Saturday, June 30, 2012

SBS Scoops Third Intifada

SBS Television's World News of June 27 featured a report by the BBC's Ian Pannell on the apparent shelling of a northern Syrian town by the Syrian army. It ended with harrowing footage of a wounded Syrian child, a boy of around 8 or 9-years, lying on his stomach in obvious pain, with tears running down the cheek facing the camera as he struggled to describe what had happened to him.

Now given the activities in the area of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), on whose side Pannell was reporting, it was possible to conclude (absent any evidence to the contrary) that this child had been caught up in a shooting war between two sides, even if this was largely a matter of shells on one side and bullets and RPGs on the other.

By way of introducing the next item, on a British report taking Israel to task for its treatment of Palestinian children, newsreader Anton Enus began with the words: "Children caught in the crossfire. That's nothing new for a region such as the Middle East."

God knows I try to keep on top of events in this tiny corner of the world, but, unlike the good folk at SBS, I swear I had absolutely no idea that the Palestinian kids hauled out of their beds in the middle of the night by Israeli terrorists, or slapped around during marathon interrogation sessions by Israeli thugs, were actually caught up in CROSSFIRE.

Thank God for quality journalism.

Unlovable Rogues

One of the great mysteries of our time has been the collective Western delusion that Zionists are the epitome of normality, whereas Arabs are not. This strange delusion comes in many formulations: Zionists are moderates, Arabs extremists; Zionists are rational, Arabs irrational; Zionists are civilised, Arabs savages; Zionists defend, Arabs attack; Zionists are victims, Arabs perpetrators; Zionists are the good guys (to lapse into contemporary US baby babble), Arabs the bad, etc.

You've heard them all before. Put it down to a well-oiled propaganda machine, the likes of which the world has never before seen, and the classic human default positions of stupidity, credulity and simple  aversion to homework.

In fact, the reverse is generally the case, as the testimony of those who've had to deal directly with both groups attests. What follows is taken from Major General Carl Von Horn's 1966 memoir, Soldiering for Peace. Von Horn was the Swedish commander of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in Palestine from 1958 to 1963:

"Our raison d'etre as peacekeepers was objectivity and impartiality. Yet these very qualities were exactly those which led to hostility. It was understandable; time and time again in the course of frank discussions with Israeli officers and officials, I had heard them openly repudiate the idea of objectivity. Their flat statement, 'You are either for us or against us', explained why - having dared to be entirely objective - I had now been branded as irrevocably 'against'. I had seen it happen many times before from my predecessors down to the ordinary observer on the frontiers who, in the course of his duty, had incurred Arab or Israeli hostility simply because his impartial version had been very different from theirs. Even nastier was an Israeli tendency immediately to brand objectivity as anti-Semitic; a convenient label which could be smeared on to any UN soldier whose impartial report did not weigh down in favour of the Israelis.

"We had from time to time incurred a certain degree of animosity in our dealings with the Arabs, but never in the same implacable and frenetic way. The Arabs could be difficult, intolerant, indeed often impossible, but their code of behaviour was on an infinitely higher and more civilized level. I think that we all came to this conclusion in the UNTSO, which was strange, because there was hardly a man among us who had not originally arrived in the Holy Land without the most positive and sympathetic attitude towards the Israelis and their ambitions for their country

"Never in my life have I encountered a nation with such an infinite talent for turning goodwill into disillusion and so often disgust. It seemed as though the state were possessed of some demon with a capacity to turn potential friends into enemies. I am certain that I shall be bitterly attacked for setting down my impressions so frankly, but unfortunately they are the truth. All of us who went to Israel knew very little about the Arabs, but a great deal about the Jews and their appalling sufferings in the Second World War. I have never been - and am not - anti-Semitic; I have always numbered Jews among some of my closest friends since boyhood. I have good friends in Israel, wonderful families who stood by me and welcomed me into their homes during the height of the boycott. Many of our personnel, too, had close friends in the new state long before they came out to Jerusalem, and I would think that seldom before have the members of any organization - and this was a truly international one - started off with such a fund of goodwill towards a state which had emerged at the cost of such dreadful suffering.

"What went wrong? I always had a talk with staff members who were leaving the Mission. Invariably it was the same story. Nearly all of them had arrived with the honest intention to help both parties to the Armistace Agreement, but with a conscious sympathy for the people of 'poor little Israel'. Yet after two or three years in daily contact with officials, soldiers and private individuals on both sides, there had been a remarkable change in their attitude. I found it sad but very significant that when I asked them what their most negative experience had been during their service with UNTSO the reply was almost invariably: 'The consistent cheating and deception of the Israelis'." (pp 304-05)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Q&A Journey

Well, Monday night's Q&A has led me on quite a journey. I hope you enjoy the ride:

It began with well-rambammed (2009 & 2010) Liberal Senator George Brandis reflecting thus:

"I think the future [of journalism] lies with quality because... regardless of the variety of platforms that are open I think there will always be a premium for the writers who can go beyond... the popular line... deep into the story, the specialist writers, the analytical writers... I think it's interesting [that] of the 3 Fairfax titles, the one that has suffered the least relative decline in its circulation is the Fin[ancial] Review, which is the most specialist [sic] of the [three], and which, I think, probably has more deep and analytical writing in it than either of the other two."

Er... could he mean deep and analytical like this:

"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an example of a clash of competing and legitimate nationalisms; justice demands that each be represented in a territorial accommodation." (The case for intervention, Oliver Kamm, Prospect/The AFR, 8/6/12)

IOW, the so-called I-P conflict is somehow akin to a married couple quarrelling over just how much of the marital bed each should occupy. (Alas, as an obese Israel grows ever more obese, and a near-anorexic Palestine grows ever more anorexic, the latter is always on the verge of falling out of the bed onto the floor.)

The problem with this kind of deep and analytical is that it is neither:

There never was a marriage. Palestine was living in her own home when Israel and his then mate, Britain, came knocking. The always hospitable Palestine at first welcomed them, but sure enough these bastards began to throw their combined weight around, treating her home as if it were their own. Israel, in particular, began making the most outrageous demands (Listen up, bitch, God gave your home to me, OK?). Palestine protested and asked them to leave. To no avail. She fought back, again and again. It nearly killed her. But they were stronger. One day, Israel and his mate, Britain, had a falling out and the latter stormed out of the house, leaving Palestine alone with the more psychotic of the two. With Britain gone, Israel proceeded to rape and beat Palestine at will, reducing her to the pitiful but still defiant creature we see before us now.

But, hey, I've never seen that sort of deep and analytical in the Fin. Review.

Then there was this, also from Brandis:

"You're making the mistake... Louise, of assuming that a single masthead can't embrace a variety of opinions. Take The Australian. They publish Phillip Adams and they publish Christopher Pearson and all points of view in between."

So there you have it. Straight from the horse's mouth. Phillip Adams is the figleaf which enables The Australian to pretend that it's an organ of full spectrum free speech. But what a pathetic, withered, beyond-autumnal figleaf Adams is on the subject matter of this particular blog. For the full story of Adam's deep and analytical, not approach to Palestine/Israel, simply click on the 'Flip Adams' label below and check out his record.

But it was Melbourne University Publishing's Louise Adler's all-too-revealing anecdote on her visit to the Hancock mansion of yore that really had me thinking deeply and analytically, namely about the horrors that lurk within the minds of the born-to-rule brigade known as the Liberal/ Nationalist Party and their corporate backers. Here's Louise:

"I have my own sort of very special experience of the family Hancock. I had a sleepover at the Hancock home - let's call it a home or hacienda or estate - some years ago when Lang Hancock was still alive and I remember there was an evening. I stayed over in the villa in the Rose Garden (underline Rose) and I slept upstairs. My husband is very keen on me not saying I slept on top of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, but I was upstairs and he was downstairs. And over dinner, Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Lang Hancock and his wife at the time and someone from the National Party, whose name I can't remember, actually talked about the strong leadership that was missing in Australia today and they mused about the strong leaders they knew and loved and admired and thought that we needed them. The first name that came up was the Shah of Iran and the second name that came up was a chap called Nicky and I really couldn't figure out who Nicky was until a bolt of lightning hit me and I realised that they were talking about Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator with whom Lang was trying to do a mining deal. And so I agree with you that we should be very worried [about Gina Rinehart]. We should be deeply worried."

Now this took me back to the same night's Four Corners profile of Gina Rinehart, and this bit in particular:

MARIAN WILKINSON: Michael Yabsley and a group of Young Turks in the Liberal Party first met Gina Rinehart back in the 1970s.
MICHAEL YABSLEY: There were half a dozen of us who were heavily involved in student politics. Lang Hancock had made no secret of the fact that he was pretty disenchanted with the generation of politicians at the time and Lang and Gina were keen to develop some relationships. So within that group there were people like Peter Costello, Michael Kroger, Eric Abetz and a number of others, and I was part of that group.

And that took me off, as these things will, back to a speech of Costello's to the Australian Christian Lobby on 23 September 2006. Then Treasurer and PMinesterial wannabe Costello was angsting about the coming March of the Mooslims from Mecca on Canberra (because Mooslims, as you know, unlike the good folk of the ACL, can't seem to separate church (mosque?) and state:

"This does not mean there is no experience of a secular state separate from the religious domain in the Muslim world. The most outstanding example would be the establishment of modern Turkey out of the old Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, well known in Australia as the commander of the Turkish victory at Gallipoli in 1915, went on to found modern Turkey as a secular state: a path he believed would lead to modernity. In my opinion he is one of the great leaders of the 20th century. He should be held out as a model of leadership for the modern Islamic world." (Attaturk's stirling record in smashing the Turkish trade union movement and reducing parliament to a mere adjunct of his Republican Peoples Party would only have added to his allure for Costello.)

Do you see where all this has taken me? I now know that which before I had only guessed: what really turns our Coalition politicians and their corporate backers on, what really gets their juices flowing, is strong leaders... like the Shah of Iran, Nicolae Ceausescu, Kemal Attaturk.

And knowing that, I just can't help wondering now whether this penchant for strongmen might not  stretch  back in time to the likes of ...

Yes, Louise, I agree. We should be deeply worried.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Love Me, I'm a Liberal Zionist

I cry when they shoot Palestinians
Tears run down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Rabin
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Sheikh Yassin got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal Zionist

I read New Republic & Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorised Geras & Mendes
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Israel
There's no one more white & blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal Zionist.

