Bill Moyers on Israel/Gaza

The PBS journalist delivers the type of balanced and sober assessment of the latest Middle East War that is virtually never heard in our political establishment.

By Glenn Greenwald

Published January 10, 2009 11:44AM (EST)

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

On his PBS Journal Show last night, Bill Moyers delivered a poignant essay on Israel/Gaza (video below).  The whole segment is worth watching -- it begins with coverage of a mostly ignored anti-war march this week in Washington (while media hordes, down the street, fixated on the Roland Burris circus) -- but Moyers' essay begins at roughly the 2:20 mark. 

The most striking aspect is that sober, fact-based, even-handed commentary like this about Israel automatically subjects one to widespread, profoundly ugly accusations of being "anti-Israel" and even "anti-Semitic," to the point where not a single U.S. Senator and no House member other than a handful dare utter anything other than unquestioning support for Israeli actions, such that most members of the U.S. Congress are, literally, far more willing to question and oppose American military actions than Israel's military actions (the establishment discussion rules are virtually identical to those that prevailed in the pre-Iraq-war days, though even more rigidly enforced:  one can question the efficacy of the Israeli attack from the perspective of Israeli interests, but may not question its morality, legality or justifiability):

Moyers worked in Lyndon Johnson's White House when Johnson escalated the Vietnam War, and was Johnson's Press Secretary for much of that time (from 1965-1967).  His views of bombing campaigns of civilian populations are undoubtedly shaped by that experience.

The transcript for Moyers' show is here, and the Miller article he references, which really should be read by anyone interested in this issue, is here.  The Moyers segment does reflect the fact that one does find marginally more criticism of the Israeli attack on Gaza and more questioning of U.S. policy towards Israel, and finds it in more places, than has been true in the past.


UPDATE:  The Weekly Standard claims that Condoleezza Rice strongly advocated that the U.S. vote in favor of the U.N. Resolution which the Security Council approved on Thursday by a 14-0 vote and which urges a cease-fire in Gaza; Dick Cheney argued that the U.S. should veto the Resolution, and Bush ultimately adopted Stephen Hadley's compromise suggestion to abstain, thereby allowing the Resolution to pass.  Hamas and Israel competed with one another to see who could refuse most quickly to abide by the Resolution, and now -- as Haaretz reports this morning -- this is Israel's response:

The Israel Air Force has dropped leaflets on the Gaza Strip warning residents that it plans to escalate its two-week-old offensive.

The army says it has dropped the fliers throughout Gaza. It says the notices are meant as a "general warning."

The notice says Israel is about to begin a "new phase in the war on terror." It says it will "escalate" an operation that already has killed more than 800 Palestinians.

It's hard to imagine, short of full-on indiscriminate civilian bombing, how this attack can be "escalated."  Is there any limit at all to the number of civilian deaths that Israel is willing to cause?  And, given that Palestinians are not allowed to leave Gaza and have no safe haven within the Gaza Strip, what is the point of dropping leaflets warning the civilian population of "escalation" other than, as Moyers put it, to sow further terror?

A new U.N. Report is demanding a war crimes investigation into a particularly gruesome and inhumane civilian slaughter last week, but U.N. Resolutions and the like only matter when they can be used as pretexts for military action (Saddam Hussein is ignoring U.N. Resolutions!, the White House righteously protested).  Each day that passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand how anyone can think this is in Israel's interests.  That it's not in the interests of the U.S. has been -- outside of the Dick Cheney/John Bolton/Fox News world -- patently obvious from the outset.


UPDATE II:  According to the Report issued on Thursday (.pdf) by the U.N.'s Humanitarian Affairs Office, more than 1/3 of overall Palestinian deaths are children (34% of the almost 800 total deaths), and a similar percentage of the more than 3,000 wounded are also children (34.8%). 

To put that in perspective, note that the Russian invasion of Georgia -- which was vehemently and universally condemned in the U.S. as an excessive and brutal response to Georgia's assault on South Ossetia -- resulted, according to the Georgian government, in total deaths on the Georgia side of 405 (220 of whom were civilians) and total number of civilians wounded between 200-250 (see page 10 of this Amnesty International Report -- .pdf).  The Russians agreed to a cease-fire accord after 5 days; the Israelis explicitly reject the U.N.'s call for a cease fire and continue to "escalate" after 14 full days (and counting) of full-scale air and land attacks on Gaza.  

Of course, all of that pales in comparision to the duration, destruction and carnage created by the U.S. as a result of the Iraq War (the most unprovoked of all of these conflicts).  To say that the U.S. applies a glaring double standard to wars fought by its allies and its "enemies" (to say nothing of itself) is to understate the case.


UPDATE III:  I have a question for supporters of the Israeli attack on Gaza:  Prior to the Iraq War, if it were known that the war would last six years, that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would die and millions more would be internally and externally displaced, there would presumably have been some number of supporters of the U.S. invasion who would have changed their minds, concluding that the costs (human, financial and otherwise) were too great to render the invasion justifiable.

For supporters of the Israeli war in Gaza:  is there some number of Palestinian civilian deaths that, once exceeded, renders this war unjustifiable?  1,000?  10,000?  25,000?  Or is the idea that because Israel is justified in the mission itself, then the number of Palestinian civilian deaths is irrelevant -- i.e., Israel should do what it thinks it needs to do and, provided it exercises some form of "restraint," then it is justified regardless of how many innocent human beings (Palestinians) die as a result?

Glenn Greenwald

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