Sunday, July 23, 2006

Information resistance

Normally, Bill Maher is on the mark in his criticisms of the Bush admininstration. Which is why his entry at the Huffington Post is really quite puzzling. At first, one might be inclined to think it a joke:
I surrender my credentials as Bush exposer - from the very beginning - to no man, but on Israel, I love it that a U.S. president doesn't pretend Arab-Israeli conflict is an even-steven proposition....

I really wanted to say that, for all those who accuse the likes of myself and the birthday girl of being unpatriotic, or hating America first, the feeling I've had watching Israel defend herself and a US president defend Israel (a country that is held to a standard for "restraint" that no other country ever is asked to meet, but that's another story) just reminds me how wrong that is. I LOVE being on the side of my president, and mouthing "You go, boy" when he gets it right. He just, outside of this, almost never does.
Hmm. That doesn't sound like a joke, not in the usual Maher kind of way. Is Maher serious about that "restraint" comment. Whatever standard for "restraint" there might be, Israel is clearly not being held to it. Either that, or the "standard for restraint" has suddenly dropped a few -- many -- notches below the already low level previously in place. And the White House, along with Bill Maher, is cheering the Israelis on in their latest offensive maneuver to "defend herself." I get the feeling from the media coverage of this "restraint," that Lebanese civilians must feel somewhat akin to rape victims facing defense attorneys in court: c'mon, you egged him on! admit it!

Maher clearly believes, as the president does, that this latest escalation of aggressions is entirely Hamas and Hezbollah's fault. For someone who is normally a little more astute than most on the depredations of the Bush administration, he has clearly been blinded by US mainstream media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian friction. Which says a lot about the effectiveness of bias of media coverage for it to convince a cynic like Maher that Israel is always the victim of her own deep, deep desire for peace.

The media in general has portrayed the current assault on Lebanon as having been sparked by Hezbollah's kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. Despite the recent infrastructural blitzkrieg on Gaza by Israeli forces after militants kidnapped one soldier there, to the media, George Bush and, apparently a not so informed Bill Maher, the two incidents are unrelated. The two incidents are most assuredly not unrelated. According to the Financial Times:
The timing and scale of its attacks suggest it was partly intended to reduce the pressure on Palestinians by forcing Israel to fight on two fronts simultaneously.
This is minor gloss compared to news about kidnappings in Gaza that the mainstream either completely ignored or barely mentioned. Certainly, it was ignored by the US mainstream media. Just the day before Corporal Shalit was kidnapped, on June 24 Israeli forces entered Gaza and "arrested" two Palestinians whom the IDF said were members of Hamas. We'll probably never know if this is true because the two arrested will likely never get a trial.

But even where this was reported, the kidnapping was portrayed not as that, but as "being detained." Palestinians kidnap, Israelis arrest. And it comes off this way because the institutional mindset is completely invested in the belief that anything and everything Israel does is justifed, while anything the Palestinians do, by definition, is not. Hence, Israelis "arrest" and Palestinians "kidnap." The implied social order is redolent in the juxtaposition of the words describing almost exactly the same act, one official and warranted, the other lowly and criminal. Where the mainstream also fails to inform us is in just what happens to those arrested Palestinians; there are now 10,000 in jail, many of whom have never had a trial and comprise a good number of woman and children.

This operation was the first time the IDF had entered Gaza since the withdrawal, violating Palestinian territory. But in the mainstream, the current conflagration began with Shalit's kidnapping a day later, a story which was then supplanted by the Hezbollah action a week after that, which was finally supplanted by Hezbollah rocket attacks that Israel "responded to." All the while, it is written that Israel was merely "responding," despite the known sequences of events: the IDF "arrested" two Palestinians on Palestinian soil the day before Shalit was grabbed, that Hezbollah rocket attacks did not ensue until after Israel launched its massive air and artillery campaign.

But in the months and then days leading up to the Shalit kidnapping, Hamas had maintained its side of the then 18-month long cease-fire agreement (Qassam rockets were being launched, ineffectively, by other rabble forces in the strip). Though no deaths resulted from the piddling rockets, Israel's "response" was quite deadly. As medialens reports:

June 8 - the Israeli army assassinated the recently appointed Palestinian head of the security forces of the Interior Ministry, Jamal Abu Samhadana, and three others.

June 9 - Israeli shells killed seven members of the same family picnicking on Beit Lahiya beach. Some 32 others were wounded, including 13 children.

June 13 - an Israeli plane fired a missile into a busy Gaza City street, killing 11 people, including two children and two medics.

June 20 - the Israeli army killed three Palestinian children and injured 15 others in Gaza with a missile attack.

June 21 - the Israelis killed a 35-year old pregnant woman, her brother, and injured 11 others, including 6 children.
At no point during this period of carnage were any Israeli citizens killed.

Sadly, the lack of knowledge in this country about the actual goings-on between Israel and the Palestinians remains firmly entrenched. And when a well-informed fellow like Maher has no idea about any of this, it has to be an indication that the system is working fairly well. Either that, or Bill Maher chooses not to know any of this.


Blogger Kel said...


Thanks for the comment at OT and for the link that brought me here.

I actually did read this story the other day on here just before racing out the door and did intend to comment upon it.

I was shocked as, like yourself, as I regard Maher as one of the US's better informed citizens.

It just shows that Israeli Hasbara is working as planned.

1:40 PM  

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