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Middle East Issues





CAMERA ALERT: Houston Chronicle's Thompson Sloppy and Full of Error


On January 18, the Houston Chronicle published an op-ed by James Thompson entitled “To understand bin Laden, begin with Israel's Likud.” Thompson never actually connected the dots from Likud to bin Laden, but he does his best to demonize Israel's Likud leaders at every turn. The op-ed is filled with inaccuracies and baseless conspiracy theories.

While Thompson is welcome to express whatever opinion he wishes, when he presents so-called factual information, it needs to be as accurate as any facts presented in a news article. The Houston Chronicle should be faulted for failing to fact-check this sloppy and hateful op-ed.

Some of the factual errors are included below:

*** Thompson writes:

Israel has had four chiefs of state: Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu and Sharon who are members of Likud. Their implicit 'final solution to the Palestinian problem' is not something of which most Americans would approve.

Thompson's implication that Likud leaders have promoted the genocide of the Palestinian Arabs is vile and completely without foundation. Not only has the Palestinian population grown dramatically under all Israeli governments, but living standards as well sharply improved. Only during periods of self-inflicted violence, such as the last fifteen months, have Palestinians suffered substantial loss of life when Israelis have been forced to respond to severe and sustained terrorism launched against them.

*** Thomson writes:

On Oct. 23, 1983, suicide bombers in Beirut killed 241 U.S. Marines in the largest loss of American military personnel in a single day between the first day of the Tet offensive and the attack of 9-11. There is evidence that the Likud government knew in advance an attack was in the works but declined to inform Israel's American friends.

More unsubstantiated nonsense. Notice Thompson doesn't even bother describing the so-called “evidence.” And how does this relate to the premise he is supposedly writing about, that the Likud is responsible for the environment in the Muslim world that causes Muslims to tolerate bin Laden and his ilk? Any link to his premise is difficult to find. It appears that he is more interested in simply refloating whatever anti-Israel conspiracy theory he can find or imagine.

*** Thompson writes:

On Sept. 28, 2000, accompanied by hundreds of shock troops, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “visited” the Dome of the Rock. This was a provocation pure and simple.

Sharon did not visit the Dome of the Rock with “shock troops.” He walked around the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, but did not attempt to visit any of the Muslim sites there.

*** Thompson writes:

...is the site of Deir Yassin, where the Stern Gang/Irgun activists of Yitzak Shamir and Menachem Begin (later Likudist prime ministers of Israel) slaughtered all the men, women and children in that unfortunate Arab village on April 9, 1948. This was the beginning of a consistent policy of the extreme right-wing Israeli parties, which ultimately became the Likud, to see to it that the Palestinians would be terrorized into leaving the land of their forefathers or suffer the fate of the Canaanites of 3,500 years previous.

According to Mitch Bard's book, “Complete Idiot's Guide to the Middle East Conflict,” during the 1948 5-month siege on Jerusalem by the Arabs, irregular Arab forces attempted to “cut off the highway” linking Tel Aviv with Jerusalem -- the city's only supply route. The Arabs controlled several strategic vantage points, including the villages of Kastel and Deir Yassin, which overlooked the highway and enabled them to fire on the convoys trying to reach the beleaguered city with supplies. Bard writes:

The Irgun decided to attack Deir Yassin on April 9...Contrary to revisionist histories that the town was filled with peaceful innnocents, residents opened fire on the attackers. The battle was ferocious and took several hours. The Irgun suffered 41 casualties, including four dead. Though Arabs and Israelis still dispute the total, the New York Times reported at the time that more than 200 Arabs were killed and 40 more held captive.

A later study by Bir Zeit University, based on discussions with each family from the village, arrived at the figure of 107 Arab casualties. Bard also writes that: “The Jewish attackers left open an escape corridor from the village and more than 200 residents left unharmed. After the remaining Arabs feigned surrender and then fired on the Jewish troops, some Jews killed Arab soldiers and civilians indiscriminately. Arab men disguised as women were found among the bodies.”

Bard further notes that after the battle, “…the Irgun escorted a representative of the Red Cross through the town and held a press conference. No hint of a massacre appeared in the New York Times report.”

Thompson writes of Palestinians being “terrorized into leaving the land.” It was not the Jews who did the terrorizing, as the Palestinians themselves explain, but rather Arab propaganda. Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service's Arabic news in 1948, admits that he and Hussein Khalidi, the secretary of the Arab Higher Committee (the representative body of the Arabs of British Palestine), fabricated atrocities in reporting about the battle at Deir Yassin “so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews.” Nusseibeh said in a BBC television series (Israel and the Arabs: the 50 Year Conflict) that, "This was our biggest mistake. We did not realize how our people would react. As soon as they heard that women had been raped [a fabrication] at Deir Yassin, Palestinians fled in terror.”

*** Thompson writes:

In September 1982, armed men passed freely through the Israeli lines surrounding the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon. Around 1,000 people were slaughtered.

He omits mentioning that the perpetrators of the slaughter were Lebanese Christian Phalangists -- not Israelis. And yes, Israel knew that armed Phalangists were going into the refugee camps. The Phalangists were supposed to be going in to arrest Palestinian terrorist suspects -- a dangerous job that required weapons since the terrorists were not expected to give up without a fight. However, Thompson implies that Israelis knew the “armed men” intended to kill civilians. This is not true. What Sharon has been faulted for by Israelis is that he did not forsee that the Lebanese Phalangists would ignore their orders to just round up the terrorists and would instead engage in revenge killings of numerous civilians. It should be noted that when the US allowed the Northern Alliance to go into recently conquered Taliban territory to round up the remaining Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists, some people felt that with the bitter history between the two sides, the Northern Alliance might engage in slaughter. However, the US military trusted their allies, allowed them to do the sweep for terrorists, and no slaughter occurred. Unfortunately, Israel's reliance on the restraint of the Phalangists was not similarly rewarded. It is neither fair nor accurate to imply that Sharon or Israelis supported or encouraged the killings.


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