Demographic, Environmental,
Security Issues Project

Re: Fisk's Article on the Middle East

by Ronald Bleier (rbleier@igc.org)

NOTE: The following letter was emailed to the editors of the Nation on October 14, 1996. Apparently they have decided not to print it.

October 14, 1996

To the Editor:

Commendations to the Nation and to Robert Fisk for the latter's article ("Myth of the `Pax Americana,'" October 14, 1996) which raises issues related to the Israeli-Arab conflict which generally get no play in our media. Among much else, Fisk is to be saluted for making the point that Shimon Peres had been setting up President Assad as the "fall guy" even though the Israelis have been since 1967 consistently adamant in their refusal to give up the Golan with its control over water resources.

Nevertheless, as I read deeper into the article, I discovered what I diagnosed as an enervating disengagement at the core of Fisk's analysis. For example, while Fisk makes the point about the illegality of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, curiously there is little follow-up or sense of the toll Israeli policies have on the daily life of Palestinians. Fisk is silent on the effects, for example, of ever-increasing Israeli settler activity, continual large and small land confiscations, and road-building on Palestinian land.

Consistent with the disengagement I found was the way Fisk spoke highly of the Bush-Baker inspired Madrid peace talks begun in the wake of the Gulf War -- a "process" acknowledged by most as a dead end, including ex-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir who candidly admitted as much shortly after he lost the 1992 Israeli elections.

Perhaps Fisk's inability to engage the reality for Palestinians may best be exemplified in his conclusion where he wonders if it is "possible at this critical moment to re-insert land-for-peace -- the return of all occupied land for total peace" -- into the negotiations and that the winner of the U.S. November elections should place at the top of his foreign policy objectives "a new Middle East peace."

Here Fisk ignores the weakness of the Palestinian position and the concessions Arafat was only too happy to make to the Rabin-Peres governments on the crucial issues of settlement building and expansion; on water issues; on the status of the 1948 Palestinian refugees; on allowing the question of Arab East Jerusalem to be resolved on the ground in favor of the Israelis so that if the question ever comes up in the "final status" talks, there would be nothing left to negotiate over; on the issue of closure and on travel restrictions and on the issue of Palestinian prisoners.

Finally Fisk's reference to the U.S. role sadly points to his unwillingness to address the issue of Israeli and Zionist control over U.S. Middle East policy. One wonders if the power of the Zionist lobby in this country will ever be a fit subject for media speculation even as we hear reports out of Israel that the Israelis are demanding an increase in American aid over and above the more than $5 billion we are giving them in fiscal 1996 (counting the $2 billion in loan guarantees, interest and other budgeted and off budgeted items). Noting the breakthroughs Fisk was able to make in his article, we might have hoped that he would be one to tackle the question of Zionist control over our Congress and our executive.