When honesty gets dangerous, liars succeed

No, Ariel Sharon has not just died. But when he does, will Wolf Blitzer lose his job if he writes a tweet like the one above (a fake of course, created by yours truly)?

Certainly not, because as Glenn Greenwald correctly noted yesterday: “The speech prohibitions and thought crimes on the Middle East all run in one direction: to enforce ‘pro-Israel’ orthodoxies.”

Then again, Blitzer (who was at AIPAC and the Jerusalem Post before moving to CNN) will have no need to let his Zionist colors fly within the confines of a tweet. He’ll be content to report gushing praise for the former Israeli prime minister from President Obama or President Whoever, the day Sharon dies — a day when little if anything with be said in the Washington political/media establishment about Sharon’s personal responsibility in the slaughter of as many as 2,000 Palestinians killed in the Sabra and Shátila massacre in Beirut in 1982.

CNN’s Octavia Nasr, on the other hand, has been found guilty of praising Sayyid Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a man whose stature Sharon could never match — and for that offense, as has now been widely reported, the Lebanese-born journalist lost her job.

As Frances Guy, Britain’s ambassador to Lebanon, wrote in a blog post soon after Fadlallah’s death (a post she later removed “after mature consideration” according to the British Foreign Office):

When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person. That for me is the real effect of a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith. Sheikh Fadlallah passed away yesterday. Lebanon is a lesser place the day after but his absence will be felt well beyond Lebanon’s shores. I remember well when I was nominated ambassador to Beirut, a muslim acquaintance sought me out to tell me how lucky I was because I would get a chance to meet Sheikh Fadlallah. Truly he was right. If I was sad to hear the news I know other peoples’ lives will be truly blighted. The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace.

So why did CNN’s Nasr lose her job for expressing sadness at Fadlallah’s death? After all, his name is not a household word outside the Middle East.

Nasr’s mistake may well not have been that she expressed appreciation for this particular eminent Shia cleric but that she referred to him as one of “Hezbollah’s giants.”

So here’s one of the many ironies in this incident: while the Israel lobby controls the mainstream media with a well-oiled censorship machine that would be the envy of Joseph Goebbels, freedoms that journalists are being terrorized to abandon are nevertheless being exercised inside the US military. At CNN Hezbollah cannot be mentioned without also being demonized, yet at CENTCOM there are those calling for the powerful militia to be brought in from the cold. As Mark Perry revealed last month, a recent Red Team report called for the integration of Hezbollah into the Lebanese Armed Forces.

As for Sayyid Fadlallah himself, Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri — an Arab leader of the variety much-loved in the West — praised the cleric as “a voice of moderation and an advocate of unity.”

One of the reasons Fadlallah has been condemned by successive US governments is because of his alleged connections to the 1983 bombing in Beirut that killed 241 American servicemen, yet Robert Baer, who was himself a CIA field officer in Beirut, says: “there never has been a shred of evidence that Fadlallah was responsible for the Marine bombing, other than his preaching against foreign occupation.”

Opposing foreign occupation — this indeed was Fadlallah’s principal offense.

In his New York Times obituary, Fadlallah’s “extremism” was supposedly evident when in 2002 he told the Daily Telegraph:

[The Palestinians] have had their land stolen, their families killed, their homes destroyed, and the Israelis are using weapons, such as the F16 aircraft, which are meant only for major wars. There is no other way for the Palestinians to push back those mountains, apart from martyrdom operations.

Which reminds me of a line I came across on Facebook recently: a terrorist is someone with a bomb but no air force.

Fadlallah was also guilty of questioning the Holocaust — a commonplace attitude in the Middle East that must surely perplex many in the West. Even so, that attitude is, I suspect, much more one of sentiment than historical perspective. The Holocaust, as a justification for the dispossession and slaughter of Palestinians, has as much relevance as do the childhood traumas of a murderer when recounted to the murder victim’s family. This is context that does nothing to color the crime. Indeed, Holocaust doubt, thus provoked, can be seen as a direct effect of Holocaust exploitation.