(With apologies to Phil Ochs)

Monash Uni academic Nick Dyrenfurth, writing in The Age, June 23, 2012:

"Admittedly, my pro-asylum seeker stance is guided by my heart. Seventy-three years ago, my Jewish grandmother escaped Nazi Germany for England then Australia, seemingly paying a bribe to a pesky people smuggler (that is, a Gestapo officer) in order to exit the barbarism engulfing the continent. I'll be forever grateful that she jumped that 'queue'. We shouldn't forget that on leaky unauthorised boats are valuable citizens who will improve our own lives: a job-creating Burmese entrepreneur, an Iranian researcher working towards a cancer cure, or a talented Afghan novelist. Might there even be a Tamil public servant destined to implement policy for, shock horror, a future Coalition government?" (Why the moralising left is losing the refugee debate)

Nick Dyrenfurth (& Philip Mendes), writing in The Australian, November 11, 2009:

"More and more Israelis and diaspora Jews understand that Israel will not only have to freeze West Bank settlements, but eventually dismantle at the very least all settlements east of the security barrier. Equally the Palestinians will have to make concessions that facilitate peaceful relations. This means finally accepting that the 1948 Palestinian refugees will only return to the Palestinian state and not to Israel." (The enemy within: The far-Left hijacked the Palestinian cause)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fairfax Is All Yours, Gina 3

"Journalists are not entitled to be naive or ignore reality," says Martin Flanagan of The Age in his latest homily Why editorial independence must never be sacrificed (23/6/12).

He's correct, of course, but a simple perusal of my 'Flanagan File' (simply click on the label below) reveals a Fairfax journalist who fails - again and again - to practice what he preaches.

Fairfax Is All Yours, Gina 2

Further to my previous post, it doesn't get much worse than this:

Fairfax journalist, Jonathan Swan, writes an astonishingly puerile opinion piece which lashes Israel with a limp lettuce leaf over its treatment of African refugees (while failing completely to reference its prior creation and treatment of Palestinian refugees) and comprehensively misrepresents the Zionist entity's  founding by portraying it as some kind of humanitarian rescue mission. Added to this folderol are quotes from Israel lobbyist, Vic Alhadeff, and a Canadian bozo who can still, in the first decade of the 21st century, without a blush, write a book with the title Why I am a Zionist. (Opening sentence: "I am a Zionist because I am a Jew and without recognising a national component in Judaism, I cannot explain its unique character as a National Liberation movement for the Jewish people.") Swan's pathetic piece, in short, is Zionist to its bootstraps.

Yet, despite conveying the impression throughout that butter hadn't melted in Israel's mouth until the African refugee issue came along, he came under attack on the letters page in the following issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, not from anyone with a real knowledge of Palestinian history, but  from two diehard defenders of Israel for whom any criticism of their home-away-from-home is anathema. 

Presumably, no letters were received from readers pointing out the bleeding obvious, namely,  that Israel was founded on Palestinian dispossession, statelessness and exile, stemming from the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist forces in 1948.

So then, why did no one among the paper's readership bother to write in with this kind of critique? 

Simple. This is knowledge from which Herald readers have been shielded by decades of Zionist propaganda pieces; a corresponding dearth of anything in any way critical of the Zionist project and its bloody record in Palestine and surrounds; vacuous, always Israel-friendly, editorials; reliably lame cartoons on the Middle East conflict (G'day, Moir); and red-carpet treatment onto the letters page by legions of Israel lobbyists and apologists (Greetings, George Fishman).

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fairfax Is All Yours, Gina

That's it! One read of the 'opinion piece' by Fairfax journalist Jonathan Swan, Once a refuge, Israel ignores its real origins (22/6/12), and I frankly couldn't give a toss whether Fairfax gets snapped up by mining magnate Gina Rinehart or not.

If Swan's extraordinary naivete and mind-blowing ignorance is supposed to be a sparkling example of Fairfax's 'quality journalism', vis-a-vis News Limited's relentless, ideologically-driven poison, the field may as well be abandoned to the likes of Rinehart and Murdoch. Too harsh? I don't think so:

With its ridiculous assertion that the creation of Israel was fundamentally about catering for refugees, the very title encapsulates the abysmal ignorance of the piece. Let me make this crystal clear: the political Zionism of Herzl, Wiezmann and Ben-Gurion was first and foremost about the procrustean task of transforming a religious grouping - Jews, in all their diversity - into a racialised, nationalistic entity known as 'the Jewish people' at a time (roughly from the Napoleonic era through to the end of World War II) when ethnically-based nationalism was all the go. Zionism was, like all such European nationalisms of the time, chauvinistic at best, toxic at worst (Nazism). To mistake the rhetoric of 'refuge' and 'rescue' for the substance of the Zionist project, which focused solely on carving out, and shoring up, an ethnically homogeneous Jewish state in Palestine for 'the Jewish people' at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants, is to indicate that you have zero idea of what you're talking about:

"In a museum that exhibits dead children's shoes and photographs of skeletons piled in holes, it was an Australian that angered me most. Printed on a wall inside Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Holocaust museum, is a quote by the Australian diplomat Thomas W. White, dated 1938. 'As we have no racial problems,' White told a conference of world leaders, 'we are not desirous of importing one.' And with that, Australia joined the United States and almost every wealthy nation in rejecting Jewish refugees who were fleeing the Nazis."

The conference referred to here is the Evian Conference of 1938, about which Swan has obviously not taken the trouble to learn, being content with a mere statement (the propaganda value of which escapes him) tacked on the wall of Israel's pre-eminent Holocaust memorial (the propaganda use of which also escapes him). If he had done a little research, he would be aware that neither the Zionists in Palestine nor those elsewhere supported the wholesale rescue of German Jewry; the former because they wanted only the fit Zionist youth among them as potential Arab fighters; the latter for much the same reasons, paradoxically, as White.

In the words of US scholar, Lenni Brenner: "Since [Palestine's Zionists] did not want the bulk of German Jewry in Palestine, it might be assumed that the Zionist movement, at least in America, tried to find other havens for their brethren, but this is not so. Throughout the world, the Jewish bourgeoisie acted timidly out of fear that 'too many' refugees in any country would unleash local anti-Semitism. Sending the refugees to Palestine seemed to be the perfect answer..." (Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, 1983, p 146).

Nor does the United States, which initiated the Evian Conference and the Rublee rescue plan which emerged from it, deserve Swan's stick, given that it was deliberately boycotted and sabotaged by the Zionists who preferred instead to work with the Gestapo to channel into Palestine only youthful German Zionists, as recruits for the coming move against Palestine's majority Arab population. (See my 21/11/11 post Laying Siege to German Jews.)

"White's quote is a reminder of Israel's founding purpose: to be a haven for refugees. Israeli leaders have long said with pride that they have reached out, not only to Holocaust survivors, but to desperate people from places such as Vietnam, Kosovo and Darfur."

Swan seems to be confusing Israel with the Statue of Liberty's famous words: Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to be free;/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore..." If he wishes to establish what it is exactly that constitutes Israel's founding purpose, he should try looking up its Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948. If he did, he'd find that Israel's founding purpose is first and foremost about the supposed "right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country," and that the closest it ever gets to his haven for refugees nonsense is this: "The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people - the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe - was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations." One wonders, what part of for Jews only doesn't Swan understand?

As to Israel's taking aboard Vietnamese, Kosovan and Darfuri refugees, let's look at the facts:

1) Vietnamese: In 1977, 65 Vietnamese boat people were picked up by an Israeli vessel off the Vietnamese coast: "Begin's decision [to admit these people into Israel] was in a way pure theater. Sixty-six Vietnamese were hardly a burden, and in terms of the hundreds of thousands who had fled Vietnam and were looking for a new home, they were less than a drop in a bucket. Nor was Israel threatened with the arrival of more Vietnamese once a first group of them was accepted. The South China seas were far away and their waves were not about to sweep up more boats on Israel's shores." (A shame on Israel, Hillel Halkin,, 10/7/07)

2) Kosovans: In 1999, 217 Kosovans received temporary shelter in Israel. (140 Kosovar refugees leave Israel for home, Gil Sedan,, 30/7/99)

3) Darfuris: "Several hundred were granted official refugee status, and with it the right to work." (An open letter to Israel from a Darfur refugee in Tel Aviv, Hamed Sadinden,, 13/4/09) As for the rest: "[A]ll we ask is the right to live and work in Israel and take care of ourselves while we are here." (ibid)

Whence this feeling of being underwhelmed?

"What to make, then, of the recent vow by Israel's Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, to rid the country of all illegal immigrants within 3 years? Or of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has branded illegal immigrants 'infiltrators' and said he plans to build 'holding facilities' to store tens of thousands of aliens 'until they can be sent out of the country'?"

What to make? Simple: these illegal immigrants aren't Jews and so can't be tolerated in a Jewish state. What part of Jewish State does Swan not understand?

"The most toxic migrants, we are told, come from Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2005, about 60,000 have crossed the Sinai Desert and through the Egyptian border into Israel. Yishai says these Sudanese and Eritrean immigrants are raising Israel's crime levels, and that their numbers need to be quelled. Netanyahu argues that illegal immigrants burden Israel's economy and threaten its Jewish character. Then there are last month's south Tel Aviv protests. Haaretz reported a crowd of residents waving placards and chanting 'the people want the Sudanese deported' and 'infiltrators, get out of our home.' The Likud politician Miri Regev participated in the protest and said that 'the Sudanese were a cancer in our body'. Africans' shops and apartments were attacked. It's this last image, of broken store-fronts and glass, that will knock the wind out of many Holocaust survivors, some of whom fled Europe after Kristallnact - the Night of Broken Glass - where Nazis ran a series of co-ordinated attacks on Jewish homes, shops and synagogues throughout Germany and parts of Austria. At a park in Neve Shaanan, an area of Tel Aviv inflamed by 'infiltrators', a daughter of Holocaust survivors, Orly Feldheim, told a New York Times reporter: 'I feel I am in a movie in Germany, circa 1933 or 1936.' Netanyahu should be chilled by what Feldheim said. Now that the Prime Minister's word - 'infiltrators' - has reached the mouths of violent xenophobes, he has attached himself to scenes that could alienate even his most rusted-on supporters. Netanyahu knows better than most that the Holocaust is never very far from an Israeli's mind. He should also know that many Israelis believe their country has a special responsibility to help those in need, given it was founded as a refuge for survivors."

