Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ACTU: Missing in Action on Palestine

"[I]ndustrial workers and their trade unions have been the least active and militant components of the anti-imperialist movements. Many workers fear the loss of employment, faced by a mass of unemployed workers. Equally damaging, most of the trade union officials have consolidated control and become closely linked to tripartite pacts with the state and employers, and reject independent class action, let alone active anti-imperialist solidarity." (Empire With Imperialism: The Globalizing Dynamics of Neo-liberal Capitalism, James Petras & Henry Veltmeyer, 2005, p 113)

ACTU supremo Sharon Burrow met Dr Ron in 2006: "Two MPs from the Labor Party's left faction and the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) met with the director-general of the Peres Centre for Peace last week in a bid to build bridges. Tanya Plibersek and Maria Vamvakinou, both of whom have previously been critical of Israel, as well as ACTU chief Sharan Burrow, from the left flank of the union movement, met with the Peres Centre's Dr Ron Pundak during his 5-day visit to Australia to promote the opening of the Australian arm of the centre. Pundak told the AJN... he believed both Plibersek and Vamvakinou are 'pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian*, yet critical of many of the policies of the Israeli Government'." (Peres Centre woos ALP's left faction, The Australian Jewish News, 15/12/06) [*NB Palestinians, not Palestine.]

In 2008, however, despite Pundak's charms, Burrow could still - well, sort of - call a spade a spade in response to Israel's barbarous Operation Hot Winter in Gaza: "ACTU President Sharan Burrow is calling on the Australian government to take the urgent steps required to help parties to avoid further bloodshed and to request commitment from the Israeli Government to adhere to international laws and conventions in respect to military conduct." (The ACTU condemns military attacks against Palestinian & Israeli civilians, actu.asn.au, 5/3/08)

By 2009, however, in response to Israel's even more barbarous Operation Cast Lead (Gaza again), the "bloodshed" was gone, replaced by a "humanitarian crisis," and Australia, not Israel, was told to pull its finger out: "As the situation continues to escalate and the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip worsens, the ACTU calls on the Australian government working through the United Nations to increase pressure for an immediate ceasefire and an end to all violent hostilities." (Global action needed to effect immediate Gaza ceasefire & restart peace process, actu.asn.au, 7/1/09)

In 2008, international law and the UN was Burrow's reference point, including a recognition that Israeli occupation was simply not on: "'International humanitarian law prohibits targeting of civilan populations under all circumstances; in this conflict, this applies to both the Israeli military and those launching rockets from Gaza', said Ms Burrow. The ACTU supports the stance of the United Nations... The ACTU's policy is that "real progress be made to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, based on the co-existence of 2 sovereign states in line with United Nations' resolutions. Furthermore, the ACTU opposes the establishment of the 'separation wall' as a violation of Palestinian human rights'. The ACTU supports... UN policy that the occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights should be ended." (ibid)

By 2009, however, the UN's only role was to clean up after Israel and "dialogue" was counselled. (Oh, yeah, and while we're watching the bloodbath in Gaza, let's put our hands together for... Israeli and Palestinian trade unions): "'The people suffering from Israel's military actions and Hamas' rockets are working people who live in Gaza and the Sderot region of Israel. The ACTU has long supported... a genuine internationally-backed negotiation process for a peaceful and sustainable resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Ms Burrow said the ACTU applauded the Palestinian and Israeli trade unions in their efforts for peace, for decent work, sustainable jobs and livelihoods, and for social and political rights for workers living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories... The people of Gaza who have been suffering so long without food, fuel, water and medicines, and without the opportunity to travel outside their enclave, must be able to receive essential humanitarian supplies from the United Nations and the international community', Ms Burrow said. She said a solution to bring about a lasting peace will only become possible if there is a willingness for dialogue and creating a ceasefire is the first step." (ibid)

In June 2009, while the ACTU Congress passed ringing resolutions on Western Sahara and Sri Lanka, to cite but two examples, Palestine had magically disappeared from the union agenda. But not, I hasten to add, from Burrow's thoughts, which were decidedly warm & fuzzy on the subject. In July, she once more advanced solidarity between Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists as the definitive answer to the Zionist project of wiping Palestine (and its people) off the map:

"Trade unionists must show they can create practical examples of solidarity between Israelis and Palestinians, the president of the ACTU, Sharan Burrow, told a labour movement meeting in Sydney this week. 'These practical working models would be a demonstration to all that a peaceful end to the strife between the two peoples can be achieved', Ms Burrow told a largely labour movement audience attending a Fringe Event at the Australian Labor Party national conference... The discussions [of practical solutions at the Fringe Event] highlighted the recent creation of a new global labour grouping Trade Unions Linking Israel & Palestine (TULIP) which seeks to promote solidarity with both the Israeli trade union movement, the Histadrut, and the Palestinian trade union movement, the PGFTU. Paul Howes, the national secretary of the AWU, is a founder of TULIP, a global anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) trade union group. Ms Burrow, who is also President of the International Trade Union Confederation [ITUC], related stories about her several visits to the region where she shared both feelings of fear and optimism, despite the horrors, with her Palestinian and Israeli trade union sisters and brothers. She praised the purpose of the Fringe Event to look at what the labour movement does best: 'build solidarity because we recognise that a worker is a worker is a worker, who deserved equal treatment in our eyes as they are all brothers and sisters... If we can build solidarity between unions, first and foremost in this region the PGFTU and the Histadrut - something we have been doing through the work most particularly of the International Transport Workers Federation [ITWF] - then I am sure that trade unions can make a difference." (Unions back Palestine/Israel peace, labor.net.au, 2/8/09)

Still, Burrow somehow manages to take time off from group-hugging her "Palestinian and Israeli trade union sisters and brothers" and popping up at anti-BDS (Israel) functions to head up pro-BDS (Burma) campaigns: "'No company could be proud of dealing with Burma... Major companies around the world are now withdrawing. Businesses who stay in there know they are helping the junta and therefore [abetting] the abuse of human and trade union rights...' Ms Burrow will join Burmese democracy activists in Sydney today for the beginning of a campaign to pressure Australian companies into withdrawing from Burma." (Jetstar denies link to Burma rights abuse, Deborah Snow, Sydney Morning Herald, 28/9/09)

Now let's contrast 'our' ACTU's complete absence of a resolution on Palestine (Burrow's warm and fuzzies notwithstanding) with Resolution 76 of Britain's Trade Union Congress (TUC): "Congress condemns the Government of Israel's January offensive in Gaza resulting in 1,450 Palestinian deaths and 5,000 injured and the massive destruction of infrastructure. Congress further condemns the ongoing blockade that is in contravention of International Law. Congress calls on the General Council to: i) use its influence with the British Government to make appropriate representations to the international community to secure support for a negotiated settlement based on justice for the Palestinians; ii) build solidarity with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. Congress condemns the Histadrut statement of 13 January 2009 in which it backed the attacks on Gaza and calls on the GC to pressure the Government to: a) condemn the Israeli military aggression and end the blockade on Gaza; b) end all arms trading with Israel; c) impose a ban on the importing of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories; d) support moves to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement. Congress further calls on the GC to encourage affiliation to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and to develop an effective Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions campaign by working closely with the PSC to: 1) raise greater awareness on the issues; 2) promote a targeted consumer-led boycott; 3) encourage trade unionists to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in the illegal settlements; 4) encourage campaigns of disinvestment from companies associated with the occupation."

Way to go!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Who Did What?

