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January 24, 2002
Who Audits The Washington Post?

By Ahmed Amr.
Editor

 
 

"There will be many attempts to rewrite the history of these last two months… We Israelis must also take care that the writers are not those working for Ariel Sharon." Jacobo Timerman

Charles Krauthammer has the journalistic ethics of an alley cat. As a writer, he is to truth, what a Gila monster is to beauty. He is the kind of editorial writer who never lets facts get in the way of an implausible argument. When the need arises, as it often does for his ilk, he will simply lie.

As a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post, this belligerent advocate of repression is no ordinary pro-Israeli Yiddish supremacist. More accurately, he is a policy architect for the Netenyahu wing of the Likud Party. There is nothing American about his constant righteous polemics calling for Israel to escalate the violence against the Palestinians.

Of course, to perform the duties required by the Israel First agenda, Krauthammer needs to skirt more than a few facts. A week prior to the WTC and Pentagon atrocities, he wrote one of his many articles advising the Bush administration to turn a blind eye to the Palestinian struggle for liberty.

What caught my attention was some of the 'facts' he used to make the argument that the Palestinians do not deserve international protection from Sharon's brutes. He wanted to 'remind' the reader of what happened in Beirut in 1982.

In an article written for The Weekly Standard Magazine (9/3/2001), Krauthammer gave the following account of the Israeli invasion to his readers:

After years of being attacked by the PLO from Lebanon, Israel invaded in 1982. Yasser Arafat and his PLO soon found themselves surrounded in Beirut by Israeli forces. Having overplayed his hand, Arafat asked for rescue. U.S., French, and Italian forces were sent to evacuate Arafat and his troops to Tunisia. The rescuers then withdrew. They were shortly sent back, however, after Christian Lebanese massacred Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla. The Westerners returned to protect the Palestinians. They stayed to pacify the region and became sitting ducks for Islamic terrorists.

How many lies can one Washington Post journalist squeeze in under a hundred words? Would Krauthammer's version of Sharon's war survive an audit against the historical record? How about a little 'veracity test' against the account of an Israeli journalist, a well-respected international publisher, who covered the story from the front? Would Krauthammer and his publishers care to have a mere 100 words of his writing stand up to the scrutiny of Jacobo Timerman? Is Charles ready for an encounter with the author of 'Prisoner Without a Name, Cell without a Number'?

Who cares what Krauthammer or the Washington Post want? It is time for a little audit of their books.

Consider the first sentence, where Krauthammer claims that "After years of being attacked by the PLO from Lebanon, Israel invaded in 1982".

The following eloquent rebuttal comes from Jacobo Timerman's war diary of what he called "The Longest War". Jacob gave the book that title because Sharon and Begin had sold the war to the Israeli public and Alexander Haig as just another three-day, forty-mile incursion into Lebanon. Timerman, a Ukrainian Argentine Jew and a life long Diaspora Zionist, had immigrated to Israel in 1979. He was the editor and publisher of La Opinion, a major Argentine daily, from 1971 to 1977. After taking a courageous stand against the Argentine military dictatorship, he was jailed. It is also worth noting, for the benefit of the lying scoundrels at the Washington Post, that Timerman's son served in the ranks of the Israeli Army that invaded Lebanon in 1982.

In page 102 of his book, Timerman quotes Yaakov Guterman's view of the war as it appeared in a letter to the editor in the Jerusalem Post. "I am a descendant of a rabbinical family, the only son of Simha Guterman, a Zionist and Socialist, who died as a hero and a fighter against the Nazis in the Warsaw uprising. I was rescued from the Holocaust and brought to Israel; I served in the army and built my home in Israel."

"A son was born to me, called Raz - a son who grew up to be a great pride to his family, strong and beautiful and honest and upright in his character. Despite personal misfortunes and difficulties, I raised him with unending love and affection and with great pride as a father. In my secret thoughts, I saw him as a link in the chain of history, and in his being and character, along with others like him, the realization of our people's renewal."

"When the time came for him to join the army, he volunteered, in the spirit in which he was educated, for one of the special units, one of the most challenging units of the army, and there he served with great effort and devotion. He was due to be released in a few weeks and his plans were many."

"Along with my son and his friends, I was aware of the government's intentions, and we lived in constant fear. Every night, I went to bed with a prayer in my heart that war might be avoided."

