Rene — Fisk — Lies and Outrages … would you believe it?

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel | Comments Off on Rene — Fisk — Lies and Outrages … would you believe it?

One of the reasons I like to post Fisk’s articles is that they are really sometimes beyond any journalism we know, they border on subaltern histories, on opinions, on first hand accounts, and on the poetic. Language loses its thread sometimes and borders some strange malady, what else could we expect from someone who has walked in his shoes. Here is a strange and lovely bit of fragmentary writing. -RG
The Independent/UK
Published: 09 June 2007
It was Israel which attacked Egypt after Nasser closed the straits
of Tiran
When I was a schoolboy, I loved a column which regularly appeared
in British papers called “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”. In a single
rectangular box filled with naively drawn illustrations, Ripley –
Bob Ripley – would try to astonish his readers with amazing facts:
“Believe It or Not, in California, an entire museum is dedicated to
candy dispensers … Believe It or Not, a County Kerry man possesses
an orange that is 25 years old … Believe It or Not, a weather
researcher had his ashes scattered on the eve of Hurricane Danielle
400 miles off the coast of Miama, Florida.” Etc, etc, etc.
Incredibly, Ripley’s column lives on, and there is even a collection of
“Ripley Believe It or Not” museums in the United States.
The problem, of course, is that these are all extraordinary facts
which will not offend anyone. There are no suicide bombers in Ripley,
no Israeli air strikes (“Believe It or Not, 17,000 Lebanese and
Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in Israel’s 1982
invasion of Lebanon”), no major casualty tolls (“Believe It or Not,
up to 650,000 Iraqis died in the four years following the 2003
Anglo-American invasion of Iraq”). See what I mean? Just a bit too
close to the bone (or bones).
But I was reminded of dear old Ripley when I was prowling through the
articles marking the anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Memoirs
there have been aplenty, but I think only the French press – in the
shape of Le Monde Diplomatique – was prepared to confront a bit of
“Believe It or Not”.
It recalled vividly – and shamefully – how the world’s newspapers
covered the story of Egypt’s “aggression” against Israel. In reality –
Believe It or Not – it was Israel which attacked Egypt after Nasser
closed the straits of Tiran and ordered UN troops out of Sinai and Gaza
following his vituperative threats to destroy Israel. “The Egyptians
attack Israel,” France-Soir told its readers on 5 June 1967, a whopper
so big that it later amended its headline to “It’s Middle East War!”.
Quite so. Next day, the socialist Le Populaire headlined its story
“Attacked on all sides, Israel resists victoriously”. On the same
day, Le Figaro carried an article announcing that “the victory of the
army of David is one of the greatest of all time”. Believe It or Not,
the Second World War – which might be counted one of the greatest of
all time, had ended only 22 years earlier.
Johnny Hallyday, France’s undie-able pop star, sang for 50,000 French
supporters of Israel – for whom solidarity was expressed in the French
press by Serge Gainsbourg, Juliette Gréco, Yves Montand, Simone
Signoret, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Francois Mitterand. Believe
It or Not – and you can believe it – Mitterand once received the
coveted Francisque medal from Pétain’s Vichy collaborationists.
Only the president of France, General de Gaulle, moved into political
isolation by telling a press conference several months later that
Israel “is organising, on the territories which it has taken, an
occupation which cannot work without oppression, repression and
expulsions – and if there appears resistance to this, it will in
turn be called ‘terrorism'”. This accurate prophecy earned reproof
from the Nouvel Observateur – to the effect that “Gaullist France
has no friends; it has only interests”. And Believe It or Not, with
the exception of one small Christian paper, there was in the entire
French press one missing word: Palestinians.
I owe it to the academic Anicet Mobé Fansiama to remind me this week
that – Believe It or Not – Congolese troops from Belgium’s immensely
wealthy African colony scored enormous victories over Italian troops
in Africa during the Second World War, capturing 15,000 prisoners,
including nine generals. Called “the Public Force” – a name which
happily excluded the fact that these heroes were black Congolese –
the army mobilised 13,000 soldiers and civilians to fight Vichy French
colonies in Africa and deployed in the Middle East – where they were
positioned to defend Palestine – as well as in Somalia, Madagascar,
India and Burma.
Vast numbers of British and American troops passed through the Congo
as its wealth was transferred to the war chests of the United States
and Britain.
A US base was built at Kinshasa to move oil to Allied troops fighting
in the Middle East.
But – Believe It or Not – when Congolese trade unions, whose members
were requisitioned to perform hard labour inside Belgium’s colony by
carrying agricultural and industrial goods and military equipment,
often on their backs, demanded higher salaries, the Belgian authorities
confronted their demonstrations with rifle fire, shooting down 50 of
their men.
At least 3,000 political prisoners were deported for hard labour to
a remote district of Congo. Thus were those who gave their blood
for Allied victory repaid. Or rather not repaid. The four billion
Belgian francs which was owed back to the Congo – about £500m in
today’s money – was never handed over.
Believe It or Not.
So let’s relax and return to Ripley reality. “Believe It or Not,
Russell Parsons of Hurricane, West Virginia, has his funeral and
cremation instructions tattooed on his arm! … Believe It or Not,
in April 2007 (yes, these are new Ripleys) a group of animal lovers
paid nearly $3,400 to buy 300 lobsters from a Maine fish market –
then set them free back into the ocean! … Believe It or Not, in a
hospital waiting room, 70 per cent of people suffer from broken bones,
75 per cent are fatigued, 80 per cent have fevers. What percentage
of people must have all four ailments?” Believe It or Not, I don’t
know. And oh yes, “Geta, Emperor of Rome AD189-212, insisted upon
alternative meals. A typical menu: partridge (perdix), peacock (pavo),
leek (porrum), beans (phaseoli), peach (persica), plum (pruna) and
melon (pepone).”
I guess after that, you just have to throw up.