Friday, January 30, 2009

Backman & the New Anti-Semitism

As you will know from my post The Backman Beat-Up (23/1/09), journalist Michael Backman's opinion piece in The Age (17/1/09) has been attacked in The Australian as anti-Semitic by elements of Australia's Israel lobby. Unfortunately, the allegation has also surfaced at with media commentator Margaret Simons naively taking such talk at face value and labeling Backman's article "anti-Semitic," "racist," "offensive to Jews," and "pretty vile". The lobby's smears are standard and predictable, as are The Australian's role as a vehicle for them. What is surprising, however, is the capacity of a media specialist such as Simons to fall for them, and her failure to recognise that the lobby's real target is not so much anti-Semitism as criticism of Israel, and in this case The Age's relatively balanced coverage of Israel's war on Gaza. (See my 22/1/09 post Overwhelming Pro-Israel Bias)

Intriguingly, the lobby's campaign against Backman was exposed as a fraud by none other than The Australian itself, which, in its editorial Apologists for Evil (21/1/09), failed to repeat the lobbyists' accusations of anti-Semitism: "There is no evidence that Backman hates Jews, but people who do will endorse his arguments and continue to cloak their anti-Semitism in a faux concern for the Palestinians." The furthest the editorial went was to describe Backman's column as an "anti-Israel rant." That the editorial's failure to follow through with the campaign's key allegation didn't register with Simons is concerning, and suggests that some (many?) in mainstream media land may in fact be clueless as to the elementary distinction between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, as well as to how Israel lobbyists routinely conflate the two. This ignorance and confusion may indeed go some way (apart from threatened loss of advertising) to explaining why confrontations with Israel lobbyists often result in a grovelling apology from this or that journalist or editor, as was the case this time.

The Australian Jewish News reported the inevitable lobbyists' meeting with The Age's editor, Paul Ramadge, thus: "[AIJAC chair Mark] Leibler said... 'We spent well over an hour with [Ramadge] and with Age opinion editor Roslyn Guy, talking about the problematic news coverage of the Gaza incursion [!!!]... headings, photos, editing... We think there was an issue of lack of balance..." (The Age under fire over anti-Semitic article, 23/1/09). It is obvious from this account that The Age, with its relatively critical coverage of Israel's Gaza onslaught, was the lobby's main concern, the false allegations of anti-Semitism against Backman serving more as a pretext for its intervention.

In Simons' opening piece on the subject at crikey, Weird & unpleasant happenings at The Age (21/1/09), she wrote that "[Backman's column] makes the classic logical error of the racist - generalising from the particular deeds of an individual or group to the race as a whole. It manages to blame Jews for Muslim extremism and violence..." If she'd read Backman with care, she'd have seen that he refers to Israel, not Jews. Her continuation of this sentence, "... talks carelessly about that classic of anti-Semitic hate speech - that Jews were to blame for the death of Jesus..." is perhaps her only valid point, but even here it's merely a matter of carelessness, rather than an endorsement of that view. In the final part of her sentence, "... and leaps bizarrely from what is happening in Gaza to the alleged rude behaviour of Israeli tourists trekking in Nepal," it has to be said (and has been by Israeli commentators themselves - see my 4 & 8/12/08 posts Zionist S & M and A Blight Unto the Nations) that Israelis often travel overseas after military 'service' taking their 'baggage' with them. It surely does not take much to imagine, for example, how the troops who scrawled "Arabs need 2 die/Die you all/Make war not peace/1 is down, 999,999 to go"* on the walls of homes in Gaza might behave at home or overseas. Such psychopathology will likely follow those afflicted wherever they go. Linking Israeli behaviour in war and occupation with Israeli behaviour overseas is in no way "bizarre."

[*Amid dust & death, a family's story speaks for the terror of war, Rory McCarthy,, 19/1/09]

It is also worth a look at the contribution to the anti-Backman campaign of letter writers to The Australian Jewish News of 23/1/09. Of the 3 letters on the subject, not one mentioned Simons' "classic of anti-Semitic hate speech - that Jews were to blame for the death of Jesus." One was happy to dispense with the distinction between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, and mutter darkly about Backman's supposed "encouraging [of] anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment." Another accused him of "disingenuous recounting... inversions and omissions." And the third of "deliberately and perversely distorting the facts." Unsurprisingly, the sole concern of these correspondents was Israel: "Backman has blamed Israel for the London bombings, the Bali bombings and even the loss of the World Trade Centre..."; "Why does Backman put all his expectations on Israel?"; "Hamas has no objective other than the extermination of Israel." Even Jamie Hyams in his accompanying AIJAC-sponsored Media Week column banged on about - surprise - Israel: "Backman ludicrously claimed that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is 'at the nub' of the 9/11, Bali and London terror attacks and solely responsible for Muslim enmity for Israel." All were offended, of course - but not because of any anti-Semitism on Backman's part. It was his candid criticism of Israel that they found offensive. For them, and the professional lobbyists of AIJAC, criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. This false equation has been dubbed by Zionists the 'new anti-Semitism'.

The leading authority on the 'new anti-Semitism', American scholar Norman Finkelstein, dealt with the phenomenon in his typically brilliant study Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of anti-Semitism & the Abuse of History (2005). His analysis contextualises the Backman beat-up wonderfully:

"The latest production of Israel's apologists is the 'new anti-Semitism'. Just as Palestinians renewed their resistance to occupation and Israel escalated its brutal repression of the revolt, there was a vast proliferation of books, articles, conferences, and the like alleging that - in the words of Anti-Defamation League (ADL) national director Abraham Foxman - 'we currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s - if not a greater one'. As it happens, the allegation of a new anti-Semitism is neither new nor about anti-Semitism. Thirty years ago, ADL national leaders Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein published to great fanfare a study entitled The New Anti-Semitism, and less than a decade later ADL national leader Nathan Perlmutter... put out The Real Anti-Semitism in America, alleging yet again that the United States was awash in a new anti-Semitism. The main purpose behind these periodic, meticulously orchestrated media extravaganzas is not to fight anti-Semitism but rather to exploit the historical suffering of Jews in order to immunize Israel against criticism. Each campaign to combat the 'new anti-Semitism' has coincided with renewed international pressures on Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab territories in exchange for recognition from neighbouring Arab states." (pp 21-22)

"[T]he new anti-Semitism actually incorporates 3 main components: (1) exaggeration and fabrication, (2) mislabeling legitimate criticism of Israeli policy, and (3) the unjustified yet predictable spillover from criticism of Israel to Jews generally." (p 66)

Of the first, Finkelstein demonstrates that "[t]he evidence of a new anti-Semitism comes mostly from organizations directly or indirectly linked to Israel or having a material stake in inflating the findings of anti-Semitism... These organizations stand in the same relationship to their respective host countries as Communist parties once did, except that they view Israel rather than Stalin's Russia as the Motherland... Many claims of anti-Semitism prove on investigation to be wildly overblown or fabricated." (p 66-67)

Of the second, he stresses that "... it is precisely this causal relationship [between the emergence of the new anti-Semitism and the latest flare-up in the Israel-Palestine conflict] that Israel's apologists emphatically deny: if Israeli policies, and widespread Jewish support for them, evoke hostility towards Jews, it means that Israel and its Jewish supporters themselves might be causing anti-Semitism; and it might be doing so because Israel and its Jewish supporters are in the wrong... If it's 'obscene' [as the ADL's Abe Foxman labeled George Soros' contention that "'anti-Semitism in Europe' was largely due to Sharon's policies and the behaviour of Jews"] for a Jew to say that Jews might be causing anti-Semitism, for a non-Jew to say it is - surprise, surprise - anti-Semitic." (pp 78-79)

Of the third component, he notes that "[i]n some quarters anger at Israel's brutal occupation has undoubtedly spilled over to an animus toward Jews generally. But however lamentable, it's hardly cause for wonder... Should it really surprise us if the cruel occupation by a self-declared Jewish state engenders a generalized antipathy to Jews?... if many Jews themselves repudiate any distinction between Israel and world Jewry, indeed, if they denounce such a distinction as itself anti-Semitic; if mainstream Jewish organizations lend uncritical support to every Israeli policy, however criminal, indeed, abetting the most virulent tendencies inside Israel and muzzling principled dissent outside Israel; if Israel defines itself juridically as the sovereign state of the Jewish people, and Jews abroad label any criticism of Israel anti-Jewish - the real wonder is that the spillover from antipathy toward Israel to Jews generally hasn't been greater." (pp 81-82)

Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah should be required reading for all who work in or study the media and its ways.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Underdog's Underdog?

"My parents came to Britain as refugees from Poland. Most of their families were subsequently murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town of Staszow. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza." (Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, address to the House of Commons, 16/1/09)

David Burchell is a senior lecturer in humanities at the University of Western Sydney. He recently wrote a particularly irritating opinion piece for The Australian called Empathy for sale: Hamas has won over Westerners who embrace exotic political creeds in the name of compassion (12/1/09). His theme was empathy and how our capacity for it is supposedly compromised these days by political affiliation.

Burchell opens with: "Until our own times, few civilizations showed much emotional interest in distant peoples." Prior to WW1, he claims, we sympathised with our own - "British soldiers... overrun by African tribesmen at Mafeking." After it, we transferred our sympathies to "the victims of European colonialism," embracing Gandhi, for example. But then the rot set in as we began to switch our sympathy to "more troubling heroes, from Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh to Yasser Arafat," and, "in the process empathy in effect became a handmaiden of ideology." The result today, according to Burchell, is that we sympathise with the victims of the Americans, but not those of the Viet Cong, with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, but not those "wretched political inmates of Cuba's Guantanamo Political Prison, a few hundred metres away."

A broad brush indeed. But you push on... until you come to the bit about the leaders of a Dutch demonstration against Israel's invasion of Gaza, who were reportedly chanting 'Intifada, intifada, Palestinian state!' while others "in the background" were allegedly chanting 'Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas!' Jeez, how off is that, you think. Never heard that at a pro-Palestine demo before.

