The World of Robert Fisk

An Examination of Prejudice

                                        A review essay by David Orton                                     

                            The Great War For Civilization: The Conquest Of The Middle East
revised edition, by Robert Fisk, Harper Perennial, London, New York,
                            Toronto and Sydney, 2006, 1368 pages, paperback,
                            ISBN: 13 978 1 84115 008 6.

                            “War is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death.
                            It represents the total failure of the human spirit.” p. xix.

                            “Europeans are used to free if sometimes bitter debates on the Middle East, where the
                            old canard of ‘anti-Semitism’ flung at anyone who dares to criticize Israel has largely
                            lost its power. There are, as I always say, plenty of real anti-Semites in the world whom
                            we must fight without inventing more in order to smother all serious discourse on Israel
                            and the Arabs.” pp.1083-1084.


                        Robert Fisk came to speak on June 9th, 2006 on the subject matter of his book, with its mocking
                title, The Great War For Civilization: The Conquest Of The Middle East, at a packed
                community meeting of several hundred people, organized by the Pictou Antigonish Regional Library 
                in the town of Stellarton, about half an hour by car from where I live in Nova Scotia. Copies of his
                book in hardcover were available at the Stellarton meeting, but I waited until it was available in
                paperback before purchasing a copy. This revised edition includes material up until July 2006. After
                reading the book, I decided to write this review, as Robert Fisk makes a significant contribution to
                our understanding of the actual state of affairs in the Middle East.
                    This is a grand, educational, daring, depressing and exciting book to read. For Robert Fisk, a
                journalist and foreign correspondent (he does not like the term “war correspondent”) has as her or
                his job “to tell the truth” (p. 35) and “‘to monitor the centers of power.’” (p. xxiii) What seems to
                personally drive Fisk is “how to correct history” (p. 1286). Part of this, for Fisk, is in understanding
                past historical decisions made by Western states which have deadly implications for today in the
                Middle East. (The Middle East is hard to define precisely, but it is a geographical region where
                Africa, Europe and Asia come together, and where the predominant linguistic, cultural and religious
                community is Arabic-speaking.)

                    It is clear to me, after reading this book, that where the oppressors and their supporters go to
                some lengths to try to control the definitions of reality that are publicly propagated, the oppressed,
                and those who want to contest prevailing definitions of reality, tend to see Fisk as a very informed
                neutral, and therefore, in some sense, an ally. Perhaps this might be a reason why he is still alive,
                although with some hearing loss from past Iraqi gunfire, after an extensive journalistic gadfly life
                spent in war zones! We need to read this book to see why we in the Western countries (for example,
                the United States, Britain, France and now Canada), are so wrong in “our” current foreign policies
                towards the Middle East. We need to read it to see how it has come about, that some discourses on
                the Middle East are considered legitimate, while other, contending, viewpoints have little articulation
                or official legitimacy, and how this can change over time.

                    The title of this book “The Great War For Civilization” comes from one of the campaign medals
                of the First World War, awarded to his father, Bill Fisk. The father was a junior British officer in that
                war. Bill Fisk influenced his son not only with a love of history and books, but also with trench
                combat memories of the First World War. Like any other subject to which Robert Fisk gives his
                critical attention, he is not one-dimensional in the evaluation of his father. Fisk points out his dad was
                a bully, what we would call a control freak, and a racist, and he gives examples of this behaviour.
                Yet his father also refused to command a firing squad to execute a fellow soldier at the front.

