Lunacy by Robert Fisk: Indy journalist blames Israel for US abuses in Iraq


Robert Fisk’s latest exploration into the Israeli heart of darkness for The Independent (An obsessive’s documenting of Israeli war crimes in Lebanon can show us how the West lost respect for international law, Dec. 8) begins thus:

Odd [Norwegian journalist] Karsten Tveit was always a very obsessional chap. Every story he covered, he always wanted to dig deeper, study further, hear one more tale of horror, one more joke, one more historical fact.  We all covered the story of Israel’s wars in Lebanon, in 1978, in 1982, in 1996, in 2006. Over the years, I covered the story of Israel’s torturers in Khiam jail in southern Lebanon, the massive Ansar prison camp in 1982, the frightful interrogation of Lebanese and Palestinian inmates.

However, while the extent of Israeli involvement with the Khiam prison during the Lebanese Civil War is debatable, it’s clear that Khiam was run by the South Lebanese Army, and that the torturers were almost certainly Lebanese.

Nevertheless, such misleading suggestions of Israeli guilt are not the worst part of his story.  The most egregious examples of Fisk’s tortured logic can be seen in the following passages:

And I wondered, reading this shameful narrative [of Israeli brutality], why we were so surprised when we found that the American military were torturing and killing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Karsten says at one point that Israeli soldiers in the occupation zone in southern Lebanon – the Israelis called it a ‘security zone’, a description that many newspapers gutlessly repeated – were joint Israeli-American nationals. Did any of them also serve in the American army in Iraq?

The mass prison camp at Ansar sounds like a hot version of Guantanamo. And when the US repeatedly vetoed UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s treatment of Lebanese civilians, I wonder whether somehow that’s when American governments lost their respect for international law – as they showed in their treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan (or the Iraqi invasion itself).

No word other than lunacy can fairly characterize such a conclusion.  Fisk is claiming that the alleged Israeli brutality in Lebanon arguably influenced US abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo – as well as the country’s loss of “respect for international law” more broadly!

His sole piece of evidence? The possibility that a few American-Israelis (“joint Israeli-American nationals”) who served in southern Lebanon in the early 80s may have returned to the US and then served in the US Army in Iraq (20 years later!) in the early 2000s, infecting US troops with their ‘odious’ Israeli values. 

If serious questions arise from the fact that Fisk’s rant was published as a ‘serious analysis’, it relates to the following spirited defense by Indy editors to charges leveled by Alex Brummer. Here’s part of what they wrote in an Oct. 4 editorial titled ‘Neither Israel nor the broader Jewish community is demonised by this newspaper’.

In a throwaway remark on Radio 4’s Today yesterday, Alex Brummer, City Editor of the Daily Mail, said: “In comparison with The Guardian and The Independent, which frequently demonises Israel, and in so doing demonises the broader Jewish community, [the Daily Mail] is right behind them.” The Guardian can speak for itself. In relation to The Independent, Mr Brummer’s claim is false, myopic, wilfully ignorant, an offence against the integrity of our staff, and an insult to you, our readers.

It is true that, since its founding in 1986, The Independent has championed Enlightenment values; and there have been times when the actions of the Israeli government have not  been driven by enlightened thinking.

Our coverage of Israel is led by our multiple award-winning Middle East Correspondent, Robert Fisk. Mr Fisk, in three decades reporting on that region, understands it better than most of those who slander him, and has been at pains to distinguish between opposition to Israeli policy and anti-Semitism. For 13 of his years at The Independent, he was edited by Simon Kelner, a man of Jewish provenance who has done a very great deal to support Britain’s Jewish diaspora.

Leaving aside the evidently exculpatory evidence pertaining to the “Jewish provenance” of Fisk’s editor, it’s unclear how any serious (“enlightened”) paper can publish such a fantastical account – one suggesting that torture by Arab soldiers at the Khiam jail in Lebanon in the 70s and the mistreatment by military police of the US Army in Iraq (presumably at Abu Ghraib) in 2003 has a Zionist root cause.