Perhaps Sayyid Fadlallah is best remembered not through a tweet or a State department classification but in his own words:

Throughout my life, I have always supported the human being in his humanism and [I have supported] the oppressed… I think it is the person’s right to live his freedom… and [it is his right] to face the injustice imposed on him by revolting against it, using his practical, realistic and available means to end the oppressor’s injustice toward him, whether it is an individual, a community, a nation, or a state; whether male or female. God created the people free; thus no one has the right to enslave people and no one has the right to enslave himself for others. Imam Ali said “do not be a slave of others, as God created you free.”

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10 thoughts on “When honesty gets dangerous, liars succeed

  1. Aaron

    Well that was a momentary shock. I thought for a moment Sharon might just have redeemed himself (ever so slightly) by having such a superb sense of timing. Alas, no…

    The Butcher of Beirut was also directly responsible for another massacre, at Qibya, West Bank, in 1953. Sixty-nine Palestinians were killed – some when their houses were mortared while they were inside, some when they were shot. Sharon apparently instructed his troops to achieve “maximal killing and damage to property”.

    The UN responded with a Security Council Resolution condemning the massacre at Qibya (SC101). With that, and the conclusions of the 1982 Kahan Commission in mind, no reasonable person could describe him in positive or respectful terms. It’ll be interesting to see how pundits responds to Sharon’s eventual death.


    Aside: one of those appointed by Israel to “investigate” the recent raid and killings on the Gaza Flotilla is Shabtai Rosenne – who was an advisor to Ben Gurion in 1953, and participated in an attempt by Israel to whitewash the events in Qibya.


  2. delia ruhe

    “Fadlallah was also guilty of questioning the Holocaust — a commonplace attitude in the Middle East that must surely perplex many in the West. . . . Indeed, Holocaust doubt, thus provoked, can be seen as a direct effect of Holocaust exploitation.”

    This is quite right, of course–and this is what is intended by MEastern holocaust denial: it’s intended as a mirror image of Israel’s holocaust exploitation. Israel will, of course, never recognize it as such.

    But it does work well on a much more visceral level: Every Middle Easterner knows how to push Israel’s buttons — and holocaust denial is the easiest and most cost-effective way. Someone like Ahmadinejad knows exactly how and when to use it as a way of eliciting some lunatic responses from Israel and the US — responses that chip away at public opinion in their support. Crazy — but crazy like a fox.

  3. DE Tedooru

    I submitted commentary to the following HuffPost posting on this very issue:


    and my account was purged so nothing will surprise me anymore:

    But of course, fire her, shoot her, cut her body to pieces and feed them to the dogs! Afterall, we’re not allowed to be anti-Semitic towards Jews but must be anti-Semitic towards Arabs!


    Heim Saban made it very clear: to control America you must put in lots of money, start think-tanks, AND TOTALLY CONTROL THE MEDIA….All this is dangerous “mesh-hood” seeking BRAVADO by puny little guys who don’t realize that they are starting a backlash anti-Semitism among Americans who deem the FIRST AMMENDMENT sacrosanct. For them thuggery may substitute for Viagra , pushing Arab-American journalists around, making them apologize and THEN having them fired, but it is a dangerous provocation of an American Krystalnacht.

    Most Jews– the people who did more to enforce EQUAL rights for all Americans than any other group– are outraged by this kind of Zionist terrorism. But none of the raging masses will distinguish between the few who, to feel like “mensch,” squelched her right to her opinion and majority of Jews. IT’LL HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ANTI-SEMITISM as angry free-speech-loving Americans express their outrage on innocent Jewish majority that ALWAYS stood for free speech.

    Anti-Zionism or pro-Arab does NOT mean anti-Semite, afterall, many Jews are too!