But then Burchell's agenda fully emerges: "And so here they were together: the warm heart of the global conscience and the icy blood of Hamas, united within the same pulsing breast." You're presumably meant to read all sorts of nasties into this: 1) empathy for brutalised Palestinians is a mere cover for naked anti-Semitism; 2) Hamas is Nazism in Middle Eastern guise; 3) pro-Palestine demonstrators are really just dupes of Hamas. And perfectly timed too to distract from Israel's butchery in Gaza and blunt sympathy for its victims.

But back to his theme of selective empathy: "For the discriminating empathist," Burchell claims, "Israel presents special problems as an enemy. After all it's hard for someone who trades in the currency of sympathy to deny any moral capital whatsoever to a state founded as a refuge for one of the most persecuted peoples on the planet."* Really?

One problem with this proposition is the fact that Israel was not founded to accomodate the Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide. Zionism, the colonial-settler movement to carve out a Jewish state in Palestine, long preceeded the Nazi genocide, and was concerned primarily with re-establishing a presumed ancient Jewish sovereignty over Palestine, a Jewish national home from which Jews had supposedly been 'exiled' and to which they supposedly longed to 'return', not with providing a refuge for persecuted European Jews. (See the discussion of Zionism's foundational myths in Gabriel Piterberg's excellent The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics & Scholarship in Israel, 2008) In fact, it is precisely his Zionism that explains David Ben-Gurion's remarkable lack of empathy for the fate of European Jewry. As Israel's first prime minister said in 1938: "If Jews will have to choose between the refugees, saving Jews from concentration camps, and assisting a national museum in Palestine, mercy will have the upper hand and the whole energy of the people will be channelled into saving Jews from various countries. Zionism will be struck off the agenda... If we allow a separation between the refugee problem and the Palestine problem, we are risking the existence of Zionism." (Quoted in The Myths of Zionism, John Rose, p145) Talk about discriminating empathy.

[* Prime Minister Rudd echoed this when speaking to his shameful 12 March parliamentary motion "celebrating and commending" Israel on its 60th anniversary: "... the story of the establishment of the state of Israel begins with the unimaginable tragedy of the Holocaust." See my 14/3/08 post The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament 3]

The other problem with Burchell's reasoning is that even if Israel were the underdog's underdog, even if it were "founded as a refuge for one of the most persecuted peoples on the planet," as he maintains, why would that accord it any "moral capital" if it was founded at the expense of another people?

[Before I leave this post, however, I couldn't help but note Burchell's scoffing at the proposition allegedly put forward by Gretta Duisenberg, one of the two Dutch pro-Palestine activists mentioned above: "According to Duisenberg, Israeli rule in Gaza is worse than wartime Nazi rule in Holland." Let's test the proposition: "The Dutch army had tried to resist, but on easy terrain they did not last nearly as long as the Norwegians. On 14 May, a massive Luftwaffe bombing raid took barely 10 minutes to turn the centre of Rotterdam into smouldering rubble and charred timber, killing nearly 1,000 people and leaving more than 78,000 homeless... the Dutch quickly capitulated... [Hitler] brought in a civilian administration [headed by Seyss-Inquart]... he was told to reassure the Dutch and encourage collaboration. Unlike Germany's previous conquests, the Netherlands was a colonial power and Hitler was particularly anxious to prevent its colonies from breaking away and escaping German control... Seys-Inquart therefore tried to assuage the Dutch by immediately proclaiming that Germany had no 'imperialistic' designs on the country... He allowed most of the political parties to continue in existence and he held conversations with conservative politicians. Meanwhile, senior Dutch civil servants carried on the real business of administering the occupation under German supervision, and Dutch law remained in force unless explicitly revoked or amended. As a result the occupation proceeded with only a relatively small German staff to oversee it." (Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe, Mark Mazower, 2008, pp 105-106) Far fewer people killed than in Gaza recently (not to mention over the decades), far fewer homeless, no settlements, relative political freedom, Dutch administration and law. Duisenberg:1 Burchell: 0]

Oh, and where is Burchell's empathy for the victims of Israel's latest rampage?

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Luck of the Palestinians

Since Obama became prez, things are looking up for the Palestinians:-

Obama has just made former senator George Mitchell his Middle East envoy. Media accounts here suggest he's eminently qualified for (as one journalist put it) "the hardest job on the planet" because a) he headed peace negotiations between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Island that led to the 1998 Good Friday accord; and b) he wrote a report, which dared to name names, on illegal steroid use in baseball. Impressive, no?

The 'Yes we can' Mitchell is very much evident in the following sound-byte. Here's how it was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald: "[Mitchell] also noted by way of a joke, that the 800 years of fighting in Northern Ireland made it a relatively young dispute compared with the Middle East. 'Eight hundred years may be recent, but from my experience there, I formed a conviction that there is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended'." (Envoy, 75, says 'yes we can' end conflict, Ann Davies, 24/1/09) And here is The Australian's version: "A story told by Mitchell yesterday puts his new challenge into perspective. On a recent trip to Israel, he gave a speech about Northern Ireland and what it was like trying to resolve the enmities that had been passed from generation to generation. After the speech, an Israeli man came up to him. How long had that dispute been going on, he asked. Mitchell replied: 800 years. The Israeli man said: such a short time." (Best chance for Mid-East peace, John Lyons, 24/1/09) Bonza story, George, Did the typically witty Israeli shrug his shoulders too?

Now as much as I hate to spoil a party, in my capacity as MERC I'm obliged to pick Mitchell up on this particular sound-byte. If Santayana is correct in his assertion that Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, then I'm afraid that, if for no other reason (and that's another story), his inability to remember the past could mean that, like all who have gone before him, his efforts will be in vain.

There are two aspects to Mitchell's ignorance of history here. The obvious one relates to Palestinian history, where he is quoted as saying that the problem of Northern Ireland, at 800 years (and I'll get to that in a minute), is younger than the Palestine problem, the implication being that the conflict in Palestine is one whose origins are somehow swathed in the proverbial mists of time. If Mitchell really believes this rubbish, then he is clearly not qualified to be Middle East peace envoy.

So just how old is the Palestine problem, or Middle East conflict, or Arab-Israeli dispute - call it what you will? Only 92 years old if we reckon from Britain's idiotic Balfour Declaration of 1917, promising the nascent Zionist movement a Jewish 'homeland' in Palestine, or, if we take it from the Zionist takeover of 78% of Palestine in 1948, a mere 60 years old. Has Mitchell ever read one reputable study of the issue? Just one for Christ's sake? It appears not. If that sound-byte is anything to go by, Obama's 'We can do peace' man hasn't got a clue as to how Palestine became a problem in the first place. How reassuring.

But that's not all. Remember the bit about the Northern Ireland problem being 800 years old? Really? There was an Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th Century, but as Irish historian Liam de Paor has pointed out "Late medieval Ulster was for the most part Gaelic... and beyond English law." (Divided Ulster, 1970, p 3) In fact, to move forward, "Ulster at the beginning of the 17th century was... the last Gaelic area to come under the control of the English administration. Its economy was pastoral.. It had no towns. For a thousand years its people had lived under Irish law... For a thousand years they had, in their own fashion... been Christian - Catholic. There were ancient churches, there were medieval friaries and abbeys. There were some, a few, stone castles, but lake dwellings and raths were still inhabited and had been defended in the war [of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, against Queen Elizabeth]. The Reformation had made as little headway as other innovations among the Ulster forests. The long war had brought hunger, disease, and... despair. England now had a king who was king of Scotland, and early in the century lowland Scots from King James's northern kingdom began to change the whole character of Ulster. This came about partly through... the policy of plantation... By means which were, as often as not, unscrupulous, a great deal of land in the 2 counties [of Antrim and Down] was acquired from its Irish proprietors and a determined immigration and energetic colonization by lowland [Presbyterian] Scots followed... The situation thus established in early 17th-century Ulster was an easy one... those who settled the confiscated lands lived among a hostile people who harboured a deep sense of wrong. The situation has often been compared to the early colonists of North America, whose little settlements lived under threat of Indian attack." (ibid, pp 4-8) It could as easily have been compared with the pre-state Zionist colonization of Palestine in the 20s, 30s and 40s. The point I wish to make, however, is that the Northern Ireland problem had its roots in the 17th century. Which made it around 370 years old when the 'Troubles' erupted there in 1968.

But hey, what the hell, he sorted out Northern Ireland anyway, didn't he?

How fortunate then are the Palestinians to have a peace envoy for whom a grasp of history is neither here (Palestine) nor there (Ireland)? But there's more, because, according to The Australian, "[t]he appointment of... George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East has raised the possibility that he will team up with former British prime minister Tony Blair in a peace initiative drawing on their experience of ending the Troubles in Northern Ireland." (Blair's Mid-East peace bid helped by Mitchell posting, Sarah Baxter, 26/1/09) Not to mention Blair's experience as Middle East representative of the so-called quartet (US, EU, Russia & the UN)!

With Blair as his sidekick, Mitchell will have the benefit of the latter's clarity of thought and unique perspective on the Palestine problem, which comes through loud and clear in this interview with the ABC's Geraldine Doogue: "Probably for me the key lesson which I understand better now... with my new role out in the Middle East peace process is just the deep roots of the problem, of the struggle that's going on within Islam, the relationship between Islam and the West, and therefore I think September 11 was an extraordinary and tragic and terrible event and for the first time we got to know about this extremism and its nature. But I think I didn't understand sufficiently at the time, I think other people didn't, the depth of it, and how long it had been building. I think it's very clear to me now that this is something that has been building up over decades, that it's got a multiplicity of different roots, round not just the Middle East region, but the wider world, that it is very much a struggle to do with how we come to terms with peaceful coexistence in the world, and that it has a strong religious dimension to it. I know in one sense that's obvious, but sometimes people say, 'Well, it's not really religious, it's to do with politics or deprivation or a sense of injustice', and all of those things are facets, but I think at heart it is indeed, a religious phenomenon." (Radio National, 20/9/08)

But it gets even better: "[Mitchell] is regarded as an honest broker in the Middle East - as the son of an American janitor and a Christian Lebanese-American mother, he has a nuanced understanding of the region's problems." (Baxter, ibid)

Alas, all is not as it seems. Just when you're thinking the Palestinians couldn't get any luckier, what with Mitchell being half Arab, comes that right pooper of Middle East parties, The Angry Arab, with this anecdote from 2006: "Back to the daily From Lebanon segment on LBC-TV, which features 'rich and famous' Lebanese, even if they are not Lebanese. Today it featured former Senator George J Mitchell from Maine. Here is a story about Sen. Mitchell (whose mother emigrated from Lebanon). A former student of mine in Washington DC was working part-time in the US Senate. He was half-Lebanese. He once found himself in the same elevator with Sen. Mitchell, and he greeted him warmly and asked him: 'Do you speak Arabic? I heard that you are Lebanese'. Very rudely, Sen. Mitchell told him: 'I am Irish. I am not Lebanese'." (The Angry Arab News Service, 11/4/06) Irish, begosh, begorrah!

