Robert Fisk and the Israel of “Honor” by As’ad AbuKhalil

January 15th, 2012

The comment by Newt Gingrich about Palestinians being an “invented people” caused no uproar or a stir in the US. Insults aimed at Palestinians and Arabs are expressed regularly but politicians feel compelled to intensify such insults during an election year.

Obama partook in this sport in 2008 when he said that the suffering of the Palestinians is their fault (he said that after he was widely attacked for saying that no one has suffered more than the Palestinians). It should be expected that Obama and Republican candidates will continue to hurl insults at Arabs. This, in fact, is expected by their audiences.

In this recent article in the Independent, Robert Fisk commented on Newt Gingrich and criticized Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Fisk wrote: “ The Israel of socialist kibbutzim and phoenix-like power, of honor and renewal that the world believed in after the Second World War, had vanished.”

How nice. So Fisk is nostalgic about pre-1977 Israel. I am not sure why Fisk has a romantic vision of Israel during this time period. Is Fisk saying that when a Labor government in Israel committed massacres and perpetrated war crimes, even before 1948, it did so with “honor”? What does Fisk have to say to the victims of Labor party policies and war crimes?

But this is yet another example of the problems with Mr. Fisk. Correspondents like Eric Rouleau, Peter Mansfield and David Hirst worked in the region for years and amassed knowledge about the people, their culture and history. Fisk has worked for years and only has anecdotes (many of which can’t even be authenticated) to share. It is not common in the pro-Palestinian community to criticize Mr. Fisk, whose record has become clear. This has been especially apparent since 2005, when he aligned himself with the right-wing March 14 Movement in Lebanon. He has been exposed as someone who is has a weakness for people in high power. But the problem with Fisk is not really political as much as it is professional and journalistic. He makes too many bombastic claims, his articles are filled with errors and mistakes, and his claims can’t always be verified. Mr. Fisk seems to be ready for retirement, very ready.

But the nostalgia among Western liberals for the Labor Party government in Israel is rather common. The blatant racism and right-wing views of the Likud party (some even have nostalgia for Kadima) have embarrassed some Israeli supporters in the West. So what should they do to avoid the embarrassment? They invent a heroic narrative about Israeli history, even if has no links to reality. Mr. Fisk here seems to claim that Israeli crimes began only in 1977. It would be interesting to debate him on that point.


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