Depressing news from the war zone

The prospect for peace and security for the Palestinians is slimmer than it has been for more than a decade.

Fatah rules the West Bank. Hamas rules in Gaza. The Israeli Army (IDF) controls both areas.

The Fatah of the West Bank are on the brink of becoming Palestinian quislings. Hamas in Gaza is isolated, boicotted by Israel and most of the world, starved and desperate.

The international community is fed up with the arrogant, brutal Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. But with the USA government bending over to support the Israeli government, whatever foolishness the government cooks up, the rest of the world is paralyzed.

This is the backdrop, just before the coming negotiations in Annapolis in USA. But president Bush and his dangerously incompetent administration have been stripping away opportunities for peaceful solutions, ever since 9/11.

If the Bush administration really do want to make a difference in the Middle East, they have to confront the Israeli government and the IDF, as well as the extreme and hysterical religious rigth, in both Israel and the USA. They have to force the Israelis to give up all occupied land, give the Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967 the right to return, and compensate what was stolen from them. All the Palestinian children, parlamentarians and other political prisoners, must be set free. All the illegal settlements must be removed.

The Arab world has offered Israel peace. The conditions are modest, in line with countless UN resolutions, the Geneva convention and the Human Rights Charter.

It is up to Israel to choose peace. But again and again, different Israeli governments have pretended to want peace, but in reality, they have chosen war, terror and humiliation. And the majority of Israeli voters have been unable to produce a political leader with the integrity and moral courage to fight for peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis.

For many years, clever PR staffs and diplomats made the world believe in the brave, little democracy, fighting to survive in a hostile environment. They could fool us all, for a while. But the falsified image have melted away, long ago. Today, Israels real image is emerging: A brutal, aggressive, immoral occupant.

What can we do?

Change of language

I have been asked to open this discussion zone for English language participants. Hope the change will be accepted by all.

The origo team have made a test version, on my request. I hope it works OK.

Please, give me a word if you run into difficulties.


Israelerne jevner palesinske hjem med jorden.

Som leder av Leieboerforeningen Bergen har vi interessert oss i hva som skjer i midtøsten der Israelerne jevner palsestinske hjem med jorden. Selv om noen i en familie begår lovbrudd eller er i krig imot Israelsk okkupasjon, så skal hele hans familie miste hjemmet sitt ved at bulldosere jevner river huset eller leiligheten. Galskapen er totalt ute av sine proporsjoner når Israel lar dette gå utover hele slekten til den palestineren som gjorde opprør eller var i krig for å få sitt eget land. Jeg tar avstand fra selvmordsbombing imot sivile Israelere, men jeg forstår at palestinerne blir opprørte og mister besinnelsen i all den tid de blir okkupert.

Israels handlinger er over dimmesjonert og så til de grader skaper de frykt når de også bomber sivile mål på vestbreden og i gasa by.
Det går nesten ikke an å forstille seg den frykten og angsten det palestinske folket har når Israelske styrker aksjonerer og går inn med tyngre millitære enheter, tanks og F- 16 fly eller hellikopre.
Mitt opprop er la de palestinske hjem få være i fred og vernes imot avskyellige Israelske angrep. Ikke et eneste hus eller leilighet gjør noen skade på Israel, så la palsestinerne få beholde sine hjem imot Israelsk ødeleggelse.

Media coverage of the Middle East conflicts

Media coverage of the conflict

Olav Bergo
Bergen, 9th October 2007
Norwegian Student Union-seminar: Academia in a war torn community

When I was a young journalist, Israel was the hero of almost everyone in Norway – all the media and all the political parties. Public opinion was 100 percent behind what we believed was a heroic, tiny nation, fighting for its survival in a hostile environment, with aggressive enemies on all sides.
During the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israeli forces were regarded as “our boys”, fighting cold war enemy number 1, the Soviet Union, and its local supporters in the Arab world.
The other colonial powers at the time – Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands – were all losing highly unpopular wars in their colonies, one by one. But, at the time, Israel was able to avoid being labelled a colonial power.
After the war in 1967, however, Israel’s public image slowly changed. Even the most brilliant propaganda could no longer hide the ugly realities on the ground.
I assume that the Norwegian diplomats and the UN peacekeepers were among the first to discover the abyss that existed between the official propaganda of Israel, and the realities. Norwegian journalists were not aware of the realities, early on. If so, it did not reflect on the media coverage in 1948. But they may have been silenced at that early stage by the clever propaganda of the Israel lobby, who labelled all criticism of Israel’s actions as anti-Semitism – a tactic that still worked at that time, and for a long time after.