"There were no Holy Places in Palestine to which the Jews laid actual physical claims - except perhaps Rachel's tomb, which was at no time a matter of controversy. The Wailing Wall we did not own, and never had owned since the destruction of the Temple." (Chaim Weizmann, Autobiography, 1949, p 355)

"On the third day of the [1967] war, Israeli paratroopers freed the Old City of Jerusalem. Among the paratroopers fighting for the Old City were students of Rabbi Kook... In charge of one of the groups of soldiers who freed the Kotel was Yoram Zamoosh... He immediately sent an army vehicle to the homes of Rav Kook and Rabbi David HaCohen to bring them to the Kotel. Rav Yisrael Ariel, one of Rav Kook's close students and a paratrooper, was assigned by his commander to guard over the Mosque of Omar. He has recounted that he waited by the Mosque, thinking mistakenly that the Army was going to bring explosives to blow up the Mosque. The Redemption is coming, he thought. The redemption is indeed coming, but as the Talmud states, little by little. Rabbi Kook was able to cry and dance at the Kotel, but the Temple Mount wasn't to really come back to our hands. Even though Judea and Samaria were recaptured, they were not psychologically freed. People all over the world, including Jews and Arabs, were waiting for us to destroy the Mosque of Omar on top of the Mount." (Era Rapaport, Letters from Tel Mond Prison: An Israeli Settler Defends His Act of Terror, 1996, pp 63-64)

Here's how your ABC News reported the latest Israeli provocation at Jerusalem's Haram ash-Sharif on Radio National this morning:

"At least a dozen Israeli police have been injured in violent clashes with Palestinians inside Jerusalem's Old City. The riot began as Palestinians began throwing stones at Jewish worshippers. The clashes coincided with the holiest day on the Jewish calendar - Yom Kippur - when crowds of worshippers were at the Temple Mount, the holiest site for Jews, which also houses the Al-Aqsa mosque. Police used stun grenades to disperse a crowd of about 150 Palestinians. At least 12 police were injured, and 11 of the rioters arrested." (Palestinians, police clash at Jerusalem holy site, By Middle East Correspondent Anne Barker, 28/9/09)

And here, presumably, is what the listener picks up:

Palestinians always initiate violent clashes with Israelis. They're always throwing stones (or firing rockets or running amok or exploding themselves) for no apparent reason. That's just what they do. Apparently, listeners do not need to know that they are doing this in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and so Middle East Correspondent Barker doesn't bother telling them. Moreover, the 'victims' of these stone throwers are one and all innocent Jewish worshippers, quietly doing their religious duty on the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. And, what's more, they're doing it at a holy site known as the Temple Mount, which just so happens is also the site of something called the Al-Aqsa Mosque. That the so-called Temple Mount has, since the 7th century AD, been known by its Arabic name of Haram ash-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) is apparently neither here nor there for Ms Barker. But that was then. This is now. It seems that the Haram ash-Sharif compound (site of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock), Islam's third holiest site, must now be rebadged, in classic Ziobabble, as the Temple Mount. And notice that, although Israeli police use high-tech stun grenades*, it's Palestinian stones (thrown not by defenders of Islam's third holiest shrine, but by rioters) that are singled out and render the 'clash' violent.

It goes without saying that the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency's reference to a "group of settlers [who] reportedly entered the Old City compound under the watch of Israeli forces," could not be allowed to sully Barker's script. [*Designed to facilitate "hostage rescue and capture of criminals, terrorists and other adversaries." (fas.org)]

Israeli settlers, eh? Could the Palestinians be right? Could it really be that they are merely defending the Haram ash-Sharif from the Israeli Taliban, hell-bent on cleansing 'their' Temple Mount of its Islamic 'excrescences'? Well, if past performance is anything to go by, yes it could. Here is a timeline of Israeli provocations and outrages concerning the Haram ash-Sharif from The Jerusalem Question, ed Ali Kazak, 2003. Judge for yourself:

11/4/82: Israeli soldier and American Jew, Alan Goodman, accompanied by other Israelis, charges unprovoked into the Dome of the Rock, murdering the elderly caretaker then spraying worshippers with automatic fire. Two Palestinians are killed and over 60 wounded. While in the 1300-year-old mosque, they set fire to old and rare carpets and smash windows inscribed with fine Islamic artwork. Bullets are shot from 3 directions but only Goodman is charged with the crime.
15/1/88: Israeli police fire tear gas into Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, wounding over 40 worshippers.
8/10/90: Israeli border police kill 18 Palestinians and injure 150 more as Palestinians protest the intention of the extremist Gershon Solomon's 'Temple Mount Faithful' to enter the compound and place a cornerstone for the building of a 'third Jewish temple'.
29/3/94: Demonstrations break out in the Old City as a group of Israeli extremists led by Gershon Solomon stage a march through the Old City and rumours spread that they are going to enter the Haram ash-Sharif compound. Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police leave at least 5 Palestinians injured.
29/11/94: A group of religious settlers from the 'Alive & Well' group attempts to break into Haram ash-Sharif compound in order to make a provocation. The leader of the group, Yehuda Etzion, has in the past been involved with the terrorist Jewish underground and participated in the plan to blow up the Dome of the Rock for which he was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. The mob seeks to re-establish the Kingdom of Israel and recapture the 'Temple Mount'. Ten members of the group are arrested.
4/5/95: Islamic Higher Council decides to close the Haram ash-Sharif compound to tourists until further notice after Jewish extremists try to enter the compound in order to conduct prayers.
6/8/95: Israeli settlers try to break into Al-Aqsa compound through Bab al-Qattaneen but are prevented by guards.
16/9/95: Muslim High Court releases a statement expressing fear that Israel, in connivance with radical settlers. is trying to take over the Haram ash-Sharif compound.
20/9/95: Despite tremendous local protest Israeli police chief Rubin allows 20 extremist settlers to enter Haram ash-Sharif compound protected by strong police force; the settlers announce that soon they will enter Al-Aqsa Mosque itself.
24/7/96: Israeli High Court passes a resolution allowing small groups of 'Temple Mount Faithful' to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on 25 July to perform 'Jewish religious rights for fast day'. PNA, Jordan and Syria protest. Tens of Jews immediately try to storm the mosque but are blocked by police.
25/7/96: Israeli police escort hundreds of 'Temple Mount Faithful' in pairs to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for prayers; they arrest 12 members of 'Hay Veqayam' who try to enter the site.
24/9/96: Under heavy police guard, Israel undertakes a surprise predawn excavation to complete a long archaeological tunnel that runs under Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The 12-year-old project was completed only on the personal orders of PM Netanyahu, who intended it as a message to Palestinians that Israel is the 'sole sovereign' in Jerusalem. PNA denounces the tunnel work and calls for a general strike the next day. During the day, Palestinians at the mosque clash with police.
27/9/96: PM Netanyahu deploys 6000 police throughout Israel, 4000 in East Jerusalem. After morning prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, several youths throw stones at Israeli troops and police surrounding the site. Israeli army storms the compound firing on Palestinians, killing 3 and wounding 50. Fighting erupts in Rafah, Tulkarem, Balata, Erez, Jenin and Ramallah. Israeli Arabs observe a general strike in support of their compatriots. A total of 52 Palestinians and 14 Israelis have been killed in clashes over the past 3 days since the tunnel was opened.
28/9/96: UN Security Council passes a resolution regarding the situation in the occupied territories and calls for the 'reversal of all acts which have resulted in the aggravation of the situation' ie the opening of the tunnel.
28/9/00: Likud party leader Ariel Sharon makes his provocative intrusion onto the Haram ash-Sharif compound accompanied by a large police contingent. Hundreds of Palestinians gathered from the early hours of the morning at the compound which houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque to protest Sharon's intrusion. After the provocation, Palestinians clash with police who were still present in their hundreds. This marks the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
29/9/00: During Friday prayers, the Israeli military enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in force. Israel claims the Palestinians were throwing stones from the courtyard that overlooks the Western Wall. Palestinians affirm that the prayers were not yet finished when the Israeli police entered the compound. Israeli troops open fire killing 7 Palestinian worshippers and injuring more than 200.

Or maybe our Palestinian rioters just couldn't help themselves?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Australian's Front Page Pin-Up Girl

Meet The Australian's sultry, khaki-clad, M-16-cradling, front page pin-up girl from Israel, Maya Melamed:

"For women pushing to take combat roles in the Australian Defence [sic] Force, it may be a case of being careful what you wish for. The Israeli Defence [sic] Forces have had women in combat roles since the 1980s, leading to situations such as that which 21-year-old Maya Melamed found herself in recently. Under fire from Hamas during this year's Gaza war, Melamed spent a week inside a tank as the only woman... After 3 years in a frontline role, mainly in the West Bank, Melamed insists women can make better soldiers. She says that, in modern warfare, mental toughness is more important than physical strength... 'The only time that I felt there was a difference [in her treatment by male soldiers] was when we were attacked. We went into an Arab village (on the West Bank) to treat a Palestinian who got hurt by a car, and the people in the village were throwing stones at us and were basically attacking us, and that's the first time when I saw all my team was crowding around me to protect me because I was taking care of the patient... She estimates that of those she has treated, 70% have been Palestinian... She has sometimes treated Palestinian militants who have been injured during clashes with IDF troops." (Gender not frontline issue in Israel, John Lyons, 25/9/09)

Typical, as Basil Fawlty would say, just typical: here's Maya and her "team" rushing around the West Bank running a free ambulance service, and all those ungrateful Ayrabs can do (when they're not knocking one another over at a rate of knots in their flash new Porsches and Maseratis, that is) is chuck stones at them! Some people...

