Wednesday, June 30, 2010

White Is Black, Up is Down

I don't write poems but, in any case, poems are not poems

Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine.
I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians.
They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing.
And when naive old me saw freedom fighters, they patiently showed me they were not freedom fighters, and that resistance was not resistance.
And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation, they benevolently enlightened me so I could see that arrogance was not arrogance, oppression was not oppression, and humiliation was not humiliation.
I saw misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp. But they told me they were experts in misery, racism, inhumanity and concentration camps, and I have to take their word for it: this was not misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp.
Over the years they've taught me so many things: invasion was not invasion, occupation was not occupation, colonialism was not colonialism and apartheid was not apartheid...
They opened my simple mind to even more complex truths that my poor brain could not on its own compute like: 'having nuclear weapons' was 'not having nuclear weapons', 'not having weapons of mass destruction' was 'having weapons of mass destruction'.
And, democracy (in the Gaza Strip) was not democracy. Having second class citizens (in Israel) was democracy.
So you'll excuse me if I am not surprised to learn today that there were more things that I thought were evident that are not: peace activists are not peace activists, piracy is not piracy, the massacre of unarmed people is not the massacre of unarmed people.
I have such a limited brain and my ignorance is unlimited. And they're so fucking intelligent. Really.

Ghassan Hage

Be Still My Bleeding Heart!

I'm a bleeding heart. It's just the way I am. Not a day goes by when my heart isn't bleeding for this poor bugger or that. Today my heart bleeds for this man:

"The Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, said that the Australian government was regularly criticised for being either too close to Israel, or for not being close enough." (Gillard stands by partner over Israel job link, Kirsty Needham, Sydney Morning Herald, 30/6/10)

The Big Mac Lobby

A must-read in today's Age from senior lecturer in international relations in the school of international and political studies at Deakin University, Scott Burchill:

"The primary goal of the US lobby in Australia is to insulate the alliance from changes of government after elections and leadership movements within the major political parties. Bipartisan support for the US alliance cannot always be assumed, however, so strategies are devised to raise the strategic aspects of the relationship above the fray of domestic politics in both countries.

"During the Second Gulf War, Washington's boosters in the Australian media sought to quarantine the alliance from widespread public hostility to George Bush. So, Labor leader Mark Latham could get away with describing Bush as 'the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory'. But his questioning in his diaries of the value of the alliance confirmed for Australia's US lobby that he was unfit for office.*

"The Australian American Leadership Dialogue meets annually (alternately in the US and Australia). It's an invitation-only bipartisan group of politicians, journalists, academics and businessmen who work to preserve and protect the bilateral relationship from criticism and challenges. Its deliberations are not made public.

"One of the group's primary aims is to socialise contemporary and future leaders into accepting the incontrovertible importance of the alliance. In the past week, the group has had good reason to believe that its investment in Julia Gillard - who has been attending its meetings for several years - has paid off.

"In one of her first policy statements as Prime Minister, a remarkably obsequious Gillard told US President Barack Obama it was a 'great honour and privilege' just to talk to him. She then 'reassured' the President of her fidelity to the alliance, and gave him Australia's continuing support for the military campaign in Afghanistan. Kevin Rudd may be gone, but his approach to the longest war in Australia's history would not be changed by his successor.

"To say that the conversation Gillard had with Obama was a missed opportunity does not fully capture the folly of her first foreign policy utterance as Prime Minister.

"Three points stand out.

"First, popular support in Australia for the Afghan war has collapsed. Depending on which poll you read, either 54% (Lowy) or 61% (Essential Media) of the population oppose continuing military involvement in Afghanistan and want Australian troops withdrawn. These views have no representation in the lower house of the Federal Parliament. They are not even considered by the new Prime Minister to be a factor that qualifies Australia's participation in the war. Gillard's reflexive support may reassure Washington that she is 'sound' on national security - that the 'informal bar' on someone from the Left becoming Prime Minister could be lifted, to quote one lobbyist. However, it fundamentally betrays the wishes of the people she now represents. In response to findings that 55% of Australians are not confident that Australia has clear aims in Afghanistan (Lowy poll), former Labor senator Stephen Loosely reportedly said that 'as long as [there is] bipartisan support for [Australia's] Afghanistan contribution in Canberra, declining popular support for the Afghan conflict is not an issue'. This is a perfect illustration of elite disdain for public opinion. No wonder the same poll found that 69% believe the government pays too little attention to their views 'in comparison to the opinions of foreign policy experts'.

"Second, the vigorous discussion of the war now taking place in the US media and inside Washington is not mirrored here. This is largely the government's fault. For a war that seems unwinnable and futile to so many Australians, the absence of an equally vibrant debate in this country is an indictment of our democratic processes. What are our politicians so frightened of? The forensic examination of tactics, personalities, operations and the Taliban - which can be found across the US press every day - is almost entirely missing from the Australian media. It is only when tragedy strikes and casualties increase that analysis rises briefly above the superficial. Comparisons with the Vietnam War could not be more striking.

"Third, the humiliating departure of General Stanley McChrystal provided the opportunity to ask Obama critical questions - and leverage Canberra's support against more definitive criteria. We could be asking: What are your war aims? When will they be achieved? What are your criteria for 'success' in Afghanistan? What is the exit strategy? Instead, Gillard rushed to 'reassure' Obama (as if he needed it) that Australia would continue to be an uncritical ally in a war the public opposes. It's an inauspicious start in diplomacy for our new Prime Minister."

An inauspicious start indeed but what would you expect from La Guillotine who can't seem to get enough of USraeli lobby love-ins and whose preferred reading matter is 'airport trash'?

Former Labor leader Mark Latham, who referred to La Guillotine in his Diaries in 2004 as "our rising star," has since noted the transformative effects of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue on her: "Over the years I have received tender messages from Gillard saying how much she misses me in Canberra... One of them concerned her study tour of the US, sponsored by the American government in 2006 - or to use her moniker - 'a CIA re-education course'... She promised to 'catch up when I'm back from the US and I'll show you my CIA-issued ankle holster'. 'I never got to see her ankles or her holster, but I will say this: you have to hand it to those guys in Washington... Within the space of two years they converted her from a highly cynical critic of all matters American into yet another foreign policy sycophant'." (Latham turns on 'brainwashed' Gillard, Christian Kerr, The Australian, 20/8/09)

[*"I should say something publicly on this, questioning the need for the American Alliance. That's the worst thing about this job, the things that need to be said, but that would turn the Party upside down (the Big Mac faction would go ballistic). The Americans have made us a bigger target in the War against Terror - Australian lives are certain to be sacrificed on the altar of the US Alliance. Look at New Zealand: they have their foreign policy right, and it's the safest country on earth. Labor should be the anti-war party of Australian politics. Other than World War II, every war this country has fought was disconnected from our national interests. All those young Australian lives lost in faraway lands, the folly of imperialism and conservative jingoism. I detest war and the meatheads who volunteer to kill other human beings. The US Alliance is a funnel that draws us into unecessary wars; first Vietnam and then Iraq. With Bush and Howard there will be more to come. They wouldn't fight themselves, of course, but they readily send other people's children to fight in their name. The truth is, the Americans need us more than we need them. Pine Gap is vital to their international security network. Plus the Americans restrict our capacity to trade and integrate with Asia - one day their trouble with China will be our trouble. Politically, why does the Alliance survive? Because a significant number of Australians still think we need an insurance policy against invasion by Indonesia, that's why. Poor old Indonesia. They can barely govern themselves these days, let alone invade us. The Alliance is the last manifestation of the White Australia mentality. Sacrificing Australian pride and independence - and our national interests, properly defined - for the safety blanket of great and powerful friends. It's just another form of neocolonialism: a timid, insular nation at the bottom of the world, too frightened to embrace an independent foreign policy. And its politicians, more comfortable swanning around Washington with their Anglo masters than doing business in Asia." (The Latham Diaries, 1/12/04, 2005, p 393)]

Talk about on the mark.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Soft On Israel

"...Ms Gillard has rejected claims that she is soft on Israel. Former ambassador to Israel Ross Burns made the accusation in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Fairfax press reported. Ms Gillard's partner Tim Mathieson works for prominent pro-Israel lobbyist Albert Dadon's real estate company Ubertas Group. 'I've seen that letter to the newspapers, that's not right', Ms Gillard said today. 'I've made up my own views about Israel and made them known publicly well before there was any suggestion that my partner would work in a property group associated with Mr Dadon'." (Gillard won't play religion card, ABC News, 29/6/10)

So what exactly are La Guillotine's views on Israel and how were they arrived at?

"We want what the Israeli people want - peace between Israel, Palestine and their neighbours. A peace based on: The signing of peace treaties, just as Egypt and Jordan have; The renunciation of terrorism; The end of nuclear proliferation; and recognition of the legitimacy of the State of Israel and its right to exist in safe and secure borders." (Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard addresses the JNF gala dinner, Melbourne, 4/6/08)

Sounds pretty soft on Israel to me. Let's take a closer look:

A peace treaty with the Palestinians?