But then, in the summer of 1973, we had a real eye-opener in Norway! The Norwegian media coverage of the conflict never recovered. We, the journalists and editors, lost our blind spots forever. And they never came back!
An assassination team sent by Mossad, the Israeli secret police, killed a young man in front of his pregnant wife in Lillehammer, while they were on their way home from the cinema. It was my wife’s birthday, 21st July. The news was in all the major newspapers the next morning.
The victim was a completely innocent Moroccan waiter, Ahmed Bouchiki, living and working in Lillehammer, and married to a Norwegian teacher.
Mossad had assumed he was Ali Hassan Salameh, married to miss universe of 1971 from Lebanon and chief of operations of Black September, probably responsible for the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team during the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.
Mossad finally succeeded in killing Salameh in Beirut in 1979, with a car bomb.
But back in 1973, the killing of the wrong man in Lillehammer turned into a real public relations nightmare for Mossad and Israel. Two members of the assassination team delivered their rented cars at Fornebu airport. They had rented the cars in their own names and were easily found out. When arrested, they disclosed the address of their safe house in Oslo. Arriving there, the Norwegian police arrested four more Mossad agents.
Why did the Mossad team disclose their names and the address of their safe house? I assume they believed that the Norwegian police would help them cover up the assassination. They did not.
But the leaders of the team escaped, among them the Mossad team leader Michael Harari and the two killers.
The top man of Mossad at the time, Zvi Zamir, was probably following the operation closely from Brumundal, a few kilometres from Lillehammer.
Zamir retired from service some years ago. But in a rare interview published in Haaretz and BA in 2006, he hinted at his role in the killing.
Israel never acknowledged the killing of Ahmed Bouchiki. But in 1996, the Israeli government paid compensation to his family, including Ahmed’s brother, one of the founders of the guitar band, the Gypsy Kings, Chico Bouchiki. Israel also paid compensation to Ahmed Bouchiki’s son and his widow.
BA has suggested in an editorial that Norway and Israel ought to set up a joint inquiry to study the Lillehammer affair. But both governments may have reasons to let the matter rest.

The Lillehammer killing was a complete public relations disaster for Israel in Norway. It was no longer possible for Israel to hold the moral upper ground in any discussion. The friends of Israel suddenly had to defend a nation of cold-blooded killers, so clumsy they killed the wrong man, and even got caught. Still, the friends of Israel continued to attack balanced reporting from the Middle East, claiming it to be biased and anti-Semitic.
As late as in October 2006, the Israeli ambassador to Norway, Miryam Shomrat, and the president of the Norwegian parliament, Jo Benkow, accused two Middle East correspondents of the National Broadcasting Corporation, NRK, of reporting in a biased way from the Middle East: Odd Karsten Tveit and Lars Sigurd Sunnannå.
Jo Benkow, a prominent and highly respected Norwegian Jew, president of the Norwegian parliament, a war hero and a leading member of the Conservative party, his opinion is to be taken seriously. But this time, he lost his touch, completely.

At the time, BA wrote in an editorial:

“The problem with Norwegian news coverage from the Middle East is not that it is biased. The problem is that the news media report true stories. The Israeli government pursues inhumane policies, discriminates against its Palestinian citizens, occupies and terrorizes the people of Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank and bombs its neighbour Lebanon. Israel has broken the peace treaty with Egypt and the Oslo agreements.
Wise and well informed news coverage must have a broad perspective, if not, it will get lost in the myriad details from the front line of this bitter conflict or go astray in religious or moral speculations.
Norwegian and other European news media are quite good at reporting objectively from events in the Middle East; they present more or less the same overall picture of what is happening and of the forces that drive the conflict.