                    This is a large text of over 1300 pages, with twenty-four separate chapters. There are ten maps,
                which help the reader in orientating to the particular geography of the issues being covered. The text
                has quite an extensive “Select Bibliography” (pp. 1287-1298) for those readers “who want to
                follow up the story of Palestine, Israel, the Armenian Holocaust, Saddam’s regime, the Iranian
                revolution and its eight-year war with Iraq, the Algerian conflict past and present, and the history of
                the modern Middle East - if indeed there is a ‘modern’ Middle East.” (p. 1287) What I found very
                helpful was the short “Chronology” (pp. 1331-1334) starting with the Prophet Mohamed’s birth in
                570 and including crucial historical events which have helped shape the Middle East as the dominant
                Islamic region that we understand today. Some examples: 1915 saw the “start of the Armenian
                Holocaust murder of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks”, still being denied by the Turkish
                State today; the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France “to share Syria, Jordan,
                Iraq and most of the Arabian peninsula”; the 1917 British Balfour Declaration for “‘the
                establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’” which led in 1948 to the
                creation of the State of Israel, meaning “750,000 Palestinian Arabs ejected from their land”; and
                the crucial but still unfulfilled 1968 UN Security Council Resolution 242, which “demands
                withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory in return for security of all states in the region.”

                    What also hit me in reading this book were the unspeakable cruelties inflicted by the respective
                combatants on each other, often done from a religious justification, where the enemies are
                considered infidels (of the wrong religion) or apostates, but also done in the furthering of a secular
                ideology or in the attempt to spread so-called Western values. Racism can also be a factor as when
                Arabs are called “Arabushim” in the Hebrew language, as Fisk notes. (p. 562) The cruelty and the
                use of any kind of weaponry, including cluster bombs, cancer-causing depleted uranium bombs and
                shells, setting oil wells on fire, ‘routine’ suicide bombings, video executions, torture, ‘routine’
                sensory deprivation and rape, the killing of civilians, etc. although not the same, do seem related in
                some way to belief in the absolute certainty of a set of ideas, a kind of fanaticism, whether secular
                or religious. Western countries are not immune to this, as Fisk shows us. The armed conflicts can
                end up barbarizing the combatants and those societies which dispatch them.

                    My own concern – as someone focused on ecological questions and pleased that, at long last, at
                least in some countries, including Canada, “the environment” seems to be now a priority concern
                for an increasing number of citizens – is that growing conflicts or potential conflicts in the Middle
                East can temporarily derail all this. It is a very worrying situation. We do not want to be led by our
                noses by so-called leaders who shout interventionist slogans. This was done in the past by Western
                nations and, as we have seen in Iraq and now Afghanistan (is Iran next?), it continues today. Robert
                Fisk shows us that the “bad guys” change, but not this dominant theme of intervention in the name
                of some allegedly higher goal.

                    Ecologically, what happens in the oil-rich Middle East, concerns not only the citizens of that region
                and the non-human life forms which require their habitats for sustenance. It also concerns those of us
                who live outside the region – in North America and Europe (as well as Japan and increasingly China)
                 – and how we will live our lives in the short term, with our extravagant oil-based consumption
                lifestyles. (Fisk points out that “Almost all the oil of the Middle East lies beneath lands where Shia
                Muslims live,” [p. 197] including in predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia.) These “Western” lifestyles
                are facing the onset of peak oil, peak natural gas and massive climate change, as well as the
                disruption of inputs of Middle Eastern oil to the West with the ever-escalating turmoil in the region.


                        “‘War taught us about why people in the West who say they believe in freedom and human
                        rights were ready to relegate these ideas to the background during our war. This was a
                        major lesson for us. When Saddam invaded us, you were pretty silent, you didn’t shout like
                        you did when Saddam invaded Kuwait ten years later. But you were full of talk about human
                        rights when he went to Kuwait. The crimes of Saddam were much more publicized then.’”
                        - Tehran University philosophy student who fought in the eight-year Iraq-Iran war, p. 353