But Israel doesn't want peace: "We don't want peace. It's as simple as that. It's good for us to wallow in the current situation. There are no terrorist attacks so there are no Arabs. Life is a bowl of cherries, so why change? Society is comatose. It doesn't object and doesn't even ask, led like a flock of sheep, not asking why we need a freeze if at the same time more and more of its funds will be allocated to the settlements in huge quantities. They don't ask why it's okay for the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba and not for Kiryat Shmona. They don't care at all what is happening in their backyard and don't wonder why the whole world disapproves of us. They just want to enjoy life, and who cares about two states or the end of the occupation." (Netanyahu should admit Israel doesn't want peace, Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 13/12/09)

And anyway, peace doesn't pay: "Successive Israeli governments since 1993 certainly must have known what they were doing, being in no hurry to make peace with the Palestinians. As representatives of Israeli society, these governments understood that peace would involve serious damage to national interests. The security industry is an important export branch - weapons, ammunition and refinements that are tested daily in Gaza and the West Bank... Maintaining the occupation and a state of non-peace employs hundreds of thousands of Israelis... A peace agreement would require equal distribution of water resources throughout the country (from the river to the sea) between Jews and Palestinians... As the past 30 years have shown, settlements flourish as the welfare state contracts. They offer ordinary people what their salaries would not allow them in sovereign Israel, within the borders of June 4, 1967: cheap land, large homes, subsidies, wide-open spaces, a superior road network and quality education... " (Israel knows that peace doesn't pay, Amira Hass, Haaretz, 11/5/09)

The renunciation of terrorism?

She means armed Palestinian resistance to occupation of course, not to the terrorist Israeli occupation itself.

The end of nuclear proliferation?

There's only one country in the Middle East with nukes. I think it's called Israel.

Recognition of the legitimacy of the state of Israel and its right to exist in safe and secure borders?

She means its right to exist on as much Palestinian land as it can snaffle up while the so-called peace process rolls on and on and on and... Its right to exist as a state for Australian Jews and American Jews and Canadian Jews and British Jews and... but not for the stateless Palestinians driven out in 1948 and 1967.

And not a word about Palestinian rights or 6 decades of Palestinian dispossession, occupation and statelessness.

Yes, La Guillotine's definitely soft on Israel.

Now where did she get her ideas about Israel from?

I mean "for someone who's regarded as having such a fierce intellect, her library hardly sounds like a heady trip through academia. Gillard laughs and turns her nose up at the suggestion of her bookshelves sighing with Marxist dialectic or political biographies. It's 'airport trash', page-turners and once a year the latest book from an Icelandic murder-mystery writer (Arnaldur Indridason) - a tip from frontbench colleague Laurie Ferguson." (Spotlight on the redhead, Mike Bruce, The Courier-Mail, 15/12/06)

Could they have come from her "brave friends Albert and Debbie Dadon" (JNF address) whose Australia-Israel Cultural Exchange (AICE) sponsored her first trip to Israel in 2005?


Monday, June 28, 2010

The PM, Her Manbag, His Employer & Their (Virtually Unremarked) Connection

Suspend for a moment your disbelief and try to imagine the following scenario: Prime Minister Julia Gillard's partner, Tim Mathieson, is employed by an Australian property developer of Arab background whose position on the Middle East conflict is unashamedly, even crusadingly, pro-Palestine. In addition, our property developer of Middle Eastern appearance has formed an Australia-Arab Cultural Exchange and staged a series of forums bringing together Australian politicians and representatives of countries and groups in the Middle East committed to achieving justice for the Palestinian people. Imagine further that Gillard, as deputy prime minister, has both led a political and media delegation to a forum meeting in an Arab/Muslim capital and, in return, received an Arab/Muslim political and media delegation at a similar forum here in Australia.

Impossible to get your head around, I know, so let's just focus on one element only of the above scenario - the pro-Palestinian property developer of Arab/Muslim background employing La Guillotine's partner.

There is little doubt that this particular aspect of the scenario alone would have elicited howls of sustained protest by our Israel First fraternity, stimulated a weeks-long feeding frenzy by the corporate media (especially the Murdoch pack), and rocked the Labor government to its very foundations.

Contrast that with the media yawn attendant on the news* (around since October last) that La Guillotine's Manbag is currently working for a pro-Israel property developer of Israeli origin, who heads an organisation called the Australia-Israel Cultural Exchange (AICE) which has so far staged two Australia/Israel love-ins (Israel 6/09; Australia 12/09), under the banner of the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, starring none other than La Guillotine herself. In the flurry of reporting on La Guillotine's ascension to the prime ministership, however, the matter has produced barely a flicker of media interest:

Typically, Murdoch's Australian initially played dumb: "Mr Mathieson, a hair products salesman, was appointed by Health Minister Nicola Roxon as a men's health ambassador in 2008, to get men to seek help about their health issues. His new role as the nation's First Man will see him thrust even further into the public spotlight." (Let's wait & see on marriage, says her partner, Stephen Lunn, The Australian, 25/6/10)

Lunn corrected himself next day, however, when he described Mathieson as a "former Shepparton hairdresser turned real estate salesman" and added that his new public role as La Guillotine's manbag "may well come at the expense of his current job, a full-time position he has held since January, selling apartments in a 50-storey complex in Melbourne's St Kilda Road for the developer Ubertas Group. Ms Gillard's pecuniary interests register lists Mr Mathieson as a 'property agent selling residential properties with the focus on international buyers." Lunn went on to report that "Ubertas Group executive chairman Albert Dadon is also chairman of the Australia-Israel Cultural Exchange," only to divert his readers with the astonishingly coy "Ms Gillard is understood to have travelled to Israel last year at this group's invitation." (Partner faces life in the limelight, 26/6/10)

The Sun-Herald gave Manbag the Woman's Day treatment with no hint whatever of La Guillotine's highly personal links with one of the Israel lobby's movers and shakers: "Former AFL footy player Geoff Raines believes his best mate Tim Mathieson will take the role as Australia's first ever 'first bloke' very seriously indeed. And he says Prime Minister Gillard is in the safest possible hands... Raines says Mathieson, whose current work is dabbling in real estate but retains his love of his hairdressing trade by still cutting his mates' hair, knows what his role will be as Australia's first man... While Raines describes his friend as 'politically savvy', others disagree, saying he is trying to learn but his political knowledge and understanding is limited... Mathieson's employer, Albert Dadon of property group Ubertus, was the first to suggest he consider doing some work for the not-for-profit sector and has been keenly impressed by his even nature." (First bloke is a man's man, Kerry-Anne Walsh & Matthew Benns, 27/6/10)

The Sydney Morning Herald was a little more forthcoming, revealing that "The Melbourne real estate developer Ubertas is referring all queries about its salesman Tim Mathieson to the office of his partner, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Mr Mathieson's career change from selling hair products to selling apartments has stepped up interest in his job at a firm that has a sensitive development plan before the Victorian government... The recruitment of Mr Mathieson by Ubertas's managing director Albert Dadon... sparked curiosity in real estate circles because of Mr Mathieson's lack of experience. Mr Dadon was reported as saying he planned 'to make him a property star' as he had done with others in Ubertas who had been appointed without experience." (Light shines on rising star, Mark Metherell, 26/6/10)

Gee, Ubertas must be heaps popular with Melbourne Centrelink offices, what with its extraordinarily selfless habit (for a corporation) of taking on fifty-somethings with no prior experience whatsoever. Albert, you're a legend, mate!

Metherell went on to reveal that "Mr Dadon heads the Australia-Israel Cultural Exchange and has helped organise trips to Israel by Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd. Ms Gillard disclosed Mr Mathieson's appointment to Ubertas in a letter to the registrar of member's interests soon after he took his new job last September. A spokeswoman said then that Ms Gillard did not expect any perceptions of conflict of interest to arise from the job. 'However, the appropriate steps will be taken to ensure both Ms Gillard and Mr Mathieson discharge their professional duties in an entirely appropriate way', she said."

A perception of a conflict of interest? The Herald appears to be of the view that this involves only Dadon's commercial interests. (By way of explanation, Manbag's job of flogging luxury apartments to international investors follows the Rudd government's controversial relaxation of laws relating to foreign real estate ownership. (See Developer employs Julia Gillard's partner to sell apartments, Marc Pallisco,, 1/3/10)) That a conflict of interest might arise in relation to Australia's Middle East policy hardly seems an issue for the likes of Metherell.

OK, the man's a whizz at pushing hair care products, but we're expected to believe that he's been taken on by Ubertus to flog luxury flats just because he's a nice guy?

Alas, both La Guillotine and her Manbag appear to have gone to ground: "Mr Mathieson could not be reached for comment yesterday and Ms Gillard's office did not respond to questions on his job. Mr Mathieson first attracted wide public attention when the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, appointed him a men's health ambassador. It came under fire because of Mr Mathieson's lack of health expertise. But he denied that he had been chosen because of his ties to Ms Gillard, who was then deputy prime minister."

But had Mark Metherell been able to reach either of them, can you imagine him asking whether Manbag had really been employed by Dadon with a view to his utility as a convenient conduit to the then deputy prime minister on matters Middle Eastern or as a favour for her starring role in his forums? Not in a million, I'm afraid.

Not only is such a question from one of our corporate reporters seemingly inconceivable, but we also have the spectacle of one of the ms media's most conspicuous talking heads, visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute and professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, Hugh White, telling us that "The big story about Julia Gillard and foreign strategic policy is there is no story... She's been involved in the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue for the last couple of years, but only since they came into government, she was involved in the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum last year... but she has no established positions, as far as anyone knows, on foreign policy questions." (Amid all the change, foreign policy a constant, Dan Oakes, Sydney Morning Herald, 26/6/10)

Strewth! I can't believe he said that.

