The Journalist as War Criminal.
By Ahmed Amr
In 1946, Julius Streicher, the Editor of Der Sturmer, an anti-Semitic paper, was sentenced to hang by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal for Nazi War Crimes. In sentencing him, the tribunal gave as cause the evidence that "with knowledge of the extermination of the Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territory, this defendant continued to write and publish his propaganda of death." Streicher was convicted of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. His partner in media crimes, Joseph Goebbels, managed to avoid a similar sentence by committing suicide after first killing his wife and children.
Half a century later, the Streicher case was cited as a precedent for convicting three Hutus of using the media to incite genocide against Tutsis. The three judges presiding over the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda set another precedent by declaring that "those who control the media are accountable for its consequences". According to the BBC, the chief prosecutor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, said that "The tribunal has established an international precedent that those who use media to target a racial or ethnic group for destruction will face justice." He also stated that "the verdict would serve as a warning for journalists and editors in other conflicts".
The Nuremberg Tribunal sent Streicher to the hangman's noose, even though it found that "there is no evidence that he was ever within Hitler's inner circle of advisers, nor during his career was he closely connected with the formulation of policies that led to war." One of the Hutus convicted by the Rwanda Tribunal was Hassan Ngeze, the editor of Kangura, an extremist magazine. He was convicted based on articles that were written several years prior to the onset of the Rwanda genocide. The court found that he had participated in creating a psychological environment that made the genocide possible.
A few years after the genocide in Rwanda, Daniel Pipes writing in the National Post (7/18/2001), recommended that the Israeli government intensify the brutality of the occupation. His specific recipe for new forms of collective punishment against the residents of the West Bank and Gaza was to accelerate the pace of economic warfare against the population and "permit no transportation of people or goods beyond basic necessities. Shut off utilities to the PA. Raze the PA's illegal offices in Jerusalem, its security infrastructure, and villages from which attacks are launched." Read that again and notice that he was advocating 'razing villages' a la Lidice.
Not to be outdone by Daniel Pipes, Cal Thomas recommended the mass expulsion of Palestinians. "It should now be clear that Israel cannot tolerate a huge Arab population within its borders, so a political decision must be made. Most Arabs and Palestinians appear to be nonviolent but it can be difficult to tell the difference...Israel should declare its intention to transfer large numbers of its Palestinian residents to Arab nations...Eviction is a better avenue to stability. Will it happen? Probably not. Should it? Yes." (June 6, 2001, Jewish World Review).
Then you have the editors of the Los Angeles Times who, shortly after Sharon's election, published an article by Edward Luttwak urging Sharon to use his Sabra and Shatila 'talents.' "Sharon will now turn to his earlier talents to direct the most effective uses of force, rather than confining himself to the least provocative." (Los Angeles Times, 6/5/2001).
Three years on, we see the results of Sharon's latest war crime spree. What we are witnessing in the West Bank and Gaza is another Sabra and Shatila massacre on the installment plan. It appears that Sharon has resurrected Unit 101, the notorious death squad that he commanded in the massacre at Qibya in 1953. Hardly a day goes by, without a few unarmed Palestinians getting shot by Israeli occupation soldiers. A suspicious percentage of the casualties are shot in the back. Sharon knows that, at least for now, he needs to keep his daily kill count in the single digits. Over the last three years, his goon squads have killed 2,500 Palestinians and seriously wounded thousands of others. He has razed enough homes to satisfy the 'Lidice' fantasies of Daniel Pipes and has systematically destroyed much of the infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza. Now, collective punishment is the daily lot of the Palestinians and Israel is using starvation as a weapon of repression.
In a more just world, the unequivocal support given to Sharon by the lords of the mass media should end up costing them their franchise. Ultimately, it is publishers like Rupert Murdoch, Conrad Black, Arthur Sulzberger and Donald Graham who should be held to account for giving free reign to journalists who cheered Israeli war crimes. Granted, both the Nuremberg and Rwanda tribunals had limited jurisdiction to only prosecute atrocities committed by Hutus and Nazis. But international law is a ticking time bomb for media moguls who allowed their properties to be used as weapons by those who advocate repression, collective punishment, expulsion and other war crimes against civilian populations. One precedent leads to another. As the law evolves over the next decade or two, it might very well extend the extra-territorial jurisdiction of international courts.
Even in the absence of extra-territorial jurisdiction, the domestic laws of sovereign nations is moving in the direction set by Belgium. It should be recalled that the war crime charges against Sharon were not dropped because of his innocence, but because he wasn't resident in Belgium. At the very least, Rupert Murdoch, Sulzberger and Graham can be driven from the Belgian media markets. Current French, Canadian and German laws, if properly applied, might result in a shut down of the International Herald Tribune, a joint operation run by Sulzberger of the New York Times and Graham of the Washington Post. The Yahoo precedent, involving the sale of Nazi memorabilia, can be quite useful in tackling and neutralizing these war mongering media outlets.
Israel's partisans, the media cabal that controls much of the corporate press in America and the English speaking world, need to have their day in court. We need to recognize that we live in a world where media controlled states give journalist and publishers the power to instigate war and applaud war crimes. Their ability to goad vicious serial war criminals like Sharon to use their 'talents' can have horrible consequences. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict might well have been resolved had it not been for the Likudnik bigots who hold sway at FOX, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the LA Times.
At the very minimum, the course to take at this time is to compile the body of evidence that will be needed to conduct successful prosecution when international laws evolve to the point where journalists and publishers can be tried as war criminals. International and National Associations of concerned journalists need to be encouraged to join the fray by conducting mock trials of these culprits. The evidence against them is irrefutable and their crimes against the Palestinians are easy enough to document. The Internet makes their archives readily available for detailed studies of their conduct. A vast body of literature from the alternative press and mass media critics can be used to gather incriminating evidence. Even without the jurisdiction of handing down enforceable sentences, the results of such proceedings, if properly circulated through alternative media outlets, will have the salutary effect of damaging their media monopoly franchise. Perhaps concerned citizens could set up a 'Journalist Hall of Shame' in Europe or Canada. Nominees for the dubious privilege of having their names permanently enshrined as criminals or racists would be judged by a panel of judges from countries that are certified as having a free press.
If all this seems far-fetched, one needs only review the history of the environmental movement. What started out as a fringe 'flower children' enterprise a couple of decades ago has now become gospel even in developing countries. Journalists and publishers can pollute our minds to the point where ordinary people are driven to extraordinary blood- shed. In the case of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, a few media moguls have managed to create an American constituency that actively incites murderous repression in the Holy Land. We can bring a little justice to their victims by holding them accountable for collaborating in the crimes of Ariel Sharon.
Ahmed Amr is the editor of NileMedia.com. This article can be published at will.
Want to help spread quality independent journalism?
Donate to NileMedia and watch us grow.