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In Jon We Trust

By       Message Maidhc Ó Cathail       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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Appalled by the Bush administration's foreign policy, and feeling let down by a compliant news media, many young Americans turned to Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" for some critical insight into what had gone so terribly wrong with their country, as well as for some light relief from the horror of it all.

Ironically, it seemed to many that the comedian's fake news show was the only place where one could learn the truth about the war on terror and other disastrous Bush-era policies. Summarizing the phenomenon, author Gene Healy wrote, "An enormous chunk of Generation Y, those born roughly after 1977, gets its political information from Comedy Central's 'The Daily Show,' a comedy news program devoted to the idea that we're led by fools."

With Obama failing to bring the change that many believed in, the perceived need to tune in to The Daily Show is unlikely to waver anytime soon. But is the faith many Americans have in Stewart to help them understand their country's problems justified? The recent interview of a Palestinian politician and a Jewish American peace activist suggests that that faith is seriously misplaced.

In the extended interview (not broadcast on Comedy Central but available on The Daily Show website) with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti and Anna Baltzer, Stewart made up to 20 factual errors. These can be broadly grouped into about half a dozen myths: Jews returned to Palestine after 2,000 years in exile; Israel provided a haven for Jews suffering persecution in Muslim countries; Iran developing nuclear weapons, with which it wants to "wipe Israel off the map"; Israel being unfairly singled out for criticism, mainly due to Arab anti-Semitism; that both sides are equally to blame for the conflict; and that Palestinians can't agree among themselves, and you can hardly blame Israel for not making peace with them.

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Many of these myths -- all of which serve Zionist interests well -- are so transparently false that it is hardly necessary to debunk them all here. Instead, this article will focus on the last one: the question of Palestinian disunity. This will, it is hoped, also throw some light on the common source of America's problems in the Middle East.

"It seems like to me that the Palestinians and the Israelis both have to fight a civil war almost," Stewart opined, "before they can get a chance to then, I guess, fight each other." While it is of course true that no nation is "homogenous," his characterization of Palestinians overlooks a significant factor: the role played by Israel and its American devotees in promoting division among them.

Israel began supporting Hamas in the late 1970s as "a competing religious alternative," a former CIA official explained, "to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO." Almost three decades later, after Hamas won the 2006 elections, a faction within the Bush administration sought to divide Palestinians again.

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The covert operation to arm Fatah so they could seize power from the democratically elected Hamas was considered foolhardy by many, however. An exasperated Pentagon official asked rhetorically, "Who the hell outside of Washington wants to see a civil war among Palestinians?" More to the point, he might have asked, Who the hell inside of Washington wants to see a civil war among Palestinians?

David Rose's 2008 article, "The Gaza Bombshell," in the Si Newhouse owned Vanity Fair, gives the impression that Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush were the main movers behind the plot. To emphasize the point, the caption below a photo illustration of Rice and Bush with a blood red Gaza City skyscape in the background reads: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush, whose secret Palestinian intervention backfired in a big way."

But there are reasonable grounds to doubt Rose's credibility. Before the invasion of Iraq, citing a slew of unnamed intelligence sources, he suggested in a number of articles that Saddam Hussein had connections to Al-Qaeda, 9/11, and the anthrax attacks. Despite Rose's pre-Iraq war disinformation, antiwar writer and activist Amy Goodman wasn't deterred from featuring his Gaza article on her popular alternative news show,Democracy Now.

Digging a little deeper than Rose and Goodman, Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry, co-directors of Conflicts Forum, a London-based group dedicated to providing an opening to political Islam, locate the origins of the failed plot. In "Elliott Abrams' Uncivil War" they write, "The Abrams program was initially conceived in February of 2006 by a group of White House officials .... These officials, we are told, were led by Abrams, but included national security advisors working in the Office of the Vice President, including prominent neoconservatives David Wurmser and John Hannah."

In the popular consciousness, Dick Cheney came to be seen, particularly in the antiwar Left, as the Svengali who induced Bush to wage war in the Middle East in the interests of Big Oil. While Cheney's ties to Halliburton make that narrative appear plausible, a closer examination of the facts reveals that the vice president had more intimate ties with a far more powerful and belligerent lobby.

An advisory board member of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Cheney has long-standing ties with the Israel Lobby. Indeed, his staff was "hand-picked" by Paul Wolfowitz protege Lewis Libby. Described as "almost part of Cheney's brain" by Bob Woodward, Libby selected Cheney's staff from neoconservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and WINEP.

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It was these pro-Israel scholars, not oil industry lobbyists, who wrote the war propaganda for the executive branch. As Robert Dreyfuss points out in his American Prospect article on Cheney's office, "Vice Squad," Libby and Hannah "produced the most inflammatory and inaccurate speeches delivered by Cheney and Bush."

David Wurmser, one of the main sources for David Rose's Gaza article, is no stranger to propaganda either. In 1999, he wrote Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, in which he warned Americans about the growing threat of Iraq's WMD.

His wife, Meyrav Wurmser, an Israeli citizen, co-founded the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) with Yigal Carmon, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence. Widely considered to be a propaganda front for Israeli intelligence, MEMRI translates and distributes, in the words of journalist Jim Lobe, "particularly virulent anti-U.S. and anti-Israel articles appearing in the Arab press to key U.S. media and policymakers." What better way to get Americans to believe that they and Israel face a common enemy?

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Maidhc O'Cathail is a widely published writer based in Japan.

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