                    I have come to feel increasingly, that the media in North America too often seem to act as non-
                critical conduits for government information on matters Middle Eastern. (For my initial response to
                the events of September 11th, 2001, see the document “My Path to Left Biocentrism: Part VI -
                The Impact of September 11th: Fundamentalism and Earth Spirituality”.
                    I had previously known of Fisk by his “unembedded” reputation, and as someone with an
                extensive knowledge of the Middle East. He has been based in Beirut, Lebanon, since 1976, as
                an independent journalist. He writes for the British newspaper The Independent. I have thought
                of his writings as uncompromising, but fair, critical, and giving informed reports on Middle Eastern
                issues. Fisk was also linked in my own mind with people of the stature of Noam Chomsky,
                Norman Finkelstein, John Pilger and the late Edward Said. These are among the too rare voices
                that have important things to say about the Middle East. I recently read Edward Said’s Out Of
                Place: A Memoir
. Said, a Palestinian-Arab-Christian-American, perhaps like Fisk, does not
                appear to be oriented ecologically, but the following quotation, as a moral compass, seems to
                encompass both of these authors concerning the Middle East:
                “I have always felt the priority of intellectual, rather than national or tribal consciousness, no
                matter how solitary that made one.” (Said, p. 280)

                    Reading Fisk can help fill out positions that one has come to believe, but until now has lacked
                the actual data to substantiate, as in the data he gives about the Armenian genocide; the details of the
                involvement of the West in supporting Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the eight-year war against Iran
                (where Saddam many times used poison gas), with its one million and a half dead, but with the
                Iranians suffering the most, according to Fisk; the deadly impact of the UN sanctions against Iraq
                for almost 13 years, particularly on the children; and the unspeakable cruelties inflicted on each
                other by Islamic and government forces in the Algerian civil war, which took place after the French
                had been defeated and when the then government would not accept that the Islamists could gain
                political power through elections, etc.

                    Fisk has interviewed Osama bin Laden several times, the first time being in 1993 in the Sudan.
                The author has a contempt for those “journalists who wear military costumes and don helmets and
                play soldiers.” (p. 81) For Fisk, this is also a matter of personal survival, for the now familiar
                embedded journalist is not seen as independent by the various combatants and can become a
                potential military target, endangering all journalists. In Canada, those journalists who report from
                Afghanistan seem to have no qualms about being embedded with the Canadian military, riding
                along on combat missions and returning to a fortified “base” at night. The scripts coming from
                Afghanistan reporters carry a “made in Canada” set of assumptions. On the home front, every
                Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan automatically becomes a “hero” in media coverage, so
                language becomes debased. I have yet to hear or read from a Canadian journalist writing on
                Afghanistan, that the past communist government in that country, as Fisk points out, wanted,
                “a modern educational system in which girls as well as boys would go to school, at which
                young women did not have to wear the veil, in which science and literature would be taught
                alongside Islam. Twenty-one years later, an American president would ostentatiously claim
                that these were among his own objectives in Afghanistan.” (p. 69)

                    I found out from this book that when the American embassy in Teheran was seized by the
                Khomeini government, the shredded secret US diplomatic papers were reconstructed and put
                together by Iranian students in very painstaking work, and which took six years to complete.
                There were 2,300 documents, and they were eventually published by the Iranian government
                in 85 volumes and made widely available. A gold mine of sensitive and revealing information
                was available for all to see. One of the many incriminating documents brought back to life
                showed how Mossad, the Israeli secret service, and Savak, the Shah of Iran’s secret service,
                had closely collaborated since the late 1950s. (pp. 155-157)