The news reports do not paint a pleasant, sympathetic picture of the political and military establishment of Israel. But this is not due to the incompetence or political bias of the reporters. It is due to their professional and serious attitude.“
From time to time, the Friends of Israel also accuse Norwegian newspapers and broadcasting of biased reporting, claiming that media in other parts of Europe tells a different story. Some people are always willing to believe such accusations. But for those of you who are willing to check it out, most European media report more or less the same stories from the conflicts Israel generates.
The BBC, The Independent and The Observer are all at least as critical of the Israeli government and armed forces as Norwegian media, in their news reports. The same goes for Scandinavian, Dutch, German, French and Spanish newspapers.
But if you take a look at American TV and newspapers, the news published from the Middle East has a different perspective. In the USA, the public opinion is strongly behind Israel, and it reflects on the media coverage.

The present Bush administration is pursuing a catastrophic policy in the whole Middle East region, not just in Israel and Palestine.

The Clinton administration was only marginally less biased in favour of the Israeli government. But at least, Clinton and his advisors tried to mediate.

US media and public opinion base their views on more or less the same assumptions as Norwegian politicians and journalists did, before 1973. But behind closed doors, US politicians and diplomats understand much more of the realities in the Middle East than they admit openly. But they have to avoid challenging and antagonizing the powerful Jewish lobby. It is not possible to discuss the Middle East openly, the way we do in Europe, without risking confrontations with the powerful Jewish lobby, a formidable force in American politics.
The media perspective and the attitudes and opinions of the public and the political establishment are two sides of the same coin. The New York Times is heavily influenced by who its readers and advertisers consider to be the good guys and the bad guys in the Middle East.

It is difficult for any newspaper to go completely against the conventional wisdom of the opinion leaders and its own readers, when choosing the news perspective. And the news perspective influences the reporting, down to the level of the individual words we use. Does the elected Hamas government consist of terrorists or is it the legitimate government of the Palestinians? Is the barrier a fence or a wall? Is Israel just defending its people or does it harass and terrorize the Palestinians? Armed Palestinians – are they resisting occupation or are they terrorists? And a heavily armed settler, is he a legitimate target for the Palestinian guerrillas or is he a civilian?

In discussions on how to end hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, politicians, diplomats and journalists tend to describe the conflict as unsolvable and extremely complicated.
Some call for a Nelson Mandela-type Palestinian politician, who can lead his people on a peaceful road to its rightful position in the region.
But almost all the mandelas of Palestine have been killed by the programme of targeted assassinations, run by Israel since before it was declared a state in 1948.

If you take the short-term news perspective, stay close to the ground, focus on the details and on individual events, believe in the spin and deception of the Israel lobby and know nothing about the history of the conflict, then the whole situation will appear to be a confusing, a real mess.
But if you know the history of Palestinian society, the Jewish nation and the region, look for patterns in the countless daily events and see through the government propaganda, then the conflict becomes crystal clear:

Different, but coordinated Jewish organizations started to work for a Jewish homeland in the early 20th century, with a clear goal: They wanted to create a Jewish nation with a Jewish majority after decades of persecution and racist terror in Russia under the collapsing Tsar regime.
In order to create a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, they had to attract a large number of Jews and move the Palestinians out of their homeland by force.

The word ethnic cleansing had not yet been invented. But it was probably part of the planning of the Jewish Agency in Palestine from a very early stage.

When the Jewish terror started late in the year 1947 and increased in momentum during the spring of 1948, it was evidently a carefully prepared and highly coordinated military and propaganda operation. A terrible war crime! But just after the horrors of WW II, and in the early stages of the cold war, the young Jewish nation got away with it, at the time.
Jewish refugees from Russia who escaped to the West from 1900 onwards, increased the Jewish populations of Poland, Austria and Germany. They were easy scapegoats when the Nazi movement selected them to be the bad guys in their ideology and propaganda from around 1920.
The pogroms in Russia before and after 1900, and the horrors of the Nazi terror from 1933 till the war ended in 1945, propelled the surviving Jews out of Europe, not towards Palestine, but preferably to the USA or Britain.

