Subject : ON "THE IRON LAW OF OLIGARCHY" AND A
FEW PARTICLES OF CORROSION.
18 October 2006
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
It was the American journalist Walter Lippman, I believe, who remarked
capitalism was simply Liberal capitalism "with the gloves off". Removing the gloves exposes a variety
of forms of violence; it's not just swastikas and goose-steps,
"déjà vu, all over again".
Different modalities of repression and social control appear in
different historical periods, the Romans did it one way, the Germans
another.... The Americans, according to author Bertram Gross,
came up with another form of fascism which corresponds to the spirit of
our own times : Friendly
What every school child knows, however, is that authoritarianism
--whatever form it takes in a given institution-- serves ultimately to
protect intrenched economic interests, the major beneficiaries of which
prefer low visibility and gladly defer to the expertise
of their managers for the maintenance of order. Thus, we must seek in
order to find out why the richest man in the Roman Empire was Augustus
, why in Nazi Germany the biggest war profiteer was the Alfred
Krupp family, and why in the U.S. today, where military
industrial production is the backbone of the national economy
--supporting virtually every other American industry-- why Dick Cheney and Bill Gates are the
great symbols of "success".
Liberal capitalism "with the gloves off" can offer most of us very
little incentive today. This crisis in private profit-making has led
predictably to low wages for many, job insecurity for
nearly everyone, and an increase in competitive behavior on the
part of the disadvantaged (i.e. virtually all of us). Our last
century's strategy of creating public wealth for an
egalitarian society, where private wealth would be
outlawed, has been scrapped. The new strategy for solving the PRIVATE
PROFIT CRISIS is called market
It looks much like liberal capitalism with decorated velvet gloves
thinly hiding iron fists to be used against the excluded, should they
fail to cooperate with the international project of accumulating
private wealth for the few. Their cooperation requires that they
continue to play their assigned roll of simply remaining invisible.
Indeed, if we look for it, we will see the economic principles which
govern our lives. It appears today that the FOG MACHINE is almost
broken and a return to antiquity, which would save the system with
slave labor, seems unlikely. The private profit motive is perhaps more
clearly visible today than ever before in history and the "religion of
greed" is less attractive than ever before, especially when you
consider the number of corporations driven by war profits....
Thus, What is to be done? is a question on the minds of literally
billions of us across this sweet earth of ours.
Some solutions we would easily reject...
The economic warfare against the Palestinian nation and U.S. military
attacks against the Iraqi people, for example, have raised questions
about the systemic connections of the state, society, private
corporations, and governments. What link these separate
social entities together, what are their interdependencies? Is there
really a disconnect between U.S. government policy and the American
nation, or is it simply disinformation performing another illusion
American cultural critic, Neil Postman offers this definition of the
am using this word almost in the precise sense in which it is used by
spies in the CIA or KGB. Disinformation does not mean
false information. It means misleading information - misplaced,
irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information - information that
creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one
away from knowing." (Taken from Amusing Ourselves to Death (Public
Discourse in the Age of Show Business), 1985.)
Perhaps reality is more complex than the appearances produced in media
would lead us to believe...
"I love America," wrote African American novelist James Baldwin in the
1960s, "more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this
reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."
But no magician likes to be discovered by a critical audience. It is
the gullibility and docility of others that accrue private profits for
investors. Social control must be maintained, by force if necessary,
for the economic system to continue to function as it does, by
the few and excluding the many.
"Find out just what people will quietly submit to," wrote another
African American, the escaped slave Frederick Douglass, "and
you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will
be imposed on them, and these will continue till they are resisted with
either words or blows. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the
endurance of those whom they oppress."
More to the point, one-and-a- half centuries after the abolition of
slavery in the U.S., is the message of a U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine
Albright, to U.S. Army General, Colin Powell : "What's the point of
having this superb military that you're always talking about if we
can't use it?" (Quoted in Powell's book My American Journey,1995.)
Below, are a series of 8
articles that CEIMSA recently received and
which address these historic questions of imperialist collaboration,
rapport de force, and the private profit motive in hard
Item A., sent to us by Professor Edward Herman, is a
description of the "horrible reality" in Palestine as Israel escalates
-with the necessary collaboration of the U.S. and other states- its
economic warfare and neo-classical imperialist aggressions on the
Item B. is a message from the French Palestine Association, sent to
us by Dr. Catherine Shamas.