            The Personal Price of Dissension

                    To look at the root causes of the situation in the Middle East, or to try to understand and
                explain what is behind the so-called “war on terror”, is to invite smearing of the investigative
                journalist as being “pro” this or that or, horror of horrors, as being anti-Semitic. Some of the
                examples of the price of dissension paid by Fisk:
                -  “Those of us who reported the human suffering caused by Israeli air raids on Beirut in 1982
                   were libeled as anti-Semitic.” (p. 765)
                -  “When I first wrote about the Armenian massacres in 1993, the Turks denounced my article -
                   as they have countless books and investigations before and since - as a lie. Turkish readers
                   wrote to my editor to demand my dismissal from The Independent.” (p. 414)
                - Fisk at one time worked for The Times as Middle East correspondent, but he had to
                   eventually resign, when his stories became edited for political reasons, when Rupert Murdoch
                   took over the paper as its owner. (pp. 331-334)
                - In the words of Fisk, concerning the response of the British government to his reporting of the
                   child cancer cases in Iraq, due to the use of depleted uranium bombs and shells: “Official
                   Western government reaction to the growing signs of DU contamination was pitiful. When I
                   first reported from Iraq’s child cancer wards in February and March 1998, the British
                   government went to great lengths to discredit what I wrote.” (See pp. 904-913 for the

            Palestine and Israel

                    Fisk tells us why the Balfour Declaration of 1917 came into being. He shows that there were
                conflicting British promises made during the First World War “of independence for the Arab states,
                and of support for a Jewish national home in Palestine.” (p. 448) Britain needed the Arabs to fight
                the Turks, but also needed political and scientific Jewish support at the time of the First World War.
                (p. 449) So there was early British support for an national state for Jews, but in a Palestine that was
                predominantly Arab. As Fisk also notes, “Balfour, let us remember, made no mention of how much
                of Palestine an Israeli state could have.” (p. 463)

                    Fisk goes on to say:
                “UN Resolution 181 of 1947, while it called for the partition of Palestine - which the Arabs rejected -
                laid down borders that Israel ignored once it had expanded its territory after the 1948 war.” (p. 472)

                    Israeli spokespersons will often comment how the Oslo Accord of 1993 was a great deal for the
                Palestinians under Arafat’s leadership, whereas Fisk gives the actual data to show that what Arafat
                signed on to was a sell-out, and what this author calls a “fatally flawed” and “blundering deal.” For
                Fisk, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in essence:
                “The world’s last colonial conflict in which the colonizers were supported by the United States.”
                (p. 629)

                    Overall his book shows the progressive whittling down of land for the Palestinians by the Israeli
                state, and that Oslo was a continuation of this. As Amira Hass, an Israeli journalist who writes for the
                Ha’aretz newspaper (praised by Fisk as a newspaper that is “liberal, free-thinking”) put it:
                “‘The central contradiction of the state of Israel - democracy for some, dispossession for others; it is
                our exposed nerve.’” (p. 558)  I have often wondered why criticism of Israeli state policies, which I
                read in Ha’aretz, is not seen in the media in Canada.

                    Israel portrays itself as “victim”, not aggressor, against the Palestinians and, as others have pointed
                out, uses the Nazi holocaust as “THE HOLOCAUST” to deflect criticism of the state of Israel.
                Unique suffering has come to mean a sense of unique entitlement for Israel. This is how Norman
                Finkelstein has expressed it in his daring book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the
                Exploitation of Jewish Suffering
                “The Holocaust has proven to be an indispensable ideological weapon. Through its deployment one
                of the world’s most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights record, has cast
                itself as a ‘victim’ state, and the most successful ethnic group in the United States has likewise
                acquired victim status.” (Finkelstein, p. 3)

                    Media coverage in North America normally totally reflects the views of the Israeli state in conflicts
                with the Palestinians or with other states in the region. The most recent example being the 2006 Israeli
                invasion of Lebanon, described by Canada’s Prime Minister as an Israeli “measured response.” Those
                who express dissenting views to the prevailing Israeli state orthodoxy can routinely expect to be
                publicly hammered by spokespersons for organizations in Canada like the Canadian Jewish Congress
                and B’nai Brith, who have come to see themselves as representatives and watchdogs for Israeli state
                interests abroad. According to Fisk, in the US, the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, “is the
                most powerful Israeli lobby group.” (p. 528)

