Saturday, June 9, 2007

Lies and outrages... would you believe it?

It was Israel which attacked Egypt after Nasser closed the straits of Tiran

By Robert Fisk
The Independent

"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.....

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!"......

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......"

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