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One Hundred Forty Funerals, & The Rest Is History

One Hundred Forty Funerals, And The Rest Is History

By Ramzy Baroud

A 17-day Israeli onslaught in northern Gaza left in its wake nearly 140 dead, one-third of them children. The newest tragedy to visit the impoverished strip, was neither the first, nor will it be the last. But, in many ways, it was reminiscent of the invasion of Jenin in April 2002. There too, hundreds of people were killed and maimed, and thousands more were left grief-stricken, homeless and defenseless.

Those who understand the depth of the tragedy - unhampered by the desensitizing Arabic media and dehumanizing Western counterpart – may often wonder why such blatant state terrorism would compel no serious response, especially from those who endlessly decry poor human rights records of countries far superior to Israel in their respect for international law and human rights treaties.

"I understand the politics of it all," a friend wrote as Israel announced its 'redeployment' in northern Gaza, "but what really bothers me is the benign response of average people everywhere. How callous have we become?"

As far as I see it however, the casual callousness of humanity at large is not what is to blame here, after all, few can claim that they were not horror-stricken by the recent school tragedy of Beslan, Russia, or the awesome terrorist strikes in New York and Washington DC on September 11.

What makes these tragedies much more appalling than others is the media's eagerness to embrace the “official narratives” with their one-sided framing of any conflict, omitting the needed overall context, deeming it an undesired nuisance.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a case in point.

Sidestepping ancient history for once, let's briefly examine the last few years, the period immediately preceding the current Palestinian uprising, which has recently marked its fourth year.

The Israeli narrative was adamantly consistent, until recently: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat orchestrated the Intifada all along; he had no intentions of reaching a final and comprehensive peace agreement with Israel, turning down a very generous offer presented by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David (July 2000); Arafat is no partner of peace; no such partner among Palestinians exists; Israel must do all it can to protect its citizens, even if it has to seek peace unilaterally; hence, the disengagement plan of Ariel Sharon.

Palestinians too had their own narrative, but for them, it was too little, too late. The American government and media had already championed the Israeli narrative, with much more enthusiasm than Israelis themselves. Any Palestinian daring enough to show up for an American interview to offer an alternative viewpoint was bombarded with all kinds of accusatory questions: “Why did you waste such a golden chance for peace, why do you insist on violence, why turn down Barak's generous offer,” and so forth. Despite my attempts to always stay calm, cool and collected, I often reacted angrily to the endless finger pointing myself.

Shockingly (not to Palestinians of course) there was no generous offer to begin with, according to Robert Malley, Special Assistant to former President Bill Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs and his advisor at Camp David. Barak never unveiled his 'offer’; not in writing, not verbally, not even to the United States itself. "It is hard to state with confidence how far Barak was actually prepared to go," Malley wrote in his piece published in the New York Review of Books. "His strategy was predicated on the belief that Israel ought not reveal its final position – not even to the United States – until the endgame was in sight." And it never was.

How about the banter that Palestinians are not a 'partner in the peace process', rhetoric that US officials parrot as frequently as Israelis, which has become the slogan-base that allowed the Israeli lobby in the US to ensure the support of the most bellicose, unbalanced Administration and Congress in its history?

There was one lone ranger behind that entire edifice of false depictions, according to the former chief of the Israeli Military Intelligence (MI) Gen. Amos Malka. The man is Amos Gilad, the head of the research section at the MI office.

Gilad's fib (that the Palestinians were not a partner in the peace process, and that Arafat was hell-bent on the destruction of Israel) was so widespread, it continues to be cited by political and media circles in the West, despite the major blow delivered by Gen Malka in his interview with the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. According to Malka, Gilad had no basis whatsoever to his assertions, save his own personal views, as twisted as they were.

Gilad was "a very significant factor in persuading a great many people. [yet] in all the time that I served as head of MI, the research division did not produce so much as a single document expressing the assessment that Gilad claims to have presented to the [then] prime minister [Ehud Barak.]," Malka said. That episode had therefore presented an "erroneous view of the cause of the violence, and hence the mistaken conclusion that there is no Palestinian partner for peace," concludes the newspaper. The US administration, and to an equal extent, the media, seem not to take notice of what should've been a ground-shaking revelation, a scandal even.

By not taking notice, Israel will continue with its relentless violence against the Palestinians. Its extended campaign of terror shall carry on as long as Palestinians and their leadership are viewed as the cause of violence, bent on the destruction of Israel after they've succeeded in their supposed diabolical scheme which began when Barak's “generous offer” was shunned at Camp David.

But there is another dimension that should be equally considered: Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan. Sharon's plan was an outcome of that same 'erroneous' premise. It reads, "Israel has come to the conclusion that at present, there is no Palestinian partner with whom it is possible to make progress on a bilateral peace process." Regrettably, the Middle East 'Quartet' – the UN, the EU, Russia and the US – recognized the document, and appreciatively. The US was especially grateful to Israel for her painful concessions.

But that too was a scam. Dov Weisglass, Israel's former chief of staff, and Sharon's closest personal advisor (according to the Washington Post) diminished the entire discourse that accompanied Sharon's phony concessions. Weisglass told Haaretz that the Disengagement Plan was intended to "freeze" the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, to guarantee that 80 percent of the West Bank’s illegal Jewish settlements remain in place and to eradicate any possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state; all that with the knowledge and "blessing" of the United States government.

"What I affectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until Palestinians turn into Finns," Weisglass revealed. The disengagement plan "supplied the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians." He continues, with unmistakably self-congratulating tone, "[as a result] you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem."

There are two imminent conclusions to this realization. First, the Palestinian narrative – even if it's closest to the truth – holds little weight in much of the Western, especially US mainstream media. Only Israel's narrative – despite its repeated untruths - counts. Secondly, when Israeli officials themselves dismiss their own forgeries and wish to come clean, the US media fails to see a need for a change of course, leaving fraud to write history, being fully aware that some historic revision is needed.

Meanwhile, in northern Gaza, currently underway are 140 funerals, hundreds of people being left disfigured or forever paralyzed, an unsurpassed mass of youth who will now take up arms, destroyed orchards of ancient olive trees and spoiled oranges, and an entire nation left in mourning. Israel says that it did what "any civilized country would do to protect its citizens." President Bush strongly agrees. Palestinians say that what happened in northern Gaza was a "massacre" intended as a form of "collective punishment" and that Sharon never intended to leave Gaza, as he claims, nor was he ever a "man of peace" as the US holds him to be.

Two narratives, one truth, an abundance of precedents, and the rest is history.


- Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab-American journalist. A regular columnist in many English and Arabic publications, he is editor-in-chief of and head of Research & Studies Department at English. He is also the editor of the book entitled “Searching Jenin, Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion” published by Cune Press.

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