Richard Boucher, the State Department Spokesman interrupted his Christmas Day plans and went straight to the office. A suicide bomb had exploded in Israel killing four people. Because some matters cannot be delayed, Boucher issued the following statement: “The United States strongly condemns the December 25 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the victims of this wanton act of terror and their families." In the usual reprimand to the Palestinians, he went on to say "The United States reiterates the absolute need for urgent action by the Palestinian Authority to confront terror and violence".
The next day, the Los Angeles Time headline was “12 Week Lull in Middle East Violence Ends”. The twelve weeks measured the span of time since the last suicide bombing in Haifa on October 4, 2003. Apparently, the LA Times had not taken notice of the Palestinian victims of Sharon’s goon squads that perished during the ‘Lull’. In fairness, the LA Times headline pretty much reflected the way the story was reported in other mass media outlets, including Reuters and the Associated Press.
Out of morbid curiosity, I set out to investigate if anything of interest had taken place during the ‘LA Lull’. According to accounts from various alternative media sources, here is a brief tally of some of the Palestinian casualties during that twelve-week period.
1. On that very same Christmas day, five Palestinians were killed in Gaza City by a missile fired from an Israeli helicopter gunship. Thirteen other Palestinians were wounded. Boucher made no mention of them in his statement.
2. On Christmas Eve, a news item filed by Khalid Amaryeh at Amin.org reported that “an average of two to three Palestinians are killed by the IDF on any given day. This week two children, aged two and five, were killed in Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank. The two-year-old toddler, Firas Al-Araj, was hit by several bullets in his chest as he was standing eating a piece of bread at the front door of his home. The other boy was reportedly playing with his sister in their home’s backyard when he was shot.” Notice that this reporter actually mentioned the name of one of the Palestinian victims, something you will rarely see in the LA Times.
3. A few days earlier, the Palestine Chronicle reported an Israeli assault that left 10 Palestinians dead and 42 injured in Rafah.
4. On December 21, The Chronicle reported that ‘Operation Calm Waters’ had been launched by the IDF in Nablus and Balatah. That operation resulted in the murder of ten Palestinian in the ‘calm waters’ of the ‘LA Lull’.
5. The Palestine Chronicle also reported that another two Palestinians, including a child, were killed in Nablus and Qilqilya on December 18.
6. This ‘LA Lull’ item is from a report on September 16, again on Palestine Chronicle web site. “Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) shot dead seven Palestinians in 48 hours in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including a 13-year-old boy and a teenager, while an elderly man died after the occupation troops denied him access to a hospital through a military roadblock.”
7. This is from a Palestine Chronicle report dated December 15, 2003. “Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed a Palestinian man early Sunday, a day after shooting dead a mother of two in a taxi at a military roadblock and wounding several others in separate onslaughts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”.
8. Yet another report from the Palestine Chronicle on December 7, 2003. “Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) shot dead three Palestinian youths within 24 hours in two separate incidents in the Gaza Strip, and deported more Palestinian administrative detainees to the Strip from the West Bank.”
9. On December 03, the Palestine Chronicle had another account of Israeli atrocities. “Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on Tuesday shot dead two Palestinians in the West Bank. The body of a third was recovered from the rubble of a house demolished during their invasion of Ramallah on Monday, which raises the death toll in the city to five. A 23-year old university medical student also died of tear gas in Jerusalem.”
10. On November 24, 2003, the Chronicle carried this story: “Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on Saturday shot dead two Palestinians, including an 11-year-old boy, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as two Israeli security guards were killed near the Apartheid Wall. Eleven-year-old Ibrahim Jalamna was shot dead on Saturday during an IOF military incursion into the northern West Bank City of Jenin.”
11. On November 10, 2003, the Chronicle gave this account of the latest 48-hour Israeli killing spree. “Two Palestinians died on Saturday and Sunday of wounds sustained earlier from Israeli Occupation Forces’ (IOF) gunfire. A day earlier, four other compatriots were shot dead and a father of six was killed by occupation troops in separate incidents in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This raises the Palestinian death toll to thirteen in 48 hours.”
12. November 6, 2003. "A Palestinian woman Imtiyaz Abu Ras, 38, was killed while at home early Thursday by a bullet in the neck when the IOF invaded the Qasaba of Nablus”.
13. November 3, 2003: "Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man and wounded another after they allegedly crossed into a restricted area around the Wall that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.” A few days earlier, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) shot dead two boys aged 12 and 16 in the West Bank and an armed Palestinian man in the Gaza Strip as another teenager died of wounds sustained earlier.
14. On October 29, 2003, The Palestine Chronicle published a story about Israeli human rights groups that had filed a case before the Supreme Court “to compel the IOF to investigate all incidents where Palestinian civilians are killed.” Apparently, these Israeli groups had some concerns about the blood soaked ‘LA Lull’.