Notice here how the link between Israel's exalted Jewish character and Netanyahu, the ideological heir of the Irgun terrorists whose bloody hands and knives* were instrumental in creating that Jewish character (of which more later), is missing? It's as though a hitherto fine and upstanding member of the international community had suddenly, inexplicably, become possessed and begun foaming at the mouth and spitting forth racist curses. Then there's the ludicrous suggestion that this uncharacteristic behaviour will only alienate his hordes of prim and proper supporters who are, of course, gobsmacked at the spectacle. The naivete here is nothing short of astonishing. What part of Benjamin Netanyahu does Swan not understand?

"Such faith has been drained by the Palestinian occupation, and Netanyahu's latest announcements may have turned off life support. He has also crushed a key source of pride for liberal Zionists. Like many moderates, Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada, and author of Why I am a Zionist, counts Israel's compassion towards refugees as one of the country's greatest achievements. 'To Israel, today's refugee is tomorrow's citizen,' Troy wrote in a Jerusalem post blog. 'In a clear repudiation of the accusation that Zionism is in any way racist, Israel has accepted black, brown, and white refugees... with nearly 80,000 Ethiopian refugees constituting the only welcome migration I know of involving black Africans to a mostly white country.'"

Incredibly, despite Swan's subject, Israel and its treatment of refugees, this is the first time the word Palestinian has cropped up. But only, you'll note, in reference to the occupation. The standout feature of Swan's vacuous opinion piece is that, in an article about Israel and refugees, he makes no mention whatever of the existence, let alone the history and circumstances, of millions of Palestinian REFUGEES, driven out of their ancestral homeland in 1948 to create the Zionist movement's Holy Grail, a Jewish majority in Palestine. This enables him to suggest, through the example of Gil Troy, that Israel's origins were as pure as the proverbial driven snow. Troy is apparently the kind of bloke who can say without blushing that Israel's compassion towards refugees is one of its greatest achievements; and Swan is the kind of bloke who, again, without blushing, believes and reproduces every word. The man reveals himself here as either a complete ignoramus or a shameless propagandist. Whichever shoe fits, it's a mystery how can he be allowed to get away with this.

It's perhaps instructive at this point to compare Swan's performance with a recent piece by an Israeli journalist commemorating Israel's Vietnamese refugees. While Shoshana Bryen deploys a similar propaganda trope to Swan's - "The experience of Jewish refugees and the hopelessness of statelessness made Israel sensitive to the hopelessness of people from another place, another culture, another war, giving the Vietnamese a place to start over" (Israel & the boat people,, 6/6/12) - she is only too aware of Israel's original sin, hurrying to add, parenthetically, "(For those rolling their eyes on behalf of stateless Palestinian refugees..," before attempting to cover up this inconvenient truth by trotting out yet another Zionist talking point: "It is precisely the Jewish experience with statelessness that impels Israel to continue to seek a mechanism by which Palestinians can achieve the state the Arabs declined on their behalf in 1948 - without losing the state of Israel.)" No rolling of the eyes on behalf of stateless Palestinian refugees for Swan, the issue is simply dropped down Orwell's memory hole quicker than you can say, But what about the Palestinian refugees?

"But can Israel still claim this self-image? Vic Alhadaff, the chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, believes it can. Alhadeff defends Israel's immigration policies, arguing that the country has 'absorbed thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Albania, Kosovo and Darfur, and hosts 120,000 illegal foreign workers. Like Australia,' Alhadeff says, 'Israel is attempting to balance humanitarian needs with the need to protect its borders from waves of illegal immigration.'"

Almost 65 years of Palestinians rotting in refugee camps** and Swan is asking, Can Israel still claim this self image? The mind boggles.

"But if Israel genuinely wishes to strike such a balance, it has done a good job in hiding it. It is one thing to have a prime minister who calls illegal migrants 'infiltrators'; it is quite another to have a 'Prevention of Infiltration Law', recently amended to allow Israeli authorities to detain 'infiltrators' for up to 3 years."

OMG! Israel passes laws which discriminate against refugees! Who would have thought?

"While Netanyahu ponders his next assault on illegal immigrants, I hope he pays a visit to Yad Vashem. After he reads the quote by Thomas W. White, Netanyahu will find outside rows of trees honouring the 'righteous among the nations' - those brave souls, Oskar Schindler included, who risked their lives to rescue Jewish refugees."

Oh yes, a simple visit to Yad Vashem (led by Swan?) and Netanyahu will be so overcome by remorse that he'll rush back to the Knesset and deliver a historic and heartfelt speech, softie that he really is, beginning with the words, I don't know what came over me...

Seriously now, could Ms Rinehart do any worse?

[*See my 9/4/12 post Zionism Red in Tooth & Claw; **Take a look at the latest ANERA report (6/12) on Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon.]

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Albert Dadon: All Oyster & No Pearl

How awesome is Australian Zionist mover & shaker, Albert Dadon?

He has only to whisper the 'I' word and the 'v' (vibrant) into the ears of the nations's movers and shakers and they're falling all over themselves to get there, facilitated, of course, by his luxury shuttle service, the Australia Israel Leadership Forum (AILF). Why, the ride's so smooth and comfy, even the Brits have climbed aboard! What next, Palau?

Such is the influence of this rising star in the Israel lobby firmament, that my Lobbyland spies tell me he's got Rubes, Vic and the rest wondering about the very turf under their feet.

Which is why I found the Albert Dadon portrayed in yesterday's Financial Review, under the heading Traveller/ Albert Dadon, puzzling to say the least. I mean, strike a light, Israel doesn't even get a look in! Check it out:

"Most frequent destination: I lived in Paris for many years. It will always be one of my favourite and most special parts of the world."

Hello? Israel?

"Advice for airlines: Singapore Airlines is the most efficient and reliable. There are no surprises, which is the last thing I want when I travel."

Hello? El Al?

"Favourite hotel: La Mamounia in Marrakech, Morocco and the Park Hyatt in Paris. La Mamounia is an 8-hectare haven planted with 100-year-old fruit and olive trees and rows upon rows of blossoming flowers. The hotel radiates opulence, beauty and tradition. It is said that to step into this hotel is akin to a setting from the Arabian Nights."

Arabian Nights? Someone call a doctor, NOW! And what's this? Arabs making the desert bloom? Well I never!

"The Park Hyatt in Paris is my home away from home."

But I thought Australia was your home and Israel your home away from home! Or is it the other way around?

"It's exquisitely decorated, hospitably staffed, and situated right in the heart of the city - only moments from Place de la Concorde, the Champs Elysees, the Tuilieries and the shops of Rue du Faubourg St Honore."

Israel's about to get nuked, and he's out shopping!

"Best overseas dining: I recently dined at Nobu 57 in New York, the flagship restaurant of chef Nobu Matsuhisa. It was an amazing experience. The flavours and presentation were wonderful and the service second to none."

Thank God for small mercies: at least he dines in New York, even if it is Japanese.

"What to pack Apart from the essentials, my bikini..."

Your whaaat?

"... and my skivvy - and of course my guitars."

I bet Herzl didn't even have a piano. What frivolity!

"Tips: Make the concierge your best friend and they'll make sure that you are provided with the very best information and expert tips to ensure that you see, eat, drink and experience all that you wish to."

So the concierge knows more about the joint than local Mossad operatives? Is that what you're saying?

"Technology: BlackBerry, ipad - and every other electronic device you can think of."

That every other electronic device - made in Israel I hope.

"Favourite shopping: The marches aux puces of Paris. Paris's famous flea markets sell everything from antiques to junk, and from new to vintage clothing."

So what's a French flea market got that an Israeli arms bazaar hasn't?

"Best tale: Going to LA to see a Lakers match and bumping into Jack Nicholson."

D'oh! Nobody goes to a Lakers match without bumping into Jack Nicholson.

"Best thing about travel: It allows me to see and experience new places, cultures, design, and technology. It also keeps me away from my BlackBerry.

And I thought Israel had it all.

"Top gripe: As Australia is so far away from my usual destinations, it means sitting down for long periods, which can be damaging and unpleasant."

Life's tough! Gotta take care of those crown jewels.


Do you see what I mean, folks? Where's the focus here? Not an Israeli talking point in sight. OK, OK, the world may be your oyster, Albert, but what about the pearl, mate?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Stasiland USA

"I was just thinking today I could have set All That I Am in any country, at almost any time where the government is overstepping the bounds. I could write this about China today or Russia today or Libya today or Egypt today. These are eternal themes: the bizarre kind of confidence and courage that some ordinary people have to resist governments that are really overstepping the mark." (Anna Funder, Winner of the 2012 Miles Franklin Award, speaking on Radio National's Books & Arts Daily program, 21/6/12)

Notice the examples of oppressive regimes that spring naturally to Ms Funder's mind? Would she, or any other of Australia's literati, I wonder, dare to include the likes of the United States or Israel (or Australia for that matter) in their list of nasties? And if she did, would it even find a publisher, let alone win a prestigious literary prize such as Australia's Miles Franklin or smooth the way to an appearance as a Q&A panellist?

Consider this story by Greg Moses at, May 3, 2008: Salamat, Riad Hamad:

The thing about courthouse reporting is the stories come packaged for delivery. For a $30 check and a 5-minute wait, the clerk at the federal courthouse will hand you a document whose news value comes pre-certified by affiants with impeccable credentials, signed off by a US Magistrate Judge.

"That's 60 pages," she says, not meaning to remind you of the audio thud that television producers delivered yesterday when they dropped this report in front of the camera from two feet above the desk.

Walking back out the silent stone building, past the metal detector, wishing the courteous guardian a nice afternoon, I wonder that times have changed so many of these heavyweight buildings into inner sanctums. Thank goodness that I could explain myself briefly.

Standing later in the May shade across from the Texas capitol, sipping a short cup of coffee, I am nothing but depressed, having stopped off at the pizza joint for a stuffed slice and preview of the thudding federal litany that served in late February to warrant the search of the South Austin home of Riad Hamad. It is a summary of the last chapter of his life.

"We had a very unpleasant visit from the FBI and IRS agents yesterday morning and they walked out with more than 40 boxes of tax returns, forms, documents, books, flags, cds etc.," wrote Riad Hamad in a Feb. 29 email that was quickly forwarded across the internet. "The special agent said that they have a probable cause for money laundering, wire fraud, bank fraud... etc and I think that all of it stems from more than 35 years of watching me."

Indeed, the 60-page package, unsealed last week by the federal court in Austin, contains an affidavit which swears that Riad Hamad's home had been under surveillance enough to be able to report license plate numbers from his car and those driven by his closest companions in life.

