Necessary Illusions Copyright © 1989 by Noam Chomsky
Appendix V Segment 21/33
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The same point was illustrated by the revelation, at the same time, that the Reagan Department of Education had once again refused federal funds for a highly praised school history program on the Holocaust. It was first rejected in 1986 "after a review panel member complained that the views of the Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan were not represented." Republican faithfuls charged the program with "psychological manipulation, induced behavioral change and privacy-invading treatment" (Phyllis Schlafly); citing "leftist authorities" such as New York Times columnist Flora Lewis, British historian A.J.P. Taylor, and Kurt Vonnegut; being "profoundly offensive to fundamentalists and evangelicals"; and even being "anti-war, anti-hunting" and likely to "induce a guilt trip." A senior Education Department official attributed the rejections to "those on the extreme right wing of the Republican Party." In 1986 and 1987, this particular program had been "singled out for a refusal." In 1988, when the program "was the top-rated project in the category [of history, geography, and civics], created by then-Education Secretary William J. Bennett," the entire category was eliminated.118
But "the extreme right wing of the Republican Party," whatever its attitudes towards Nazis and the Holocaust, is adequately pro-Israel. There was no detectable protest, and the issue did not arise in the last stages of the election campaign.
The cheapening of the concept of anti-Semitism and the ready tolerance for anti-Arab racism go hand-in-hand, expressing the same political commitments. All of this, again, is merely "antique and anemic anti-Semitism."
Media services to Israel have gone well beyond praising the "benign" occupation while Palestinians were being subjected to torture, daily humiliation, and collective punishment; suppressing the record of Israeli terror in Lebanon and elsewhere and its conscious purpose of blocking steps towards political accommodation on the part of the PLO; hailing the "liberation of Lebanon" in 1982; and properly engineering the historical record on such matters as diplomacy and terror. The media have also been "surprisingly uncurious" on the Israeli nuclear threat, as observed by Leonard Spector, specialist of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on nuclear proliferation. They remained so even after ample evidence had appeared on Israel's nuclear forces and its testing of a nuclear-capable missile with range sufficient to "reach the Soviet Union." In 1984, Spector's Carnegie Foundation study of nuclear proliferation identified Israel as "by far the most advanced of eight `emerging' nuclear powers, surpassing the nuclear capabilities of earlier contenders such as India and South Africa," the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe reported.
The Globe headline read: "Israel may have 20 nuclear arms, report says." The New York Times report of Spector's study by Richard Halloran the same day is headlined "Nuclear Arms Races in Third World Feared." It mentions Israel once, namely, in having helped to reduce the danger of nuclear proliferation by bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. Spector's 1987 study on nuclear proliferation was reported in the Boston Globe on page 67, in the Amusements section, under the headline "Report says Israel could `level' cities," quoting him as saying that Israel may have acquired enough nuclear weaponry "to level every urban center in the Middle East with a population of more than 100,000." The New York Times report by Michael Gordon the same day makes no mention of Israel. It opens by warning of Libyan efforts to acquire a nuclear capacity, then turns to suspicions about Pakistan, Iran, and India.119
The London Sunday Times revelation of Mordechai Vanunu's testimony on Israel's nuclear arsenal with an across-the-page front-page headline on October 5, 1986 was barely noted in the U.S. press. The New York Times eliminated a brief wire service report from its national edition, publishing a few words on Israel's denial of the charges the next day, and other major journals were hardly different. Reviewing media coverage, Nabeel Abraham found "no editorials or commentaries, pro or con,...on Israel's new status as the world's sixth nuclear power" in the following six months, and only a few news references, mostly downplaying the story or fostering doubts about its authenticity (citing Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, November 9).120
Also unmentioned was an interesting observation by the scientific head of France's atomic energy establishment during the period when France helped Israel build its nuclear weapons plant in Dimona, reported in the London Sunday Times on October 12, 1986. He commented that
We thought the Israeli bomb was aimed against the Americans, not to launch it against America but to say "if you don't want to help us in a critical situation we will require you to help us, otherwise we will use our nuclear bombs"-- a conception of some potential interest to the American public, one might think, particularly in the light of its earlier roots, going back many years.121
Vanunu's abduction by Israeli intelligence and his secret trial in Israel also received little notice. When his trial opened three weeks after the London Sunday Times had prominently reported the details of his abduction in Europe, the New York Times reported only that "it is still not entirely clear how Mr. Vanunu, who disappeared from London last September, was brought back to Israel to stand trial."122
There are many similar cases of protection of Israel in the media, some already discussed; to add another, consider the September 1987 statement by Foreign Ministry Director General Yossi Beilin (a Labor dove) that Israel's sanctions against South Africa are "symbolic, psychological," and will not hurt the $240 million yearly trade between the two countries, unreported in the New York Times.123 South Africa too benefits from selective attention. Thus, when a South African naval force attacked three Russian ships in the Angolan harbor of Namibe in June 1986, sinking one, using Israeli-made Scorpion missiles, there was no mention in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, the news weeklies, or other journals listed in the magazine index; the Washington Post published only a 120-word item from Moscow reporting Soviet condemnation of the attack, on page 17.124 The reaction might have been different if a Libyan naval force had attacked U.S. commercial vessels in the port of Haifa, sinking one, using East German-made missiles.
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118 Ed Vulliamy, WP Weekly, Oct. 24-30. See also Christopher Kenneally, BG, Oct. 16; David Korn and Jefferson Morley, Nation, Nov. 7, 1988.
119 Spector, Op-Ed, NYT, March 17, 1988, noting that not a single question was raised to Prime Minister Shamir about this matter in his press conference in Washington and TV interviews; LAT-BG, NYT, Oct. 31, 1984; BG, NYT, Feb. 25, 1987.
120 Abraham, AAUG Mideast Monitor, April 1987.
121 See Fateful Triangle, chapter 7, section 4.2.
122 Sunday Times, Aug. 9, 16; NYT, Aug. 31, 1987. Also Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, reporting the Sunday Times story. On media unwillingness to report "unflattering stories about Israel that are routinely covered" in the Israeli press, and the reasons for it, see Robert I. Friedman, Mother Jones, Feb.-March, 1987.
123 AP, Sept. 19, 1987.
124 Victoria Brittain, Guardian (London), June 6; Anthony Robinson, Financial Times, June 7; Economist, June 14, 1987; also BBC world service.