15. Khalid Ameryah filed this report of a week of Israeli carnage that included the assault on Nuseirat. Ameryah has spent the last three years documenting the day to day atrocities inflicted on the Palestinians. The LA Times is well advised to consult him during ‘Lulls’. This is a summary of his weekly report: “Israeli helicopters fired missiles into a crowd of civilians in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Monday evening, 20 October, killing at least eight people and injuring and maiming as many as 100. A few minutes earlier, Israeli warplanes fired missiles at "an unknown target" in the camp, which turned out to be a civilian vehicle. Israel initially claimed that the two passengers were "militants" but later admitted they were civilians. Both were incinerated beyond recognition. Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation army finished the "first phase" of a wide scale and brutal rampage of terror and murder in Rafah at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip. Entire neighborhoods were reduced to rubble. For more than 72 hours, Israeli tanks and bulldozers were busy demolishing hundreds of homes at the Yibna and Brazil refugee camps in Rafah; adding to the estimated 2000 men, women and children already rendered homeless in the last 10 days. Hundreds of residents were seen fleeing on donkey carts piled-up with blankets and whatever meager possessions they were able to salvage”.
16. Justin Huggler filed this report on October 11, 2003: “At least six Palestinians, including two children aged eight and 12, were killed by Israeli forces yesterday in the biggest military operation in the Gaza Strip for three months. Witnesses said residents of Rafah refugee camp contacted by phone told of families fleeing in panic from their homes as Israeli bulldozers advanced on them, and civilians, including children, so badly wounded their limbs had to be amputated”.
So much for the ‘LA Lull’. In all, 117 Palestinians were killed during the twelve-week period. Of course, there is nothing extraordinary about this kind of reporting in the Los Angeles Times. The LA Times is actually more balanced than the overtly Likudnik New York Times or the neo-con infested Washington Post. Journalists at the LA Times are quite progressive in comparison to the Wall Street Journal, where editorial writers feel free to disparage Arabs and other non-Europeans as ‘wogs’. Murdoch’s Morons at FOX consider the Los Angeles Times to be a radical left coast publication. And CNN reporters are constantly trying to measure up to the xenophobic bigots at FOX.
You can choose to be mad and moan about the bigotry of reporters and publishers at the LA Times. See how far that gets you. In the Arab press, they constantly raise a fuss about this ‘double standard’. What double standard? There is only one standard in covering the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Call it the ‘LA Lull’ standard. It is the standard instrument of measurement used by the media barons to report on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The State Department also trains its staff to strictly enforce it as a strict code of conduct. If they dare to hesitate in implementing the ‘LA Lull’ standard, Rumsfeld and Wolfie show up at Foggy Bottom to crack the whip.
The sooner Arabs and other Middle Easterners come to terms with the ‘LA Lull’ standard, the more likely they are to land in the real world. Simply put, the ‘LA Lull’ standard goes something like this: “The Israelis are more like us. More white. More European. More ‘Judeo-Christian’. More likely to enjoy a night at the Opera or the Ballet. They are the master race in the Middle East. Their history is like ours; a struggle by European settlers against swarthy native hordes. We killed our natives. So why complain about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? Sharon is Custer. Arafat is Geronimo. We slaughtered their Buffalo and the Israelis cut down Palestinian olive trees. We bury Indian hearts at Wounded Knee. Israel decimates the people of Jenin. Killing Arabs is a sport we love as much as the Israelis. We don’t count Iraqi dead and they don’t count Palestinian casualties. Same difference. As Clinton would put it, we feel their pain. He might have added that we get immense pleasure from inflicting pain on the Palestinians. So much so, that we are more than willing to subsidize the carnage with massive amounts of American aid to Ariel Sharon. Besides, you never hear about an Israeli tank commander committing suicide after destroying a dozen homes and killing a few natives. Israeli soldiers kill and live to kill another day. Only a few Americans, mostly on the political margins, protested when we enforced genocidal sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. So what gives America the right to make an issue of the routine collective punishment of Palestinians? They deserve it for having the gall to agitate for their liberty after a mere thirty-six years of military occupation. The fuss about the Apartheid wall is just hypocrisy. We have our own phantom walls to house African-Americans and Hispanics in their own neighborhoods. All this criticism about the less than perfect Israeli democracy is farcical. The US Senate is a as white as the Roman Senate was Italian.”
In short, the accusation of double standards is wildly off the mark. In fact, the current Bush administration is more Catholic than the Pope when it comes to enforcing the ‘LA Lull’ standard. Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman, would certainly not have disrupted his Christmas dinner to make a fuss about the murder of a few dozen Palestinians. For starters, he doesn’t take note of Palestinian casualties during normal working hours. You want to label him as an insensitive bigot? Go ahead. Be my guest. In this administration, such a label will probably get him promoted to the US Institute of Peace where he can keep the company of Daniel Pipes. Boucher sleeps well at night and feels perfectly entitled to match the bigotry of his management. He was trained to conduct business in strict adherence to the ‘LA Lull’ standard. It’s a dirty job and he is the designated janitor.