There is a 14-page inventory of the stuff that was taken from Riad Hamad's house on Feb. 27. Miscellaneous bills seized from the dashboard of a BMW. Notepad with notes seized from a briefcase in a Ford Explorer. Tax return info found in a canvas bag. Deposit slips. Paycheck stubs. Spreadsheets of addresses, names, phone numbers. Articles of Incorporation for the Arab-American Cultural Society. Miscellaneous medical records.

From the top stereo shelf of the kitchen the feds seized CD Roms. From the second shelf they took cassette and camcorder tapes. From the dresser in the master bedroom they grabbed various letters. From the kitchen table some W-2 forms. From luggage in the master bedroom they removed the airline luggage tags.

They took the Dell Optiplex, the HP Pavillion, the Gateway laptop, and both Compaq Presarios, along with two generic thumb drives, one Kingston 2GB media card, and two floppy discs.

From master closet (hers) they took passports. From master closet (his) they took 80 videotapes. From the master bedroom nightstand they took a sheet of paper with handwriting. And from the family room they took something called "Volkswagon of America."

From the master bedroom desk they took medical bills ('98 forward) and house purchase documents. From the trash can outside the house they pulled a postal service package sent from Stone Ridge, NY to Riad Hamad.

And David Rovics, if you're out there listening, they took your CD too, from a file cabinet in the office. That's some of the stuff listed up to page 8 of 14, but that's enough, don't you think, to get the picture? They came to Riad Hamad's house, and they cleaned him out.

Well, maybe we should also mention (from page 11 of 14) that on the piano they found a book entitled, 'War on Freedom."

They don't say what they found in the safety deposit box when that was searched too.

The federal agent who asked for the search warrant works for the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and he sets forth a case of probable cause involving "an illegal fraud scheme through the use of non-profit organizations, false documents submitted via US Postal Service, false documents transmitted via wire communications, the failure to file federal income tax returns for the years 1999 through 2003 and 2005, and tax evasion for the years 1999 through 2006."

There is absolutely no probable cause that Riad Hamad had anything to do with terrorism. Some sizable cash payments were allegedly delivered via ATM to the occupied Palestinian Territories. But according to Google, the man named in the affidavit as the one who received those payments appears to be a well-known nonviolent activist. In fact, the affidavits say very little about where Riad Hamad spent his money.

"Hamad sends large amounts of money to the Middle East and/or to charities that forwarded these funds to the Middle East. The disposition of these funds is unknown at this time."

At the website for the Palestine Children's Welfare Fund is a list that has not been referenced in the affidavit or by any press reports about the affidavit. There Riad Hamad offers some accounting of his donations and spending. According to my calculations, based upon the materials that he posted online, Riad Hamad publicly declared donations in the amount of $491,751.05 and expenses in the manner of $331,897.00 for the period starting Jan.1, 2002 and ending Jan.31, 2008.

Beginning in 2005, however, there are large gaps in the online numbers, some of them apparently due to inadvertent sloppiness. For example, Riad Hamad posted a document that purports to show donations from 2005, but actually shows donations from 2006. Therefore, he posted the 2006 numbers twice, probably without realizing that he had overwritten his previous file.

"Most small nonprofits have terrible record-keeping," writes an Austin attorney who helped Riad Hamad find a lawyer after after the Feb.27 raid. On that count, Riad Hamad appears as guilty as the rest.

Federal agents hinted that Riad Hamad may have been a tax protester, too.

"Hamad also filed a document titled 'Redirect TAX Money AWAY from Israel' with the IRS," says the affidavit. "Your affiant believes that this form is used by 'anti-tax' groups as a way for them to justify not filing federal income tax returns or not paying income tax to the IRS." Riad Hamad sent in the form twice, during 2002 and 2007. He also declared zero withholding from his paychecks. And when he filed for an extension in 2005, "Hamad listed his tax liability, Total 2005 payments, Balance due, and Amount you are paying as being $0.00 for all of the line items."

So far, we have a story of a big-hearted man with a temper for justice who worked fast but loose in the cause of Palestinian children's welfare. This is the man that everyone says they know well. It is the man that I talked to once by telephone when he was helping the incarcerated Palestinian families at the T. Don Hutto prison in Texas.

As a boy growing up in Beirut, Riad Hamad would look from his window over tented communities. This is how he remembered it for me:

"What are those tents, Daddy?"

"Those are the Palestinians, Riad. They are waiting to return home." Could that boy grow up to be capable of killing himself at the age of 55 in despair over what things had come to? Could he put duct tape over his own eyes, bind his own feet and hands, and drown himself in Austin's Lady Bird Lake?

"He didn't seem suicidal," says one Austin attorney who met with Riad Hamad. And in an email to me on March 1, Riad Hamad dashed off the phrase, "will fight like hell."

But when Riad Hamad called his friend Paul Larudee via cell phone on the evening of April 14, he spoke in a hushed voice. And when Larudee shared news that a donation had arrived at the new California address of the PCWF, Riad Hamad said, "Well, it doesn't matter." He would be dead by April 15. Was it the ultimate tax protest?

Beyond this point the affidavit veers into pathetic allegations about the background details of of Riad Hamad's home finances. Checks written via credit card accounts. Student loans from several colleges. Stock accounts. I can understand why Riad Hamad would not want to face these public humiliations.

By chance on the bus home I am reading Derrida's discussion about the role that pity plays in Rousseau's account of human morality. Isn't pity a good word for what young Riad Hamad must have felt as he peered out his window upon the Palestinian refugee camps of the 1950s? Isn't pity a good word for what motivates so many people, as Paul Larudee explains, who actually travel to Palestine and experience the pain of dispossession up close? And isn't pity what I right now feel for the kind of pain that must have consumed the last days of Riad Hamad's life?

Riad Hamad could never reconcile himself to a world where so many people could know so much about the Palestinian children, and care less. Salamat, Riad Hamad. They are selling your suicide note down at the federal courthouse today. Would you have us buy it?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mystery Man

More Peres Peace Team blarney* from Martin Flanagan of The Age:

"It started as an initiative to counter 'violent extremism' in the community. It has involved the Federal Police, the Victorian Police Force, Hobson's Bay Council, Essendon Football Club and the Western Bulldogs. Along the way, it was deeply touched by the AFL Peace Team - the half-Palestinian, half-Israeli football team - that visited Australia last year. It climaxed in March this year when the Muju Peace Team, made up in equal numbers by Muslim and Jewish youths aged between 16 and 18, won the AFL Unity Cup, which is run by the AFL as part of its multicultural program. Last Friday, there was a celebration of the event at the Whitten Oval, although being Friday night most of the Jewish players were at home with their families, Shabbat having begun. In the event, one Jewish player, Joel Kuperholz, attended. Joel was the Bialik College* student who drove the idea of a joint Jewish-Muslim footy team from the Jewish side."

Bialik College? Did he say Bialik College?

Cut to What a balagan [fiasco] (1/11/11) over at

"A friend recently pointed me to a video that was made by the informal Israeli education staff, and shown to students, at my old school, Bialik College, for 'Israel Week'. It's really quite something. To see the school-grounds almost literally turned into a battlefield like that, to see the students named as soldiers, is overwhelming. But also not surprising - Bialik, like the other Zionist Jewish day schools, is good at producing propaganda, is good at inculcating particular values in its students. This video is simultaneously shocking, but also completely predictable. So the next time people in Melbourne complain that others are teaching their children to be militants, perhaps it would be beneficial to remember this video..."

Here's a description (plus transcript) of the video:

The video kicks of with a dedication: 'This Day [Tsahal/IDF] is dedicated to Gilad Shalit.' This is followed by clips of Israeli military manoeuvres - screaming jets, tanks, troops - to an upbeat soundtrack. Cut to a mock combat course. A young man and woman in khaki charge up a hill toward the camera.

She: Good mooorning, soldiers.

He: Good morning soldiers. Welcome to the IDF. Today's gonna be a day unlike any other. We come here together to serve our country.

She: Like you all know, each one of us is part of the unit: the Tsahal unit, the Herzl unit, and the Weizmann unit.

He: People say very good things about each one of these units. It's up to you to prove them.

She: Your unit is your family. Love it. Be proud of it. Wear your colours with pride.

He: Sit up straight, obey the rules, and tidy up your appearance.

She: Junior school, you need some training. Be at Mifgash [gathering] at lunch time for some work.

He: Year 6 and Year 8, this is your special day, soldiers.

She: Middle and Senior be at Mifgash at recess for (?)

Both: And don't be late!

He: (?)

She: Release! Today, Tsahal Day, the question for the beat box is: 'What are the colours of the Tsahal berets and what unit does each colour belong to? Make sure that you put all the answers in the beat box. Write your name and your class.'

Cut to concluding caption: 'Israel Week at Bialik.'


Now I'm all confused. Is Joel Kuperholz the peacenik Martin Flanagan makes him out to be? Or is he a model Bialik College IDF 'soldier', serving his country? (Which is?) Will the real Joel Kuperholz please reveal himself?

[*Check out my Flanagan file by clicking on the appropriate label below; **Bialik College is described on the school's website as a "cross-communal Jewish Zionist school... We are a Zionist school that inculcates a love of Israel. We recognise the centrality of Israel and Hebrew to the Jewish people. We support Israel and are committed to its well-being."]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Holy Land 5

One of those must-listens:

A song [by David Rovics] for the fine, upstanding activists who formed the Holy Land Foundation, currently imprisoned for giving food to the hungry and medicine to the sick. Read more about these [US] political prisoners at:

They grew up among the bombs of the occupation
Bulldozed houses, that was the situation
Refugee camps, Khan Yunis and Shatila
Children gunned down in the intifada
Poverty and hunger, a place to slowly die
These 5 men decided at least they had to try
From their homes in Texas to the stateless nation
They started up the Holy Land Foundation

They sent food and medicine, that's all they ever did
Aside from sending toys to little kids
Feed the hungry, they say that's a good deed
But apparently it all depends on who you want to feed
If they're living in the ghettos under IDF command
If they think they don't deserve to starve in their homeland
If Sharon says all that's theirs is mine
If they're from a place called Palestine

The Holy Land is crying out
Leaving little room for doubt
From ruined homes the kids ask you
What in the world will you do?

