Weavers of the fabric of truth
Dahr Jamail, John Pilger, Mohammed Omer

by G.S.   georgeisalzman@yahoo.com

initial posting 30 June 2009 - last update 27 Dec 2010

      Telling the truth has always involved some risk. At the least, friends might be offended. At worst, as is ongoing now for some years here in Mexico, reporters have clearly been assassinated because they have told truths that expose terrible acts by powerful people.

Dahr Jamail (left) and Mohammed Omer (right), co-recipients of the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for journalism, being congratulated by John Pilger (center), a member of the Martha Gellhorn Prize judges panel, at the award ceremonies in London, 16 June 2008. The photo, by Paul de Rooij, is from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, at http://www.wrmea.com/action_alerts/070208_personal.html/, which gives a brief account of Omer’s harrowing treatment by the Israeli Shin Bet agents as he was returning to his home in Rafah, in Gaza. A more detailed, extensive account of this ghoulish incident, by John Pilger is in The Guardian of 2 July 2008, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/02/israelandthepalestinia

      Why do I think each of these three people can be believed to tell the truth? Why am I so ready to dismiss statements by politicians — of whatever nationality — or by other journalists if their statements are contradicted by Jamail, Pilger, or Omer? The answer is simple. I have come to trust these three people for their integrity, their honesty. That doesn't mean I think they are invariably correct. Like all humans, they are fallible, and should be listened to critically. What I am convinced of is that if one of them learns he has been mistaken about something, he will openly acknowledge it rather than try to cover it up by lying. In brief, it is their commitment to knowing the truth, which sometimes requires changing ones mind, that I respect above all else. That and their compassion. Pilger was the first of them I came to trust, perhaps not long after Indonesian troops massacred East Timorese civilians on 12 November 1991 at the cemetary in Dili, East Timor.[1]

      Why is it important for me to gain a circle of people I can trust? Or more precisely, people who are well-informed about matters that I am very much concerned with, and who I can trust. The answer, although it is specific for me, most likely applies to many other people as well. I know that I am incapable of being well-informed without a lot of help. I also know that most of the so-called ‘news media’ are controlled directly or indirectly by extremely wealthy corporations or individuals, whose principal goal is to preserve their status within their small, extremely privileged sector of society. They see themselves as beneficiaries of the highly class-differentiated social order under contemporary capitalism and want to keep themselves, as they see it, ‘on top’ in terms of wealth, power, and control. Achieving their goal seems to them completely normal because it reflects the dominant value system in which they were formed. I do not automatically condemn them as bad or evil people, although some individuals may be. For the most part they are acting in ways justified by the value system that the culture has implanted in their consciousness.

Washington Report (on Middle East Affairs) correspondent Mohammed Omer lies in his hospital bed in the Gaza Strip. The photo, datelined 30 June 30 2008, REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA), is from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, at http://www.wrmea.com/action_alerts/070208

      Because of the systemic class-based barrier against truthfulness in the corporate media and the government, the efforts of many liberals to persuade individuals whose work is in either ‘major’ media or government to be honest is inevitably doomed to achieving no more than an occasional ‘success’. Each such hard-won ‘victory’ is then pointed to as evidence that the system can be made to work. In fact the more accurate assessment would be that the dominant system occasionally acknowledges that it may have gone too far at some earlier time, but claims (falsely) that such shortcomings were strictly limited to its past behavior.[2]

      I believe we will be much better off, with respect to learning the truth, if we not put effort into trying to reform the corporate media and governments but instead concentrate on building alternatives to these institutions, which were designed in order to serve the interests of the wealthy, privileged sectors of society. A modest example, i.e. it’s not extreme, of the level of distortion in so-called mainstream media is given by comparing several reports on the brutalizing to which Mohammed Omer was subjected by the Israeli Shin Bet agents at the crossing from Jordan to the West Bank. A Los Angeles Times report summarizes, “Questions persist about Palestinian's encounter at border crossing. Mohammed Omer says he was physically abused by Israeli security while returning from Europe. An Israeli inquiry ruled his assertions to be false. The U.N. calls for further investigation.”[3]

