[Marxism] FISK: Another Case Study: Mary Robinson--A Warning to Those Who Dare to Criticize Israel

mstainsby at resist.ca mstainsby at resist.ca
Thu May 13 14:07:59 MDT 2004

A Warning to Those Who Dare to Criticize Israel in the Land of Free Speech
Another Case Study: Mary Robinson
CounterPunch Weekend Edition
/ 25,
Behold Mary Robinson: Made a big mistake. She dared to criticise Israel. She
suggested -- horror of horrors -- that "the root cause of the Arab-Israeli
conflict is the occupation". (!!!)
 Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "anti-Semitism" as
"opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state  of Israel".

Behold Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, former UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, would-be graduation commencement speaker at
Emory University in the United States. She has made a big mistake. She
dared to criticise Israel. She suggested -- horror of horrors -- that "the
root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the occupation". Now whoah
there a moment, Mary! "Occupation"? Isn't that a little bit anti-Israeli?

Are you really suggesting that the military occupation of the West Bank
and Gaza Strip by Israel, its use of extrajudicial executions against
Palestinian gunmen, the Israeli gunning down of schoolboy stone-throwers,
the wholesale theft of Arab land to build homes for Jews, is in some way

Maybe I misheard you. Sure I did. Because your response to these
scurrilous libels, to these slurs upon your right to free speech, to these
slanderous attacks on your integrity, was a pussy-cat's whimper. You were
"very hurt and dismayed". It is, you told The Irish Times, "distressing
that allegations are being made that are completely unfounded".

You should have threatened your accusers with legal action. When I warn
those who claim in their vicious postcards that my mother was Eichmann's
daughter that they will receive a solicitor's letter -- Peggy Fisk was in
the RAF in the Second World War, but no matter -- they fall silent at

But no, you are "hurt". You are "dismayed". And you allow Professor
Kenneth Stein of Emory University to announce that he is "troubled by the
apparent absence of due diligence on the part of decision makers who
invited her [Mary Robinson] to speak". I love the "due diligence" bit. But
seriously, how can you allow this twisted version of your integrity to go

Dismayed. Ah, Mary, you poor diddums.

I tried to check the spelling of "diddums" in Webster's, America's
inspiring, foremost dictionary. No luck. But then, what's the point when
Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "anti-Semitism" as
"opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state  of Israel".

Come again? If you or I suggest -- or, indeed, if poor wee Mary suggests
-- that the Palestinians are getting a raw deal under Israeli occupation,
then we are "anti-Semitic". It is only fair, of course, to quote the
pitiful response of the Webster's official publicist, Mr Arthur Bicknell,
who was asked to account for this grotesque definition.

"Our job," he responded, "is to accurately reflect English as it is
actually being used. We don't make judgement calls; we're not political."
Even more hysterically funny and revolting, he says that the dictionary's
editors tabulate "citational evidence" about anti-Semitism published in
"carefully written prose-like books and magazines". Preposterous as it is,
this Janus-like remark is worthy of the hollowest of laughs.

Even the Malaprops of American English are now on their knees to those who
will censor critics of Israel's Middle East policy off the air.

And I mean "off the air". I've just received a justifiably outraged note
from Bathsheba Ratskoff, a producer and editor at the American Media
Education Foundation (MEF), who says that their new documentary on "the
shutting-down of debate around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" -- in
reality a film about Israel's public relations outfits in America -- has
been targeted by the "Jewish Action (sic) Task Force". The movie Peace,
Propaganda and the Promised Land was to be shown at the Boston Museum of
Fine Arts.

So what happened? The "JAT" demanded an apology to the Jewish community
and a "pledge (for) greater sensitivity (sic) when tackling Israel and the
Middle East conflict in the future". JAT members "may want to consider
threatening to cancel their memberships and to withhold contributions".

In due course, a certain Susan Longhenry of the Museum of Fine Arts wrote
a creepy letter to Sut Jhally of the MEF, referring to the concerns of
"many members of the Boston community" -- otherwise, of course,
unidentified -- suggesting a rescheduled screening (because the original
screening would have fallen on the Jewish Sabbath) and a discussion that
would have allowed critics to condemn the film. The letter ended -- and
here I urge you to learn the weasel words of power -- that "we have gone
to great lengths to avoid cancelling altogether screenings of this film;
however, if you are not able to support the revised approach, then I'm
afraid we'll have no choice but to do just that".

Does Ms Longhenry want to be a mouse? Or does she want to have the verb "to
longhenry" appear in Webster's? Or at least in the Oxford? Fear not, Ms
Longhenry's boss overrode her pusillanimous letter. For the moment, at

But where does this end? Last Sunday, I was invited to talk on Irish
television's TV3 lunchtime programme on Iraq and President Bush's support
for Sharon's new wall on the West Bank. Towards the end of the programme,
Tom Cooney, a law lecturer at University College, Dublin, suddenly claimed
that I had called an Israeli army unit a "rabble" (absolutely correct --
they are) and that I reported they had committed a massacre in Jenin in

I did not say they committed a massacre. But I should have. A subsequent
investigation showed that Israeli troops had knowingly shot down innocent
civilians, killed a female nurse and driven a vehicle over a paraplegic in
a wheelchair. "Blood libel!" Cooney screamed. TV3 immediately -- and
correctly -- dissociated themselves from this libel. Again, I noted the
involvement of an eminent university -- UCD is one of the finest academic
institutions in Ireland and I can only hope that Cooney exercises a
greater academic discipline with his young students than he did on TV3 --
in this slander. And of course, I got the message. Shut up. Don't
criticise Israel.

So let me end on a positive note. Just as Bathsheba is a Jewish American,
British Jews are also prominent in an organisation called Deir Yassin
Remembered, which commemorates the massacre of Arab Palestinians by Jewish
militiamen outside Jerusalem in 1948. This year, they remembered the Arab
victims of that massacre -- 9 April -- on the same day that Christians
commemorated Good Friday.

The day also marked the fourth day of the eight-day Jewish Passover. It
also fell on the anniversary of the 1945 execution by the Nazis of Pastor
Dietrich Bonhoeffer at Flossenburg concentration camp. Jewish liberation
3,000 years ago, the death of a Palestinian Jew 2,000 years ago, the death
of a German Christian 59 years ago and the massacre of more than 100
Palestinian men, women and children 56 years ago. Alas, Deir Yassin
Remembered does not receive the publicity it merits. Webster's dictionary
would meretriciously brand its supporters "anti-Semitic", and "many
members of the Boston community" would no doubt object. "Blood libel,"
eminent law lecturer would scream. We must wait to hear what UCD thinks.
But let us not be "hurt" or "dismayed". Let's just keep on telling it how
it is. Isn't that what American journalism school was meant to teach us?


Robert Fisk is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation.

===========Saïd Sukkar
Kuwait Regency Palace Hotel
POBox 1139,  22012 Salmiyah
Kuwait City,  Kuwait

Macdonald Stainsby
In the contradiction lies the hope.

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