"Every child knows that Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon sought a reason to break into Lebanon to instigate the first war that was a war of defense. They sought to undo, with this questionable military victory, all their failures, inadequacies and frustrations."

"I remained with a prayer in my heart that reasonable and concerned people in Israel and abroad would prevent them from this madness, but my desire and the desire of the sons was not fulfilled."

"The bullet fired in London caused them to send lethal war machines to spread death into the cities of Lebanon and its villages. When the Katyushas returned fire, the hour they had been waiting for impatiently finally arrived."

"With unabashed effrontery, Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, Rafael Eitan, and the ministers who voted for the war in Lebanon sloganized Peace for Galilee when there had been no shots fired in Galilee for over a year."

"My son Raz, my beloved son, and his friends were sent with their unit, in great haste and frenzied irresponsibility, to bloody battle to take the Beaufort. He was the first one to break through the trenches leading to the fortress. He fought valiantly and there he found his death."

"Thus was severed the chain of unending Jewish generations, ancient and full of heroism and suffering, and thus was cut off the flowering of a life that was just beginning to blossom."

"And thus they caused the destruction of my whole world."

"Even Before the blood was dry on the rocks of the mountain of Beaufort, Begin and Sharon hurried into their helicopters, surrounded by photographers, motion-picture cameras, and microphones, to declare and sound forth with vanity. They did not even ask for forgiveness for the mistakes or the dark devices of their nationalistic schemes and their adventurous irresponsibility."

"And the voice of our sons' blood cries from the ground!"

"And if they have only a spark of conscience and humanity, may my great pain pursue them forever, the suffering of a father in Israel whose world has been destroyed and the joy of his life destroyed in him forever."

So, either Krauthammer is a liar or Simha Guterman and Jacobo Timerman are liars. Either Timerman's diary, written as events unfolded, is the truth. Or Krauthammer is giving us a very fictional account of the 1982 war to suit his argument de jour.

Unlike Gutterman and Timerman, I hardly believe that 1982 was Israel's only 'war of choice '. The 1956 war was certainly a war of choice, which Israel chose in the company of England and France. The 'preemptive' attack in 1967 was an obvious land grab, as evidenced by the massive seizures of land and the planting of exclusive Jewish settlements. The 1973 war could have been avoided if Israel had not insisted on belligerently occupying Egyptian and Syrian real estate. Timerman writes that "in a recent conversation with a brilliant Israeli diplomat, we both agreed that history will not forgive the United States for not having taken a hand in the conflict long before 1973, as would have been proper for the leading power at the time."

No doubt, Timerman, living in Buenos Aires, saw Israel's other wars from a distance. But his very personal encounter of what actually transpired in 1982 is worth revisiting every time you consider the journalism of The Washington Post, where Krauthammer's canards are routinely printed as historic facts.

Timerman writes in one passage that "we were deceived about the danger to our cities and colonies in Galilee, where peace reigned for nearly a year until General Sharon broke the truce with the PLO."

In another passage, Timerman states that "the three former chiefs of staff of the Israeli Army who now sit in the Knesset _ Yitshak Rabin, Haim Bar-Lev, and Mordechai Gur - expressed a certain fear and at different times remarked that an invasion of Lebanon would not resolve the Palestinian problem. There were no difficulties along the northern border; the villages of Galilee were living quietly."

By week five of the Israeli invasion, Timerman has this to write in his diary: "Within less than a week, the one ending today, the Prime Minister (Begin) has declared that the war was pushed beyond his initial objectives by events. The Minister of Defense (Sharon) has declared that for a year he had been preparing for the invasion of Lebanon. The commander in chief of the army has declared that he had been planning the war, including the seizure of Beirut, for eight months." He also reports that "The majority in Israel feels that war is at once the only and best solution". Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose.

In the third month of the war, Timerman records these words about the siege of Beirut: "Today in Beirut, Arab children have their legs and arms amputated by candlelight in the basements of hospitals destroyed by bombs, without anesthetics, without sterilization. It is eleven days since proud veteran Israeli troops cut the electricity and water, and food and fuel supplies. We're in August, a hot August. Rats already outnumber children in the city of Beirut, upon which the best pilots in the world, the aviators of the Israeli Force, are exercising their marvelous capacity for precision. Form their planes they watch how the buildings of Beirut crumble. People in Beirut also observe those who leap from their windows, choosing a different death from those who were caught in buildings that were reduced to dust."

