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The Godfather as "Honest Broker"

Edward S. Herman,

The Palestinians have repeatedly called for a UN or other international presence to protect them against the brutalities of the Israeli occupation force in their land, and the UN high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, as well as Amnesty International, have also called for such a presence. But Israel doesn't want any such observers or armed force any more than Slobodan Milosevic wanted them in Kosovo prior to the Nato bombing. The difference in the two cases is hardly one of more severe abuse in Kosovo: on the contrary, that was a civil war with undoubted brutalities by the superior Serb forces, but Israel in the occupied territories represents a true case of ethnic cleansing, with Palestinians driven from their lands and with houses demolished in a long-term process of "redemption of the land" for the "chosen people." Serb destruction of houses in Kosovo was not to make room for Serbs, it was done in a struggle to contain an armed Albanian resistance. It was savage, but Israeli treatment of the Palestinian "grasshoppers" (Yitzhak Shamir) during two separate Intifadas, and before and between them, has also been savage. What is more, Israeli abuses are in occupied territory supposedly under UN and international protection and with the Fourth Geneva Convention applicable, whereas Serb abuses were being carried out within their own national territory.

The crucial difference is strictly that Israel is the Godfather's client whereas Serbia had gotten itself on his hit list. That is enough at this point in history to determine a result no matter how seemingly arbitrary and unprincipled. The client is free to ethnically cleanse, and no international intervention to protect victims will be permitted, by rule of the Godfather--as Richard Holbrooke explained, "no force would be supported without Israeli approval," so that is that. Kofi Annan and everybody else with a small modicum of decision-making power recognize that U.S. approval would be necessary for international intervention, so the matter is settled by the U.S. veto. A similar process applied in East Timor, where the position of the Clinton administration was that this was an internal Indonesian problem and that nothing could be done without Indonesian approval, although here also, as in the case of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the abuses were being carried out in territories recognized by an international consensus--but not by the Godfather--as illegally occupied. In this instance the Clinton administration did, finally, and very belatedly, under international pressure, tell this client to get out, but only after East Timor had been effectively destroyed and the majority of the population had been made refugees.

It will be recalled, also, that in the case of Kosovo, international observers, which the Serbs had already permitted and whose presence they were prepared to reaffirm at Rambouillet, were deemed insufficient to protect those victims. There a full Nato military occupation was required. The Godfather declaring this to be so, naturally the mainstream media and intellectuals agreed-- "ethnic cleansing" is very bad and must be ended by external intervention.

So how do the media and intellectuals rationalize the Godfather's veto of an international presence to protect the Palestinians, victims of a REAL and long-term ethnic cleansing process that, as Amira Hass stresses in Ha'aretz, gets more brutal year by year? Key features of the rationalization are massive suppression of the ethnic cleansing facts and a focus on the "irrational" retail and responsive violence of the oppressed (see my "Israel's Approved Ethnic Cleansing: Part 2, Official U.S. and Media Protection," forthcoming in Z Magazine in May). But another important mechanism of rationalization is simply taking it for granted that no international protection of the victims is necessary because the Godfather and client say so, and even making such protection unnecessary because the Godfather is serving as an "honest broker."

In the few news articles and op-ed columns that deal with the subject it is reported that Arafat has appealed for UN and international protection, but that Israel and the United States reject this and therefore it isn't about to happen. The secret here is utter superficiality, with no discussion of the conditions and Israeli behavior that might call for such intervention, no mention of the Fourth Geneva Convention that Israel has been brazenly violating for many years, and of course no comparisons in substance between the U.S. and "international community" stance on the need to protect Kosovo Albanians and Palestinians. Trudy Rubin, the Philadelphia Inquirer's lightweight and undeviatingly establishment oriented foreign policy editor, even notes that the United States supported intervention in Kosovo, but not in Israel, which she takes as unchallengeable fact; the discrimination and implied U.S. veto over anything the world might want to do does not call for any further comment.

Most spectacular, however, is the frequent assumption that the Godfather is truly an honest broker. Thomas Friedman cites Clinton's approval of Barak's peace plan as if this demonstrated its merits for all parties ("Arafat's War," NYT, Oct. 13, 2000). The bloodthirsty fanatic William Safire decries the fact that the United States is so impartial, because "Israel Needs an Ally, It does not need a broker" (NYT, Oct. 12, 2000). The New York Times editorializes that "Israel rightly resists any shift to a more international format. Only the United States has sufficient authority and credibility with both sides to help them bridge their remaining differences" (Nov. 13, 2000).

Given the fact that the United States has armed Israel to the teeth, rushes to supply it with guns and money every time its ferocious stone-throwing victims put it "under siege" (Albright) and force it to kill in the face of "violence," has vetoed literally dozens of resolutions condemning Israeli mistreatment and expropriations of Palestinians in the occupied territories, and has joined with Israel for decades in rejecting implementation of overwhelming international consensus votes calling upon Israel to return their land to the Palestinians, this kind of statement captures well a bias that is not only blatant but one that has contributed much to protecting Israeli ethnic cleansing and state terrorism.

The owners, editors and reporters of the Times have bloody hands, but they share this characteristic with many others in the U.S. media and political and intellectual establishment.

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