Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Rohingya Nakba

"Amnesty International says it has found evidence of an 'orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings' by Myanmar security forces targeting dozens of Rohingya villages over the past three weeks. The human rights group released a new analysis of video, satellite photos, witness accounts and other data that found more than 80 sites were torched in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State... The UN children's agency estimates about 389,000 people have fled to Bangladesh to escape a military offensive that has been described as ethnic cleansing." (Military burning Rohingya out: Amnesty, The Australian, 16/9/17)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Shout It from the Rooftops!

Could this be the first time in Australian history that the following sentiment has been publicly expressed?:

"For more than 20 years, Australians have read and heard pro-Israel positions from journalists, editors, politicians, trade union leaders, academics and students who have returned from the all-expenses-paid Israel-lobby trips. As someone who has both taken one of these trips when I was the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and then many years later lived in Israel for six years, I am in a position to compare what one is exposed to on these trips and the truth. In my opinion no editors, journalists or others should take these trips: they grotesquely distort the reality and are dangerous in the sense that they allow people with a very small amount of knowledge to pollute Australian public opinion. Those on the trips return to Australia thinking they have some sort of grasp of the place, but they have spent more time in Tel Aviv's most expensive restaurants and cafes and in settlements than looking at the real crisis behind trying to continue an occupation against another people. The effect of these trips is to shore up opinion behind the hardline pro-settlement elements of Israel politics. They allow Israel to avoid the public backlash that objective reporting of their settlement activity would bring." (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir, John Lyons, 2017, p 288)

If you haven't yet purchased a copy of Lyons' book, please, do it NOW!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Rambamming Works Wonders

John Lyons, former Middle East correspondent for The Australian has reported in his new book that:

"Soon after I arrived in Israel, I asked an Israeli military commander, Lieutenant Colonel Eliezer Toledano, the operations officer for the Israeli Army in the West Bank, whether he regarded the West Bank as 'occupied'. He looked puzzled. I explained that for years the pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne had insisted to me that the West Bank was not 'occupied'. 'If this is not occupied then the media has missed one of the biggest stories of your time, our withdrawal from the West Bank,' the commander responded, laughing." (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir, 2017, p 279)

The aforementioned "pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne" is, of course, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), organisers of the  'Rambam study visit' to Israel in which Anne Aly and several other federal Labor politicians (Meryl Swanson (NSW), Milton Dick (QLD), Julian Hill (VIC), Steve Georganas (SA) and SA senator Alex Gallacher) participated in March this year.*

Just how successful the visit was in Rambamming home AIJAC's 'not occupied' propaganda line is particularly evident in the report-back responses of Rambamees Meryl Swanson, MP (Paterson, NSW) and Milton Dick (Oxley).

Here's Swanson:

"Like a lot of people, I had watched documentaries and read things and thought, these people [Palestinians] are occupied. I've come home feeling that [view] has somewhat shifted, and that my perspectives are far broader now... I'm now thinking about what I can do in my electorate to form [agricultural] linkages with Israel." (Israel trip empowered MPs, The Australian Jewish News, 4/4/17)

And here's Dick:

"I think terms that are often bandied about - like settlements, occupation, apartheid and the wall - these are all easy catchphrases and cliches to use, and often there isn't a counterbalance given to a lot of those arguments." (ibid)

[*For the record, in addition to the above flock of Labor sheep, AIJAC was also shepherding around, at the same time, a flock of their Liberal counterparts: Tony Pasin (SA) ("Sadly... too much of what we read [in newspapers] is written through a villain and victim prism, and not through the prism of peace."), Nicole Flint (SA), Andrew Hastie (WA), Andrew Wallace (QLD) and SA state shadow minister Corey Wingard.]

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kissing Cousins

Australia's first female Muslim MP, Labor's Anne Aly (Cowan, WA), went on a study tour of Israel in March this year. Apparently, so overwhelmed was she that she's only just now gotten around to unburdening herself on the subject at an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) debriefing in Perth:

"When the opportunity came to visit Israel, I was grateful because I needed to have the experience. I needed to go and see for myself... to actually experience what it was like in Israel rather than fit into some kind of position I should take on any of the issues... I really wanted to formulate my own opinion through my own experience, because nothing replaces the experience of actually being somewhere and having that experience of being there." (WA MP talks of her visit to Israel, jwire.com, 14/9/17)

Ah, the politician's lot. That email/phone call. That knock on the door. What could it portend? Well, blow me down if it isn't an opportunity to visit Israel.

And what a wonderful opportunity that is! Just imagine, you not only get to formulate your own opinion of the Palestine/Israel shindig through your own experience, but have attentive Israel lobbyists on hand to decide where you go and who you speak to, and afterwards whisk you off to all the best eateries in the land. You'd be silly to pass it up, eh?

As it happens, Aly, who had arrived in Australia at the tender age of two, recalled the words of her mother:

"Growing up... my mother always called Jewish people our cousins. Always called Israelis our cousins."

Cousins, eh? Not so much a rambamming as a family visit! (After all, isn't MUM the word?) And, hey, doesn't Mrs Aly's homely maternal wisdom put the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 in a whole new light? Mere family tiffs! And all praise to cuz Anwar for kissing and making up with cuz Menachem at the White House in 1979, cuz since then it's been kissing cousins all the way.