Well, so much for the audit of Krauthammer's first sentence.

Now lets follow up on the next bit of Krauthammerian fabrication. "Yasser Arafat and his PLO soon found themselves surrounded in Beirut by Israeli forces. Having overplayed his hand, Arafat asked for rescue." The fact is that Sharon scheduled a three-day war and ended up with a three month murderous IDF venture that went far beyond the 40-mile line and ended up in the siege of Beirut. Some would argue that it ended up being an eighteen-year affair that cost tens of tens of thousands of Lebanese, Palestinian, not to mention almost a thousand Israeli lives. Sharon had estimated that his venture would cost only thirty or so Israeli casualties. Even Begin was startled that Sharon had taken the Israeli army on a summer mission to relentlessly bombard the citizens of Beirut.

As the siege of Beirut took its daily toll of Palestinian and Lebanese casualties, the government of Israel came under pressure from an unusual source, the Israeli Public. As Timerman recalls in his diary "Many things were occurring for the first time. For the first time Israel had attacked a neighboring country without being attacked. (Editors Note: Israel also attacked first in 1956 and 1967. But in 1982, Israeli apologists like Timerman thought it safe to obscure such 'distant' history.) For the first time it had mounted a screen of provocation to justify a war. For the first time Israel brought destruction to entire cities: Tyre, Sidon, Damur, Beirut. For the first time military spokesmen had lied. For the first time the Israeli press joined them in their successful mission of lying to the public. For the first time officers and men did not know the objective or the goals of the campaign. For the first time the actual damage inflicted on the invaded country was hidden along with the number of deaths. For the first time, reservists on leave from the front, demonstrated on the streets of Jerusalem because they consider themselves betrayed."

At the age of 59, Timerman could not resist the urge to go on an Israeli Army field trip, even as the war was in full blaze in Lebanon. For the first time, he was seeing one of Israel's pre-meditated wars. From his account, we see a man who was visibly moved by the ruins he found in the ancient Lebanese cities of Tyre and Sidon. "I regard the ruins and, summoning all I can remember about human beings, I try to imagine how they attempted to survive the night bright with fires. How were their tears and their cries? I look up at high windows that seem like empty eye sockets, and I try to conceive of the faces of the mothers as they hurled their children from burning homes - perhaps they ran down those now-vanished stairs, or did they cover themselves under blankets and mattresses? I try to think what I would have done if I had been in one of those burned-out rooms."

Hirsh Goodman, the Jerusalem Post's military correspondent, was quoted in Timerman's diary of this 'Longest' Israeli war. Goodman wrote: "Three Israeli military correspondents were surrounded by officers and men of four top fighting units, who accused them of covering up the truth, of lying to the public, of not reporting on the real mood at the front and of being lackeys of the defense minister. We were accused by the overwhelming majority of men - including senior officers - of allowing this war to grow out of all proportion to the original goals, by mindlessly repeating official explanations we all knew were false."

By Israeli standards, Timerman was considered a liberal. But, of course, none of these things was a first time experience for the Israelis. The really 'first time' thing was that a group of Palestinian and Lebanese militias, along with the heroic citizens of Beirut, had not just rolled over and played dead. They resisted. Until the Americans, out of sheer embarrassment, sent Philip Habib to work out a truce. The truce resulted in an orderly evacuation of the PLO to Tunis. They left Lebanon with American promises that the Israelis would not enter West Beirut and harm their families.

It was Sharon who had overplayed his hand. The Palestinians withdrew from Beirut after their Lebanese allies asked them to spare the city further suffering. They withdrew with their guns, in day light, under the supervision of American, French and Italian forces. In his hands, Yasser Arafat had an agreement signed by an American under-secretary of state. For Sharon, this alone was a disaster; a de facto American and international recognition of the PLO.

After evacuating the Palestinians, the international forces withdrew. But the Americans had to return very quickly. Why? Because Sharon decided to break the Habib agreement, invade West Beirut, surround the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, truck in Israel's quisling militias and start a full scale three-day slaughter of every man, woman and child in the camps. Israeli soldiers provided night flares for the killers and prevented those trying to flee. Eyewitness accounts of what happened have already been filed in a Belgian court. Yet, Israel and Sharon's role in the massacre is completely evaded by Krauthammer when he writes that "They (American troops) were shortly sent back, however, after Christian Lebanese massacred Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla. The Westerners returned to protect the Palestinians."