But in many cases, Britain and the US refused to admit the surviving Jews. Then, Palestine was the only option.
When WW II ended, the Jewish Agency of Palestine finally had the broad international support, the financial resources, the weapons, the manpower and the PR competence required to start large scale ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

They used their underground army Haganah and the same basic setup over and over again: The peaceful and unarmed civilian population of village after village was surrounded at night. The village leaders were sought out, identified and killed on the spot. The people were forced to flee. Almost a million escaped. Thousands were killed trying.
This exodus was intensified by propaganda about what would happen next. Incredibly, the terror in 1948 went largely unreported by the international media. But the UN envoy in the Middle East at the time, the Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte, discovered what was going on and reported the ethnic cleansing to his superiors in New York.

Bernadotte and his bodyguard were killed a few days later by the Stern gang, a branch of the Jewish underground army. The assassination was never properly investigated. It was not necessary. The regime knew the killers. Yehoshua Cohen, was for many years the bodyguard of David Ben-Gurion, the great Jewish war hero, nation builder and prime minister.
Looking back, as several Jewish historians are doing today, David Ben-Gurion, the founding father of Israel and a great hero of the West, was a brutal war criminal. Based on the facts known today, he would certainly have been sent to the war crime tribunal in Strasbourg.

For Israel to achieve peace is easy.

Israel has to start treating the Palestinians – in Israel, Gaza, Jerusalem, the West Bank and in the refugee camps in the neighbouring countries – as humans and equals, with the human rights set out in the UN Charter.
Israel must respect the recommendations and resolutions of the UN. The Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967 must be invited to come back to their homes and be given back their stolen property, their farms and villages. If not, they must be compensated.

Israel must set the 10,000 Palestinian prisoners free.

Israel must accept both Fatah and Hamas as legitimate representatives of the Palestinians, and invite them to real negotiations. But the basic condition must be the fundamental human rights of Palestinians and Israelis.
Israel must enter into negotiations with all her neighbours, and settle the borders once and for all.

If Israel wants peace and prosperity and respects the advice of the international community, the world will join in the effort. When the huge war crimes Israel has committed have been compensated, the international community will facilitate the reconciliation process.

Is this a real possibility?

Not if you only listen to the Israeli political and military establishment.

But the world is fed up with Israel’s war crimes, assassinations, arrogance and abuse. The great majority of Israeli voters dream of peace, prosperity and democracy.
And so do the great majority of the Palestinians. Even the Palestinians labelled as terrorists dream of peace and democracy.

There is a peaceful way forward for Israel and Palestine. But the solution is not two states, at war forever. Two states at war was never the intention of the international community, not the League of Nations mandate for Palestine, not the United Nations two-state recommendation.
Sooner or later the majority of Israelis and Palestinians will find a way. Sooner or later, all conflicts will end. In Israel and Palestine, it is even quite easy to see the outline of the solution. But to see how it will be solved, is not yet possible. But sooner or later, even the public opinion in USA and the political establishment in Washington will acknowledge what has to be done.

But for a long time, we will continue to get terrible, violent front line news from the Middle East.
Does the gloomy outlook mean that all efforts are wasted? Not at all. It means that we have to organize a million efforts to support the Palestinian population with humanitarian assistance and political support, it requires honest, competent and brave news reporting, and a tough dialog with the Israeli voters and politicians.

Norwegian foreign politicians and diplomats must follow up with the EU member states, with USA, Russia and in the UN. They must continue the dialogue with all the political forces in the Middle East, including Hamas, Iran and Syria.

Should we organize a boycott of Israeli export products? Possibly. But I believe in the moral and political strength of honest news reporting, tough exchange of opinion and the ability of the human factor to find a way!