So let's pull all this together: Obama, who has sworn to love, honour & obey Israel, appoints Mitchell, an Irishman, who knows nothing about Ireland or Palestine (and is most emphatically not Lebanese) to solve the Palestine problem. And in this noble endeavour, he will be ably assisted by Blair of Basra, failed prime minister and co-destroyer of Iraq, who also knows nothing about Palestine and sounds like a suitable case for treatment.

The Palestinians should be so lucky.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Israeli Destruction Forces

A leaflet distributed at Sydney's Stop the War on Gaza rally, Sunday 18 January:-

IDF (Israeli Destruction Forces) Demolitions & Excavations

"Our results speak for themselves."

For all your demolition needs...

Above ground/under ground
Day jobs/ night jobs
With civilians/ without civilians
Latest equipment used

Apartment blocks - Bridges - Farms - Hospitals - Homes
Infrastructure - Places of worship - Ports - Schools

No need for 'Council' approval.

We WILL COME to you!

If we don't, call one of our international representatives: Australia - Kevin Rudd; UK - Gordon Brown; US - George Bush or Barack Obama; or one of our regional offices across the Arab world.

And if IDF Demolitions & Excavations had issued a quote prior to carrying out their 'work': "Preliminary estimates of the cost of rebuilding from Israel's devastating military offensive top $1.6 billion, according to Western diplomats. But they said a full accounting of the damage had yet to begin and would take weeks to complete." (Cost estimates of Gaza war recovery top $1.6 billion, Adam Entous, Reuters/, 17/1/09)

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Backman Beat-Up

"Alan Kennedy writes: In all her pieces on Michael Backman's column in The Age, a column the thought police have now eradicated from our cyber memory banks, Margaret Simons proceeds from the position that the column should not have run. Her proposition is that inexperienced people allowed it to run and they should have censored it. Now, if you don't accept that central proposition, you see the matter in a different light. I, unlike many, have read the column and apart from some clumsiness about Israeli backpackers, which he never fully explained - although on her blog Margaret Simons was able to provide a possible source for his views - it was a well constructed column. It was not anti-Semitic and all the anti-Semitic constrictions placed on it by the Jewish lobby in Australia and cheered on by The Australian are in their heads only. The controversy here is that it is controversial that the column ran. It was just past of the tapestry in this big issue. The controversy is that The Age felt pressured to apologise and that it pulled the column from its archives. Backman's own website which contained the column was cyber attacked and he had had to pull the column down. This is the obscenity in all this." (, 23/1/09)

One fine day out in newspaper land a business journalist named Michael Backman was sufficiently moved by the bloodbath in Gaza, unlike so many in newspaper land who couldn't give a shit or even find Gaza on a map of the world for that matter, to put his thoughts on paper. They duly appeared as an article, Israelis are living high on US expense account, in The Melbourne Business Age of 17 January.

An impressionistic and commonsensical piece, Backman noted that Israel has become "very expensive to the US, which subsidises and arms it." The bleeding obvious, of course. Mearsheimer & Walt in their indispensible The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy point out that US largesse to Israel translates into a subsidy of $500 per capita per annum. (p 26)

But that, according to Backman, was only half the story, because, he suggested, we're all really paying for Israel: "We have paid for Israel's failure [to transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends] with bombs on London public transport, bombs in bars in Bali, and even the loss of the World Trade Centre Towers in New York." He went on: "It is not true that these outrages have occurred because certain Islamic fundamentalists don't like Western lifestyles and so plant bombs in response. Rather, it is Israel - or more correctly the treatment of the Palestinians - that is at the nub of these events... Pictures of distraught Gazan mothers beside the mutilated bodies of their children are circulating right now among Muslim communities worldwide. It is pictures like these that make them want to do something."

More of the bleeding obvious. As bin Laden himself said of 9/11 on 26/11/01: "The events of...[September 11] are merely a response to the continuous injustice inflicted upon our sons in Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, southern Sudan, and other places, like Kashmir." (from Nineteen Students in Messages to the World: the Statements of Osama bin Laden, edited by Bruce Lawrence, 2005, p 148) Or as Gabriel Kolko observed more recently: "... one thing is certain. Israel has killed at least 100 Palestinians for each of its own claimed losses, a vast disproportion that has produced horror in much of the world, creating a new cause which has mobilised countless numbers of people - possibly as strong as the Vietnam war movement. It has made itself a pariah nation - save in the United States and a few other countries. Above all, it has inflamed the entire Muslim world. As Bruce Riedal, a 'hawk' who has held senior posts in the CIA for nearly 30 years and is now one of President Obama's many advisers, recently wrote '...the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the central all-consuming issue for al-Qaeda', and 'Muslims feel a profound sense of wrong about the creation of Israel that infuses every aspect of their thinking and activities and has become the rallying cry used to convince the ummah of the righteousness of al-Qaeda's cause'. That was before Gaza. Much of the world now detests Israel's atrocities but most of it will live for many years to come with the consequences of Israel's atrocities. Muslim extremists will now become much stronger." (How to inflame the entire Muslim world,, 22/1/09)

Backman then delved into some historical background: "The enmity which many Muslims now feel for Israel has nothing to do with religion. The historical persecutors of the Jews have been Christians - their punishment for the death of Jesus. Jews and Muslims have lived in peace for hundreds of years in many parts of the Islamic world. When Catholic Spain and Portugal expelled its Jews, the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul invited them in. It is the Palestinian issue that has ruined all this." And those rockets - Palestinian of course, there are no others out in newspaper land - how are they to be explained? "Constantly slapping an opponent in the face, kicking him down to his knees, and watching him struggle in the dirt will not teach him to love or respect you. It teaches only hatred." "Hamas did not enjoy the support of all the people of Gaza. It does now. Why does Israel keep getting it wrong?" As I said, commonsensical.

Backman then drew a link between Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinians and the behaviour of Israeli backbackers in Nepal, citing Nepalese claims of rudeness, arrogance, and a tendency to "argue over trifling amounts of money even though they clearly have means." This is hearsay, of course, but even worse claims have been made by Israelis themselves (see my 4/12/08 and 8/12/08 posts Zionist S & M and A Blight Unto the Nations). His conclusion: "Israel needs to change." And, in terms of how to interact with others, Backman suggested that Israelis might have something to learn from the good works of India's Parsees.

Well and good, another piece in the bag, Backman must have thought as he read his article on The Age's website. But others out in Israel lobby land, Zionist hawks who watch the scribblings of journalists - well, like hawks - lest a few home truths about the apple of their eye emerge into print, saw an opportunity and swooped. I say opportunity because, with the slaughter in Gaza, the Israeli apple has been looking decidedly wormy of late to all but Zionist hawks, and Backman's plain-speaking provided an excuse to both draw attention away from Gaza and target The Age for daring to deviate from the rigidly pro-Israel line laid down by the lobby. The technique? Smear Backman, and by implication The Age, as a purveyor of anti-Semitism, albeit in its supposed modern-day guise of criticism of Israel. And where better to do so than in Rupert's rag.

It was a highly orchestrated affair: "The Jewish community is considering legal action against The Age newspaper over 'poisonous' anti-Semitic commentary published over the weekend" (Jews slam 'racist' newspaper article, Angus Hohenboken), asserted a 'news' report in The Australian of 20 January. What, the entire Jewish community? And where was the adjective 'alleged', as in 'alleged poisonous anti-Semitic commentary'? Welcome to the wonderful world of The Australian. Read on and you find that "the Jewish community" reduces, in the body of the report, to John Searle (Jewish Community Council of Victoria), Danny Lam (Zionist Council of Victoria), Michael Danby (MP, Melbourne Ports) and Vic Alhadeff (Jewish Board of Deputies). IOW, the organised Israel lobby.

Lamm "condemned the article, saying it encapsulated 'centuries of hate speech against Jews in a few hundred words'." This because "the article stated that the historical persecution of Jews constituted punishment for the death of Jesus..." Backman's words ("The historical persecutors of the Jews have been Christians - their punishment for the death of Jesus") may have been a little bald - 'who claimed that it was' might have been preferable to the dash - but to suggest that he was somehow endorsing this Christian view is really stretching it. The stretch was followed by a sleight of hand: "... and suggested Israelis and Jews were disinterested [sic] in the welfare of others..." Backman used the word Israelis, not Jews: "Israel needs to change... the Parsees have peace and the Israelis do not." Danby "called on Backman to apologise for 'using the blood of 80 Australians for his bigoted theories'." His premise, of course, is that Backman approves of the Bali outrage. There is no evidence whatever for this. Positing a motive for such a terrorist outrage other than that approved by Zionist/neocon propagandists (that the Bali bombers were motivated solely by hatred for our western lifestyle) is clearly a flagrant breach of the party line and cannot be tolerated. Danby also took umbrage at "stereotypes in the article about young Israelis not paying bills in Nepal [feeding] into primitive prejudice about 'penny-pinching' Jews'." In doing so he misrepresents Backman who was merely quoting the Nepalese: "... they [Nepalis] say that the young Israelis are rude, arrogant, and argue over trifling amounts of money even though they clearly have means."