  4. Eleonora

    Sheikh Fadlallah was a great man – may he rest in peace. His words: “Throughout my life, I have always supported the human being in his humanism …” should be framed and sent to all Arab rulers and to the rest of the political bunch too.

    With respect to questioning the Holocaust: for me it doesn’t really matter how many died – whether it was 100 people, 1,2 mio or whatever the numer. What matters for me are answers to three questions and three questions only:

    1. Why are we forbidden to remember the Roma, Sinti, Handicapped, Catholic Priests, Unionists, Socialists, Communits et al – other than the Jews – who were equally brutally killed in the concentration camps during the Nazi time?

    2. Why is every attempt to thoroughly investigate the Holocaust immediately blocked? Especially in light of the fact that the number of victims of Auschwitz has been revised down by the Jewish community themselves several times? The German (and to my knowledge the USA, Russian and Israeli) archives are full of well preserved documents. Why are those docs still not accessible?

    3. Why is it that all of Europe (to the best of my knowledge) has laws in place that stop anybody from questioning the Jewish Holocaust – ignoring all the victims of non-Jewish faith?

  5. Eleonora

    “With respect to questioning the Holocaust: for me it doesn’t really matter how many died – whether it was 100 people, 1,2 mio or whatever the numer. ”

    Sorry, in the hurry I didn’t complete my thought.

    It should read: “… or whatever the number. 100 are already too much and a crime.”

  6. sam samater

    This is article just sums my sentiment beautifully. How come everybody that says anything that Israel or its supporters don’t agree with has to resign or at least appologise. As a decent human being I believe it is a moral imperative for the Jewish people to have a homeland of their own. But I honestly believe present day Israel will destroy itself and might take the rest of the world with them. Everybody should allowed to question anything they want whether the Second world war or the holocaust. Historically facts can not be denied or falsified. If the holocaust is true it is true . No point in persecuting people over it.

  7. Barnabas

    Stephen Walt recently reaffirmed/restated his belief that a free press no longer exists, and that dissenting, reasoning voices are simply not going to be heard in the mainstream. He also emphasized his belief that the blogosphere (once the realm of trivia and bad opportunist journalism) has now taken over as the sphere in which the informed public go to seek information and ‘truth.’ He’s right of course, and Paul Woodward’s pages are also testament to that shift in focus. Thanks Mr. Woodward, for your commentary and critique.
    What I feel concern about, is the silencing of debate, and the fact that people have to go along with state accepted versions of ‘truth.’ There is a real double standard here. In the apartheid era, we were all ( 100% rightfully ) encouraged, in all areas of life, from the work place to college campus to the TV studios and on the streets, to express our mass distaste for it — but in today’s climate, if someone is not careful in criticizing certain regimes, they will find themselves censored.

    The problem is (and I don’t wish to invoke “Godwin’s Law” here), it increasingly reminds me of fascism. Yes, it’s a different kind of fascism of course — no one is walking around our work places and in the TV studios with brown shirts (yet) or burning our books — but as Alastair Crooke, Chomsky and Foucault have all noted, the exercising of control now takes far more subtle routes, because our societies are (ostensibly at least) to all appearances so free and open. That can also clearly be seen with thinkers like Gilad Atzmon, who enjoy a kind of schizophrenic public life : One can easily find out all about his music career via all the usual mainstream , even conservative media sources – but his political expression has been totally blocked, besides a few withering comments in the Times blog pages here and there.

    Orwell considered freedom of expression within states to be phantasmic, a chimera – one example he gave was the example of young Anarchist fighters in the Spanish Civil War, who found themselves later smeared and ostracized in the British and American Press as Fascists. That turning of reality on its head by the press (a phenomenon also noted by Zeev Sternhell in his writing on authoritarian regimes) seems even more relevant now.

  8. scott

    Tolstoy’s “letter to liberals” is an appropriate read for everyone.

    We’re all good Germans now.

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