Litteraturliste om Palestina/Israel

Mange har spurt meg om hva jeg bygger mine kommentarer om Midtøsten på, i tillegg til det daglige nyhetsbildet. Her er de viktigste bøkene, som jeg varmt anbefaler! Jeg har planer om å kommentere hver enkelt av dem, men vil du ha sammedrag, kan du inntil videre sikkert finne de fleste forfatterne på Wikipedia og korte sammendrag av bøkene på Jeg tar svært gjerne imot innspill, forslag og kommentarer som kan forbedre og utfylle listen. Hvis du har kommentarer til de ulike titlene, er det også velkomment!

Her er listen:

Ahron Bregman: A history of Israel
Palgrave Macmillan, 2003
ISBN 0-333-67632

Hilde Henriksen Waage: Da staten Israel ble til
Gyldendal norsk forlag, 1989
ISBN 82-05-18370-8

John Quigley: The case for Palestine
Duke university press, revised and updated ed 2005
ISBN 0-8223-3539-5

Maxime Rodinson: Kampen om Palestina
Pax forlag, 1969

Eugene L Rogan and Avi Shlaim: The war for Palestine
Cambridge university press, 2001
ISBN 0-521-79476-5

Marwan Bishara: Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid
Fernwood publishing, 2001
ISBN 1-5526-064-8

Birgitte Rahbek: En stat for enhver pris
Fremad, 2000
ISBN 87-557-2318-7

Edward W Said: From Oslo to Iraq and the Roadmap
Bloomsbury, 2005
ISBN 0-7475-7662-9

Odd Karsten Tveit: Nederlag
Cappelen, 1985
ISBN 82-574-0412-8

Odd Karsten Tveit: Krig og diplomati, Oslo-Jerusalem 1978-96
Aschehoug, 2005
ISBN 10:82-03-22917-4

Michael B Oren: Six days of war
Random house, 2003
ISBN 0-345-46192-4

Neill Lochery: Why blame Israel?
Icon books, 2005
ISBN 1-84046-624-3

Ibrahim Souss: Brev til en jødisk venn
Pax forlag, 1989
ISBN 82-530-1464-3

Bernard Lewis: Den arabiske verda og Vesten
Det norske samlaget, 1966

Bernard Lewis: The Middle East
Phoenix press, 2001
ISBN 1-84212-139-1

Yusif A Sayigh: Palestine in focus
Palestine research center, 1969

Alan Hart: Arafat – en politisk biografi
Aschehoug, 1994
ISBN 82-03-20060-5

Sandra Petersen og Tonje Merete Viken:
Kaleidoskop – Israel og Palestina fra innsiden
Humanist forlag, 2005
ISBN 82-90425-78-3

Karoline Frogner: Intifadaens barn
Pax forlag, 1991
ISBN 82-530-1511-9

David Grossman: Den gule vinden
Gyldendal, 1988
ISBN 82-05-17701-5

Frédéric Encel: Stratégies d’Israël
Armand Colin, 2006
ISBN 2-200-34542-9

Ali Abunimah: One country – a bold proposal to end Israeli-Palestinian impasse
Metropolitan books, NY, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8034-6

Rashid Khalidi:The iron cage
Beacon, Boston 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-8070-0308-4

Ilan Pappe: The ethnic cleansing of Palestine
Oneworld, Cambridge, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-1-85168-467-0

Joel Beinin and Rebecca L Stein: The struggle for sovereignty
Stanford university press, 2006
ISBN 0-8047-5364-4

Gunnar Hybertsen: Vitne – Ein norsk solidaritetsarbeidar blant palestinarane
Det norske samlaget, 2006
ISBN 82-521-6795-0

Tanya Reinhart: Israel/Palestine – How to end the war of 1948
Seven stories press, 2002/2005
ISBN 13: 978-1-58322-651-3

Tanya Reinhart: The road map to nowhere – Israel/Palestine since 2003
Verso, London, 2006
ISBN 13: 978-1-84467-076-5

Sidsel Wold: Checkpoint – en beretning fra Midtøsten
Gyldendal, 2006
ISBN 10: 82-05-36187-8

Har du kommentarer eller tilføyelser? I så fall hører jeg gjerne fra deg!