They sent money to the Zakat Committees
The same ones funded by USAID
But these were Arabs aiding Palestinians
They opposed the occupation and they were Muslims
Their phones were tapped for years but nothing could be found
So with an executive order Bush shut them down
Freezing all their funds, taking food from kids
That's exactly what the US government did

These men support Hamas, the government proclaimed
Although they couldn't find a cent in their name
But they had evidence, for the first time in a court
An anonymous Israeli would submit his report
Behind a veil with no rights to cross-examination
He could smell Hamas, this was his explanation
First the jury hung, so they tried them again
And for feeding hungry people they were sent to prison

The Holy Land is crying out
Leaving little room for doubt
From ruined homes the kids ask you
What in the world will you do?

Now 5 men are in cells, no one knows what for
Every Muslim an unindicted co-conspirator
Be careful what you say, be wary what you hear
Or end up in a CMU for 65 years
Cut off from the world, held in a little box
Back home kids are getting shot for throwing rocks
No one stops the charities sending money for tanks
For illegal settlements all over the West Bank

This is justice in America, if you didn't know it now you do
And a retrial was denied, I should mention that, too
A retrial was denied and who knows who's next to go
To be tortured in a Little Guantanamo
The Constitution's suspended, they just haven't let us know
It's easier that way, just say it isn't so
The Holy land Foundation, you know it's true
They did what all of us should do

The Holy Land is crying out
Leaving little room for doubt
From ruined homes the kids ask you
What in the world will you do?

Freedom to give
Free the Holy Land 5


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It's a Family Affair

One thing always leads to another on the internet. While looking for something else, I stumbled on this:

"The Israel-Palestine conflict has been going on for years and will probably continue for many years to come. There's almost a sibling rivalry between the two. Little Palestine hassles and taunts Israel, coming into his room every morning to flick him in the face. Unsurprisingly, Israel punches him in the face one morning, and we all know who ends up getting the sympathy from mum and dad."

Now I've seen some truly revolting takes on this subject in my time, but this little reverse-reality fable is up there with the best of the worst. The kind of quality blindness that has gone into something like this doesn't come easily, however. Brainwashing from birth and an astonishing reluctance, bordering on fear, to think things through, are required. I'm reminded of Bertrand Russell's adage: Some people would rather die than think.

It comes from an article by a certain Louise Easson, Warning: may contain traces of bombs, and was published in a Sydney University student paper called The Bull (2-8/6/08). The blurb reads: "Louise Easson explains the phenomenon of travel in dangerous, war-torn countries."

Now Ms Easson is a scion of Labour royalty. Her father, Michael, was once a NSW ALP senior vice-president. Her mother, Mary, was the ALP member for the federal seat of Lowe from 1993 to 1996. This rather too-close-for-comfort relationship with a Zionised ALP (Louise even worked for Kristina Keneally the year after the above was written!) goes a long way to explaining the above comment. Add to that the fact that Mary Easson, and Louise's sister, Amanda, were part of the entourage, led by then foreign minister Kevin Rudd, which flocked to Albert Dadon's Australia Israel Leadership Forum in Jerusalem in 2010, and you've got even more of the jigsaw.

But the clincher, which really complete's the picture, has got to be a comment of Mary Easson's on Israel's illegal West Bank wall, made after accompanying a Young Labor delegation, including Amanda, to Israel in 2007: "A wall in principle sounds like a terrible thing, but you go and see it and you think, 'Oh well, yeah, I can see why you would need that.'" (See my 30/3/09 post I've been to Israel too...)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Probing The Greens

Further to my previous post, Picking Off the Greens, you'll remember that three sitting Greens, including Senator Di Natale, made themselves available at a Zionist talkfest* called Limmud Oz to be "probed" by a Mr Ittay Flescher, described simply as "a Jewish educator."

[*Given that an anti-Zionist panel, Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists was dropped from Limmud Oz's 2012 program, I have no qualms referring to this "Festival of Jewish Learning & Culture" as an overtly Zionist event.]

Now consider the implications here. That anyone should actually volunteer to be probed for any other reason than medical necessity is strange enough, but for the elected members of a party that believes itself to be a cut above the rest to submit to such an indignity is surely beyond strange. But it gets worse. This is no mere intellectual enquiry designed to arrive at the truth of a matter. The prober has an agenda. Were those probed actually fooled by the spin of Jewish educator? If so, what are they doing in politics? As a simple google search would have revealed, Flescher is an unabashed Zionist propagandist. Which brings us to a sample of his handiwork, A Zionist speaks out in support of Palestine (, 23/9/11).

Don't be fooled by the title. This is no reminiscence by a reformed Zionist. There is no going beyond tribal loyalties here. At the time, you'll remember, the Palestinian Authority's fading virtual president, Mahmoud Abbas, was pathetically hawking his chimera of a Palestinian mini-state in government corridors and back rooms around the world. The Netanyahu government, of course, was ideologically opposed to the idea, but the odd Israeli politician and certain scribblers, such as Flescher, saw it as a way out of Israel's worst nightmare, a matter I'll return to later. At any rate, A Zionist speaks out... is a useful introduction to the mindset of the propagandist tasked by the powers behind Limmud Oz to probe the Greens trio, and so deserving of a close read:

The title, of course, is pure deception. Flescher is really speaking out in support of a Palestinian Bantustan.

He confirms his Zionist credentials at the very beginning, with the following Zionist fairy tale, told in the manner of a mesmerising psycho-therapist:

"Imagine you spent hundreds of years dreaming about and then building your dream home in a promised land. Then imagine that this dream materialised into none other than the house of God on earth, a land flowing with milk and honey. Now imagine there was a terrible tyrant who exiled you and your entire people from that land. After being in exile for 2000 years, a situation arose when it became possible for you to return. And you see your beautiful home, which evokes a deep memory of your ancestor's connection to a holy land, you notice that someone else lives there now. They have developed their own stories and connections to the land and its olive groves, rolling hills and pristine springs. What should you do? That is the dilemma for the Israelis when it comes to the question of whether there should be a Palestinian state in the ancient Jewish homeland."

Was this disarming little fable fed to our three Greens? Did it lay them in the aisles, extinguish their critical faculties? Assuming a worst case scenario here, what was it, precisely, they were slipped? Let's take a closer, critical look:

1) Jews, wherever they originated, apparently just sat around for centuries dreaming about a 'promised' land. Promised? That's right. Someone called God or Yahweh or whatever (some kind of supernatural entity who deals in real estate) said to them: 'Hey guys, I know it's taken me a while, but guess what? I've finally located that dream home you've been looking for!'

2) And so, after a few detours here and there, they eventually find it. And yes, there's the milk, and there's honey, and, best of all in Flescher's telling, there are no prior occupants! Canaanites? What Canaanites?

3) Then along comes a terrible tyrant who drives every single Jew out of the place because, supposedly, he just hates Jews. Mind you, he didn't do it to anyone else. Ever heard of lost Greek tribes, for example?

4) So, dispersed to the four corners they were. In exile for 2000 years! Just sitting around moping, crying into their beer, and thinking of nothing else - for 2000 years!

5) But here's the best part: "A situation arose when it became possible for you to return." No Balfour Declaration, with its machiavellian imperial shenanigans (1917); no British mandate, during which Palestine was flooded with European  Jewish colons (1923-48); no British-Zionist smashing of Palestinian resistance to same (1936-39); no machiavellian imperial shenanigans at the UN in 1947; and finally no great ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in 1948. No, just a situation arose!

6) Having returned after a 2000 year sojourn, you notice other people there. Who would have thought? What should you do? Well, get rid of them, of course! Unfortunately, however, you didn't quite manage to get rid of them all in 1948, so you still have a number of them cluttering the landscape of your ancient Jewish homeland and siphoning off your milk and honey. And that, folks, is our dilemma today!

My God, after that kind of torture, I'm half-inclined to forgive our Greens for singing like canaries. Still, we mustn't forget - they volunteered for this.

OK, so let's look at why the Palestinians should get a Bantustan - sorry, a state - of their own. Flescher quotes Israel's Defence Minister, Ehud Barak: "[A]s long as between the Jordan and the sea, there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or non-democratic... If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state, and if they don't, it is an apartheid state."

Do you get the drift, Greens, or is it too hard for you? Too hard? OK, baby steps. Please pay attention:

The Zionist project in Palestine is basically all about getting the demographics 'right'. From 1917 to 1948, Zionism's task  was to turn a majority Arab state into a majority Jewish state. How? By expelling as many Arabs as possible, circumstances permitting. As it happens, circumstances duly obliged - in 1948 - leaving in their wake an Arab minority and a Jewish majority. Beautiful! And to keep it that way the expelled were refused re-entry, shot out of hand if they tried to sneak back in, and Jewish migration was ramped up.

However, in 1967, the siren call of the remaining 22% of Palestine - Gaza and the West Bank - proved too strong for Israel's movers and shakers and they snapped it up in just 6 days! But alas, this brought them to their present predicament, because with the conquest of that last 22% came - you guessed it - more Arabs! And Arabs have kids (funny that), not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also back in Israel (the Arab minority, remember?). More, and more, and more! A ticking biological/demographic time bomb Israelis call it. So some, like the probing Flescher and his defence minister, advocate confining the Arabs to Bantustans and calling them 'Palestine' so that Israel can keep its precious Jewish majority intact, and hence continue to sell itself as a 'democratic' and 'Jewish' state. But, so the agonising goes, if Israel doesn't do that and just preserves the status quo of occupation and repression in the Palestinian territories, the Arabs (and their kin in Israel) will eventually come to outnumber Israeli Jews, leaving Israel with a South African apartheid situation on its hands - that is, a Jewish minority ruling over an Arab majority having no democratic rights; but if, on the other hand, Israel extends to the Arabs in the territories the same rights as Israeli Jews enjoy, then yes, Israel will be a democracy like post-apartheid South Africa, but no longer a Jewish state because it will have lost its Jewish majority.

I trust that's clear, Greens?

OK, so you've got a choice. You can run with those who spend their days obsessing over demographics, and their nights being plagued by nightmares that the 'wrong' demographic is having kids; those who look back with nostalgia to the 'miraculous' expulsions of 1948, but, in the age of television, are forced to make do with either escalating repression or ghettos to deal with their 'Arab problem'; those for whom hoary religious fantasies take precedence over international law and common decency; and those who feel that living next door to people who don't happen to share their religious beliefs is a fate worse than death. Or you can BDS them. Please choose wisely.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Picking Off The Greens

Here's a massive generalization that I have no trouble whatever in making: How people approach the Palestine problem tells you everything you really need to know about them.

