Embedded Journalism Cannot Sanctify the Apartheid State
By Habib Siddiqui
These days Khaled Abu Toameh (KAT), an Israeli Arab journalist who writes for the Jerusalem Post, is often touted as a ‘real’ journalist with a ‘unique’ voice of ‘straightforward’ reporting from the West Bank and Gaza. Soon after publication of my article “Israel – the Apartheid State”, a reader who has been following KAT’s version of reporting from the Occupied Territories wrote to me stating that before criticizing Israel for apartheid policies, I should urge Palestinians to stop murdering fellow Palestinians. He continued, “Abu Toameh thinks Israel should simply wait until the Palestinians stop killing each other and create a credible political entity that can make a deal. If the Palestinians cannot live in peace with each other, it will be futile to think that a Palestinian state and a Jewish state can live peacefully side by side.” I am sorry to say that such are jaundiced views of the reality within the Occupied Territories of Palestine.
KAT first came to the attention of most American Muslims before the last year’s presidential election in the USA when some 28 million copies of a DVD - Obsession - Radical Islam’s War Against the West - were distributed freely as an advertising supplement in newspapers in key battleground states. It was paid for by the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit group established by the film’s Israeli producer with the goal of exposing what it called the threat of radical Islam. The hour-long film featured graphic, violent images and made comparisons of Islam to Nazism. The theme of the DVD was that all Muslims want to take over America, they want to impose their culture on the rest of the American people; they want to destroy the indigenous culture, they want even to lust after women of other cultures. KAT appeared in that video and was heard saying: “They want to defeat the West. They want to defeat Christianity. They want to defeat Judaism.” Interestingly, the arguments used to attack Islam and Muslims in America were the same arguments that anti-Semites used in pre-World War II Nazi Germany to attack the Jewish community. It was a clear case of Islam-phobia at its worst since it was scripted, produced and distributed by the same group that smells anti-Semitism with the slightest criticism of the rogue state of Israel. As former victims they seemed to have learned the trade of xenophobia, bigotry and hate-speech quite well from their former tormentors!
Hearing KAT in that DVD and reading his pro-Israeli views in the Jewish media have made it abundantly clear that his deranged views are not of a fact-finding journalist who understands or cares about the pains of a people that were robbed of their ancestral land and denied basic human rights, who face daily discrimination and persecution in a dehumanizing, apartheid state called Israel.
In my article, I have compared the Zionist state with the Pretoria regime and shared enough citations from credible sources to prove that the Israel is an apartheid state. A glimpse of Palestinian life inside the Occupied Territories can also be obtained from murdered anti-war activist Rachel Corrie’s letters to friends and family members that were made available by the Guardian, UK (see, e.g., the March 18, ’03 issue). On Feb. 7, 2003, Corrie wrote, “I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, … Nevertheless, no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it - and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown.”
In another letter to her mother, on Feb. 27, Rachel Corrie wrote, “I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside. Sometimes the adrenaline acts as an anesthetic for weeks and then in the evening or at night it just hits me again - a little bit of the reality of the situation. I am really scared for the people here. Yesterday, I watched a father lead his two tiny children, holding his hands, out into the sight of tanks and a sniper tower and bulldozers and Jeeps because he thought his house was going to be exploded. .. Sunday about 150 men were rounded up and contained outside the settlement with gunfire over their heads and around them, while tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses - the livelihoods for 300 people. … If any of us had our lives and welfare completely strangled, lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew, because of previous experience, that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment and destroy all the greenhouses that we had been cultivating for however long, and did this while some of us were beaten and held captive with 149 other people for several hours - do you think we might try to use somewhat violent means to protect whatever fragments remained? I think about this especially when I see orchards and greenhouses and fruit trees destroyed - just years of care and cultivation. … Just want to write to my Mom and tell her that I’m witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I’m really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature.”
Is this eye-witness account simply an imagination of a 23-year-old peace activist from Olympia, USA? No. Within weeks of her above letters, on Sunday, March 16, ’03, Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a bulldozer as she tried to prevent the Israeli army destroying homes in the Gaza Strip. Greg Schnabel, 28, from Chicago, said the protesters were in the house of Dr. Samir Masri when the tragedy happened. “Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop,” he said. “She waved for bulldozer to stop and waved. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled ‘stop, stop’, and the bulldozer didn’t stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her,” he said.
What value does Israel put for Palestinian lives when it could commit such a cold-blooded murder of an American citizen, whose government has been subsidizing the rogue state billions of dollars every year? Zero. Rachel Corrie’s views of Israel were no different than those made by Bishop Tito and former President Carter – two distinguished citizens of our planet.
KAT cannot be unaware of the despicable state of affairs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Writing in August 2002, he mentioned that “approximately 80,000 Palestinians have left the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year, a rise of 50 percent compared to last year.” As to the reason for the exodus, he quoted Jordanian writer and columnist Fahed Fanek, who said: “One cannot blame them as individuals, because life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is intolerable for both economic and security reasons.”
Now we don’t hear such reporting from KAT. He earns a living by justifying Israel’s crimes against his own society. He has become their parrot. It is a question of time when this much touted “brave” journalist from the Occupied Territories would be honored with the Pulitzer Award for journalism! He is, as any psychiatrist would tell him, in a self-hating mode, a mental trauma caused by prolonged occupation and its cruel treatment of his own people. It is very similar to the Stockholm syndrome where the hostage identifies with the abductor and sees no evil with its criminal actions. KAT feels alienated from the very society that reared him and is committing acts that are ignoble, if not treasonous. He is incapable of independent analysis and, like embedded journalists of the post-9/11 period, is a joke to the noble profession of journalism!
It is, however, true that there is inter-Palestinian rivalry. It is sad and must stop immediately. While condemning it, we should recognize that the violence between the Hamas and the PLO owes its origin to Bush administration’s decision to delegitimize Hamas’s victory in the general election and continues to be aided by the Israeli government which sees the internal strife as a great way to further cripple popular Palestinian resistance against the apartheid state and prolong its illegal occupation. Nor should we forget that such internal rivalries are not exceptions to the norm and did exist within almost all national liberation movements. Gandhi’s Indian National Congress and Mandela’s African National Congress saw similar problems. Bangladesh faced similar problems during and after her liberation in 1971. But such internal rivalries within the national liberation movements do not make apartheid, colonization and occupation legal or kosher. Israeli politicians have to learn that if they want to join civilized nations, they must dismantle the apartheid state apparatus fully and end occupation now. No ifs and buts about it. They cannot prolong their apartheid system under Machiavellian claims that there is no unity amongst the Palestinians and as such they are not ready and don’t deserve freedom and equality.