Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

‘US perfidy’

On the cowing of the American press

Reading the hagiographies that pass for objective analyses of Israel in today’s US media, it is hard to imagine that there was a time when journalists reported evenhandedly from the Middle East, telling Americans unwelcome truths about the Jewish state and the real, ignoble reasons for their country’s unconditional support for it. But in 1951, the one-sided narrative had not yet taken hold, and it was possible for Time magazine — never anyone’s idea of a radical publication — to say this:

Time magazine cover, 1951

Time magazine cover, 1951: Could such a cover even exist today?
[ Image Source ]

The word “American” no longer has a good sound in that part of the world [the Middle East]. To catch the Jewish vote in the U.S., President Truman in 1946 demanded that the British admit 100,000 Jewish refugees to Palestine, in violation of British promises to the Arabs. Since then, the Arab nations surrounding Israel have regarded that state as a U.S. creation, and the U.S., therefore, as an enemy. The Israeli-Arab war created nearly a million Arab refugees, who have been huddled for three years in wretched camps. These refugees, for whom neither the U.S. nor Israel will take the slightest responsibility, keep alive the hatred of U.S. perfidy.

No enmity for the Arabs, no selfish national design motivated the clumsy U.S. support of Israel. The American crime was not to help the Jews, but to help them at the expense of the Arabs. Today, the Arab world fears and expects a further Israeli expansion.

The Arabs are well aware that Alben Barkley, Vice President of the U.S., tours his country making speeches for the half-billion-dollar Israeli bond issue, the largest ever offered to the U.S. public. Nobody, they note bitterly, is raising that kind of money for them.

That a national news publication of Time’s caliber could write honestly of US and Israeli indifference to the sufferings of the Palestinian refugees, and still more strikingly of “US perfidy,” bespeaks an epoch in which the phrase “freedom of the press” offered more than a symbolic — or ironic — meaning; even in the heat of the Cold War, mainstream reporters dared to utter unwelcome truths and to prophesy against their country.

Is this still possible? Can we still find words of unsparing denunciation for the US and its client state in today’s conventional media? Perhaps that question should be addressed to Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez or Octavia Nasr, all of whom were fired after distinguished and unoffending careers because they committed the fatal error of speaking or writing critically of Israel or sympathetically of those whom Israel calls its enemies.

What is needed in today’s journalism is a touch of that old honesty, that former resolve to rebuke Israel for its inhuman treatment of the Palestinians, tempered by a refusal to tolerate real anti-Semites among Israel’s critics. Whether they write candidly or as agents provocateur, it is precisely those who conflate Israel’s perfidy with anti-Jewish fantasy who have enabled Israel to annihilate its critics by branding them bigots.

We who value truth must therefore steer a straight course, equally prepared to remind the world of Israel’s callous scorn of the people whose land they have taken, and unequivocally to denounce the bigots who disingenuously present themselves as our allies. For each time we permit a xenophobe to utter calumnies against Jews, and fail to repudiate them, we put another bullet in the bandoliers of the expansionists whose ultimate objective is nothing less than the obliteration of all Palestinians.

Originally published as a review of an article on Israel and the US media.

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