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Robert Fisk: The lies leaders tell when they want
by KSamman
31 March 2002 16:09 UTC
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Robert Fisk: The lies leaders tell when they want to go to war


'The problem with Arafat is that he has a lot in common with Sharon: old, 
ruthless and cynical' 

30 March 2002

How much longer can Ariel Sharon pretend that he's fighting in the "war against 
terror"? How much longer are we supposed to believe this nonsense? How much 
longer can the Americans remain so gutlessly silent in the face of a vicious 
conflict which is coming close to obscuring the crimes against humanity of 11 
September? Terror, terror, terror. Like a punctuation mark, the word infects 
every Israeli speech, every American speech, almost every newspaper article. 
When will someone admit the truth: that the Israelis and Palestinians are 
engaged in a dirty colonial war which will leave both sides shamed and 

Just listen to what Sharon has been saying in the past 24 hours. "Arafat is an 
enemy. He decided on a strategy of terror and formed a coalition of terror." 
That's pretty much what President Bush said about Osama bin Laden. But what on 
earth does it mean? That Arafat is actually sending off the suicide bombers, 
choosing the target, the amount of explosives? If he was, then surely Sharon 
would have sent his death squads after the Palestinian leader months ago. After 
all, his killers have managed to murder dozens of Palestinian gunmen already, 
including occasional women and children who get in the way.

The real problem with Arafat is that he has a lot in common with Sharon: old, 
ruthless and cynical; both men have come to despise each other. Sharon believes 
that the Palestinians can be broken by military power. He doesn't realise what 
the rest of the world learned during Sharon's own 1982 siege of Beirut: that 
the Arabs are no longer afraid. Once a people lose their fear, they cannot be 
re-inoculated with fear. Once the suicide bomber is loose, the war cannot be 
won. And Arafat knows this.

No, of course he doesn't send the bombers off on their wicked missions to 
restaurants and supermarkets. But he does know that every suicide bombing 
destroys Sharon's credibility and proves that the Israeli leader's promises of 
security are false. Arafat is well aware that the ferocious bombers are serving 
his purpose  however much he may condemn them in public.

But he  like Sharon  also believes his enemies can be broken by fire. He 
thinks that the Israelis can be frightened into withdrawing from the West Bank 
and Gaza and East Jerusalem. Ultimately, the Israelis probably will have to 
give up their occupation. But the Jews of Israel are not going to run or submit 
to an endless war of attrition. Even if Sharon is voted out of power  a 
prospect for which many Israelis pray  the next Israeli prime minister is not 
going to negotiate out of fear of the suicide bomber.

Thus the rhetoric becomes ever more cruel, ever more revolting. Hamas calls its 
Jewish enemies "the sons of pigs and monkeys", while Israeli leaders have 
variously bestialised their enemies as "serpents", "crocodiles", "beasts" and 
"cockroaches". Now we have an Israeli officer  according to the Israeli daily 
Ma'ariv  advising his men to study the tactics adopted by the Nazis in the 
Second World War. "If our job is to seize a densely packed refugee camp or take 
over the Nablus casbah, and if this job is given to an (Israeli) officer to 
carry out without casualties on both sides, he must before all else analyse and 
bring together the lessons of past battles, even  shocking though this might 
appear  to analyse how the German army operated in the Warsaw ghetto."

Pardon? What on earth does this mean? Does this account for the numbers marked 
by the Israelis on the hands and foreheads of Palestinian prisoners earlier 
this month? Does this mean that an Israeli soldier is now to regard the 
Palestinians as sub-humans  which is exactly how the Nazis regarded the 
trapped and desperate Jews of the Warsaw ghetto in 1944?

Yet from Washington comes only silence. And silence, in law, gives consent. 
Should we be surprised? After all, the US is now making the rules as it goes 
along. Prisoners can be called "illegal combatants" and brought to Guantanamo 
Bay with their mouths taped for semi-secret trials. The Afghan war is declared 
a victory  and then suddenly explodes again. Now we are told there will be 
other "fronts" in Afghanistan, a spring offensive by "terrorists". Washington 
has also said that its intelligence agencies  the heroes who failed to 
discover the 11 September plot  have proof (undisclosed, of course) that 
Arafat has "a new alliance" with Iran, which brings the Palestinians into the 
"axis of evil."

Is there no one to challenge this stuff? Just over a week ago, CIA director 
George Tenet announced that Iraq had links with al-Qa'ida. "Contacts and 
linkages", have been established, he told us. And that's what the headlines 
said. But then Tenet continued by saying that the mutual antipathy of al-Qa'ida 
and Iraq towards America and Saudi Arabia "suggests that tactical cooperation 
between them is possible?" "Suggests?" "Possible?" is that what Mr Tenet calls 

But now everyone is cashing in on the "war against terror". When Macedonian 
cops gun down seven Arabs, they announce that they are participating in the 
global "war on terror". When Russians massacre Chechens, they are now 
prosecuting the "war on terror". When Israel fires at Arafat's headquarters, it 
says it is participating in the "war on terror". Must we all be hijacked into 
America's dangerous self-absorption with the crimes of 11 September? Must this 
vile war between Palestinians and Israelis be distorted in so dishonest a way? 

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