[* See my 13/2/10 post A Job for the Boy]

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Whatever happened to the self-regarding notion, propagated by Bush and his neocon mafia, that 'Muslim' terrorists were supposed to hate us for our 'freedoms' or just because we were born plain wonderful?

"Saying that he wanted to kill as many people as possible to 'avenge' US attacks on Muslims, Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to trying to set off a car bomb in Times Square on May 1 in a conspiracy with the Pakistani Taliban. 'I'm going to plead guilty a hindred times over', the calm, composed 30-year old said on Monday showing no sign of repentance or anger as he recited a long list of grievances - US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, drone strikes, occupation of Muslim lands - in an hour-long hearing in a federal court in Manhattan... The judge asked him how it made sense to deliberately kill civilians, even children, to protest against US policies. 'The people select the government. We consider them all the same', he responded. 'The drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq. They don't see children... They kill women, they kill children, they kill everyone... I am part of the answer to the United States terrorising the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. I'm avenging the attacks'." (Times Square bomber says he wanted carnage, John Riley, SMH/Newsday, 23/6/10)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Julia Gillard: A Retrospective

"The liberal internationalists were at the forefront of calls to hold Sudan and China responsible for the misery in Darfur under the concept of 'responsibility to protect'. Yet many of these same voices did not bring up the concept of responsibility to protect when collective punishment was imposed on the people of Gaza. There is one point that needs to be emphasized here: there is always a litmus test to assess a person's intellectual and moral courage. In the West, especially in America, this litmus test is provided by the Middle East issue. The intellectual and moral cowardice of Western intellectuals on this issue is stunning. Paradoxically, by censoring their views on Israel, they have done great damage to Israel by failing to point out to it the sheer folly of remaining in perpetual conflict with its neighbours. The next time any Western intellectual calls upon the rest of the world to show courage by speaking 'truth to power' he or she should lead the charge by speaking 'truth to power' on the Israel-Palestine dispute." (Western intellectual & moral cowardice on Israel/Palestine is 'stunning', Kishore Mahbubani*,, 29/5/08)

The rise & rise of 'now' prime minister (and intellectual and moral coward) Julia Gillard - from the MERC files:

"A fellow student activist says [Julia] Gillard has always been 'very much on the pragmatic side'. She was always that way in student politics. She was more inclined to deal with the Liberals, the Zionists and various right-wing groups than she was with the Left." (She's got it, Stevenson & Banham, Sydney Morning Herald, 5/7/03)

"[Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) president Philip] Chester said the fact that he had 'never heard [Julia Gillard] say a word about the Middle East' was no indication of any lack of support for Israel, but added that he was more comfortable with Gillard filling the deputy role having been to Israel, which she visited for the first time last year." (Rudd 'good for the Jews', but Gillard still untested, The Australian Jewish News, 7/12/06)

"Julia Gillard has brought a new abbreviation to the world of politics. In Canberra's corridors of power she is now simply referred to as DPM, a contraction of her position in relation to Kevin Rudd that ignores her other responsibilities as Minister for Education, Social Inclusion, Employment & Workplace Relations. She also appears to be wavering in her habit of acknowledging traditional land owners at the beginning of her speeches. Addressing the Jewish National Fund in Melbourne on Wednesday evening, she acknowledged Albert and Debbie Dadon, Michael Danby, David Ben-Gurion and Mark Dreyfus before giving a nod to the Wurundjieri people and their past and present elders." (Shortcuts for Gillard, DD McNicholl, The Australian, 6/6/08)

"Israel's air strikes were a response to an 'act of aggression' by Hamas which had broken the ceasefire. 'We are saying to Hamas that they should cease any further action'." (Gillard in A time for fighting, Jason Koutsoukis, SMH, 29/12/08)

"Every nation has its own experience of struggle. But some peoples have experienced suffering of a kind that does not bear any comparison. Instead, we can only bear witness to it. That is why our delegation, with humility, will visit Yad Vashem to pay our respects and reflect on the horror of the holocaust." (Gillard, Speech to the Australia Israel Leadership Forum,, 22/6/09)

"Gillard deserves particular praise for attending the [Australia-Israel Leadership] Forum, as she was subject to a nasty campaign from the Left to try to intimidate her out of going. The Left internationally is going through one of its periodic bouts of trying to isolate Israel. This is one of those demented moments where allegedly progressive opinion believe it's the height of creativity to engage the mullah dictatorship in Iran, as it steals elections and pursues nuclear weapons, but wrong to visit a democratic ally such as Israel. The Rudd government has stood four square against this nonsensical position, as demonstrated in Kevin Rudd's long telephone conversation with Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week... Gillard also met Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres. Gillard's outlook on national security and international relations generally has matured and deepened enormously over the past few years. She certainly believes what she says. But there is also a good political dimension to what Gillard is doing. A Labor politician from the Left, she aspires one day to the prime ministership. The traditional doubt about the Left is that they tend to be anti-American or simply unreliable on national security. Gillard has given a series of speeches and performances that demonstrate she is 100% with Rudd in the mainstream Curtin-Hawke Labor tradition on the US alliance, the deployment of Australian forces overseas and indeed Israel and the Middle East." (Gillard prime ministerial in Israel, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 25/6/09)

"I walked away from my conversation with the Israeli prime minister believing there was a real preparedness for a genuine discussion. He genuinely wants to step forward and engage in a discussion about peace." (Gillard on Radio National's Sunday Profile, 2/7/09)

"A study of the transcripts of Ms Gillard's speeches and interviews, from her recent trip to Israel... reveals that the word 'Gaza' did not once pass her lips. Challenged by a reporter to say whether she believed Israel's treatment of the Palestinians was 'fair and just', she avoided the question and retreated into platitudes: 'We are concerned about the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people'. This amounts to connivance with what the late Israeli political scientist Baruch Kimmerling called 'politicide': Israel's desire to have the outside world forget Palestinian political aspirations to self-determination, and regard their struggle in purely humanitarian terms." (Politicide or politic: Gillard & the Gaza muzzle, Jake Lynch, SMH, 10/7/09)

"Over the years I have received tender messages from Gillard saying how much she misses me in Canberra... One of them concerned her study tour of the US, sponsored by the American government in 2006 - or to use her moniker - 'a CIA re-education course'... She promised 'to catch up when I'm back from the US and I'll show you my CIA-issued ankle holster'. I never got to see her ankles or her holster, but I will say this: you have to hand it to those guys in Washington... Within the space of 2 years they converted her from a highly cynical critic of all matters American into yet another foreign policy sycophant." (Latham turns on 'brainwashed' Gillard, Christian Kerr, The Australian, 20/8/09)

"[My trip to Israel] reinforced in me that the judgements we made at the time [of the 2008/2009 Gaza massacre] were the right judgements... We, as a nation, have always been very strong on supporting Israel's right to defend itself and to seek security in the region. When you've got a circumstance where rockets continue to be fired at Israeli communities, then the Israeli government is going to react." (Gillard: trip to Israel vindicated Government stance on Gaza, The Australian Jewish News, 21/8/09)

"A former jazz guitarist who is developing a $450 million Melbourne tower has persuaded Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard's partner, Tim Mathieson, to give up his hair-care business to sell residential property instead. Albert Dadon hired Mr Mathieson as a contractor to find international buyers for apartments in the 50-storey project that overlooks Flagstaff Gardens. The appointment tightens the links between Mr Dadon and Ms Gillard after her visit to Israel in June as a guest of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, which he founded and chairs. Mr Dadon was the artistic director of the Melbourne Jazz Festival for several years but has emerged in recent times as executive chairman of Uberta Group and a good friend of the Rudd government. He sponsored Kevin Rudd on a visit to Israel in 2002 when the Prime Minister was Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, and did so again in 2005. The two had lunch together shortly before the 2007 federal election, The Age reported earlier this year. Mr Dadon is married to Debbie Besen, daughter of Highpoint property Group chairman and Sussan clothing store founder Marc Besen. Ms Gillard disclosed her partner's appointment to Ubertas Group in a letter to the registrar of members' interests last Friday, saying the new job had started last month. A spokesman said Ms Gillard did not expect any perceived conflict of interest to arise from the job." (A man of many properties, David Crowe, Australian Financial Review, 23/10/09)

"Perhaps the most remarkable factor in Labor's apparent love affair with Israel is not Mr Rudd, but Ms Gillard... Last Sunday, after a gushing address in Melbourne to the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, during which she described the two-day conference as 'a special kind of conversation between friends', she danced the hora with Jewish women... Could the Welsh-born deputy PM genuinely believe in the veracity of Israel's case, having visited there twice in recent years? Or has she caved in on the issue following pressure, real or perceived? Or is there a third possibility? As one Jewish leader put it, 'She wants to be Australia's first female prime minister and she knows that means currying favour with the Jews'." (Australia renews its love affair with Israel, Dan Goldberg,, 10/12/09)

"Gillard has moved to create her own positive national security identity bang in the middle of the mainstream. For several years she has been attending the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue. I heard her speak at the State Department in Washington in July 2008 and she was clear and declarative about her attachment to the US alliance, not only for its contribution to Australian security, but - as John Curtin put it - for its contribution to civilization and civilized values. Similarly, a year ago Gillard attended the first Australia-Israel Leadership Forum in Israel... Her message in foreign affairs and national security is one of continuity and reassurance. The lady's not for lurching." (Leader to stay true on foreign affairs, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 25/6/10)

"On foreign policy... expect little change. Gillard the former campus radical[?] has made the transition to the safe mainstream consensus without a ripple. In her address after the leadership change yesterday, the only foreign subject touched upon was Afghanistan, in the form of a tribute to the soldiers serving there. She has been a participant in the second-track diplomacy effort known as the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, and in the newer Australia-Israel Forum set up last year. In these two sensitive areas, where politicians are carefully watched for deviation by powerful lobbies, she has flagged her adherence to the norm." (SMH editorial, Julia Gillard gives Labor a new start, 25/6/10)

[*Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Ins & Outs of the ALP

Maxine McKew (MP for Bennelong) is definitely in. For example, when it comes to the Middle East conflict, she has a knack for articulating her party's position that is second to none. Which probably means she's destined for a senior position in the parliamentary party and explains why she gets to appear on cool television shows such as Q & A (31/5/10):

Audience Member: Are we applying double standards to Israel?... If [say] Iraq had behaved like that [massacring unarmed protesters on the high seas] we would be jumping up and down... and intervening...