Now meet Maya Wind & Netta Mishly:

"They are just like us. Nineteen years old, ambitious, aspiring and passionate about life. But unlike many of us, they've gone to jail to defend their convictions. Maya Wind and Netta Mishly, Israeli refuseniks (they call themselves 'Shministim', which is Hebrew for 'twelfth graders'), accumulatively spent several months incarcerated for refusing to join the Israeli military, which is a required service after finishing high school. Both young women come from the most recent refusal movement (deemed the 'December 18th movement') against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In December 2008, Amnesty International officially endorsed this campaign of solidarity led by American activist group Jewish Voice for Peace, garnering 20,000 letters of support. Amnesty International considers them to be 'prisoners of conscience and 'calls for their immediate and unconditional release'... When it comes to the context of the conflict, the two possess a remarkable understanding of the underlying causes and effects of the occupation. 'It's not just a political issue, it's also an economic issue', said Wind. 'There are economic interests to keep the occupation going. And those economic interests are not only Israeli, they are also American and international and often multinational corporations also'. Ms Wind doesn't pull any punches when she discusses our personal role as Americans in the toxic reaches of the occupation. 'You (Americans) as consumers should be more aware of the companies that you might buy from and the role that they play in ruining people's lives and trampling on human rights and making the war in Israel/Palestine go on, and the occupation go on'... 'As far as US corporations go there are many who are involved in the occupation, and who are profiting from the occupation', said Wind. 'Some of them cooperate even to the extent that they design special machines for the Israeli occupation, such as Caterpillar. Caterpillar designs huge bulldozers to take down Palestinian houses that Israel uses in the house demolitions it carries out in the West Bank and East Jerusalem'... 'You give us $3 billion a year in military aid with absolutely no conditions. For example, to hold Israel to some moral standard or international law - that would be a great idea. It's a shame the US doesn't do this'." (Israel's 'Prisoners of Conscience', Gabriel Matthew Schivone, Arizona Daily Wildcat, 20/9/09)

One thing's for sure. You won't find Maya Wind or Netta Mishly in Murdoch fishwrapper.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Koutsoukis Gets Real

Much of Fairfax Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis' reporting has been problematic and gaffe-prone. (Simply click on his tag at the end of this post and judge for yourself.) In his recent "analysis" of the Goldstone report (Israel & Hamas must heed UN report, SMH, 17/9/09), he arrogantly lectured the (war) criminal and his victim: "If Israel and the Palestinians are ever to escape this conflict, they should follow Justice Goldstone's advice. The self-examination may prove enlightening." The wisdom of Uri Davis' 2003 dictum - "The primary 'terrorist' in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Government of the State of Israel - not the Palestinian suicide bomber" - eludes him.

Most recently, however, in an online opinion piece in The Age, Koutsoukis revealed an uncharacteristic irritation with Israel's latest round of crying wolf: "Forgive me for being confused, but exactly what are the clear and present dangers facing the State of Israel? According to Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations Gabriella Shalev, her government's main goal at this week's UN General Assembly meeting is to show the world how dangerous Iran is. With Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said to give what his aides say will be a 'dramatic' speech to the UN on Thursday, Shalev said the Iranian threat would be the main focus. 'We know Iran is a dangerous country', Shalev said on Monday. 'We stress and we emphasize that Iran is not only a threat to Israel, it's a global threat'. Israeli diplomats, Shalev added, would meet with their Australian counterparts and officials from other countries, to make them understand 'the challenges Israel is facing at a very crucial time'. Perhaps Shalev should leave time in her schedule to make sure Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak also understands exactly what those challenges are. Last Friday... Barak gave an interview to Israel's biggest selling newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Instead of the usual palaver about the threats facing Israel, Barak surprised his questioners with this frank admission: 'Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel'*, said Barak." (West Bank occupation poses the real threat to Israel, 23/9/09) [*See my 20/9/09 post From the Horse's Mouth]

Koutsoukis concluded as follows: "Next time we hear that denying Palestinian sovereignty is all about security and keeping Israel safe, remember that security has little to do with it. In the words of Ehud Barak, Israel is strong and there is no one who poses an existential threat."

That Barak's admission seems to have come as something of a revelation to Koutsoukis indicates the latter's ignorance of the historical record, which belies the myth of Israel as some sort of naked, trembling virgin continuously circled by packs of leering bikies (to steal Les Visible's memorable simile). As I've already posted on this subject in relation to the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948 (See my 29/5/08 post Benny Revisited), I'll leave you with what Israeli historian Tom Segev has to say about the virgin's knocking knees in the lead-up to the second such stoush in 1967:

"US analysts gave Israel complete military superiority over every combination of Arab forces... A year earlier, the Americans had predicted that Palestinian terror attacks might lead to war. In that event, they believed, Israel would destroy the Egyptian air force and 'within days or weeks' would occupy areas of the Sinai, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights - all, evidently, taken as bargaining chips." (1967: Israel, the War & the Year that Transformed the Middle East, 2007, p 253)

"As soon as the crisis of war began, the press began comparing Nasser to Hitler. In the past, other Arab leaders had been compared to Hitler, but this had been done to insult them, not as part of the situational assessment and a reason to attack. 'Nasser speaks clearly, as Hitler did on the eve of the Second World War', wrote Ze'ev Schiff. Nasser's speeches, Radio Cairo broadcasts, and the anti-Semitic cartoons of in the Egyptian press prompted this assertion... This was... Israel's official propaganda line. The Foreign Minister instructed the Israeli embassy in Washington to ask for an urgent meeting with James Reston, associate editor of The New York Times, to persuade him that the only difference between Nasser and Hitler was that Hitler had always claimed he wanted peace, while Nasser was explicit about his aim of destroying Israel." (ibid, p 284)

"The [Israeli] generals were in their forties, family men, but they clung to the Israeli culture of youth; they were like adolescent boys or bulls in rut. They believed in force and they wanted war. War was their destiny. Almost 20 years had passed since the army had won glory in the War of Independence, and 10 years since the victory in the Sinai. They had a limited range of vision and they believed that war was what Israel needed at that moment, not necessarily because they felt the country's existence was in danger, as they wailed in an almost 'Diaspora' tone, but because they believed it was an opportunity to break the Egyptian army." (ibid, p 296)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

60 Minutes Gets Relevant

The response to Channel 9's 60 Minutes program on the thuggery of Israel's West Bank settlers (Hate Thy Neighbour, 20/9/09) has been overwhelming. As of 7 am this morning, 128* comments had been left on the 60 Minutes blog, providing a rare insight into public perceptions of Israel/Palestine on those all-too-rare occasions when the mainstream news media, however inadequately and tentatively, exposes the reality of Israel's vicious and unrelenting colonization drive in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. [*As of 9/10/09, 301 comments!]

By my own count, 83 viewers were supportive of the 60 Minutes' expose, 35 had problems with it, and 5 were off with the pixies (I know that only adds up to 123, but I've got better things to do than recount). Pixies aside, that's a 70/30 ratio, and shows yet again that the uncritical and reflexive support of our political and media elites are out of step with Australian public opinion on this issue. A recent nationwide Roy Morgan poll found that only 24.5% of those surveyed sympathised with Israel, compared with 28% who sympathised with the Palestinians, 25% with neither, and 23% undecided. [See also my 16/2/09 post Blight Unto the Nations]

Some of the comments that attracted my attention:

"Everybody is full of praise for 60 Minutes. Yes, it was a relatively good report and one not expected on 60 Minutes that illustrated and revealed the Palestinian plight. However, as a Christian who has visited the Holy Land on several occasions, I don't think this should let Channel 9 or 60 Minutes off the hook. This report was too little, too late. What about 1) the Palestinian kid having his arms broken with boulders by Israeli soldiers; 2) footage of the American Peace Volunteers (ISM) shot by Israeli soldiers and prevented from getting medical attention; 3) footage of the 14-year old settler boys with machine guns (seen with my own eyes); 4) the wells poisoned, thousand-year old olive groves bulldozed, dogs and donkeys shot at by unprovoked Israeli settlers (my own eyes); the settler given SIX MONTHS for killing a kid with his rifle butt, and so on. No, after years of pointing the finger at Arabs, and repeating the 'they are terrorists' mantra, you have a lot more to do!" (60 min - why did you hold back? why hold back?, Camberwell) Amen, brother!