Hohenbeken's report was followed by an excerpt from Backman's piece in the Cut & Paste section of The Australian's letters page (The song remains the same: it's all the fault of Israel: Michael Backman, in the business pages of The Age, blames Islamist terrorism on arrogant, penny-pinching Israelis). Also in Cut & Paste was A letter in online publication Issues of Concern for Justice & Society which likened Backman's piece to the content of Der Sturmer , invoked Hitler's blaming of the Jews for Germany's losing of WW1, and spoke of "people like Backman who are too cowardly to say that they hate Jews, so they vilify Israel." Again, the smear: criticism of Israel is merely classical anti-Semitism in contemporary dress. But there was more: Tim Blair in his Daily Telegraph blog, contra Backman, felt obliged to point out that Hamas was lobbing rockets on Sderot because its "charter simply demands [Israel's] obliteration." And more: The Australian Jewish News reports "The Age's coverage has been the most problematic. Even worse was The Age's opinion balance." That, however, let the cat out of the bag as to what was really eating the Zionists - not Backman, but the more balanced Age coverage of the Gaza bloodbath (see my previous post). Finally, Cut & Paste quoted Mark Steyn in the National Review Online on the act of Jew-baiting, then and now to the effect that the Jew-baiting Mosleyites of the 30s had re-emerged in London as today's anti-Israel protestors.

The Australian was back at it the next day: "A former editor-in-chief of The Age [and one-time editor of the AJN Michael Gawenda] has accused the paper of 'journalistic failure' [Yes, that's right, Gawenda accuses The Age of journalistic failure in The Australian of all places!], blasting the newspaper for printing an 'inadequate' apology after it published a column espousing racist views... The apology said [it] was 'published in error. The Age does not in any way endorse the views of the columnist, apologises for the distress the column caused to many readers, particularly in the Jewish community and regrets publication of the column' it said." (Paper's apology over anti-Semitic article 'inadequate', Angus Hohenboken) But not even an apology from Age editor Paul Ramadge was enough for Gawenda (who'd earlier been sacked as an Age columnist for criticising Fairfax management). He wanted The Age to "tell its readers how it would prevent the publication of racist material in the future," and suggested that Ramadge initiate a "cultural" revolution at the paper.

The Backman beat-up was getting bigger than Ben Hur. There was also an editorial, Apologists for evil: Blaming Israel for terrorism completely misses the point, which suggested, like the AJN quote above, that The Age was really the problem ("... no amount of apologising can disguise the obvious: if Blackman's [sic] beliefs are not held by senior staff at the paper, why did his piece appear?"), rather than Backman ("There is no evidence that Blackman [sic] hates Jews, but people who do will endorse his arguments and continue to cloak their anti-Semitism in a faux concern for the Palestinians.").

Hello? Let's look at that again: there is no evidence that Backman hates Jews. That is, nothing he has written can be characterised as anti-Semitic, right? So he's not an anti-Semite, right? But didn't Hohenboken's report the day before refer to Backman's " 'poisonous' anti-Semitic commentary," weren't Searle and Lamm quoted as saying the article "encapsulated 'centuries of hate speech against Jews...'," and didn't Alhadaff say it "reflected 'the bigotry of rank anti-Semitism...' "? Didn't Cut & Paste conjure Der Sturmer and Hitler? I'm afraid they did. And, in the same issue as the editorial declaring that Backman was not an anti-Semite, isn't Gawenda banging on about "racist material"? Yep, afraid so. Basically, the editorial reduces to the contention that, while sometimes real anti-Semites may masquerade as pro-Palestinians, Backman is not in that category.

Should that not have been the end of the matter? But there's always more in The Australian, the special mission of which is the shielding of Israel from legitimate criticism and analysis by smearing it as anti-Semitism. Under the hypocritical title (this is The Australian remember), Broadsheet no place for narrow minds: anti-Semitism is a monster that will be difficult to stamp out globally, but it hopefully isn't too much to expect that it can at least be eliminated from the pages of The Age, one of the lobby's mates, Liberal senator Michael Ronaldson, accused Backman of "dredg[ing] up the most venerable of anti-Jewish biases," and "appear[ing] to endorse [the New Testament Book of Thessalonians in accusing] the Jews of murdering Jesus... " The remainder of Ronaldson's opinion piece is the usual Zionist filler ("Zionism, the national movement for Jewish sovereign self-determination") having nothing to do with the Backman beat-up.

To summarise: Neither Backman nor his article are in any way anti-Semitic. The article was, however, opportunistically seized on to peddle the false Zionist dogma that Judaism (a faith) and Zionism (a political ideology) are essentially one and the same (and that by extension Jews, all Jews, are Zionists), such that criticism/opposition to Zionism and its political embodiment, the state of Israel, is really just classical anti-Semitism in modern form. The general aim, of course, being to divert the public's attention from Israel's crimes in Gaza and blunt criticism of same. The problem for the Israel lobby, which effectively controls coverage of the conflict at The Australian, is the relative even-handed approach to the issue of its Fairfax rival The Age. The Age's independence of the lobby in this respect has long been an anathema and an affront to it, and Backman's imaginary crimes have been used in an attempt to put pressure on The Age's editorial line on Palestine/Israel.

But that was not the end of the matter. It was taken up on by author and media specialist Margaret Simons. In The Michael Backman column: weird & unpleasant happenings at The Age (21/1/09), she faithfully echoes the lobby's inflammatory discourse, stating that "it's all about an anti-Semitic column by... Michael Backman... and about the bizarre 'apology' The Age had on page 2 yesterday." "How did such a racist column come to be published?" she asks. The absence of the qualifier 'allegedly/alleged' is glaring, and indicates that on matters of what constitutes anti-Semitism/racism, Simons naively relys on her Zionist lobbyist contacts. What I find bizarre in all this is that in Simons we seem to have a media expert who evinces little or no awareness of the fact that false allegations of anti-Semitism (or the threat of same) are often wielded by Israel-firsters to mute or curb criticism of Israel in the corporate media*. It is hard to believe she does not have some inkling of this state of affairs?

[*As the American journalist Harold R Piety put it: "The ugly cry of anti-Semitism is the bludgeon used by the Zionists to bully non-Jews into accepting the Zionist view of world events, or to keep silent." (They Dare to Speak Out: People & Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby, Paul Findley, 1985, p 296)]

Simons writes that "part of the background [to the apology] is the instant action by the Jewish community, and in particular the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council and its chairman Mark Leibler and executive director Colin Rubenstein [who] spoke to... Ramadge on Monday morning, and he and Leibler met Ramadge face to face that afternoon. Rubenstein told me this morning that Ramadge 'happily agreed' that the column was offensive and outrageous, said its publication was due to a 'breakdown in editorial procedures' and promised that he had the affair 'under the microscope'. He also promised an unreserved apology." What is noteworthy here is Simons' unquestioning assumption that "the Jewish community" and AIJAC are one and the same. Does she mistakenly believe that the AIJAC heads are somehow elected by 'their' community? Does the ability of Leibler and Rubenstein to get a same day, face to face meeting with the editor, and an 'on the spot' apology not pique her interest as an objective observer of the media scene? Does she not wonder at Ramadge's reported 'Yes, sir, no, sir, 3 bags full, sir' response? Does she not feel the need to question the assumption that, if Ramadge really did concede that Backman's article was "offensive and outrageous," then it must have been offensive and outrageous? Does it occur to her that there are real implications for the right of free speech in all this?

Simons goes on to examine the process by which the article ran and finds that at the time some among the Age staff "argued strongly in favour of [Backman's] publication" on the grounds that "pieces critical of Muslims often got a run" and that "The Age should not be seen to be frightened of the 'Jewish lobby', and Israeli treatment of Palestinians and actions in Gaza were legitimate topics of debate." Frightened of the 'Jewish lobby'? What a revealing insight into the pressure that those trying to report and comment on the Palestine problem are under. Why doesn't Simons explore this?

But no, she has no doubts: "Here's what I think. The column is clearly offensive, and also weird... It makes the classic logical error of the racist - generalising from the particular deeds of an individual or group to the race as a whole. It manages to blame Jews for Muslim extremism and violence [I repeat, Backman is not talking about Jews as such, but Israelis], talks carelessly about that classic of anti-Semitic hate speech - that Jews were to blame for the death of Jesus [Zionist conflation of Jews with Zionists is not careless talk?] - and leaps bizarrely from what is happening in Gaza to the alleged [her first and only use of this invaluable qualifier] rude behaviour of Israeli tourists... I think the Backman column shouldn't have been published. It's a pretty vile and silly piece." There really is only one word for this - bollocks!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Overwhelming Pro-Israel Bias

Just how pro-Israel is the Australian print media? In a word, extremely. But don't take my word for it, examine the evidence. Tendentious reporting aside, what follows is a list of the opinion pieces (inc. editorials) on Israel's murderous frolic in Gaza from The Australian (News Ltd/national), The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax/NSW), and The Age (Fairfax/Victoria) from 29/12/08 - 21/1/09. The opinion pieces for each paper are divided into pro-Israel items and those of a more critical bent. The list for each paper is followed by a summary comment:-

Pro-Israel opinion pieces in The Australian (29/12/08 - 21/1/09)

29/12: Hamas betrays the Palestinians (editorial)
30/12: Crush Hamas & brave the backlash (Michael Oren)
31/12: Global activists defend terrorists by condemning Israel (Ralph Peters); Sound & fury... & it still signifies nothing (David Aaronovitch)
1/1/: Lessons for us all in Gaza bloodshed (Mirko Bagaric); Don't stop until Hamas is destroyed (Martin Peretz)
3/1: Israel is not the cause of terror (editorial); An honourable warrior against despicable tactics (Alan Dershowitz); Common ground riven by cultural gulf (Philip Mendes)
5/1: Hamas has the power to stop the shooting (editorial); Sorry history beyond today's violent images (Colin Rubenstein); Stopping the rockets a strategic necessity (Greg Sheridan)
6/1: It's about peace, not destruction of Hamas (Yuval Rotem); Failure is not an option for Israel this time (Shmuel Rosner)
7/1: West must guarantee resolution with Gaza (editorial); A sadly familiar case of with us or against us (Assa Doron)
8/1: Stay the course & bust the Hamas balloon (Bret Stephens); BBC parrots UN-Hamas as Palestinians kill their own (Melanie Phillips)
9/1: Diplomacy can stop the shooting in Gaza (editorial); Propaganda does nothing for peace (Niv Horesh); Quote from Spectator website (Melanie Phillips)
10/1: Israel just wants to live in peace (Daniel Finkelstein)
12/1: Empathy for sale (David Burchell)
15/1: Critics of Israel giving voice to anti-Semitism (Frank Furedi)
16/1: Hamas in a state of denial (Bret Stephens); The real Mid-East conflict is between nationalists & Islamists (Barry Rubin)
19/1: Lasting solution for Gaza must be found (editorial)

Total: 27

Opinion pieces critical of Israel in The Australian (29/12/08 - 21/1/09)

31/12: The injustice of Israel's heavy hand (Amin Saikal)
3/1: Disaster of Israel's making (Sonja Karkar)
5/1: Middle East bullies on road to nowhere (Joseph Wakim)
12/1: Quote from Wall Street Journal (George Bisharat)
13/1: Israel's war queers the pitch for peace (Neil Clark)

Total: 5

Comment: With 32 opinion pieces over 24 days, you can see the extent of The Australian's fixation on the issue. And with 84% of its opinion pieces in favour of Israel, you can see the overwhelming pro-Israel bias on its op-ed pages. It is reasonable to assume that the remainder were included only by way of lip service to a more balanced coverage.