Tony Jones: I just want to get a quick response from Maxine McKew, and I'll ask you as a corollary to that, Maxine, does this shake your faith in Israel at all?

Maxine McKew: ... I think it's a bit too early to say we should be jumping up and down about anything. We were only really apprised of this about mid-afternoon Australian time... We need a lot more information so I'll leave it at that. Shake my faith in Israel? Well, Tony, I remember being in Israel in the 90s and there was still hope after the Oslo process that things could move, but, you know, things are very fragmented now, very far apart. So I lament that. You know, I grew up, you know, schooled in, you know, the horrors of the holocaust and absolutely believing in the fundamental importance of the state of Israel and its right to exist, but I also believe that there has to be, you know, space for the Palestinians. The fact that this issue is still as unresolved in the new century, you know, as it was in the last century is deeply depressing.

Julia Irwin (MP for Fowler), on the other hand, is definitely out. You can see why from her 16 June adjournment speech, where her grasp of party policy detail on the Middle East conflict was embarrassingly shaky to say the least. Which, I suppose, helps explain why she's not only on the nose in party circles but why she won't even be standing for re-election next time around. Oh, and why you'll probably never see her on Q & A:

"Like millions of people around the world I watched with horror the actions of the Israeli armed forces in their assault on the freedom flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. The predictable response from the Israeli propaganda machine portrayed the murder of 9 peace activists as yet another act of self-defence. While the Secretary-General of the UN has called for an independent international inquiry, the US and Australia are again happy to leave the inquiry in the hands of the Israeli authorities. And even if there were any adverse findings we could expect the matter to be brushed aside like the damning Goldstone report into Israel's war on Gaza in 2009. This reminds me very much of those apologists for Stalinism who were blind to the human rights abuses of that brutal regime. They would justify any atrocity by saying that it was in defence of socialism and begin each statement with words like 'you have to realise that more than 20 million Russians were killed in the great patriotic war'. But that is how Western leaders excuse the gross abuses of human rights committed in the name of self-defence by the state of Israel. Are they blind to the evidence presented by UN agencies, by Amnesty International or by the Red Cross, none of which could remotely be described as terrorist organisations? And are they also blind to the damage done to their standing in the world community by their unquestioning defence of Israel?

"My own awakening to the reality of life in the illegally occupied territories came in a visit in 2000. I mention just one incident that has left a lasting impact on me. We were walking through the streets of East Jerusalem when we were confronted with a group of teenage Israeli youths each carrying a submachinegun slung over their shoulder and with a 'go ahead, make my day' look in their eyes. The group came across an old woman sitting in her doorway selling her homemade cheeses from a large platter. To my amazement, one of the youths kicked the platter down the alley spilling the cheeses onto the ground. I will never forget the tearful expression on that old woman's face or the mocking laugh of the youths as they swaggered off down the street.

"While this was hardly a gross abuse of human rights, it is part of everyday life in the illegally occupied territories. When taken together with the abduction, imprisonment and torture of more than 10,000 Palestinians, including children and a number of members of the Palestinian Legislative Assembly, the reality of life under the jackboot of Israeli occupation can be felt. And to that can be added the bombing of schools, hospitals and UN stores during Israel's war on Gaza and so many other documented cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are not the acts of a civilised nation.

"Yet, like the Stalinists of old, some world leaders continue to deny the reality, or, worse, defend it in the name of Israel's right of self-defence. But while nations' leaders fail to act, responsible citizens throughout the world are beginning to take action. The worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] against products and services originating in whole or in part in the occupied territories is gaining momentum. I am pleased to see unions in Australia, including state branches of the CFMEU and the Australian Services Union, joining this movement. Churches, universities and trade unions are refusing to invest in enterprises conducting business in or involved in construction in the occupied territories. Unions in Europe have applied international law forbidding the international exploitation of illegally occupied territory and have embargoed goods made in the West Bank. Faced with the refusal by Israeli authorities to allow academic freedom in the occupied territories, many universities have broken contact with Israeli institutions with ties in the West Bank.

"When governments refuse to act in the name of civilised society t0 prevent gross abuses of human rights, we as individuals have a duty to act. The campaign of BDS deserves the full support of every thinking and caring Australian."

No sooner had Irwin finished her speech than Graig Emerson (MP for Rankin and Minister for Small Business etc, etc), who by the way was on Q & A this Monday night, stood, peg on nose, and relieved himself thus: "I want to make it clear that, in making her adjournment speech tonight, the member for Fowler was not speaking on behalf of the Rudd government."

Tell us something we don't know, minister.

PS: "Lunch with [Mark] Arbib at Azuma's in Sydney. It's interesting to listen to these machine guys: they live in a world of non-stop political manoeuvres and gossip, no structured thoughts about making society better. Their only points of reference in public life are polling and focus groups. And so it is with Arbib. Some snippets from him. The focus groups showed that people like me, but they think I need another three years in Opposition, after which they will give me a go... The focus groups also show that it's popular to bash the blacks: 'You need to find new issues, like attacking land rights, get stuck into all the politically correct Aborignal stuff - the punters love it'. Maybe he should have had lunch with Pauline Hanson, though not at Azuma's... We also talked about the quality of Labor MPs in NSW, and he wants to get rid of Irwin in Fowler: 'We had it all lined up before the 2001 election. Irwin was going to the State Upper House and Maxine McKew was going to run for Fowler. She would have been fantastic but then she backed out, said she couldn't stand living in Cabramatta or Liverpool'. So Maxine wants to be a Labor MP, but can't stand the sight or smell of Labor voters, hey?" (The Latham Diaries, 1/11/04, Mark Latham, 2005, pp 369-370)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy

In my post of 11/6/10, Those Irresistable Zionist Pheromones Again 2, on the Prime Minister's recent dinner with Israel lobbyists at The Lodge, I concluded by quoting, from a February 2010 report by the SMH's international editor Peter Hartcher, the words of an anonymous "Australian official": "It wouldn't matter whether it was John Howard or Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott in the prime minister's chair... [the Israelis] know they've got us by the balls... partly because of the strength of the Israel lobby... "

Although I've already covered the circumstances of the dinner in the above post (and its predecessor of 9/6), exactly how the Israelis have Rudd by the short & curlies becomes a little clearer in Hartcher's column, What am I, chopped liver? How Rudd dived into schmooze mode, in today's Herald. It's therefore worth quoting in full, keeping in mind, however, Hartcher's obvious lobby source(s) and their motives in speaking to him, his Jewish Board of Deputies-sponsored junket to Israel last year, and his subsequent Israel advocacy on the Herald's opinion page - just click on the tag below. My comments, as always, are in square brackets:

"When Kevin Rudd sat down to dinner in the Lodge with 6 leaders of the Jewish community this month, several remarked at the trouble he'd taken: the PM had ordered kosher food, flown from Melbourne, for the event. It was a nice touch, but not enough.

[The trouble he'd taken? These guys must be VIPs indeed.]

"Rudd convened the dinner as a reconciliation with Australia's Jewry. He was the first prime minister to invite the Jewish leadership to address a crisis in relations since Malcolm Fraser after the outbreak of the first Lebanon war in 1982. But it was going to take a lot more than a kosher dinner to allay the anxiety, anger and frustration around the Lodge dining table.

[Dear, dear, dear... not happy, Kevin!]

"The Jewish community was deeply disturbed by the abrupt change in the government's Israel policy [occasioned by Israeli actions]. And Rudd's treatment of the local Jewish fraternity, too. He had always been strongly pro-Israel. A former chairman of the World Jewish Congress Isi Leibler last year described him as 'a Christian Zionist - he understands and has some sympathy for us'.

"Australia had long been one of Israel's 3 most supportive friends, along with the US and Canada. But now there were troubling signs that Rudd had decided to distance Australia from the Jewish state and himself from the Australian Jews he had called friends.

"It started in February with the government's angry reaction to news that assassins with the Israeli intelligence service Mossad had forged 3 Australian passports to enter the United Arab Emirates to kill a Hamas military commander, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in his hotel room. 'Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend', said the Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith.

"It sharpened a week later when Australia switched its vote in the UN to signal a weakening of support for Israel. The government feigned surprise when asked if this was a rebuke for the abuse of the Australian passports but it was a deliberate and unmistakable retaliation.

