The real absentee
The real absentee at the July 26th sit-in was the Press. TG3 came after our FAX protesting their pre-conference coverage, shot an hour of video and did several interviews, but used nothing – not even for its regional edition. CBS News declared they'd come but didn't. Etc. etc. As for the printed media, il manifesto printed a squib. Corriere had the item on its web site but the item didn't make it to print. None of the other papers said a word.
The peace movement is used to being ignored by the media, largely controlled as it is by the financial groups sponsoring Bush and, in Italy, Berlusconi. But almost complete silence for a particularly newsworthy event – Rice's visit made headlines, so protesting her visit should have got at least a mention – is surprising. Perhaps this silence can be explained by the fact that the Italian government is attempting to be an intermediary between the Hezbollah and Israel and thus has asked the media to project the image of a “non-partisan Italy.” Another explanation, other than the habitual cold shoulder given to peace protesters, could be the direct involvement of Israel in the current crisis and thus pressure from the Israeli lobby to censure any criticism. The British Stop the War Coalition (Newsletter #2006/27, "Israel and the BBC”) believes this is the case in the U.K.
As for the situation in Italy, see this Message sent by Paolo Barnard, ex journalist at RAI 3.
If Barnard's hypothesis is true, we have to prepare any future initiative very carefully to make sure our message gets out, since we are dealing with a very sensitive subject.
(Here is further evidence: the day after our sit-in, the ultra-Left staged a march through Rome to protest the Israeli bombing of Lebanon. Thousands of people participated. Only Il Manifesto reported the event: no other newspaper and none of the TV news programs, according to the organizers. Was this censorship because the event was sponsored by the Ultra-Left? Or because it attacked U.S. interests? Or because it was critical of Israel? Or all three reasons?)
Given the above, what policy should we, as USC4P&J, adopt in attacking Israeli militarism?
Our sit-in gave us the chance to begin to think about this issue, both substantially and as a strategy of communication.
We knew that if we criticized the Nazi-like slaughter in Lebanon as such, we risked being isolated as anti-Israeli and even anti-Semitic. Just as, every time we criticize the Nazi-like slaughter that Bush conducts in Iraq and Afghanistan, we risk being accused of anti-Americanism. But after consulting several people who attended our sit-in, I now believe that we successfully avoided the trap. This, in my opinion, is the real success of our demonstration. We have come up with a line that works.
We denounced the Israeli attack of Lebanon as a way of dragging Syria, then Iran, into the war (because of their various alliances), to permit Bush to attack and occupy these countries, too (because of our de facto military alliance with Israel). In addition, the Israeli military is clearly doing Bush and Rumsfeld a favor by destroying the supply route from the Mediterranean (Tyre) to the Iraqi frontier. In other words, if all goes according to what may be the Pentagon's “hidden agenda”, by getting the Israelis to drive one quarter of the population of Lebanon out of their homes, leveling their villages, the U.S. military will have managed to interrupt the supply route to the Iraqi resistance. In addition, if Syria and Iran react to the slaughter, the U.S. military will have an excuse to widen the U.S. empire even further, to these two oil-rich countries. Thus, what our sit-in denounced was not just a single country (Israel) but the whole neo-Con agenda of “imperialism”. (“Imperialism” is the word that the neo-Cons use unashamedly to describe American planetary dominion, but which, more prosaically, comes down to occupying other countries to rob their natural resources). By raising the sights of our denunciation, we therefore avoid accusations of anti-Semitism: we condemn the Israeli bombing of Lebanon, but our finger points beyond to Washington and to the neo-Con agenda.
Nick's letter to Condoleeza Rice is written as a criticism of Bush that applies word for word to what Israel is doing in Lebanon and Gaza. Thus, as above, it cannot be labeled anti-Semitic (which, as Nick points out, would be ridiculous anyway). By lumping Bush's and Olmert's holy wars together, the letter comes off as anti-war, anti-imperialism and anti theo-con. Kathy produced a description of the historical background to the conflict (which we didn't hand out this time, since there were so many other leaflets) along the same lines: the problem is not Israel, she states, the problem is the West's handling of the creation of Israel. And the West has to accept the blame and re-examine its motives.
There was no burning of Israeli flags at our demonstration (which most of us would have been against anyway), but rather an ironic burning of the peace flag by “Condoleeza Rice” – wearing an Israeli flag as a shawl to show how the current US and Israeli governments “si spalleggiano” (work back to back) to extend their influence in the Middle East.
Finally, our flyer pointed out the existence of Israeli peace movements that say exactly the same things we do. I tried to read statements with the megaphone (not very successfully because of the noise): in particular there is the beautiful letter from Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens against war and occupation which ends: “We and our families do not want to be the hostages and victims of the United States' imperial war.”
So, all in all, maybe we should consider the absolute silence of the press as a compliment: they couldn't find anything to condemn, so they just ignored us.
Well, as we say in the letter to Secretary Rice, we're used to being ignored. If they think that will stop us, maybe they should think again.
Redazione, TG3 Fax 06-33170912
ogg. Imprecisione nella vostra edizione delle 12; invito al sit.in oggi alle 16
Il vostro cronista nell'edizione delle 12 in data odierna, parlando dalla Farnesina in occasione della Conferenza sul Libano, ha dichiarato che “i movimenti pacifisti non si sono fatti vedere.”
Precisiamo che abbiamo chiesto in questura l'autorizzazione di manifestare davanti all'ambasciata americana questa mattina ma tale permesso ci è stato negato per motivi di sicurezza. (Eppure il permesso è stato concesso ai farmacisti che, a pochi passi dall'Ambasciata in piazza Barberini, hanno persino bloccato il traffico questa mattina!)
Abbiamo comunque ottenuto il permesso per le ore 16, giusto in tempo per organizzare un sit-in e “bye bye party” per la nostra Segretaria di Stato Condeleeza Rice, come dal comunicato allegato.
La vostra presenza sarebbe gradita.
Per gli Statunitesi per la pace e la giustizia, Patrick Boylan email@example.com tel. 06-491973
U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome, Italy