Indeed they did land again to protect the Palestinians. Because Sharon, who after invading West Beirut, became responsible for the welfare of the civilians of West Beirut, decided to go on one of his murderous escapades. This was a man with Qibya on his record, a disastrous invasion on his hands and a willingness to do anything to 'get even'. Sharon knew that a massacre at Sabra and Shatila would immediately kill the Habib agreement, which he entered into reluctantly after his army failed to take Beirut. It would also humiliate Arafat in front of his people. The Palestinian fighters who withdrew from Beirut, had accepted American promises of protection for their families. Sharon insisted on breaking those promises.

The last part of this canard is that the American troops "stayed to pacify the region and became sitting ducks for Islamic terrorists". In this account, no mention is made of how the Israel Firsters 'persuaded' the Americans to use their presence in Beirut to back up the very same militias responsible for Sabra and Shatila. The Reagan administration was enlisted as just another Lebanese tribe.

If Israel had not invaded Lebanon in 1982, why would any marines have had to land in Beirut? If Sharon had not orchestrated the slaughter in Sabra and Shatila, would the marines have been given a mission to land a second time? What If the Likudnik lobby in Washington, DC had not manipulated the American's to 'finish the job Sharon started'? The Italian contingent was bigger than the American contingent, was greeted with a rose parade, left with a rose parade, had patrolled openly in the tough southern suburbs of Beirut. Why the difference in outcome? How come the Washington Post has never raised this very basic question?

A day after the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Timerman, observed Israeli reaction and was not impressed.

"Along the Lebanese border, at Rosh Hanikra, a group of about a hundred protesters demonstrated. They were insulted and beaten by the majority of the Israelis at this popular tourist spot and were dispersed by troops from the frontier garrison."

"This is almost all that took place in Israel, even though news of the massacre of Palestinians had already been known for twenty-four hours, even though all of us realized it had been organized by our army."

"Why are the Israelis incapable of recognizing the high degree of criminality in their army's campaign against the Palestinian people?"

"As the killing in the camps started, at the very beginning, the bravest, ablest, and most honest of the Israeli war correspondents became aware of what was happening. Zeev Schiff reported his information to a member of the government, and begged him to intervene. And that was all."

"He did not tell the international press, which would have tried to stop the killing."

A week later, on September 25, Timerman reports on "a big rally in Tel Aviv, estimated by journalists here at more than 100,000 and inflated by foreign press to an impossible 400,000, but the crowd was almost entirely composed of the ineffectual minority that has always opposed the Begin government. I believe that the majority of the people at the rally had been supporters of the invasion up to the time of the massacre."

At the very end of his diary, Timerman made an incredible prediction. "There will be many attempts to rewrite the history of these last two months… We Israelis must also take care that the writers are not those working for Ariel Sharon." What a prediction! He should have added that we should also keep an eye on the journalists at The Washington Post and The New York Times

Having come to Israel as a progressive anti-fascist idealist, Timerman's diary was written as an appeal to his fellow Jews, especially those in the Diaspora. "In these past two months, I have left behind many illusions some fantasies, several obsessions. But none of my convictions."

"Among all of these things, there is one that shatters me beyond consolation. I have discovered in Jews a capacity for cruelty that I never believed possible."

"Where do we go from here? To one more review of the blames and virtues accumulated in the last forty years? To using, in one sense or another (generally by falsifying history in favor of one or the other) the terrors and the crimes?"

Having failed this 'Timerman' audit, when will the Washington Post be ready for an audit of another 100 words written by Charles Krauthammer? The Post is a 'national paper of record' only because Sulzberger sets such a low standard at the New York Times? If it is any consolation to Graham, Sulzberger's lads never pass these audits. Both of these mass media giants have become accustomed to "ENRON" style audits from "Andersen" style journalists. It is certain that a complete audit would reveal vast discrepancies between the accounts in their books and the actual historical record. What exactly is the value of this franchise? If measured in the currency of veracity, it is a safe bet that both of these paper giants are very close to bankruptcy.