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More news from the 51st state
by Malcolm Pratt
22 February 2002 10:33 UTC
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Robert Fisk: Europe must stop parroting the American script in the Middle 

'After Israel has vandalised 11m euros of property supplied by Europe, why 
shouldn't we play a role?'

21 February 2002

While President George Bush rabbits on about the "axis of evil" and his 
"crusade" against "terror", a real tragedy is about to interfere with his 
mythic struggle against America's enemies. It's about a place called 
Palestine. And a place called Israel.

So idle, so lazy, so pro-Israeli has Washington's policy become towards the 
Middle East that the President still seems unaware that the real war in the 
region involves its own ally – a colonial Israel – and a nationalist 
struggle run by Israel's own surrogate Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

President Bush really thinks he is conducting a crusade. True, he was warned 
not to use the expression – Muslims are not terribly keen on the 11th 
century Christian knights who slaughtered Muslims and Jews by the tens of 
thousands – but he used the word again just five days ago. Speaking of the 
Canadian soldiers who have rashly joined US troops in Kandahar, Mr Bush 
announced that "they stand with us in this incredibly important crusade to 
defend freedom".

Crusade indeed. As Palestinians are learning from their Hizbollah 
compatriots in Lebanon how to resist an occupying force – how to obtain 
"freedom" – Mr Bush continues to give the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel 
Sharon a green light to "strike against terror" while at the same time 
demanding democracy for all Muslim countries in the Middle East, especially 
Iran and Iraq. But not, of course, for allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The ability of the Americans to re-write history and to blow-dry the 
Palestinian-Israeli conflict into clichιs is a scandal. The occupied 
Palestinian territories have now become the "disputed" territories; Jewish 
colonies on Arab land have become "settlements" and now, according to the 
BBC and CNN, "neighbourhoods". Israeli death squads are now "elite forces" 
who carry out "targeted killings". In the same way, the American media have 
declared victory in Afghanistan.

Another lie. Hamid Karzai's government controls only a few Kabul streets. 
Afghanistan is a place of anarchy and lawlessness, of rape and brigandage 
after America's war. One of Mr Karzai's own ministers is murdered at the 
Bagram air base in an inter-cabinet feud. The British Army, which controls 
the airport, is – so we are told – not responsible. And the Saudis allow the 
culprits to go free. American B-52s are now bombing "enemy soldiers" – not 
enemies of the United States but warring tribesmen who happen to oppose 
America's choice of leader, Hamid Karzai. It's an old story. We British were 
fighting "warring tribes" in the 1920s. Now the Americans do the same.

And in the meantime, we must ignore the Palestinian-Israeli war. The 
Palestinian Intifada uprising, provoked by Ariel Sharon's visit to the 
Al-Aqsa mosque, is a "strategic error", according to the State Department on 
Tuesday. An Israeli officer tells his colleagues, according to the Israeli 
daily newspaper Ha'aretz, that they must "study how the German Army operated 
in the Warsaw Ghetto". Needless to say the latter report is not published in 
the United States.

The truth is that the Palestinians have learned from the Hizbollah in 
Lebanon. You don't have to submit to occupation. You can fight back. With 
home-made missiles, with crude mines on the roads, with suicide bombers. 
This is a cruel, ruthless war, the worst year of "terror" in Israel's recent 

But it is an anti-colonialist war, a struggle against Jewish settlements and 
I can well see why Professor Arie Eldar, a former Israeli army medical 
officer, should announce that "we must execute him [Mr Arafat] today".

Yet still the US government parrots whatever Mr Sharon says. Mr Arafat must 
end "terrorism", his plot to import Iranian arms – always supposing it can 
be conclusively proved – a symbol of his plans to destroy Israel. Listening 
to the US State Department spokesman, you might think that the 
administration really has accepted the insane Sharon thesis that Mr Arafat 
is a part of "world terror". In fact, given the supine and cowardly American 
reporting of the Middle East conflict, you might wonder why the Pentagon 
wishes to create its absurd "Office of Strategic Influence (OSI)" to peddle 
truth and lies to the press. US journalists are so gutless – so quick to 
adopt the government line – that it is surely unnecessary to plunder the 
$10bn supplement to the Pentagon budget to sell this kind of trash.

A few days ago, I participated in a live American radio show in which a 
former State Department official warned that Washington may have to cut its 
ties with Mr Arafat unless he "curbed terror" – he was, of course, 
faithfully following the Sharon line. I was supposed to intervene with a 
plea for Mr Arafat. In fact, I suggested that Washington should cut all its 
connections with Mr Arafat – because, given the total failure of US policy 
in the region, it was time the Europeans took over and acted as 
intermediaries. After the Israelis had vandalised more than €11m worth of 
Palestinian property supplied by the European Union, why shouldn't we play a 
role in the Middle East conflict?

Apoplexy reigned. I was not speaking to cue. But why the hell do we 
Europeans have to speak according to the script? True, we have the 
occasional nutter – the Czech Prime Minister, for example, this week 
comparing Mr Arafat to Hitler – but in the world where Mr Bush tells us, 
like a Hollywood director, that 2002 will be a "war year", we have a right 
to speak out. The United States has a right to its own illusions. The 
latest, from "American intelligence" – the heroes who failed to learn of the 
plot to attack the World Trade Centre – is that Afghanistan is threatened by 
Iran which has sent hundreds of Arab and Afghan fighters to Mazar-i-Sharif 
to create mayhem. And of course, these diabolical forces were "trained by 
the Hizbollah in Lebanon".

Needless to say, this rubbish is taken seriously in Washington and in Israel 
(from whence it came). But we do not have to accept this nonsense. The real 
battle exists between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Iraq is a 
side-show. If Washington wants to reverse the priorities, we Europeans can 
only pity them. But the condemnation of Mr Bush's policy by the French and 
German foreign ministers and by Nato's leadership is real enough. Let us 
have done with crusades and the "war on terror". Let's have some justice in 
the Middle East. For Israelis and Palestinians alike.

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