40 års okkupasjon

På seks dager i juni 1967 erobret Israel store landområder fra Egypt, Syria, Libanon og Jordan. Israel ga slipp på Sinai i en fredsavtale USA-president Jimmy Carter forhandlet frem mellom Israels statsminister Menachem Begin og Egypts president Anwar Sadat i 1978. Carter har refset Israel fordi de ikke respekterer avtalen. Likevel har Israel og Egypt holdt fred med hverandre siden 1978.

Israels seks dagers krig mot nabolandene for 40 år siden, var en fortsettelse av den etniske rensing av de palestinske områdene i 1947-48, da Israel ble grunnlagt på en løgn, med FN som nyttig idiot. For det bodde jo noen der jødene ryddet seg plass til en etnisk-religiøs stat. De for det meste ubevæpnede og uforberedte palestinerne som ikke ble drept, ble jaget, og har vært flyktninger siden 1948. Krigen i 1967 førte til enda en bølge av flyktninger, trolig minst 200.000. Også de er fortsatt flyktninger.

Etter krigens folkerett har flyktningene rett til å vende hjem og få tilbake sin eiendom. FN har bekreftet palestinernes rett i mange vedtak. Men Israel nekter. Da Bill Clinton forsøkte å få til en fredsavtale sommeren 2000, rett før han gikk av som president, var det trolig Israels avslag på å la de palestinske flyktningenes få vende hjem, som hindret en avtale.

Israels daværende statsminister og krigshelt, Ehud Barak fra Arbeiderpartiet, tilbød å gi opp mye mer av det området Israel okkuperte i 1967, enn noen av sine forgjengere. Mange israelere mente Barak gikk for langt, og han tapte det neste valget. Men forhandlingene strandet på at Barak ikke ville gi selv den minste konsesjon i forhold til flyktningenes rett til å vende hjem. Og palestinernes nå avdøde leder Yassir Arafat, kunne nok strekke seg langt, slik han tidligere hadde gjort i forhandlingene om Oslo-avtalen. Men flyktningenes rett til å få vende hjem, kunne han ikke ta fra dem gjennom en avtale med Israel.

Grunnen til at Israel ikke vil la de palestinske flyktningenes få vende hjem, er at det ville føre til at jødene kommer i mindretall i Israel. Israel kan trolig gå med på å betale erstatning til de som ble flyktninger i 1948 og 1967, særlig hvis Vesten tar regningen. Men alle Israels ledende politikere vil kjempe med nebb og klør for sin apartheidstat.

I Israel er alle like for loven, i teorien. Men i praksis er jødene favorisert og araberne diskriminert. Palestinerne på Vestbredden og Gaza, som Israel har okkupert siden 1967, er rettløse, innesperret, utsatt for utsulting, vilkårlig fengsling og likvidasjon.

Men i 1967 var Israel en del av Vestens frontlinje i den kalde krigen. I ettertid er det avslørt at det var Israel som gikk til krig, ikke deres naboer. Israel begikk krigsforbrytelser i de seks dagene i 1967 og i de 40 årene etterpå. Men i 1967 var det kald krig mellom øst og vest, og lille Israel var Vestens helter. Vi var på samme lag som Israel, og ville så gjerne tro på deres krigspropaganda.

I dag er fasaden flerret. Israel fremstår for verden som et militarisert samfunn og en brutal, hensynsløs okkupasjonsmakt, uten respekt for den okkuperte befolkningen, deres lidelser, liv, eiendom og rettigheter. Den behandlingen Israel utsetter befolkningen i det okkuperte Gaza for, står ikke tilbake for den brutaliteten jødene ble utsatt for av nazistene i 30-årenes Tyskland.

Historien gjentar seg, på en ny scene. Det folket som en gang var blant nazismens ofre, er nå selv blitt en brutal okkupasjonsmakt. I Norge synes vi det var mer enn nok med fem år, da vi selv var okkupert. Israel har forgiftet sin folkesjel inn til margen i løpet av sine 40 år som okkupasjonsmakt.