Item C. is a series of very useful free video links, sent to us by
Grenoble graduate student, Fred Méni.
Item D., from Professor Richard Du Boff, is a look at
the human condition from the point of view of a belly-laugh. We hope
this humor will serve to reorient you to the madness that really exists
outside the normal framework of reason, and therefore goes unnoticed by
many us who feel that we must pretend that we live in "the best of all
possible worlds," conducting business as usual. Another humorous
site that reminds us that capitalist "normality" is a social construct
which is supported increasingly by coercion rather than voluntary
consent, is : http://newstandardnews.net/content/?action=show_cartoon&itemid=3764
Item E., an essay by Professor John Gerassi of Queens
College in New York City, addresses New York Times journalist
Roger Cohen's disinformation about the American left and its
hopeless state of mind.
Item F. is another sobering description of the parallels between the
American judicial system (with "the gloves off") and that of Nazi
Germany, sent to us by San Francisco Attorney Robert Rivkin
Item G. is an essay by reporter Jonathan Cook, in
which he describes "Israel's plan for a military attack on Iran", once
again cut off from world public opinion.
And, finally, item H. is the Internet link to the 75-minute documentary film, Iraq For Sale, by award-winning film maker Robert
Greenwald and sent to us by Information Clearing House telling
the familiar tale of corporate corruption and war-profiteering.
Companies like Halliburton, CACI International, and Blackwater
Security Consulting are among the 100,000 private contractors
engaged in the region of Iraq today.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal - Grenoble 3
from Edward Herman :
10 October 2006
Haaretz, Oct. 7, 2006
Another powerful piece by Amira Hass describing a horrible reality that
you won't see described in comparable terms in the NYT or elsewhere in
mainstream media. The thread of her argument is complemented by a new
report in circulation today claiming that the United States has been
training to Fatah forces in an effort to stoke the inter-Palestinian
Not an internal Palestinian matter
T he experiment was a success: The Palestinians are killing
each other. They are behaving as expected at the end of the extended
experiment called "what happens when you imprison 1.3 million human
beings in an enclosed space like battery hens."
by Amira Hass
These are the steps in the experiment: Imprison (since 1991); remove
the prisoners' usual means of livelihood; seal off all outlets to the
outside world, nearly hermetically; destroy existing means of
livelihood by preventing the entry of raw materials and the marketing
of goods and produce; prevent the regular entry of medicines and
hospital supplies; do not bring in fresh food for weeks on end;
prevent, for years, the entry of relatives, professionals, friends and
others, and allow thousands of people - the sick, heads of families,
professionals, children - to be stuck for weeks at the locked gates of
the Gaza Strip's only entry/exit.
Steal hundreds of millions of dollars (customs and tax revenues
collected by Israel that belong to the Palestinian treasury), so as to
force the nonpayment of the already low salaries of most government
employees for months; present the firing of homemade Qassam rockets as
a strategic threat that can only be stopped by harming women, children
and the old; fire on crowded residential neighborhoods from the air and
the ground; destroy orchards, groves and fields.
Dispatch planes to frighten the population with sonic booms; destroy
the new power plant and force the residents of the closed-off Strip to
live without electricity for most of the day for a period of four
months, which will most likely turn into a full year - in other words,
a year without refrigeration, electric fans, television, lights to
study and read by; force them to get by without a regular supply of
water, which is dependent on the electricity supply.
It is the good old Israeli experiment called "put them into a pressure
cooker and see what happens," and this is one of the reasons why this
is not an internal Palestinian matter.
The success of the experiment can be seen in the miasma of desperation
that hangs over the Gaza Strip, and in the clan feuding that erupts
almost daily there, even more than in the battles between Fatah and
Hamas militants. One can only wonder that the feuding is not more
frequent, and that some bonds of internal solidarity have been
maintained, which saves people from hunger.
In contrast to the feuding between clans, Sunday's battles in Gaza and
campaigns of destruction and intimidation, mainly in West Bank cities,
were not the result of a momentary loss of control. They are generally
viewed as battles between two militias, each of which represents one
half of the population, but they were initiated by groups within Fatah
to put a few more nails into the coffin of the elected leadership.
