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From Julian Assange to Helen Thomas: Going After the Wrong People

DAVE LINDORFF
Counterpunch
June 15, 2010

What does it say about the the American government, its president, and its military today, that the the largest military/intelligence organization in the history of mankind has launched a global manhunt for Julian Assange, head of the Wikileaks organization? And what does it say about corporate American journalists that they attack the only real journalist in the White House press corps, when she alone has shown the guts to speak truth?

The Hunt for Julian Assange

Consider first the case of Wikileaks founder Assange, whom Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, warns is in danger, if found, of being snuffed by the Pentagon’s search teams. First of all, let’s be clear here: he is “guilty” of no crime, but only of doing what American journalists should have done long ago: exposing the crimes of the US government. His Wikileaks famously leaked the military video showing that the crew of a helicopter gunship in Iraq in 2007 had shot up and killed a group of innocent Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and laughed and mocked the victims as they were slaughtered. Now the same whistleblower website threatens to release hundreds of thousands of State Department cables that, among other things, reportedly include embarrassing comments by US officials about foreign leaders.

How is it, mainstream journalists ought to be asking but aren’t, that the Pentagon can unleash its vast intelligence resources to hunt down the Australian-born Assange, but cannot bring itself to devote those same resources and commitment to hunting down Osama Bin Laden, the man they claim is behind not only the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon itself, but also the resistance to US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I’m not sure which is the bigger scandal here: the Pentagon’s grotesque misallocation of resources, or the media’s unwillingness to point it out.

There is no indication or claim by the government that Wikileaks has paid anyone anything to reveal US secrets–in fact the government claims it isn’t even interested in arresting Asange, just in “trying to convince him” not to release those cables. (Sure. I believe that like I believe the government wants fair hearings at its secret military tribunals in Guantanamo.) The secrets he has disclosed have been volunteered to Wikileaks by government and military whistleblowers, one of whom, Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning, is now under arrest in Kuwait, a US client state where there are no protections against torture. Note that even what Manning did should not be considered a crime in any just, open society. He didn’t endanger US security as claimed; rather, he revealed a possible crime–the killing of civilians by US forces–that the government itself was covering up and refusing to investigate. (He says he tried to pursue justice within the military chain of command and was ignored, which is why he turned to Wikileaks.)

In any event, one thing is obvious. The Obama administration is becoming downright Nixonian in its efforts to silence internal dissent, and this time, what is left of a mainstream corporate media no longer have any interest in standing up to this kind of incipient fascism.

It remains to the likes of brave souls like Assange and to the independent and alternative media journalists who stand with him, to resist. Here’s hoping Assange keeps safe and well hidden, and that he and his Wikileaks compatriots continue to expose the ugly secrets of the American Empire.

The Attack on Helen Thomas

And then we have the sorry case of veteran senior White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who was just kneecapped by her own colleagues.

The truth is that when Thomas was ambushed by David Nesenoff, the Zionist rabbi with the camera, and asked for her opinion “about Israel,” she said nothing wrong. Her reply, in which she said the people occupying Palestine should “get out” and “go home,” was clearly a reference not to Israel, but to the Palestinian occupied territories, and that makes a world of difference.

Note that Rabbi Nesenoff’s question was, “Any comments about Israel?” and Thomas’s response was, “Tell them (Israel) to get out of Palestine.” She’s referring to Israel getting out of Palestinian territory. How do we know this? Because subsequently, she says, “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land.”

The people of Israel–Israelis and Israeli Palestinians–are clearly not “occupied.” Israel is many things, but it is not an occupied country. Who is occupied? The people of Gaza and the West Bank. So what Thomas is doing here is what most people do, including even many Israelis, which is referring to the Palestinian occupied territories by the shorthand of the term “Palestine.” (I do this myself all the time in discussions of the issue.) It’s true that some hard-core anti-Zionists refer to the whole of Israel and Palestine as “occupied Palestine,” just as some hard-core Zionists refer to the whole of the occupied territoris as Eretz Israel or Greater Israel– in the same way that some Native Americans refer to all of America as stolen land–but there has never been any evidence that Thomas is in that camp.

And once this is understood, what Thomas says could not be construed by any honest person as being anti-semitic. She is saying they (Israel, or Israelis living in the Palestinian territories) should “go home,”, and she is saying those “occupiers” should “go home” to “Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.”

In fact, that’s quite a valid opinion (and one that I and even many Israelis who are sick of living in a perpetual state of war share). Many of the settlers who have been stealing Palestinian land under the protection of a brutal Israeli Defense Force and with the encouragement of a hard-line Zionist government, in fact do hail from outside Israel. They are immigrants from Brooklyn and other parts of the US, from Russia, and from other European countries, and Israel has actually been encouraging them to immigrate to Israel and then settle in the occupied territories. They have no legal or moral right to be in the occupied territories, and their presence there is intended by the Israeli government to create “facts on the ground” that make a Palestinian state impossible and any peace settlement with Palestinians impossible.

Thomas was clearly not referring to Israel as an “occupied territory.” She is an experienced reporter on international affairs and knows that such a definition of the Israeli state would make no sense to anyone but the most irredentist Arabist. Moreover, a woman who has Jewish friends and colleagues, she is well aware that many Israeli Jews are native to the Middle East, and even trace their ancestry to the pre-Israel Palestine, while many more are second, third or fourth-generation natives of the nation founded in 1948. As such they have as much right to be stay where they are and to call it home as do the whites living in South Africa on stolen Africans’ land, or white Americans living today on stolen Indian land. Thomas was certainly not saying that those people should “go back” to countries like Poland or America, where they never lived, though that’s what her critics are claiming.

And Thomas is absolutely correct in saying that the Israeli Jews living in those territories must “go back” to wherever they came from, if there is ever to be peace in the Middle East. Look, I know a Palestinian green card holder in the US. He told me how when he was a child, his home was stolen by Israelis and is now occupied by an Israeli settler family. He says his father kept the deed to his stolen home framed on the wall. Now, here in the US, following his father’s death, he has the deed hung prominently on his own wall, and he says his oldest son will someday have that same deed framed on his wall. As long as this kind of injustice survives–an injustice no different from the Nazi thefts of Jewish property, which Jewish families today, here and in Israel, are still trying to win compensation for from German and Austrian governments–how can there be any peace in Israel and Palestine?

Clearly such a view falls outside the narrow band of acceptable discourse that is permitted in our corporate media, and it certainly is not a position taken by any but a handful of our national politicians, in thrall as they all seem to be to the Zionist lobby and the money doled out by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Thomas’s “colleagues” in the White House press corps, who have been so quick to drum out an 89-year-old woman from their club (and Zionists like Bush-era White House flak Ari Fleischer), should be ashamed of themselves. They know she is no anti-semite, and know she was doing what they all do from time to time: using the term Palestine in a shorthand way to refer to the occupied territories. The haste with which they exiled her from their fraternity has nothing to do with their feigned outrage, and everything to do with her feisty insistence on doing what they should all have been doing but haven’t done for years: actually ask challenging, embarrassing questions about domestic and international policy of the president and the his press secretary.

Ashamed too, should be those on the left who have defended Thomas so half-heartedly, saying she should be “forgiven,” but predicating their lame defense by saying she was “stupid” or “clumsy” or “wrong” to have made what they claim was a “hurtful” or even “bigoted” statement.

Thomas should never have apologized for her statement. She should have stuck to it.

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