The despair over the Palestine/Israel contretemps that had apparently dogged Ms Aly for all of her 49 years disappeared, I'm pleased to hear, in an instant:

"It's really easy to get caught up in the kind of despair of you know 40 or 50 years of no resolution, but what I saw, what I saw was inspiration. What I saw was people who want to live in peace... "

No, nothing even vaguely resembling a brutal OCCUPATION - just smiling, welcoming Israeli cousins, all apparently cooing 'Shalom ilaykum, cuz' at Ms Aly.

Of course, once blinded by anti-Israel propaganda, she could now see that Mum was right all along:

"The only exposure that I really ever had to the whole Palestine-Israel question was with propaganda. We really need to be vigilant against that, and particularly we need to be vigilant against propagandising the situation to be about Muslim versus Jew. It's not about Muslims versus Jews. Muslims and Jews are cousins."

And the proof in the pudding? Her Israeli cousins tenderly ministering to their fallen-on-hard-times Syrian cousins:

"Dr Aly recalled an emotional encounter at the Ziv hospital in Safed, where Israeli doctors treat victims of the Syrian Civil War. Dr Aly talked about how she became a translator for her fellow MPs [Senator Alex Gallacher, Julian Hill, Steve Georganas, Meryl Swanson and Milton Dick*]. She also reflected on her admiration for the doctors and staff who are treating the injured Syrians."

Now that must've been one, like, almighty emotional encounter for the normally phlegmatic Aly, cuz: "When I was going to the White House people were like, 'Wow you must be so excited to meet Obama' and I was like 'meh'." (Why teenage extremism is personal for Anne Aly, Rachel Olding, Sydney Morning Herald, 12/2/16)

[*I'll deal with these rambammed non-relatives in my next post.]

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Way Forward

"The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, BDS South Africa, welcomes the calling-off of the Africa-Israel Summit which was meant to take place in Togo next month. The decision comes following several boycott threats. This is welcomed as good news by human rights organisations and the global BDS movement which has called for the isolation of Israel over its human rights abuses and violations of international law... Last month it was reported that several countries, including South Africa, were planning to boycott the summit. South African Ambassador Sean Benfeldt explained that South Africa will not take part because the summit was viewed as a step by Israel to normalize relations between Africa and an 'occupation state.' In addition, the head of International Relations for South Africa's governing ANC party, Minister Edna Molewa, is quoted as saying on the issue: 'We cannot turn a blind eye to Israeli efforts to galvanise support from Africa and elsewhere, with a view to undermining the Palestinian cause.' BDS South Africa welcomes the decision and commends South Africa and other African states who were to boycott the summit. However, our governments must continue to resist all Israeli attempts to influence, corrupt or weaken our solidarity with the Palestinians - including attempts, in contradiction to our policies, by some within our own Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). The Palestinians were a people that supported us during the darkest days of Apartheid, while Isreal, we painfully remember, was supplying arms to the Apartheid government." (BDS South Africa Press Statement: Israel-Africa Summit called off following boycott threats, 11/9/17)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Avnery Takes Us For a Ride

In support of the contention that age doesn't automatically confer wisdom, I offer the following reflection by birthday boy, Uri Avnery:

"The Arabs were here before we arrived... I still believe that the early Zionists made a terrible mistake when they did not try to combine their aspirations with the hopes of the Palestinian population. Realpolitik told them to embrace their Turkish oppressors instead. Sad. The best description of the conflict was given by the historian Isaac Deutscher: a man lives in an upper floor of a house that catches fire. In desperation the man jumps out of the window and lands on a passerby down below, who is grievously injured and becomes an invalid. Between the two, there erupts a deadly conflict. Who is right?" (A confession: Uri Avnery turns 93, antiwar.com, 8/9/17)

The first 3 sentences indicate either that Avnery has no real understanding of the settler-colonial nature of the Zionist movement or, more likely, is merely having a lend of us. Beyond sad.

Given its settler-colonial nature, at no stage in its history could the Zionist movement have given any serious thought to "combining their aspirations with the hopes of the Palestinian population."

Just to drive home the point, let me quote from an early Zionist document which a reader of this blog kindly referred me to recently. The author of Our Program, Menachem Ussishkin, Secretary of the First Zionist Congress (1897) and head of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) from 1923 until 1941, wrote in 1904:

"In order to create... a Jewish state in Palestine, it is above all necessary that the whole soil of Palestine... should be in the possession of Jews... But how is land obtained in any country? Only in one of the following three ways: by force, that is, by depriving the possessor of his property by violent means; by forced sale, that is, by expropriation (the taking of private property for public purposes) by the state; or by voluntary sale. Which of these three means is applicable in Palestine? The first is entirely excluded. For that we are too weak... "

Not excluded, mind you, because it was morally repugnant, but excluded because the Zionist movement had yet to take up arms and ethnically cleanse Palestine. Ussishkin, btw, would go on, in 1936, to advocate that the Palestinian Arabs be transferred to Iraq.

As for Avnery's "best description of the conflict [with the Palestinians]," Deutscher's fable of the falling man, see Christopher Hitchens' demolition job on that, quoted in my 27/2/14 post George Brandis, 'Hitch 22' and Some Burning Questions.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What an Inspiration She Is!

"The Australian government encourages the people of Africa to see us as an open-cut mine for lessons learned, for skills, for innovation and, I would like to think, inspiration." - Julie Bishop quoted in Australians ripping $40b out of Africa, Eryk Bagshaw, The Sun-Herald, 10/9/17)