A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
Washington Report, January/February 2006, pages 54-55
Southern California Chronicle
Journalist Robert Fisk Pokes Holes in Myth That U.S. Pullout Will Cause Iraq Civil War
By Pat and Samir Twair
A NEW perspective of Iraq—contrasting vastly from the official U.S.version—was offered by journalist Robert Fisk during a Nov. 12 to 16 visit to Los Angeles. The correspondent for Britain’s Independent newspaper was on a tour to promote his new book, The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East.
Speaking to an audience of more than 600 at UCLA, Fisk, whose appearance was hosted by Women in Black/Los Angeles (WIB/LA), pooh-poohed U.S. claims that civil war will break out if American troops are withdrawn from Iraq.
Fisk, who is based in Beirut and fluent in Arabic, said many Iraqis have told him theirs is a tribal society; many Sunnis and Shii’a have intermarried—so why would they kill each other?
“The map of the Middle East is being redrawn to weaken the Arabs,” Fisk maintained, before dropping a mini-bombshell by saying that vast untapped oil fields may lie beneath the sands of Sunni territory.
“We are always liberating the Arab world—and then we stay,” noted Fisk, who has been bestowed with more British and international journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent.
“The 3,000 to 4,000 Iraqis who die violent deaths each month remain faceless,” he pointed out. “The death rate is as high as 36,000 in one year.”
Fisk based this number on computerized statistics he has viewed in the Ministry of Health in Baghdad. Nor are all the dead insurgents, he stated. “I’ve been to Baghdad’s largest mortuary, where nine bodies, many of them women and children, are stacked by 9 a.m. By noon, there are 26 corpses.”
This is the work of death squads and militias, he explained. The audience murmured a collective gasp when Fisk said he doubted if the kidnapped social worker Margaret Hassan had been murdered by insurgents.
Fisk added that he wonders where all the suicide bombers are coming from. At first, he said, one might strike once a week. Now, however, in one day as many as seven are exploding themselves and everything around them.
The trial of Saddam Hussain, Fisk said, has been structured in such a way that the captured dictator will not be able to talk about his earlier connections with the U.S. government. “The Butcher of Baghdad could become a martyr if he is hanged,” Fisk commented, “but he is yesterday’s man. Now the Iraqis have new worries.”
Indeed, Fisk theorized, the resistance began in earnest after Saddam was captured. “Once Iraqis were assured he’d never be in power again,” he explained, “the insurgency came out of the woodwork.”
When one is in Iraq, a new perspective of the world is shaped, Fisk stated. Applause followed his remark: “The Iraqis are seeking a different freedom—a freedom from us. The Iraqis want justice before they want democracy.
“War is not about victory or defeat, but about the infliction of death,” Fisk concluded. “As I reached the end of my book, and the narrative of suffering in the Middle East, I marveled at how restrained the Muslims have been against the Western powers who wrought this misery. If you could see what I’ve witnessed in the past 30 years, you would never support a war again.”
Ilan Pappe on Divestment, Boycotts
Prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians have never been more hopeless, averred Ilan Pappe at an Oct. 26 program sponsored by WIB/LA.
“Previously there was always some hope,” said the senior lecturer in political science at Haifa University, “but now we are at a juncture where the Israeli consensus argues there is no problem, while the Palestinians complain there is no peace process.
Divestment is a fairly new notion for the Palestinian cause, Pappe said. The Haifa-born and Oxford-educated scholar cautioned that it took 21 years of apartheid rule in South Africa before the U.S. changed its policy and adopted divestment against the Pretoria government.
“Nearly 40 years of failing to liberate so much as one square inch of land means it is time to try something new,” he argued. “A boycott has never been tried before.”
Pappe proceeded to provide some specifics: “Universities—faculties and students—must develop an effective strategy for divestment of retirement funds, as well as boycotting Israeli cultural activities and academic and sports events, to let the Israelis know that what they’re doing is unacceptable. The Israelis must understand that if they continue their policies, there will be a heavy price to pay.”
Boycotts cannot be used to get restitution, he added. That can only come if the Israelis can be convinced that what’s been missing all these years is acknowledgement of what they did in 1948.
“A genuine acknowledgement means looking at the darkest moment of Israel’s history,” he explained. “Without this acknowledgement, Israelis cannot understand what the role of Right of Return means to Palestinians. It is amazing after all these years of denial how painful this [1947-48] is to Israelis. The Right of Return will be a slow educational process for them.”
A member of the audience commented that the Right of Return would signal the end of Israel.
“The Right of Return will be the end of the Jewish ethnic racist state,” replied Pappe, “and the end of the argument that human rights aren’t as important as building a state based on religious exclusivity.
“Three million Palestinians have been subjected to military occupation for 38 years,” he pointed out. “Few people would have survived these conditions for one year. People living under occupation can’t develop a strategy, all they can do is survive.”