The security forces of the Palestinian Authority - in other words, of
Fatah, or in still other words, the ones that Mahmoud Abbas is in
charge of - are hiding behind the genuine distress and protests of
public employees who have not been receiving regular salaries. And they
are doing so despite the fact that everyone knows that the failure to
pay salaries is not a managerial failure, but is above all due to
Israeli policy. These forces were dispatched in order to sow organized
anarchy, as taught in the school of Yasser Arafat.
And why is this, too, an Israeli matter? Because those who dispatched
these militants have a shared interest with Israel in regressing to a
situation in which the Palestinian leadership collaborates with the
appearance of holding peace talks, while Israel continues its
occupation and the international community sends hush money in the form
of salaries for the Palestinian public sector.
And there is another reason why this is also an internal Israeli issue:
Whatever the outcome, the Palestinian feuding and the risk of civil war
directly affect about 20 percent of Israeli citizens, the Arabs. They
affect the Arabs, and also those segments of the Israeli public that
have not forgotten that Israel will remain the occupying and ruling
force over the Palestinians as long as the goal of establishing a
Palestinian state in all of the territories occupied in 1967 is not
from Dr. Catherine Shamas :
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006
Subject: FW: Soutien à Politis
Excusez les doublons mais sauver Politis me semble trés
Association France Palestine
Politis est menacé de disparition. Malheureusement la presse
notamment la presse indépendante, est en grand danger
Normalement, nous n¹intervenons pas dans ce type de questions.
membres de l¹association ont pu apprécier en particulier la
place que cet
hebdomadaire sait donner au problème des droits des Palestiniens
et à leur
violation par la politique coloniale israélienne. Et ils savent
importante l¹information dans les conflits du Moyen-Orient.
C¹est pourquoi le bureau national de l¹AFPS a pensé
qu¹un certain nombre de
membres de l¹association seraient sensibles à l¹appel
que lance le personnel
pour sauver son journal. Nous vous le transmettons ci-dessous pour en
informer les adhérents de votre groupe.
Le bureau national de l¹AFPS
Mercredi 4 octobre 2006
Sauvons Politis !
Politis risque de disparaître : placé en
dépôt de bilan depuis le 8 août,
votre hebdomadaire doit aujourd¹hui faire face à une
pour assurer sa survie.
Après le retrait inattendu la veille de l¹audience
du seul repreneur
pressenti, le personnel, grâce à l¹association
« Les Amis de Politis », a
décidé de sauver son journal en devenant son propre
patron : une
souscription auprès de ses lecteurs est donc lancée afin
de réunir la somme
d¹un million d¹euros dans le mois qui vient. Ce sont vos dons
contribueront à sauver Politis, l¹une des dernières
voix indépendantes du
paysage médiatique français. Vos chèques seront
déposés sur un compte bloqué
et, en cas d¹échec, leurs sommes vous seront
remboursées jusqu¹au dernier
Un site de l¹association « Les Amis de Politis » est
en cours de création
afin de vous informer jour après jour de l¹état de
la situation et vous
permettre de nous faire part de vos commentaires et réactions.
En outre, un
espace sera inséré dans le journal (qui continue à
pour rendre compte de l¹avancée de nos recherches de
Politis, votre hebdomadaire, doit continuer à vivre !
Le Personnel de Politis
Pour nous envoyer vos dons (fiscalement déductibles), merci de
chèques à l¹ordre de : Association « Pour
Politis » et de les envoyer à :
Association Pour Politis - c/o Politis - 2, impasse Delaunay - 75 011
Suggestions de montants :
* 25 euros (40 000 personnes)
* 40 euros (25 000 personnes)
* 60 euros (17 000 personnes)
* 100 euros (10 000 personnes, soit tous les abonnés de Politis)
Envoyez-nous aussi vos messages de soutien à l'adresse :
Liste de diffusion adhérents AFPS Ardèche Drôme
Pour se désinscrire écrivez à :
from Fred Méni :
8 October 2006
Hello Professor Feeley,
Here is a link to “Movies that make us think”: http://www.question911.com/linksall.htm
from Richard Du Boff :
11 September 2006
Subject: Another memorial needed
from Professor John Gerassi :
Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2006
For those of you who read the NYTimes columnist Roger Cohen's attack
on the left for having been in favor of NATO's intervention in
Yugoslavia but not in Iraq, you might be interested in my o-ed response
which, of copurse, the Times will nevber run. Herewith....