Pro-Israel opinion pieces in The Sydney Morning Herald (29/12/08 - 21/1/09)

30/12: Israel, Gaza & Huntington (editorial); A lasting peace needs more than slogans (Con Coughlin)
2/1: Throw away the moral blinkers (Mirko Bagaric)
6/1: Israel crosses the line (editorial)
8/1: Israel is entitled to respond (Vic Alhadaff)
10/1: Breaking the cycle of violence needs a different intelligence (editorial); Rebuild the ruins: America's role in the Middle East (Martin Indyk)
13/1: It's too easy to blame Jews (Paul Sheehan)
19/1: Obama is walking a high wire (Paul Sheehan)

Total: 9

Opinion pieces critical of Israel in The SMH (29/12/08 - 21/1/09)

8/1: And now who would trust Israel? (Sara Dowse)
12/1: Israel must abide by international law (Izzat Abdulhadi)

Total: 2

Comment: Of the SMH's 11 opinion pieces over 24 days (only 1/3rd of The Australian's coverage), 82% were pro-Israel. It is fair to assume that the remainder constitute only a token attempt at balance.

Pro-Israel opinion pieces in The Age (29/12/08 - 21/1/09)

31/12: The tragedy when a regime uses its citizens as tools of war (Fania Oz-Salzberger)
2/1: Inadvertent martyrs to the cause of Hamas (David Bernstein)
7/1: Gaza: the great divide 2 (Shai Hermesh)
16/1: A free press comes with responsibilities (Yuval Rotem)
21: Negotiating with terrorists is impossible (Mark Leibler)

Total: 5

Opinion pieces critical of Israel in The Age (29/12/08 - 21/1/09)

30/12: I dream of another Israel (Uri Avnery)
1/1: The deadly consequences of the games that Israel plays (Michael Shaik)
3/1: Killing civilians will not make Israel safer (editorial)
7/1: Gaza: the great divide 1 (Khalid Meshaal)
16/1: Israel's actions foster extremism (Malcolm Fraser)
17/1: Israelis are living high on US expense account* (Michael Backman) [*Actually in The Melbourne Business Age]

Total: 6

Comment: The Age's opinion coverage (11) was almost 50/50.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dear Neighbor from Hell

A 9 January letter from Israeli PR Central under the name of David Rosenblatt, Sarigim, Israel appeared today as a comment on my last post. It should come as no surprise then to learn that 'David' 's letter is popping up all over the blogosphere. Here is my Palestinian response:-

Dear Neighbor from Hell,

Thank you for your, er, shall we say, interesting letter. So happy you live in a "beautiful house by the woods" in my occupied homeland. And that "lovely view from the balcony" from which you can see your jets bombing us here in Gaza, that must really be something special. I imagine it's best at night, like watching fireworks, no? That white phosphorus, so beautiful - from a distance. And thanks so much for your kind offer of a cuppa at your place. I'm glad you said, "someday," because actually I'm rather busy now, what with the stumps that were my legs still awaiting prostheses, trying to scrounge a bite to eat every other day, and an amazing number of funerals to attend.

You say it's time I knew the truth. The Israeli version, you mean? No, I never actually had cause to wonder why my parents and I were born in a refugee camp in "poverty and filth" and "despair and hatred" as you put it. You see, I knew from my earliest days that my grandparents came from occupied Palestine (or 'Israel' as you prefer to call it). And no, don't believe that Zionist fairy tale you've been told, David. You know, the one about Palestinians lured from their homes in 1948 by siren calls from Cairo and Damascus. Codswallop. My grandparents were forced out of their village by the bombs and bullets of Jewish soldiers who wanted their land for a Jewish state. And since you've asked me if I'd ever wondered why I was living in a refugee camp, may I ask you if you've ever wondered about who once owned the land you're now living on in Sarigim? No? I thought not. Well, I'll tell you. Sarigim was built on the lands of the Palestinian village of 'Ajjur, the population of which was - surprise, surprise - driven out by Zionist forces in 1948. And where do you imagine those villagers and their descendents are now, David? They're probably in a refugee camp somewhere just like me.

Ah yes, the Holocaust! I knew it wouldn't be long before you invoked that. But, David, think - that happened in Europe, not in the Middle East. My grandparents weren't members of the SS, just Palestinian farmers with a few dunums on which they grew wheat. So please spare me your Holocaust, both the history lesson and the practical one we're presently getting here in Gaza. I was going to move on, David, but seeing you've raised the issue, have you heard about the Palestinian Holocaust? No, I thought not. It began 60 years ago with a Big Bang, the Nakba or Catastrophe as we call it, and it's been going on, sometimes cold, sometimes hot, sometimes very hot, like now in Gaza, but non-stop to this very day! Imagine if you can, generation after generation, and Palestine just gets smaller and smaller, its population more and more confined, walled in, choked. A Holocaust by degrees, if you will, a hundred deaths today, 2 or 3 tomorrow. A Holocaust that just keeps keeping on. OK, I just know your pale blue eyes are glazing over, so I'll move on. But remember what you wrote: "We will never forget what was done to our people and you better not either." It seems that you have forgotten that what was done to your people was done by fellow Europeans, not by us, and that what they did to you, you are doing to us. You are, as they say, very sick puppies indeed.

You say you do not hate us. Your F-16s drop love bombs on us, then? Your Merkava tanks fire love shells? Your Apache helicopters love missiles? Amusingly, you say you do not want our land. Well then, David, feel free to give it back. And you don't want to murder our children? Fine, then don't. You say you treat our "Arab brothers as equals." Our Arab brothers? You mean those of us who somehow managed to avoid being expelled in 1948? Why then, if you can treat our brothers in occupied Palestine, sorry, Israel, as brothers, you won't mind treating us as equals too. Would you be so kind as to send me a citizenship application, David? You say that your hand has been extended in peace to your Arab neighbors since day one? So the wars of 1956, 1967, 1978, 1982, and 2006 were just figments of my fevered Arab imagination then? You say that Israel's peaceful intentions are proven "time and time again through numerous negotiations and extensive compromise." Forgive me, but for a time in the 90s we Palestinians were motivated by the belief (how naive this sounds in retrospect) that if we conceded the 78% of Palestine you now call Israel, you'd withdraw your army of occupation from the remaining 22% and we'd form a Palestinian state, a whopping compromise if ever there was one. But guess what? Almost a decade on and that 22% is sinking under the weight of your settlements and related infrastructure.

You say you just want to be left in peace. What, so you can enjoy our Palestinian homeland while we rot in exile? We too were once a people who just wanted to be left in peace. But no, in flooding into our country uninvited and under the protection of British bayonets in the 20s, 30s and 40s, you disturbed our peace then, and you've gone on disturbing it ever since. Does the principle 'do unto others' mean anything to you? No, sorry to have to tell you this, but there is no peace, as they say, for the wicked, and we'll go on disturbing your peace until we win our just demands.

You say your soldiers are not "motivated by hate," just "determination." Funny, I must have misinterpreted that graffiti left behind in Zeitoun by your soldiers when they invaded Gaza: 'ARabs need 2 die', 'Arabs are pieces of shit' and '1 is DOWN 999,999 TO GO'. (Israel may face war-crimes case for alleged atrocities, Tim Butcher, Telegraph/SMH, 21/1/09). Love notes, obviously. Anyway, it's not their hatred or their love that worries me, it's really their determination - their determination to dispossess us, cage us, and when the fancy takes them, blow us away. You say you will "kill and die" to protect 'your' land and your way of life. By your land, you mean the land which was once ours, ethnically cleansed by you in '48. It may come as a revelation to you, but that's how we feel too.

You say a "terrorist is a terrorist." A "coward." Not a "hero." Then please explain how your terrorists and ethnic cleansers - Ben-Gurion, Begin, Shamir, Sharon & Co - became prime ministers of 'your' country. And while you're at it, please explain the coming choice in February between those two political heirs of Begin - Livni and Netanyahu. And if, as you say, our 'terrorists' should emulate your terrorists - those currently running amok here in Gaza - and die for our people rather than among them, kindly prevail upon your government to open the Gaza crossings so that we can acquire comparable terror weapons to yours.

You say "Israel exists and belongs to the Jewish people." So that means Jews everywhere, right? Jews living comfortably in the United States or Australia as citizens with every possible right and then some? But not to me, or to my stateless, disenfranchised people here in Gaza or the West Bank or Lebanon or Jordan? Is this your famous chutzpah, my friend? When I drop in for that cuppa one day, would you like me to prostrate myself, to kiss your hand? Do the dishes, perhaps? Sweep the floor? You complain about our school books. 'Israel' has been omitted from their maps you say. I'm sorry I don't have any to hand here in Gaza so I can check. You see, they've all been incinerated, along with the schools and the schoolkids. Maybe you could send me a map of 'Israel' that shows the fabled green line between 'Israel' and the West Bank - sorry, Judea and Samaria - if you're not too busy working on the old Zionist project of wiping Palestine (literally) off the map, that is.