"This issue is central to many world conflicts, and the international community must demand that Israel withdraw to its international recognised borders as per countless UN resolutions rather than defending every act of Israeli military aggression. The Israeli Government does not want peace because any peace deal will mean a halt to the illegal settlement expansion and annexation of Palestinian land and resources in the quest for a greater Israel and it knows full well that it will continue to get away with these actions without international intervention. I spent almost 2 years with the UN on the Lebanese side of the Israel/Lebanon border, and hardly a day went by without unprovoked Israeli military (and their de facto forces) aggression towards the local civilian population and UN personnel. If the Berlin Wall came down so can the barrier to peace on this issue, starting with illegal settlements." (The settlements must go, David, Brisbane)

Not forgetting these little gems from those in deep denial:

"I'm a student attending a Jewish day school. I suppose I would be biased towards Israel because of this. I'm commenting on this article because I was exremely [sic] aggrivated [sic] when I watched the story on it about 5 minutes ago on 60 minutes. The story was completely biased towards the arabs as always on channel 9. I understand that they have a side to be shown, but the thing channel 9 never gets is that Israel too has a story that needs to be shown and a justified one too. Israel is constantly portrayed negatively across the media because their side is never shown. Not only does this aggrivate Jews like myself, but also influences the general Australian public to have negative views towards Israel. I don't know if this is the desired effect of the channel 9 network, but it is what results from their articles on Israel. So please in future when articles are written on the situation in Israel* show their side, as well as the arab side!" (Why is Israel's side never shown?, Mic, Western Australia) [*So the West Bank is Israel? Ah, the benefits of a 'good' private education.]

"as a member of the jewish community in melbourne, I have found this new report not only extreemly [sic] one sided. But extreemly inappropriate to show tonight. We the jewish comunity[sic] are currently celebrating our new year (Rosh Hashana). And I find it quite disrespectful that 60 minutes would choose this holy time to display the jewish people in a negative light. (An inapropriat [sic] time to show this artical [sic], Melbourne)

60 Minutes, the headmaster wants you in his office, NOW!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Israeli Apartheid: The Jury's In

Nick Dyrenfurth, an associate editor of the journal Labor History, and Philip Mendes, a senior lecturer in the department of social work, faculty of medicine, at Monash University, are so adamant that Israel is not an apartheid state they've asserted it twice in the last 5 months (in The Australian of course):

"[I]f there is one recent furphy progressives should vocally object to it is the quite disgraceful slur on Israel doing the rounds of the hard-left and parts of academe. Apparently Israel is an apartheid state founded on the principles of colonialism and racism, if not a genocidal impulse to exterminate the Palestinian people... As the signatories to a recent Stanford University Scholars for Middle East Peace open letter suggest: 'To equate Israel with apartheid displays a profound ignorance of the horror that was South Africa as well as contempt for democracy in Israel'." (Left behind on building bridges in Middle East: Being on the Left doesn't always, and should not mean, being anti-Israel, observe Nick Dyrenfurth & Philip Mendes, 13/5/09)

"[I]t is simply arrant nonsense to call Israel an apartheid state. While the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has some superficial similarities with apartheid in South Africa, the analogy cannot reasonably be applied to Green Line Israel given the civil and political rights enjoyed by its Arab citizens*. Moreover, Israel does not involve a small white population exploiting a much larger black majority: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a race-based conflict." (Racism risk in calls for Israeli boycott: Philip Mendes & Nick Dyrenfurth oppose the efforts of anti-Zionist campaigners here, 19/9/09)

Inconveniently for Nick and Philip, I'm afraid the jury's in. Here's part of the introduction to South Africa's Human Sciences Research Council's recent academic study Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law:

"Regarding apartheid, the [research] team found that Israel's laws and policies in the OPT fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression & Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Israeli law conveys privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantages Palestinians in the same territory on the basis of their respective identities, which function in this case as racialised identities in the sense provided by international law. Israel's practices are corollary to 5 of the 6 'inhuman acts' listed by the Convention. A policy of apartheid is especially indicated by Israel's demarcation of geographic 'reserves' in the West Bank, to which Palestinian residence is confined and which Palestinians cannot leave without a permit. The system is very similar to the policy of 'Grand Apartheid' in apartheid South Africa, in which black South Africans were confined to black homelands delineated by the South African government, while white South Africans enjoyed freedom of movement and full civil rights in the rest of the country.

"The Executive Summary of the report says that the three pillars of apartheid in South Africa are all practiced by Israel in the OPT. In South Africa, the first pillar was to demarcate the population of South Africa into racial groups, and to accord superior rights, privileges and services to the white racial group. The second pillar was to segregate the population into different geographic areas, which were allocated by law to different racial groups, and restrict passage by members of any group into the area allocated to other groups. And the third pillar was 'a matrix of draconian 'security' laws and policies that were employed to suppress any opposition to the regime and to reinforce the system of racial domination, by providing for administrative detention, torture, censorship, banning and assassination'.

"The Report finds that Israeli practices in the OPT exhibit the same three pillars of apartheid: The first pillar 'derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews'. The second pillar is reflected in 'Israel's 'grand' policy to fragment the OPT [and] ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory. This policy is evidenced by Israel's extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, which continues to shrink the territorial space available to Palestinians; the hermetic closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the OPT; the deliberate severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, and the appropriation and construction policies serving to carve up the West Bank into an intricate and well-serviced network of connected settlements for Jewish-Israelis and an archipelago of besieged and non-contiguous enclaves for Palestinians'. The third pillar is 'Israel's invocation of 'security' to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement [to] mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group'." [* See my 14/6/08 post A Certain Jewish Tree-Planting Group]

Sorry to tell you this, Nick 'n Phil, Israel not only qualifies as an apartheid state, but appears worse than the defunct South African variety:

"I suppose you're going to ask me the question, which regime was worse? I find it difficult to answer this question as a white South African because, although I lived in South Africa throughout the apartheid period, I was obviously not subjected to the discriminatory laws that were leveled and aimed at blacks. But what is interesting is that every black South African that I've spoken to who has visited the Palestinian territory has been horrified and has said without hesitation that the system that applies in Palestine is worse. And there are a number of reasons for this.

"I think, first of all, one can say there are features of the Israeli regime in the occupied territory that were unknown to South Africans. We never had a wall separating black and white. I know it's called the apartheid Wall, but that's really a misnomer because there was no wall of that kind in South Africa. And as I've said, there were no separate roads. These are novel features of Israel's apartheid regime.

"Secondly, the enforcement of the regime is much stricter. We have repeated military incursions into the West Bank, let alone Gaza... and arrests are made and Palestinians are shot and killed. And what is interesting is that in South Africa, political activists were tried by the regular criminal courts of the land in open proceedings. Whereas in Israel, Palestinians are tried by military courts which have emergency rules and regulations inherited from the British, but they are not proper courts.

"I think perhaps the most important distinguishing feature is that there are no positive features about Israel's apartheid. The South African apartheid regime did attempt to pacify the black majority by providing it with material benefits. And so schools were built; universities were built; hospitals and clinics were built by the apartheid regime. Special factories were built in the black areas in order to encourage workers to work in the African areas... Whereas in the case of Israel's apartheid, Israel makes virtually no contribution to the welfare of the Palestinian people. It leaves it all to the donor community." (Hisham B Sharabi Memorial Lecture: Apartheid & Occupation under International Law, John Dugard*, normanfinkelstein.com, 30/3/09) [*former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the OPT and visiting distinguished professor of law at Duke University]

[Related posts of mine: Yes, Virginia, Israel is an Apartheid State (1/11/08); Conscripting Gandhi (18/7/08) - where Alan Gold takes the sjambok to Mandela the terrorist!]

Sunday, September 20, 2009

From the Horse's Mouth

"Iran poses no existential threat to Israel, its Defence Minister has declared. In an interview for Jewish New Year published yesterday in the country's top-selling newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Ehud Barak said he saw no country being capable of challenging Israel. 'I don't belong to those who believe that Iran is bringing Israel to an existential situation. Israel is strong. I don't see anyone who is capable of facing it with an existential threat'." (Iran can't wipe us off map: Israel, Jason Koutsoukis, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/9/09)

So that's that then. No existential threats whatever. So much egg on so many faces.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

He Just Doesn't Get It

"During that time [in the Communist Party], I fell hopelessly in love with Jews. No, not with Judaism. With Jews. It was a consequence of realising that a remarkable number of people I most liked and admired were secular Jews. And I met a great many in the Communist Party... By now I was writing for The Bulletin... And I began to realise that without the Jews the Victorian Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Theatre Company would have found it hard to survive. For the Jews were central to Melbourne's culture - to its music, its literature, its theatre. The tiny community of Jews made a disproportionate contribution to the arts, literature, science, philanthropy and the nascent civil rights movement everywhere I looked. At the age of 16 I found myself wishing I'd been born Jewish." ('I am proud that', Phillip Adams, October 1998, jmm.aaa.net.au)

What follows is an extract from Phillip Adams' 25 minute interview with Saree Makdisi, nephew of the late Edward Said, professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA, and author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (2008), on Adam's "little wireless program" Late Night Live on 16/9/09. Adams just doesn't seem to get it:

Makdisi: My understanding is that, for there to be genuine reconciliation between the 2 peoples, there must be one state where all its citizens are treated as equals. What that means for Palestinians is that they would not have an independent Palestinian state, which is what they've been struggling for for the past 60 years. What it means for Jewish Israelis is that there would be no more Jewish state as such...