Leftists You Never Talk To
October 11 column "Where Europe's Leftists Fear to Tread: Saddam",
Roger Cohen asked why has "the left lost their voice?" Why is there no
self-analysis? and Why has anti-Bushism "replaced reflection?" But
there is a voice and analysis, a lot of it, it just does not get
printed in the mainstream media.
by John Gerassi, Professor of Political Science, CUNY,
author of Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century
Cohen begins by telling his readers that the left was in favor of
NATO's intervention in Yugoslavia. Maybe his left, but
certainly not the left I know or support. We believed right from the
start that all sides were guilty of horrendous crimes, not just the
Serbians. As we now know for sure, especially after that carefully
researched 4-hour BBC 4 documentary (which I show my students), ethnic
cleansing began with the Croates, who as soon as they became
independent adopted their parents' Nazi flag, praised their Ustashi
Nazi collaborators, and weeded out anyone who opposed total subjugation
to the interests of imperial Europe, specifically thier old ally,
Germany. We also quickly realized that NATO, and then the US with its
massive indiscriminate saturation bombing of Serbia, wanted to destroy
the Seribian government because Milosevic refused to privatise his
country's utilities and its state companies which furnished its main
source of income. We now know that Europe and the US wanted to break up
Yugoslavia, to render all its components totally dependent on Europe
and the US.
Never did we claim that Milosevic was innocent of the charges of ethnic
cleasing, concentration camps and executions of prisoners. But we
always believed, and now we know we were right, that
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and mostly Croatia were just as guilty.
Obviously, that's not the left that Roger Cohen knows or talks to.
And now Iraq. Cohen claims that "Milosevic pales besides Saddam
Hussein." True. But we also know that he was a US ally, indeed a CIA
asset when he was chief of intelligence under the African nationalist
revolutionary leader Karim Kassem, and that when the US began to worry
about Nasser's United Arab Republic, which Kassem joined (as did
Libya), it ordered their stooge, Saddam, to murder Kassem. The US also
backed Saddam in his war against Ayatollah Khomeini's Iranian regime,
giving him weapons and, more important, battlefield information. It
also furnished him the poison gas he used at Hablaja, which he used it
in a battle against Iranians, as reported in the New York Times by
CIA's area chief at that time (NYTIMES 01/31/03), as much as against
But that's not the only reasons we opposed the neocons' "fraudulent"
(Cohen's word) war on Iraq. We know that all the administration and
media talk of freedom and democracy is just that, talk, propaganda. If
the US really cared about democracy it would not have overthrown every
independent leader in Latin America, ending with Chile's Allende. Nor
murder the Congo's great leader, Patrice Lumumba (which the Belgiums
have publicly admitted doing with the CIA), nor currently try to
overthrown Venezuela's Chavez. it would say, ok we lost in Iran but
they had a fair election, so let's try to deal honestly with its
government. And even more so in Palestine, where everyone admits HAMAS
won fairly. We on the left are not impressed by the neocon's babble to
justify preemptive wars.
But more important we see the real reasons for the war on Iraq. Why not
a war on Saudi Arabia which has a vicious dictatorship that does not
even recognize women as human beings (whereas in Saddam's Iraq, they
could drive, teach, practice medicine, etc, none of which they are
allowed to do in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Pakistan for that matter,
another great US dictator and ally. So why Iraq? The neocon's New
American Century Project has said it very clearly: the US must control
the Middle East so it can control its oil and gas (control, not own,
since the US does not need it). That way, the US can decide who get
what energy, hence who develops.
