Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Brian Eno on the Israel-Gaza crisis: Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing?

When the musician Brian Eno saw a picture of a Palestinian man carrying the remains of his dead son in a plastic bag, he was moved to write a cri de coeur to his American friends, asking them to explain their country’s unconditional support for Israel. This is his letter – followed by the response from the author Peter Schwartz

Palestinians search the rubble their home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinians search the rubble their home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Dear All of You, I sense I’m breaking an unspoken rule with this letter, but I can’t keep quiet any more.

Today I saw a picture of a weeping Palestinian man holding a plastic carrier bag of meat. It was his son. He’d been shredded (the hospital’s word) by an Israeli missile attack – apparently using their fab new weapon, fléchette bombs. You probably know what those are – hundreds of small steel darts packed around explosive which tear the flesh off humans. The boy was Mohammed Khalaf al-Nawasra. He was four years old.

I suddenly found myself thinking that it could have been one of my kids in that bag, and that thought upset me more than anything has for a long time.

Then I read that the UN had said that Israel might be guilty of war crimes in Gaza, and they wanted to launch a commission into that. America won’t sign up to it.

What is going on in America? I know from my own experience how slanted your news is, and how little you get to hear about the other side of this story. But – for Christ’s sake! – it’s not that hard to find out. Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing? WHY? I just don’t get it.

I really hate to think it’s just the power of Aipac [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee]… for if that’s the case, then your government really is fundamentally corrupt. No, I don’t think that’s the reason… but I have no idea what it could be.

The America I know and like is compassionate, broad-minded, creative, eclectic, tolerant and generous. You, my close American friends, symbolise those things for me. But which America is backing this horrible one-sided colonialist war? I can’t work it out: I know you’re not the only people like you, so how come all those voices aren’t heard or registered? How come it isn’t your spirit that most of the world now thinks of when it hears the word “America”?

How bad does it look when the one country which more than any other grounds its identity in notions of Liberty and Democracy then goes and puts its money exactly where its mouth isn’t and supports a ragingly racist theocracy?

I was in Israel last year with Mary [a mutual friend]. Her sister works for UNRWA [the UN agency for Palestinian refugees] in Jerusalem. Showing us round were a Palestinian – Shadi, who is her sister’s husband and a professional guide – and Oren Jacobovitch, an Israeli Jew, an ex-major from the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] who left the service under a cloud for refusing to beat up Palestinians.

Between the two of them we got to see some harrowing things – Palestinian houses hemmed in by wire mesh and boards to prevent settlers throwing shit and piss and used sanitary towels at the inhabitants; Palestinian kids on their way to school being beaten by Israeli kids with baseball bats to parental applause and laughter; a whole village evicted and living in caves while three settler families moved on to their land; an Israeli settlement on top of a hill diverting its sewage directly down on to Palestinian farmland below; The Wall; the checkpoints… and all the endless daily humiliations. I kept thinking, “Do Americans really condone this? Do they really think this is OK? Or do they just not know about it?”

Palestinian relatives of Islamic Jihad militant Shaaban Al-Dahdouh, which was found under the rubble, during funeral in Gaza City, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Israeli reserve solders gather in a staging area near the Israel-Gaza border, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israeli reserve solders gather in a staging area near the Israel-Gaza border, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Palestinian supporters of Hamas clash with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank.   (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Palestinian supporters of Hamas clash with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

As for the Peace Process: Israel wants the Process but not the Peace. While “the process” is going on, the settlers continue grabbing land and building their settlements… and then when the Palestinians finally erupt with their pathetic fireworks they get hammered and shredded with state-of-the-art missiles and depleted uranium shells because Israel “has a right to defend itself” (whereas Palestine clearly doesn’t).

And the settler militias are always happy to lend a fist or rip up someone’s olive grove while the army looks the other way. By the way, most of them are not ethnic Israelis – they’re “right of return” Jews from Russia and Ukraine and Moravia and South Africa and Brooklyn who came to Israel recently with the notion that they had an inviolable (God-given!) right to the land, and that “Arab” equates with “vermin” – straightforward old-school racism. That is the culture our taxes are defending. It’s like sending money to the Klan.

But beyond this, what really troubles me is the bigger picture. Like it or not, in the eyes of most of the world, America represents “The West”. So it is The West that is seen as supporting this war, despite all our high-handed talk about morality and democracy. I fear that all the civilisational achievements of The Enlightenment and Western Culture are being discredited – to the great glee of the mad Mullahs – by this flagrant hypocrisy. The war has no moral justification that I can see – but it doesn’t even have any pragmatic value either. It doesn’t make Kissingerian “Realpolitik” sense; it just makes us look bad.

