The
Palestinian Authority, bankrolled, armed and directed by the United
States, has long colluded with Tel Aviv. Standing shoulder to shoulder
with Netanyahu are the tyrannies in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the
United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar - if the World Cup ever gets to
Qatar, count on Mossad to run the security.
Resistance is humanity at its bravest and most noble. The resistance
in Gaza is rightly compared with the 1943 Jewish uprising in the Warsaw
Ghetto - which also dug tunnels and deployed tactics of subterfuge and
surprise against an overpowering military machine. The last surviving
leader of the Warsaw uprising, Marek Edelman, wrote a letter of
solidarity to the Palestinian resistance, comparing it with the ZOB, his
ghetto fighters. The letter began: "Commanders of the Palestine
military, paramilitary and partisan operations - and to all soldiers [of
Dr. Mads Gilbert is a Norwegian doctor renowned for his heroic work
in Gaza. On August 8, Dr. Gilbert returned to his hometown of Tronso in
Norway, which, as he pointed out, the Nazis had occupied for seven
years. He said, "Imagine being back in 1945 and we in Norway did not win
the liberation struggle, did not throw out the occupier. Imagine the
occupier remaining in our country, taking it piece by piece, for decades
upon decades, and banishing us to the leanest areas, and taking the
fish in the sea and the water beneath us, then bombing our hospitals,
our ambulance workers, our schools, our homes.
"Would we have given up and waved the white flag? No, we would not!
And this is the situation in Gaza. This is not a battle between
terrorism and democracy. Hamas is not the enemy Israel is fighting.
Israel is waging a war against the Palestinian people's will to resist.
It is the Palestinian people's dignity that they will not accept this.
"In 1938, the Nazis called the Jews Untermenschen - subhuman. Today,
Palestinians are treated as a subhuman people who can be slaughtered
without any in power reacting.
"So I have returned to Norway, a free country, and this country is
free because we had a resistance movement, because occupied nations have
the right to resist, even with weapons - it's stated in international
law. And the Palestinian people's resistance in Gaza is admirable: a
struggle for us all."
Danger in Truth-Telling
There are dangers in telling this truth, in breaching what Edward Said called "the last taboo." My documentary, Palestine Is Still the Issue,
was nominated for a BAFTA, a British academy award, and praised by the
Independent Television Commission for its "journalistic integrity" and
the "care and thoroughness with which it was researched." Yet, within
minutes of the film's broadcast on Britain's ITV Network, a shock wave
struck - a deluge of emails described me as a "demonic psychopath," "a
purveyor of hate and evil" and "an anti-Semite of the most dangerous
kind." Much of this was orchestrated by Zionists in the United States
who could not possibly have seen the film. Death threats arrived at a
rate of one a day.
Something similar happened to the Australian commentator Mike Carlton
last month. In his regular column in the Sydney Morning Herald, Carlton
produced a rare piece of journalism about Israel and the Palestinians;
he identified the oppressors and their victims. He was careful to limit
his attack to "a new and brutal Israel dominated by the hard-line,
right-wing Likud party of Netanyahu." Those who had previously run the
Zionist state, he implied, belonged to "a proud liberal tradition."
On cue, the deluge struck. He was called "a bag of Nazi slime, a
Jew-hating racist." He was threatened repeatedly, and he emailed his
attackers to "get fucked."
The Herald demanded he apologize. When he refused, he was suspended,
then he resigned. According to the Herald's publisher, Sean Aylmer, the
company "expects much higher standards from its columnists."
The "problem" of Carlton's acerbic, often solitary liberal voice in a
country in which Rupert Murdoch controls 70 percent of the capital city
press - Australia is the world's first murdocracy - would be solved
twice over. The Australian Human Rights Commission is to investigate
complaints against Carlton under the Racial Discrimination Act, which
outlaws any public act or utterance that is "reasonably likely . . . to
offend, insult, humiliate another person or a group of people" on the
basic of their race, color or national or ethnic origin.
In contrast to safe, silent Australia - where the Carltons are made
extinct - real journalism is alive in Gaza. I often speak on the phone
with Mohammed Omer, an extraordinary young Palestinian journalist, to
whom I presented, in 2008, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.