Though we of course have no idea if Fisk’s well-documented Israel obsession is influenced by antisemitism, we can certainly conclude that much of his work at the Indy doesn’t even resemble the professional journalism of a serious Middle East correspondent.

29 comments on “Lunacy by Robert Fisk: Indy journalist blames Israel for US abuses in Iraq

  1. Perhaps Mr. Brummer (or even CiF Watch) should write The Independent to inquire – now that the newspaper is passing these judgments – which other nations over the past 27 years there are for which “there have been times” they “have not been driven by enlightened thinking.” Perhaps it could squeeze in the effort to compile an assuredly longer list of the nations of the world that are unremitting in their enlightened practice. Just so we may know where next to find the journalist Fisk working his craft and where not.

    Jews- always a “provenance,” never a province.

  2. “Fisk is claiming that the alleged Israeli brutality in Lebanon arguably influenced US abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo – ”

    This is so naïve as to be cringe worthy . All violence influences the next level anywhere in the world but especially in this instance. The 67 war influenced Vietnam.. robbing the later movement of key pacifists who rediscovered non pacifism. Now even Kissinger is saying they saved the country and got
    nothing but continued confrontation, complicated by arms sales , worries about oil etc

    To deny the generations-old link between the Zionist movement and the US/UK war monstrosity called foreign policy … is laughable. Iraq was planned out by Feith and Wolfovitz for goodness sake

    “Though we of course have no idea if Fisk’s well-documented Israel obsession is influenced by anti-Semitism”

    This is what I would expect from Fox News You can see Hannity saying ” We are not suggesting he fornicated with camels but as yet he has not denied the charge “

    • Vietnam was a war for Israel? Well, if Webshite, the anonymous posting, Israel bashing, Jew denigrating, domestic animal abusing, child rape cheering, and all-around dipshit has anything to say about it, Sure! Why the fuck not?

      And so the answer comes clear. Anti-Semites really don’t understand why they are hated, why they are laughed at, and why they are the most futile, pathetic assmonkeys on this planet. They really are completely full of shit and too stupid to figure that out.

      Bless their little hearts.

    • “To deny the generations-old link between the Zionist movement and the US/UK war monstrosity called foreign policy … is laughable. Iraq was planned out by Feith and Wolfovitz for goodness sake”

      YOu mean those jews who control the world. Why hide behind the zionist movement excuse when it is clearly Jews. that you blame , as your last remark show.

    • “To deny the generations-old link between the Zionist movement and the US/UK war monstrosity called foreign policy … is laughable”

      teehehehe…

      oh wait, you’re being serious, aren’t you? I assumed at first glance that you were parodying the anti-Zionist left.

      • But the Jewish part is a little more.
        Indeed.

        That reminded me of that line from The Last Remake of Beau Geste, in which Digby Geste (played by Marty Feldman) said of Beau (played by Michael York), “We were identical twins, but somehow Beau was much more identical than me.”

    • To deny the generations-old link between the Zionist movement and the US/UK war monstrosity called foreign policy … is laughable. Iraq was planned out by Feith and Wolfovitz for goodness sake

      Thank you for playing …

    • ‘The 67 war influenced Vietnam’.

      Checking dates, I seem to see that the latter war started before the former.

      You brownshirt types are as thick as the substance you’re best associated with.

  3. Let me think of the list of US allies in the ME which practice routine torture. Erm, Turkey, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi and now of course Iraq.
    Then there’s the list of the US’s enemies in the ME which practice routine torture, Iran, Syria, Libya, Hamas.
    And yet for Fisk and the laughingly-called Independent, all torture is the fault of the Joooz.

  4. Mr Levick said:

    “His [Robert Fisk’s] sole piece of evidence? The possibility that a few American-Israelis (“joint Israeli-American nationals”) who served in southern Lebanon in the early 80s may have returned to the US and then served in the US Army in Iraq (20 years later!) in the early 2000s, infecting US troops with their ‘odious’ Israeli values.”