      Mohammed Omer’s own account of his mistreatment on 26 and 27 June 2008, transcribed the following day, is naturally far more detailed and, still vivid in his mind, more condemnatory of the Israelis who terrorized and tortured him than any newspaper report purporting to be neutral and objective. And to me more credible. The actual transcript is preceded by the following brief introduction:

    Note: This is a compilation of his first hand account of the events of June 26 and June 27, 2008. On June 28th as this is being transcribed Omer is again in transit to a European hospital in Gaza due to chest pains and difficulty breathing as a result of the following.
    07:00, Thursday June 26, 2008:
Mohammed Omer arrives at the Jordanian transit center to catch the bus which will take him across the border to the Israeli transit center at Allenby, just west of Amman Jordan in the Occupied West Bank. Omer was returning from a multi-country speaking tour on the situation in Gaza in Europe in addition to receiving the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism with co-recipient Dahr Jamal. Omer at age 24 is the youngest person in history to receive this prestigious award. He arrived in Amman from France Saturday June 21, 2008, eager to get home for his brother’s wedding. Israeli authorities refused him transit forcing him to remain in limbo on a Jordanian transit visa for five days until word arrived he'd be allowed to go home.
    Boarding the bus that crosses the border between the Occupied Territories and Jordan, the following transpired. [4]

      John Pilger is one of a very small number of correspondents who are able to write the truth as they perceive it, a view of reality that contradicts much of the ‘mainstream’ media, and have it widely published regularly. Robert Fisk is another exceptional correspondent in this regard. Dahr Jamail has gained fair distribution for his reporting from Iraq, where he went as an independent and unimbedded reporter in 2003. My impression is that his reporting is largely if not entirely confined to the internet, and of course reporting like his is an important part of the reason that in terms of real news coverage the traditional print news media are being replaced increasingly by the electronic media. The desire for honest information coupled with the inability of corporate print publications to overcome the ideological imperatives of the owners is steadily eroding their readership.

      Most important in our search for truth is the need to protect the most vulnerable ‘truth tellers’, those individuals like Mohammed Omer whose life circumstanes have offered them the dangerous opportunity to — as I think Chomsky phrased it — to speak truth to power. There’s no doubt that the Zionist Nazis who rule Israel now want the truth about Gaza to be hidden and that they are eager to silence people like Omer, if they can manage it in a way that does not bring them additional condemnation. [5]

