For the life of me I can’t understand why Michael Conniff keeps touting Barry Schochet as a Middle East expert, a title that Barry himself denies. This is a con of the highest degree, and I’m disappointed in Conniff for falling for it. His show endorses liberty and justice, yet he allows Barry Schochet to promote the opposite agenda. This is a great disservice to Con Games listeners, who hope to glean a better understanding of today’s issues and events. But it’s a greater disservice to the Palestinian people who are suffering and dying because of lies like Barry Schochet uses to justify Israel’s oppression of millions of innocent civilians.
For the record, Schochet’s Middle East “expertise” is limited to his position as a Congressional foreign policy advisor. I can’t find any information regarding his qualifications for that position, but after hearing Barry’s take on Israel/Palestine, I suspect he didn’t really need any qualifications because his role was more to ensure support of Israel than to increase understanding of the complex issues facing our policymakers. This is a serious problem in Washington. The Israel lobby, through the use of Jewish “policy advisors” like Barry, has been pushing a lopsided view of Middle East issues, to the point that in Congress, the media, and among the American public, the truth is now dismissed in favor of the myths being perpetrated by the Israeli propaganda machine.
So as someone who has spent an inordinate amount of time and energy in the last six years, sifting through massive amounts of information for the truth about Israel/Palestine, I must once again dispel the myths that Barry Schochett so arrogantly proclaimed as fact on the January 25th Con Games show.
Barry’s claim that the wall between Egypt and Gaza was built by Egypt to keep the Palestinians out because “no one wants those people,” is a gross lie. In September of 2000, when Ariel Sharon visited a sacred Muslim site and proclaimed that it would remain forever in Jewish hands, the Second Intifada was sparked. Because of the violence against settlers in Gaza, the wall was built by the Israelis to keep weapons from being smuggled in from Egypt. Barry’s claim that there is no barrier between Israel and Gaza is of course, ridiculous. Gaza is a prison which Israel guards tightly, controlling the fenced border, the air and sea as well as most of the energy supply.
Now on to the greenhouses that Barry claims were left by the Israeli settler’s and destroyed by the Palestinians. Yes, after the withdrawal some were looted to provide supplies for Palestinian farmer’s own greenhouses. But unfortunately for those who depend on agriculture for their economy, most of the greenhouses were destroyed by the Israeli settlers who didn’t want to leave them for use by the Palestinians. Not without getting some money for them anyway.
“July 15, 2005 JERUSALEM, July 14 – About half the greenhouses in the Israeli settlements in Gaza have already been dismantled by their owners, who have given up waiting to see if the government was going to come up with extra payment as an inducement to leave them behind, say senior officials working on the coordination of this summer’s Israeli pullout from Gaza.”
“Withdrawal From Gaza Under international pressure to save what is left for Palestinian economic development, Israeli and international officials are working on a plan to pay settlers to hand over the remaining greenhouses and a dairy to Palestinians, to preserve jobs and production. These businesses provide thousands of jobs to Gazans.”
“Of the roughly 1,000 acres of agricultural land that were under greenhouses in the 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza, only 500 acres remain – creating significant doubts that the greenhouses could be handed over to the Palestinians as “a living business,” http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/15/international/middleeast/15mideast.html?scp=1&sq=greenhouses+in+gaza&st=nyt
The remaining greenhouses were saved because the settlers were successful in using them as leverage to obtain money, which was ultimately provided by the Aspen Institute. That’s the only part of the story that Barry got right…
August 13, 2005 JERUSALEM, Aug. 12 – “A consortium of wealthy Americans has put up $14 million to compensate Jewish settlers for their Gaza Strip greenhouses, and the facilities will be handed over to the Palestinians as soon as the Israelis leave, participants in the deal said Friday….Jewish settlers have complained that the Israeli government was not offering sufficient compensation, and they have threatened to dismantle or destroy computerized irrigation systems and other valuable equipment needed to keep the greenhouses running….Mr. Wolfensohn said that with the danger of the greenhouses being torn down, he turned to private donors to raise the money for the greenhouses – specifically about a half dozen wealthy individuals whom he declined to identify….The donors are giving the money to the Aspen Institute, a private business and public policy advocacy group that set up a program to ease investments in Gaza and the West Bank about a year ago….According to Mr. Karni, the agreement covers about 90 percent of the more than 1,000 acres of greenhouses in Gush Katif, the main settlement cluster in Gaza. However, some journalists who have been to the area recently say a good number of the greenhouses have already been at least partly dismantled. Some Gaza farmers hope to rebuild them in Israel, while others say they oppose leaving them for Palestinians. It is unclear what percentage of the greenhouses are in working order, though some estimate it at around 50 percent.”
So what happened to the remaining greenhouses?
From the NY Times; “The Palestinians invested millions of dollars to repair the greenhouses shortly after the Israelis left, and had an excellent crop in the winter of 2005 and 2006. But they were unable to export their produce to Europe, the main market, because Israel kept Gaza’s main crossing for goods closed for weeks at a time, citing security concerns.”
The crops, so carefully nurtured by the Palestinian farmers, were left to rot at the closed gates of Gaza. The World Bank recently issued a statement saying that Israel’s closures and blockades have ruined the Palestinian economy. That is not only cruel, it’s criminal.
As on a previous appearance, Schochett made the erroneous claim that in 1949 the Arab states told the Palestinians to leave so that they could attack Israel. And he again made the racist statement that “Palestinians don’t want peace.” I’ve already dealt with these lies in a previous post; http://www.aspenpost.net/2007/11/30/the-myth-of-hatred/ as well as other myths about the Palestinians here; http://www.aspenpost.net/2007/12/25/the-monster-that-devoured-cleveland/
The Palestinian people need our support in order to peacefully end Israel’s illegal occupation and obtain their own state, in which they can enjoy the freedom and justice under law that we Americans prize. To give our crucial support, we must be able to understand the cruel and unfair conditions under which the Palestinians are struggling to survive. We must be told the truth by people in positions of authority and the media.
Rather than illuminating the situation for Con Games listeners, Barry Schochet’s obfuscating remarks lend more fuel to the fire of racism against Palestinians. Portraying the Palestinians as people “no one wants” who “don’t want peace,” ostensibly excuses Israel from their crimes against civilians and violation of International Humanitarian Law.
Barry Schochett apparently doesn’t mind being a willfull accessory to those crimes, but from Michael Conniff, as a member of the media and a self-proclaimed liberal, I expect better.