Do they have the wit to see its underlying colonial dynamic? Do they have the intelligence to see through the reams of propaganda, endlessly generated and carefully crafted to cover this up? Do they have the sense to see the need for just a little homework on the subject, a little reading, before shooting their mouths off? Do they have the morals which mandate always standing with the powerless and the oppressed against their oppressors? And finally, do they have the courage to stand up to the lies and the slurs which emanate from the appalling tribal pathology of those who batten on Palestinian dispossession and suffering?

Call me naive, but if these are not the kind of qualities we expect to see in Greens politicians (as distinct from the hollow, opportunistic and cowardly LibLab variety), then what, I ask, is the point of this parliamentary third force?

Sadly, with the honourable exception of Lee Rhiannon (Senate), John Kaye (NSW) and David Shoebridge (NSW) (& please prod me if I've missed anyone else here), the current crop of Greens politicians are either deafeningly silent on Palestine or, even worse, beginning to sing like canaries for the Zionist lobby. Just to focus on the latter group, here's their record so far:

Christine Milne, the new leader of the party, has told The Australian Jewish News that "BDS is behind us." (See my 21/4/12 post Some Questions for Christine Milne.)

Jeremy Buckingham (NSW) has joined the steering committee of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel. (See my 25/2/12 post Jeremy Buckingham Crosses the Rubicon.)

Cate Faehrmann (NSW) has called the anti-Max Brenner protests anti-Semitic. (See my 16/11/11 post Witches Brew 8.)

Colleen Hartland (Victoria) sucks up to the Peres Centre for Peace. (See my 17/6/11 post Foul Play.)

And it's now the turn of Richard Di Natale (Senate):

"Support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement by the NSW Greens was a huge mistake, admitted Senator Richard Di Natale at the Limmud Oz conference last weekend. He said the position, adopted last year by NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon, never was or would be Greens federal policy. 'It was hugely damaging and it was the wrong thing to do. We are a democratic party, it was a state branch that passed it because people didn't understand what it meant,' said Di Natale, who appeared on a panel with MPs Colleen Hartland and Sue Pennicuik and Jewish educator Ittay Flescher*, who probed The Greens on their policy affecting Israel and Australian Jews." (BDS was a huge mistake, admit Greens, The Australian Jewish News, 15/6/12)

The curious thing is that Di Natale is, among other things, the Greens spokesman for West Papua. The following appears on his website:

"The Greens believe that the indigenous people of West Papua should have the opportunity to democratically decide their own future, in accordance with international standards of human rights and the principles of international law. Greens spokesperson for West Papua Richard Di Natale has called on the Australian government to show leadership on the issue of West Papua. There are ongoing concerns about escalating conflict and the oppression of Papuans by the Indonesian military, partly trained and armed by Australia. The Greens have called upon Australia to suspend military ties with Indonesia, so long as such violence and human rights abuses continue. The West Papua region remains very difficult for journalists and human rights monitoring organisations to access. The Greens have also called for open access to journalists and human rights monitors."

Maybe Di Natale's website should now feature the following disclaimer:

"The Greens do not believe that the indigenous people of Palestine should have the opportunity to democratically decide their own future, in accordance with international standards of human rights and the principles of international law. In fact, they don't even believe they are the indigenous people of Palestine. Greens non-spokesman for Palestine Richard Di Natale has not called on the Australian government to show leadership on the issue of Palestine. In fact he has even slammed members of his own party who have shown leadership on this issue! There are ongoing concerns about escalating conflict and the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli military, diplomatically supported by Australia in the UN and other international fora (but frankly, Richard's too busy watching football to really give a stuff). The Greens have not only not called upon Australia to suspend diplomatic ties with, or cut support for, Israel, so long as such violence and human rights abuses continue, they have even condemned citizen-led initiatives such as BDS . The Occupied Palestinian Territories remain very difficult for journalists and human rights monitoring organisations to access, but who gives a toss? The Greens have never called for open access to journalists and human rights monitors. And anyway, they're much too busy schmoozing with Indonesia - sorry, Israel - lobbyists."

Some disturbing facts (and a truly mind-blowing question) for the Greens' spokesman for West Papua:

1) West Papua is occupied land. Palestine is occupied land (from the River to the Sea).
2) West Papua has been colonised by Indonesia. Palestine has been colonised by Zionist colons, initially with the backing of British bayonets, and now with American.
3) West Papuans want freedom and independence from Indonesian colonialism. Palestinians want freedom and independence from Israeli colonialism.
4) Would Richard Di Natale embrace a West Papuan-led BDS campaign?

[*A most suitable subject for my very next post.]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Onward Corporate Soldiers!

*Sigh* - another victim of those heady Israeli pheromones:

"It was not only the Israeli corporate bond market that bowled over former Australian Securities & Investments Commission deputy chairman Jeremy Cooper on a recent trade mission to the Jewish state." (Conscription: it makes a difference, Sydney Morning Herald, Scott Rochfort, 13/6/12)

Remember this one, led by Bill Shorten? (OK, see my 27/4/12 post Vibrancy, Innovation & Bill Shorten.)

"After already banging on about the Israeli 'X-factor' in a newspaper column last month, Cooper was still trying to articulate yesterday why Israel was such a success story. Was it largely the result of compulsory national service? 'Perhaps a big reason for this X-factor is how long Israel prepares its young people for the challenges of life,' Cooper told an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce function yesterday. 'The answer is compulsory service for everybody over 18... it makes a big difference. By the age of 25, the average Israeli has worked in a close-knit team in very demanding environments, made decisions that have had real consequences and have been required to solve complicated problems in a short space of time,' Cooper said about the benefits of donning khaki and carrying an assault rifle for one's country. 'What this translates into is a propensity to carry out technical innovation.'" (ibid)

Of course, Cooper didn't arrive at this startling/alarming conclusion unaided. He's been slipped (or otherwise acquired) a little propaganda tome called Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracles (Dan Senor & Saul Singer), for introduction to which see my 23/4/10 post Creative Destruction.

"Thank heavens Cooper, who now has a job with Challenger, made his trip to Israel after completing his review of Australia's superannuation system in 2010. Compulsory super contributions could have been extended into more controversial areas." (ibid)

Amen to that, Scott.

To throw in my two bits' worth (although it's all there in Creative Destruction), those life-challenges, demanding environments, decisions with real consequences and problem-solving in a short space of time that seem to have gone to Cooper's head are really nothing more than euphemisms for maintaining a brutal, 45-year-old occupation of the Palestinian territories, with all that that entails by way of lording it over, humiliating, harrassing, arresting and shooting Palestinians, in addition to cosseting and guarding Israeli settlers. And so, if we're serious about replicating the Israeli conscription model in Australia, we'd better start choosing a nearby country to invade and occupy. New Zealand or Papua New Guinea maybe?

Alternatively (the cheaper option?), Australians could perhaps join the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and learn the above skills from the experts. Nor should not being Jewish necessarily be an obstacle for those who wish to learn how to solve problems the Israeli way, namely, faster than Superman's proverbial speeding bullet, know what I mean?

And that's because we're currently blessed to be hosting a genuine dinky-di(e) Israeli general, Elazar Stern, who's reportedly out here to facilitate the conversion of those folk who maybe would like to join the Israeli army but alas "don't have paperwork to prove their family is Jewish." (Easing conversion in the Israeli army, The Australian Jewish News, 1/6/12)

As General Stern explained, "They ['Jews', usually Russian, unable to prove Jewish maternity but in the IDF nonetheless] declared their Judaism by their actions... When you ask someone to do a brit milah [ritual circumcision] you are asking them to sacrifice a very small part of their body, but soldiers give their entire bodies and there should be a friendly conversion process for them." (ibid)

Time to join the queue, folks! Now who'll be first? Well, I have an idea. As it happens, I found myself listening to Radio National's Late Night Live program on Tuesday night when its host, Phillip Adams (such a softie in these matters), gushed to his two Jewish guests: "Some people like Christopher Hitchens, and indeed myself, discover late in life that they may well in fact be Jewish." (Jewish peace activists)

So maybe Phillip could lead by example here. Just a quick snip (or not), and hey presto, you could not only be in the IDF like Flynn, but seriously kicking arse (if not worse) and getting ready to storm the corporate heights at the same time. Sounds like too good an offer to refuse, I reckon. How about it, Phillip?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Whistling a Happy Tune

"Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I'm afraid."
Rodgers & Hammerstein,
The King & I

Some travel writers are so incredibly courageous for going where they go and doing what they do.

Take the Sunday Telegraph's travel editor, Brian Crisp, for example. He recently risked life and limb going to the world's most dangerous place and, against all the odds, he emerged unscathed to tell the harrowing tale. No mother, surely, was ever more thankful for her son's safe return than Brian's:

"Israel is complicated, and not just politically. When we arrived in Tel Aviv, Iran was threatening to launch a nuclear attack against Israel, saying that the Jewish state had no right to exist. Israel's ambassador to the UN asserted that his country would never allow a second Holocaust... To outsiders like me, who have not lived under the threat of war, it is an uncomfortable back story. To my mother, it was a nightmare. Before I left Australia, she organised a family lunch. She wanted photos of us together, perhaps for the last time, she thought. She didn't want me to go to Israel. She couldn't understand why I would go or even want to go." (Wary & wonderful, 10/6/12)

Rabbi Ralph Genende too, is if anything even more fearless, seemingly quite oblivious to the existential dangers of which Brian Crisp is only too aware. Here he is, writing in The Australian Jewish News, about his recent foray into the same ground zero. I did say seemingly oblivious. Because there is one point in his narrative at which I sense the rabbi's need to look away, so terrified is he at the prospect of 'going there' as they say:

"Not far from the shul [of Yemin Moshe] stands the relatively new Begin Museum, which takes you through the life and political contribution of prime minister Menachem Begin. We joined a group of young soldiers who were being guided through the mainly audiovisual displays. Standing with these young men and women, most of them born after his death, one couldn't help but reflect on how Begin had contributed to the identity of this generation. Regardless of what you think of Begin and his politics, he was a crusty, courageous and charismatic leader who helped restore Jewish pride to a post-Holocaust people." (Travel enriches the Jewish soul, 8/6/12)

See what I mean? That regardless of what you think of Begin is a dead give away. Notice how, at the prospect of recalling the King David Hotel, the Deir Yassin and the Sabra & Shatila massacres, to name but the better known ones of Begin's career, the good rabbi resorts to whistling a happy tune - A crusty, courageous & charismatic leader who helped restore Jewish pride to a post-Holocaust people - so no one will suspect he's afraid?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

People Who Care

I mean really care:

"We cannot remain indifferent to the tiny coffins that contain the bodies of children." Israeli President Shimon Peres (Call for talks as Syrian toll rises, AFP/The Australian, 11/6/12)

"Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said the Jewish state was ready to provide humanitarian assistance to Syria, despite the fact it is formally at war with Israel." (ibid)

Goings On in the NSW Knesset

Slashing and burning NSW is damn hard yakka. So our state politicians need to unwind, right? And what better way to unwind than a mass junket to the Land of Heart's Desire:

"NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell announced that a NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel delegation will visit Israel in January when he spoke at the community's official Yom Ha'atzmaut cocktail function last Thursday night. 'I know there's much to learn from each other and that's why I want to reiterate how much I want to continue to develop our friendship, trade and investment relationships,' O'Farrell said." (Parliamentarians to visit Israel, The Australian Jewish News, 8/6/12)

Now given that the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel is the largest political faction in the NSW Parliament, bringing together parties great and small, the obvious question is just how mass this mass junket is going to be? After all, 60 state pollies turned up for its inaugural meeting.*

Well, let's assume, for argument's sake, that it's not going to be a mega affair, that it'll be basically the (hard)core members, by which I mean the steering committee of 14. Now one of these, incredibly, is Jeremy Buckingham of The Greens.**

So if Jeremy Buckingham tags along with the other members of the committee (Upton, Clarke, Perrottet, O'Dea, McDonald, Harwin, Ward (LIB); Pavey (NATS); Secord, Roozendaal, Foley, Park (LAB); Nile (CD)), or even as part of a larger contingent, that'll mark a further crossing of the Rubicon for him, the first being his membership of the committee.