    Mr Levick, this is not what Fisk said in the paragraphs you cited, he didn’t say that the alleged US loss of moral inhibitions concerning torture was the result of double-nationality IDF soldiers joining the US Army. He did refer to the possibility that some might have subsequently joined the US Army, but he did not connect this with his musings on exactly when the US acquired a predisposition to act allegedly immorally.He clearly stated that it was during the early 80s that he speculates that the US allegedly lost its moral compass (Fisk said ” I wonder whether somehow that’s when [emphasis mine] American governments lost their respect for international law” [i.e. during the years that the US was vetoing UNSC Resolutions against Israel’s alleged mistreatment of Lebanese civilians]).

    So Fisk’s claim does not require the possibility that IDF soldiers have joined after 20 years the US Army, contrary to what you say. He is just appealing to the almost-cliche-like popular wisdom that, once we allow ourselves to acquiesce to evil done by others, we become evil ourselves, and the probability increases that we will act in an evil way in the future. And he suggests that the vetoing of the UNSC Resolutions in the 80s was the turning point for the US attitude towards torture.

    I wonder: if you too are an agent (or a victim, if you did it unintentionally) of what you are accusing journalists of, namely the distortion of the facts, then maybe you shouldn’t sound so self-righteous in your criticism of various journalists and media?

    • “He is just appealing to the almost-cliche-like popular wisdom that, once we allow ourselves to acquiesce to evil done by others, we become evil ourselves, and the probability increases that we will act in an evil way in the future”

      In its simple generalisation an appeal to simple minds. Don`t let facts stand their ways.

  5. You write:

    “He is just appealing to the almost-cliche-like popular wisdom that, once we allow ourselves to acquiesce to evil done by others, we become evil ourselves, and the probability increases that we will act in an evil way in the future. And he suggests that the vetoing of the UNSC Resolutions in the 80s was the turning point for the US attitude towards torture.”

    You seem to support my broader take on Fisk’s piece. The suggestion (by Fisk) that the US was virtuous before it was corrupted by collusion with alleged human rights abuses by Israel (the country in the ME with the best human rights record) is a risible notion – a narrative that could only seem plausible to those obsessed with the “injurious influence” of Zionism.

    Do I really need to list the totalitarian human rights abusing countries, esp during the cold war, that the US allied themselves with? Yet, it is the alliance with Israel, alone among the nations, (not, say, Egypt or Saudi Arabia) who turned the US away from respecting int’l law? Seriously? Have you really thought this through?

    Finally, as someone who was born in America (and am still a US citizen), the fact that the US protects Israel at the UN from state and non-state actors committed for over 65 years to their destruction of the Zionist entity gives me immense pride.

  6. Fisk is not alone, there are many followers of the good old Julius Streicher and dr. Goebbel traditions:
    Palestinian Minister of Women’s Affairs about the rising number of honour killings in the Palestinian society:
    The Israeli occupation is the one practising the utmost violence … it’s the main thing keeping us from advancing.
    An EU supported/financed NGO – Euromid:
    The only answer to the suffering of the people of Gaza, including its neglected women, is for the international community to hold Israel accountable
    The once professional medical journal – Lancet – now the forum of the newly reborn European antisemitism in the medical profession:
    Occupation policies and interactions with occupation forces entail continuous humiliation for men and renders them unable to protect and provide for their families, potentially leading to frustration and violence against people with less power—namely, women and children.

    Arab male abuses his wife/children – who are the real culprit? The Jew naturally…

    • @Mr Adam Levick

      “You seem to support my broader take on Fisk’s piece.”

