My Beating by Refugees is a Symbol of the Hatred and Fury of This Filthy War is the awkward title of an article by British journalist Robert Fisk that appeared in the Independent on December 10, 2001.
It starts quickly, as Fisk says hello to a few Afghans outside a refugee camp, and others nearby respond by throwing rocks at him
...the first pebbles flew past my face. A small boy tried to grab my bag. Then another. Then someone punched me in the back. Then young men broke my glasses, began smashing stones into my face and head. I couldn't see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes.
The excitement mounts:
the first mighty crack descended on my head. I almost fell down under the blow, my ears singing with the impact. I had expected this, though not so painful or hard, not so immediate. Its message was awful. Someone hated me enough to hurt me. There were two more blows, one on the back of my shoulder, a powerful fist that sent me crashing against the side of the bus. . . The passengers were looking out at me and then at Justin [his interpreter]. But they did not move. No one wanted to help.
There were two more cracks on my head, one on each side. . . The next blow came from a man I saw carrying a big stone in his right hand. He brought it down on my forehead with tremendous force and something hot and liquid splashed down my face and lips and chin. I was kicked. On the back, on the shins, on my right thigh. Another teenager grabbed my bag yet again and I was left clinging to the strap, looking up suddenly and realising there must have been 60 men in front of me, howling.
The descriptions of the attack compose only a small fraction of the article. Most of it discusses Fisk's realization he deserved to be hurt. Most pointedly, the man says
I couldn't blame them for what they were doing.
Americans were dropping bombs on Afghanistan, Fisk reasoned, so he deserved to be brutalized by Afghan refugees.
The Afghans, while beating him, also stole his passport, credit cards, money, diary, contacts book, and mobile phone. Fisk had no problem with this either.
If I was an Afghan refugee in Kila Abdullah, I would have done just what they did.
The article was widely circulated by e-mail upon being published and, I must admit, the first few times I received it, I thought it was satire. After the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center by Arabs, some people responded by crying for vengeance, and others blamed themselves. "We must learn more about these people," they said, "If they hate us this much, we must have done something wrong."
But even in that environment, Fisk's article reflected an extraordinary self-loathing. The man did nothing wrong, he was set upon by a brutal crowd that beat his face to a pulp (that's no exaggeration, the photos taken of Fisk after the event are horrible to see). But rather than concluding that his attackers were animals, Fisk blamed himself.
Only after reviewing other articles being printed in the Independent around that time that I realized Fisk was serious. His articles dating back to the mid-1990s (and available at www.robert-fisk.com) reflect a sympathy for Arabs that often translates into opposition to Israel and the United States. To be fair, Fisk acknowledges the brutality of some Arab governments; his sympathies lie with the Arabs in the street, not their leaders. Though he claims not to hate Jews, consider the following,
On April 26, 2002, Three Palestinian teenagers attacked a Jewish settlement with knives. They were killed by the Israel Defence Forces. Fisk wrote an article titled Teenagers shot by Israelis, then run over with a tank. Even Hamas acknowledged that the kids were on a murder campaign, but Fisk seems to have been bothered only by the Israeli response.
In all his writing about innocents killed in the middle east, you will never find the stories of people like Avigail Leitner, a 14-year-old American girl who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in March 2003.
A few other Fisk articles from the archives:
April 17, 2001, reporters who hold back from criticizing Israel "are aiding and abetting terrible deeds in the Middle East."
November 29, 2001 "We are the war criminals now"
April 7, 2002, Fisk acknowledges Israel's Holocaust Day by comparing it to the killing of "up to 130 Palestinians" in 1948.
Thanks to the publication of My Beating by Refugees is a Symbol of the Hatred and Fury of This Filthy War, many people in the States, at least, view Fisk as a sort of pathetic asshole. A friend of mine points out that he has given rise to the term "Fisking," popularized by Prof. Glenn Reynolds (aka "Instapundit"), meaning "a richly-deserved beating."
The Independent, December 10, 2001