Yes, Buckingham could well be the first Greens politician to be rambammed! Talk about a coming of age.

But O'Farrell's announcement of the coming pilgrimage wasn't the only glad tidings he had in store for his Zionist audience on May 31. There was this:

"The Premier also announced that a parliamentary committee will be established to examine how the government can strengthen racial vilification laws in NSW." (ibid)

Now that puts the speculation about Buckingham in the shade, I'd say. What exactly is going on in this department? Has NSW become such a hotbed of anti-Semitism that Australia's Jewish community is afraid to venture out of doors for fear of being subjected to anti-Semitic abuse? With Australia's extreme right waving Israeli flags outside Max Brenner outlets, one would hardly think so.

No, it looks more likely that moves are afoot to criminalise the principled espousal of anti-Zionism (or even mere criticism of Israel) as anti-Semitism.

Will said committee be recommending, for example, that "singling out Israel for selective condemnation and opprobrium" be declared a hanging offence (because this is supposedly  "discriminatory and hateful")? Will drawing attention to the apartheid state's apartheid character and practices be declared illegal? To see where O'Farrell's little  committee may be heading here, check out the situation in Canada in my 24/7/11 post Criminalising Criticism of Israel.

And as to what may be driving O'Farrell, one need only note his words as the cocktail glasses were raised in a toast to the Zionist entity on the occasion of its 64th birthday:

"The bonds between my government and the Jewish community have great substance, extending beyond friendship to a meaningful relationship, recognising and deeply understanding the needs and aspirations of the Jewish community." (ibid)

Ah yes, the needs and aspirations of the Jewish community... as articulated by whom?

Watch this space!

[*See my 21/9/11 post Witches Brew 2; **See my 25/2/12 post Jeremy Buckingham Crosses the Rubicon. Related post: Criminalising BDS (9/8/11)]

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Real Julia?

"Prime Minister Julia Gillard says it is a tragedy millions of Australian adults still cannot read and has called for greater action to boost literacy levels. The National Year of Reading campaign was launched today in a bid to encourage reading nationwide and tackle taboos surrounding illiteracy. About 4.5 million working-age Australians do not have the necessary higher reading and numeracy skills to succeed in work or study, Ms Gillard said. 'Illiteracy is a tragedy,' Ms Gillard said at the campaign launch at the National Library of Australia... 'For a rich nation with universal education Australia could do better'." (We can do better: Julia Gillard's pledge to our illiterate millions,, 14/2/12)

I speculated back in January that Julia Gillard's alleged holiday reading list may have been merely an invention of her spinmeister. (See my 9/1/12 post What Gillard Will & Won't Be Learning from Her Holiday Reading.) Looks like I was right:

"When not preoccupied with leading the nation, the Prime Minister spends her time at the Lodge knitting woollen cardigans for babies and unwinding with a regime of yoga and boxing. Julia Gillard whipped out her knitting bag during a lunch with The Sunday Telegraph at Kirribilli. The knitting bag, a lime green affair with silver lining, has a travelling tag stamped 'Prime Minister'. 'I'm on a smock coat - for a two-year-old - with quite a complex pattern at the top which requires you to count stitches in eight-stitch lots,' she explained. 'If you're just knitting a plain bit of the pattern, I can just watch the TV; if I'm at a stage where I have to count stitches, I'll look up 15 minutes later and go, 'I don't even know who these people are any more. Who's killed who in this episode?'" (Relaxation that soothes a prime minister's knitted brow, Samantha Maiden, 10/6/12)

Shilling for Israel: The Case of Richard Crossman 2

Here Crossman tells the sad story of how his Zionist friends just wanted to play with the Palestinian lads in their sandpit, but the Big Bad Bevin came along and ruined everything:

"When Balfour and Weizmann envisaged the National Home... it was always assumed that Palestine would be inhabited by Jews and Arabs living as intermingled communities and with the Arabs forming the majority of the population. How well I remember the occasion in 1946 when, in the presence of Ben-Gurion* and Sharett, Weizmann showed me a map, on which the partition line recommended by the Jewish Agency was sketched out. Of course it included the Negev, but on the first day of this Jewish State, as defined by Jewish leaders, the Arabs would be in a majority and Jewish immigration would have to proceed extremely rapidly in order to keep pace with the Arab birthrate. Inevitably, such a State, if created under British protection - or, after 1948, under the UN - would have been binational and very soon we should have seen the new, independent Arab-Jewish State of Palestine developing along the lines of Lebanon, where rival racial and religious groups are held together in a balance of power guaranteed by the manipulation of a complex constitution... But would the Arabs of the new binational State have stood by and permitted Jews to introduce half a million new immigrants and thereby achieve an absolute majority?... As things turned out, however, the Israeli can with perfect fairness insist that the reduction of the Arab population of Israel to this inferior status was the result not of anything they willed or did but solely of Ernest Bevin's policy. Even after he had transferred the Palestine problem to the UN and the UNSCOP majority report had been voted in the Assembly by the necessary two-thirds majority, the British Foreign Secretary refused to accept defeat. Instead of helping to divide the country along the frontiers laid down by the UN, the British soldiers and administrators in Palestine were encouraged from London to make the UN decision inoperative. It was with their connivance that hundreds of thousands of Arabs were instructed by their leaders to become temporary refugees, while the Arab armies drove the Jews into the sea. But those 'temporary refugees' have never been able to return to their homes and most of them still live in the UNRWA camps today. Instead of the new Jewish State starting, as UNSCOP intended that it should, with rather more Arab than Jewish inhabitants, Israel is now left with only an insignificant Arab minority, concentrated for the most part in the mountains of Galilee." (A Nation Reborn: The Israel of Weizmann, Bevin & Ben-Gurion, 1960, pp 93-95)

[*Unfortunately for Crossman's little fairytale, we have a letter from Yishuv bully boy, David Ben-Gurion, to his son, Amos, in October 5, 1937, in which he states that unless the Palestinian lads are   prepared to stand aside and let him and his friends take over their sandpit, he'll be kicking sand in their faces big time:

"Let us assume that the Negev will not be allotted to the Jewish state. In such event, the Negev will remain barren because the Arabs have neither the competence nor the need to develop it or make it prosper. They already have an abundance of deserts but not of manpower, financial resources, or creative initiative. It is very probable that they will agree that we undertake the development of the Negev and make it prosper in return for our financial, military, organizational, and scientific assistance. It is also possible that they will not agree. People don't always behave according to logic, common sense, or their own practical advantage. Just as you yourself are sometimes split, conflicted between your mind and your emotions, it is possible that the Arabs will follow the dictates of sterile nationalist emotions and tell us: 'We want neither your honey nor your sting. We'd rather that the Negev remain barren than that the Jews should inhabit it.' If this occurs, we will have to talk to them in a different language - and we will have a different language but such a language will not be ours without a state. This is so because we can no longer tolerate that vast territories capable of absorbing tens of thousands of Jews should remain vacant, and that Jews cannot return to their homeland because the Arabs prefer that the place [the Negev] remains neither ours nor theirs. We must expel Arabs and take their place."]

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Trouble With Niall Ferguson

Anyone thinking about the world today couldn't help but conclude that much of the world's news is generated in and around the land of Palestine. And anyone with any knowledge of modern Palestinian history would know that the present state of Israel (1948-?) is but the latest phase of a colonial era through which Palestine is currently passing, an era which began with Britain's conquest of the former Ottoman Turkish territory in World War I and the British mandate (1923-48), imposed on Palestine's majority  indigenous Arab population without so much as a by your leave. They would also know that Britain's mandate over Palestine incorporated, and acted as a Trojan Horse for, the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which the British had promised to 'facilitate' in Palestine the creation of 'a national home for the Jewish people'.

So when someone comes along and writes a book called Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World (2003), a book which, according to its cover, is not only an "international bestseller," but has been authored by "[t]he most brilliant British historian of his generation," (albeit a quotation from The Times), you might be inclined, as I was, to sit up and pay attention.

So down I sat and opened the volume, by Niall Ferguson (Professor of International History at Harvard University), to see what it had to say about the colonial clusterfuck (euphemistically known as the Middle East or Arab-Israeli conflict) which emerged from the aforementioned Balfour Declaration and British mandate, probably the British Empire's most enduring colonial running sore. Surely, so my thinking tended, no worthwhile history of the impact of the British Empire on today's world could afford to give that short shrift. And so I began at the beginning with the Balfour Declaration. The index sent me to p 357, and this is what I found:

"In Palestine too the British cut and ran, in 1949, bequeathing to the world the unresolved question of the new state of Israel's relations with the 'stateless' Palestinians and the neighbouring Arab states."

But that, folks, was it!

And even that solitary reference contains 2 significant errors: the British withdrew from Palestine in 1948, not 1949; and I can only assume that the placing of inverted commas around the word stateless indicates that, for Ferguson, the Palestinian people, or at least the majority of them, were not rendered stateless by their expulsion from the land in which they had lived as far back as the Bronze Age. How else Ferguson would describe their post-1948 predicament, if not in terms of statelessness, we can only guess.