[So there you have it: our UN vote on Palestine/Israel isn't determined by a serious and proper consideration of the issue at hand. What a surprise!]

"The concern intensified last month when the government expelled an Israeli diplomat as a punishment for the passports abuse. Britain did the same, as would Ireland, but France and Germany merely rebuked Israel with a public statement. Tony Abbott called the expulsion an overreaction.

"All through this, the Israeli ambassador to Australia and some members of the Jewish community felt a chill in their dealings with the government. Phone calls went unreturned, normal dealings seemed to be suspended.

[Note the ease and degree of access to the government implied here.]

"The Jewish community reciprocated. When Labor approached key groups to hold fund-raising events for the coming election, they feigned busyness, but it was a deliberate and unmistakeable retaliation.

[Note the repetition here of deliberate and unmistakeable retaliation. Hell hath no fury like the Israel lobby scorned.]

"The Jewish community was an important source of Labor funds for the 2007 election. A single lunch in Sydney raised $100,000. A Toorak tennis court party for 200, attended by Rudd and Julia Gillard, raised more.

"But as this year has unfolded, it became increasingly clear such effort would not be repeated. Last month, as Rudd's poll numbers weakened, the activist Jewish Labor MP Michael Danby was surprised to receive a visit from Rudd's chief of staff, Alister Jordan, the first in 3 years.

[The implication here is that lobby funding is crucial to the re-election of the Rudd government.* What a damning state of affairs.]

"Danby told Jordan of Jewish concerns. As a result, he and another Jewish Labor MP, Mark Dreyfus, found themselves in Rudd's office with the PM and his FM. Rudd got the message. He set up the dinner for a week later, June 3.

[The timing here doesn't gel with the chronology of meetings I've described in my 9/6/10 post Those Irresistable Zionist Pheromones Again. Hartcher has Danby meeting with him prior to the Gaza flotilla massacre, not in response to it. If so, Danby's timing, cited in that post, is out.]

"In the meantime, Israeli commandos raided the unarmed flotilla in international waters, killing 9 civilians and shocking the world. Rudd's response seemed to confirm the worst fears of Israel and its advocates. 'When it comes to a blockade against Gaza, preventing the supply of humanitarian aid, such a blockade should be removed', he told reporters. This was widely reported as Rudd calling for an end to the blockade. This would allow Hamas to arm itself for war on Israel.

[Hartcher channeling Danby?]

"Two days later, when Rudd and Smith welcomed the 6 Jewish leaders to the Lodge with a statement of their support for Israel, Rudd got a tough rejoinder from Mark Leibler, chairman of the Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council [AIJAC]. He told them he was 'deeply troubled' by Rudd's stand on Israel. He spent 15 to 20 minutes recalling their former dealings, repeating Rudd's pledge of support, then detailing his concerns. Rudd responded point by point.

[Rudd's pledge of support in return for...?]

"He said his remarks on the blockade [what blockade?] were misconstrued. He meant it should be lifted for humanitarian aid and not military supplies. This is what Israel is moving to do.

"Smith added that the government had called for an independent Israeli inquiry into the commando raid on the flotilla and not an international inquiry that might lead to another Goldstone report.

"Rudd denied any 'freezing out' of Israel's ambassador, or of the Jewish community. He pointed out that his foreign policy adviser Phillip Green, also at the dinner - 'he sits in the office next to mine' - had a number of dealings with the ambassador during this period and took calls from Jewish leaders. [But that'd be unacceptable to those used to direct access to Rudd himself.] On the passports affair, Rudd stood his ground. He said he was personally hurt by Israel's abuse of Australian passports, he had a duty of support to passport holders, but said the matter was now in the past.

"It was time for a 'new momentum' in Australia's relationship with Israel. He said Australia would send the Trade Minister, Simon Crean, to Israel, and this would doubtless lead to a reciprocal visit and a new energy.

"He promised new funding for the secure schools program, which provides security to Jewish schools, now the first $20 million was spent. The Jewish leaders left the Lodge shaken by the events of the last months [poor things] but largely satisfied with Rudd's assurances and his promises. Which is just as well, because the food was reportedly terrible. The crisis over, fund-raising events for Labor are expected to resume."

[PS: *"The major parties face a cash crisis as they head to the polls with... low bank balances... Labor [is] carrying $7m in debt... the Liberals $4.2m..." (Parties go cap in hand to unions and business, Christian Kerr, The Australian, 5/7/10)]

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mike, About that Last Column...

In The Ferocious Beast (12/6/10), I posted Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton's bold exposure of the winning ways of Australia's Israel lobby. Needless to say, the following week's letters pages witnessed the inevitable stoush between the usual suspects and their foot soldiers (4) and Carlton's defenders (8), an exchange which prompted him to have a second bite of the cherry in his latest column, Rudd fumbles ball & couldn't even save Sharnee & Skye, 19/6/10:

"With bottomless irony, the Jewish lobby spent much of last week assuring anybody who would listen that there is no such thing as the Jewish lobby. The most powerful contribution came from one Mike Phillips of Wollstonecraft, who wrote to the Herald on Tuesday to explain that the Jewish people were put on this earth to teach the rest of us how to behave. That clap-trap was briskly dealt with by readers' letters the next day.

"As I said when I opened this can of worms a few weeks ago, a common technique of the lobby cheerleaders is to label any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism or, worse, Holocaust denial. Sometimes in as many words, at other times more subtly. And away they duly went. Robin Margo, president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, wrote that my column last week had 'disturbing overtones' for those who know their history. Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, fired off a hilariously pompous email accusing me of falsehoods, stupidity, intemperance, irresponsibility and of invoking an 'old and insidious racist sterotype'. I thought at first some witty satirist had pinched his letterhead.

"Time for a cold shower all around. The American Jewish academic Norman Finkelstein has campaigned against what he calls the Holocaust Industry, which he describes as the offensive use of the death of 6 million Jews as a lever to obtain political or diplomatic advantage. For this he is usually excoriated as a self-hating Jew, another traditional insult, but he can hardly be ignored: his mother was in Majdanek and his father survived Auschwitz.

"Or, as another distinguished American writer, Peter Beinart, wrote recently in The New York Review of Books, 'the Holocaust analogies never stop, and their message is always the same: Jews are licensed by their victimhood to worry only about themselves'. Jewish lobby groups have every right to put their views. But when their first, inevitable reaction is to hurl the charge of anti-Semitism they merely devalue the currency.

"I replied to Robert Goot that I am perfectly content with the existence of Israel as an independent Jewish homeland, and that I have no more regard for Hamas than I had for the psychopaths of my own ethnic background, the IRA. But nor, I said, would I be silenced about Israel's cruel and unconscionable oppression of the people of Gaza. Enough. Shalom."

It goes without saying that I agree with everything Carlton has written above - except for that final paragraph, which detracts terribly from his otherwise astute and courageous stance.

No one aware of its implications could possibly be perfectly content with the existence of Israel as an independent Jewish homeland because to be so is to be perfectly content with the existence of some 5 million Palestinian refugees as an exiled, stateless and disenfranchised population - in perpetuity. The logic of such a statement is that what is now generally recognised as Israel (pre-1967) should be the sole preserve of Jews the world over, including Margo, Goot and the rest, and forever denied to the descendants of the non-Jewish Palestinian Arab majority ethnically cleansed from their homes (and homeland) there in 1948. Such an assertion also suggests that Carlton is cosy with the idea of a sectarian state, a position I'm sure he'd be the first to oppose. Consistency surely demands that any sectarian state, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu, be rejected as inherently discriminatory.

As for Hamas, after some real study (try Khaled Hroub's Hamas: A Beginner's Guide, 2006 or Azzam Tamimi's Hamas: Unwritten Chapters, 2007) and a little honest reflection, I doubt whether Carlton would stand by his facile dismissal of Hamas as nothing more than psychopathic.

Whilst I appreciate Carlton's refusal to be silenced by Israel's cruel and unconscionable oppression of the people of Gaza, the rest of his paragraph smacks too much of tossing a bone to the ferocious - dare I say psychopathic?* - beast.

[*Hear Finkelstein describe Israel as a "lunatic state" at or read his latest book, 'This Time We Went Too Far' (2010), in which he quotes former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni talking of Israel as "going wild" and "demonstrating real hooliganism" in Gaza in January 2009.]

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Who Let the Dog Out?

"You cannot hope to bribe or twist/ Thank God! The British journalist./ But, seeing what the man will do/ Un-bribed, there's no occasion to." Humbert Wolfe

"It inflames their brains, they have spasms of involuntary behaviour, eventually go mad, froth at the mouth, and will bite the hand that feeds them." (Turkey may no longer be a friend of ours, 14/6/10)

Eretz - Let's Do the Mad Dog Again - Israel?

No. "Gaza has rabies."

Welcome to the howling nonsense of the Herald Sun's Alan Howe.

"Well, sort of. Actually, its disease is an infestation of self-loathing, ungrateful Islamists. But the symptoms and the prognosis are much the same."

Ungrateful Islamists? Hm... what the hell is he talking about?

"Right now, in a change that might yet develop into the greatest threat to those of us who choose to remain civilised, it seems Turkey may be incubating the disease. If Turkey, a full member of the world's most important security club, NATO, falls under the influence of the Islamists, we are all in trouble."

