Necessary Illusions Copyright © 1989 by Noam Chomsky
Appendix V Segment 12/33
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Note that Gwertzman need not ask whether Israel or the United States is "ready for peace." For the United States, this is true by definition, since "peace" is defined as whatever Washington is prepared to accept. And since the Israeli Labor Party, with its "healthy pragmatism," is basically in accord with U.S. rejectionism, it too is automatically "ready for peace."

The commitment to falsifying the record on this crucial matter reaches impressive levels. On December 10, 1986, Friedman wrote that the Israeli group Peace Now has "never been more distressed" because of "the absence of any Arab negotiating partner."67 A few months later, he quoted Shimon Peres as deploring the lack of a "peace movement among the Arab people" such as "we have among the Jewish people," and saying that there can be no PLO participation in negotiations "as long as it is remaining a shooting organization and refuses to negotiate."68 Recall that this is almost three years after the Israeli government's rejection of Arafat's offer for negotiations leading to mutual recognition.

Six days before Friedman's article on "the absence of any Arab negotiating partner," a headline in the mass-circulation Israeli journal Ma'ariv read: "Arafat indicates to Israel that he is ready to enter into direct negotiations." The offer was made during the tenure of the "healthy pragmatist" Shimon Peres as Prime Minister. Peres's press advisor confirmed the report, commenting that "there is a principled objection to any contact with the PLO, which flows from the doctrine that the PLO cannot be a partner to negotiations." Labor party functionary Yossi Beilin observed that "the proposal...was dismissed because it appeared to be a tricky attempt to establish direct contacts when we are not prepared for any negotiations with any PLO factor." Yossi Ben-Aharon, head of the Prime Minister's office and Yitzhak Shamir's political adviser, explained that

There is no place for any division in the Israeli camp between Likud and the Labor Alignment. There is in fact cooperation and general understanding, certainly with regard to the fact that the PLO cannot be a participant in discussions or in anything... No one associated with the PLO can represent the issue of the Palestinians. If there is any hope for arrangements that will solve this problem, then the prior condition must be to destroy the PLO from its roots in this region. Politically, psychologically, socially, economically, ideologically. It must not retain a shred of influence... The Israeli opposition to any dealings with the PLO will lead to the consequence that it will weaken and ultimately disappear... This depends to a considerable extent upon us. For example, no journalist may ask questions about the PLO or its influence. The idea that the PLO is a topic for discussion in the Israeli press -- that is already improper. There must be a consensus here, and no debate, that the PLO may not be a factor with which Israel can develop any contact.69
None of this was reported in the mainstream U.S. media, though Friedman was alone in using the occasion to issue one of his periodic laments over the bitter fate of the only peace forces in the Middle East, which lack any Arab negotiating partner.

Friedman's services are much appreciated. The Times promoted him to chief diplomatic correspondent, and in April 1988, he received the Pulitzer Prize for "balanced and informed coverage" of the Middle East, of which these are a few samples. This is his second such award. He received the first for his work in Lebanon, but he observed that at that time the pleasure was marred because the award came just after the bombing of the American Embassy in Lebanon, at "a moment very much bittersweet." This time, however, the award was "unalloyed, untinged by any tragedy," an interesting reaction on the part of a journalist covering Jerusalem and the occupied territories, where apparently everything had been just fine in the preceding months of violent repression of the Palestinian uprising.70

On the occasion of his receipt of the Pulitzer Prize, Friedman had several long interviews in the Israeli press,71 in which he repeated some of the fabrications he has helped establish, for example, that the Palestinians "refuse to come to terms with the existence of Israel, and prefer to offer themselves as sacrifices." The tone of racist contempt is no less noteworthy than the falsehood. He went on to laud his brilliance for having "foreseen completely the uprising in the territories" -- which will come as something of a surprise to his regular readers -- while writing "stories that no one else had ever sent" with unique care and perception; prior to his insights, he explained, Israel was "the most fully reported country in the world, but the least understood in the media." Friedman also offered his solution to the problem of the territories. The model should be south Lebanon, controlled by a terrorist mercenary army backed by Israeli might. The basic principle must be "security, not peace." Nevertheless, the Palestinians should not be denied everything: "Only if you give the Palestinians something to lose is there a hope that they will agree to moderate their demands" -- that is, beyond the "demand" for mutual recognition in a two-state settlement, the longstanding position that Friedman refuses to report and consistently denies. He continues: "I believe that as soon as Ahmed has a seat in the bus, he will limit his demands."

The latter phrase is interesting. One can imagine a similar comment by a southern sheriff in Mississippi thirty years ago ("give Sambo a seat in the bus, and he may quiet down"), though it is hard to believe that a U.S. reporter could make such a statement today about any group other than Arabs. In fact, anti-Arab racism is prevalent in respectable circles in the United States, a matter to which we return.

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67 Peace Now had never clearly separated itself from Labor Party rejectionism. On its unclear and vacillating positions, considerably misunderstood in the United States, see below.

68 Friedman, NYT, Dec. 10, 1986; March 27, 1987.

69 Yitzhak Ben-Horin, Ma'ariv, Dec. 4; Ma'ariv, Dec. 5; Eyal Ehrlich, Ha'aretz, Dec. 19, 1986.

70 AP, April 1, 1988. In the New York Times, these events were reported accurately by John Kifner, a fine journalist for many years, and by other media, in the early months of the uprising.

71 "The Man who Foresaw the Uprising," Yediot Ahronot, April 7; Hotam, April 15.