Gush Shalom in English

Uri Avnery will be visiting 4 major cities in the U.S.
Between 10-22 of October.
Weekly AD in "HaaretzPicture of the Week
Whoever still bears human values,
knows: The assassinations are from the devil

Gush Shalom ad published in Ha'aretz, October 20, 2001




Quiet! They're shooting!

It is not nice to admit this, but I do get some pleasure from this war.

Until the war broke out I thought that our media were the worst in the western world. From the very start of the Intifadah our media have been speaking in one uniform voice, faithfully parroting the official story, not asking probing questions, refraining from any real criticism. Barak turned every stone. He went farther than any previous Prime Minister. He gave everything and Arafat turned down his generous offers. We have no partner, etc. etc., ad infinitum. No thorough research, no examination of facts, no recording of testimony from all sides, no comparisons and no incisive conclusions.

A Jewish joke tells about a lord of a small town who passes away. The search for someone to eulogize leads to no one who has anything good to say about him. Finally someone volunteered to speak: "It is true that this lord was a cruel and stingy bastard but, compared to his son, he was an angel…."

Now we can say the same thing about our media. "It is true that the media have betrayed their trust, that they have served as the mouthpiece of the government and have been brainwashing us. But, compared to the American media, ours is golden!"

On September 11th, in the first hours after the horror, there were some who criticized the president's behavior. On that historic day, his people had transported him from place to place all over the country, hidden him from sight in some remote underground bunker and, rather late in the day, returned him to the White House. This obligated the media to ask hard questions in real time. But then the media became silent. From the evening of that day until this very moment, the media in America have been marching in file, like a battalion of marines. Television networks, radio stations, the highly respected newspapers - all sing the praises of the brilliant President, all beat the war drum and all conform to the rule of: "Quiet! They're shooting!"

So we are not the worst. What a relief! But when the guard dog of democracy joins forces with a pack of wolves, the country is in danger. And when this happens in the world's leading country, whose fate affects us all, this becomes a menace to us all.

The American media are preaching blind faith in the President and his advisors. They do not dare pose the questions that should concern anyone with independent opinions. Is this wise? Can this approach attain the declared objective or is it merely an outlet for the public's (justifiable) rage?

The declared objective is to put an end to international terror and, particularly, to Osama Bin Laden and his organization. Question: Will the killing or capture of the man bring an end to the organization?

A cynic would doubt the importance of the man currently starring on TV. As a rule, heads of underground organization do not seek publicity. They hide from the public eye. (I myself was a member of the underground Etz"el for several years and at the time never knew the identity of the organization's commanders.) Bin Laden seems more like a Hollywood actor sent to fill the part by the "central casting office". He is too well suited for the part: tall, impressive, bearded, and articulate. I almost said: too good to be true. One can presume that the true commanders remain anonymous.

But let us assume that the man really does hold the imputed role. Question: So what? If he is killed or captured, will that put an end to fundamentalist terror organizations? Did the British who killed Abraham Stern ("Yair") thereby put an end to the Le"chi? Usually the result is the opposite: turning a leader into a martyr encourages his followers and tougher, more talented people replace him.

A second objective of the operation is to topple the Taliban government, which gives asylum to Bin Laden. This objective is very difficult to attain. No nation wants a foreign occupier to select its leadership. Question: and if they succeed, will it do any good? A terrorist organization does not need a territorial base. It's a good thing to have but it is a luxury. Fundamentalist organizations are scattered all across the Arab and Muslim world. They have branches in Europe and America. It might be that the elimination of the Afghan base would benefit them and improve their efficiency.

President Bush is like a man using a cannon to shoot flies. There is hardly any connection between the end and the means. The U.S.A. has a magnificent army, equipped with state of the art technology. It is natural that the generals would like to put it into use, for that is what they have been training all their lives to do. That is why Afghanistan was targeted. It is a clear geographical target that a regular army could fight against and experiment with all its new equipment. But (question): will this silence the terrorists in Boston, Berlin, Cairo and Aden?

There is no point shooting flies with a cannon; there is no point killing flies at all. New flies, more of them, will only come to replace the dead ones. To get rid of flies it is necessary to dry out the swamp that breeds them.

It is possible and vital to conduct the difficult and frustrating daily campaign to expose the (terrorist) cells and to prevent their attacks. But this is a short-term action. The main campaign should be political and ideological.

The more the current crisis progresses, the clearer it becomes to the U.S.A. and the entire world that the Palestinian problem, thrust into a corner for a generation, is one of the crucial keys to the solution of the problem. The rejected stone becomes the headpiece. It is possible that this issue is merely one that Bin Laden uses to gain support in the Arab world but for many Arabs it is a bleeding wound that invokes hatred and rage against America. This wound must be healed, once and for all, in a way that is acceptable to the majority of reasonable Palestinians and the Arab Muslim world. It must clearly be said: whoever prevents this healing prevents the elimination of world terror.

The world is beginning to understand this. It is going through an accelerated course. Question: Has the world internalized this sufficiently yet? Is it prepared to go this route and go the whole way?

For the sake of us all, I hope so.

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