      I was only protesting your claim that Fisk’s only evidence for his claim that the US allegedly lost its moral compass during the Lebanon years was the possibility that some Israeli-American soldiers joined the US Army during the Iraq years. Fisk was not using this possibility as evidence for his claim. His “evidence” was an implied truism about human nature, too general to be of evidential value. But you made him sound like he’s an idiot, like he was offering an explanation of alleged US immorality by arguing that IDF soldiers must have joined the Iraq war. This was not Fisk’s explanation.

      “The suggestion (by Fisk) that the US was virtuous before it was corrupted by collusion with alleged human rights abuses by Israel (the country in the ME with the best human rights record) is a risible notion – a narrative that could only seem plausible to those obsessed with the “injurious influence” of Zionism. “

      I wouldn’t call it “risible”, i would call it “mistaken”, and mistaken because of one of the very reasons you cite below:

      “Do I really need to list the totalitarian human rights abusing countries, esp during the cold war, that the US allied themselves with? Yet, it is the alliance with Israel, alone among the nations, (not, say, Egypt or Saudi Arabia) who turned the US away from respecting int’l law?”

      I agree that the countries you mentioned are far worse than Israel in terms of human rights abuses, and the fact that they are not included in Fisk’s explanation shows that Fisk’s explanation is mistaken – either because support for Israel has not contributed at all to the US’s alleged immorality, or because this support made only a minor contribution compared to those other countries-allies of the US.

      ” Seriously? Have you really thought this through?”

      Of course i have. I never said that i agree with Fisk’s explanation, i didn’t even take a stance on whether there is indeed an issue of a US alleged immorality to be explained. I only protested your caricaturing (or unintentional misrepresenting) of his view.

      “Finally, as someone who was born in America (and am still a US citizen), the fact that the US protects Israel at the UN from state and non-state actors committed for over 65 years to their destruction of the Zionist entity gives me immense pride.”

      It was never my intention to doubt your sympathy for America.

      • “I wouldn’t call it “risible”, i would call it “mistaken”, and mistaken because of one of the very reasons you cite below:”

        I call it Risible, because the allegation, as mistaken as it is, was made for one purpose only: to bash the State of Israel.

        Now, why would somebody do that? Over and over and over and over? And be declared wrong so very many times? Why would a reporter who wants to be taken seriously continuously resort to publishing a bunch of a slanted pieces about the Israelis and their state?

  7. How is Karsten Tveit to know whether certain Israeli soldiers were dual nationals?
    But Fisk seriously asking whether any of those involved in Lebanon also served in the American army in Iraq takes the biscuit!

    Fisk’s speculation over whether the US lost their respect for international law began with diplomatic support for Israel is likewise barking mad.
    It began in Vietnam and Cambodia, of course.

  8. “No word other than lunacy can fairly characterize such a conclusion.”

    Plenty of other words can characterize Fisk’s odious conclusions, many of them concerned with excretory functions.

    And there is another one: anti-semitism. Fisk’s sick obsession with Israel, and his eagerness to cast Israel as a villain bespeaks of something going on below the surface. I think he’s a Jew-hater.

  9. Excellent fisking Adam. When I read Fisk’s piece, my first reaction was to groan aloud both at his lunacy as you so aptly call it, and at my ill-judged decision to read it in the first place.

    Lately, when I see Fisk’s byline I simply skip his articles. After all I know what he’s going to say in advance. Or at least I’ll know the conclusion: whatever he’s written about, it’s all Israel’s fault. Maybe the Jews too but he’ll try to cloak it in terms of “lobbies” or “influence” etc.

    However this piece has reached new heights (or depths) of sheer lunacy. I don’t know how you kept a straight face, let alone kept your sanity while writing this fisking.

  10. You can never have too much fisking . Personally I think Fisk is well fisked , much the same as his rag which tends to get handed out as a Freebie in Holiday Inn expresses in order to bulk the print run .

  11. There must have been Israeli soldiers serving in the US Army in the Philippines in the early 1900s, or at Wounded Knee. Their influence knows no bounds, Robert (sarcasm off).

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