I see. Turkish activists join an aid flotilla to Gaza and are murdered by Israeli thugs and, hey presto, Turkey's the problem? And moving right along, the US encircles Iran with bases, and Israel threatens to nuke it every other day, and Iran's an even bigger problem?

"The United Nations last week voted in new sanctions against Iran, aimed at punishing the country whose nuclear program could easily be used to destroy Israel - and that's top of their agenda - before having a crack at any other democracies within rocket fire range."

Yes, Alan, but could Iran's democracy-destroying nukes be activated within 45' like Saddam's? And isn't it funny how Iran comes in at 104/149 in the 2010 Global Peace Index (see previous post) - 40 points more peaceful than the Middle East's only democracy?

"The lying tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who stole last year's 'elections' in Iran, does not believe Israel, or any of its allies, should exist, and hopes to kill us all. Ahmadinejad was scraped like a piece of scum on to this earth in late 1956, and is embarked on a straight line to Hell, his only distraction being the slaughter of as many innocents as he can rack up in between. By his standards he's doing well. His agents are raping and killing their way through those Iranian kids brave enough to protest at last year's illegal election farce. Public executions, where innocents are slowly and agonisingly strangled, not hanged, from mobile cranes are a specialty. Don't think for a moment Australians aren't in his sights. Anyone who recognises Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury', he once spat out, a dribble of saliva suggesting he is more than unwell."

OK Alan, I give up. I've scoured the latest (9/6/10) Amnesty International report, From Protest to Prison: Iran One Year After the Revolution, and all I've managed to find is: "Some [protesters] have been detained in conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Many have been tortured, including by beatings, rape and solitary confinement in small spaces for long periods."

Bad enough to be sure. But where are the mobile cranes used as makeshift gallows for Iranian protesters? Yes, mobile (is there any other kind?) cranes have been used to hang people in Iran. After a bit of googling, I managed to find the case of a teenage girl executed "for crimes against chastity." (It was actually the subject of a Four Corners doco screened on 7/8/06.) But that was in August 2004 before Ahmadinejad's presidency and years before the Green Revolution protests hit the streets of Tehran. Another instance involved two men convicted of murder (Iranian hangings 'hit new record',, 11/2/08).

Now Alan, if you have data on cases of the Ahmadinejad government hanging protesters, you need to contact AI at once so they can include them in their next report. Not that you have a problem with capital punishment though. I mean, didn't you comment just recently, May 3 to be exact: "Would we, as a community, be willing to invest in our judicial system the power for a judge to call for the end to a life? I find myself leaning that way sometimes." (Some crims are fit to kill)

OK - back to the Turks:

"Notwithstanding the extraordinary and shared experience at Gallipoli, and the strong bonds between Australia and Turkey that have grown from them, when it comes to the centenary of that campaign - less than 5 years from now - it is very possible we will be enemies once more. This time the stakes are much higher. We lost against the Turks in 1915. We cannot afford them to win in 2010."

Let me get this straight, Alan, we had an extraordinary and shared experience at Gallipoli in 1915, right? Best thing that ever happened to us, right? Made men of us, right? Even put balls on the sheilas, right? So why wouldn't we want a rerun? Surely you'd agree that our feckless youth need something a bit more spine-infusing than mowing down women and kids in Afghanistan? So what's the problem, mate? Bring it on! The sooner the better! And, if we want to make the most of our second extraordinary and shared experience, shouldn't we hope and pray Johny Turk whips our asses good like before, dig?

But I digress. There's that other, closet Ahmadinejad, that Trojan Horse, Recep Erdogan, lying in wait, ready to pounce:

"The Turks own the story of Troy. You think they'd know a Trojan horse when they saw one [Er, Alan, you're not suggesting he's actually a Greek agent, are you?]... No matter what colours [Erdogan] has tried to show since gaining power, his true ambitions became clear when he supported last month's so-called Freedom Flotilla of boats carrying what they claimed was aid to the people of Gaza. In a stunt organisers knew would end in tears, 6 vessels carrying 663 deluded 'friends' of Gaza attempted to sail there without authority to deliver 'aid'. Gaza, which is in the grip of the terror movement Hamas, is rightly blockaded by both Israel and Egypt, the most influential Islamic nation in the region, because its aim is to export radical Islamic revolution to those countries that might be susceptible - and to destroy those that aren't. The almost non-stop rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are all the evidence you need."

In the grip? Yeah, as in Australia is in the grip of the Rudd government.

Rightly blockaded or illegally blockaded?

"Interestingly, the Turkish Muslim men on board - their subservient women presumably behind burkas at home where they belong - had not just prepared themselves to become 'martyrs', they appear to have had some combat training, not blinking at the grenades that would have you and me shocked and seeking cover. In any case, they were hardly seeking to become martyrs in the noble Christian sense of persecuted believers being killed for daring to keep faith in Christ while being taunted for their religion; these are angry, murderous blokes hell-bent on provoking a response from a democracy - just like Australia's - obliged to protect its borders and people... Three of the four Turks killed in the encounter sought martydom, according to their relatives and friends. Apparently they had prayed to Allah to grant them their wish. In the end, Allah seems to have done rather less than the Israeli Defence Forces, which took on most of the heavy lifting to dispatch these fellows to the hereafter."

Presumably, Alan? Why presumably? It's because they're Muslims and everyone knows how dreadfully Muslim men treat their women, right? If only they could learn to respect their women as much as Aussie men respect theirs: "Some of our most exploited women are top athletes, a painful example being those playing beach volleyball at the Olympic level. Organisations that should be devoted to promoting, policing and protecting the sport instead insist the women players must dress, well barely, to titillate male television audiences." (Women lose their roar, Alan Howe, Herald Sun, 14/3/10)

Only 4 Turks killed, Alan? And here's me thinking it was 9! But then Alan's a quality journalist and I'm just a niggling blogger, so what would I know?

And gee, some Turkish activists prepared themselves for martyrdom. Really? Martyrdom? As in "somebody who suffers persecution and death for the people, a country or an organisation..." (wikipedia). OMG! They knew they were messing with the Israelis - the Israelis for God's sake! - and the thought actually crossed their minds that they might be returning in a body bag? How paranoid can you get?

But seriously, Alan, that bit about praying to Allah to grant them martyrdom, that's not really in the Guardian report (Flotilla raid: Turkish jihadis bent on violence Israel claims, 2/6/10) you got this martyrdom stuff from, now is it? Let's see what was actually said: One activist said he'd "dreamed" he was going to be a martyr. Not in the sense of wanting to be a martyr, Alan, but, ominously, going to be a martyr. The brother-in-law of another said, Allah gave him a death he desired. Couldn't that perhaps be Turkish for something as simple as, If I'm going to die (and aren't we all) I'd prefer it to be in a good cause? And the third had "dreamt of becoming a martyr." As in had a dream about his fate? Or as in dreamt of winning Lotto? Who knows? Certainly not you, Alan. One thing's for sure though, whatever these martyrs thought of martydom, there's not a jot of evidence for your prattle about praying to Allah to grant them martyrdom.

Finally, Alan reminds us of the Awesome Evil that this "flotilla of fools" was out to aid and abet:

"[F]our Kassam rockets were launched into the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon. No one was killed, but that wasn't the plan. For Hamas, and the possibly reluctant recruits it has exploited in the blighted region it intends to restore to the Stone Age, it was business as usual."

But Alan, didn't your News Limited colleague over at The Australian, John Lyons, write on June 12: "It's generally accepted now - even by Israel - that Hamas has halted rockets. The war of last year wrought such terrible consequences for Gaza and its 1.5 million people that more retaliation is the last thing Hamas wants now. 'We have declared a unilateral ceasefire', senior Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef tells Inquirer in an interview in his office. 'The priority now is how to take care of our people after the war'?" (Running the Gaza blockade)

Shared Values?

"We share a unique relationship based on Australia's historical support for Israel and our shared commitment to freedom, security and democracy. Our friendship will remain strong because our values are shared." (Foreign Minister Stephen Smith speaking at an Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) lunch, 19/5/09)

The 2010 Global Peace Index ( was recently released. 149 countries were ranked according to a range of 'Peace Indicators'. In light of our government's facile rhetoric about shared values, I thought it might be instructive to compare the results for Australia and Israel, with the United States thrown in for good measure. (NB: The higher the score, the more of a problem we have.)

