For the past six weeks the American public has been treated to news reporting of two totally different kinds: five weeks of calculated, controlled lies wrapped in sympathy for modern day saintly "Settlers" being evicted from their homes in their land of Judea, and an open, honest, gut reactive reporting resulting from the uncontrolled mayhem wrought by Katrina. What’s to be learned from these events?
Simple enough. When the press reports the reality of events, unhindered by editorial control, fear of job loss, and predetermined political presentation, the public can respond in honesty and immediacy to the events visible before their eyes. The trauma of New Orleans bursts from the screen hour upon hour: the horror of wind and rain sweeping through the city of tin and glass casting about the detritus of civilization like leaves whipped by the fall wind; people scrambling for safety, innocent victims of a power over which they have no control; the fear of loss, of hunger, of destitution on every face; panic palpable before the cameras as mothers weep for lost children, parents cringe, unable to care for their families, police locked down in their stations watch thugs move about the streets with impunity; and the overbearing awareness that those in positions of responsibility have cared for their own and, with a mockery of awful magnitude, are oblivious to the devastation of the poor.
Even mainstream media could not hide the consequences of this administration’s incompetence as it belatedly roused itself from its golf game to attend to the worst natural disaster to hit the United States in its history. The full impact of its "war on terror" mentality that has resulted in a catastrophic depletion of our National Guard and Reserves became evident as looters and armed gangs took control of the streets, as the depleted reserves for relief became a national shame because this administration had cut taxes for the wealthy and services for the poor. Who could view this chaos through the camera’s eye and not realize that this administration’s priorities for human relief mock the poor and needy in this country while it extols the well to do and politically savvy in Israel?
Consider the media’s presentation of the pullout from Gaza, an event orchestrated by the IDF as reported in the Jerusalem Post just a week ago. Hundreds upon hundreds of reporters and their accompanying camera crews were allowed access to Gaza settlements by the IDF. Consultants were brought in to ensure gingerly treatment of the Settlers by the soldiers, treatment that recognized the "plight" of those being evicted from their homes even as their brothers and sisters in the military shared their grief. Old women and babies streamed before the cameras as busses hauled away the pioneers who were being taken from their homes. This parade of human loss repeated itself for weeks on end. Americans sympathized with these people presented as expendable humans in the political morass of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Never before in Sharon’s tenure as Prime Minister have we witnessed such free movement of the press inside Gaza. Strange that Americans have not witnessed the months of Israeli destruction wrought on the citizens of Rafah or the devastation inflicted on the residents of Jenin or even the wanton slaughter of an innocent Evergreen College student who stood tall before the American bulldozer and watched it crush her beneath its blade, and, then, in virtual slow motion, pull back without lifting the blade to sever her body as witnesses stood around in disbelief unable to comprehend such callousness. Where were the cameras during these episodes of Sharon brutality? Once again, Americans were used as pawns to push the Sharon agenda, the besieged Premier attempting to fulfill the "Road Map" requirements at great political expense.
But who are these "Settlers"? Why expend such media time on 8000 people being evicted from their homes? They are in truth "Squatters," people who knowingly and willingly accept government financial support to move onto land illegally confiscated by the Sharon government under the pretext that it is "annexed" or "appropriated" land available because Israeli law has legalized its theft contrary to international law or the conventions of the United Nations. These people know that they live on Palestinian land the ownership of which can be traced back through centuries. They accept suburban town home housing provided by the Sharon government and military protection provided by the Sharon government and they, in turn, harass their Palestinian neighbors with impunity. None of this reality is presented to the American people. They are presented as citizens of America’s only friend in the mid-east, Israel, having to pullback from their rightful positions in order to accommodate the political process.
By contrast with the thousands left behind as Katrina and the broken levees pulled New Orleans into the mud hole of the lake that once made possible its existence, thousands left behind because they had no means of evacuation no cars, no buses, no trains, no military transport, no helicopters the Israeli squatters were provided free transportation, new housing within the state of Israel, grants of $30,000.00 each and, additionally for seniority, NIS 4,800 for each year they lived in Gaza for each family member, in addition to reimbursement of moving expenses to the tune of NIS 14,000-21,000.00 to the Negev, Galilee and Nitzanin. In short, Sharon made sure the settlers he had encouraged to settle on his illegally obtained land were well compensated for as he demanded that they leave.
Why mention these matters in conjunction with the events that have ravaged the Gulf Coast these past two weeks? Because the American taxpayer paid for the settlers to be moved and to cover the "disengagement plan" proposed by Sharon: U.S. aid for the pullout "was slated to offset the cost of implementing the disengagement plan." (Ha’aretz 4/9/05, Yoar Stern). Israel asked for and received more than 2 billion, including the U.S. aid package (Ha’aretz, 24/8/05, Shamuel Rosner; Jerusalem Post 1.27/05, Janine Zacharia). In the CRS Report to Congress, "Israel’s Proposal to Withdraw from Gaza," Clyde Mark notes "Israel will offer compensation to the settlers, but the amount and the source of the funds are uncertain. It is estimated that the 1,500 Israeli settler families in Gaza would receive between $200,000 and $750,000 each to move into Israel. The compensation would be for their homes and businesses, but also include additional funds for new housing allowances, business and household relocation, or other expenses." The total cost of the disengagement is estimated "at about 8 billion schekels ($1.74 billion)." (Truth seeker," 7/8/05). These pullout costs are "included in the new U.S. aid package" according to the Jerusalem Post (_7/05).
Quite a contrast: U.S. administration support of significant magnitude to citizens of a foreign country, citizens who illegally occupied another people’s land, while American citizens languished on rooftops or sweltered in makeshift shelters for days on end with no understanding of where they will go or how they will replace their lost homes. Can anyone doubt that this administration’s priorities favor those able to offer it political advantage at the expense of the average citizen stranded at the mercy of Nature’s might? How about a "disengagement plan" for New Orleans’ residents and those made homeless by Katrina? How about diverting the American/Israeli compensation package to Americans? After all, isn’t it questionable at best that our tax dollars support "Squatters"?
William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His book, Psalms for the 21st Century, was published by Mellen Press. His newest book, Tracking Depception, will be released next month. He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled "A Saudiless Arabia" by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the "Article"), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the "Website").
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005