Whenever I called him during the assault on Gaza, I could hear the whine
of drones, the explosion of missiles. He interrupted one call to attend
to children huddled outside waiting for transport amidst the
explosions. When I spoke to him on July 30, a single Israeli F-19
fighter had just slaughtered 19 children. On August 20, he described how
Israeli drones had effectively "rounded up" a village so that they
could be savagely gunned down.
Every day, at sunrise, Mohammed looks for families who have been
bombed. He records their stories, standing in the rubble of their homes;
he takes their pictures. He goes to the hospital. He goes to the
morgue. He goes to the cemetery. He queues for hours for bread for his
own family. And he watches the sky. He sends two, three, four dispatches
a day. This is real journalism.
"They are trying to annihilate us," he told me. "But the more they bomb us, the stronger we are. They will never win."
The great crime committed in Gaza is a reminder of something wider and menacing to us all.
Since 2001, the United States and its allies have been on a rampage.
In Iraq, at least 700,000 men, woman and children are dead as a result.
The rise of jihadists - in a country where there was none - is the
result. Known as al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State, modern jihadism
was invented by the United States and Britain, assisted by Pakistan and
Saudi Arabia. The original aim was to use and develop an Islamic
fundamentalism that had barely existed in much of the Arab world to
undermine pan-Arab movements and secular governments. By the 1980s, this
had become a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA
called it Operation Cyclone; and a cyclone it turned out to be, with
its unleashed fury blowing back in the faces of its creators. The
attacks of 9/11 and in London in July 2005 were the result of this
blowback, as were the recent, gruesome murders of the American
journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. For more than a year, the
Obama administration armed the killers of these two young men - then
known as ISIS in Syria - to destroy the secular government in Damascus.
The West's principal "ally" in this imperial mayhem is the medieval
state where beheadings are routinely and judicially carried out - Saudi
Arabia. Whenever a member of the British Royal Family is sent to this
barbaric place, you can bet your bottom petrodollar that the British
government wants to sell the sheiks more fighter planes, missiles,
manacles. Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, which
bankrolls jihadists from Syria to Iraq.
Why must we live in this state of perpetual war?
The immediate answer lies in the United States, where a secret and
unreported coup has taken place. A group known as the Project for a New
American Century, the inspiration of Dick Cheney and others, came to
power with the administration of George W Bush. Once known in Washington
as the "crazies," this extreme sect believes in what the US Space
Command calls "full spectrum dominance".
The Imperial Mentality
Under both Bush and Obama, a19th century imperial mentality has
infused all departments of state. Raw militarism is ascendant; diplomacy
is redundant. Nations and governments are judged as useful or
expendable: to be bribed or threatened or "sanctioned."
On July 31, the National Defense Panel in Washington published a
remarkable document that called for the United States to prepare to
fight six major wars simultaneously. At the top of the list were Russia
and China - nuclear powers.
In one sense, a war against Russia has already begun. While the world
watched horrified as Israel assaulted Gaza, similar atrocities in
eastern Ukraine were barely news. At the time of writing, two Ukrainian
cities of Russian-speaking people - Donetsk and Luhansk - are under
siege: their people and hospitals and schools blitzed by a regime in
Kiev that came to power in a putsch led by neo-Nazis backed and paid for
by the United States. The coup was the climax of what the Russian
political observer Sergei Glaziev describes as a 20-year "grooming of
Ukrainian Nazis aimed at Russia." Actual fascism has risen again in
Europe and not one European leader has spoken against it, perhaps
because the rise of fascism across Europe is now a truth that dares not
speak its name.
