Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Free Speech? Not When It Comes to State of Israel

By Robert Fisk

The Independent, March 12, 2006

You’ve got to fight. It’s the only conclusion I can draw as I see the
renewed erosion of our freedom to discuss the Middle East. The most
recent example — and the most shameful — is the cowardly decision of the
New York Theater Workshop to cancel the Royal Court’s splendid
production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie”.

It’s the story — in her own words and e-mails — of the brave young
American woman who traveled to Gaza to protect innocent Palestinians and
who stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer in an attempt to prevent the
driver from destroying a Palestinian home. The bulldozer drove over her
and then reversed and crushed her a second time.

An American heroine, Rachel earned no brownie points from the Bush
administration which bangs on about courage and freedom from oppression
every few minutes. Rachel’s was the wrong sort of courage and she was
defending the freedom of the wrong people. But when I read that James
Nicola, the New York Theater Workshop’s “artistic director” — his title
really should be in quotation marks — had decided to “postpone” the play
“indefinitely” because “in our pre-production planning and our talking
around and listening in our communities (sic) in New York, what we heard
was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas. ... we
had a very edgy situation”, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

So let’s confront this tomfoolery. Down in Australia, my old mate Antony
Loewenstein, a journalist and academic, is having an equally vile time.
He has completed a critical book on the Israel/Palestine conflict for
Melbourne University Publishing and Jewish communities in Australia are
trying to have it censored out of existence before it appears in August.

A one-off bit of skulduggery on Israel’s behalf? Alas, no. A letter
arrived for me last week from Israeli-American Barbara Goldscheider
whose novel “Naqba: The Catastrophe: The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict”
has just been published. She has been attacked, she told me, “merely
because I chose an Arabic title to my novel on the conflict... My
brother-in-law has broken his relationship with me before he even read
the book ... From members of my ‘Orthodox’ Jewish congregation in Bangor
(Maine), I received a phone call from an irate ‘friend’ sputtering ...
out: ‘Don’t you know the Arabs want to destroy Israel?’”

What do you do when a publisher — or an “artistic director” — caves in?
I found out for myself not long ago when the Military History Society of
Ireland asked permission to reprint a paper I had published some years
ago on a battle between the Irish Army’s UN battalion in southern
Lebanon and Israel’s proxy — and brutal — Lebanese militia, the
so-called “South Lebanon Army”, whose psychotic commander was a
cashiered Lebanese Army major called Saad Haddad.

In the paper, I mentioned how an Israeli major called Haim extorted
money from the inhabitants of the south Lebanese village of Haris and
gave the code name of an Israeli agent — “Abu Shawki” — who was present
at the murder of two Irish soldiers.

I had published these details many times, both in my own newspaper and
in my previous book on the Lebanon war, “Pity the Nation”. Maj. Haddad
died of cancer more than 10 years ago. I actually met Haim in the early
1980s as he emerged from a meeting with the mayor of Haris from whom he
demanded money to pay Israel’s cruel militiamen — the UN was also
present and recorded his threats — while “Abu Shawki”, whom the Irish
police would like to interview, later tried to arrest me in Tyre — and
immediately freed me — when I told him I knew that he was a witness to
the murder of the two Irish soldiers.

So what was I supposed to do when I received the following letter from
ex-Brig. Gen. Patrick Purcell of the Irish Army? “Unfortunately we have
been forced to withdraw (your) article in view of a letter from our
publisher Irish Academic Press. It is clear from our contract that (our)
society would be responsible in the event of a libel action.” The
enclosed letter from publisher Frank Cass advised that his lawyer had
“cautioned” him because I had described Haddad as “psychotic”, named the
blackmailing Israeli major and named the Israeli agent present at the
two murders. It’s interesting that Cass’s lawyer believes it is possible
to libel a man (Haddad) who has been dead for more than a decade. As for
Maj. Haim, he remains on UN files as the man who tried — and apparently
succeeded — in forcing the people of southern Lebanon to cough up the
cash to pay for their own oppressors.

I better remember what I wrote in my newspaper just over six years ago,
that “the degree of abuse and outright threats now being directed at
anyone ... who dares to criticize Israel ... is fast reaching
McCarthyite proportions. The attempt to force the media to obey Israel’s
rules is ... international”. And growing, I should now add.

The Rachel Corrie story.

Keywords:
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14 Comments:

At 6:26 PM, Blogger J.UL1R4 said...

Good article you posted there Gert.

“the degree of abuse and outright threats now being directed at
anyone ... who dares to criticize Israel ... is fast reaching
McCarthyite proportions. The attempt to force the media to obey Israel’s
rules is ... international”

The same media also quiety reports Israel's cheerleading on Iraq, and now Iran as if it is somehow good:

"America aren't tough enough on Iran" and before it was "Hit Iraq now, don't wait, do it now, it's essential to stop Saddam's WMDs" etc.

 
At 8:05 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Absolutely.

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger Richard said...

gert, you said: Absolutely.

I can only add: Absolutely.

jultra, you said: Good article you posted there Gert.

I can only add: Absolutely.

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Absolutely!

 
At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Ben said...

Oh, come on, the production was delayed for technical reasons (at least according to the director of the NY Theater Workshop). No need for the "international jewish censorship" hysteria.

When they put on the show, do you promise to eat your hat?

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Yes, Ben, I promise...

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger Gert said...

And, Ben, do you realise that in the Zionist camp there are some that doubt the Rachel Corrie story? That some claim she was a terrorist supporter, even a terrorist, period?

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger Gert said...

And, Ben, do you realise that in the Zionist camp there are some that doubt the Rachel Corrie story? That some claim she was a terrorist supporter, even a terrorist, period?

 
At 1:54 AM, Blogger Why Palestinians Usually Get It Wrong said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger Gert said...

To the last "commenter":

Do you usually post an entire blogpost of yours in the form of a comment to a relatively unrelated post?

 
At 1:09 AM, Blogger Why Palestinians Usually Get It Wrong said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger Karin said...

Thank you for posting this article. I admire Fisk's reporting, but hadn't come across this article - maybe we should buy the Independent more often, after all.

It is worrying that what he says rings so true. All the more important to try to reach as many people as possible with the truth.

 
At 3:25 PM, Blogger Karin said...

Just came across this:

FOLLOWING the last-minute cancellation of its New York premiere, the highly-acclaimed one-woman play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, will receive its West End premiere instead – at the Playhouse Theatre where it opens on March 30, 2006 (previews from March 28).

Mind you, the tickets are a bit pricey. More here http://www.palestinecampaign.org/events.asp?d=y&id=1800

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Good news to me: so they've only managed to postpone the show, not cancel it entirely. It's symptomatic though that it had to be moved to a less pro-Israel location.

Unfortunately my buspass doesn't stretch to the West-End (lol).

Thanks for the URL.

 

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