by Laura Flanders
Originally published by TomPaine.com
For days they’ve been calling one of my fellow New Yorkers “traitor.” For city dwellers who’ve been encouraged to feel pretty darn protective of one another, such dangerous talk comes as a shock.
It began when Adam Shapiro from Brooklyn talked to the international media from inside Yasser Arafat’s compound Easter weekend. Shapiro, 30, is one of the founders of International Solidarity Movement a volunteer group that has helped to bring nonviolent activists from the world beyond into besieged Palestinian communities. After living in Ramallah for months, he entered Arafat’s office accompanying a doctor in an ambulance, later telling The New York Times that he’d had breakfast on Saturday with Arafat.
The Israeli shooting was relentless, electricity was cut and food and water were running out, he reported. Live on CNN, he described the Israeli raids on Palestinian communities as “terrrorist” attacks. Israeli troops, he said, go “house to house, much like the Nazis did.”
Almost as soon as the media account appeared, the vitriol started flowing. Pro-Israel protesters, who massed outside the Israeli consulate with members of the Jewish Defense League, called Shapiro names and threatened to picket his family’s home. “Shapiro is a traitor, a piece of garbage. We are going to make his life and his parents’ lives a living hell,” one told the New York Post.
Rather than seek to diminish the threats and fury, New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser fanned the flames, calling Shapiro, “the Jewish Taliban.” She railed at Shapiro in person when he appeared by telephone on the radio with Peyser, on a program hosted by hate-jock, Bob Grant (Grant’s relentless race-baiting got him ousted a few years back from New York’s powerful WABC). “Our latest traitor must live with his vile choice,” headlined Peyser’s second column on the topic, the next day.
The other of New York’s two city tabloids provided no relief. There, Daily News columnist Zev Chavets called Shapiro’s father to account for the treachery of his son. “The similarities to John Walker Lindh are inescapable,” wrote Chavets. FOX TV and New York One have all jumped in on the savaging of Shapiro, whose family no longer stays at home because of fear of retaliation from emboldened thugs.
There is no commercial TV, radio or print journalist in this city with anything close to the passion for Palestine that Peyser, Chavets, Grant and Co. express daily for the government of Israel, right or wrong. In the absence of such a person, may I say that as a New Yorker, I’m offended by this talk?
Shapiro’s use of the word Nazi was certainly inflammatory. But so is this talk of treachery in the USA, 2002. Traitors can be strapped naked to stretchers and kept for hours in metal boxes, as we’ve seen in the case of John Walker Lindh. With the United States at war, and the Constitution-shredding PATRIOT Act in effect, a dissenter’s life can be made a living hell, in fact.
The real purpose of hurling such invective is to silence the accused — or, at the very least, to distract the public from what he or she has to say. Peyser and Chavets, et al, haven’t refuted Shapiro’s account of what Israeli forces in Palestinian territories are doing. They can’t; the evidence is just too plentiful.
In the name of preventing terrorism, Israel’s Ariel Sharon has launched an assault on all Palestinians, shelling neighborhoods, markets, hotels and hospitals, and sniping at families and members of the press. Mass arrests, forced evictions and lock-down curfews have been captured on television and radio around the world, in part thanks to Shapiro. He and more than 100 other Westerners now in occupied Palestine are sending back stories that we, whose money and support makes Israel’s military actions possible, need to hear if we’re ever to understand so-called “Arab” anger (it is not only Arabs who are full of rage). The same media now lambasting them has defamed and dehumanized Palestinians themselves for years.
“I have witnessed the execution-style killings and the house-to-house searches and destruction the military has carried out,” writes Caoimhe Butterfly from Ramallah. Prior to leaving for Palestine, Butterfly spent much of her time protecting New York’s public gardens from private development.
Jordan Flaherty, who’s been staying in the Al-Azzah refugee camp in Bethlehem, spent Easter weekend in Christianity’s most Holy city, dodging Israeli sniper fire to bring supplies to Palestinian families under curfew. Who is Jordan? He lives around the corner from a friend of mine in the East Village. He’s been an organizer for a union local, my friend says, and has been involved in the Seattle movement for fair trade.
Natalie Krombach-Williams, 70, is a retired Manhattan nurse. She found herself on the front lines April 1, when she attempted to march with Flaherty and 100 other unarmed “internationals” into the Beit Jala refugee camp, and were fired on by Israel soldiers. Their protest was filmed by the BBC.
“We were going to give [besieged Palestinian villagers] support, to find out if they needed anything,” Krombach-Williams told Long Island’s “Newsday” April 2. When protestors attempted to negotiate with the Israelis, the soldiers fired live rounds their way.
“They shot us! They’re shooting at people with their hands up! Oh My God! They are shooting at pacifists in Beit Jala,” an internationalist reported live on WBAI, New York’s community radio station. One Australian woman ended up in critical condition with a shrapnel wound to the stomach. Zaid Khalil, 26, from Glassboro, New Jersey, received a shrapnel wound to the leg.
Israel’s Ariel Sharon has made it clear that his target is all Palestinians: “Only after [the Palestinians] are beaten will we be able to conduct talks. We have to cause them heavy casualties,” the Israeli Prime Minister told Israeli nightly news, a month before the start of the most recent assault.
Israelis have a right to defend themselves, but by any legal or moral standard, collective punishment is wrong. When it happens to Americans, the American media call it terrorism.
From what we can tell, the killers of September 11 targeted innocent office workers, waiters, artists and firemen for what they perceived to be “crimes” committed by people like them, namely Americans. We call those who rush into help the victims of the September 11 attacks “heroes.” Israeli forces are targetting West Bank innocents for what they perceive to be crimes committed by people like them — namely Palestinians. Are those who rush to protect the victims traitors? No. The opposite.
Laura Flanders is the host of “Your Call” heard on KALW-FM in San Francisco, and on the Internet, and author of Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species, published by Verso Books in March 2004.