With its fascist past and present, Ukraine is now a CIA theme park, a
colony of NATO and the International Monetary Fund. The fascist coup in
Kiev in February was the boast of US assistant secretary of state
Victoria Nuland, whose "coup budget" ran to $5 billion. But there was a
setback. Moscow prevented the seizure of its legitimate Black Sea naval
base in Russian-speaking Crimea. A referendum and annexation quickly
followed. Represented in the West as the Kremlin's "aggression," this
serves to turn truth on its head and cover Washington's goals: to drive a
wedge between a "pariah" Russia and its principal trading partners in
Europe and eventually to break up the Russian Federation. American
missiles already surround Russia; NATO's military build-up in the former
Soviet republics and eastern Europe is the biggest since the second
During the cold war, this would have risked a nuclear holocaust. The
risk has returned as anti-Russian misinformation reaches crescendos of
hysteria in the US and Europe. A textbook case is the shooting down of a
Malaysian airliner in July. Without a single piece of evidence, the
United States and its Nato allies and their media machines blamed ethnic
Russian "separatists" in Ukraine and implied that Moscow was ultimately
responsible. An editorial in The Economist accused Vladimir Putin of
mass murder. The cover of Der Spiegel used faces of the victims and bold
red type, "Stoppt Putin Jetzt!" (Stop Putin Now!) In The New York
Times, Timothy Garton Ash substantiated his case for "Putin's deadly
doctrine" with personal abuse of "a short, thickset man with a rather
The Guardian's role has been important. Renowned for its
investigations, the newspaper has made no serious attempt to examine who
shot the aeroplane down and why, even though a wealth of material from
credible sources shows that Moscow was as shocked as the rest of the
world, and the airliner may well have been brought down by the Ukrainian
With the White House offering no verifiable evidence - even though US
satellites would have observed the shooting-down - the Guardian's
Moscow correspondent Shaun Walker stepped into the breach. "My audience
with the Demon of Donetsk," was the front- page headline over Walker's
breathless interview with one Igor Bezler. "With a walrus moustache, a
fiery temper and a reputation for brutality," he wrote, "Igor Bezler is
the most feared of all the rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine . . .
nicknamed The Demon . . . If the Ukrainian security services, the SBU,
are to be believed, the Demon and a group of his men were responsible
for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 . . . as well as
allegedly bringing down MH17, the rebels have shot down 10 Ukrainian
aircraft." Demon Journalism requires no further evidence.
Demon Journalism makes over a fascist-contaminated junta that seized
power in Kiev as a respectable "interim government." Neo-Nazis become
mere "nationalists." "News" sourced to the Kiev junta ensures the
suppression of a U-run coup and the junta's systematic ethnic cleaning
of the Russian-speaking population of eastern Ukraine. That this should
happen in the borderland through which the original Nazis invaded
Russia, extinguishing some 22 Russian lives, is of no interest. What
matters is a Russian "invasion" of Ukraine that seems difficult to prove
beyond familiar satellite images that evoke Colin Powell's fictional
presentation to the United Nations "proving" that Saddam Hussein had
WMD. "You need to know that accusations of a major Russian 'invasion' of
Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence," wrote a
group of former senior US intelligence officials and analysts, the
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, to German Chancellor
Angela Merkel. "Rather, the 'intelligence' seems to be of the same
dubious, politically 'fixed' kind used 12 years ago to 'justify' the
U.S.-led attack on Iraq."
The jargon is "controlling the narrative." In his seminal Culture and Imperialism,
Edward Said was more explicit: the western media machine was now
capable of penetrating deep into the consciousness of much of humanity
with a "wiring" as influential as that of the imperial navies of the
19th century. Gunboat journalism, in other words. Or war by media.
Second Superpower Emerging
Yet, a critical public intelligence and resistance to propaganda does
exist; and a second superpower is emerging - the power of public
opinion, fueled by the internet and social media.
The false reality created by false news delivered by media
gatekeepers may prevent some of us knowing that this new superpower is
stirring in country after country: from the Americas to Europe, Asia to
Africa. It is a moral insurrection, exemplified by the whistleblowers
Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. The question begs:
Will we break our silence while there is time?
When I was last in Gaza, driving back to the Israeli checkpoint, I
caught sight of two Palestinian flags through the razor wire. Children
had made flagpoles out of sticks tied together and they'd climbed on a
wall and held the flag between them.
The children do this, I was told, whenever there are foreigners
around, because they want to show the world they are there - alive, and
brave, and undefeated.
This article is adapted from John Pilger's Edward Said Memorial Lecture, delivered in Adelaide, Australia, on September 11.