Adams (alarmed, interrupting): But they would see this as demographic suicide, would they not, given the population patterns?

Makdisi: But the point is that one people achieving what it wants at the expense of another is unworkable. Reconciliation has to happen when both peoples realise that they're both there to stay and that they have to find a way to live and find self-expression, and even self-determination, with an understanding that they have to do so equally and with each other rather than against each other.

Adams (surprised, as though hearing the one state idea for the first time - despite Ali Abu Nimah's conversation with him last year): A singular... single secular state with Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side with what? equal rights?

Makdisi (incredulous): Yes, which is not that (laughing) difficult to imagine. Most countries in the world do work like that. That's what the basis of the modern liberal state is...

Adams (interrupting): Saree, let me ask you a question. Could it be called Israel?

Makdisi: Israel has constituted itself legally and officially as a Jewish state. That's why, legally speaking, there's no such thing as an Israeli nationality, it's only Jewish nationality [indistinct] So can that state become truly democratic? I don't think so. It understands itself, defines itself, not just juridically and institutionally as a Jewish state - even at the expense of its own Palestinian citizens. I think the path to peace and reconciliation is one where such exclusivist claims have to be abandoned and equality has to be embraced.

Adams: How long would it take before the Jewish Israelis were a minority in Israel?

Makdisi: I don't know. I don't even know that that question really matters. The whole question of minorities...

Adams (interrupting, testy - for the avuncular Adams): It sure as hell matters to them.

Makdisi: It may, but does it really matter in terms of the way a state is constituted? Should a state be constituted to guarantee minority rights at the expense of the majority? I don't think so. I believe in a state where everybody's equal. That's certainly the state I grew up in in the US. It's the model that the American constitution enshrines. That's the kind of polity I personally believe in.

Adams (divert! divert!): Can we look at another state in the time we have together, which needs a solution, and that's California?

Unbelievably, the remaining 5 minutes of the interview was devoted to the troubles of California and Obama. Saree Makdisi deserves a medal for his patience and forbearance.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Geraldine Doogue Meets the Palestinian Ben-Gurion

It'd be fascinating to know the circumstances surrounding the interview of the Palestinian Authority's puppet prime minister Salam Fayyad by ABC Radio National's presenter Geraldine Doogue on Saturday Extra on 12/9/09. After all, as someone now being promoted by Israeli president Shimon Peres as a "Palestinian Ben-Gurion*," that must open quite a few doors. Just listen to Doogue's introduction:

"I'd like to introduce you to a man you may not have heard too much about but he's really coming into his political prime and earning himself considerable international respect because his basic day job is super tough. Dr Salam Fayyad's official title is Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. He's an independent member of the Palestinian parliament, ie he's neither ffrom the Fatah or Hamas party and he comes to this post via an unusual route and an unusual suite of skills. He has a Doctorate in Economics from the University of Texas; he's worked for the World Bank and as a private banker and some argue that even the Israelis are enchanted by him and he certainly seems to be presiding over some much wanted economic successes. Now he's started to throw down some googlies though, as he tries to change the whole strategic discussion in this arena. He's started talking about a 2 year program of change after which he'll expect an independent state to be created in Palestine and he wants to persuade the international community that if he runs a proper state, well he can demand that Israel treat it as such. So how does the prime minister plan to do all this?" A strutter on the world stage? Respected by all the right people? A winner of Israeli hearts? A magician who has to do no more than expect an independent Palestinian state for it to materialise (provided, of course, that he can show Bushama and the Israelis that he's the very model of a modern Palestinian Quisling). Wowee! [*EU sources: Terms set for renewal of Israel-PA talks, Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, 13/9/09]

Before proceeding further, it should be pointed out that Fayyad is merely a pawn of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime-ministership is actually illegal under Palestinian law: when the democratically-elected Hamas government of Palestine managed to pre-empt a coup conceived in Washington and led by Fatah security forces chief Muhammad Dahlan in June 2007* [See my 6/3/08 post Mainsewer Media Clueless in Gaza], Abbas violated the interim Palestinian constitution (the Basic Law) when he declared a state of emergency, dismissed the Hamas-led Palestinian unity government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, and appointed a new government under Fayyad without parliamentary approval. Article 113 of the constitution stipulates that the legislature cannot be "dissolved or suspended during the emergency situation." The Haniya government, therefore, should have been retained as a caretaker government pending parliamentary approval for a new government. [See Abbas challenged over new cabinet, anisalqasem.com, 8/7/07]

To understand why alleged prime minister Fayyad isn't all he's cracked up to be, one needs to take a long hard look at Washington's main man in Ramallah: "Abbas... long ago placed all of his eggs in the Israeli-American basket. Acting as if his chickens had already hatched, his inability to deliver any tangible achievement has instead meant they came home to roost with a vengeance. Key to this is Abbas' relationship to his people: simply put, it never existed. Arafat saw the Palestinians as the ace in the deck to be played when all else failed, and understood that his leverage with outside actors derived from their conviction that he represented the Palestinian people. If he consistently failed or refused to properly mobilise this primary resource, he at least always held it in reserve. Abbas has by contrast been an inveterate elitist, who seems to have regarded the Palestinian population as an obstacle to be overcome so that the game of nations could proceed - there are after all only so many seats at the table where great statesmen like Abbas, George Bush and Ehud Olmert together create the contours of a new Middle East. For Abbas, legitimacy meant the leverage you have with your voters by convincing them you represent others. Cursed with exceptional self-regard, Abbas has always shown disinterest in the opinions of others. From the moment he convinced himself of the sincerity of Bush's visions, which put the onus on the Palestinians to prove they qualify for membership in the human race and are worthy of being spoken to by Tsipi Livni and Condoleezza Rice, there was no turning back. Henceforth the Palestinian security forces would point their weapons exclusively at their own people, and only Saeb Erakat would be aimed at Israel. At the United Nations, once a primary arena for the Palestinian struggle, Abbas's emissary Riad Mansour was too busy drafting a resolution declaring Hamas a terrorist entity to deal with more trivial Palestinian concerns. It was simply simpossible to steer Abbas towards a change of course, let alone a national dialogue that could produce a genuine strategy. By the expiration of his presidency on January 9, his constitutional status had become the least of his problems. Each and every one of his policies had failed. In the West Bank, settlement expansion was proceeding at an inprecedented pace while the Wall neared final completion, rendering talk of a two-state solution all but moot. After Hamas triumphed in the 2006 parliamentary elections, Abbas's ceaseless scheming to remove the Islamists from office and overturn the election's results - characteristically in active partnership with outside forces rather than the Palestinian electorate - was a vertiable carnival of folly and incompetence. When Hamas acted first in 2007, it took the Islamists only several days to dispose of those few forces still prepared to fight for Mohammed Dahlan. While many are arguing that Abbas is now paying the price for his passivity while Israel slaughtered Palestinians in Gaza, this is only one part of the story. At least as important is the manner in which he conducted himself since December 27 - comprehensively out of touch with his own people, as if deliberately so, and dealing with the Gaza Strip as if it is a foreign country he has never heard of. In his initial response Abbas laid responsibility for the conflict at Hamas's doorstep, in one stroke reducing his role to that of a factional leader opportunistically siding with his cousin against his brother. More to the point, he unleashed the full power of his security forces against his own people. Not to prevent a Hamas coup in West Bank, or even attacks against Israel, but to suppress pro-Palestinian demonstrations of the kind permitted even within Israel. He responded to Israel's launching of a land offensive on January 3 by announcing that he was delaying for one day his vist to the UN Security Council. Not to lead his people, but rather to meet Nicholas Sarkozy. Since then he has barely visited Palestine; on his last sojourn he stayed only long enough to inform the Qataris that he could not attend their emergency meeting to discuss the war." (Out of the rubble, Mouin Rabbani, thenational.ae, 23/1/09)

But I digress - it wasn't really this Palestinian Ben-Gurion who made me sit up and listen. It was Doogue's farcical, and profoundly colonial, questions and interjections: "Now you are known as someone who can get on very well with many in the Israeli political establishment. What do you think it is that makes the Israelis comfortable around you?" Fayyad, of course, did not reply, Well, Geraldine, maybe it's got to do with the fact that I don't bring my bomb-belt and Kalashnikov to our meetings, but could have. For Doogue, it's all about the natives making their Zionist sahibs comfortable. Fayyad's utterly forgettable response was followed by this prattle: "What I've read is that they feel that they can trust you and you're a man of your word and that you're interested in efficiency which is, you know (laughs), the Israelis don't say that very often about the people from the Palestinian territory." Fayyad, of course, whose response was utterly foregettable, did not respond, No they don't, Geraldine, as befits people who have been wiping Palestine (and Palestinians) off the map for the past 60 years, they haven't actually paid us any compliments whatsoever.