Ideally,the neocons wrote as early as l992, we should invade Iran. But
the Iranians are religious fanatics and will keep fighting us after we
have defeated their army. So let's invade Iraq, a secular country,
where, once beaten, the people will hail us as liberators and let us
run their affairs. Convinced, Bush, as the world knows, put both his
feet (and the rest of him) in his mouth and shrieked that the war was
over -- just as it really started. His "mission accomplished" has now
caused more than 2000 American and 600,000 Iraqi lives (NYTIMES today),
as compared to a total toll of 30,000 over a 20-year reign by Saddam,
still of course inexcusable. Over a million Iraqis have fled their
country just in the last year (BBC News Oct 11). And Hallburton has
reaped billions of dollar profits without giving Iraqis clean water,
electricity or security, which was what our taxes were meant to
Mr Cohen can call our opposition "Smug", but it is as principled
and as honorable as our struggle to stop the war in Vietnam. I for one,
and most of the "leftists" Cohen tries to ridicule, opposed that war as
early as 1963, when JFK was still claiming he was sending only
"advisers". I was fired as an editor of Newsweek in 1965 and from
teaching at San Francisco State College in 1966 for my opposition to
that war. I went to jail and I was blacklisted (until teachers union
lawyers won my appeal and broke that blacklist almost 10 years
later). But, I was lucky since I spoke fluent French, I taught at
the University of Paris (Vincennes) and worked with Sartre helping many
Frenchmen, if not Mr. Cohen, understand the scope and viciousness of US
imperialism. I am proud to have been and to be one of those Leftists
that Mr. Cohen chastises for not having his point of view.
from Robert Rivkin :
12 October 2006
My latest article, propelled by a paroxysm of
patriotism, was published at www.dissidentvoice.org
on October 11, 2006.
It's about banning TV election campaign ads. Hope
from Jonathan Cook :
12 October 2006
Plan for a Military Strike on Iran
T he Middle East, and possibly
the world, stands on the brink of a terrible conflagration as Israel
and the United States prepare to deal with Iran's alleged ambition to
acquire nuclear weapons. Israel, it becomes clearer by the day, wants
to use its air force to deliver a knock-out blow against Tehran. It is
not known whether it will use conventional weapons or a nuclear warhead
in such a strike.
By Jonathan Cook
At this potentially cataclysmic moment in global politics, it is good
to see that one of the world's leading broadcasters, the BBC, decided
this week that it should air a documentary entitled "Will Israel bomb
Iran?". It is the question on everyone's lips and doubtless, with the
imprimatur of the BBC, the programme will sell around the world.
The good news ends there, however. Because the programme addresses none
of the important issues raised by Israel's increasingly belligerent
posture towards Tehran.
It does not explain that, without a United Nations resolution, a
military strike on Iran to destroy its nuclear research programme would
be a gross violation of international law.
It does not clarify that Israel's own large nuclear arsenal was
secretly developed and is entirely unmonitored by the International
Atomic Energy Agency, or that it is perceived as a threat by its
neighbours and may be fuelling a Middle East arms race.
Nor does the programme detail the consequences of an Israeli strike on
instability and violence across the Middle East, including in Iraq,
where British and American troops are stationed as an occupying force.
And there is no consideration of how in the longer term unilateral
action by Israel, with implicit sanction by the international
community, is certain to provoke a steep rise in global jihad against
Instead the programme dedicates 40 minutes to footage of Top Gun
heroics by the Israeli air force, and the recollections of pilots who
carried out a similar, "daring" attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor in the
long shots of Iran's nuclear
research facilities; and interviews with three former Israeli prime
ministers, a former Israeli military chief of staff, various officials
in Israeli military intelligence and a professor who designs Israel's
All of them speak with one voice: Israel, they claim, is about to be
"wiped out" by Iranian nuclear weapons and must defend itself "whatever
They are given plenty of airtime to repeat unchallenged well-worn
propaganda Israel has been peddling through its own media, and which
has been credulously amplified by the international media: that Iran is
led by a fanatical anti-Semite who, like Adolf Hitler, believes he can
commit genocide against the Jewish people, this time through a nuclear
Other Israeli misinformation, none of it believed by serious analysts,
is also uncritically spread by the film-makers: that Hizbullah in
Lebanon is a puppet of Iran, waiting to aid its master in Israel's
destruction; that Iran is only months away from creating nuclear
weapons, a "point of no return", as the programme warns; and that a
"fragile" Israel is under constant threat of annihilation from all its
But the programme's unequivocal main theme -- echoing precisely
Israel's own agenda -- is that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
is hellbent on destroying Israel. The film-makers treat seriously,
bordering on reverentially, preposterous comments from Israel's leaders
about this threat.