[1] John Pilger. My experience with Pilger is that everything of his I’ve read has the ring of truth — never a false note, never the subterfuge of softening ugly facts with euphemisms. A talk he gave at Columbia University in New York on 14 April 2006 serves as a good introduction to this man on fire with compassion and decency. He, along with Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh and Charles Glass had been invited to the Heyman Center for the Humanities for a discussion entitled ‘Breaking the Silence: War, lies and empire’. A transcript of Pilger’s talk, with a few obvious typos, is at http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=267. Here are a few excerpts:
      "...a journalist for more than 40 years..." he speaks of "...censorship by omission, the product of a parallel world of unspoken truth and public myths and lies: in other words, censorship by journalism, which today has become war by journalism."
      "For me, this is the most virulent and powerful form of censorship, fuelling an indoctrination that runs deep in western societies, deeper than many journalists themselves understand or will admit to. Its power is such that it can mean the difference between life and death for untold numbers of people in faraway countries, like Iraq."
      "The atrocities [in Vietnam] were not aberrations. The war itself was an atrocity. That was the 'big story' and it was seldom news...the word 'invasion' was almost never used. The fiction of a well-intentioned, blundering giant, stuck in an Asian quagmire, was promoted by most journalists, incessantly. It was left to whistleblowers at home to tell the subversive truth -- those like Daniel Ellsberg, and mavericks like Seymour Hersh with his extraordinary scoop of the My Lai massacre. There were 649 reporters in Vietnam at the time of My Lai on March 16, 1968. Not one of them reported it. (emphasis added)
      "The invasion of Vietnam was deliberate and calculated, as were policies and strategies that bordered on genocide and were designed to force millions of people to abandon their homes."
      "The Hollywood movies that followed the war were an extension of the journalism. The first was The Deerhunter, whose director Michael Cimino fabricated his own military service in Vietnam, and invented scenes of Vietnamese playing Russian roulette with American prisoners...
      "This was followed by Apocalyse Now, whose writer, John Millius, invented a sequence about the Vietcong cutting off the arms of children. More oriental barbarity, more American angst, more purgative for the audience. Then there was the Rambo series and the 'missing in action' films that fed the lie of Americans still imprisoned in Vietnam...
      "Even the official truth, or the liberal version, that the 'noble cause' had failed in Vietnam, was a myth. From Kennedy to Ford, the American war establishment had seen Vietnam as a threat, because it offered an alternative model of development. The weaker the country, the greater the threat of a good example to that region and beyond. By the time the last US Marine had left the roof of the American embassy in Saigon, Vietnam was economically and environmentally crushed and the threat had been extinguished.
      "In the acclaimed movie The Killing Fields, the story of a New York Times reporter and his stringer in Cambodia, scenes that showed the Vietnamese as liberators of Cambodia in 1979 were filmed, but never shown.
      "These showed Vietnamese soldiers as the liberators they were, handing out food to the survivors of Pol Pot. To my knowledge, this censorship was never reported. The cut version of The Killing Fields complied with the official truth then dominant in the United States, especially in the liberal press, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the New York Review of Books. This set out to justify the crime of the Vietnam war by dehumanising the Vietnamese communists and confusing them, in the public mind, with Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge."
      The above excerpts are from perhaps the first 35 or 40 percent of the transcript. Pilger then goes from South East Asia to Central America and on to the Middle East, pursuing the same theme: the media in the 'democracies' as primary promoters of barbaric wars by the mainly English speaking Western powers.

[2] Corporate media and government bias. One example of persistent dishonesty is the role of The New York Times in supporting the G.W. Bush administration’s drive for an attack on Iraq. According to New York Magazine “Judith Miller’s series of exclusives about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ... helped the New York Times keep up with the competition and the Bush administration bolster the case for war.” http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/media/features/9226/.

[3] The Los Angeles Times report, at http://articles.latimes.com/2008/nov/03/world/fg-journalist3, omits any mention of the fact that Omer was taken directly from the so-called interrogation room by ambulance to a hospital, thus leaving the otherwise uninformed reader to choose whether it is Omer or the Israeli government statement that is lying.

[4] Transcript of Mohammed Omer’s account of his treatment by the Israeli agents. At http://freedetainees.org/action-mohammed-omer-journalist-detained-by-israel
    A report of his titled "The Gaza Press Corps: Blockade Runners Trafficking in Truth" appeared in the April 2009 issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It is posted at http://www.wrmea.com/archives/April_2009/0904014.html.
    Another of his articles, titled "Gaza on the Ground: Lifesavers Made of Mud", is illustrative of some everyday realities families face in Gaza. It is posted at http://www.wrmea.com/archives/April_2009/0904019.html.

[5] A fascinating, and very timely revelation of the schemes to which the Zionist Nazis readily resort is given by the example of their attempt to kill Khalid Mishal by an untraceable crime. The book, Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas by Paul McGeough is reviewed in the 14 May 2009 issue of the London Review of Books by one of the editors, Adam Shatz. The review begins,
    “In early September 1997, Danny Yatom, the head of Mossad, arranged a special screening for Binyamin Netanyahu, who was then prime minister. The film, shot on the streets of Tel Aviv, presented the plan for the assassination of Khalid Mishal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau in Amman . . . Netanyahu liked what he saw, and gave Yatom the go-ahead.” The review is at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n09/shtz01_.html.
    The same eager murderer is now again the Israeli Prime Minister. Evidence that this was not an aberration in the behavior of the Israeli government is given in the article, Israel’s Failed Assassination Attempt on U.S. Ambassador Documented, by Andrew I. Killgore, at http://www.wrmea.com/archives/May_2004/0405013.html.

George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an Emeritus Prof of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.
All comments and criticisms are welcome.  <georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>

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Initial posting of this page: 30 May 2009.
Last update: 27 December 2010