"You are not getting [our beautiful country]. This was explained to you in 1948. You got your country and we got ours." And you're still explaining this to us as I write, aren't you? And with much the same teaching style as you used in 1948. Trouble is, beating the shit out of students if they fail to remember their lines or ask difficult questions doesn't really work anymore, if it ever did. You see, David, the world has moved on since the glory days of the British Empire when you could just swan into someone else's country and lord it over the natives. Your friends in South Africa got it, but you and yours, it seems, still don't. As I said earlier, very sick puppies indeed.

One day, David, when we refugees return to our homeland, 'your' land will be both yours and mine. Then maybe we can have that cuppa - at your place or mine - because, guess what, we're going to be real neighbors, as in right-next-door neighbors.

I'll leave you with this thought from one of your countrymen, a friend of mine actually, name of Oz Shelach: "Self-congratulatory conversation is part of Israeli decorum, and confirming that our beauty is in our problemacy is common about the dinner table. 'How beautiful a language is ours', said a linguist to his companion in an Arab restaurant. 'How open and accomodating it is' (read: we are so open and accomodating). 'We say this coffee is ya'ni 'ala kefak. 'Ala kefak, superb; ya'ni, that is to say. Arabic words, adopted by our ever-absorbant language'... Of course, many words remain, unadopted, with the people of this country, ya'ni Falastin. Try saying it." (Picnic Grounds)

Remember, we're going to be neighbors.

Just another Mohammed from Gaza, Palestine, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The SMH: Puerile & Pusillanimous

Is the position of letters editor at The Sydney Morning Herald reserved for the especially clueless? Listen to this Postscript from Mike Ticher commenting on letter writers' responses to the carnage in Gaza: "As ever most letters focused on moral rights and wrongs: who did what 40 or 60 years ago, who had or had not broken international law and was or was not justified in certain actions. Those certainly should be debated, but it would make a change to have a more pragmatic debate about what might realistically work to change the situation." (17/1/09)

Ah yes, right and wrong, history, international law - so boring, so yesterday. And yet some letter writers actually took the bait - no doubt allowing Ticher to bin other writers who likely had more of a grasp of the moral, historical, and legal background to the issue. (I do not, of course, include the Fishmans, Lewis's and Burds in this category.)

Don Brown of Narrabeen tried his best to descend to Ticher's challenge, grumbling relevantly that neglecting the history of the conflict was "as difficult as discussing US-Muslim relations without mentioning the twin towers." His letter climaxed with "The power imbalance, both militarily and diplomatically, is so great that Israel believes it is impervious to any criticism, let alone any punitive action. It has developed nuclear weapons, bombed Syria, built walls and settlements and ignored the claims of the Palestinians for all the long years of the occupation." So far, so good, but Ticher's puerile terms of reference reduced Don to this nonsense: "Perhaps if the immense military aid to Israel were to be totally replaced by a program of building schools, clinics and sporting facilities to be shared by the people of both Israel and the occupied territories, some progress could be made." (19/1/09)

Bruce Weatherlake of Bli Bli, Qld wrote relevantly about the need for Israel to allow the Palestinian right of return, but, nobbled by Ticher's terms of reference, plunged into irrelevance with "All Australians... have been heartened to see the great camaraderie among different members of the South African cricket team; something unimaginable 25 years ago," and concluded with this inane Obamarism: "Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game." (19/1/09)

Guys, guys, this is so not a game! Don't allow yourself to be diverted by know-nothings like Ticher. Here are the kinds of things you could have written about, courtesy of Australian academics John Docker & Ned Curthoys' newly formed Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism: Statement of Aims:-

1) In the Ghandhian tradition of non-violence, the committee stands for the peaceful co-existence of Israeli Jews and Palestinians within a unified democratic state where everyone is a full citizen irrespective of religion or ethnicity.
2) The committee supports the view of Sir Isaac Isaacs, a Jewish jurist and former Governor General of Australia in the 1940s, that the very idea of a Jewish state is absurd, unjust, and untimately untenable, since it makes all the non-Jewish citizens necessarily and inevitably second-class citizens.
3) In the Gandhian traditon of non-violence, we support the cultural and economic boycott of Israel.
4) The Jewish Right [sic: Law] of Return is a weapon in the Zionist colonization and occupation of Palestinian lands. Accordingly, we urge that the world wide Jewish diaspora should renounce the Right of Return.
5) We urge support for UN Resolution 194 which declares the unconditional right of the Palestinian refugees expelled from Palestine in 1948 to return to their homes.
6) We observe that Zionist Israel is guilty of genocidal policies as defined in Article II (c) of the Genocide Convention, in that it intends to destroy, in whole or in part, an ethnic group by "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part." By "physical destruction" we mean that Zionist Israel transparently seeks to destroy Palestinian society and remove Palestinians from their ancestral lands in order to Judaize those same lands.
7) The world wide Zionist organisations are also guilty, in terms of the Genocide Convention, Article III (e), of "complicity in genocide." (From antony 5/1/09)

To add insult to injury, the SMH (along with its Ziocon rival, The Australian), on the same day as the above letters, failed to cover the third and largest of Sydney's massive anti-Israel demonstrations. Contrast this with the excellent coverage in Melbourne's Age - Thousands march in Melbourne against Gaza war, Andra Jackson, 19/1/09 - a piece, moreover, which actually quoted some of those who spoke at the rally, and, in a revolutionary new journalistic development, even one of the demonstrators!

By turning its back on the thousands of Sydneysiders who flooded the streets of Sydney's CBD for block after block to express their solidarity with the victims of Israeli genocide in Gaza, the SMH reveals itself yet again to be more of a media firewall acting to block and deflect, rather than a serious newspaper in the business of reporting and investigating contemporary trends and developments. Whether this failure to report arises out of cowardice or conviction, the SMH as currently configured, deserves our contempt.

Another indication of the strength of popular feeling against Israeli war crimes emerged in The Sun-Herald of 18/1/09. In response to that publication's airing of the views of federal Labor MP Julia Irwin (one of the tiny minority of Australian politicians with the courage to speak up for the Palestinians) the week before, columnist Kerry-Anne Walsh wrote as follows: "Ms Irwin's article generated a greater flood of correspondence in The Sun-Herald than any issue in recent years, the overwhelming majority in support. What emerged - strongly - in their views was a yearning for politicians to break ranks and voice opinions." (Toe the line, don't step on any) Walsh followed this with a selection of these emails. Needless to say, the Israel lobby, in the person this time of Robert Goot of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), had obtained a right of reply - Just defence despite death toll. What a pity that his space on the paper's Comment page wasn't given over entirely to that "flood of correspondence."

World public opinion is turning decisively against the rogue state of Israel, and rightly so. The bulk of the Australian corporate media (with the possible exception of The Age), however, still hasn't got it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oriana Fallaci Meets Israeli PR at the SMH 2

One of my commentators, 'g', after complaining to the Sydney Morning Herald about the failure of its columnist Paul Sheehan to disclose that his November 2008 trip to Israel was sponsored by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, received an email from letters editor Mike Ticher informing him/her that Sheehan would be "addressing the issue in next week's column." (See my 13/1/09 post Oriana Fallaci Meets Israeli PR at the SMH & g's comment following my 16/1/09 post Sleepless in Sderot, Legless in Gaza)

A disclosure of sorts duly emerged in Sheehan's column of 19/1/09, Obama is walking a high wire. To find it one had first to wade through the following sludge: Barak Obama is eminently qualified for the presidency because he displays "intellectual adroitness, from his choice of cabinet to his choice of words. Even his choice of TV show..." Which can only mean that, if you can put together a cabinet that Dick Cheney approves of*, string a few words together (unlike Bush), and enjoy a TV show about "dysfunctional" black Americans, you've got the makings of an American president that Sheehan would approve of. All this, however, is just by way of getting to the real subject of the column - the Middle East conflict.

[*Cheney has described Obama's national security team as "a pretty good team."]

Sheehan opines that "it is of some concern that [Obama] will make the Middle East his priority, in particular the Arab-Jewish schism." Why this should be concerning he doesn't say. Then there's that nonsense about "the Arab-Jewish schism." I certainly wasn't aware that there was once a religion, X, which split into Arabs (an ethnic descriptor) and Jews (a religious descriptor), but that's Sheehan for you. He goes on: "The Israeli-Palestinian divide has done little to enhance the reputation of Congress or American presidents for the last 60 years." Hm. Reading Sheehan is often like reading tea leaves in the dark, and about as useful. He seems to be saying that Congress/American presidents have always come out the worst for wear as far as the Middle East conflict is concerned. If so, the logical thing would suely be to acknowledge the reason for this state of affairs - the Israel Lobby's stranglehold on US policy in the Middle East. But Sheehan's not going there, of course.

"Here," he rambles on, "I have found another significant detail about the new president. Last year, in Chicago, Obama spent 2 hours being briefed by Khaled Abu Toameh. He listened, he wrote a lot of notes', Toameh told me." Toameh who? "For years Toameh has repeatedly antagonised and embarrassed the Israeli Government, and the Fatah and Hamas parties in the Palestinian territories, by exposing lies and brutal acts on all sides." The Israeli Government, really? Let's check out Toameh's latest (2/1/09) antagonisings and embarrassings of the Israeli Government, shall we? "In recent weeks, Hamas and its supporters did almost everything to drag Israel into a new round of violence. By refusing to extend the unofficial [!?] cease-fire with Israel that expired 2 weeks ago, Hamas paved the way for the massive IDF operation designed to halt the rocket attacks on Israel. The Palestinians who are now shouting and crying because of the Israeli offensive should direct their anger first and foremost toward the 'elected' [!!?] government of Hamas. Tragically, the Palestinians who voted for Hamas and those who continue to rally behind the movement are responsible for the ongoing violence. They had a chance to revolt against Hamas, but chose to either remain silent or continue siding with the movement." (Hamas & the Palestinians, The man's a veritable scourge! You couldn't possibly get anything more antagonising and embarrassing for Israel than that, now could you?