                    It seems to me that the way that the state of Israel conducts itself towards the Palestinians comes
                across as extremely arrogant and uncaring, and this itself contributes towards the growth of anti-
                Semitism. This arrogance has squandered the worldwide goodwill, which so many non-Jews had
                towards Jews because of the Nazi extermination policies in the Second World War. Israel, by its
                practices, has no real interest in a viable two-state solution in the Middle East. Israel wants total
                control of the Palestinians, as we see in its everyday practices, if we truly care to look. Its main
                interest seems to be in further acquiring Palestinian lands and making life as miserable as possible
                for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, presumably hoping they will move out of Palestine.
                But the Israeli mailed fist means also that, on the Palestinian side, any willingness to compromise,
                which is ultimately needed by both sides, vanishes. As Fisk notes:
                “More and more among Palestinians I hear the words that so frighten Israelis: that they must have
                ‘all’ of Palestine, not just the lands taken by Israel in 1967.” (pp. 592-593)

                    There is another pertinent quotation from Fisk:
                “Once an occupied people have lost their fear of death, the occupier is doomed. Once a man or
                woman stops being afraid, they cannot be made to fear again.” (p. 592)   
                    One of the strengths of this book is that Fisk brings out that Arabs have a strong sense of history
                and that past events and Western betrayals are remembered.

            A puzzle

                    Personally, I also hoped by reading Fisk that I could come to understand a long-standing puzzle.
                It goes all the way back, in my own case, to when I was at graduate school in New York City
                (the New School), during the time of the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel occupied Gaza, the
                West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai. The puzzle is, why it was so impossible to have a
                critical discussion about Israel with many Jewish friends. These Jewish friends who also shared
                with me a general Left or progressive social justice sentiment, and, since my involvement with the
                ecology movement in the late 70s, a support for deep ecology or ecocentrism. (As an
                undergraduate student, thinking about going into social work, I spent two summers in Quebec in the
                60s working as a summer camp councillor with B’nai Brith and the Hebrew Y, along with one
                summer with a Protestant camp.)
                    One could share an Earth-centered eco-philosophy with left biocentric Jews and work together
                on this basis but, if they were supporters of the state of Israel, it was often not really possible to
                exchange views on the Middle East – even though, as left biocentrists, we are necessarily concerned
                with social justice, which must include the Middle East, but within an ecological context.

                    It was only much later than New School days that I discovered that there were Orthodox Jews,
                wearing long black coats and black hats, who believed that the creation of the state of Israel was a
                violation of Jewish law, as in the organization Jews United Against Zionism. There are of course also
                secular Jews, e.g. Chomsky and Finkelstein who are critical of many Israeli state policies. More
                 recently, in 2005, I met Joel Kovel of  The Enemy Of Nature fame, who opposes Israeli state
                policies from an anti-Zionist point of view. There are also left biocentric secular Jews who have this

                    I myself have come to believe in working for a unitary secular state for Palestinians and Jews,
                living side by side on a basis of true equality, in a country called Palestine. Such a state must also
                define itself culturally in a Middle Eastern context and not see itself as a Western outpost. The
                existing situation for Israelis and Palestinians will never bring peace or security for either side,
                because its roots are in land theft and occupation, and ongoing colonial subjugation by the Israelis.
                (From a deep ecology perspective, humans cannot “own” land or other species. As Arne Naess,
                the founder of deep ecology said, “The earth does not belong to humans.”)

            Main Issues in the Middle East

                        “After the Allied victory of 1918, at the end of my father’s war, the victors divided up the
                        lands of their former enemies. In the space of just 17 months, they created the borders
                        of Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia and most of the Middle East. And I have spent my entire
                        career - in Belfast and Sarajevo, in Beirut and Baghdad - watching the peoples within
                        these borders burn.” - p. xxiii

                    These seem to be the major issues in the Middle East from my reading of The Great War
                For Civilization
                - Borders – decided by dominant Western powers, and ongoing attempts to influence or control the
                borders and the politics of this region where the US is the lead state in this regard;
                - Oil – which Fisk notes was the reason for the initial involvement of the US in the Middle East, but
                this later piggybacked with “almost unquestioning” support and funding for Israel (p. 409);
                - Ecological issues – which are not really covered by Fisk;
                - Dictatorships among Muslim states  – the absence of democracy for the citizenry, and the
                alliance of many dictatorial states with the West for mutual self-interest purposes;
                - Palestine-Israel relationships;
                - Islamic fundamentalism – in its Sunni and Shiite internal and external manifestations.

