Sunday, January 25, 2009

Robert Fisk: Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask

Robert Fisk: Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

So once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians.
Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in
another. Not bad for a night's work in Gaza by the army that believes in
"purity of arms". But why should we be surprised?

Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead - almost all civilians, most of them
children and women - in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700
Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana
massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them
children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were
ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an
Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and
Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?

What is amazing is that so many Western leaders, so many presidents and
prime ministers and, I fear, so many editors and journalists, bought the
old lie; that Israelis take such great care to avoid civilian casualties.
"Israel makes every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties," yet
another Israeli ambassador said only hours before the Gaza massacre. And
every president and prime minister who repeated this mendacity as an excuse
to avoid a ceasefire has the blood of last night's butchery on their hands.
Had George Bush had the courage to demand an immediate ceasefire 48 hours
earlier, those 40 civilians, the old and the women and children, would be

What happened was not just shameful. It was a disgrace. Would war crime be
too strong a description? For that is what we would call this atrocity if
it had been committed by Hamas. So a war crime, I'm afraid, it was. After
covering so many mass murders by the armies of the Middle East - by
Syrian troops, by Iraqi troops, by Iranian troops, by Israeli troops - I
suppose cynicism should be my reaction. But Israel claims it is fighting
our war against "international terror". The Israelis claim they are
fighting in Gaza for us, for our Western ideals, for our security, for our
safety, by our standards. And so we are also complicit in the savagery now
being visited upon Gaza.

I've reported the excuses the Israeli army has served up in the past for
these outrages. Since they may well be reheated in the coming hours, here
are some of them: that the Palestinians killed their own refugees, that the
Palestinians dug up bodies from cemeteries and planted them in the ruins,
that ultimately the Palestinians are to blame because they supported an
armed faction, or because armed Palestinians deliberately used the innocent
refugees as cover.

The Sabra and Chatila massacre was committed by Israel's right-wing
Lebanese Phalangist allies while Israeli troops, as Israel's own commission
of inquiry revealed, watched for 48 hours and did nothing. When Israel was
blamed, Menachem Begin's government accused the world of a blood libel.
After Israeli artillery had fired shells into the UN base at Qana in 1996,
the Israelis claimed that Hizbollah gunmen were also sheltering in the
base. It was a lie. The more than 1,000 dead of 2006 - a war started when
Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on the border - were simply
dismissed as the responsibility of the Hizbollah. Israel claimed the bodies
of children killed in a second Qana massacre may have been taken from a
graveyard. It was another lie. The Marwahin massacre was never excused. The
people of the village were ordered to flee, obeyed Israeli orders and were
then attacked by an Israeli gunship. The refugees took their children and
stood them around the truck in which they were travelling so that Israeli
pilots would see they were innocents. Then the Israeli helicopter mowed
them down at close range. Only two survived, by playing dead. Israel didn't
even apologise.

Twelve years earlier, another Israeli helicopter attacked an ambulance
carrying civilians from a neighbouring village - again after they were
ordered to leave by Israel - and killed three children and two women. The
Israelis claimed that a Hizbollah fighter was in the ambulance. It was
untrue. I covered all these atrocities, I investigated them all, talked to
the survivors. So did a number of my colleagues. Our fate, of course, was
that most slanderous of libels: we were accused of being anti-Semitic.

And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we'll hear all these
scandalous fabrications again. We'll have the Hamas-to-blame lie - heaven
knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime - and
we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we'll almost
certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very
definitely have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff
and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn't.
Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six
Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment
killed four more Palestinians.

Yes, Israelis deserve security. Twenty Israelis dead in 10 years around
Gaza is a grim figure indeed. But 600 Palestinians dead in just over a
week, thousands over the years since 1948 - when the Israeli massacre at
Deir Yassin helped to kick-start the flight of Palestinians from that part
of Palestine that was to become Israel - is on a quite different scale.
This recalls not a normal Middle East bloodletting but an atrocity on the
level of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And of course, when an Arab bestirs
himself with unrestrained fury and takes out his incendiary, blind anger on
the West, we will say it has nothing to do with us. Why do they hate us, we
will ask? But let us not say we do not know the answer.

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