The Blanket

Yes, Palestine Is Still The Issue

Aine Fox

On hearing that John Pilger would return to our screens courtesy of Carlton television to voice and illustrate the situation of the Palestinian people, both historically and currently, it was certainly not something I intended to miss:
curiously contemplating exactly what was going to be shown. Although knowing Pilger and his writing it certainly was going to be a programme demonstrating truth and not the pro- Israeli stance we are drip fed by elements within the British media.

Twenty-five years ago, I made a film called 'Palestine Is Still The Issue.' It was about a nation of people - the Palestinians - forced off their land and later subjected to a military occupation by Israel. An occupation condemned by the United Nations and almost every country in the world, including Britain. - John Pilger.

Although the then condemnation,the British Government continue to support the Israeli structure and supply it with weapons. The United States is still funding Israel to the tune of billions and UN resolutions are still being ignored. The only visible change in 25 years, as stated by Pilger, is that today the Palestinians are fighting back.

This documentary showed some of the stories behind what can only be described as horrific events and illustrated the human tradegies that are so commonplace in that area of the world. The documentary was only one of many I have witnessed delivering a balanced picture of the ‘Occupation’ at work.

The documentary broke through the stereotypes and supplied the audience, even if it was momentarily, an opportunity to look at the individual impact of the conflict in Palestine. Fatima Abed-Rabo described what has now become a familiar story to many: stopped at a checkpoint whilst in labour with her second child, herself and her husband with two other family members were left to deliver their child at a road-side. By the time they eventually reached hospital after travelling via alternative routes their new born son was dead. They where told by IDF soldiers 'it was not personal we treat all Palestinians that way.'

Ishay Rosen-Zvi is one of more than 500 soldiers who have refused to serve in the occupied territories:

We are, they've said, like the Chinese student who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. We are the conscience of our country. I really think the real story of the occupation is there in the checkpoint. I cannot forget this kind of picture, you know, five in the morning, quarter to five in the morning… hundreds of people waiting, you know, to pass… the checkpoint. And you're standing there. And you see their eyes… the humiliation, the frustration, the hatred. Then you are the occupation. You have all the power, they have no power.

Israel continues to build on occupied land forcing the Palestinian people to live on camps in isolation and ultimately enforcing control. It has been likened by many to an open prison. Occupation affects every aspect of daily life. Dr Al Farra explains to the audience the impact of the closure techniques used by Israel to keep Palestinians in confined areas - to make a twenty minute journey from Gaza to Hanunis can sometimes take four to nine hours because of the checkpoints.

Pilger, accompanied by settler David Reisch showed the huge walls built around settlement villages, and also the stark contrast that prevails between the settlements which are reminiscent of middle class American suburbs and the refugee camps and villages scattered under them - their population not even having access to running water while the settler neighbors have all the resources they acquire to live comfortably including access to employment and education and as much water as they require. When Pilger challenged Reisch about the aspect of compromise as a way forward between settler population and neighboring Palestinians he answered 'its either us or them.'

Pilger did not ignore any aspect of the conflict: when focusing on the first female suicide bomber, Waka Idris, a 28-year-old ambulance worker, Pilger again illustrated this aspect of programme in perfect balance. The brother of Waka speaking of what she had experienced and witnessed as an ambulance worker: also featured was Rami Elhanan, a father of a young victim of a suicide bombing. Fourteen-year-old Smadar was killed by a suicide bomb whilst shopping. An ex-soldier and descendant of a Auschwitz survivor Rami’s words portrayed the feelings of rational Israeli citizens and not the Likud Party line we often hear.

"I'm not crazy. I don't forget. I don't forgive. Someone who murders little girls, anyone who murders little girls, is a criminal and should be punished. But if you think from the head and not from the gut, and you look what made people do what they do - people that don't have hope, people who are desperate enough to commit suicide, you have to ask yourself have you contributed in any way for this despair? For this craziness? It hasn't come out of the blue: the boy, whose mother was humiliated in the morning at the checkpoint, will commit suicide in the evening. The suicide bomber was a victim - the same as my girl was. Of that I am sure. You have to understand where this suicide bombers come from. Understanding is part of the way to solving the problem."

Touched by the bravery of the dead child’s father, respect and understanding from one who has lost, versus the hatred displayed by many others in the name of Israel. The important aspect that Pilger did not leave behind - there are Israeli citizens who oppose Sharon’s tactics in his 'war against terrorism.'

