April 21, 2002
By Raffique Shah
ONE week in today's high-tech global village that is called the modern world could prove to be a long, long time. Its equivalent 30 years ago might have been a month. In fact, last weekend we saw what could happen in three days: on Friday, some senior officers in Venezuela's armed forces teamed up with the business sector to remove President Hugo Chavez from office. In less than 72 hours, Chavez was back in Miraflores, the official residence of that country's president. At the CIA's Langley headquarters, they popped champagne on Friday. By Monday, senior officials at Langley, the Pentagon and no doubt at the White House, must have been gulping "babash" by the bottles, wondering what went wrong with their best-laid plans.
I must confess that I, too, was as astonished at the turn of events after the attempted coup, given the fact that generals and admirals-not young officers-were behind it. I was surprised that, maybe for the first time in its short-but-devious history, the CIA found itself face-to-face with angry supporters of a populist president, and a large body within the military that refused to go along with "the plot". The American government and its intelligence and military agencies have grown so accustomed to having absolute control over Central and South America, and the Caribbean, it must have shocked them when Venezuela's masses and most of its military called halt to their hemispheric hegemony.
I do not intend to dwell on the situation in Venezuela, since so much has been said and written about the "Three Days That Shook Caracas". Moreover, the Express took the lead in disseminating information on what transpired in Venezuela from non-traditional news sources. Our media houses have, for too long, relied on Reuters, AP, and more recently CNN and BBC. While journalists from these agencies usually report objectively, when the crunch comes, the "news controllers" take over. It is not unusual for editors and news directors in media houses to receive directives from Langley or the White House.
The information age has changed that absolute control of information that the high and mighty once had. Today, someone can sit with a laptop computer in the "barrios" of Venezuela or a grimy canal in a refugee camp in Ramallah and feed the world with first-hand information of events as they unfold. Which brings me to the main focus of this week's column-the atrocities taking place in Palestine. If we rely on the established agencies for news coming out the West Bank, which has been virtually sealed by Israeli tanks and troops, we'd get little more than official releases from Tel Aviv, or speculation on the part of some enterprising journalists.
What is gradually emerging, though, is that Ariel Sharon sent his troops into Palestine with the specific aim of eliminating every "terrorist" in that strip of barren land. That, in effect, meant killing all males 10 years and over. Now that Israel is finally withdrawing its troops, journalists and the world are discovering that those non-traditional news sources were correct as they filtered horrifying news to the world. Their claims of genocide seem to be verified as hundreds of mainly male corpses, many of them in advanced stages of decomposition, are being discovered.
It is clear than in defining a goal for its assault on Palestine, Israel went way back into biblical history, to a time when the Pharaoh gave the order to kill all male babies. That was his bid to beat the coming into being of Moses, who, as fate (or the hand of God) would have it, was spirited out of the "slaughterhouse". Every Palestinian male poses a threat to Israel. So why not eradicate that risk by eliminating all potential "terrorists"?
That, of course, is genocide and must involve atrocities during any military operation that's geared to achieve the politically defined goal. Lest I be accused of being a "revolutionary relic" spouting leftist rhetoric, let me quote from a March 31 article written by Dr Lev Grinberg, an Israeli who is Director of the Humphrey Institute for Social Research at the Ben Gurion University.
He wrote: "Arafat was blamed for this act (the suicide bombing at an hotel that killed 22 Jews). Who should be blamed for the targeted killing of almost 100 Palestinians? Who will be sent to jail for killing more than 120 Palestinian paramedics? Who will be sentenced for the killing of more than 1200 Palestinians and the collective punishment of more than three million civilians during the last 18 months? Suicide bombs killing innocent citizens must be unequivocally condemned; they are immoral acts and their perpetrators should be sent to jail.
"But they cannot be compared to State terrorism carried out by the Israeli government. The former are individual acts of a people that sees no future, vastly ignored by an unfair and distorted international public opinion. The latter are coled and 'rational' acts of a State and military apparatus of occupation, well equipped and backed by the only superpower in the world." This desperate appeal by Grinberg for a fundamental change in people's opinions on what's happening in Palestine (and Israel) came before the alleged massacre that took place in the city of Jenin. There, hundreds of corpses of mainly male victims lay rotting over the past two weeks as Israeli forces sealed off the city and systematically eliminated potential "terrorists".
On Friday last, the UN Security Council, under pressure mainly from Arab countries, ordered a probe in a bid to find out whether the killings and starvation to which the residents of Jenin were subjected constituted a crime. Israel insists that the victims were killed in battle. The Palestinians, on the other hand, say it was a massacre. Whether or not the truth will ever be known, probe or no probe, is left to be seen. What is certain is that Israel has subjected Palestinians to a fate that is worse than what the Jews suffered in the holocaust.
We in tiny Trinidad and Tobago may hardly make a difference, even by speaking out at the UN, or writing our opinions in the press. But when a people, matters not who they are or where in the world they live, are subjected to injustices (as was the case in apartheid South Africa), it is only human that we share their suffering, that we feel for them. Or, as Grinberg asks: "When will the world stop neglecting the fact that the goal of the Israeli government is not security, but the continued occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people?"
Copyright © Raffique Shah