Twenty Years On
by Alexander Cockburn
Nation magazine, April 22, 2002
Here we are, twenty years on, and the reports of the Israeli
army smashing its way through Palestinian towns remind me of what
came out of Lebanon as Sharon and his invading army raced north.
Israeli troops beating, looting, destroying; Palestinians huddled
in refugee camps, waiting for the killers to come.
But there is a huge difference. Twenty years ago, at least
for people living here in the United States, it was harder, though
far from impossible, to get firsthand accounts of what was going
on. You had to run out to find foreign newspapers, or have them
laboriously telexed from London or Paris. Reporting in the mainstream
corporate press was horrifyingly tilted, putting the best face
on Israeli deeds. Mostly, it still is. But the attempted news
blackout by the Sharon government and the Israeli military simply
Here's Aviv Lavie, writing in Ha'aretz on April 2:
A journey through the TV and radio channels and the pages
of the newspapers exposes a huge and embarrassing gap between
what is reported to us and what is seen, heard, and read in the
world.... On Arab TV stations (though not only them) one could
see Israeli soldiers taking over hospitals, breaking equipment,
damaging medicines, and locking doctors away from their patients.
Foreign television networks all over the world have shown the
images of five Palestinians from the National Security forces,
shot in the head from close range.... The entire world has seen
wounded people in the streets, heard reports of how the IDF prevents
ambulances from reaching the wounded for treatment.
As always, there are the courageous witnesses. These days
we have the enormously brave young people in the International
Solidarity Movement sending daily communications back to the United
States that flash their way round the Internet and even translate
into important interviews in the mainstream media.
Meet a few of them. Here's Jordan Flaherty, filing this account
Last night the Israeli Military tried to kill me. I'm staying
in the Al Azzeh refugee camp, in Bethlehem, along with about twenty
other international civilians. We're here to act as human shields....
On the hill above the camp is an Israeli military sniper's post.
To get where we were staying in the village, most of us had to
cross this street. It was a quick, low, dash across the street.
As I ran, the sniper fired.... The shots began as I came into
view, and stopped shortly after I made it to the other side. They
were clearly aimed at me. And, by the sound of them, they were
close. All night long, there was the sound of gun shots, as the
military shot into our village. We stayed clear of the windows....
The guns and bullets were, no doubt, paid for by my tax dollars.
Which is, of course, why we are here.
Or Tzaporah Ryter, filing this on Electronic Intifada:
I am an American student from the University of Minnesota.
I currently am in Ramallah. We are under a terrible siege and
people are being massacred by both the Israeli army and armed
militia groups of Israeli settlers.... On Thursday afternoon,
the Israeli army began sealing off each entrance to Ramallah....
Those traveling in began desperately searching for alternative
ways and traveling in groups, but the Israelis were firing upon
them and everyone was running and screaming.... Israeli jeeps
were speeding across the terrain, pulling up from every direction
and shooting at the women and children, and also at me...
Or the extremely articulate and self-possessed Adam Shapiro,
whose testimony ended up in the New York Daily News and on CNN,
where he told Kyra Phillips:
This is not about politics between Jew and Arab, between
Muslim and Jew. This is a case of human dignity, human freedom
and justice that the Palestinians are struggling for against an
occupier, an oppressor. The violence did not start with Yasir
Arafat. The violence started with the occupation.... Arafat, after
every terrorist incident, every suicide bombing, after every action,
has condemned this loss of life, of civilian lives on both sides.
The Sharon government, .sometimes will apologize after it kills
an innocent civilian, but it does not apologize for raping the
cities and for going in and carrying out terrorist actions, going
house to house tearing holes through the walls, roughing up people,
killing people, assassinating people.
Most of the time you open up a newspaper and read a robotic
column-as I did the Los Angeles Times's Ronald Brownstein the
other day-about Palestinian terrorism and the wretched Arafat's
supposed ability to quell the uprising with a few quick words.
And then you turn on the NewsHour and there, of all people, is
Zbigniew Brzezinski, stating the obvious, on April 1:
The fact of the matter is that three times as many Palestinians
have been killed, and a relatively small number of them were really
militants. Most were civilians. Some hundreds were children....
in the course of the last year, we have had Palestinian terrorism
but we have also had deliberate overreactions by Mr. Sharon designed
not to repress terrorism but to destabilize the Palestinian Authority,
to uproot the Oslo Agreement, which he has always denounced, in
a manner which contributed to the climate, that resulted in the
killing of one of the two architects of the Oslo Agreement.
After predictable dissent from Kissinger, Brzezinski went
It's absolute hypocrisy to be claiming that Arafat can put
a stop to the terrorism.... the fact of the matter is that his
ability to control the situation would be greatly increased if
there was serious movement towards political process, towards
a political settlement and that the United States took the lead.
Between this brisk statement and the eloquent courage of Adam
Shapiro and his brave fellow internationalists, the truth is getting
out-not fast enough, not loud enough-but better than twenty years