Reprinted from www.libertylobby.org, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive
Mainstream Media Ignores Palestinian Legal Claims on Land; Covers for Israeli Crimes
William W. Baker, an ex-U.S. Marine and Christian Biblical archeologist with first-hand experience in observing Israel's suppression of the Palestinian people, was the guest on the Oct. 15 broadcast of The SPOTLIGHT's weekly call-in talk forum, Radio Free America, with host Tom Valentine.
What follows is an edited transcript of the interview. Valentine's questions are in boldface. Baker's responses are in regular text.
You have a lot of interesting first-hand experience in the Middle East, particularly in the troubled region around Jerusalem.
I lived there and saw all of the atrocities and the barbarities and the arrogance by the Israelis against these Palestinian people, humble people, good people, poor people. I didn't start out to write a book, but I had to write that book.
My book Theft of a Nation actually refers in the Arabic to "the theft of a people." An entire people have been dispossessed and the state of Israel has been placed on the backs of these innocent people. I promised some of those Pales tinian children I saw suffering that I would always be a voice for them as long as I lived.
The Palestinians are a capable, learned and professional people. They are a unique, wonderful people and it has been a great grievance in history (and in my heart) to see these people suffer these past 53 years.
In all the years that I lived in Palestine and studied in Jerusalem as an archeology student in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I don't think I have been a witness to the possibility and potential for the entire deterioration of stability in the whole Middle East as we're seeing right now.
Would you agree that Ariel Sharon and the Israeli hard-liners deliberately provoked these events that are taking place today?
Absolutely. I don't think there's any question about it. I'm getting so tired of hearing the same old song sung on the major news networks and people such as Hillary Rodham, who is campaigning for the Jewish vote in New York, having the nerve -- after anybody with a television saw the 12 year old boy and his father being pinned down by Israeli fire and then the boy being intentionally assassinated -- to say that the next move for peace lies at the feet of Yasser Arafat.
They arrested accused Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and brought him back to France and called him the "Butcher of Lyon," yet, that same type of label was also given to Sharon, who was known as the "Butcher of Beirut." Sharon is an absolute killer.
But this whole affair going on now wasn't just the work of Sharon. Barak was involved in this, too. Sharon had no authority to go to the Temple Mount on his own. And, in fact, according to Jewish law, no practicing Jew is permitted to go to the Temple Mount.
Interestingly, some years ago as Is rael's interior minister, Sharon prevented mobs of ignorant fundamentalist Jews from going to the Temple Mount to cause problems. But why did he suddenly de cide to go there, accompanied by some 1,500 soldiers and another 2,000 supporters gathered outside?
This was an act of provocation. Sharon had to have had permission. And this is the outrageous thing: he gave one week's notice to the United States, and to the Israeli Knesset and to Barak that he was going to the Temple Mount. This was a deliberate effort to stop the peace dialogue from any kind of a positive result. The Israelis and the United States knew that Sharon was going to the Harem Sharif, which means, in Arabic, "noble sanctuary." No one made an effort to stop him.
The whole point is that this all comes down to Israeli politics. Barak's Labor government is in trouble and he will lose his prime minister's post if he doesn't recruit some new supporters among other Israeli political parties. Barak knows that he needs enough votes to remain as prime minister, and he wants votes from the rival Likud to keep in power. So Barak traded off and essentially said that he'd rather do business with Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut, than with former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is standing on the sidelines waiting to come back and take over the Likud leadership.
Everybody thinks somewhat kindly of Shimon Peres of Barak's Labor Party, but we have to remember that they are all tied into this together. I think Barak wanted a way out of the Oslo peace accords and out of the Camp David agreements and the concessions that he said he was willing to make, and now he's got a way out. Even Yitzhak Rabin, the late vaunted peacemaker, is the one who said "break their bones" when the Palestinian intifada erupted some years ago. I'll never forget seeing the arms of Palestinian children being stretched out on the Mount of Olives by Israeli soldiers and crushed with stones.
The average American is being told that this is all Yasser Arafat's fault.
The Arab Palestinians who are citizens of Israel are 18 percent of the population of Israel and they have representatives in the Knesset. Barak doesn't want to make any concessions to them and he's never had one of them in his coalition.
What is significant is that they are rioting and demonstrating, burning banks and Israeli offices. It is no longer just the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank, who are rioting. Now Arabs who elected to become citizens of Israel are rioting, too. This isn't making the news.
This is history and Americans don't know anything about it. These Arab citizens of Israel -- who are treated as second-class citizens, but who are citizens nonetheless -- are now part of the uprising for the first time.
This has astounded the Israelis. For years the Israelis have treated the Arab citizens like servants. The Arabs in Israel get all the low-collar or no-collar jobs as do the Palestinians -- their brothers -- in the West Bank. Now they are all joining together in the protests.
The media says that Arafat should "call off" the protests, but he can't call it off, since he didn't call for it in the first place. Arafat did not create the first intifada, which doesn't mean "rising up," as many people think. Instead, it means "shaking" or shaking off shackles. Nor did Arafat stir up the latest protests.
The Israelis orchestrated all of this. Ariel Sharon knew exactly what he was doing when he desecrated the Temple Mount with his bloody feet and his atheistic body, with all of these soldiers ready to fire.
