Commenting on the apparent coverup campaign by the Israeli military of its shelling of a Palestinian family that was picnicing on the beach, Jonathan Cook provides an excellent illustration of the unspoken dehumanizing assumptions of Muslims being congenitally irrational and prone to violence that infect so much coverage in the Western media. [HT: Mostly Water]
From "Israel Engineers Another Cover-Up" in CounterPunch:
The army has been claiming for more than a week, based on its own evidence, that the lethal explosion was not caused by a stray shell landing on the Gaza beach but most probably by a mine placed there by Palestinian militants to prevent an Israeli naval landing.
The army’s case could be dismissed outright were it not for the racist assumptions that now prevail as Western "thought" about Arabs and Muslims.
To be plausible the army account requires two preposterous assumptions: first, that Palestinian militants are so fanatical that they consider it acceptable to lay a mine secretly in an area frequented by local families; and second, that they are so primitive that their best military minds could not work out the futility of placing a single mine along miles of coastline that could be used for a landing (or are we to assume that there are many more of these mines waiting to explode?).
Unfortunately, this is far from the first time something like this has happened. Such "accidental" tragedies occur with distressing regularity.
How many times does Israel have to do something like this before observers realize that the "Israel merely defends itself while Arabs are bloodthirsty killers who like to blow up innocent people" perception of this tragic conflict is simplistic and out of touch with reality? (Actually, I think many, many observers do, but unfortunately they don’t have pull in Washington or Tel Aviv.)
I don’t sympathize with those who wage violence or terrorism, but spare me the high horse. There’s a whole lotta of terrorizin’ going around in this conflict.
I took a look at Mr. Cook’s website and found the following inspiring expression of his professional philosophy and commitment to speaking truth to power.
As an activist and reluctant denizen of the soundbyte-ridden and sycophant-filled Babylon that is the Washington Beltway, I vicerally relate to his concerns about the invisible political and ideological entanglements that accompany physical proximity to power.
It’s amazing all the ways location affects one’s political engagement (first and foremost in the case of the Beltway by often ending it, since activism and political engagement are unconducive to career advancement for an aspiring bureaucrat).
It helps you understand the wisdom of the tradition among Islamic scholars of avoiding government service and relying instead on charitable trusts (awqaf) for sustaining themselves economically. It was a remarkably savvy and modern political tradition that was abolished by the bearers of civilization and enlightenment a (i.e., European Colonial authorities), who transformed religious scholars into government servants. Sadly, most newly independent regimes retained this short-sighted, intellectually stifling arrangement after the end of Colonialism.
Why my reporting is different
I have chosen to position myself in the region in two ways – one professional, the other geographical – that distinguish me from colleagues.
This approach gives me greater freedom to reflect on the true nature of the conflict and provides me with fresh insight into its root causes.
Professionally, I am one of the few journalists regularly writing about the region who work as an independent freelancer. I choose the issues I wish to cover, so I am not constrained by the ‘treadmill’ of the mainstream media, which require an endless flow of instant copy and analysis. I am also not tied to the mainstream agenda, which gives disproportionate coverage to the concerns of the powerful, in this case the Israeli and American positions – in the US media to a degree that makes much of their Israel/Palestine reporting implausible. I also rarely accept commissions, restricting myself to topics that I consider to be the most revealing about the conflict.
Geographically, I am the first foreign correspondent to be based in the Israeli Arab city of Nazareth, in the Galilee. Most reporters covering the conflict live in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, with a handful of specialists based in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The range of stories readily available to reporters in these locations reinforces the assumption among editors back home that the conflict can only be understood in terms of the events that followed the West Bank and Gaza’s occupation in 1967. This has encouraged the media to give far too much weight to Israeli concerns about ‘security’ - a catch-all that offers Israel special dispensation to ignore its duties to the Palestinians under international law.
Many topics central to the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians, including the plight of the refugees and the continuing dispossession of Palestinians living as Israeli citizens, do not register on most reporters’ radars.