Then it was vintage Doogue, whose all-consuming interest, from the snatches of Saturday Extra that have filtered through to me while taking a shower, seems to be $$$: "Are you getting Israeli money? Who is financing your development - because you've got 70% growth rate in the 12 months past; wages are up 24%. There's all sorts of new developments. There's a Palestinian city that could rise in the West Bank... Who's financing this?" Are you getting Israeli money? for Pete's sake! Again, Fayyad did not explain (but could have) that, while the Palestinians were getting heaps of goodies from the Israelis, like bullets in the brain, walls, checkpoints, uprooted olive trees, Israeli colonies (West Bank), and the privilege of being on the receiving end of state-of-the-art Israeli/US ordnance etc, etc (Gaza), they weren't getting anything remotely resembling the proverbial brass razoo.

Doogue was clearly intrigued by Fayyad. He was so wonderfully unPalestinian: "What I think is interesting about you is that you speak in this very pragmatic way. In fact, you haven't really mentioned, you're not held up [sic] on the fact of the occupation... How have you flipped your mind around to a different approach?"

Palestinian Che Guevaras hung up on the occupation are sooo boring, right, Geraldine?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Side-Splitting Stuff

Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan shares a Michael Danby story with us:

"In the early 1980s Gaddafi's regime funded a series of tiny Trotskyist cells in the West. In Australia the Socialist Labour League produced a newspaper, the Workers News, which for a time I found compulsive reading... Amid calls for coalminers strikes and articles defaming the police, each week there would be pages of supplements extolling Colonel Gaddafi's Green Book and the Libyan revolution... Libya advertised in Australian Arabic newspapers for military recruits to its worldwide revolutionary cause*. Nonetheless, the sheer eccentricity of the Libyan venture provided moments of black humour. Michael Danby, now Labor's member for Melbourne Ports, then (as now) a fearless advocate for human rights**, attended a Melbourne airport press conference held by Vanessa Redgrave and asked her if she was aware that a Libyan-backed film she participated in had been awarded the inaugural Sir Les Patterson Golden Goanna Award for fanatical filmmaking." (Libya stinks but hold your nose: The West is right to engage with Gaddafi, abhorrent as it is, but it shouldn't with Iran, The Australian, 10/9/09) [*Zounds! Sheridan reads Arabic! ** Except in Palestine.]

OK, folks, while you're rolling on the floor and clutching your sides, I thought I'd regale you with another, even more side-splitting Danby story from the 70s:

"Michael Danby, a student at Melbourne University, is a leader of the Zionist movement there. He regularly writes a column in The Australian Jewish News titled Young Voice. The column is usually tucked away towards the end of the newspaper, perhaps because the Zionist editors are even a little embarrassed themselves with the inanities sometimes expressed in it. In the January 14 edition, Danby hits upon a new theory to explain why a growing number of Australian Union of Students (AUS) members have taken a stand against Zionism in support of the Palestinian people. According to Danby, it has nothing to do with an increased awareness of Third World struggles, or the obvious barbarity of the Israeli regime... The opposition to Zionism within AUS, which Danby dishonestly calls 'anti-Semitism', is to be attributed, it seems, to the increase in the number of Lebanese-owned milk bars and cafes in the area around Melbourne University. After describing how the once flourishing Carlton Jewish community had migrated to the Caulfield-St Kilda area, Danby explains: 'Recent years have seen another immigrant community flourish in the area. King Hiram's Restaurant, Mounier's Pastissire [sic] are always full of customers and most Carlton milk bars sell LEBANESE sweets' (Danby's emphasis). Danby develops his theory that because Melbourne University students might eat at a Lebanese restaurant or buy Lebanese cakes, these Lebanese traders might influence their views on the Middle East conflict. It would be a different story perhaps, Danby suggests, if Melbourne University was in Caulfield or St Kilda. How Danby explains a similar degree of support for the Palestinians at Monash University or La Trobe University is anybody's guess. Are the Lebanese buying up the cake shops around there too?" (Arab Liberation News, 1/4/77)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Head-Shaking Stuff

Great, isn't it? The Australian taxpayer pays Israel the better to aid and abet NATO criminality in Afghanistan:

"The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will soon be using Israeli military technology in its fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner announced this week that Australia will lease Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), made by Israel Aerospace Industries. The RAAF will collaborate with the Canadian military in using the long-range unmanned spy planes in Afghanistan. 'The high resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance capability will enhance the capability of Australian forces in Afghanistan', Senator Faulkner said on Monday." (Australia fights terrorism with Israeli military technology, The Australian Jewish News, 11/9/09)

"Heron 1 UAV, Canada is a large MALE UAV in the MQ-1 Predator Class. It is primarily used as a surveillance UAV over land and sea... The 2006 war in Lebanon also demonstrated that they could be armed if necessary." (Canada, Australia contract for Heron UAVs, defenseindustrydaily.com, 7/9/09)

Apparently, we've got form in consorting with Israeli arms manufacturers:

"A top-secret spy plane used by Israel in the war in Lebanon was photographed in Kununurra 15 years ago. Chairman of the Airport Committee at the time, Keith Wright, recalls a group of about 40 Israeli Air Force personnel being camped in a 'tent city' on the airport. They were trialling the pilotless aircraft, which was being controlled from an Iroquois helicopter. It was about the time when the airport terminal was being refurbished to the size it is today. Recent media photographs of the plane claimed to be the first ones released, whilst in Kununurra it was almost a non-event 15 years ago. The 'drone' is called a 'Heron' and is manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. It is capable of carrying missiles and can take part in covert 'track and kill' missions. The Heron can fly for up to 40 hours without refuelling at altitudes up to 10,000 metres." (Spy plane was here, The Kimberley Echo, 22/3/07)

[See my 19/5/08 post Supping With the Devil]

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gaza's Ellie Lintons

Watched ABC Television's Q & A last night. At one point, John Marsden, "Australia's favourite teen lit author" (according to Q & A's website), was discussing his novel Tomorrow, When the War Began, in which a band of Australian teenagers, led by heroine Ellie Linton, take on an unnamed invading force: "I wrote the book," explained Marsden, "to show that today's teenagers are not unemployable, illiterate, drunken, drug-taking layabouts but are in fact capable of great things - of nobility, of heroism, and intelligence."

When fellow panellist, Sophie Mirabella, Shadow Minister for Early Education, Women & Youth, was asked by compere Tony Jones what she thought of Ellie as "a role model for Australian girls," the polliewaffle responded: "I think it's great. Having a strong, athletic girl engaging in guerilla warfare to defend her nation, it's great stuff." And who could possibly disagree with her?

Except that Sophie has an entirely different perspective when it comes to young men and women in certain other countries engaging in guerilla warfare to defend their nation. In fact, she calls them terrorists.

She did exactly that in a speech in the House of Representatives on 17/9/07 when she spoke of "Palestinian terrorists infiltrat[ing] Israel's sovereign border from the Gaza Strip on 25 June 2006, attack[ing] an army post inside Israel's sovereign territory and kidnapp[ing] Corporal Gilad Shalit into Gaza." Conversely, she described Shalit and his fellow troops in glowing terms: "These young men - husbands, students, cherished members of a family, with their lives ahead of them - were merely serving their active duty within Israel's borders and have now been denied their basic human rights." And she went on to call on the Australian government to "exert pressure on the terrorist organisations involved in the abduction" for Shalit's release.

You see, when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, this otherwise enthusiastic defender of those who engage in guerilla warfare to defend their nation against an invading and occupying force not only sides with the latter but is even prepared to use her position and status as a federal MP to spruik on its behalf.