Shimon Peres, the Israeli government's veteran roving ambassador,
claims, for example, that Iran has made "a call for genocide" against
Israel, compares an Iranian nuclear bomb to a "flying concentration
camp", and warns that "no one would like to see a comeback to the times
of the Nazis".
Cabinet minister Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet domestic
security service, believes Israel faces "an existential threat" from
Iran. And Zvi Stauber, a former senior figure in military intelligence,
compares Israel's situation to a man whose neighbour "has a gun and he
declares every day he is going to kill you".
But pride of place goes to Binyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister
and the current leader of the opposition. He claims repeatedly that the
only possible reason Iran and its president could want a nuclear
arsenal is for Israel's "extermination". "If he can get away with it,
he'll do it." "Ayatollahs with atombic bombs are a powerful threat to
all of us." A nuclear Iran "is a threat unlike anything we have seen
before. It's beyond politics" -- apparently worse than the nuclear
states of North Korea and Pakistan, the latter a military dictatorship
and friend of the US barely containing within its borders some of the
most fanatical jihadist movements in the world.
Apart from a brief appearance by an Iranian diplomat, no countervailing
opinions are entertained in the BBC programme; only Israel's military
and political leadership is allowed to speak.
The documentary gives added credence to the views of Israel's security
establishment by making great play of a speech by Ahmadinejad -- one
with which the Israeli authorities and their allies in Washington have
made endless mischief -- in which the Iranian president repeats a
statement by Iran's late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, that
went unnoticed when first uttered.
In the BBC programme, Ahmadenijad is quoted as saying: "The regime
occupying Jerusalem should be eliminated from the page of history".
This is at least an improvement on the original translation, much
repeated in the programme by Netanyahu and others, that "Israel must be
wiped off the map".
But for some strange reason, the programme makers infer from their more
accurate translation the same diabolical intent on Ahmadinejad's part
as suggested by Netanyahu's fabricated version. Iran's nuclear weapons,
we are told by the programme as if they are already in existence, have
"presented Israel's leaders with a new order of threat". In making his
speech, the BBC film argues, Ahmadinejad "issued a death sentence
But, as has now been pointed out on numerous occasions (though clearly
not often enough for the BBC to have noticed), Khomeini and Ahmadinejad
were referring to the need for regime change, the ending of the regime
occupying the Palestinians in violation of international law. They were
not talking, as Netanyahu and co claim, about the destruction of the
state of Israel or the Jewish people. The implication of the speech is
that the current Israeli regime will end because occupying powers are
illegitimate and unsustainable, not because Iran plans to fire nuclear
missiles at the Jewish state or commit genocide.
Overlooked by the programme makers is the fact that "fragile" Israel is
currently the only country in the Middle East armed with nuclear
warheads, several hundred of them, as well as one of the most powerful
armies in the world, which presumably make most of its neighbours feel
"fragile" too, with far more reason.
And, as we are being persuaded how "fragile" Israel really is, another
former prime minister, Ehud Barak, is interviewed. "Ultimately we are
standing alone," he says, in apparent justification for an illegal,
unilateral strike. Iran's nuclear reasearch facilities, Barak warns,
are hidden deep underground, so deep that "no conventional weapon can
penetrate", leaving us to infer that in such circumstances Israel will
have no choice but use a tactical nuclear strike in its "self-defence".
And, getting into his stride, Barak adds that some facilities are in
crowded urban areas "where any attack could end up in civilian
But despite the terrifying scenario laid out by Israel's leaders, the
BBC website cheerleads for Israel in the same manner as the
programme-makers, suggesting that Israel has the right to engineer a
clash of civilisations: "With America unlikely to take military action,
the pressure is growing on Israel's leaders to launch a raid."
As should be clear by now, the Israeli government's fingerprints are
all over this BBC "documentary". And that is hardly surprising because
the man behind this "independent" production is Israel's leading
film-maker: Noam Shalev.
Shalev, a graduate of a New York film school, has been making a spate
of documentaries through his production company Highlight Films, based
in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, that have been lapped up by the BBC and
other foreign broadcasters. With the BBC's stamp of approval, it is
easy for Shalev to sell his films around the world.