                    The unjust social conditions which feed the rise of Islamic fundamentalism must be addressed.
                 The willingness of the fundamentalist Islamic side to give their lives in battle, e.g. the suicide
                bombers, which Western forces (including the Israelis) are not willing to do. It is important to
                acknowledge that there is a strong social justice side to Islam (although it is not an Earth-
                centered religion), for example the mandatory tithing, known as the Zakat, for all Muslims. In
                Palestine, as a practical example, Hamas is widely acknowledged as running an extensive,
                non-corrupt social service network of  schools, hospitals, relief agencies, etc. They have
                built a significant social base through this work. Islam also provides a religion-based critique
                of Western materialism and morality.

            Ecological Issues

                    Robert Fisk talks about the ecological crimes of Saddam Hussein, as in setting the oil wells on fire
                in the retreat from Kuwait – 640 producing oil wells were set ablaze (p. 858); the draining and
                destruction of the habitat of the Marsh or Swamp Arabs in Southern Iraq; and the use by the US
                and the British of depleted uranium and cluster bombs in Iraq. Yet, strangely, ecology is not a
                particular focus of The Great War For Civilization. There is no chapter on ecological issues or
                even an entry in the Index under the heading “ecology.” This is a human-centered text.

                    Oil, the life-blood of an expansionary industrial capitalism, has been central to the involvement of
                Western powers in Middle Eastern politics. Fisk shows, for example, how in Iran in 1953, the
                British and the United States conspired to overthrow the democratically elected Mohamed Mossadeq.
                The control of Iran’s oilfields was a crucial consideration in this. (“Democracy” is only okay, it
                seems, if it brings Western-oriented parties and leaders to power, as we see today with the refusal to
                accept the election of Hamas in Palestine.) The Iranian overthrow of Mossadeq was to prepare,
                through what we have come to call “blowback” after September 11th 2001, the path to power of
                Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution and the demise of that ‘friend’ of the West and guardian
                of the oil wells, the peacock Shah of Iran.

                    If one considers, as I do, that social justice and ecology must go hand-in-hand, this book has
                strongly made the social justice case for the oppressed of the Middle East. However, the ecological
                case remains to be made for this region, both in its own right but also as an important factor in
                determining present day politics. Thus, as in the pressure of increasing human populations and a
                limited fertile land base. (Apparently, any Jew anywhere in the world has the option of becoming
                an Israeli citizen, with all the long term land use pressures that this must entail, but there is no
                “right of return” for dispossessed Palestinians and their descendants to Israel.)

                    The shortage of water is another important ecological issue and, as in the Palestinian situation,
                its monopolization by the Israeli state: “More than 80% of water from the West Bank goes to Israel.
                The Palestinians are allotted just 18% of the water that is extracted from their own land.” (Guardian
, January 22-28, 2004.) Apart from this human-centered focus, important as this is, deep
                ecology has taught us that non-human life has its own inherent value beyond human purpose: “The
                value of non-human life forms is independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human
                purposes.” (Point one of the Deep Ecology Platform.) Unfortunately, there is no champion for non-
                human life in The Great War For Civilization.


                    My major criticism of The Great War For Civilization is that it is human-centered and
                ecologically uninformed. Other criticisms are minor. This should not undermine that all of us who
                care about being informed politically and who see ourselves on the side of social justice, should be
                thankful that Robert Fisk wrote this book to open our eyes to what is going on in the Middle East.
                Let us hope that those who read this book will have the courage to put its insights into their
                personal political practice and bring about fundamental change in Western foreign policies.