It is really exasperating to hear the constant drone about double standards from Arabs and Arab-Americans. If they would spare their energies and focus on making slight modification to the ‘LA Lull’ standards, they would finally understand that this administration and the mass media barons have every intention of treating them as wogs. Many Arab leaders have made it privately known that they accept their status as the lesser people of the Middle East. They should do us all the favor of going public with their sentiments. Perhaps they could then move on and have their constituents properly trained to do business as second class citizens of the region. They can start by teaching their people how to bow correctly when transacting deals with the Great White Father in Washington.
At his point, please allow me the liberty of making a modest proposal. All agreements between Arab countries and the United States should have a preamble that reads “The United States has entered into this agreement with subject Middle Eastern country in accordance with the ‘LA Lull’ standard. It being fully understood that the Eastern European Yiddish colonialists in the Middle East are infinitely superior in stature to the native people of the region, be they Palestinian, Egyptian, Levantine, Mesopotamian, Gulf Arab, Persian, Turkish or Kurdish. Any part of this agreement that violates the spirit and letter of ‘LA Lull’ standard will be considered null and void. In the event of any conflict involving the natives of the Middle East, be they Christian or Muslim, and their Jewish lords, the conflict will be judged in favor of Israel. In matters involving real estate acquisition for additional Jewish settlers, the native people will be encouraged to move along and find other quarters to live and die. The killing of a native by a Jew will not be considered a crime. If a native so much as dares to throw a rock to dent an Israeli tank, all parties agree that Israel will have the right to defend itself as it sees fit, short of using tactical nuclear weapons. Only Israel will be allowed to possess and use WMDs. Native people who have wet dreams about WMDs will be subject to invasion by the Armed Forces of the United States. The natives will acknowledge that the “Special Relationship” between the United States and Israel will take precedence over the decidedly slave/master special status of their own countries.”
Such a preamble to any and all agreements between the US and Arab countries will reflect the reality of their diminished sovereignty. It will also set a pragmatic benchmark from which future generations of native Middle Easterners, Israelis and Americans can begin to evolve their relationships. America will not always be a racist country in the conduct of its foreign affairs and Israelis certainly have room to improve on their racist ideology. Things could change in the not so distant future. Extremist bigots like Cheney and his neo-con gang will, in due course, become as anachronistic as Jim Crow. A serial war criminal like Sharon will, sooner or later, be retired. Better still, he might have to stand trial. Future Arab generations might feel uncomfortable with their designated status as the ‘wogs’ of the Middle East. At which point, they can initiate constructive measures to make the ‘LA Lull’ clause inoperative. Hell, it is even conceivable that the Wall Street Journal might apologize for its overt racism. Maybe Murdoch will be deported for inciting racial hatred. CNN could go bankrupt. The New York Times and The Washington Post could become discredited racist rags. People change. History evolves to reflect those changes. But it is folly to pretend that we are not where we are. America has spent six decades enforcing the ‘LA Lull’ standard in the Middle East. And the Arabs ought to get with the program and stop griping about double standards.
Moving on to a pragmatic course of action for Arab-Americans. We should all ponder the obvious fact that those who subscribe to the ‘LA Lull’ standard in foreign policy are very likely to have a generally racist attitude that extends to their conduct of domestic policy. Stop kidding yourselves about what these politicians and their mass media brethren are all about. You know these people. They are the kind of folks who speak in lofty terms of ‘shared values’ and then show up on Sunday at an all white church. Even their cemeteries are segregated. They are the folks who pretend to jive with the multi-cultural scene downtown but freak out when a non-white person moves in next door in their uptown neighborhood.
Equal citizenship is still the ideal. In practice, however, our governors are content to ethnically profile us based on their worldview. Guilt by association is now the unwritten law of the land. If Ashcroft has his way, it might get engraved in stone. We need to accept the reality of post 9/11 America and petition for second class citizenship to avoid the horrible prospect of being reduced to third class citizens or worst. As an added benefit, an official designation as second class citizens might entitle some of us to apply for asylum in progressive countries that still treat all their citizens as equals.
Americans of Arab heritage are well advised to freeze things where they are and set a benchmark from which a future more activist Arab-American community can aspire to first class citizenship. Like it or not, you too are subject to the ‘LA Lull’ standard. The sooner you grasp this and stop griping about double standards, the more likely you are to gain admittance to a first class America at some future date that has yet to be determined. And if you don’t make it, maybe your kids will. That is the promise of America that we must never lose sight of.
The ‘LA Lull’ standard should be declared public policy because it is the way America transacts business with the Middle East and all things Middle-Eastern, including Arab-Americans. So, let’s start from where we are and determine a course of action to climb out of this black hole.
As a final note, please consider sending a letter of thanks to the Los Angeles Times for telling it like it is. Whatever you choose to do, don’t accuse them of double standards.