Australia ranked 19/149; Israel 144/149; US 84/149

Looking at some of the key Peace Indicators, we get the following results:

Relations with neighbouring countries:
AUS 1/5; Israel 4/5; US 2/5

Level of respect for human rights:
AUS 1/5; Israel 5/5; US 3/5

Military expenditure as a % of GDP:
AUS 1.5; Israel 3/5; US 2/5

Number of armed services personnel per 100,000 people:
AUS 1/5; Israel 5/5; US 1/5

Exports of major conventional weapons per 1000,000 people:
AUS 1/5; Israel 5/5; US 2.5/5

Imports of major conventional weapons per 1000,000 people:
AUS 1.5/5; Israel 5/5; US 1/5

Aggregate weighted number of heavy weapons per 100,000 people:
AUS 1.5/5; Israel 5/5; US 2.5/5

Allow the courageous, clear-thinking (and now self-exiled) Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe to draw the obvious conclusion: "My quest for an authentic history of events in the Middle East required a personal de-militarisation of the mind. Even now, in 2010, Israel is in many ways a settler Prussian state: a combination of colonialist policies with a high level of militarisation in all aspects of life... It is manifested in the dominance of the army over political, cultural and economic life within Israel. Defence Minister Ehud Barak was the commanding officer of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, in a military unit similar to the one that assaulted the flotilla. The background was profoundly significant in terms of the State's Zionist response to what they and all the commando officers perceived as the most formidable and dangerous enemy. You probably have to be born in Israel, as I was, and go through the whole process of socialisation and education - including serving in the army - to grasp the power of this militarist mentality and its dire consequences. And you need such a background to understand why the whole premise on which the international community's approach to the Middle East is based, is utterly and disastrously wrong." (What drives Israel?,, 6/6/10)

Shared values?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cannon Fodder for Zion: Exodus 1947

It's become something of a cliche to liken the Gaza flotilla, and Israel's massacre of its activists, to events surrounding the attempt in 1947 by the Jewish refugee vessel, Exodus, to challenge Britain's postwar blockade of Jewish refugees seeking entry into Palestine. Here, for example, is soft Zionist Uri Avnery's spin on that story:

"On the high seas, outside territorial waters, the ship was stopped by the navy. The commandos stormed it. Hundreds of people on the deck resisted; the soldiers used force. Some of the passengers were killed, scores injured. The ship was brought into harbour; the passengers were taken off by force. The world saw them walking on the quay, men and women, young and old, all of them worn out, one after another, each being marched between two soldiers... The ship was called Exodus 1947. It left France in the hope of breaking the British blockade, which was imposed to prevent ships loaded with Holocaust survivors from reaching the shores of Palestine. If it had been allowed to reach the country, the illegal immigrants would have come ashore and the British would have sent them to detention camps in Cyprus, as they had done before. Nobody would have taken any notice of the episode for more than two days. But the person in charge was Ernest Bevin, a Labor Party leader, an arrogant, rude, and power-loving British minister. He was not about to let a bunch of Jews dictate to him. He decided to teach them a lesson the entire world would witness. 'This is a provocation!' he exclaimed, and of course he was right. The main aim was indeed to create a provocation, in order to draw the eyes of the world to the British blockade. What followed is well known: the episode dragged on and on, one stupidity led to another, the whole world sympathized with the passengers. But the British did not give in and paid the price. A heavy price. Many believe that the Exodus incident was the turning point in the struggle for the creation of the state of Israel. Britain collapsed under the weight of international condemnation and decided to give up its mandate over Palestine. There were, of course, many more weighty reasons for this decision, but the Exodus proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back." (Exodus 2010, 6/6/10)

So, Bevin bad, bunch of Jews good, right? Or is there more to the Exodus affair than that?

The full story of the Exodus (or President Warfield, to give it its correct name) is covered exhaustively by Israeli historian Idith Zertal in her 1998 book From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors & the Emergence of Israel. Zertal's account completely contradicts Avnery's assertion that the aim of the Exodus was simply to break Britain's blockade of illegal Jewish immigration into Palestine. She makes it abundantly clear that the whole affair was a joint Mossad/Jewish Agency media production designed to reap maximum publicity for the Zionist cause at a critical juncture (July 1947) in the United Nations' deliberations over the fate of Britain's Palestine mandate.

Culled from Displaced Persons camps in Germany and equipped with counterfeit documents, the ship's passengers were smuggled into France by Mossad agents with the aim of getting them to Palestine in time for the visit there of the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP), the body charged with finding a solution to the Palestine problem following Britain's pullout in 1948.

As Zertal reveals, "Messages that Mossad headquarters in the Yishuv sent to the ship at sea and as it approached the shores of Palestine, are another piece of evidence of the importance the Zionists attached to the ship in light of the UNSCOP work. This included precise instructions regarding what the ship was to broadcast to the shore: descriptions of the suffering of the refugees, with an emphasis of their fierce desire to reach their homeland. In particular, the instructions stressed, the ship should broadcast from the high seas a call for UNSCOP to intervene, to board the ship and record living testimony before the commission's members leave the country. Accordingly, the ship's messages implored the members of the commission to come see with their own eyes the plight of Exodus's passengers." (p 56)

As for the British, in contrast to Avnery's Big Bad Bevin vs the Holocaust Survivors caricature, and his factually incorrect assertion that the Exodus affair preceded Britain's decision to bail out of Palestine, there was far more involved here than the mindset of Britain's foreign secretary: In the words of Britain's ambassador to France, "the illegal Jewish immigration traffic is not a spontaneous exodus of refugees, but a carefully-organized Zionist campaign designed to force the hand of His Majesty's Government and to increase the proportion of Jewish population in Palestine [and so cause] severe embarrassment and difficulty for His Majesty's government in its efforts to reach an equitable solution to the Palestine question." (p 65)

Zertal makes it quite clear that the unfortunate Holocaust survivors on board the Exodus were mere pawns in Zionist hands:

"Eighteen days after the President Warfield slipped away at dawn from the [French] port of Sete [12/7/47], its 4,500 passengers crowded onto three British prison ships appeared again on France's horizon. During the weeks between the ship's sailing from France and its passengers' return in British custody, while the President Warfield was still making its way towards Haifa, its name was changed at sea by the Mossad agent on board to the Exodus 1947. Its passengers engaged in a bloody battle against the British navy and eight British warships. They were then led to the port of Haifa, taken off their ship, and forced, in view of UNSCOP members, onto three British 'prison ships' meant to return them to the port from which they had departed. During this period the issue of the ship and its passengers never left the political agenda of the Zionist leadership, the British, and to a slightly lesser extent, the country from whose port they had sailed, France... [T]here was a three-way international confrontation of interests and forces... As in previous incidents, the Zionist struggle ostensibly fought over the fate of the Jewish refugees was, in fact, aimed higher, directed toward the great, decisive battle for the establishment of a Jewish state. The people who actually showed concern for the immediate fate of the 4,500 human beings thrown at their doorstep were the French, in whose territory the Exodus affair reached its climax. They displayed concern even though - or perhaps precisely because - they were the junior, accidental partner in the power triangle; in any case, they were not involved of their own volition. The Zionists had never intended to actually bring the 4,500 refugees onto the shores of Palestine, and such an effort had no chance of success since the Exodus was a show project from its conception. The ship's sailing was no secret, expect for the moment it made its way, at dawn, out of the port at Sete, and as it set sail, it was under close surveillance by a light British patrol plane and the ships of the British navy. The messages sent from the ship to the Mossad center in Palestine, and from the Mossad to the ship, as well as the Jewish Agency political department's invitation to the members of UNSCOP to be present in Haifa when the refugees were loaded onto the British deportation ships, prove that those involved on the Zionist side were aware of the tremendous political effect of a ship carrying thousands of Holocaust survivors being denied access to the shores of their 'national home' through the use of British force." (pp 82-83)

For further revelations by Zertal, as well as the lowdown on Avnery, simply click on the relevant tags below.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Blockade Gazans Can Only Dream Of

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has just (14/6/10) issued a document, Gaza closure: not another year. These are its opening sentences:

"The serious incidents that took place on 31 May between Israeli forces and activists on a flotilla heading for Gaza once again put the spotlight on the acute hardship faced by the population in the Gaza Strip. As the ICRC has stressed repeatedly, the dire situation in Gaza cannot be resolved by providing humanitarian aid. The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development. Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, while the quality of Gaza's health care system has reached an all-time low. The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law... The international community has to do its part to ensure that repeated appeals by States and international organizations to lift the closure are finally heeded. Under international humanitarian law, Israel must ensure that the basic needs of Gazans, including adequate health care, are met... Furthermore, all States have an obligation to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel."

In June 1940, Britain's Channel Islands, off the French coast, were occupied by the Germans, causing the Royal Navy to blockade the islands. As Wikipedia puts it, "there was considerable hunger and privation during the five years of German occupation, particularly in the final months when the population was close to starvation." However, "[i]ntense negotiations resulted in some Red Cross humanitarian aid, leading to the arrival of the Red Cross supply ship Vega in December 1944."

Here's a fuller account:

"Things were at their very lowest ebb in December 1944 when we ran out of bread altogether, having already been on half rations... for a fortnight. The total shortage lasted for 3 weeks, and people subsisted as best they could on boiled potatoes, swedes and turnips... Morale had reached its very lowest ebb, when suddenly came news of a Red Cross ship, and rumours ran around the Island like wildfire. After several false alarms, the Vega arrived on 31 December 1944 and her cargo was unloaded and stored in a heavily guarded warehouse on the quay. Distribution of of parcels started on 2 January and a typical parcel contained six ounces of chocolate, twenty ounces of biscuits, four ounces of tea, twenty ounces of butter, six ounces of sugar, a two ounce tin of milk, fifteen ounces of marmalade, fourteen ounces of corned beef, thirteen ounces of ham or pork, ten ounces of salmon, five ounces of sardines, eight ounces of raisins, six ounces of prunes, four ounces of cheese, a three ounce tablet of soap, one ounce of pepper or salt. In addition there was a consignment of special-diet and invalid parcels, plus a number of layettes for new-born babies, supplied from a fund set up by Lady Campbell, wife of the British Ambassador to Lisbon. Everyone in the Islands received two parcels, and there was a surplus which was withheld and would only be distributed when it was known that the Vega had left Lisbon on her second journey. In addition the Vega brought a good supply of white flour, and the bread ration was re-established for the time being. As well as the parcels, the Vega also brought small quantities of cigarettes, tobacco, medicines and shoe leather, and we began to feel almost pampered. She continued to visit about every five or six weeks and, in addition to her usual cargo, she brought things like paraffin, candles, seeds, nails, matches and clothing. Thereafter, the diet was much more varied and interesting although by no means ample, and the other odds and ends filled many a long-felt want. The spirits of the Islanders began to rise. They never stopped rising until our longed-for liberation on 9 May 1945." (A Doctor's Occupation, John Lewis, 1982, pp 184-185)

Truly, a blockade the people of Gaza can only dream of.

