UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 27, 2009

ISRAEL'S DETACHMENT FROM REALITY

Patrick Cockburn, Independent, UK - I was watching the superb animated documentary Waltz with Bashir about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It culminates in the massacre of some 1,700 Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in south Beirut by Christian militiamen introduced there by the Israeli army which observed the butchery from close range.

In the last few minutes the film switches from animation to graphic news footage showing Palestinian women screaming with grief and horror as they discover the bullet-riddled bodies of their families. Then, just behind the women, I saw myself walking with a small group of journalists who had arrived in the camp soon after the killings had stopped.

The film is about how the director, Ari Folman, who knew he was at Sabra and Chatila as an Israeli soldier, tried to discover both why he had repressed all memory of what happened to him and the degree of Israeli complicity in the massacre.

Walking out of the cinema, I realized that I had largely repressed my own memories of that ghastly day. I could not even find a clipping in old scrapbooks of the article I had written about what I had seen for the Financial Times for whom I then worked. . .

Soon after seeing Waltz with Bashir I saw TV pictures of the broken bodies of the Palestinians killed by Israeli bombs and shells in Gaza during the 22-day bombardment. At first I thought that little had changed since Sabra and Chatila. . .

But on returning to Jerusalem 10 years after I was stationed here as The Independent's correspondent between 1995 and 1999 I find that Israel has changed significantly for the worse. There is far less dissent than there used to be and such dissent is more often treated as disloyalty.

Israeli society was always introverted but these days it reminds me more than ever of the Unionists in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s or the Lebanese Christians in the 1970s. Like Israel, both were communities with a highly developed siege mentality which led them always to see themselves as victims even when they were killing other people. . .

Intolerance of dissent has grown and may soon get a great deal worse. Benjamin Netanyahu, who helped bury the Oslo accords with the Palestinians when he was last prime minister from 1996 to 1999, is likely to win the Israeli election on 10 February. The only issue still in doubt is the extent of the gains of the extreme right.

The views of these were on display this week as Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of the Ysrael Beitenu party, which, according to the polls will do particularly well in the election, was supporting the disqualification of two Israeli Arab parties from standing in the election. "For the first time we are examining the boundary between loyalty and disloyalty," he threatened their representatives. "We'll deal with you like we dealt with Hamas."

2 Comments:

Anonymous robbie said...

There is far less dissent than there used to be and such dissent is more often treated as disloyalty.

Sounds familiar.

January 28, 2009 2:00 AM  
Anonymous murdering children for votes said...

Machiavelli wrote, "There are many who think a wise prince ought, when he has the chance, to foment astutely some enmity, so that by suppressing it he will augment his greatness."

January 28, 2009 10:15 AM  

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