Toameh who? "Toameh is a Palestinian Muslim who lives in East Jerusalem. He works as the Palestinian affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, is an authority on Fatah and Hamas, and is widely sought as a consultant by foreign media." Yes, this fearless antagoniser and embarrasser of Israel works for the rightwing Jerusalem Post, and is much sought after by the right people, like those over at the Hudson New York thinktank (, for example, which recruits "moderate Muslims" to, among other things, "counter lawsuits intended to intimidate and silence critics of religious extremism, and combat States which train children to be suicide killers." At Hudson-NY, you'll be pleased to know that Toameh rubs shoulders with other much sought after antagonisers and embarrassers of Israel such as Alan Dershowitz, Daniel Pipes, Bernard Lewis, Douglas Feith and Irshad Manji.

Now according to Sheehan, Toameh reckons Israel, the US and the EU "have been deluded about the growing strength and pragmatism of Hamas." Back to those tealeaves in the dark. Does this mean that Toameh thinks Hamas is a pragmatic organization, but the 3 amigos don't believe it is, or that he thinks Hamas is not pragmatic but the 3 amigos believe it is? And you'd better give a rat's arse what Toameh thinks, folks, because, according to Sheehan, "everything [Toameh] predicted has come to pass." And what, dear reader, has this prophet and scourge of Israel predicted? Sheehan doesn't say. But, hey, the fact that, according to Sheehan, Obama "has gone outside the policy makers, think-tankers, lobbyists and armchair experts" and listened to "someone who inhabits the dangerous territory between... sworn enemies" gives us a real "insight" into the man. Oh? And who, I wonder, brought them together? Hudson-NY?

Ah, at last: "I had a briefing with Toameh in November, though can claim no credit for finding him. It was part of a study tour for Australian journalists to Israel, sponsored by the Jewish Board of Deputies which was omitted from my column last week." Why was it omitted? And who, pray tell, omitted it? Questions! Questions!

But it's not so much the forced, buried, glancing nature of Sheehan's disclosure that concerns me - that was utterly predictable. No, something else has been omitted here. You see, Sheehan's met the prohet and scourge before on a previous trip to Israel in 2006, a trip, which, if sponsored by the JBOD, is a fact he also failed to disclose at the time. That trip yielded 2 pro-Israel columns, the second of which, A sovereign Palestine? No chance (1/1/07), introduced us to a "prominent Palestinian moderate, Khaled Abu Toameh... who writes for The Jerusalem Post." Toameh back then was also music to Sheehan's ears: he blamed Israel's annexationist West Bank wall on, wait for it, "Yasser Arafat's intifada," and called Fatah a "mafia" and a "monster." Hamas, by contrast, Toameh thought "much less corrupt, much more competent, and more pragmatic." Aha! So the prophet and scourge had ruled, in 2006, that Hamas was PRAGMATIC? But hold on! In Sheehan's 12/1/09 column, It's too easy just to blame Jews, he's written that "Hamas is, above all, about jihad." So, who's right, the prophet and scourge, or the SMH's "armchair expert"? Is Hamas a pragmatic organization to be preferred over its corrupt and incompetent Fatah rival (Toameh), or is it just another jihadi arm of Al-Qaidah (Sheehan)? Questions! Questions!

Finally, one last bolt of blinding insight from Toameh out of Sheehan ("At the time [11/08], Toameh described Gaza as 'a frightening situation'. And that was well before Israel's military offensive.") and that, as Peter Cundall (a man who knew good manure when he saw it) used to say, is your lot for the week.

The SMH, slip, slip, slip-sliding away...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Amazing Synchronicity

I've just finished watching the British satire The Trial of Tony Blair on ABC television. Set in 2010, and based on the idea of Blair being brought to justice on a charge of war crimes after standing down as prime minister, it was first screened on Britain's Channel 4 on 15 January 2007. That's right, over 2 bloody years ago! Yet everything for a reason, I suppose. You see, with Gaza currently under Israeli bombardment, I was struck by the amazing synchronicity of these lines:-

Cherie: We're hated by 250 million Arabs.
Tony : At least we're not being bombed by the Israelis!

Wag the Dog

'I'm just wagging the dog/If you don't know how to do it/ I'll show you how to wag the dog' (Words by Ehud Olmert. Music by The Rolling Stones)

"The findings of the 2 professors (Mearsheimer & Walt*) are right to the last detail. Every senator and congressman knows that criticising the Israeli government is political suicide... If the Israeli Government wanted a law tomorrow annulling the 10 Commandments, 95 Senators (at least) would sign the bill forthwith. President Bush, for example, has withdrawn from all the established American positions regarding our conflict. He accepts automatically the positions of our government... Almost all the American media are closed to Palestinians and Israeli peace activists. As to professors - almost all know which side of the bread is peanut-buttered. If, in spite of that, somebody dares to open their mouth against the Israeli policy - as happens once every few years - they are smothered under a volley of denunciations: anti-Semite, holocaust denier, neo-Nazi." (Who's the Dog? Who's the Tail? Uri Avnery 22/4/06)

[*The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy, 2007]

"Earlier this afternoon, the United States House of Representatives voted 390-5 in favor of H. RES. 34, voicing their support for the Israeli military effort in the Gaza Strip. The bill... demanded that Hamas end its rocket fire against Israel and renounce violence, while expressing 'vigorous support and unwavering committment' to Israel and declaring that its 2 weeks of attacks on the Gaza Strip were rightful acts of self-defense. The bill also demanded that all nations condemn Hamas for breaking the 'calm'... and that all nations recognize that the thousands of civilian casualties caused by the Israeli attacks were entirely the fault of Hamas. The bill also called upon Egypt to tighten its borders to prevent 'smuggling' into the Gaza Strip and promised US support to that end." (House overwhelmingly passes bill cheering Israeli war on Gaza,, 9/1/09)

"US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was left shame-faced after President George W Bush ordered her to abstain in a key UN vote on the Gaza war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday. 'She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favour', Olmert said in a speech in... Ashkelon. The UN Security Council passed a resolution last Thursday calling for an immediate ceasefire in the 3-week old conflict in the Gaza Strip and an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza... Fourteen of the Council's 15 members voted in favour of the resolution, which was later rejected by both Israel and Hamas. The US, Israel's main ally, had initially been expected to vote in line with the other 14 but Rice... became the sole abstention. 'In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour', Olmert said. 'I said get me President Bush on the phone. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. I need to talk to him now. He got off the podium and spoke to me. I told him the US could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour'." (Rice shame-faced by Bush over UN Gaza vote: Olmert,, 13/1/09)

"Israeli PM Ehud Olmert's Monday comments... have sparked a war of words between the prime minister's office and the US State Department [which] immediately contradicted Olmert's claims, insisting that Israel might want to 'clarify or correct the record' with respect to the comments. Rice has dismissed Olmert's claim as 'fiction'... Yet spokesmen for Olmert say that the prime minister stands behind his version of events." (Olmert stands behind Rice-shaming claim,, 14/1/09)

Maybe "... public gloating by an Israeli PM that he can order a US president off a podium and instruct him to reverse and humiliate his secretary of state may cause even Ehud's poodle to rise up on its hind legs one day and bite its master." (Is Ehud's poodle acting up? Patrick Buchanan,, 17/1/09) But don't hold your breath.

And by the way, it's not that Olmert hasn't done this sort of thing before: "Candid TV footage of the Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, showed Olmert coaching Prodi on what to say at their joint press conference in Rome." (Candid TV footage shows Olmert coaching Prodi, The Independent, 14/12/06)

Wagging the dog? Wagging the dogs.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

No choice but to resist...

Operation Defensive Shield (29/3/02-21/4/02) was Israel's last major military rampage in the West Bank. The Israeli terrorist forces used the most advanced weaponry at their disposal: Merkava tanks, Apache attack helicopters and F-15 fighter jets. When it was over, the economic and social structure of the West Bank lay in ruins, homes were destroyed, 220 Palestinians were dead, hundreds more were injured, and thousands were imprisoned. The following words, from Palestinian writer and academic Edward Said (1935-2003) and poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008), written during the operation, are as relevant today as they were then. I dedicate them to the Resistance and people of Gaza:-

"The most important lesson for all of us to understand about ourselves is manifest in the terrible tragedies of what Israel is now doing in the Occupied Territories. The fact is that we are a people and a society, and despite Israel's ferocious attack against the Palestinian Authority, our society still functions. We are a people because we have a functioning society that goes on - and has gone on for the past 54 years - despite every sort of abuse, every cruel turn of history, every misfortune we have suffered, every tragedy we have gone through as a people. Our greatest victory over Israel is that peole like Sharon and his kind do not have the capacity to see that, and this is why they are doomed despite their great power and their awful, inhuman cruelty. We have surmounted the tragedies and memories of our past, whereas such Israelis as Sharon have not. He will go to his grave only as an Arab-killer and a failed politician who brought more unrest and insecurity to his people. It must surely be the legacy of a leader that he should have something behind upon which future generations will build. Sharon, Shaul Mofaz, and all the others associated with them in this bullying, sadistic campaign of death and carnage will leave nothing except gravestones. Negation breeds negation. As Palestinians, I think we can say we have left a vision and a society that has survived every attempt to kill it. And that is something. It is for the generation of my children and yours to go on from there, critically, rationally, with hope and forbearance." (From Thinking Ahead, Al-Ahram, 4/4/02)

"This is a war for war's sake, since it has no other aim than its self-perpetuation. Everyone knows this; and once again, the sword will prove incapable of crushing the spirit... In every corner crimes are being committed. On every street lie the bodies of the murdered. On every wall is blood. The living are deprived of the basic right to life, and the martyrs are denied graves in which to rest in peace. Above all, however, what we are now seeing is the expression of the will of a people that has no choice but to resist... Television has made it unecessary to explain ourselves: now our blood is shed in every home and is on every conscience. From this day on, he who does not become Palestinian in his heart will never understand his true moral identity... In the face of the political genocide being offered by the American-funded Israeli occupation of their land, [the Palestinians] offer their steadfast resistance no matter what the cost. Backs against the wall, their eyes fixed upon hope, they show a strength of spirit for which their can be no facile explanation... What concerns us is the defence of our national and human existence - even if our backs are up against the wall. We have absolutely no other option." (From A War for War's Sake, Al-Ahram, 11/4/02)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sleepless in Sderot, Legless in Gaza

The corporate media's slavish subserviance to the Israel lobby's demand for 'balance' degenerated into farce on the ABC's 7.30 Report of 15/1/09. The item, ABC sheds some light on Gaza carnage, began by promising a rare look inside Gaza. As presenter Mark Bannerman put it: "Israel banned foreign journalists from entering Gaza to provide independent reports. The ABC gained access to Gaza's main hospital where doctors struggle to cope with the continuing carnage."