Israel's Useful Fool

"Responding to international demands, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday appointed a commission to investigate the naval interdiction of a Gaza-bound humanitarian convoy two weeks ago that left 9 dead. In addition to three Israeli members, the commission will include two foreigners as official observers - David Trimble, a Northern Island Unionist leader who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1998, and retired general Ken Watkin of Canada, a former judge advocate-general. It is the first time Israel has given foreign experts a place in an official probe, reflecting the political sensitivity of the issue, which has stirred anti-Israel sentiment worldwide." (Israel appoints flotilla inquiry, Abraham Rabinovich, The Australian, 15/6/10)

So why Trimble? Well, he's just crazy about Israel:

"Initiated and led by Spain's former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, a group of international leaders is to meet in Paris on Monday night to launch the 'Friends of Israel Initiative', a new project in defense of Israel's right to exist. The leaders - who include the Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble, Peru's former president Alejandro Toledo, Italian philosopher Marcelo Pear, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and British historian Andrew Roberts - say they seek to counter the attempts to deligitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders." (Anzar, Trimble to launch new pro-Israel project 'Friends of Israel', Jerusalem Post, 31/5/10)

And Trimble's got form. You know in advance he's not that big on justice and he's not going to do a Goldstone on you:

"The long-awaited report into the Bloody Sunday massacre [Derry, January 1972] will conclude that a number of the fatal shootings of civilians by British soldiers were unlawful killings, the Guardian has learned. Lord Saville's 12-year inquiry into the deaths, the longest public inquiry in British legal history, will conclude with a report published next Tuesday, putting severe pressure on the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland to prosecute soldiers. Lord Trimble, the former leader of the Ulster Unionists and one of the architects of the Good Friday agreement, revealed to the Guardian that when Tony Blair agreed to the inquiry in 1998, he warned the then prime minister that any conclusion that departed 'one millimetre' from the earlier 1972 Widgery report into the killings would lead to 'soldiers in the dock'." (Bloody Sunday killings to be ruled unlawful,, 10/6/10)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Who Done It?

The Australian's Middle East correspondent, John Lyons, asks the question on everyone's lips - everyone that is who lives in that mysterious up-is-down, white-is-black universe parallel to our own: "Life can be cruel inside the besieged Palestinian territory, but who is responsible? " (Running the Gaza blockade, 12/6/10)

To anyone from our own universe, the answer emerges as naturally from the question as the chicken from the egg: the besiegers of the Gaza Ghetto are responsible for the misery of the besieged.

However, in that other world, one of whose portals is the Murdoch press, it's actually the other way aound: the besieged are responsible for their own misery.

Sure, there's the odd, no doubt careless, reference to our own reality in Lyons' report, as in: "Gaza doesn't have any more prostaglandin. It can't get through Israel's and Egypt's blockade of the strip of land."

Israel's and Egypt's blockade? Ah, but that's soon lost in the fog: "Some blame Israel for the siege. Some blame Hamas. Some blame Egypt. The truth is, they are probably all culpable, one way or another."

Confusing, isn't it? Thought you knew who was responsible for Gaza's crippling blockade, but now that you've entered the world according to Rupert Murdoch, you're not so sure anymore, are you? Obviously, Israel's got something to do with it, right? I mean, Egypt only jumps when USrael tells it too, so surely, surely, the main suspect in this little who done it? is Israel, no?

Wrong! Israel's really only a bit player: "Israel's blame surely must be for allowing so few medications and medical equipment into Gaza."

OK. So that's it then? The only blame attaching to Israel is for being stingy with band aids and aspirin? Correct!

Israel's certainly not to blame for ethnically cleansing southern Palestine in 1948 and swelling Gaza's population with tens of thousands of never-to-return refugees; or for invading, occupying and colonising it in 1967; or for decades of de-development and repression thereafter; or, from 2000-2005, filling its skies with deadly drones and helicopters, or turning whole swathes of its coastline into free-fire zones, or regularly bulldozing its houses, orchards and farmlands, or unleashing tanks on a defenceless, civilian population, or rocketing its unarmed demonstrators (19/5/04), or slowly closing it off from the West Bank behind walls and barriers, or launching military assaults such as operations Rainbow (2004) and Days of Penitence (2004); or, after 'disengaging' in September 2005, hermetically sealing it off by land, sea and air, or shattering its nights with sonic booms, or rocketing and shelling its defenders and civilians from the skies; or, following the January 2006 Palestinian elections, orchestrating an international boycott of its democratically-elected Hamas government, or withholding (ie stealing) its tax and customs revenues, or putting its people "on a diet" (Dov Weisglass, Olmert's advisor), or launching military operations Summer Rains (2006) and Autumn Clouds (2006), or orchestrating a failed USraeli-PA coup in June 2007, or launching military operations Hot Winter (2008) and, bloodiest and most destructive of all, Cast Lead (27 December 2008-18 January 2009).

OK, what about Hamas? "Hamas's blame must come from its prolonged period of firing of rockets into Israel, which led to the blockade almost 4 years ago."

Aha, rockets! That obviously makes Hamas a more serious suspect! Surely the blame for the siege of Gaza must lie squarely with Hamas and those Palestinians who elected it to power in January 2006, right?

Right! But only if you trust a journalist who can write, "Fatah was stunned when it lost the election of 2007..."

What might a journalist with a firmer grasp of current events, say Haaretz's Amira Hass, have to say:

"The siege of Gaza did not begin when Hamas seized control of the Strip's security organs, or when Gilad Shalit was taken captive, or when Hamas was elected in democratic elections. The siege began in 1991 - before the suicide bombings. And since then, it has only become more sophisticated, reaching its peak in 2005. The Israeli public relations machinery happily presented the disengagement as the end of the occupation, in brazen disregard of the facts. The isolation and closure were presented as military necessities. But we are big boys and girls, and we know that 'military necessities' and consistent lies serve state goals. Israel's goal was to thwart the two-state solution, which the world had expected to materialize once the Cold War ended in 1990. This was not a perfect solution, but the Palestinians were ready for it then. Gaza is not a military power that attacked its tiny, peace-loving neighbor, Israel. Gaza is a territory that Israel occupied in 1967, along with the West Bank. Its residents are part of the Palestinian people, which lost its land and its homeland in 1948. In 1993, Israel had a one-time golden opportunity to prove to the world that what people say about us is true - that it is not by nature a colonialist state. That the expulsion of a nation from its land, the expulsion of a people from their houses and the theft of Palestinian land for the sake of settling Jews are not the basis and essence of its existence. In the 1990s, Israel had a chance to prove that 1948 is not its paradigm. But it missed the opportunity. Instead, it merely perfected its techniques for robbing land and expelling people from their houses, and forced the Palestinians into isolated enclaves. And now, during these dark days, Israel is proving that 1948 never ended." (History did not begin with the Qassams, 14/1/09)

OK, assuming you're one of Amira's big boys or girls, and you found Lyons' 'In the Beginning was the Qassam...' line insufficient to explain a siege which clearly has Israeli paw prints all over it, then Lyons has lined up another culprit to divert you: the owners of Gaza's tunnels - which "Israel and Egypt" claim "are used not just for goods but to smuggle into Gaza weapons that are then used against Israel."

You see, "[t]he tunnel operators have a vested interest in maintaining the blockade; they stand to lose tens of millions of dollars should it end."

So how do these crafty devils manage to keep the blockade going? "A European official who knows Gaza as well as anyone tells me what he says is one of the great unwritten stories [In the Beginning were the Tunnel Barons... ?] about Gaza: that it is the tunnel operators firing the rockets."

Hm... You want proof? Here it is: "As news emerged last week of the 9 killed on the flotilla and international reaction called on Israel to lift the blockade, suddenly there were rockets fired from Gaza into Israel." Sounds pretty conclusive to me.

OK. To sum up. Who done it? Who is responsible for the siege of Gaza? Well, in the wonderful world of Murdoch, it's probably Hamas... or the Tunnel Barons... or maybe both, but it's definitely not Israel.

PS: Wicked! Here's Judith Rona of Bondi, NSW, taking the words right out of John Lyons' mouth in her letter to The Australian of 15/6/10: "The situation in Gaza always comes back to Hamas. Hamas sent thousands of rockets into Israel, and aided Muslim Brotherhood attacks in Egypt: hence the blockade and closure of Egypt's and Israel's borders with Gaza. Hamas prevents Gazan doctors from having direct contact with either Israel or the West Bank: hence the hold-up in the transfer of sick patients to Israeli hospitals and equipment to Gazan hospitals. Hamas continues to assassinate Fatah members and supposed collaboraters with Israel. Hamas refuses to guarantee Israel's security and thus have the embargo lifted. And it 'approves, monitors and taxes each tunnel' through which arms are smuggled and more rockets fired against Israel."