I'm so tired of hearing about these "rubber" bullets that the Israelis are using on the Palestinians. These are steel bullets with a little thin coat of rubber. People are dying from them. Most of the Palestinian victims of these "rubber" bullets have been shot in the head or in the upper torso. The Israelis are aiming to kill.
Arafat has some responsibility because he said and promised to the millions of Palestinians in the Middle East and around the world that he was going to call for a Palestinian state by Sept. 13. The Palestinians have waited through 53 years of occupation by the Israelis and still there is no state, even though United Nations resolutions 242 and 338 calls for it. However, Arafat caved in to the United States and the West and even China. Officials from all of these countries told him, "No, don't call now for a Palestinian state."
I think this frustration among the Palestinians boiled over when Sharon ap peared. So if Arafat is guilty of something, it is for not following through and doing what was right for his people and right for the time and to do go ahead and call for a Palestinian homeland.
What has been Bill Clinton's role in all of this?
Clinton has constantly made all kinds of promises behind the scenes to Arafat that are not written, not kept, not documented. In my opinion, his whole desire is not heartfelt peace. Otherwise he would have been standing for justice, which means that the Palestinians have a right to a homeland. Clinton should have called on the Israelis to stop their tanks and their cobra gunships which they are using to fire rockets on people in the Palestinian villages. I've been in those villages and I just can't imagine helicopter gunships blowing up these people.
If you look at Clinton's whole attitude -- and that's the way you have to look at things -- he wanted the Nobel Peace Prize. He saw himself resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, he has been insensitive to the lives of the Palestinian people.
Retired Ambassador Andrew Kill gore pointed out here on Radio Free America that the Palestinians have always been victims of colonialism of one sort or another.
I pointed this out at a state function at the British Parliament where I spoke. I said, "We can go anywhere to a world map, blindfolded and just touch the area and say, 'The British did it.' " The legacy of what has happened in Kashmir -- another topic -- is still boiling. The British have been at the root of colonization (including in Palestine), disrupting the people and then leaving, claiming that they would give the people independence. The British said that there would be two states created when they pulled out of Palestine in 1948: a Jewish state and a Palestinian state for the indigenous, native people.
I was watching Politically Incorrect, this television show hosted by Bill Maher, and he made the ridiculous statement that the Palestinians weren't even na tives of Palestine, and said that they should go to one of the Arab countries. He said that Palestine should be all for Jews. That's racism and not historically accurate either.
Remember: David fought Goliath, the Philistine, and that word refers to the Palestinians. The Palestinians have been there a long time and anyone who says that this is not their land is an ignorant fool. They have been there from time immemorial. Although the Palestinians have been under occupation by a lot of powers over the years, they are a very separate people.
I've seen many old-time generations of Palestinian families who have documents that show that even throughout many occupations going back to the Ottoman Empire these families retained their land and paid taxes. Only when the Jews occupied Palestine did they confiscate the land of the Palestinians, blow up their houses and expand new settlements for Jewish immigrants, many of them from America.
Americans seem to think that Palestine was just a desert until the Jews came along.
This is another one of the great propaganda myths created by the Israelis. When foolish American Christian tour groups are taken over there, shown the desert and then shown beautiful flowers and vegetables under hothouse protection with underground irrigation, the Israelis say, "See, as prophesied in the Bible, we've turned the desert blooming."
These are the Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson types who say that you can't be a true Christian unless you pray for Israel against the Arabs.
I can tell you, however, that the Palestinians are some of the world's greatest agriculturalists, even using sticks and wooden plows and mules, without the technology, and they have been known all around the world.
The entire Muslim world -- which extends all over the world, not just the Middle East -- will become in flamed if the Israelis try to expand their power and if they try to continue to keep the Palestinians as slaves.
The people who scrub the floors and clean the toilets in Israel have always been the Palestinians. Even the Black Falasha Jews from Africa who were so touted by the media when the media talked about how wonderful the Israelis were in bringing them to Israel have most all returned to Africa.
The Black Jews did not want to stay in Israel and do the menial tasks for the mostly European Ashkenazi Jews -- the 15 percent who run the country. They are elitists and the American people don't have an understanding of this.
The Islamic world is nearly two billion. The Arab world is only 150 million people out of that total. So this could result in something worldwide as far as Muslims are concerned. There are now repercussions in what are usually staid Arab countries such as Oman. They are having demonstrations and rioting there in favor of the Palestinians. Morocco, which has been one of the few Arab countries to ever have any relations with Israel, is now having popular demonstrations to break that trade. It's happening in Jordan, where they are protesting and saying they don't want to see Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on television there because it is so offensive to them.
Old disputes among Arab states are dissolving now because of what is happening to the Palestinian Arabs. You have a thawing of the relationship between Iraq and Iran, for example, and these are major powers. A coalition of former enemies are coming together and saying: "Let's focus on our common enemy."
If there is a war in which the United States intervenes on behalf of Israel, the American people are going to learn the truth sadly at the cost of their children coming home in body bags, having died for Israel that has done nothing but in flame the entire Middle East with their expansionism and exclusivity.
The American people better wake up now and take a stand now so they won't allow one American child to be sent to defend Israel. The state of Israel is like a bully that picks on everybody and then says, "My Uncle is going to fight you," and that uncle is Uncle Sam.