One of those citizens who oppose the destruction, killing and oppression by the Israeli government and its security forces is most certainly not Dori Gold who is now senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Gold was previously Netanyahu’s right hand man when it came to US - Israeli relations. Observing Pilger and Gold was enjoyable viewing. Pilger was his traditional self when challenging the Israeli rhetoric which, it appeared, was all Gold knew how to disclose.
Straight away asking Gold if Israeli terrorism prior to the establishment of the state could be justified. Gold spun us the Since September 11th ….. “ (A line that, personally stating, is getting old):

Terrorism is going to move from the present situation to non-conventional terrorism, to nuclear terrorism. And before we reach that point, we have to remove this scourge from the Earth. And therefore, whether you're talking about the struggle here between Israelis and Palestinians, the struggle in Northern Ireland, the struggle in Sri Lanka, or any of the places where terrorism has been used, we must make a global commitment of all free democracies to eliminate this threat from the world. Perio. - Dori Gold

Pilger intent on getting Gold to face the idea of state terrorism challenges Dori to which he responds: 'No country has the right to deliberately target civilians. As no organisation has a right to deliberately target civilians.'

Gold refuses to accept that there is the concept of Israeli state terrorism. Pilger sets forth a scenario for Gold whereby an old woman was shot dead entering the hospital for her chemotherapy. Gold gets frustrated, heads straight for denial and refuses to focus on the one scenario. Dori Gold facially unsettled, and the tone of his Americanized voice slightly disrupted because he could not handle what was asked of him.

(Dialogue of part of interview between Pilger and Gold)

Dori Gold: I don't know the case you're speaking about, but I can be convinced of one thing. An Israeli who takes aim - even an Israeli sniper - is taking aim at those engaged in terrorism. Unfortunately, in every kind of warfare, there are cases of civilians who are accidentally killed. Terrorism means putting the crosshairs of the sniper's rifle on a civilian deliberately.
John Pilger: Well that's - that's what I've just described.
DG: That is what - no. I can tell you that did not happen.
JP: It did happen. And - and I think that's where some people have problem with the argument that terrorism exists on - on one side.
DG: If you mix terrorism and counter-terrorism, if you create some kind of moral obfuscation, you will bring about not just a problem for Israel, but you will bring about a problem for the entire western alliance. Because we are all facing this threat.

So to confuse terrorism and counter terrorism - this is the conclusion given to us by Israeli government spokesperson as to the tactics used by its forces.

The sponsorship of international countries of Israel terror was also covered within this programme. Israel is currently the fourth strongest military power globally and the largest in the Middle East region. This huge military power is, supposedly, under attack and is retaliating under provocation. That I know is not the truth. The Peace process that both sides partook in was shown to the world to be comical farce. Ilan Pappe an Israeli historian explained,

It's very important to understand that from a Palestinian point of view, they were asked to sign… a document which did not relate even to one of the central issues for which they had been struggling for more than 100 years. They are left eventually with an offer of 10% of what used to be Palestine. The Israelis who dictated this offer in the summer of 2000 are not even talking about a proper state. We are talking… of a stateless state, I would call it. A Bantustan with no genuine sovereignty. With no independent foreign, economic or political policies, with no proper capital and at the mercy of the Israeli security services and Israeli policy. Not only that, but there is now documented evidence that the Palestinians had made an extraordinary offer to the Israelis, conceding even more of their land. But this was not news at the time.

When questioning Gold on the possibilities that negotiations could make an impact on the situation, Gold again as previous discloses the Likud party line, which does not regard Palestinians as people who have the right to self-governing. The idea of an independent Palestinian state provokes nervousness in Gold; Pilger is determined in challenging those views expressed by Gold. The Israeli spokesman consistently keeping to the rhetorical line of spin that we hear day and daily and which cloud the truth of what is really going on. The last thing that Pilger says to Gold: What right have you to create someone else’s homeland?

Dori reckons someone has asked them to …… we all know however that they are merely doing what they see appropriate to keep their ‘homeland’ by any means they feel necessary, which means breaking all international laws although the majority of the international community will still continue to support and supply this terrorist government.

As surprising it was to see this documentary on mainstream ITV, It was not however surprising to hear that The Israeli embassy in Britain as well as Deputies of British Jews, and Conservative Friends of Israel declared it was one sided - pro-Palestinian. Carlton Television’s Chairman of communications Mr. Michael Green has apparently disowned the documentary, Green stated that he was extremely unhappy at the documentary and would be seeking actively for a programme to put forward the Israeli point of view, despite there being Israeli citizens and ex - military participation in the documentary, Green states:

“But it was John Pilger - it was factually incorrect, it was historically incorrect, there is no doubt in my mind that this programme was a tragedy for Israel as far as accuracy is concerned.”

Might it be suggested to Mr. Michael Green, that the tragedy in this scenario is simple.





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It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.
- Arthur Calwell
Index: Current Articles

3 November 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Addressing Organised Crime
Billy Mitchell


Leading You Back To The Start
Anthony McIntyre



Carrie Twomey


Review: A Secret History of the IRA
Deaglan O Donghaile


Review: Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of Conflict in Northern Ireland
Buffy Maguire


Yes, Palestine Is Still The Issue
Aine Fox


Support & Solidarity
Davy Carlin


31 October 2002


The Real IRA
Eamonn McCann


A Stick To Be Beaten With
Anthony McIntyre


A Modest Proposal

Tommy Gorman


Minimum Wage or the Abolition of Wage Labour?
Liam O Ruairc




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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
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