Even though Israel says it favors the idea of a two-state solution, Pappe described it as a recipe for continued bloodshed.
“The consensual point of view of the Israelis is entrenchment,” he stated. “But if they see the price tag [from divestment and boycotts] is too high, there could be a turnaround. It is important for the Jews in America to admit they are safe and let go of the myth of a safe haven in Israel.”
Ilan Pappe’s latest book, A History of the Modern Middle East, is available from the AET Book Club.
World Can’t Wait Protests Bush
Workers and students were called to leave school and their place of employment to join a Nov. 2 protest of the Bush administration by The World Can’t Wait organization. Thousands ditched classes and left their jobs to meet at noon on designated corners along Wilshire Boulevard.
Hundreds assembled in MacArthur Park at Wilshire and Alvarado, and a caravan of bicycles, cars and buses decorated with anti-war banners and signs proceeded down Wilshire Boulevard. The demonstrators converged at the Westwood Federal Building, where speakers called for George Bush to step down on the first anniversary of his Nov. 2 re-election. For more information, visit <www.worldcan’twait.org>.
IRS Threatens All Saints Church Audit
Rector J. Edwin Bacon dropped a bombshell during his Nov. 6 sermon at All Saints Episcopal Church when he disclosed the Internal Revenue Service warned the liberal Pasadena church it was at risk of losing its tax-exempt status. The IRS was objecting to a guest sermon delivered by former rector Dr. George F. Regas two days before the November 2004 national elections.
“The sermon was called, ”˜If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush,’” stated Reverend Regas. “In it, I took great care to say that I did not want to tell people how to vote, but that I was challenging them to go into the voting booth on Tuesday taking with them all that they knew about Jesus, the peacemaker.”
In a letter the church received June 9, the IRS charged the sermon was a “searing indictment of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq” and referred to Regas’ describing “tax cuts as inimical to the values of Jesus.”
The IRS offered not to proceed with an audit if All Saints would make a confession of wrongdoing, and said it would not revoke tax-exempt status if the church admitted intervening in an election.
Declining the offer, All Saints decided to disclose the facts to the congregation. Since then, churches all over the nation—conservative and left-leaning alike—have expressed dismay over the IRS action and promised to stand with All Saints, which has retained the services of a Washington law firm with expertise in tax-exempt organizations.
Stated All Saints’ tax attorney Marcus Owens: “It seems ludicrous to suggest a pastor cannot preach about the value of promoting peace simply because the nation happens to be at war during an election season.”
Regas has gone on record that if All Saints “were to allow the IRS to silence us, we would lose our integrity and the very soul of our ministry. This will not happen.”
JDL’s Earl Krugel Killed in Prison
Three days after he began serving a 20-year sentence for plotting to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and the field office of Republican Rep. Darrell E. Issa, Earl Krugel was killed by an inmate in a Phoenix federal prison. According to law enforcement officials, the Nov. 4 murder was carried out by a white supremacist inmate who fatally struck Kruger on the head with a cinderblock.
Krugel, who was the West Coast coordinator of the Jewish Defense League, and JDL Chairman Irv Rubin were arrested Dec. 11, 2001 for planning the bombings. Rubin died in 2002, when he allegedly jumped from a second floor balcony outside his cell in the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.
Krugel received the maximum penalty from U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew in part because he failed to name suspects in the 1985 bomb murder of Alex Odeh, Western regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
A federal law enforcement officer speculated that, once Krugel began serving his term, he might have finally cooperated. Other suspects in the Odeh murder are Robert Manning, who is serving a life sentence for the letter-bombing death of Manhattan Beach secretary Patricia Wilkerson. Manning and his late wife lived in the extremist Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba.
Kelly Hayes-Raitt Runs for Assembly
Kelly Hayes-Raitt is the only candidate for California’s 41st Assembly District who has traveled to Iraq—just before and shortly after the U.S. invasion. Ever since, she has been talking to Southern Californians and showing them her photos of how the war and occupation are destroying the fabric of Iraqi society.
While campaigning for the 41st Assembly seat, Hayes-Raitt lectures on how Bush policies are devastating Iraq and endangering California’s environment. As executive director of the Coalition for Clean Air, she led a campaign to protect the coast from offshore oil drilling and won legislation to set health standards for toxic mold and to phase out dirty diesel school buses,
“Why is someone running for the State Assembly concerned about Iraq?” Hayes-Raitt asked rhetorically. “The $39 billion in taxes from California should be spent for education and the environment—not on the war in Iraq. Our war widows and veteran families need help. Instead of raising college/university tuition here, Arnold should go to Washington and demand that the troops be pulled out.”
Pat and Samir Twair are free-lance journalists based in Los Angeles.