ABC television's man-on-the-mound (you know, the one from which you've been observing those smoke plumes in distant, down-there Gaza these past weeks), Middle East correspondent Matt Brown took it from there: "It's been a stunning display of raw power. The Israeli military machine, amongst the most powerful in the world, has gone to war against Hamas, the Islamist militants that rule the Gaza Strip."

After first relieving himself of the regulation Israeli Talking Point - "It's determined to stop Hamas launching rockets into Israel" - Matt takes us to Gaza's "ground zero" of suffering, Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where we meet Dr Mohammad Elron who has "barely slept or seen his family since the crisis began." Matt is amazed at the toll the attacks have taken on the children of Gaza. "It was predictable, given more than half the population is under 18," he comments sagely. Why, even Dr Elron's own son was "hit in the face by shrapnel 2 weeks ago." To our immense relief , and no doubt to Matt's great surprise, the good doctor "isn't a member of Hamas," is "not even a supporter," and "wants an end to the violence." Which must be what makes him good, unlike, say, your bad doctor who is either a member/supporter of Hamas, and therefore, wants "the violence" to go on, and on, and on, and... Not that we actually heard Matt ask Dr Elron about his political affiliations and/or sympathies, mind you. The good doctor explains how overwhelmed and under-resourced they are at Shifa. We need "everything," he says.

Matt marvels: "The scale of the attacks is unprecedented. And so are some of the injuries. Israel's been firing white phosphorus to light up the sky and hide its troops on the front line... [but] militants and civilians alike are turning up at Shifa with terrible white burns or phosphorus poisoning." At which exact half-way point, before we can even get a close up of the phosphorus as it burns and smokes its way through human flesh all the way to the bone, Matt, who has spent most of his time in Israel either standing on his mound overlooking Gaza or reporting on the traumatised citizens of the Israeli town of Sderot, switches from sauteed Palestinians to, yes, you guessed it, Sderot!

As the camera pans in on a slight indentation in the road*, Matt tells us that "the roads bear the scars of many a near miss and the bus stop is equipped with a bomb shelter." We meet ambo Gil Asiskovitz who has "gone out to a rocket strike... thousands" of times. Of course, Matt doesn't ask about the number killed [9 in Sderot in 8 years**] and injured [433], or about the nature of their injuries. We're just left with the general impression that thousands [actually, 2,383] of rockets means thousands of killed and wounded and that poor old Gil must be as sleep-deprived as Dr Elron attending to them. And then, as if on cue - you're not going to believe this - another bloody Qassam on the way! Scene of running medics: "Inside, inside. It's now directed to Sderot. We are going to the safety room. Medics must take shelter until the rocket falls. But then they'll rush straight to the scene."

"Despite the drama," Matt informs us, "the mission is kept as low-key as possible." Ambo Gil explains: "All the cases where ambulance going, we don't operate sirens because this is a stress indicator for the people... here, we just going with a red light." And, at the (presumed - we don't get to see it) impact site? "The only casualty... was a woman suffering an anxiety attack. Her symptoms get worse every time a rocket falls." Explains Gil again, "The stress syndrome is a wide range. They are trembling. They are not cooperating. They got chest pains. They hypertension rises up to 200 and more." Yes, pretty bloody uncomfortable alright. But there's more: "The government says it's not just the number of people who have been killed that matters [19 according to Matt], but the fact that more than a million*** are within range of the rockets and they shouldn't have to live their lives in fear that at any minute they'll need to take shelter."

And that's the last we see of ambo Gil. Seeing as Matt didn't bother to ask him if he was a member/supporter of any of those Zionist extremist outfits, Kadima/Likud/Labour/etc, that have been occupying, shelling, strafing, bombing and rocketing Gaza since time immemorial, we unfortunately don't know whether he was a good or a bad ambo.

The sleepless in Sderot want a "permanent fix," Matt tells us. Says one such, "The military operation is good. I hope it continues and and destroys them, leaving them dust in Gaza." Comments Matt somewhat infelicitously: "Some of Gaza's neighbourhood's dust is almost all that's left."

[*Contrast with Amira Hass' description of Gaza City's main throughfare: "... Nasser Street which has been closed to traffic for over a year. Its asphalt is torn out and it is riddled with potholes and mounds of sand." (This is Gaza, Haaretz, 30/12/08)][**] [*** See my 6/1/09 post Go Figure 2]

Thursday, January 15, 2009


"You know, I have always argued strongly, in Arabic and English, against analogies between Israel and Nazism, and I have always argued against Arab invocations of the holocaust in describing Israeli terrorist murder of Palestinian civilians. I have been thinking all that through this week." (The Angry Arab News Service, 12/1/09)

Dealing with Polish Terrorism or Regime Change? You decide:-

"On 22 August [1939], as Ribbentrop flew to Moscow to sign the non-aggression pact, Hitler was at his mountain fastness in Berchtesgaden, giving a speech to his senior military commanders. Notes taken at the time indicate exactly what kind of war he foresaw: 'A life and death struggle... The destruction of Poland has priority. The aim is to eliminate active forces, not to reach a definite line... I shall give a propagandist reason for starting the war, no matter whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked afterwards whether he told the truth or not. When starting or waging a war, it is not right that matters, but victory. Close your hearts to pity. Act brutally. Eighty million people must obtain what is their right. Their existence must be made secure. The stronger man is right. The greatest harshness'. On 1 September, with nearly 2 million German troops pouring across the frontier into Poland from the west, north and south, the Fuhrer issued the following proclamation: 'To the Wehrmacht! The Polish state has rejected the peaceful regulation of neighbourly relations I have striven for and has appealed to arms. The Germans in Poland are being persecuted by bloody terror and are being driven from their homesteads. A series of frontier violations, of a nature not tolerable for a great power, proves that the Poles are no longer willing to respect the German Reich's frontiers. To put an end to this lunacy, there remains no other course for me but to meet force with force'. Inside the Reich, Goebbels had been whipping up anti-Polish feeling, running scare stories on the suffering of ethnic Germans." (Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe, Mark Mazower, 2008, pp 64-65)

Dealing with Palestinian Terrorism or Regime Change? You decide:-

"The Interior Minister, Meir Sheetrit, "called on the IDF to 'take off its gloves', head into Gaza with armored tractors and raze an entire neighborhood from which rockets have been launched." (IDF should wipe out parts of Gaza, Jerusalem Post, 11/2/08)

The Deputy Defence Minister, Matan Vilnai, said that the Palestinians are "bringing upon themselves a greater Shoah because we will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in airstrikes or on the ground." ('Shoah' an admission, Arabs say, SMH, 3/3/08)

"As tit-for-tat attacks across the Gaza border intensified after the collapse of the end of a 6-month truce, the 2 main rivals in the Israeli elections in February vowed to remove Hamas from power, using military means if necessary... Tzipi Livni, the Foreign Minister who will lead... Kadima in the election, said, 'The state of Israel, and a government under me, will make it a strategic objective to topple* the Hamas regime in Gaza. The means for doing this should be military, economic and diplomatic'. Later Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads the right-wing Likud party... said, 'In the long term we will have to topple the Hamas regime'..." (Israel's leading parties vow to wipe out Hamas, Guardian/SMH, 23/12/08)

[*We did not seek out war, but the circumstances became impossible. Even when it all began, we were very restrained. We didn't say that we want to topple Hamas. I don't know if we can make Hamas disappear, but we didn't say 'topple'." (Olmert: Rice shame-faced by Bush over UN Gaza vote,, 12/1/09)]

"In attacking Hamas' regime in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces will try to 'send Gaza decades into the past' in terms of weapon capabilities while achieving 'the maximum number of enemy casualties and keeping Israel Defense Forces casualties at a minimum', GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant said." (GOC Southern Command: IDF will send Gaza back decades, Uri Blau, Haaretz, 28/12/08)

"Tel Aviv's early insistance that this massive military exercise was about putting a halt to Palestinian rockets being fired into or near communities in the south of Israel never rang true.
Measure it by the number of rockets - 8000 - plus [sic: see my 5/1/09 post Go Figure 1] over eight years - and indeed it sounds like a genuine existential threat. Consider the toll - 20 Israeli deaths spread over eight years, which is about half the number of deaths in just a month of Israeli traffic accidents - and it all loses its oomph as a casus belli. Israel does not want to deal with Hamas - it wants to annihilate the Islamist movement. The Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said as much when she dashed to Paris last week to head off a French push for a 48-hour ceasefire. 'There is no doubt that as long as Hamas controls Gaza, it is a problem for Israel, a problem for the Palestinians and a problem for the entire region', she said. If there was any doubt after Livni spoke, it evaporated on Friday when the Deputy Prime Minister, Haim Ramon, told Israeli TV: 'What I think we need to do is reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern. That's the most important thing'. And at the United Nations in New York, the Israeli ambassador, Gabriella Shalev, also seemed to depart the approved script. '[It will continue for] as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely', she said." (Mission revealed: destroy Hamas, Paul McGeough, SMH, 5/1/09)

"'We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II, [Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor] Lieberman added." (Lieberman: Do to Hamas what the US did to Japan, Jerusalem Post, 13/1/09)

"Israeli analysts say a ground war in Gaza City would make the conflict to date seem tame. 'The Israeli Defence [sic] Forces will enter, with great force, with tens of thousands of soldiers, into the heart of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip', the respected commentator Alex Fishman wrote in yesterday's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. 'There will no longer be strikes at the margins from the ground and destruction from the air. Now we are talking about armoured divisions that will not leave a single stone standing on their way into the refugee camps and into the heart of one of the most crowded cities on Earth'." (Israel divided over its next move, John Lyons, The Australian, 14/1/09)