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Journalistic Cliches: 'Surgical Air Strikes', 'Rooting Out Terror', and 'Cyber-Terrorism' Cannot Conceal Reality

Robert Fisk

 by The Independent

Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Here we go again. Israel is going to “root out Palestinian terror” – which it has been claiming to do, unsuccessfully, for 64 years – while Hamas, the latest in “Palestine’s” morbid militias, announces that Israel has “opened the gates of hell” by murdering its military leader, Ahmed al-Jabari.

Hezbollah several times announced that Israel had “opened the gates of hell” for attacking Lebanon. Yasser Arafat, who was a super-terrorist, then a super-statesman – after capitulating on the White House lawn – and then became a super-terrorist again when he realized he’d been conned by Camp David; he, too waffled on about the “gates of hell” in 1982.

And we journos are writing like performing bears, repeating all the clichés we’ve used for the past 40 years. The killing of Mr Jabari was a “targeted attack”, it was a “surgical air strike” – like the Israeli “surgical air strikes” which killed almost 17,000 civilians in Lebanon in 1982, the 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, in 2006, or the 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in Gaza in 2008-9, or the pregnant woman and the baby who were killed by the “surgical air strikes” in Gaza last week – and the 11 civilians killed in one Gaza house yesterday. At least Hamas, with their Godzilla rockets, don’t claim anything “surgical” about them. They are meant to murder Israelis – any Israelis, man woman or child.

As, in truth, are the Israeli attacks on Gaza. But don’t say that or you’ll be an anti-Semitic Nazi; almost as evil, wicked, unspeakable, devilish and murderous as the Hamas movement with which – again, please don’t mention this – Israel happily negotiated in the Eighties when they encouraged this bunch of mobsters to take power in Gaza and thus decapitate the exiled super-terrorist Arafat. The new exchange rate in Gaza for Palestinian and Israeli deaths has reached 16:1. It will rise, of course. The exchange rate in 2008-9 was 100:1.

And we are myth-making too. The last Israeli war in Gaza was such a stunning success – “rooting out terror”, of course – that their supposedly élite units couldn’t even find their own captured soldier Gilad Shalit, eventually produced last year by Mr Jabari in person.

Mr Jabari was the “No 1 shadowy leader” of Hamas, according to the Associated Press. But how on earth can he be shadowy when we know his date of birth, family details, his years of imprisonment by Israel during which he changed allegiance from Fatah to Hamas? So while I’m on it, those years of Israeli imprisonment didn’t exactly convert Mr Jabari to pacifism, did they? Well, no tears then; he was a man who lived by the sword and died by the sword, a fate which, of course, will not afflict Israel’s warriors of the air as they kill civilians in Gaza.

Washington supports Israel’s “right to defend itself” then claims a spurious neutrality – as if Israel’s bombs on Gaza didn’t come from the United States as assuredly as the Fajr-5 rockets come from Iran.

Meanwhile, the pitiful William Hague holds Hamas “principally responsible” for the latest war. But there is no such evidence that this is true. According to The Atlantic Monthly, the Israeli killing of a “mentally unfit” Palestinian who strayed towards the border may have been the start of the latest war. Others suspect the killing of a small Palestinian boy may have been the provocation. But he was shot dead by the Israelis when an armed Palestinian group tried to cross the frontier and was confronted by Israeli tanks. In which case Palestinian gunmen – albeit not Hamas – may have kicked-off the whole shooting-match.

But is there nothing to stop this nonsense, this garbage war? Hundreds of rockets fall on Israel. True. Thousands of acres of land are stolen from Arabs by Israel –for Jews and Jews only – on the West Bank. There isn’t even enough land left there now for a Palestinian state.

Delete the last two sentences, please. There are only good guys and bad guys in this outrageous conflict in which the Israelis claim to be the good guys to the applause of Western countries (who then wonder why a lot of Muslims don’t like Westerners very much).

The problem, oddly, is that Israel’s actions in the West Bank and its siege of Gaza are bringing closer the very event which Israeli trumpets it fears every day: that Israel faces destruction.

In the battle of rockets – not least Iran’s Fajr-5s and Hezbollah’s drones – a new warpath is being trodden by both sides. It’s no longer about Israeli tanks crossing the Lebanese border or the Gaza border. It’s about rockets and hi-tech drones and computer attacks – or “cyber-terrorism”, of course, if committed by Muslims – and the human dross ripped apart by the wayside will be even less relevant than it has been over the past three days.

The Arab awakening now takes its own path: its leaders are going to have to follow their public’s mood. So, I suspect, is poor old King Abdullah of Jordan. America’s clowning for “peace” on Israel’s side is no longer worth the candle among Arabs. And if Benjamin Netanyahu believes that the arrival of the first Iranian Fajr rockets necessitates the Israeli big bang on Iran, and then Iran fires back – and perhaps at the Americans, too– and brings in Hezbollah – and Obama gets swallowed up in another Western-Muslim war, what happens then?

Well, Israel will ask for a ceasefire, as it routinely does in wars against Hezbollah. It will plead yet again for the undying support of the West in its struggle against world evil, Iran included.

And why not praise the killing of Mr Jabari? Please forget that the Israelis negotiated via the German secret service with Mr Jabari himself, less than 12 months ago. You can’t negotiate with “terrorists”, right? Israel calls this latest bloodbath Operation Pillar of Defense. Pillar of Hypocrisy, more like.


© 2016 The Independent
Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk (1946-2020) was a writer and journalist who held British and Irish citizenship and was Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper. He was the author of many books on the region, including "The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East" (2007) and "Robert Fisk on Afghanistan: Osama Bin Laden: 9/11 to Death in Pakistan" (2016).

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