UK news media: Pilger under attack

Charles Jannuzi b_rieux at
Wed Nov 27 01:53:30 MST 2002

This Pilger piece (at ) gets
you up to date on what the controversy is about
from Pilger's point of view :

 The Palestinians are no longer alone; Israel,
despite the craven intimidation of some of its
supporters, has ceased to be immune from truthful
media criticism. : John Pilger :03 Oct 2002

 Edward Said once asked who, if not the writer,
will "defeat the imposed silence and normalised
quiet of power". Ghada Karmi is such a writer.
Her book In Search of Fatima: a Palestinian
story, to be published this month by Verso, is
one of the finest, most eloquent and painfully
honest memoirs of the Palestinian exile and
displacement, which western power and its
creature, Israel, have "normalised".

As a child in British Mandated Palestine, Ghada
Karmi watched Jewish terrorists create the
climate of fear and terror that gave Palestinian
families the choice of fleeing or expulsion. She
notes the irony that the word "terrorist" was
invented by the British to describe the Jewish
Irgun and the Stern Gang and its killers, two of
whom became prime ministers of Israel.

Her family came as refugees to Britain, settling
in, of all places, Jewish Golders Green. A few
years ago, she looked for her home in Jerusalem
and found in its place a kindergarten for
religious Israelis. Everything of her childhood
was gone, as if it had been airbrushed. "The
scene could have come from the Orthodox Jewish
part of Golders Green," she wrote. "Unutterably
dismayed, I walked back and stood staring at what
had been the site of our house. I squeezed my
eyes shut to banish the present from my
consciousness and recall the memories of
childhood, the echoes of laughter and the scents
and sounds which had been homely and familiar.
But I could not. Flotsam and jetsam, I thought,
that's how we ended up, not a stick or stone to
mark our existence. No homeland, no reference
point, only a fragile, displaced and misfit Arab
family in England to take on those crucial

The "quiet of power" is no more; the
Palestinians, having fought back, are no longer
alone. Last Saturday, up to 400,000 people filled
much of central London calling for justice for
them, and in opposition to the proposed criminal
attack on Iraq. The two are linked; only the
vintage of the imperial regime in Whitehall is

At the Israeli Ministry of Truth on Palestine,
and its branches in America and this country,
there is panic, which is understandable. Until
recently, a Zionist narrative has dominated much
of the region's historiography in the west; and
Israel's immunity from truthful media criticism
has been almost guaranteed. Tim Llewellyn, for
many years the BBC's Middle East correspondent,
has described this, accusing the BBC of
"continuing to duck" its public service duty to
explain "the true nature of the disaster [of the
occupation] and Israel's overwhelming
responsibility for it".

Merely to say that invites intimidation and
smear, which, says Yishai Rosen-Zvi, one of the
brave Israelis who have refused to serve in the
Occupied Territories, "has been the huge bluff of
the Israeli establishment. [Every] criticism of
its policies is called anti-Semitism, [when]
criticising your country's policy is the only
patriotic thing that one can do." He said this in
my documentary Palestine Is Still the Issue,
which was broadcast on ITV1 last month.

The horde of mostly vicious, violent and
threatening bigots who assaulted Carlton
Television following the film's transmission made
no mention of him or the other decent, reasoning
Israelis I interviewed and featured. The wisdom
and compassion of Rami Elhanan, a veteran of the
Yom Kippur war, who lost his teenage daughter in
a suicide bombing, were ignored.

He told me: "Someone who murders little girls is
a criminal and should be punished. But if you
think from the head and not from the guts and you
look what made people do what they do, people
that don't have hope, people who are desperate
enough to commit suicide, you have to ask
yourself, have you contributed in any way to this
despair and craziness . . . the suicide bomber
was a victim the same as my girl was . . .
understanding is part of the way to solving the
problem." Those like Rami and Yishai, wrote
Miriam Karlin in a letter to the Guardian,
"represent the best of Israel, humanity and true

Indeed, most of those interviewed were Israelis,
including "settlers" and Ariel Sharon's closest
adviser, who was given the most airtime. Not a
word about this was uttered by the ranters, who
e-mailed their abuse and screamed down the phone
from all points west of Finchley, including New
York and California.

Many were Americans, none of whom had seen the
film. Analysing the e-mails, we calculate that
around 10 per cent are genuine critical responses
to the film. Most of the rest have a generic
theme, including those clearly orchestrated by a
thoroughly sinister organisation called

Following a similar assault last year on the
Guardian's Middle East correspondent, Suzanne
Goldenberg (who was abused as a "self-hating
Jew"), an investigation by the paper revealed a
website,, that gave no
address and was registered under a London name
and phone number that seemed not to exist. The
site was set up by a 27-year-old called Jonathan,
who pleaded, as cowards in his situation do, that
his name not be published.

This organisation is now funded in America by a
front called Media Watch International, run by
one Shraga Simmons. Simmons is employed by a
group of Zionist fanatics known as Aish HaTorah.
According to David Leigh in the Guardian, Aish
HaTorah was "founded by Rabbi Noah Weinberg, who
complains that '20,000 kids a year' are being
lost to Judaism by marrying out. Aish invented
speed-dating - eight-minute sessions in cafés to
help New Yorkers find compatible Jewish partners.
They're widely regarded as right-wing extremists.
And they're certainly not entitled to harass the
media into what they would call 'objectivity'."

It goes beyond that. Many of the e-mails are
quite disgusting, containing menacing racist
filth of the kind you associate with anti-Semitic
fascists. The murder of my family is considered
"not a bad idea". I am a "demonic psychopath" and
likened to David Irving. Someone called Arie
Karseboom says that I must belong to a Nazi party
or have an Arab wife: otherwise, a film
explaining the injustice done to the Palestinians
is simply inexplicable!

The distinguished Israeli historian Ilan Pappe,
whose works are taught in universities all over
the world and who describes my film as "balanced
[and] faultless in its historical description",
is called a "pro-Arab dog" and worse.

In order to create the impression of an avalanche
of complaints, many of the e-mails run to five or
six pages. Not all the writers are American
fanatics. At Carlton's offices in London, the
duty officers have been abused by those close by.
They have been called "worse than Hitler". I have
had death threats. A Jewish friend says that the
Jewish community has to take some responsibility
for this outrageous behaviour from even its
"respectable" members. For example, a doctor from
Cheshire suggested in an e-mail that I had been
personally bribed by Yasser Arafat in return for
"programs like that [that] encourage the murder
of innocent Jewish civilians . . ." Note the
American spelling of programme, which indicates
that the nice doctor from Cheshire may not write
his own bile.

The invective and threats increased noticeably
the day after Michael Green, the Jewish chairman
of Carlton, attacked his own company's film in
off-the-cuff abuse in the Jewish Chronicle,
calling it "a tragedy for Israel" and
"inaccurate". Two weeks on, Green has yet to
identify let alone substantiate a single
"inaccuracy". He should apologise to those of us
who have distinguished his company with careful,
fair and truthful work. His irresponsibility is a

The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem has
complained to the Israeli government about its
"defence force" targeting journalists - that is,
shooting to kill them, just as they routinely
kill Palestinians. The next step is for the same
foreign journalists, who privately express
understanding of the historic injustice done to
people suffering one of the longest occupations
in modern times, to reject the craven
intimidation coming from New York and Finchley
and Cheshire, and speak the truth.

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