Monday 7 July 2003

Road Map To Sustainable Ethnic Cleansing

by Edward Herman

There are three words or phrases that are not permissible in the U.S. mainstream media in application to the Israel-Palestine conflict: racism, ethnic cleansing and international law. This follows from the deep, deep bias of the media favoring Israel and hostile to the Palestinians. The evidence of Israeli racism is overwhelming, and criticism of that racism is a commonplace in Israel, but it is suppressed here. Israel is explicitly a “Jewish state,” with special rights inhering in Jewishness, including the right to occupy land; it has engaged in a long-term systematic expropriation of Palestinian land and demolitions of Palestinian homes strictly for Jewish-settler benefit; and its occupation has long been characterized by brutal maltreatment of Palestinians, who have been publicly described by Israeli leaders as “lice,” “grasshoppers,” “two legged animals,” and numerous other epithets.

New York Times favorite Michael Ignatieff explained why the Serbs were ready to kill Albanians in Kosovo: “The reason is simple…only in Serbia is racial contempt an official ideology” (NYT, Nov. 21, 1999). This, however, is a blatant lie as Albanians have never been subjected to officially-sanctioned discrimination in Belgrade, and Milosevic and other high Serbian officials have never described Albanians as “lice” or “grasshoppers.” But Ignatieff would never say that “racial contempt is an official ideology” in Israel, although the facts in that case would warrant such a statement. Lies regarding the official enemy; lies-by-silence on the racism of the beloved client, is standard mainstream media policy, and we can readily understand why Ignatieff was recently selected as a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine (and why he is head of a human rights center at Harvard University).

The phrase “ethnic cleansing” was used lavishly by the mainstream media to describe Serb policy in Kosovo, although this also was a lie: there was a brutal civil war during which the Albanians were often treated very harshly, and large numbers fled—many forced out—during the 78-day NATO bombing war in 1999. But they were never driven out to make way for Serb settlers, as Palestinians have been removed for Jewish settlement over many years and on a large scale. In fact, Israeli policy in expropriations, demolitions and removal provides a perfect model of ethnic cleansing—but the phrase is never applied to the Israeli case by U.S. reporters, pundits and editorial writers. The direct lie in the one case, lie-by-silence in the other, is absolutely standard media procedure.

Reference to international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention are also not permissible in mainstream media discussions of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Such references would be awkward because as an occupying power Israel is obligated to protect the Palestinians, and under the Fourth Geneva Convention , to which Israel and the United States are signatories, Israel is forbidden the taking over of land and displacing of the local inhabitants. In short, the settlements on the West Bank and Gaza and takeover of a large part of East Jerusalem are gross violations of international law. The solution for the Free Press is lie-by-silence.

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