Of course, this incredible volte-face on behalf of an invading and occupying power can only be achieved by ignoring the history and underlying dynamics of the Zionist colonization of Palestine. The moment the Zionist settler movement, aided and abetted by British imperialism, gained a toehold in Palestine, the indigenous population was on notice. The aim of the Zionist movement - the creation of a Jewish state, run by Jews for Jews, controling as much of Palestine as could be acquired by hook or by crook - presented the locals with the starkest of choices: defend your country from the invader or allow him to usurp your patrimony. In the words of Canadian philosopher Michael Neumann, "[t]he Palestinians faced an immediate, concrete mortal threat: the Zionists were there, among them, growing stronger daily, inviting them to submit to Jewish sovereignty or depart. Moreover, they had good reason to believe that the Zionists wanted to dispossess them entirely, over the whole of Palestine." (The Case Against Israel, 2005, p 86)

The proverbial crunch, of course, came with a vengeance in 1948, when the ancestors of those Palestinians now engaging in guerilla warfare in the Gaza Strip were ethnically cleansed from their towns and villages in southern Palestine (what Sophie lawyerly describes as "Israel's sovereign territory") and forced to flee in the direction of Gaza as the Zionist invaders occupied their homes and lands and barred forever their return. And it is their children, and their children's children, the Ellie Lintons of Gaza, who have been engaging in guerilla warfare ever since, resisting, from their tiny pocket of Palestine, the periodic assaults of the same invader and occupier, and keeping alive the belief that one day they'll return to their homes and lands in usurped Palestine.

Fast forward to the more recent past: Sharon pulled Israeli troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, the better to colonize the West Bank (whilst retaining control of its entry/exit points, and its airspace and territorial waters). The Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank went on, in January 2006, to democratically elect the Palestinian party most committed to guerilla warfare and the defence of their nation. Despite the new Hamas government extending the unilateral truce it had declared 10 months earlier, the Bush government, angered that the Palestinian people hadn't voted for the party of surrender and collaboration instead, insisted that Hamas recognise the invader/occupier, give up guerilla warfare in defence of their nation (or, to use their own words, 'renounce violence') and disarm - that is if it wanted the Bushies to recognise it, talk to it and feed it some peanuts.

Meanwhile, Mahmud Abbas, the leader of the party that had dutifully done those very things, did his level best to undermine the new government, while the US, Israel, and the EU (all historical and present practitioners of invasion/occupation) slapped economic sanctions on Gaza to punish its Ellie Lintons for daring to vote for Hamas.

Seeing these measures only hardened the resolve of Gaza's people and their government to resist, the invading/occupying power set out to do the job itself:-

On 9/6/06, Jamal Abu Samhadana, the Hamas Interior Ministry head, was murdered in an Israeli air strike. On the same day, Israeli shells wiped out all but one of the Ghalia family who had been picnicking on a Gaza beach. Naturally, Hamas called off its 16 month truce. Then, on 24/6/06, Israeli troops raided Gaza and kidnapped 2 brothers (Mustafa and Osama Muammar) after beating their father to a pulp. This prompted a joint raid by guerillas of the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees on Shalit's army post, in which, besides his capture, 2 Israeli soldiers were killed and 4 wounded. When Hamas demanded the release of Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons in exchange for Shalit, the Israelis responded by rounding up and detaining Hamas officials in the West Bank, including ministers and legislators, shelling Gaza's borders, and bombing government buildings, bridges, roads, power plants and other infrastructure throughout the Strip.

The dispossessed Palestinian 'terrorists' who'd captured Shalit, indeed whole generations of Palestinians, would surely have no trouble whatever in relating to the thoughts of Marsden's heroine, Ellie Linton: "Overnight they'd pulled the roof off our lives. And after they'd pulled off the roof, they'd come in and torn down the curtains, ripped up the furniture, burnt the house and thrown us into the night, where we'd been forced to run and hide and live like wild animals. We had no foundations, and we had no secure walls around our lives any more. We were living in a strange, long nightmare, where we had to make our own rules, invent new values, stumble around blindly, hoping we weren't making too many mistakes. We clung to what we knew and what we thought was right, but all the time those things too were being stripped from us."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Clive James & Brown Women

Gayatri Spivak could have had Clive James in mind when coining her classic line about the urge of the white man to save brown women from brown men. James' urge, already the subject of one post on this blog (Giving Poetry a Bad Name, 17/3/09), has resurfaced. Not that I'd have noticed without reading The Australian, of course. They just love the bugger over there at News Ltd.

In the paper's column, Global Briefing: Journals, under the heading No honour in killing (8/9/09), the reader is informed that James had asked, in an essay in the British monthly Standpoint, "how Western feminists can turn a blind eye to the honour killing of women." He is quoted as saying: "We are told that when it comes to a case of honour [killing], Jordan is one of the more progressive Islamic communities. In Jordan, only one-quarter of all homicides are cases of honour. In the Palestinian sectors of the West Bank and in Gaza, the proportion is two-thirds."

We are told... By whom? James doesn't say. Unlike MERC, he doesn't do footnotes. Ready? A quick google for 'honour killings/Jordan' elicits the following: "The Jordan Times estimated in 1994 that between 28 and 60 Jordanian women... die in 'honour' killings every year... The death-toll may even run into the hundreds..." ('Honour' killings, (2) Jordan, gendercide.org). Do the same for Palestine, and you get this: "Given that honor killings often remain a private family affair, no official statistics are available on the practice or its frequency. According to a November 1997 report of the Women's Empowerment Project... there were 20 honor killings in Gaza and the West Bank in 1996." (Commodifying Honor in Female Sexuality: Honor killings in Palestine, Suzanne Ruggi, MERIP, Spring 1998)

The editor of the Australian column concludes thus: "Drawing on an article by the late Australian journalist Pamela Bone, Clive's conclusion is that feminists have been hiding - 'eloquent in their condemnation of Western evils', but ignoring the treatment of women within the culture of Islam."

Hello? Drawing on an article by the late Australian journalist Pamela Bone? Now there's an authority for you! As an apologist for Israel (and associate editor of The Age), Pamela Bone could apologise with the best of them: "Yes, what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians is terrible. But what the Palestinians are doing to the Israelis is also terrible. One can hate the destruction of Palestinian homes (I do) but could at least recognise the reason for the destruction is arms-smuggling tunnels underneath them." (Anti-Semitism: the old hatred returns, The Age, 31/7/04)

And that phrase the treatment of women within the culture of Islam - how sly is that? What precisely does within the culture of Islam mean? That the practice of honour killing is... Islamic? To return to Ruggi's article quoted above: "The honour killing emerged in the pre-Islamic era, according to Sharif Kanaana, professor of anthropology at Birzeit University... 'In an Islamic context, punishment for relationships out of wedlock is stipulated as 100 lashes if the woman is single, or if married, death by stoning. In both cases, however, there must be 4 witnesses willing to testify that the sexual act took place; conditions which make punishment difficult'." OK, so it's not Islamic, but anyone reading No honour in killing in The Australian won't be exposed to this clarification. And that's the whole point over at News Ltd, isn't it? Keep them in the dark and feed them on Islamophobic bullshit.

Should Clive have hung his Islamophobic rant on the death by stoning hook instead? Well, if he had, he'd have opened Pandora's box. According to the Bible, a woman can be stoned for adultery or for not being a virgin on her wedding night, for example. Stoning is also the penalty for apostasy, witchcraft, disobeying one's parents, breaking the Sabbath and cursing the king. And if an ox were to gore a man or woman? You guessed it - death by stoning. (skepticsannotatedbible.com)

In an attempt to ward off any scrutiny of the culture of Judaism, James issues the following disclaimer in his Standpoint essay, A Veil of Silence over Murder: "And the fact that there are men in charge of synagogues who feel the same [ie banning menstruating women] is not really an answer, because except for the occasional ultra-Orthodox headcase no man who runs a synagogue wants to burn [Pakistani-style] the women inside it." And that's that? Not by a long chalk. You see, James is as ignorant of Judaism as he is of Islam.

Israel Shahak, the late author of Jewish History, Jewish Religion (1994), tells us that "[s]exual intercourse between a married Jewish woman and any man other than her husband is a capital offence for both parties, and one of the 3 most heinous sins." But, he points out (and no doubt James will be relieved to hear this), "the concept of adultery... does not apply to intercourse between a Jewish man and a Gentile woman; rather, the Talmud equates such intercourse to the sin of bestiality... This does not imply that sexual intercourse between a Jewish man and a Gentile woman is permitted - quite the contrary. But the main punishment is inflicted on the Gentile woman; she must be executed, even if she was raped by the Jew: 'If a Jew has coitus with a Gentile woman, whether she be a child of 3 or an adult, whether married or unmarried... she must be killed, as is the case with a beast, because through her a Jew got into trouble'." (p 87)

And James reckons feminists turn a blind eye...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The March of Spin at The Australian

"The Howard government actively discouraged official advice on whether Australia should commit to the Iraq war and was given no such advice, senior public servants who ran the departments of Prime Minister and Defence have revealed... These revelations are contained in The March of Patriots: The Struggle for Modern Australia [by The Australian's editor-at-large Paul Kelly]... Defence Department head Ric Smith said: 'The message from [John Howard and Alexander Downer] by that time (November 2002) was that they did not want strategic advice from the Defence Department. This reflected a conviction that ministers knew the issues and would take the decisions for or against the war'." (Howard Ministers took no advice before joining Iraq war, Paul Kelly, The Australian, 4/9/09)

According to The Australian's editorialist, Howard's was an agonising choice: "In March 2003 he and his ministers had two decisions to make: first, how best to serve Australia and second how we could best help the Iraqi people... The choice Mr Howard faced was stark - invade Iraq or leave its people to suffer." (A difficult decision: John Howard had to set the strategy on invading Iraq, 4/9/09)

Funny how Kelly's article portrays Howard as having made up his mind to invade Iraq by November 2002, while the editorialist has him still undecided in March 2003, but it's the idea that concern for the suffering of the people of Iraq was the real decider for him that beggars belief.