Shalev, who claims that he doesn't "espouse a political view", started
his career by making documentaries on less controversial subjects. He
has produced films on Ethiopian immigrants arriving in Israel, and on
the Zaka organisation, Jewish religious fundamentalists who arrive at
the scene of suicide attacks quite literally to pick up the pieces, of
In the past his films managed to bypass the reticence of broadcasters
like the BBC to broach the combustible subject of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside their news programmes by touching
on the topic obliquely. Importantly, however, Shalev's films always
humanise his Israeli subjects, showing them as complex, emotional and
caring beings, while largely ignoring the millions of Palestinians the
Israeli government and army are oppressing.
According to a profile of Shalev published in the Israeli media in
2004, his success derives from the fact that he has developed a
"soft-sell approach", showing Israel in a good light without "the
straightforward 'hasbara' [propaganda] efforts which explain Israel's
case that Israel's Foreign Ministry is required to disseminate to
European and American news outlets."
In the words of an Israeli public relations executive, Shalev has a
skill in telling Israel's story in ways that international broadcasters
appreciate: "[Shalev] also shows the Israeli side, he is not one of
those traitors who sell their ideology for money. He has the skill to
market it in such a way that overseas they want to see it, and this is
But recently Shalev has grown more confident to try the hard sell for
Israel, apparently sure that the BBC and other foreign broadcasters
will still buy his films. And that is because Shalev offers them
something that other film-makers cannot: intimate access to Israel's
security forces, an area off-limits to his rivals.
Before the disengagement from Gaza last year, for example, Shalev made
a sympathetic documentary, shown by the BBC, about a day in the life of
one Israeli soldier serving there. The film largely concealed the
context that might have alerted viewers to the fact that the soldier
was enforcing a four-decade illegal occupation of Gaza, or that the
Strip is an open-air prison in which thousands of Palestinian have been
killed by the Israeli army and in which a majority of Gazans live in
Interviewed about the documentary, Shalev observed: "The army really is
very, very careful. There is no indiscriminate firing. I saw, and this
was not a show put on just for us, that before any shot is fired there
is confirmation that there is nobody behind or in front of the
objective. The army is very sensitive to non-deliberate fire."
In other words, Shalev's film for the BBC shed no light on why Israel's
"deliberate" fire has killed hundreds of Palestinian children during
the second intifada or why a large number of civilians have died from
Israeli gunfire and missile strikes inside the Gaza Strip.
Earlier this year Shalev made another film for the BBC, "The Hunt for
Black October", to coincide with the release of Stephen Spielberg's
movie Munich. "The BBC gains exclusive access to the undercover Mossad
agents assigned to track down the Palestinian group responsible for the
murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics," the BBC was
able to glow in its promotional material.
Shalev's latest film, "Will Israel bomb Iran?", follows this
well-trodden path. Arabs and Muslims are again deprived of a voice, as
are non-Israeli experts.
So why did the BBC buy this blatant piece of propaganda?
Here are a few clues. Shalev's film includes:
In other words, the BBC, and the other broadcasters who will air this
"documentary" in the coming weeks and months, has been dazzled by
Shalev's ability to show us the secret world of the Israeli army. So
dazzled, it seems, that it has forgotten to check -- or worse, simply
doesn't care -- what message Shalev is inserting between his exclusive
- * footage taken from inside Hizbullah bunkers under the
supervision of the Israeli army as it occupied south Lebanon.
- * a "rare view" of the inside of the Israeli army's satellite
control room, which spies on Israel's Arab neighbours and Iran and
which, according to programme, is "incredibly guarded about its
- * an exclusive appearance by Israel's former military chief of
staff, Moshe Yaalon, who we are told is "rarely interviewed".
- * a glimpse inside a Rafael weapons factory, which the programme
tells us is "rarely filmed".
It might have occurred to someone at the BBC to wonder why Shalev gets
these chances to show things no one else is allowed to. Could it be
that the "hasbara" division of the Israeli Foreign Ministry has got far
more sophisticated than it once was?
Is the Israeli government using Shalev, wittingly or not, and is he in
turn using the BBC, to spread Israeli propaganda? Propaganda that may
soon propel us towards the "clash of civilisations" so longed for by
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His
book, Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic
State, is published by Pluto Press. His website is www.jkcook.net
from Information Clearing House
10 October 2006
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