I’m sorry to burden you all with this. I know you’re busy and in varying degrees allergic to politics, but this is beyond politics. It’s us squandering the civilisational capital that we’ve built over generations. None of the questions in this letter are rhetorical: I really don’t get it and I wish that I did.

Peter Schwartz responds to Brian Eno's open letter on Israel-Gaza crisis 

Live video

Live streaming video from Gaza 

Further reading

Britain’s role in arming Israel

Palestine football legend Ahed Zaqout killed in Gaza 

Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland in plea for peace

Sinn Fein man sorry for 'shell' Israel call

US gives £134m to restock Iron Dome 

Hamas denies snatching Israeli 'dual citizen' who had lived in the UK  

More carnage as Israel pounds Gaza

US gives £134m to restock Iron Dome

Probe into UK arms sales to Israel 

Russell Brand hammers FOX News anchor Sean Hannity over aggressive 'debate' 

Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot's pro-IDF stance causes controversy

Israel will destroy tunnels 'with or without ceasefire'

Dress the Israel Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Israel's propaganda machine is starting to misfire 

MPs' concern over violence in Gaza 

Israel and Hamas agree 3-day truce 

US resupplies Israel with grenades and mortar rounds from War Reserve Stockpile

Swastikas and 'f*** Gaza' graffiti attack by loyalists on Catholic church sparks anger

Penelope Cruz among Spanish stars to sign open letter condemning Israel for 'genocide'

Israel-Gaza crisis: More reserves to join fighting 

UN accuses Israel of possible war crime after school shelling kills 19

Penelope Cruz among Spanish stars to sign open letter condemning Israel for 'genocide' 

Video: Moment UN spokesman breaks down in flood of tears discussing Israeli attacks on Gaza

At least 109 Palestinians killed and power station shut down as Gaza pulverised by the Israeli military in heaviest day of bombardment yet

China 'hacks data' from Israel's Iron Dome missile shield, says report 

Surgeons deliver baby girl by Caesarean section after mother is killed in air strike 

Israeli bombs blast Hamas media hub

Fury at Sinn Fein 'boycott Israel' call

Obama presses Netanyahu to call ‘immediate and unconditional’ Gaza ceasefire

Unionist Lord Kilclooney under fire as he attacks Israel’s blitz on Gaza  

John Prescott condemns Israel's bombardment of Gaza as a 'war crime' 

Pope Francis issues desperate plea to fighters - 'I ask you with all my heart, stop please' 

The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts 

Gaza war rages despite truce vows

Israel-Hamas ceasefire: At least 60 bodies found in Gaza after 12-hour truce begins

Robert Fisk: What would we do if it had been 35 Palestinian dead, and 800 Israeli? 

Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home

Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza, says UN's human rights chief Navi Pillay

Civilian casualties in Gaza tell stories of death and heartbreak 

Deadly flechette shells used by Israeli military in Gaza 

The myth of Hamas’s human shield 

Israel-Gaza conflict: UN chief Ban Ki-moon pushing for ceasefire

Gaza bloodbath claims 500 Palestinian lives in relentless Israeli onslaught

Israel-Gaza conflict: Gaza suffers its deadliest day after ‘heinous massacre’ in Shuja’iya

Scores dead in Gaza ground battle 

Gaza action 'must be proportionate'

Israel more brutal than Hitler: Turkish PM

Thousands gather for Gaza protest

What if British had treated Northern Irish like Israel treats Palestine?

Israel launches Gaza ground offensive as four more Palestinian children are killed including a five-month-old baby

Response to Gaza 'lily-livered'

Gaza children killed as they played football on the beach

Israeli government insists it does not target civilians – the day after four children are killed by shelling

Israel actions 'disproportionate'

Gaza: Four Palestinian boys killed in Israeli rocket attack on beach

The deep-lying racism fuelling the Israeli onslaught

Alexei Sayle: Israel is Jimmy Savile of nation states

'Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and hookahs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'

Gaza back-story: A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory

From the archives

Students offered grants if they make pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets  

Cameraman in Gaza 'killed by deadly flechettes fired from Israeli tank'

Israel 'used white phosphorus deliberately and recklessly'

Kim Sengupta: Claims that Israel is using white phosphorus illegally won't go away

UN: Israelis hit our headquarters in Gaza with 'white phosphorus' shells 

Dime bombs leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds 

Israel accused of Gaza war crimes in Amnesty report

Gaza: Demolished in three weeks. Rebuilding it will take years

 Outrage as Israel bombs UN HQ, hospital, school and media building

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