                    One criticism, and an irritant for myself, both present in the text and in the public meeting which
                Fisk addressed in Nova Scotia, is that Fisk sometimes seems to make an obvious “over the top”
                loyalty statement, to convey, I suppose, that he is a “legitimate” voice, part of the loyal opposition,
                and not attached to the “other side” against which the West is contending in some way. I think this
                is quite unnecessary, because his analysis shows that he is a seeker of truth and will follow this trail
                no matter who he ends up offending. The kind of statement I am talking about can be given in the
                context of a sharp and valid comment, as in the quotation below, with its “venomous attacks”
                “Merely to suggest that Washington’s policies in the Middle East, its unconditional support for Israel,
                its support for Arab dictators, its approval of UN sanctions that cost lives of so many Iraq children,
                might lie behind the venomous attacks of September 11th was an act of evil.” (p. 1035)

                    A second minor criticism is perhaps a conflict in this book between the roles of foreign
                correspondent and that of historian. Although the book is presented as a record of the work done by
                Fisk in the Middle East as a reporter and foreign correspondent, I see him more as an historian – that
                is, someone who can analyze historical events from the past and present perspectives and then, as a
                bonus, add to this by grounding all of it in the practical, which has been personally experienced by
                Fisk in the many conflict situations in which he has found himself. I feel sometimes the newspaper
                reporter pushes out the analytical historian and we have too much piling on of details of various
                situations being looked into.


                    This review essay has looked at the world of Robert Fisk, as exemplified in his book The Great
                War For Civilization
. The essay has as a subtitle "An Examination of Prejudice." If we take the
                common sense meaning of prejudice as a bias or preconceived position for or against something
                which impairs the validity of what someone is telling us, then I do not believe, based on this book and
                my reading of it, that Robert Fisk can be accused of prejudice. Yet some who defend particular
                interests in the Middle East, as I have shown in the section of this essay entitled "The Personal Price
                Of Dissension", have falsely accused Fisk of prejudice because of his news stories and the analysis
                coming out of them. Perhaps in the most expansive use of the term prejudice, someone on the deep
                ecology path could say Fisk has a prejudice in favour of covering only the interests of humans. But,
                unfortunately, most correspondents or historians could be so categorized. Clive Ponting's A Green
                History Of The World
would be an exception.

                    What I had in mind by this subtitle, after reading the book, was the prejudice of those who "frame"
                the issues for the citizenry in the West – governments and media and the professional newspaper and
                TV ideologues – as these issues concern the Middle East. For those who want to see, Fisk can, due
                to his knowledge and lived experiences, take us beyond self-serving platitudes and the black-and-
                white absolutist distinctions of the post 9/11 Bush world of "you are either with the terrorists or with
                us." While this author is obviously "Western", by living so long in the Middle East, his own cultural
                assumptions are tempered by his lived experiences and open-mindedness. Speaking Arabic also

                    Robert Fisk has written a book that is invaluable for assisting us in understanding the Middle East
                and to take an informed stand. It is also a book which can force us to look very critically at
                “Western” conduct. His is a remarkable contribution. Fisk shows us that since September 11, 2001
                the West, under US “leadership”, has lost whatever moral compass it had.

                    I have also come to the position, after reading this book that, from a social justice viewpoint, as a
                left biocentrist one cannot be a supporter of Israel or the current alliance between that country and the
                United States. There is no justice for Palestinians in the Middle East today.

                    This book concerns how humans relate to each other, but we must also be concerned about how
                humans relate to the natural world. The ecological or deep ecology perspective must be a key
                component of any adequate world view for today’s world. This still waits to be addressed.

                December 31, 2006

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 Last updated: December 31, 2006