COLLEAGUE: They’re (the Palestinians) all brainwashed, …. And they’re stupid, to begin with, but they’re brainwashed now. Stinking animals. They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill ‘em all right now…
IMUS: Well, the problem is we have (reporter) Andrea (Mitchell) there; we don’t want anything to happen to her.
COLLEAGUE: Oh, she’s got to get out. Andrea, get out and then drop the bomb and kill everybody.
Look at this. Animals. Animals!
Imus in the Morning, 11/12/04
Israel, the settler state, occupier, and chief recipient of US “foreign aid,” continues its grim work in Palestine’s Gaza Strip. Media reports have tended to focus far less attention on the hundreds of civilian deaths, many of them children, than on Jett Travolta’s sad and untimely end.
It’s not that there aren’t plenty of pictures recording the carnage and reporting easily available from aid workers, UN officials and independent journalists. But the western press has tended to ignore that, meekly honoring Israel’s closing of Gaza’s walled borders to commercial media.
There’s been some perfunctory grumbling. Dion Nissenbaum of the McClatchy Newspapers explained, “On one hand, one can’t blame the Israeli government for wanting to do what it can to prevent the world from seeing the effects of its devastating Gaza airstrikes that have killed hundreds of Palestinians.” (12/29/08)
Nissenbaum described the “ ‘shock and awe’ campaign (as having) decimated the Gaza strip” in just the first 48-hours. With its press embargo, Israel now joins “a notorious and small list of countries…North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Burma in denying media access to a major story.” The Foreign Press Association deplored the November press-ban as “unprecedented” and derided the Israeli cover-story (“It’s for your own good.” ) as “patently ridiculous.”
Using high-tech US weaponry like F-16 warplanes, and bunker-buster bombs America’s favorite apartheid State rains death and destruction on what’s often been described as the “world’s largest open-air prison.” Israel routinely lobs powerful munitions with “kill-radii” of hundreds of feet into mosques, schools, and apartment blocks crammed with civilians. PBS noted in 2007 that Gaza had “a population density three times that of Manhattan,” fenced-in, and “immobilzed” at that. Imagine some terror state lobbing waves of bombs, mortars and tank shells at Manhattan. Imagine the likely human toll, if you can. If you will.
Years ago, and In another context, zoologist Neil Evernden reminded readers of a once-routine vivisectionist technique. Before hacking away at live and conscious animals, the scientists would sever the subjects’ vocal chords. In this way, the scalpel-wielders might be spared the panicked, agonized shrieks of the beasts whose bodies they dispassionately opened, then destroyed.
Under what seems to me the most charitable interpretation, Israel’s media policy may have its intellectual roots in this historical practice.
But there’s also something else at work here: The cultural tendency to regard the non-“Caucasian” world as quite simply less than human (LTH) — especially if these allegedly lower life forms have something we or our partners want, like oil or land. Arab people have long been in the LTH category. Demeaned as “camel jockeys,” “ragheads,” “sand-n***ers,” and “hagis,” we’ve murdered, maimed, and dispossessed millions of them in Iraq over decades with scarcely a thought or complaint except about what the project was costing us. And our imperial collaborator, Israel routinely slays children and practices ethnic cleansing in Palestine’s occupied territories, openly regarding those butchered as LTH.
Radio talk-jock Don Imus briefly lost his position after defaming black and female basketball players as “hos.” But when he cheerfully bantered about genocidal bombing of the Palestinian people in 2004 there was barely a ripple. He’d referred to Arabs as “goat-humping weasels” and “ragheads” in 1985. When an Iranian aircraft crashed killing 43 passengers he commented, “When I hear stories like that, I think who cares.” Then he wistfully remarked, “Too bad it wasn’t full of Saudi Arabians.”
It would be nice if such barbarous thinking was new to America, but it isn’t. Everyone knows of the charming and iconic “…Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Perhaps less is known of its author, the “devoted family man, sensitive and kind individual” L. Frank Baum.
From 1888 to 1891, Baum lived in Aberdeen, South Dakota where he edited the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. In 1890, upon hearing of the death of the great Sioux Chief Sitting Bull, Baum editorialized, “Sitting Bull, the most renowned Sioux of modern history, is dead. He was a chief but without kingly lineage – he arose from a lowly position to the great medicine man of his time by virtue of his shrewdness and daring.”
“The proud spirit of the original owners of these vast prairies inherited through centuries of fierce bloody wars for their possession lingered last in the bosom of Sitting Bull. With his fall the nobility of the redskin is extinguished. And what few that are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.”
“Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled … ; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are.”
After the Wounded Knee massacre, Baum reminded readers: “The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up with one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies the safety for our settlers and … soldiers…”
We owe a debt to Baum, Imus, and even the cruel Madeleine “The-price-is-worth-it” Albright. Unlike simpering dissemblers Bush/Obama, they nakedly disclose what our wizened hearts of darkness apparently desire.
RICHARD RHAMES is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line).