There is, however, a footnote to the above:

"Both the Jewish state and Arab nationalism were in some measure creations of British policy during the First World War; but the terms of the 1917 Balfour Declaration had turned out to contain a hopeless contradiction: 'His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine...'"

As you can see, the bulk of the footnote consists of the text of the Balfour Declaration. While that doesn't leave much of Ferguson, even that little is profoundly misleading. For one, the British did not in some measurcreate Jewish nationalism (aka political Zionism). Political Zionism preceded Lloyd George and Lord Balfour. And rather than create it, they were in fact played like a fiddle by its devotees. (For those interested, simply click on the Balfour Declaration label below and read the posts, in particular the The Balfour Deception series (1-7). That series should also give the lie to Ferguson's thoroughly naive suggestion (implied in the words "the terms of the 1917 Balfour Declaration had turned out to contain a hopeless contradiction") that the document was somehow drafted by sweet innocents harbouring only the best of intentions for all concerned.)

As for Arab nationalism, I need only quote the opening sentence/paragraph of George Antonius' 1938 classic The Arab Awakening: "The story of the Arab national movement opens in Syria in 1847, with the foundation in Beirut of a modest literary society under American patronage" - to expose the utter  superficiality of Ferguson's assertion that it was, in part, a British creation.

Google 'Niall Ferguson' & 'Israel' and you'll find the following 'analysis' by Britain's "most brilliant historian":

"The single biggest danger in the Middle East today is not the risk of a six-day Israeli war against Iran. It is the risk that Western wishful nonthinking allows the mullahs of Tehran to get their hands on nuclear weapons. Because I am in no doubt that they would take full advantage of such a lethal lever. We would have acquiesced in the creation of an empire of extortion. War is an evil. But sometimes a preventive war can be a lesser evil than a policy of appeasement. The people who don't yet know that are the ones still in denial about what a nuclear-armed Iran would end up costing us all. It feels like the eve of some creative destruction." (Israel & Iran on the eve of destruction in a new Six-Day War,, 6/2/12)

Sorry, but after my little foray into Ferguson's Empire here, I'm far more concerned about the impact of his Empire (of distortion) on impressionable minds. Certainly, anyone who can characterise an Israeli wilding as creative destruction doesn't deserve to be trusted with history.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kafka in the Gulf 7

This is the final article in Bernard Levin's St. Helena prisoners saga, happily titled The Ex-Prisoners of St. Helena (The Spectator, 16/6/61):

"'Your call from St. Helena on the line,' said the operator. But my call from St. Helena was not on the line, the connection having been lost just as I had picked up the telephone. 'Are you there, Accra?' repeated the operator patiently, trying to re-establish it. But Accra was not there, either. So the long wait went on for another hour, and a very long hour it was, too. But not as long, after all, as the four years of wrongful imprisonment on St. Helena which three innocent men have undergone, and which has now come formally and officially to an end. For the first words that came, clear as a voice in the same room, down the line from St. Helena were, 'We've won.' What we had won was an application for a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that the prisoners had been illegally taken to St. Helena from Bahrain. The decision was given by Mr Justice Abbott, formerly of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, who has now become forever confused in my mind with Anatole France's M. Justice Chaussepied. It was Chauseppied who finally righted the scandalous wrong done to the inoffensive Pyrot in France's immortal satire on the Dreyfus case ('He cracked their indictments like nuts'), and although this case is not on the level of enormity reached by that monstrous piece of wickedness, there are places in the long story at which it seems at any rate more squalid.

"The story is not only long, but complex. And Heaven knows - or my readers do, even if Heaven does not - that I have told it often and at length. Still, in case there is any citizen newly arrived among us this morning, I hope I may be forgiven if I go over the outline of it once more. It will, after all, be the last time."

[To spare the faithful reader, I will omit at this point Levin's "outline."]

"A case brought earlier by the prisoners failed, having gone all the way to the judicial committee of the Privy Council, after a singularly disgraceful intervention by the then Foreign Secretary (Mr Selwyn Lloyd); this case hinged largely on the question of jurisdiction, and of the quality of the original 'trial'. But then a new wonder came to light: somebody on the Government side slipped, and let out of the bag two vital pieces of information. These were the time at which the warrant for the men's removal was handed to the captain of HMS Loch Insh, and the time at which the Order in Council sanctioning the removal was promulgated in Bahrain. And lo! the warrant, it appeared, was executed before promulgation, and was therefore invalid.

"And thus, on a second application for a writ of habeas corpus, has the good M. Justice Chaussepied now ruled. He declared on Tuesday of this week, in a judgment reserved from the end of the previous week, when the pleadings had been secured, that a valid warrant was necessary for the removal of the prisoners under the Colonial Prisoners Removal Act. Further, he found that such a warrant had been drawn up by the Ruler and handed over with the prisoners at 6 am on December 26, 1956, although - one of the more charming refinements of this case - the actual document had since been lost. (Or possibly 'lost.') But at that time the Order in Council sanctioning the warrant was not in force, and was only put into force by promulgation on the notice-board of the British Agency in Bahrain, which took place at 8 am, the same day - two hours late. The warrant was therefore a nullity.

"The judge made one other major point in his judgment - a point, as it turned out, of crucial importance. It was that the Ruler, by his invocation of the Colonial Prisoners Removal Act, had waived his own jurisdiction over the prisoners who, from the moment they went on board HMS Loch Insh (despite the fact that she was still then in Bahraini territorial waters), thus fell under British jurisdiction. And so the invalidity of of the warrant made the removal illegal, for if they had still been technically under the jurisdiction of the Ruler the embarkation would not have been illegal, and before the ship sailed out of Bahraini waters the Order had been promulgated.

"It was, in fact, a damned near-run thing. And now that it has been run to a successful conclusion, I think it is time to draw up a rough balance-sheet of credit."

[What follows is quite remarkable. Try imagining today's Australian ms press (or part thereof) not only taking up the case of a group of unjustly treated Arabs, but also advertising an appeal for funds on their behalf to its readers. And further, imagine the readers taking up the challenge.]

"We might begin, I think, with the readers of the Spectator, whose generous response to the appeal fund launched by a small committee of interested parties made it initially possible to start the legal ball rolling for the second time. Sums ranging from 2s. 6d. to 50 pounds came in, very many with apologetic notes saying that the sender wished it could be more. A striking feature of the stream of money was the number of contributions that came from clergymen - surely one of the worst-paid body of men in the land. Several readers gave twice, some thrice, and one four times. (Costs were awarded by the judge, in freeing the men, against the Government; but it is not yet clear how complete their footing of the bill will be, and in any case the considerable debts incurred over the first case - costs of which are not included - are still to some extent outstanding: the Appeal Committee is therefore holding the money collected, but will do nothing with it before putting its proposals to the contributors.)"

"Secondly, the Members of Parliament who have moved mountains: chief among them are Mr John Stonehouse and Mr Woodrow Wyatt, and valuable help has come from others, particularly Mr Jeremy Thorpe. For a moment, the eccentric Tory MP Mr William Yates looked as though he was on the side of justice in this matter, but soon declined into giving personal assurances of his admiration for the Ruler of Bahrain. (The Tory Party has behaved throughout disgracefully: one of the most unlovely sights I have seen in the House of Commons was the scene when - just as the prisoners were about to be sent back to Bahrain, beyond all hopes of legal rescue - the adjournment of the House was moved to discuss the transfer immediately. When the Speaker called on those Members supporting the adjournment to signify, the whole of the Labour and Liberal parties stood as one man: with the single exception of Mr Yates, who was to renege later, not one Tory rump left a bench.)

"The lawyers, of course, are bedevilled by their professional rules when it comes to the limelight. But one who is now beyond such questions, and whose tireless and devoted action in the case from the beginning has been exemplary, is Mr Roland Brown, recently appointed Attorney-General of Tanganyika. Mr Brown was thus prevented, by his official appointment, from seeing the second case through to the end; but his work certainly played a major part in turning the scale.

"The various newspapers which helped to keep the case alive include the Guardian (which was the first paper in point of time to uncover the matter), the Observer, Reynolds News, and even the Times, which has had two notable leaders on the case, both sharply critical of the Government.

"But above all, thanks must go to one man who has neither sought nor received attention, but of whom it can be said, as it cannot of any other single figure in this case, that without him it could never have been done. He is Mr Donald Chesworth, a Labour London County Councillor. It was he who first began to burrow into the case, about which he had heard by accident; it was he who got lawyers looking into it; it was he who brought it to the attention of the Spectator. To him goes the credit for starting the snowball on its path.

"The path has been a long one, and at times disheartening. According to my account, there were moving scenes in St. Helena when the decision was announced. The court was full on the last day, mainly of Europeans, most of whom seemed pleased at the result. The Crown counsel did not object to the release of the three prisoners, but reserved the right (subject to instructions) to appeal to the Privy Council: fortunately no such right exists, and even if it did I can hardly envisage its being exercised.

"When the proceedings were over, an air of gentlemanliness set in all round. The men, through their counsel, made a statement in which they formally declared that they had no complaint to make about their treatment on St. Helena, either by the Governor or the prison authorities: difficulties in communications had led to misunderstanding on this point. 'Sir Robert Alford,' said Counsel, 'is not Sir Hudson Lowe' (and three innocent Bahrainis, I might add, are not Napoleon). Toasts to freedom were drunk in champagne. 'We have always believed in British justice,' said the three, 'and our belief is vindicated.' Then they gave a luncheon, to which counsel and solicitors on both sides were invited, as was the Superintendant of Prisons, the men's gaoler. The lunch consisted of chicken followed by Bahraini melons grown by the prisoners in their scrap of prison garden. And they ended by declaring that their wish was now to come to the United Kingdom.

"So all ended happily for these three unfortunate men - though, as a leading article points out on another page, there are still two more on the prison island in Bahrain, out of reach of British justice. It is, for all its shaming quality, a heartening story. It is heartening not only because justice was vindicated and the Executive brought to heel, but because it demonstrates once again that the 'infamous thing' can be crushed. Force is not all, wrongdoing is not efficient, at the end of the longest tunnel shines the light. Once again, I am reminded that the most comforting thing about Mussolini is that he did not make the trains run on time."

[The following telegram from St. Helena appeared at the head of the letters page for the above issue of the Spectator:



I'll conclude this series with a post containing the letters which appeared in the next (23/6/61) issue of the Spectator.