It's time to recall that smoking document of the Iraq war, the Downing Street memo, which emerged from a meeting at 10 Downing Street in July 2002 in which Prime Minister Tony Blair and his 'war cabinet' discussed the coming attack on Iraq: "We see the British intelligence chief, just off the plane, report how in Washington war is 'now seen as inevitable'; how it will be 'justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD'; and how 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy'. We watch the British foreign secretary point out that 'the case [for war] is thin' - 'Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran'* - and then listen as he suggests a way around this inconvenient fact: 'We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors... [to] help with the legal justification for the use of force'. And we watch the prime minister immediately grasp the point of such a plan, and hear him agree that 'it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors'." (The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo & the Iraq War's Buried History, Mark Danner, 2006, p xv) [*The Australian 's editorialist has Saddam "boast[ing] about [his] arsenal."]

IOW, "The memo... shows that even as President Bush told Americans in October 2002 that 'he hope[d] the use of force will not become necessary' - that such a decision depended on whether or not the Iraqis complied with his demands to rid themselves of their WMD - the President had in fact already definitively decided, at least 3 months before, to choose this 'last resort' of going 'into battle' with Iraq. Whatever the Iraqis chose to do or not do, the President's decision to go to war had long since been made." (ibid p 5)

Hmm, so while those cynical Yanks and the Brits had long since decided to knock off Saddam come what may, and were busy 'fixing' the 'intelligence and facts' around that decision, John Howard's chief concern was for the Iraqis groaning under the Saddamist yoke. No yoke! And anyway, it's not as though the allied invasion of Iraq was bad for the people of Iraq per se, because, as the editorialist says, "an unacceptable number of innocent Iraqis died at the hands of religious zealots more interested in murdering Muslims than in fighting the US." So there!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Devolution of ALP Middle East Policy

In 1986, the Australian Labor Party's Middle East policy sought a "just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East." It affirmed United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to "withdraw from territories occupied" in 1967. It affirmed UNSC Resolution 465/80, which states that "... Israel's policies and practices of settling parts of its population... in those territories [occupied since 1967] constitute a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention..." It affirmed UNSC Resolution 476/80, which "[u]rgently calls on Israel, the Occupying Power... to desist... from persisting in the policy and measures affecting the character and status of... Jerusalem."

Back in 1986, at least on paper, justice and peace hadn't yet parted company. Back then, Israel was fingered unequivocally as an Occupying Power engaged in the crimes of colonizing the occupied Palestinian territories and judaising occupied Arab East Jerusalem. Back then, Israel was the problem, and it was expected to mend its ways by getting out of the occupied Palestinian territories.

In 2004, the ALP's Middle East policy supported the "right of Israel to live in peace and security within secure and recognised borders," but also the "right of self-determination for the Palestinian people, including their right to their own independent state." The Federal Government was enjoined to "lend every support to the peace process, in particular through the UN..."

By 2004 then, while Israel was busier than ever occupying, colonising and judaising the occupied Palestinian territories and occupied Arab East Jerusalem, it had somehow, mysteriously acquired a "right" to do so, undisturbed by resistance from the occupied! Justice, of course, had long since parted company with "peace and security." But the Palestinians' "right of self-determination" somehow managed a foot in the door, while the UN, alas, put in a final, fleeting appearance before going the way of the dodo.

In 2007, the ALP's Middle East policy called for a "lasting and equitable solution to the problems that have worked against stability and development in the Middle East." It referred to the "rights of all peoples in the Middle East to peace and security," and the "urgent attainment of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

By 2007, it seems, the Middle East conflict had become, frankly, a pain in the butt, hindering easy imperial exploitation of the area. With the UN and international law long since gone to God, all that mattered was "stability and development." With all talk of occupier and occupied being, like, sooo yesterday, and the Occupying Power having the same right to "peace and security" as the occupied, a "two-cake solution," with Israel getting the cake and the Palestinians the crumbs, was all the rage.

In 2009, the ALP's Middle East policy reads simply: "That Conference supports the latest peace initiatives to support a two-state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and within secure borders."

This means - if it means anything - that the ALP supports whatever peace process charade the Americans are prepared to stage, while the Israelis get on with erecting and expanding their Greater Israel edifice and confining the Palestinians to its interstices aka a Palestinian state.

And the 'brains' behind this latest formulation? Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support & Water Dr Mike Kelly, who just happens to be married to a cousin of former Israeli PM (2006-2009) Ehud Olmert*; and former ALP national president Warren Mundine, who has visited Israel twice, the first on a Yachad Scholarship in 2006, the second with Deputy Prime Minister Gillard in July. [*Olmert has the distinction of being the first Israeli PM to face trial on corruption charges.]

In speaking to their resolution, Kelly called on the Labor movement "to contribute to the process of moving forward rather than wasting energy looking back," and urged it "to fight against Islamic extemism 'given its fundamental denial of human rights, its tenets of gender inequity and intolerance of social and religious diversity'." (ALP recommits to two-state solution at national conference, The Australian Jewish News, 7/8/09)

Yes, comrades, history, international law, matters of justice and injustice - such a bore! The Middle East conflict is really just another chapter in the Clash between Western Civilization and Islamic Barbarism.

Mundine "hit out at people who claim to be friends of Palestine... 'If they are real friends, they have got to work with Israelis, work with Palestinians. I'm very optimistic things can happen. Real friends work in conversation and urge each other forward to the peace process'." (ibid)

You go first. No, you go first. No, I insist, you...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


According to Zionist apologists, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories aren't occupied, they're contested:-

"Painstakingly crafted before its final adoption, [UNSC Resolution 242 of 1967] calls for Israel's withdrawal from 'territories', not 'the territories' it won in defending itself from Arab attack in the Six Day War. The absence of the definite article... was no oversight but an acknowledgment by its formulators that Israel was indefensible within its pre-1967 borders and that territorial adjustments would be required. The West Bank... is not 'somebody else's occupied territory'. It remains contested land, the sovereignty of which must finally be decided by Arab-Israeli negotiations to end the conflict." (Letter, Merv Morris, East St Kilda, The Age, 1/9/09)

Is that so? Let's take a closer look:

An Arab attack?

Can you imagine Pearl Harbour construed as an American attack on Japan? In fact, the Israeli Air Force destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground on the morning of 5 June 1967 in a surprise attack. Israel's top brass ("like bulls in rut," to use Tom Segev's memorable simile) had been itching to take on the Egyptians for yonks, and the Israelis had pushed hard for, and obtained, a green light for their aggression from Washington.

Resolution 242?

"When the General Assembly couldn't reach agreement on a comprehensive resolution, deliberations moved to the Security Council. In November 1967 the SC unanimously approved Resolution 242. [Israeli apologists cite the operative paragraph] that calls for '[w]ithdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict'. [They] omit... the resolution's preambular paragraph, which reads: 'Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war'... The main framer of 242 was Lord Caradon... In the SC deliberations on the resolution, Caradon explicitly linked these two passages... The definite article was omitted from the operative paragraph... Caradon explained, due to the irregularities of the pre-June 1967 borders, which 'were based on the accident of where exactly the Israeli and the Arab armies happened to be' at the time of the original armistace agreements ending the 1948 war. This omission did not, however, undercut the force of the preambular reference: 'Knowing as I did the unsatisfactory nature of the 1967 line, I was not prepared to use wording in the resolution which would have made that line permanent'. Nevertheless it is necessary to say again that the overriding principle was the 'inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war' and that meant there could be no justification for annexation of territory on the Arab side of the 1967 line merely because it had been conquered in the 1967 war." (Beyond Chutzpah, Norman Finkelstein, 2005, pp 287-288) [Note also that the omission of the definite article had nothing to do with making Israel more defensible.]

Contested or Occupied Territories?

Sorry Merv, old chap, that UN resolution you're such expert on refers to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as "occupied," not contested territories.